Archive for April, 2012

Per an ASPCA Study, at Shelters, Dogs are Chosen for Looks and Cats for Behavior

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Who can resist those big puppy-dog eyes, floppy ears and fluffy tail? In a new study to be released by the ASPCA, “physical appearance” is the top reason given for picking a particular puppy at an animal shelter.

With cats, it’s a different story: “Behavior with people” was what convinced most adopters to choose a particular adult cat.

The research, conducted by the animal-advocacy organization from January through May of 2011, involved five shelters across the country. About 1,500 adopters filled out questionnaires explaining how they knew the cat or dog was “the one.”

By understanding why people choose the pets they do, the ASPCA hopes to increase adoption rates and ensure adopters go home with a perfect match. It’s particularly useful for shelter workers to know that appearance is often a deciding factor. They can then counsel adopters about behavior and other traits that might be overlooked.

“As an animal behaviorist, it was interesting to get inside the human animal’s head,” says Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development with the ASPCA.

The study supported findings from previous research showing that animals that approach the front of the cage when a visitor nears have a much greater chance of being placed in a new home. In the new study, many of the adopters who were asked, “What did this pet do when you first met him/her?” specified a social interaction, such as an approach, a meow, a lick or even jumping on the visitor.

“That interaction is important for the human animal—not just entertainment, but in choosing their next friend,” Dr. Weiss says.

—Beth DeCarbo

Reasons Given for Picking a Pet
Behavior with people: 77.9%
Physical appearance: 65.6%
Age: 63.9%
Age: 78.1%
Behavior with people: 69.3%
Physical appearance: 62.8%
Behavior with people: 78.3%
Physical appearance: 75.4%
Age: 65.6%
Physical appearance: 76.8%
Age: 74.8%
Behavior with people: 73.9%

Note: Respondents were able to pick multiple reasons.

A version of this article appeared April 18, 2012, on page D3 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: BIG CHOICES | Selecting a Pet.

Diagnosing Disease in Fish

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

 Kevin has a relatively large backyard pond.

 The pond begins with a two-tiered waterfall and small stream section that terminates into the main pond area, which is 6 feet deep and contains about 12,000 gallons of water. Kevin’s pond also contains three turtles and 12 large koi carp, which have been in the pond since it was built some 10 years ago. The carp, however, are no longer the fingerlings they used to be.

The koi are now 14 to 20 inches long. Over the past three to four weeks, Kevin has noticed his fish acting more lethargic. Normally, when Kevin comes out to the pond in the morning, all 12 koi are waiting at the top of the water with gulping mouths. That has not been the case lately. Kevin now finds all 12 spending most of their time in one area of the pond near the bottom.

Kevin has netted a few of his fish to get a closer look and has noticed that their fins are showing bright red where they are normally a much more pale color. Other than this change, he notes nothing else physically abnormal. He has done his research on the Internet but has not reached any conclusions. That’s why he’s asking for help.

There are signs we can perceive from some species – dogs, cat, birds and rabbits – that we can understand, such as pain in a particular area or obvious signs like vomiting, diarrhea and coughing. With fish, that is not so much the case.

There is one clue we have with Kevin’s fish. Their fins are turning red. I would advise Kevin to pick out one fish from his group, preferably the one that appears to be most affected, and bring it to a veterinarian with experience working with fish.

The fin changes do likely hold an answer to why the fish are not thriving. I generally recommend a fin clipping in a case like this one. We take a few small pieces of affected fins and prepare them for microscopic examination. This will allow us to see what might be causing the changes in the fins.

There are several possibilities, including bacterial disease, fungal infection, protozoal infection and parasites. A fin clipping should be very helpful in ferreting out the answer.

A pond-water analysis also should be done. There may be something awry with water quality that has allowed a problem to occur with the fish. A veterinarian familiar with fish medicine will be able to help with pond analysis as well. If Kevin cannot find a veterinarian, he might be able to find help both for his fish and his pond through a retailer specializing in ponds and/or koi carp. The retailer will not likely be able to do fin analysis but probably will have significant experience with pond management and diseases in koi carp. The key, as always, is to get started. It is extremely unlikely that Kevin’s fish will get better on their own.

(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.)


Understanding Ligament Tears

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

While ligament tears can cause serious setbacks in an athlete’s career, a similar injury can mean surgery and rehabilitation for your frisky kitty or romping Rover.

According to Dr. Sharon Kerwin, professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears or cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injuries, as they are referred to in animals, occur almost as often as they do in humans.

