Posts filed under ‘safety’

Baking Day

Next time you think about leaving your dog in the car on a hot day consider this:

While baking cookies in your car on a hat day may be cool in a weirdly nerdy sort of way, doing the same thing to your dog is not.

"Is she done yet?"

July 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm 5 comments

Glock or Flexi – which would you rather carry?

nifty dog shirt via zazzle

You may be surprised to discover which is more likely to send you to the hospital…

Today’s post was inspired by a thought-provoking comment on FaceBook from Sarah Wilson who posted that:

Flexi lead has more, longer and more severe warnings for their product than say Glock by an extremely large margin.

This presented such a spectacularly delicious opportunity to pick on my least favorite dog training tool that I figured it couldn’t possibly be true. So I looked both documents up, and by golly she’s right. The Flexi lead’s product safety warning is over 1,400 words long. Glock’s is less than 250.

I understand that the number of words (or scary pictures) published in a product safety warning isn’t necessarily a fair indication of how dangerous an item is, but since is it’s no secret that I hate the ubiquitous retractable leash I decided to do a little research on accident statistics to see if I could turn up anything interesting.

The results of my search were absolutely jaw-dropping.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) 16,564 injuries associated with leashes required hospital treatment in 2007.

While CPSC doesn’t break the leashes involved down by type, based on a couple of decades spent obsessively watching people walk their dogs in all kinds of situations I very strongly suspect that the lion’s share of these injuries were caused by retractable leashes like the Flexi lead. And data provided by Consumer Reports appears to support my suspicion.

According to Consumer Reports:

The most common injuries reported were burns and cuts, usually sustained when the cord came in contact with skin as it rapidly paid out from the handle of a leash. Others occurred when the cord got wrapped around part of the owner or the dog.

The kinds of injuries described by Consumer Reports can only occur with retractable leashes like the Flexi lead. A good old-fashioned six foot long leather lead does not ‘pay out’ from a handle. It won’t give you rope burn and it doesn’t cut your hand when you  grab it. The kind of leather leads favored by obedience competitors and skilled dog trainers are not likely to hurt you in day to day use. The same obviously cannot be said for retractable leads.

But how dangerous is a Glock?

The Center for Disease Control’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) is an interactive database that allows the public to create customized reports of injury-related data. Because I think it is probably safe to assume that only a vanishingly small number of leash injuries are intentionally inflicted (and a quick google news search for garrotings committed with leashes turned up absolutely no results) I decided it would be most accurate to compare leash injuries to unintentional firearm injuries. Running the numbers I discovered that in 2007  15,698 Americans received unintentional non-fatal firearm injuries.

So there you have it. While no one is likely to actually murder you with a Flexi lead, based on 2007 data compiled by the Center for Disease Control – you are more likely to be seriously injured by a leash than by the unintentional discharge of a firearm.

Think about that for a minute.

A tool that millions of pet owners use every single day is as likely be involved in an accident that sends you to the hospital as a gun is.

To take this a step farther, let’s consider how many more unintentional nonfatal injuries might have been caused by Flexi leads than Glocks in 2007.

FlexiUSA reports an annual revenue of about $3,900,000. Leads typically sell for $15-20 each so let’s be conservative and divide that number by $10. That means that approximately 390,000 Flexi leads are sold in the US each year. We’ll assume that each lead lasts an average of five years putting approximately 1,950,000 Flexi leads in American hands.

According to Glock 2,500,000 Glock pistols have been sold in more than 100 countries over the last 20 years. The Small Arms Survey published by Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva states that civilians own approximately 650 million firearms worldwide and Americans own some 270 million of them. So if Americans own, on average, 41.5% of all firearms let’s just assume that they also own 41.5% of all brands putting approximately 1,040,000 Glocks in American hands. If accidental gun injury statistics are consistent with brand that would mean that only 6,515 Americans were injured by the accidental discharge of Glock firearms in 2007.

So according to my estimate in 2007: 1,950,000 Flexi leads sent 16,564 people to the hospital (or about 0.85% of all users); and the accidental discharge of 1,040,000 Glocks sent 6,515 people to the hospital (about 0.6% of all users). This means that you are about 50% more likely to be seriously injured by a Flexi lead than an accident involving a Glock!

