Dog's Life: Lifestyle
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
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
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.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet lovers worry about high vet bills.
The high cost of veterinary care is always a constant worry of mine. I don’t buy pet health insurance, but I always put a little bit away each month in case of emergency. Unfortunately, you never know when you might need it.
Last month my dogs’ annual checkup gave way to a huge vet bill thanks to asymptomatic Lyme and Giardia, and an ear infection on top of that. Thank goodness everything was easily treatable, but all those tests and medication add up quickly! My bill easily topped $1,000 and it wasn’t even an emergency!
According to a new survey from the Associated Press and Petside.com, I’m not the only one concerned about vet bills. Forty percent of pet lovers worry that they won’t be able to afford care when it’s needed.
The poll, which interviewed 1,112 people by phone, found that 62 percent would likely pay for $500 of pet health care. The number drops to 33 percent if the veterinary bill were to reach $2,000 and 22 percent if the cost were to reach $5,000.
Interestingly income didn’t appear to influence feelings about how much to spend on veterinary care. I think this shows that our relationships with pets are truly priceless.
I do find it a bit shocking that 38 percent of those polled would not spend $500 in health care for their pet, given how easy it is to rack up a bill of that size (though I understand that some people simply can't afford it). Consumer Reports puts the average annual check-up at $140-340 (depending on the age of the pet). On the other hand I know plenty of people who fit into the 22 percent category, people who would eat Ramen noodles in order to afford their dog’s health care. And this predicament will only become more common as more advanced veterinary technologies are developed.
My pets are part of the family and I’d definitely want to do everything I could do to help them live as long and comfortably as possible. Realistically there are financial limits, but I don’t know what that limit is for me. I just can’t imagine putting a hard number of my pets’ health.
Do you have a financial limit on pet health care?
News: Guest Posts
One little pup vs. infinite tropical parasites
If you think about life in the tropics, maybe you picture warm balmy breezes, a rain shower or two, and gently swinging in a hammock under a palm tree, your dog snoozing peacefully nearby. No taking the dog outside in freezing weather for “last call.” No bundling up to brave a chilly walk. And no frozen toes.And you would be right. Here in Belize, we do enjoy those balmy breezes, hammocks and rain showers. Lots of rain. They don’t call it the rainforest for nothing. All that warmth and humidity grows things. Big things, little things ... parasite-type things. I think the biggest battle a dog’s person fights in the tropics is parasites, specifically fleas and ticks. Recall that there is no deep freeze to kill them off in winter. It is a year-round battle and despite my best efforts, sometimes the ticks win. Recently, we had just such a week. Agatha, the first tropical storm of the season hammered Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. Somewhat north, Belize escaped the high winds but received heavy downpours daily, including more than 2 inches overnight. A boon for frogs, certainly, but the ticks also appeared, like I’ve never seen them before. Big ones, small ones, flat ones and fat ones. “Pepper ticks” so tiny and numerous they might be mistaken for something you’d sprinkle on your baked potato. And let’s not forget the aerial assault; that’s right, we have ticks raining from trees and overhanging vegetation. After more than 20 years in Belize, I am no stranger to ticks, either on my person or my dog. So how do I deal with them? Well, I groom Maggie every day, top to bottom. I peer into her ears, lift her tail, separate her toes. I feel every millimeter of her furry little body for any tick-like bumps. I keep a tweezers, scissors and alcohol at hand. Usually, I find them before they have really attached when they are easily removed and drowned in alcohol. Of course, prevention is an even better idea and I try, I really do, to take the green route. Maggie has a bandana scented with rose geranium reputed to be a tick repellent. She wears it when she goes outside, otherwise I store it in a jar to retain the tick-repelling properties and spare her sensitive nose from inhaling it constantly. I recharge it every so often with another drop of rose geranium. When the ticks get really bad, I spray her with a few drops of rose geranium and lavender dissolved in a bit of glycerin and 8 ounces of water. And when that doesn’t work, I bring out the big guns: Frontline. Keeping in mind most flea and tick products are developed for the North American market and frequently not effective against the ferocious tropical species. Frontline seems to be the most effective of the bunch, in Belize anyway, although I’ve heard that the ticks have developed resistance to it here. Last week was beyond awful though. Despite Frontline, scented bandanas and diligent examinations, ticks the size of black beans shinnied up my dog, attached and stayed hidden. These “stealth” ticks fed until swollen to bursting, then dropped to the floor in a small explosion of blood. Maggie looks like she’s been shot—blood spatters when she shakes her head or trickles down her snow-white fur. She stares at me big-eyed: Do something, Mom! In desperation, I emailed Maggie’s vet who is three hours away on bad roads. I knew ticks injected an anticoagulant—so maybe I was overreacting to all that blood—but I wanted to grouse about my Tick Hell and ask for tips on how to staunch the bleeding. I’d even tried a styptic pen, such as men use for shaving nicks, to stem the flow. Dr. Sheila cut right to the chase: Blood that won’t clot is a symptom of tick fever. She mailed me a course of antibiotics ... and another dose of Frontline.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Nadya Suleman teams with PETA to promote spay/neuter
This week Nadya Suleman, better known as the infamous Octomom, teamed up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to reveal a new campaign, “Don’t Let Your Dog or Cat Become an Octomom. Always Spay or Neuter.” A banner with the slogan will be hanging in front of Suleman’s La Habra, Calif., home for the next three weeks.
