Archive for May, 2012

Why Can’t We Fly?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Human chest muscles, called pectorals, only make up 1 percent of an average person’s body weight. A bird’s pectorals are an amazing 30 percent to half of its total weight.

Strong pectorals bolster bird wings as they cut through the air, pushing birds forward and propelling them into the sky.

But that’s not the only difference between a person’s physique and a bird’s build that keeps people on land and birds in the sky.

In order to take flight, people would have to undergo a significant redesign of the chest muscles, chest cavity, bones, skin, feet and organs.

Light as a feather is an expression that can describe birds’ body parts in general.

“The respiratory tract goes into the bone to help reduce the weight,” said Dr. Julia K. Whittington, medical director of the Wildlife Medical Clinic at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Air sacs fill a bird’s body to keep it cool as well as light weight for flight. “

Bone structure is very different between human and avian species.

“Several of the major bones, the femur (leg bone) and humerus (arm bone), are hollow. These are called pneumatic bones,” Whittington said.

A side view of a bird would show that its whole body is designed to fly: it looks like a compressed tear drop. Even the beak is streamlined for flight, representing a slimmer version of the jaw bone.

Whittington said the bird skeleton is reinforced for flight. “The fused skeleton along the spine gives stability like a boat,” she said. Tail feathers act like a brake or rudder for steering, she explained.

“If you watch a bird’s flight in slow motion it’s truly incredible. Each independent flight feather can be adjusted for flight,” she said.

Feathers are one of the most significant differences between humans and birds.

“Feathers are modified scales,” Whittington said, adding their origins date to a bird’s ancestor — the dinosaur.

Feathers can keep a bird warm or waterproof, depending on the bird species. They are shaped differently on the top sides and bottom sides to best create lift and propulsion through the air.

Another holdover from dino days is the egg. Baby birds develop in an egg outside the mother, although one bird species, the kiwi, incubates eggs inside its body.

Some birds never got the hang of hover or glide with the Earth far below. Ostriches and penguins are two types of birds that are permanently grounded.

Veterinary Nutritionist Advises Avoiding Chicken Jerky Treats

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)– Chicken jerky dog treats sourced from China have federal health officials urging caution as a link between the products and illness is being looked into.  A local pet nutritionalist advises against giving your pet the dehydrated chicken product.

Since late last year the FDA has received nearly a thousand reports of illnesses and/or deaths of dogs that have consumed chicken jerky treats from China.  There are also concerns in Australia.

Dr. Kathy Michel is a professor of nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.  She says it’s still unknown what causes the toxic factor, but says what is clear is a kidney syndrome is showing up in many dogs that have ingested the treats.

“We know there is a problem with chicken jerky at this time. We don’t know what the problem is. We don’t know how to detect it. So we don’t know how to screen what chicken is safe and what isn’t.  And the best that I can offer at this time is I would avoid chicken jerky treats.”

Dr. Michel says some companies will say they only source ingredients from the United States, but that is not necessarily a verifiable  statement.

Old Horse Jumps from Glue Factory to Olympics Stage

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

​At 12 years old, racehorse Neville Bardos is well past his prime. In 2002, he narrowly escaped the slaughterhouse after a failed racing career. In 2011, he was horrifically burned in a Pennsylvania barn fire that killed six horses. But now, against all odds, the chestnut gelding is making a comeback. He’s not only a contender for equestrian glory at the London Olympic Games, but also set to be the subject of a new film. The handsome horse is considered a frontrunner in “three-day eventing” which encompasses dressage, cross country and show jumping. Meanwhile, his owner, Boyd Martin, who took a gamble on Neville just before he was headed to the glue factory, has just sold the movie rights to the story of Neville’s troubled life.

