Archive for February, 2013

Cat’s weight-loss program includes swimming

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Holly, an 18-pound cat, is swimming off her extra pounds since she won’t engage in any other form of exercise, according to her owner. Swimming therapy is used routinely in dogs for weight loss or to aid rehabilitation after surgery, but it’s less common to see a cat in the pool. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 55% of cats and 53% of dogs are too heavy, putting them at greater risk of serious illnesses including diabetes, arthritis and some cancers. WJLA-TV (Washington, D.C.) (1/31), TODAY/Animal Tracks blog (1/31)

It’s not every day that you see a swimming cat.

Holly in the pool.

But in Loudoun County, a particularly rotund 13-year-old cat  regularly glides into the pool to swim laps. It’s part of her weight loss  plan.

Athough it’s odd to see a cat swimming, it’s the only exercise she’ll agree  to.

“She won’t do anything else,” says Dani Lawhorne of her cat, Holly. “I’ve  tried to take her outside. She doesn’t like the outdoors so she won’t run  around, she won’t play with cat toys, she doesn’t like cat nip. Anything normal  that cats like, she just doesn’t like.”

And so once a week, Holly suits up at the Olde Towne Pet Resort.

Weighing in at almost 20 pounds, Holly’s weight loss goal is approximately  six to seven pounds.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53 percent of dogs  and 55 percent of cats are overweight or obese. That’s more than 88 million  pets.

And the effects can be life-threatening, increasing the risk of arthritis,  diabetes and even cancer.

“I don’t think people appreciate the seriousness of long-term overweight body  condition,” says Dr. Robert Justin, an internal medicine veterinarian.

If your pet is overweight, talk with your veterinarian about starting an  exercise program and choosing a lower fat food. Slimming down is especially  important for overweight pets who are injured.

Thanks to her new workout regimen and a healthier diet, Holly’s making some  progress. She’s lost about a pound the past six months.

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Good news for Iraq war vet’s service dog: Biopsy shows tumor is benign

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

SANTA CRUZ — An Iraq War veteran has received a slew of good fortune during the past few days — learning late Monday morning that the tumor removed from her four-legged, steadfast companion last week is benign.

Devon, a 7-year-old golden retriever, underwent surgery early Friday morning to have the mass removed from his left front paw. It was shipped to a lab for further testing, and if the results showed a malignancy, chemotherapy or radiation treatments likely would have been needed.

Dr. David Shuman, who operates the Santa Cruz Westside Animal Hospital, donated his services to remove the growth, and when the lab learned of Santa Cruz resident Tori Stitt’s story, “they donated their services and put ‘STAT’ all over it,” he said Monday.

Meanwhile, when the community learned the invaluable services Devon provides to help Stitt cope with post-traumatic stress disorder — including licking her awake to interrupt persistent nightmares — they eagerly opened their wallets, donating about $8,000.

Shuman and Stitt both expressed their appreciation for the outpouring of support.

“It’s amazing to see how the community will come together to support someone like me,” Stitt said. “The cards, the checks — it’s like, wow.”

Devon entered Stitt’s life in 2009, not long after the former Navy lieutenant returned from a yearlong deployment to northern Iraq. During her time there, she trained staff members how to defuse improvised explosive devices and witnessed many of her trainees injured and killed while working in the field.

Plagued by recurring nightmares, and increasingly isolating herself from society, she sought help from the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center, a nonprofit that provides service dogs to disabled veterans.

Ever since, Stitt has become more outgoing and involved in the community, befriending such staunch supporters as Santa Cruz resident Rachel Boyd, who cares for Devon while his owner works. He was back in Shuman’s care Monday, getting his sutures removed and paw rebandaged.

“As soon as the skin heals and we make sure everything’s covered over, it’s a done deal,” Shuman said.

Meanwhile, the funds donated over the weekend have been set aside in a client account.

“He should be a very well cared for dog for the rest of his life,” Shuman said.

By Kimberly White

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted:   02/04/2013 01:51:09 PM PST

Canines make rounds at Mesa, AZ Hospital

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

If you visit Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, you may see a K-9 team patrolling the halls: a majestic, 68-pound Belgian Malinois imported from Holland and his handler, security Officer Brandon “Rudy” Morgan.

The dog, Stuka, is named after a type of World War II German bomber plane.

Stuka’s calming presence is used in the emergency room when someone on street drugs, spice or “bath salts” comes in angry and aggressive. The dog is used in the neonatal intensive-care unit when a mother gets angry that her infant is being taken from her by Child Protective Services. Stuka also has searched rooms for illicit drugs and weapons.

But mainly just his presence is enough.

“He’s 99 percent deterrent,” Morgan said. “I’ve had people see the dog and get up and leave. They might have something on them, or they might be here for no good reason.”

Morgan and Stuka, who patrol all seven floors of Cardon Children’s Medical Center and the four floors at nearby Banner Desert, walk 12 miles a day. Another dog takes the night shift.

The dogs are among a stable of canines at all Banner properties in Arizona as well as North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo. Other hospital systems around the nation visit Banner sites when planning to start a canine program.

