Archive of ‘Tips’ category

Leptospirosis

Recently we wrote about an unfortunate incident stemming from a disease called Leptospirosis. At the time we had never heard about, so we only highlighted the experience and decided to do a bit more research. What we found was alarming.

We expected to uncover that the bacteria commonly referred to as Lepto would only affect smaller animals with weaker immune systems. Instead we found that it is a zoonotic disease that can even affect livestock and people. (Thankfully, some animals such as cats have a natural immunity and rarely show signs)

It is even postulated as the cause of an epidemic among Native Americans along the coast of present-day Massachusetts that occurred immediately before the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620 and killed most of the native population. (1)

Today, Lepto is still commonplace in impoverished nations but is growing in ubiquity as tourism and travel increases. It is even estimated that ten million peoples are infected by leptospirosis annually and was recently brought to national attention when former Olympic gold rower, Andy Holmes, succumbed to the disease in 2010. (1)

The disease has many strains and can enter the body through contact with infected urine, bite, or the ingestion of infected tissue. The bacteria then rapidly multiplies, spreading to the kidneys, liver, spleen, nervous system, eyes, and genital tract (2).

Symptoms devlop 4 to 12 days after exposure. (3)

Each strain can cause different physical and mental symptoms including:

  • Sudden fever and illness
    Sore muscles, reluctance to move
    Stiffness in muscles, legs, stiff
    Shivering
    Weakness
    Depression
    Lack of appetite
    Increased thirst and urination, may be indicative of chronic renal (kidney) failure, progressing to inability to urinate
    Rapid dehydration
    Vomiting, possibly with blood
    Diarrhea – with or without blood in stool
    Bloody vaginal discharge
    Dark red speckled gums (petechiae)
    Yellow skin and/or whites of eyes – anemic symptoms
    Spontaneous cough
    Difficulty breathing, fast breathing, irregular pulse
    Runny nose
    Swelling of the mucous membrane
    Mild swelling of the lymph nodes
    (1)

If the damage to the kidneys or liver is not too severe, the animal will begin to recover in 7 or 8 days. (4)

Treatment consists of Penicillin, subcutaneous fluids, and Doxycycline are used to treat the initial infection, correct dehydration, and the long term states respectively. (4)

Unfortunately, asymptomatic sufferers can still spread the infection and may intermittently shed bacteria for months or years.
Even with treatment, mortality rates can be as high as 10 to 50%. (1)

If the disease worsens, it can cause kidney failure and bleeding. At this stage, it is often referred to as Weil’s disease, named after Adolf Weil a prominent German physician who lost his life to what was later revealed as a variation of Leptospirosis.

Vaccines are available, but usually only for one or two of the more common strains. Unfortunately, vaccination against one strain does not protect against the other strains and a positive diagnosis can only be made through a blood test. (4)

A Leptospiral vaccination for dogs offer about 6 to 8 months of protection but it can be very traumatic so puppies should wait months before vaccination.

Be cautious of crowded areas such as kennels as this is a common way for animals to contract the disease. The best way to prevent spread is to keep animals out of contact with potential sources of infection including contaminated water sources, wildlife reservoirs, or domestic animals that are infected or chronic carriers. (4)

Typically we are an upbeat group at ADinLOS, but seeing how severe and grim the circumstance, we felt due diligence to educate ourselves and pass on what we learned. Our next post will be a much lighter and upbeat post.
[1] “Leptospirosis”. Wikipedia.org. Retrieved 2015-05-07

[2] “Bacterial Infection (Leptospirosis) in Dogs”. PetMD.com. Retrieved 2015-05-07

[3] “Leptospirosis in Dogs” DogzHealth.com. Retrieved 2015-05-07

[4] “Leptospirosis in Dogs” PetEducation.com. Retrieved 2015-05-07

National Train Your Dog Month

Dog On Leash

As a child I always thought of dog training in a very simple and amusing manner; ask Molly to do a trick, give Molly a treat. Much to my mom’s chagrin I would repeat until Molly’s belly was upset. All I wanted to do was keep her happy.

Thankfully, Molly was very food motivated and we grew up on a quiet side street, never having to cross a busy street. Obviously, even though I attended puppy training, I never understood the need for proper dog training. Hopefully, my parents understood training’s true purpose.

In honor of National Train Your Dog Month, ADinLOS would like to share some important techniques, commands, and yes, even tricks.

