Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Veterinary medicine’s central role in public health

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Veterinarians are known by most as compassionate practitioners of animal medicine, an important role, but veterinarian Joan Hendricks explains that they are also uniquely poised for crucial roles in public health. Veterinarians are the only medical professionals comprehensively trained in comparative medicine and human-animal interactions, she writes, and they have a deep background in infectious disease. This contributes to treatments for humans, solutions to global hunger, improved food safety and production, and surveillance and prevention of potentially devastating infectious diseases  The Huffington Post/The Blog

Most people think that veterinarians are doctors who treat cats and dogs, provide compassionate, expert care but also charge amply for their services.  This narrow view means that a vet’s work is underestimated and, often, not respected.  In reality their role is substantially broader and yet their leadership potential is generally overlooked.

While many vets are caregivers for our domestic animals — and it’s very important work — a larger mission is to focus on minimizing the transmission of infectious disease and help tackle world hunger issues.

Vets are trained as rigorously as doctors of human medicine; four years of college, four of vet school and additional internships and residencies if they become specialists.  Uniquely trained in comparative biology, veterinarians are the only members of the clinical profession — including physicians — who see many different species, and understand medicine fundamentally such that all species benefit.

Veterinarians approach medicine with a global perspective and support public health, enormously impacting people’s well-being. They also play an integral role in food safety and food production.  Since people share many of the same diseases and biology as animals, veterinarians have a large role in preventing and controlling diseases, as well as providing research that helps treat diseases like cancer, neurological disorders and immune diseases.
In fact, veterinary medicine is the profession that stands between all of humanity and plague and famine.


For instance, many of the infectious diseases (e.g. avian flu, swine flu, AIDS, West Nile Virus, Lyme disease) that spread in humans come from animals originally. The CDC estimates that number to be 75 percent. Preventing new diseases in humans, as well as potential plagues, is crucial, and well-trained animal care professionals play a vital role. In Pennsylvania, veterinarians developed surveillance technology that provides the ability to stem an outbreak of avian influenza.  Within one month, a potentially devastating outbreak was stopped at a cost of $400,000, while a similar outbreak in Virginia at the same time cost the state over $100 million. Undoubtedly, it is safer, cheaper, healthier and more effective to identify a disease before it appears in people.

Beyond infectious diseases, many veterinarians transcend the animal world by applying the knowledge they have gained through their research to develop better treatments for animals and people.  For example, Dr. Ralph Brinster became in 2011 the only veterinarian ever to win the National Medal of Science.  He developed a reliable in-vitro culture system for early mouse embryos.  Now the system is used in embryo manipulations such as human in-vitro fertilization, mammalian cloning, and embryonic stem cell therapy.  And vets are leading the way in critical advances in gene therapies — including cures for two forms of blindness in animals and humans, one of which is now in human trials. The American Academy of Neurology cites more than 12 neurological diseases or disorders that animal research has helped cure, treat, prevent, or further understand.  Clearly, human and animal health are more connected than most people realize, and doctors can learn much from the breakthrough work of veterinarians.


Not only are we concerned about diseases of epidemic proportions but as our world population grows, we also are increasingly faced with issues related to famine. Hunger is the world’s number one public health threat — killing more people than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, according to James T. Morris, Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Program.  Food availability, safety and production are key areas of research and service for veterinarians. Our food sources need to be safe, healthy and plentiful.  Veterinarians, for instance, have developed a food safety system whereby poultry eggs can be tested for Salmonella 10 times more swiftly, saving millions of dollars and ensuring public safety.  And by gathering information from dairy farms, vets can examine this data and advise farmers on how to modify their feed formulations and additives and change milking schedules.  Not only does this tremendously increase animal well-being, it also positively impacts the economics. Eating “local food” is a direct result.

