Thursday, January 31, 2013

How to Keep Your Pets Safe During Your Super Bowl Party

From the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief:

Super Bowl Sunday advice: 4 tips to keep your pets safe from screaming fans

January 29, 2013

If you’re an American, have eyes and ears, and enjoy eating, then you’re probably celebrating Super Bowl Sunday this weekend — that wonderful time of year when it’s all about delicious finger foods, screaming fans and, yeah, football too.
But while you’re shrieking at the TV and jumping around like you’ve never seen a football game before in your life, your poor, confused pets will be taking the brunt of your excitement.
That’s why animal behaviorist Dr. Debra Horwitz and “America’s Veterinarian” Dr. Marty Becker have partnered with Petco to help you help your pet cope with football fever.

1. Don’t forget your pets’ needs.

Just because the biggest game of the year is on TV doesn’t mean your pet can forgo his bathroom breaks and social needs. Record the commercials — or watch them online later — and use that time to tend to your four-legged friend. You can even take a quick trip to the dog park if you can stand missing a few minutes of the game.

2. Keep the greasy wings away.

We mean from your dog — although it wouldn’t hurt if you banned them from your own stomach as well. Do not be tempted to throw fattening foods to your pets — particularly chicken wings, which they can choke on. And make sure to remind your guests to refrain from the same.

3. Pause and pet.

There are moments during the Super Bowl when even humans can get a tad frightened by the screaming fans — especially when you’re not paying attention (or have no idea what’s going on). So how do you think your pets feel when your neighbor takes a flying leap at the television? Make sure to take a few moments during the game to show your pet some love. The best part? Stopping to pet your dog (or even watching fish swim) can help reduce your blood pressure and decrease cortisol, a hormone related to stress and anxiety.

4. Find a quiet place.

If you find your pet looking anxious, set aside a quiet room for him to retreat. It will calm him down and even give you some relief from the insanity.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Does Your Pet Have Dental Disease?

February is Dental Health Month. Bring your pet in for an evaluation of their dental condition, as dental disease can lead to serious problems, as outlined in the article from the AVMA Animal Health SmartBrief below. We have a dental special at Niles Animal Hospital in February, in recognition of Dental Health Month.

Exploring dental care for pets

Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 6:38 am, Mon Jan 28, 2013. 
Q: Why does my dog’s breath stink?

A: Most odors from a dog’s mouth come from periodontal disease and bacteria in the mouth.  Plaque and tartar build up along with inflammation cause periodontal disease (the periodontium includes the bone, connective tissue, and gingiva which surrounds and supports a tooth). 

Please have your pet examined by your veterinarian to determine the cause of bad breath, but often it is some form of dental disease.  Since most dogs don’t get their teeth brushed daily, plaque and tartar accumulate quickly.  Unhealthy gums (gingivitis) can also result from lack of brushing.  Once the gums are inflamed, it is often appropriate to perform a dental prophylactic cleaning under anesthesia. 

There are several stages of periodontal disease, from Stage 1 (the most mild) to Stage 4 (the most severe).  Dental disease affects more than just the teeth and gums.  Over time, bacteria accumulate in the mouth along the gum-line, where they enter the bloodstream. 

Once enough bacteria are present in the bloodstream they begin to cause systemic damage, affecting the liver, kidneys and heart. 

Bacteria in the bloodstream can also cause sepsis (generalized invasion of the body by pathogenic microorganisms).  Obviously, an additional concern is tooth loss and pain associated with dental disease.  These conditions can take years off your pet’s life.  Most studies show that 80% or more of all adult dogs have periodontal disease and at least 70% of all cats have some form of dental disease.

Dental disease is easily treated if done at the appropriate time. 

A dental prophylaxis performed at periodontal disease stage 1 or 2 can help ensure that your pet will not suffer any of the aforementioned conditions.  Once your pet has reached periodontal disease stage 3 or 4, irreversible damage may have already occurred and extracting teeth may be the only option to maintain your pet’s oral health. 

Dental extractions are uncomfortable for the patient and can be financially costly for their owners. 
Therefore, detecting periodontal disease early and treating early with a prophylactic cleaning are important.

Q: What happens during a dental cleaning?

A: At Clevenger’s Corner Veterinary Care, we recommend pre-anesthetic blood work to detect any underlying disease that may affect our anesthetic protocol. Your pet will be under full anesthesia, while being monitored by a trained technician as well as monitored by pulse oximetry machines and Doppler blood pressure.  Core body temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate are also monitored. 

Our patients all receive IV fluid support during the dental prophylaxis. The oral cavity will be examined closely for any unusual discolorations or masses. The teeth and gums will be evaluated to determine the degree of dental disease.  The teeth will be checked for fractures, pulp exposure, irreversible gum recession, cavities and abnormal wear.  The tartar will be removed using an ultrasonic scaler as well as hand scaling instruments by a licensed veterinary technician. 

Using special curettes, the plaque, tartar and bacteria will be removed from the tooth surfaces as well as under the gum line. 

At this stage of the procedure, the doctor will determine if the patient would benefit from additional therapy such as extractions or special antibiotics applied directly under the gum line. 