Of course it’s patently ridiculous to say that a Glock is inherently less dangerous than a Flexi lead. The real problem is that a frightening number of Americans have convinced themselves that mindlessly holding onto a plastic handle attached to a dangerously convenient retractable cord is a perfectly acceptable alternative for mindful dog training.

And thus we end up with a disturbing number of people who are the Flexi lead holding equivalent of this on the street:

To paraphrase Plaxico “If you see a Flexi lead you leave that motha fucka alone! You go get a dog trainer, you go get some training…”

July 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm 35 comments

No bells in wolf poop?

The field hunting dog training season has started and Wisconsin DNR is publicizing their online resources on wolf depredation on dogs. Now that more than 300 wolves currently live in Wisconsin and about 3,000 live here in Minnesota it’s become an issue responsible dog owners need to keep in mind.

Nine dogs have been reported as killed by wolves in Wisconsin so far this year. Just five such events occurred during the same time frame last year and only one dog was killed in the first six months of 2008. Events occurred in rural areas scattered across the northern part of the state and a different pack is believed to have been responsible for each incident.

DNR reports that hounds used to hunt coyotes, bear, bobcats, and raccoons run the greatest risk of being attacked because they range far from their owners. Some also believe that the hounds’ baying attracts (or annoys) wolves. Most depredation reportedly occurs in the summer rendezvous period that runs from July through September. The 2008 and 2009 data corroborate this.

Keep your hunting dog safe by avoiding wolf dens and rendezvous sites, staying close to your dogs and belling them, (only one belled dog is known to have been attacked by wolves). You can track depredation activity by subscribing to Wisconsin DNR’s wolf depredation email alerts here.

The DNR’s Guide for Reducing Conflicts Between Wolves and Hunting Dogs is also available on line.  The guide includes helpful information on how to avoid conflicts, identify wolf sign and report incidents.

It’s great that wolf populations are increasing but more wolves means more potential encounters between wolves and civilization. Husband and I spend a lot of time hiking in the woods of the upper Midwest and we’ve had one wolf encounter. We were hiking near the Black River on the south shore of Lake Superior with three off leash dogs when we came across a lone wolf. As soon as they saw the wolf (and they saw it before we did) our Leonbergers quietly and calmly stepped in between the wolf and I. They didn’t bark, run or lunge. They simply stood at alert and blocked the wolf (who was about 75 feet away) until it disappeared.

I took this picture just minutes before we saw the wolf

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

  • Let your pets sleep inside unless they’re protected by a sturdy enclosure .
  • Don’t put out food for deer or other wildlife near your home.
  • 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 a solid recall. If your dog has good obedience skills it is still important to keep in him sight.

As I’ve written here before it’s also important to avoid and properly manage gut piles.

July 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm 1 comment

EPA Takes a Closer Look at Flea and Tick Treatments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced it will increase restrictions on topically flea and tick products because they recently documented “a significant increase” in the number of cats and dogs suffering adverse reactions to these products. Dermal, gastrointestinal and neurological effects were the reactions most commonly reported.

Over the last five years, the deaths of at least 1,600 pets related to topical flea and tick treatments were reported to the EPA. Because this was a dramatic increase in such events, the EPA recently conducted an intensive review of these products.

The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) collaborated with EPA. The combined group studied incidents involving cats and dogs, looked at active and inert ingredients and evaluated product labeling. Data was collected from the manufacturers (or registrants) and other available sources.

The evaluation was somewhat problematic because each company collected different data on adverse reactions and information reported by pet owners was sometimes inconsistent. Incidents that weren’t included in the EPA’s evaluation were those from products without EPA registration numbers (I assume these are herbal products, but I’m not sure about this); those from other countries; reports that were considered to be  ambiguous; those that involved other pesticides or drugs (because the reaction couldn’t be definitively tied to the product); and incidents that involved multiple animals (because many of these included ambiguous data).

