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Corbett Healthcare of Canines

      I hear a lot about Obama care but not nearly enough about CORBETT HEALTHCARE OF CANINES–responsible whenever a story surfaces about animal cruelty and neglect.  Take the Ambrosias, who rescued and cared for over 100 Chihuahuas.  At least these dogs were warm last winter while puppies froze in uninspected puppy mills. No inspections since July 1, 2011Another example–the Frackville dogs.  Our dog law enforcement officers were spread too thin and not able to keep up with enforcement duties.  The number of carcases from this facility alerted a veterinary hospital and finally officials that there was a bigger problem.  What other signals of official indifference are we missing as dog lovers struggle to care for the uncared-for? Dare we look at our state and local elected officials?  The incompetent Dog Law Director, whose main professional credential was being a bank teller, now has a job in the correctional department because she issued a kennel license to someone convicted of animal cruelty.  Yes, that is illegal.  Michael Pechart, a top aide to Agriculture Secretary George Greig, is now stepping in until there is a new appointee to the $80,000/year job.  Wonder what Pechart’s qualifications are besides farming?  Wonder if he is following the same “do nothing” mandate from the Governor’s office?

BRUCELLOSIS IN SNYDER COUNTY. Brucellosis, a bacterial disease, has been found in Snyder County. This disease can cause sterility in either sex at any age.  Infected dogs can have a poor coat, seem depressed, and have painful joints.  However, dogs may show no signs of illness and still infect other dogs.

BANK OF AMERICA TIES WITH HSUS. Sixty dollars from each Bank of America credit card is earmarked for HSUS.  However, it has been reported that less than 1% of this sum goes to animal care, yet ties have not severed between the two giants.  According to the Bank of America, “people believe HSUS helps animals and they like carrying a card with dogs and cats on it.”

TDI at GROOM EXPO.  New this year at Groom Expo in Hershey–TDI testing in the parking garage on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, cost $10, paid to TDI.  Contact Peggy Crawford at or 864-303-7172.

HELPING AND LEARNING. Joining the local CART opens doors to countless learning experiences that will allow you to help dogs in need. M. J. Moss has been able to gain training in shelter management that has allowed her to be a valuable asset when there are pets that need help.  Moss accompanies law officials when they need to remove pets. There are courses in body language and training in the newest material on dog bites and children.  Most of these courses have minimal fees or are free.   

PET SITTER CHOICE. Since my illness 7 years ago the Spaniels and I have had a half dozen pet sitters.  The best ones have had a strong background in sporting dogs, whether they had any other certificates or training or insurance.  I think this is important.  Know the breeds your sitter has had experience with.  Someone with a pit bull or strong terrier background would not be a good fit for me.  Also, choose someone with a strong connection to a veterinary hospital, and telephone back-up access if possible.  Your pet’s hospital should be the first choice for references. A solid client base is also important.  The number of pets they pet-sit for or how busy they are is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the quality of the care they will provide.  Sometimes the offering of this latter sort of information serves as a warning that your dog is just a number and not the wonderful person you know needs extra TLC because you are not there. 


Aug 06, 2012 | Comments are off | Uncategorized

“Recover CPR”: The New CPR

IMPORTANT:  Less than 6% of the dogs and cats that experience cardiopulmonary arrest in the hospital survive.  To improve outcomes the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care and the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society have issued new guidelines called the Recover CPR Initiative (JAVMA, July 15).

Perform 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute of one-third to one-half of the chest width with the animal lying on the side. Ventilate incubated dogs and cats at a rate of 10 breaths per minute; for mouth-to-snout ventilation maintain a compression-to-ventilation ratio of 30 to 2. Perform CPR in 2-minute cycles, switching the person performing the compressions with each cycle. Administer vasopressors every 3 to 5 minutes during CPR.

EARLY ARTHRITIS DETECTION IN DOGS AND OWNERS. An early detection test for arthritis is showing promise for both dogs and people–before signs of disease are evident.  The test analyzes synovial fluid to determine whether a patient is developing the disease in a specific joint to predict the potential severity of the disease and to determine response to treatment.

