en Why Are Cats Obsessed with Laser Pointers?  
How Cats’ Eyes Differ from Ours
The retina is the structure at the back of the eye that converts light energy into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain to be turned into images of our world. Two types of retinal cells – cones and rods – are found in both human and feline retinas. Broadly speaking, cones are involved with color vision and the ability to focus on and appreciate fine detail while rods are responsible for vision under low light conditions and for the detection of movement.
The human eye has lots of cones and relatively fewer rods. The feline eye has lots of rods and relatively fewer cones. Therefore, cat eyes are great at picking up movement, even if it is quite dark, but they don’t see details or colors very well. The opposite is true for us (for a neat comparison, check out All Eyes on Paris). In other words, the feline retina (and other parts of the eye as well) is perfectly designed to maximize the chances of catching quickly moving prey at dusk and dawn when cats most like to hunt.
What does this mean with regards to cats and laser pointers? First of all, because of their relatively poor color vision, the color of the laser pointer shouldn’t matter to your cat. This is particularly true since the contrast of the bright laser against the comparatively dark background is so intense.
Stimulating a Predatory Response
Though the color of the laser pointer doesn’t matter, what is alluring to your cat is the way that you make that bright dot of light move. When it darts here, then pauses, and then dashes over there, you are mimicking the actions of prey animals, which cats find hard to ignore. This type of movement stimulates the predatory sequence – stalk, pounce, kill and eat – that is hardwired into our cats even though their survival no longer depends on a successful hunt.
Did you notice that laser pointers only satisfy the first two steps in the predatory sequence – stalk and pounce – while leaving the desire to kill and eat unfulfilled? For some cats, this isn’t a problem. They’ll happily chase that little dot of light around for a while and then walk away unperturbed, but other cats seem to get agitated after taking the laser pointer on for a round or two. The inability to ever truly be successful is probably why.
If you are worried that your cat is frustrated by chasing a laser pointer, try switching to a different type of game that allows your cat act out more of the predatory sequence. Kitty fishing poles that that let you flick a stuffed mouse or feathers across the floor, into the air and onto the couch will provide your cat with the opportunity to stalk, pounce and eventually kill (or at least bite and claw) their “prey.” Toss out a few treats at the end of the game or give your cat a food dispensing ball to chase around for a while, and playtime should end on a satisfying note for everyone.
Learn more about cat toy dangers. 
]]> behavior cat View Mon, 20 Feb 2017 17:04:12 +0000 35474 at
Woman Claims Airline's Neglect is Responsible for Dog's Death  
What should have been a routine flight from Detroit to Portland with a one-hour layover, ultimately ended with Jacob losing his life.
The tragic chain of events began at the airline gate in Detroit, where Considine says the agent confirmed that the crate provided would be adequate to hold 80-pound Jacob for both flights. But that information was incorrect—a point that Charles Hobart, spokesperson with United Airlines, doesn’t dispute. He says the employee has since been “spoken to.”
Once Jacob arrived in Chicago to change planes, he was unable to board the next flight because the carrier was too small. While the airline looked for a new flight, Jacob had to spend 20 hours in United’s O’Hare Airport Kennel Facility in Chicago, a service supporting United’s PetSafe program. The kennel, located within United’s cargo facility, is a pick-up and drop-off area for pet owners. The facility claims it operates like a normal kennel—it houses 28 individual, ventilated enclosures, and provides services like dog walking and pet grooming.
In an emotional Facebook post that Considine wrote describing the events leading up to her dog’s death, she says that the airline did not allow food to be sent with Jacob due to the scheduled short duration of the flight. She wrote: “United Airlines 'PetSafe' program is cruel. They treat animals like baggage. They did not care if Jacob had food or water or any time out of his cage.”
Considine says Jacob was non-responsive when he arrived in Portland. She explains that the United gate agent said her dog may have been medicated—something Considine did not give the airline carrier permission to do. Hobart denies the claims that Jacob was medicated.  “We even have pictures of him, and he was happy,“ says Hobart. Jacob died at an emergency vet in Oregon, a few hours after he arrived at the airport in Portland. United Airlines disputes it had anything to do with Jacob’s condition or his subsequent death.
In spite of her loss, Considine says she appreciates the attention her Facebook post received (it has over 380,000 shares) and hopes to see a change happen in the airline industry. “I’m thankful for the way this issue has blown up, and for the great feedback I’ve received,” she tells petMD. “At the very least, I want to see changes made to United’s PetSafe” policies.”
United Airlines Pet Safety: How Often Do Problems Happen?
Of the thousands of animals who fly via the PetSafe program, “The rate of incident,” Hobart maintains, “is extremely low.”
In 2016, the “Air Travel Consumer Report” issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, reported that there were 2.11 incidents for every 10,000 animals transported by United.  Reasons for incidents range from an animal dying due to cardiac arrest, to one who started bleeding because he chewed through metal bars.
These numbers are indeed, relatively low. Except when it’s your pet – then one death or incident doesn’t seem acceptable. 
Whether United played any part in Jacob’s death, the event is a tragedy for Considine. “Jacob was a happy, healthy seven-year-old Golden Retriever who loved me and every single being he met unconditionally,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “[United Airlines has] shown no sympathy for my dog's death. I would have received the same responses if they were to have broken my guitar in baggage.”
What You Need to Know Before Traveling with Your Pet
Even though the number of reported deaths and injuries is relatively low, there is no guarantee your pet won’t encounter problems while traveling. There are some things you can do, however, to help ensure your pet’s safety.
