Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Something Frightening About Research and the Risk of Bioterrorism

From an article posted on the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief.

Although not animal related per se this article should be brought to everyone's attention. Granted, research is essential to help determine causes and cures of diseases, but in our tumultuous, uncertain times, with the significant risk of bioterrorism, we could be at risk if certain projects are not kept secured.

A Most Dangerous Race

Posted: 05/27/2013 8:00 am
Imagine a flu season in which the disease hits a quarter of the U.S. population and kills 675,000 Americans, mostly young adults, and upward of 40 million people worldwide. That was the reality of the infamous 1918 flu pandemic. Nothing like it has been seen since, but increasing numbers of scientists are conducting research whose risks could lead to an even more devastating global pandemic, this one caused by an altered flu virus escaping from one of dozens of laboratories investigating it.

A likely culprit: the much talked about H5N1 avian flu virus, among the deadliest known in percentage of victims it kills. It has so far been spread almost entirely by direct contact of a person -- usually a poultry worker in Asia -- with infected chickens or ducks. But what if it were airborne-transmissible from person to person? Imagine the devastation if a tourist could catch it from an infected poultry worker and spread it by a cough or a sneeze among fellow travelers who would all carry it home. Such an outbreak could lead to that unimaginable pandemic.

Making the H5N1 virus transmissible from person to person is precisely the goal of such research, which could be stepped up sharply as soon as the NIH establishes rules governing such experiments for its own grantees.

But the dangerous race is already on. A lab in Germany is trying to make canine distemper virus contagious between humans. Once again the rationale is to understand how that might occur in nature. Why risk a laboratory-caused outbreak of virulent, human contagious distemper? And a lab in China reported making combination of H5N1 bird flu and human H1N1 viruses contagious in guinea pigs, again with the goal of creating human contagion. Should we try to make any and all animal viruses contagious in humans simply to learn how it can be done?

In 2009, the pandemic caused by H1N1 flu virus infected one in every four people in the world but killed very few. What if its fatality rate had been 50 percent to 60 percent -- the current death rate for workers directly infected by birds with the H5N1 virus? The 40 million dead from the 1918 virus could become hundreds of millions killed by an accidental laboratory release of such an engineered avian virus.

The CDC's own data indicate that such an outcome is likely enough to create an urgent demand to stop this kind of research. Our calculations from data the center published in its 2013 report on theft, loss and release of pathogens and toxins suggest that for two dozen labs working with human-transmissible H5N1 viruses, there would be a 50-50 chance of a release in just 30 years. However, if live SARS virus research can be taken as a guide, more than 100 labs could end up researching human-transmissible avian flu. It would then take a mere seven years for that 50-50 chance of a release by one of them.

What are the chances of a pandemic resulting from such a release? Victims infected with influenza viruses typically become contagious in one to three days. This rapid onset of contagion after becoming infected is a major reason why influenza outbreaks are difficult to control through quarantine. It is not hard to believe that as few as one in 10 to one in 100 lab releases could result in a pandemic.

That a lab release occurring in seven to 30 years could seed a pandemic with hundreds of millions of deaths is an intolerable risk, and we have been considering only accidental release. The likelihood gets worse if one also considers deliberate release by a deranged lab worker -- as occurred in the 2001 anthrax mailings -- by terrorists or by hostile nations.

In our commentary to this post, "The Human Fatality Burden of Mammalian-transmissible Bird Flu Research," we calculate that each lab developing human-contagious H5N1 bird flu could carry with it the possibility of causing 50 to 5,000 deaths per year if they are successful. To put these numbers in perspective, no Institutional Review Board tasked with assessing human-subjects research would approve a proposal with fatalities estimated at 50 to 5,000 per year.

Whatever number we are gambling with, it is clearly far too high a risk to human lives around the world -- and to do so for very little scientific return. There is no persuasive evidence that H5N1 in nature is creeping toward being contagious in humans on its own.

This research must be stopped completely. Its practical benefits range from unclear to absent, and its risk is staggeringly high.

The United States should take the lead in starting discussions toward an international agreement requiring the strictest oversight and highest biosafety level for research on other potentially highly contagious and lethal pathogens. Failure to act would offer tacit permission for the entire world to carry out such research without regard to consequences. That can only lead us ever farther down a most dangerous path and a never ending gamble with all of our lives.

