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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Visitors Who Don’t Like Dogs
It’s an awkward social situation

A friend of mine was telling me that when her sister-in-law comes to visit, it can be very uncomfortable because that sister-in-law really hates dogs. She voices a lot of criticism of the cleanliness of houses with dogs and the fact that so much time is wasted cleaning up after dogs, which my friend naturally finds annoying. To her, the dogs are family and the extra effort to keep the house clean is worth it. (By the way, I have been in this friend’s house and I consider it immaculate! I’ve been in houses that have a little too much dog hair and eau de dog aroma even for my taste and this house is nothing like that.)

It’s perfectly reasonable to tell potential visitors that if they don’t want to be around dogs, they are more than welcome to stay in a hotel and that you’d be happy to help them find a conveniently located one that is to their liking. However, we all know that family dynamics can sometime make this option very sticky. Being asked to kennel your dogs or keep them locked in the backyard or in one room are all requests that have been received by various friends or colleagues of mine from assertive relatives.

The simple reply that the dogs are part of the family and as such as not shut away or sent away, no matter how tactfully stated, is likely to upset the sort of people who would make such demands in the first place. It’s hard to explain how much we value our dogs to someone who just doesn’t get it.

If you’ve faced a situation with visitors who don’t love dogs and expect you to remove your dogs from the situation, how have you handled it?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Studying Canine and Human Genomes
New article sheds light on dogs in health research.

Earlier this month, genetics researcher Elaine Ostrander published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine to highlight the strides scientists are making in human disease research thanks to their work with canines. The best part is that dogs are also benefiting in the process.

Scientists have sequenced both the human and canine genomes, which makes it possible to compare genes between the two. Typically it's much easier to track down the genes associated with canine diseases than it is in humans.

Once researchers identify the gene responsible for a disorder in dogs, they can go back and see if the same holds true for humans. The following are some of the cases where canine research has benefited both dogs and people.

  • Scientists discovered that the gene folliculin is behind Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome in humans and RCND, a syndrome that causes kidney cancer and skin growths in German Shepherds.
     
  • Researchers identified a different gene responsible for epilepsy in Wire-haired Dachshunds and Lagotto Romagnolo dogs. They're hoping further research into the differences in other breeds will also further understanding about how the disease presents in humans.
     
  • Scientists found that introducing a fundamental version of the RPE65 gene to dogs successfully treats progressive retinal atrophy. Now humans with the same disease are being treated with the same treatment.
     

Unfortunately I know many dogs and people affected by cancer and epilepsy. I'm hoping that Elaine Ostrander's article will inspire more collaborations between veterinary and human medical research. There are many studies that show the health benefits we get from our pets, so it seems only fitting that canine health research is now informing cures for humans.

News: Guest Posts
Good News for Companion Animals
LA is considering a ban on the sale of commercially-bred animals

Despite laws and regulations protecting companion animals, these magnificent beings still can be treated very abusively with little to no penalty to their human guardians (aka owners) because in the eyes of the law they and other nonhuman animals (animals) are considered to be mere property.

In an earlier essay I wrote about the staggering number of homeless animals who need a safe home and puppy mills are notorious for severely mistreating animals as breeding machines. Carol Bradley's excellent book Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills is an excellent read about Gracie's rescue from a Pennsylvania puppy mill and the horrors of puppy mills in general. Top of Form

I remain a hopeful optimist and now there's some good news on the horizon for homeless dogs, cats, and rabbits in Los Angeles. This week a Los Angeles City Council committee “approved a proposed ordinance that would require every dog, cat or rabbit sold for profit in the city to be obtained from a shelter or humane society.”

I know many people have rescued animals with whom they've shared their home and the human and nonhumans have had wonderful lives together. Jethro, who I rescued from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, and I had a wonderful life together (he also rescued me) and he turned out to be a “love muffin” who saved the lives of other species.

On a recent trip to the give a talk for the Wisconsin Humane Society I met Maddy, who reminded me of Jethro, and had I been able to take her home with me I would have done so, along of course, with all of the other wonderful animals who lived in this remarkable facility. I was thrilled to learn that Maddy was adopted shortly after I was there. 

The Los Angeles ordinance may be voted on soon so there's time to contact the Los Angeles City Council to voice your opinion. Please take the time to do so. Millions of animals will be grateful for your efforts and we can hope that other cities will follow up on this ordinance and other species will also be included. 

