Thousands of international strays are finding a new home in Canada
by Charlie Gillis
His story begins in a phone booth—or, more accurately, under it. The puppy had pawed out a refuge from spring monsoons and lay mewling as shoppers in Mussoorie, a mountain town north of New Delhi, passed him by. The wails of stray dogs are part of India’s sonic wallpaper; an estimated 250,000 roam the streets of Delhi alone, yipping and howling amid the din of car horns and motorcycles. But after several days of listening to this one, a group of schoolboys decided they’d had enough. Wary of the animal’s fleas and mange, they gathered him into a section of newspaper and prepared to throw him over a nearby cliff.
Barb Gard was not a rescuer in those days. She’d come to Mussoorie in 2003 to teach a session at its famed international school for girls and was booked to fly home to B.C. in two days. But she’d heard the pup on her walks to the town’s open-air market, and now, with the life of one bedraggled canine hanging in the balance, she decided to act. Advancing on the boys, she held out her waterproof jacket and—ignoring their warnings that the dog was dirty—wrapped him up and spirited him away.
Gard has rescued more than 200 street dogs from near-certain death in India (Brian Howell)
Ten years on, that dog sprawls on Gard’s bedsheets in Abbotsford, B.C., a portrait of health and tranquility. His name is Francis, after the patron saint of animals, and his life story is only slightly less remarkable than the Assisian friar’s. After 24 hours on an electrolyte-heavy formula, a de-worming, a de-fleaing and a battery of shots at a local vet clinic, he was tucked into a crate for a two-stop flight to Canada, with Gard as his escort. In Singapore, airline officials paged her to the tarmac to calm her screeching animal and contend with his diarrhea. “By the time we got to Vancouver,” she recalls, “he was screaming so loud, they waived the inspection fee.”
A dreadful odyssey, in short, but one that changed Gard’s life. In 2006, she returned to India and brought home five more of the ubiquitous street dogs, known as “desis,” finding adoptive homes for them once she got back. During a third voyage in 2009, she partnered with a pair of activist veterinarians in Delhi to create a non-profit called Adopt an Indian Desi Dog (AAIDD). Gard, now a retired school psychologist, has since airlifted another 219 canines facing near-certain death from disease, starvation or euthanasia, and found most of them permanent homes in B.C. by advertising them on the adoption website, Petfinder.com. In 2011 alone, she brought 100 into the country, promising herself she’d scale back the airlifts because she’d worn herself out. Then, a few weeks before Christmas this year, her phone rang again. “I brought in another seven in January,” sighs the 58-year-old. “I couldn’t resist.”
Somehow, without notice, Canada has become a refuge to the huddled masses of the canine world, as thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—flood into the country each year. It’s a Wild West sphere, with no one tracking the number of rescuees entering the country, nor their countries of origin. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which regulates the importation of animals, has recorded a spike over the past five years in the number of adult dogs imported annually for commercial use, from 150 to 922 (some rescued dogs are included in the “commercial use” category because organizations collect adoption fees to offset costs). But that represents a fraction of the inflow, because some rescuees enter the country designated as pets rather than commercial-use animals, and because border officers don’t keep count of the dogs they inspect for proof of rabies and for general health. One Calgary-based agency contacted byMaclean’s, Pawsitive Match Inc., says it trucked in about 800 dogs from the southwestern U.S. and Mexico in 2012 alone. It continues to receive another 80 or so per month.
Meantime, animal rescue organizations from this country are a fast-proliferating sub-group onPetfinder.com, where North American non-profits and charities line up homes for needy animals. As many as 80 new Canadian groups join each year, and while not all import their dogs, enough do that a few mouse clicks can raise the profiles of canines from such far-flung locales as Greece, Taiwan and Iran. Some must be flown to Canada; others have already made the trip and are waiting in foster homes for adoptive families.
This is, in part, an outcome of our shrunken world: a dog located halfway around the globe can be in Canada a week after someone in Halifax or Toronto spots its profile on the web. But it’s also a sign of how deeply animal-welfare values have penetrated Canada’s mainstream. Gone are the days when an impounded stray was a dead dog walking: only 14 per cent of dogs taken in by SPCAs and humane societies each year are put to death (compared to 60 per cent in the United States), while the once idealistic-sounding rhetoric of the animal rights movement has gained near-universal public acceptance. Nearly nine out of 10 respondents to a 2011 poll commissioned by the Canadian branch of the World Society for the Protection of Animals said they wish to “minimize and eventually eliminate all forms of animal cruelty and suffering.”
Not everyone in the animal welfare community sees cross-border dog rescues as the next step in our moral evolution. Humane societies at both the local and national levels have raised their voices against the practice, arguing there are plenty of dogs in Canadian pounds and shelters in desperate need of homes. “We need to direct Canadians to adopt here,” says Barbara Cartwright, chief executive of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. “It can be very frustrating for a local humane society that has a dog overpopulation problem, and is looking at euthanizing animals, while dogs are being brought in from a different continent.”
Yet the airlifts go on. Last month, a group in Nova Scotia announced it hoped to bring 100 dogs from the U.S. over the next year; on Feb. 12, Pawsitive Match took 12 more dogs across the border at Coutts, Alta.; Toronto-based rescuer Dianne Aldan is expecting two more to arrive next week from Greece. Dogs, it seems, are the new beneficiaries of Canada’s fabled openness to newcomers—a furry diaspora, unleashing the joys and discontents that come with the designation. With each new shipment, the debate over who gets in intensifies, producing an echo of our periodic clashes over human immigration. “If you do want to help out in another country,” says Cartwright, “donate to the local agency that’s trying to make a difference there. The problem should be dealt with in that country, by the people of that country.”
Pet rescuers have been with us a while, of course. Animal sympathizers the world over were inspired in the 1980s by British activists who began seizing donkeys from neglectful owners, or taking stray dogs to “no-kill” shelters whence they could be adopted. Their Canadian imitators initially focused on animals on death row at their local shelters, marshalling volunteers to provide foster homes and seeking permanent owners for the condemned. By the late 1990s, some were turning their attention to Aboriginal reserves and northern towns, where a lack of funding and infrastructure for animal control had resulted in chronic overpopulation by dogs. The sight of sick canines scuttling around reserves was enough for some empathetic visitors to mobilize airlifts on the spot.
