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Tag: health

Port Authority cop helps save choking dog

jullusA Port Authority police officer may have saved a choking dog’s life when he invited the dog’s owners into his patrol car for a ride to a veterinary clinic.

Julius, a 10-year-old Maltese, was chewing on a treat when he began to choke inside of his Jersey City home on Easter Sunday.

His owners, Michael and Lindsay Torres, after unsuccessfully trying to dislodge the treat, borrowed their building concierge’s car to rush to Manhattan in hopes of finding a vet’s office that might be open on the holiday.

But traffic on the New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel was barely moving, and Julius’ tongue was turning blue. As their car crept toward the toll booth they told Port Authority police officer Thomas Feuker about their plight.

“I really need your help. He’s choking. We need to go to an animal hospital,” Lindsay Torres says she told the officer.

Feuker tried to clear the dog’s airway. Unable to do that, he let the couple and their dog into his car and drove them seven miles to an emergency veterinary clinic.

“It definitely made it faster. He knew the easiest way to go and they were actually blocking off some roads (on the route),” she told the New York Daily News. A motorcycle cop from Rutherford, N.J., also joined the emergency motorcade.

A vet was able to clear the treat from the dog’s esophagus, and Julius is back home.

“He’s doing great. He’s eating, he’s drinking, he’s really looking good,” Lindsay Torres said Monday.

She said she was grateful for the officer’s assistance.

“Without him, I don’t know if Julius would be here.”

(Photo: Provided by Lindsay Torres)

Chicago dog owners warned to not let their dogs socialize with other dogs

dogflu

Dog owners in Chicago are being warned to keep their pets away from the city’s dog-friendly parks and beaches to help control the spread of the dog flu, which has killed five dogs in the area and sickened more than 1,000 more.

On Friday, the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control urged pet owners to avoid not just dog parks, but group training activities, doggy day care, groomers, boarding facilities and other environments where dogs congregate or socialize until the outbreak — or epidemic, as some are calling it — subsides.

Signs posted at dog-friendly parks and beaches read:

“The Canine Influenza Virus (the Dog Flu) is causing illness throughout the Chicago area. All unvaccinated dogs may be at risk. Even dogs showing no sign of illness may carry this virus.

“PLEASE ENTER THIS DOG FRIENDLY AREA (DFA) AT YOUR OWN RISK.

“The virus is extremely contagious. Unvaccinated dogs exposed to the Dog Flu are more likely to contract the disease.”

The signs go on to list the symptoms of the dog flu: coughing, lethargy, difficulty breathing, nasal discharge and lack of appetite.

While people can’t catch it from dogs, the dog flu is is extremely contagious between dogs that come into close contact with each other.

Forty states have experienced outbreaks of the dog flu since the virus was discovered in 2004.

Experts say nearly every dog exposed to it will get the virus. About 25 percent of those don’t show signs of the sickness, but can still pass it on to other dogs.

Limiting socialization with other dogs is the best way to fight the illness, said Dr. Cynda Crawford, who helped discover the virus in 2005.

Crawford, with the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, told Steve Dale’s Pet World, a blog on ChicagoNow.com, that owners often aren’t aware their dogs are ill.

She advises limiting all socialization, including letting your dog be walked by a dog walker who takes dogs out in groups.

While there is a vaccine for dog flu, it is new, expensive, requires multiple shots and, as with the human vaccine, fails to guarantee a dog won’t catch the virus.

Chicago animal control officials said the outbreak could last several more weeks.

(Photo: from ChicagoNow.com)

Kiss me, you dog (I need the probiotics)

Before you wipe off that next dog kiss — not that too many ohmidog! readers are the sort that do that — you might want to think about this:

Some of those doggy bacteria that dog-disliking alarmists and hand-wringing medical types are always warning us about might actually be good for you.

As with Greek yogurt and kimchee, some of the microbes lurking in a dog’s gut could have a probiotic effect on the owners’ body, aiding in both digestion and overall health.

Researchers at the University of Arizona are now seeking volunteers to take part in a study to prove just that — and here’s the coolest part: Volunteers, if they want, can keep the shelter dog assigned to them when the study is done.

