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
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
“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?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mark Zuckerberg introduces his dog to sheep for the first time
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla, made headlines last year when their family grew by one 8-week Puli named Beast. Since then they’ve been spoiling the furry pup in their Palo Alto home. Beast has his own Facebook page and even escorted Priscilla down the aisle when the couple got married in May.
Going back to the Puli’s Hungarian Sheepdog roots, Zuckerberg recently took Beast on his first sheep herding lesson. Photos can be seen on the dog’s Facebook page in an album captioned, “Dad took me to herd sheep for the very first time!” Herding breeds are very active by nature, so it’s important to keep them stimulated by introducing them to activities like rounding up sheep.
It’s also pretty amazing to watch. I remember the first time that I brought my Border Collie, Remy, herding. He had never seen a sheep before in his life, but as soon as he saw the flock, he immediately ran over and started circling them. The natural instinct was incredible!
I hope that Beast’s herding adventure inspires others to find activities to share with their pets.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
She was another one of the many neglected strays I pick up on my job as an animal control officer but I was shocked by how emaciated she was. Her spine and hips stood out in stark relief, especially over her rump where much of her hair was missing. Her belly was hugely swollen and closer inspection showed that she was ready to deliver. She was incredibly sweet and looked like a Border Collie/Lab mix; all black with beautiful big brown eyes.
It was clear that she would give birth before her stray hold period was up and in her condition, the shelter was not the best place for her. Her photo was posted online in case an owner came looking for her. They would have had to do some explaining as to why their unspayed dog was roaming and in such terrible condition if they had tried to claim her. I named her April and took her home and made her comfortable in a cozy, spacious kennel that I keep ready for dogs in need.
Within days she delivered 8 beautiful puppies in shades of gold and black. She was a doting mama and her puppies thrived. Getting full choice puppy kibble and several warm wet meals a day she actually began to gain weight even while nursing. She was delighted when I gently examined her puppies each day and would wag her tail proudly while licking each one as I checked to be sure they were gaining and healthy.
On the ninth day I went in to do my daily puppy cuddle and was shocked and saddened to find one of the gold puppies dead. It’s not unusual to lose a very young puppy, especially when mom was in such terrible shape, but they had been so fat, shiny and healthy the day before. When I examined the rest of the litter I found others that were failing too. Even mama April was off her food and seemed like she didn’t feel well.
I consulted with the vet, who thought they had probably picked up a nasty infection. We started antibiotics twice daily and I began tube feeding and gave warmed subcutaneous fluids to the ones that weren’t able to nurse. Some of them rallied while others went downhill. Having worked in numerous shelters and vet clinics I’ve dealt with sick puppies many times. Often the very young pups die even with extensive treatment.
It was heartbreaking to have to poke the sick babies with needles and stick tubes down their throats but it was all that was keeping them alive. Several of the pups never did get sick and they continued to grow and gain weight. I took the chubbies out several times a day to give the weaker pups a chance to nurse without competition.
The two remaining blond pups and the little blaze-faced male were so sick that I doubted they would survive. After nearly two weeks the blond pups started to improve but little Blaze lingered, barely alive, day after day. More vet consults, more meds and fluids. I started to wonder if I was just prolonging his suffering but he didn’t seem painful, just terribly weak and frail. I was certain he would die but he hung on and would at least attempt to nurse so I continued the treatments.
He finally improved briefly but then I found him nearly comatose one evening. I put Karo syrup on his tongue for energy and gave him warmed fluids. I sat up half the night with him cuddled up on my chest and dripped miserable tears onto his tiny body. He remained unresponsive and there didn’t seem to be any hope. Around 1 a.m. I finally tucked him into a warmed blanket on low heat and kissed him good-bye.
I was emotionally and physically exhausted after 2 weeks of round the clock puppy care but I tossed and turned until six before getting up and preparing to bury Blaze. I was positive that he couldn’t have survived the night and was shocked to find him rooting around for a meal when I opened the blanket. Hurrying him into see April, I moved the bigger puppies out of the way and placed him on a nipple. She nosed and licked him eagerly and I supported him while he nursed for a moment before falling asleep. He was still very weak and I helped him nurse every hour or so until he grew stronger and stronger.
