Archive for March, 2013

AHF Pet Partner teams help at Abilities Awareness Day

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Reilly Elementary 3.2013 Reilley Elementary2 3.2013

Five AHF Pet Partner teams participated in Reilly Elementary’s annual Ability Awareness Day on March 12, 2013 in Mission Viejo. Several hundred students from grades kindergarten through five, including special education students in all grades including pre-school, visited with the therapy dogs and bird to learn about therapy animals.

The following teams were in attendance: Jane Horsfield with Kiss (Border Collie) – Daleen Comer with Bonnie (Sheltie) and Cloud (Dove)  – Amy Bourne with Jonas – Jan Aven with Muffin – Tammy Heider with Gracie

Angel Fund Helps Rescue A Giving Golden Retriever

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Angel Fund COMETBy Jim Bell

Thirteen years ago, a young man gave a Golden Retriever puppy to his uncle, who was ill with a heart condition.

“My nephew Danny . . . thought this dog would be the best thing for my husband,” recalled Nellie Reyes of Ranch Cucamonga.  “It was true.  Comet was heaven sent. He was a miracle dog. He helped my husband so much. When he got angina attacks, Comet would bark and look for me. And he would run to him and he would point with his nose toward his heart for me to give him his medication.”

Her husband died seven years ago.  “When he died, Comet went into a depression.  I’ve never seen a dog like this before. He didn’t want to eat or anything. He was mourning a lot.”

Today, Mrs. Reyes lives with her daughter, Lucy, her son, Larry, and a grandson Robert. “He [Comet] follows my daughter around. He thinks she’s his mama.”

But at 13 Comet has had his own physical problems. When he was 10 years old, Mrs. Reyes noticed a growth on one of his hind legs. She took him to a veterinarian who told her that the growth should be removed and that it might be cancerous.

But with income only from a Social Security pension and government payments because her husband was a disabled veteran, she could not afford the fee. Desperate to help Comet, she consulted other veterinarians and several foundations, hoping that she might find someone who could help.  “They all said it’s going to take quite a bit of money [about $1,800] and, ‘No, we can’t help.’ I just said there has to be somebody out there. So one day I looked in the Yellow Pages and I called Western University [College of Veterinary Medicine] in Pomona and they gave me a phone number in San Diego. And I called them and they gave me a phone number for the Angel Fund. Meanwhile, the tumor was getting bigger and bigger.”

Nearly a year had gone by since Mrs. Reyes first was told that Comet needed surgery.  At Angel Fund, “they were very nice. They were so wonderful.  And they said you have to find out which veterinarian will take this because we would pay so much and the veterinarian would pay the other half. . . . And they sent me a sheet that told me which hospitals would be in this program.”

She chose Pomona Valley Veterinary Hospital.  “And the first time I took Comet there, they said, ‘Oh, yes, we can help.’” Dr. Tahir Khan performed the surgery. “He is exceptional. He is so great,” Mrs. Reyes said. Angel Fund and the hospital each contributed $500 to help pay her bill.

After the surgery, Mrs. Reyes learned that the growth was cancerous.  Today, Comet has arthritis in his rear legs and needs help getting up. He can no longer go for walks. “But he’s still going strong.  He is still eating well and is very alert when he goes outside.”

Mrs. Reyes knows that Comet is not likely to live much longer.  But she and her family are grateful for the additional time they will have with him.

“If it hadn’t been for the Angel Fund, I don’t know where I would have been. If it wasn’t for them, my dog wouldn’t be here with me,” she said.

Scientists ID virus that causes Theiler’s disease in horses

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Horse head sticking out of holeU.S. scientists have used RNA analysis to identify the virus that causes Theiler’s disease, a type of equine hepatitis that has stumped veterinarians for nearly a century. The virus, called Theiler’s disease-associated virus, or TDAV, belongs to the same family of viruses that cause hepatitis C, yellow fever and dengue fever. Nature (free content)

Ed Yong

For almost 100 years, veterinarians have puzzled over the cause of Theiler’s disease, a mysterious type of equine hepatitis that is linked to blood products and causes liver failure in up to 90% of afflicted animals.

