Thursday, February 28, 2013

Do Dogs (and other pets) Go to Heaven?

I had written a blog some time ago, 9/18/11 (;postID=7795776760108965644), where I posted an article I had written about the question whether animals have souls. Father Murphy and I held a conversation about it and although we "disagreed" he gave me a very thoughtful and respectful answer. The blog/story had generated interest, being picked up by the Chicago Catholic News and other sites. It is a very interesting question and through the years I have heard a multitude of opinions and explanations.

I now have an "update of sorts" and it addresses the question whether animals go to Heaven.

A few weeks ago my wife and I were having dinner in the church rectory with three of the priests from the parish. Being in the company of these men of the cloth, I related the story about my discussion with Father Murphy about animals having souls and his responses to me.

Father Mair, the retired pastor of the parish, then responded to me. Father Mair has a kind, loving nature about him and an easy going demeanor. He is beloved by the parish. He told me that Father Murphy never really liked dogs and everyone laughed at that revelation. He then went on to tell us the way he handles the question when asked if animals do animals go to Heaven. He said that if you have loved your pets then they will be part of your Paradise and will be in Heaven with you. How can it be Paradise if you are not with the ones you have loved in life?

Father Mair's word really do ring true. For those of us who love our animal companions, it would not be Paradise without them. I still contend that  they do have  souls, however, but  if they do not, it will not be Heaven without them so they will still be there.

There are all sorts of stories and poems about  how pets in WILL be in Heaven and I will share a few, one about a dog angel, a tribute to a deceased cat, and finally a classic story based on a Twilight Zone episode (with a link to the actual episode on youtube).

A Little Dog Angel
High up in the courts of heaven today
a little dog angel waits;
with the other angels he will not play,
but he sits alone at the gates.
"For I know my master will come" says he,
"and when he comes he will call for me."

The other angels pass him by
As they hurry toward the throne,
And he watches them with a wistful eye
as he sits at the gates alone.
"But I know if I just wait patiently
that someday my master will call for me."

And his master, down on earth below,
as he sits in his easy chair,
forgets sometimes, and whispers low
to the dog who is not there.
And the little dog angel cocks his ears
and dreams that his master's voice he hears.

And when at last his master waits
outside in the dark and cold,
for the hand of death to open the door,
that leads to those courts of gold,
he will hear a sound through the gathering dark,
a little dog angel's bark.

Noah M. Holland

(A great quote, that is so true is, "A dog is the only one of God's creatures who loves you more than they love themselves.")

Not to leave out cats.....


SHADOW'S SONG (on the death of a cat)
I'm not gone...not really.
I haven't gone away...I've only gotten bigger.
My eyes, so bright, now shine among the stars.
My voice sings with the wind in winter, as I leap
And dance among the tree tops.
I stalk the blown leaves in autumn, and brush the
Flowers gently in the spring.
I come to you in dreaming, on feet grown dreamtime soft,
And lay my cheek against yours, and whisper:
"Peace be with you."
Someday we will play again together, you and I, among the stars.
'Til then, fear not to love, for your love gave my life meaning.
And I return that love to you...a hundredfold...a thousandfold...

Copyright © 1996 by Audrey E. Nickel

And a final of my favorites....

"No Dogs In Heaven"

An old man and his dog were walking down a hot, dusty road lined with a beautiful white fence on both sides. As they walked along, the old man and his dog became very thirsty and tired.

Soon, they came to a gate in the fence where, on the other side, they saw a nice grassy, wooded area surrounding a cool clear pool of fresh water. "Just where a thirsty 'huntin' dog and a man would like to rest!" thought the old man. But there was a sign over the gate that read "No Dogs" so they walked on.

Further on, they came upon a man in flowing white robes standing just inside a strong iron gate across a path that led to a beautiful, sunny meadow with a cool clear stream running through it.

"'Scuse me Sir," said the old man, "My dog and I have been on this road all day. Mind if we come in and sit in the shade for awhile?" "Of course!" The man said. "Come on in and rest. You look thirsty and tired." The old man said, "We sure are!" and started through the gate with his dog.