Zenithson Ng, a board-certified vet and clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, recommends ground pet transportation services. “I would personally advise this option over having an animal travel in airline cargo.“
If you must travel by plane, he says you should do your research before the flight to make sure you’re adhering to regulations. “Ensure that your pet and carrier meet the airline regulations and you have the necessary paperwork. Typically, you should have a current rabies certificate as well as health certificate signed by your veterinarian. Be prepared with doggy-bags, paper towels, bowls, water, and whatever your pet may need for the trip. If you have layovers, contact the airport to determine specific areas permitted for dogs to relieve themselves. “
Dr. Ng also offers the following tips:
Make sure your pet can easily be identified. Attach a collar and tag with your contact information, or make sure your dog’s microchip is up to date. “Microchipping your pet is highly recommended, and be sure that the microchip is registered with your current contact information,” says Ng. “This will be the best way to find your pet if he/she gets lost or separated.“
Consider stress-reducing products. For pets that become easily distressed during travel, Ng suggests trying non-invasive, stress-reducing options such as wrap shirts that apply pressure or pheromone collars and sprays.
Ng says mild sedation is safe and appropriate for some pets, but reiterates that if pets require sedation to travel, “the better alternative is to leave them safe at home if possible.”
If your vet has approved a sedative, keep in mind that pets may react differently to sedation. Ng suggests asking your vet to try sedation prior to your trip when the animal can be observed. “Different animals react to medications variably, with some requiring much more or much less than the labeled dose, and some animals may react adversely or not react at all to some drugs,” he says. “It’s always better to know how your pet will react beforehand rather than during the trip. Be aware that some medications have a shorter duration of action and may need to be re-dosed on longer travels.”
Use vet-approved anti-nausea medicine. If your pet suffers from travel sickness, ask your vet to prescribe anti-nausea medications. “It is advised that pets do not eat a full meal prior travel unless there is a medical reason they need to eat,” says Ng.
Image courtesy of Kathleen Considine via Facebook
]]> Care & Safety Wed, 15 Feb 2017 21:46:30 +0000 35436 at
Puppy With Metal Rod in Head Miraclously Expected to Make Full Recovery
Veterinarians don't know exactly how this happened, but thanks to the immediate care and hard-fought efforts of the staff at the hospital, the puppy has miraculously survived this horrific ordeal. The dog's case has since been reported and is currently under investigation by the Washington County Humane Society. 
In a joint statement sent to from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dimitri Brown and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rory Lubold, the vets explain that the rod "went through the middle of his head [running through the front of his brain] and out the other eye socket." 

Both Dr. Brown and Dr. Lubold note that given the severity of the injury, the dog's life was in grave danger when he arrived. "[We took] lot of precautions when planning to surgically remove the metal rod. We took a day to plan, perform advanced imaging, and consult with our specialists to make sure we did everything we could for this puppy." 
The surgery, which was performed by three doctors and two technicians, took roughly an hour to remove the rod. The surgery went perfectly and, miraculously, the dog's vision was spared, despite the placement of the rod. 
"At the time of the procedure we were very uncertain about his vision, but wanted to give the puppy a chance," said Brown and Lubold in the statement. "In the days afterwards, we were very impressed by his improvement and he almost immediately had vision in his left eye. It wasn't until the past few days that we became very optimistic that the puppy would make a full recovery with vision in both eyes, and have no lasting damage." 
The puppy, who is currently healing from his surgery at the hospital, is expected to make a full recovery and be available for adoption soon. "His recovery has been much more rapid than we anticipated. He woke up from surgery and wanted to play immediately. He's been eating, drinking, and playing ever since." 
Brown and Lubold describe the resilient puppy as "lively and spirited" and say that he's been a "great patient" despite his trauma. "There's nothing that holds him back!"
If you're interested in helping this puppy, and other animals just like him in need, you can donate to the UVS Cares Foundation. 
Image via University Veterinary Specialists 
]]> dog health Health & Science puppy Wed, 15 Feb 2017 18:18:02 +0000 35435 at
Against the Grain Voluntarily Recalls One Lot of Pulled Beef With Gravy Dinner for Dogs  
The product affected by the recall is as follows:
Product Name: Against the Grain Pulled Beef with Gravy Dinner for Dogs
Size: 12 oz. cans
Expiration Date: December 2019
Lot Number: 2415E01ATB12
UPC Code: 80001
According an FDA release about the recall, oral exposure to pentobarbital can cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, nausea nystagmus (eyes moving back and forth in a jerky manner), inability to stand, and coma in dogs.
Consumers can find the expiration date, lot number, and UPC code on the back of the product label.
This recalled product was distributed in 2015 to independent pet retail stores in Washington and Maryland. Against the Grain has verified that the lot is no longer on store shelves.
Consumers may return any recalled products to their place of purchase and receive a full case of Against the Grain food for the inconvenience. For any questions, customers may contact the company at 1-800-288-6796 between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm CST, Monday though Friday.
]]> Alerts & Recalls Wed, 15 Feb 2017 16:38:23 +0000 35434 at
Blue Buffalo Recalls Select Cans of Dog Food  
According to a letter on the Blue Buffalo website, the company was notified by one of its suppliers of the possible presence of aluminum in one of its production runs.
The recall includes the following canned dog food product:
Product Name: Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Healthy Weight, Chicken Dinner with Garden Vegetables, 12.5 ounce can, dog food
UPC: 8-40243-10017-0
Best By Date: August 3, 2019
To find the “best by” date, consumers should look at the bottom of the dog food cans.
Blue Buffalo has not received any reports of illness or injury as a result of problems that initiated the recall, according to the company letter.
Consumers with recalled canned dog food can return the product(s) at a local pet food retailer for a full refund. For more information, call 866-800-2917.