MRI AND DOG. I was interested to read that the latest testing in our best friends involves the MRI.  Of course, it is the brain being imaged and not the abdomen.  The dog is in a “stay” command and responds to a simple command which can be imaged.  Having had many MRIs myself I have to wonder about the noise.  In human subjects head phones block out the noise and music is played according to the subject’s preference.  Wonder what the dogs listen to and how that factors into the results.  When I read the study I thought of veterinarian Bruce Ilgen, an innovative past president of the PVMA.  He believed that a dog that had passed the CGC evaluation gave more reliable results during routine exams because of their experience with such commands as “stay” and avoidance of reaction to distractions.  CGC titled dogs are better patients!

CANINE CALENDAR:  July 27, 28–the Lackawanna Kennel Club Show on the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds and on the 29th, the Bald Eagle Kennel Club Show and the Williamsport Dog Training Club.

August 25 and 26th–Mid-Susquehanna Kennel Club Show in Middleburg.

September 11–TRAINING PUPPIES FOR HOMELAND SECURITY  on the University of Pennsylvania Grey’s Ferry campus in Philadelphia the Penn Vet Working Dog Center ( is collecting and analyzing genetic, behavioral, training and physical data to improve the success of detection dogs vital for our national security.  The Center is searching for puppies to enroll in a foundation training program to open in the fall.  All of the pups will have foster homes and only positive reinforcement methods will be used. Application: http//  Sarah Griffith 215-898-2211.

UP AT 5:30 TO WALK THE DOGS–and to bed at 10 PM. This is the day of Cesar Millan and this is the last year of the Dog Whisperer.  After 9 years the dog educator who didn’t speak English when he came to this country as an illegal alien 20 years ago, sleeping under an underpass, has decided on a new mission–rehabilitating abandoned dogs and making sure they have new homes.  Cesar Millan says dogs are “secret entrances into people’s lives” and so through mostly positive reinforcement he made dog-owning a joy for millions of TV viewers.  His new mission was brought on by the need to re-home dogs and personally by the death of his beloved “Daddy” and an unexpected divorce. His friends say Cesar felt “abandoned” and took to more exercise to work through the sorrow in his life–advice he would give others. The new show will debut in January 2013 on NatGeoWILD. Topics include rehabilitating bomb detection dogs and dogs that protect lions. Meanwhile his youngest son Calvin will have his own show.

Tape this year’s shows and get ready for the younger “dog whisperer”.

October 20th 21st–AKC Meet The Breeds at the Javits Center, New York City.  160 breeds of dogs and 50 breeds of cats.

Jul 27, 2012 | Comments are off | Uncategorized

The Politics of Pets

Recently I saw a picture of a white rat wearing a harness.  He was part of an experiment on restoring movement to paralyzed limbs.  It was a study whose mission was to help man–perhaps many of our wounded warriors.  The picture reminded me of rats I had known as a graduate assistant in the University of Buffalo psychology department–could the one in the picture have been a great grandson of my fast learners?  He had a familiar pink twinkle in his eye!

      Rats are carefully bred.  Some families of rats are prone to cancer, others to heart problems, etc.  The rats I knew were bred for their intelligence.  As graduate assistants we handled them, fed them and petted them.  And, when it was time and they were socialized they became part of experiments involving mazes and Skinner boxes.  The rats’ health and welfare were carefully monitored.  They probably received better care, diet and temperature-controlled environments than any puppy mill puppies. At the Geisinger Medical Center animal care facility Dr. Sally Wixon was the first small animal veterinarian. She cared deeply about her animals used  in medical research.  In the Hershey Medical Center facilities Dr. Howard Hughes was the vet in charge and he agonized over every cough and symptom. 