Chronic Lameness Occurs in Some Cats After Declaw

Monday, May 28th, 2012

In a review of multiple studies involving a total of 582 declawed cats, five suffered from persistent lameness after declaw surgery. That’s 0.86 percent, or 1 cat in 116 that are declawed.
When a cat is declawed, the end of each toe is amputated. The procedure is quite painful, so veterinarians give pain medication before, during and after the surgical procedure.
Signs of pain may include limping and lameness, reluctance to run or jump, presenting a guarded posture, sitting up like a prairie dog or diminished appetite.
Most cats resume their normal activity within a couple of weeks after surgery. Of course, we cats are stoic, so often it’s difficult to determine just how uncomfortable we are and for how long after the procedure.
If you’d rather not subject your cats to the risk of chronic pain, you can do what my mom does: She regularly trims my claws, and she offers me several legal objects to scratch. Soft plastic claw covers work well, too.

Kirkland Cat Food Added to Diamond Pet Food’s Recall List

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Posted: Wed, May 23, 2012 : 10:45 a.m.

Adding to the list of pet food recalls voluntarily posted recently by Diamond Pet Foods, the company has issued yet another recall in their product lines — cat food, specifically — because of salmonella.

Salmonella, also referred to as salmonellosis, causes digestive problems, and cats will typically present with fever, diarrhea, vomiting and weakness. Other symptoms can occur.

Salmonella is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be passed to humans as well, so care needs to be taken. Hand washing is a must — even when handling dry pet food that may be contaminated with the bacteria.

Diamond added the products to the list to alert pet owners to the potential cat food contamination with a general edit to the information on its recall website regarding the Kirkland brand.

The company’s website said the recall involves its Kirkland Signature Super Premium Maintenance Cat Chicken & Rice Formula and Kirkland Signature Super Premium Healthy Weight Cat Formula dry cat food. No illnesses with pets have been reported.

Distribution reaches to customers in the following states: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia, as well as in Canada and Puerto Rico. Despite Michigan not being on the distribution list, the product could have made its way here via other pet food channels, the company indicates.

To determine if your pet food is recalled, please check the production code on the bag. If the code has both a “3” in the ninth position AND an “X” in the 11th position, the product is affected by the recall. The best-before dates for the recalled products are Dec. 9, 2012 through Jan. 31, 2013.

Pet owners who are unsure if the product they purchased is included in the recall, or who would like replacement product or a refund, may contact Diamond Pet Foods via a toll free call at 866-918-8756, Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (EST). Visit for more information.

You can count on to have up-to-date information on pet product related recalls available. Search our archives of previous recalls here.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for and is owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

National Bite Prevention Week May 20 – 26, 2012

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

From the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association)

Did you know that …

  • 4.7 million people in this country are bitten by dogs every year
  • children are by far the most common victims
  • 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites each year
  • children are far more likely to be severely injured; approximately 400,000 receive medical attention every year
  • most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs
  • senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims

There are a number of things that you can do to avoid dog bites, ranging from properly training and socializing your pet to educating your children on how, or if, they should approach a dog. Information is one of the best cures for this public health crisis.

What’s a dog owner to do?

  • Carefully select your pet. Puppies should not be obtained on impulse.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Don’t put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
  • Train your dog. The basic commands “sit,” “stay,” “no,” and “come” help dogs understand what is expected of them and can be incorporated into fun activities that build a bond of trust between pets and people.
  • Walk and execrcise your dog regularly to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation.
  • Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug-of-war.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
  • Keep your dog healthy. Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and preventable infectious diseases. Parasite control and other health care are important because how your dog feels affects how it behaves.
  • Neuter your pet.
  • If you have a fenced yard, make sure the gates are secure.

How can you protect your family?

  • Be cautious around strange dogs, and treat your own pet with respect. Because children are the most common victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should:
  • NEVER leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Be alert for potentially dangerous situations.
  • Teach their children – including toddlers – to be careful around pets. Children must learn not to approach strange dogs or try to pet dogs through fences. Teach children to ask permission from the dog’s owner before petting the dog.

Useful Links

The following AVMA resources can help you learn more:

What you should know about dog bite prevention brochure This informative brochure offers tips on how to avoid being bitten, as well as what to do if you are bitten by a dog. It also addresses what you need to do if your dog bites someone.

