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News: Guest Posts
Walk Tall
It’s good for you and your pup.

A TV is never going to drop a leash in your lap or look mournfully out the window at all the other human-dog duos walking by. In a recent story exclusively for TheBark.com, Dr. Dawn Marcus explored the health upside to living with a dog, starting with his or her role as a personal trainer/motivational barker. And once you and your dog are getting a daily dose of exercise, all sorts of health benefits follow, including reduced breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and colon-cancer risk. Check out Marcus’s story for advice on creating a successful canine-centered exercise plan.

Coinkydinkally, a recent story in Science Daily looks at the other end of the leash. What’s in it for your dog? Weight-loss, energy release, mental stimulation and nurturing the human-animal bond, for starters. Romping in the backyard just won’t cut it, says Dr. Susan Nelson, a Kansas State University veterinarian and assistant professor of clinical sciences. Although walking is an excellent mutually beneficial outing, Nelson also suggests specific exercise tailored to your dog, from fetch to swimming. It may not be earth-shattering news, but with fall and winter coming on, it’s good to be reminded of the myriad advantages and possibilities as shorter, wetter and colder days add a difficulty factor to our daily regimens.

News: Guest Posts
How Safe Is That Dog Toy?
Lead and arsenic in dog beds, tennis balls and more.

Another round of tests has revealed nasty toxins in chew toys, collars and beds. According to report by Lisa Wade McCormick posted at ConsumerAffairs.com last night, recent tests of a variety of household products, including pet items, revealed “lead, brominated flame retardants (BFR), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), cadmium, arsenic and mercury, which studies have linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity and cancer.”

Pets and children are most vulnerable to exposure, according to a Michigan-based testing agency, HealthyStuff.org, with dogs and cats who lick, chew and swallow described as “the canary in the coal mine in terms of chemical exposure.”

Healthystuff.org tested more than 400 dog and cat products, of which 90 percent were made in China.

“Overall, 45% of the pet products contained detectable levels of one or more hazardous chemicals, the group found. Some of the products contained levels of lead that are higher than the new standard allowed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for children’s toys—300 parts per million (PPM).”

McCormick is careful to point out that there are no government standards for levels of lead or other toxins in pet products (this needs to change) and that experts, including veterinarians, don’t agree on the health impacts of exposure. Hardly a surprise.

But I wonder, why take the risk? According to HealthyStuff.org, these chemicals aren’t essential, and plenty of products including the AirKong Squeaker Fetch toy; the Langer Wild Ginger pet bed, and MTA Practice Tennis Balls are lead- and toxin-free. (I was happy to learn that regular old Wilson tennis balls are a clean bet for fetchers.) We need to continue to push for better consumer protection, rules that treat dogs like the important family members they are, and, in the meantime, we need to be smarter about the choices we make for our vulnerable companions. Check out a complete list of tested pet products.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Running with Dogs
Increase your fitness with your four-legged best friend.

Recently, I attempted to run the NYC Half Marathon. Unfortunately, my race ended shortly after mile seven with a ride to the hospital for fluids. My running demise was due partly to the ninety degree August weather and dehydration, but mostly to lack of proper training.

I had meant to train when I signed up for the event, but let’s face it, there are much more fun things to train for… like agility! Reading Lisa's recent blog entry on running with dogs got me thinking about training with my pups for my next long distance event. 

Dr. Dawn A. Marcus, author of Fit as Fido, recommends starting by walking on a flat road with a goal of thirty minutes, five days per week. You can get better health benefits by exercising in small segments versus one long daily session. On the Fit as Fido website, Dawn has a log were you can track your daily mini-walks. 

Keep in mind that humans are better suited for long distance running than dogs, so it’s important to slowly build up distance and be mindful of conditions.

Veterinarian, Dr. Marcia Smith, says in an interview for Runner’s World, that sore pads are an easy indicator that you’ve gone too far too fast. A gradual increase in miles will toughen up your dog’s pads, in addition to making them less susceptible to injury. She also advises against feeding a large meal before running.