      The rats in these trials “lived large”.  We couldn’t ask them to pay attention.  Rats don’t often look you in the eye.  So we withheld a meal and asked them to learn in order to receive a pellet.  Lots of positive body language and energy.  The results of laboratory animal studies must be uncontaminated by fear, pain, illness.  The rats cannot be sick or hurt or it will affect the results.      

      But back to the rats I knew.  They were fast and smart and they taught us a great deal about clicker training–long before dolphins and dogs.  They worked for a food reward which was later taken away in a pre-determined pattern and this pattern became the basis of positive reinforcement.  And so the way we taught children and animals changed forever. We began to teach dogs using positive rewards rather than fear and pain. 

      There is a difference between animal welfare and animal rights.  It is important to know this.  Those in organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA oppose all lab animal use. They also oppose all pet breeding, no-kill shelters (advocating euthanasia)  feline trap-neuter-return programs, and animal product consumption.  And, they oppose the use of crating.

      Many readers  feel that very little of this is important to them–and has little to do with white rats wearing harnesses and learning to walk.  It really is important.  Our beliefs have consequences.  They determine how we act and how humane and caring we are because we understand another species.  Since most of us don’t know any white rats with harnesses, consider crating.  HSUS says crates are evil. But, crates help housebreak a puppy, crating keeps a pet safe in a car or when it is home alone and it is a hospital room for a dog or cat that needs recovery time.  And, what would our response teams do without crates when there is a disaster and so many need to be saved and cared for?  A puppy not housebroken is a candidate for a shelter and perhaps death.    

      Regardless of what you believe, the policies behind your politics can be a big influence on the life and the death of your best friend and even that of strangers who need to regain their lives.      

Jul 03, 2012 | Comments are off | Uncategorized

Go Petition

      I was a small breeder–one or perhaps two litters a year.  It was hard work.  The puppy whelping box occupied a guest bedroom and a family member usually spent the first ten days sleeping close to the puppies.  And so selling that furry youngster and parting with him is one of the hardest things a breeder has to do.  I have known breeders to deny there is a litter at home if they don’t know the could-be owner and refuse even to sell to another breeder.  However, I am sure many of you have purchased your wonderful dog from a small breeder.  You may know the person as a friend or have personal knowledge of and respect for their dedication to the breed, concern for the well-being of their dogs, or the bloodlines and pedigree may be the attraction–probably this fits most of us!  The late handler “Laddie” Carswell chose my Cooper.  He convinced the breeder my home would fit Cooper and so the puppy was flown from Wisconsin to Long Island and then was driven to me.  We became soulmates until the day he passed over the Rainbow Bridge. Howard Huber picked Cagney for me and I remember the first time I saw her I was shocked.  This was definitely not a puppy I would have picked.  But, her bright eyes and indomitable will marked my life for 14 years and her ashes reside in my livingroom.  I wouldn’t have missed living with her for anything in the world.  I relate these stories because the AKC needs you to sign a petition to protect small breeders. 

      Yes, small breeders are endangered.  You can do your part by going to and following the simple directions there.

      We need to protect the breeder who does not sell to pet stores, whose puppies do not become residents of shelters or strays.  Although many of you turn to a shelter to find your next companion you can prevent overcrowded shelters by encouraging the small breeder and not giving a market to commercial breeders.  And, although many may believe the AKC favors large breeders for economic reasons this AKC drive to protect the small breeder is evidence of its concern for the welfare of all dogs and all who love dogs.  Sign the petition and make a difference.       

911 SAVES PETS, TOO. I recently met an ambulance driver whose Irish Setter, Murphy, accompanies him to fires and accidents.  Both dog and owner would have shared a “high five” over the news that now in Columbia and Montour counties if an accident/fire scene involves a pet in distress or temporarily without an owner, a call to 911 will bring pet help.  But Murphy and master will have to forget the high fives until after Murphy’s paw heals.  He hurt it climbing trees! And, may I emphasize strongly the paw injury was an accident–it doesn’t count as a 911 incident.

