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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Paw Prints in the Snow
Dogs bring joy to winter weather

With almost two feet of snow last weekend, many of us in Flagstaff, Ariz. spent oodles of time shoveling our walks and driveways. Being outside in cold, wintery weather guarantees that you will be visited by a number of dogs who are blessed to have guardians willing to take them out for walks in any condition. The ones who stopped by our house were all incredibly jubilant about the snow.

Their enthusiasm was infectious. Before all these dogs graced us with their presence, I was concentrating on all the shoveling that needed to be done and was very aware of the stiffness that would soon affect my back. Our ski area is not yet open, and I kept thinking that if only I could ski, I would be so happy about the snow.

Enter a parade of dogs, and I was back in the moment, as gloriously thrilled about the snow as they were. I am incapable of remaining grumpy while watching dogs gleefully jump around in snow, tossing it in the air, and shoving their noses into it as they act like small four-legged snow plows.

After one German Shepherd and her guardian visited us for awhile, my older son commented that this dog has left the most perfect footprints in the snow. He walked all around photographing different dog prints and was just delighted by them, especially the ones from the shepherd. It was a new way for dogs to help us be happy in winter weather.

Do dogs help you enjoy the snow?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Bringing Comfort to Newtown, Conn.
Therapy dogs help a grieving community

No words can describe the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. As we try to make sense of the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, most of us can only begin to imagine what the Newtown, Conn. community is going through right now. People around the world have offered to help in any way they can, including a team of therapy dogs from Illinois.

Nine Golden Retrievers and their handlers from K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry traveled hundreds of miles to help grieving Newtown residents with the special support that only dogs can provide.

The canine team--Abbi, Barnabas, Chewie, Hannah, Luther, Prince, Maggie, Shami, and Ruthie--have been visiting funerals, candlelight vigils, and other gatherings. Some people pet the dogs while they talk or pray, while others prefer to spend quiet time knowing a furry friend is by their side.

The handlers say that the dogs have helped people open up and talk, an important step in healing. But not everyone is ready to do so yet. For kids, the tragedy can be especially scary and complex, so the teams have also been stopping by other Newton schools to talk to the children.

"You could tell which [kids] were really struggling with their grief because they were quiet," says Tim Hetzner, the president of Lutheran Church Charities, the group behind the comfort dogs. "They would pet the dog and just be quiet."

But the teams are ready to provide whatever support is needed, whether it's someone to chat with or just a hug from a big, furry Golden Retriever.

Recognizing that healing takes time, each dog carries a business card with their name, Facebook page, Twitter account, and e-mail address so that the people they meet can stay in touch. It's a really cool way for the teams to extend their reach even after they have to leave.

The K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry was started in response to another school shooting in 2008, when a gunman killed five students at Northern Illinois University. Now 60 dogs in six states participate in a wide range of therapy activities from visiting patients at local hospitals to comforting victims of national disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy.

The comfort pups receive more formal training than the average therapy dog. They're screened at 5.5 weeks old and then work with a trainer for 8-12 months.

The K-9 Comfort Dogs also make me think of Catherine Hubbard, one of the 6-year old victims, a huge animal lover who dreamed of opening a shelter when she grew up. She would've loved meeting the Golden Retriever teams. Catherine's family requested that people make donations to The Animal Center in Newtown in lieu of flowers.

The pain in Newtown will never fully go away, but the work of these dogs and the support of others around the world helps the community know that they're not alone in getting through this tragedy.

If you're interested in donating to the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry, visit the Lutheran Church Charities web site.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Some People Have a Lot to Say
Naturally they mention dogs

The sayings of the world’s most often quoted people contain many references to dogs. If people have clever things to say on any manner of subjects, they are likely to share observations and opinions on our canine companions.

Mark Twain (writer, humorist and satirist) penned some of the nation’s best-known phrases, with my favorite being, “It is better to remain silent and thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” Among his many comments on society are these two about dogs:

“Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”

Benjamin Franklin (politician, inventor, scientist, author, diplomat) wrote so many popular sayings that it’s a wonder he found time for all his other activities. Perhaps he followed his own advice that, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” His observations about dogs remind us that he lived in very different times than those of us alive today:

“There are three faithful friends—an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.”

“He that lieth down with dogs, shall rise up with fleas.”

Franklin P. Jones (reporter, public relations executive, humorist) is well known for saying, “Love doesn’t make the world go ‘round. It makes the ride worthwhile.” He also said:

“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.”

