Archive for the ‘Healthy Pets’ Category

Proper pet care keeps us all healthy and happy

Monday, July 15th, 2013

person walking with dogsHappy, healthy pets are key to human and animal health, according to this article. Veterinarian Joan Hendricks, dean of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how owners can ensure good health and well-being for their animals and themselves. It’s important to start by researching the species and breed of pet that best fits your family, Dr. Hendricks points out. Pets need proper training to prevent injuries to people, regular veterinary care and good nutrition, and it’s essential to properly handle animal waste to prevent disease, Dr. Hendricks explains. U.S. News & World Report (7/3)

Sudden outbreaks like swine or bird flu remind us all too well that humans are not immune to diseases animals carry. These particular illnesses are most likely to affect people who work with animals regularly, like in a farm setting, but being at risk to an animal’s health hazards can happen in your own home. Improper care for a pet can lead to diseases, and a misbehaved pet can be dangerous to families.

At the same time, being around animals has been shown to increase a person’s well-being. The American Heart Association released a study this year that showed people who own pets have improved cardiovascular health. Animals often are used to help children with special needs or in visits to hospitals. Their presence can abate loneliness, increase altruism and reduce anxiety.

With pet ownership at 62 percent among American households, according to the American Pet Products Association, it is important people understand their risks and benefits. Having a healthy pet requires first learning about the animal you want, then caring and providing for it accordingly, says Joan Hendricks, the Gilbert S. Kahn dean of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. U.S. News turned to Hendricks for advice about pet and family dynamics.

Understand your pet’s natural tendencies. Before you adopt a pet, know what role you want it to have in your family. Do you want a pet for companionship or to guard the house? Do you expect that your pet will join you on your morning run? Do you have the finances to pay someone to take care of your pet while you work or while you’re on business trips?

“People should know enough about their animal when they get it and after they get it,” Hendricks says. “They also must be open to the idea that they may not know as much as they thought.” Even dog breeds vary in terms of what they need from people, Hendricks says. Some dogs are meant to work, some need intellectual stimulation and some need little exercise. Bulldogs, for instance, are happy to lie at home sleeping a lot and show affection when you return from work. Great Danes also don’t need to run around much.

“If a pet’s specific needs are not attended to then they will not be good pets,” Hendricks says. They can even get sick with gastrointestinal upsets and develop behavior disorders – which could lead to wrecking furniture – if a family is not the right match. There are cases when pets aren’t the right fit for the family, she says, which is why it’s important to become informed before you adopt.

When it comes to exotic animals, such as tarantulas or pythons, there isn’t as much information available for pet owners. “There’s always a health concern for veterinarians that anyone who has one of these animals doesn’t know how to take care of them,” she says.

Train your pet properly. Animal bites are the single biggest health risk to kids when it comes to pets, Hendricks says. Avoiding this danger returns to the first principle of understanding your pet’s needs.

“People treat animals as if they were people, and they treat us as if we were their species,” she says. For example, dogs often bite each other out of play, but owners must reinforce that this kind of behavior isn’t acceptable when playing with people. Work with your pet to manage its behavior so everyone is happy. Make sure your children show mutual respect by not teasing or harming the pet, she says.

An irritated cat, for instance, could scratch its owner and spread bartonellosis, commonly called “cat scratch disease,” which causes swollen lymph nodes in people as well as possible fever, headache and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Veterinarians make sure D.C. working dogs are in shape

Friday, July 12th, 2013

police k9 dog insigniaVeterinarians at Fort Belvoir in Virginia have kept a keen eye on working dogs — including those that watch over airports, the White House, the Capitol and other locations — for two decades. Routine preventive care as well as treatment for health problems are some of the issues addressed by veterinarian Nancy Vincent-Johnson and her colleagues at the clinic.

By , for the Washington Post

The waiting room is comfortably cool, but the mood is slightly tense. That’s because the patients who seek treatment at this clinic on the grounds of Fort Belvoir are a breed apart from many who seek medical care on the base.

The giveaway?

 The dog-biscuit jar on the reception desk.

For more than 20 years, the squat, red brick building at Fort Belvoir is where the D.C. region’s law enforcement dogs — the ones who patrol airports, the Capitol, the White House and other high-profile locations — have been taken for care.

The region is home to one of the biggest concentrations of working dogs in the country, officials say. Canines from the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, Amtrak and the U.S. Capitol Police come here for their yearly checkups. The dogs are a variety of breeds — German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Belgian Malinois, even beagles.