Lynn C. Klotz, Ph.D, and Edward J. Sylvester are the authors of Breeding Bio Insecurity: How U.S. Biodefense is Exporting Fear, Globalizing Risk, and Making Us All Less Secure, University of Chicago Press, 2009. They post articles on biological security here and on their blog Breeding Bio Security. Klotz is Senior Science Fellow, the Center for Arms Control and Non Proliferation. Sylvester is a science writer and Director of the Cronkite Program in Science and Medical Writing in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Breed-specific regulation: Not new and not working

From the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief.......

Breed-specific regulation: Not new and not working

We all want to live safely, including with dogs. With that purpose in mind, we should adopt policies that have succeeded, and avoid ones that failed.

Breed-specific regulation did not originate with pit bulls. Long Branch, N.J., banned the Spitz in 1878. Massachusetts banned bloodhounds in 1886. Australia prohibited the further importation of German Shepherd dogs in 1929.

None of these breed-specific regulations made communities safer, and all have long since been consigned to the dustbin reserved for government failures.
More recently, some have redirected this failed idea on the so-called pit bull. ("Pit bull" is not a breed. The definition varies, depending upon where you are.) Directing attention to a different dog has not turned a failed idea into a successful one.

Breed-specific regulation misses the mark because it is over-inclusive, penalizing dog owners who do not permit their pets to be problems; and under-inclusive, since it overlooks owners of other dogs who do. This makes it tough on some dog owners and pets, without making anyone safer.

A breed-specific clamor arises occasionally, usually in reaction to an individual serious incident. The fact remains, however, that there has never been any evidence that one kind of dog is more likely to bite or injure a human being than another kind of dog. The animal scientists and professionals who have studied dog-bite incidents and published their findings in the professional literature oppose regulating dogs on the basis of breed.

There has never been any evidence that breed regulation has reduced the incidence of dog-bite injuries, serious or otherwise.

Recognizing this, American communities, the state of Ohio and two European countries — the Netherlands and Italy — have repealed breed-specific laws, and focused instead on public education in dog safety, and on holding dog owners to higher standards of humane care, custody and control.

Florida was ahead of the curve. In 1990, Florida preempted towns and counties from regulating dogs by breed. Miami-Dade is an exception.

Neither the National Animal Control Association nor the Florida Animal Control Association endorses breed-specific regulation, of pit bulls or any other dogs. These are the professionals on the ground in our communities, charged with protecting people and animals. They know it is not good policy.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Humane Society of the United States, the Best Friends Animal Society and the ASPCA also know it is not good policy.

We certainly must punish reckless owners who have allowed their dogs to cause harm. However, if safety around dogs is our goal, we must do more than that; we must enact policies that prevent serious incidents from occurring. Prevention results when communities adopt a responsible pet-ownership model.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and the AVMA recommend community implementation of responsible pet-ownership models. The principles of such a model are straightforward:

1) License and provide permanent identification for your pets.
2) Spay or neuter your pets.
3) Provide training, socialization, proper diet and medical care for your pets.
4) Do not allow your pets to become a threat or nuisance in the community.
5) Procure your pet ethically and from a credible source.

Communities that adopt these clear principles apply them to all dog owners, whether their dogs are big or small, however many they have and whatever kind they choose to keep.

Let success be our guide, and failure serve only as a cautionary tale.

Donald Cleary is director of communications and publications for the National Canine Research Council.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Adam and Eve's Pets (A Bible "Story")

This is not my original is from an email I received, but is a fun Bible "story" that I wanted to share.

The Story of Adam & Eve's Pets

Adam and Eve said, 'Lord, when we were in the garden, You walked with us every day. Now we do not see You any more. We are lonesome here, and it is difficult for us to remember how much You love us.' 

And God said, ‘I will create a companion for you that will be with you and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourselves.' 

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve.

And it was a good animal and God was pleased. 

And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and he wagged his tail.

And Adam said, 'Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.’

And God said, 'I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.' 

And Dog lived with Adam and Eve and was a companion to them and loved them. 

And they were comforted. 

And God was pleased. 

And Dog was content and wagged his tail. 

After a while, it came to pass that an angel came to the Lord and said, 'Lord, Adam and Eve have become filled with pride. They strut and preen like peacocks and they believe they are worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught them that they are loved, but perhaps too well.' 

And God said, I will create for them a companion who will be with them and who will see them as they are. The companion will remind them of their limitations, so they will know that they are not always worthy of adoration.' 