And beyond eating local, this knowledge has global implications and can be shared with developing countries who demand a higher quality of food and more animal protein, such as meat, milk, and eggs. While the number of dairy cows in the U.S. has decreased, milk production has grown. This isn’t the case in developing countries — the number of cows continues to grow while milk production doesn’t. Our knowledge related to increasing yield per animal for dairy cows can help feed developing countries.

The Importance of Human-Animal Interaction

It has been well-documented that the human-animal connection provides a powerful healing bond. Service and therapy dogs really do enhance our quality of life. A common situation that develops among the elderly is the repercussion of a pet’s illness. Often times, this event leads to the pet needing to leave the home. An additional outcome may be that the person ends up in a nursing home with little animal contact, which has been shown to improve their quality of life as well as, at times, their health.  The human-animal connection extends into other areas as well.

We have a moral obligation to study our companion animals on this planet; it’s a practical issue that the animals that serve us, feed us, and take care of us be healthy. In doing so, we must redefine the veterinarian’s role.

Vets will always be needed to treat cats and dogs. But it is their ability to link animal science to human well-being, advance food production and safety, and provide critical defense from global pandemics that needs to be better understood.

It is far and away today’s and tomorrow’s veterinarians who are best suited to tackle important issues such as these.

Consumer pet spending projected to increase

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Pet owners are projected to spend 4% more on supplies for their pets this year than they did last year, according to the market research firm Packaged Facts. “We are certainly seeing more health-related and preventive health products on the market that help pets maintain healthy lifestyles,” said Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Association. Hot items include products geared toward aging pets, pet dental care items and natural and organic pet food. Drug Store News

February 25, 2013 | By Barbara White-Sax

Pet supplies may have had limited growth this past year, but the stars of the segment are healthcare-related products. Pet supplies saw a 2% increase, bringing sales to $11.1 billion, according to Packaged Facts. The market research firm projects that this year, pet supplies will grow 4% over 2012 sales.

Like their owners, the pet population is graying. Pets are suffering from age-related conditions — including joint, coronary, cognitive and immune system-related, as well as diabetes and cancer — and consumers are snapping up products that can make their pets healthier.

“We are certainly seeing more health-related and preventive health products on the market that help pets maintain healthy lifestyles,” said Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Association. The explosion of health-related products coincides with a drop in veterinary visits recorded in the past few years, suggesting that pet owners are preemptively caring for their pets’ health issues with pet OTC products.

Such products as Nylabone — a rawhide chew alternative that is fortified with vitamins and minerals — are driving growth in the pet products category, according to a recent report from Mintel. Mintel expects chews, toys, grooming products made with natural ingredients and other supplies that contribute to the health and well-being of dogs and cats to drive sales in the pet supplies segment.

Dental care products are growing in popularity as consumers become more aware of how important gum care is to a pet’s health. Brian Collier, a spokesman for Naturel Promise, manufacturer of the Fresh Dental line of pet dental care products, said oral care products are the fastest-growing segment of the pet business.

Since 80% of dogs show signs of periodontal disease by age 3 years, Collier said the category has a huge upside because currently only 10% of pet owners purchase pet dental care products. Those who do purchase oral care products buy four to six oral care products a year, a number that significantly outpaces turns on other pet grooming products, said Collier.

Naturel Promise’s line of dental products contains a brushless gel, dental spray, water additive, liquid floss and a brushing gel, which retail for between $6.99 and $9.99. The products contain all-natural ingredients, a key selling point in the category.

In the pet food segment, the fastest growing area of pet food is natural and organic products. “It’s the first section that sold out in our show, and it’s clearly the hot performer in the food arena and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future,” Vetere said.

Vetere said another hot segment within the category is convenience products that allow people more flexibility in feeding and caring for their pets.

Pet Food Stamp Program

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013


The Pet Food Stamp program was created to help food stamp recipients and low income individuals who are having difficulty feeding their pets, receive free food. We believe if you are having financial difficulties, you should not have to choose between feeding your family or your pet.

