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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Sago Palm Alert
Plant and its seeds are toxic to pets

One of the highlights of my weekend was the successful treatment of an adorable puppy named Leeloo. After being hospitalized for nearly 72 hours, she thankfully fell into the percentage of dogs who survive the ingestion of this highly toxic plant: the sago palm.
 

Sago palms are not really palms at all; they just look like one. The sago palm is a cycad and contains the toxin cycasin and even very young plants are toxic enough to cause death in pets. Contrary to popular belief, all parts of both male and female plants are toxic, with the seeds being the most lethal component.

The reddish-orange seeds are round to oblong in shape and can be a little bigger than a golf ball in mature plants. Many dogs seem to enjoy chewing on these bitter seeds, which leads to nothing but trouble. I’ve even heard talk of people throwing the seeds like a ball for their dog, completely unaware of the deadly dangers!
 

Like Leeloo’s family, many people are unaware that the plant is deadly. And even if they have heard of the toxic effects, they don’t realize that the plant they are purchasing is actually a sago palm! Why is this? The plants are becoming increasingly popular in all areas of the country, and are often sold as unmarked potted plants in stores such as Target and Home Depot. They are simply labeled as a “palm tree,” without any warning label, and people are not aware that they are bringing home a potentially lethal plant. Over the past five years, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has seen an increase in sago palm toxicities by 200 percent, and according to their data, 50 to 75 percent of cases result in the death of the pet. This number includes pets that are euthanized due to the cost of care; on a slightly brighter note, 68 percent of those pets that are treated early are reported to survive.

 

Dogs who have ingested any part of the plant soon begin vomiting, and this can be accompanied by diarrhea, depression, and lack of appetite. Liver failure generally occurs within 24-36 hours following ingestion, and in most cases, intensive treatment is necessary. If it has been 4-6 hours since ingestion, your veterinarian will attempt to induce vomiting, as well as give charcoal to help absorb the toxin. Intravenous fluids for 72 hours, medications to help support liver function, and possibly the transfusion of blood products are needed. Frequent monitoring of liver values will help to determine if your pet will survive the exposure.
 

Leeloo was a lucky survivor and we were able to keep her from going into liver failure with early and intensive treatment.  Sadly, there was a case a couple of months ago that involved one of our police dogs, and he did not survive. The officer had a sago palm in his yard for 5 years, unknowing of the danger, and his canine partner decided to chew on a seed after leaving it alone all that time. So please, if you share your home or yard with a sago palm, now is the time to dig it up and dump it in the garbage. Make sure you are disposing of it in your “actual” garbage, and not your compost or yard waste bin, as these contents are often mulched and repurposed, putting the palm back into the environment where other pets can be exposed. If you believe that a pet may have eaten any part of a sago palm, please seek veterinary care immediately!

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Danger of Water Intoxication
Swimming dogs are at risk of ingesting too much water

Last week a friend’s dog had a close call with water intoxication. Her crew was playing in a local river when one of her Border Collies emerged staggering and vomiting liquid.

Symptoms quickly worsened on the way to the vet, but after a few harrowing days, the dog was fortunate to make a full recovery.

Apparently the poor pup ingested too much water while repeatedly diving into the river, mouth open, trying to catch a ball. Drinking too much causes electrolyte levels to drop, thinning blood plasma and leading to swelling of the brain and other organs.

Before I learned about water intoxication, I thought that playing in the lake was safe if your dog was a strong swimmer. But now I know to be mindful of how my guys interact with the water and to force them to take ample breaks. Dogs can even drink too much water from playing with a lawn sprinkler.

Unfortunately water intoxication progresses quickly. Now that summer is officially here, it’s important to review the signs so you can get an affected dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Symptoms include lack of coordination, lethargy, nausea, bloating, vomiting, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, light gum color, and excessive salivation. Advanced symptoms include difficulty breathing, collapsing, loss of consciousness, and seizures.

As the weather gets warmer, stay safe. Water intoxication can affect both people and our pups.     

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
National Dog Bite Prevention Week
Organizations come together to teach safety around pets

A controversial home video of a baby taking away a toy from a Golden Retriever has been making the rounds on Facebook.  While the child had been raised from birth alongside the family pup, any dog can bite when they are caught off guard.

Nearly five million dog bites happen each year in the United States.  This month a diverse group of people and organizations are coming together for National Dog Bite Prevention Week, including ‘It’s Me or the Dog’ trainer Victoria Stillwell, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the United States Postal Service (USPS), pediatricians, plastic surgeons, and representatives of the insurance industry.

It’s interesting because they’re all on board for different reasons.

Victoria Stillwell is getting the word out that outdated dominance training methods, like rolling dogs onto their backs, can lead to fear and anxiety, which is a common cause of aggression.  

Pediatricians are in on the day because dog bites are highest among children between the ages of five and nine years old.   And these injuries aren’t coming from strange animals.  In victims younger than 18, the family dog inflicts 30 percent of the bites and a neighbor’s dog is responsible for another 50 percent.