       The 911 dispatcher needs to call CART which then answers the call with a pet-trained volunteer who can render first aid and can transport the pet to the nearest veterinarian, emergency center or family member. Since this year over 5,000 dogs will enter AKC dog shows on the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds this is a another layer of protection for visitors and guest dogs –not to count the numerous tourists and resident pets, both dogs, cats and other small companions. And remember the Columbia/Montour Tourist Promotion Agency has a brochure for pet owners traveling in the area. 

      And if you are taking advantage of one of the walking trails for you and your best friend the walk may be good for you, but it doesn’t benefit your dog.  The latest study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association on weight loss and walking shows increasing the amount a dog walks does NOT lead to a corresponding weight loss.  The study was monitored via a pedometer.      

Jun 24, 2012 | Comments are off | Uncategorized

Snacking Science

      This was the title of an Associated Press article on how the world has different ideas about flavor.  At first I thought that perhaps it connected flavors of pet snacks with breeds–logical but not so!  Although lemon pepper Tang is a favorite in Afghanistan, the authors did not link this preference also to Afghan Hounds nor Green Tea-flavored Oreos, a favorite in China, to the Pekingese. Yet, it is not unreasonable to assume that dog owners in other countries share their snacks with their pets.  But, as the article points out, a panel of consumers determines which flavors make it to market.  This, of course, is not the case when it comes to our pets.  Consumers have little to say. 

      A Cornell nutritionist once explained the pet snack choice process to me.  A jury of experts composed of veterinary nutritionists gather when they are not monitoring the weight of calories consumed in the Iditrod– gather to give advice on new pet snacks. They judge on the basis of the name of the snack–will it appeal to pet owners and is the shape appealing–i.e., small steaks, snacks that look like bacon, etc.  Smell plays a minor role.  Yet, of course, smell is probably the most important pet sense involved in choice of a pet snack.  (My nutritionist friend pointed out that once a snack smelled so bad to all the judges that it was immediately rejected. However, when put to a live dog test it was the favorite but never made it to market because they felt the pet owners would reject it.)  It is useful to perform your own taste test by placing three or four different kinds of snacks in a bowl and watching to see which one is eaten first by your dog.  I like to do this at bedtime and call it their “bedtime snack time”.  Ginger-flavored snacks rule in my house, with peanut butter a close second. (There is evidence that Labrador Retrievers will eat anything!)  

      Of late pet foods have come up with “toppers” to help entice finicky eaters, older pets and recovering pets to eat their regular ration.  I have found a spoonful from a can of Mighty Dog does the trick for my dogs.  And, a friend told me her husband gives their dogs a dollop of oatmeal on top of their dog’s breakfast as a treat. 

      Since I agree that no matter what the pet food label says if it is processed dogs may not be getting much value from the protein, fat, etc., I supplement with the real thing.  Come for breakfast at my house and you will probably see liver chunks and yogurt along with the regular food; dinner always has a hard boiled egg, green beans and carrots. I keep a huge jar of animal crackers as snacks.  They are low calorie and the Springers love them.

TWITTER, SOCIAL NETWORK AND THE PET POPULATION. The need to share and to be in a warm, bonded relationship with others has been one of the strongest reasons to have a dog as a best friend.  One has to wonder what effect the growth of social networks will have on pet adoption as well as the dog and cat population!  This trend is a research study worthy of funding by the American Kennel Club and the large humane societies.

       We know pets give unconditional, unjudgmental love.  Pets also do not reveal our secret desires and dreams.  A dog, a cat is truly a soul-mate.  How many soul mates can you have on Facebook and are they all your best friends?  Will anyone in a social network be able to take the place of a dog?  My choice.  A dog on my lap–not a Dell!