Blaze finally turned the corner and he and the other pups never looked back. Mama April and all the puppies were adopted into wonderful homes and we get together for reunions so they can play together. I’ve been doing fostering and rescue for more than 25 years but the rewards of helping needy dogs still feel just as sweet.
I would love for Barks readers to consider fostering a needy dog or share experiences of fostering. Most shelters and rescues welcome the assistance and there’s nothing like the feeling of making a difference.
News: Guest Posts
Without being able to drive, I’ve always thought that blind people and our guide dogs—especially those of us who live in big cities—must walk more than the average person-and-dog team does.
A new wellness program at my workplace gave me a chance to prove it. I work part time at Easter Seals Headquarters in downtown Chicago, and in June they started a six-week “Walk For U, Go The Extra Mile” challenge. Every employee received a free pedometer to keep track of our progress for six weeks, and those of us who met the daily goal of 7,000 steps per day—a distance of 3.5 miles—throughout the entire six weeks would be entered into a drawing to win a six-month fitness club membership.
The human resources department realized I wouldn’t be able to read the number of steps I’d taken each day on my own, so they ordered a special talking pedometer for me—it said my results out loud. And so, I was on my way to prove my theory.
The list of requirements for people applying to train with a Seeing Eye dog says candidates need to be able to walk one or two miles a day. When you live in a city you can’t simply open a sliding glass patio door to let your guide dog out. When my Seeing Eye dog Whitney (a two-year-old Golden Retriever/Labrador Retriever cross) needs to “empty,” I take her down the street, around the corner and to her favorite tree. That’s 1,000 steps per trip, and that trip takes place at least four times a day. And for the rest of the day, well, running errands in a city is like using one big treadmill. Add the safety shortcuts Whitney and I take across busy city streets (rather than deal with traffic, we go down the subway stairs on one side of busy streets, traverse underneath, then come up the stairs on the other side) well, every El station is a StairMaster.The first two weeks of our experiment included one week of 100-degree temperatures in Chicago. We stayed inside with our air conditioner on more than usual, but hey, a girls gotta go. Even in that hot weather Whitney and I averaged 9,871 steps a day, and our steps per day increased when temperatures cooled down the next week.
Just when I’d started planning which new equipment Whitney and I would try out when we won the free health club membership grand prize from the Go The Extra Mile challenge, I pressed the button to hear the number of steps I’d taken so far that day, and, nothing. My talking pedometer stopped talking. I shook the thing and pressed the button. Nothing. I turned it upside-down and rightside-up again. Nothing. I stuck it in a bag of rice for a day. Nothing.
And so, what happened with the challenge? Well, human resources offered to buy me a new talking pedometer, but I told them not to bother. I have a new theory now: blind people and our guide dogs—especially those of us who live in big cities—walk so many steps that a talking pedometer can’t keep up with us.
Wellness: Health Care
Making the cost of pet care easier to swallow
In many veterinary practices, dispensing of prescription drugs, nutritional supplements and parasite prevention makes up 17 percent to 20 percent of practice revenue. Historically, selling these products has been a relatively passive revenue source for veterinary practices. In the past, there has been little competition for products, and consumers did not routinely “shop around” for medications. However, that landscape is rapidly changing.
There is new legislation that is currently being discussed in congress that, if passed, will mandate that veterinarians provide a written prescription, even if the prescription is filled on the premise. This legislation is called the “Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2011,” or H.R. 1406, which will allow pet owners to go to their neighborhood pharmacy for prescriptions, or to have them filled online. The legislation was modeled after the Contact Lens Consumers Act, with the intent of giving pet owners a copy of the written prescription so they can shop around.