A team of US scientists has now discovered that the disease is caused by a virus that shares just 35% of its amino acid sequences with its closest-known relative. The team named it Theiler’s disease-associated virus (TDAV), and published the discovery in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.

Led by Amy Kistler at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Emeryville, California, the team responded to an outbreak of Theiler’s disease at a farm in which eight horses had suddenly developed hepatitis after being injected with an antitoxin to prevent them from developing botulism. The researchers used next-generation sequencing to analyse RNA samples from the antitoxin and from two of the horses, and assembled the complete genome of the new virus. The virus was found in every one of the eight horses, as well as in the animal (from a different farm) that was the source of the contaminated antitoxin.

“In the span of a few months, we were able to sequence and validate a virus that had gone undetected for almost a century,” says Kistler. She thinks that traditional virus-hunting techniques failed to find TDAV because they rely on strong similarities to known viruses, or on the ability to culture the mystery culprit. By contrast, her team sequenced everything in their samples — an approach “that meant we didn’t have to know what we were looking for”, she says.

Progress check

To better understand the role of the virus, the team inoculated four healthy horses with the contaminated antitoxin. Within ten weeks, all of them carried TDAV in their bloodstream, and one later showed rising levels of liver enzymes that suggested liver disease.

Although the researchers did not purify the virus before injecting it into the horses, Pablo Murcia, a virologist from the University of Glasgow, UK, says that “they have a strong case: I will be very surprised if TDAV turns out not to be the cause of equine serum hepatitis”. “Now, a new question arises,” he says, “where does this virus come from?”.

It is also possible that there is another unknown virus behind Theiler’s disease. After all, human hepatitis can be caused by at least five viruses.

TDAV belongs to the family Flaviviridae, which includes the viruses behind yellow fever, dengue fever and hepatitis C. It is most closely associated with a genus of newly discovered viruses called Pegivirus, and is the first of these to be convincingly linked to disease.

“The challenges in culturing [pegiviruses] mean that we’re only now getting an understanding of how widely distributed and significant they are,” says James Wood, who studies animal infections at the University of Cambridge, UK. He hints that some studies on new pegiviruses may be published in the future.

Neutering drug could be approved this year

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

The FDA is expected later this year to approve the use of a drug called Zeuterin that provides a nonsurgical alternative to neutering male dogs. It is hoped that the less invasive method will help curb pet overpopulation. (Mich.)

By Lorrie Shaw Community Contributor

As someone who is as immersed in the world of animals as I am, one topic — pet overpopulation — is something that comes up multiple times per day in conversation, especially on social media. And it’s no wonder: animal rescues and humane societies are inundated with dogs and cats who need permanent homes. Although the numbers of those waiting to be adopted are not limited to young animals, the litters of puppies and kittens that are seen are certainly a stark reminder of how much work needs to be done when it comes to getting pet populations under control.

Some sad realities come to mind when I think of the problem of pet homelessness and overpopulation, like the needless suffering of many degrees and instances of euthanasia that are, in some situations, the only solution.

Educating the public about the problem is paramount: humans are the ones who have the ability to discern where the problems lie, and where the best solutions are.

First, understand that from a biological standpoint, we are in a battle with pets.

Reproductive success drives evolution, pure and simple. It’s the strongest biological factor in any species. Biology has a way of taking over, jumping any hurdle that is put in its path and compensating. The pets themselves have no control over their biological drives, and therefore can’t curb their behavior when it comes reproducing.

That’s why spaying and neutering have been the go-to tactic to making an effort to getting pet overpopulation under control. It’s safe, effective and, best of all, it’s permanent.

