health care
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Heartworm Superbug?
Should we be worried about resistance

Heartworm disease is a horrible and potentially deadly disease that is fortunately preventable with medication. However, in recent years, animals in the Gulf region have been testing positive for heartworm, despite being on a prevention medicine. This has many people worried about a potential resistant superbug.

In response to the growing cases, the American Heartworm Society and Companion Animal Parasite Council met earlier this year to "explore the potential relationships between resistance to heartworm products and veterinary and pet owner compliance, loss of product efficacy and heartworm testing and treatment protocols." 

For instance, 50 percent of people who buy heartworm preventative do not give the medication to their dogs as directed. The efficacy of heartworm preventative is greatly compromised if not given as intended.

The meeting concluded that more research is necessary, but that the investigation should not lead to dropping heartworm medicine, since year-round use is still the most effective way to prevent the deadly disease.

In human healthcare, there’s so much talk of antibiotic resistant supeprbugs that I avoid excessive medications and vaccines when possible, for both myself and my dogs. However, heartworm preventative is one medication I don’t skip with the pups. It’s such a serious disease and I hope that the possibility of a superbug is unfounded.

For more information on heartworm prevention, symptoms, and endemic areas, visit the American Heartworm Society website.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Low Stress Handling
Sophia Yin’s advice book available free online

Sophia Yin has written another great book to go along with her popular Small Animal Veterinary Nerdbook and How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves. Her latest book is called Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats. The ideas and techniques in this book can improve safety at veterinary clinics, decrease stress in the animals, and make life easier for veterinarians, guardians and their pets. And best of all, an abridged version is available online for free through December.

  This book is all about helping animals who are nervous when visiting the veterinarian, those who dislike grooming or handling, and even those who feel uncomfortable with visitors at home. Specific issues in the book include getting dogs in and out of kennels and putting them on leash, different methods of restraint necessary for procedures, picking dogs up, the principles of classical and operant conditioning, modifying behavior through a variety of techniques, recognizing fear and understanding dominance.   Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and behaviorist, is an expert in behavior modification. Her book is a product of her knowledge of learning theory combined with her practical experience. With clear text, more than 1,600 photos and 100 video clips with informative narration, this book can help improve the lives of our pets as well as our relationships with them. There are sections on helping pets who already have issues with handling, and the book also covers ways to help puppies (and kittens) learn at an early age to take being handled in stride throughout their lives.   So many dogs and cats struggle to deal with every day handling and care or completely freak out at the veterinarian. By modifying behavior—both that of humans and of dogs and cats, so much of the resulting stress can be eliminated or at least greatly decreased, and this book provides the sort of practical information needed to make it happen.
News: Guest Posts
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
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?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Counterfeit Meds
Unregulated companies sell repackaged pet health products

The internet is my favorite place to shop because of the unbeatable deals on everything from books to pet supplies. The trade-off is that you don’t get to see the products you’re buying in person and the companies selling these products are largely unregulated.

For years, the sale of counterfeit pet medicine has been a problem, leading the FDA to advise only buying pet medication from reputable companies. Misleading claims, false packaging and inauthentic medicine can lead to improper use and even health complications. 

This week retailer, Petspace LLC, agreed to pay a penalty to the United States to settle allegations that it sold repackaged Frontline Plus on eBay. The online sale of the non-prescription flea and tick preventative has become so popular that the EPA has guidelines on how to spot counterfeit packaging on its website.

I buy all of my prescription medicine through my veterinarian (or at my local pharmacy), but I do buy Frontline Plus online. Since the topical medication is applied year round, in a multiple dog household, the cost adds up fast.

Where do you buy your pets’ medicine?

News: Guest Posts
Rabies in Africa
Help here, change there

Earlier this week, JoAnna Lou wrote about an effort to curb rabies in Bali, a fairly new challenge on that island. Now, we’re talking Africa, where an estimated 25,000 people (often children) die from rabies each year. It’s not a huge number but it is unnecessary, since we have to tools and technology to eliminate human and dog rabies. 

  Timed to mark World Rabies Day early this week, I learned about the “Help Here, Change There” campaign, which targets domestic dogs in the Serengeti region of Tanzania. Domestic dogs are responsible for 84.2 percent of cases of the deadly disease in that region, according to the campaign.   The initiative works like this, for every cat or dog to receive certain designated vaccinations in the United States from now through Dec. 31, 2010, U.S. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health will donate a dose of canine rabies vaccine to Afya Serengeti, a rabies control project, up to 150,000 doses.   It's a good cause and I like creative promotions, but I am sort of weirded-out by tying vaccines here to vaccines there. Would they do the same for human vaccinations? I guess, if you are already planning to get a Nobivac Lyme or Nobivac Canine Flu H3N8 vaccine anyway, you might as well make it count for people and their pets in Tanzania. There are also opportunities to donate directly or drive donations by clicking through at afya.org.


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Beating Rabies
Bali to implement a humane rabies control program

Earlier this week I attended a panel discussion on dogs at Barnard College and was shocked to learn that 55,000 people die each year of rabies. Ninety-five percent of those deaths occur in Asia and Africa. Because only one to three of those deaths occur in the United States, I didn’t realize rabies fatalities were such a big problem. Developed countries are lucky to have measures in place to control rabies, it’s something we often take for granted.

In Asia and Africa, mass canine killings are common following outbreaks, even though it’s not an effective way to curtail rabies. Fortunately for dogs and humans in Bali, the government approved a new humane rabies control program on Tuesday. The goal is to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the island’s dogs within six months and implement a public education initiative.

Unlike other areas in Asia, rabies is actually a fairly recent problem in Bali. The country was considered rabies free until 2008 when unvaccinated stray dogs caused an outbreak. The rapid spread of disease was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Balinese followed by mass dog killings.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) are now working with the Balinese government to organize vaccination teams, train local authorities, and implement public education initiatives.

This humane approach to controlling rabies is a win-win for both humans and canines. The Balinese will be protected from rabies and an estimated 400,000 dogs will be saved.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Testing Hips
The standard OFA test may underestimate the risk of hip dysplasia

When we were ready to add a Sheltie to our family, I made sure prospective breeders met a long check list of requirements from socialization to genetic testing. Since Shelties are prone to hip dysplasia, I only considered breeders who screened the parents’ hips. The standard screening model is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals test, or more commonly known as the OFA.

So I was shocked to find out that the OFA test may not predict hip dysplasia risk as acurantly as once thought. A new study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that the OFA test may be underestimating hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis susceptibility in canines. The research compared the standard OFA test and the University of Pennsivania’s PennHIP screening model with 439 dogs older than two years. They found that 80 percent of dogs judged to be normal by the OFA test would be flagged to be at risk of developing osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia by the PennHIP test.

Furthermore, according to UPenn researchers, even if breeders were to selectively breed only those dogs having OFA-rated "excellent" hips -- the highest ranking -- the study suggests that 52 to 100 percent of offspring, depending on the breed, would be susceptible to hip dysplasia based on the PennHIP test.

Before making any conclusions, I’d like to see an independent study compare the two tests (University of Pennsylvania ran the study on their own screening method, funded by the University, the National Institutes of Health, The Seeing Eye Inc., the Morris Animal Foundation, and Nestle Purina Co.), as well as a long term study. However, if it’s true, the results are alarming considering how many breeders rely on the OFA test to make lineage decisions.