The legislation calls for new rules regarding veterinary prescriptions that include:
• Requires veterinarians to offer written disclosures about off-site pharmacy options for prescription dispensing;
Many veterinarians and medical associations feel this idea is a tough pill to swallow and here’s why:
• The American Veterinary Association believes this law is redundant and will cause undue regulatory and administrative burdens on veterinary practices. They feel it is burdensome and unnecessary to require a written prescription be provided, as well as a written notification that the prescription may be filled elsewhere, regardless of whether or not the client is having the prescription filled by the veterinarian.
• The provision that requires the vet to verify the prescription, regardless of whether the pharmacy is accredited or licensed, which places the veterinarian in both a legal and ethical dilemma. At the same time, it puts consumers at risk.
• Clients already have the flexibility to fill a prescription at their veterinary clinic or off-site at a pharmacy of their choice. The AVMA is supportive of a client's right to choose where they have their prescription filled.
I see both sides of the fence, and overall, I feel that the concept is an excellent one; I just hope it doesn’t get lost in translation. I feel pet parents have the same right to shop around for the best prices on the medications they buy for their pets, just as they do for products they buy for themselves.
While the various lobbyists continue the battle of semantics, did you know? Yes, it is true: most states already do require by law that a written prescription be provided to you, should you just ask. Did you realize that you most likely have this option available to you? What are your thoughts with this proposed legislature after hearing “both sides?”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Our article prompts a foray into truffle hunting
Last week I was reading an article about truffle dogs in the New York Times and spotted a Bark shout out! Elizabeth Kalik, a former search-and-rescue trainer in Oregon, read about canine truffle hunters in our magazine and decided it would be the perfect activity for her crew. She tracked down the man we interviewed and trained her Newfoundland and Beaucerons to hunt for the prized fungi.
Kalik loved the work so much that she co-founded NW Truffle Dogs in 2010 to train interested people and their pets. So far the school has had 46 students. Truffles from Oregon fetch $400 a pound and truffles from Italy and France command up to $4,000 a pound. But so far all of the graduates are amateurs and mostly use their finds in their own cooking.
Training is as much for the humans as it is for the canines. While the dogs must learn to find truffles (and not eat them!), the people have to learn to detect changes their pup’s behavior and body language as they find the treasure. Experienced handlers can distinguish if their dog has locked onto the scent of a squirrel or have located a truffle.
Since canines are already talented with their noses, Kalik says that scent training is easy. The individuals that excel are athletic, have an ability to think independently, can focus on a task for hours, and are able to tolerate variable weather conditions.
While working breeds, like Retrievers, are most common, any dog can be trained. NW Truffle Dogs’ graduates have included a Papillon and a Pit Bull.
If you think your dog would enjoy hunting truffles, but don’t live in an area with the fungi, you might try the sport of K-9 Nosework.
At Bark, we celebrate the rewarding relationship between people and dogs, and that includes introducing our readers to the variety of activities we can do with our beloved pets. It’s very cool that the magazine inspired Kalik to pursue a new hobby with her crew that is now benefiting many others through her school!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Beautiful, even though it’s not true
Various forms of the following story have been all over the online world in recent months. As it turns out, it’s yet another urban legend, but that doesn’t take away from its value. Like most fictional stories, its emotional power comes from our recognition of the great truth within it.
This is one version of the tale:
Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.”
Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.
He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued,
”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
In retirement, the Olympian plans to spend more time with his pups
After winning a record 22 medals, Michael Phelps is retiring as the most decorated Olympian of all time. Now with a little more time on his hands, one of Phelps’ first plans is to teach his dog, Stella, how to swim.
Phelps adopted the Catahoula mix in December after appearing on the Today show to talk about his Olympic training regimen. As part of the Bow to Wow segment, Phelps walked out the spotted pup that was looking for a home. The champion swimmer felt an instant connection and ended up adopting the dog.
I love to hike and its one of the first things I introduce to puppies when they join my crew, in addition to agility of course. There is something special about sharing favorite hobbies with our pets. It helps build the deep relationship we have with them.
I love that Phelps will be sharing his greatest passion with his new pup. Perhaps, in addition to swimming, Phelps will take up agility like Olympic diver, Greg Louganis.
What hobbies do you share with your dog?
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