“I have nothing but good things to say,’’ said Sgt. Kevin Murphy, who heads the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s K-9 Unit at Dulles International Airport. “They help keep our dogs healthy.”

During the swelter of Washington’s summer, clinic workers have traveled to Dulles to conduct special sessions on spotting heatstroke and exhaustion. During the winter, handlers may receive training on spotting frostbite and hypothermia.

Belvoir’s veterinarians, a mix of civilian and military personnel, understand the special needs of their patients. These working dogs may suffer from ailments not necessarily seen in their civilian counterparts. Sometimes it’s back trouble from all their leaping into trucks and cargo hatches. Their joints can suffer strain from the same jumping. Hip dysplasia — a condition caused by improperly formed hip joints — is another common ailment.

And like the jobs held by people, the dogs’ work can be stressful, with long hours and large crowds, said veterinarian Nancy Vincent-Johnson, a 21-year Army veteran who retired and rejoined the clinic as a civilian.

Take Igor, a 9-year-old German shepherd who works for the Capitol Police. Vincent-Johnson said she had squeezed Igor, whose specialty is explosives detection, in between appointments because he has been having intestinal issues. His weight is down, and his handler says Igor — Iggy to his intimates — is just not himself.

Vincent-Johnson strokes Igor’s rich black and brown coat as she examines him, feeling the area around his rib cage and gently lifting his impressively large paws. Igor stands patiently as she moves her stethoscope along his midsection and his handler summarizes the shepherd’s symptoms.

“Maybe the food he’s on is too rich,” Vincent-Johnson theorizes. She consults Igor’s chart and notes that blood work done during his previous visit indicated a Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to a type of anemia that brings on weakness and fatigue.

The poking and prodding complete, Igor settles on the floor and lets out a deep sigh.

The doctor prescribes special food for dogs with intestinal issues and a series of shots to help with the B12 deficiency.

There is now good news: Igor has put on weight — six pounds since his last visit — so the hope is that whatever is ailing him will soon be cured.

Igor’s handler leaves the office with a large bag of dog food and several bottles of medicine. Igor gets a doggie treat as a reward.

One room away, the doctor’s next patient waits with his handler, Inspector Alexandra Hassler. Upton is a TSA dog specializing in passenger screening and experienced in sniffing out explosives.

The 4-year-old black Labrador is here for the first of two physicals he’ll have this year. As part of that, Vincent-Johnson will run him through a full exam, testing his peripheral vision by waving her hands at the side of his head, eyeing his gait as he walks down the sidewalk and drawing blood for a full screening.

“His ears look good,” she says. Upton is an enthusiastic patient, eager to sniff and show approval by licking the doctor’s arm. His friskiness belies his status as one of the oldest of the TSA dogs working at Dulles. He’s also observant: Only a few minutes into the exam, he’s figured out that on the shelf that holds the jars of tongue depressors and cotton balls is one that holds crunchy treats. He can’t take his eyes off the shelf.

Vincent-Johnson says Upton is healthy. The one exception: his left back teeth. “He may need some dental work,” Vincent-Johnson tells Hassler.

Finally, Upton’s enthusiasm is rewarded. A treat flies through the air and disappears into his mouth.

Banfield survey leads to suggestions for improving pet longevity

Friday, June 28th, 2013

4770_thumbBanfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health Report for 2013 finds that life expectancy for dogs increased by 4% since 2002 while that of cats increased by 10%. Veterinarian Jeffrey Klausner, Banfield’s chief medical officer, cautioned that a downward trend in veterinary appointments could reverse health gains for pets. Dr. Klausner suggests several steps owners in any locale can take to improve the chances their pet will live a long, healthy life, including having twice-yearly veterinary exams, spaying/neutering and keeping cats indoors. Dale’s Pet World blog (6/13)

here’s no U.S. Centers for Disease Control for pets. Until recently, veterinarians greatly practiced in a medical bubble, only knowing what they were seeing in their own clinics. With a database of more than 800 hospitals in 43 states, Banfield the Pet Hospital, is trying to change that. The company has been keeping tabs for several years on medical conditions and other information about pets, according to the 2013 Banfield State of Pet Health Report.

One issue Banfield researched in their survey of pets, conducted in 2012, is longevity: “We’ve known all along that cats live longer than dogs, and small dogs live longer than larger dogs,” says Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, medical director at Banfield, based in Portland, OR. “However, we never knew about how geography might impact longevity.”

