Archive for December, 2012

Bumper toys appear to leach plastic compounds, study finds

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Plastic bumpers used to train retrieving dogs appear to leach bisphenol A and phthalates, according to research from Texas Tech University. The researchers found that bumpers exposed to artificial dog saliva and simulated chewing released the chemicals. It’s not known whether the compounds put dogs at risk of any health problems. (11/29)

Dog bites BPA: Chemicals leak from plastic training toys

Dogs that chew on plastic training devices and toys may be exposed to hormone-altering chemicals, according to research at Texas Tech University. Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates – ingredients of hard plastics and vinyl – readily leach from bumper toys, which are used to train retrieving dogs. The new study is one of the first to examine dog products as a potential source of exposure for pets. No one knows, though, whether the traces of the chemicals pose any health risk to dogs. “Some of the dogs are exposed to plastic bumpers from the time they are born until the day they die. We all want our pets to be healthy,” said toxicologist Philip Smith, co-author of the as-yet unpublished study.

By Lindsey Konkel Environmental Health News

Nov. 29, 2012

Dogs that chew on plastic training devices and toys may be exposed to hormone-altering chemicals, according to research at Texas Tech University.

The researchers found that bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates – ingredients of hard plastics and vinyl  – readily leach from bumper toys, which are used to train retrieving dogs.

The new study is one of the first to examine dog products as a potential source of exposure for pets. No one knows, though, whether the traces of the chemicals pose any health risk to dogs. Previous research has focused on the risks to infants and toddlers from baby bottles, toys and other items that contained the chemicals.

“A lot of plastic products are used for dogs, so to understand the potential for some of the chemicals to leach out from toys is a new and important area of research,” said veterinarian Safdar Khan, senior director of toxicology research at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Poison Control Center in Illinois.  Dr. Khan was not involved in the current study.

Philip Smith, a toxicologist at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech, became interested in chemical exposures from bumpers after using them to train his own Labrador retrievers.

“Some of the dogs are exposed to plastic bumpers from the time they are born until the day they die. We all want our pets to be healthy,” said Smith, co-author of the as-yet unpublished study, which was presented this month at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry conference in California.

“A lot of plastic products are used for dogs, so to understand the potential for some of the chemicals to leach out from toys is a new and important area of research.” -Dr. Safdar Khan, ASPCA Poison Control Center   In humans and rodents, BPA and phthalates have been linked to a number  of health issues, including impaired development of reproductive organs,  decreased fertility and cancers. The United States and the European  Union have banned some phthalates in children’s toys, and in July the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy  cups.

The researchers, led by Kimberly Wooten, a graduate student in environmental toxicology at Texas Tech, studied factors that affected how much BPA and phthalates leached from plastic bumpers into dishes filled with artificial dog saliva.

They tested orange and white bumpers from two unidentified makers. The bumpers subjected to simulated chewing leached more BPA and phthalates than brand new bumpers and those left outside to weather for a month.

Researchers said they suspect that the levels of chemicals observed from the bumpers would be considered very high when compared with children’s toys.  “Think of the molecules that comprise plastics as bricks in a wall. With pet toys, wear and tear from chewing would place stress on the chemical bonds – the mortar – allowing individual molecules to be released,” said Laura Vandenberg, a reproductive scientist from Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Since simulated saliva was used, it is difficult to say how much actual leaching would occur in a dog’s mouth, the researchers said. “We don’t have enough information at this time to begin to estimate actual exposure,” Smith said.

Smith said they suspect that the levels of chemicals observed from the bumpers would be considered very high when compared with children’s toys.

The researchers also looked at phthalates and BPA from pet toys sold through major retailers. They found higher concentrations leaching from bumpers than from other toys but preliminary results suggest some store-bought toys might have leached other hormonally-active chemicals.

A previous study by the Environmental Working Group found that dogs’ blood and urine contained the breakdown products of several phthalates at levels ranging from 1.1 to 4.5 times higher than the average found in people.

“Dogs are closer to the ground than humans, so house dust is another potential source of exposure to environmental chemicals,” Dr. Khan said.

But little is known about any potential health risks for dogs exposed to hormone-mimicking chemicals.

Since little toxicity data exist for dogs, it is difficult to evaluate risks, Smith said. Nonetheless, “consumer education about potential risk seems to be warranted based on our data,” he said

Funeral home offers services for 4-legged family members

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

This ossuary is for Emma, the first pet to be cremated at D.O. McComb & Sons’ Tribute Center.D.O. McComb & Sons’ Tribute Center in Indiana includes services for deceased pets such as burial, cremation and a private room for viewing by owners, reflecting pets’ modern status in many homes as family members.

