November 2014 archive

Native American Pets and Thanksgiving

It’s interesting how the most wonderful time of the year is also the coldest time of the year. Given the choice, ADinLOS would definitely prefer caring for our pets in the warm over bitter cold and snow. Like all changes though, it gives us new opportunities. I can’t think of a better time of year to huddle up next to a fire and remind ourseleves what we are grateful for. With such great friends, family, and home it’s difficult to sum it all up. Recently we got into a discussion with one of our friends about our pets and family. To us, pets and family are synonymous. Talk to our friend, and their pets are their best friends. Talk to a farmer, and you will quickly understand the boundaries between working animals and pets.

One thing is for certain, the way we treat our pets now, is vastly different than the way we used to treat our pets. Domestication began thousands of years ago and it may be difficult to say what animal was the first domesticated animal, but many speculate the dog to be first. However many years ago, a lazy family member didn’t close the lid to the garbage. Quickly learning that Fido had a good, consistent chance at a cheap meal they returned. The lazy family member recognized their ‘affability’ and continued to feed them. Ok, so it probably didn’t happen quite like that, but it’s probably not too far off knowing the sentiment of our modern dog. The first domesticated cat came thousands of years later.

The Native Americans believe in a nostalgic story where the dog freely chose to accompany man. Long ago, a spirit assembled all of earth’s creatures searching for the perfect human companion. Some said they would tear the humans apart, others intended to steal. The dog said his only wish was the share, hunt, and protect. [1]

From an archaeological perspective, we have seen evidence in pottery, jewelry, and cave art. After all, as we all know, dogs have personalities so similar yet so dissimilar to humans. How many of have grown up with a smart, friendly, obedient Labrador Retrievers, and when life wills it, and it is time to welcome a new smart, friendly, energetic, obedient lab into our lives. And we end up with a stubborn, lazy, surly dog who feels like a different species. Loved all the same, but for different reasons.

These differences can probably develop a connection to our dogs ancestors. One exuberantly playful wolf kept defying their pack leader, shunned, the wolf felt an connection to their human neighbors who have been feeding them for weeks, openly looking for a new leader, entered the community. [1]

It’s also easy to see why we as humans would accept the wolves into their lives. Much different than we are today, Native Americans bond with nature. We tend to think of a dog barking as a nuisance that we need to rectify. Despite what we feel, it serves a distinct purpose, communication. A skill Native Americans recognized and utilized as protection. Combined with their effortless loyalty and bravery, the dogs secured a place in Native American society.

It wasn’t until the early 1600’s that domesticated Native American dog no longer resembled a hybrid wolf often referred to as a rabbit dog [2].

Surprisingly, Native American’s in Virginia (Powhatans) rarely domesticated animals and felt the only tame part of a dog was their ability to hunt. Even suggesting they were promiscuous and filthy animals, approximately knee high, 20 pounds, with a short snout and howling rather than barking. [3] Aside from the few publications referencing dogs in Powhatans society, so few illustrations of dogs in society corroborate this dissuasion for dog. At times, Powhatans would even dogs would even be sacrificed.

In 1620, on the Mayflower, Pilgrim John Goodman brought over his two dogs. To the Powhatans, these must have been. The only dog the natives have ever seen is a small, wolf-like dog, and these new strangely dressed settlers bring an English Mastiff and a Springer Spaniel. And The Pilgrims had a much different connection with them. John Goodman frequently utilized the dogs to explore new terrain and hunt for food and supplies. Many stories have been told of mutual protection between the dogs and their masters. Placing such an important role in the lives of the Pilgrims it is still difficult to tell if dogs were actually present on Thanksgiving, though Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’s painting of The First Thanksgiving includes a Springer Spaniel front and center. Seems a bit coincidental, though at minimum it would show the importance of dogs in society.

[1] PetPlace Veterinarians. “The History of Dogs and Native Americans”. Pet Place. Retrieved 2014-11-25.

[2] Rountree, H. C. “Uses of Domesticated Animals by Early Virginia Indians.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 30 May. 2014. Web. 25 Nov. 2014.

[3] Marion Schwartz. “The Creation of the American Dog” A History of Dogs in the Early Americas. Web. Retrieved 2014-11-25.

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. Updated September 2014, Retrieved October, 24 2014.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease), Transmission. 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. Update October 13, 2014, Retrieved October, 24 2014.

[4] Kristina Duda, R.N. About Health. Can I Catch a Cold From My Pet?. Updated July 24, 2014, Retrieved October 24 2014.

[5] Melissa Breyer. Mother Nature Network. 14 diseases you can get from your pets. Mon, Sep 10, 2012. Retrieved October 24, 2014.