And God created "CAT" to be a companion to Adam and Eve. 

And Cat would not obey them. And when Adam and Eve gazed into Cat's eyes, they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings.  

 And Adam and Eve learned humility.

And they were greatly improved. 

And God was pleased.

And Dog was happy. 

And the Cat . . . 

Couldn’t care less  one way or the other.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Driving with Pets Increases Crash Rates

As if drivers aren't distracted enough!

Driving with pets increases crash rates

This week: more developments in the battle against distracted driving.

The Ontario Government states that distracted driving is cited as a causal factor in 30 to 50 per cent of traffic collisions and pedestrian fatalities. Distracted driving is blamed in more than 10 per cent of all U.S. highway fatalities, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Researchers at the University of Alabama-Birmingham claim that seniors who drive with pets in the car are twice as likely to end up in a crash. “This is the first study to evaluate the presence of pets in a vehicle as a potential internal distraction for elderly drivers,” said Gerald McGwin, senior author of the study.

According to NHTSA, drivers should never take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds at a time. A moving pet, especially in the front seat, can cause a driver to do exactly that. I recently saw a woman barrelling down our street with a small dog in her lap with its head stuck out the window. Often times, I see a large dog sitting in the front passenger seat as a car roars past.

An animal loose in the front seat should automatically result in the driver getting the $155 distracted driving fine.

If a dog or cat gets startled and moves suddenly, it stands a good chance of causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. “Adding another distracting element, especially an active, potentially moving animal, provides more opportunity for an older driver to respond to a driving situation in a less-than-satisfactory way,” said McGwin.

There may not be laws to keep pets out of the front seat, but there are lots barring motorists from texting or using hand-held devices while driving. A number of auto makers have been adding supposedly safer voice-to-text features to their vehicles and I have tried many of them.

Sometimes the voice recognition system works fine if you tell it to turn up the heat or change the radio station, but plenty of times it doesn’t. It shouts back at you, “Invalid Command” or some such phrase and tells you to try again. Sometimes it will list a bunch of “valid” commands and tell you to choose one. Some systems display the valid commands and you take your eyes off the road to read them. Most of the time, I yell back at the damned system or start pushing buttons on the touch screen; in either case, I’m seriously distracted.

Well, now there’s a new study by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) that warns that this hands-free voice recognition technology is just as likely to leave drivers distracted and at risk of a crash as monkeying with your cellphone. Despite being billed as a safer alternative, the new study indicates that texting in any form is a dangerous distraction.

The study took 43 licensed drivers between the ages of 16 and 60 and sent them driving on a closed course four times. They were asked to drive once while focusing on the road, once while texting manually, and then once each using an iPhone voice-to-text app and an Android phone using voice-to-text.

“Results indicate that driver reaction times were nearly two times slower than the baseline condition, no matter which texting method was used,” according to TTI’s Christine Yager. It’s interesting to note that the drivers perceived the voice-operated systems to be safer, but the study showed driving performance suffered equally. In fact, in some cases, manual texting actually took less time to complete.

As I have discovered, voice-to-text technology isn’t perfect and, when you start arguing with the thing, you are taking your concentration off the road. If the dog starts barking, too, you’ve got a real problem. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has outlined an aggressive campaign to eliminate most high-tech distractions from the automobile, including not just Bluetooth systems but most on-board navigation devices.

The battle over the safety of voice-based systems is just getting started.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Illinois Senate Passes Puppy "Lemon" Law

Illinois Senate narrowly favors puppy lemon law

May 01, 2013 7:27 pm  • 
SPRINGFIELD — Illinoisans who go to a pet store and buy a dog or cat that turns out to be seriously ill would have additional legal remedies under a proposal approved Wednesday in the Illinois Senate.
The measure won by a narrow vote — 31 "yes," 18 "no" and 6 "present."

At least 20 states have similar laws, commonly called "puppy lemon laws," that outline legal remedies for pet buyers who discover their animal was seriously ill at the time of purchase.

To make a claim under the Illinois proposal, a new pet owner would have to present a written statement from a veterinarian that says the animal, at the time it was purchased, suffered from an undisclosed illness or condition that "adversely affects" the animal's health.

New pet owners with a sick animal would have to act within 21 days after the date of sale — or within a year of sale for a claim based on a congenital or hereditary condition.