The gatekeeper stopped him. "Sorry, you can come in but your dog can't come with you. "You see, this is Heaven, and dogs aren't allowed here. He has to stay out here on the road." "What kind of Heaven won't allow dogs?" said the old man. "Well, if he can't come in, then I'll stay out here on the road with him. He's been my faithful companion all his life and I won't desert him now."

"Suit yourself," said the gatekeeper, "but I have to warn you, the Devil's on this road and he'll try to sweet talk you into his place. He'll promise you anything, but dogs can't go there either. If you won't leave that dog on the road, you'll spend all Eternity on the road with him. Better if you stay here."

"Well, I'm stayin' with my dog," replied the man and he and the dog walked on. Gradually, the fence became more and more faded and rundown until they finally reached a spot where the boards fell away completely leaving a gap. Another man dressed in old, ragged clothes sat just inside the broken fence under a shady tree.

"'Scuse me Sir," said the old man, "My dog and I have been on this road all day. Mind if we come in and sit in the shade for awhile?" "Of course!" The man said. "Come on in and rest. There's some cold water here under the tree. Make yourself comfortable."

The old man paused, "but what about my dog? Can he can come in, too? The man up the road said dogs weren't allowed here, and they had to stay on the road." The other man answered, "Well, you look pretty tired and thirsty. Would you come in here and rest if you had to leave that dog?"

"No sir!" the old man replied, "A glass of cold water and some shade would be mighty fine right about now but I won't come in if my buddy here can't come too. I didn't go to Heaven because my dog couldn't come with me, so I sure as how ain't about to go to Hell without him neither."
The man smiled and said, "Welcome to Heaven, and bring your dog!" The old man exclaimed, "You mean this is Heaven? And my dog can come with me? Then why did that fellow down the road say they weren't allowed in Heaven?" The man replied, "That was the Devil and he gets all the souls who are willing to give up a life-long companion for small comfort because they think it will make their lives a little easier."

The man continued, "They soon find out their mistake, but, then it's too late. The dogs come here, the fickle people stay there. God wouldn't allow dogs to be banned from Heaven. After all, He created them to be man's companions in life, why would he separate them in death?"

- Story is based on an episode of The Twilight Zone by Rod Serling

The youtube video of the actual episode.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Shifty - An American Hero of the Greatest Generation

Think of the media circus and all the things that were said of Whitney Houston when she died and Michael Jackson when he died.

This hero died with barely anyone's notice. 

These members of the "Greatest Generation" are dying with hardly a notice. Their sacrifices helped keep us safe and made this the great nation that it a way it is ironic that in their declining years they have seen what has happened to our country that they worked so hard to protect and preserve. 

May God Bless them and their families.....we owe them a debt of gratitude. 


"Shifty" By
Chuck Yeager

Shifty volunteered for the airborne in
WWII and served with Easy

of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st

Airborne Infantry. If you've seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the

History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10

episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.

I met Shifty in the
Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn't

know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having

trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was

at the right gate, and noticed the "
Screaming Eagle," the symbol of

the 101st  Airborne, on his hat.

Making conversation, I asked him if he'd been in the 101st  Airborne

or if his son was serving. He said quietly that he had been in the

101st.  I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served,

and how many jumps he made. Quietly and humbly, he said "Well, I guess I
 signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 ..."
at which point  my heart skipped.

At that point, again, very humbly, he said "I made the 5 training

jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into
Normandy . . . do you know

Normandy is?" At this point my heart stopped.

I told him "yes, I know exactly where
Normandy is, and I know what

D-Day was." At that point he said "I also made a second jump into

Holland , into Arnhem .." I was standing with a genuine war hero ...

and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of


I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from
France , and he said

"Yes... And it's real sad because, these days, so few of the guys are

left, and those that are, lots of them can't make the trip." My heart

was in my throat and I didn't know what to say.

I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in

coach while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to

get him and said that I wanted to switch seats. When Shifty came

forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have

it, that I'd take his in coach.

He said "No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are

still some who remember what we did and who still care is enough to

make an old man very happy." His eyes were filling up as he said it.

And mine are brimming up now as I write this.

Shifty died on Jan. l7 after fighting cancer.

There was no parade.