The “Dogs as Probiotics” study will focus specifically on the effect dogs have on the health of older people — in terms of physical well-being, mental well-being and cognitive functioning.

kelly“We already know that dogs make us happier and in some ways healthier. The main point of this study is to try and understand whether or not there is an actual biological component behind this,” Kim Kelly, a UA doctoral student in medical anthropology, and one of the study’s primary investigators,
told the Arizona Daily Star.

“This has the potential to change the field in terms of how we understand, think about and use microbes to improve our health,” she said.

The study team is recruiting adults over the age of 50 and asking them to live with a dog from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona for three months.

Both the human and canine subjects will undergo tests of an non-invasive sort during the study to determine whether or not the positive microbes in the humans increase, and whether it correlates with improved immune measures in older adults.

Probiotics are often referred as “good” or “helpful” bacteria. They can help keep the intestines healthy, assist in digesting food, and are believed to help the immune system.

Kelly, along with researchers at the University of San Diego and the University of Colorado, will explore whether living with a dog encourages the growth of positive micro organisms in the human gut.

“We essentially want to find out, is a dog acting like yogurt in having a probiotic effect,” she said.

In addition, researchers will monitor participants for any changes in the mental health and emotional well-being.

Once the scientists are done, human participants will have the option of keeping the dog they kept in their home during the study.

We’re guessing that — whether their digestion has improved or not — most of them will.

Who wouldn’t want someone who has been kissing them for three months to hang around?

(Video: Attendees at the SPCA of Maryland’s March for the Animals, 2009, receiving some free probiotics from my dog Ace; photo: Kim Kelly and her cocker spaniel Katie, courtesy of Kim Kelly)

When is it OK to pick a dog up by the tail?

cross1

Amid the bashing she’s taking on the Internet for picking her dog up by the tail, there are those coming to the defense of Rebecca Cross, owner of Knopa, the Scottish terrier who won Best in Show at Crufts.

But the explanations those defenders offer, and their justifications for the practice — which has existed for years — are disingenuous, misleading and often a little arrogant.

The only time, in our opinion, that a dog should be picked up by his or her tail is … NEVER!

There may be those in the dog show community, and in the worlds of hunters and breeders, who say that view is naive — that certain breeds can handle it. Then again, they have never been picked up by their tails.

Let’s look at their arguments.

1. The tails of some dog breeds are meant to serve that function. They are born with sturdier tails to provide us humans with handles so we can pull them out when they go into holes. Baloney. Clearly, neither God nor evolution put tails on animals to serve as handles for humans. And if breeders have worked to give certain breeds stronger tails, with that in mind, then they had the wrong thing in mind, which is often the case. Their tinkering with dog breeds to make them cuter, lower maintenance or more useful to humans — all in the name of sales, of course — leads to no good, and to bogus arguments like this one.

2. You shouldn’t do it, but, being highly skilled professionals, it’s OK for us to lift certain small breeds by their tails. Balderdash! Running around in a circle with a dog, and brushing its hair, doesn’t make you a highly skilled professional. Showing a dog doesn’t require a PhD. You’re not a doctor, and if you were you’d know that, the tail being an extension of the spine, it should not be used to hold up even part of a dog’s weight.

3. When a dog is picked up that way, most of the pressure is on the front end of the dog, and the tail is simply used as a guide. Bullshit — pardon our language — but anyone with the slightest understanding of physics can see that, when a dog is picked up this way, the tail is carrying at least some of the dog’s weight. And when the front end is being supported by a hand on his or her throat, rather than his or her chest, that too is problematic.

4. If it hurt them, dogs would yelp and whine. Wrong again! That’s not true of real world dogs, or show dogs — maybe especially show dogs who have accepted the fact that the human showing them is going to do this, just as they have accepted the judges who insist on grasping their packages to check for “conformity.”

5. We’ve always done it that way.  We all know that is no defense at all; rather, it’s an excuse used by those who — even when someone is showing them a better way — stubbornly insist on living in the past. And if ever there was a vestige of the past, it’s purebred dog shows.

Those defending the practice offer plenty of what they, at least, see as justification, but little explanation of the reason for picking up a dog this way in the first place.

cross2That’s probably because it is such a silly and superficial reason: By using those two points of contact, they can avoid messing up the dog’s hair.

In that way, the tail lift symbolizes what, at the root, is wrong with dog shows.

And that’s the “appearance above all” mentality behind them.

