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Wellness: Health Care
Foxtails Can Pose Serious Risks to Dogs
Foxtails

As an ER vet, I officially mark the start of the summer season when I see several patient charts over the course of a 10 hour shift with the presenting complaint: sudden sneezing. By the third one I think, “Another one? What the foxtail!”

Annual grasses releasing foxtails grow quickly throughout the rainy season. As temperatures rise, the foxtail-shaped tip of each grass blade dries out and the individual awns take a ride on any passing object. This plant is engineered by nature to spread its seed, and the foxtail is actually designed to burrow further into an object with each movement, making it a major problem for small animals.

There is no escape. The pesky seeds from these dried grasses get stuck everywhere, and I mean everywhere, our furry friends included. Many pet owners have heard the warnings about foxtails and know to avoid them as much as possible. What many don't know, however, is that foxtail migration can cause severe—and potentially deadly—consequences.

While foxtails are often caught in the fur and can be quickly removed, they can also migrate internally if left unfound through several common routes such as the nose, ears, and eyes. They can even penetrate through the skin or through a pet’s genital openings. If these problematic hitch-hiking seeds find their way inside of a pet’s body, they can cause many serious problems. Once internalized, foxtails can wreak havoc on the body, causing internal abscesses and even infections of the bones around the spinal cord. I have also seen cases of foxtails getting lodged in the abdominal organs or lungs.

While foxtails aren't always easy to spot, their presence can be noticeable through various telltale symptoms, depending on their location in the body. Be mindful of the following symptoms during foxtail season:

  • Nose: violently sneezing and pawing at the nose, and sometimes a bloody nose.
  • Eyes: rubbing the eye, squinting and pain, excessive tearing or discharge, or an eye “glued shut.”
  • Ears: head tilt or violent shaking of the head from side to side, pain, discharge, or odor.
  • Mouth/Throat: gagging, loud coughing, difficulty swallowing (you will notice your pet having “exaggerated swallowing” movements, like when you have a sore throat), and possibly increased odor.
  • Paws: continuous licking of the paw or pad, or the appearance of a swollen “bubble” between the toes, or a small “hole” in the skin which is indicative of a draining tract, which is the path the foxtail is taking under the skin (pictured)
  • Under skin: formation of sores or abscesses.

If any of these symptoms are noted, you should see your veterinarian immediately for a check-up. If a foxtail is found relatively superficially in the skin or nose, it can be removed rather simply. If a foxtail has moved into the lungs or deeply into the nose or genitals, an endoscope can be used for its location and removal (pictured).

An endoscopy involves the use of a high-tech instrument with a specialized video camera and small grabbing tools that can be passed through the mouth, nose, or rectum and is a lot less invasive than traditional surgical methods. However, if the foxtail has entered the belly or lungs, surgery is sometimes the only treatment possible.

While it's best to avoid areas where foxtails grow, if your pet has been exposed to the grass, make sure to brush her coat well, feel all over the body with your hands, and perform a thorough inspection of the ears, nose, between the toes and paw pads, and underneath the collar after each romp. It’s important to learn about the dangers of this plant, take extra precautions, and remove foxtails immediately. Be overly cautions during foxtail season- dogs and their people deserve to enjoy a drama-free summer outdoors.

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Camp Wonders

Whenever you mix dogs, people and the freedom to play in nature, you get something special.

In 2002 I created Maian Meadows Dog Camp in Washington State, an environment for safe, off-leash play for dogs and people who rarely get to experience it. I feel like an alchemist, stirring just the right ingredients to create a weekend full of fresh air, forest and lake, dog-centered activities, comfort food and—most importantly—the shared unconditional love of several happy dogs all together in one place. The end product is often magical.

Over the years, I’ve befriended lots of wonderful people and dogs. All have back stories, some quite extraordinary.

Two years ago, a mother and her early-twenties daughter attended. Observing them, I realized the daughter had some cognitive challenges. I couldn’t put my finger of just what sort. She was bubbly and outgoing, but her social skills were a tad off. She mixed well with the other campers and her little Chihuahua was delightful.