Overall, our dogs are living longer. The average lifespan in 2012 was 11 years, up about four percent since 2002. Cats are also living longer, for an average of 12 years, that’s up 10 percent since 2002.

The five U.S. states where cats have the longest life expectancy:

  1. Montana
  2. Colorado
  3. Rhode Island
  4. Illinois
  5. Nebraska

The five states where dogs enjoy the longest lives:

  1. South Dakota
  2. Montana,
  3. Oregon
  4. New Mexico
  5. Colorado

Interestingly, only Montana and Colorado appear on both those lists.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are the top five states with the longest life expectancies for people 1999 to 2001):

  1. Hawaii
  2. Minnesota
  3. North Dakota
  4. Connecticut
  5. Utah

Banfield reports that these are the five states where cats have the shortest life spans:Delaware

  1. Delaware
  2. Ohio
  3. Louisiana
  4. Kentucky
  5. Mississippi

Here are the five states where dogs have the shortest life expectancies:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Alabama
  3. Louisiana
  4. Delaware
  5. Massachusetts

Apparently, Delaware, Louisiana and Mississippi aren’t states where pets thrive, at least to their full potential.

According to U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control data, these are the five states with the shortest life spans for people (1999-2001):

  1. Kentucky
  2. South Carolina
  3. Alabama
  4. Louisiana
  5. Mississippi

While surprisingly, no states correlate where people and pets enjoy the longest life spans, Louisiana and Mississippi are on the list for cats, dogs and people with the shortest life expectancies.

So should people escape some states with their pets and move to others where their animals may live longer? “No, I hope not,” says Klausner. “We don’t know the significance of the data. We do know there are some steps individual pet owners can make to increase life spans. As more people spay/neuter their pets, their life spans increase. No doubt, keeping more cats indoors also plays a role. And certainly seeing veterinarians twice a year is likely to increase life span.”

As veterinary visits decline, as they have been in recent years, Klausner is concerned that this trend of pets living longer could potentially be reversed. Or perhaps pets would even be living longer than they currently do if more of them received twice-annual preventive care exams.

According to the Banfield report, the most common diagnoses for dogs were:

  1.  Dental tartar
  2.  Otitis externa (ear infection)
  3.  Overweight
  4.  Dermatitits (skin infection)
  5.  Fleas

In cats, the most common diagnoses included:

  1. Dental calculus
  2. Overweight
  3. Fleas
  4. Gingivitis
  5. Otitis externa (ear infection)

Overweight pets are an epidemic. According to the Banfield report, in the past five years, the prevalence of significant excess body weight has increased 37 percent in dogs, and 90 percent in cats. This doesn’t come without consequences, contributing greatly to the 38 percent rise in arthritis in dogs and 67 increase in cats over the past five years. Diabetes in cats and dogs has about doubled over the past five years.

“Weight gain, especially in cats, happens gradually and may be difficult for owners to know has happened,” adds Klausner. “Simply weighing the pet twice a year is important.”

The Banfield survey also tallied the most common pet names. For cats, they are:

  1.  Kitty
  2. Bella
  3. Tiger
  4. Max
  5. Smokey

The most popular names for dogs include:

  1.  Bella
  2. Max
  3. Buddy
  4. Daisy
  5. Coco

See more survey results

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

Treating allergic dogs

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Dog AllergyVeterinarian Jeff Kahler explains that dogs often exhibit skin irritation in response to inhaled allergens, and owners must develop a plan with their veterinarian to get symptoms under control. Testing for most, but not all, allergens often aids in the development of a treatment plan, Dr. Kahler writes. Different therapies including desensitizing injections and anti-inflammatory medication, as well as additional testing for secondary infections, may be part of the plan, but without treatment, Dr. Kahler says, the allergies are likely to get worse. The Sacramento Bee (Calif.)/The Modesto Bee (Calif.) (6/26)

The Modesto Bee

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013 – 5:12 am

Bogie licks and chews at his feet to the point that they are now red and swollen. Pauline says her dog has been treated with various antibiotics and corticosteroids, but as the dosage of cortisone pills decreases, the incessant licking increases. Pauline has been told Bogie has allergies, and I would have to agree.

Inhaled allergens in humans commonly cause eye irritation. In dogs, these types of allergies can cause itchy skin. So can contact allergies.

Allergies usually worsen with time as the response to them gets more and more intense, because the immune system is hyper-reacting to something in the environment. Over time, that response becomes more exaggerated.

