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Tag: dog

Gluten sniffing dog “gave me my life back”

Like many others who suffer from Celiac disease — the most severe form of gluten allergy — Dawn Scheu tried to avoid products containing glutens, store aisles with products containing glutens, and even entire stores where glutens might be lurking.

The last time she “got contaminated,” she said, she spent 10 weeks in and out of the hospital and nearly lost her life.

Now, thanks to a dog, she says she has gotten her life back.

To that ever growing list of what dog noses can learn to detect — from bedbugs to cadavers, hidden drugs to impending seizures, explosives to whale poop — it appears we may be able to add glutens.

As Scheu sees it, Celiac sufferers seeking a way to live a normal life may find the answer is “as easy as adopting a dog,” WZZM reports.

Not quite.

One still needs to factor in the training time (six months or more), and the costs of training (as much as $50,000).

And one should bear in mind that Scheu, in addition to being a client of Nosey Dog Detection Partners, is also a partner.

Scheu, who has worked with search and rescue dogs, went in search of a trainer willing to train a dog to sniff out gluten – specifically her dog, a German Shorthaired Pointer named Willow.

“I called 18 companies and trainers before I called Kathy and Kathy said she would try it.”

Dog trainer Kathy Watters initially had doubts. “My thoughts were if there’s gluten everywhere how am I going to train it. It’s in your bird food, it’s in your bug spray, it’s in the Ziploc baggy, the glue.”

After a month of training, Willow appeared to be able to detect glutens, Watters said. Six months later, Scheu says, “I can go out to eat I can do things that I couldn’t do before.”

Willow, who shows some impressive abilities in the video above, wasn’t the first dog in America to be trained to detect gluten. A Missouri dog named Elias has been doing it since 2011.

But their own experience led Scheu and Watters to establish Nosey Dog Detection Partners.

Their first customer, though, was seeking to have their family dog, Skittles, trained as a red dye 40 sniffing dog.

Scheu and Watters are working with the family to train Skittles to help eight year old Elizabeth Martin avoid any items containing red dye 40, which the girl has a severe allergic reaction to.

Nosey Dog also plans to train service dogs for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, people with peanut allergies, as well as diabetic alert dogs and autism assistance dogs.

Who’s the fairest of them all?

bestinshow

Here’s an “infographic” (more graphic than informative, we’d say) that’s popping up a lot on the Internet these days.

It’s from “Knowledge is Beautiful,” a new book by British data-journalist David McCandless.

In it, he crunches data to explain the world, or at least random bits of the world, through graphics that — though they might intimidate those of us who prefer a good old fashioned story — are intended to be entertaining, artful and easy to absorb.

“Every day, every hour, every minute we are bombarded with information, from television, from newspapers, from the Internet, we’re steeped in it. We need a way to relate to it,” his publisher, Harper Collins, writes. The author’s visual presentations ”blend the facts with their connections, contexts, and relationships, making information meaningful, entertaining, and beautiful.”

kibWe’ll withhold comment on the book, because we haven’t read it (if reading is even part of experiencing it.)

But we’ve got problems and questions with this particular chart — a ranking of the 87 “best” dog breeds.

(To see a full size version, click here.)

For starters, why — when there are about 180 recognized breeds now — did he limit himself to only the 87 most popular breeds?

Is that a more algorithm-friendly number? Is that the most that could fit on a page before it became so cluttered as to be reader unfriendly, or leave us feeling dog bombarded?

The infographic contrasts the popularity of the breeds with what (according to the formula used by McCandless) are the “best” breeds. The best breed, according to the chart, is the border collie. It concludes the bulldog the most “inexplicably overrated” dog breed.

McCandless ranks the 87 dog breeds based on these factors — intelligence, lifespan or longevity, ailments, grooming, appetite and costs.

In a way, at least four of those factors are cost-related, aren’t they?

How much a dog eats and how much grooming he requires both can make him a more expensive proposition, which we can only assume McCandless attaches negative points to.

The Newfoundland, for example, falls into the “inexplicably overrated” quadrant of the the chart — well, most of him does, a little bit of his big head seems to stick outside that border.

We’d hope McCandless considers a longer life span for a dog to be a good thing, worth positive points, but wouldn’t a dog gaining points in that category be losing them in the appetite, grooming and costs categories?

Of course, our biggest is complaint — on top of the sheer stupidity of picking a best dog breed — is that the chart ignores the “best” (and most popular) dog of all, the mutt.