Saturday evening, the mother took me aside. “I don’t know if you noticed, but my daughter has Aspergers,” she said. “This is the first activity we’ve found that has kept her interested and engaged for an entire weekend. Thank you.”

While I get many heartfelt thanks for hosting camp, that one remains the most special.

The magic happened again at last weekend’s session of dog camp.

Anita arrives with her dog Toby, a certified therapy dog. His skills came in handy. After attending camp in 2010, Anita had to skip June 2011 because she was undergoing chemo for cancer. In September 2011 she and Toby spent a few hours in camp, Anita bald and beautiful, but clearly exhausted. Toby stayed close by. This year, Anita—sporting new hair—and Toby spent the entire weekend in camp, hiking both mornings and participating in all the activities. Anita’s cancer is in remission, and at 66, she’s going strong. So is Toby, by her side.

New campers Adrian and Hana bring their two year old Golden Retriever Jasper. Adrian, an Irishman and statistician of about 50, has spent his entire life afraid of dogs. With Hana’s encouragement, they add Jasper to their family. Adrian no longer fears any dogs, and delights in being around all the dogs at camp.

Dogs heal all sorts of hurts

Stick with me for one more back story. It’s a good one.

Two weeks before camp, I receive an email asking if there is still space for one person and one dog. It’s signed “Tracie and Daisy.” I reply that there is. The registration form arrives, with a very unusual first name; Tracie is a nickname. I worry that my assumption that this camper is female—and can share a cabin with another female—is wrong. I Google the full name. All hits refer to the Dean’s List at a nearby college. Intriguing, but I still don’t know if the camper is male or female, or how old.  I decide to proceed as if she is female. If a male shows up, well, there is an extra cabin.

Friday afternoon I welcome campers and their dogs as they trickle in from all over—Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and even Alberta. Just before dinner, a camper arrives with a dog meeting Daisy’s description: black lab/hound mix. Daisy bounds from the car and gleefully romps with the other dogs. Tracie gets out and introduces herself. She is a very petite young woman of twenty. She has chin length brown hair, wire-rim glasses and a huge welcoming smile showing charmingly crooked teeth. She’s wearing a daisy print blouse. Daisy’s collar has daisies on it. Already I like Tracie. She’s going to fit right in at dog camp.

And she does. I’ve never seen someone so young possess such confidence and outgoing friendliness among so many strangers, most of whom are much older. Daisy is just like Tracie, young (two years old), full of energy and enthusiasm. Throughout the weekend, Tracie frequently has to coax Daisy out of the lake. Daisy loves to swim. And Tracie loves Daisy. Their bond is strong and touching to observe. I determine to learn Tracie’s back story.

Later, during a meal, I overhear tidbits as Tracie shares her story with other campers at her table. I hear words familiar to me in my work as an attorney advocating children’s best interests in the legal system: foster care; Child Protective Services; aging out of the system. The next day, as Tracie throws the ball into the lake for Daisy to retrieve, I ask her to share her story with me. She does, without any sense of embarrassment or shame—another sign of her amazing maturity.

Tracie’s birth mother has mental health issues. She often chose, and married, violent men. Tracie suffered abuse at the hands of one step-father who broke her shoulder. Her mother kicked him out (because CPS required it), but Tracie discovered that the next man her mother brought home was a registered sex offender. Tracie, only 13, took action, standing up for herself and her younger siblings by telling a counselor. This time her mother chose the sex offender. Tracie was removed from the home and placed into foster care. This separated her from her siblings, whom she’d raised; they were placed elsewhere. Over the next several years, Tracie bounced from foster care to her mother’s and back to foster care, a sad and all too common experience for older kids in the system.

As Tracie neared age 18, the foster family she was with had a pregnant black lab. Pup number four (of fourteen!) had a big head and became stuck; Tracie helped bring that pup into the world. The foster family gave Tracie the puppy to commemorate becoming an adult—aging out of the system—and starting a new life. Tracie finally had a family of her own: Daisy.

Tracie chose the name Daisy because the symbolism associated with the flower is purity, innocence, loyal love, beauty, patience and simplicity.