Insurance companies are motivated to prevent canine altercations because they pay out millions of dollars each year on dog bite claims.  State Farm Insurance paid out more than $109 million dollars on nearly 4,000 claims last year.

I was surprised to see the USPS on the list, but apparently dogs attack 5,669 postal workers each year.  Unfortunately not everyone is responsible and keeps their pets contained inside the house or in a fenced yard.

So it’s important to take advantage of National Dog Bite Prevention Week to learn how to avoid injury, particularly for kids who are at the highest risk.

Check out the AVMA web site for dog bite prevention resources, including coloring sheets for children

News: Guest Posts
Protesting Animal Abuse
Convicted Chicago area animal abuser faces sentencing May 31
German shepherd Lab mix breed dog

While the national media is focused on anti-NATO demonstrators in Chicago, there's another kind of protest going on in one of its suburbs. Convicted animal abuser Phillip Rinn, of Aurora, IL, recently plead guilty to beating his one-year-old Lab/shepherd mix, Magda, with a broom and breaking five of her teeth. He had previously served jail time in 1993 for chaining his German shepherd to his car, dragging him, then detaching the horribly injured dog so he could run over him and kill him. For that heinous crime, he only received 30 days in jail and 200 hours community service. Nearly 20 years later, the man is still abusing his pets and faces relatively stiffer penalties - up to three years in jail. Animal lovers have gathered outside the courthouse at each of his hearings to encourage the judge to give him the maximum punishment possible at his sentencing on May 31. If you're in the Chicago area and would like to participate, please contact On Angel's Wings executive director Jeanette Schulz through the nonprofit rescue's adoption center at (815) 356-8170.       

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Love for Visiting Dogs
Good-byes are hard

Whether a dog who stays with you for just a short while is a foster, a stray or a friend’s dog, it’s easy to become attached to a temporary visitor. We are about to say good-bye to Schultzie, who is spending about 2.5 weeks with us while her family is in Italy, and I’m beginning to feel upset about her impending departure.

I know her family will be ecstatic to see her, and that Schultzie will be just as thrilled, and I’m happy for all of them. It’s just that I am sad to see her go. It has been such a pleasure to share a few weeks of our lives together. She is delightful company and easy to be with.

She is the sort of family dog that I wish were more common. She’s friendly and peppy, but is easily satisfied by a couple of 20-30 minute walks a day. She likes to work and is food-motivated, but not at all pushy for food. She hasn’t chewed on anything in our house that she’s not supposed to. On the one occasion that she took a tissue in her mouth, I simply walked toward her with the idea of trading it for a treat and she backed away at my approach and went over to one of her own toys. She doesn’t pull on the leash or bark to excess, and she sleeps in a bit in the morning—bonus! Although she’s not crazy about the car, she rides in it quite amiably.

Of course, all of these good qualities don’t really explain in full why we’re going to miss her so much. Beyond this list explaining her best traits, there’s that indefinable magic that happens when you grow to love a dog, and that’s what happened with Schultzie. I’ve grown very fond of many dogs who have spent time with us for a short time, but it will be especially hard to say good-bye to this one.

I’m grateful that she lives nearby and that we will still see her from time to time, and we’d definitely be open to dogsitting for her in the future.

As my 7-year son said last night, “When you dogsit a dog, it feels like the dog is yours.” Obviously we fall in love with our own dogs, but sometimes we feel that way about other dogs, too. I’d love to hear your stories of dogs who have just been passing through but took a little piece of your heart anyway.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Custody Battles
NY man spends $60,000 trying to get his Puggle back

We consider our dogs full members of the family, so it probably comes as no surprise that canine custody battles are becoming more common.  Lawyers are reporting as much as a 15 percent increase in these cases.  Figuring out who gets to keep the pets is stressful for both humans and canines and can get expensive quickly.

In New York, Craig Dershowitz is fighting to be reunited with his Puggle, Knux.  He had been sharing custody with his ex-girlfriend, regularly traveling ten hours round trip to drop off and pick up the pup, when his ex took off to California with the dog.  

Craig has already spent upwards of $60,000 in legal fees and is headed to court again.  He received two orders in the state of New York giving him custody, but he must argue his case in front of a California judge since his ex now resides in Los Angeles.

The battle to get Knux back has been financially difficult and Craig is appealing to fellow pet lovers to help his cause.  Many talented friends have donated artwork and other creative gifts in exchange for donations.

I can’t imagine if my pets were taken away from me, but I know I would do everything in my power to get them back.  Hopefully Craig and Knux will be reunited soon. 

News: Guest Posts
My Dog Is Heartworm Positive
If it happened to me, it can happen to you
heartworm test preventative dalmatian

My vet can't remember the last time she had a heartworm positive case. Until now. My 8-year-old Dalmatian, Jolie, tested positive for heartworms at her annual check up last week. We retested the blood in hopes that it was a false positive. But there was no need to send the sample back to the lab. Through a microscope, my vet could see microfilaria swimming in her blood sample.