The first thing every pet parents should understand is how important the relationship between pet and master. Despite what we may believe, dogs not only need order, they want order. Order begins with listening to a someone they respect. When we allow our pets to tell us what to do, the likely-hood that our pets will listen to us when it really matters lessens. This doesn’t mean we need to force our dogs into submission, rather we need to lead them by enforcing proper technique.

Many people focus on negative reinforcement to keep our dogs from doing what we don’t want rather than positive reinforcement to keep them doing what we do want. The reality is, we need a combination of the two.

Positive Technique 1 – Motivational :
Motivational Training involves the use of food and other valued treats. Typically, the treat, combined with verbal praise is used to entice the dogs into repeating positive behaviors. Eventually after enough repetition, dogs will repeat without the need for treats.
Positive Technique 2 – Koehler:
The Koehler Method focuses on a dogs desire to enact behaviors of choice. When a dog is rewarded, it’s learned experience becomes positive and more desirable then uncomfortable situations, therefore the likelyhood to repeat is increased.
Positive Technique 3 – Marker:
The Marker Training revolves around the use of a sound to express a desired behavior. Once the dog completes the action, a clicker or other cue is used to show satisfaction. This is usually followed by verbal praise or possibly a treat.

Though each involve food or praise, food should not be used overly frequent, or the dog will come to expect it and lose focus. Also, many critique the use of verbal cues as most dogs react and understand non-verbal cues better. Ultimately, the positive technique is the choice of the leader, but it is important to understand the different positive methodologies.

Negative Technique 1 – Replacement:
Replacement technique is used to counter a dogs desire to do a negative incompatible action. When a dog lunges, replace the action with a conflicting action such as a sit and stay. Through repetition, the inappropriate action becomes the new standard.
Negative Technique 2 – Undesirable Consequences:
Undesirable Consequences involves the removal of an inappropriate action. Often confused with adverse punishment,it actually involves a variety of possibilities, including removal of rewards, instilling a positive punishment (stepping on a leash when a dog attempts to jump), or removing the negative until the behavior stops.

Negative techniques often are more difficult to carry-out as the involve two difficulties; our desire to keep our dog happy and time. Usually these habits have grown and became the new standard which requires constant attention and dedication.

Most important commands:
Look/Watch
Sit
Stay
Heel
Come
Wait
Leave it
Bring It
Drop it
Take It
Our favorite tricks:
Roll-over
Shake
Bang
Fetch
Put Toys Away
Crawl
Tips
Have realistic expectations – Fido is a dog, not a human. Make sure your goals are attainable and dog driven, not human driven.
Be consistent – If your goal is get Fluffy to stop jumping on the couch, don’t let him jump in your lap
You get what you reinforce – Pay close attention to what you do and what you say. Often we are doing something different…and negative.
Keep sessions short and simple – Attention spans are short (on both ends). Make sure you and Fido don’t lose focus and frustrated. Try short repeated sessons.
Good body language – Dogs understand body language before they can understand English. If you have poor body language and cues, odds are it might not work.

Remember, every dog is different, do what works for you. Just because your friend told you all terriers are stubborn and won’t listen, doesn’t mean you should give up or not try a technique usually suited for Labradors.

Everyone has heard the cliche phrase of you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I disagree. My dogs teach me something new every day.

December Pet Care Do’s and Dont’s

In a new series for ADinLOS, we are featuring monthly pet care do’s and dont’s . As we approach the winter months and the temperature drops it is a good time to develop some good habits. Without further ado:

DO
Walk dogs in parks. Usually, heavily trafficked streets have high salt concentration and other chemicals which can be tough on your dogs paws. People tend to exaggerate about salt burning paws, but it can be a major irritant, or even worse if ingested. Also, most parks have higher tree lines which will cut down on the amount of wind you and your pet experience.

DON’T
Assume that because your pets have ‘fur’ coats they are naturally immune to cold temperatures. The reality is, smaller bodies usually have weaker immune systems and are therefore more susceptible to the cold. A lot of people think animals look ridiculous dressed up, but imagine if you had to walk around naked all year. To some people it might be nice in the summer, but I don’t know anyone who would be okay in the winter. Your local pet shop should have a decent selection of gimmicky articles of clothing, but clothes may be easier to make with your own articles of clothing and a few stitches.

DO
Build adequate shelter for outdoor pets. Typically ADinLOS frowns on outdoor pets, but we’ll admit that we have a few. What can we say, kittens and injured animals just seem to find us. Outdoor pets do not get used to the cold. Stay outside for a day or two in December without a coat. Did you get used to it? Didn’t think so. Make sure the shelter is at least twice as large as your pet. Keep the enclosure elevated in a sunny area away from wind. When building the inside, prepare an area towards the back with straw for warmth, not towels or hay which absorb moisture and can mold.

