healthy living
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:


News: Guest Posts
Dogs in Cars
Arizona cops test heat protection device for police dogs.

The other day, I left my dogs in the car. We’d just returned from a visit to my off-leash area. The dogs were quiet. I was distracted. I walked inside, put my coat and keys away, checked for new phone and email messages, and suddenly realized my glue-dog was not using my legs as weave poles. As always, they took it in stride.

So when I read the story today about the new warning system at the Peoria Police Department in Arizona, I instantly appreciated the conceit. When the dog is in the car, his weight on a mat keeps the engine and air-conditioning running even after the driver removes the keys from the ignition. If the A/C fails, the mat triggers an alarm. A few weeks earlier, I might have thought this was overkill but I know different. And I’m not a cop with urgent, life-and-death business on my mind.

It’s a smart response. Protecting the K-9s, who protect us, is a fitting tribute to Chandler, a police dog who died from exposure in 2007 after his handler forgot he was in the car. The rest of us need to rely on our faulty brains, and remember the serious risk posed by heat to dogs in cars.

News: Guest Posts
Strong Medicine
An articulate case for dog's healing properties.

Every Tuesday, New York Times editor Dana Jennings writes with honesty, grace and humor about living with advanced prostate cancer for his newspaper’s health blog. I recommend reading his most recent post, Life Lessons from the Family Dog, which is centered around the failing health of a poodle named Bijou de Minuit. Jennings offers simple, clear insights into the gift of dogs in difficult times and draws an interesting parallel between sick people and pups.

I want to quote the final image—inspired by Bijou lapping from a dish—but, like so much in life, it’s better if you read the entire piece (it's short) and arrive there yourself.

News: Guest Posts
Speaking for Spot
Nancy Kay, DVM, on some of the hardest decisions we’ll ever make.

You don’t often hear canine talk on Fresh Air—apparently Terry Gross has a cat—but NPR’s distinguished interviewer gave most of the hour yesterday to a conversation with veterinarian and Bark contributor Nancy Kay, DVM. If you missed it, it’s worth an online listen.

Exploring issues from Kay’s new book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life, the interview was wide-ranging covering guardian guilt, the latest veterinary therapies (such as stem-cell treatments for arthritis) and treating pain in animals who can’t say how bad it hurts, but the topic of euthanasia was the centerpiece.

Kay offers practical, compassionate wisdom for tackling the question: when? Does your dog still respond with enthusiasm to the things that used to excite her? Do good days outnumber bad days? Kay advises: Get nose-to-nose, eye-to-eye, and look for that old spark. Everyone wants to make the decision at exactly the right time, Kays tells Gross, but in her experience the guardians who struggle the most are those who feel they waited too long.

It’s wonderful to hear Kay. She’s articulate and measured and her voice trembles with emotion when she describes an animal’s final moments. It makes you want to move to Marin County, California, where she practices. It's also easy to understand why she will receive the 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award at the annual conference of the American Animal Hospital Association next week.

Peanut Butter Recall
Stop the spread of salmonella by taking stock of your pantry.

Now is the time to check the ingredients list of your dog's food and treats as the peanut butter recall has spread, so to speak. If you want to look up a particular item, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has created an exhaustive database. Click on the "Pet Food" category for specific brands. If you're like me and treat your dogs to a dollop of peanut butter from time to time, it's worth looking through the list for any other brands that might be on your shelves.

PetSmart Recalls Treats
Salmonella outbreak traced to a small peanut manufacturing plant could now affect dogs

Time to check your pantry again! The recent salmonella outbreak traced to a small peanut manufacturing plant could now affect dogs and their owners. PetsMart is recalling Grreat Choice dog biscuits because of a link to Peanut Corp. of America in Blakely, Ga. Animals are at less risk than people, especially kids, who handle the treats. However, if your dog acts lethargic or has bloody diarrhea, seek immediate veterinary care. For more info, read "Pet Treats Recalled in Salmonella Outbreak."

News: Guest Posts
Updated Pet Food Warnings
Peanut butter treats and chicken jerky on the list

Citing concerns over a salmonella outbreak associated with peanut butter, PetSmart has removed seven types of Grreat Choice Dog Biscuits from its shelves. According the company, there have been no reports of illness from the biscuits, and the recall is a voluntary precaution. This appears to be the only pet product affected by the recall so far. Read the Food & Drug Administration's most recent information--with a list of affected products.


The Washington Post reports that the FDA has issued repeated warnings over chicken jerky products imported from China. There has been no recall. Symptoms from ingesting the unidentified poison include "decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood) and increased water consumption and urination." 


News: Guest Posts
Solid Gold Recalls Canned Turkey Formula
Quick, check your pantry!

Quick, check your pantry! Due to customer complaints about mold, Solid Gold is voluntarily recalling 13.2 oz. cans of its turkey, ocean fish, carrot, and sweet potatoes formula. The cans in question feature a purple label, a "pop-top," and 01/02/2010 expiration date on the bottom. Cans should be immediately returned to the point of purchase. For more info, go to Solid Gold.

News: Guest Posts
The Dangers of Street Shocks

A recent memorial service for a husky named Sebastion serves as a reminder of a danger many of us didn’t even realize was out there—stray electrical voltage. (Sebastian was electrocuted by a lamppost last May.) While the dangers are nothing like the days direct current before Nikola Tesla discovered alternating current, errant shocks and electrocution are not a thing of the past. The folks at Streetzaps.com, an online clearinghouse of information about stray voltage, track incidents and current research, and provide advice for keeping dogs safe, such as avoiding walking close to lampposts or service boxes or across manhole covers.