Posts filed under ‘pets’

Foiling urban coyotes

This week local KARE 11 reported that a Maltese in St. Louis Park died from injuries related to a coyote attack.

Jerry Stamm of St. Louis Park let his dog, Cici, outside on St. Patrick’s Day evening, then noticed a coyote in his fenceless backyard.

It’s a sad story that keeps getting repeated with different players. Brilliantly adaptive coyotes are becoming increasingly common in urban and suburban areas around the world. They’ve been a problem here in Red Wing for years and now, following trends of human urbanization, large numbers of the wily tricksters are relocating closer to the city.

“It’s a blessing and a curse to live in a place like Minnesota,” Peggy Callahan said, from the Wildlife Science Center.

Callahan says there are more coyotes than black bear in the state — well over 25,000. They extended east of the Mississippi after 1915, spreading to 48 states. Residents in St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, and Golden Valley have reported coyote sightings.

How should pet owners respond to the threat of sharing their environment with coyotes? The smartest course of action is to deal with it much like you would face a problem with your dog’s behavior — in a proactive way with smart action instead of reactively in fear.

If coyotes live in your area follow these rules to avoid conflicts.

  • Make sure all pets (cats, dogs, rabbits, chickens) are protected by a sturdy, coyote-proof enclosure when they aren’t under your direct supervision. This includes potty breaks, as Mr. Stamm discovered.
  • Keep dogs and cats up to date on vaccinations. Coyotes can carry diseases that are transmissible to pets.
  • Don’t put out food for deer or other ground-dwelling wildlife near your home. Keep areas under bird feeders clean to discourage rodents that may attract coyotes.
  • Don’t feed your pets outside.
  • Keep garbage, compost and other waste in well secured containers.
  • Keep your dog on a leash on all walks unless he has solid off-leash obedience skills. And even if your dog is brilliantly well trained – it is still important to keep him in your sight.
  • If you see coyotes near your home yell, wave your arms, flash bright lights, bang things together and otherwise act like a dangerously mad threat. Don’t let them feel comfortable near your home.

Men have lived side by side with coyotes since we left the trees. Significant problems with the arrangement are more common now because there are few human-free areas left for coyotes to live in. Reduced hunting pressure from humans, and an increasing number of humans who actively or inadvertently encourage coyotes to acclimate to their presence has also created a near perfect environment to increase conflicts between our species.

Coyotes aren’t evil or malevolent, they’re just smart and opportunistic and you don’t need help from the Acme Corporation to foil them. If you put one tenth as much effort into discouraging coyotes as they do into looking for ways to take advantage of you – you’ll come out ahead in the game.

March 31, 2011 at 10:48 am 7 comments

Old Saw New Science

A article recently published by William Marshall, Herman Hazewinkel, Dermot Mullen, Geert De Meyer, Katrien Baert and Stuart Carmichael (Marshall et al) in Veterinary Research Communications provides us with the not-so-startling news that weight loss causes a significant decrease in lameness in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis and other orthopedic problems.

Obesity and osteoarthritis are two of the most common health problems in dogs. The literature indicates that 20% of dogs suffer from osteoarthritis and 24–41% of all dogs are clinically obese. Marshall et al’s goal was to provide subjective and objective measures of the effect of weight loss alone on lameness in obese dogs with osteoarthritis.

Fourteen adult dogs of various large, medium and small breeds with clinical signs of lameness were included in the study. Intact and neutered dogs of both sexes participated, and all the dogs included in the study were clinically obese. The dogs ranged in age from 10 months to 13 years.

By the end of the 18-week study period the dogs had lost an average of almost 9% of their initial body weight and 82% of them showed decreased evidence of lameness.

Surprising news? Hardly. In a time when prescription diet pills for dogs are hot sellers, the idea that excess weight exacerbates joint problems is hardly controversial. The more interesting (and depressing) part of the story is the small number of dog owners that participated in the study. As Marshall et al. put it: “Stimulating and maintaining client interest in canine weight loss programs can be challenging and this hindered recruitment of cases.”

