Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The agility community bands together for a friend in need
Last week international agility competitor Elicia Calhoun and six of her dogs were headed home from a competition when tragedy struck. Elicia fell asleep at the wheel and hit an 18-wheeler truck, causing her SUV to roll over several times and her dogs to be ejected from the car.
Elicia was taken to the hospital but checked out early (with a punctured lung!) to look for her missing pups. Fortunately she had a lot of support helping her through this difficult time.
The agility community was amazing, organizing search groups, spreading the word on Facebook, and raising over $13,000 for Elicia. I heard many generous stories, such as people banding together to pay for a helicopter search, a Arizona couple flying their plane to look for the missing pups, and a group from Texas bringing horses to help in the rescue efforts.
The Facebook group that was created to aid in the search is now being used as a forum to talk about safe car restraints for pets, creating emergency information cards, and preventing drowsy driving. A lot of good will come out of this tragedy.
My crew rides in wire kennels, but thanks to this group, I’ve learned that the doors can pop open on impact and the dogs can be ejected. I’ve seen quite a few people say they bought sturdier crates or pet seatbelts after hearing about this accident.
Thankfully Elicia was conscious after the crash, but the situation sparked a discussion on having emergency information for each of your dogs. Some people have shared templates, but Bark Buckle Up also has a free Pet Safety Kit that features a decal pointing rescue workers to emergency cards in the glove compartment.
Finally, falling asleep at the wheel is something that could happen to any of us, particularly those who do a lot of early morning and late night driving to and from dog shows. The Live to Run Again web site has safety tips on preventing drowsy driving. They also organize a library of free books on tape at agility trials around the nation.
While the accident was tragic, it brought together a community and inspired many people to reevaluate the way they travel with their pets.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
This morning, as I watched my partially bald dog Dharma bask in the sun’s rays, I was reminded of the risks that the sun and heat can pose to our pups. It has prompted me to discuss a few sun tips to help keep our dogs safe- while still having fun- this summer season.
Despite all that fur, it’s important to be aware of the risks of sunburn in your pet. Dogs, especially those with short hair, white fur, and pink skin, can easily sunburn, and this can be just as painful for your dog as it is to us. Limit your dog’s exposure during peak sun hours (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and apply sunblock to the ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside. Products available to protect dogs from sunburn include vests that block ultraviolet rays and pet-specific sunscreen made with ingredients repellent to dogs to keep them from licking it. If you are unsure that your sunscreen is pet-safe, double check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain zinc oxide (Desitin) or salicylates (aspirin); these can be toxic if licked off and ingested in large amounts. Stomach irritation can also occur if excessive amounts are ingested, so be careful about putting too much on in an area where they can lick it. If your dog has lupus or pemphigus (a condition that results in a crusty appearance to the nose), consult with a dermatologist before putting sunscreen on his or her nose or before letting outside.
While out at the beach, it is imperative to always have a fresh water source available and offer it frequently. If your dog gets thirsty, he may begin to drink the only available water, which is often salt water, and this can lead to toxicity. A few gulps of salt water won’t harm your dog, but watch for vomiting and early neurological signs of salt poisoning such as dullness and depression.
Scan the water and sand for jellyfish. Be aware of sea lice that can cause itchy red bumps on dogs. Salt can be irritating to paws and skin, too. Rinse salt water and sand from your dog’s coat after swimming. Always clean and dry ears after a swim. Water that remains in ears, especially from a dirty lake, can result in a bacterial ear infection.
Running on the sand is strenuous exercise, and this can easily lead to heat stroke. A dog that is out of shape can also easily pull a tendon or ligament, so keep a check on your dog’s activity. Hot sand (and pavement) can blister delicate pads that are new to these hot surfaces.
For dogs who enjoy the sport of boating, just like people, he or she should always wear a life jacket. Make sure that the life jacket fits properly and let your dog get used to having it on while swimming before going deeper into the water.
If you have a breed that is predisposed to eye problems (such as a Pug or Shepherd), you may want to consider Doggles to help protect their precious peepers.
And finally, never, ever leave a dog unattended in your vehicle in the summer months. Heatstroke and death can occur within minutes in warm temperatures and we have already treated several cases of this in our hospital over the past 2 weeks!! You can read further about heatstroke (what and what NOT to do) here.
I hope these tips help keep your pets safe during these upcoming summer months!
Have a doggy sun-proofing idea? Please share!