If a claim is successfully made, the proposal outlines three remedies. The owner can return the animal for a full refund, exchange the animal for another of comparable value, or keep the animal and be reimbursed for reasonable veterinary fees, not to exceed two times the purchase price.

The proposal also would require pet stores to alert the Illinois Department of Agriculture if a dog or cat became sick with an outbreak of distemper, parvovirus "or any other contagious and potentially life-threatening disease" and alert recent customers if the department issues a quarantine.

The original proposal from sponsor Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge, would have included sales by anyone, not just pet stores, but this was opposed by dog breeders.

Even the narrowed proposal was criticized — for not being applicable to animal shelters.

Opponent Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, argued that animal shelters should also be required to notify the Illinois Department of Agriculture of disease outbreaks.

"We are going to protect the consumers who have the money to pay $1,000 for a dog as a pet," Righter said. "But what about all of those consumers who can't afford that, so they are getting their pet from an animal shelter? They get no consumer protection under this bill."

The measure, Senate Bill 1639, now goes to the Illinois House.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pet Monkeys are Not a Good Idea - Read What Happened to Justin Bieber's

People are always intrigued by keeping monkeys as pets. There are a number of reasons it is not a good idea, outlined in the article from the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief below.

Owning cuddly Capuchins and chimps can be risky — and often illegal

It takes more than a private jet to take care of a monkey.

In March, Justin Bieber received an adorable, baby Capuchin monkey as a birthday gift from music producer pal Jamal “Mally Mall” Rashid.

Bieber treated the pet to a taste of the high life: The two jetted around on Bieber’s rented Cessna Citation X, one of the world’s fastest private jets.

But the tour ended early for Mally the monkey when Bieber abandoned him in a Munich animal clinic after he was seized by German authorities. Bieber did not have the proper paperwork or health documents to import the pet.
Justin Bieber’s pet Capuchin, Mally, was seized by German authorities in March after the pop star didn’t have the right paperwork. 
Such sad fates are all too common for pet monkeys.

They are often taken from their mothers just days after they’re born by their breeders. Many of these animals are sold and bred illegally or under poor conditions. Once they reach sexual maturity, they often become unpredictable and aggressive, and their owners are unable to handle them. On top of that, it’s actually illegal to keep pet primates in most states, including New York and California, where Bieber lives.

“Monkeys are not surrogate children, and they’re not little people,” cautions Debbie Leahy, manager of Captive Wildlife Protection for the Humane Society. Leahy says an estimated 15,000 monkeys are kept as pets in the United States — but believes it’s probably twice that number.

Experts say it’s nearly impossible for someone in a private home to provide a safe, healthy environment for a monkey. “Even if you have endless dollars to spend, it’s still challenging,” says veterinarian Edward Spindel of the Animal Ark Veterinary Hospital in Baldwinsville, NY, who specializes in primates.

Tim Ajax, director of Born Free Primate, a sanctuary located in Texas, agrees. “The only one truly qualified to raise a monkey is the monkey’s mother,” he says. In mom’s absence, Ajax recommends they live in a large outdoor enclosure with trees. Proper care is “frequently beyond the financial capabilities of most pet owners,” he says.

And monkeys are extremely social. “They should spend their entire lives in a group environment,” says Leahy.

They also require commercially prepared monkey food supplemented by fresh fruits, veggies and greens.
In New York City, only zoos, laboratories or veterinary hospitals are permitted to keep monkeys. They are also allowed for exhibition for showbiz purposes if a permit is obtained from the Department of Health. The New York State Veterinary Medical Society warns that “primates kept as pets can pose risk of both serious injury and zoonotic disease transmission to their human caretakers.”

Over the past 10 years, dangerous incidents involving primates have been reported. Most recently, in 2010, an 8-year-old Capuchin monkey escaped a woman’s home in Oneida Castle, NY, by opening a screen door. Outside, it attacked a woman playing with her son. The monkey bit the woman’s finger while she tried to protect her child, and the monkey was captured and killed.

To keep the animals under control, primate pet owners often resort to cruel means: Pet monkeys sometimes have their teeth removed, are kept in cages and can develop neurotic behaviors as a result.

Fearing a sad fate for Mally, Kari Bagnall, founder of Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary in Gainesville, Fla., reached out to Justin Bieber several weeks ago to help.

