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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Hammocks and Dogs Create a Balancing Act
It’s another way to be together

I love hammocks and I love dogs. Over the years, there have been many happy moments enjoying each of these pleasures in life. Naturally, I have also spent considerable amounts of time enjoying the two simultaneously.

If you want your dog to enjoy being in a hammock with you, start slowly. Lift the dog or help him step in while the hammock is not moving. Keep it still, and don’t force him to stay in. He may do best with a bunch of short visits (seconds, or a few minutes at most depending on how he’s doing) over a period of time. For most dogs, the key is not to move the hammock until he is comfortable being in it while it’s stationery. To help many dogs like the hammock instead of just tolerating it, give him tasty treats while he’s in it, and then stop the delivery of the goodies when he’s out of it.

Once your dog has learned to settle in and feel comfortable in the hammock, you can add in gentle motion, but just briefly, and certainly don’t swing it far. To keep it safe, make sure your dog’s nails are trimmed so they don’t catch on the hammock. Low hammocks are best for dogs just in case anybody leaves it unexpectedly. Fabric hammocks are safer for dogs than rope ones because dogs’ little legs so easily go through the openings in the fabric, which can be scary and cause injury.

In the video below, Marley and I are having fun, but it was not particularly relaxing. He needs a watchful eye and a guiding hand.

 

 

Just so that nobody is too worried about Marley’s safety, we were only about a foot off the ground, he loves being in hammocks, and I was holding up the edges to minimize the chances of a mishap.

He is pretty well balanced actually, and is a natural in hammocks. He first jumped into the hammock uninvited. Luckily, he made it in on that occasion and did not fly out the other side or get part of his body caught in the hammock.

Nobody should force a dog into a hammock, as not all dogs enjoy the feeling on being in one. Some find the movement really scary while others become motion sick. Many dogs don’t suffer in them, but just vaguely seem to prefer to be on more solid ground.

It sounds overly obvious and simple, but there are few more pleasant ways to pass a lazy afternoon than to spend it swaying gently in the breeze in a hammock with your dog buddy. Do you "swing" with your pup?

 

Wellness: Health Care
Rattlesnake Bites the Dog
The dos, the don’ts, and the mumbo jumbo myths

We all love to bask in the California sun and rattlesnakes are no exception. Snakebite envenomation is something that is frequently seen in the ER, in fact, we treated three pets for this just this past weekend alone! Sadie, an 11-week old Cocker Spaniel, was one of those patients. She was gardening with her Mom when a rattlesnake bit her.

Poisonous snakes of the United States belong to two groups: pit vipers and elapids. Pit vipers are the largest group and include at least 26 subspecies of rattlesnakes (Crotalus spp.), with the Western Rattlesnake being the most common in our region. Click this link for an excellent resource guide that includes pictures of the many species of California rattlesnakes.

How does the venom work?
An understanding of the function of venom is helpful in appreciating how envenomation works. The snake uses its venom to immobilize the victim and predigest body tissues. There are over 50 types of enzymes in pit viper venom, with a minimum of 10 in any individual snakes venom.  Additionally, there are many other non-enzymes present in the venom, called killing fractions, which are 50 times more toxic than the “crude” venom. When the venom destroys the body tissues, it is possible for up to 1/3 of a pet’s body fluid to be lost into the tissue spaces within several hours, which can result in life-threatening drops in blood pressure resulting in shock.

What makes a bad bite worse?
Several factors influence the severity of snakebites. The most important factors are the volume of venom injected and the toxicity of the venom itself. Other factors include:

  • The amount of regenerated venom since the last bite: there is more venom and it is more concentrate if the snake hasn’t bitten in a while.
  • The age of the snake: younger snakes have more “potent” venom.
  • Aggressiveness of the snake: the more threatened they feel, the more concentrated the venom.
  • Motivation of the snake: offensive strikes are more severe.
  • The size of the pet being bitten: smaller dogs and cats are more severely affected than large dogs due to their small body size to venom ratio (less body to “absorb” the amount of venom).
  • The size of the bite.
  • The location of the bite: the “best” place to be bitten is in the legs or face as the regional swelling and changes in the local blood supply can actually slow the uptake of the venom; envenomation to the body is more concerning as the broader area allows for the venom to be absorbed more rapidly; bites to the tongue are the worst and result in rapid and devastating clinical signs.
  • The time elapsed from bite until seeking medical treatment.
  • The amount of physical activity since the time of the bite.