“Anybody who doesn’t know what soap tastes like never washed a dog&rdquo

Samuel Butler (novelist) recorded many great truths about the world, such as, “A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.” His comments about dogs are just as insightful:

“The great pleasure of a dog is that you make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, he will make a fool of himself too.”

“A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide."

Harry S Truman (33rd US President) spoke with great wisdom, saying, “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know,” as well as:

“You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.”

“Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of the country as Wall Street and the railroads.”

Will Rogers (cowboy, humorist, actor) offered excellent advice with his suggestion to “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” He shows a sense of humor with his thoughts on dogs:

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

“Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

Charles M. Schulz (cartoonist) has charmed generations with such remarks as, “No problem is so formidable that you can’t walk away from it.” Perhaps nobody has stated universal truths so brilliantly as he has, with these two gems.

“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn't a dog.”

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

News: Guest Posts
Pit Bull "Round Up" Part of Problem
BSL promotes ignorance and intolerance

Imagine the outrage if towns decreed that all dog owners must purchase a large outdoor kennel, liability insurance, and muzzle their dog while out in public. Should they choose not to comply, or cannot afford to do so, their dog will be seized and impounded; no exceptions. Dog lovers would not simply roll over and submit. So why do pit bull owners in Sikeston, Mo., and many other cities nationwide face BSL (breed specific legislation) discrimination? 

 

Last week, St. Louis-based reporter Chris Hayes investigated an alleged pit bull “round up” in which 20-30 dogs would be seized from their owners for non-compliance Sikeston, a small town in southeastern Missouri. Soon thereafter, pit bull activists bombarded city hall with questions related to the supposed round up and its laws directed at American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Bull Terriers.

 

However, according to the Sikeston Standard Democrat, the mass pit bull round up was an exaggeration; only three pit bulls were seized for noncompliance.

 

Sikeston Area Humane Society director Trace Allen White further clarified the story on SAHS’s Facebook page. “The Sikeston Humane Society had NO part in the seizing of dogs. ACO and the shelter are 2 completely different entities,” wrote White. “Also the amount of dogs we got in is wrong as well. That day we only received in 3 Pit Bulls for Non Compliance (3 too many I agree). The 20 dogs that everyone keeps reading about was an estimate that an ACO gave me. ...

 

“I also talked to the City Manager who said that they weren't doing a round up but rather an audit to make sure that the people who had met compliance once before were still in accordance with it. If they weren't then their dog would be seized. I do not know when they will finish this audit. With all this media attention I doubt they even will.

 

“The dogs we got in are not subject to immediate euthanasia, anyone who knows me knows that I would never do that. The owners are given 10 days to get their dogs back, if they need more time I always work with them. If the owners do not want them back then they are either put up for adoption or sent to rescues.”  

 

Regardless of how many dogs were taken, why take a companion dog from its home, only to store him or her at the shelter? Is this merely busy work for city officials and employees? Are they more interested in looking good in the eyes of ignorant constituents rather than taking an active role in promoting education and responsible pet ownership?

 

We teach children at an early age to be respectful of differences. Why is it okay to judge a dog by its appearance or purported breed?

 

During his report, Hayes had the following conversation with City Manager Doug Friend: “‘Are you sure they were pit bulls that you took?’
Friend replied, ‘We identified them as pit bulls, but not thru DNA.’
Hayes followed up, ‘How did you identify them?’
Friend said, ‘We just looked at them.’”

 

Friend’s ignorance is astounding. Allowing a dog to be subjectively seized is horrifying. Most people don’t even know what a pit bull looks like. Purebred dogs such as Boxers, Bull Terriers, English Bulldogs, Catahoulas, Mastiffs, Vizslas and many more are commonly mistaken as American Pit Bull Terriers. Think you know what a pit bull looks like? Try the “Find a Pit Bull” test and see how you fare.

 

While the round up story remains murky, Allen makes his view on BSL crystal clear: “The BSL here in Sikeston does need to be changed. I moved from Sikeston partly because I couldn't walk my own dogs down the street without them being muzzled and trust me, it'll be a cold day in hell when you see my dogs muzzled.

 

“If you want to help then contact local Sikeston City Officials and POLITELY tell them you would like to see a generic dangerous dog ordinance put in place, one that does not profile breeds and puts more responsibility on the owners because after all the monster isn't on the end of the leash it is the person holding it.”