That gut-level reaction served as the impetus for many an international rescue group, as globe-trotting Canadians got a look at deplorable conditions for stray dogs in the countries they visited. For Aldan, a financial analyst from Toronto, it happened during her 1984 honeymoon in Greece, where the state of the country’s strays struck her as profoundly as the azure seas. “The dogs were just skin and bones, walking around the street,” she recalls. “If they got sick, people would just abandon them.” When she and her husband returned for subsequent vacations, they found conditions largely the same and, in 2001, Aldan took action. The result was Tails from Greece, a charity that has since airlifted 292 dogs to Canada, housing them in foster homes while seeking out permanent owners in southern Ontario.
Aldan’s modus operandi is widely replicated. She works with Greece’s handful of private shelters, identifying dogs that would make good pets and saving them from death row. She recruits tourists willing to accompany the dogs to Canada and maintains a network of foster families to keep the animals while they await what rescuers call “forever homes.” In 2011, Tails from Greece declared $40,000 in revenue, much of which Aldan spent on vaccinations and flights (about $1,200 for a crate carrying two adult dogs). Still more went to food and unexpected veterinary treatment while the animals were being fostered.
If the movement had a coming-of-age moment, though, it was Hurricane Katrina and the TV images of 15,000 dogs and cats left to fend for themselves in the aftermath of the 2005 storm. Media coverage of a Vancouver-based team that rushed to the Gulf Coast to save sodden, frightened animals inspired others to get involved—donating money, adopting dogs and, in a few cases, launching their own relief organizations. Four-legged refugees found homes as far away as B.C. and Ontario. By the time of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan two years ago, a template was set: groups swept in to execute daring rescues of animals from Fukushima’s exclusion zone, providing a level of care the wave’s human victims might have envied. Some were taken to a special animal rescue program at Azabu University, west of Tokyo, where they were diagnosed with, and treated for, post-traumatic stress disorder.
Heartwarming stuff, but for the rescue movement, the legacy of these efforts has been mixed. A handful of people evacuated from Katrina’s wake sued afterward because they never got a chance to reclaim their animals before agencies adopted them out. Years later, questions arose as to whether these self-appointed guardians of animal welfare are, themselves, adequately monitored. Last June, the SPCA removed 52 dogs from the property of a woman in Burnaby, B.C., who had helped save animals after the hurricane. Officers alleged the dogs—which were not hurricane victims—suffered from rotting teeth, infections and untreated skin ailments.
Still, the value of the rescuers’ service, post-Katrina, was hard to deny. Removing strays from the street means reducing the threat to humans of diseases like rabies and tetanus, proponents point out. Even in the absence of disaster, the self-styled saviours have ingratiated themselves to local residents by providing a humane option to deal with dog overpopulation. Aldan points to economically downtrodden Athens, where broke owners increasingly take their animals to international adoption groups, rather than simply abandoning them. “In the larger centres,” she says, “things are getting better.”
Better for people and—more important in the new ethos of animal welfare—better for dogs. That’s a key distinction to anyone trying to understand the values behind the global rescue movement, says Jean Harvey, a philosophy professor at the University of Guelph, who has studied the ethics of the animal rights movement. In past decades, she notes, animals were held in the mainline public view as objects of human use—food, labour, companions. Now, says Harvey, “you’ve got a very different group of people. You’ve got people who see animals as having intrinsic value similar to that of human beings.”
Typical is Ashley Bishop, a 28-year-old office worker from North Vancouver who, with her husband, Mark Alford, went looking for a dog last year. The couple had criteria: the animal had to be quiet because they live in a small apartment; Alford wanted a dog he could take running. They settled on Hank, a lanky, young desi Barb Gard had imported and advertised on Petfinder.
Bishop admits they made their choice without a second thought about animals languishing in Canadian shelters. “A creature in need is a creature in need,” she says. “Yes, there are lots of dogs here that need homes. But if you don’t adopt these dogs [from India], they’re going to die.” She expands: most countries lack the bylaws, subsidized spay-neuter programs and shelter infrastructure Canadians take for granted; that means strays live shorter and more brutish lives than their homegrown counterparts—lapping up brackish water, foraging in landfills and, in many cases, succumbing to disease.
The couple was even less disposed to forking over $800 to $1,200 for a pedigreed dog, repelled by the idea of an animal weakened by generations of inbreeding done for human benefit. “We didn’t want to spend thousands on vet bills,” says Bishop, “because the dog we got can’t breathe properly or has bad hips because it was bred down so far.” Here, too, they typify a new generation: to hundreds of thousands of North Americans who adopt dogs each year, pure-breeding is impractical, and arguably inhumane.
And the truth is, many rescue groups can source dogs of a given breed without a whole lot of effort. Pawsitive Match has in recent years been importing hundreds of the chihuahuas that proliferated in southern California in the early 2000s, says Tracy Babiak, the chief executive of the Calgary agency. That was about the time Paris Hilton was seen carrying one in her handbag, prompting women to buy “chis” as fashion accessories. The fad gained new life when the movie Beverly Hills Chihuahua came out, adds John Murray, a rescuer based in Norco, Calif., who trucks dogs to Alberta on Babiak’s behalf. Now, with Hilton off the tabloid radar and the movie in bargain bins, Murray says he can “get anyone a chihuahua any time they want” by plucking it off death row at a California shelter. “The same thing happened with Dalmatians when 101 Dalmatians came out,” he says. “People just don’t think.”
Here, then, lies the paradox for domestic SPCAs and humane societies. On one hand, the country has largely come around to their world view. Canada has halved its euthanasia rate in the last two decades. Fully half the dogs admitted to shelters get adopted. But if the life of a chihuahua in San Bernadino, Calif., is as important as one in Saskatoon—and its death more imminent—how do you ensure the ones left in Canadian shelters aren’t forgotten?
Cartwright, the CEO at the federation of humane societies, spends a lot of time trying to answer those questions without sounding hypocritical. At least some of the tens of thousands of Canadian dogs put to death each year would make fine companions, she insists (surveys of shelters, SPCAs and vet clinics suggest three per cent have neither physical nor behavioural problems), while others could be rehabilitated.