The self-trauma stemming from the allergic response can exacerbate the inflammation and can lead to bacterial infections or a yeast infection.

Bogie needs to be tested for inhaled allergies specific to his geographic area – California’s Central Valley. This can be done through blood or skin testing. Unfortunately, it is not possible to test for every possible allergen, so a definitive diagnosis may still elude us even with the testing. This, however, is not common.

He needs cultures for bacteria and skin swabs for microscopic examination before a treatment plan can be formulated. Once the results are in from the cultures, treatment can start. I would also start anti-inflammatory treatment to try and bring Bogie some much-needed relief. The medications used for these therapies will be determined by his veterinarian.

When the allergy testing results are in, the next step is to determine if allergy injections are necessary. This therapy can usually be done at home and can have excellent results in desensitizing Bogie to whatever is causing the irritation. Not all patients respond well to desensitization, and these patients will likely have to be medicated when the symptoms warrant.

There are other possible allergic conditions that might be causing Bogie’s condition. He may need to have a diet assessment, for example, to determine if a diet allergy is suspected.

Obviously, cases like Bogie’s are complex and there is no single therapy. One thing is certain: Bogie is miserable and needs to visit his veterinarian for a treatment that results in relief.

(Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto CA 95352.)

Study: Cats may not be as aloof as they seem

Friday, June 28th, 2013

man with catDespite the common belief that some cats are indifferent to their human caretakers, new research indicates cats are more likely to respond to their owner’s voice than a stranger’s. However, the response is, in typical cat fashion, subtle: ear or head movement or pupil dilation. The study contributes insights into cats’ cognition and shows how their natural tendency to mask their responses to stimuli translates into the home environment. Discovery (6/25)

Cats may try to hide their true feelings, but a recent study found that cats do actually pay attention to their owners, distinguishing them from all other people.

The study, which will be published in the July issue of Animal Cognition, is one of the few to examine the cat/human social dynamic from the feline’s perspective. Cats may not do what we tell them to, but they usually adore their human caretakers.

Co-author Atsuko Saito of The University of Tokyo explained to Discovery News that dogs have evolved, and are bred, “to follow their owner’s orders, but cats have not been. So sometimes cats appear aloof, but they have special relationships with their owners.”

“Previous studies suggest that cats have evolved to behave like kittens (around their owners), and humans treat cats similar to the way that they treat babies,” co-author Kazutaka Shinozuka of the University of South Florida College of Medicine added. “To form such baby-parent like relationships, recognition of owners might be important for cats.”

Their study, mostly conducted in the homes of cats so as not to unduly upset or worry the felines, determined just that.

The researchers played recordings of strangers, as well as of the cats’ owners, to the felines. The cats could not see the speakers.

The cats responded to human voices, not by communicative behavior- such as by vocalizing or moving their tails — but by orienting behavior. In this case, “orienting” meant that the cats moved their ears and heads toward the source of each voice.

The felines also, at times, displayed pupil dilation, which can be a sign of powerful emotions, such as arousal and excitement. Other studies have found that natural pupil dilation can be directly tied to brain activity, revealing mental reactions to emotional stimuli.

All of these reactions happened more often when cats heard their owners, and particularly after they had become habituated to, or familiar with, the strangers’ voices.

The feline reactions are therefore very subtle, but cats have evolved not to be very demonstrative.

Cats, for example, hide illness because “in the wild, no one can rescue them and predators pay attention to such weak individuals,” Saito said. Even though a watchful owner would try to save the cat, the feline’s gut reaction is to remain stoic and avoid any possible threat at a time of vulnerability.

Felines may be hard to read sometimes, but not always. Saito said some of the cats during the study and elsewhere have “fawned over me eagerly,” purring and displaying affection familiar to many other feline fanciers.

The researchers point out that, after 10,000 years of cohabitating with humans, domestic cats have the ability to communicate with us, and we seem to understand them, for the most part.

Humans who have never owned or been around cats much can pick up basic feline emotions solely by the sound of certain purrs and meows, Saito said. In studies, such people can classify the cat vocalizations according to particular situations.

Kazuo Fujita is a researcher in the Department of Psychology at Kyoto University who has also studied cats.

Fujita told Discovery News that “this is an important study” on how cats think, “which has remained mysterious due to difficulties in testing them.”

