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SENIOR PETS, DOG BITES, AND SERVICE DOGS....

Posted Dec 12 2010 12:00am

It has been uncommonly warm here in the mountain country of northern Arizona.  In fact, the National Weather Service is suggesting that Flagstaff might not have snow on the ground for Christmas day.  That would be unusual since Flagstaff is among the leading cities in the USA for the highest chance of having a white Christmas.

About 50% of respondents said they were including their pets in holiday travel plans and several wrote e-mails to Helpful Buckeye saying thanks for the winter travel tips presented last week.  Only 10% of you have ever obtained a health certificate for your pet to travel.  Helpful Buckeye is assuming that percentage will increase as states become more strict about enforcing security measures.  Only 1 cat owner reported that they had walked their cat on a leash.  Not only do old habits die hard but also it's a challenge that can be very frustrating.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

Remember that it's easy to contact Helpful Buckeye with your questions, interesting ideas, and general comments.  Simply send an e-mail to: dogcatvethelp@gmail.com or post your comment at the "Comment" icon at the end of this issue.

CURRENT NEWS OF INTEREST

1) The American Veterinary Medical Association has just published this report on animal hoarding
Dealing with animal hoarding should be about helping the hoarders as well as the animals, according to social workers who consult on such cases.  Social workers increasingly are tending to the human issues that arise in human-animal relationships.  "Without counseling, you're going to see repeat offenders," said Jane N. Nathanson, a Boston social worker in private practice who counsels animal hoarders. "You're not addressing the needs of the person."  In some cases, Nathanson said, the animals might need immediate rescue. In other cases, she said, local authorities or humane organizations might try to gain the cooperation of the hoarder.


Nathanson counsels many animal hoarders who deny that they have a problem. She receives referrals from courts, humane organizations, and family members.  Typically, animal hoarders lack sufficient or satisfactory human relationships, Nathanson said. They think that having more animals will make them feel better. They've created a world apart, where they've derived their sense of identity, their self-esteem, and a sense of control," Nathanson said.

To read the rest of this report, go to: http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/dec10/101215o.asp

2) Our readers will remember the publicity surrounding the passage of "Proposition B" in Missouri this past Election Day.  The AVMA has continued its efforts to have the law over-turned and already-existing laws be strengthened.  Here is their explanation for this seeming contradiction
Proposition B, as it was known, passed with a "yes" vote from 51.6% of Missouri voters on Election Day this year. The new law requires commercial breeders to provide adequate food and water, necessary veterinary care, sufficient shelter and space to turn around, regular exercise and adequate rest between breedings. The law also limits the number of breeding dogs to 50.



However, the AVMA says the law may not be the best way to improve the welfare of dogs in that state.


"Unfortunately, Proposition B doesn't do much to actually provide for the care of animals, but only sets limits on the number of animals that can be kept. And there is no research to show that limit laws, like Proposition B, actually do anything to improve the welfare of the animal," said AVMA CEO Dr. Ron DeHaven.

The rest of the AVMA's position is found at: http://trends.aahanet.org/VetNewsArticle.aspx?key=29a539ef-3fc4-4cef-a09a-a3e2902069df

DISEASES, AILMENTS, AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS

A topic that seems to show up frequently in our e-mails is that of the aging dog and cat...what we affectionately refer to as Senior Pets.  The size of this group of dogs and cats has increased proportionately with veterinary medical advances and has resulted in a longer life span for most pet dogs and cats.

What Is A Senior Pet?

The very idea of a dog's "old age" is relatively new. It wasn't too many generations ago that dogs were still viewed largely as utilitarian workers, unfeeling and unaware creatures bred to keep a flock of sheep in line or spot prey. The notion of a dog having a comfortable, happy old age would never even have been considered.


Now, dogs are full-fledged members of the household, with a strong reciprocity of feeling between pet and owner — so much so that research has shown that having a dog in the home reduces blood pressure and, thereby, the risk for heart disease (for the dog owner).

Dog owners even report improved psychological well-being, largely attributable to reduced feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as a reduction in stress. We know; most of us number among them.

Surely, many of those positive associations come from the relationships people develop with their pals as the years pass. There's something more serene, wiser, about an older dog, even one who still has plenty of energy. A dog you've had for more than just a handful of years can simply understand you better, accommodate your moods better.