 

I’m shocked and upset. My husband and I take excellent care of our dogs. How could this have happened? Apparently, despite living in the Chicago area, we needed to give her heartworm preventative through the winter, not just the warmer months. When we lived in New Orleans’ subtropical climate, it was a given that the dogs received heartworm preventative year round.

 

What seems particularly unfair is that Jolie has already been through a lot. We adopted her through a Dalmatian rescue when she was 10 months old. She had been abandoned by her family, left in a backyard without food, water or shelter. She was emaciated, infested with fleas, and hung her head, too sad to lift her eyes to meet ours. She didn’t know how to play. Our older Dalmatian, Darby, helped her come out of her shell.  We helped her get well.

 

Last August,  she underwent back surgery for a bulging disc. The surgery alone cost $4,000.  Post surgical rehab, chiropractic and supplements have added up to another $2,000.  Although that was a financial strain, it was much harder keeping her quiet and pain free during her months long recovery.  But we did it. We helped her get well.

 

To think that for less than $50, we could’ve given her a few more doses of Heartgard, and kept her free of heartworms and the risky, expensive  treatment required to kill them. On top of that, she has a grade 4 heart murmur, so we need to do a heart ultrasound to ensure she can tolerate the treatment. It all makes me sick to my stomach.  My poor girl has been through enough, and now this.

 

Despite the growing trend to keep toxins to a minimum in our dogs (and for good reason), please give your dog monthly heartworm preventative  year round.  The risk is not worth it.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Underwater Dogs
Photos that amaze and amuse

Dogs provide a pick-me-up, and they are able to do it in so many different ways. Yesterday, I found myself immensely cheery after watching this video of incredible dog photographs three times in a row.

We know that many dogs plunge into the water to chase toys with enthusiasm, but to see what they actually look like—lips pulled back, teeth showing, eyes wide open, hair all over the place—is extraordinary.

Photographer Seth Casteel creates images of dogs underwater (and above water, too!) that are charming in the extreme, and he has a book coming out later this year called Underwater Dogs. As a great lover of all things marine, two of my favorite images in this video are the one at 10 seconds, in which the dogs’ legs look like sea cucumbers, and the one at 37 seconds, which I adore because the dog displays the essence of its close relative, the sea lion.

I can’t imagine anyone not being charmed by the photo of the dog with what looks like a crooked smile (2:36) and the one in which a dog is licking another dog who looks thoroughly disgusted by the action (2:55). I can literally feel my heart connecting with these dogs.

Please let me know that you’ve watched this video and whether it made you as happy as it made me!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Social Network Finds Lost Dog
A new website connects neighbors online

Years ago, it took a runaway cat for me to befriend several of my neighbors who lived down the street. Eventually Izzy was found and I gained some new friends in the process. Unfortunately, it often takes an emergency to get communities to rally together.

As we become more and more dependent on technology, our isolation has only become worse. A recent study found that over 65 percent of adults are on a social networking site, yet 33 percent of Americans don’t know any of their neighbors by name.

Nextdoor.com aims to change all that by connecting neighbors in a secure online forum. This new social networking website lets users log on and start conversations on everything from finding a ladder to borrow to sending an alert about local road construction.  

Naturally, many users have started sharing pet related recommendations, like preferred veterinarians and dog walkers.

Nextdoor.com has also been credited with helping reunite a family in Washington with their lost puppy, Willie. When the small dog ran away last winter, the family posted an alert to their local Nextdoor.com site. Neighbors started reporting sightings and Willie was soon found.

It feels a little artificial to have an online neighborhood, but I can see how communities have to evolve the way they interact to keep up in this age of technology. However, as much as I rely on my smartphone and internet connection, I probably meet the most people in my neighborhood the good old fashioned way—while walking the dogs!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Custody
Who gets the dog when a couple splits?

Divorcing couples may fight over anything and everything—the house, retirement funds, electronic equipment, cars, music collections, kitchen appliances, baseball cards, furniture, season tickets to sporting events and, of course, custody of dependents. Custody battles used to be over human children only, but that’s not the case anymore. Dogs and other pets are now regularly the subject of many contentious fights among couples who are separating, and shared custody is even an option.

Though most people consider them family members, in legal terms, dogs are viewed as property. A few states now have laws that view dogs as more than mere property in cases in which domestic abuse has occurred.  For the most part, though, they are considered no different than cars and TVs—just part of what must be divided up between people going through a divorce.

Mediators and lawyers are often involved in sorting out canine custody. Though many understand the seriousness of the decision, not all of them seem to grasp the importance of the issue to the people involved.

Attorney Cathy Gorlin notes that, "People will cede $20,000 to a spouse, plus attorney fees, for a pet that could have been replaced for $500." Doesn’t that seem like she missed the point—that no matter how they are viewed by the law, a dog that is loved is priceless, and cannot be replaced? Hopefully understanding will continue to spread both in and out of the legal profession.

Have you had an experience with canine custody?

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