Backgrounder: The role of breed in dog bite risk and prevention This backgrounder reviews and provides scientific context on dog breeds and their purported tendencies to bite.

A community approach to dog bite prevention (PDF) The American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions has produced this report intended to help state and local leaders develop effective dog bite prevention programs in their communities.

The Blue Dog Parent Guide and CD This innovative dog bite prevention program is designed to help parents and children safely interact with dogs both inside and outside their home. The program is geared toward children from 3 to 6 years old. It’s the only dog bite educational tool scientifically proven to help young children learn behaviors that can keep them safe.

Bilingual Dog Bite Prevention activity/coloring book Teach children about different ways to avoid dog bites, by educating them on how, or if, they should approach a dog. A creative tool for use all year, including during Dog Bite Prevention week in May.

What you should know about rabies Rabies is a deadly disease that is transmitted to people through a bite. It is transmitted through the rabid animal’s saliva. Rabies vaccinations for dogs are an excellent defense against this disease, as many times families are exposed to rabies after an unvaccinated pet dog is bitten by a rabid wild animal. This brochure educates on how to prevent rabies.

Heart Murmur Grades Don’t Always Reflect the Degree of Disease

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

It is recommend that an echocardiogram be performed in an animal with a heart murmur before anesthesia, if possible. Although listening to the heart for abnormal heart sounds such as murmurs or gallops is an important way to look for heart disease, this only gives you an indication that the animal may have underlying heart disease. It doesn’t necessarily tell you which type of heart disease or how severe it is.

Based on the type of abnormal heart sound, the location and the breed of animal, your veterinarian can often make an educated guess as to what type of heart disease your pet has based on what’s most likely, but this is still not definitive.

Heart murmurs in dogs are typically graded on a scale of 1 through 6, with 1 being the quietest and 6 being the loudest.

In smaller breeds of dogs, the most common cause of a heart murmur is a leak in a heart valve, referred to as chronic valvular disease. With this type of disease, the loudness of the heart murmur typically does correlate to the severity of the disease, though there are rare exceptions to this.

Larger breeds of dogs, however, can commonly get other types of heart disease — such as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a disease that causes the heart muscle to weaken — or even have cancerous tumors grow in the heart. With these diseases, you can have a very quiet murmur and still have severe disease.

The fact that Buddy has a grade 2 heart murmur doesn’t really give us any indication of how serious his heart disease is. He could have very mild disease, where anesthesia wouldn’t be a problem; or he could have more significant disease, where anesthesia may be more worrisome.

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound, or a sonogram of the heart. Much like a sonogram would be performed to look at a fetus, the echocardiogram allows us to visualize the heart, assess the size of the different chambers, evaluate how well the heart is contracting, determine where the blood is flowing within the heart and evaluate the thickness of the heart walls. It even allows us to estimate the pressures inside the heart and inside the lungs.

Using this information, we can diagnose the cause of the abnormal heart sound, how severe the disease is, and what types of risks will be encountered with anesthesia. In many cases, the cardiologist can even provide your veterinarian with specific recommendations for types of medications and fluids to be used during anesthesia that would be safest for the type of heart disease your pet has.

Specifically with dental disease,  treating a pet with certain types of heart disease with antibiotics before the procedure may be recommended to decrease the risk of infections in the heart.

Ask the Vets is a weekly column published by The Record. This question was answered by Dr. Jennifer Mulz of Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, N.J.

Chicken Dog Treats Made in China Now Linked to 900 Complaints

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
By JoNel Aleccia for VITALS at

Nearly 1,000 dogs reportedly have been sickened by chicken jerky pet treats from China, according to a new tally of complaints from worried owners and veterinarians submitted to federal health officials.

The Food and Drug Administration has logged some 900 reports of illnesses and deaths since November, when it warned owners about continued problems with the products known variously as chicken jerky strips, treats and nuggets, a spokeswoman said.

