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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.

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mapping the Gut
New research seeks to understand the stomach

My dog, Nemo, is an expert at getting into the garbage and eating treasures off the street.  Fortunately, to date,  Nemo’s dietary habits have been fairly innocuous, but eating bad food can easily lead to more serious conditions, like gastrointestinal infections.

Until now identifying canine gastrointestinal disease was difficult because scientists could only culture a small percentage of the bacteria in a dog's gut. And for a long time, diagnosis was further complicated because veterinarians didn’t have any information on what a healthy gut looked like. 

Now researchers at the University of Illinois are using DNA pyrosequencing technology to map the canine gastrointestinal system. Having a standard will make it easier to diagnose and fight infections.

For dogs, a balanced and stable microbiota is important for gastrointestinal health, so research in this area can make a big impact on understanding our dogs’ health.  With their newfound information, the scientists at the University of Illinois plan to study how diet, medicine, and age affect microbial count.  They'll also be looking at the link between human and dog illness. This last topic is of increasing interest as more dogs are considered part of the family.

News: Guest Posts
Salmonella Risk
Human infections linked to pet food
We’ve posted several recalls recently related to concerns about salmonella in dry dog food. Now, there’s an additional, disturbing wrinkle: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that dozens of salmonella infections in toddlers have been traced to dry pet food. According to The New York Times report, it’s the first time human infections have been linked to this source.

  The CDC recommends “children younger than 5 not be allowed to touch or eat pet food or pet treats and be kept away from pet feeding areas.”

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Hotel for Dogs
Jimmy’s Place cares for hospitalized seniors’ pets

One of the best things about our pets is that we can count of them to love us no matter what, in sickness and in health. Fortunately if anything were to happen to me, I have family and friends nearby to take care of my dogs. However, many elderly dog guardians may not have a social network to lean on when they have to go to the hospital.

  Now seniors in Osceola County, Florida can rest assured that their pets will be well taken care of when they need to go to the hospital. Jimmy’s Place is a pet hotel where seniors can house their pets free of charge when they are hospitalized. Area residents can even pre-register ahead of time so that volunteers have the information needed to step in during an emergency.    Jimmy’s Place was formed in honor of Jimmy Scarborough, a volunteer with the local Meals on Wheels. When Jimmy noticed that seniors were sharing their meals with their pets, he started buying pet food to distribute along his route. Eventually Osceola Council on Aging organized pet food drives to supply all Meals on Wheels drivers with dog and cat food.   After Jimmy’s death in 1998, his friends at Osceola Council on Aging wanted to do something to honor his legacy. They knew that Jimmy always used to talk about how seniors could be in the middle of a heart attack and refuse to go to the hospital because they didn’t want to leave their pet at home. So Jimmy’s friends decided to form a pet hotel to give hospital bound seniors peace of mind.   Jimmy’s Place has been getting calls from around the country from communities looking to start a similar pet hotel. Contact Osceola Council on Aging if you’re interested in donating to Jimmy’s Place or would like information to start a pet hotel in your area.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Operation Pit
ASPCA offers free pit bull vasectomies

In my area, shelters are filled with Pit Bulls and Pit-mixes. The breed makes up a large percentage of the 50,000 homeless pets that enter New York City shelters each year. Sometimes it feels like all 50,000 homeless pets that enter New York City shelters each year are Pits. 

  To help reduce the number of homeless Pit Bulls in New York, the ASPCA recently launched a new initiative called Operation Pit.   According to Louise Murray, director of medicine for the ASPCA Bergh Memorial Hospital, Pit Bulls tend to have litters of 10 to 11 puppies at a time, so spaying and neutering can really get to the root of the problem.   In addition to the birth control benefits, there are many health reasons to spay or neuter. Many diseases common in Pit Bull and Pit-mixes—such as breast cancer, infected uterus, and enlarged prostates—can be prevented by spaying and neutering.   Operation Pit also offers vasectomies for male dogs, a less invasive surgery that doesn’t alter a male dog’s physical appearance. I’m a big advocate of spaying and neutering, but have met more than a few people over the years who avoid neutering because they don’t want their pet to “lose their manhood.” Offering the vasectomies will help, though unfortunately the procedure doesn’t have the health benefits of neutering.    All Pit Bulls and Pit-mixes between the ages of three months to six years are eligible to participate in Operation Pit. Participating dogs will also receive a complimentary veterinary check-up, vaccinations and a microchip. For more information about Operation Pit, call 877-900-PITS (7487) or visit the ASPCA website.

 

News: Guest Posts
Another Recall
Texas Hold 'ems recalled by Merrick

Merrick Pet Care has recalled Texas Hold'ems, 10 ounce bag (Item # 60016 Lot 10127 Best by May 6 2012) because of possible Salmonella health risk. Details on FDA website.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Therapy Dog Gives Great Gift
A wife’s last smile.

 

There are a zillion stories about the amazing effects of therapy dogs on people, but this one moved me even more than usual. A husband was with his dying wife in a Florida hospital when Pogo, a Shetland sheepdog came to visit. The wife began to pet the dog, wrapped her arms around him, and smiled. It had been a long time since she had smiled, and it was to be her last one. She died the next day.   Pogo’s guardian got a letter from the husband soon after thanking her for letting him see his wife smile one more time. I’m actually dripping tears on my keyboard just thinking about how meaningful that single smile was to this man. I mean, seriously, have you ever written or received a letter because of a smile?  

 

News: Guest Posts
P&G Voluntary Recall
Eukanuba and Iams specialized dry pet food

The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) is voluntarily expanding its recall to include veterinary and some specialized dry pet food, including Iams Veterinary Dry Formulas, Eukanuba Naturally Wild, Eukanuba Pure and Eukanuba Custom Care Sensitive Skin, as a precautionary measure because it has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. No salmonella-related illnesses have been reported. For details and UPC codes, visit Food & Drug Administration.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Inadvertent Toxin, UPDATE
Human hormone treatments have a negative effect on pets

[Editor's Note, 7/30/10: The Food and Drug Administration has published a warning urging that children and pets not be exposed to Evamist, a hormone spray used to treat hot flashes in menopausal women.]

 

Most pet lovers are careful about keeping medicine bottles locked away in a cabinet, far from the reach of little ones. But this may not be enough to guard your pups against the effects of some topical medications.

According to the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), the popularity of human topical hormone treatments, often used for menopause, is having an unintended negative effect on pets. The hormone replacement treatments are available in a lotion, gel, or spray that is applied to the arms or legs. Apparently the hormone can be spread to pets simply through contact.

In recent years, veterinarians have started to see spayed dogs and young female puppies with swollen vulvas as if they are in heat, male dogs with enlarged mammary glands and abnormally small penises, and loss of fur in both sexes.

VIN reports that dogs will often go undiagnosed for months because veterinarians aren’t familiar with this problem. Human doctors are also unfamiliar with the situation and therefore do not know to warn people with pets. It’s important to create a greater awareness since the effects of these medications worsen over time and can lead to other serious conditions associated with high hormone levels. 

Before reading about this, it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind that any topical medications I use could be inadvertently spread to my pets. And apparently the FDA already knew this was a potential problem. The government organization has documented cases of children being accidently exposed to hormones through topical therapies. As a result, the FDA now requires two manufacturers of testosterone treatments to put warnings on their packaging. 

Whether you use hormone therapies or not, this is an important reminder that you can never be too careful when using medication.

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