Memorials to pets prove it’s more than puppy love

An unusual item appeared in the newspaper the other day. It was an obituary – for a dog.

The death notice identified the dog’s owner and even included calling hours at D.O. McComb & Sons new Tribute Center on West Main Street near Lindenwood Cemetery.

While the obituary was, as far as I can recall, a first for the newspaper, the concept of special treatment for a deceased pet is nothing new.

People have been falling in love with their pets since long before Rin Tin Tin, Lassie or Old Yeller came along, sometimes with good reason. A pet will never tell you you’re ugly or overweight, and it will never ask you where you’ve been when you come home late. It will just be delighted to see you.

While your kids may prove to be crushing disappointments, a pet generally doesn’t have the wherewithal to ruin the family name, get busted for selling drugs or sell your jewelry while you’re out of town.

Truth be told, for many people, a pet is the most loyal – even the only truly loyal – creature in their lives.

That has become evident to the people at D.O. McComb. A lot of people want a respectful exit for their pets, so when the funeral home opened the Tribute Center in October it included something unusual: a separate crematorium for pets, and a separate room, now called Emma’s Room, where a deceased pet can be briefly laid out and the owner can enter and say hello and offer one last goodbye before cremation, Dave McComb says.

It’s just a sign of the times, he said. Pets have become more important as members of the traditional family move to far-flung places. Kids leave. Wives leave. But pets remain as faithful companions and, McComb said, their status has become elevated.

Other animals, such as service dogs and police dogs, have earned a higher status in the minds of many. Maybe they don’t rate a funeral, but a thoughtful sendoff is soothing for the owners.

McComb’s can either cremate a pet and put its ashes in an urn, or arrange a burial in a portion of Riverview Cemetery that has been set aside  for pets.

The funeral home hasn’t promoted the service yet, but at a Tribute Center open house, the concept drew a lot of attention and was well received, McComb said.

“We’ve had requests for even services for a while now,” McComb said.

While you won’t find preachers conducting funerals (don’t all dogs go to heaven anyway?) there can be services where an owner or friend might even eulogize an animal and friends or family members can show up and offer condolences.

“What we’ve learned is that people fall into two categories: pet owners and pet parents.”

To the pet parent, a pet becomes just as important as any other member of the family, somebody they will always remember.

The cost of a pet cremation? It varies depending on the size of the animal, which can obviously vary wildly, but the pet crematorium can handle animals up to 300 pounds.

Feline asthma: Diagnosis and treatment

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Asthma occurs when an allergen incites airway inflammation, resulting in varying levels of respiratory distress, more commonly in cats than in dogs, according to veterinarian Bernhard Pukay. Some cats experience mild symptoms such as coughing fits that resolve on their own, while others can have severe reactions that progress to panting and even death in rare cases, writes Dr. Pukay. X-rays help to make the diagnosis of asthma and rule out other conditions. Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, according to Dr. Pukay, who points out that some cats may only need monitoring while others require medication.

Question: We have a four-year-old calico cat. About three months ago, she  started wheezing and having coughing spells. These episodes only last for a few  minutes and then she seems perfectly normal afterward. She is still very active  and appears healthy otherwise.

Our vet took chest X-rays and told us she had asthma.  We were also told that  medication was not really necessary at this time.  Is this true? What are the  chances that she will get worse and eventually need treatment?  Could this kill  her?

Answer: Your cat has a condition called Feline Asthma, which has several  other names, including bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis and allergic  bronchitis.  While it can be a problem in cats of all ages, it usually occurs  most often in young and middle-aged cats. Dogs can also get asthma, but it is  much more common in cats.

Put simply, asthma is an inflammation of the airways that is caused by an  adverse reaction to allergens. Specifically, inhaled allergens cause a sudden  contraction of the muscles around the windpipe and this leads to symptoms such  as wheezing and coughing. It is usually difficult to determine precisely which  allergens will trigger a reaction, but grass and tree pollens, house dust,  smoke, sprays (hair sprays, deodorants, etc..) have been implicated.

Typically, a cat with a mild case of asthma will have a dry, hacking cough  that may be confused with gagging, retching or vomiting. These cats will have  episodes of coughing and wheezing, yet can be perfectly fine in between “attacks”.

In more severely affected cats, the coughing and wheezing may become a daily  occurrence and they may experience breathing difficulties to such an extent that  they start open-mouth breathing and panting. In a very small number of cases,  feline asthma can be life threatening. In these cases, an injection of  epinephrine may be necessary during a severe attack.