]]> Alerts & Recalls Wed, 15 Feb 2017 14:49:38 +0000 35433 at
Why Pets Are So Important for People with Mental Illness  
Researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Southampton in England interviewed 54 people who had been diagnosed with long-term mental health problems. During the interviews, the participants mapped their “personal networks” using a diagram consisting of three concentric circles.
Here’s an example of a network map that I’ve created as an example (it is not used in the study):

In the inner circle are the people, hobbies, pets, activities, objects, etc. that are most important to you. In the second circle are those that are somewhat less important, and in the outer circle are those that are still important, but less so than those in the other two circles.
The study found that 60% of the participants with pets put their pet in the central circle, 20% put them in the middle circle, 12% put them in the outer circle, and only 8% did not include them in any of the circles. While these results are impressive, what touched me most about this paper were some of the participants’ quotes about their pets:

“You know, so in terms of mental health, when you just want to sink into a pit and just sort of retreat from the entire world, they force me, the cats force me to sort of still be involved with the world.” – Study participant, owner of two cats
“When he comes and sits up beside you on a night, it’s different, you know, it’s just, like, he needs me as much as I need him, sort of thing.” – Study participant, dog owner
“They [pets] don’t look at the scars on your arms, or they don’t question things, and they don’t question where you’ve been.” – Study participant, dog owner
“If I didn’t have my pets I think I would be on my own…You know what I mean, so it’s…it’s nice to come home and, you know, listen to the birds singing.” – Study participant, owner of two birds
“That surprised me, you know, the amount of people that stop and talk to him, and that, yeah, it cheers me up with him. I haven’t got much in my life, but he’s quite good, yeah.”  – Study participant, dog owner

The authors of the study concluded that pets were beneficial in helping people suffering from mental illness in many different ways, including:

Developing routines
Providing a sense of control, security and continuity
Providing distractions
Encouraging exercise
Reducing the social stigma of mental illness

Most importantly, pets “provided participants with a seemingly deep and secure relationship, often not available elsewhere within the network or wider community,” according to the study.
I’m not too surprised since that’s the role that pets play in most of our lives, regardless of what our network maps look like.
]]> dog health View Tue, 14 Feb 2017 20:30:17 +0000 35431 at
Wellness Pet Food Voluntarily Recalls Various Canned Cat Food Products  
According to a statement on the WellPet website, the company’s quality department learned about a foreign material in non-WellPet products made in the same manufacturing facility and decided to recall the cat food products as a “conservative step.”
The products affected by the recall are as follows:
Wellness Canned Cat 12.5 oz         
Chicken & Herring   
Best By Date: 08/04/2019
Wellness Canned Cat 12.5 oz         
Best By Date: 08/03/2019 and 08/04/2019
Wellness Canned Cat 12.5 oz         
Chicken & Lobster    
Best By Date: 08/04/2019
Wellness Canned Cat 12.5 oz         
Turkey & Salmon     
Best By Date: 08/05/2019
Wellness Canned Cat 12.5 oz         
Best By Date: 08/04/2019 & 08/05/2019
Wellness Canned Cat 12.5 oz         
Beef & Chicken         
Best By Date: 08/05/2019
Wellness Canned Cat 12.5 oz         
Beef & Salmon          
Best By Date: 08/05/2019
To find the best by dates, consumers should look at the bottom of the cat food cans.
Consumers that have any of the above recipes with these best by dates may email the company at or call 1-877-227-9587 for product replacements or to speak to a customer service representative.
No other Wellness recipes or products were affected by this voluntary recall. 
]]> Alerts & Recalls cat safety Mon, 13 Feb 2017 16:48:52 +0000 35419 at
Declawing Controversy: New Jersey Could Be First State With Ban  
According to, the ban (which was set forward by New Jersey Assemblyman Troy Singleton) would consider the procedure an act of animal cruelty and veterinarians who declaw cats could face thousands of dollars in penalties or even jail time. This would make New Jersey the first state in the U.S. to have this kind of ban, and it's already being met with varying, passionate opinions. 
The New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association believes the ban is actually a step in the wrong direction may cause other problems for New Jersey cats. In a statement, NJVMA said: "Although most veterinarians view declawing as a last option for owners, after providing them with advice on training their cats, there are owners who are unwilling or unable to change their cat's behavior (scratching people in the household or furniture) and are likely to abandon or euthanize their cats if declawing is not an option. The NJVMA believes that declawing is preferable to abandonment or euthanasia." 
The NJVMA also argues that advances in modern veterinary medicine have provided "improved pain management" during and following declawing procedures and that "laser surgery has improved both the outcome and recovery time for declawed cats." NJVMA believes the decision about declawing should be left to veterinarians. 
One of those vets, Nancy Dunkle, DVM, of the Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital in Medford, New Jersey, tells petMD, "I am very much against the ban. Not because I am 'pro-declawing,' but because I am 'pro-saving-cats-lives.'" Dunkle says that she worries that the ban will lead to more cats being abandoned if a pet parent can't deal with the physical aspect of scratches, or because the cat is tearing up furniture.    
"No bone is cut. The last section of the cat’s 'finger' is the claw and that is all that is removed," says Dunkle of the controversial procedure. "The cat still has his 'finger pad' and the part of the finger/toe that he walks on. Only the claw is removed."
The anti-declawing contingent, however, has a very different outlook on the impact this has on cats, both physically and emotionally. Jennifer Conrad, DVM—the Founder and Director of The Paw Project, a non-profit organization working towards anti-declawing efforts—says that "there's no good reason" to ever declaw cats. "It never helps the cat and most of the time it doesn't help save the furniture," she says.
Rather than looking at declawing as the last resort, Conrad urges pet parents to train their cats and recognize what the feline is scratching on and help him or her adapt. For instance, if a cat likes scratching on wood, find them an appropriate post to suit that preference.     