 

Does your city have BSL or has it ever been proposed? Are pit bulls available for adoption from your local shelter or are they automatically euthanized at intake?

News: Editors
A Special Child and Very Special Dog

On the heels of that  tragic story from Connecticut, a friend sent me this video. Hopefully it will bring you a moment of peace as it did for me.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Puppies for Rent
College student makes dogs available to fill a void

I missed my pets so much when I was in college, especially when I was stressed out during exam time.  After graduation, I volunteered with Nemo and other therapy dogs to visit students at a local university during finals.  It always made me wish I had visiting pups to cheer me up during those stressful nights.

After seeing how many students at Bringham Young University were craving a pet fix, Jenna Miller started Puppies for Rent to fill the void.  She rescues puppies and rents them out until she finds a permanent home for them.  Jenna believes that the dogs are better off being rented out to pet lovers (and potential adopters) instead of being stuck in an animal shelter.

So far Jenna has adopted out 11 puppies that have been rental dogs.  Most of her clients are college students who can’t have a pet with their dorm lifestyle or families who don’t want to commit to the responsibility.

I certainly see the benefit of getting homeless pups out there and fulfilling people’s pet fix, but the idea of renting dogs is troublesome.  Jenna didn’t specify if renters are screened to make sure they’re responsible, but shelters take great care to make sure adopters, foster homes, and volunteers are ready to take on the responsibility of a dog, even if only for a few hours a week.  Renters should be subject to the same criteria.

Secondly dogs, especially developing puppies, crave consistency.  There can be a lot of confusion and conflicting rules if puppies are frequently rented to different people each day.

Finally, it feels like a contradiction that shelter pets, the poster children of getting people to realize that animals are a long-term commitment, are being rented for profit.

If people want to get their pet fix, there are lots of opportunities to socialize or foster dogs through your local rescue group.  When I was in college, I started an animal shelter volunteer club where we took dogs out to the park and taught them new tricks.  Not only did I get my puppy time, but I met many other animal lovers who were eager to play with homeless pets too.

What do you think about renting puppies?

News: Guest Posts
Ten Tips for Winterizing Your Pets

Oh, the weather outside is frightful! Winter weather is rapidly approaching and you’ve likely begun layering your clothing and weatherproofing your car. When organizing for winter, don’t forget to think about your pets. They too are deserving of special treatment this time of year. Here are ten tips for keeping your pets cozy, comfortable, and healthy this winter:

1.  Just as arthritis can be more problematic for us when the temperature drops, so too does this apply to our animals. If your best buddy appears stiff first thing in the morning or is more tentative when navigating stairs or jumping up and down off the furniture, I encourage you to contact your veterinarian. These days, there are so many beneficial treatment options for soothing arthritis discomfort. For your pet’s sake, make the effort to learn more about them.

2.  When the temperature drops, outdoor kitties like to snuggle up against car engines for extra warmth. Be sure to provide plenty of notice before you start up your engine lest a “kitty squatter” sustain serious injury as a result of moving auto parts. Vocalize and tap the hood a few times. Better yet, lift the hood to alert any slumbering guests of your intentions.

3.  Antifreeze is terribly toxic for dogs and cats. Even a few licks of the stuff can cause kidney failure and severe neurological symptoms, usually resulting in death. Unfortunately, most antifreeze products have a sweet flavor making them appealing to dogs. Cats are too discriminating to voluntarily taste the stuff, but should they step in antifreeze, they will ingest enough to be toxic during their grooming process. Please prevent your pets from having any access to antifreeze by checking under your vehicles for leaks and storing antifreeze containers in a safe place.

4.  Wintertime is definitely dress-up time for dogs, when the clothing is functional rather than just adorable. Just like us, many dogs are more comfortable outside when wearing an extra layer. Smaller dogs in particular have difficulty maintaining a normal body temperature when exposed to freezing conditions. If the love of your canine life happens to be an Arctic breed (Malamute, Husky, Samoyed), no need for canine clothing!

5.  Regardless of season, all animals need access to water round-the-clock. If your pet is reliant on an outdoor water bowl, strategize a way to prevent the water from freezing. Water bowl heaters work well. Additionally moving water is more resistant to freezing- consider creating a little “drinking fountain” for your pets.

