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The Ruff Report: News about dogs Dec. 7 to 13, 2008

VOLUME 1, PAGE 17
Dec. 7 to 13, 2008

Our dogs come first even in bad times

Americans would rather give up creature comforts like gourmet coffee, massages and cosmetic dental procedures than shortchange medical care for their dogs, according to a survey by the American Kennel Club.

"In general people are more dedicated to their dogs than ever before," AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson states in a media release. "No doubt dogs bring comfort and stress relief to many people during this difficult time."

Dog parents are dealing with hard economic times similar to the way they did during Hurricane Katrina, Peterson states. "With people facing great hardship, many remained so loyal to their pets that they were willing to risk their lives," she states. "Our survey demonstrates that they are also willing to forgo some of life's luxuries for the welfare of their pets."

Changes people are willing to make include:
  • Canceling their travel plans if they are unable to pay to board their dog, 67 percent.
  • Eating Ramen noodles regularly before skimping on their dog's high-quality food, 65 percent.
  • Perming or coloring their own hair in the kitchen sink to save money to keep their dog's appointment at the groomer, 59 percent.

Cutbacks people are willing to make for their dogs include:

  • Eating more meals at home, 97 percent.
  • Curbing spending on new clothes, 94 percent.
  • Delaying home remodeling, 89 percent.
  • Skipping buying a new car or buying a less expensive model, 88 percent.
  • Canceling a gym membership, 72 percent.
  • Canceling cable or satellite service, 50 percent.

Most dogs can also look forward to holiday gifts despite the hard economic times. The survey found 69 percent would cut back on gifts for their friends or extended family before they would skimp on presents for their dog, and 9 percent would even scale back on gifts for their spouse.

Danger for dogs is highest in winter

Dog parents are being warned to take measures to protect their companions with the approaching cold and snow of winter by the world’s largest dog training company.

"While it’s easy to think that dogs are immune to cold because of their fur, the fact is that more dogs perish in the winter than at any other time of the year," Liam Crowe, CEO of Bark Busters USA, states in a media release. "Frostbite, hypothermia and antifreeze poisoning present the biggest winter threats to dogs."

Many dogs spend less time outside because of bitter cold and snow, so owners should plan to do more inside activities to help their companions from getting lethargic or hyper, the Englewood, Colorado-based company recommends. The best way to keep a dog active or to use his excess energy is to make him think. Providing 10 to 15 minutes of training once or twice daily on basics such as sit, stay, come and walking on leash will energize a lethargic dog and cause the hyper dog to be more tired.

Bark Busters offers these winter safety tips:
  • Keep dogs inside when the temperature falls below 20 degrees; puppies, smaller dogs and older dogs should not be left outdoors when the temperature falls below 40 degrees.
  • Put a sweater on a short-haired dog when he goes outside, because he can become immediately chilled after leaving a warm house.
  • Older, arthritic dogs inside should not be left outside under any circumstances. Use a leash to escort older dogs outside for toileting to avoid falls and injuries.
  • Wipe your dog’s feet after a walk in the snow to remove ice and salt deposits from the road. Salt irritates a dog’s paws and can be toxic if ingested. Use only pet-safe ice melt.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and injury, especially on susceptible areas like ears, paws and tails. Initially, frostbitten tissue may appear pale or gray, and the area will be cold and hard to the touch. As the area thaws, it may become red and within days the tissue will start to appear black. If you suspect frostbite, bring your dog into a warm location and soak the affected area in lukewarm water for about 20 minutes and contact a veterinarian.
  • Watch for sign of hypothermia, which include shivering, lethargy, low heart rate and unresponsiveness. If you suspect hypothermia, bring the dog into a warm area, place a light blanket over him and call a veterinarian.
  • Make certain that all antifreeze containers are locked away and out of reach of dogs, and thoroughly clean any spills immediately. Dogs like the sweet taste of antifreeze, which can cause sickness or death if ingested.
  • Make certain that your companion's doghouse meets certain minimum criteria if he stays outside. A doghouse needs to be raised a couple of inches off the frozen ground or concrete; needs to have a floor blanket, cedar shavings or straw, which should be changed frequently to keep a dog warm and dry; and needs a flap on the door.
  • Use a plastic water bowl so a dog’s tongue does not get stuck to cold metal.
  • Alter the amount of food your dog gets depending on activity level. An active dog will burn more calories in the cold and needs about 10 percent more food. A less active, indoor dog needs less food.
Holidays pose special hazards for pets

Some simple precautions - like being careful with decorations and skipping table scraps - can help keep pets safe during the holiday season.

Pet Sitters International of King, North Carolina, which represents more than 8,000 independent professional pet-sitting businesses, says the most common emergencies during the holidays involve pets eating the wrong people food and ingesting human pharmaceuticals.

"Even in small doses, human medications can be potentially lethal to pets," Dr. Steve Hansen, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, states in a media release.

Many people keep their medications in daily pill reminders, in their luggage or even leave it out when staying with family or friends, making them easy targets for pets, Dr. Hansen states. "All prescription and non-prescription drugs should be safely stored."

Food is the second most common holiday pet emergency, according to Dr. Leon Robbins, a veterinarian at Grandview Animal Hospital near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "If there is food left over, don't give it to your pet as a holiday treat," he states. "Instead give baby carrots, green beans or broccoli as treats."

Be especially careful with chocolate, which can be fatal if ingested in high amounts; macadamia nuts, which can cause temporary weakness in back legs, and any food containing Xylitol, a sugar substitute that can make a dog's blood sugar drop quickly and cause liver damage.

Dr. Robbins advises owners to give pets their normal diet to avoid digestive problems.

Holiday trees and decorations also can pose dangers for pets, Dr. Robbins explained, because they are attracted to bright lights, shining ornaments and dangling tinsel. "Try to use big, pet-friendly ornaments and keep the ornaments, as well as the lights, out of a pet's reach," he said.

Canine chicken treats being recalled

Some chicken treats made by an Australian company are being recalled because of reports that some smaller dogs may have become ill after eating them.

Kramar Pet Company is voluntarily removing Supa Naturals Chicken Breast Strips from store shelves after receiving 15 complaints about dogs becoming ill with Fanconi-like Syndrome after eating the treats. The product, which is manufactured in China, has been on the market for 15 months.

"This precautionary measure has been taken despite the lack of scientific evidence because of our concerns for the welfare of dogs," KraMar’s CEO Bryan Fouche states in a media release. "KraMar regards the health and welfare of all dogs as paramount."

The recalled items have the product codes 85148 APN 9316457851487 and 85149 APN 9316457851494.

The KraMar Pet Company has tested every shipment for E-coli, salmonella and melamine and other toxins, and all tests have been clear, the company states. The manufacturing facility in China has been approved by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, symptoms of Fanconi Syndrome are: Decreased food consumption, although some dogs may continue to consume the treats to the exclusion of other foods; decreased activity or lethargy; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; and increased water consumption and urination.

In severe cases, blood tests may indicate kidney failure and glucose in the urine, the FDA states.

In September 2007, the FDA cautioned pet owners about a potential association between illness in dogs and chicken jerky products like chicken tenders, strips or treats. At that time, the FDA had received complaints involving 95 dogs that experienced illness that their owners associated with consumption of chicken jerky products.

The FDA has unable to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses and continues to investigate.

Visit
www.kramar.com.au or www.fda.gov for more information.

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