No big event in
Staples Center .

No wall-to-wall, back-to-back 24x7 news coverage.

No weeping fans on television.

And that's not right!

Let's give Shifty his own memorial service, online, in our own quiet way.

Please forward this email to everyone you know. Especially to the veterans.

Rest in peace
, Shifty.

Chuck Yeager, Maj. General [ret.]

P.S.  I think that it is amazing how the "
media" chooses our "heroes" these days...

Elvis, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston
& the like.

"SHIFTY" - an incredible American hero.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Veterinary Bills for Your Pets Will Increase Because of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

Unintended consequences of the "Affordable Care Act" (aka Obamacare) has spilled over to veterinary medicine, leading to increased costs for treating pets.

CFA: Vet bills for your pets increasing

Tax on medical equipment passed along to consumers

Updated: Saturday, 23 Feb 2013, 2:03 PM EST
Published : Saturday, 23 Feb 2013, 2:03 PM EST
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - The Affordable Care Act is intended for humans, however, we've learned that a tax on certain medical devices for veterinary equipment may be passed on to your pets.

Because medical equipment and supplies will be going up in cost, the extra expense will be passed on to the customers. But why the price increase? It's part of a new 2.3% federal excise tax on certain medical devices that just went into effect. The tax will help fund the Patient Protection Program and the Affordable Care Act, intended for people, not pets. Manufacturers pay the tax, but a recent survey found more than half plan to pass it along, something most veterinarians can't afford.

Medical devices used only on animals are exempt, but items like IV pumps, sterile scalpels, and anesthesia equipment, which are duel use devices, as in they can be used on both humans and animals, will be taxed. Veterinarians fear higher prices could have animals owners holding off on medical care, or vets postponing the purchase of new devices.

The American Veterinary Medical Association represents 82,000 vets. At this point, they don't know how much this new tax will indirectly cost them, and they're waiting to hear from device makers.

"Congress never intended for this tax to impact veterinarian medicine and unfortunately it has, and I think that's very unfortunate that medicine is subsidizing human health care", said Dr. Mark Lutschaunig of the AVMA.

Congressional sources, who worked on the Affordable Care Act, told us lawmakers tried to exclude vets from being impacted by the dual use medical taxes, but it was too complicated.

Vets say if your pet is sick or acting strangely, don't delay care, that could just cause medical problems to get worse. If you're concerned with the cost of vet care, be sure and talk to your vet about payment plans or other financial options.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nature's Variety and Kasel's Recalls Pet Treats and Food

I hate to be the harbinger of more bad tidings, but the recall of Nature's Variety has expanded....

Nature's Variety, Kasel recall pet treats and food

Lynne Terry, The Oregonian By Lynne Terry, The Oregonian
on February 20, 2013 at 12:20 PM, updated February 20, 2013 at 3:52 PM


Two companies announced separate recalls on Wednesday of pet food and dog treats.

Kasel Associated Industries is pulling
a wide variety of dog treats over salmonella contamination. The recall covers a wide variety of treats, from chicken jerky to pig ears to hearts of lamb, produced in its plant in Denver between April and October last year. The items were sold in Target, Costco, Sam’s Club and through its website.

A Kasel official said the Colorado Department of Agriculture found salmonella in its chicken jerky, prompting a recall of that product in September. The Food and Drug Administration investigated, urging the company to issue the wider recall.

Nature’s Variety announced its own recall of raw organic chicken for cats and dogs after receiving a complaint by a customer that pieces of plastic were in a bag.  The company, with manufactures in Lincoln, Neb. but sells nationwide, said it found and fixed the problem.

The chicken was sold nationwide in bags and cases with a best-by date of Oct. 4, 2013.

For more information about the Nature’s Variety recall, call 888-519-7387. Kasel Associated Industries consumer line is 800-218-4417.
-- Lynne Terry

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Kaytee Recalls Bird Treats and Greens Due to Salmonella Contamination

Sent to me by my friend Sheryl. Pet bird food recall by Kaytee.