“Cats and dogs have the same ligaments that we have in our knees,” says Kerwin. “The cruciate ligament stabilizes your femur and your tibia so you don’t get too much motion between those two bones.”

CCL tears in cats often occur the same way ACL tears occur in humans. Often, there is some traumatic injury that occurs as a result of jumping from high places, playing or getting the animal’s leg caught in something.

“It takes a fair bit of force to rupture a cruciate ligament, and it tends to occur more often in overweight cats,” says Kerwin.

However, in dogs, this injury is often the result of a chronic degeneration of the ligament and occurs much more frequently than it does in cats.

“In dogs, we think the injury may be related to weight and body structure, meaning that some large breeds such as Rottweilers, Labradors and Chow Chows, may be predisposed to CCL injuries,” said Kerwin. “In some cases, we think it’s either the shape of their tibia or the shape of their femur that predisposes them to this injury.”

A ruptured ligament is usually characterized by limping or inactivity. In cats, they will not want to play the way they used to, and dogs will often appear lame and sit awkwardly with their leg sticking out, signaling a possible knee problem.

Kerwin says if your pet shows signs of an injured leg, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian who will conduct a lameness exam in order to diagnose the problem.

The injury is often treated in cats with medical management by placing overweight cats on a strict diet with exercise restriction for three to six weeks, followed by a check-up measuring progress. If the injury fails to heal, surgery is often recommended to explore and stabilize the joint.

But when dogs are afflicted with CCL injuries, many times the best option is surgery as quickly as possible.

“Dogs often don’t do well with medical management, the injury will often worsen over time as the arthritis in the knee builds,” explains Kerwin.

Dogs often require 8-12 weeks of recovery including strict rest and rehabilitation

Once your pet has undergone the recommended period of exercise restriction, it is important to encourage it to exercise its leg with slow leash walks or through playtime activities.

“The biggest way to prevent CCL tears is to keep your pet at a proper weight,” Kerwin says.

It is very easy for animals to gain weight, especially if they spend most of their time indoors, because they do not get the same level of exercise. Your veterinarian can advise you on the proper weight for your dog or cat.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

Illinois Teen’s Heroism in Barn Fire Saves 25 Horses

Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Long time Arabian horse trainer and judge, Richard Wright, was the victim of every horseman’s nightmare on Wednesday when a fire broke out in his 64 stall, 25,000 square-foot barn near McHenry, IL. The five-alarm fire ripped through Black Tie Stable shortly after 5 p.m. With no hydrants in the vicinity, at least 21 fire departments were needed to help out, along with tankers, according to McHenry’s Northwest Herald.


Before the tankers arrived, however, 15 year-old Madison Wallraff pulled up to the property with her step-father and saw flames. After dialing 911, Wallraff ran into the barn and began pulling horses from their stalls. Returning to the blazing barn repeatedly, Wallraff, later joined by Shannon Weitzman, 21, pulled at least 25 horses to safety–a response that has horse owners everywhere calling Wallraff a hero.


“Madison Wallraf is one brave young lady and some 25 horses, many of them Arabian’s, are alive today because of her incredible bravery in the face of life threatening circumstances. I think I can safely speak for AHA’s some 30,000 members in celebrating Madison’s truly heroic efforts,” says Lance Walters, Arabian Horse Association (AHA), president. “This act of selfless courage by Madison and fellow rescuer, Shannon Weitzman, with no concern for their personal safety, exemplifies the bond between the horse and the people who love them,” added Walters.


Seeing animals and members of their own community in need, many near McHenry jumped into action to support Wright and his clients by offering care for the surviving horses. Those not as close or without the means to help directly turned to the Internet to express their sympathy with donations to the Arabian Horsemen’s Distress Fund (AHDF) at “It’s amazing the scope and breadth of the people who want to help in these situations. Everybody cares, and they care in the same way,” says Mary Trowbridge, an AHDF Board Member. “We didn’t even really reach out, but the outpouring of support actually crashed our server for a short time,” says Trowbridge. AHDF is accepting donations that can be earmarked directly toward the Richard Wright fire.


According to the Northwest Herald, a total of 18 horses were lost in the fire and the cause of the fire is unknown and is not thought to be suspicious.

Top Feline Toxins

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

How to keep your cat safe this upcoming year

It is no surprise that dogs and cats are, by far, the most common pets in U.S. households today. The cat population in the U.S. outnumbers dogs by more than 10 million, making them the most populous pet species. This is due, in large part, to apartment dwellers in urban environments, the ease of cat maintenance, and the potentially lower financial cost of ownership.