Marcia stresses the importance of proper hydration and monitoring dogs for overheating even when the temperature doesn’t seem that hot. Because dogs don’t sweat, they are especially vulnerable. Watch out for slowing down, a lolling tounge, drooling, and glazed eyes. Check out the ASPCA’s Hot Weather Tips for more warning signs.

Peter Larson, of Runblogger, trains on a regular basis with his Black Labrador, Jack. The duo runs as much as 7 miles at a time. Peter recommends holding off on running long distances with a puppy until their skeleton matures and the growth plates close (usually at around 10-14 months), a milestone commonly used in agility for determining when to start full sized equipment.

I’ve already started the Fit as Fido walking routine with one of my dogs and, unlike some of my former human exercise buddies, he’s always enthusiastic--no excuses!

For more walking tips, check out Dawn A. Marcus' web article on the topic.

News: Guest Posts
Stephen King, Most Famous Victim
Horror stories come true when people don’t secure dogs in cars.

Last week in Verona, Wis., a Boy Scout troop leader and one young Scout were killed when a motorhome crossed the median and hit their SUV. The 62-year-old motorhome driver was distracted when his dog jumped into his lap.

Ten years ago, Stephen King was hit and severely injured by a minivan because driver Bryan E. Smith was distracted by his loose Rottweiler. Smith was charged with aggravated assault and driving to endanger. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was only sentenced to six months probation.

If these two scary incidents don’t inspire you to buckle up your pup, what about your dog’s safety? I belong to several dog-related and agility email lists and every year, there are horrific stories about people getting into accidents either on their way to or from a show or other dog activity. If the dogs are not secured, they are thrown out of the vehicle. If they survive the impact, they are traumatized and very difficult to catch. In some cases, the dog guards his owner, impeding help from passersby, police and medical personnel.

My minivan is outfitted with two large wire crates permanently placed in the back and a bench seat where I can harness my other dogs to seat belts. Do you secure your dog in your car? If yes, how? If not, why not?

News: Guest Posts
Summer Health Tips for Your Dog
A quick check up with Sophia Yin, DVM, MS.
Sophia Yin & Dogs

Now that summer is in full bloom, there are more dogs promenading by my window, snatching Frisbees at the park, and vying for a launch point at my local off-leash beach. It’s as if the canine population of Seattle has doubled, but I know most of these pups have been here all along. The simple truth is that at this time of year, there’s more time, light and inspiration for outdoor adventure. That, and the longer-than-average wait for my vet appointment last week, got me wondering about summer from a veterinarian’s point of view. So I asked Bark columnist Sophia Yin, DVM, MS, a few questions about keeping our dogs healthy and safe during the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer.

 
The Bark: My vet’s office was swamped last time I visited, and a tech told me summer is always busier? Is that true? Why?

Sophia Yin: Probably because owners are home more and have more time and notice more issues with their pets. In other words, it’s not due to more problems with the pets. We see the same array of issues during the summer.

Bark: What do you think is an underappreciated health hazard for dogs in the summer months? How can we be smarter about it?

Yin: Heat stroke. Dogs can’t tolerate heat as well as humans because their primary way to dissipate heat is by panting, whereas humans can sweat. So they have a small surface area for dissipating heat. Plus, some dogs are not very smart about knowing how much they can tolerate. They may keep playing fetch even though they are nearly ready to faint from the heat. Other dogs are smarter and take that ball you’ve just tossed for them and lie down in the shade.

If your dog does give indicators of fatigue in the heat, listen to what they have to say. Let them rest if they want to lie down. If you’re walking or running them, if they slow down in the heat, don’t try to coax them faster. Owners should take dogs out during cooler times of day if the dog has problems tolerating the heat. They should also watch how the dogs pant. If they are panting with the commissures (sides) of the mouth wide open, they need a rest. If their panting doesn’t go down in five minutes, they are too hot. You can also use a garden sprayer and fill it with water and mist your dog with water if they are outside in warm weather with you.

Bark: Friends in California have made several trips to the vet due to foxtails in fur already this year. Why are these so dangerous? Is there anyway to prevent them?