Fat is the new norm. I’m disturbed by the number of people who tell me they think my dogs are too thin. Apparently they’ve gotten so used to seeing fat dogs that a lean, fit dog looks weirdly out of place.

via ihasaHOTDOG

It’s a common misconception. A recent study conducted by Pfizer Animal Health found that while veterinarians believe that 47% of their canine patients are overweight or obese — only 17% of dog owners agree with them. Deep in denial, pet owners argue that their dog is big-boned, that he’s solid, and that he can’t possibly be fat because they feed him exactly what it says to on the package.  Or they say that it isn’t a problem because the dog is only a few pounds overweight. While being ten pounds overweight may not be a problem for you or your Saint Bernard – that same ten pounds represents 20% of a 50 pound dog’s weight and 50% of a 20 pound dog’s weight. That’s the difference between a healthy weight and morbid obesity!

Adding to the problem is that fact that veterinarians aren’t always comfortable telling people that their dogs are fat. Some pet owners feel insulted when they’re told that their pet is overweight and when the owner is obese too, discussing a weight problem can be uncomfortable for both parties. A recent study published by Nijland et al. that found a strong correlation between the body mass index of dog and its owner indicates that this is often the case.

So now there is some scientific basis to the old saying that “if your dog is fat, you aren’t getting enough exercise!”

March 24, 2010 at 4:54 pm 11 comments

No More Dog “Ownership” in Wisconsin?

Loretta Baughan over at the Spaniel Journal has a new article up on proposed legislative efforts by the Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to remove animals from the realm of property law in Wisconsin.

Proposed LRB-0677/2, creates new legal definitions, applying only to animal-related situations, that will eliminate the need for fact-based evidence in the seizure of property and allow subjective standards to be used as the basis for action. It would eliminate existing provisions that seized animals be held in custody until the owner is convicted, dismissed or found not guilty and allow animal protection organizations to immediately euthanize, sell or sterilize seized animals as they wish.

If HSUS and DCHS are successful in their legislative bid – a disgruntled neighbor could report you to a publicity-hungry local animal rights group for ‘abuse’ based entirely on subjective standards. The animal rightists can then show up at your door, legally seize your animals – and kill or sell them before you even have a chance to prove that you’re innocent.

Go, read the whole thing. And if you live in Wisconsin and own (or ever plan to own) animals – call your legislators now.

February 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm 7 comments

Comparing Veterinary and Human Health Care

While this is a gross oversimplification of the system, Balaker makes a couple of interesting points.

I should be a poster girl for health care reform. I’m middle-aged, self-employed and I’ve got a bunch of potentially bankrupting preexisting health problems. But when I see the kind of unintended consequences that arise out of relatively simple, well-intentioned programs like South Carolina’s certificate of need requirement, I remain convinced that rapid institution of broad sweeping reforms is a very bad idea. Changing a few things at a time would mean that problems in the system (and there are plenty of them) will take longer to fix, but a step by step process of reform could help prevent potentially catastrophic adverse effects.

In the world of politics there is sometimes a drive to achieve change by pursuing a system completely different from the status quo. But effective change is rarely made in a spectacular way.  Like our world’s climate, health care is an incredibly complex, dynamical system well beyond anyone’s capacity to understand or model accurately. I really hope our elected representatives don’t unintentionally throw it into a dangerously chaotic state of disequilibrium.

February 25, 2010 at 9:31 pm 38 comments

Seeking Atheist Pet Sitters

Also Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, Satanists, Jains and other non-Christians. Business Week reports reports on a group of entrepreneurial pet-loving atheists.

Bart Centre, 61, a retired retail executive in New Hampshire, says many people are troubled by this question, and he wants to help. He started a service called Eternal Earth-Bound Pets that promises to rescue and care for animals left behind by the saved.

Promoted on the Web as “the next best thing to pet salvation in a Post Rapture World,” the service has attracted more than 100 clients, who pay $110 for a 10-year contract ($15 for each additional pet.) If the Rapture happens in that time, the pets left behind will have homes—with atheists. Centre has set up a national network of godless humans to carry out the mission. “If you love your pets, I can’t understand how you could not consider this,” he says.