While still in high school, Tracie accumulated two years of college credit. The week before dog camp, at age 20, she graduated with a four year college degree. She’s now enrolled in graduate school. She wants to become a social worker. She wants to help kids in the foster care system. She wants to get Daisy certified as a therapy dog so that they can work with kids as a team. And as soon as she’s 21, Tracie wants to become a foster parent herself. If she does, then she and Daisy will help heal children scarred by a system that often doesn’t care very much about them. I’m confident that Tracie, with Daisy by her side, will accomplish all her goals.

I had no idea, over a decade ago, that creating and directing a dog camp would provide a space for people to heal what hurts them, or gather strength to meet their next challenge. But I should have. Anything involving playful, free-roaming dogs just has to promote joy and healing.

 

 

 

News: Editors
The Daily Show Behind the Scenes Video

Check out this exclusive behind the scenes video of the Dogs of the Daily Show photo shoot for The Bark’s current cover article. Witness the pandemonium as dogs are rounded up for their portraits and caught lounging on Jon Stewart’s desk. Armed with treats, squeaky toys, and Daily Show staffers … photographer KC Bailey and editor Claudia Kawczynska capture the ultimate canine photo session.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook

 

News: Editors
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: a Bark Sighting

We were  “featured”  last night, Tuesday 6/26/12,  on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart—watch for the magazine to appear towards the end, on what they call “Segment 4,” Jon  was "reading" the mag and had fun with one of the cover lines!. Theyl also posted the video that was taken during the dogs’ exclusive studio visit. As many of you know, I was treated to an all-day visit and Q&A session with the Daily Show staff and wrote a ten-page story that appears in our current issue. For the dogs, this was their first visit to the hallowed studio—and all of them got to sit on, or behind, Stewart’s desk. I was surprised that many of the dogs took this posing in stride, perhaps sensing how special this was. It certainly helped that they had many humans coaxing and cajoling them equipped with squeaky toys and lots of treats. KC Bailey, our great and uber patient photographer, got the perfect cover dog shot, the video too will add to the story.

Then the more I learned about how great the dogs have it at The Daily Show office (they really can roam just about anywhere inside the office space), and how they are appreciated by everyone there, we also decided to cap it off by giving The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Bark’s 1st Annual Best Place to Work Award.

You can find this issue on many newsstands, and at places like Whole Foods, or from our store too.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,The Daily Show on Facebook

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Interceptor/Sentinel Shortage
Novartis closes a factory that produces canine and human medication

Earlier this year I found out, somewhat randomly, that veterinarians were experiencing shortages of the heartworm medications Interceptor and Sentinel. As soon as I could, I went straight to the veterinarian and bought two of their last three boxes. I was shocked that the office wasn't more proactive in informing patients about the problem.

However, it seems that veterinarians didn't have the whole story either and that this situation isn't exactly uncommon.

Back in December, Novartis closed a Lincoln, Nebraska factory that produced both veterinary and human medication, including Interceptor, Sentinel, and Excedrin. While there are alternatives available, veterinarians have been frustrated over the way Novartis handled communication. The company is still unable to provide a date for when the factory will resume production.  

As I've been researching the topic, it looks like product shortages and recalls are no stranger to the veterinary field. After scrambling to buy the last boxes of Interceptor, I decided that I'm going to be proactive and research alternatives for all medication that my pets take. I found out about the Interceptor shortage through a passing comment on Facebook and was shocked that information wasn't widely shared either in the news or by my veterinarian.

The shortage comes at a particularly bad time since the mild winter has created an increased risk of heartworm disease this year. Given how long this problem has lasted so far, it's probably best to find an alternative if you're running low on medication.

Some dogs, particularly herding breeds, have an adverse reaction to heartworm medications containing ivermectin, so it's important to consult your veterinarian to identify a safe alternative.

Are you prepared if access is restricted to the medications your pets use?

