News: Guest Posts
One dog at a time
For Havana's dogs, it's not the best of times, but it's not the worst either. Some improvement is due to the efforts of the non-governmental Cuban Association for the Protection of Animals and Plants (ANIPLANT), an organization focused on improving the lives of dogs and other animals in Havana. Founded in 1988 by Cuban entertainer Maria Alveres Riso, and Cuba's first prima ballerina, Alisia Alonso, ANIPLANT eliminates animal suffering through massive spay and neuter campaigns, public education, animal health promotion, and hands-on intervention in cases of animal suffering. The founder's daughter, Nora Garcia, who is now president of the organization, talked with me during a visit to the re-purposed house located within walking distance of the heart of Old Havana. The neighborhood, like many in Havana is a contradiction—tidy and clean in spite of decades of neglect.
Prior to my November 2012 arrival in Cuba, without too much difficulty I'd arranged to meet Nora. When my friend, Florence, and I arrived, we received a warm wet-nose welcome from 11 rambunctious happy dogs. Like most, they weigh between 15 and 30 pounds. All are rescues, but unlike their street counterparts, they are on the portly side, mange and parasite free, confident and playful.
The 2000 square foot building, originally a 1920s home, was officially turned over to ANIPLANT in 2007, in very bad shape. Donors, usually dog-loving tourists, helped to rebuild the interior, donating office equipment, lights, chairs, time and money. But money goes only so far in Cuba, because there is very little to buy. The reception area was welcoming, squeaky clean, and decorated with photos of dogs before they were rescued accompanied by after photos as well. Staffed by a few dedicated volunteers, the clinic is open two days a week. Veterinarians volunteer their time as well, but are sometimes paid a small fee when possible.
In urban Havana, people who own dogs often give them free range. I saw a few dogs wearing hand-made ID tags, indicating that someone takes care of them. However, taxes and tags are expensive, so most people own dogs unofficially. I estimate that less than 15% of the city's free-ranging dogs are true strays. The others are sustained by some type of care, from scraps and water, to real meals, to indoor privileges.
ANIPLANT rescues dogs in jeopardy. But they also respond to phone calls from concerned citizens. Many are tourists, who often make donations for the rescue and care of specific dogs, usually ones that frequent the hotels. Some tourists want to take the dogs home, but this is especially tough in a country like Cuba. Most rescued dogs suffer from mange, anemia, distemper, gastroenteritis issues, tape worm, ear mites and renal infections. Due to lack of space, money, homes and people who can't afford to care for a pet, dogs are medically rehabilitated, sterilized, then placed back on the street where they receive minimal care from neighborhood dog lovers. Special case dogs stay at the clinic as permanent residents.
We took a tour of the ANIPLANT facility. The kennels are more like rooms and corridors that can be closed off when necessary with ancient wrought iron gates. Except for the upstairs office, the facility seems to be open for free-run. In Havana homes, interior rooms open to a patio courtyard and this one is no different. I'd be stretching it to say this is an outdoor exercise area. It's more like a lounging area where dogs siesta and soak up sunshine. For easy clean up, they are trained to pee and poop in potted plants. Building materials are neatly stacked outside, waiting for money and an opportunity to be turned into something more useful than just shade. But in Havana, shade is good, too.
In 2007 it was estimated that 20 thousand dogs roamed Havana streets. You can help. To find out more about ANIPLANT and see more photos of my visit, go to http://doctorbarkman.blogspot.com/2013/06/street-dogs-in-havana-cuba.html
News: Guest Posts
Tough guy persona melted away with dogs
By now, most everyone is aware of the sudden death of 51-year-old actor James Gandolfini. The actor died on Wednesday of a heart attack while vacationing in Italy. His death came as a shock to his many fans and admirers, and we count ourselves among them. Like millions of others, we looked forward to sharing Sunday evenings with The Sopranos. Gandolfini’s nuanced portrayal of Tony Soprano, the violent yet charismatic crime boss in HBO’s critically acclaimed show was nothing short of brilliant. His performance connected with the audience in ways not seen before, and thus his passing seems particularly sad, and personal. Still, I doubt few of his fans will miss him more than his dog. In addition to being a loving husband and father, Gandolfini possessed a deep affection for dogs. He was an admirable advocate for Pit Bulls, believing them to be a misunderstood breed. His own pooch, a rescue dog named Duke, remained an important part of his life. The slew of photos found online of Gandolfini and Duke walking together, getting coffee, and driving around attests to their bond. Gandolfini’s last film will stand as a legacy of his passion for canines: Animal Rescue, a crime drama slated to come out in 2014, stars Gandolfini (with Tom Hardy) and revolves around a lost Pit Bull pup. We offer our condolences to his family and friends, celebrate his illustrious career and admire his contributions to the animal world.