Jun 10, 2012 | Comments are off | Uncategorized

Mother’s Day and Yard Sales

      It used to be that the majority of champions and title holders were male.  There was a title for the females –”foundation bitch”.  Today the bitch has been emancipated from whelping box to spotlight, strutting her femininity with a swagger equal to any dog!  And though she does eventually end up in a kennel whelping box as a foundation of further great dogs, it is because she has titles that increase her value.  It is exciting to note that many of our recent Westminster winners have been ladies!  Sadie, the Scottie, has had two litters since we saw her last playing in the BIS ring ,and the Wolfhound was nursing a big litter when the Peke,  Malachi, took home the trophy with equal slow dignity.  The Best of Opposite Sex title is reserved for the second best of the breed; of late it is the boys who have had to be content with this title. Our girls have come a very long way!  

      We have to wonder if this trend will affect the number of males neutered?  It has always been the female who was spayed, with the male left intact. 

      Prices reflect this trend.  Most bitches command a much higher price than their male litter mates.  Even the Humane Society of the United States acknowledges this trend.  In honor of Mother’s Day they are offering a reward for closing a puppy mill!  Further, the Pennsylvania SPCA is asking for donations targeted to dogs in protective custody.  These dogs are involved in court cases due to cruelty and neglect.  Many times these dogs must endure long confinement until legal issues are settled.  Their need is one not endured by the general population. By the way, PetSmart has a health fund to neuter pets.

MOTHER’S DAY DINNER. Many of you are struggling with what to feed your dogs with so many recalls of tainted food.  After the last big recall I turned to my veterinary hospital for my dogs’ ration and have never looked on a shelf since.  I don’t buy over the counter.  Although not holistic the prescription diets appear to maintain their quality and are not subject to the whims of supply and demand. In today’s market it is wise also to keep an eye on the formulas of both food and pesticides.  And, if you want naturalgenerously supplement with your own table food.  It makes switching from brand to brand easier.  Yogurt is a good probiotic friend for all stomachs.  (Over and Out brand recently changed its pesticide, causing some emergency visits.)

YARD SALES. There should be a pet corner in every yard sale.  This could be filled with books for both children and adults, fiction and non-fiction as well as dog magazines. My daughters are always in search of some wonderful books which are hard to find today.  Rachel Page Elliot’s Dog Steps, Lad by Albert Payson Terhune, all of the James Herriot series, old copies of Front and Finish and Popular Dogs, etc.  I like the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.  The covers are always worth framing.  With AKC Gazette now online one has to wonder if paper copies will increase in value. Figurines are always good–of every breed.  Some breeds are especially hard to find and I have a few I wish no one had found–like a Springer playing golf.  Then there is art both popular and valuable.  Norman Rockwell usually had a dog in his illustrations and if you find an original you might just sell it back to Coca Cola for thousands.  Andrew Wyeth’s dogs left their pawprints on the back of some of his most famous paintings.  His most famous art with dogs showed the plight of what we would call today “tethered dogs” with no shelter but a porch.  It is not for sale.  And, of course, Jamie Wyeth, his son, painted all the Bush dogs and the portraits of many other famous people’s pets. I have a color photograph of the first Buddy with owner President Clinton.  My favorite is a mixed breed named Jeff who was the first Alzheimer’s dog.  Ben chewed on a corner–adding his puppy signature.  And, how many dogs have had their pictures taken with the Paterno statue at Beaver Stadium?     

May 17, 2012 | Comments are off | Uncategorized

Needed: Cows without Names, Dogs without Drug Dealer Owners, and the Return of Endangered Dog Law Officers

      Some  blame the stray pet problem, the need to be either a one-man or part of a small-group vigilante rescue group, on an apathetic legislature.  They cite pigeon shoots and tethering legislation as examples of laws that could be signed and enforced.  But, do we need “Joe the Plumber dog lover” rescuing our pets while his wife collects them in a small outbuilding?  I believe we need trained officers and more of them.  We need managed enforcement.  And, we once had a great team of enforcers led by attorney Jesse Smith– once upon a time before 2012.