Will the beloved pets of the faithful really be left behind at the second coming?

Todd Strandberg, who founded a biblical prophecy Web site called that draws 250,000 unique visitors a month, agrees that Fido and Mittens are doomed. “Pets don’t have souls, so they’ll remain on Earth. I don’t see how they can be taken with you,” he says. “A lot of persons are concerned about their pets, but I don’t know if they should necessarily trust atheists to take care of them.”

How can Centre convince the faithful that he’s sinful enough to be left behind but not so sinful that he can’t be entrusted with the pets of the faithful? The Eternal Earthbound Pets FAQs addressed this:

Q: How do you ensure your representatives won’t be Raptured.

A: Actually, we don’t ensure it, they do. Each of our representatives has stated to us in writing that they are atheists, do not believe in God / Jesus, and that they have blasphemed in accordance with
Mark 3:29, negating any chance of salvation.


Q: How can we trust that you’ll honor your service agreement, afterall, you ARE atheists.

A: Being an atheist does not mean we lack morals or ethics. It just means we don’t believe in God or gods. All of our representatives are normal folks who love and live for their family, are gainfully employed, and have friends of varying beliefs.  Some of us are married to believers. Many of us volunteer our time at food banks, animal shelters, meals on wheels organizations, etc.   We fully endorse the “Rule of Reciprocity”, also known as “The Golden Rule.” We just happen not to believe in God(s).  Belief in God does not ensure righteousness, nor does non-belief imply immorality. Jesus understood this. Please reference Luke 10, re “The Good Samaritan.”

Centre’s not the only one who has expressed an interest and concern about the pets of the raptured. Post Rapture Pets presents a handy algorithm that allows you to calculate the Rapture Index and Reliability of any potential post rapture pet sitter. They suggest that the rapture bound cover all their metaphysical bases by lining up several potential sitters who have high Suitability Indexes for different reasons.

Where do I sign up?

February 15, 2010 at 10:52 pm 15 comments

The Raw Material of Misery

For years we’ve heard stories that seemed to be urban myths waring us that trace amounts of sodium pentobarbital in pet foods came from the rendered remains of shelter animals. Turns out – it’s probably not a myth…

Newspapers are reporting that euthanized shelter animals from every public shelter in Southern California are being sold to a disposal firm that boils, grinds and processes them into raw materials to be re-used in lubricants, polish, soap, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, gelatin and fertilizers. And it’s been going on for years.

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports:

County animal control officials said they weren’t surprised.

“I’ve heard of those potential uses for the animals’ remains,” said Brian Cronin, division chief for the San Bernardino County’s Animal Care and Control Division. “The reality is that those responsible pet owners who would elect to dispose of their animals through other means can choose to do so.”

Owners of euthanized animals can opt to have them cremated or buried at their own expense, Cronin said.

“Unfortunately, for government agencies … this is the most cost-effective option that’s available, and it’s my understanding that’s why every other agency uses this service,” he said. “In our priorities, we prefer to invest in those animals that are alive and in the shelter and in the community.”

I suppose that selling dead animals to a rendering plant is more cost-effecting than, say, burying them in a landfill. But dear doG in heaven – HAVE WE LOST ALL OUR CAPACITY FOR COMPASSION?

These animals end their lives in a strange and terrifying place, separated from the homes and families they’ve known, confined for endless hours, subjected to overwhelming noise and smell – and we can’t even give them the barest modicum of dignity by treating them as something more than a soulless raw material?

The disgusting details:

Bill Gorman, president of D&D Disposal, said the firm doesn’t conduct media interviews and declined to discuss what his company does with animal remains.

But the April 2004 report by Los Angeles County Animal Shelters detailed how euthanized animals are recycled in a process known as “rendering.”

“The remains are placed in large vats and heated to a high temperature in excess of 265 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point they become sterile and free of pathogens,” the report states. “Then a series of mechanical (processes) occur that separate the fat, liquid and proteins into separate collection systems.”