In 1972, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made a policy decision that rocked the boat: from then on, every animal adopted from their shelters had to be spayed or neutered — a real shift in forward thinking.

Now, this policy is standard when adopting from most any shelter or rescue.

But is the message of how easy and effective spay and neuter procedures are  getting through to the public-at-large? That’s a good question. Here we are four decades later, and we’re still battling stereotypes and biology.

Some people cite the cost of the procedure as something that stands in the way of their scheduling the procedure. (It’s actually pretty affordable.) Perhaps the misconceptions surrounding the idea of neutering that keep people from having it done. (‘It’s emasculating!’)

A new frontier of pet sterilization — the non-surgical route — just might get people to rethink the issue.

Last year, I wrote about one new drug, Esterilsol, (as it’s known outside of the United States), and how it was being tested for approval by the Food and Drug Administration in countries like Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

The good news is that the drug is expected to have full approval for use by the midpoint of 2013 here in the U.S. as a non-surgical option for neutering dogs.

Known as Zeuterin in the U.S., the drug is a safer, faster and much less invasive way to sterilize male dogs age three to ten months.

It works like this: Zeuterin (a solution of zinc gluconate; zinc is a natural spermicide) is injected into each testicle — leaving it incapable of producing sperm.

No anesthesia is needed, and the procedure is much easier, compared to the traditional surgical option. For these reasons alone, zinc neutering could be a boon to shelters.

Canines who have been Zeutered have a microchip implanted or are tattooed with  the letter “z”.

One drawback to surgical neutering is that it involves eliminating the source of testosterone production, therefore leaving the animal no benefits of what the hormone offers — like protecting metabolic functions. With Zeuterin, testosterone is only lowered by about half.

The surgical option has been long-touted as a way to reduce mating behaviors and to calm male dogs down. Feedback given by owners and custodians of dogs who have been sterilized with Zeuterin indicate that the same behaviors have been suppressed.

For more on zinc neutering, click here to read Dr. Marty Becker’s recent piece on VetStreet.

UC Davis debuts veterinary research center

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

The University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine has opened its new $58.5 million, 76,000-square-foot research facility, designed to bring researchers into an open, collaborative space and facilitate “teams of scientists working to solve complex problems,” said veterinary school dean and veterinarian Michael Lairmore. The facility houses pet health researchers, scientists specializing in ecosystem health, the 100K Pathogen Genome Project for food safety and the One Health Center of Expertise. The Sacramento Bee (Calif.) (free registration)

Officially, the ceremony at UC Davis on Friday was about a building. A four-story structure with a sandstone and gray-colored exterior – with water-chilled beams for energy conservation and recycled construction materialsfor forest sustainability.

But to Michael Lairmore, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the opening of a $58.5 million building – dubbed “Research Facility 3B” – was “a celebration of discovery.”

His effusiveness Friday was due to the fact the new 76,000-square-foot facility will serve as the hub for one of America’s top veterinary schools.

UC Davis’ $60 million in annual veterinary research ranges from studies on weight management for the family cat to the ecological health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the 100,000 infectious microorganisms that can speed diagnosis of food-borne illnesses.

“What this does is to put people together in a modern, open laboratory structure,” Lairmore said of the center, the cornerstone of a $203 million construction program for the veterinary school. “And basically what that allows is to have teams of scientists working to solve complex problems.”

Besides a veterinary hospital that treats 40,000 animals a year, from domestic pets to mountain lions, the veterinary school once had as many as 20 distantly scattered buildings for teaching and research. Now it will have eight – with the new building as its core research location.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said Friday that the new building brings together diverse research and clinical studies “that make a difference for the lives of people, for the lives of pets, for health and for treating disease in animals and humans.”

So on the new facility’s second floor, Dr. Andrea Fascetti and Dr. Jennifer Larsen, specialists in animal nutrition, offered tips on preventing feline and canine obesity with nurturing and healthy pet treats.