Cartwright also raises concern about the potential for imported dogs to carry pathogens like rabies or the deadly parvovirus—though that concern seems minimal, given CFIA requirements for canines entering the country. While Canada doesn’t typically quarantine dogs, it does demand either proof of an animal’s rabies vaccinations or a vet’s note assuring that it comes from a rabies-free country. The rules are more stringent for younger dogs and for animals not accompanied by their owners (most rescuees arrive with volunteers). All puppies less than eight months old must have certificates of health showing they don’t have parvovirus, distemper or the canine flu, among other ailments.
Certainly, those who adopt foreign dogs seem motivated to keep them healthy. Last November, Jessie Oliver-Laird and Pinder Chahil, a young couple living in downtown Toronto, offered to foster one of Aldan’s so-called “Greekies,” with a view to adopting the dog if the relationship worked. The dog, alas, had cancer in a right front toe, and a vet in Toronto was forced to amputate. No sooner had Aldan’s charity swallowed the $3,000 surgery bill than the dog, Sven, tested positive for a hypothyroid condition. If they chose to keep him, Oliver-Laird and Chahil would have to pay about $100 per month for tests and medication—on top of the $350 adoption fee they’d be paying Tails from Greece.
By then, however, Sven was lumbering happily about the couple’s one-bedroom suite, located just east of Toronto’s financial district, stealing the hearts of his hosts. A wire-haired pointing griffin, he stands about a half-metre tall at the shoulders and eats about $50 worth of food per month. Aldan figured him to be eight years old—rocking-chair age for even a well-raised pooch. But to ensure he got enough exercise, Oliver-Laird, a daycare worker, took him for four walks a day outside their mid-rise co-op.
Of course, like all rescued animals, Sven had the power of narrative working in his favour. He was found abandoned on one of Greece’s many islands and spent a year in a shelter before his guardian angel descended in the form of Aldan. “We think he was just left by someone who couldn’t afford to feed him,” says Chahil solemnly. By the time he reached Toronto, Sven was solitary and diffident, rejecting a fluffy bed the couple bought him in favour of the parquet floor. But a steady flow of affection from his caretakers slowly revived his spirits. Soon visitors to the apartment were met by a friendly and well-behaved pooch—pretty much an ad for the entire rescue movement.
So when Aldan called Chahil and Oliver-Laird in early February to ask if they wished to keep Sven, the pair never hestitated. He was everything they’d wanted, and they’d played their small part in relieving the worldwide epidemic of animal suffering—a plague in which, to their thinking, borders are no longer relevant. “Any abandoned dog needs a home,” says Oliver-Laird lightly. “It just happens that this one was abandoned in another part of the world.”
Source MacLeans March 2013
Summer is here – kind of. If you live on the west coast it still feels like winter but still the temperatures are changing and it is important to remember to keep your pets safe for when the heat does come.
The following are a few tips to remember to keep fido safe.
Have a wonderful summer!
Most people are aware that leaving a pet in a locked car on a 100F degree day would be dangerous. However, it is the seemingly mild days of spring (and fall) that pose great danger, too. Driving around, parking, and leaving your pet in the car for “just a minute” can be deadly. Cars heat up fast — even with the windows cracked. Check out these sources for additional temperature information:
void Heat Stroke – How to Help
Order the “Don’t Leave Me in Here — It’s Hot!” flyers, posters, and other educational materials from My Dog Is Cool web site to put on cars that have pets in them to alert the owners. (Note: if you see pets or children in cars on warm days, please take action and call the police or fire department – time is critical.)
Signs of heat stroke include (but are not limited to): body temperatures of 104-110F degrees, excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, stupor, seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting, coma, death. Brachycephalic breeds (the short-nosed breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs), large heavy-coated breeds, and those dogs with heart or respiratory problems are more at risk for heat stroke.
If you suspect heat stroke in your pet, seek veterinary attention immediately! Use cool water, not ice water, to cool your pet. (Very cold water will cause constriction of the blood vessels and impede cooling.) Do not aid cooling below 103 F degrees – some animals can actually get HYPOthermic, too cold. Offer ice cubes for the animal to lick on until you can reach your veterinarian.
Just because your animal is cooled and “appears” OK, do NOT assume everything is fine. Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, etc., are definitely affected by the body temperature elevation, and blood tests and veterinary examination are needed to assess this. There is also a complex blood problem, called DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation) that can be a secondary complication to heat stroke that can be fatal.
Learn more: Tips to prevent heatstroke in your pet
Jogging is also dangerous this time of year. So your dog jogs everyday with you and is in excellent shape – why alter the routine? As the weather warms, humans alter the type and amount of clothing worn, and we sweat more. Dogs are still jogging in their winter coat (or a slightly lighter version) and can only cool themselves by panting and a small amount of sweating through the foot pads. Not enough! Many dogs, especially the ‘athletes’ will keep running, no matter what, to stay up with their owner. Change the routine to early morning or late evening to prevent heatstroke.
Consider your pet’s housing. If they are kept outdoors, do they have shade and fresh water access at all times? I have treated one case of heat stroke in a dog that did indeed have shade and water while tethered under a deck, but had gotten the chain stuck around a stake in the middle of the yard — no water or shade for hours. If you live in a warm climate, it is a good idea to hose down the dog before work, at lunch or whenever you can to provide extra cooling (if you dog is not overheated in the first place).
Not all dogs are excellent swimmers by nature. Especially if Fido has underlying health problems, such as heart disease or obesity to contend with. Consider protecting your pet just as your human family — with a life preserver. If your pet is knocked off of the boat (perhaps getting injured in the process), or is tired/cold from choppy water or sudden storm, a life jacket could be what saves your pet’s life.
Learn more: Pet Life Jackets – Just Another Accessory or a Necessity?
Antifreeze actually a year-round hazard. With the warmer temperatures of summer, cars over heat and may leak antifreeze. (This is the bright green liquid found oozing from that car with the engine fan on.) Also, people change their antifreeze and may spill or leave unused antifreeze out where pets can access it. Antifreeze tastes sweet and is inviting to pets (and children). It is also extremely toxic in very small amounts.