If you are on Food Stamps, in a low income bracket and have a pet and would like to apply for Pet Food Stamps. please visit :; email; call 718.915.4532

Boaters encounter mega-pod of thousands of dolphins

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

On his daily tour, Capt. Joe Dutra of Hornblower Cruises in California encountered what he called a “super mega-pod” of thousands of swimming dolphins that he estimated to be five miles wide and seven miles long. Dolphins’ social groups usually number no more than 200 individuals, but abundant resources could bring multiple pods together, said scientist Sarah Wilkin. “They were coming from all directions — you could see them from as far as the eye can see,” Dutra said. “I’ve seen a lot of stuff out here … but this is the biggest I’ve ever seen, ever.” KNSD-TV (San Diego)

Thousands of dolphins spanning across 7 miles of ocean were  sighted off the coast of San Diego on Thursday, a boat captain told NBC 7 San  Diego.

Capt. Joe Dutra of Hornblower Cruises said he saw a “super mega-pod” of common  dolphins Thursday around noon while he was on his daily tour. He said the pod  was more than 7 miles long and 5 miles wide.

Dutra said the boat tour followed the pod for more than an  hour and said he’s never seen anything like it.

“When you see something that is honestly truly beyond  belief,” the captain said.

Guests aboard the boat started screaming and pointing when  they first saw the school of adult and juvenile common dolphins. Dutra estimated  there were about 100,000 dolphins swimming in the area.

“They were coming from all directions, you could see them  from as far as the eye can see,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of stuff out here… but this is the biggest I’ve ever seen, ever.” Whale and dolphin watching tours have done particularly well this year, with  dozens of animal sightings reported.

Marine mammal expert Sarah Wilkin said the reason the large  pod might be there is because there’s plenty of food in the area, including  sardines, herring and squid.

“They’re attracted to kind of the same thing, they might wind  up in the same place,” she said.

Though dolphins typically travel in groups of 200 or less,  Wilkin said “super-pods” are not unheard of.

“They’re definitely social animals, they stick together in  small groups,” she said. “But sometimes, the schools come together.”

Dutra, who’s been boating for decades, said he felt lucky to  enjoy such a rare phenomenon.

“You had to be there to experience it,” he said.  “It  was truly spectacular.”


National Zoo’s orangutans play with iPads

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Thanks to Orangutan Outreach’s Apps for Apes program, the orangutans at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo enjoy 10 iPad apps as part of their regular enrichment. The animals’ preferred apps include cognitive skills challenges and virtual instruments. Orangutan Outreach has provided iPads for apes in other zoos in part to promote conservation of the endangered species. The idea is to “show zoo visitors how similar humans and apes are, be it through observation, talking with wildlife experts or seeing the apes use the same technology we use every day,” said Richard Zimmerman, Orangutan Outreach’s founding director.

Orangutans at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo are now using iPad apps to keep occupied.

“It’s about changing up the day-to-day lives of our animals,” Becky Malinsky, a keeper at the zoo, said in a statement. “We already vary their food, toys and social interactions every day, but the iPad offers another way to engage their sight, touch and hearing.”

So far, the apes are using 10 different apps, including cognitive games, drawing programs and ones that feature virtual musical instruments. According to their keepers, some of the orangutans are already showing their preferences — 36-year-old Bonnie likes to hit the drums, 16-year-old Kyle likes to play the piano, and 25-year-old Iris likes watching animated fish swim in a virtual koi pond on the screen.

The iPads were made available through Apps for Apes, an initiative from the conservation organization Orangutan Outreach, which has already provided tablet devices for the intelligent primates in 12 other zoos, including zoos in Houston, Atlanta, Toronto, Utah and Milwaukee. [10 iPad Alternatives]

“Primarily, we want the Apps for Apes program to help people understand why we need to protect wild orangutans from extinction,” Richard Zimmerman, founding director of Orangutan Outreach, said in a statement. “We do that when we show zoo visitors how similar humans and apes are, be it through observation, talking with wildlife experts or seeing the apes use the same technology we use every day.”