What are the general signs of a snakebite wound?
Snakebites are not always easy to diagnose, especially if it was an unobserved bite and if a pet has a heavy hair coat that may hide puncture wounds. With pit viper bites, you can usually see bleeding puncture wounds and single or multiple puncture sites may be observed. The initial signs are marked swelling, which is due to the tissue destruction and body fluid “leaking” into the damaged area (see the picture of the little Chihuahua, showing a what a typical bite to the face looks like). Clinical signs may develop immediately or be delayed for several hours. Bruising and skin discoloration often occurs within hours of the bite because the venom causes the blood to not clot. There is usually intense and immediate pain at the site of the bite, which helps differentiate snakebites from other causes of swelling, and swelling is generally progressive for up to 36 hours. You can also see collapse, vomiting, muscle tremors, and depression in breathing.

What to do if a snake bites your pet:

  • If your pet is bitten by a snake, it is best to assume it is a venomous bite.
  • Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible!
  • If the swelling is not in the face, muzzle your pet (if you can do it safely) to avoid being bitten: snake bites are very painful and your pet may unintentionally snap at you; if the swelling is in the face, avoid touching this area all together.
  • Immobilize the part of your pet that has been bitten by the snake, if this can be done safely; try to keep the area at or below the level of the heart.
  • Keep your pet calm and immobile, carry if necessary.

What NOT to do (and the mumbo jumbo myths)

  • Do not try to suck out the venom! (This technique only works for John Wayne in old Western movies).
  • Do not attempt to “make an X” and cut open the area around the bite (you will only cause a wound).
  • Do not bother to use a Snake Bite Kit or Extractor Pump (they will actually do more harm to your pet- and your wallet!).
  • Do not apply ice to the area: this constricts the blood vessels locally and actually concentrates the venom causing severe muscle damage to the area.
  • Do not rub any substances into the bite: the venom has entered the blood stream, and any substance applied topically is ineffectual.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet: you will only succeed in causing further tissue damage and possibly create a need for limb amputation.
  • Do not allow your pet to move about freely.
  • Do not attempt to capture the snake for later identification (you’d be surprised…)

Tips for prevention:

  • Stay on open paths while hiking with your pet.
  • Keep your pets on leash away from high grass and rocky outcrops where snakes like to rest.
  • Don’t let your pet explore holes or dig under rocks.
  • Keep an open ear for that telltale rattling noise and keep your pet at your side until you determine where the sound is coming from, and then move slowly away.
  • If you see a snake that sees you, remember that a snake can strike only a distance of half its body length; give the snake time to “just go away” as they are not looking to interact with you or your pet.
  • Don’t let your pet examine a dead snake as they still can envenomate.
  • For around your home: cut off the snakes food supply and shelter by mowing close to the house, storing firewood away from the house, plugging up holes in the ground, and limiting birdseed waste which can attract rodents to your home.

What is the treatment?

Since the onset of clinical signs can be delayed for several hours, all pets that have been bitten by a snake should be hospitalized for at least 12 hours and ideally 24 hours. Although most pets generally need to be supported and monitored, the vast majority (95%) do survive with early and proper treatment.

Antivenom is the only proven treatment against pit viper envenomation, and the earlier it is administered, the more effective its action.  The biggest downside to antivenom is cost, and it can range anywhere from $450-$700 per vial.  Usually a single vial will control the envenomation but several vials may be necessary, especially in small dogs or cats.  Many animals may do “fine” without it, but it does decrease the severity of clinical signs, as well as speed overall recovery with a reduction in complications. Blood work is also recommended to monitor your pet’s platelet count as well as clotting times of the blood. IV fluid support, intensive pain management, antibiotics and wound monitoring are required for best clinical outcomes. Blood and plasma transfusions are sometimes needed in severe envenomation.