      But, let us begin with the age-old live bird shoot legislation.  Pigeon and/or live bird shoots have been in existence as long as dogs have been trained to work in the field in efforts to gather and conserve game.  Many state legislatures have outlawed these shoots.  The Westminster Kennel Club, which began as a group of sportsmen (and remains so still today) left New York state because of a law outlawing this necessary training.  Among sportsmen it is not considered barbaric and is not Hegins-like, but a necessary part of training dogs.  With our strong force of hunters it seems that neither passage nor enforcement will be possible.  

      And now take identification.  Another law.  It is no longer enough to name our hamburg while it is grazing in a Pennsylvania meadow.  Bossy needs to be identified with a number. Since 2005 beef producers have refused  to have their cattle given an ID. If we had IDs on beef we might  easily track the mad cow discovered in California.  But, meat producers have fought identifying the livestock bred and cared for on their small and large farms.  Why?  It might endanger farm life!  I don’t know about you, but the so-called reassurance that the California cow was not destined for the human food chain is not a comfort. What chain was it destined for?  Pet food came to my mind and I vowed to boycott all products and by-products with beef as an ingredient.  And, that means rawhide–already a source of salmonella. 

      And, just to make matters worse, veterinarians who are overseeing the disposal of dead animals are complaining that disposal rules are being ignored due to the economy.  Isn’t that how this all started?  This supposedly is under the control of the FDA and THIS IS dangerous apathy.  As for tethering legislation did you know drug dealers are pro-tethering?  And, of course, so are seniors who can no longer walk Rover!  A dog tied outside of a drug operation is the best warning of danger–in this case, a drug law enforcement raid. Dogs are so effective at warning and protecting meth labs that anti-tethering laws are now springing up across the Commonwealth–once again, is this wise legislation?  Will it deter drug dealers from using dogs as a warning? Again, probably these laws will not see the Governor’s pen stroke and why should they?  Man’s best friend, of course, is, was, and always will be an effective watchdog.  And, perhaps that is one reason he has earned that title. Dogs are hard-wired to warn and we celebrate this trait–just as we celebrate his ability to track and point game and retrieve birds. Is it more cruel not to be able to stop Mad Cow disease (BSE)? And isn’t it cruel to have laws on the books that will give dogs a humane life by outlawing puppy mills and not enforce these laws?  Perhaps a bank teller is capable of leading a dog law enforcement department but it takes more than a love of dogs to be effective–it needs someone with a legal background working with and within  the system of humane organizations. Animal welfare is not a simple matter that can be legislated.  It needs heart and most of all it needs brains.

 Speaking about celebrating!!  MAY 6TH THROUGH MAY 12TH is NATIONAL PET WEEK.Also, MAY 20 THROUGH MAY 26TH is NATIONAL DOG BITE PREVENTION WEEK.  (I think there should be an asterisk after this week stating that cat bites are more dangerous than dog bites!) And MAY 6TH through 12TH is CANINE CANCER AWARENESS WEEK.

FRACKING AND FIDO. Fracking is a controversial subject which leads to discussions of polluted, unsafe water.  We know it is vitally important that our pets stay hydrated for their health and our companionship. This means access to clean, fresh water 24/7.  This is a concern during disasters, also.  During the most recent flood our dogs were allowed to drink water from contaminated sources, swim and walk in contaminated flood water.  If there is a next time we should be ready with water for our pets.  Do we know how much water an older dog needs, a big dog vs. a small dog?  During disaster work our search and rescue dogs are hydrated to keep them safe.  And, they are bathed to keep contaminants off their coats.  Veterinarians and groomers should be up-to-date on the water and bathing needed to keep our pets safe companions.  We need water charts for pets.      

Apr 30, 2012 | Comments are off | Uncategorized

My Dog Can Do That!

      Next weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Blue and Gray cluster shows will be held in the Farm Show Building in Harrisburg.  One of the most exciting events is titled, “My Dog Can Do That”–it’s an agility event open to both mixed breeds and purebreds. Dogs must be at least 6 months of age, have an up-to-date rabies shot, and be on leash. There is no entry fee and participants will receive a T-shirt, bandana, and subscription to the AKC publication, THE FAMILY DOG.  The agility event begins at 9 AM Saturday and Sunday.  Trainers will be on hand to guide participants through the tunnels and other equipment.  Admission to the show, which also includes AKC breed judging in conformation, obedience and rally as well as “Meet The Breeds” education, is $6 and there is an $8 parking fee.  (I don’t mind saying that if agility participation is a goal, tell your vet before entering.  Young bodies can be strained very easily and although they heal easily, too, in later years may be a source of arthritis.)