Back then, the agency already had heard from 70 owners about problems ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to kidney failure and other serious ailments after animals reportedly consumed the treats.

Since then, complaints have mounted steadily, putting growing pressure on the FDA to solve the problem.

The agency sent inspectors earlier this year to Chinese plants that make the jerky treats, two Ohio lawmakers previously told No results of those inspections are yet available, FDA spokeswoman Tamara Ward said Monday.

Despite repeated tests since 2007, FDA scientists have been unable to detect any toxin responsible for the animal illnesses, officials said. The agency has asked certain pet owners to send in samples of suspect treats along with their animals’ veterinary records.

Three top brands of chicken jerky treats were among those most recently cited by pet owners and veterinarians in complaints of harm, FDA records obtained by showed. They included Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brands produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Co., and Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats, produced by the Del Monte Corp.


Insurers React to Increasing Costs of Dog Bite Claims

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of homeowners insurance liability claims paid in 2011, costing nearly $479 million in the U.S., according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Property casualty insurers pay out far more in claims for property damage to homes. But when it comes to liability, the cost of dog bite claims has risen 48% since 2003, even though the number of dog bites has remained roughly flat, the organization said.

State Farm, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the U.S., paid more than $109 million on nearly 3,800 dog bite claims in 2011.

The Insurance Information Institute’s analysis of homeowners insurance data found that the average cost of dog bite claims in the U.S. was $29,396 in 2011, up 53.4% from $19,162 in 2004. Medical costs and the sizes of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs have all outpaced inflation, the organization said.

High payouts on dog bites are happening because more people own dogs, they live closer to one another, and parents are more likely to get advanced medical care for their children after a bite, said Bob Skow, CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa. “Forty years ago, a kid got bit, Mom and Dad didn’t take him to a plastic surgeon,” he said. “Nowadays they do.”

Most often, kids are the bite victims. Skow said people should own dogs appropriate for where they live and train them properly, and parents should teach children how to avoid provoking dogs.

There are 78.2 million dogs in the U.S., according to the American Pet Products Association, one dog for every four people. “Statistically, the numbers have gone up at the same time that we’ve become more of an urban society,” Skow said.

Laws in 18 states let dog owners off on liability for the dog’s first bite, but in others, including Iowa,  an owner is liable for all damages caused by his dog, unless the person injured was committing a crime or trespassing, or unless the dog had rabies and the owner didn’t know it.

“Most insurance policies are going to put in their underwriting provisions that they’re not going to cover vicious dogs,” said Tom Alger, Iowa Insurance Division spokesman.

Contributing: Belz also reports for The Des Moines Register.

Study Finds Modern Dog Breeds Genetically Disconnected from Ancient Ancestors

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Cross-breeding of dogs over thousands of years has made it extremely difficult to trace the ancient genetic roots of today’s pets, according to a new study led by Durham University.

An international team of scientists analysed data of the genetic make-up of modern-day dogs, alongside an assessment of the global of dog remains, and found that modern breeds genetically have little in common with their ancient ancestors.

Dogs were the first domesticated animals and the researchers say their findings will ultimately lead to greater understanding of dogs’ origins and the development of early .

Although many modern breeds look like those depicted in or in Egyptian pyramids, cross-breeding across thousands of years has meant that it is not accurate to label any modern breeds as “ancient”, the researchers said.

Breeds such as the Akita, Afghan Hound and Chinese Shar-Pei, which have been classed as “ancient”, are no closer to the first than other breeds due to the effects of lots of cross-breeding, the study found.

Other effects on the of domestic dogs include patterns of human movement and the impact on dog population sizes caused by major events, such as the two World Wars, the researchers added.

The findings are published today (Monday May 21) in the scientific journal USA (PNAS). The Durham-led research team was made up of scientists from a number of universities including Uppsala University, Sweden, and the Broad Institute, in the USA.

In total the researchers analysed genetic data from 1,375 dogs representing 35 breeds. They also looked at data showing of wolves, with recent genetic studies suggesting that dogs are exclusively descended from the .