Nearby, postdoctoral researcher Shawn Acuna, a specialist in anatomy, physiology and cell biology, led demonstrations on nurturing the health of tiny river smelt – “the baseline fish” for “the health of the Delta.”

One floor above, Rob Atwill, a doctor of veterinary medicine and director of the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, which will use the new building, explained his detective work ensuring the healthiness of agricultural products.

“We’re the group called in to track down the water for E. coli (contamination), to trap the feral pigs, to test the lettuce – the whole food safety CSI type of work.”

The UC Davis veterinary medicine program also conducts research on the health and welfare of herds in California’s $2.8 billion annual beef industry and $2.5 billion poultry industry while undertaking training programs for U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors.

On Friday, Darren Minier, project coordinator for the school’s International Institute for Human-Animal Networks, located in the facility, touted disease transmission studies by UC Davis graduate students tracking interaction between cattle and giraffes, gazelles and zebras in Africa.

“We just got back from India, looking at human-monkey conflict,” he said of another endeavor. “In some parts of northern India, there are just as many monkeys as people – moving from building to building, crop to crop, temple to temple.”

The new building is also home to UC Davis’ “100,000 Pathogen Genome Project” – which is compiling a database of infectious microorganisms in food- or water-borne viruses.

It also includes the One Health Center of Expertise, an institute melding environmental, social science, agricultural and engineering research for a stated mission of responding “to global health problems arising at the human-water-animal food interface.”

In opening ceremonies, Katehi said the new multidisciplinary research center “allows us to be creative and forward-thinking in ways that have not happened before.”

Read more here:

Domesticated cats may still hear the call of the wild

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Many behaviors we see in our domesticated felines speak to their wild ancestry, as evidenced by similar behaviors in lions, tigers and other big cats, writes wildlife cameraman Simon King. Cats’ habit of rubbing against their owners at mealtime mirrors lions’ social behavior, and felines sleeping on high perches in the home resemble African leopards, who dine and doze on tree branches high above potential threats on the ground. The Huffington Post/The Blog

Have you ever wondered why your pet cat rubs up against your legs, kneads your thighs with its forepaws or sleeps on top of a wardrobe? These, and many other behaviors, can be attributed to the tiger lurking within your pet tigger.

A recent report conducted by feline experts Whiskas has established close links between domestic cat behavior and behaviors exhibited by their wild big cat cousins.

The report also revealed some startling statistics about the way cat owners relate to their pets.

Over a thousand owners were involved in a survey that investigated regularly observed behaviors around the home and garden and also asked how owners responded to their pets. Some of the results were startling!  Over 95% of cat owners considered their pet as part of the family. And a surprising one in 10 admitted to preferring having a cuddle with their cat than with their partner!

Many cat owners maintain that stroking their pet reduces feelings of stress and this has been born out by empirical study that correlates a reduction in blood pressure among people who regularly look after and show affection to their pets.

One of the most tangible illustrations of owners recognizing the similarities between domestic cats and their wild counterparts is when it comes to naming them, with Tigger and Tiger being among the favorites!

As someone who has spent a great deal of the past 30 years watching and filming the big cats of the world, chiefly in Kenya and India, I was asked to analyze some of the most regularly witnessed domestic cat behavior to see if there were indeed any patterns which echoed that of their big cat cousins.

A common observation was that of cats rubbing against their owners’ legs with their temples, cheeks and flanks, especially as meals were being prepared. The cat is in fact scent marking, using special glands in their face and sides, and in so doing they are reinforcing a ‘family’ scent.  Very similar behavior can be seen in lions, particularly when subordinate females or youngsters greet more dominant animals in the pride. As the subordinate lion approaches it lowers its head slightly, often raises its tail and then pushes its head into and along that of the more dominant colleague. The importance of establishing a clan or family scent for these sociable cats is key to the avoidance and diffusion of aggression. And woe betide any intruder that does not bear the familiar smell! When your domestic cat scent marks you it is showing its confidence and comfort in being close to you and at the same time recognizing your dominance in the relationship. In short, it’s a cat compliment.