Dogs tend to be prone to mischief and account for a large percentage of calls to Pet Poison Helpline, a 24/7 animal poison control based out of Minneapolis. That said, cats still comprise a significant number of calls to Pet Poison Helpline. The top five most common cat toxins include:

  1. Human or veterinary drugs
  2. Poisonous plants
  3. Insecticides
  4. Household cleaners
  5. Other poisons, such as glow sticks and liquid potpourri

Human and Veterinary Medications

Sleep AidsApproximately 40% of calls to Pet Poison Helpline are due to cats inappropriately ingesting human or veterinary drugs. Cats have difficulty metabolizing certain drugs due to their altered liver metabolism, especially as compared to dogs and humans. Common drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) are some of the most deadly to cats. When ingested, NSAIDS can result in severe, acute kidney failure (ARF) and gastrointestinal injury/ulcers. Likewise, one Tylenol (e.g., acetaminophen) tablet can be fatal to a cat. Untreated, it can cause severe anemia (low red blood cell count), difficulty breathing, a swollen face, liver failure and death. Cats also seem to like the taste of certain antidepressants (e.g., Effexor), which may contain an attractive smell or flavor in the coating. With any accidental medication ingestion, immediate veterinary care is imperative.


Easter LilyPoisonous plants are the second most common toxin that cats get into, and represent approximately 14% of feline-related calls to Pet Poison Helpline. True lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis spp.), including the Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, Oriental, and Japanese Show lilies, are among the most deadly, as ingestion can cause severe, acute kidney failure in cats. Because these flowers are fragrant, inexpensive and long-lasting, florists often include them in bouquets. Small ingestions of two or three petals or leaves – even the pollen – can result in potentially irreversible kidney failure. Even the water in the vase can be potentially poisonous to cats.  Immediate veterinary care is imperative. Despite their name, other plants such as the Peace and Calla lily are not true lilies and do not cause kidney failure. Instead, these plants contain insoluble oxalate crystals that can cause minor symptoms, such as irritation in the mouth, tongue, pharynx and esophagus.


FertilizerInsecticides comprise approximately 9% of feline-related poisonings at Pet Poison Helpline. Exposure to household insecticides can occur when a cat walks through an area that was treated with lawn and garden products, sprays, powders, or granules. Cats are also typically accidentally exposed to household insecticides when pet owners inappropriately apply a canine topical flea and tick medication onto a cat. Dog-specific insecticides containing pyrethrins or pyrethroids are highly toxic to cats. Severe drooling, tremors and life-threatening seizures can occur. Always read labels carefully before using any kind of insecticide and ask your veterinarian about appropriate topical flea and tick medications for your cat. Even more “natural” or “holistic” flea medication can be very dangerous to cats.

Household Cleaners

DetergentsExposure to household cleaners accounted for approximately 6% of feline-related calls to Pet Poison Helpline. Many cat owners don’t realize that some common household cleaners like kitchen and bath surface cleaners, carpet cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and even laundry detergents can be toxic to cats. Symptoms can include profuse drooling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and even organ damage. After cleaning your home, make sure all excess liquid or residue is wiped up or eliminated as soon as possible. Only allow your cat back into the cleaned areas after the products have completely dried. When storing cleaning products, keep them out of your cat’s reach.

Other Poisons

Glow SticksThe remainder of feline-related calls to Pet Poison Helpline involve less obvious poisons, such as glow sticks. Glow sticks and jewelry contain a very bitter tasting liquid called dibutyl phthalate. While rarely deadly, just one bite into glow sticks can cause your cat to drool profusely. Most of these exposures can be managed at home. Offer (but do not force) your cat to drink some chicken broth or canned tuna (in water, not oil); this will help remove the bitter taste from the mouth. Remove the glow sticks and clean up any remaining liquid to prevent re-exposure as cats may continue to groom the bitter dibutyl phthalate off their fur. A bath may be in order to remove any “glowing” liquid from his or her skin. If you see signs of redness to the eyes, squinting, continued drooling, or not eating, a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary.

Keep your four-legged felines safe by protecting them from these common feline toxins. If you think your pet may have ingested something harmful, take action immediately. Contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680.

SeaWorld Veterinarians Treat Sea Lion for Gunshot Wound

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The California sea lion that was found  with a bullet in its flipper has healed and was released back into the wild  on Friday, according to SeaWorld.