EPA stated that their evaluation indicated that additional restrictions should be applied to these products, though they didn’t provide much information on what these restrictions might be and they didn’t state whether restrictions will apply to over-the-counter products, prescription products or both.

They reported that small breed dogs were affected more often than medium and large breed dogs. This effect was especially pronounced in products containing cyphenothrin (the active ingredient in TriForce, Sentry Pro and Sargeants Gold) and permethrin (the active ingredient in K9 Advantix, Bio-Spot On and Vectra3D ).

They noted that thinner skin and a larger skin area to body volume in small dogs may be a factor in these reactions. However, EPA also stated that dosage ranges for many products appear to be too broadly defined on the lower end of the scale. They noted that pet owners who overestimate their dog’s weight and subsequently overdose their dogs may also be a factor. Attempts to save money by purchasing large doses to split between small dogs were believed to cause some problems as well. EPA emphasized the importance of following the manufacturer’s directions carefully, as misapplication may have been related to many incidents.

I was frustrated to see that while the EPA stated that they believe that the “inert” ingredients in these products are an important factor in adverse reactions – they aren’t discussed in the report because most of them are proprietary ingredients.

It was also disappointing to see that the EPA stated that the data currently required to assess the safety of these products don’t provide an adequate picture of the potential risks they pose to pets and pet owners. Apparently we should be a bit more cynical about the trust we put in the agency to protect us from chemical hazards.

Because most reactions occurred in dogs that were less than three years old, EPA encouraged pet owners to monitor their pets carefully for adverse reactions the first time a product is used. This is likely a factor, but I wonder if the fact that there are more young than old dogs and the strong possibility that young dogs are more often out in places where they’re exposed to pests and are therefore get treated more often, may be important too.

EPA notes that “a comparison of the absolute numbers of incidents among the different spot-on products in this report are not appropriate.” Ironically, they do not provide information on the number of incidents for each product – so I guess we just won’t worry about that (after all, we don’t want to stress out manufacturers). Problems in direct comparison include the fact that some products are used more frequently than others; some products have different market niches (which may affect usage and reporting); the relative ease of product use may affect incidents; data were collected and recorded by different entities; negative publicity about a product can have an effect on reporting; and as noted above, some incidents were not evaluated. While these are valid points I think that the consumer’s right to see this data outweighs the potential harm to manufacturers and vendors.

I couldn’t review the data but EPA noted that deaths and adverse incidents were reported for all the products included in the study.

In the end, the EPA recommended that pet owners get a veterinarian’s advice before using any product — especially if you are treating a weak, geriatric, sick, pregnant or nursing pet; a pet that is on prescription medication; or a pet that has previously had  a reaction to similar products.

The agency is inviting public comment on how to implement new measures to safeguard our pets from these products. A Federal Register notice announcing the opening of a docket was published on March 19, 2010. The docket number is EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0229. Go here to comment.

Tips for safe use of topical flea and tick treatments

Weigh your pet before applying any treatment. Especially if you have a small dog. Overdosing is preventable!

Keep records of the products you use and the dates you treat your pet. This helps prevent over-dosing and can also be helpful information to your vet (and the reporting agency) in the event of an adverse reaction.

Read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Pay attention to prohibitions against using a product on weak, elderly, sick, pregnant, or nursing pets. Follow all age restrictions. Only use a product on the species it is listed for (i.e. don’t put a product made for dogs on your cat and vice-versa).

Don’t put a product on your pet right before you leave for work or at bedtime – especially if this is the first time you’ve used this product on your pet or if the pet has had adverse reactions to products before. Keep an eye on your pet for a few hours so you can catch an adverse reaction quickly if it happens.

Keep the package the product came in. Don’t throw it out after you use it. Lot numbers and other product data are vital information if your pet has an adverse reaction.

Consult your veterinarian before using any product on a weak, elderly, sick, pregnant, or nursing pet; on a pet that has had adverse reactions to flea and tick products; or a pet that is on a prescription medication.

If your pet has an adverse reaction – call your vet immediately. If your regular clinic is closed, call an emergency clinic or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. Have the product information ready and keep your pet in a quiet area where you can watch him.