Many owners observed their pet cat choosing to rest on a high point like the top of a cupboard, and some said that their cat preferred to eat from a bowl that was raised above ground level. This again is echoed by one of their big cat cousins, the African leopard, which in parts of its range regularly climbs trees to rest and may haul meals up into the branches too. This is a defence strategy, avoiding contact and conflict with other predators, especially hyenas and lions. When your pet cat seeks a high point it is responding to an ancestral urge to get out of the way of trouble that may lurk on the ground.

Padding, or kneading with the forepaws is another behavior often witnessed in pet cats, especially when they are lying comfortably on their owners’ laps. This action stems from infantile behavior, when nursing kittens rhythmically knead their mothers’ mammary glands to stimulate milk flow. Over thousands of years of domestication we have encouraged cats to maintain much of their kitten-like relationship, with ourselves playing the role of surrogate parents, and it is this that leads to the perpetuation of this padding behavior. The same can be said of play behavior, with many pet cats remaining very playful with their owners well into adulthood, a pattern of behavior that generally wanes soon after adolescence in wild cat populations.

So much of the charm of living with a cat can be attributed to the close connection many have with the wild side of their character, whilst continuing to surprise and amuse us with their sense of fun, trust and independent character.

What’s your dog really thinking?

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Humans are highly capable of reading dogs’ facial cues, according to researchers from Walden University in Minneapolis, who tested a group of 50 volunteers using different pictures of the same dog. In some cases, volunteers who had limited experience with dogs did the best at categorizing facial expressions, suggesting the ability is innate.


A study has shown that people are able to precisely identify a range of emotions in dogs from changes in their facial expressions.

The research showed that volunteers could correctly spot when a dog was happy, sad, angry, surprised or scared, when shown only a picture of the animal’s face, suggesting that humans are naturally attuned to detecting how animals are feeling.

Dr. Tina Bloom, a psychologist who led the research, said: “There is no doubt that humans have the ability to recognize emotional states in other humans and accurately read other humans’ facial expressions. We have shown that humans are also able to accurately – if not perfectly – identify at least one dog’s facial expressions.

“Although humans often think of themselves as disconnected or even isolated from nature, our study suggests that there are patterns that connect, and one of these is in the form of emotional communication.”

The study, published in the journal Behavioural Processes, used photographs of a police dog named Mal, a five-year-old Belgian shepherd dog, as it experienced different emotions. To trigger a happy reaction, researchers praised Mal. The result was the dog looking straight at the camera with ears up and tongue out.

They then reprimanded the dog to produce a “sad” reaction, causing the animal to pull a mournful expression with eyes cast down.

Surprise, generated using a jack-in-the box, caused the dog to wrinkle the top of its head into something akin to a frown. Medicine that Mal did not like was produced to stimulate disgust – flattened ears – and nail trimmers, which Mal also disliked, were brandished to create fear, causing the ears to prick up and the whites of the eyes to show.

For anger, a researcher pretended to be a criminal. Mal’s teeth were bared in the beginnings of a snarl.

The resulting photographs were shown to 50 volunteers, who were split into two groups according to their experience of dogs.

By far the easiest emotion they recognized was happiness, with 88 per cent of the volunteers correctly identifying it. Anger was identified by 70 per cent of participants.

About 45 per cent of volunteers spotted when Mal was frightened, while 37 per cent could identify the relatively subtle emotion of sadness.

The canine expressions that were hardest for humans to identify were surprise and disgust, with only 20 per cent of the volunteers recognizing surprise and just 13 per cent recognizing disgust.

The study by Dr Bloom and Prof Harris Friedman, both from Walden University, in Minneapolis, found that people with minimal experience of dogs were better at identifying canine disgust and anger, perhaps because dog owners convinced themselves that their dog was not aggressive and so the associated facial expression was just playing.