Dogs’ attachment to owners mimics infant-caregiver bonding

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Susannah and LaceyDogs and their owners may develop a “secure base effect,” a type of bond documented between human infants and their caregivers. Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, studied the reactions of dogs in the presence and absence of owners and strangers. (6/23)

Just like humans, it’s important for animals to develop relationships with their own kind. However, when it comes to domesticated animals, relationships can go in a different direction. Researchers have found that pet owners oftentimes develop strong bonds with their pets similar to that of a parent and their infant child.

This bond is known as the “secure base effect.” It’s normally a bond found in infant children as they try to understand the world around them. Children often gravitate towards their caregiver, using them as a base for interacting with their environment. The effect influences their daily lives and can also affect their performance in cognitive testing.

According to a new study, dogs become attached to their caregivers in much the same way that a child using the secure base effect. Researchers at Vetmeduni’s Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, performed two experiments on dogs’ behavior.

In the first experiment, they tested 20 dogs’ reactions during three different settings: having an absent owner, a silent owner with a blindfold on, and an encouraging owner. The dogs had to manipulate toys in order to get a treat inside. The researchers found that it was only the owner’s presence that affected how the dog reacted. If the owner wasn’t in the room, the dogs spent less time trying to retrieve the treat from inside the toys. They also tested for separation anxiety in two pre-experiment absence tests — they found that separation anxiety had no effect on the dogs’ performance in the experiments.

“In this case, dogs that experienced strong separation distress would have been expected to manipulate shorter than dogs that were not distressed by the owners absence,” the authors wrote. “However, since the dogs’ duration of manipulation was not negatively correlated with their individual separation-related behavior score, we showed that the owners absence did not affect the dogs differently.”

Because of this, they concluded that the only reason the dogs didn’t spend as much time with the toys was because the owner wasn’t there as a secure base.

Following up on this experiment, the researchers then tested whether the dogs would compete the tasks when their owner was replaced with a stranger. The dogs showed no interest in the strangers, and, furthermore, didn’t show much interest in the food when the stranger was there or not.

“The fact that the presence of an unfamiliar human did not significantly increase the duration of manipulation in the dogs compared to when they were alone with the experimenter provides evidence for a secure base effect in dogs that’s specific for the owner, and therefore, comparable to the one found in infant-caregiver relationships,” they wrote.

This study provides the first evidence comparing the similarities of the secure base effect between dog-owner and child-caregiver. In a 2003 study based on the Ainsworth “Strange Situation” Assessment, 38 dogs and their owners were put into an unfamiliar room and introduced to a stranger. The dogs were subjected to four periods of separation in which the owners would leave and then come back. The stranger also left during one period, leaving the dogs completely alone.

The researchers found evidence pointing to a secure base effect from the beginning, when the dogs were more inclined to play with the stranger while the owner was present. However, there was more evidence pointing to attachment, because the dogs would scratch, jump at the door, or stare at the door or the owner’s chair when they weren’t present. They were also much more enthusiastic, and greeted their owners for a longer duration after the separation, than they did for the strangers. Finally, when the dogs were left completely alone, they were more inclined to make contact with their owner’s clothing and sat closer to their chair, rather than the stranger’s.

Having this relationship could contribute to the reasons why the American Heart Association (AHA) said pets can reduce the risk of heart disease.

“Pet ownership is an important nonhuman form of social support and may provide cardioprotective benefits in patients with established cardiovascular disease,” a statement said.

The AHA said that studies have shown having a pet can increase physical activity, boost favorable lipid profiles, lower systemic blood pressure, improve autonomic tone, diminish sympathetic responses to stress, and improve survival after acute coronary syndrome.


Horn L, Huber L, Range F. The Importance of the Secure Base Effect for Domestic Dogs — Evidence from a Manipulative Problem-Solving Task. PLOS One. 2013.

Prato-Previde E, Custance D, Spiezio C, et al. Is the Dog-Human Relationship an Attachment Bond? An Observational Study Using Ainsworth’s Strange Situation. Behaviour. 2003.

Experts share tips for keeping pets cool in summer heat

Friday, June 28th, 2013

EnglishBulldogSonnyPuppy9Weeks2Summer means taking extra care to keep pets from overheating, an especially dangerous situation for brachycephalic breeds including pugs, bulldogs and others with short snouts or flat faces, experts advise. Other tips: Don’t leave pets in parked cars, where temperatures quickly soar to life-threatening levels; make sure animals have plenty of shade and cool water when outdoors; and walk pets early or late in the day to avoid the heat of the full sun. U.S. News & World Report (6/19)

No one ever told Linda Pegram not to leave her dogs in the car.