There really is no reason to buy a commercially bred animal. 

 

Wellness: Health Care
DIY Physical Exam: An “owner’s manual” for your dog Part 1
Part 1 in a 4 Part Guide

To identify an illness or abnormal situation, you must first be able to recognize what is normal for your dog. You know your dog better than anyone else and you will have to decide when an abnormal situation warrants professional help. Sometimes the condition is so serious it leaves no doubt. Frequently, however, the changes are subtle, or happen over a longer period of time, making noticing a problem more difficult.  

Over the course of the following weeks, I will provide you with information on how to perform an at-home physical exam, helping to determine and establish what is normal for your pet. It is recommended that you occasionally perform this exam- while there is nothing wrong- so that you can begin to get used to what is normal. This practice will help allow for the early detection of changes in your dog’s health.  

I will start with the basics this week: A good look, temperature, and how to obtain a heart rate. Next week will continue with a systems approach beginning with the head area, followed by the chest, and lastly, the abdomen. At the completion of these 4 blogs, you should have a complete home guide on how to perform a screening exam.  Ready?!

THE BASICS:

First, before you start your hands-on exam, stand back and just simply look at your dog for a few minutes. The posture, breathing, activity level, and general appearance can really tell you a great deal. Get a good picture of your dog’s “normal” in its relaxed home environment—this mental snapshot will help you notice any subtle change.

TEMPERATURE:

Taking your dog’s temperature is an easy and important procedure. Use a digital rectal thermometer (the ear type is less reliable and mercury thermometers can break!). Lubricate the end with petroleum jelly and gently insert the thermometer into the rectum about 1 inch for small dogs and about 2 inches for larger ones. If it does not slide in easily, do not force it. And do not risk taking your pet’s temperature if you feel there is a risk of being bitten.

Normal

  • A normal temperature is between 100 F and 102.5F
  • The thermometer is almost clean when removed

Abnormal

  • Temperature is below 99 F or above 102.5 F
  • There is evidence of blood, diarrhea, or black, tarry stool on the thermometer; black/tarry stool can indicate a bleeding ulcer in the stomach or small intestines, or point to other sources of disease

PULSE AND HEART RATE:

Learn to locate the pulse on your dog before a crisis. The best place on a dog is the femoral artery in the groin area (see picture).

Here’s how: place your fingers around the front of the hind leg and move upward until the back of your hand meets the abdominal wall. Move your fingertips back and forth on the inside of the thigh until you feel the “roll” of the artery and the pulsing sensation as the blood rushes through it. Count the number of pulses in 15 seconds and multiply by 4. This will give you the pulse rate in beats per minute. Pulse rate is a highly variable finding and can be affected by recent exercise, excitement or stress. Do not use the heart rate at the sole evidence that your pet is sick or healthy.

The heart rates that are listed are for healthy dogs at rest in their home, not for animals that are evaluated in a veterinary clinic where higher heart rates might be detected due to excitement, stress of a visit to the clinic, or disease.

Normal

  • Dogs: 60 to 160 beats per minute (bpm): relaxed, large breed, or athletic dogs tend to have slower heart rates, while small breed dogs and puppies tend to have higher heart rates. This marked variability in heart rate stresses the importance of knowing what is normal for your pet.
  • The pulse should be easily felt and the quality of it should be strong and regular

 

Abnormal

  • Too rapid or too slow
  • Pulse is weak, irregular, or hard to locate

 

Practice these essential skills and I’ll see you next week for all things head related, including the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth! See DIY Physical Exam: Part 2.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fulfilling a Canine Bucket List
Boy seeks treats for his dying service dog

When eleven-year old Cole Hein found out that his Jack Russell Terrier had only weeks to live, he created the “Lick It List,” a canine bucket list to honor his pup Bingo. For five years, Bingo has been taking care of Cole, who has a medical condition that can stop his breathing. The thirteen-year old dog is trained to alert adults if the boy needs CPR.

In the first six months the two were together, Bingo saved Cole's life three times, leading to her induction into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame in 2010. Now it's Cole's turn to help Bingo make the most of her time left as the pup battles Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

Here is Cole and Bingo's Lick It List:

1) Let Bingo "taste" the world by getting him dog treats from around the globe

2) Take Bingo for one last "public" outing to Ruckers (a favorite game-and-pizza place)

3) Walk around the block twice with Bingo

4) Do a photo shoot with just Bingo and Cole (which has already been arranged)

To help Cole achieve Bingo's Lick It List, he's asking people around the world to send treats. No monetary donations will be accepted (Bingo's medical care is taken care of). Any treats that Bingo can't consume will be donated to the local animal shelter. Likewise, if you're not able to send treats, Cole asks that you make a donation to your favorite animal rescue in Bingo's name.