News: Guest Posts
This weekend I’ll be the keynote speaker at the 5th International Symposium on Non-Surgical Contraceptive Methods of Pet Population Control. The conference title is a bit of a mouthful, but the basic idea is this: Can scientists develop a drug that will permanently sterilize dogs and cats? Or, put even more simply, can we make “the pill” for pets?
Now a lot of you may be asking, “Don’t we already have birth control for our companion animals?” Well, yes. Spay/neuter has been around for decades. But it’s not a perfect solution. For one, it’s expensive. That means not everyone can afford to sterilize their pet, even at a low-cost clinic. For another, it’s time consuming. That’s been a huge problem for non-profits trying to tackle America’s feral cat problem. With tens of millions of these felines on the streets, volunteers can’t catch and sterilize them quickly enough to keep up with their numbers. And if you think things in the U.S. are bad, consider China and India, which are home to tens millions of stray dogs that bite and spread rabies, yet these countries lack the resources to implement even meager spay/neuter programs. As a result of all of these limitations, millions of cats and dogs are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year, and millions more are shot and poisoned around the globe. If scientists could develop an injection or pill that would work as well as spay/neuter surgery, we might have a shot at eliminating the world’s homeless pet problem.
Enter the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs (ACC&D). Founded in 2000, the Portland, Oregon-based non-profit has been working with scientists and animal welfare advocates to create a non-surgical sterilant for pets. In late 2009, the mission got a huge boost from a U.S. billionaire named Gary Michelson, who announced $75 million in grants and prize money for the development of such a product. The announcement spurred dozens of research teams to begin brainstorming a solution. Some have proposed drugs that would kill the cells that produce sperm and eggs, treating them, essentially, like cancer. Others hope to go after the brain, shutting down pathways involved in fertility and reproduction. I covered these efforts in my award-winning 2009 article in Science, A Cure for Euthanasia?
ACC&D is behind next week’s symposium. It will be giving an update on these efforts and describing some new approaches to the problem of pet overpopulation. I’ll be talking about the topic of my book and what feral cats teach us about the changing status of pets in society. I hope you’ll check out the important work this organization is doing!
See more from David Grimm who is a reporter for Science magazine, you can see more from him at davidhgrimm.com
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
One step closer to increasing the penalties for animal cruelty
Earlier this week, the New York State Senate passed a bill requiring animal abusers who have violated Buster's Law (the state's anti-cruelty legislation) to register their name and address with the criminal justice services. The bill also requires all convicted animal abusers to undergo psychiatric evaluation and bans the person from ever owning a pet again.Buster's Law was named after an 18-month old cat who was doused in Kerosene and lit on fire by a teenager in 1997. The culprit is now a three-time felon and was later convicted of sexually abusing a 12-year old mentally disabled girl. Buster's Law was a landmark bill for pets in New York, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Besides the registry, there are several bills that have been introduced by local politicians to strengthen and enhance Buster's Law. They include expanding the law to cover abuse to all animals, not just pets, and increasing penalties for animal fighting. The registry would not only serve as an invaluable resource for keeping our pets safe, but it also sends a strong message that animal cruelty is a serious issue. It's a well known fact that many animal abusers go on to harm people, like in the case of Buster. The registry bill now lies with the state assembly where it is sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Tedisco.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog to the rescue
June 21 is “Take Your Dog to Work Day.” For those of us who treasure our dogs company, being able to have our companions with us on the job is such a bonus. I’ve been blessed as an animal control officer to be able to bring my girl Breeze, a rescued Doberman, with me to work. On a rough day in the field, just being able to reach over and stroke Breeze’s silky coat can make the day bearable. I provide a soft bed next to my desk when I’m in the office and she’s expected to lie there quietly while I work. Of course, sometimes when there are several employee dogs wanting to socialize, we do allow them a play break. In the truck, she snoozes between calls and gets a potty break when I take mine. She doesn’t leave the truck unless invited and I take every precaution to keep her safe.
When we have our dogs join us at work, It’s critical that they be clean and well-behaved, and that we protect them from well-meaning but pushy or in-your-face people. Make sure your dog is comfortable with strangers and always expect that people will do silly thing to dogs. Even the nicest dog can bite so make sure your dog is enjoying any attention from co-workers or customers.
An added bonus to having Breeze along is that sometimes a scared stray will come to another dog but not a person. If my offers of treats, sweet talk and toys haven’t done the trick with a loose dog, sometimes bringing Breeze out is all it takes. On a recent call, two 5-month-old hound mix pups were dumped far out on a rural road. Sadly, one pup was killed by a car the first day, while the terrified and traumatized littermate wouldn’t come anywhere near people. He had taken up residence in an empty shed, but the minute I pulled up he took off through the pasture toward the nearby forest. Breeze was sitting next to me on the seat watching the pup intently. I got permission from the property owner and then took Breeze into the pasture where the shed was. Breeze loves everyone and is sort of the social greeter with dogs and people everywhere she goes.