Finally, the teeth will be polished and fluoride applied to help prevent re-accumulation of tartar and bacteria. 
If necessary, the patient will go home with pain medication and/or antibiotics.

After a dental prophylaxis, it is important to follow up with home care. There are several options including brushing (the best), oral rinses or water additives, and special dental chews.

(NOTE: We also follow the same protocol at Niles Animal Hospital, presurgical bloodwork, surgical monitoring by a certified veterinary technician, and thorough cleaning.prophylaxis.)

It is also quite possible that your pet may need an additional dental prophylaxis in the future.

Hopefully with diligent home care we can increase the time between professional cleanings.

Chinese Poultry Products Investigated by FDA for Pet Illnesses

There has been a problem with Chinese poultry products and they are prohibited from exporting them to the US for human consumption, although there was no ban on pet foods. Numerous dogs were sickened by the chicken jerky treats from China. I am all for free trade, but with the tainted food from China, I am none to eager to have the US import their poultry for human (and pet!) consumption until it can be deemed safe.

Dr. Sakas

From DVM Magazine

Inspection of Chinese poultry-processing plants may signal opening for imported poultry for human consumption
FDA continues to investigate pet illnesses associated with Chinese chicken products.

The export of poultry from China to the United States is currently banned--past food safety concerns, bird flu outbreaks, even the frequent turnover of Chinese officials involved in negotiations, are cited as reasons for the continued ban. However, reports indicate officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are scheduled to inspect Chinese poultry-processing plants in late January or early February in an apparent step toward lifting the ban.

Although banned from exporting chicken for human consumption in the United States, China is allowed to export chicken for pet food. Since 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted extensive testing on chicken jerky treats consumers claim are harming pets. According to the FDA, as of Dec. 17, 2012, it has received 2,674 reports involving 3,243 dogs, including 501 deaths, and nine cats, including one death.

Much to the dismay of effected pet owners, the FDA has yet to indentify a contaminant or cause for illnesses associated with chicken imported from China and therefore will not enact a recall. It has issued a warning to pet owners of the possible dangers of feeding pets products such as Nestle’s Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brands and Del Monte’s Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats. Presently, Milo’s Kitchen’s Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers treats are voluntarily recalled due to trace amounts of residual antibiotics.

Politically, the planned inspections could relax tense trade relations between the countries embattled in negotiations for the past seven years. China is anxious to import poultry, as the United States is interested in reversing China’s 2003 ban on American beef. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, representing U.S. ranchers and beef producers, estimated last year the U.S. could be exporting $200 million of beef to China per year if the ban was lifted.

However, it seems there won’t be one ban lifted without the other.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bully sticks may lead to weight gain and infections in your pets. Many people do not know that bully or fizzle sticks are uncooked, dried penises from bulls or steers. Is that what you want to feed your pet? I am not a big fan because of the risk of  bacterial contamination, which can also be a threat to people.

Always deal with quality products to provide treats for your pets. Do not get rawhides from foreign countries due to the risk of contaminating chemicals used in the curing process.

Dr. Sakas

From the AVMA SmartHealth Brief

Dog Treats Can Pack on the Pounds, Vets Say

Study also found bacteria in some bully or pizzle sticks

January 28, 2013 RSS Feed Print
MONDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Popular dog treats called bully or pizzle sticks may contain more calories than expected and could be contaminated by bacteria, according to a new study.

The treats are made from the uncooked, dried penis of a bull or steer.

Researchers examined 26 bully sticks made by different manufacturers and found that they contained
between 9 and 22 calories per inch. That means that the average 6-inch bully stick had a total of 88 calories, which is 30 percent of the daily calorie requirement for a 10-pound dog and 9 percent of the daily calorie requirement for a 50-pound dog.

"While calorie information isn't currently required on pet treats or most pet foods, these findings reinforce that veterinarians and pet owners need to be aware of pet treats like these bully sticks as a source of calories in a dog's diet," study first author Dr. Lisa Freeman, a professor of nutrition at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, said in a university news release.

"With obesity in pets on the rise, it is important for pet owners to factor in not only their dog's food, but also treats and table food," she added.

The researchers also found that about one-third of the treats were contaminated with bacteria. One stick had Clostridium difficile, one stick had methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and seven had E. coli.

All pet owners should wash their hands after touching such treats, as they would with any raw meat or raw meat diets. Very young children, elderly people, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should never touch or handle raw animal-product-based treats and raw meat diets, the researchers said.

The study was published in the January issue of the Canadian Veterinary Journal.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ownership of Pets Has Dipped Slightly

From the Chicago Tribune, an excellent article by noted pet expert/writer Steve Dale.

Pet Ownership Has Dipped Slightly in the USA

The American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook is the closest thing there is to a census of pet ownership, and is conducted every five years. According to the recently released 2012 Sourcebook, between 2006 and 2011, pet ownership decreased by 2.4 percent in the U.S., to 56 percent of all households. Still, there are more pets than children in America!

One of the most notable changes is that cats have fallen in popularity, by 9 percent since the last survey. Dogs have also had a better day; their numbers falling, as well, though only by 3 percent. To be exact, there are today 74.1 million pet cats and 69.9 million dogs in the U.S.

  • Steve Dale
  • Steve Dale
The population decline is even more evident among birds and horses.