“I interjected, posting to his Facebook page asking if I could be of assistance,” says Bagnall. She succeeded in getting Bieber’s attention and even offered up a home at her sanctuary. (Because Mally was confiscated by German authorities and never returned stateside, the pet couldn’t stay with Bagnall.)

“We had a ready-made family group,” says Bagnall, who hoped Mally could live along with a surrogate mother, Monkers, and a baby Capuchin, Dylan, in their habitat.

Bagnall, who can’t disclose all the details of her exchange with Bieber’s camp because she’s under a nondisclosure agreement, says she spent almost two weeks trying to find Mally a home in Europe but failed: “I’m worried about the little guy.” It now looks like German authorities will likely place Mally in a zoo — hardly a happy ending.

But not all pop stars’ primate pets meet such a sad fate. Michael Jackson’s former chimpanzee, Bubbles, now lives happily at the Center for Great Apes, a sanctuary in Wauchula, Fla., with seven other chimps.
“He’s doing wonderfully,” says Patti Ragan, the center’s founder. “He’s a normal chimpanzee.”

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Importance of Microchipping Your Dog - A Real Life Story

Microchipping is a great tool to help reunite lost pets with their owners. We highly recommend that all dogs and cats get microchipped, as there is no telling when they could become separated from their families. Most every veterinary hospital, shelter, and police department have a scanner, so when they are presented with a lost pet they can read the microchip, contact the microchip company which has the owner's information on file, so they can be called and the pet returned.

However, the system only works if the contact information is kept up to date. Let's say your pet is microchipped at six months of age, you register with the microchip company (your veterinarian also will have your contact information on file). Years down the line, if you move, but do not update your contact information the situation may become difficult. If your pet has the misfortune of getting lost, but then is found and the chip scanned, but your old address and phone numbers are on file, there is no way you can be contacted! So if there is ever a change of address, phone numbers, emails, etc., make sure you keep it updated with the microchip company where you originally registered.

Another problem we have seen.....families get a pet from a shelter, pet store or breeder, and that pet is already microchipped. That is a nice perk, however, the microchip is registered to them not you. The microchip company can trace the microchip number back to who purchased them, but you must change the contact information to yours! So be certain that when you get a pet that is already microchipped, that you obtain the company name and phone number of the microchip manufacturer so you can call and have the new contact information.

Now for the real life story.......

One day we had a client bring a wonderful, friendly, young beagle dog into the hospital, which they had found wandering in their neighborhood. They did not see any posters, checked with the local police, veterinary hospitals, and shelters, but there was no report of a lost beagle. They brought the dog in so we could check the dog out and also see if we could determine the rightful owner.

As I am sure you can surmise, we used our microchip scanner, obtained a microchip number, and identified the manufacturer of the chip.We contacted the manufacturer who checked the registration information, and provided us with the owner's address and contact phone numbers. They were current and they came in later that day to pick up the dog. We knew it was their dog as when he heard their voices he got all excited, started barking and was very animated in the kennel. When we let him out of the kennel he went running into their outstretched arms.A heartwarming reunion and a great example of the importance of microchipping, as well as having current information on file.

There were a couple things the family of the lost dog should have done to expedite the reunion, however. The dog had been gone a couple of days and their only attempts to find the dog was canvassing the neighborhood, calling his name. They should have called local veterinarians, shelters, and the local police to report a lost dog. In addition, they should have put up posters about the lost dog in their neighborhood. It might have got their dog back to them sooner. If it was not for our Good Samaritan client, this reunion may never have happened.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Research Finds That Neutered or Spayed Dogs Live Longer Lives

From the AVMA Pet Health SmartBrief-

Research Finds That Neutered or Spayed Dogs Live Longer Lives

After examining 40,139 dog death records spanning a 20-year period, University of Georgia researchers have concluded that spayed or neutered dogs tend to live longer than intact dogs.

The study revealed that sterilized dogs had an average lifespan of 9.4 years, while intact dogs lived 7.9 years on average, according to ScienceDaily.

In addition to highlighting the differing mortality rates between intact and sterilized dogs, the study also showed that these groups of dogs often die from different causes. Sterilized dogs were more likely to die from cancer or autoimmune diseases, while intact dogs tended to die from infectious disease and trauma, researchers reported.

"At the level of the individual dog owner, our study tells pet owners that, overall, sterilized dogs will live longer, which is good to know," said Dr. Kate Creevy, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. "Also, if you are going to sterilize your dog, you should be aware of possible risks of immune-mediated diseases and cancer; and if you are going to keep him or her intact, you need to keep your eye out for trauma and infection."