Kaytee Recalls Bird Treats and Greens Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination from Parsley Flakes

CHILTON, Wis.--()--Kaytee Products is recalling several bird treats and greens items due to possible contamination of Salmonella from parsley flake ingredients supplied to Kaytee by Specialty Commodities, Inc., an outside supplier to Kaytee.
Material #
UPC Code
Product Name/Description
Best Before Code
100032244   07185940410   2 lb   Kaytee Fiesta Max Canary/Finch  
9/28/2013 through
100032881   07185900431   3.5 oz   Kaytee Honey Treat - Parakeet  
12/6/2013 through
100032922   07185955027   7 oz   Kaytee Honey Treat – Parakeet (Value Pack)  
12/4/2013 through
100032982   07185900434   3.5 oz   Kaytee Honey Treat – Parakeet  
12/6/2013 through
100502615   07185999885   3.5 oz   Kaytee Fiesta Fruit & Veggie Treat – Parakeet  
1/15/2014 through
100502749   07185999855   9.5 oz   Kaytee Fiesta Fruit & Veggie Treat – Parakeet  
12/18/2013 through
100502937   07185994235   3.5 oz   Kaytee Forti-Diet ProHealth Honey Treat – Parakeet  
12/5/2013 through
100502940   07185994236   7 oz  
Kaytee Forti-Diet ProHealth Honey Treat – Parakeet
(Value Pack)
12/4/2013 through
100503001   07185994268   4 ct  
Kaytee Forti-Diet ProHealth Munchables Shred-A-
Box Honey Seed Treats (4 Boxes)
3/7/2014 through
100503064   07185994264   11 oz  
Kaytee Forti-Diet ProHealth Molting & Conditioning
– Small Birds
12/25/2013 through
100503808   07185955027   7 oz   Kaytee Honey Treat – Parakeet (Value Pack)  
12/6/2013 through
100504021   07185994368   2.25 oz  
Kaytee Fiesta Nutty Papaya Treat – Parakeet &
12/4/2013 through
100504029   07185994370   1.5 oz   Kaytee Fiesta Foraging Treat for Pet Birds  
1/27/2014 through
100504971   73725727166   3.2 oz  
Grreat Choice Treat Sticks for Small Birds
(2 sticks)
12/13/2013 through
100504974   73725727165   9.6 oz  
Grreat Choice Treat Sticks for Small Birds
(6 sticks)
12/10/2013 through
100506593   07185994615   1.5 oz   Kaytee Foraging Box O’Fun Treat for Pet Birds  
1/28/2014 through
100510282   07185994708   1 oz   Kaytee Bird Greens Foraging Treat  
12/1/2013 through
Product and product lots that do not appear on the list above are not subject to this recall.
No human or pet illnesses have been reported to-date. The recall notification is being issued based on a recall letter dated February 11, 2013 from Specialty Commodities, Inc. The above-referenced Kaytee products were originally manufactured as early as June 12, 2012. While Kaytee has not had any positive Salmonella results on finished product to suggest possible contamination, we are initiating this recall in accordance with FDA guidelines. Kaytee is taking immediate action to remove the potentially affected product from all retail stores and distribution centers.

Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is a risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products. Pet owners should thoroughly wash their hands after having contact with these products and clean any surfaces that were exposed.

Healthy persons exposed to Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomit, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and fever. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary track symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these symptoms after having contact with these products should contact their physician or healthcare provider.
Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infection but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product(s) and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

Recalled products were distributed to retailers and distributors in the states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin; and, into the countries of Canada, China, Guam, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Pakistan, Singapore, and the UAE.

Consumers who have purchased the above-referenced Kaytee products with the referenced “Best Before” dates are urged to contact Kaytee Customer Service representatives.

A letter and instructions will be forwarded to all Kaytee customers. Kaytee Customer Service representatives and company veterinarians are responding to inquires through the 1-800-Kaytee1 (800 529-8331) phone number and will answer any questions regarding pets that have been fed the product. Pet owners can also visit the Kaytee website for more information


Kaytee Products
1-800-Kaytee1 (800 529-8331) (Consumers)
Mark Newberg, 847-330-5367 (Media)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Nature's Variety Instinct Cat and Dog Food Recall

Another pet food recall......