Bird ownership in the U.S. nosedived since 2006, dropping by 20.5 percent, and a total of 45.6 percent over the past 20 years. Today, there are a total of 8.3 million feathered friends at year-end 2011, according to the Sourcebook.

The horse population also took a hit, down about 33 percent, to 4.9 million, compared to 2006. Households owning pet rabbits hopped down by 25 percent. Even fish dropped in popularity (by 16.7 percent).

So, what's going on?

"There's no doubt the Demographics Sourcebook offers the best and most consistent methodology on pet ownership," says Dr. Douglas Aspros, White Plains, NY-based president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. "It's one thing to look at the facts, and it's another to interpret them. We simply don't know for sure (why pet numbers have fallen)."

Aspros does offer several ideas.

"Certainly, the economy plays some role, particularly in the decline in horse population," he says. "It's been devastating, but owning, feeding, housing and caring for horses is costly."

Aspros adds that the floundering economy over the course of this survey period may, in part, explain why ownership of large and expensive parrots has declined. However, he notes that budgies (often called parakeets), cockatiels and lovebirds are not particularly costly.

"As a kid, I could get a small bird at a five-and-dime store," he says. "It's true, they probably didn't have the best care. And advice about care was limited; at least the birds were available. Today, there's less availability. It's a shame; these (small birds) are great apartment pets."

The economy may also play some role in the dog and cat population decline. Aside from the cost of a pet, there's also veterinary care, food, grooming and more to consider.

"Absolutely, but more is going on," Aspros says. "There are several surveys which indicate people are willing to spend, arguably more than ever, on their pets. Of course, not everyone has the means to do that."

Aspros notes that the number of pedigreed dogs has been sliding (not measured in the AVMA pet demographic survey, but illustrated by waning American Kennel Club registration numbers). For various reasons, increasingly quality breeders have abandoned their hobby. And while all breeds are available through rescue, some may be harder to come by today than, say, 10 years ago.

Aspros is concerned that if pet ownership continues to slide, animal shelters and rescue groups could wind up in a bind, leading ultimately to more pets being euthanized, unable to find homes. But he adds that this is conjecture.

Here's some additional data from the survey:

Increasingly, dogs and cats are living together (presumably in peace). According to the survey, 36 percent of homes with dogs also have at least one cat. And of households with cats, today nearly 44 percent dare to live with at least one canine.

The state with the highest percentage of pet homes is Vermont, nearly 71 percent.

The state with the lowest percentage of pet homes is Massachusetts, at 50 percent.

Pet ownership among non-traditional families has increased by almost 17 percent since 2006, especially people who are single. (This may be due in part to the overall drop in married couples over the past decade.) Pet ownership is highest among those working full time and among those who own their own home.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Interesting Study About Dog Domestication and Diet

From the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief:

Diet Shaped Dog Domestication

on 23 January 2013, 1:17 PM | 

Dog food. DNA studies show dogs became adapted to eating starch.
Fido may prefer steak, but his digestive system is also geared up for rice and potatoes. That's the conclusion of a new study, which finds that dogs have evolved to eat a more varied diet than their wolf ancestors. The shift parallels genetic changes seen in people and bolsters the idea that dogs and humans share similar evolutionary stories.

Dogs evolved from wolves more than 11,000 years ago, somewhere in Eurasia, though exactly when and how is under debate. The shift from wolf pack member to family pet involved more than just the ability to get along with people, says evolutionary geneticist Erik Axelsson from Uppsala University in Sweden. He and his colleagues compared dog and wolf DNA to learn which genes were important for domestication.

They sequenced DNA from 12 wolves from around the world and from 60 dogs belonging to 14 breeds. They first looked for individual letters in DNA, called bases, that varied from one genome to the next, identifying about 4 million of these so-called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). They ignored regions with the most SNPs and instead focused on places where there were very few or no SNPs. That lack of variation signals DNA that was so important for survival during domestication that any variation there was lost, so most dogs have the same SNPs. Those regions were the ones the researchers were most interested in following up on.

The analysis turned up 36 regions, with 122 genes in all, that may have contributed to dog evolution, the team reports online today in Nature. Nineteen of these regions contain genes important for the brain, eight of which are involved with nervous system development, which makes sense given the importance of behavioral changes in the transition to becoming man's best friend, Axelsson notes.

More surprising were genes for digesting starch. Dogs had four to 30 copies of the gene for amylase, a protein that starts the breakdown of starch in the intestine. Wolves have only two copies, one on each chromosome. As a result, that gene was 28-fold more active in dogs, the researchers found. More copies means more protein, and test-tube studies indicate that dogs should be fivefold better than wolves at digesting starch, the chief nutrient in agricultural grains such as wheat and rice. The number of copies of this gene also varies in people: Those eating high carbohydrate diets -- such as the Japanese and European Americans -- have more copies than people with starch-poor diets, such as the Mbuti in Africa. "We have adapted in a very similar way to the dramatic changes that happened when agriculture was developed," Axelsson says.

Dogs and wolves have the same number of copies of another gene, MGAM, which codes for maltase, another enzyme important in starch digestion. But there are four key differences between the sequence in dogs and wolves. One difference causes dogs to produce longer versions of maltase. That longer protein is also seen in herbivores, such as cows and rabbits, and omnivores, such as mouse lemurs and rats, but not in other mammals, suggesting length is important to plant-eaters. These differences make the dog maltase more efficient, the researchers report.