According to Daniel Promislow, Franklin College genetics professor and co-author of the paper, the study has provided insights that could benefit future research into how reproduction affects human mortality causes.
"When researchers have looked at the effect of survival rates in humans, the results have varied from one study to the next. Our findings suggest that we might get a clearer sense of potential costs of reproduction if we focus on how reproduction affects actual causes of mortality rather than its effect on life span," Promislow said.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Teaching Kids How to Prevent Dog Bites

With the onset of warmer weather (finally), the kids will be outside more and there is an increased likelihood they will come across some dogs. But some of this information pertains to your own dogs in the household! This article from the AVMA provides some great advice so you can prevent dog bites in children.

Teaching Children How to Prevent Dog Bites

When you're teaching children about dog bite prevention and how to be safe around dogs, keep it simple. Discuss animals, how we relate to them, and the role of animals in your family, not just how to avoid being bitten. If you have younger children, always supervise them around dogs and be mindful of how the child interacts with the dog so they learn to be gentle from the beginning.

Some easy tips that you can use to help kids understand the importance of respecting dogs and avoiding bites:
  • Avoid unknown dogs. If you see a dog you don’t know and it’s wandering around loose and unsupervised, avoid the dog and consider leaving the area. Consider alerting animal control.
  • When the owner is with their dog, always ask the owner for permission to pet their dog. Don’t ever pet a dog without asking first -- even if it’s a dog you know, or a dog that’s seemed friendly toward you before.
  • Teach children to confidently, quietly walk away if they’re confronted by an aggressive dog. Instruct them to stand still if a dog goes after them, then take a defensive position. It often helps to tell them to “be a tree:” stand quietly, with their hands low and clasped in front of them, remain still and keep their head down as if looking at their feet. If they are knocked down, teach them to cover their head and neck with their arms and curl into a ball.
  • Teach children to avoid escalating the situation by yelling, running, hitting or making sudden movements toward the dog.
  • Teach children that if a dog goes to bed or to his/her crate, don’t bother them. Enforce the idea that the bed or crate is the dog’s space to be left alone. A dog needs a comfortable, safe place where the child never goes. If you’re using a crate, it should be covered with a blanket and be near a family area, such as in your living room or another area of your home where the family frequently spends time. Do not isolate your dog or his/her crate, or you may accidentally encourage bad behavior.
  • Educate children at a level they can understand. Don’t expect young children to be able to accurately read a dogs’ body language. Instead, focus on gentle behavior and that dogs have likes and dislikes and help them develop understanding of dog behavior as they grow older.
  • Teach children that the dog has to want to play with them and when the dog leaves, he leaves -- he’ll return for more play if he feels like it. This is a simple way to allow kids to be able to tell when a dog wants to play and when he doesn’t.
  • Teach kids never to tease dogs by taking their toys, food or treats, or by pretending to hit or kick.
  • Teach kids to never pull a dog’s ears or tail, climb on or try to ride dogs.
  • Keep dogs out of infants’ and young children’s rooms unless there is direct and constant supervision.
  • As a parent, report stray dogs or dogs that frequently get loose in your neighborhood.
  • Tell children to leave the dog alone when it’s asleep or eating.
  • Sometimes, especially with smaller dogs, some children might try to drag the dog around. Don’t let them do this. Also discourage them from trying to dress up the dog -- some dogs just don’t like to be dressed up.
  • Don’t give kids too much responsibility for pets too early -- they just may not be ready. Always supervise and check on pet care responsibilities given to children to ensure they are carried out
  • Remember: if you get your kids a pet, you’re getting yourself a pet, too.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Using Dogs to Sniff Out Cancer in People

Interesting article.....

Puppies at Penn to sniff out ovarian cancer

Puppies at Penn to battle ovarian cancer. Ohlin (top left), McBain (top right), Thunder (bottom right), Working Dogs Center Director Cindy Otto (lower left) with puppy Sirius (not in the cancer study).
Puppies at Penn to battle ovarian cancer. Ohlin (top left), McBain (top right), Thunder (bottom right), Working Dogs Center Director Cindy Otto (lower left) with puppy Sirius (not in the cancer study).
Story Highlights
  • Researchers received an $80,000 grant to develop new ways of sniffing out gynecological malignancies.
  • Studies in the last decade employed trained canines to detect lung and breast cancer.
  • The dogs will be trained to alert researchers when they discover samples of cancer patients.
Release the hounds.