Conrad notes that declawed cats may start to display marking behavior (if they can no longer mark by scratching, they may do it with urine) and stop using their litter box as a result. Additionally, if a declawed cat feels pain or discomfort when using a litter box, they may associate that pain with going in the box and decide to go elsewhere. 
Brian Hackett, the New Jersey state director of the Humane Society, explains that surrendered cats are more likely to be turned into shelters due to litter box issues over clawing or scratching problems. Hackett also points out that national health organizations, such as the CDC and NIH "advise against declawing a cat because when a cat is declawed there tends to be highter risk for biting incidents, and biting is far more dangerous." 
Hackett, like other opponents, says that even if the procedure is more advanced, "it's still one of the most unnatural things that can be done to a cat." 
"A cat is supposed to naturally have their claws, for a number of different reasons," he says. "Even if its not painful, it can be uncomfortable and cause stress because you've prohibited their natural instincts." 
A similar bill was introduced in the state of New York in 2016, but stalled and did not make it through the legislative process. 
Image via Shutterstock 
]]> cat health Health & Science Mon, 13 Feb 2017 14:34:38 +0000 35418 at
USDA Removes Animal Welfare Information From Public Access  
The information that is no longer available was used by commercial pet breeders, animal researchers, and facilities such as zoos and aquariums, to ensure standards and protocols that protect the health and safety of animals. The guidelines in the Horse Protection Act (which protects horses from being hurt in shows) were also part of the USDA online purge. 
In a statement released on its website, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), said: "As a result of the comprehensive review, APHIS has implemented actions to remove certain personal information from documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication."
With the information now purged, the USDA and APHIS recommends that any person or organization seeking reports or data should apply for a Freedom of Information Act request. 
The decision has outraged many, particularly those who protect the rights of animals. In a statement, PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo called the decision, a "shameful attempt to keep the public from knowing when and which laws and regulations have been violated. Public taxes fund these agencies and the public should not be kept the dark because the feds would rather shield abusers than hold them accountable." 
John Goodwin, the senior director of The Humane Society's Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, tells petMD, "We rely on that data to put together our reports every year, to release various reports and studies to let consumers know about who some of the worst offenders are in the world of commercial dog breeding." 
He adds, "Perhaps, most shocking, is that when the data was purged, the USDA did not take into consideration that law enforcement agencies in seven states relied on that information to enforce laws they have that say pet stores cannot acquire puppies from commercial breeders that have severe animal welfare violations." In short, this means that the worst violaters of puppy breeding could potentially get away with their unlawful practicies. 
Goodwin says that it's of the utmost urgency to get the USDA to put the data back up on its website, since gathering information through the Freedom of Information Act can take a long time—up to a year in some instances. "In the cases of violating these pet store sourcing laws, the statute of limitations will have come and gone by the time local agencies get the information," he says. "It’s going to help no one except people who have hurt animals, gotten caught, and don’t want the world to know." 
As organizations like The Humane Society, as well as all animal-related industries who want to remain up to legal standards push for the USDA to reverse their decision, Goodwin says that concerned citizens can send a call to action online. In addition, individuals can write and call their representatives and senators urging them to act on this matter.
Until the problem is rectified, Goodwin says that The Humane Society will spend "every minute of every waking day working on this issue." 
Image via Shutterstock 
]]> cat dog Health & Science safety Thu, 09 Feb 2017 14:52:53 +0000 35417 at
PetSmart Recalls Lot of Grreat Choice Adult Dog Food  
This recall only affects Grreat Choice Adult Dog Food sold between Oct. 10, 2016 and Feb. 7, 2017 with the following identifying information:
Product: Grreat Choice Adult Dog Food-with Chicken and Rice Classic Ground, 13.2 oz. cans
UPC: 7-3725726116-7
Best By Date: 8/5/19  
Lot Code: 1759338
The expiration date of the product can be found at the bottom of the can.
If you own this product, bring it and any cans affected by the recall to your nearest PetSmart retailer for a full refund. No other Grreat Choice products have been impacted by the recall and no dogs have been reported as ill or injured from the recalled product.
If you have any questions about the recall, please contact PetSmart Customer Service at 1-888-839-9638 between 7 am to 10 pm CST.
Source: PetSmart Newsroom
]]> Alerts & Recalls Wed, 08 Feb 2017 20:14:59 +0000 35416 at
Two-Legged Puppy Rescued After Being Left to Die in a Bag  
In late January, The Dog Rescuers Inc., a non-profit in Oakland, Ontario, received a call that a puppy had been found in a bag, discarded behind a dumpster. The rescuers quickly went to Cupid's aid and took him in for veterinary care. 
By nothing short of a miracle, Cupid only sustained minor issues. Vanessa Lupton, the Vice President of The Dog Rescuers Inc. tells petMD, "Cupid has been thoroughly checked over by a team of veterinarians, and other than being a bit dehydrated and having lower than normal protein at the time, he was healthy. Since he has been under veterinary care he has been given a clean bill of health." (There is currently an ongoing OSPCA investigation into Cupid's abuse.) 
Since his veterinary care and taking antibiotics to clear up a tail infection, Cupid has been thriving thanks to the help of those at the rescue organization. "Cupid is a spunky, silly, playful puppy. He has a fabulous personalty and loves to be around people," Lupton says. "He's quite the charmer and steals the heart of every person that he meets!" 
Cupid, who is currently in a caring foster home and "scoots" around on his back legs, is also being fitted for prosthetic legs, thanks to the assistance of the Toronto-based organization PawsAbility. 
While Cupid works on healing and becoming more mobile, Lupton says that outpouring of interest in his adoption has been overwhelming. "So many people have fallen in love with him and it's absolutely incredible to see how many people have rallied around him to show him the love and kindness that he was denied."