The Banner dogs are imported from Europe and are trained to receive commands in their native languages of Dutch, German or Czech.

At Banner Desert, Morgan said, if a person becomes aggressive with a doctor, Morgan or another officer intervenes with the dog.

A tight, sensitive bond exists between Morgan and Stuka, and if someone’s movements raise Stuka’s suspicions, he’ll alert Morgan.

“Nine times out of 10, he’s right,” Morgan said. “He’ll pick up on someone’s mannerisms before I do. … Many times, that person has become a problem in the hospital, and instead of me telling (Stuka), it’s (the dog) telling me.”

“I usually give a warning first before I deploy the dog,” he said. “We practice crisis prevention. He’s the last resort.”

Stuka, who is sensitive and alert, does not like people making exaggerated movements, which Morgan said is one of the dog’s “triggers.” Stuka will communicate with a whine.

“He lets me know that guy is not doing what he should be doing.”

Stuka usually goes without his muzzle but wears it in the emergency room and on Mondays, when more people than usual are walking the hallways.

Stuka lives with Morgan, his wife and two small children, and when the dog is not working, he’s playful and loving.

All handlers are certified through the National Police Canine Association, and training is constant.

Handlers and dogs participate in competitions that include handler-protection scenarios, bomb-sniffing exercises and agility.

Dogs will compete in the 11th annual Desert Dog Police K-9 Trials on April 13-14 at Scottsdale Stadium, sponsored by the Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association.

App helps assess canine intelligence

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

A new online application helps owners gauge their dog’s intelligence with a series of scientific tests. Dognition, a tool created by Duke University evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare, uses questions and simple games to measure a dog’s aspects of intelligence: communication, cunning, empathy, memory and reasoning. The release of the app coincides with the publication of “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think,” written by Hare and his wife, Duke research scientist Vanessa Woods. (2/4), The Wall Street Journal (2/3)

A dog scooting butt-down across the carpet may not seem like the clever animal that comes closest to human babies in communication skills. But a Web appaims to build on the discovery by enabling thousands of dog owners to record the results of playful experiments with their canine companions.

The “Dognition” project could revolutionize scientific understanding of dogs by gathering data from man’s best friends all over the world. Such an effort would help answer broad questions such as whether different dog breeds really have different levels of intelligence — even as dog owners gain new appreciation of their beloved pets’ individual personalities.

“In a weekend, we could have 10,000, maybe 50,000 people give data,” said Brian Hare, associate professor in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University and director of Duke’s Canine Cognition Center. “I can’t even say how big of a quantum leap this will be.”

February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Poor oral health has serious repercussions, AVMA reminds owners
The AVMA designated February as National Pet Dental Health Month to highlight the importance of oral care for overall animal health. The majority of adult cats and dogs have dental disease, and if left untreated, the condition can have serious consequences. “Dental problems are extremely common, and many are very painful and can lead to serious systemic conditions,” said AVMA President Dr. Douglas Aspros. “An untreated dental infection can spread to the heart, kidneys and other organs and suddenly become life-threatening.”

Sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association, (AVMA) the month of February has been set aside as National Pet Dental Health Month. And while I’ll wager almost anything that the majority of humans don’t consider a trip to the dentist to be one of their top 10 most favorite things to do, it’s no secret that regular dental checkups are essential to maintain overall good health. It’s equally just as important for pet parents to provide regular dental care for their pets.

According to studies made by the American Animal Hospital Association, (AHHA) sadly, 85 percent of dogs and cats over the age of 3 years have already suffered dental or gum disease. Without regular dental care and cleaning, pets can develop gingivitis, (an often painful inflammation of the gums) from the bacterial laden plaque which, if not taken care of on a regular basis, develops into tarter or calculus.

The AAHA studies also found that two-thirds of pet guardians do not provide the regular dental care recommended by veterinarians.  Kate Knutson, co-owner of the Pet Crossing Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, said, “We believe that one of the most important parts of pets’ health care is attention to dental disease.”

Board president of the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry and certified veterinary dentist, Dr. Brook A. Niemiec said, “Unfortunately, only about one percent of pet owners brush their pet’s teeth. Not only do more pet owners need to brush their pet’s teeth, they should also use chew toys, treats and rawhides to help keep their pet’s teeth clean.”

Dr. Douglas Aspros, President of the AVMA said, “Dental problems are extremely common, and many are very painful and can lead to serious systemic conditions”. He reminds pet guardians that, “an untreated dental infection can spread to the heart, kidneys and other organs, and suddenly become life threatening.”

Although the AVMA is promoting Pet Dental Health Month in February, at the same time the organization is reminding dog and cat owners that in addition to making an appointment with their veterinarian for a complete dental checkup and cleaning, that learning how to brush their pet’s teeth and do so on a regular basis that their veterinarian recommends is equally essential.

Learn the symptoms of pet dental disease which many are hard to ignore. One of the first signs of gum disease is unrelenting bad breath. Additionally, pets may exhibit: difficulty in eating, pawing at their mouth, gums that are sore and red gums, and tooth discoloration caused by tarter.