On a mid-80s day in April, Pegram cracked the windows for her 7-year-old Cocker Spaniel and 5-year-old Cockapoo as she shopped at a Walmart in Chester, Va. About an hour later, a passerby called police, who arrived to find the dogs dead inside the vehicle. Pegram, who was charged with two felony counts of animal cruelty, told local media outlets that she’s devastated and didn’t intentionally kill her animals.

It’s a grim reminder that, as the weather gets warmer, we need to pay extra attention to our pets. And keeping them inside vehicles on hot days isn’t the only health risk. U.S. News turned to veterinary experts who shared advice on how to keep our four-legged friends safe and healthy this summer:

Be careful with high-risk dogs. Animals cool by panting, and those that can’t breathe particularly well have the highest risk for health problems during the summer. This includes brachycephalic dogs, or those that have a short snout or are flat-faced – like bulldogs and pugs. Pay special attention to seniors and overweight pets, too. If your pet ever breathes in and out in a noisy way, he may have some trouble with airflow, which in turn means he may have a harder time cooling off.

[Read: How to Lose Weight With Your Pet.]

Don’t keep your pets in parked cars. Research from San Francisco State University suggests that in 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car rises by 19 degrees. Make it 20 minutes, and the temperature spikes by 29 degrees; 30 minutes and it goes up 34 degrees; and after an hour, the temperature soars by 43 degrees. Dogs and cats have a baseline body temperature of 100 to 102 degrees, and their organs begin to shut down at 106 degrees. “Very quickly, you can literally be threatening your animal’s life,” says Cathy Unruh, an animal welfare advocate based in Tampa Bay, Fla. She cautions that you should never put your pet inside a car that’s been parked outside in the blistering sun – the seats could be so hot that they burn your animal. Make sure the car is cooled down ahead of time.

Provide shade and water. Seems like a no-brainer, right? You’d be surprised, experts say. Always make sure your pets have ample shade and water when they’re outside. Kiddie pools and sprinklers are a smart idea, too, says Jessica Almeida, transfer director at the Humane Society of Utah. “A lot of the time, they’ll just go lie down in the kiddie pool and get their bellies wet,” she says. But never spray your dog down with a hose: Chances are, it’s been lying in the sun, and the water inside is scorching hot – enough so to seriously burn your pet.

[Read: Pet Health: Dangerous Foods for Dogs and Cats.]

Beware of heatstroke. It’s more common in dogs than cats and often arises when exercising in hot weather. Louise Murray, vice president of Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York, suggests taking your dog out early in the morning or later in the evening, when the sun isn’t so high in the sky. Try to keep animals indoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is typically the hottest part of the day. Symptoms of heatstroke include increased heart rate, excessive panting, increased salivation, a bright red tongue, red or pale gums, vomiting and diarrhea. “Just think – our pets are furrier than us, and they don’t process heat as well as we do,” Almeida says. “So if it’s too hot for you to be hanging outside, it’s probably too hot for your dog.”

Apply sunscreen. You’re not the only one who can get sunburned: Your pets can, too. Dogs are most likely to get sunburned on the bridge of their nose, in the groin area, on the tips of the ears and on their bellies, and animals with a thin coat are at particularly high risk. Invest in sunscreen that’s specifically designed for pets. Don’t share your own because some common ingredients, like zinc oxide, are toxic to animals, Murray says.

Parvovirus: Easily acquired, easily prevented

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Dozens of dogs in the Massachusetts counties of Berkshire and Worcester have been diagnosed with parvovirus, and a number have died. All the affected animals had never received or were behind on vaccines, officials said. There’s no cure for parvo, and staying current on vaccines is the best way to prevent the illness, says North Adams, Mass., veterinarian Rebecca Mattson. Parvo is spread by ingesting fecal material, and it is easily picked up, Dr. Mattson says, noting dogs may ingest the pathogen simply by cleaning their feet after walking on contaminated pavement. North Adams Transcript (Mass.) (6/19)

Rebecca Mattson, a veterinarian at Greylock Animal Hospital in North Adams, said the practice has seen two dogs affected by outbreak of Canine Parvovirus.

“There’s no treatment, there’s no cure,” she said. “There’s only supportive care and prevention.”