Of course, too, there's extra closeness with a dog you've known for a long time. How could the bond not strengthen after one's four-legged friend has turned seven, ten, twelve years old? After all, the better part of a decade or more has been spent nurturing the relationship — helping the dog grow from a puppy who needed to be taught the rhythms of your home to a mature animal who can easily read your mood and provide comfort, protection, or simply good company whenever it is needed.

Perhaps you and your older dog have watched children go off to college together, grieved a loss, relocated, or dealt with a career change. Surely, you've taken walks by each other's side, watched favorite TV shows, greeted each other enthusiastically after a long day apart, and been a reassuring presence to each other at bedtime.

During checkups and other visits, veterinarians see the closeness in the way people interact with their more senior companions. There's a comfort level, a certain something that can be taken for granted, that isn't yet present between people and their younger dogs.

Bring into the mix that a pet is so innocent, so unquestionably devoted and accepting, and it's not at all surprising that even the toughest among us might blink back tears at the thought of a faithful companion getting on in years. Such emotion doesn't make us softies or weirdos; it makes us human. It's simply an indication that we're able to respond to all the depth of feeling a companion dog is able to elicit.

No wonder it has become important for people to increase not only a dog's life span but also their pet's health span, changing what it means to be geriatric. By the numbers, "geriatric" signifies the point at which 75 percent of one's anticipated lifespan has gone by. The good news is that passing that milestone no longer means "over the hill." Sophisticated advances in veterinary medical technology help dogs remain healthier for much longer even as they reach significantly older ages, thereby compressing the amount of time a dog will be infirm or uncomfortable before reaching the end of its life. Thus, just as silver-haired men and women in their seventies and eighties now go traveling and white-water rafting and lead active, fulfilling lives — something that was once largely unthinkable — twelve-, fourteen-, and sixteen-year-old dogs can now continue to enjoy their usual romps and shenanigans with the help of modern veterinary medicine.

As veterinary medicine has become more sophisticated, and careful nurturing of pets has become the rule rather than the exception, the population of geriatric small animal pets has grown steadily, mirroring the increase in the human elderly population. As an animal progresses into its twilight years, inevitable aging changes take place in all organ systems, including the brain.

Most small to medium-sized dogs are considered geriatric when they reach 10 years of age, or when 75 percent of their anticipated life span has elapsed. But this does not mean that when they have exceeded this arbitrary limit they will necessarily show signs of physical ageing or diminished mental capacity. Some dogs appear normal mentally long after this "geriatric" milestone, and some remain bright to the end of their natural life span. These lucky dogs are referred to as "successful agers," same as their human counterparts.

Basic Needs Of Older Dogs

Among the basic things owners need to know about raising older pets is that older dogs are typically more sensitive to extreme temperature changes because of changes in their metabolism.  As with older people, older pets are the victims of extremes of heat and cold because they're less able to thermoregulate.  This means you have be sure they have coat or vest to keep them warm in cold weather.  You also shouldn't leave them outside for long in the cold.  Extremely hot days can be a problem because these older pets dehydrate quicker and can become candidates for heat exhaustion faster.

Moderating the amount of exercise for older dogs is a must because heart and lung function do deteriorate with age.  This does not mean to stop the exercise, but rather to consider the frequency and length of each exercise period.

To make sure your dog's diet is appropriate, you should check with your veterinarian before introducing any new food into the pet bowl.  There are many so-called senior pet foods on the market and not all of them will be what your pet needs.  Your veterinarian will consider all the pertinent information about your pet and make an appropriate suggestion for the type of food.

Being overweight presents its own challenges to any pet, but is really difficult for an older pet to accommodate.  The diet your veterinarian recommends may also take into consideration the need for less calories.  If your pet is overweight, it can complicate another problem commonly seen in older pets...that of arthritis.  The extra weight can lead to arthritic conditions simply due to more strain on the joints, but the weight can also make an existing arthritic condition worse over time.  An observant pet owner can often notice a fair amount of relief from arthritic discomfort as a result of helping the pet lose some weight.

Gradual loss of sight and/or hearing presents many challenges for older pets and their owners.  When your dog is awake, if he can't hear you calling him, using a flashlight or laser pointer is a good way to get his attention. With a few short training sessions during which you pair the light with a food treat, your dog will soon learn to look at or come to you when he sees the light.