In order to celebrate Pet Dental Health Month, many veterinary practices are offering a special discount for their pet’s oral care.

Wanted: Sweet, calm, patient dogs to comfort humans

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Ninety-five percent of therapy animals with one group that oversees 11,000 teams in 14 countries are dogs, but not all dogs are right for the job. Animals that comfort people in times of illness or trauma must be calm amid sometimes chaotic situations. Desensitization, training and certification are important steps for the owner and animal in the process of becoming a therapy team

By Associated Press,

Feb 05, 2013 06:30 PM EST

APPublished: February 5

PHOENIX — The children buzz in excitement, boisterous and barging in, their little hands covering seemingly every part of the Australian shepherd’s body.

Callie doesn’t flinch, calmly lying at the center of this circle of chaos, lightly panting with what appears to be a smile.

 Dogs don’t really smile, but this one sure was at ease.

“She loves the attention,” Callie’s handler Jeanette Wood said during the visit to the Child Crisis Center in Phoenix. “She eats this stuff up.”

Callie makes calm amid the clutter look easy, but it’s not.

Being a therapy dog — or cat or horse or whatever — like Callie takes a special kind of animal, one with just the right temperament and personality. It also takes training, not just for the animal, but for the handler.

“You have to be a certain kind of person and have a certain kind of dog to do this,” said Pam Gaber, founder of Gabriel’s Angels, an Arizona-based nonprofit that delivers pet therapy to abused and at-risk children.

Therapy animals are used at hospitals, nursing homes, schools, rehabilitation centers, institutions and in one-on-one sessions with therapists. They also have been brought in to comfort victims of mass-casualty events, including the Newtown, Conn., school shooting and the Tucson shooting that targeted former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

They come from a wide range of species, from cats and rabbits to barnyard varieties like horses, goats and pigs. Exotic birds, hamsters and Guinea pigs, even llamas and alpacas also have been used to comfort people of all ages.

The most popular and recognizable therapy animals, not surprisingly, are dogs. And it’s not even close.

Pet Partners, a nonprofit organization that promotes positive animal interactions as a therapeutic resource, has 11,000 therapy teams in 14 countries and 95 percent of their animals are dogs.

“Dogs are social by nature, but they’re also accustomed to going with us, going out and meeting people,” Bill Kueser, vice president of marketing for Pet Partners, based in Bellevue, Wash. “We take them on walks, we go with them to the pet store to get dog food. We integrate them in our lives in sort of a wider spectrum of activities than other pets and species are integrated.”

A wide variety of breeds is used. Gabriel’s Angels, which serves 13,000 children in Phoenix and Tucson, has everything from a 4-pound Chihuahua to a 190-pound English mastiff, though most of its animals are golden retrievers, labs or a mix with either breed.

But not every dog is suitable for therapy.

The key is temperament. Therapy dogs need to be relatively even-keeled and enjoy being around people.

If a dog cowers around new people, is too timid or overbearing, or gets jumpy when there’s a lot of commotion, it probably won’t be a good fit as a therapy dog.

“Sometimes the person wants it more than the dog,” said Gaber, who started Gabriel’s Angels after taking her Weimaraner, Gabriel, to the Crisis Nursery in Phoenix in 2000. “If they’re in the corner cowering, let them stay home and sleep on your bed during the day if that’s what they want.”

Cat’s bite wound should be treated by a veterinarian

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Feline bites pose problems for cats and humans, writes veterinarian Marty Becker, because bacteria from a cat’s mouth can cause a serious infection. Cats bitten by another feline may need surgical and antibiotic treatment as well as drain placement by a veterinarian to completely clear the infection, Dr. Becker writes. Humans who are bitten by cats should thoroughly wash the area and be evaluated by a physician, he adds.

Q.  My cat got into a fight again and now he has an infection. I just can’t afford another trip to the vet. What can I do at home?

A.  You need to take your cat to the veterinarian, because cat bites can be very serious. After this issue is resolved, you can save money through prevention – and that means keeping your cat inside.

Why? Because this common feline health problem is often the result of a puncture wound, specifically a bite from another cat during a fight over territory or mates.

Nearly every free-roaming cat needs to see a veterinarian from time to time to have an abscess treated – and by “treated,” I mean surgically opened, flushed clean of debris, and sometimes temporarily held open by drains to let the wound heal with the help of time and some strong antibiotics.

A cat’s mouth is a nasty mix of bacteria, and once that bacteria gets punched into another cat’s body, the result will probably be an abscess. Think about it – bacteria being injected with two hypodermic needles (the cat’s fangs) into a perfect incubator (another cat’s 101-plus-degree body). The only possible outcome is infection.

That’s also why even relatively minor cat bites can become serious medical issues for humans, leading to hospitalization in some cases. Any time you’re bitten or scratched by an animal, you should wash the area immediately with soap and water, and have the wound checked out by your doctor.

– Dr. Marty Becker

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