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Happy National Hairball Awareness Day

It’s not too often we cover cats at ohmidog!,   but National Hairball Awareness Day (it’s today, if you didn’t know) isn’t strictly about cats.

Dogs get hairballs too — as do humans, and cud-chewing animals, such as cows, oxen, sheep, goats, llamas, deer, and antelope.

As pets go, though, cats are more prone, and with almost 90 million U.S. cat owners we feel it’s our duty to pass on these hairball-alleviating tips — not just to avoid having to clean them up, but because they can pose dangers to the animal by blocking food from passing through the intestines.

The folks who make the FURminator offer the following tips, chief among them of course, buying their products:

- The more you groom your cat, the less, he or she will groom his or herself, making hairballs less likely. In addition to deshedding tools, there are shampoos that claim to reduce shedding.

- A little butter or pumpkin added to food can decrease the likelihood of hairballs, the butter helping grease the way, the pumpkin’s fiber helping to get things moving.

- Keep your cat well hydrated, placing water bowls throughought the house.

- Laxative supplements from your vet can help with chronic hairball problems.

If you want to learn even more about hairballs (and we would hope you don’t), the National Museum of Health and Medicine has a webpage devoted to them, and, should you want to make the trip to Washington (and we really, really hope you don’t)  there’s a human hairball on permanent display in the museum.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine has 24 veterinary and 3 human hairballs or “trichobezoars” in its anatomical collection. To commemorate National Hairball Awareness Day on April 27, 2006, the museum featured a temporary display of 10 of these hairballs to explore the myths and realities behind these medical curiosities. Included were hairballs from a steer, two oxen, three cows, a calf, horse, and a chicken.

As for our picture above, rather than be so tasteless as to confront you with the real thing, we’ve chosen a crocheted hairball from the collection of Fluffy Flowers.  If you’d like to learn how to make your own (and, once again, we’re hoping you don’t), you can find a tutorial here.

For dogs, slaughter continues in Baghdad


“While human beings in Iraq were killing each other in huge numbers, they ignored the dogs, which in turn multiplied at an alarming rate,” the New York Times reported last week.

Now stray dogs are such a menace that municipal workers are hunting them down and slaughtering them — about 10,000 in Baghdad just since December.

“With fewer bombs going off and hardly any bodies being dumped anymore, the dogs are perhaps the biggest problem on the filthy and rubble-strewn streets of Baghdad. Packs of strays scare schoolchildren and people who get up at dawn to go to work. They gather at open-air butcher shops where customers choose their meat from flocks of live sheep.

“Some people believe that the dogs spread disease, not a difficult case to make in a society that generally shuns dogs as pets, believing them to be contrary to Islamic edicts on personal cleanliness.

“Thus a relative peace has changed priorities, and not just in Baghdad. The holy Shiite city of Karbala was so overwhelmed with stray dogs last year that officials there offered 6,000 dinars ($5.30) for each animal caught and handed over to the municipality. The dogs were shot and buried en masse.”

In Baghdad, dogs are killed with rotten raw meat laced with strychnine. On the outskirts of town, articularly around the city’s sprawling garbage dumps, the dogs are shot. By the time the cmapgin ends this month, perhaps 20,000 dogs will have been exterminated, said Shaker Fraiyeh of the ministry’s veterinary services company.

“Our work may be against animal rights, but there is a more important issue, public health,” said Dr. Fraiyeh, a veterinarian in his 30s.

Abdul-Karim Ismail, a veterinarian with the state-owned company dealing with the dogs, said building and maintaining animal shelters and introducing spay/neuter programs to control Baghdad’s dog population are considered too costly and complicated in a nation where people had so many more pressing needs.

Some stray dogs have been fortunate enough to find new homes outside Iraq. S.P.C.A. International, a Washington-based charity, began “Operation Baghdad Pups” in 2007 to help American soldiers adopt and take home stray dogs they befriended while serving in Iraq.

Outbreaks close shelter, kennels

Several dogs have died from a rare illness that forced a Brooklyn animal shelter to close for nearly a week, the Associated Press reports.

Animal Care & Control of New York City says the dogs at the Brooklyn shelter are no longer in any danger from contracting the disease known as Strep Zoo. The shelter, closed last week, reopened Monday.

Meanwhile, in Colorado Springs, an outbreak of dog flu citywide has left two dog day care centers temporarily closed. Lucky Dog Resort and Training and Camp Bow Wow both closed their doors to ensure a string of the dog flue was completely cleaned out, according to KRDO-TV.

“If they’re (dogs) around a dog who’s in the contagious period, which is usually the first two to five days of the infection, they can definitely contract it,” said Dr. Susan Bloss of Cheyenne Mountain Animal Hospital.  The dog flu is a respiratory virus with no vaccine. Although it’s rarely fatal, Bloss said, your dog can still get very sick. All it takes is a sneeze from one dog, and a sniff from another to contract it.