That would complicate matters though, and infographics are all about over-simplifying. And stereotyping, and quanitfying the unquantifiable, and smugly considering yourself an expert based on what your computer has churned out, which infographic perusers should bear in mind, is only as reliable as the data it was fed in the first place.

(Photos: “Knowledge is Beautiful”)

Dog hitches ride on ambulance step to follow owner to hospital

buddyClearly, a beagle named Buddy noticed all the hub-bub when an ambulance arrived to take his owner, 85-year-old Texas rancher J.R. Nicholson, to a hospital.

Mason County EMS technicians loaded Nicholson aboard, shut the doors of the ambulance and pulled out for the hour-long ride from the ranch in Mason County to the hospital in Fredericksburg.

It was 20 minutes into the ride that ambulance workers noticed other drivers on the highway waving and pointing: There was a dog on the small step on the side of the ambulance.

Buddy, a 35-pound beagle mix, had jumped aboard the moving ambulance sometime after it had left the ranch, and had been riding along since.

Tanner Brown, one of the EMT’s aboard, said the ambulance pulled over. “We didn’t have anything else to do but to load the dog up and put him in the ambulance and take him to the ER with us,” he said.

The San Angelo Standard-Times reported the story last week, after learning of the October incident from EMTs.

Nicholson was released from the hospital later the same day, and while he was there he got a couple of chances to step outside and see his dog, who was apparently tended to by EMTs and hospital workers.

buddy2Left unattended inside the ambulance at one point, Buddy jumped on the controls and turned on the siren and lights.

“It was kind of weird,”EMT Brown said. “I guess the dog wanted to be with his owner.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch … ranch hand Brian Wright looked around for Buddy after the ambulance left. Wright, who had called the ambulance when Nicholson began complaining of dizziness. Buddy had wandered off, which he does from time to time, so Wright wasn’t too worried.

Not until Wright got to the hospital did he learn the EMS crew had the dog — and about the dog’s 20-minute ride on the step of the ambulance.

“Two things go through your mind in a split second,” Wright said. “First, what could have happened to (Buddy), and second, you realize he is quite an animal.”

“I was impressed,” said Nicholson, the dog’s owner. He adopted Buddy about four months ago from an animal shelter in Mason.

“He didn’t have to go to the hospital with me, but he did.”

(Photos: Pinterest)

Who knows what’s best for Jack?

jack

Dog blogger and broadcaster Steve Friess says he’s not going to spend $5,000 to put his dog though chemotherapy that could extend his life a year or more — and he’s going to try not to feel bad about it.

Even when he says his final goodbye to Jack in what could be less than a month.

In late October, Friess noticed the dog he’d adopted nine years ago was getting lethargic, and that his weight had dropped from his usual 11 pounds to around eight.

A vet diagnosed that Jack had an aggressive form  of lymphoma that was spreading quickly through his body.

Friess did some research, checking with friends, and vets, and friends who were vets: One of the latter urged him to “do the full chemo protocol ASAP!” It could send Jack into remission for nine months, or 12 months, or even longer.

Friess and his partner researched, debated and decided against chemotherapy — not because it would be all that rough on the dog physically (they handle it much better than we do). The main reason, he admits, is the money, which, he also admits, they just doesn’t have.

There will likely be those who second guess Freiss, or maybe try to lay a guilt trip on him: Take out a loan, hit up your friends, get a second (or third) job, launch an online fundraising campaign, let me be the first to donate.

We’ve become a nation of such overflowing compassion for dogs, with such promising new medical technologies, and such handy online fundraising tools at our beck and call, that it’s easy to lose sight that decisions about life and death — both ours and our dogs — are still our own, and that throwing in the towel, for financial reasons, or others, isn’t always a shameful choice.

We suspect Friess will receive some support for his decision, but will hear from many more questioning it. His decision to write about it, as he did in a post for Time.com, is brave, but also an open invitation to second-guessers. In any case, the decision on what’s best for Jack should be (and has been) made by the person who knows him best, and deserves to be respected

Friess, a freelance writer and co-host of The Petcast, said neither his advisers nor his vet seemed to be trying to make him feel guilty about his choice. But, as is the way with guilt trips, we often don’t need a tour guide.  Feelings of shame can start as soon as we ask our vet the question Friess did:

“How much will it cost?”

For Friess, the estimate was a minimum of $5,000 — more than he and his partner had.

