health care
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.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Crate Rest
Is it possible to survive it?

Besides the obviously horrendous news that a dog has cancer or is in kidney failure, there are few more dreaded statements from the veterinarian than, “Your dog needs to be on crate rest.” Every time a client relays the news to me that the vet has said this, I am torn between the urge to offer them a stiff drink or slide a chair under them before they fall over in despair.

  Keeping a dog on crate rest is unbelievably challenging for everyone involved, especially if the dog is young and active. I’ve found that many of my clients are more alarmed by the thought of living with a dog temporarily restricted from exercising than they are by the original medical problem.   It is never easy to keep a dog on crate rest from becoming restless and perhaps developing undesirable behaviors, such as chewing, whining or barking. The advice I have is to twofold: Continue to spend quality time with your dog and make sure she is mentally active.   Quality time with an activity-restricted dog is easily achieved with lots of physical contact. This can be as simple as cuddling together on the floor, but can also involve canine massage. The book Canine Massage in Plain English by Natalie Winter is one of my favorites. Make sure to check with your veterinarian about any areas of your dog’s body to avoid or that require you to be especially gentle.   Mental exercise can take many forms, some of which also provides you and your dog quality time together. Simple obedience work, either in a class or at home may work, depending on your dog’s specific physical limitations. Tricks are a great way to exercise your dog’s brain, too, as long as you don’t ask your dog for any behaviors that could exacerbate her condition.   There are ways to keep your dog’s mind active while you attend to other areas of your life such as working, showering, paying bills etc. Feeding her in a way that requires her to be mentally engaged, such as by stuffing food into Kongs or Goodie Balls can keep her occupied for a long time.   Surviving crate rest is mainly about preventing boredom, which is the enemy of a happy well-behaved dog.


News: Guest Posts
Urban Wanderers
Rescued strays inspire art and hopefully donations

An indomitable stray named Chill is among many cats and dogs providing inspiration for dozens of works of art—paintings, photographs, sculptures and drawings—in an exhibition entitled Urban Wanderers, which opens at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art next Friday, July 16.

  Chill was a neglected, abused street dog until she was rescued by Randy Grim of Stray Rescue of St. Louis, a no-kill organization dedicated to rescuing stray animals in need of medical attention and place them in loving, adoptive homes.   “Man can be downright evil and cruel at times. One such person felt it necessary to disfigure, crush and mutilate parts of Chill’s body and cut off one foot,” Grim writes in his story about the decision to rescue her. “No longer could she run or play with her pack. Her mutilated body made it impossible for her to scavenge for food or keep up with her horde of dogs that provided a sense of security and being. For the past month, we wondered where she was but now we know, she was unable to move. She was dying.”   They rushed her broken, flea-infested, anemic and infected body to an emergency vet where she has seen many months of intensive care. She is now healing—physically and emotionally—at home with Grim until she is ready to move to a wonderful full-time home. Read her complete story here and here.   The Urban Wanderers exhibition opens with a reception on Friday, July 16, at 6 p.m. Stray Rescue supporter and actress Loretta Swit will attend the reception and several of her paintings will be displayed. In addition, rescued dogs and cats will use their paws, tails and noses to create works for the show.   All these creations, as well as select pieces by Swit, will be available for purchase through a silent auction to benefit Stray Rescue of St. Louis. The exhibition is free-of-charge, open to the public and runs through August 29.   In related news, the lack of shelter space that, in part, contributed to Grim’s need to triage strays, including Chill, is improving. Soon, Stray Rescue St. Louis will open the doors of a new Animal Companion Center, with 69 kennel runs. Initially, dogs will be transferred to this facility from the city pound in Gasconade, which is in a crisis. Additional, runs will be added in a second phase at the new shelter.
News: Guest Posts
Canine Cancer Blogs
Finding support in first-person-with-dog stories

When my sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, my niece created a blog for family and friends in very short order. At first it seemed an odd choice, but soon I saw the smarts in it. It was an excellent way to streamline communications. I could find out about her progress and leave encouraging comments without being one of dozens of callers interrupting important healing time and demanding the latest news be told to me—and only me—for the tenth or the fortieth time.

I know there are many, many personal blogs like theirs—some public, others password protected—so I wasn’t really surprised to be introduced to blogs written by people dealing with canine cancer, even though I hadn’t stumbled across any yet.

This week, we heard from Todd Reubold, who recently launched a blog called The Adventures of Jumping Jasper-Roo the Viszla Dog. “I started the blog as a way to connect with others who are going through the same thing with their pets,” Reubold told us. “Before Jasper’s diagnosis, I had no idea that cancer accounts for nearly 50 percent of all disease-related pet deaths each year.” The National Canine Cancer Foundation estimates that one in three dogs will develop cancer, a daunting estimate that is similar to the odds for human cancer.

Reubold’s is a new blog with only a handful of entries, so far, but they strike at the heart of the thing—the first-person-with-dog perspective on balancing fight with acceptance, exploring options for treatment, sadness over bad news and joy in simple pleasures. A different case is Margarat Nee. She’s been keeping her blog, La Vida Fresca, about holistic canine health and raw-food diets since the middle of 2006. When her dog Vida was diagnosed with oral cancer two years later, her posts took a turn. Now she focuses the role of diet, herbs, Reiki, and acupressure in Vida’s treatment.

Coping with, treating, loving dogs with cancer are themes that thread through many blogs about dogs and even those not about dogs but into which this bad news comes. Sometimes I gripe about all the me-me-me of the blogosphere, but then I read these heartfelt stories and thoughtful, real-world advice and I reconsider. I wonder if there are blogs by individuals that have helped you deal with your dog’s cancer or maybe other challenges with your best friend? When the going gets tough, what sort of company do you seek? I’d love to know.