Since I installed a flock of chickens in my backyard, I’ve refused to buy feed from the only store in town that carries it – because the brand they carry includes rendered animal fat and protein in its ingredients. Instead, I drive to a rural grain elevator 40 miles away to buy another (fairly generic) brand that doesn’t. I’m glad now that I did – and I’ll also make double-extra-sure that the food and treats I buy for the dogs don’t contain rendered materials either.

Avoiding specific rendered materials in products like soaps, lubricants and especially (yikes!) pharmaceuticals could be more problematic. I’ll have to do some research to see what I can find on this.

February 11, 2010 at 12:11 am 26 comments

Small Wonder

In previous posts we’ve brought you agility mice, agility goldfish and the amazing agility horse – today (via Zooilogix) it’s Binki the agility gerbil!

For the do-it-yourself-ers out there – check out this website with detailed information on building gerbil agility equipment.

February 6, 2010 at 8:09 pm 1 comment

How Much is That Puppy on the Internet?

So you’ve decided to get a puppy. You did a bit of research, and you’ve fallen in love with the rare and wonderful Peruvian mountain dog (PMD).

Being a savvy and caring consumer, you know you shouldn’t get your PMD from a pet store. You’ve searched local papers and asked all your friends and neighbors but apparently there are no local PMD breeders.

So you hit the Internet. Googling up Peruvian mountain dogs you stumble onto a web site that looks perfect. The site is owner by a breeder who says she’s got puppies from champion bloodlines with impeccable temperament and health. They’re raised in a loving home environment. Her site features pictures of puppies cavorting through fields of clover and snuggling with perfect, smiling babies. And… she’s got PMD puppies ready to go to loving homes right now.

It’s almost too good to be true.

And maybe it is. In a disturbing number of cases, everything you’ve just seen was a lie. The perfect puppies only exist in stock photos (or pictures stolen from another breeders’ website). And their sick, un-socialized parents have never seen the inside of a house, much less a show ring.

It’s awfully easy to lie on the Internet. Because it allows us to carefully control how we communicate with others, the Internet allows dishonest people to present themselves as reputable – and it helps them expose their product to millions of potential buyers. Unscrupulous breeders have discovered they can use Internet puppy sales to present a picture of their operation that’s radically different from the one that actually exists. And through a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act, it’s perfectly legal.

Yup. You read that correctly. Internet pet retailers, even those who breed at very large scales, are not regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). While large scale breeders who to sell to pet stores are regulated by the minimal requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, a breeder could hypothetically keep thousands of breeding dogs and be exempt from its requirements if they only engage in direct sales through the Internet. This is a growing problem, and it’s happening right in our backyard.

Kathy Bauck is the owner and operator of Pick of the Litter (aka Puppies on Wheels) in New York Mills, Minnesota.  Bauck’s operation was one of the largest USDA licensed commercial dog breeding and brokering operations in the country until she was convicted of animal cruelty. After her conviction last year, the USDA canceled her license to deal in dogs.

Prior to her conviction, Kathy Bauck pled guilty to practicing veterinary medicine without a license.  Bauck, who is not a veterinarian, owned and operated a mobile veterinary service advertised online as “Puppies on Wheels.”  She was sentenced to jail time and ordered to cease performing all surgeries.

In spite of a documented history of animal cruelty and flagrant disrespect for the law, the court allowed Bauck to keep more than a thousand dogs.  And while officials at USDA have stated that they’ll keep tabs on her operation to make sure her dogs are adequately cared for, they can’t stop her from selling puppies online.

The Animal Welfare Act was passed in 1966 – before the Internet existed. At that time, legislators assumed that exempting breeders who only engaged in direct sales from the Act would allow them to focus on the large scale operations that bred dogs for profit. The idea made sense at the time, but the growing popularity of the Internet has created a loophole that now allows large scale breeding operations to avoid licensing and inspections.

Unfortunately the problem will probably get worse before it gets better. Internet retailers don’t just avoid the need to adhere to minimum care standards, they also get to increase profits by cutting out he middleman (pet shops) and selling their product directly to consumers. And it’s not a uniquely American problem.