What about the vaccine?
There is a “snake-bite vaccine” that may be useful, but there have been no controlled studies for its effectiveness. The main benefit of the vaccine is that it may create protective antibodies to neutralize some of the injected venom, and in turn may lessen the severity of the clinical signs. One of the biggest myths is that if your pet has had the vaccine, then they don’t need to be treated if they are bitten; this is not true, and they still require the same treatment despite being given a vaccine or not!

Thankfully, most snakes will try to avoid you and your pets and typically only bite as a last resort. But if your pet does happen to get bitten by a snake that you think might be venomous, it is best to err on the side of caution and get medical attention immediately. As always, feel free to ask questions or leave comments!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Developing a Healthy Immune System
Study finds that babies in dog homes get sick less often

I have friends on both sides of the parenting spectrum. Some won't let me in the door without slathering my hands in antibacterial gel, while others are okay with their kids teething on my dogs' Kongs.

There isn't one right way to raise children (human or canine!), but it turns out that a little bit of dirt and fur may be a good thing.

A recent study at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland found that babies who live with a dog are healthier and less likely to need antibiotics than infants in pet-free homes. Kids from homes without animals were healthy for 65 percent of their first year, compared with 72 to 76 percent for babies in dog homes.

The kids in pet families were also 44 percent less likely to get inner ear infections and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotics. The study found a similar correlation between infants and families with cats, but to a lesser extent.

The researchers believe that dirt and allergens introduced by animals may cause a child's immune system to mature faster.

Our pets hold a special place in our family and now we know they may also play an important role in developing our kids' immune systems.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Lending Your Dog To Those In Need
Does your dog spread cheer?

A friend of mine was telling me that her parents had recently lost their old dog and were really suffering with the grief and the quiet house. To help her parents, my friend and her husband loaned them their dog for a week of “dog therapy”, which really helped them out during part of the time between when their dog passed away and they adopted a new dog.

Now, I must assure you that my friends' dog is very comfortable at the parents’ house, which is a two-hour drive away from them. They take care of the dog when my friends travel for work, and the dog also spends a lot of time there during weekend visits and holidays, too

My friends said they really missed their dog, but that it felt good, too, to help out because they felt like her parents needed to have a dog present more they did at that point. Obviously, if this visit would have been stressful to the dog, I would have been opposed, but since the dog loves to be there, I think it was a lovely gesture. “Loaning out love” is such a kind and giving act.

Has your dog every gone visiting just to cheer people up?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Social Media Finds an Adventurous Dog
Twitter reunites an Irish woman and her lost pup

Social media has revolutionized the way we find homes for pets and raise money for animal related charities. Last month, Facebook aided rescuers in locating a stray dog in distress and, most recently, Twitter helped an adventurous pup find his way back to his family.

Deirdre Anglin's dog, Patch, went missing last Tuesday in Kilcock, Ireland. She posted photos of the Jack Russell Terrier on Facebook, but didn't have much luck.

Patch wasn't discovered until he boarded an Irish Rail train to Dublin the next morning. At first rail workers thought he might be a passenger's dog, but when he remained unclaimed at the final stop, it was clear that the pup was lost.

Irish Rail took to Twitter with a “Lost dog!” photo, which was retweeted more than 500 times in a half an hour. Deirdre Anglin soon saw the message and tweeted back, “That's my dog!”

Patch and Deride were reunited and the terrier became an overnight celebrity. When Deirdre took Patch home on the train, fellow passengers kept asking if he was “the dog from Twitter.”

Twitter was able to reunite Deirdre and Patch quickly, but I have to say, I'm equally amazed how pet friendly the Irish Rail is. My local commuter train, Metro North, welcomes pets on leash, though I rarely see animals on board. However, if you need to travel longer distances, Amtrak does not allow pets.

On Irish Rail, small dogs are able to ride the train on a person's lap. Apparently canine passengers are so common that the rail workers didn't think it was that strange for Patch to be wandering about.

If only all trains were so pet friendly!