The researchers believe the ability of inexperienced volunteers to sometimes be better judges of emotions may be because reading dogs’ faces comes naturally, rather than being a learned skill.

Dr Bloom said she hoped further research might determine whether this apparent natural empathy with canines was something we shared with all mammals, or could be explained by humans and dogs evolving side-by-side for the past 100,000 years.

As a dog lover — who was “very confident” in her ability to read the faces of her two Dobermans and two Rhodesian ridgebacks — she admitted such unproven theories were emotionally appealing.

She added: “If I adopted a cat, or a snake or a turtle, I don’t think it would be as emotionally attached to me and watching my face as much as a dog would. There is something different and special about a dog — I’m not sure what it is, but it’s there.”

Beverley Cuddy, the editor of Dogs Today, said dog lovers would feel vindicated by the research. “I am not at all surprised that science has finally accepted what we knew all along — dog and owner communicate perfectly well without words.”

Natura Pet issues recall of several brands of food for cats, dogs

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Natura Pet has issued a recall of dog and cat foods available under the EVO, Innova, Healthwise and California Natural brands, driven by concerns about possible Salmonella contamination. The contamination was detected by the FDA, and no human or animal health problems have been reported, the company said. Food Poisoning Bulletin

Dear Natura Family,

As pet parents and dedicated pet health advocates, it pains us to inform you of the first recall in our company’s 21-year history.

During a recent random sampling, the FDA confirmed the presence of salmonella in one of our products. We take this extremely seriously, because your pets are like ours – they’re part of the family – and we aren’t taking any chances. As a result, we have voluntarily recalled a number of our products as a precautionary measure. Fortunately, there have been no reported animal or human health issues associated with these products, and we have confirmed that this is not a widespread issue.

Natura was founded on the commitment to provide the healthiest natural pet food in the world. As Natura employees who live this commitment every day, words cannot express our disappointment with this finding. We place quality as the cornerstone of our products. It is a process of ongoing improvement, and we will continually review and raise these standards. Unfortunately, salmonella and other contaminants pose a great challenge to the food industry, and no company is immune.

We want to assure you, our valued customers, that we are more committed than ever to animal and human safety. We have fully investigated and identified the cause of this incident. Our production is ongoing, and you can continue to feed any Natura products outside of this incident with confidence.

We know that trust is earned. This incident further fuels our passionate commitment to your pet’s health and safety. We promise to demonstrate this commitment through our actions now and in the future.

See below for details on the recall products. If you have a product included on this list please contact us at or (800) 224-6123.

Sincerely,     Employees of Natura Pet Products


Affected Products

Please download the appropriate PDF to see which products are affected by the voluntary recall. Innova EVO California Natural HealthWise

Press Information

Download Press Release (PDF)

Boomers fuel spending on pets

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Americans’ affection for their animals continues to fuel a booming pet products industry. Owners are on track to spend $55.5 billion on their furry friends this year. Growing spending on pets has its roots in the 1950s and ’60s, when baby boomers became the first generation to routinely grow up with animals kept in the home, experts say. Today, boomers are filling their empty nests with companion animals. The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

This year, Americans will spend an estimated $55.5 billion on their pets, a little more than the gross domestic product of Bulgaria.

And Americans probably will spend even more next year, just as they have every year for the past two decades.

Little wonder, then, that these are boom times in the pet industry. In one example, Petsmart reported it sold $1.9 million worth of goods and services in the fourth quarter alone.

“It’s an industry that continued to grow during the recession,” said retail analyst Chris Boring, principal at Boulevard Strategies. “In Ohio, the number of dog licenses issued is growing faster than the birth rate.”

The reason for such unstoppable growth can be traced to the baby-boom generation and its humanization of pets, Boring said.

“They grew up in the 1950s and ’60s, and one of the most-popular TV shows for families was Lassie,” Boring said. “Every little kid begged his folks to buy a dog.”