Dog treats can be sent to:

Cole Hein/Bingo Hein
P.O. Box 413
Shilo, MB
Canada
R0K 2A0

If my dogs had a bucket list, treats would certainly be number one! What would be on your dog's Lick It List?

News: Guest Posts
The Most Incredible Sit Ever
If London can do it, any dog can.

http://youtu.be/b3vIPrO9zME

Before he turned six months of age, London lost the use of both front legs. It was not due to disease or an accident, but sickening abuse and negligence at the hands of his Northern California owners. A local shelter representative rescued him from the situation. Ultimately, he was placed in the care of Panda Paws Rescue (PPR), a nonprofit group in Vancouver, Washington, that focuses on special needs canines.

PPR founder Amanda Giese arranged for an evaluation with a surgeon Brandon Sherman, DVM, of Animal Care Clinic, who determined that both legs were shattered and required amputation. London had been suffering in this state for a month or longer. During that time, he had somehow managed to tolerate the pain and move using his hind legs and his face to serve as the third "leg."  

On August 1, 2012, Dr. Sherman performed a successful surgery. As you can see in the video above, London is adjusting well and thriving in his foster home. He will be fitted with a wheelchair so he does not damage his spine or back. 

Two weeks later, based on statements and evidence supporting that London was brutally beaten on two separate occasions, the Crescent City Police Department arrested multiple suspects who remain in custody and are being charged with felonies.

London's surgery was covered by donations totaling $5,000. This generosity lead Giese to start the Team London Scholarship, with a goal of raising $100,000 to help other special needs canines. PPR is an all-volunteer, nonprofit rescue, so all funds go directly to the animals it serves. To read more about London and his extraordinary spirit, go to We Are Team London.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dangerous Snack Bags
Penn. pup suffocates from a potato chip bag

It’s well known that plastic bags pose a suffocation risk for both children and pets. Most packaging carries a warning as a reminder. However, I never considered that snack bags could also be dangerous. 

Last month a Pennsylvania family came home to a heartbreaking scene. The Elwoods knew something was wrong when their 4-year old Pit Bull didn’t greet them at the door. Amid trash scattered around the house, they found Lucy with her head stuck in a potato chip bag she stole from the garbage can.

CPR was attempted, but sadly the poor pup had already suffocated. The Elwood family has now made it their mission to prevent this tragedy from happening again. The fliers they created advise people to either cut out the bottom of bags or tear them open completely before throwing them away. The Elwoods also contacted the Frito Lay company about adding a warning label to snack bags.

My dog, Nemo, is a perennial garbage raider, so I’ve always had to be careful about his access to trash cans. Considering Nemo’s habit, I’ll definitely be cutting any bags that I throw out. It’s a good safety measure in addition to keeping garbage cans out of reach.

Please spread the word in Lucy’s memory.

News: Editors
A Friend's Sudden Passing

Recently we got the sad news that a friend from the dog park had passed away suddenly. She was on a backpacking trip in the Sierra mountains with a group of friends when she had a heart attack, a few hours later she died at a friend’s home. It is all so horribly sad! Luckily her two dogs were not with her; they were being cared for by another friend/dogsitter back in Berkeley. Unfortunately Carol did not leave a will, she was a single woman who adored her dogs but there were no instructions about what to do if something like this would happen. I know that few of us, especially those as healthy and as robust like Carol was (even at the age of 69), think of doing such things. I don’t think we like to ponder our own mortality. The welfare of Carol’s two dogs was now in the hands of her dog sitter, a challenging assignment for anyone. Other friends at the park offered what they could by the way of advice and assistance. Luckily a woman, who had the littermate, took the Husky in, and the dog sitter kept the young Jack Russell for a while until another of the dog park pals, took him in too. All that was a great relief to everyone who knew Carol and who loved her dogs. No matter what age you are, and especially if you are a single person with dogs, it is really important to consider doing a living will or setting up a pet trust. This was a lesson to me that we simply can’t leave such important matters in the hands of others.