6.  Sure the weather is cold, but your dogs still need plenty of exercise for their physical as well as their psychological well-being. Besides, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of relaxing by the fire with a content and tired dog at your side! If the weather is truly too inclement for both of you to be outdoors, look for an indoor dog park or consider doggie day care, assuming your dog enjoys such venues.

7.  I’m all for hiking with dogs off leash, but in winter be extra cautious around ponds and lakes for fear of thin ice. Not only is falling through the ice life threatening for dogs, it creates a situation that often becomes life threatening for the humans involved in the rescue operation.

8.  Salt on sidewalks and roads and even ice that adheres to all of that fuzzy hair between your dog’s toes can create irritation and sores. Inspect and rinse your dog’s tootsies as needed.

9.  I strongly encourage having dogs and cats live indoors. If your living situation absolutely prevents this, and there are no other viable alternatives, please provide your pet with an enclosed shelter that is warmed by a heating device and contains plenty of clean, dry bedding. Also, remember that your pet needs just as much attention from you in frigid temperatures as during the warmer seasons.

10.  ‘Tis the time of year when we humans tend to overindulge, eating all kinds of things we shouldn’t. Don’t allow your pets to become a victim of this holiday spirit. In addition to adding unwanted and unhealthy pounds, eating rich and fatty foods predisposes them to gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis either of which could land your four-legged family member in the hospital for several days (not to mention create some significant rug-cleaning expenses for you).

What steps do you take to ensure your pets will be happy and healthy during the winter?

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet Photos with Santa
Many dogs are uncomfortable with the holiday picture frenzy

I don't have children, but I consider my dogs to be my furry kids in everything from choosing the best daycare to researching safe toys. When the holidays come around, they each have a stocking hanging over the fireplace and Christmas themed collars. And for years, I took my canine crew to the pet store to get their photo taken with Santa. The holiday ritual has become so popular that I noticed my local mall's Santa's workshop now has a weekly pet night!

Santa photos are great additions to family holiday cards, but for many dogs, getting their picture taken is not fun. Getting plopped into a stranger's lap can be stressful, especially when they're wearing a funky costume. Then mix in attempting to get the animals to stay still, trying to get them to look at the camera, flashing a bright light in their eyes, and dealing with the distraction of the other pets waiting their turn.  

It's important to know what your dog is comfortable with before bringing them to a Santa photo shoot. Ask yourself if your pup is okay with:

  • New environments
  • Strange people and dogs
  • People in costumes or other strange outfits
  • Flashing lights
  • Being handled and restrained by a stranger
And remember to manage your expectations. Asking your dog to maintain a stay or to turn their attention to the camera can be difficult, particularly in a hectic environment. Observe your pup's body language and leave if they're not comfortable. If you think your dog may not enjoy a visit to Santa's workshop, consider a photo session at a private studio instead of visiting a busy pet store or mall. In my case, I started taking my own holiday pictures at home.   Remember that Santa photos are supposed to be fun for both of you!

 

News: Guest Posts
Puppies Aren’t Presents, give Puppyhood instead
New coffee table book featuring life-size photographs of puppies is the perfect excuse to take time during this crazy season to celebrate small {canine} wonders.
PUPPY

Oh they’re cute, they’re downright addicting. It was precisely this reason that when I was approached to find and photograph puppies for a book titled Puppyhood: life-size portraits of puppies at six weeks old, I immediately agreed. I indulged in selfish daydreams about all the round pink bellies I would get to nuzzle and all the miniature toes I would get to massage between my fingers. But after the haze of the impending puppy-overdose passed, I realized this book project actually offered an opportunity far more important than getting high on puppy breath.

Having worked in the pet industry for nearly a decade, I have noticed one profound divide between the thousands of dog-loving people that I’ve met. It is an unspoken imperative that if you are a “properly educated” dog lover, you must ultimately align yourself with one of two parties: camp “spay & neuter” or camp “purebred”; never the twain shall meet. At its most extreme, this “rescue” vs. “breeder” mentality dictates that good animal advocates foster and adopt shelter dogs (and would never dream of owning a purebred dog) and good breeders are single-breed fanatics who live for dog shows and look upon mixed breed “mutts” with disapproval.

It is not exaggerating to say this debate can be as controversial as religious arguments for creationism versus scientific support for evolution!

Thankfully, these extreme stereotypes are impossibly inaccurate when applied to the dog-loving population at large: many responsible breeders also operate rescue organizations and many compassionate foster families also own purebred dogs. But who hasn’t played up their affiliation with one or the other camp in order to “fit in” with friends or colleagues? This social pressure is especially odd when arguably, the motivation behind it all is simply to love and be loved by dogs.