News: Editors
Editor’s Note

Now that our most recent issue (featuring the dogs of The Daily Show as our cover dogs) has hit the newsstands I start to wonder what readers might think—along with letting out a huge sigh of relief that we have done another Bark. With this issue especially, I covered a lot more writing ground than I normally do, going to NYC to get The Daily Show “exclusive” scoop for starters. Then after reading a plucky editorial in the New York Times, I decided to interview its writer, Lily Raff McCaulou, about her first book—she not only writes well, but is a new mom and, surprisingly, fishes and hunts up in Oregon, (and turns out she is a Bark subscriber). I also wrote a “thought” piece about the joys of silence, a book review (of a kid’s book, One Dog and His Boy, that I really enjoyed), and my editor’s letter. So far I heard from a few of you who liked some articles, including the one that Julie Hecht wrote about one of our dogs’ most confusing (and embarrassing) behaviors, plus Karen London on just what the differences (if there are any) between big and small dogs, and a lovely essay by Laurel Saville about learning to accept a dog for who she is.

But at least one reader didn’t like that we talked with Lily, the hunter, noting that is “what we have supermarkets for,” and another who reads The Bark to her children, so didn’t appreciate the “profanity” found in John Oliver’s interview and other “diversions” coming from us including any “gay” mentions. I understand these concerns and do appreciate hearing from all our readers with all their divergent and wide-ranging viewpoints—good to know that we are read by so many different people too. While it is encouraging to know that mothers read a magazine to children, and that the smiling dogs and other photos are appreciated by youngsters, we never intended that our written content would be suitable reading for all age groups  (although we have been known to bleep out a few words that might offend some adults). As for John Oliver, he is one very funny man. I had wanted to post audio segments of his interview, but I was laughing so loud that my raucous laughter almost drowned out his voice, his delivery, much less his non-Posh Brit accent, is funny in itself. So I hope that we are excused for letting Oliver say his piece about his new found dog appreciation his way with all its comedic phrasing.

For those of you who have read this issue, I truly welcome hearing your thoughts. Post your comments here, letting us know what you think. It is certainly nice to be kept on our toes. Now it’s off to start on the next issue.

News: Editors
Brooklyn’s Photo Dog Run

If Photoville sounds like an imaginary place where photography fans frolic among pictures, technology and ideas—it is, and it’s happening in Brooklyn beginning today through July 1. Best of all, you won’t have to leave your dog at home to attend (more on that shortly). Free and open to the public, Photoville is part country-fair, part photography event whose centerpiece is over 30 shipping containers of exhibition space showcasing international and local talent. In an attempt to make art and photography more accessible, the organizers (United Photo Industries) have added fan-friendly attractions such as a outdoor dog run and a summer food/beer garden to a wide-ranging schedule of lectures, workshops and a series of nighttime projections.

As their website points out “Because no self-respecting Brooklyn-based village should go without one …” they have created an 800 sq. ft. dog park that will include water access, shaded areas with seating, a photo fence featuring portraits of four-legged Kickstarter supporters, and a communal gallery where pictures of visitor’s pets will be proudly displayed.  A shipping container-sized, walk-in Camera Obscura will be focused on the Photo Dog Run, providing an immersive photographic experience and a one-of-a-kind view of dogs at play. Organizers have promised to send us some snapshots!

Photoville takes place at the uplands of Pier 3 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, rain or shine, from June 22—July 1. Admission is free. Photoville will be open June 22, 28, and 29 from 4pm–10pm; June 23 and 30 from 11am–10pm; and June 24 and July 1 from 11am–7pm. The public is encouraged to enter Brooklyn Bridge Park at the foot of Old Fulton Street at the waterfront and to then walk south to the uplands of Pier 3. Please visit www.photovillenyc.org for detailed directions and additional information.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
NYC Gets a Courtroom Dog
Staten Island’s DA is the first in the city to employ a canine

I can’t imagine how stressful it is for victims to testify in court. But if I had to do it one day, I know my pets would help me through the ordeal. Numerous studies have shown that animals have a calming effect on people, so it seems only natural to use dogs in these cases.

Last year New York’s first judicially approved courtroom dog helped a girl testify against her father in a rape case. At the time it caused a lot of controversy, but more and more people are realizing how important these trained canines are for those on the stand.

