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The Ruff Report: A roundup of news about dogs Nov. 2 to 8, 2008

Nov. 2 to 8, 2008

A plea for help from hurricane-ravished Jamaica

An animal welfare organization in Jamaica is appealing for help as it continues to try to deal with the after-effects that Hurricane Gustav has inflicted on pets.

"After surviving our fifth hurricane in only four years (Gustav in August), we are seriously in need of help for ... the island's forgotten animals, and we are trying to get the word out so that the assistance we need can be found," Maureen Sheridan, an official of The Animal House in Jamaica, stated in an e-mail to Love of Dogs.

The Caribbean island took a direct hit from Gustav, leaving pets in many cases to have to fend for themselves.

The Animal Shelter, a nonprofit, non-government organization that operates a shelter in Lydford, St. Ann (just outside of Ocho Rios, was founded in the 1990s because of serious concerns about the plight of animals on the north coast of the island.

The facility is always filled to capacity, and the storms have caused even greater stress on pets and their caregivers, Sheridan states. "We have 150 animals in house at any given time, a number which is always swollen after big storms," she states. "We also care for several feral cat colonies and stray dogs that because of cruel abuse are too timid to be caught."

The Animal House has had good success in finding homes for many of the pets, including some in the United States, but the task of placing all of them is daunting, according to Sheridan. "We fill spaces with new arrivals as soon as adopted animals leave," she states.

The shelter also has another obstacle - attracting volunteers, Sheridan wrote. "Jamaican society is not one in which volunteering is encouraged," she explains. "We have been fortunate enough to have volunteers come from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. That has been a major blessing. ... Believe it or not we do not have one local volunteer."

Sheridan encourages people to consider taking a trip to the island and serving some time volunteering to help the needy pets.

The Animal House is also in need of donations and supplies of all kinds, Sheridan states. "We have had a really hard time given that we have gone through five hurricanes in only four years. All help is greatly appreciated. Our animals are so worth it," she states.

Visit or send an e-mail to for information about making monetary donations or sending supplies.

Lacerations and bites most common injuries

Fighting - either with each other or with wild animals - is the leading cause of injuries to pets.

Veterinary Pet Insurance of Brea, California, researched its claims in 2007 to determine the top 10 injuries and found that larcerations and bite wounds caused by fighting were the most common injuries. VPI received more than 11,000 claims for lacerations and bite wounds in 2007, about three times more than any other common wound.

"Lacerations and bite wounds frequently occur when a pet is simply defending his territory," Carol McConnell, chief veterinary medical officer for VPI, stated in a media release. "A pet who feels threatened will fight violently to defend an area or face down a perceived predator. To avoid costly altercations, pet owners should monitor pets closely, especially during interactions with other pets or potential exposure to wild animals."

Lacerations also can occur during amateur grooming attempts, or run-ins with sharp-edged objects like a wire fence or tree branch, the research found.

According to the research, the other most common wounds are: torn nails; insect bites and stings; abrasions; eye trauma; punctures; a foreign object in the skin; a foreign object in the ear; a foreign object in foot and snake bites.

Torn nails typically occur when a pet attempts to move quickly with a nail unknowingly stuck or caught in an object, the research found. Crocheted items and some carpets are particularly prone to catching pets’ nails.

Plant-based foreign objects also can cause wounds. The majority of these claims involve foxtails, burrs and other seed pods that attach to a pet’s fur. These burrowing grasses and weeds can penetrate deep into a pet’s skin and even become lodged in internal organs. The ears and paws are the most common entry points. Their migration into the body can leave a trail of infection that can be difficult for a veterinarian to locate and treat.

Snakebites, which are low in frequency, cost the most to treat, mostly due to the expensive antivenin and hospitalization necessary to treat severe bites. The average snakebite cost VPI policyholders $580 per claim in 2007. The average was $350 per claim for lacerations and bites.

"While there’s no way to eliminate all wound threats, pet owners can prevent some of the most common wounds by being aware of their pet’s surroundings, supervising their pet’s physical activity and regularly examining their pet’s body," McConnell said.

More pets being told 'eat your veggies'

Some 40 percent of pet parents in the United Kingdom feed their companions up to three portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

A report, done by insurer Liverpool Victoria, found that health concerns have led many owners to change their pets' diets and swap meat for vegetables and fruits. The most popular vegetables being given to pets are carrots, potatoes and peas. Just one in four of the UK's cats and dogs now eat a meat-only diet.

The study found:

  • 42 percent of pet owners who have increased the number of vegetables in their pets' diet say they have done so to improve the health of their animal.
  • 16 pecent say they simply follow government nutritional advice for humans, such as eating five portions of vegetable and fruit a day, and apply it to their pet.
  • 12 percent say a vegetarian diet costs less.

The study also found that 13 percent of pets are given vitamin or vegetable supplements daily.

"There are thousands of cats and dogs consuming vegetables in their diets without any problems," Emma Holyer, a spokeswoman for Liverpool Victoria stated in a media release.

Pet owners thinking of putting their pets on a vegetable only diet should check with their veterinarian, Holyer said. "Cats cannot survive on a vegetarian diet and will need specialist supplements, and although dogs can survive, a sudden change in diet is likely to cause problems. Animals are just like humans in that they need a mixture of minerals and vitamins to keep them healthy, and cutting out whole food groups, like protein, can seriously damage their health."