Image via The Dog Rescuers Inc. 
]]> Care & Safety Mon, 06 Feb 2017 15:01:41 +0000 35405 at
Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Recalls Select Lots of Hunk of Beef Products  
According to the release, the effects of pentobarbital in animals can cause side effects including, “drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance, or nausea, or in extreme cases, possibly death.”
Hunk of Beef products involved in this recall come in packs of 12-oz cans and include lot numbers that have an expiration date of June 2020 with the following lot numbers:
The second half of the barcode of recalled products reads 20109, which can be found on the back of the Hunk of Beef product label.

These recalled cans of 12-oz Hunk of Beef cans were distributed to retail locations and sold online in the following states: Washington, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and were manufactured the week of June 6 – June 13, 2016.
The recall was initiated because pentobarbital was detected in a single lot of Hunk of Beef products. According to a company release, Evangers chose to recall additional Hunk of Beef products that were manufactured the same week out of an abundance of caution.
As of February 3, the date of the release, “…it has been reported that five dogs became ill and 1 of the five dogs passed away after consuming the product with lot number 1816E06HB13.”
Evangers is investigating how the substance entered their raw material supply.
Pet owners who still have cans of recalled products with lot numbers listed above are advised to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. You can also contact Evangers with any questions at 1-847-537-0102 between 10:00 am to 5:00 pm CST, Monday through Friday.
]]> Alerts & Recalls Sat, 04 Feb 2017 16:54:45 +0000 35404 at
Canine Influenza Vaccination: Does Your Dog Need It?  
As humans, we’re fortunate enough that the flu is generally limited to a season. Our canine friends, however, are not so lucky. Canine Influenza (or dog flu) is a highly contagious disease that is a threat all year round.
What is Dog Flu and Where Did It Come From?
There are two identified strains of influenza virus that can affect our dogs and are classified as H3N8 and H3N2. The first recognized outbreak of the H3N8 strain of canine influenza occurred in January 2004 at a greyhound race track in Florida. There have been reported cases in a total of 11 states in the U.S., but only among dogs in race track facilities.
The H3N2 virus was first identified in Asia in 2006. There is no evidence to confirm, but it is suspected that in 2015 the H3N2 strain was introduced to the United States by dogs that were rescued and imported from Asia. This U.S. introduction occurred in Chicago when several dogs at a boarding facility became ill. The company quickly shut down multiple Chicago locations for disinfection, but not before the city experienced the worst outbreak in 35 years. At that time there were over 1,000 cases of infectious respiratory disease reported. From there the H3N2 virus spread through the Midwest and continued to stretch throughout the country.
Do I Need to Worry About Dog Flu?
Canine influenza is transmitted from dog to dog by respiratory secretions (i.e. coughing, sneezing, and barking). The virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, so dogs can pick up the virus from kennel surfaces, water and food bowls, collars, leashes, etc. The virus can live on clothing for 24 hours and on human hands for 12 hours, so people can also carry the virus from infected dogs to uninfected dogs. All dogs are susceptible to the virus at any time but dogs in restricted spaces (like shelters, boarding kennels, day care, etc.) are at a much higher risk.
Symptoms of Dog Flu
Dogs infected with the virus will show symptoms two to three days after being exposed. They will have a cough that can present as a moist, soft cough or a dry hacking cough that can persist for anywhere from 10 to 21 days. The cough can be accompanied by discharge from the eyes and nose, sneezing, lethargy (decrease in activity), decrease in appetite and fever. Dogs with a weaker immune system (young puppies, geriatric dogs or dogs with complicated medical histories) can be more severely affected and present with symptoms of pneumonia (high-grade fever, increased respiratory rate and labored breathing).
Because these symptoms are the same as any number of respiratory infections, canine influenza cannot be diagnosed on symptoms alone. There are tests that can be preformed to confirm the diagnosis. Because the cough can persist for up to 21 days, a 21-day quarantine is recommended for infected dogs.
Treatment can include fluids to maintain hydration, anti-inflammatory medications for fever reduction and discomfort and antibiotics for any suspected secondary bacterial infections are used to support the dog’s health until the virus is fought off by the body’s immune system.
Should You Vaccinate Against Canine Flu?
If your dog needs to be taken to boarding, grooming, or daycare facility, be an advocate for him. Make sure these facilities follow a strict cleaning regiment and schedule using proper disinfecting products and that the personnel are appropriately trained to understand cross contamination and how to prevent it. Lastly, finding a facility that requires all dogs to be vaccinated before entering their facility will also help protect your dog.
Dogs that are at higher risk of exposure should be vaccinated. The first canine influenza vaccine was introduced in June of 2009 to aid in controlling infection with canine influenza virus H3N8, since that was the only strain found in the United States at that time. In 2015, following the Chicago epidemic, Merck Animal Health announced the availability of an H3N2 vaccine. Now that both strains have been identified in the U.S. and the occurrence of one strain or the other is unpredictable, it was recommended that high-risk dogs should be protected against both strains of the virus.
In October, a vaccine was introduced to aid in the control of infection with both strains of the virus. Healthy dogs seven weeks of age or older can be given the vaccine, which requires two vaccinations given two-to-four weeks apart. Initial studies have shown that dogs do not maintain long duration of immunity so it is important to revaccinate them annually.
Although the dog flu has been reported in 40 states (including Washington DC), the vaccine has not become a requirement in all high-risk facilities. In general, only those that have had reported cases of flu in their facility or city feel compelled to require it. Because of this, not all veterinarians are keeping the vaccine in stock. If you have decided to protect your dog using the canine influenza vaccine, be sure to speak to your veterinarian so they can order it for you if they don’t normally stock it. To ensure that your dog is receiving the vaccine’s full protection, it should be given at least two weeks prior to possible exposure.