Call your veterinarian (or physician) immediately if any ingestion is suspected. A safe alternative to Ethylene Glycol antifreeze is available, it is called propylene glycol, and while it does cost a small amount more than ‘regular’ antifreeze, it is worth the piece of mind.
Finally, if you are traveling outside of your normal Veterinarian’s locale, it is wise to check out the Veterinary clinics/hospitals in the area that you are visiting, before the need arises. It is better to be prepared for an emergency and not have one happen than to panic in an emergency situation, wasting valuable time.
So – we are heading out camping and are thinking of bringing our lab along. For the most part he is a good guy, but sometimes he can be loud and bark and gets pretty frisky around the water. So, as I said – we are still thinking about bringing him!
The following are some things to help you on your decision as well – hope you enjoy and have a great camping trip if you bring Fido!
The outdoors is one of the best places to spend time with your dog. The dog loves all the new sights, sounds and smells. Here are a few tips that may make camping with your dog a bit more enjoyable and possibly safer.
- Consider a pre-traveling vet visit.
- Get current on all shots and vaccinations and obtain a Rabies tag for your dogs collar.
- Consider a possible Lyme disease vaccine.
- Obtain a current copy of their records and vet’s phone number.
- Get a proper dog license & ID tags for your dog–there name, your name and address and phone number.
- Temporary tags may be a good idea – name and phone number of where you are staying.
- Microchips, tattoos and pet registries are also available.
- Bring medications and copy of prescriptions.
- Consider use of a crate for travel and short term haven.
- Don’t forget to pack plenty of water from home for your dog. Bring their regular food bowls, food and treats. To avoid problems, keep them on their regular schedule.
- Bring their chew toys and dog brush.
- Always bring their collar and leash. Extras may be a good ideas.
- For unexpected situations, pack first aid items for your dog and also a towel. Obtain the phone number of a vet in the area where you are staying.
- Check with your destination to be sure whether dogs are permitted. Pets are prohibited at many state and national parks. Try to get a site with some shade for your dog.
- Many private campgrounds allow dog but it is of utmost importance that you respect the other campers around you.
- Make sure you have complete control over your dog at all times. Keep them on their leash.
- Try to keep barking to a minimum. Frequent and continued barking disturbed the wildlife and other campers.
- Closely supervise your dog around children, other visitors and other dogs.
- Never leave your dog outside unattended.
- Always pick up after your dog.
- Make use of designated dog walking areas.
- Use biodegradable bags to pick up after them and properly dispose of it in appropriate trash containers.
- Give your dog time to adjust to their new surroundings. Give them time to rest.
- Watch that your dog doesn’t get tangled around tent poles or stakes, tables, trees, rocks etc.
- Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise. But consider the effect of activity and energy levels on your dog health.
- Be aware of how weather conditions effect your dog – heat, cold, rain etc.
- Remove any leftover food after your dog eats. This food could attract unwanted insects or wildlife.
- Be courteous of others while walking your dog. Keep your dog calm and controlled.
- Consider your dogs sleeping arrangements.
- Be aware that your dog may have increased exposure to ticks and fleas. Have the proper tick/flea collars, repellents or use Frontline applications. Other diseases can also be obtained from wild animals and insects.
Life expectancy in dogs
We all want our dogs to live as long as possible, but the fact of the matter is that on average, certain dog breeds live longer than others. This might be a consideration when choosing a dog breed and it is therefore useful information to know before hand.
The average life span of the North American or European dog is 12.8 years.
This is a large increase in life span over the past 100 years and is mostly attributable to better food and better medical care. Within this 12.8 year average for all dogs is a large range of life spans where certain breeds live longer and certain breeds live less long. In general, larger dogs live shorter lives than smaller dogs. This is due to the fact that the bodies of larger dogs must work harder (are more stressed) than the bodies of smaller dogs.
That said, the life expectancy of any one dog in particular is also determined by the stresses in its life (both physical and psychological), what it eats and how well it is taken care of.
Our old black lab Kobi lived to 13 and we felt pretty lucky to have him with us that long.
This list is strictly a ‘rule of thumb’ so take it lightly.
Allt he best,
Life expectancy of popular dog breeds:
- Afghan Hound (12.0)
- Airedale Terrier (11.2)
- Basset Hound (12.8)
- Beagle (13.3)
- Bearded Collie (12.3)
- Bedlington Terrier (14.3)
- Bernese Mountain Dog (7.0)
- Border Collie (13.0)
- Border Terrier (13.8)
- Boxer (10.4)
- Bull Terrier (12.9)
- Bulldog (6.7)
- Bullmastiff (8.6)
- Cairn Terrier (13.2)
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (10.7)
- Chihuahua (13.0)
- Chow Chow (13.5)
- Cocker Spaniel (12.5)
- Corgi (11.3)
- Dachshund (12.2)
- Dalmatian (13.0)
- Doberman Pinscher (9.8)
- English Cocker Spaniel (11.8)
- English Setter (11.2)
- English Springer Spaniel (13.0)
- English Toy Spaniel (10.1)
- Flat-Coated Retriever (9.5)
- German Shepherd (10.3)
- German Shorthaired Pointer (12.3)
- Golden Retriever (12.0)
- Gordon Setter (11.3)
- Great Dane (8.4)
- Greyhound (13.2)
- Irish Red and White Setter (12.9)
- Irish Setter (11.8)
- Irish Wolfhound (6.2)
- Jack Russell Terrier (13.6)
- Labrador Retriever (12.6)
- Lurcher (12.6)
- Miniature Dachshund (14.4)
- Miniature Poodle (14.8)
- Norfolk Terrier (10.0)
- Old English Sheepdog (11.8)
- Pekingese (13.3)
- Random-bred / Mongrel (13.2)
- Rhodesian Ridgeback (9.1)
- Rottweiler (9.8)
- Rough Collie (12.2)
- Samoyed (11.0)
- Scottish Deerhound (9.5)
- Scottish Terrier (12.0)
- Shetland Sheepdog (13.3)
- Shih Tzu (13.4)
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier (10.0)
- Standard Poodle (12.0)
- Tibetan Terrier (14.3)
- Toy Poodle (14.4)
- Viszla (12.5)
- Weimaraner (10.0)
- Welsh Springer Spaniel (11.5)
- West Highland White Terrier (12.8)
- Whippet (14.3)
- Wire Fox Terrier (13.0)
- Yorkshire Terrier (12.8)
Recently I had someone write to me and ask about their dog’s urine is killing their lawn. Since this is a plight I face with pet sitting I did some research. So if you have questions like:
- Why does dog pee make the grass turn brown or yellow?