The pup stopped at the sight of Breeze. With his tucked tail and hunched posture, he was the picture of dejected loneliness. I unclipped Breezes leash and said “get the puppy, Breeze.” She raced across the pasture, eager to meet a new friend, while the pup watched warily. As she reached him his tail began to wag and he curled his body into a submissive gesture of appeasement as she gave him the sniff over. Feeling more confident, the pup began to kiss her muzzle and press himself as close to her as he could.
As soon as I could see that they were buddied up, I sat down in the grass to be less threatening and pulled out a handful of treats. I called to Breeze, who came running with the pup close behind. I gave Breeze a treat and tossed one to the pup who stopped just out of reach. His body language was still terribly afraid but he clearly wanted to trust. Within minutes the pup worked his way close enough to take cookies out of my hand. In no time at all, he crawled into my lap, wiggling and wagging and soaking up the attention like he could never get enough. I slipped a leash on him but he immediately panicked. Obviously, he had never had one on so I scooped him up and carried him back to the truck with Breeze trotting by my side.
The hound pup was adopted soon after and he was just one of many examples of Breeze’s presence making my job easier.
I’d love to hear from readers who also take their dogs to work. Tell us the best part of having your buddy along on the job (or the worst!).
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Should they stay or should they go?
We were heading to a neighborhood party where the majority of the guests were most excited about the beer pong and the glorious buffet. As for me, the main draw was an opportunity to see Schultzie, whose guardians were hosting. I have already written about Schultzie, who I love. We have had the joy of dogsitting for her several times, and I couldn’t wait to see her.
You can imagine my distress when I arrived and was told that Schultzie was at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the night. Yes, I was disappointed, but I was also relieved that Schultzie would be safe and free from the angst that affects so many dogs at parties. Most dogs can handle a few guests, but bigger events pose significant issues for many of them.
There are the physical risks: being stepped on, going outside through a door that is inadvertently left open and ending up in the road, being hit by errant throws in ladder ball, disc golf or any other garden games so common at summer gatherings, consuming something unhealthy that drops on the floor or that a well-intentioned guest offers—including alcohol.
There are also psychological risks: it may be too loud, the dog may be unable to locate the guardians, the amount of activity may be overwhelming, unusual behavior by guests may cause stress in the dog, and staying up later than usual may be problematic.
There are many solutions for making sure that dogs do not suffer because of a party at their house. They can visit friends or family members and avoid the party altogether, as Schultzie did. They can be taken to a professional boarding facility. If they are comfortable with it, they can spend the party cozy in a crate in a closed room, or just be put in a closed room without the crate.
Another option is for the dog to be under the watchful eye of a person who is constantly watching them and running interference to make sure that the dog is protected from any party dangers. This is a big job, similar to watching a toddler. It is not enough for the person to casually attend to the dog. That can lead to a situation in which someone asks where the dog is and the answer is something like, “Hmm, she’s around here somewhere,” which indicates inadequate supervision.
How do you protect your dog from the risks when you are entertaining large groups of people?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Important reminder to create an evacuation plan for the whole family
Sometimes all of the unofficial national "holidays" and awareness months that keep cropping up seem excessive. Do we really need a National Hug Your Cat Day?! But I think the new movement to make June National Pet Preparedness Month is a really good one, and a nice complement to September's National Preparedness Month for people. Earlier this year, I wrote an article in the magazine about disaster preparedness in light of lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy. It's important to revisit this topic periodically and it's timely now that storm season has started. A little preparation goes a long way in an emergency and having a "go bag" will help you keep calm and evacuate quickly. This is especially important if you have the added responsibility of pets. If you already have a "go bag" or evacuation pack, use this month as an annual reminder to replace old food and medication and to update photos and emergency contact information. If you haven't created a bag, use this list to help get you started.
It has happened again, Natura Pet Food, owned by P&G, has issued yet another recall.
From a press release issued by Natura Pet Food, the company is recalling all lot codes, all sizes, all UPC’s of Innova, Evo, California Natural, Healthwise, Karma, and Mother Nature pet foods and treats.
Natura Press Release:
Natura Pet Issues Voluntary Recall of Specialized Dry Pet Foods Due to Possible Health Risk
FREMONT, NEBRASKA, June 18, 2013
Natura Pet Products is voluntarily recalling specific lots of dry pet food because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.
Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.
Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.