If your dog is asleep
1. Be careful where you touch him, avoiding his hindquarters when waking him. In his sleepy state, he could think someone is sneaking up on him.
2. When you touch him, don't apply a lot of pressure as though you are going to gently shake him out of a sleep. Instead, very lightly touch the tips of his hair or gently blow on his face or front paw. The idea here is to present a sensation that is so light he's initially not sure if he felt something. You'll see him move a little bit but not startle. Repeat the touch and he'll wake up. Be consistent and touch him in the same place on his body (e.g. shoulder, front leg) each time you wake him. He'll soon learn when he feels your touch that it is you calling him for dinner.
3. Some dog owners report that dogs can smell in their sleep. You can hold your hand under his nose to see if the scent wakes him.
4. Finally, be aware that older dogs spend a lot of time sleeping. You may need to wake him for trips outside so bed wetting doesn't become a problem, but for exercise walks and play sessions, you could consider changing your dog walking schedule to accommodate its naps.

Part 2 of this presentation on Senior Pets will appear in next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

NON-MEDICAL CONCERNS

1) A study recently published by the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reveals statistics about dog bite-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Perhaps the most interesting data shows that visits requiring hospitalization increased a startling 86 percent over 16 years, from 5,100 in 1993 to 9,500 in 2008.

Anyone who follows the news is aware of the increasing frequency of reported dog bites.  For the rest of this story, go to: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/12/09/dog-bite-related-hospitalizations-skyrocket-over-last-16-years/

2) With the possibility that some of you might be getting a puppy for the holidays, consider this advice for your children on how to behave around a dog
If you're a parent, you've probably heard pleas from your kids to get a family pet. And while bringing a new animal into the family can be rewarding, fun and exciting, there can be a steep learning curve when the pet first arrives.

What To Teach Your Children

1. Be gentle and calm. Before the pet arrives, practice greeting the pet gently and calmly with your children. So many kids shriek and scream with excitement as they run up to dogs or cats, but children should be taught not to run up to any animal, either their own pet or one in public.
2. Understand that the dog or cat isn't a toy. Although they may be soft and furry like a favorite stuffed animal, it's important that your child understand that the pet needs to be treated like a real member of the family.  Consider sitting down with your child and practicing how to best pet and interact with the new addition on a stuffed animal, reminding them that the real pet will be much different than a toy. Children should always softly pet the puppy or kitten with no pulling or tugging allowed.
3. Make sure there's an adult is around when they play with the pet. This can be a tough one to enforce in a busy household.  Things can go wrong pretty quickly between an inquisitive young child and an animal.
4. Respect the pet's basic needs and moods. Your children should learn that just as with a human baby, young animals need lots of rest. Tell them to not bother a puppy or kitten when it's sleeping or resting, and if the pet walks away from play, assure them that the pet just needs a break.
5. Do pet chores. A great way to give your children a sense of responsibility is to have the entire family help with the pet. Consider holding a family meeting where each family member has a specific task for the week. Each week, mix up the duties (always make sure the child can reasonably complete the task, even if it's just for a couple times a week), so that everyone is engaged and no one's chore gets "forgotten."
6. Treat animals the way they themselves would like to be treated. Sometimes children lash out with a kick or a shove against their parents or siblings and there is the risk that kid might do the same thing to express anger against a pet. Explain that all animals want to feel safe and loved, just like humans.  Pets don't like being teased with words, toys or food, and you should teach your child to never hit, kick or strike your pet.
7. Realize the new pet will be annoying at times. Help your child understand that bringing an animal home isn't just fun, it's also a bit life-changing, almost like adding a new child to the family. Set up the expectation that this new family member will require extra attention from mommy and daddy.
8. Understand the dog or cat might play favorites. Sometimes a new puppy or kitty may seem to prefer one person in the family over another, and this can lead to hurt feelings by the other family members. Ask your little ones to be patient as the pet may take awhile to come around.
9. Help keep the pet safe. Teach your child that they need to keep their eyes open to make sure the pet stays safe from everyday household dangers like foods they shouldn't be eating or gates in the yard that don't close all the way. It is the entire family's responsibility to take care of the new pet and to give it a loving and happy home.
10. Empathize with the animal. It's not enough to pet the cat gently or keep from yelling at the dog, (although those are good habits to master), children should be taught to try and look at things through the pet's eyes, especially when it first comes home. The more they think about things from the dog or cat's perspective, the better a pet sibling they will be.