Yin: Foxtails are dangerous because these sticky grass awns burrow into fur and skin, and then don’t come out. Wherever they stick, due to their architecture, they only travel one way. They frequently get into the ear canal, where they cause pain and lead to infections and can potentially work their way into the middle ear. Dogs frequently inhale them and then sneeze violently for a day. Once they get past the portion of the nasal cavity, the dog no longer sneezes but the foxtail and continue moving up. It can work its way to the junction where nasal cavity and oral cavity come together and then be swallowed and from there may puncture the gastrointestinal tract or may just be pooped out.
    
When they get stuck in the fur, they work their way through the fur and burrow into the skin. If stuck in the feet, they can work their way into the feet and make tunnels going up the leg. When stuck in other places, they can work their way through the skin into the abdominal or thoracic cavity. At some point, they can get walled off by a wall of cells—the body’s defense—or they may first travel through the body causing more damage, such as infections. I remember one in vet school that was found in a female dogs vaginal tract!

The best way to prevent is to steer clear. If your dogs run around or near them, groom your dog after every walk and pick them out or be prepared to take them to a vet to have them removed. Incidentally, they are very painful so expect that your dog will need to be anesthetized to have the foxtail removed if it’s embedded in a tract, in the skin, in the ear canal, or in the nose.

Bark: I’ve always thought of swimming as a pretty injury-free form of exercise. But the other day I saw my first case of swimmer’s tail? Why does that happen and are there any other swimming-related issues—other than drowning—to be alert to?

Yin: Swimmer’s tail is inflammation of the tail muscles and can be related to swimming. It’s most common in pointing dogs and other dogs that swim a lot, although my Australian Cattledog (now deceased) once got it after a fun day of swimming. His tail, which normally waved high like a flag, just drooped like a wet noodle. Radiographs revealed no fractures. A neurologic exam revealed slight pain near the base of the tail, and that he did have sensation in the tail. The tail was back to normal after a day of no swimming. When I see swimmer’s tail, I describe it to people as “he pulled his tail muscle.”

The other swim-related issue is to keep them clear of water containing algae. Some algae are highly toxic and can cause quick death after ingesting just a little. Also for dogs that are using swimming as therapy, be careful about how they get in and out of the water as they can easily injure themselves by slipping.

Sophia Yin, DVM, MS, (recently deceased) was a veterinarian and an applied animal behaviorist. A long-time Bark contributing editor, she was also the author of two behavior books, Low Stress Handling, Restraint, and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats and How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves. 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
It’s National Safety Month
What’s the best pet safety advice you ever needed?

In honor of National Safety Month, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) has compiled some ideas for keeping dogs safe. Their tips include basic first aid information, as well as tips for keeping your dog safe at the pool, outdoors including around wildlife, when traveling, during holidays, such as Christmas and the Fourth of July, and in a variety of other situations. The association emphasizes that trained dogs are easier to keep safe than those without such skills.

Find more good advice in the May 2009 issue of The Bark. Senior editor, Susan Tasaki, tackles diverse strategies for canine safety emergencies with how-to’s from the canine Heimlich maneuver to tick removal.

Keeping our pets safe is always a matter of continuing to learn how to prevent, spot, and handle trouble. Do you have ideas about keeping your dog safe?

News: Guest Posts
Barking Buddha
Stretch and connect with your dog through yoga.

Last week, I attended a book signing for Barking Buddha: Simple Soul Stretches for Yogi and Dogi. I was thrilled to pick up my own copy of the hot-of-the-presses guidebook by home-town yogini and massage therapist Brenda Bryan (with photos by my friend Bev Sparks). I swear this was before I learned the book includes a little profile shot of my dog Lulu in one of Bryan’s classes. Just look for the black dog who exudes not an iota of the serene grace of the Afghan Hound on the neighboring mat. That’s Lulu. The photo is not a case of bad timing but a true reflection of our experience in the class—we were both of us woefully over-stimulated. But that was our problem.