Reporting adverse reactions

EPA recommends that veterinarians use the National Pesticide Information Center’s Veterinary Pesticide Adverse Effects Reporting portal to report incidents. This page is ONLY accessible by vet clinic staff. Please encourage your vet to use this service.

You can report adverse reactions to the company that manufactured the product. When you do, they are required to report it to the EPA. You should be able to find contact information on the product package.

You can also report adverse reactions to the EPA via their “ask a question” page. To do this go to the Pesticides Frequent Questions Web page and select “flea and tick” in the drop-down box. Then click on the “ask a question” tab and use the fields there to submit information on the product and reaction instead of asking a question.

March 24, 2010 at 10:00 pm 5 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

Being Prepared

A year ago I blogged on how to create your own pet first aid kit. Since then I’ve had requests to provide details on my own kit. We’ve got a pack of healthy medium-sized dogs here now so I decided that our pack is average enough that details on my kit may be helpful to others.

A toiletry bag is a cheap, easy way to pack a lot of small things up in a clean, organized way. Frantically searching through a big, open bag when you’re in a panic is a great way to make a bad situation worse. Look for a bag that closes up securely and has lots of pockets.

There are a lot of things in this kit. I usually keep it in the house and take it with me when I go on a road trip. It’s not the kind of kit you’d take on a short hike.  Supplies in the kit are used for dogs and people. Since the dogs aren’t mucking around in the kit themselves, it stays clean. To help keep it that way, things that need to be sterile are kept in sealed containers and small items are kept in pockets or zip-loc bags.

A – Baby wipes
B – Vet Wrap
C – Ace Bandage
D – Gold Bond Powder
E – Flashlight

I keep bulky items in this largish outer pocket. The flashlight, vet wrap and baby wipes get used fairly often so I like to keep them handy.

A – Graduated syringes (no needles)
B – Digital Thermometer
C – Tweezers
D – Hand Sanitizer
E – Emergency Phone Numbers
F – Pocket Knife
G – Emergency Flasher

There are several different pockets, slots and daisy chains on the inside of the kit.  I put things that are odd-sized or used more often in this outer area. The graduated syringes are nice for irrigating wounds, ears and eyes. They’re also handy for giving oral medications. I’ve labeled the thermometer “anal” on the case and on both sides of the thermometer itself. This is one item we don’t share with the dogs.

We carry emergency phone numbers (regular vet, emergency vet, regular doctor, and an emergency vet in the area where we’ll be staying) in the kit. This information needs to be in a place where you can find it even when you’re in a panic. We also carry inoculation records and a hard copy photo of each dog in a thin side pocket of the kit. If your dog gets lost on the road, you want to be prepared to make lost and found posters right away.

Photos of the kit’s contents are labeled to identify the contents. Click on any photo to see it bigger and in high-resolution. 

A – Bulb Irrigator
B – EMT Gel
C – Benadryl
D – Betadine
F – Cardboard Matches
G – Safety Pins
H – Spare Leashes
E – Latex Gloves

EMT Gel is not the same thing as superglue. Super glue is the trade name for a type of cyanoacrylate adhesive. EMT Gel contains collagen proteins that aid clotting, seal nerve endings and provide a moist, semi-occlusive barrier that protects wounds.

Benadryl is handy for allergic reactions, motion sickness and as a mild tranquilizer. Check with your vet before uisng it if your dog is on prescription medications.  Betadine is a topical antiseptic.

The cardboard matches can be used as suppositories. The leashes can be used to hold extra dogs, open a body-gripping trap or muzzle a large dog.

A – Eye Wash (boric acid)
B – Adhesive Tape
C – Instant Cold Pack
D – Sterile Gauze Pads
E – Styptic
F – Sterile Gauze Rolls
G – Hand Sanitizer
H – Alum
I – Sterile Compress
J – Pocket Knife

This side of the kit contains a mix of generic bandaging and blood control supplies. Alum and styptic are two different versions of the same thing. They’re used to stop minor bleeding. I took the alum out because I decided I’d rather use the space it took up for other things.