The sea lion was rescued on Feb. 11 after beachgoers in  Oceanside noticed the injured animal on the shore.

SeaWorld rescued the female sea lion, and it turned out she  was also severely malnourished. Specialists removed the bullet from her flipper  and bandaged up the wound.

The staff nicknamed her “Valentine” since she was rescued a  few days before the holiday.

After two months in the animal park’s rehabilitation program,  Valentine gained more than 40 pounds and returned to full health.

SeaWorld said they returned the animal 2 to 3 miles off the  coast in a good feeding area where dolphins, sea lions and sea birds were  actively feeding.

Source:  Healed Sea Lion Returns to Ocean | NBC San Diego

How to Handle a Pet’s Remains Can be a Complex Decision for Owners

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Donna and Mark Hein have an agreement: Whoever dies first gets the dogs.

The dogs’ ashes, that is. The Lockport couple plan to have the cremains of their two beloved canines buried with them when they go.

“We did that with our two Dobermans growing up. We put their cremains in the caskets of my parents after they passed,” Donna Hein said.

For now, though, the ashes are kept in decorative tins.

Increasingly, people’s devotion to their pets is becoming larger than life. They go to great lengths, sometimes at great expense, to protect and honor their animals into eternity.

Like the Heins, who had their pets cremated at Kozy Acres in Joliet, many opt to handle after-life matters themselves instead of just leaving a deceased animal with a veterinarian.

Last year, there were five pet funeral services at Lain-Sullivan Funeral Home in Park Forest. Loving Memorial Pet Care operates there. It has its own crematory, owner Michele Johnson said.

Business has increased 20 percent a year over the five years she’s been in operation, Johnson said. She attributes the growth to the personal touch she offers.

“We have 24-hour-a-day assistance,” she said. “We’ll come to your home or to your vet to pick up an animal.”

Grievers get time to pay their respects before the pet is cremated. Johnson also sells burial palls and caskets for people who opt to bury an animal.

The palls are stuffed with herbs designed to keep critters away from pets that are buried in a back yard.

Each pet owner who chooses cremation gets a keepsake card with the paw and nose prints of their beloved animal. They also receive a tuft of fur in a keepsake sack.

Johnson also sells a complete line of urns, scattering containers and memento jewelry.

“I try to accommodate every request,” she said.

Including the saddest ones.

Last summer, Stephanie Fisher, 21, of Park Forest, was killed in a fiery car crash on the same day her dog was slated to be euthanized by a local veterinarian. Fisher’s parents had both their daughter and their chocolate Lab, Bosco, brought to Lain-Sullivan. The two buddies were cremated simultaneously.

Johnson has cremated llamas, birds, snakes, even a goldfish.

“People love their pets,” she said. “So we treat them with respect.”

At Kozy Acres pet cemetery and crematorium in Joliet, there are 40 to 65 cremations a week. Therese Piaza, who co-owns Kozy Acres with her ex-husband, Tom Gaura, said both private and group cremations are more popular than burial these days.

With private cremation, a pet’s remains are returned to the owner, either to be buried or kept. In communal cremation, pets are cremated in groups, with all the remains then scattered across the cemetery.

“It’s still dignified but less expensive,” Piaza said.

Some people, including Cheri Packard, of Shorewood, prefer a traditional burial. Packard has six dogs and one cat buried at Kozy Acres pet cemetery in Joliet.

“We had a wake and a funeral for all of them,” Packard said. “I just feel that’s the right thing to do.”

Kozy Acres, which opened in 1981, has 2,500 marked plots, many with headstones that include photos of the animals buried beneath them. Some feature statues of dogs, cats or of St. Francis, the patron saint of children and animals.

For those who simply can’t part with their animal friend, there is a third option: preservation.

Jil-Marie Williams and Dan Borchers, of Chicago, had their dachshund, Weezy, preserved last summer using a freeze-drying method offered at Don’s Taxidermy in Wilmington.

“We have her sitting on our dining room table right now,” Borchers said. “She still looks real.”

Williams and Borchers said their 7-year-old canine died unexpectedly.

“We never got to say goodbye,” Williams said.

At first they thought they would have her cremated. Burial, Borchers said, was not an option because the couple plan to move in the near future.

“All our friends and family asked, ‘What are you doing?’ But now they see how nice she turned out,” Borchers said. “I recommend it to everyone.”