“(It) means we have about 30 days. The end will probably come in time for holidays … ”We’ve received a lot of advice, both solicited and unwelcome, through social media. Nobody comes right out to say it, but the disappointment some express at our decision shows that they question our love for Jack. In an era when people spend big on animal clothes, artisanal foods and medical intervention, and when medical science makes it possible to spend $5,000 so Jack dies slightly later than sooner, there is pressure to go as far as we can.”

There’s one more twist. Friess and his partner are trying to adopt a human baby, and they’re working on saving the $15,000 fee for that.

“If that $5,000 could cure the cancer and restore Jack’s full life expectancy, maybe we’d do it,” he wrote. “Maybe. It certainly would be a tougher choice. But to buy a year during which we’d be waiting for his lymph nodes to resume their swell? We could endure the end stages either now or later.”

(Photo of Jack by Steve Friess)

Freed from trash can, an abandoned collie mix named Fawna finds some love

fawna3

A 9-month-old collie mix found last week in a garbage can in New Stanton, Pa., is now enjoying the things her former owner failed to provide — food, shelter and kindness among them.

She’s less frightened, spunkier and has gained 8 pounds since she was discovered by a garbage truck driver on his route on Oct. 30, with her head sticking out of a trash bag.

State police say the dog’s former owner, Nicole L. Baker, 50, of Hempfield, tortured the dog by withholding food for about six weeks before leaving the dog in the trash can on Oct. 27, when she moved to Texas to be with her boyfriend.

She has been charged with a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty and a summary count of disorderly conduct.

Police say text messages sent by Baker indicate her actions went beyond neglect.

“Yeah, I am a bad person,” Baker wrote in a text-message response to a relative’s inquiry about the dog, who she called Mia, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

fawna2“By reading through the messages and things of that nature, she had intentionally misled people that were offering to help when it came to taking care of Mia, the dog,” Trooper Stephen Limani said. “She acknowledged the fact that at some point in time, she realized what she was doing, she fully knew it was wrong, and still she put a dog, her dog, in a garbage can,”

Fawna was taken to the Humane Society of Westmoreland County and is now in foster care, TribLive.com reported.

“She’ll grab my hand with her mouth and play,” said veterinary technician Megan Fritz, who is fostering Fawna. “She’s finally starting to act like a dog.”

At first, Fawna was fed beef and rice every three to four hours, then graduated to lamb and rice dog food. She weighed 17 pounds when found, instead of a normal weight of about 50. She’s living with a Great Dane and three cats, and was recently taken on a shopping spree at Burton’s Total Pet in Greensburg, and went home with donated toys, sweaters and treats.

“She needs to feel safe and secure for a little while,” Fritz said. “I’m blown away by the amount of support and love that people are sending her way.”

Among those horrified by the dog’s condition was Baker’s daughter, Brittany Prinkey, who lives next door to the trailer where her mother lived before moving to Texas.

“I’m super upset with her. I just don’t understand how someone could do that,” Prinkey  said in an interview with WTAE.  ”I was so upset, I felt like I was going to throw up. I was so sick to my stomach about everything. I couldn’t believe it. That garbage can is right over there. I didn’t hear anything. No one heard anything. No one knew. It’s disgusting.”

Prinkey said she seldom sees her mother, and that the dog was healthy when she last saw her in July.

Prinkey said she has been subjected to harassment and threats since the dog was found. ”People have been throwing stuff at my house, at my car, threatening me, telling me I should die. I should be put in a trash bag and left to suffocate without food and water,” she said.

Humane Society officials said it will probably be two months before Fawna becomes eligible for adoption.

Donations to Fawna’s care can be mailed to the Westmoreland Humane Society: PO Box 1552, Greensburg, PA 15601.

(Photos: At top, State Trooper Steve Limani comforts Fawna at the Humane Society of Westmoreland County in Greensburg, by Steph Chambers /  Trib Total Media; lower photo from Humane Society of Westmoreland County)

Haute dog! Company that caters to teens introduces line of canine couture

americanbeagleAmerican Eagle Outfitters Inc. (AEO), a clothing retailer that has always taken aim  at human teens, is trying to dig up some new business.

Amid declining clothing sales to human customers, it’s turning to dog clothes, and releasing a new line of canine couture today called American Beagle Outfitters, Bloomberg reports.

No joke.

But it did start out that way.