On Friday, the state Department of Agricultural Resources’ Division of Animal Health announced that dozens of dogs in Berkshire and Worcester counties have been affected by the virus, and several have died or had to be euthanized due to severe illness. According to the release, all of the dogs effected by the outbreak had never been vaccinated or were behind on their shots.

“In general, Parvo tends to be a puppy virus,” Mattson said. “But with this particular strain, they have seen it in a couple of adult dogs who were behind on their vaccines.”

A dog infected with Parvovirus will show gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite, Mattson said. A major reason Parvovirus is so devastating, she explained, is that it attacks rapidly dividing cells in the body.

“That includes the lining of the intestine, certain parts of the developing brain, and bone marrow,” she said. “It can also suppress the immune system, which it why it can be so fatal.”

The virus


is spread by the ingestion of fecal material, which Mattson said isn’t as hard as people realize — dogs clean their feet by licking them, she said, and can easily ingest contaminated material.

In addition, the virus, which is spread dog-to-dog, is resilient, she said.

“You have to bleach it or use specific cleaners,” she said. “One of the outbreak areas is next to the [Ashuwillticook] Rail Train. Pavement is not automatically safe unless it’s been bleached.”

The best way to protect their pets is through vaccination, Mattson said. In addition, a test is available to see if a dog is carrying the virus, she said.

Puppies can begin receiving the three shots needed as early as six to eight weeks, Mattson said. Adult dogs should get a booster shot annually, she said. Those with young dogs who are in the process of being vaccinated should avoid high-dog traffic areas, she added.

Lindsay Cermak, a veterinarian at North County Veterinary Hospital, said the practice hasn’t seen any dogs affected yet.

“If your dog is acting sick in any way, you should see your vet as soon as possible,” she said.

Cermak said her practice is planning on being more vigilant in testing for Parvovirus, including in older dogs.

“If anyone is worried, don’t hesitate to have them tested. The sooner you start treatment, the better they do,” she said.

To reach Edward Damon, email

Equine survivor’s story shines light on rare infection

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

q-acvim-animal-survivorQ, a yearling Rocky Mounted Saddle Horse in Washington state, recovered from proliferative enteropathy, a rare infection caused by the bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis. Veterinarian Chantal Rothschild suspected the rare infection after blood tests showed extremely low protein levels, a key indicator of the infection, which often leaves the animal unable to absorb dietary protein. Dr. Rothschild initiated treatment before receiving test results, saying, “If we’d waited, we might not have been able to save him.” Q’s treatment and recovery earned the case recognition from the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. The Horse (6/14)

Trainer Julie Blacklow thought Q’s quiet demeanor and willing attitude had to do with her team’s excellent training skills at Rosebud River Ranch in Snoqualmie, Wash. In reality, the yearling Rocky Mounted Saddle Horse gelding was critically sick with proliferative enteropathy, a diseased caused by the bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis and something Blacklow, a veteran horsewoman, had never heard of.

She’s not alone.

The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) is trying to change that by making owners more aware of L. intracellularis in horses. At the 2013 ACVIM Forum in Seattle, the organization introduced Q as part of its “Animal Survivor” program, which highlights animals that—thanks to advances in veterinary internal medicine—have lived through severe disease.

Q’s survival story started when he spiked a temperature of 104°F (99-101°F is normal). He also became lethargic and stopped eating, a sign to Blacklow that something was very wrong with the young horse. After an inconclusive initial exam by a general practitioner, Blacklow sought a specialist’s second opinion. She contacted Chantal Rothschild, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of Northwest Equine Veterinary Associates in Maple Valley, Wash.

Rothschild performed ultrasounds of Q’s chest and abdomen looking for the source of the infection causing his fever. Then the gelding’s blood work came back with extremely low protein levels. This is a telltale clinical sign of proliferative enteropathy, a spreading infection of the intestine most common in foals two to seven months old that renders the animal unable to absorb protein from the diet. Edema (swelling) had also developed around the horse’s jaw and down into his chest.

L. interacellularis is common in pigs, and certain wild animals are thought to carry it, Rothschild said, adding that the disease is believed to be contracted when horses ingest bacteria from infected animal feces. Rothschild had treated equine cases during her time practicing in Texas and at Washington State University on the eastern edge of the state. “But I’d never seen a case in the Seattle area,” she said.

After examining Q, Rothschild recommended treating him for proliferative enteropathy immediately rather than waiting for test results confirming L. interacellularis infection. “It would take too long to get a positive test back, so I asked the owners to trust me,” Rothschild said. “If we’d waited we might not have been able to save him.”