Pets are best medicine for sadness and stress

People who want a happier, less stressful lifestyle should consider getting a dog or cat.
That is the conclusion of a study done by

The survey found:

  • 90 percent have a pet for companionship.
  • 85 percent have a pet to get the endorphins flowing to make them feel happy.
  • 48 percent have a pet for health benefits such as stress reduction.
  • 44 percent have a pet for exercise benefits to get healthier and improve their lifestyle.
  • 13 percent own a dog solely for protection or to guard their property.

Pet parents also expressed their 10 worries. The survey found:

  • 93 percent are concerned about large veterinary bills.
  • 92 percent worry about losing their loyal companion because of illness or old age.
  • 84 percent are concerned about the cost of medicines.
  • 82 percent worry about being adequately insured.
  • 73 percent are concerned about their pet being stolen.
  • 72 percent worry about their pet having a healthy diet.
  • 67 percent are concerned about their pet maintaining a healthy coat.
  • 54 percent worry about their pet getting adequate exercise.
  • 53 percent are concerned about their pet being over or under weight.
  • 46 percent worry about the quality of boarding kennels.

The study found that kennels and catteries are falling victim to the hard economic times as only 18 percent of pet parents using them when they go away. Some 25 percent leave their pets with a relative and 27 percent with a friend or neighbor. Pet parents usually give the caretakers a gift or souvenir bought on their travels.

Holiday foods pose hazards for pets

Many holiday foods - like turkey bones, onions and chocolate - can be harmful, and even fatal, for pets.

The American Humane Society advises pet parents to be aware of the potentially deadly consequences of feeding "people" food to companion animals and suggests avoiding giving him table scraps.

Some foods that pose danger to pets include:

  • Rich, fatty foods like turkey skins or gravy, which can cause stomach upset, diarrhea or even pancreatitis, which can lead to hospitalization.
  • Bones, which can tear or obstruct a pet's intestinal tract. Poultry bones can be especially dangerous or even fatal to animals.
  • Strings used to tie the turkey during roasting, which can tie up your pet's insides, too, if he should swallow it.
  • Onions, which are are toxic and can destroy a dog's red blood cells, leading to anemia. Foods containing high amounts of onion powder should also be avoided.
  • Grapes and raisins, which contain toxins that can cause kidney failure.
  • Chocolate, especially baking chocolate, which can kill a dog. It affects the nervous system and causes urinary system and heart muscle damage.
  • Coffee, which is dangerous, so watch out for grounds and whole beans.
  • Nicotine, which is a stimulant that can increase the heart rate leading to collapse and death.

The American Humane Society advises feeding a pet before guests arrive, so it will be less likely to beg and steal food. Guests should be told not to feed the pet table scraps and not to smoke inside the home.

Demand grows for pet medications

Some 71 percent of the dog and cat owners in the United States use medications to treat their companions, and that number is expected to grow, according to research.

The study, commissioned by Pets International and conducted by Packaged Facts, found that pet medication use in the United States increased 7 percent annually from 2003 to 2007.
"The pet parent factor is at the core of pet owners’ willingness to spend ever greater amounts of money on pets, especially for health-oriented products and services," the reports states.

Globally, the animal health product market was worth $18.4 billion in 2007 compared with $13.9 billion in 2003, the study found. During this period, the global pet medication market has shifted toward the companion animal sector, which now accounts for 45 percent of sales. The report states that this will increase to 50 percent by 2012, putting it on an equal footing with the working animal market.

Texas community responds to shelter in need

When the Animal Services Department in Garland, Texas, put out a recent plea for help and food donations, no one could have ever predicted what would follow.

In less than three days, the Abe J. Tuggle Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, city's animal shelter, received more than $6,000 in donations and 15,000 pounds of dog and cat food, about a year’s supply of food, the animal shelter reports on its web site.

"We have literally run out of storage space at the shelter, Jason Chessher, Garland’s deputy director of health stated. "Garland’s citizens, local businesses, and others have given the shelter an overwhelming response to the request for help."

Garland officials plan to distribute the excess food to other animal shelters in the area.
The animal services department is encouraging citizens and business to delay making food donations for a few months, but the shelter still welcomes monetary donations.

"The need for animal food is continuous, monetary donations allow for food purchases as supplies run low," according to a statement on the animal services department web site. "Remember that all donations, including food, money, or other pet care items are always used exclusively for the care of animals."

Visit for more information.

North Carolina shelter losing its home

Some homeless pets staying at a North Carolina animal shelter are about to become homeless again.

The Pender County Humane Society has been told it must leave its temporary shelter by Dec. 31, but the organization's new shelter off Highway 53 in Burgaw will not be ready for occupancy until February, WECT-TV of Wilmington reports.

"Our building will not be ready by the end of the year," humane society president Gloria Johnson told the television station.

Volunteers are trying to find places to house the animals until the new shelter is ready.

The eviction stems from a dispute with veterinarian Cynthia Burnett who gave the shelter room on her property for several years. Burnett downplayed reports of a dispute, saying the agreement was for the humane society to leave by year-end. "That's the agreement we came to," she said.

Visit for more information about the Pender County Humane Society.

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