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Spay Plates
California joins spay/neuter initiative

I received my car tab renewal announcement in the mail on Friday, and decided that this year I’d take the opportunity to order one of Washington’s special We Love Our Pets plates, which supports grants to provide low-cost spay and neuter. My state is one of a couple dozen around the country, where a specialty license purchase supports these initiatives and helps spread the word about this important effort to reduce pet overpopulation.

  I was surprised to learn that California is late to the effort. Activists there launched the California Spay and Neuter Specialty License Plate Program only this past summer and they need to pre-sell commitments for 7,500 spay plates by June 2011, in order for the program to go forward. So there's probably not a better time to upgrade your plate in that state. And, if you're not a Golden State resident, when it's time to renew you may want to find out if your state has a pet plate.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Vets Without Borders
Web series focuses on rabies

Last month I wrote about the shock of finding out that 55,000 people die each year of rabies, a major health issue outside of the United States.  I couldn’t believe that so many people die each year form something that can be easily prevented with a simple vaccine.

Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans Frontières (VWB/VSF) has been working since 2005 to get that number down to zero. This year, as part of their Make Rabies History campaign, they’ve created a documentary web series called Vets Without Borders to create more awareness around the cause.

Vets Without Borders follows VWB/VSF vets to a small mountain village in Guatemala where residents are dying of rabies from being infected by stray dogs. The vets spay/neuter and vaccinate the dogs, in addition to handling emergencies involving pigs and other wild animals. Animal hospitals don’t exist in this remote area, so the vets must rely on limited supplies and a little creativity.

Check out the first episode: 

News: Guest Posts
Botched Euthanasia
Dog survives, what next?

This story will keep you up at night. A Michigan man takes his 11-year-old Rottweiler, Mia, to the vet to be euthanized. It’s a difficult decision, but he feels it’s the best thing for Mia, who suffers from a spinal problem. He brings her body home to bury the next day but when he retrieves her from the garage the following morning, he discovers she’s alive!

  It’s not a Halloween tale. The vet’s office—you seriously have to wonder what’s happening there—says the dosage was either too little or watered down. Does this happen more than we know? The dog, the man—have been through a harrowing ordeal, and now he faces the choice all over again. What would you do?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Are Some Dogs Pessimistic?
A new study addresses this question

In a recent study in the journal Current Biology, researchers assert that shelter dogs who show behavior indicative of separation distress tend to be pessimistic, compared with more optimistic dogs who are less likely to exhibit separation-related behavior. I’m going to explain briefly how the experiment was conducted and then discuss my concerns with the researchers’ conclusions.

  In their experiment, 24 shelter dogs were taught that a bowl in one location had food in it, while a bowl in another location was empty. Once the dogs were trained to this paradigm, they were tested to determine whether or not they had a “pessimistic” cognitive bias, or an “optimistic” one. In the test, bowls were placed in locations other than the ones that the dogs had been trained to understand. These ambiguous locations were in the same room as the tests with bowls that had either been empty or containing food during training. The time it took for the dogs to approach the bowls in these new locations was recorded.   Dogs who went quickly to bowls in ambiguous locations were regarded as having an optimism that the bowl would contain food, while dogs who were slow to approach the bowl were considered to be pessimistic about the likelihood that the bowl would contain food.   In another part of the study, these same dogs were observed to determine how much time they spent exhibited separation-related behavior patterns such as vocalizing, destructive chewing, and inappropriate elimination. The researchers found that “pessimistic” dogs showed more separation-related distress than the “optimistic” dogs, and thus concluded that the negative affective state of these pessimistic dogs is correlated with separation distress.   My concern about this study is that I’m not convinced that the time until a dog approaches a bowl in an unknown location indicates optimism versus pessimism. What if degree of curiosity or tendency to fear new things is more relevant, rather than a cognitive decision about the likelihood of food being present? It is even possible that the dogs who were slower to approach the bowls were not as good at generalizing from the learning task or that they spent time considering what to do rather than acting impulsively. Or, perhaps the dogs who were slow to approach the bowls don’t tend to investigate things that are not theirs? (For dogs in home settings, we call this being “well-trained” or “well-behaved.”)   The authors say that the results of the experiment were “unlikely to be explained by running speed/motivation, learning ability, or other dog characteristics” but except for running speed, they did not control for them. The researchers have provided evidence that dogs who are slower to approach a bowl in an ambiguous location are more likely to exhibit signs of separation distress, but I don’t think they have made a strong case that they can conclude more than that. They have not demonstrated a correlation between separation related distress and a pessimistic cognitive bias. There are too many other possible explanations that need to be sorted through and tested for such a claim to be convincing.
News: Guest Posts
Counter Surfer, Caught!
Man videos his unsuspecting Basenji

Ever wonder what your dog is up to when you’re away? I know I’m curious about how my dogs pass the time when I’m gone, especially when I return to find what looks like the aftermath of a fairly epic couch party, but I’ve never gone so far as to deploy the nanny-cam. Thanks to this bit of undercover cinematography, I’m thinking twice about respecting their canine privacy.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Cutting Nails
Reducing the stress for you and your dog

There are few parts of dog guardianship that are less agreeable than cutting nails. In fact, the only task that I dislike more is picking up poop, and depending on the dog, clean-up duty may even be preferable to nail trimming.

  I worked for almost a year as a dog groomer, so I know a few tricks about getting nails trimmed no matter what. Whether it’s keeping a dog occupied with treats or a favorite chew toy, the promise of a walk immediately afterwards, calming holds to use with struggling dogs, or trimming one nail a day for three weeks and then starting over, it is possible to cut any dog’s nails. I even occasionally advise using a muzzle. It’s better to get it done quickly in order to minimize the stress for the dog or the chance of a bite to the human, and if a muzzle makes that happen, it may be the best option.   Of course, many people have dogs who patiently present each paw and sit like a statue while each nail is cut. For the rest of us, it’s worth trying out a variety of techniques to learn what works best for your dog.  