DON’T
Neglect ears and paws. A large portion of heat is lost through these areas of the body. If attention isn’t paid here, you may be fighting a losing battle. This means booties and hoods.

DO
Keep temperatures consistent when we leave the house for an extended period of time. Energy is expensive, but it’s nothing compared to the importance of our pets health.

DON’T
Ignore the water temperature of our aquariums. Goldfish tend to be hearty, but when they get used to a what we consider room temperature, low temperature is a huge shock and needs to be addressed.

DO
Pay extra attention to travel demands. Travel is stressful on everyone, but it is especially stressful on our pets. Be cautious and take a trip to the vet to ensure pets are healthy, and all medications and vaccinations are current. Depending on the method of travel, familiarize them with their temporary housing. Keep comfortable blankets, dishes, and toys. The day of, feed them hours before travel to avoid upset stomachs. All will help reduce the amount of stress and stride for happy travel.

DON’T
Assume pets diets remain unchanged. Ensure pets are hydrated and nourished. Pets burn more energy in extreme temperatures and will need extra attention in the winter months. The winter months tend to hide perspiration better and encourages dehydration and lethargy quickly.

DO
Avoid certain classic holiday decorations. Most of us have heard that Poinsettias are poisonous to eat, and though this is largely exaggerated, mistletoe is the real danger. Poinsettieas need to be injested in large quantities to be harmful, but mistletoes symptoms can be mild to moderate depending on the variety. The European variety usually has more toxins than the American variety, but it is always wise to do your homework.

DON’T
Forget to kitty-proof your Christmas Tree. This means tying it down. Aside from falling and breaking all of your precious ornaments, it can break your precious kitten as well. We tend to assume that cats have 9 lives and always land on their feet. Unfortunately, this is not always the truth. Extensive research has been done on a phenomenom known as ‘High Rise Syndrome’. Below three feet, cats do not have the ability to ‘right’ themselves and will not always land on their feet. Three feet doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you think that every cat is different, these 3 feet can be increased to 2 stories. Be careful and don’t assume your cat can ‘right’ itself. So please, tie up your tree.

Comments are always encouraged. Do you have any additional tips or advice? Concerns about an item on our list? A lot of pet care can seem like common sense, but we find that we are always learning and even the simplest of ideas can open our mind.

Snufflufflitis and Other Unthinkable Maladies

A lot of controversy has been raised in recent weeks over Bentley, the dog of Nina Pham who became the the first case of Ebola contracted on U.S. soil. Thankfully, due to a very skilled medical staff and plasma treatments, Nina Pham is cured. The first thing she wants to do when she gets home, give Bentley a hug.

Unfortunately, Bentley is still under quarantine until early November. He has tested negative, but the incubation period of Ebola is 2 to 21 days, which makes the standard quarantine procedures recommend a minimum of 21 days.

As an upbeat group, ADinLOS tends to focus on positive stories, but we always look for an opportunity to learn. And the recent media attention brought forth an opportunity to learn something we knew little about; Animal-Human Illness Contraction. So we did our research to find a clearer picture.

We’ve heard a number of people spreading ‘facts’ about how Ebola is transmitted. These facts range from “Mr. Snuffles loves me too much to get me sick” to “your cat started the plague, and they’re back to finish us off”. Ok, so these are really opinion, but the passion people exude when discussing is so palpable, they are able to convince other people that it is fact. The reality is, the truth lies somewhere in between, and our experts aren’t positive what that line is.

Both the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) outline useful, yet repetitious information.

Ebola’s origin is not clear, but it is thought that fruit bats…are natural Ebola virus hosts.

Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. [1]

Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids. [1]

Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness. [1]

The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. [1]

Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food.[1]

There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only a few species of mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus. [2]

Specifically regarding our four legged friends, the case made is convincing but it sounds like speculation more than fact.

In addition, the CDC professes:

There is limited evidence that dogs become infected with Ebola virus, but there is no evidence that they develop disease. [3]

Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola. [3]

CDC regulations require that dogs and cats imported into the United States be healthy. [3]

Additional information and guidance will be posted on this website as well as partner websites as soon as it becomes available. [3]

I’m guessing this means we have either no official clinical tests, or very few. We’ve never had a real Ebola threat before, and if African countries have no real evidence of transmission via dogs and cats, why should we. Their time is probably best spent elsewhere.