Axelsson thinks these results support the idea that wolves began to associate with humans who were beginning to settle down and farm. Waste dumps provided a ready source of food, albeit not meat, the usual diet. Thus early dogs that evolved more efficient starch digestion had an advantage, he notes.

The finding of these diet-related genes is "very surprising and very exciting," says Elaine Ostrander, a geneticist at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not connected to the study. "It hints that there are a lot more [genes] to be found" involved in domestication, she adds. As more researchers compare wolf and dog DNA, Ostrander expects more genetic differences between dogs and wolves to emerge. "We are really going to figure [dog evolution] out."

Robert Wayne, an evolutionary biologist who studies dogs at the University of California, Los Angeles, but was not involved with the work, is also pleased with the study. He says he gets contacted often by pet owners wondering if dogs, like wolves, should eat primarily meat. "This [study] suggests no, dogs are different from wolves and don't need a wolflike diet," he says. "They have coevolved with humans and their diet."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Never Underestimate the Danger of Cat Bites!

Having been in the veterinary field for many years I have suffered my share of cat bites. Mostly there is no complications, but sometimes the next day you can have a great deal of swelling and express pus out of the wound. All too often, people ignore the bites and sometimes end up in the hospital.

Cat bites and scratches can be fatal to pet birds. The Pasteurella multocida bacteria can go systemic reapidly and a bird who looks fine after a bite or scratch can be dead in the next couple days. That is why whenever a bird has had an altercation with a cat I always put them on antibiotics preventatively.

Here is an article about the danger of cat bites in people, from the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief.

Cat bite puts woman in the hospital with a serious infection

© Juniors Bildarchiv GmbH / Alamy - A cat that bites and scratches while play wrestling may not be getting enough of the right sort of play.

With sleepy eyes and a comically kinked tail, Sammy does not look like a dangerous character. But Sammy put me in the hospital.
For four days as I lay in that bed, hour after hour, hooked up to an intravenous cocktail of antibiotics, I had plenty of time to rue the stupidity that put me there.

Sammy bit me. Although I didn’t take it seriously at the time, a bite from a small cat can be a big problem, thanks to the nature of the bite itself and the kinds of bacteria carried by cats and people. For some people, in fact, it can be deadly.

“A cat bite is nothing to trivialize,” said Nancy Peterson, cat programs manager at the Humane Society of the United States.

Up to 50 percent of cat bites become infected, said Princy N. Kumar, head of the infectious-diseases division at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. But, like me, many people don’t take the injury seriously enough.

“People underestimate” the danger, Kumar said, and don’t realize they should get a bite looked at right away. “They don’t realize, being bitten by a cat, you’ve got a 1-in-2 chance of getting infected.”
My first mistake was getting in the middle of a fight.

Sammy, a street cat who had just joined our family, did not like established resident Blue. When I heard a blood-curdling yowl from the spare bedroom late one night, I decided to remove one of the combatants.
When I reached down to pick him up him, Sammy wrapped his legs around my right arm and plunged his teeth into my wrist. Deep-red, venous blood ran out of two puncture wounds, and the area began to swell. I washed the wound well (after shrieking and dropping the cat), put some ice on it and kept it elevated for a while. I figured the swelling would be gone by morning.

The next day, my arm was puffy and I couldn’t move my fingers well. My wrist felt hot to the touch. I tried more ice and elevation.

That was my second mistake: minimizing the problem and treating the bite myself. A significant cat bite always requires medical intervention,

“If you got a really bad bite, you should get prophylactic antibiotics,” Kumar said. A light nip is not a problem, she said, but seek help if the cat has really sunk its teeth in — “if you see a puncture wound and blood coming out of it.”

Unlike dogs, which tend to deliver superficial, crushing bites that don’t penetrate far into tissue, cats inflict puncture wounds with their long teeth, which inject bacteria from the cat’s mouth and the environment deep into tissue.

And, Peterson said, “cats have a pretty potent bacteria.” While cats have a variety of microbes living in their mouths, the real trouble comes from Pasteurella multocida, a bacterium that can cause bad infections. One study found that 90 percent of domestic cats are carriers. Dogs also carry this bacteria, first isolated by Louis Pasteur and named after him, but the infection rate from their bites doesn’t come close to cats’ 50 percent. (Pasteurella is not the microbe that causes cat scratch disease, which is usually transmitted by kitten scratches and nips, and in most people causes only swollen lymph nodes, not severe local infection.).

A Victory in the "Battle" to Maintain Backyard Hens.

Chicken fanciers are slowly fighting and winning their battles to maintain chicken coops on their property. The hens obviously produce eggs which are consumed by their owners.

In our practice we see a large number of chickens raised by these  poultry fanciers. Chickens are actually quite intelligent and interactive, despite the impression that most people have of them. They are wonderful creatures and I am glad that chicken fanciers are gradually winning these fights and gaining acceptance. There will be more hearings coming up in other suburbs.

This news item is from the Palatine Patch.