We as parents do need to understand, however, that vaccinated dogs CAN still become infected and develop the illness. The purpose of the vaccination is to control the spread of the disease by reducing the severity and duration of illness and symptoms, reduce the amount of virus that is shed by infected dogs and how long they shed the virus.
If you have more questions about dog flu, are uncertain if your dog is at risk or wonder if the vaccination is needed/appropriate for your four-legged friend, please have a conversation with your veterinarian. They will help you decide the best way to protect your best friend!
Charlie has been in the veterinary field for the last 18+ years, 14 of which she has spent as a board certified technician. She graduated with honors, from Harcum College as a member of Phi Theta Kappa, with an Associate’s of Science degree in Veterinary Technology.
]]> dog health View Tue, 31 Jan 2017 17:25:05 +0000 35403 at
Study: Dogs Prefer to Listen to Reggae and Soft Rock  
According to a recently published study titled "The Effect of Different Genres of Music on the Stress Levels of Kennel Dogs," researchers at the University of Glasgow—along with the help of the Scottish SPCA—found that canines, when given the choice of Motown, Pop, Classical, Soft Rock, and Reggae got the most enjoyment out of the latter two musical categories. 
In a statement, researcher and PhD student Amy Bowman said, "We were keen to explore the effect playing different genres of music had, and it was clear that the physiological and behavioral changes observed were maintained during the trial when the dogs were exposed to a variety of music." 
The study found that when kennel dogs heard the soothing sounds of reggae or soft rock, their stress levels decreased and their Heart Rate Variability (HRV) was "significantly higher." 
While the study found that no genre of music actually affected a dog's barking, "Dogs were found to spend significantly more time lying and significantly less time standing when music was played, regardless of genre."
So, if you need your dog to stay off his paws and relax a bit, playing some Bob Marley or Fleetwood Mac could do the trick. 
However, as Chris Miller, DVM, of Atlas Vet in Washington, D.C. points out, it's not just music that can help your pups chill out. White noise machines, he notes, have also been helpful with training or creating a calming atmosphere. 
Miller also tells petMD that even if your doggie does like music, volume is key. "It is important to remember that dogs hear a very wide range of frequencies and overall have much better hearing than humans. Playing music too loud can be uncomfortable for them and defeat the purpose of using music to help them relax," he says. "Making sure the volume doesn’t exceed 60 dBA will help insure the music isn’t uncomfortable to the dog and that there isn’t damage being done to the ear." 
Image via Shutterstock 
If you're still curious about the impact on music and sounds on your pet, check out these related articles: 
7 Ways to Naturally Calm Your Pet 
Music Therapy: What's Good for the Dog is Good for the Cat, Too
Scary Sounds: Understanding Noise Phobia in Dogs
]]> dog Lifestyle & Entertainment Tue, 31 Jan 2017 16:00:55 +0000 35402 at
Alaska Introduces Legislation That Requires Consideration of Pets in Divorce Custody Cases  
John Culhane, a Professor of Law at Widener University School of Law, explains that the traditional approach to handling pet custody between a divorcing couple, "is to regard pets as property" and apply "all the usual rules." For instance, if one of the individuals owned the dog before entering into the marriage, that would be their "property," and therefore, he or she would get the dog in the divorce—no matter what the relationship to the animal. 
But in Alaska, all that is about to change. As reported by the Animal Defense League, as of January 17, 2017, "Alaska has become the first state to empower judges to take into account the 'well-being of the animal' in custody disputes involving non-human family members." 
It is the first law of its kind in the United States which "expressly require[s] courts to address the interests of companion animals when deciding how to assign ownership in divorce and dissolution proceedings." The law also takes joint ownership of the pet into consideration. It's a big step forward in how animals are seen in the eyes of the courts. 
Penny Ellison, an adjunt professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, recently wrote an article for The Legal Intelligencer asking the very question, "Can Courts Consider the Interests of Animals?"  In the article, she notes that in instances where both parties want to keep the family pet, "Alaska courts will now be taking evidence on issues like who took responsibility to care for the pet and the closeness of the bond the pet has with each 'parent' in determining what type of custody arrangement is in the best interests of the animal." 
Ellison and Culhane both agree that other states are likely to follow in Alaska's footsteps, and should. "I think that the approach that is being [done] in Alaska—a provision in state law—really is the solution here," Culhane says, noting that people think of pets as much more than just property. 
"Anyone who has had an animal knows, without question, that they have interests and preferences and, in general, the law does not recognize that at this point," Ellison tells petMD. "A first step could be simply permitting courts to enforce agreements between former spouses about living arrangements for family pets. As it stands, many states won't even take action if one party breaches an agreement like that. Where parties can't agree, I would hope that more states would allow courts to decide what is in the best interest of the animal." 
Image via Shutterstock 
]]> Lifestyle & Entertainment Wed, 25 Jan 2017 20:41:33 +0000 35379 at
Grange Co-Op Recalls Rogue All Purpose Rabbit Pellets  
The following product is being recalled:
Rogue All Purpose Rabbit Pellets in 25# (25RP) 50# (50RP), 1,500# Tote (RP). There are no lot codes associated with these products.
The recall is being initiated because samples tested by the Oregon Department of Agriculture discovered these products may contain higher than acceptable levels of vitamin D.
Rabbits that are fed diets with high levels of vitamin D are at risk of developing hypercalcemia. Symptoms of hypercalcemia include increased thirst, increased urination, weakness, decreased appetite, and possibly death.