As a result, “the baby boom generation was the first generation, really, that commonly had household pets,” Boring said. “Prior to that, most domestic animals were kept outside. Cats were kept in barns or on porches, and dogs had dog houses out back.

“Now that baby boomers have become empty nesters, they’re adopting pets in record numbers. I think it’s to fill an emotional need when the last child leaves home.”

They’re not only adopting pets in record numbers, but spending more on each pet, said Dave Bolen, CEO of Pet Supplies Plus, which just opened two more stores locally — one in Grove City and one in Delaware — bringing its Columbus total to seven. The 280-store chain has been doing business locally for about 25 years.

“The people who shop our stores don’t own pets. The pets own them,” Bolen said. “It’s true. The pets run the household. If you go to our stores, you’ll note that all of the signage is the pet talking to you. Our marketing is the same thing, it’s all in the voice of the pet. The pet’s the boss.”

As might be expected, food is the highest annual expense for most pet owners, according to the American Pet Products Association. Owners on average spend $239 on food for dogs and $203 on food for cats. Overall, pet owners will spend a total of $21.3 billion on food this year.

But it’s not just quantity of food. Pet owners — or “parents,” as they’re known in the industry — are going after high quality in their food, too. “That’s a really big deal, organic food,” Bolen said. “It very much follows the trend in natural food in the human space.” In response, his company offers 33 brands of pet foods that don’t contain synthetic additives, artificial preservatives, fillers or animal byproducts.

Pet Supplies Plus is hardly alone in the move toward organic pet food.

In the Short North, “a particularly pet friendly area,” Boring said, Three Dog Bakery touts that its “all-natural dog food” is something that owners “can feel good about sharing with their furry family members.”

Pet People, another national chain which has its divisional headquarters in Columbus, also touts its “high quality, natural, wholesome, and nutritious pet foods and treats.”

The big spending doesn’t end with food. Pet owners are also spending more on human-style fashion gear, grooming and boarding. The American Pet Products Association expects pet owners to spend $5.5 billion on grooming and boarding services this year.

At the prompting of one franchise owner who noticed the rising demand for grooming, Pet Supplies Plus began offering a self-service dog wash, Bolen said. “Sometimes trying to give a larger dog a wash in the home is hard. It’s much easier to do in the dog wash.”

Among the offerings at Posh Pets Boutique in the Short North, for instance, are “the newest organic cotton crocheted toys” and “new winter styles to keep your favorite pet toasty!”

“They’re at a point where they can afford to spoil their pets — and they do,” Boring said. “People are cooking special meals for their dogs, and then there are some of these places where, you call it boarding, but it’s more like plush hotels. It’s almost like anything you can apply to humans can apply to dogs. And it is usually dogs. Cats don’t really care. I say that as a cat owner.”

The pampering even extends to psychological considerations. One product, Neuticles, “allows your pet to retain his natural look, self-esteem and aids in the trauma associated with altering.” Pet owners have bought more than half a million of the prosthetic testicular implants, which sell for about $1,000 a pair.

“I saw a cat stroller the other day for some ridiculous price,” Boring said. “My first question is, what cat would let you put it in a stroller?”

Time and love help heal war-zone dog’s wounds

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Post-traumatic stress disorder among military dogs has gained some recognition, but strays also seem to suffer the effects of a difficult life in a war zone, writes Jessie Knadler, whose soldier husband rescued their dog Solha from Afghanistan. “Right away, I could tell there was something different about this dog,” Knadler writes, recounting months of destructive, difficult behavior that seemed to be best explained by the scrappy, dangerous life Solha led as a stray. “All we could give her was time, love, freedom, and lots of exercise and discipline. Is that how to treat canine PTSD? I don’t know. But Solha is a different, calmer dog today than she was a year ago.” The Daily Beast (3/13)

My husband seemed OK when he returned from Afghanistan. It was the dog he brought with him who appeared to have PTSD. By Jessie Knadler.   