News: Editors
Andy Griffith: An Appreciation
Andy Griffith

Growing up, I never missed an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. The program was pure hokum, but a tonic that was hugely popular during the unsettling times of 1960s America. Each week Andy dispensed wisdom and homilies to his young son Opie (played by a young Ron Howard) and a cast of characters named Aunt Bee, Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle. Griffith seemed born to play the part of the small town law officer, a role he developed from his popular monologues and a successful stage career. Griffith was so comfortable in the role, he never seemed to be acting. It wasn’t until much later that I gained a fuller appreciation of Griffith’s talent, watching his film debut in “A Face in the Crowd” directed by Elia Kazan. It’s a memorable performance, as complex and dark a character as his sheriff Andy was simple and sunny. In the fictional town of Mayberry, we saw how life could be, with good trumping bad, neighbor helping neighbor, and when Opie finds a stray dog—a lesson in humanity. See the full 1963 episode titled “Dogs, Dogs, Dogs.”

 

News: Guest Posts
Puppy Survives Chicago Expressway
A lesson in how not to catch a dog

Holiday traffic was tied up for an hour when a small mixed breed dog darted along the busy Stevenson Expressway in Chicago. State police troopers, road construction workers and passersby all attempted to catch the dog to no avail. It wasn't until he wore himself out and laid down on the grassy shoulder that nearby resident Jose Terriquez could grab him. In watching the video, I couldn't help but notice how the would-be rescuers were chasing him down, hoping to catch him. But anyone with a dog knows that most of them can easily outrun a clumsy, two-legged person, especially if the dog is scared. In an emergency, the best way to catch a dog is to run away from him. The motion grabs his attention in an instinctive way, an urge to chase prey. Unfortunately, our instinct is to give chase, which puts pressure on the dog and moves him away from us. To learn more about how to teach your dog to come every time, animal behaviorist Ian Dunbar, Ph.D., shares his emergency recall tips.  

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Reclassifying Military Canines
Bill seeks better treatment for war dogs

As we celebrate Independence Day, it's important to remember our veterans—both human and canine. The military has been slow in providing the care and respect that these working canines deserve. Retired war dogs were euthanized for decades before “Robby's Law” allowed these brave pups to be adopted. However, the military still has a long way to go in giving dogs proper treatment.

I was shocked to learn that the military classifies working canines as equipment. Because of this distinction, dogs that are retired overseas are considered excess equipment and are not transported home. They can be adopted, but the government doesn't provide any financial support.

U.S. Army Specialist Robert Mather Jr. couldn't afford to adopt the Belgian Malinois he worked with in Iraq and Germany. Fortunately Mather's community raised the money to bring Nouska back to N.J., but it's a disgrace that the military didn't pay for her safe return. Nouska served for 10 years and 4 tours of duty!

Representative Walter Jones and Senator Richard Blumenthal teamed up earlier this year to sponsor a bill that would make sure dogs like Nouska are safe. The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act would allow the military to honor courageous canines, make sure that all dogs are flown back home, and set up a private fund for lifetime health care. The House of Representatives already passed the bill and the legislation is now in the Senate.

Seems like a no brainer for the furry pups who serve our country and protect our troops!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
This Dog is Not Photogenic
I’m not sure why I care

I am dogsitting again for Schultzie, an incredibly lovely dog about whom I have expressed my great love. There are so many wonderful qualities in this dog, but being photogenic is not among them. She is incredibly adorable in person, but her charm simply does not come across in pictures. This bums me out, but it’s hard to explain why it matters to me at all.

As a behaviorist, I know very well the value of a dog whose behavior makes her a joy to be around. What a dog looks like is not what’s most important to me. In fact, I’m a huge champion of choosing a dog whose behavior you like and then learning to love what that dog looks like. (This would probably not be a bad idea in our relationships with people either, but that’s a whole different can of worms.)

With Schultzie’s appearance not translating well to pictures, I’ve given a lot of thought to why I care. I think that the fact that Schultzie is not photogenic bothers me because I adore this dog and I want others to see her in the best possible light, and pictures that don’t do her justice fail in that attempt.