I was impressed and inspired by Bryan with her dogis—Honey and Gus—and the other novices in the class. All around me dog-human pairs practicing “Floating Dog” and “Woofing Warrior” in a Seattle dog daycare, with lots of barking and romping only yards away, and yet calm pervaded the room. I think Bryan’s addition of massage to the regular regime of breathing, stretching and poses, encourages the dogs into the right frame of mind, at the same time it nurtures connection. The class helped me to appreciate that Doga, as it is sometimes called, provides a very real opportunity for enhancing your dog’s health, your understanding of how his or her body feels and moves, and, maybe most importantly, your bond with each other.

While a class with Bryan or a dog-centric yogi near you is probably the best introduction, Barking Buddha provides a smart, straightforward primer for home practice. If you don't believe me, watch the seriously blissed-out pups in Bryan’s video pitch for the book, below.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bedbug-Detecting Dogs
Sniffing out the source leads to less pesticide use

Trained dogs detect land mines, drugs, explosives, missing persons, cancer, and just about anything else that they are physically capable of smelling. Julia Kamysz Lane recently blogged about how dogs can even sniff out peanuts and cash-carrying criminals. JoAnna Lou clued us in to their use in locating illegal DVDs. Now, add bedbugs to the list. There are dogs trained specifically to detect the scent of bedbugs.

The advantages of using dogs for this purpose are many. Dogs can find the bedbugs faster than people can. With proper training, they can distinguish between dead bedbugs, which may not require chemical treatment, and live bedbugs, which do. Dogs can pinpoint the source of the problem so that smaller areas require fumigation. For example, perhaps not all rooms in a hotel are infested, so dogs can make it cheaper to solve the problem, and result in fewer nasty chemicals being released into the environment.

This is another example of how dogs literally make our world a better place!

News: Guest Posts
Safe Havens for Dogs and Cats
New shelter helps furry victims of domestic violence.

The statistics are daunting. In their lifetimes, approximately one in three women will be victims of domestic violence. And in those afflicted households with companion animals, pets often share in the violence and abuse. In fact, in a study of intentional animal abuse cases, 13 percent involved incidents of domestic violence.

Up to 85 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that a partner had threatened, injured or killed the family pet, according to a national study done in 1997.  And here’s the thing: A lot of women don’t get to the door of a shelter precisely because they worry about the fate of a beloved animal. Faced with no place to house a pet safely, some victims chose to stay in the bad situation—subjecting themselves, sometimes their children, and their animals to further violence.

In early 2008, the American Humane Society launched a national initiative to promote the on-site housing of pets at shelters. Simple and brilliant: Not only does this provide a safe haven for the animal but helps keep a comforting friend nearby in a crisis.

The recent opening of Doorways for Women and Families’ safe shelter for pets marks the ninth such refuge for pets in the country and the first in Northern Virginia. Doorways is Arlington’s leading provider and advocate for victims of homelessness, violence and abuse. I can only hope the recognition of the human–companion animal bond, as well as the practical, holistic problem-solving of this idea continues to spread.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
World’s Oldest Dog Turns 21
Shelter pup is presented with a world record title and a party in her honor.

Last week, Chanel, a Dachshund from Long Island, N.Y., celebrated her 21st birthday at the New York Dog Spa and Hotel in Manhattan. Guinness World Records was on hand to present Chanel with a certificate for holding the title of world’s oldest living dog, a designation that she’s held since a 28-year old Beagle from Virginia passed away last spring.  

While Chanel spends most of her time these days relaxing at home eating carefully prepared meals, the short-legged dog used to run three miles a day in her youth with her owner, Denice Shaughnessy. Chanel also now sports a full coat of white fur and goggles to protect her cataracts. 

Chanel is a living testament to how a loving environment, ample exercise and a good diet can promote longevity. The Dachshund has lived in her current home since Shaughnessy adopted Chanel as a puppy from a Virginia animal shelter. 

As I plan my dogs’ birthday party this week (Western-themed celebration on Saturday!), I’m hoping that I’ll be lucky enough to share 17 more birthdays with my pups.

Check out this video to see Chanel at her party:

 

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