These products were packaged in a single production facility. During routine FDA testing, a single lot tested positive for the presence of Salmonella. There have been no reports of pet or human illness associated with this product. In an abundance of caution, Natura is voluntarily recalling all products with expiration dates prior to June 10, 2014.
The affected products are sold in bags through veterinary clinics, select pet specialty retailers, and online in the United States and Canada. No canned wet food is affected by this announcement.
The affected products are:
Innova Dry dog and cat food and biscuits/bars/treats
EVO dry dog, cat and ferret food and biscuits/bars/treats
California Natural dry dog and cat foods and biscuits/bars/treats
Healthwise dry dog and cat foods
Karma dry dog foods
Mother Nature biscuits/bars/treats
Consumers who have purchased the specific dry pet foods listed should discard them.
For further information or a product replacement or refund call Natura toll-free at 800-224-6123. (Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM CST).
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Smart collar tracks our pets' behavior for improved health
There are all sorts of high tech pet gadgets out these days, many which seem a little unnecessary. Do we really need a QR code or USB stick identification tag? Beyond the novelty factor, they're a little impractical in an actual emergency, unless used in conjunction with a more traditional method. At first I thought the same about the new "smart collars" on the market, but the more I read about them, the more I can see how the technology could provide valuable information on our pets' health. Whistle just launched a dog collar that wirelessly tracks data about your dog's activity throughout the day. It uses an accelerometer to determine if your dog is being active (walking or playing), resting, or sleeping. The information can then be viewed with a smartphone or web app to see the length of time your pup spends engaged in each of these behaviors. The app also features charts that let you look at behavior change over time and allow you to compare your dog's statistics to their breed average. The data can be used for everything from identifying deviations to monitoring effects of a new food or medication. I think that the collar is particularly handy for identifying changes in behavior during peiods of time when you're not home or in the middle of the night. Whistle was inspired by founder Ben Jacobs' childhood German Shepherd. When Ben was eight years old, the dog unexpectedly died from an intestinal problem that the family didn't know about. Since then, Ben has been focused on getting better care for pets. Being familiar with your dog's normal behavior, and when they deviate from that baseline, is indispensable for early detection of health problems. Animals are very good at hiding illnesses, so it's up to us to notice small changes in behavior. Veterinarians rely on us to describe the symptoms we're observing on a day-to-day basis to help make an accurate diagnosis. Last year my dog, Nemo, started refusing certain foods and was slightly more lethargic than normal. I brought him to the emergency room because I knew he wasn't acting like his usual self. The emergency room vet said it was probably an upset stomach and sent us home with some medicine. I knew it couldn't just be an upset stomach--Nemo would enthusiastically eat dirt if you offered it to him--so I brought him to another vet who ended up finding pieces of a leash stuck in his intestine. If I hadn't known what was normal behavior for Nemo, I might not have gotten a second opinion and might have even waited until it developed into a much more serious condition. So if the Whistle collar encourages more people to pay closer attention to their dog's behavior, it's definitely a good thing. Even if people don't end up buying the collar, just reading about the functionality may inspire someone to be more observant. The collar is certainly very cool, but for now I think I'm going to spend my $100 on more treats and tug toys to play with my pups! Are you using any high tech gadgets for your crew?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Supporting guardians of dogs with medical issues
My facebook news feed is full of dog jokes, stories, news, and pictures. Lately, it has also had an unfortunate number of medical scares on the canine health front. I’ve seen everything from joyous “It’s benign!” posts to “It’s broken, but at least she won’t need surgery,” to the more somber, “We appreciate your prayers and thoughts now that we know how serious her condition is.”
Anyone who has received bad news about a dog’s health is suddenly faced with many issues at once. There are obviously medical decisions and financial issues, both of which are beyond my areas of expertise. But people faced with serious medical problems in their dogs need other kinds of support and help that anyone can offer.
Sometimes the biggest help is just acknowledging that a friend is facing real heartache because of an ill family member. It’s also useful to bring in food (for the people!) because it can be so hard to care for yourself when you are busy attending to a sick dog, and sometimes people feel too upset to eat unless food is literally put in front of them. Caring for other members of the family—walking other dogs, picking kids up from school or bringing them to a play date at your house, filling in for a shift at work—frees up time and energy for a caregiver who may be overwhelmed both physically and emotionally.
Visiting for a strictly social call or just to listen to the latest on treatment and prognosis is often appreciated. This is especially true if the appointments and various care requirements mean that the guardian’s social life has been affected by having an ill dog. Offering to run errands may be just what a friend needs to ease the burden. Many people also appreciate help around the house such as yard work, cleaning, or even laundry, especially if the care has resulted in round-the-clock duties that have them seriously sleep-deprived and facing the challenge of attending to basic tasks.
If you have dealt with a serious health crisis with your dog, what have your friends and family done that was the most helpful to you?
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