Backyard Hens are Coming to Palatine

The Palatine Village Council voted 4-2 in favor of allowing petitioner Steven Brosio to house six hens in a chicken coop on his 1.8 acres of property.

The Palatine Village Council Monday approved a permit to allow resident Steven Brosio to have a chicken coop and house six hens, on his 1.8 acres of property at 624 W. Hill Road.

The issue has been in question in Palatine since it was first proposed in the spring of 2012.

In early January, Brosio received unanimous approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals relating to his request.

Three Palatine residents, and two individuals who live nearby to Brosio in unincorporated Cook County spoke in favor of his petition at the village council meeting Monday. Brosio sought an Accessory Unique Use Permit to allow the hens and the chicken coop on his property.

None of the 19 individuals [from 11 households] who previously signed a petition against the proposal attended the village council meeting.

Prior to the vote, District 2 Councilman Scott Lamerand said, “When you purchase a home in the village, there are a set of ordinances you are governed by. The rules of the game are such that this is outside of the scope of things, it is difficult to change things.”

Other councilmen voiced a different perspective.

“I agree chicken coops don’t have a place in an urban setting, but this is a different setting, 1.8 acres…this is certainly a rural setting, different than all of our neighborhoods,” said Greg Solberg, District 4 councilman.
Brosio’s close to two acres of property opens up on one side to the bike path and there is a significant structure behind the chicken coop that divides it from residential properties , said Village Manager Reid Ottesen.

When the vote came, Kollin Kozlowski (District 5), Brad Helms (District 6), Aaron Del Mar (District 1) and Solberg voted in favor of Brosio's request. Lamerand and Mayor Jim Schwantz voted against it.
After the vote, Helms and Kozlowski explained why they voted as they did.

“This is a very unique piece of property, and we had to look at it that way,” Helms said.

“My feeling is that this sets a baseline for our community [in regards to Brosio's property size],” Kozlowski said.

Ottesen said with the approval comes conditions Brosio will have to adhere to. They include allowing only six hens, requiring a 20 foot setback for the chicken coop from property lines, and 40 feet from residential properties, prohibiting roosters, adding necessary fencing, and prohibiting the slaughter of chickens on the property.

Eggs produced from the hens also cannot be used for business or commercial purposes.

The village will require a six month review of Brosio's chicken coop and hens to ensure the public, and property values of nearby residents are being protected. The village also reserves the right to impose additional conditions to address concerns if they arise.

In November of 2012, the Palatine Village Council denied a request from resident Vanessa Barsanti. Ottesen said any requests that have previously been turned down can be brought before the village council after a year's time has passed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Vermont Has the Highest Percentage of Pet Owners in the US

From the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief:

Vermont goes to the dogs (and cats)

Saturday January 19, 2013
Staff Writer
BENNINGTON -- Virginia is for lovers, Vegas is for gamblers, and now Vermont is for pet owners. According to a new study released by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vermont has the highest percentage of pet owners of any state.

More than two-thirds of Vermonters (70.8 percent) own at least one pet, which is more than three percent higher than the next state on the list, New Mexico. And Vermonters also have the highest rate of cat ownership at 49.5 percent, topping Maine, where 46.4 percent of homes include a feline.

The statistics were gathered from 2012 surveys based on pet ownership on Dec. 31, 2011 and are available in the AVMA's U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, which they update and release every five years.
Hugo, an English bulldog, awaits Harry McDermott’s command in this 2009 photo taken in Old Bennington. A new survey has found that Vermont has the highest percentage of pet owners of any state. (Peter Crabtree)
Vermont did not crack the top 10 states for dog ownership, but at 37.7 percent still topped the national average of 36.5. Arkansas was the top state for dog ownership at 47.9 percent. The percent of Vermonters with a dog decreased from 43.8 percent in 2006, but it is still much higher than 15 years ago when 25.6 percent of homes included a dog.

The Northeast is a mixed bag when it comes to people's love of pets. Maine was also in the top 10 states where pet owners reside, but New York and Massachusetts were at the bottom of the list, with about 50 percent of homes owning a pet.

Judy Murphy, president of the board of trustees at Second Chance Animal Center in Shaftsbury, said she's not surprised Vermont tops the list for pet owners.

"We see it at Second Chance every day, with the donations and care people have of our organization and from the people that support animals and animal welfare," Murphy said.

Even on the rural road on which she lives, Murphy said there are about a dozen dog owners who she has gotten to know from frequently passing each other on walks.

Murphy couldn't put her finger on the reason Vermonters are so pet-friendly. "It is a great place to be with a dog. There's lots of space, but I guess that's true of other states too," she said. "I don't really know why, but I'm glad it is."

"I remember when I had my dog in the car going through the bank (drive through) one time ... this person said, ‘Can I ask you a question?' And I said sure and she asked how come every person drives around with a dog in the car ... I said, ‘I don't know, dogs just like to ride in cars,'" she said with a chuckle, maybe without recognizing that vehicles with dogs peering their heads from the back seat are a less common sight in some regions.

Coming in at the top of the list of pet ownership is nothing new in the Green Mountain State, as it also ranked first in 2006 when 74.5 percent of homes had a pet. The 3.7 percent decline in Vermont from five years prior is similar to a national drop in pet owners, which the AVMA chalks up to the poor economy.