Orangutans are among humans’ closest living relatives, and there are only a few tens of thousands of them currently left in the wild. They are found in the Sumatran rain forests, where they are critically endangered, and the Borneo rain forests, where they are endangered.

Feds to provide veterinary medical insurance for veterans’ service dogs

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Some 2,500 service dogs that aid disabled veterans may soon be insured for routine veterinary medical care including annual vaccinations, exams and certain lab tests. The Department of Veterans Affairs is seeking veterinary medical insurance for the dogs. The coverage will only apply to those that are actively engaged as working dogs. blog

Depending on which vet you talk to, health  care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs is either the cat’s  meow…or going to the dogs.

We mean that literally: the VA is seeking to keep its growing pack of service  dogs provided to wounded veterans in tip-top shape by buying “veterinary health  insurance and wellness coverage” for 301, and as many as many as 2,500, dogs now  helping veterans around the nation.

It’s another example of the hidden costs of war that you might not think  about unless you stumbled across a contract solicitation for it. Vets get dogs from the VA to help them  with physical disabilities; there is also discussion about expanding such programs to aid vets with  PTSD or other mental ills.

“Coverage will encompass Service Dogs owned by Veterans suffering from  visual, hearing and/or substantial mobility impairments and may be expanded to  include any other future disabilities approved by VA,” the solicitation says. “The Contractor shall provide VA with full comprehensive, quality veterinary  health care insurance coverage for all Service Dogs approved by VA for receipt  of insurance coverage regardless of age, breed, geographic location or  pre-existing condition as long as the Service Dog is determined capable of  performing as a Service Dog.”

The breeds to be covered include boxers, collies, Dobermans, German  shepherds, golden retrievers, great Danes, black, golden and yellow Labs,  Labradoodles, poodles, pugs, and Rottweilers. They range in age from 1 to 12  years.

Under the deal, VA service dogs will be entitled to these vaccinations:

– Distemper Parvo

– Leptospirosis

– Hepatitis

– Rabies

– Lyme Disease

– Bordetella (2 per year)

…and these annual exams:

– Otoscopic Exam

– Opthalmic Exam

– Rectal Exam

– Dental Exam

– Neurologic Exam

– Cardiovascular Evaluation

– Weight/Nutritional Counseling

– Coat & Skin Evaluation

– Abdominal Palpation

– Urogenital Evaluation

– Musculoskeletal Evaluation

– Pulmonary/Lung Evaluation

– Tonometry/Ocular Pressure

– Intestinal Parasite Fecal Exam

– Roundworm and Hookworm Dewormings

– Blood Sample Collect/Prep

– Blood Cell Count

– Differential Exam of Blood Cells

– Internal Organ Function Screens (liver, kidney, calcium/phosphorus,  cholesterol and diabetes)

– Canine Dental Prophylaxis Protocol (utilizes one blood screening and one  internal function screen, listed above)

– Urine Sample Collect/Prep – Free Catch

– Urinalysis – Individual Tests

– Urine Specific Gravity

– Urine Sediment Exam

– Chest X-Rays (3 views)

– Electrocardiograms

– Ear Swab and Microscopic Exam

Weight/Nutritional Counseling?

As well as:

– Dental Cleaning (sedation/general anesthesia is required for all  cleanings)

– Grooming (Blind Veteran-owned Service Dogs only)

– Heartworm/Lyme/Ehrlichia Test – Rocky Mountain Tick Fever

– Free Interstate Health Certificates (when needed)

Of course, such care won’t continue forever, according to the VA:

Upon successful completion of the annual comprehensive exam, VA will certify  or non-certify each Service Dog as fit/unfit for further duty. Those Service  Dogs determined by VA as non-certifiable will no longer be eligible for  insurance coverage and the Contracting Officer via contract modification in  accordance with Section 5.4.2 will terminate the insurance coverage for the  non-certifiable Service Dog.