Consumers that purchased Rogue All Purpose Rabbit Pellets during these dates should return the unused portion to any Grange Co-op location for a full refund. Any questions regarding this recall may be directed to Brian Wilkerson, director of agricultural operations, at (541) 664-1121 or
]]> Alerts & Recalls Thu, 19 Jan 2017 18:54:30 +0000 35301 at
Blue Ridge Beef Voluntarily Recalls Raw Turkey Pet Food  
The affected product is sold in 2-lb chubs and can be identified with the following manufacturing codes:
Turkey with Bone
Lot #103 mfd12716
UPC code 854298001887

The affected products were sold to retail stores in North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Listeria can affect animals that consume contaminated products and humans that handle contaminated products. Symptoms of Listeria infection in humans include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and fever. Animals may experience similar symptoms as humans.
Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare provider. If pets are displaying similar symptoms, they should be taken to the vet.
People who have purchased the above lot of turkey for dogs are urged to stop feeding them and dispose of the product or return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Those with questions can email the company at
]]> Alerts & Recalls Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:52:54 +0000 35293 at
Puppy Hit By Car Rescued From Snowy Ditch is Safe and Healing  
The 7-month-old German Shepherd—who has been named Nutmeg— spent an estimated 12 hours out in the open, all while in terrible pain from the accident. Ariana Lenz, RVT, the medical manager of AARCS tells petMD, "Nutmeg was unable to stand on her own so rescuers were unsure of the extent of her injuries. "
Nutmeg was rushed to Southern Alberta Veterinary Emergency (SAVE). "She was assessed by several veterinarians, along with a surgeon and it was determined that she had a left ilial fracture, ischial and pubic fracture along with a right minor calcanceal avulsion," says Lenz.
Despite her injuries, things could have been much worse for the pup. "Nutmeg was very fortunate in the sense that the last few days have been considerable warmer," says Lenz. "Had it been the week prior, the temperatures were extremely cold. Luckily upon intake Nutmeg was not suffering from hypothermia or any other injuries relating specifically to the cold, the extent of her injuries were from the trauma itself."
The staff determined that the best course of action for Nutmeg to have a smooth recovery was to have her on strict rest for six weeks. She was also given oral medication to control her pain before she could be discharged. But even when she was dealing with terrible discomfort, Nutmeg's spirits were always high. "Nutmeg is a very sweet and gentle girl," says Lenz. "Even when she was in extreme pain, she was very approachable, lovable, and her tail just continues to wag."
Nutmeg, who is currently happy and healing in a foster home, is still on rest but in a few weeks time doctors will conduct radiographs to determine if she is well enough to be adopted. Lenz believes that this lucky and sweet dog would make an amazing addition to any family. 
If you do notice an injured dog on the side of the road—whether hit by a car or otherwise—Lenz notes that people who want to help should be careful and take the proper precautions. "You want to assess the situation safely, as many animals are in significant pain and their temperaments can be unpredictable," she explains. "We recommend to call local authorities or a veterinary hospital that will be able to help safely support the situation."
Image via Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society 
]]> dog Lifestyle & Entertainment Wed, 18 Jan 2017 19:27:47 +0000 35289 at
Helping Your Dog Understand the Loss of Their Canine Companion  
I vocalize my pain and look through photographs to remember how much Wynne has been in my life. Then, I look at my other dog, Remy, studying my face with a confused look. He watches me clenching the toys Wynne played with. I had to make the decision to let her suffering end, and even if my head knows I did what was best, my heart will always question it. Now I’m left to question how Remy and Indy, my other dog, will handle the loss. How do I tell them she's not coming home? Am I humanizing my emotions on them? How do I know if they are grieving?
I have seen a lot of sadness in my 16 years as a registered veterinary technician. I have been there for clients that put their beloved family member to rest. I have also been there to see the surviving members grieve, even the furry ones. Some pet parents have brought the other dog to say "goodbye," but the other dog never seems to really understand what is going on. I don't think the concept of dying is something that dogs really know or understand, but they do understand the lack of the presence of the now deceased dog in a familiar space that is at home. 
How My Dogs Processed Loss
Dogs may not be able to talk or cry but they show sadness in their own way. Indy became very clingy. She followed me around and didn’t know how to make me happy, which upset her. She tried to play with Remy, but he would walk away. She became the court jester trying to please me and doing tricks to get Remy to play. When nothing worked, she was sad she failed and went off sulking.
Remy, however, became truly sad because he wanted his friend to return. One day Wynne was there, and now she isn't anywhere to be found. I found him wandering the house, waiting by doors and going to strange locations. He was isolating himself and not sleeping in his normal spots. He lost interest in playing with his toys and didn’t have much energy at all. Dogs don't have the ability to reason or understand so I couldn’t sit down and explain what happened. I couldn’t read him a book or take him to therapy.
I didn’t know what to do to help him so I researched and tested multiple different theories. The day after Wynne passed, I collected anything that reminded me of Wynne and put it in a box in the basement. I thought that, if dogs have short term memory, they might forget her. I realized after a few days of Remy looking for her and acting depressed that idea didn’t work. One day, I came home from work and found Remy in the basement (an off-limits spot for the dogs) sniffing the box of Wynne’s belongings. His desire to get Wynne’s scent was stronger that obeying the rules. I brought up her favorite blanket and bed they used to share. I let the dogs have access them, if they wanted to. The next morning, Remy pulled down the blanket and snuggled with it. He took the dog bed to the bedroom where it originally was. The scent was comforting him. He stopped wandering and looking.
How to Move Forward
Returning to work after losing Wynne made me more aware of the surviving dogs, and I began offering advice to other pet parents on how to help their dogs cope and knowing the signs of dog grieving. Many determined which type of grief their pet was having, based on hearing about Indy and Remy’s reactions. The “Indy grief plan” needed owners to stick to a routine and try to stay active with them. The “Remy grief plan” required a scent from the deceased pet and grieving time. Both of my dogs did better after I forced myself to get more active. More walks, car rides and pet store visits.