Do you have a dog who is not photogenic, and if so, how do you feel about that?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Safety Tips for Dogs on the 4th of July

One of the busiest times of the year for our emergency service is the Fourth of July holiday. While many people celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and BBQ’s, many others spend it waiting in the ER while their pet is treated for an array of holiday-induced emergencies, including serious laceration injuries from pets jumping through glass windows or doors, high rise fall injuries due to jumping from balconies, hit by car trauma as pets attempt to flee from noises, dietary indiscretions from our pets stealing post-picnic scraps, and cases of severe anxiety due to overwhelming stimulation.  In addition to the trauma that we see, we also receive many phone calls from distressed owners trying to locate their lost pet, following it running away from home in a panicked state.

Follow these tips to help prevent injury and loss during this holiday:

  • Make sure your pets are secured indoors and as far away from the sounds as possible as the loud noise of fireworks can startle. Keep your pet in a safe room where they are comfortable once the festivities begin. If your dog is crate trained, put him/her in its crate with a blanket to help offer a feeling of security. You can also help to block the outside sights and sounds by lowering the blinds and turning on the television or radio. And remember, it is a mistake to assume that a fenced pet won’t look for a way to escape the yard during times of extreme stress!
  • Be sure that your animal can be identified in case they do escape! If you don’t already have a name tag for your dog, instant ones can be made “on demand” at many local pet supply stores. Engraved tags start at $5.99. Microchipping your pet is one other way to help missing animals find their way back home. Sadly, many animals that have been microchipped are not registered in the system and we are unable to reunite families; please ensure that your pets microchip truly has been registered, and just as important, that your address and phone numbers are current!  If you are in question as to whether your pets microchip is active, see your veterinarian for a scan prior to the holiday!
  • If you live out of earshot of city fireworks displays, don’t forget that small neighborhood displays or children can be just as distressing to your pets; if you or your neighbors plan to celebrate, it is still important to keep a sharp eye on your well-secured pet; if you plan to go to a friends home for the festivities, it is safer to keep your dog home than to bring him or her, even if the party is dog-friendly. If you have to leave for the day, keep your pets inside of the house rather than outdoors to help remove the temptation to leap over the fence to try and find you.
  • Pets often try to relieve anxiety by chewing and it is important to make sure confined pets do not have access to anything that they could destroy. Indoor crating could be a good option for some dogs, but not for periods longer than four hours, and you still need to keep a watchful eye on them while contained. We have seen injuries as mild as broken toe nails from trying to “dig out” from their kennels, to more extreme cases of mouth trauma and fractured teeth. This is not a good option to try if your pet has never been crated before as this will only add to their distress.
  • You can also distract your four-pawed friend with a toy and praise him or her for non-fearful behavior, like tail-wagging.
  • Some pets respond well to sedatives, such as Acepromazine. It is always a good idea to plan ahead and anticipate that this will be a time of stress; make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your pet examined and a sedative dispensed, or, if your pet has had a physical exam in the past year by your veterinarian, they will often dispense this medication for you if your pet is otherwise healthy. There are also herbal over-the-counter remedies such as Feliway and NaturVet Calming Aid, which can offer homeopathic relaxing effects to your pets. Thundershirts can also be very helpful for some pets at reducing anxiety caused by noise.
  • Do not feed your dog scraps from the grill and properly put away those garbage bags filled with the remains of your Fourth of July picnic—the lure of leftover BBQ chicken, corn cobs and the like is often too great for any pup to resist, and these types of dietary indiscretions can lead to pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, and intestinal foreign bodies requiring surgical removal. Remember that some foods can be toxic to dogs such as chocolate, onions, grapes, and avocados. Alcoholic beverages also have the potential to poison our pets.
  • Avoid spraying your dog with insect repellant and only use sunscreen that is intended for animal use as human products can be dangerous to your pets. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems. Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ reach; certain types of matches contain chlorates that can damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing or kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to the skin and if ingested, can produce irritation of the stomach and intestines as well as causing aspiration pneumonia if it is inhaled or vomited.  Citronella candles, insect coils and oil-based insect repellents can also cause stomach irritation and possibly central nervous system depression.

It is hoped that these tips will help ensure a happy holiday celebration for your entire 2 and 4-legged family… one without any trips to the animal ER!

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