Q responded within three days and started acting less like the calm horse Blacklow knew and more like an energetic youngster. “He was trying to bite us, and we couldn’t catch him,” Blacklow said about Q’s reversal. “I called Dr. Rothschild and told her.”

“I was like, ‘Yay! That’s what we want!’” Rothschild said.

Q’s intensive treatment continued for six weeks, multiple times per day, and required dedication from the farm’s workers and the horse’s patience. Q was an excellent patient, Blacklow reported, and has since made what she considers a full recovery.

“Sometimes you have patients that really want to live, and Q was one of those,” Rothschild said. “He helped us help him.”

In addition to Q, the ACVIM named four dogs with diseases ranging from cancer to neurologic conditions as Animal Survivors. For more information visit

Registry helps pet owners find clinical trials for cancer treatment

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

alaskan malamuteCancer is the foremost killer of older dogs and cats, but pets stricken with the disease are gaining new options from clinical trials for new treatments that hold promise for helping animals and people. A team of physicians and veterinarians has launched the National Veterinary Cancer Registry to help pet owners find trials that might offer their animals more time while helping advance science. Cats and dogs are often afflicted with many of the same types of cancers as people, including lymphoma, leukemia and bone cancer.

U.S. News & World Report/HealthDay News (6/14)

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) — If you hear that a friend’s beloved family member has joined a clinical trial for cancer treatment, don’t assume the patient is human.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in older dogs and cats, and clinical trials offer hope that effective medications will be developed — for humans and their four-legged friends, cancer experts say.

The new National Veterinary Cancer Registry, launched last month by a national team of animal and human cancer doctors, will point pet owners toward clinical trials that might benefit their beloved companions and speed up the development of life-saving therapies for humans.

“We will be able to decrease the cost and beat the time involved in drug discovery,” said the registry’s founder, Dr. Theresa Fossum, a professor of surgery at Texas A&M University’s college of veterinary medicine.

Because many similar diseases affect people and their animals, veterinarians and physicians say a lot can be learned from studying how treatments work in cats and dogs.

The drug-assessment process could be accelerated by a simple fact: dogs age many times faster than humans, and their cancers progress more rapidly too. Also, many canine and feline cancers — including sarcoma; non-Hodgkin lymphoma; leukemia; mesothelioma; and bone, ovarian, kidney, uterine and oral cancers — are virtually the same cancers humans have.

Experts not involved with the registry said the concept of the database looks promising.

“These clinical trials would be more real-world than a lab experiment,” said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine and head of the Yale Human Animal Medicine Project, which studies clinical connections between human and animal medicine.

Dogs often are an interesting model for better understanding environmentally induced cancers, Rabinowitz said. “Asbestos causes cancer in humans 35 years [after exposure], but if you’re a dog, you get it in four to five years, so we can see how the cancers develop more naturally,” he said.

Fossum said she has always been bothered by the slow and cumbersome way drugs are tested. “If it’s a cancer drug, they’re going to put a human tumor in a mouse … but it’s not very predictive of how drugs will work in people,” she said.

Then, after tests to see if the drugs might be toxic in humans, the drugs are evaluated in human clinical trials, which take more than a decade to conduct. “So the drugs that are coming out now were starting [to be evaluated] 12 years ago,” she said.

Testing the drugs in pets speeds up the process, allowing researchers to determine if a medication works before taking it to human clinical trials, Fossum said. With a pet owner’s informed consent, “we can try a new drug that seems promising a lot sooner,” she said.

The concept of a cancer database for dogs and cats could expand to include other diseases, such as diabetes. About 800,000 dogs have type 1 diabetes in the United States, Fossum said. Other conditions that a veterinary registry could serve include endocrine, neurological and cardiac issues.

About 6 million dogs and 6 million cats in the United States receive a cancer diagnosis each year, according to the Animal Cancer Foundation, in Norwalk, Conn. If your dog or cat is one of them, you can register your pet with the National Veterinary Cancer Registry.

The registry was created by a consortium of animal and human cancer doctors, including specialists from the Baylor Healthcare System in Texas, the Texas Veterinary Oncology Group and the CARE Foundation, a Florida-based animal rescue and wildlife education organization.

Because the registry is new, it may take some time before effective clinical trial matchmaking can occur between animals and drug developers, Fossum said.

More information

Learn more about the connection between animal and human health from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.