We’ve asked the VA for an estimate of the annual per-dog cost, but it’s bound  to be more than you might think, given the VA’s response to a potential bidder  who asked if his employees would need security clearances if their company won  the contract:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires that all contractor  personnel with access to VA sensitive data have a fingerprint check adjudicated  favorably and a security investigation, which includes submission of various  security documents, be favorably evaluated before access may be granted to VA  information. In addition, all contractor personnel must successfully complete  the following training each year:  VA Cyber Security Awareness and Rules of  Behavior training, VA privacy training,  and any additional cyber security  or privacy training deemed necessary by the Contracting Officer and/or  Contracting Officer Representative.

Wonder if the dogs have to be so, ahem, vetted, as well?

Read more:

Put preventive care first in 2013, veterinarian advises

Monday, January 28th, 2013
Preventive care is the most important strategy for keeping pets healthy, writes veterinarian Lidja Gillmeister. Preventive care includes regular veterinary visits, vaccines, internal and external parasite control, proper nutrition and exercise, and routine dental care at the veterinary clinic and at home, advises Dr. Gillmeister. A good relationship with a veterinarian is the foundation for the best possible preventive care, Dr. Gillmeister adds.


By Lidja Gillmeister, DVM

The New Year is a great opportunity for individuals to set goals for health and prosperity; and this year, why not consider making a few resolutions to help keep your pets healthy as well? When it comes to pet health advice, most veterinarians will agree that preventative health care is the single greatest gift you can give your furry and feathered friends. With that in mind, here are some tips to help jumpstart a healthy New Year for your beloved pets.

Top preventative health tips for pets

  • Schedule      a veterinary appointment: don’t wait for Fido to start exhibiting signs of disease or injury. Instead, make regular veterinary check-ups part of your routine – and stay ahead of the game with improved chances for early detection and prevention.
  • Say      yes to vaccinations: talk to your vet      about the vaccinations that are right for your pet, and stay current with      the appropriate treatments.
  • Focus      on nutrition and exercise: pet      obesity is a grown trend throughout the U.S., and just as in humans it can      lead to a number of serious health concerns including diabetes and      arthritis. Prioritize active playtime with your pet, and take dogs for      daily walks. In addition, make sure to discuss proper nutrition with your      veterinarian in order to select the best possible food source for your      pet.
  • Take      a proactive role: whether the issue      is getting your pet spayed or neutered or scheduling behavioral training      sessions, it is important to take action early. Unless you are serious      about breeding your pets, get them fixed – and invest in some basic      behavioral training early on to ensure a better quality of life for both      you and your pets.
  • Seek      out safe pest and parasite prevention:      ask your vet about the right flea and tick prevention methods for your      pets to prevent inconvenience, discomfort and the threat of disease. Not      all products are safe and effective, so do your homework before giving      your pet topical or oral treatments. Also, schedule routine fecal      examinations and dewormings to check for intestinal parasites, which can      cause disease in both animals and humans.
  • Don’t      forget dental care: don’t skimp on dental      health care for your pet. Take your dog or cat in for professional      cleanings, and make at-home tooth brushing a habit early on. Your      veterinarian can give you suggestions to make this process easier and more      effective.

Ultimately, preventative health care for pets is all about common sense, customized recommendations and a good relationship with your local veterinarian. If you have a new pet in the family this year, now’s the time to visit La Jolla Veterinary Hospital for a complete examination and personalized care. Visit us online to learn more and schedule an appointment today, at

Dr. Josie Zabala is selected by the AHF for the Cortese-Lippincott Award

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

On January 19, Dr. Zabala will receive the Cortese-Lippincott Award from the Animal Health Foundation at SCVMA’s Installation of Officers. It will honor her for going “above and beyond in making the world a better place for both humans and animals.”

Read on for her story.



SCVMA Legacy:  Dr. Josie Zabala Gave Second Chance to Unwanted Animals

This is one in a series of stories exploring what life and the practice of veterinary medicine was like for Southern California Veterinary Medical Association members in the past. 