Now before I get inundated by hate mail from the millions of breeders who sell puppies on the internet – I want to point out that not all breeders who sell on the Internet are money-grubbing, animal-abusing, mass-producers of misery. The Internet has become such a ubiquitous part of our lives, that most breeders have websites. So consumers need to educate themselves on how to tell the difference between a conscientious breeder and a retailer.

Here are some things to look out for:

A website where the focus is on things like shipping puppies, accepting credit cards and taking down payments is a site that’s probably owned by someone who’s more interested in improving their bottom line than their bloodline. Avoid this retailer.

A breeder whose emphasis is on rare or exotic sizes or colors of a breed – or worse yet – multiple breeds, is focusing primarily on producing size and color. This is not the way to create healthy, well-socialized puppies. Avoid this retailer.

Google the breeder’s phone number. If they’re selling several different breeds (or worse yet, hybrids*) of dogs and/or have lots of ads on the Internet, this is a big red flag. Good breeders typically don’t need a lot of help selling their puppies. In fact, they often have waiting lists. And since it’s extremely difficult to produce well-bred, well-socialized puppies of more than one breed, nearly all good breeders put their valuable time and effort into a single breed.

Avoid breeders who use registries that cater to high-volume breeders and producers of trendy hybrid dogs** – but remember that a pedigree isn’t a guarantee. AKC papers and “champion bloodlines” are no guarantee of quality.

Avoid a breeder that promises you that he has never produced a puppy with any kind of health problem because he’s either a liar or not following up on the health of the puppies he produces. Dogs, like people, are not born perfect. Some degree of inherited health problems is inevitable in any population of animals. A good breeder is aware of the limitations of his dogs and breeds with them in mind.

If you want a happy, healthy puppy you should look for:

A breeder that invites you to visit her home. If the breeder insists on shipping you a puppy sight-unseen or on meeting you at a different location – she’s got something to hide. Good breeders are proud of their dogs and their dirty houses.

A breeder who involved with, or at least a member of, their breed club. The breed club, whether an AKC parent club or breed-specific registry, is a valuable network to share health information and find new breeding stock. A good breeder takes advantage of those benefits.

A breeder that does appropriate health screening tests and publishes the results of those tests – even when they fail. Breed clubs publish lists of recommended health screening tests on their websites. If the club or registry that your breeder is a member of doesn’t recommend any of these tests – go elsewhere. If the breeder isn’t doing recommended testing – don’t accept his excuses. Go elsewhere.

A breeder who produces working dogs, and can prove it. It’s easy to say you breed dogs who become service dogs, search and rescue dogs, stock dogs, agility dogs or obedience champions. The person whose puppies really go on to achieve these things will be happy to put you in touch with the people who bought them. Don’t fall for vague assurances or photos of working dogs. Remember – it’s easy to lie on the Internet.

Internet sales are a growing problem and I’m not sure how it should be solved. Most of the proposed dog breeding legislation I’ve seen was poorly written. These laws typically use the number of dogs a person keeps or sells as a trigger to require a set of strict specifications for husbandry. One problem with this is that dog breeds vary so much that standards that are appropriate for one breed can be wildly inappropriate for another (think malamutes and xoloitzcuintli).

Another problem is that, even when the trigger is a number that represents just a couple of litters a year, standards are typically written for puppies raised in a kennel environment. Nearly all the good breeders I know raise puppies in their houses. Houses that, understandably, don’t meet commercial kennel requirements. So, unless you’re willing to live in a concrete and steel building with floor drains – raising a litter in your kitchen could become a thing of the past.

Some of these problems arise because most of this legislation is promoted by animal rights groups. Groups that not only don’t understand dog breeding but who also – in some cases – want to end all dog breeding. It makes no sense to let people who want to end a business to legislate it, but – given the problems that exist in commercial breeding and internet pet sales – if breeders, registries, and kennel clubs don’t step up to the plate soon to offer better alternatives we may as well resign ourselves to putting up with what they propose.