Around this time last year, I got a new dog. Her name is Solha. Solha is from Kandahar, arguably the most dangerous place on earth. She was rescued by my husband, Army reservist Maj. Jake Wilson, during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2011–12. Solha arrived at our place in  Virginia four days before Jake himself was due to arrive home from his yearlong tour.

Solha was rescued by Jessie Knalder’s husband, Army reservist Maj. Jake Wilson, from Kandahar, during his deployment in Afghanistan between 2011-2012. (Jessie Knadler)

Right away, I could tell there was something different about this dog. She was a mangy, wiry, desperate-looking thing, hopelessly underweight with bags under her eyes and fur that felt bristly and oily to the touch. But it was more than that. There was a hardness behind her eyes. Deprivation and exhaustion were etched upon her face. She was twitchy, feral, and cunning. She intimidated me, even though Jake assured me over email I had nothing to worry about.

I was raising our 1-year-old daughter by myself at the time, so my hands were somewhat full. The day after Solha arrived un-housebroken, I confined her to crate for an hour to introduce the concept of crate training while we went out to run an errand. When we came home, Solha had smashed out of the crate. The crate’s door and hinges were made of metal. As I picked up the mangled, bent prongs littering the perimeter, I pondered the super–canine strength she must possess in order to hurl herself out of a small metal enclosure.

I wasn’t dealing with Lassie.

Within three days, Solha had chewed through three leashes—one made of wire—and one harness. She got into two serious dogfights with much larger male dogs, and showed zero signs of playing the female submissive. The only way I could contain her in those first few crazy weeks was to confine her with a chain the size of a python (“the Michael Vick special,” my brother-in-law Mark called it). A couple of weeks after Jake got home, Solha scaled a 10-foot-high horse stall and perched atop a wooden divider like a chicken until she could be coaxed down. Then she meticulously chomped four more leashes and left them in a neat little pile like a toddler’s plate of broken spaghetti, as if to say, don’t f–k with me, I’m from Afghanistan.

Attention is being paid right now to military dogs coming home from combat exhibiting signs of post traumatic stress disorder. Four-legged PTSD is manifested in behavior like nervous exhaustion, distress, confusion, or forgetting routine commands. I don’t doubt that for a moment. Dogs absorb death, deprivation, and random gunfire as acutely as any soldier. Some 50 dogs have come home with symptoms of PTSD, according to researchers at Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

She chomped four more leashes and left them in a neat little pile like a toddler’s plate of broken spaghetti, as if to say, don’t f–k with me, I’m from Afghanistan. 

My experience with Solha has made me wonder if it’s not just dogs on the frontlines who suffer trauma, but the stray animals who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, forgotten casualties of war. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of stray, nonmilitary animals—dogs like Solha, cats, donkeys—caught in the crossfire of war who live a waking nightmare every day of their lives in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. These are countries with little steady food or water supply or basic infrastructure, where land mines are only a paw print away, and, in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, where dogs are typically reviled by the local population. Rocks are thrown at them. They’re beaten and starved. In a land where resources are scarce, and spay-neuter initiatives are only starting to make inroads, this is not surprising.

Day after day in Kandahar, Jake would see large packs of feral dogs roaming the countryside, as wild and dangerous as wolves. Some lacked tails and ears, a sign they’d been hacked off so they would last longer in a dogfight, still a popular sport among some Afghans in certain back-alley quarters. (The ears and tails are removed to prevent a superficial wound like a gnawed tail or mutilated ear from ending a fight too early; the aim is to kill or be killed.) A feral dog in this condition is likely to have either escaped or been deemed useless and released. Strays tend to loiter around U.S. and NATO military bases seeking handouts, even though U.S. soldiers are often instructed to shoot dogs on sight in the event the animal is carrying rabies (most normal soldiers, reminded of their own pets at home, prefer to look the other way).