So where does all this leave us with our pets. Let’s backtrack a bit to less controversial disease transmission. How do we know what diseases a dogs and cats can transmit?

The answer really depends on what is causing your pet’s illness.

Most illnesses like the common cold and the flu are separate strains and do not affect pets and humans the same way. Therefore they cannot be reciprocally exchanged. [4]

Then we move on to zoonotic diseases. These can be difficult to understand on their own. Some you can contract from you pet. Some will make your pet sick, and some won’t.

There are a minimum of 39 important diseases that people catch directly from animals, 42 important diseases that people get by eating or touching food or water contaminated with animal feces, and at least 48 important diseases that humans can get from the bite of bugs that feasted on an infected animal. [5]

Lice, Lyme Disease, Scabies, Toxoplasmosis, Salmonella, and Rabies are some of the more common.

It is important to note, that while some disease that are not serious to us, may not be to our pets, and vice versa. Most of us would consider lice to be vexing, to pets it can cause serious complications.

Here’s where Ebola makes its triumphant return. If it is possible for a dog or cat to contract Ebola but not show symptoms, how would they transfer it to us? Humans need direct contact with the disease to transfer. Can a cat scratch or bite cause it? Or contact with dog feces?

I’m always happy to hear a happy story about a people being reunited with their pet, but the mutual relationship between our pets is supposed to help us achieve longer, happier lives. Not the other way around. Hopefully our experts find this out sooner than later.

[1] World Health Organization. Ebola virus disease. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/ Updated September 2014, Retrieved October, 24 2014.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease), Transmission. http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/index.html?s_cid=cs_3923 Update October 22, 2014, Retrieved October, 24 2014.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease), Questions and Answers about Ebola and Pets. http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/qas-pets.html Update October 13, 2014, Retrieved October, 24 2014.

[4] Kristina Duda, R.N. About Health. Can I Catch a Cold From My Pet?.
http://coldflu.about.com/od/faqaboutthecold/a/petssick.htm Updated July 24, 2014, Retrieved October 24 2014.

[5] Melissa Breyer. Mother Nature Network. 14 diseases you can get from your pets. http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/14-diseases-you-can-get-from-your-pets Mon, Sep 10, 2012. Retrieved October 24, 2014.

Creatures of Habit

We all know someone who defines a “Creature of Habit”. You know, the guy who wakes up at 5 AM every day, walks to the corner store, grabs a cup of coffee, and reads the paper. If he doesn’t, he can’t function. To many of us, myself included, this is foreign. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. Too little time and too many distractions.

To an animal, especially a domesticated animal, this is life. What makes this easy, is routine. Wild animals make their own routines. Wake up, collect food, mate, rinse, repeat…all in a radius of 100 feet. Place a Polar Bear in Johannesburg and life becomes difficult, very difficult.  Life is now full of strange, unnatural objects to figure out.

Most of our domesticated animals face this every day. They went from making their own bedtime, finding food themselves, and everything in between to relying on their human friends to provide them everything in a radius of 20 feet or less. Every time we break their routine, their world gets turned upside down.

Whether we realize it or not, we are more creatures of habit than we realize. We wake up, bathe, eat, and go to bed at roughly the same time every day. Using our own daily activities as a trigger makes it easier for us to incorporate a consistent routine for our pets. Dogs are probably the most dependent on their human counterparts, as there is very little they can do without us. Generally, the younger we can create a routine, the better.

Rather than making normal decisions and just assuming our pets are going to interpret our decisions rationally, assume they will not and each action we take will affect their temperament.

As an example, take the postal worker. Whether it is Fedex, UPS, or USPS, they all come at a different time of day, every day. Sometimes they ring the doorbell, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they talk to you, sometimes they don’t. Always, they involve a lot of distraction and noise. We know what to expect from them, and hopefully more often than not, they deliver.

Imagine this from a dogs perspective.

Mommy and I eat lunch together, only to get interrupted by an obnoxious, loud sputtering rumble, followed by another annoyingly perfect pitch bell. Mommy needs to check on the noise, so she get’s up. There it goes again before mommy can get to it. That awful bell with that horrible rumble continuing in the background. It just rang yesterday when daddy came home. It was starting to get dark, Daddy grumbled,yelled, and slammed the door. He didn’t even pet me on the way back. Hopefully that does happen with mommy. Mommy finally gets to the sound, talks to someone and carries this large, brown, square object inside. Whatever it is, mommy’s happy. Mommy then takes a sharp object, stabs it, pulls something out and starts chasing me around the kitchen like a crazy woman. Next thing I know, I look like a bumble bee, she’s pointing a little silver item at me with a flashing light. So much for a nice afternoon with mommy. Humpfhhhh.