The American Beagle assortment began as an April Fool’s Day joke to raise money for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

But there was so much interest, the retailer decided to release a real line of canine clothing, including knit sweaters, puffer jackets and hats for dogs that match its holiday collection for people.

“Just in time for the holidays, you’ll be able to dress just like your best friend — man’s best friend that is,” Preston Konrad, style director at Pittsburgh-based American Eagle, said in a statement. “This fun collection reflects the iconic elements of the American Eagle Outfitters brand reimagined for our favorite furry friends.”

Like its peers in the teen-clothing business, American Eagle has seen slow sales — a phenomenon dog products seem to avoid. As the Bloomberg article points out, Americans were expected to fork over a whopping $350 million for pet costumes this Halloween.

And that’s in addition to normal everyday sales of doggie garb, now being pitched by everyone from Martha Stewart to Brett Michaels.

With winter and Christmas on the way, pitching puffer jackets to pooch owners makes sense, at least from a business perspective.

Items in the limited-edition doggie collection will be available online and in select American Eagle stores, with prices ranging from  $12.95 to $39.95.

(Photos: American Eagle Outfitters)

A drug to make your dog live longer?

antiaging

Two University of Washington scientists think it might be possible to slow the aging process in canines and are launching a pilot study with 30 dogs to see if the drug rapamycin significantly extends their lifespans.

The researchers, using $200,000 in seed money from the University of Washington, plan to use pets, not laboratory animals, for the initial study, and recruit volunteer dogs — or at least dogs whose owners volunteer them — for larger scale studies in the future.

Daniel Promislow, an evolutionary geneticist, and Matthew Kaeberlein, a molecular biologist, say the study is aimed at determining whether rapamycin could lead to longer lives for dogs — as studies have shown is the case when it’s used on yeast, fruit flies, worms and mice.

“We’re not talking about doubling the healthy life spans of pets,” said Kaeberlein. “But at a minimum I would predict that you would get a 10 to 15 percent increase in average life span, and I think bigger effects are possible.”

In the pilot study, 30 large, middle-aged dogs will be involved — half receiving low doses of rapamycin, half receiving placebos.

The researchers say that subsequent studies will seek to enroll pet dogs from across the country.

Kaeberlein and Promislow hosted a meeting in Seattle last week where experts from across the country discussed the drug rapamycin and its possible effects on the health and longevity of dogs, the Seattle Times reported.

Currently used along with other medications to prevent rejection in organ-transplant patients, rapamycin has been called a promising anti-aging drug — though there have been no studies involving humans.

But almost 50 laboratory studies have shown that the compound can delay the onset of some diseases and degenerative processes and restore vigor to elderly animals, extending life spans by 9 to 40 percent.

Rapamycin functions, in part, by inactivating a protein that promotes cell growth. As a result, cells grow more slowly, which retards the spread of cancer.

Promislow, who has two elderly dogs of his own, noted that even if the drug doesn’t increase the life span of dogs, it could serve to keep them healthy longer. “We’re trying to understand why some dogs age better than others, and help all dogs age in a better way,” he said.

The drug has been shown to have serious side effects, including poor wound healing and an increased risk of diabetes, when used at the high doses required for organ transplant patients.

But the low doses used in anti-aging research with mice and other lab animals cause few side effects.

There have been no large-scale human trials. Studying how the drug affects dogs — who suffer many of the same old-age ailments as their masters — makes it possible to explore the possible benefits of rapamycin both more quickly and at a lesser cost.

If it does turn out to be a sort of  fountain of youth — for dogs, humans, or both — the potential profits would be enormous.

“I think it’s worth a go, not just from what it can teach us about humans, but for the sake of the animals themselves,” said University of Alabama Biology Department Chairman Steven Austad, an expert in aging research who is not involved in the project. “It may not work in dogs, but if it did, boy, it’s going to be huge.”

According to the Seattle Times article, drug companies aren’t very interested in rapamycin because it’s no longer under patent.

But the researchers are hoping dog lovers, dog-food companies and some foundations might be willing to contribute to further research.

They’ve set up a website, dogagingproject.com,where people can donate and sign their dogs up to take part in the research.

“Given how I feel about my pets, I see this as a unique project where there’s a real potential for citizen science,” Kaeberlein said. “I think it would be great if pet owners who are really interested in improving the health of their animals would help fund this work.”

(Photos: UW scientists Matt Kaeberlein, with his dog Dobby, and Dan Promislow, with his dog Frisbee; by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)


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