Nature’s Variety Recalls Instinct Cat and Dog Food For Plastic Pieces

Nature’s Variety is recalling one batch of Instinct® Raw Organic Chicken Formula for dogs and cats because clear plastic was found in some of the bags which may pose a choking risk to pets. The source of the plastic has been identified and the issue has been resolved. There have been no reports of harm to pets, but a consumer complaint alerted the company to the problem.

The products are Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula Medallions in 3 pound bags with UPC number 7 69949 60137 1; Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula Medallions in 27 pound cases with UPC number  7 69949 70137 8. Also recalled are Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula patties in 6 pound bags with UPC number 7 69949 60127 2; and Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula patties in 36 pound case with UPC number 7 69949 70127 9. All products have a “best if used by” date of 10/04/13. You can see all of the product labels at the FDA web site.

Discontinue use of this product. Contact a veterinarian if you have concerns about your pet’s health. You can obtain a refund or exchange by returning the product in its original packaging or bringing proof of purchase to the retailer. For questions and more information, call Nature’s Variety Consumer Relations team at 1-888-519-7387 Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm CT.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dogs Understand Human Perspective

An interesting tidbit from the AVMA Animal Health SmartBrief....

Dogs understand human perspective, say researchers

Springer spaniel Dogs can understand a human perspective, say researchers.
Dogs are more capable of understanding situations from a human's point of view than has previously been recognised, according to researchers.

They found dogs were four times more likely to steal food they had been forbidden, when lights were turned off so humans in the room could not see.

This suggested the dogs were able to alter their behaviour when they knew their owners' perspective had changed.

The study, published in Animal Cognition, conducted tests on 84 dogs.

The experiments had been trying to find whether dogs could adapt their behaviour in response to the changed circumstances of their human owners.

It wanted to see if dogs had a "flexible understanding" that could show they understood the viewpoint of a human.

Dog's understanding It found that when the lights were turned off, dogs in a room with their human owners were much more likely to disobey and steal forbidden food.

The study says it is "unlikely that the dogs simply forgot that the human was in the room" when there was no light. Instead it seems as though the dogs were able to differentiate between when the human was unable or able to see them.
Juliane Kaminski Juliane Kaminski carried out the research into how dogs are influenced by human circumstances
The experiments had been designed with enough variations to avoid false associations - such as dogs beginning to associate sudden darkness with someone giving them food, researchers said.

Dr Juliane Kaminski, from the University of Portsmouth's psychology department, said the study was "incredible because it implies dogs understand the human can't see them, meaning they might understand the human perspective".

This could also be important in understanding the capacities of dogs that have to interact closely with humans, such as guide dogs for the blind and sniffer dogs.

Previous studies have suggested that although humans might think that they can recognise different expressions on their dogs' faces, this is often inaccurate and a projection of human emotions.

"Humans constantly attribute certain qualities and emotions to other living things. We know that our own dog is clever or sensitive, but that's us thinking, not them," said Dr Kaminski.

"These results suggest humans might be right, where dogs are concerned, but we still can't be completely sure if the results mean dogs have a truly flexible understanding of the mind and others' minds. It has always been assumed only humans had this ability."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Caffrey the Amazing Two-Legged Cat!

A heartwarming and amazing story I found on the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief:

Caffrey, the amazing moggie who survives on two legs... and they're both on the same side!

  • Black Persian lost his left hind leg some ten years ago after being run over by a car aged three
  • After £3,500 worth of operations, he battled on with his life
  • The tragedy struck four months ago when he was forced to have his front left leg amputated
  • Another £4,000 operation and the fearless feline is still bounding about despite having no left-side legs
By Paul Harris
Climbing trees, chasing mice, showing off to the ladies . . . four legs were always handy for Caffrey the cat. 

Then tragedy struck. When Caffrey was three, the handsome grey Persian was run over by a car and lost his left hind leg. 

Oh well. Not to worry. He happily carried on with three, thanks to a £3,500 series of operations that stitched up the damage and made the best of his front left paw, which was also injured in the crash. 