- How can I stop this?
- I love my dog but I would like a nice lawn too.
Then read on for some good tips and product solutions.
Grass burns from dog urine are a source of frustration for dog owners who take pride in a beautiful lawn. Brown or yellow spots of dead grass are unsightly, but some dog owners feel that it’s just part of living with dogs. In fact, there are ways to prevent grass burns from dog urine.
While nitrogen is an essential component in healthy soil, high concentrations of it can cause grass to turn yellow or brown. Urine is naturally high in nitrogen and alone can cause grass burns. However, lawn fertilizer also contains nitrogen. An excess of either or a combination of urine and fertilizer may result in an overdose of nitrogen, thus “burning” the grass. Salts and other compounds in dog urine may also contribute to grass burn. In addition, highly acidic or alkaline urine may alter pH of the soil in that area of your yard, adversely affecting the grass there.
It may seem like female dog urine causes more trouble to the lawn than male dog urine. This is simply because most females tend to squat and urinate in one place, while many males lift the leg and “mark” upright objects in multiple locations. The composition of a dog’s urine does not vary that much between male and female dogs, especially when spayed or neutered.
There are a few ways to prevent brown or yellow spots on your lawn caused by dog urine. You can try more than one option at a time for maximum results. There is no guaranteed way to end urine spots in the yard, but the following methods might help stop grass burns caused by dog urine:
- Train your dog to urinate in one area and plant a urine-resistant ground covering in that area. One great option for this is clover. You might also try creating a dog-friendly landscape in your entire yard.
- Give your dog a supplement or food additive that is designed to neutralize the nitrogen in the urine. One example of this type of product is Naturvet Grass Saver (compare prices). As alway, ask your vet before starting any supplement. Additionally, never attempt to alter your dog’s urine pH unless specifically recommended by your vet.
- Immediately after your dog urinates, use a garden hose to rinse off the area. You might also consider switching to a low-nitrogen fertilizer for your lawn (make sure it’s pet-safe too).
Remember that other animals might have access to your yard and their urine can cause lawn damage as well. A fence will keep out any dogs passing by, but cats and various wild animals are not so easy to stop. This may or may not explained continued brown or yellow spots in the yard after implementing the above recommendations.
With the summer months upon us, pet travel is at it’s height and it’s time for a reminder about the dangers of leaving your pet in a parked car. Whether you’re parking in the shade, just running into the store, or leaving the windows cracked, it is still NOT ok to leave your pet in a parked car.
The temperature inside a car can skyrocket after just a few minutes. Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked does very little to alleviate this pressure cooker.
On a warm, sunny day try turning your car off, cracking your windows and sitting there. It will only be a few short minutes before it becomes unbearable. Imagine how your helpless pet will feel. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 102 degrees within only ten minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. At 110 degrees, pets are in danger of heatstroke. On hot and humid days, the temperature in a car parked in direct sunlight can rise more than 30 degrees per minute, and quickly become lethal.
Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a study to measure the temperature rise inside a parked car on sunny days with highs ranging from 72 to 96 degrees F. Their results showed that a car’s interior can heat up by an average of 40 degrees F within an hour, regardless of ambient temperature. Ambient temperature doesn’t matter – it’s whether it’s sunny out. Eighty percent of the temperature rise occurred within the first half-hour. Even on a relatively cool day, the temperature inside a parked car can quickly spike to life-threatening levels if the sun is out.
Further, the researchers noted that much like the sun warms a greenhouse in winter; it also warms a parked car on cool days. In both cases, the sun heats up a mass of air trapped under glass. Precautions such as cracking a window or running the air conditioner prior to parking the car were found to be inadequate.
“If more people knew the danger of leaving their pets in their parked car, they probably wouldn’t do it,” states Kim Salerno, TRIPSwithPETS.com President & Founder. “Pets are very susceptible to overheating as they are much less efficient at cooling themselves than people are” adds Salerno. The solution is simple – leave your pets at home if the place you are going does not allow pets.
Dogs are designed to conserve heat. Their sweat glands, which exist on their nose and the pads of their feet, are inadequate for cooling during hot days. Panting and drinking water helps cool them, but if they only have hot air to breathe, dogs can suffer brain and organ damage after just 15 minutes. Short-nosed breeds, young pets, seniors or pets with weight, respiratory, cardiovascular or other health problems are especially susceptible to heat-related stress.
Signs of heat stress include: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting or a deep red or purple tongue. If a pet becomes overheated, immediately lowering their body temperature is a must.
- Move the pet into the shade and apply cool (not cold) water all over their body to gradually lower their temperature.
- Apply ice packs or cool towels to the pet’s head, neck and chest only.
- Allow the pet to drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
- Then take the pet to the nearest vet.
Animal Services Officers or other law enforcement officers are authorized to remove any animal left in an unattended vehicle that is exhibiting signs of heat stress by using the amount of force necessary to remove the animal, and shall not be liable for any damages reasonably related to the removal. The pet owner may be charged with animal cruelty.
Creating greater awareness is the key to preventing pets from this unnecessary suffering. TRIPSwithPETS.com offers some tips to help spread the word:
- A good start is to let friends know about the dangers of leaving their pets in a parked car and remind them to keep their pets at home on warm sunny days if they’ll be going anywhere pets are not allowed.
- The Humane Society of the United States has posters available for a nominal fee that store managers can post inside their windows to remind shoppers that “Leaving Your Pet in a Parked Car Can Be a Deadly Mistake.” They also have similar hot car flyers.