* I don’t believe that all breeders of hybrid, or purposefully mixed breed, dogs are evil. There are good reasons to cross-breed or out-cross dogs; but unfortunately the people who are doing this well and conscientiously appear to represent less than 1% of the people actually doing it. If the breeder promises you that the hybrid you’re buying inherits only the best and most wonderful qualities of both the parent breeds – run, don’t walk – away. If the breeder isn’t doing health screening tests on his purebred stock, he’s capitalizing on a trend, not breeding healthy puppies. If he produces more than one kind of hybrid – he’s running a commercial operation. Don’t support it.

** These include, but are not limited to, America’s Pet Registry, Inc. (APRI), Continental Kennel Club (CKC), American Canine Association (ACA), America’s Pet Registry (APR), Animal Registry Unlimited (ARU), Dog Registry of America (DRA), Canine Registration and Certification Services (CRCS), Federation of International Canines (FIC), The International Progressive Dog Breeders’ Alliance (IPDBA), National Kennel Club (NKC), North American Purebred Dog Registry (NAPDR), United All Breed Regsitry (UABR), Universal Kennel Club International (UKCI), World Kennel Club International (WKC) and World Wide Kennel Club (WWKC).

January 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm 12 comments

Safety FAIL

The Pet Emergency Evacuation Jacket may be the most ridiculous safety-related gadget I’ve seen. Some genius decided that a combination pet coat and emergency kit was a brilliant idea because, of course – the smartest thing you can possibly do in a flood, fire, tornado or earthquake is grab a panicked animal and bundle it into a bulky, space age strait jacket.

Made from a nifty silver fabric that’s touted as “the same material used by Japan’s world-class firefighters”, the jacket has in integrated leash and carry handle. It’s packed with a muzzle, food bowl, poop bags, a radio, water bags, energy bars, aromatherapy oils and a stylish rain hat and booties. You’ll have to supply your own personal flotation device, parachute and GPS unit. Canine and feline versions are available.

A real bargain at $503 (with shipping).

January 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm 5 comments

Hunte Corp Fined for Chemical Violation

Apparently profits in mass-produced maltipoos and cockadoodles aren’t what they used to be.  According to an EPA administrative consent agreement Hunte willfully acted in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Hunte Kennel Systems and Animal Care will pay nearly $57,000 in fines for putting livestock pesticides in bottles and relabeling mislabeling it to sell as a discontinued flea and tick treatment for dogs.

Prolate/Lintox-HD is used to control flies, mites, mange and ticks on livestock but is not for use on household pets.  Paramite was used to control fleas and ticks on dogs. It was voluntarily taken off the market in 2005 after the Environmental Protection Agency determined its active ingredient was potentially dangerous to animal handlers, groomers and young children, said EPA spokesman Chris Whitley.

Paramite and prolate both contain the same active ingredient, the organophosphate insecticide phosmet.  Organophosphates kill insects by disrupting activity in their brains and nervous systems.  These neurotoxins can also inflict nasty adverse effects on mammals (like humans) – hence their early use as chemical warfare agents.

Toxic or not – what’s the problem if prolate and paramite both have the same active ingredient?  Well… pet products containing phosmet were voluntarily taken off the market back in 2005 after the EPA found they posed an unacceptable risk of dermal toxicity to people who came in contact with treated animals.

Since most of us don’t snuggle or sleep with our pigs and cattle, EPA apparently determined that human dermal toxicity wasn’t an issue in treating livestock, so organophosphates can still legally be used to control fleas, lice and mange on them.

For some reason, the Post-Dispatch seems to think that the mislabeling of the product is the key issue in Hunte’s case.  I think there’s more to it than that, and I can’t help but wonder how many Hunte dogs and puppies were treated with the product.  While it’s currently illegal to produce paramite — it’s not illegal to sell or use it.  I found several places on the web that note that remaining inventories of the product can legally be sold until supplies run out and apparently some veterinarians  still use stockpiled phosmet/paramite to treat severe mite infestations in dogs.

It looks like Hunte found a cheap way to treat their puppies products for fleas and ticks and decided to make a few extra bucks on the side while they were at it.  While they’ve been forced to stop selling illegally relabeled phosmet-containing products to others – the $57,000-dollar question is whether they’ve quit using it to treat their own animals…

The phosmet molecule

December 22, 2009 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

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