Strong-willed: Caffrey the black Persian cat who walks and leads a normal life - despite only having two legs, both on the same side
Strong-willed: Caffrey the black Persian cat who walks and leads a normal life - despite only having two legs, both on the same side
Still going strong: Caffrey has had a tough life, yet still continues to battle on through life
Still going strong: Caffrey has had a tough life, yet still continues to battle on through life
Fighter: Caffrey has defied all logic by managing to survive on just two legs
Fighter: Caffrey has defied all logic by managing to survive on just two legs
For the next ten years or so, he coped so well it was easy to forget his disability. But four months ago he developed a malignant growth on the repaired front leg. 

His owner Sue Greaves, 58, couldn't bear to have him put down or put him through the pain of chemotherapy with no guarantee of success.
So she pleaded Paul Harris reports 'He doesn't seem bothered at all' for option three – amputating the leg, leaving him with only two, both on the right side. 

When her vet sought opinions from four colleagues, all said it shouldn't be done. They insisted he would be unable to walk and his life would not be worth living.
Caring: Caffrey with his best friend and neighbour Ashleigh Tyler
Caring: Caffrey with his best friend and neighbour Ashleigh Tyler

Pain: The unlucky moggie was forced to have his leg amputated recently, which left him with no limbs on one side
Pain: The unlucky moggie was forced to have his leg amputated recently, which left him with no limbs on one side
Well, Caffrey, take a bow. And a run around the garden. 

And just for good measure, try a ballet-style pirouette. 

Although he was expected to spend weeks recovering at home in Woking, Surrey, within days he had achieved near perfect balance – helped by next door neighbour Ashleigh Tyler, eight, who joined the campaign to nurse him back to health. 

And less than two months after the £4,000 operation, he is skipping along like a cat on a hot tin roof. 

'Everyone who sees him is astonished at what he can do,' Mrs Greaves said. 'He doesn't seem bothered at all by having only two legs.'

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Friday, February 8, 2013

How Owls Can Turn Their Heads 270 Degrees

From the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief:

Original article posted by Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato in Weird & Wild on February 6, 2013

In an Exorcist-style display of flexibility, owls can rotate their necks a maximum of 270 degrees without breaking blood vessels or tearing tendons.

To the untrained eye, it looks like a case of movie magic, but scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine now have data to explain the eerie skill that has baffled birders for years. (Check out National Geographic’s backyard bird identifier.)

Whereas people and other animals can simply move their eyes to follow an object or use peripheral vision to scan a room, owls must turn their heads for the same effect. These birds have fixed eye sockets, which means their eyeballs can’t rotate, forcing them to stretch their necks—a seemingly supernatural feat.
“In the case of birds, their systems are designed to handle that amount of movement,” said Eric Forsman, a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service, who was not part of the study. “The tissue, the blood vessels are designed to flex—things don’t just snap.”

Turning Heads
Owls are more flexible than humans because a bird’s head is only connected by one socket pivot. People have two, which limits our ability to twist, Forsman added. Owls also have multiple vertebrae, the small bones that make up the neck and spine, helping them achieve a wide range of motion.

Yet, even with these skeletal advantages, a bird’s body shouldn’t be able to withstand such extreme levels of movement. In people, a spinning head would cause all kinds of internal bleeding and breakage.

For the new research, the Johns Hopkins team obtained 12 dead birds from educational centers and created 3-D images of the animals’ blood vessels and bones. The scientists also injected the carcasses with dye and liquified red plastic to preserve their arteries before dissection, according to a summary of their research on the U.S. National Science Foundation website.

The team discovered owls have backup arteries, which offer a fresh supply of nutrients when blood vessels get closed off by rapid turning. Their arteries also swell to collect any excess blood created in the process.

Eerie Ability Not Unique
It’s a powerful adaptive trait, Forsman said, but it’s not unique. Plenty of birds have a similar ability to look behind them. Red-tailed hawks, for example, are almost as flexible as their nocturnal cousins.

“There are lots of advantages to being able to look over your shoulder and see something coming—if you’re trying to avoid predators or detect prey,” he said. (Watch a video of an owl hunting prey.)

Owls might not be distinctive within the animal kingdom, but they do have the corner on Hollywood horror flicks. With their bulbous eyes and haunting calls, these birds can swivel their way from one thriller to the next.