This month, District Attorney Daniel Donovan became the first New York City prosecutor to employ a courtroom comfort dog—a Black Labrador/Golden Retriever mix named Bronksey.

"As a prosecutor, I feel obligated to do everything I can to make it easier for victims, who must constantly relive what was likely the most physically, psychologically and emotionally traumatizing experience of their lives," Donovan says.

"There is something magical about the presence or touch of a loving dog that helps victims forget their pain and fear, if just for a moment, and be able to concentrate on moving forward and healing."

The two-year old dog, donated by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), has already made a difference.

Last week a 12-year old boy was waiting to testify against his alleged abuser to a Staten Island Grand Jury and was visibly anxious. When Bronksey approached, the boy immediately smiled and had an easier time relaying his story in court.

Currently 16 states use courtroom dogs. Hopefully more cities will consider adding these valuable working pups to support victims.

News: Guest Posts
Untrainable Breeds
Perhaps it's the other end of the leash
Dalmatian Dutch Shepherd dog training rescue obedience

My friend Pat recounted a conversation in which two strangers told her that Aussies are untrainable. Funny, because her Aussie, Scout, has an impressive list of agility titles. They did not happen without training! I often get the same comments about Dalmatians, of which I have two. Are they easy to train? Not particularly. But if you enjoy creative problem solving and find the right guidance, you can train any dog. To what level depends on many variables, but if we're talking basic good manners in public, it's within the realm of possibility. Has anyone ever questioned your dog's trainability due to its breed?

Wellness: Health Care
Bone Marrow Mishaps
When a good chew turns bad to the bone
Dog with bone stuck around lower jaw

An uncanny reason for a visit to the ER is when a playful pup manages to get one of those circular marrow bones caught around its lower jaw and canine teeth. I still remember my first patient that found himself in this very predicament; perplexed, I thought, “How is this even possible?” While it looks like a trick that only David Copperfield should be able to pull off, it can actually happen with surprising ease.

When it comes to marrow mishaps, I have seen the entire breadth of bone bad luck. While some are easily removed with lubrication and gentle manipulation alone, others need to be removed with a cast cutting saw (or other manly tool, depending on the thickness of the bone) while the pet is sedated.  I have also seen dogs that have suffered from fractured canine teeth as well as extensive injury to their lower jaw and tongue. Tissue injury occurs when the circulation of blood is cut off to the skin and/or tongue while it is trapped within the bone. The marrow bone literally turns into a tourniquet with the continued and inevitable swelling of the tissues. Major or minor, any of these situations can be painful, distressing, and potentially very costly, depending on the extent of trauma and demeanor of your pet. 

Your dog absolutely loves these bones and you love to give them, so what’s a pet parent to do?  Here are a few tips to help prevent any misadventures:

  • Size really does matter. Make sure the size of the marrow bone is suitable for the size of your pet. Have your butcher “custom make” your marrow bones, trimming them into longer pieces, such as 8 inches for larger dogs. Skinnier bones can more easily work themselves around the jaw, and should be avoided.
  • Try a knuckle bone instead. These can offer a similar chewing experience, and because there’s no hole, there is no risk of it slipping around the jaw. However, as with any type of bone, these too, can come with risks. Be sure to take them away while they are still large, which is as soon as the gristle and soft parts of the “knuckle knobs” are gone. This will help to prevent accidental swallowing and choking once it is whittled down to a smaller size.
  • Sensitive stomach? Marrow bones may not be the chew of choice for those pets that get diarrhea or an upset stomach easily.  Marrow is very high in fat, and I have seen them cause these signs, as well as pancreatitis, in pets that are not used to the richness of the marrow fat.
  • Lastly, never leave your dog unattended while he or she is fancying the flavor—it is amazing how fast these accidents happen! And remember, extra aggressive chewers need extra close supervision.
  • As gratifying as these treats can be, one can still find a bone to pick with them because the serious complications happen just as often as the “simple ones.” The marrow of the story: know the risks and let your pet enjoy them only under direct supervision.

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