The economy is also likely to blame for why pet owners have made less visits to a veterinarian in recent years. The report indicates between 2006 and 2011 the percentage of households with pets that made no trips to the vet increased 8 percent for dog owners and a staggering 24 percent for cat owners. Overall, about 81 percent of dog owning households and 55 percent of cat owners made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, down 1.7 percent from 2006.

For more information about AVMA and the recent publication visit

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Plastic Bag Ban Endangers Health! (You Just Can't Win)

Sheesh, you just can't win!

From Newsmax.

Report: Plastic Bag Ban Endangers Health
The ban on plastic grocery bags enacted in San Francisco and several other California communities has an unexpected side effect — an increase in food-borne illnesses, emergency room visits, and even deaths.
The culprit: the reusable grocery bags that shoppers use instead, which are breeding grounds for E. coli and other harmful bacteria, according to a new report by university researchers.

San Francisco County enacted a ban on non-compostable plastic bags at large grocery stores and drug stores in 2007, and extended it to all retail establishments in early 2012. Los Angeles followed suit in 2012, as did several other California communities including Malibu and Palo Alto.

The bans were designed to reduce litter and threats to marine life posed by discarded bags, and encourage the use of reusable grocery bags.

But studies “suggest that reusable grocery bags harbor harmful bacteria, the most important of which is E. coli,” say Jonathan Klick, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, and Joshua D. Wright, a professor at the George Mason University School of Law and Department of Economics.

“If individuals fail to clean their reusable bags, these bacteria may lead to contamination of the food transported in the bags. Such contamination has the potential to lead to health problems and even death.”
Tests of randomly selected reusable grocery bags found coliform bacteria in 51 percent of them, and E. coli in 8 percent.

According to the researchers’ report, which was released by the Social Science Research Network, most users did not use separate bags for meats and vegetables, 97 percent said they never washed their bags, and bacteria appeared to grow at a faster rate when the bags were stored in car trunks.

When the researchers analyzed data related to E. coli infections, the results were troubling: “The San Francisco County ban is associated with a statistically significant and particularly large increase in ER visits for E. coli infections,” they said — a rise of at least 25 percent.

In addition, “the San Francisco County ban is associated with a 46 percent increase in deaths from food-borne illnesses.”

Their conclusion: “We find that both deaths and ER visits spiked as soon as the ban went into effect.

“Conservative estimates of the costs and benefits of the San Francisco plastic bag ban suggest the health risks they impose are not likely offset by environmental benefits.”

Friday, January 18, 2013

Your Pet Choice Shows Your Politics!

Now if only the politicians could get the animals to vote!

STUDY: Republicans Are Dog People, While Democrats Prefer Cats

bo obama

Bo Obama, the First Canine

Republicans and Democrats tend to disagree about everything, on issues ranging from tax policy to gun control.
 So it's no surprise that a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association revealed that, by and large, red states and blue states can be divided by their preference of house pet.

Overwhelmingly, red states have the highest rate of dog ownership while residents of blue states are more likely to keep a cat as a pet.

The study, titled U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, is based off 2011 data and provides statistics on pet ownership by state.

Nine of the top ten states for dog ownership voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election – despite the story about Romney strapping his dog Seamus to a carrier on the roof of his car during a 12-hour road trip.
The red states in question are Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and Oklahoma, while the lone blue (dog) state was New Mexico.

Nine of the ten states with the lowest percentage of households with a pet dog voted Democratic, including strongholds Minnesota, New York, and Rhode Island.

And in spite of the undeniable cuteness of Bo Obama, four out of the top five feline-friendly states voted for the President. Cats are the preferred pet in the blue states of Vermont, Maine, Oregon, and Washington, although South Dakotans also own plenty of felines.

This rule doesn't appear to hold perfectly  – in particular, there's no rush to label Dianne Feinstein a DemoCAT. For instance, California (a blue bastion) also has one of the lowest rates of cat ownership, with 28.3 percent of households including a feline in their families.

Another surprising nugget from the study: in America, dogs aren't a man's best friend. While there are about 70 million pet dogs in the nation, there are 74.1 million pet cats.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ice Melting Products Can Injure Pets

From the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief

During cold winter months, our pets can come into close contact with a variety of ice melting compounds during walks, some of which can cause serious illness. 

Dr. Millie Armstrong is from Petit Brook Veterinary Clinic in Colchester and a member of the Vermont Veterinary Medical Association. She has some tips on how to keep your pets safe.

Some ice-melting products include calcium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, rock salt, and urea.

The chloride salts are used for melting ice in colder temperatures (down to -25 F), and these tend to cause problems when coming in prolonged contact with the skin. When we walk our dogs on the pavement or even some driveways, the salts can get in the space between the toes and pads and cause irritation. The most commons signs are redness and swelling. Your pet may lick at the irritated paws. If the dogs ingest a large amount of them, they can become ill. 

Rock salt is simply sodium chloride, which is the same as table salt. It can be harmful to metal, concrete, and plants and is generally only helpful in temperatures above 10 F. It can cause some redness and irritation to the paws but is unlikely to harm pets unless large amounts are eaten: a toxic amount for a ten pound dog is 1/2 cup. 