This may not happen every day, but a similar scenario does. The talking picture box is weird, so is the food petrifying object, or that awful green thing that shoots water out.

The timing of a postal worker cannot be altered, but you can make the scenario more familiar by giving Fido a job to do. Work with a friend or family member to recreate the situation as best as possible. Make a plan and stick to the plan every time someone rings the doorbell. Find a comfortable spot in the room a few feet away from the door, associate the spot with a command and sit, stay position. Remember, when we think of a job, it has a specific set of tasks. For a dog, this is a job with a specific set of tasks. Finally, as always, a bit of positive reinforcement, consistency, a cookie or two, and Fido will be happy the doorbell rang. Ok, that’s probably going a bit far, but you get the point.

A few final notes:

Often times, our natural reaction to a pet’s stress is to treat them as we want to be treated, when it’s probably best to think of how they should be treated.

Gradual changes are always best.

Coddling can actually reinforce the pitiful stress reaction.

If it’s called the doggy paddle, why can’t all dogs swim?

In our recent camping trip, we mentioned that we only brought Sake with us. Sake is much better off-leash, has less energy, and there are no misguided Pit Bull beliefs from other campers. Also, Seyval hates the playing near water. Having missed out on the first two years of Seyval’s life, we aren’t sure if she had ever encountered a large body of water. It’s reasonable to assume that an inner city dog’s only experience with water is her water bowl and a bath. Although we’re not sure how much of either Seyval experienced.

Early on, we brought Seyval and Sake to the South Mountain Reservation. Flowing through, are some shallow streams with only a few relatively deep spots. Upon approaching the stream, Sake perked up, ran, and jumped into the only deep spot. Seyval barreled in after her. Never again. We’ve tried meekly to introduce her, but it hasn’t taken.

Sake’s first experience with water was cause for a different concern. Already a great off leash dog, and ready to introduce Sake to a pond, Sake decided to beat us to the punch. She sighted a duck, sprinted after it, and didn’t look back. Eventually she realized she wasn’t going to catch it and turned back.

So why do some dogs love water, and some hate it. In an earlier post, ADinLOS talked about natural instincts of dogs and here it returns. First, a bit of evolutionary history on dogs:

Canis familiaris, the modern dog, “descended from the gray wolf, domesticated about 130,000 years ago.” [1]

“Recent molecular evidence shows that dogs are “this domestication may have happened twice, producing groups of dogs descended from two unique common ancestors.” [1]

“Years of selective breeding by humans has resulted in the artificial “evolution” of dogs into many different types.” [1]

This artificial evolution is the same reason we get to enjoy seven different groups in the Westminster Dog Show. Very rarely do pet parents need their dogs for anything other than companionship, but this was far from the truth as little as 100 years ago. This need begins to explain how we have such variation when every dog began as a wolf with a long snout.

Thousands of years ago, as humans forced dogs out of their natural habitat in Europe and Asia and into agricultural areas around the world, dog owners began specializing and cross-breeding dogs with desired characteristics.

Hence our modern day dog groups, including ADinLOS’s much beloved Sporting Group. This groups snout, legs, chest, and eyesight all go into a dog’s affinity to water. Dogs owners learned what their water dogs were deficient in and sought out dogs with specific characteristics to breed. Combining this with natural evolution, “canines generally fall into one of three categories. There are those that can swim, those that can be taught to swim and those that should steer clear of all aqueous environments.” [2]

The middle category is often the most precarious. There are mutts like Sake, where part of their genetics make them natural swimmers. Their other half is not so inclined. If the mental portion is inclined and the physical portion is not, more precaution needs to be taken. When these physical attribute aren’t present, injesting too much water, fatigue, chills, and panic are all too common. Unfortunately, even though Seyval is strong, her chest is too dense and her snout is just too short.

It becomes much more obvious why some of our pets just are not meant for the water.

So keep an eye out on your pets!

[1] “Evolution of the Dog”, ‘PBS’, Retrieved 10 September 2014 from  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/01/5/l_015_02.html

[2] “Do all dogs know how to swim?”, ‘Animal Planet’, Retrieved 10 September 2014 from http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/do-all-dogs-know-how-to-swim.htm