There are several other diseases that can mimic asthma. Heartworm disease,  congestive heart failure, lung cancer and pneumonia can all show clinical signs  similar to feline asthma. For this reason, veterinarians turn to diagnostic  tools such as chest X-rays or ultrasound, blood tests (including heartworm  testing) and tracheal and bronchial washings (i.e. taking cell samples by  flushing the trachea and lungs).

Depending on degree of severity, treatment of feline asthma can range from  simple monitoring to symptomatic relief of clinical signs. Medications such  steroids, antihistamines, and bronchodilators are usually effective.

Corticosteroids are the most effective drugs for treating feline asthma  because they reduce the inflammation in the windpipe and bronchi.  Bronchodilators are also used in some cases because they help to open up the air  passages to make breathing easier.

While there is no cure for feline asthma, fatalities are extremely rare. In  patients where respiratory distress is not a manifestation and inflammation can  be kept under control with medication, the prognosis for control of this disease  is excellent. Unfortunately if inflammation cannot be controlled, lung damage  can occur and the prognosis is more guarded.


Stop and think before giving a pet as a holiday gift, experts say

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

While a puppy or kitten under the Christmas tree may seem like the quintessential holiday gift, experts warn that pets given as gifts don’t always have a happy ending. Veterinarian Mollie Hurley advises against surprising people with animals as gifts, as they may not be prepared for the commitment. Animal shelter educator Deeann Schaefer notes that recipients of pets may not be financially or emotionally prepared for the responsibilities and often end up surrendering those animals to already overburdened shelters.

While the excitement of surprising a loved one with an adorable puppy or kitten may be tempting, pets are not like a sweater or piece of jewelry that can be easily returned or re-gifted.
“Pet ownership is not an impulse to jump into,” Dr. Mollie Hurley, of Stack Veterinary Hospital in Onondaga, said. “And by not talking it over with the recipient or really thinking things through completely, (giving or receiving a pet as a gift) might not be as enjoyable as it could be.”
Companion animals may live for 15 years, and need life-long care in homes where they are loved and treated as members of the family.
“We see it a lot,” Deeann Schaefer, humane educator at Wanderers’ Rest Humane Association, an animal shelter in Canastota, said. “The person they’re giving the pet to may not have time for it, they may not be able to afford a pet, and some of them may not even want a pet at that particular time.”
While a pet given as a gift initially costs the person on the receiving end little or nothing, there is no such thing as a “free” animal.
A spread sheet at listed first-year pet care cost estimates — not including the cost of purchasing the animal — ranging from $1,314 for a small dog to $1,843 for a large dog, and $1,035 for a cat. Of course, that’s just for the first year, and as animals age, their need for veterinary care may increase.
Schaefer said that too often gift animals end up in shelters, which are already filled with unwanted pets. Or worse, they may be neglected, abused or abandoned. She estimates the number of dogs and cats at Wanderers’ Rest increases by at least 10 to 15 percent after the holidays.
“People realize they may have bitten off more than they can chew,” Schaefer said. “We see a lot of kittens and cats coming into the shelter six months later, when the cuteness has worn off. Same thing with puppies, eight or nine months later. Suddenly, it’s not the cute roly-poly puppy that was underneath the Christmas tree, it’s a dog that’s chewing up your furniture.”
Hurley said adding a young animal to a household at this time of year presents special challenges.
“During the holidays there’s a lot of chaos, it’s a hectic time. People have a lot of things going on and may not be able to pay attention to the pet’s needs,” she said.
Hurley also cited the health risks of young animals ingesting ribbon and other holiday items, and added, “Taking a puppy outside every couple hours to get it potty trained in the winter is certainly not easy,” she said.
Schaefer said the phones are already ringing at Wanderers’ Rest. “We actually have people calling and asking us, ‘When are you getting your puppies in?’ like we’re Kmart or something,” she said.
Schaefer recommends, instead, giving a pet-themed gift basket and a gift certificate from a shelter, which would allow the recipient to personally pick out his or her own animal.
If a person says they want to adopt a dog or cat to give to someone else, Schaefer said Wanderers’ Rest requires the recipient to come in and confirm that he or she does indeed want the animal.
“Is it going to ruin the surprise? Yes, but we want every family member on board.” Schaefer said.

Costs of owning a pet include expenses for: Food and treats. Collars and leashes. Bedding. Veterinary care, including vaccines, medications, spaying and neutering, heartworm, flea and tick prevention. Grooming. Training, boarding or pet sitting. Fencing or containment systems. Time to exercise, play with and train the animal.