By Jim Bell

 When Josie Zabala – born and raised in Manila – was a young veterinary student at the University of the Philippines in the mid-1960s, she could hardly have envisioned the path her life would take – to a 30-year career as director of Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care and Control.

“Working at the county shelter, extending the lives of unwanted animals, giving them a chance to have a second home and working the best way we could on a limited budget” was the best part of her rewarding career, she said. “We were a lot like country doctors. We learned to be very creative. ”

How did the young Filipina veterinary graduate of 1968 wind up leading the largest animal shelter in the United States?

She and other members of her graduating class were offered jobs by the federal Department of Agriculture. She worked for the government for six years, mostly in the San Joaquin Valley, while preparing for the federal and California veterinary board exams.

She passed the boards in 1974 and, with two young daughters at home, went to work part-time in clinics founded in Los Angeles by a partnership that included her husband Fred, who is now deceased. When her daughters were older, she started her own clinic in Anaheim and went to work for Los Angeles County in 1982.  “For a few years, I worked at the county in the morning and at my clinic in the afternoon,” said Zabala, who still lives in Cerritos. After 18 years, she turned her clinic over to an associate.

On January 19, she will receive the Cortese-Lippincott Award from the Animal Health Foundation at SCVMA’s Installation of Officers. It will honor her for going “above and beyond in making the world a better place for both humans and animals.”

Zabala retired from the county job last summer. It was “very challenging,” she said.  “When I started, there were no specific shelter veterinary positions. We were aided by the county Veterinarians Office. But when Prop. 13 passed in 1978, they phased out the county office and we started Animal Care and Control. And they hired me as the senior veterinarian in charge of all the six shelters.”

Zabala said that a shelter veterinarian’s life is different today than it was when she was named director. “There was a perception by other veterinarians that we were no good because we worked at the shelter,” she said.  “They thought that we were there because we couldn’t do the job in private practice. And everything we did in those early days was questioned and ridiculed by the private sector. We found [that attitude] all over. At [professional] meetings, veterinarians would stand up and say it straight to your face.

“That has changed. Shelter medicine has evolved into a prestigious part of veterinary medicine. But we hid in the shadows because of all the condescending words we got – because they didn’t understand shelter medicine. . . . At a shelter, you are not only involved in animal health but you also take part in public safety, public health.  You take care of animals that can transfer diseases to people. In fact, the [county] shelters were established because of a rabies epidemic in 1937.  So every time an animal comes into a shelter, the veterinarian looks for zoonotic disease symptoms.”

Bioterrorism now is part of the life of a shelter veterinarian, who must recognize the symptoms of agents such as anthrax that might be used by terrorists, she said, and report to public health officials. Finally, she said, animal mistreatment is an important responsibility. “We see animals that have been subject to human maltreatment and we investigate it and help prosecute it. The shelter veterinarian is on the front line in abuse cases.”

Dr. Zabala gives much of the credit for her success as director of the county shelters to the veterinarians who work there.  (There are 10 county veterinarians and 21 registered veterinary techs.) “Without them, everything that we tried to do would not have been possible,” she said.

Today, Zabala said, veterinary medicine is “more cutting edge” than it once was. “We have a lot of specialists in the field and we have continuing education that keeps us up to date. There was a time when we did diagnosing according to symptoms and now we have so many more tools. And the specialists are ready to help you if you have a question or a problem.

“Veterinarians today [in a sluggish economy] can be creative in helping their clients. We can make recommendations of what we can do and, if the client can’t afford it, we can go to the next choice or the next plan. The bad economy helps you grow as a veterinarian because you have to be more resourceful.”

Bumper toys appear to leach plastic compounds, study finds

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

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

Dog bites BPA: Chemicals leak from plastic training toys

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

By Lindsey Konkel Environmental Health News

Nov. 29, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funeral home offers services for 4-legged family members

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

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

Memorials to pets prove it’s more than puppy love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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