News: Guest Posts
Takes a beating, but still beloved
I'm an interior designer's worst nightmare (isn't clutter just another word for "Victorian chic"?), but even my eye is offended by the yellow mustard sofa squatting in our house. To say it is distressed is to be kind. It has been chewed up, peed on, destuffed, and muddied. Yet the ugly dog couch lives on! I've repeatedly fantasized about being selected for "Extreme Makeover." Ty Pennington would leap into my living room with a single bound, and heroically hurl that thing to the curb. Yes, the dogs would be upset; at least I would no longer be the villain of this story. Of course, whenever garbage day arrives, it only takes one sleepy dog stretched across it to transform it into the cutest loveseat I've ever seen.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Petition aims to get the word out about dangerous vehicles
Each year thousands of dogs die in hot cars, a tragedy that's easily preventable. When I travel to agility trials, sometimes I leave my crew in our SUV while I make a quick rest stop. I know not to do this in warm weather, but I didn't know until recently how fast cars can heat up even in more mild temperatures. On a 75 degree day, vehicles can heat up to 100 degrees in just 10 minutes. Scary stuff.
It's important to get the word out to avoid any more causalities.
A petition on Change.org is asking Subaru to create a commercial featuring the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars. The message would fit nicely with the car company's “Dog Tested, Dog Approved” advertising campaign. Getting this information out on television would reach millions of animal lovers and save countless lives.
People don't realize how fast their cars can become a lethal oven. Please spread the word so that dogs across the country will be safe this summer.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Social media helps a dog in a peculiar situation
Social media web sites are often blamed for isolating people and changing the way we interact. But time and time again I've seen networks, like Facebook, rally people together for a common cause.
Last week Beth Gresham, an animal rescue volunteer in Tennessee, spotted a dog with his head stuck in a plastic container on the side of the road. When she tried to approach him, the scared pup ran back into the woods.
Beth wasn't able to get to the small spotted dog, but she posted a cell phone picture to Facebook soliciting help in capturing the pup in need. When Jess McClain, another animal rescue volunteer, saw the photo online, she put together a search party and set out to find the dog.
The next day, the rescuers found the pup, who they've since named Miracle, and used container cutters to set him free. Many pets are abandoned in the woods, but they're not sure if the container was placed on the his head intentionally or it got on accidentally. Either way, Miracle was lucky to run into Beth and have many people dedicated to finding him.
During the search, the rescue party also found another stray dog and it looks like both pups will find new homes.
News: Guest Posts
A beloved family pet died because they didn't ask questions
Like most dog owners who trust their vet, Ashley Sassaman didn't hesitate to follow her vet's suggestion that her two dogs, Jack and Katrina, be given a new heartworm preventative, ProHeart6, at their last wellness check up. The convenience of a shot every six months instead of remembering to give monthly medication was a big selling point for the working mom. A week after the shot, Jack grew lethargic. He no longer wanted to play fetch or go for walks. The family brought him back to the vet, but she couldn't find an explanation for the behavior change. Three weeks after the shot, they found Jack dead at home. Ashley began to ask questions - ones that she wishes she had asked before Jack received the shot - and discovered that the FDA had briefly taken ProHeart6 off the market due to adverse reactions, including death. Also, Pfizer, the company that made ProHeart6, advised vets that they should discuss possible side effects with the dog's owners, and have them sign an "Owner Consent Form" before the first injection, a protocol that Ashey's vet did not follow. Ashley has since changed vets and Pfizer offered to pay for Jack's necropsy. It is her hope that sharing Jack's story will encourage other dog lovers to ask questions and do research in order to keep their dogs healthy and safe.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Still & Silent Way Works Best
Two minor punctures were just visible above the old man’s ankle. He held his slacks up from his skinny leg as he told me how the dog had rushed off its property and bitten him as he walked by. As I took the report he told me about many other dog bites he had received.
The man was a quiet, soft-spoken widower who spent every morning walking around his suburban neighborhood. He lived in a nice area without a lot of loose dogs and I was puzzled at how he had been bitten so often. As an animal control officer, I handle aggressive dogs daily and am rarely bitten.
What was about him or his demeanor that incited normally docile canines to aggression? It’s not like the old guy wrapped his legs in bacon before he set out each morning. I questioned him about each bite and he told me that when he saw a dog he would yell in an attempt to frighten it away. As the dog approached he would flail around, kicking, swinging his arms and screaming. Wow…. that’s probably more effective than bacon. Jump around like a wounded antelope and hope the predator doesn’t eat you. No one deserves to be bitten while minding his own business but I could see how the man’s response could be a contributing factor.
In observance of the recent Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 20-26, I offer a view of dog bites from that of someone who has investigated literally thousands of them. In most cases the dogs were family pets that are normally friendly. A few were dogs with a history of aggression that was permitted or excused by the owner.