- Get involved. If you see a pet in a parked car during a warm sunny day, go to the nearest store and have the owner paged. Enlist the help of a local police officer or security guard or call the local police department or animal control office.
For more information, visit www.tripswithpets.com. TRIPSwithPETS.com is the premier online resource for pet travel – offering resources to ensure pets are welcome, happy, and safe when traveling. Visit www.tripswithpets.com, to find a directory of pet friendly hotels & accommodations across the U.S. and Canada, airline pet policies, pet travel tips, pet travel supplies, along with other pet travel resources.
The most common medical complaint we see in dogs is skin or ear related. Unlike humans who react to allergens with nasal symptoms, dogs react with skin problems. These problems may range from poor coat texture or length, to itching and chewing, to hot spots and self mutilation. Allergies may also play a part in chronic ear infections. To make matters more difficult to diagnose and treat, thyroid disease may add to the problem as well.
In order to overcome these frustrating symptoms your approach needs to be thorough and systematic. Shortcuts usually will not produce results and only add to owner frustration. This article will cover diagnosing and treating; inhalant, food, and flea allergies. I will also briefly discuss thyroid disease and immune mediated disorders.
Remember, your best source of information is your vet. Many vets are now recognizing the need for holistic allergy treatment instead of the tried and true (and possibly ineffective or dangerous) standby of corticosteroids. If your vet is not helpful, keep looking until you find someone you are comfortable with. You need to remember though, that the success or failure of treatment will rest mainly on you. There is no magic pill to deal with these problems. Unfortunately, there is also no “cure”, only systematic treatment options. Much of the information below is taken from “Guide to Skin and Haircoat Problems in the Dog” by Lowell Ackerman, DMV.
Substances which can cause an allergic reaction in dogs are much the same as those which cause reactions in people including pollens, dust mites and molds. A clue to diagnosing these allergies is to look at the timing of the reaction. Does it happen year round? This may be mold or dust. If the reaction is seasonal, pollens may be the culprit.
Symptoms of inhalant allergies include: SCRATCHING, BITING, CHEWING AT FEET AND CONSTANT LICKING. The itching may be most severe on feet, flanks, groin and armpits. Dogs may rub their face on the carpet. Ear flaps may become red and hot. Chronic ear infections may follow. Skin becomes thickened, greasy and has a strong odor. Hot spots may develop due to irritation from constant chewing or scratching, which is then followed by infection. Allergies have also been implicated as a possible cause of Acral Lick Granulomas, a frustrating, treatment resistant condition whereby the dog creates a sore on his skin from constant licking
If a dog has the above symptoms and responds well to the treatment measures outlined below, no further diagnostic tests may be needed. If the problem is severe and does not respond to simple measures, allergy skin testing can be done. A portion of the skin is shaved and a variety of substances are injected into the skin to see if they provoke a reaction. If so, an individual series of injections are formulated to give the dog over a period of time (there are blood tests designed to identify allergens without the skin testing, however their efficacy had not been proven. They should be reserved for cases where skin testing is not possible).
- Symptomatic Therapy
- Treating the dogs symptoms may include; cool baths with or without colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts, or medicated shampoos. This can be done frequently but provides only temporary relief. Caution should be used with sprays and ointments because many contain potentially harmful substances. According to Dr. Ackerman, Dermacool is a safe spray containing witch hazel. Cortispray is a low dose, nonsystemic cortisone spray which can be safely used for short periods of time.
- Allergy shots are very safe and many people have great success with them, however, they are very slow to work. It may be six to twelve months before improvement is seen. I spoke with Dr. Christine Johnson, a veterinarian with the dermatology department of the University of Pennsylvania, about intradermal skin testing for inhalant allergies. She reports the average success rate is 70-75%. This rate is for dogs showing any improvement at all. At U of P. the cost for the procedure is $69.00 for the exam, $122.00 for the sedation and testing, and $85.00 for the first 5 months worth of vaccine. After that vaccines are purchased in 7 month supply for $65.00. Substances that are tested include cats(!), feathers, wool, molds, dust, trees, insects, plants and pollens. Before testing, your pet must be free from all steroids, oral or injected (including those found in ear and eye medicines) for a specified period of time in order for the test to be valid. In all about 60 different substances are tested for.
- These compounds reduce itching by reducing inflammation. Unfortunately, they also affect every organ in the body. According to Dr. Ackerman, steroids should be considered only when the allergy season is short, the amount of drug required is small or as a last resort to relieve a dog in extreme discomfort. Side effects can include increased thirst and appetite, increased need to urinate and behavioral changes. Long term use can result in diabetes, decreased resistance to infection and increased susceptibility to seizures. You can recognize steroids by the suffix “-one”, such as cortisone, dexamethasone, prednisone..etc.. In short, alternatives to steroid therapy should always be considered.
- Antihistamines can be used with relative safety in dogs. About one third of owners report success with them. The major drawback, as with people, is sedation. Dr. Ackerman recommends that a minimum of three different types of antihistamines be tried before owners give up on this therapy. According to Dr. Johnson, the most common problem with this type of treatment is that owners give the drugs at doses that are too low. Check with your vet on correct dosing. Examples of antihistamines commonly used for dogs include: Tavist, Benadryl, Chlortrimeton, Atarax and Seldane. Personally, I have seen the best results with Atarax.
- Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- These fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatory agents. They reportedly are helpful in 20% of allergic dogs. My own experience puts this figure a little higher. They are certainly worth a try because they are not harmful and have virtually no side effects. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oils (especially krill and cod) and omega-6 fatty acids are derived from plants containing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), such as oil from the evening primrose. These supplements are different from those sold to produce a glossy coat. They tend to reduce inflammation that may lead to skin sores but are not as effective in reducing itching. Products that contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids include: Omega Pet, Derm Caps, and EFA-Z Plus.
- Environmental Control
- If you know which substances your dog is allergic to avoidance is the best method of control. Even if you are desensitizing the dog with allergy shots, it is best to avoid the allergen altogether. Molds can be reduced by using a dehumidifier or placing activated charcoal on top of the exposed dirt in your house plants. Dusts and pollens are best controlled by using an air cleaner with a HEPA filter. Air conditioning can also reduce circulating amounts of airborne allergens because windows are then kept closed.