While Suleman’s participation was largely motivated by the $5,000 PETA paid her to hang the sign, she says that she is an animal lover who believes strongly in spaying and neutering. In addition to the money, PETA is giving Suleman a month’s supply of veggie hot dogs and burgers for her and her 14 children.
The sign has only been up one day, but has already garnered a lot of media attention and many requests for copies to display all over the country. In response, PETA has decided to provide signs to the first 100 people to sign up on their website.
While it’s probably true that the money and attention were the real factors that motivated Suleman to participate, I'm glad that PETA is putting her fame to good use. And as much as I dislike all the Octomom hype, I gotta admit the new campaign is pretty funny.
News: Guest Posts
The pros and cons of wearing a lampshade
At some point in your life with dogs, you’ll most likely shepherd them through the challenges and indignities of an Elizabethan cone. The awkward plastic neck collar—sometimes called a “cone of shame”—is often the final insult following painful hot spots, surgery and injury. The fact that it’s for dogs’ own good (keeping them from licking and biting irritated areas) is little comfort as they crash noisily into doors and chairs or struggle to retrieve a ball that’s right there. You’re sympathetic but you laugh—making matters worse. Still it’s hard not too: The sweet face framed in plastic like a confused pistil at the center of a tulip.There are lots of funny pictures and silly videos of dogs in cones across the web but a short, sweet photo series recently posted by Seattle-based dog photographer and friend Bev Sparks explores the upside (toy scooping and sniff amplifying) and downside (poor defense) of cones with a kind heart that preserves her dog Eddie’s dignity while delighting in the strange headgear. Do you have a great shot of your dog in a cone? Send it our way.
News: Guest Posts
10 questions to ask your vet
The FDA recently published a quick checklist of what to ask when your veterinarian prescribes medications for your pet. These are commonsense suggestions and worth a refresher.
News: Guest Posts
Sign up for webinar about adverse reactions
Check out the EPA’s webinar on Wednesday, March 17, 4-6pm EST to hear the findings of the agency’s nearly yearlong evaluation of topical flea and tick products. This intensified scrutiny of the products is in response to the growing number of adverse reactions, including burns, neurological problems, and deaths, linked to these treatments. Pet owners are advised to register for the Webinar and can submit questions to EPA officials. Learn more in a story by Lisa Wade McCormick in a story for ConsumerAffairs.com.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mass. House approves a bill prohibiting a controversial surgery
Last week the Massachusetts’ House of Representatives approved a bill banning debarking surgeries by an overwhelming margin of 155-1. If approved by the Senate, the bill would make Massachusetts the first state to put such a law in place.
HR 344 prohibits the devocalization of dogs and cats unless a licensed veterinarian deems the procedure medically necessary.
I realize that debarking, as with any surgery, puts animals at a risk. In most cases, devocalization is unnecessary and the problem can often be solved with training. But what about when a barking problem is coming between keeping a beloved pet and adding yet another pup to the growing shelter population?
A year and a half ago, one of my friends added a puppy to her family. Despite her efforts to socialize him and bring him to puppy classes, he started to become reactive to everything -- dogs, people, and even the television.
She’s dedicated the last year to working on counter conditioning, reading books and watching DVDs on the topic, taking him to group classes and private sessions with a professional trainer, but she’s only made marginal progress.
Now the behavioral problem is starting to jeopardize her housing situation and makes it difficult to even walk her dog down the street. Debarking has been suggested to her, but it’s obviously not an easy decision. She’s hesitant, but her options are running out.
I think there are good reasons for the debarking ban, and I don’t think devocalization should ever be a matter of convenience to replace training, but I’m not sure if debarking should be entirely banned.
Where do you stand?
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