The head-turning study won first place in the Posters category of the 2012 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bats Carry More Than 60 Human-Infecting Viruses

From the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief

Bats Host More Than 60 Human-Infecting Viruses

Date: 06 February 2013 Time: 09:25 AM ET
A black bat flying against moonlit clouds
CREDIT: javarman | shutterstock
Many animals harbor viruses that can jump to other species, but bats may be in a class of their own when it comes to carrying zoonotic (human-infecting) viruses. Bats are reservoirs for more than 60 viruses that can infect humans, and host more viruses per species than even rodents do, new research shows.
"There seems to be something different about bats in terms of being able to host zoonotic infections," study researcher David Hayman, a wildlife epidemiologist at Colorado State University (CSU), told LiveScience.

In recent years, bats have received a lot of attention for their virus-hosting abilities. They've been shown to carry a number of harmful infections, including rabies and viruses related to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Moreover, research suggests bats may be the original hosts of nasty viruses such as Ebola and Nipah, which causes deadly brain fevers in people.

This impressive track record left Hayman and his colleagues wondering: Are bats somehow special in their ability to host zoonotic viruses?

Bats vs. rodents
To find out, the researchers compared the virus-hosting abilities of bats with those of rodents —which are also known to transmit various zoonotic viral pathogens — by compiling and analyzing databases of every virus identified in the animals. They found that rodents host 179 viruses, 68 of which are zoonotic; bats, on the other hand, harbor 61 zoonotic viruses, with 137 viruses in total. Though rodents carry slightly more human-infecting viruses, bats host more zoonotic viruses per species — on average, each bat species hosts 1.79 zoonotic viruses, compared with rodents' 1.48 viruses per species. [10 Deadly Diseases That Hopped Across Species]

"It doesn't seem like a lot," said study co-author Angie Luis, a CSU disease ecologist. "But when you consider that there are twice as many rodent species as there are bat species, it's highly significant."
The researchers also looked at different factors that could help explain bats' surprising zoonotic viral richness. One factor stood out: sympatry, in which multiple species of an order of organisms inhabit the same geographical area. Bat and rodent species were more likely to host multiple viruses if their habitat ranges overlapped with the ranges of other bat and rodent species, respectively. And though rodents experience more range overlaps than bats (due to their greater number of species), the effect of sympatry was almost four times stronger for bats.

Compared with rodents, "adding one more bat species to another bat species' range will have a greater effect on the number of viruses it has," Luis told LiveScience. Essentially, bats share their viruses more than rodents do, a fact that's especially evident when one examines the number of host species each virus has. Each bat virus, on average, infects 4.51 bat species, while each rodent virus infects only 2.76 rodent species. This greater sharing of viruses likely results because bats typically live in very close quarters with millions of other bats, Luis said. Physical and genetic similarities between different bat species may also help the viruses spread more easily.

In addition to sympatry, certain life-history traits appear to affect the number of viruses a bat species has. Bat species that live longer, have greater body masses, smaller litter sizes and more litters per year tend to host more zoonotic viruses, the scientists found.

Public health concern?
"I think it's a very interesting study, the first of its kind," said Jamie Childs, azoonotic disease epidemiologist at Yale University, who was not involved with the research. "It confirms in many ways the importance of bats as reservoirs for viruses."

But while the study is a good first step, it "vastly underestimated the number of viruses bats host," Childs told LiveScience. Recent research looking at bat guano suggests there are a number of viral agents we don't have much information on, he said. [Tiny & Nasty: Images of Things That Make Us Sick]

Underestimation or not, the study highlights the public health concern of bat viruses, Childs said. Though humans don't often come into direct contact with bats, they can catch their viruses through contact with infected domesticated animals, including horses, cattle and cats. The majority of human rabies outbreaks have been linked back to bats, and transmission of the Nipah and Hendra viruses have resulted in large outbreaks with lots of fatalities, he said. Even outbreaks of the Ebola and Marburg viruses, which don't often kill a lot of people, catch the attention of the worldwide community.

But is there anything we can do to prevent future outbreaks of bat viruses?

Childs doesn't think so, given how the infections spread and the number of different species the viruses can jump to. "It's very hard to control the emergence of these infections with humans," he said.

