Archive for January 2012

FDA Cautions Dog Owners

Questions continue to be raised over the safety of chicken jerky products that are marketed as chicken tenders, strips or treats for dogs in the US.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued cautionary warnings to consumers in September of 2007, 2008, and again in November of 2011.  After seeing the initial number of complaints decrease in 2009 and 2010, the FDA is receiving complaints levels again, prompting a re-release of earlier warnings.

Year                                       Cases Reported

2006                                                       6

2007                                                    156

2008                                                       41

2010                                                       54

2011                                                       70

If you have been feeding these treats to your dog, you should watch closely for the following clinical signs:  decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption and/or increased urination.   If you see any of these signs in your pet, stop feeding the treats immediately and contact your veterinarian if the clinical signs persist for more than 24 hours.

The FDA continues to actively investigate the problem and its origin. To date, with extensive chemical and microbial testing, food scientists have been unable to determine the exact cause of illness.  The FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (VLRN) and several animal health diagnostic laboratories are working towards a direct association of the illness and the consumption of the treats thought to be manufactured in China.

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Let A Pet Help With A New Year’s Resolution

They might not understand the aerobics instructions and they can’t use free weights, but it’s possible that our pets may be just as valuable as expensive exercise machines in helping us humans lose weight.

A twelve month study recently completed has shown that exercising with your dog has several positive benefits for both owner and pets.  The People and Pets Exercising Together (PPET) study showed people who are trying to lose weight often need a positive support system of friends, co-workers and relatives.  Unfortunately, these same people can negatively affect an individual’s exercise plan by sabotage and even negative influences.  Exercising with your pet however, brings unique encouragement and fun not seen in other programs.

An owner who desires to lose weight can count on consistent prompting from their canine buddy to exercise.  The need for the dog to go outside is a positive influence, encouraging activity.  Most owners see their daily walks with the pet as enjoyable and less like exercise.  A separate Canadian study showed that dog owners actually averaged 300 minutes per week walking compared to 168 minutes for people without dogs.

Beyond the prompting to exercise, our pets also affect our desire to succeed because of parental pride.  Most pet owners consider their dogs and cats to be members of the family and when the pet loses weight as well, you can see the delight in the owner’s eyes.

But, before you rush out to buy a track suit for your four-legged buddy, there are a few considerations to make sure everyone stays healthy and safe.

First, just like you, your pet may not be ready for the Mini-Marathon.  Increase the amount of time spent walking gradually.  For some very obese dogs, you might begin with simply walking to the end of the block, then gradually working up to longer distances.

It’s also important to realize that your pet will be very excited and not know to take it easy.  Every spring, veterinarians see dogs with ruptured cruciate ligaments, painful hips, and other injuries because of over-exertion.  Learn your pet’s limits and help him build strength and stamina.  Even if your pet is not overweight, strenuous exercise can debilitate any pet not used to the routine

Not all pets are equally suited to the same workout routine.  Although all dogs will benefit from daily walks, many breeds won’t make good running partners.  Be sure to tailor your exercise plan to your dog’s physical and athletic abilities.

Cats should not be left out of these activities either.  Spending 20-30 minutes doing play activities with your kitty can help her lose weight as well.  Cat experts recommend using laser pointers to increase activity or even wearing a long “tail” while you do your housework.  As you move through your home, the cat can actively “hunt” and pounce on the tail.  Other suggestions include allowing the cat to search/hunt for her food by placing multiple bowls around the house in high and low places.

Don’t forget the appropriate diet!  For overweight pets, a light diet or even a prescription reducing diet from your veterinarian might be appropriate.  But, if your canine athlete is already in peak condition, he may actually need a performance diet to help him meet his caloric needs as you increase his exercise regimen.

Be sure to get your pet a good physical exam before starting any weight loss or exercise program.  Your veterinarian can help you find the right rate of weight loss for your pet and will have additional ideas on exercise routines and proper diets.

Cultural changes have led to a significant increase in obesity among both humans and pets.  Although the study was small, the PPET study effectively showed that our pets can be supportive exercise partners.  This teamwork helped both pets and people lose weight and cemented yet another layer into the human-animal bond.

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Care for Pets When Owners Are Gone

Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University

Mac is a typical rambunctious pup that stole the heart of Eleanor Schmidt.  His long flowing black and tan hair across his lean Dachshund body reminded her of a dog she had more than 70 years prior.  Eleanor knew she was taking a risk that Mac might outlive her, but his big brown eyes and puppy antics quickly dismissed her concerns about age.  Thankfully, Eleanor was proactive and made arrangements for the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center to care for Mac in the event she couldn’t.

Pets provide a great deal of affection and companionship for many families, including a large number of senior citizens.  With families and relatives spread out across the country, the loyal dog or affectionate cat often becomes a best friend for many older people.  But, some individuals avoid keeping any sort of pet over real concerns of what to do if they can no longer care for the animal.

The Stevenson Companion Animal Life Care Center (“The Center”) was started to help give people peace of mind that someone will be providing for the physical, emotional and medical needs of their pet.  In many cases, when an owner can no longer provide care for a dog or cat, the animal is placed with a family member who may not have the means (or the desire) to continue providing the needed attention.   In other situations, the pets end up in rescues or shelters, where, despite the best of intentions, adjusting to the new circumstances might be difficult.

As a resident of the Stevenson Center, Mac lives with about 35 other dogs and cats in spacious surroundings, including 5 outdoor yards where he can play.  All of the animals are allowed to interact with each other, but also have their own private areas during quiet times.   The feline residents are allowed to interact at their discretion, but dogs are kept out of the “cat only” rooms!

The Center began at the suggestion of Dr. E.W. Ellet, a former head of the Small Animal Clinic at Texas A&M University.  Funded by generous donations from the Luse Foundation and Ms. Madlin Stevenson, the Center was able to open its door in 1993 and has the capability of housing about 60 dogs, cats and even birds.   In a separate area, a barn completed in 2003 houses “Rusty”, a llama originally owned by Ms. Stevenson.  Rusty arrived at the center with 4 cats, 7 dogs and a pony in 2000, the year Ms. Stevenson passed away.

None of the residents of the Stevenson Center will ever lack for medical care or personal attention.  All of the pets are seen by veterinarians at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and students of the college actually live at the center to provide 24 hour company to these wonderful animals.  From grooming to play time to special diets, each pet receives the perfect amount of attention to insure his or her comfort.

Pet owners who wish to enroll their pets at the center must first pay an enrollment fee of $1,000 to secure a place in the home.  Then, depending on the age of the owner, a minimum endowment ranging from $50,000 to more than $200,000 for some large animals must be provided through a trust, will or even paid in full up front.

Some people might question the seemingly high costs, but considering that the pets will have life-long care and the bequests allow the Center to function as a privately funded operation, to many loving pet owners, the peace of mind is priceless.  Already, almost 400 animals are waiting for future enrollment at this marvelous facility.

Thinking about what will happen to your pets if you are no longer able to provide for their needs is not an easy thing to do.   But, by being proactive, you can insure that your wishes for your pet’s care will be followed.  Although the Stevenson Center is unique, there are plans for other similar facilities in the works across the country.

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