In the battle against ovarian cancer, three puppies at the University of Pennsylvania will be on the front lines.
The pups - Ohlin and Thunder, both Labradors, and McBain, a Springer Spaniel - have been conscripted to lead the charge in a novel collaboration announced last week between Penn and the Monell Chemical Sciences Center.

Ovarian cancer claims the lives of more than 14,000 women every year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the nation. The new collaboration takes aim at the silent killer with a combination of chemistry, nanotechnology — and dogs.

Turns out, each cancer has its own odor. And what better sensor is there to detect a faint scent than a dog’s nose?

Researchers at Penn and Monell recently received an $80,000 grant from the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation to develop new ways of sniffing out gynecological malignancies.

Using man’s best friend to detect cancer isn’t new. Studies in California, Chicago and Europe in the last decade have employed trained canines to detect lung and breast cancer.

A group in Sweden had done some preliminary investigations with dogs and ovarian cancer, but the professor in charge is retiring and he was using his own personal dogs, said Dr. Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center and Associate Professor of Critical Care at Penn Vet.

"He's been advising us along the way to we don't repeat the same mistakes he made along the way," Otto said. "We haven't done cancer work before."

Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages because its symptoms — constipation, weight gain, bloating, or more frequent urination — are easily confused with other ailments.

If it’s diagnosed early, though, ovarian cancer has a survival rate of 90 percent. Unfortunately, its often not detected until it is too late. An effective screening protocol doesn’t yet exist and a doctor’s sight and touch haven’t been enough to detect cases in its first stages.

Each cancer has its own signature scent, however. And even before ovarian cancer can be detected by current methods, it creates minute quantities of "odorants," Otto said. A doctor’s nose isn’t nearly sensitive enough. But the odorants can be sensed by trained dogs.

In the new program, scientists from Penn Medicine’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology will take tissue and blood samples from both healthy and ovarian cancer patients.

The samples will be analyzed by chemists, scientists working with nanotech - and the puppies at the Working Dog Center.

"We've been training them since they've been 8-weeks old," Otto said. "They're all fabulous and they are very strong in olfaction."

They already have experience with bomb sniffing and human remains detection. Cancer detection isn't that much different, she said.

The dogs will be exposed to healthy samples and cancer samples in containers they can't access, but are vented so they can smell them.

"We'll train them to alert us when they discover the samples of cancer patients," Otto said.

When they distinguish the correct one, they're rewarded with food or a toy.

"Some are very much into their ball," Otto laughs. "We will do what makes the most sense for each dog and what makes the dog want to work."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tick Populations Expected to Explode in 2013

Make sure your pets are protected...and be careful yourselves!

Tick Populations to Explode in 2013

Experts predict tick populations will increase dramatically in many areas of the United States.

By Marie Rosenthal, MS
For Veterinary Practice News

For a number of reasons, tick populations in many areas of the country will likely explode this year, according to several parasitologists, so veterinarians should be vigilant about discussing preventives with clients.

“There has been an increase in tick populations over decades, but in the last 10 years, they have really exploded,” explained Susan E. Little, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVM, Regents professor and Krull-Ewing chair in veterinary parasitology at Oklahoma State University. “And it is not just more ticks, it is more ticks in more places.”

There are many reasons that ticks and the diseases they carry spread:
  • Warmer winters;
  • Suburbanization, which brings together people, wildlife and ticks;
  • An increase in white-tailed deer;
  • Migratory birds that carry ticks to new areas;
  • A movement toward the preservation of open space and the replanting of trees; and
  • The use of fewer insecticides.
Winters in the United States have been milder than they were 20 or more years ago, when long periods of harsh weather used to kill off many ticks, explains Michael W. Dryden, DVM, Ph.D., university distinguished professor in veterinary parasitology at Kansas State University.

“Without the deep, hard, cold winters, we don't have the winter kill, and several ticks that were abundant in the South have moved North,” Dryden says. “It has to be really cold to kill a tick, at least 10 degrees F, and it has to stay that temperature for some time. All it takes is temperatures of around 40 degrees F for ticks to be active. If it just drops overnight and then warms back up, that doesn't help.”

Even areas that had a good deal of snow this year will not necessarily see a tick die-off, because the snow serves as a blanket.