Meanwhile, we are constantly confronted with statistics about animal shelters overflowing (with purebred dogs nonetheless) yet the stigma remains that “mongrels at the pound” are somehow damaged, dangerous or un-loveable. On the flip side, nightly-news exposés on puppy mills or backyard breeder operations have become more and more common. Around the holidays, this media-fueled fire flares up, as some families “shop” for puppies to give as Christmas gifts, a practice that both sides of the dog debate condemn equally.

The puppy-gift trend is especially troublesome as puppies are clearly not toys, and they have this pesky tendency to grow into full-size dogs. Animal advocates like Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog” star Victoria Stilwell have spoken out against this act, spreading slogans like “Adopt Don’t Shop” in order to encourage people to do their homework before putting that puppy dressed with a giant bow under the Christmas tree.

Victoria explains: “No matter how cute they may look, it’s almost always a bad idea to give a puppy as a gift. Whether it’s from a shelter, a reputable breeder or a neighbor’s fuzzy little litter, the sad statistics regarding puppies who are surrendered to shelters after being received as presents are undeniable. Instead, consider encouraging potential pet owners to foster animals from their local shelter before adopting so that they can truly understand the responsibility that comes with bringing that pup into your family.”

Even more worrying is that a large percentage of holiday surprise-puppies are purchased from pet stores. Despite the widespread consumer appreciation that buying a dog from a pet store is a bad idea, many compassionate people are inclined to rescue the pup from its horrible circumstances.

Victoria warns, “please don’t think you’re ‘saving’ the life of that puppy from the local pet store—you’re actually unknowingly sentencing countless other dogs to misery and euthanasia by supporting one of the most abhorrent practices mankind has developed: puppy mills. Essentially all (99%) of pet store pups come from backyard breeders and puppy mills, no matter what the store owner may say.”

I admire how outspoken Victoria is about the critical issues facing dogs and people today, she certainly walks her talk. But as a writer, photographer and business owner within the pet industry, I have always tried to be more like Switzerland. Gently tiptoeing from one side of the dog debate to the other, hoping to stay objective. I do of course, take every opportunity to educate those around me (often to their chagrin) about the “dog beliefs” I am passionate about: the importance of spay/neuter programs, the superiority of positive reinforcement dog training, the inadequacies of breed legislation and of course, the importance of adopting, not shopping for dogs. But I also own two purebred dogs, one impulsively adopted, one researched and purchased from a breeder. Because of this dichotomy, I have always felt like a bit of a fraud in the company of extreme members of either dog camp. Similarly, I have wondered, do I walk my talk?

When presented with the Puppyhood project I recognized an opportunity to take action, to create something beautiful to bring people together. To unite us in celebration of the miraculous creation we are so clearly obsessed with… Dog, at its most precious and pure.

I am so proud of Puppyhood for this reason: it is simple and uncluttered; it allows each puppy to shine as the wobbly, wriggly, fluffy work of art that they are. More profoundly however, my hope remains that the book is a tangible object that allows both sides of the dog debate, as well as anyone with a fondness for dogs, to just stop for a moment and cherish the bits, big and small that make all dogs worth fighting for.

One added benefit I didn’t foresee, is that Puppyhood has turned out to be an ideal substitute for an actual puppy. So, consider giving the gift of Puppyhood this holiday season, or anytime a proper puppy fix is required!

Puppyhood is a stunning collection life-size photographs featuring six-week old puppies. The book itself is oversize at 13 by 11 inches, which allows enough space to bring each of these little ones to life. Twenty-five breeds are captured in engaging portraits, showcasing the expressions and tiny details that make puppies so irresistible.

AVAILABLE from Amazon.com, Abrams.com or anywhere books are sold. For behind-the-scenes photos from the making of Puppyhood, visit facebook.

“So sweet it’ll cause cavities, this delightful marshmallow of a coffee table book compiles 100 shots of pure and mixed-breed puppies at actual life size of six weeks of age sleeping, curiously studying the camera, playing, and resting.” —Publishers Weekly

“Making a bold bid for the most adorable animal book of the season.” –Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today

J.Nichole Smith is an author, photographer, designer and consultant specializing in the pet-industry. In 2006 she co-founded popular lifestyle brand, Dog is Good ®. Recently, Nichole packed up her dogs and re-located to London where she is currently completing her Masters in Marketing.