This advice will hopefully prepare your children for encounters with dogs throughout their lives.  Perhaps, this might also help minimize the chances for a dog bite.
 
BREED OF THE WEEK
 
Just 2 weeks ago, an Australian Shepherd won the American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship.  Animated, adaptable and agile, the Australian Shepherd lives for his job, which still involves herding livestock and working as an all-purpose farm and ranch dog. He needs a lot of activity and a sense of purpose to be truly content. Today, due to the breed’s intelligence and versatility, “Aussies” also excel in AKC events such as agility, obedience and herding. Their coats can be black, blue merle, red merle and red with or without white markings.


A Look Back

There are many theories about the origin of the Australian Shepherd. Despite its misleading name, the breed as we know it today probably developed in the Pyrenees Mountains somewhere between Spain and France. It was called the Australian Shepherd because of its association with Basque shepherds who came to America from Australia in the 1800s. The Australian Shepherd was initially called by many names, including Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, Blue Heeler, New Mexican Shepherd, and California Shepherd.

Right Breed for You?

An energetic breed with strong herding and guarding instincts, the Aussie requires daily vigorous exercise. Although sometimes reserved with strangers, they are “people” dogs that want to always be near their families. Their thick coats require weekly brushing.

• Herding Group; AKC recognized in 1991.
• Ranging in size from 18 to 23 inches tall at the shoulder.
• Sheep herder; farm dog.

PRODUCTS OF THE WEEK

1) Whether your cat's breath is just slightly aromatic or capable of wilting flowers and peeling paint off walls, many products can help control the smell.  The folks at ZooToo have 5 suggestions for the best cat breath fresheners:  http://www.pawnation.com/2010/12/08/zootoo-review-5-best-cat-breath-fresheners/

2) Some of these might be used as "gag" gifts but they do have a pet theme: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/12/07/doggie-office-supplies/

GENERAL INTEREST

1) Here is the final part of the story about Billy Ma and his acquisition of his new service dog, Polar: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/12/07/11-year-old-billy-ma-and-his-service-dog-polar-go-home-a-paw/

2) Since we've already discussed dog bites in this issue, it's only appropriate to carry this story.  A US Airways flight attendant and a passenger were bitten by a small dog that escaped from its carrier during an actual flight: http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/dog-bites-us-airways-flight-attendant-forcing-plane-to-divert-to-pittsburgh/19748008?icid=main%7Chtmlws-main-w%7Cdl1%7Csec3_lnk1%7C188426

With all the other issues affecting the comfort of flight, this problem is not welcome, I'm sure!

3) Even though Helpful Buckeye and just about every other pet advisor are encouraging folks to NOT get someone a new pet for the holidays, there will always be someone who insists on doing so anyway.  For you, here is some important advice: http://yourlife.usatoday.com/pets/pawprintpost/post/2010/11/giving-pets-as-gifts-tips-on-being-smart/132633/1

4) Shelter dogs often fall victim to the old stereotype: If it's been returned, there must be something wrong with it. Mixed breeds can have a tough time finding a home because potential owners are unsure of exactly what they're getting, but when the rescue pup has bull terrier in its bloodline, the stigma can be even worse.  Read about Lily, a Pit Bull Terrier, that not only was rescued from starvation, but went on to help Alzheimer's patients: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/12/02/meet-lily-rescued-from-starvation-she-now-helps-alzheimer-pat/?icid=main%7Chtmlws-main-w%7Cdl5%7Csec1_lnk3%7C187573

5) According to a recent Associated Press poll, 56% of dog owners and 48% of cat owners buy a Holiday gift for their pet.  Women are more likely than men to buy a gift for their pet...56% vs. 49%.

Where do you fit???

SPORTS NEWS
The Pittsburgh Steelers easily defeated the Cincinnati Bengals today, following their impressive win over the Ravens last week, and ahead of an important match with the NY Jets next Sunday.

The Pitt Panthers men's basketball team was ranked #3 this week but was soundly beaten yesterday by Tennessee.

The Ohio State football team will play Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl on January 4th.  Since the year 2000, OSU has lost our last 4 games against Southeast Conference teams.

PERSONAL STUFF

The Christmas movie marathon of Desperado and Helpful Buckeye continued this weekend with Elf, one of Desperado's picks.  She's partial to Will Ferrell, while I like James Caan.  At any rate, it did help to inspire some Christmas "spirit"....


~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~
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