- While there is nothing you can do to prevent a rescue dog from developing allergies, breeders should be aware that allergic dogs SHOULD NOT BE BRED!!! Dr. Johnson confirmed that there is clinical proof that allergies are inherited!
The previous section of this article dealt with atopy or inhalant allergies. This article will deal with food allergies or to be more precise, food sensitivities. Much of the information presented here is drawn from “Hair and Skincoat Problems in the Dog” by Lowell Ackerman D.V.M. and an interview with Dr. Scott Krick of the VCA Sinking Spring Veterinary Hospital. Food allergies account for only about 10% of allergy problems in dogs, however they are easily treated so it makes sense to test for them if you suspect they may be the culprit of your dog’s skin problems.
Like inhalant allergies, food sensitivities primarily manifest themselves with itchy skin. Other symptoms include anal itching, shaking of the head, ear inflammations, licking front paws, rubbing faces on carpeting and rarely vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, sneezing, asthma like symptoms, behavioral changes or seizures. Many people don’t suspect food allergies as the cause of their dog’s itching because their pet has been fed the same food all its life and has just recently started having symptoms. However, animals can develop allergies to a substance over time, so this fact does not rule out food allergies. Another common misconception is that dogs are only sensitive to poor quality food. If the dog is allergic to an ingredient it doesn’t matter whether it is in premium food or the most inexpensive brand on the market. One advantage to premium foods is that some avoid common fillers that are often implicated in allergic reactions.
Dogs are not allergic to a dog food per se, rather they react to one or more of the ingredients in the food. Some of the most common culprits are beef, pork, chicken, milk, whey, eggs, fish, corn, soy, wheat and preservatives. Many animals are now developing allergies to lamb as well. This was once thought to be very hypo-allergenic, but the more it is used, the more sensitivities are springing up.
The first step in diagnosing a food allergy is to eliminate all possible allergens and feed ONLY a homemade diet with ingredients the dog has never eaten before. The diet should be a protein and a starch. Good examples are one part lamb, rabbit or venison mixed with two parts rice or potatoes. NOTHING else can be fed during this time; no biscuits, chewable heartworm pills, chew toys or any table scraps!! You must also keep the dog away from feces if he or she is prone to eating stool.
This diet should only to be fed for a short period, while testing for allergies. It is not nutritionally complete enough for long term use. Check with your veterinarian before beginning the test. If the symptoms improve during the trial diet, go back to the original food for several days. If symptoms reoccur you know that something in the food is causing the reaction. The next step is to return to the trial diet and add one new ingredient a week (i.e. add beef for one week and if no symptoms occur add corn the next week for one week).
Once you have discovered the allergen you can look for a commercial food which does not contain that ingredient. According to Dr. Ackerman, approximately 80% of dogs with food allergies can be maintained on a commercial hypo-allergenic diet. Some of the common hypoallergenic diets include “Nature’s Recipe”, “Sensible Choice” and “Natural Life”. “Nature’s Recipe” makes a lamb and rice food, a venison and rice diet and a vegetarian diet, none contain chemical preservatives. “Natural Life” also makes a preservative free, lamb and rice food called Lamaderm. “Sensible Choice” is a third brand that is considered hypoallergenic because it contains neither wheat or corn and comes in a lamb and rice formulation.
Note: just because a food is labeled “Lamb and Rice” do not assume it is hypoallergenic. Many contain wheat, corn, soy, beef or preservatives. This process of elimination is trying and time consuming. You should be aware that it may take up to 10 weeks to see an improvement. However, it is the best method available to test for food allergies. You may wish to try switching your dog to one of the foods listed above for a month as a trial. If the dog shows improvement you know you are dealing with a food sensitivity, you just won’t know which ingredient to avoid. If there is no improvement, you will need to begin the elimination testing.
This type of reaction, again usually severe itching, is not to the flea itself but rather to proteins in its saliva. Dr. Ackerman writes that dogs most prone to this problem, interestingly enough, are not dogs who are constantly flea ridden, but those who are exposed only occasionally! A single bite can cause a reaction for five to seven days, so you don’t need a lot of fleas to have a miserable dog.
To test for flea allergies, a skin test is performed which must be read in fifteen minutes and again in forty eight hours. Unfortunately injections to desensitize are not very effective because it is hard to collect enough flea saliva to make a serum!
For dogs with this problem a strict flea control regime must be maintained. We would caution you, however, against using strong chemical preparations on your dog. Often times the flea control program produces more harmful effects than the fleas, including seizures and skin problems, so please use caution.
Ackerman, L.: Guide To Skin and Haircoat Problems in Dogs. Alpine Publishing, 1994: 7-19.
By Patty Khuly
It’s the same thing every year. The summer storms … they stress our dogs unduly. We vets call it “storm phobia.” You call it your worst nightmare. (The howling, the hiding, the destruction!)
Either way, we all want the same thing: a calmer dog that doesn’t have to suffer the psychological damage done by booming thunder, wicked lightning and plummeting barometric pressures.
And it’s not just their psyche (and ours!) at risk. We all know that dogs are capable of doing serious damage to themselves during stormy times of the year. Fractured claws, lacerations, broken teeth and bruises are but a few consequences.
So how do you handle thunderstorm phobia? Here are my suggestions:
•Handle it early on in your dog’s life.
Does your dog merely quake and quiver under the bed when it storms outside? Just because he doesn’t absolutely freak doesn’t mean he’s not suffering. Since storm phobia is considered a progressive behavioral disease, signs like this should not be ignored. Each successive thunderstorm season is likely to bring out ever-worsening signs of fear. It’s time to take action — NOW.
•Don’t heed advice to let her “sweat it out” or not to “baby” her.
I’ve heard many pet owners explain that they don’t offer any consolation to their pets because they don’t want to reinforce the “negative behavior” brought on by a thunderstorm. But a severe thunderstorm is no time to tell your dog to “buck up and get strong.” Fears like this are irrational (after all, she’s safe indoors). Your dog won’t get it when you punish her for freaking out. Indeed, it’ll likely make her anxiety worse. Providing a positive or distracting stimulus is more likely to calm her down.