The option, which calls for removing the internal organs and body fluids before freeze-drying in a position chosen by the client, is becoming increasingly popular, said Don Franzen, owner of Don’s Taxidermy.

Many taxidermists are reticent to mount a pet because it’s difficult to achieve an authentic look with an animal that a human is so familiar with. Freeze-drying, though more time-consuming and costly, can get those results.

“In the last two days, I’ve gotten six calls about it,” Franzen said.

Some requests come from as far away as Maine.

“It’s not for everybody,” he conceded.

Those who do choose it seem to enjoy having a lifelike preservation of their animal, he said.

The cost for freeze-drying is based on an animal’s weight. An 8- to 10-pound dog starts at about $550, Franzen said.

Most people approach him with the admission, “People think I’m crazy,” he said.

“But who is anyone to judge?” he said.

“Most of them cry when they come to pick up their pet,” he said.

Franzen, also a taxidermist, said working with pets requires a whole new approach to the preservation process, one that calls for sensitivity and people skills.

“It’s like being a mortician,” he said. “You have to listen to the people, hear their stories. It’s important.”

Williams and Borchers said they were impressed by the personal touch Franzen and his wife extended.

“It was so personable,” Borchers said. “We’re very happy with the result. It’s like you don’t really have to say goodbye.”

Chosen Dog Breed May Reflect Personality Traits

Friday, April 20th, 2012

What Your Dog’s Breed Says About You

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua Tinkerbell may be more than just a purse accessory. According to new research, the breed of dog you choose can reflect your personality.

Owners of toy dogs, like Hilton and — believe it or not — Sir Isaac Newton, score high on a personality trait called openness, a measure of how intellectually curious, open to new experiences and appreciative of arts and culture a person is. Meanwhile, owners of famously friendly dogs such as the Labrador retriever are likely to be the most agreeable personalities around.

“We go for dogs that are a bit like us, just as we go for a romantic partner who is a bit like us,” study researcher Lance Workman, a psychologist at Bath Spa University in the United Kingdom, told LiveScience.

Workman and his colleagues are interested in how personality traits influence real-world behavior. They focused on dog ownership because earlier studies have found personality differences between dog owners and non-dog owners (dog owners tend to be more agreeable). In one study, Workman and his co-authors found that people are even able to match purebred dogs with their owners, suggesting that certain breeds are associated with certain types of people.

In collaboration with the Kennel Club, the researchers set up an online questionnaire for 1,000 owners of purebred dogs. The questionnaire measured what psychologists call the “Big Five” personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, a measure of anxiety.

To simplify matters, they split the dog breeds into seven Kennel Club categories: gun dogs, such as the Lab or golden retriever; hound dogs, such as the greyhound; pastoral breeds, including German shepherds and collies; terriers, such as the Staffordshire bull terrier; toy breeds, including Chihuahuas; utility breeds, such as bulldogs; and working breeds, such as the Doberman.

The results revealed correlations between the type of dog and the owner’s personality.  People who own pastoral or utility breeds are the most extroverted of any dog owners. Owners of gun dogs and toy dogs were most agreeable. The most emotionally stable people tended to own hounds, including beagles and Afghans. Toy dog owners were also the most open and imaginative bunch.

“It breaks down the stereotype that owners of toy dogs are airheads, basically,” Workman said. [Like Dog, Like Owner: See What Your Dog Says About You]

The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, is being presented this week at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in London. The findings suggest that dog owners naturally gravitate toward hounds that fit their personality and lifestyle.

But the information might also come in handy for people just starting to pick out a furry pal, Workman said. The questionnaire could be developed to include not only personality concerns, but also practical ones such as living space. Prospective dog-owners would then have a data-based way to choose a breed — a method that could lead to fewer dogs sent to the pound, Workman said.

“You would type in these answers, and it would expand the 50 questions we’ve got to go into lifestyle, and it would say, ‘This is the dog for you,'” he said.


Man sues Nestle Purina and Wal-Mart over dog treats from China

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Pet owner Dennis Adkins has filed a lawsuit against Nestle Purina and Wal-Mart following the death of his 9-year-old Pomeranian, Cleo, who became ill and died after eating one Waggin’ Train “Yam Good” chicken-wrapped treat per day over a three-day period. Adkins has also requested that a class be initiated for other owners whose pets were affected. The FDA has performed extensive testing of the treats and hasn’t found any causative agent, but the agency has issued consumer warnings about the products since 2007  Read More

Kaytee Hand Feeding Baby Formula Recalled by FDA

Friday, April 20th, 2012

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