Hayman, on the other hand, thinks that studying the interactions between bats, humans and domestic animals could be helpful. "We should to be looking at what we are doing to make bats come into contact with humans and domestic animals, and try to mitigate that," he said.

The study was published online recently in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
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Monday, February 4, 2013

ALERT: Chicken Jerky Production to Continue in China

Chinese to Continue Producing Jerky Products

There was a news item in the February 2013 issue of the Veterinary Practice News, discussing how the Chinese have turned a deaf ear to the United States pleas to cease production of chicken jerky treats.The Chinese government also rebuked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for issuing warnings to pet owners about feeding the treats to pets.

In a letter, U.S. Representative Jerry McNerney (California) urged the Chinese government to "consider halting production of these jerky treats until the FDA can determine whether or not the products contain tainted material." The Chinese government responded that "from the perspective of the Chinese side, there may be something wrong with the FDA's investigation guidance."

The FDA began warning pet owners about the dangers of Chinese-produced jerky treats in 2007, after receiving a large number of reports of adverse reactions. It seemed as though things subsided as the complaints decreased in late 2009, but by 2011 the reports of adverse reactions increased again, prompting another warning by the FDA. In early 2012, the FDA's warning was expanded to include not only the chicken jerky treats, but also duck and sweet potato products.

The FDA tested samples for Salmonella, metals, furans, pesticides, antibiotics, mycotoxins, rodenticides, nephrotoxins, other chemicals, and poisonous compounds. They also tested the nutritional composition, in order to determine the amount of glycerin in the treats.

The FDA inspected several Chinese facilities that manufacture the jerky pet treats but found no evidence that those treats were linked to the illnesses. The Chinese government refused to allow the FDA to take samples to the U.S. for testing.

My advice to pet owners is not to use any of these treats which are manufactured in China. Granted, you may have been using them and your pet may not have had a reaction. But with so many cases of adverse reactions occurring nationwide, are you willing to take a chance? In human and pet products alike there have been problems with some of the Chinese products, so exercise caution. Know where the products are manufactured. If at any time you notice that your pet is having changes/problems when given a jerky treat, discontinue their use. To play iy safe when purchasing jerky treats or rawhides for your pets, make sure that they were manufactured in the U.S.A.

I am also not a fan of pig ears, pig snouts, chicken feet, bully or pizzle sticks. I had written a blog about the dangers of bully/pizzle sticks a few days ago. These types of products are greasy, too high in calories and can be a source of bacterial contamination!

Please be cautious and watch for signs of abnormalities anytime you use these types of treats if you insist on using them.

Dr. Peter Sakas

Friday, February 1, 2013

Twenty People Fall Ill to Salmonella Outbreak from Hedgehogs

Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Hedgehogs Sickens 20 People

Jan 31, 2013 | 12:00 PM ET | Rachael Rettner, MyHealthNewsDaily Staff Writer
Salmonella typhimurium (red) invades cultured human cells in this color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph.
Salmonella typhimurium (red) invades cultured human cells in this color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph.
CREDIT: Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH
A salmonella outbreak linked to pet hedgehogs has sickened 20 people in eight states, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All the patients were infected with a strain of bacteria called Salmonella typhimurium. Fourteen of the ill people reported direct contact with hedgehogs, the CDC said.

The outbreak began in December 2011, and has continued into 2013. So far, four people have been hospitalized, and one has died. Many of the affected have been children, the CDC said.

Washington state has reported the most cases, seven, followed by Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio, which have each reported three cases. Other states that have reported infections are Alabama, Illinois, Indiana and Oregon.
Although the most common source of salmonella infections is food poisoning, animals can spread the disease as well. Besides hedgehogs, salmonella outbreaks have also been linked to pet turtles.

To reduce the risk of infection, it's important to wash your hands after handling hedgehogs, or anything the animals come in contact with, the CDC said. Adults should supervise children around hedgehogs and make sure the youngsters wash their hands after touching the animal or anything the hedgehog has been in contact with.

The report will be published this week in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Pass it on: Twenty people have fallen ill from a salmonella outbreak linked to hedgehogs.