•Offer treats, cuddlings and other good stuff when storms happen.
This method is best employed before the phobia sets in –– as pups. Associating loud booms with treats is never a bad thing, right?
•Let him hide — in a crate.
Hiding (as in a cave) is a natural psychological defense for dogs. Getting them used to a crate as pups has a tremendous influence on how comfortable they are when things scare them. Having a go-to place for relaxing or hiding away is an excellent approach, no matter what the fear. Another approach to try, whether he’s a pup or not:
•Get him away from the noise, and compete with it.
Creating a comfy place (for the crate or elsewhere) in a room that’s enclosed (like a closet or bathroom) may help a great deal. Adding in a loud radio or white noise machine can help, too. Or how about soothing, dog-calming music?
•Counter the effects of electromagnetism.
Though it may sound like voodoo, your dog can also become sensitized to the electromagnetic radiation caused by lightning strikes. One great way to shield your dog from these potentially fear-provoking waves is to cover her crate with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Another method involves clothing her in a commercially available “Storm Defender” cape that does the same work. If she hides under the bed, consider slipping a layer of aluminum foil between the box-spring and mattress.
Sometimes it’s possible to allay the fears by using thunderstorm sound CDs when it’s not raging outside. Play it at a low volume while plying him with positive stimuli (like treats and pettings). Increase the volume all the while, getting to those uncomfortable booming sounds over a period of weeks. It works well for some.
•Ask your veterinarian about drugs.
Sure, there’s nothing so unsavory as the need for drugs to relieve dogs of their fears, but recognize that some fears will not be amenable to any of these other ministrations without drugs. If that’s the case, talk to your vet about it –– please. There are plenty of new approaches to drugs that don’t result in a zonked-out dog, so please ask!
•Natural therapies can work.
For severe sufferers, there’s no doubt it’ll be hard to ask a simple flower essence to do all the heavy lifting, but for milder cases, Bach flower extracts (as in Rescue Remedy), lavender oil (in a diffuser is best) and/or “Dog Appeasing Pheromone” (marketed as D.A.P. in a diffuser, spray or collar) can help.
•Consider seeing a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.
If nothing else works, your dog should not have to suffer. Seek out the advice of your veterinarian, and, if you’ve gone as far as you can with him/her, consider someone with unique training in these areas –– perhaps a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.
Patty Khuly, a small-animal veterinarian in Miami, is author of FullyVetted, a blog on pet health at PetMD.com. She also writes weekly for the Miami Herald and monthly for Veterinary Practice News. Her USA TODAY guest column appears each Friday.
Khuly lives in South Miami with her son, Max, dogs Vincent and Slumdog, goats Poppy and Tulip, and a backyard flock of chickens.
Are dogs just as harmful to the environment as gas-guzzling SUVs? That’s the claim by a new study from researchers in New Zealand.
AFP reports that Robert and Brenda Vale who wrote the book “Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living” calculated that a medium-sized dog eats around 360 pounds of meat and over 209 pounds of cereal a year.
The land needed to produce such food is calculated to be 2.08 acres, which is more than twice the 1.01 acres needed to create enough energy to build a Toyota Land Cruiser. But because the Land Cruiser drives an average of 12,000 a year, the carbon footprint of the SUV and the dog are roughly equal.
“Owning a dog really is quite an extravagance, mainly because of the carbon footprint of meat,” John Barrett at the Stockholm Environment Institute in York, Britain, told AFP. The Vales asked the Institute to run their own calcuations that compared dogs to SUVs, and it got the same result.
Cats were also found to be harmful, but their footprint was less — about the equivalent of driving a Volkswagen Golf for a year.
But many say that the benefits of having a pet outweigh the potential harm to the environment.
“Pets are anti-depressants, they help us cope with stress, they are good for the elderly,” Reha Huttin, president of France’s 30 Million Friends animal rights foundation, told AFP.
“Everyone should work out their own environmental impact. I should be allowed to say that I walk instead of using my car and that I don’t eat meat, so why shouldn’t I be allowed to have a little cat to alleviate my loneliness?”
But the Vales said their point is there are things that can be done to limit pets’ carbon footprint. “If pussy is scoffing ‘Fancy Feast’ — or some other food made from choice cuts of meat — then the relative impact is likely to be high,” Robert Vale said. “If, on the other hand, the cat is fed on fish heads and other leftovers from the fishmonger, the impact will be lower.”
Scientists say that cows produce 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Some farms, like Stonyfield Farms in Vermont, are starting to change the diets of cows — from corn and soy to flaxseed and alfalfa — to cut cow emissions.
Compost your dog poop, please.
Dog waste is a big problem and there are things we can do about it besides chucking it into the garbage in a Safeway plastic bag! Here are some reasons dog poop is so foul and contributes to water pollution:
- Stormwater carries pet waste and other pollutants directly into waterways.
- Pet waste can release ammonia into the water which can kill fish and other aquatic life. At the same time, it can stimulate excessive growth of algae and other aquatic weeds.
- lllegal to send to landfills in many states.
- The typical dog produces 274 pounds of waste each year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
- Unfortunately, if you put Lassie’s waste in a plastic bag, it takes up to 100 years to decompose.
So – what can you do? Here are three solutions for you to consider:
1> Pet-Friendly Automatic Composter
- Specially tuned for pet waste: lower air flow, mixing, and heat than our other composters, to avoid drying out or over processing the compost.
- Compost automatically discharged when ready.
- Great solution for city living and apartment and condo residents who want to stop sending all that kitchen waste to the dump.
- Can be used indoors or out.
- Plugs into a standard power outlet.
- 50 cents a month to run. 10 watts of power.
2> Green Cone Composting System
- Stainless steel components for continuous heavy loads.
- Ideal for large families, gourmet cooks, offices, or small restaurants.
- Available in designer colors.
- Foot pedal for convenient hands-free operation.
- Security lock feature included.
3> Pet Poo Converter
- Handle droppings of 2 medium dogs
- Easy to use compact unit
- Worm Farm
- Power of nature to recycle pet waste
- Worms eat bacteria so odor free
- No chemicals used
So no more excuses – help the world and composte your dog waste!