PET MED QUESTIONED BY VETERINARIANS. Veterinarians have challenged Pet Med Express Inc. to make its advertising less antagonistic to the veterinary profession. When asked where the company obtains its drugs the company says that that information is confidential but acknowledged that it has made mistakes in the past.  Look for a new advertising campaign. 

VETS GO TO SCHOOL TOO. Each year your veterinarian attends continuing education courses either offered at the state level or at the AVMA convention.  Examples of such courses include: a basic-level disaster response course which includes fundamentals of biosecurity, a course in puppy behavior, and a course in working with the trauma patient titled, “ How To Keep Them Alive When They are Trying to Die”. 

      Long ago, once upon a time, a president of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medicine Association opened space in his hospital for a puppy kindergarten taught by a trainer.  He came to Bloomsburg to discuss this experiment; soon thereafter, the first puppy kindergarten was held in the Danville Middle School.  I know of no veterinarian who has hosted training classes in our area.  In those days first aid classes did not have CPR manikins nor did they follow a Red Cross manual.  The veterinarian teaching trauma courses spoke about his own experience–burned toast was used to induce vomiting when poison was suspected and men’s ties or women’s panty hose were fashioned into tourniquets and muzzles.  Each owner was a first responder.  The first rule was always “take care of yourself before helping your pet–we don’t need two victims!”

Apr 08, 2012 | Comments are off | Uncategorized

The Human Side of Heartworm Disease

      A Millville cat suddenly faints and then dies in an upstairs hallway.  A nursing home mascot in Orangeville dies of cardiomyopathy.  A Bloomsburg Spaniel suddenly develops pneumonia.  All of these episodes might be the result of the silent deadly disease which involves a parasitic round worm!  Heartworm lives in the body and is carried by an infected mosquito; the bite can occur outside during a walk or in the livingroom, while the unwitting victim is taking a nap. 

      Heartworm has been counted in a positive number of cases of parasite activity in Columbia County–part of a county cluster which includes Union and Northumberland counties. In fact, .34% of all positive cases of heartworm in Pennsylvania occur in each of these counties. (Parasite Prevalence Maps).  It could be even higher.  The killer parasite can live seven or more years without detection in the heart and/or lungs, and/or in other blood vessels.   

      In a recent meeting of the American Heartworm Society monthly medications designed to prevent heartworms were questioned as being ineffective. Some believe mosquitoes have become immune to preventative drugs while others blame owners for not following dosing directions.  “Every month means every 30 days,” stresses Dr. Betsy Sigmon in an AKC Canine Health Foundation podcast. 

      But beware–the consequences of giving preventative medication when the dog or cat has heartworm can be deadly, too. Thus, American Heartworm Society president Dr. Wallace Graham suggests a heartworm test be part of the annual checkup.  Unfortunately, veterinarians  also note that there are false positives in testing.  And more extensive testing is expensive–as high as $1,000.  Owners are urged to compare and to weigh the risks and costs of all further testing and be aware that testing costs can vary from hospital to hospital.

      The human side of choices and decisions is made more agonizing since the drug used to treat heartworm is now in short supply if found at all and there is no treatment for cats. And so if a pet coughs, loses weight, and/or becomes lethargic, the possibility of it being a symptom of heartworm adds to health worries.  Could a diagnosis be death?  Unfortunately, here there are only grey areas since heartworm mimics other health problems which can involve not just the heart, but the liver and kidneys and of course–blood clots in the lungs–each symptom adding to owner stress.  Now is not the time to turn to the internet or to friends.  It is time to schedule an appointment with the veterinary hospital.