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Food Recall
Blue Buffalo recalls chicken and salmon dog food

The Blue Buffalo Co. has announced a voluntary recall of specific production runs of its Wilderness Chicken-Dog, Basics Salmon-Dog and Large Breed Adult Dog products, “as we have reason to believe that the products from these runs may contain a higher level of Vitamin D than is called for in our product specifications.”

  According to the company, the potential of increased Vitamin D presents risk to a very small segment of the canine population who appear to be sensitive to higher levels of Vitamin D.    The ASPCA has advised pet owners who use Blue Buffalo products to contact the company with any questions related to its products and monitor their pets for signs of illness. Dr. Camille DeClementi, veterinarian and senior toxicologist at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center said, “Should pet owners notice symptoms such as increased thirst, urination, stomach upset or loss of appetite, they should consult their veterinarian or contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for help.”   According to ASPCA, excessive exposure to D can result in hypercalcemia is a serious illness that affects the electrolytes in the body and can disrupt normal organ function. Serious cases can result in acute renal failure and cause damage to the heart or central nervous system. Coma and death have occurred in untreated cases.   Blue Buffalo will reimburse any veterinary or testing expenses related to illness caused by these products. Visit the Blue Buffalo website for the affected product codes and to learn more about the circumstances of the recall.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Voting for K-9 Rights
Tea Party against the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act

The Tea Party has been all over the news lately for all sorts of political reasons. But now the infamous party is organizing an opposition to the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act in Missouri.

 
Earlier this year, Lisa Wogan wrote about the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, or Prop B, which will be on the Missouri state ballot next month. The legislation requires large-scale dog breeders to provide sufficient food and clean water, necessary veterinary care, housing that protects dogs from the elements, enough space to turn around, stretch, and lie down, regular exercise, and adequate rest between breeding cycles. The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act will also limit the number of breeding dogs to 50 per facility. 

Yes Prop B will cut down on breeder profit, but it isn’t exactly asking for anything that they shouldn’t already be providing. Although the bill seems so basic, many groups oppose the legislation. Lisa talked about the argument that Prop B will make it more difficult for middle-class American families to have dogs. I hope she’s right that higher priced puppies may encourage more families to choose adoption. Also considering how many health problems puppy mill pups often have, I think that regulating breeding conditions may actually help make pet care costs go down.

Most recently, Prop B critics have gained the support of the Missouri Tea Party, which is holding a “Vote NO on Proposition B” meeting tomorrow. Tea Party advocate, Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher believes that the government should not limit the number of dogs a breeder can own, like the government would not limit the number of cattle a rancher can raise.

I wouldn’t exactly compare dogs to cattle, though I believe that all animals, whether bred as pets or as food, should be treated with humanity. Considering that these breeders have the dogs to thank for generating an income, the least they can do is meet the basic needs of these animals.  

Any reputable breeder knows that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to make a decent living off of breeding dogs in a truly responsible manner. Dogs deserve more than just their basic needs met, but puppy mill dogs don't even get that. Unfortunately, I don’t think that puppy mills will ever be shut down (though I would love to be wrong!), but hopefully Prop B will at least improve conditions for dogs across Missouri.

Visit the Missouri Secretary of State website to read the exact Prop B proposed statute.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
My Dog Ate What?
New dog show to premier

National Geographic WILD is airing a new show about real stories of dogs who eat things they shouldn’t and the veterinarians who save them from themselves. The new show, called My Dog Ate What? premiers Nov. 3 at 9 PM.

  My first response to this was to be a bit horrified, but after I saw the preview about a dog that ate, among other objects, four pairs of underwear and a pan of brownies along with the shattered glass pan, I think it might be interesting. I was amused by web editor Lisa Wogan’s first response, which was, “They’ve run out of dog ideas.”   I’ve heard stories of dogs eating all kinds of non-food items, but my favorite is the tale of a friend of mine. Her dog ate her engagement ring. (He was not hurt by it, thankfully.) She found it doing what most of us would do if confronted by this situation—sorting through what came out the other end. Too bad this happened a decade before this show existed to share such stories with the world. JoAnna Lou’s blog about cash found in dog poop is another great example of dogs eating weird, but valuable, items.   What has your dog eaten that you just couldn’t believe?
News: Guest Posts
Critterati 2010: A Photo Contest
New Yorker enlists Bark publisher as judge

Purroust, Dr. Zhi-doggo, Puppy Longstocking: Weird things happen when you invite New Yorker readers to dress up their dogs like literary characters. So, of course, you want to do it again. The second annual Critterati photo contest at newyorker.com gets rolling just in time for Halloween, and this year Bark’s co-founder and publisher Cameron Woo joins Susan Orlean and Alexandra Horowitz for his Simon Cowell turn. Even better, each of the five winners receives a copy of Photobooth Dogs, Cameron’s just published collection of photobooth portraits from the last 80 years.

  The 411 on the contest: Dress your pet as a literary character or writer (wordplay and whimsy encouraged), snap a photo and upload it to the Critterati gallery. The five favorites, selected by the judges and announced Oct. 27, will have their photographs featured in an online slideshow. (Read the contest rules.)   You have time—submissions will be accepted through October 25—but don’t rest on your laurels. A black cape and fangs won’t cut it for this competition. Last year’s entries included Waiting for Dogot, Holden Clawfield, a pair of guinea pigs as Lilliputians, a cat hugging a doll as Lolita’s Humbert Humbert, and a chicken as fairly convincing Prince Genji. Check out the 2009 gallery. Good luck!

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