More than 4 million people a year are bitten by dogs and children are the most common victims. In almost every case, the bite could have been avoided with some effort on the part of the dog owner as well as from the victim (or their parent). In one case I investigated, a toddler was bitten by a relative’s elderly arthritic dog. The child’s father was furious, demanding that the dog be euthanized immediately. The family was visiting the wife’s sister and the child wandered into the other room where the dog was lying on his bed, chewing a bone. The child climbed on the dogs back and sustained a minor puncture to the hand. The parents were extremely negligent for letting their baby roam around someone else’s home unattended. Of course the dog’s owner should have been alert as well. It was deemed a provoked bite and the dog was spared, but sadly many dogs are euthanized for minor, easily preventable bites.
The importance of socialization, training, not allowing dogs to roam and not leaving dogs unsupervised with children is critical. Many people are also in denial about what their dog might do. I can’t tell you how many times a person has told me “Oh he would never bite”. Often when I’m looking at a dog whose body language screams “I would bite in a hot second!” Dogs are limited in how they can say “you’re scaring me” or simply “leave me alone”. Biting is a way that dogs communicate. Most dogs won’t (and shouldn’t) challenge their owners, but a child or visitor may not be so lucky. I’m also amazed by how many people allow their kids to abuse their dogs. “They can do anything to him.” They tell me proudly. Sadly, the long-suffering dog may eventually tire of the torment and suffer the ultimate consequence for his predictable response.
Dogs should be off limits to kids when eating, sleeping, chewing a bone etc. It’s critical that children are taught to respect a dog’s space, food and other potential triggers. Dogs who are sick, scared, injured or have pups are also at higher risk for biting.
Equally important is that people stay still when approached by a potentially aggressive dog. Even an aggressively charging dog on its own property will rarely bite a perfectly still person. I can vouch for this, having been charged many times by dogs that have previously bitten. When they don’t get a response from me, they stop and lose interest.
I was impressed with a boy who approached a house while selling candy bars. Inside, a highly aggressive dog that had bitten several previous visitors saw the child. She crashed right through the front window in a shower of glass. The terrified boy screamed bloody murder but didn’t move a muscle. The dog snarled and circled him repeatedly but didn’t bite.
Please remember that even the nicest dog can bite and even the nicest child can irritate them. Dogs deserve our respect and protection, as do our children and visitors to our homes.
News: Guest Posts
We all need someone we can lean on, and so do they.
Last night I watched a most wonderful documentary about the many ways in which rescued dogs can help rescue humans, each of whom needs someone to lean on. It's called Shelter Me. A synopsis of the docmentary can be seen here. A snippet should be all that's needed to get you to watch it:
"The first episode shows how shelter pets are helping our returning war veterans cope with PTSD. We go inside a women’s prison, where inmates train shelter dogs to become service animals for people with disabilities. We also see the journey of two stray dogs, from the day they are picked up on the streets and brought to the shelter until the day they become a beloved family pet. Shelter Me is about redemption, hope, helping others and making a difference
We all need someone we can lean on, and so do they (other animals). I was moved to tears of joy as I watched the bond develop between the humans and their new found companions. I think you will also be incredibly moved by this most-welcomed documentary that spills over with hope for those beings, nonhuman and human, who need help in a demanding world. While some might question the scientific data about such relationships, these stories show clearly that dogs and humans form incredibly strong and reciprocal social bonds. Each becomes the life-line, the much-needed oxygen, for the other.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Web series helps find homes for 'unadoptable' pets
You may have seen the video of a mischievous Corgi circulating on the internet recently. The curious dog creates a mess in the kitchen that leads to a small fire (don't worry, no one was hurt). The video is part of The Pet Collective, a You Tube channel consisting of seven original, short-form animal series. The Corgi clip is from Pet Sense, a show that stars an animal communicator helping families solve behavior problems.
Beyond the comedic videos that You Tube is so famous for, The Pet Collective also has a series called The Unadoptables. Each week this show features a pet that's difficult for shelters to find a home for. These cases include animals with special needs and those considered too old or unattractive.
I love The Unadoptables because, not only do the videos help find homes for these animals, they also influence how people view pets that are considered less desirable. The next time someone visits an animal shelter, they may think twice about picking a cute, fluffy puppy over a dog with a scar on its face.
The videos are well filmed and edited, and are viewed by thousands of You Tube viewers, so these animals have a good chance of finding homes. Although the Pet Collective doesn't move out of preview mode until tomorrow, some of the "unadoptables" have already been adopted!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
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!
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