      And, it must also be remembered that this silent disease is a growing problem for shelters and rescues as well as those wanting to adopt and/or purchase a new pet. Who knows if the new pet has heartworm?  Conclusion: Sadly, there is a  human side to heartworm disease that involves not just cost but agonizing choices, the stress of an unknown future with a beloved companion and sometimes guilt. Pet owners must have a heartworm conversation with their pet’s veterinarian. 

Mar 25, 2012 | Comments are off | Uncategorized

Fish Meal Bait Could be Dangerous to Your Health

According to two authors writing in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association who cite a rabies vaccine report in Pennsylvania–the oral rabies bait spread into the habitat of wildlife can pose a danger to humans if touched.  The bait has an oblong shape about the size of three quarters placed side by side.  Those who find and touch the bait should wash the affected site and report exposure to the state health department.  “Immediate health care should be obtained to confirm a diagnosis and begin appropriate treatment if illness or lesions compatible with vaccinia develop”, the authors write. They also suggest that veterinarians educate clients about these baits. 

          Two kinds of bait are used in the oral vaccination of carnivores like raccoons, skunks, and feral cats and dogs.  One is a coated sachet and the other a fishmeal polymer bait.  The bait was developed for wildlife rabies prevention and control. 

      No serious adverse events have been reported after bait consumption but people should not try to remove a piece of the bait from a pet’s mouth, since doing so may result in a dog bite and the possibility of inoculation with vaccinia rabies -glycoprotein in the bait.

FELINE FRIENDLY. The AVMA is launching a new health prevention program for dog and cat owners in order to heighten clients’ awareness of the benefits of preventing illness.  It has been dubbed “Opportunity” by healthcare providers.  Opportunity guidelines give pet owners a heads-up in the prevention of illness, which can be expensive to treat and painful for the pet.  Since there are more cats than dogs and cats receive significantly less veterinary care, the emphasis is on making practices feline-friendly.  One suggestion involves the use of cat carriers with a removable top so that examinations can be conducted with a minimum of stress. 

ON THE HEALTH CARE HORIZON? Veterinarians are discussing changes to the practice act.  Under consideration is allowing veterinarians and technicians working in one state to practice in another state when invited in response to emergencies; allowing those working under a veterinarian to provide some care in shelters; and allowing some disclosure of information to third parties.  A waiver from mandatory rabies vaccination, if recommended by a veterinarian and accepted by the public health department, is also being considered.  And under Animal Abuse and Animal Neglect prompt reporting is being urged as the rule.  (This echos the Freed recommendation in the Sandusky case.)

CONTRIBUTE. In the current economy it is often difficult to continue to financially support animal organizations.  At the top of any list should be those groups that help local pets and the unseen organizations that help local pet owners, like food banks, and those in women’s shelters who may need pet foster homes, as well as pet owners who are temporarily homeless.  Some pet owners set up an anonymous fund to help hospital clients with bills, with the veterinarians as custodians (local veterinarians fund out of pocket when they can). At the national level my choice is the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).  Its CEO not only has lived and worked in shelters all over the country but has a network that cares for such programs as the Canine Good Citizen, dog bite and puppy kindergarten programs as well as child and elder abuse.  He is not just a “suit”.  ASPCA, 424 E 92nd St., New York, N.Y. 10128, tel. 212-876-7700; www.ASPCA.ORG

TOPPINGS. A recent issue of BARK contains an article on the sprinkling of toppings on the top of the usual ration for added interest.  Once at a dog show I watched a handler take a spoonful of Purina Mighty Dog and place it on top of the food.  She didn’t mix it into the rest of the contents.  Mighty Dog is formulated for small breeds and so is intense in smell and energy.  In many instances I have found it quite useful to jump-start an appetite using a similar “savory”, especially the varieties geared for older dogs and the pulled-style dinners.  A can tops 6 meals for my Springers.           

Mar 21, 2012 | Comments are off | Uncategorized
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