Wellness: Health Care
Ick! It’s a Tick on My Dog!
The top 5 tick myths dispelled

Disease-carrying ticks can pose serious health risks to both dogs and people, no matter what state you live in. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that ticks in every state can carry disease, and the number of tick-borne diseases is on the rise. Here in Northern California, they seem to be everywhere, and it is not uncommon for me to find an “incidental tick or two” during my physical exam.  This usually leads to a tick-related conversation where I sometimes have to dispel a tick myth or two.

Fiction: “I heard that the best way to remove a tick is with a lit match, petroleum jelly, or alcohol”

Fact: None of these methods cause a tick to “back out” of the skin and can actually cause more injury. When you try to remove an embedded tick in this manner, you can actually aggravate it, causing the tick to deposit more disease-carrying saliva into the wound, and increasing the risk of infection. The best way to remove a tick is by using tweezers, grasping it as close to the dog’s skin as possible, and pulling the tick out with a steady motion. Dispose of the removed tick down the toilet or by placing it in rubbing alcohol.You should clean the skin with mild soap and water after its removal. You may see a little red circle (like a bull’s eye) or bump of redness on the skin at the insertion site following removal- this can be normal and may be visible for up to a couple of days. You should see your veterinarian if the region of redness increases in size or if it doesn’t go away within 2-3 days.

Fiction: “My dog doesn’t go hiking in the woods, so I don’t have to worry about exposure”

Fact:  Ticks live on the ground no matter the locale, and this includes our urban parks and rural areas. Ticks typically crawl up blades of grass, looking to hitch a ride as our pets pass by. Ticks like to migrate upward, which is often why they’re found on the head.

Fiction:  “Ticks aren’t a problem in the colder weather, so I only have to worry in the summer”

Fact: In most areas of the country, “tick season” runs from April to November, however, infection can occur any time of the year. For example, in the winter, some tick species actually move indoors, while other species make a type of “internal antifreeze” to survive during the winter months. This is often why veterinarians will recommend year-round tick prevention.

Fiction:  “Lyme disease is the only illness that ticks can transmit to dogs (and their humans)”

Fact:  While Lyme disease is the most widely known and common disease caused by ticks, there are other diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis (one of the newer discovered diseases, see Jane Brody’s article about it), and ehrlichiosis. These diseases can have equally devastating effects on our pets.

Fiction:  “If I find a tick on my pet, or if I see the “bull’s eye” red ring on my pet’s skin, I should get a blood test because this will tell me if my pet has disease”

Fact: If your pet is ill, and you are aware of tick exposure, a tick-borne disease screen is highly recommended.  However, it should be noted that lab tests run for tick-borne diseases are often negative on the first sample and require a second test in two to three weeks to confirm infection. Therefore, a negative test does not necessarily mean that your pet is free from disease. It should also be noted that many dogs with tick-borne illness do not experience any symptoms, especially in the early stages of disease.

And one last tip to throw into the mix:  if you do attempt to remove a tick at home, make sure that it is actually a tick!  I cannot tell you how many times I see a pet on emergency for an accidentally removed nipple!  Ouch!

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Named After a Dog
“Wild Karen” the inspiration

I recently met another woman named Karen, and our conversation turned to dogs. Of course, there’s a tendency for many of my conversations to take that route, but this one arrived at the subject quite directly. The other Karen told me that she bet the story of how she got her name was more interesting than the story of how I got mine. 

She almost wins that one by default because my story is that my parents found “Karen” in a book of baby names and liked it. Riveting, isn’t it? Karen does indeed have a much better tale. Her stepfather went to the greyhound racing track and a speedy dog named “Wild Karen” won, and that’s who she was named after. She told me that as a child, she hardly ever shared that story because being named after a dog would have invited a lot of teasing from other kids.

I understood completely, but oh, how times have changed! Now, it sounds pretty cool that she was named after a dog. (Of course, going to the greyhound racetrack is not viewed as positively as it once was, but that’s another issue.) Because Karen had expressed concern about sharing this story, I made sure to ask her if I could write about it for The Bark’s blog, and she agreed. It turns out that she just received The Bark for Christmas and loves it!

Lots of dogs share names with humans these days, and some of the really common names such as Emma, Zoe, Sadie, and Sophie are popular for both species, but it’s hard to know who’s named after whom anymore, or whether parents and guardians simply liked the name. Do you know of any people who were named after dogs?

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