Judging dogs on their looks — as called for by breed organizations and breed standards — causes suffering and is not in the best interest of the species.

Shows like Crufts and Westminster value “looks over the welfare and health of dogs which can lead to their early death, and that’s not acceptable if we’re really a nation of dog lovers,” RSPCA spokesperson Violet Owens told the BBC.

Although the dog owner’s comments didn’t sound too apologetic — she said she lifted her dog by the tail due to force of habit — Cross did apologize, according to UK Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko.

And just for the record Kisko also said that — no matter what the breed — picking up a dog by its tail is a no-no, at least at Crufts:

“Those showing at Crufts receive clear written guidance on handling their dog, in order to ensure the dog’s welfare, and this guidance makes it clear that dogs should not be handled in this way,” she said.

“All natural” dog sedative pulled off shelves

good-dogPetco  has pulled a “dog calming” medicine from its shelves after customers complained that, according to its ingredient label, it is 13 percent alcohol.

That’s about the same alcohol percentage as wine.

Made by Pet Organics, Good-Dog! is “for dogs that are unruly or hyper” and “helps to make your dog happy & content,” according to its label.

So would a nice merlot, but substantial amounts of alcohol aren’t recommended for dogs, and in large amounts it can by toxic.

More than 750 people signed a change.org petition for Petco to remove Good-Dog!, which claims to be made with “all natural ingredients.”

Petco spokesman initially said the product is safe, when used as directed — only a few drops should be added to the dogs water bowl.

“…This product has no negative effect on pets, and no known pet deaths or illnesses have been associated with this product in the 10 years it has been sold at Petco,” the spokesman said.

But after 7News in Denver reported the story, Petco announced that it has voluntarily recalled Good Dog Pet Calming Supplement, and issued the following statement:

“The health and safety of pets and people is Petco’s top priority. We sell a variety of calming remedies for pets with anxiety and also recommend that pet parents consult with their vet to ensure that there are no underlying health issues. In light of recent concerns expressed by some of our customers with regard to Good Dog Pet Calming Supplement, and this product’s alcohol content, we have decided to issue a voluntary recall, effective immediately…”

Dr. Narda Robinson, a veterinarian and physician at Colorado State University, said the case is indicative of a broader issue — a lack of regulation for homeopathic drugs for pets.

“If this product has a calming effect, it’s probably because of the alcohol, not because of the homeopathic medicine,” she said.

Dr. Tina Wismer, with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center said many herbal medications have an alcohol base.

“They are supposed to be dosed at a couple of drops per animal. Certainly if they ingested the entire bottle and it was a small animal, they may become intoxicated,” she said.

Petco clears shelves of Chinese jerky treats

jerky

Petco says it has pulled all Chinese-made dog and cat treats from store shelves, fulfilling a promise the chain made to customers last May.

“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially chicken jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,”  Jim Myers, Petco’s chief executive, said Monday — a good seven years after complaints first surfaced about chicken treats made in China sickening and killing dogs.

The FDA has been investigating the treats since 2007, but has yet to yet to establish a definite link to the deaths and sicknesses.

Thousands of pets have fallen ill — hundreds fatally — leading to 5,000 complaints of pet illnesses suspected to have been caused by chicken, duck, and vegetable jerky treats made in China.

Despite  steadily rising concerns, American companies continued to market the treats (under the names Waggin’ Tail and Milo’s Kitchen, among others), and the country’s largest pets stores, including Petco and PetSmart,  continued to sell them.

Petco,which has not sold China-made dog and cat foods for several years, announced last May that it would clear store shelves of the jerky treats. (We’re still not clear on why doing so would take seven months.)

PetSmart, which, like Petco, operates more than 1,300 stores nationally, has pledged to remove all Chinese-made pet treats from its stores by spring, according to the Washington Post.

Nestle Purina and Del Monte, which own the brands such Waggin’ Tail and Milo’s Kitchen, stopped selling chicken jerky dog treats made in China back in 2012, calling the shift precautionary.

The Petco announcement  applies only to treats made with jerky and rawhide, according to Lily Gluzberg, a spokesperson for the company.

The FDA has been unable to tie the illnesses specifically to Chinese-made pet foods, despite testing more than a thousand samples and  inspecting factories in China. But it continues to investigate.

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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