Urea, a common fertilizer, is used in some areas to melt ice. It is useful in temperatures down to - 21 F. It can pose an environmental hazard as it adds nitrates to run off water.

Soft Paws is an ice melting product that combines the best of all of these products. It contains amide/glycol mixture that is not corrosive to metal nor does it contaminate the water with nitrates. It is used down to -2 F and doesn't cause skin irritation like other ice melting products. (The company does mention that it could cause stomach irritation if ingested.)

Because outside of your own drive, you can't be sure which salt was used to melt the ice, it's a good idea to wipe down your pet's feet after returning inside. If your pet has a large amount of any ice-melting product on his fur (from rolling or walking through it), bathe the pet and monitor the contacted areas for redness, swelling, or irritation. 

A safe alternate for your drive may be to simply use cat litter or sand for traction combined with the ice melting products for the best of both worlds.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Purina and Milo's Kitchen Recalling Some Dog Treats

Oh no, another food recall.

Purina, Milo's Kitchen pulling some dog treats

January 9, 2013 04:30 PM EST |

NEW YORK — Two makers of pet treats are pulling products from the market because they may contain traces of poultry antibiotics that aren't approved in the U.S.

Nestle Purina PetCare is taking Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brand dog treats off the market, while Milo's Kitchen is recalling its Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers home-style dog treats.

The chicken jerky products, which are made in China, may contain minute amounts of antibiotic residue, the companies said Wednesday. The antibiotics have been approved by Chinese and European Union regulators, but they are not approved in the U.S.

The companies said the treats don't pose a safety risk to pets, but they are still pulling them off the market.

The recall doesn't cover other products the companies sell.

Milo's Kitchen said there is no known health risk associated with the antibiotics, but their presence means the products don't meet its standards. It said the chemicals "should not be present in the final food product."

The recalls come after the New York State Department of Agriculture detected the antibiotics in samples of the companies' products. Purina said that the regulator asked that its affected products be pulled from stores in New York.

U.S. federal regulators have also been looking into reports of pet illnesses stemming from their snacks.
The Food and Drug Administration says reports of sick pets connected to jerky treats, particularly chicken jerky made in China, have been increasing for years. The agency said in September that it had been notified of 360 dogs that died after eating jerky treats over the last 18 months and is conducting a broad
investigation. No definitive cause for the dogs' sicknesses has yet been identified.

Waggin' Train and Milo's Kitchen are mentioned often in consumer complaints made to the agency, and Canyon Creek is also named in a few complaints. Purina said Wednesday that there is no indication the recall is linked to the problems the FDA is investigating.

Symptoms reported to the FDA include gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea, as well as kidney problems, which can cause dogs to drink and urinate more than usual.

The FDA says that commercially produced pet foods contain all the nutrients that pets need, so treats are not necessary for nutrition, and commercial pet food "is very safe."

Purina is a U.S. division of Swiss consumer products giant Nestle that is based in St. Louis. Milo's is owned by Del Monte Foods and is based in San Francisco.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Song Birds Learn Their Songs During Sleep

In conjunction with the previous post about song birds, a study about birds learning songs while they sleep.

Songbirds Learn Their Songs During Sleep

June 20, 2010 — When zebra finches learn their songs from their father early in life, their brain is active during sleep.

That is what biologists at Utrecht University conclude in a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Their findings are a further demonstration that birdsong learning is very similar to the way that children learn how to speak.

This discovery has important consequences for our understanding of the brain processes involved in learning and memory. Human infants learning to speak show increased activation in a part of the brain that is comparable to that studied in young zebra finches. Furthermore, language learning in children is improved when they are allowed to take a nap. The Utrecht discovery will increase our understanding of the role of sleep in the formation of memory.

A model for speech learning Previously the researchers, Sharon Gobes, Thijs Zandbergen and Johan Bolhuis, had demonstrated that the way in which zebra finches learn their songs is very similar to the way in which children learn to speak. In both cases learning takes place during early youth and involves considerable practise. Also, in children and songbirds alike, different brain regions are involved in learning and in speaking or singing. The new research shows that, just as in human infants, the brain of the young zebra finch is also active during sleep. This makes songbirds a good animal model to study the role of sleep in human speech acquisition.

The brain is active during sleep It has been known that sleep plays an important role in learning in humans and other mammals. In songbirds it had been shown previously that during sleep the brain has the same pattern of activity as during singing the day before. The present findings show that the more young songbirds have learned from their father's song, the more active their brain is during subsequent sleep.

How Do Songbirds Sing?

How Do Songbirds Sing? In 3-D!

Jan. 8, 2013 — The question 'How do songbirds sing?' is addressed in a study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Biology. High-field magnetic resonance imaging and micro-computed tomography have been used to construct stunning high resolution, 3D, images, as well as a data set "morphome" of the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) vocal organ, the syrinx.

Like humans, songbirds learn their vocalizations by imitation. Since their songs are used for finding a mate and retaining territories, birdsong is very important for reproductive success.

The syrinx, located at the point where the trachea splits in two to send air to the lungs, is unique to birds and performs the same function as vocal cords in humans. Birds can have such a complete control over the syrinx, with sub-millisecond precision, that in some cases they are even able to mimic human speech.