So, what can we do to help our pets deal with the loss of a canine companion? Don't rush to throw out items that belonged to the deceased pet. Keep a blanket or other reminder that belonged to the pet that died. Pay extra attention to your grieving pet, but don't go overboard and create a larger problem. Try and stick to regular routines, if possible. Give your dog some time to adjust before making a decision about bringing another dog into your family. If you bring another pet home while they are still missing their friend, they will resent the new family member. Behavior problems and fighting will develop.

 The pain and sadness we feel may be displayed differently in our pet family members, but it does exist. Being able to see the signs and determine how we can help them cope may help us too. You can develop additional hobbies and friendships by taking your dog to the dog park or on outings. They should have other fun things in their life they can still enjoy after their “Wynne” is gone. 
Find out more information on pet loss and grief:

Argus Institute Counseling and Support Services
Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine Pet Loss Support Hotline

Image: courtesy Naomi Strollo
Naomi has been in the veterinary profession for 24 years. She became a Registered Veterinary Technician in 2000 and has over 10 years of experience working with trauma and critical care. She equally enjoys client education and prevention training techniques and has a special interest in behavioral training. She has personally trained therapy dogs, as well as show dogs, and has passed the 10-step test to earn her Canine Good Citizen Certification.
]]> View Tue, 17 Jan 2017 20:30:13 +0000 35287 at
Overcoming the Fear of Pit Bulls: Where Do We Go from Here?  
Meeting Pits at Work
Working as a registered veterinary technician in an emergency clinic, I encountered many Pit Bulls. The Pit Bulls I saw where brought in by animal wardens and police officers. These dogs were attacked, wounded and even shot. Of course those dogs were aggressive, they had been through a lot and were in pain. The Pit Bull that changed my mind was the one a police offer brought in that was shot in the head. I heard the report, ran up front with the gurney, and there he was standing and wagging his tail at me. His x-ray showed a bullet lodged in his skull. I was with that dog all night while he was being given oxygen, taking his vitals, and he never showed an aggressive sign. That's when I realized how strong this breed is, but how nice it could be.
So, I was willing to take a look at this potential new addition to our home, as long as Remy was there to approve.
Bringing Home Indy
James answered an ad on Craigslist. As we pulled down the street, there were many dogs running all over the neighborhood. As I got out of the car, I was immediately approached by a dog who sat in front of me. The owners were sitting on the step.
"You here for the Pit? There she is,” they said. “We don't have time for her, she lives in a cage." As we approached the owners, she followed me the whole way there. When we stopped to talk to the owners about her past life and history, she was running free in the street. They would just yell at her to get out of the road when cars passed. I clapped my hands and she ran over. I sat on the ground and she jumped in my lap and covered me with kisses. It was time to see what Remy thought.
I insisted James hold the leash and warned the owners that if they fight, I know where the closest veterinary clinic is. That Pit Bull ran up to Remy and they were nose to nose. I turned my head in terror. I couldn't see this. Two dogs known for fighting, I thought, it's going to be a blood bath. I heard James yell and I had to look. Remy was pulling him around trying to run and play with the Pit. James insisted we keep her. I was out of excuses.
Life with a Pit Bull
We named her Indy and she is now 4 years old. She is the most affectionate dog I've ever owned. Indy and Remy are best friends (Wynne, meanwhile, didn't care what we brought home as long as she had her spot on the couch). Indy follows Remy around and looks for his direction. I never left them alone for fear of fighting, but Indy just wants to fit in. I see why the breed is used to fight, they only want to make their owners happy. She is constantly looking for our approval. We brought Indy home, and with rules and obedience (just like every other dog, regardless of its breed), she’s become a wonderful dog.
Re-Thinking the Pit Bull Bias
So, what can we do to change the image surrounding Pit Bulls? According to, over 1,052 cities across the nation have Breed-Specific Laws (BSL). When we create bans and laws it draws public attention. Criminals are drawn to breaking the law. Individualists are drawn to making a statement and law-abiding citizens make a scene when the law is not abided by. When prohibition ended in 1933, the government was the first to reap the benefits. The government received tax benefits, jobs and a decrease in police force.
I asked James Kaplan, a volunteer at Parma Animal Shelter in Ohio, how we should work towards changing the perception of Pit Bulls.
“I have watched people take a pause when seeing [Pit Bulls at the shelter] They don't always see the personality of the dog or are not really astute to dog communication,” he says. “It should be the citizen’s decision to enact a BSL, not the politicians who will cave to pressure because they don't want to appear weak to the people pushing the BSL. I think the biggest thing is to work to get rid of the slang name and start calling them by their AKC name."
Abolishing BSLs nationwide will change everyone’s view of the breed. Owning a Pit Bull wouldn't make you a cool "bad ass" anymore. Back-yard breeders would decrease because the popularity would go down, while law-abiding families would be able to adopt one. According to the ASPCA, 2,800 Pit Bulls and Pit-mixes are euthanized every day. If we stopped paying attention to what these dogs look like, and instead care only about their personalities, more dogs like Indy would have families to come home to.
Image: Courtesy Naomi Strollo
Naomi has been in the veterinary profession for 24 years. She became a Registered Veterinary Technician in 2000 and has over 10 years of experience working with trauma and critical care. She equally enjoys client education and prevention training techniques and has a special interest in behavioral training. She has personally trained therapy dogs, as well as show dogs, and has passed the 10-step test to earn her Canine Good Citizen Certification.
]]> View Wed, 11 Jan 2017 20:30:23 +0000 35265 at