“If they are under a snow blanket, it doesn't do much harm to them at all,” Dryden says.
Some ticks just aren't that bothered by cold weather, Little adds. “Ixodes scapularis, the black-legged tick, thrives in the winter months. The adult tick is out from October to February, although nymphs may not come out until May,” she says.

The serious drought that affected much of the country last year could put some negative pressures on some ticks.

“Last year was kind of a down year for Ohio ticks in general, although more blacklegged ticks were submitted to the Ohio Zoonotic Disease Program than ever,” says Glen Needham, Ph.D., associate professor of entomology at The Ohio State University. “We had an early spring and then a midsummer drought and that combination had a negative impact on ticks here. This seemed to extend the American dog tick [Dermacentor variabilis] season well into the late summer and early fall.”

But in other areas, ticks thrive in dry weather.
Tick nymph and larva
Ixodes scapularis nymph and larva next to a penny. Nymphs will become active very soon and are responsible for transmitting many of the tick-borne diseases in the summer. Glen Needham, Ohio State University
One of the biggest contributors to the changing epidemiology of tick populations is wildlife. Ticks hitch a ride to new areas on migratory birds, rodents, coyotes and other wildlife. But it is the white-tailed deer that has really helped them flourish.

It might be hard to imagine today, but there was a time when white-tailed deer in the U.S. were in danger of being over-hunted. Many states instituted conservation efforts, such as limiting when deer can be hunted. This conservation effort has been one of the most successful in history, and today an estimated 30 million deer roam this country.

“Ticks get moved around a lot, especially on migratory birds, deer and coyotes. Once they are dropped off into an area, they are moved within that area by smaller wildlife,” says Needham.

In addition, more and more people are encroaching on wildlife as they move from urban areas into rural and suburban areas, putting themselves and their pets in harm's (the tick's) way.

And there has been a move to decrease mass sprayings of insecticides and to preserve open space and plant more trees. Although these are great steps to preserve the environment, they have a downside—more ticks. 
Ticks are the major cause of vector-borne diseases in the United States, but two ticks are particularly troublesome: I. scapularis and Amblyomma americanum (the Lone Star tick).

They have spread across nearly half of the country, and in many states they overlap. Together, they have been implicated in the transmission of nearly a dozen human and animal infectious diseases, including anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease.
D. variabilis is also a “bad actor” transmitting Cytauxzoon felis, a deadly feline infection, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can be deadly for both people and dogs.

The Canaries
Because ticks are spreading to new areas, dogs especially can serve as the “canaries in the coal mine,” according to Needham. Veterinarians might see new ticks and diagnose emerging diseases in an area before medical doctors see them.

“Dogs are often the first indicator of a tick-borne disease in an area, because they are out in the habitat,” Needham says. “If they are not protected by anti-tick products, they will pick up ticks and get sick. Veterinarians must keep abreast of what diseases are prevalent in the area where they practice. That can be a challenge. Here in Ohio, we are seeing the emergence of the deer tick. Veterinarians are not used to seeing that tick here.”

Co-infection is another emerging problem, says Little. “Co-infections are becoming the rule in many areas.”
This makes both diagnosis and treatment more challenging because dogs might have two sets of signs.
“If the dog does not respond to the doxycycline [the antibiotic used to treat many tick-borne bacteria], I encourage veterinarians to continue looking because there can be other pathogens on board.”

The other area where veterinarians can be particularly useful is teaching clients about the diseases that are present in their area and recommending the best protection for that pet in that area. This is vital to limit the extent of these pathogens, the experts say.

“Owners do not take the risk seriously enough,” says Dryden.

“They take the risk seriously for themselves, but not their pets. Veterinarians or their technicians must spend time with the owner talking about the importance of tick-transmitted diseases in their area and what they can do to protect their pets from getting these diseases. They cannot just throw a tick product at the dog or cat and say ‘We're done.'”

There are data that suggest that pet owners apply spot-on tick prevention products an average of four months in a given 12-month period, Little says, so veterinarians need to remind people that they must be vigilant in applying the product.

Little and her group recently did an experiment in which they walked 10 healthy beagles in a tick-invested area every day for eight weeks.

Over the course of the study, each dog got an average of 100 ticks on it and every dog seroconverted to ehrlichia and rickettsia, she says, although the researchers did not allow them to become ill.

“That means the risk of a tick-borne infection is 100 percent,” she says.