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.

Photos by: J.Nichole Smith, www.dane-dane.com

News: Guest Posts
Toy Alert
Study finds Hormone-disrupting Chemicals Leach from Some Plastic Toys

The toy aisle is meant to be all about fun, but recalls, toxic imports and a dearth of regulations have left dog owners facing tough choices. Many toys are made of plastic and may contain chemicals that interfere with hormones.

A new study by researchers at the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University shows that BPA and phthalates, chemicals that disrupt hormones, “readily leach” from plastic or vinyl bumper toys used to train retrievers.

Philip Smith, a toxicologist and co-author of the as-yet unpublished study, uses plastic bumpers to train his Labrador Retrievers, Bindi, age 11, and Huck, age 5. He wondered if the bumpers might expose them to hazardous chemicals.

In fact, the compounds are hard to avoid. BPA, the building block of polycarbonate plastic, is found in most food and drink cans; phthalates are common in food packaging, personal care items and vinyl plastics.

“BPA and phthalates come from many, many sources” besides pet toys, Smith says. So a dog’s “cumulative exposure may be significant.”

The study, conducted by graduate student, Kim Wooten, is one of the first to examine these chemicals in pet toys. In children’s toys, some phthalates have been banned in the U.S. and the European Union. In July 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned BPA in baby bottles and children’s drinking cups.

Although their health effects in dogs are unknown, the hormones they interfere with regulate many biological functions.

Studies done mostly with rodents have linked BPA and phthalates to impaired development of reproductive organs, decreased fertility, diabetes and obesity, cancers, and behavioral and attention problems.

No, dogs are not mice. There are “species sensitivity differences” in regard to toxics, Smith says. For example, dogs are at greater risk than humans from eating chocolate. But while their sensitivity to synthetic chemicals may also differ, “we are unaware of specific reasons why they might respond in a significantly different manner.”

Available data suggests that the most vulnerable pets may be pregnant females “and perhaps young animals like puppies.”

According to a 2012 pet health report by Banfield Pet Hospital, some cancers and other diseases in dogs are increasing. “The rate of overweight and obese pets has reached epidemic levels in the U.S., affecting approximately one in five dogs and cats.”

The causes are unknown, but Smith says it’s possible that endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including phthalates and BPA, play a role.

Certain aspects of canine cancer suggest that dogs are sensitive to them, he says. For instance, exposure to estrogens raises the risk for mammary cancers. For metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes, researchers are finding that some hormone-disrupting chemicals appear to “affect metabolic endpoints, in addition to reproduction and behavior.”

For the toy study, the researchers tested orange and white bumpers from two unidentified makers, using artificial saliva to simulate a dog chewing a bumper. The amount of toxics released in a dog’s mouth couldn’t be determined due to the use of simulated saliva,

But what is a high exposure in dogs?

“We are not aware of any exposure guidelines pertaining to these particular chemicals and dogs,” Smith says.

They suspect the levels released from the bumpers would be very high, though, compared with children’s toys.

The study also examined BPA and phthalates from ordinary plastic pet toys sold in stores. The bumpers leached more, but the results suggest that the other toys might have released other hormonally-active chemicals.

Smith highlights the uncertainty that shoppers face, saying the bumpers might have been made from different materials, or perhaps the packaging limited the release of some chemicals before the experiment.

Or, the less affected toys may have involved “materials that are also used in the manufacture of children’s toys.”

“We’re not really sure, but intend to pursue the question further.”

Good thing for pet owners.

“Given the extent of plastics in the human-canine environment,” Smith says, avoiding the chemicals entirely may not be possible.

But not all plastics are the same. When it comes to leaching of chemicals “each type is very different.”

“That is why studies on individual products are important.” Pet owners need the information “to make thoughtful decisions.”

Some pet toy makers say they use BPA-free plastics.

But owners may wonder why it’s even a question. Why should they have to worry about chemicals in toys or migrating from cans, even into “organic” food, to add to their dog’s exposure?

At least—at last—it is being studied.

Smith’s team plans to continue studying the exposure of pets to chemicals. “We think there is a great deal to be learned about potential pet and human health impacts from chemicals in the environment,” he says.

And as they learn, Smith says they hope to yield the data needed “to inform decisions about how we manufacture pet products, which ones we buy, and what we allow our pets to chew.”

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