A – Tegaderm
B – Smelling Salts
C – Large Bandaid
D – Sting Kill Wipes
E – Antiseptic Wipes
F – Misc. Bandaids
G – Candied Ginger
H – Nitrile Gloves
I – Zymox Ear Drops
J – Burn Gel
K – Imodium
L – Electrolyte

Miscellaneous small items are stored in ziploc bags to keep them clean and organized. There are different types of small bandages and some burn gel here. Ginger can help mild car sickness. The imodium is another thing I’m taking out. I’ll replace it with kaolin-pectin because it’s cheaper and safer. Tegaderm is a breathable, conformable dressing that sticks to a wound. It’s impregnated with an antimicrobial silver compound.

After going through the kit (something I recommend you do at least once a year) I decided to take a few things out as noted above. I also decided to add a some things. The kit now includes 200 ml nalgene bottles of dilute hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting) and kaolin-pectin; and a pouch of Celox. I put the tick scoop back into the outer pocket and added a pair of metal tweezers. I carry a home-made sling with the kit and a CPR face shield on my key chain.

See my previous post for information on how to make your own kit.

January 9, 2010 at 11:27 pm 11 comments

Running With Scissors

This week local newspapers carried the latest in a string of stories about dogs killed by body-gripping or conibear-type traps.

Body gripping traps are designed to prevent game from escaping and to kill animals quickly.  Bait lures game to the trap and a wire trigger springs it closed.  The trap crushes the neck or body of the animal and kills it quickly by suffocation or fracturing the vertebra.  This is a good thing when your goal is to kill wildlife humanely.  It is a very bad thing when a beloved pet takes the bait.

Because they’re often set on public lands and baited with the kinds of things that dogs find attractive, conibear traps are a potential danger to any dog running at large.

Sixteen years ago one of my dogs lost his life in a conibear trap.  It was a horrible experience.  A beautiful dog died in my arms because I didn’t know how to save him, so I’m going to tell you how to protect your dog:

  • Don’t turn your dog out and let him run loose.  He doesn’t need that kind of freedom and a free-ranging dog that gets caught in a trap is a dead dog.
  • Learn how to open a trap and carry the equipment you need to do it (two light leashes or strong boot strings) with you every time you go into the field with your dog.
  • If your yard isn’t securely fenced and you live in an area where you may have neighbors that trap, talk to them about trapping.  If there is any chance traps are set near your property, walk with your dog any time he’s off leash during trapping season.  Keep your dog in sight and out of ditches, brushy areas and tall grass on adjacent properties.
  • Since (at least in Minnesota) trapping seasons cover about nine months of the year, if you hike or hunt with your dog it is almost impossible to avoid the woods and fields when traps can be set.  So when you’re out with your dog, make sure you know where he is.  Keep him in sight or use bells, a beeper or GPS to keep track of his location.  Then, if he is trapped, you may be able to release him in time to save his life.
  • Don’t decide that your dog has to be on a leash or in a fenced yard for the rest of his life.  Your dog needs a chance to run loose and risk is a natural and important part of life.  Accept it responsibly.

I admit that for a while after Roy died I was terrified to let Roo run loose.  I imagined threats everywhere.  But the feisty red dog Roy left behind wasn’t about to be denied the freedom she loved – so before long, Roo and I were back on the trail.

I take my dogs for an off leash hike almost every day.  There are risks involved, but we’re ready for most of them.  I carry a small first aid kit with boot laces, tweezers and vetwrap (I don’t need much else on a short hike). My dogs are well trained – they come when they’re called, even when big distractions like deer, people and other dogs are around.  They’re all trained to stop and sit at a distance – a potential lifesaver if one of them accidentally ends up on the wrong side of a road or some fast water.  And while they are generally allowed to run where they want, I make them stay in sight.  Even when they’re not wearing them, I carry a leash for each dog, because I never know when I’ll need one.

I can’t eliminate all risks to my dogs and I can’t be prepared for everything — but I’m sure that the dogs agree that the joy we find in the free-ranging, off leash walks we take together are worth every bit of the risk we take.

December 29, 2009 at 4:02 am 9 comments

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