Despite great inroads in uncovering the neural control of birdsong, the anatomy of the complex physical structures that generate sound have been less well understood.

The multinational team has generated interactive 3D PDF models of the syringeal skeleton, soft tissues, cartilaginous pads, and muscles affecting sound production. These models show in detail the delicate balance between strength, and lightness of bones and cartilage required to support and alter the vibrating membranes of the syrinx at superfast speeds.

Dr Coen Elemans, from the University of Southern Denmark, who led this study, explained, "This study provides the basis to analyze the micromechanics, and exact neural and muscular control of the syrinx. For example, we describe a cartilaginous structure which may allow the zebra finch to precisely control its songs by uncoupling sound frequency and volume." In addition, the researchers found a previously unrecognized Y-shaped structure on the sternum which corresponds to the shape of the syrinx and could help stabilize sound production.

Note: I have always wondered how birds can say "p" and"b" words without lips!  Dr. Sakas

Monday, January 7, 2013

Be More Like Your Dog

Maybe we could learn something from our dogs. They always greet us enthusiastically even if we were only gone for a few minutes. They love us without reservation. There is a great truism that really fits dogs: A dog is the only one of God's creatures that loves you more than they love themselves. The world would be a better place if we followed the example of our dogs.

Resolution: Be Like My Dog 

Marjory  Abrams

I've read numerous funny emails about how being with a dog is preferable to being with people -- no complaints, unconditional love. This morning, as I was scooping my dog's poop, I realized that I could take a few lessons from my dog.

Always ready. Gingi could be fast asleep on her bed, but the minute she hears a footstep or a door open, she is up and frisky and eager to go. There's no ramp-up time in the morning. No complaints about not getting enough sleep or being tired at the end of a long day or too busy with something else.

Never lazy. Even if she is comfortably snuggling on the couch with the family, if the doorbell rings, Gingi is the first one up to see who is there. If I'm comfy on the couch, I pause in hope that someone else will get the door, or answer the phone, or check the oven when the timer goes off.

Enjoy food. Even though she eats the same food every day, Gingi is always excited at mealtime. I'm not saying that I should eat the exact same food every day, but I don't take pleasure the way that she does.

Ask for what you want. When Gingi wants to play, she brings her ball to the back door or nuzzles into your lap. When she wants to go out, she barks by the door. When she's thirsty, she stands over her water bowl, then paws it if we take too long to notice. If I am hugging my husband or one of my daughters, she always nudges her way into the embrace for her share of the love. I frequently find it hard to ask for help or attention, hoping that my husband or children will read my mind or simply figure it out for themselves.

Hold no grudges. It's been a busy week, so I haven't spent any time in the yard with her, despite her daily attempts. She is always eager to play no matter what happened yesterday, or even five minutes ago. No pouting or withholding because she didn't get what she wanted.

Relax. If there is one lesson that I really need to learn from Gingi, it's the ability to simply relax and be. No agenda. No goals. No guilt. Simple, pure enjoyment of life.

As for that poop part of her life... well, there's a lot to be said for high-fiber and no junk food, which she proves to me twice every day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chicken Warns Family About Fire - Saves Them!

I guess this chicken was channeling "Chicken Little" (of the 'sky is falling fame').

Chickens are actually very intelligent animals and do make great companion pets. I know most people tend to underestimate them.

MAN'S BEST FRIEND? Nothing paltry about this poultry

Wisconsin couple escapes blaze thanks to their pet chicken

Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2012 12:30 am | Updated: 9:59 pm, Fri Dec 28, 2012.
MILWAUKEE — A Wisconsin couple says clucks, not fire trucks, helped them escape a blaze at their home.

Dennis Murawska, 59, said a pet chicken named Cluck Cluck woke his wife Susan Cotey, 52, with loud clucking from its cage in the basement two floors below about 6:15 a.m. Thursday. The couple’s two cats also were running around the main floor.

Murawska said he had been half awake but didn’t know about the fire because the smoke alarms hadn’t gone off. He realized something was wrong when his wife got up.

‘‘The chicken gets quite vocal when she gets excited,’’ he said.

Cluck Cluck came from a nearby farm in Alma Center, about 135 miles east of Minneapolis, Murawska said. When the chicken began wandering over to his house, his neighbor said he could kill it because it wasn’t producing any eggs.

But Murawska felt sorry for Cluck Cluck because she had a mutated foot and decided to keep her. He fed the bird and built a coop, and then his wife let Cluck Cluck into the basement on cold nights.

‘‘I spent way more money than I ever should’ve,’’ Murawska said by telephone. ‘‘I guess it paid off.’’

The couple escaped, and firefighters found the chicken in its cage and one of the cats alive in the basement. Another cat hasn’t been found and is presumed dead, Murawska said. The couple and their surviving cat checked into a Black River Falls hotel, while Cluck Cluck is staying with the neighbor who used to own her.
Alma Center Fire Chief Jeff Gaede said the fire started in the attic of the attached garage and was not suspicious. The house was a total loss, but it could have been worse — if not for the chicken.

‘‘We are used to hearing about a dog or cat or something, but we never heard of a chicken waking up a resident for a fire,’’ Gaede said. ‘‘That’s pretty amazing.’’