General Interest

Your Pills & Your Pets: A Deadly Mix

posted January 31st, 2011 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

The most toxic substance for a pet is the same thing that humans use every day to feel better.

For the third straight year, medications for humans have topped the list of pet toxins, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In 2010, ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center received more than 167,000 phone calls about pets exposed to possibly poisonous substances. Of those calls, the ASPCA helped diagnose and treat about 25 percent of the cases where the pet accidentally ingested the human medications. Over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, along with antidepressants and medications for attention deficit disorder are the most commonly ingested medications. Pets often ingest pills that fall on the floor, as well.

Behind medications for humans, insecticides are the next most toxic substance for pets, according to the ASPCA.

“About 20 percent of the calls are about insecticides, which are commonly used on pets for flea control or around the house to control crawling and flying bugs,” the organization wrote in a press release. “The most serious poisonings occurred when products not labeled for use in cats were applied to them, so the ASPCA recommends pet owners always follow label directions.”

Rodenticides, baits used to kill mice and rats, were found to be the third most harmful substance for pets during the past year, followed by people food like grapes and raisins — which can cause kidney failure in pets — and onion and garlic — which can cause anemia — and veterinarian medications consumed in large amounts.

Rounding out the top 10 harmful toxics to pets are chocolate, household toxins like cleaning supplies, plants, herbicides and outdoors toxins such as antifreeze and fertilizer.

– Kristi Eaton

Choose the Right Foods

posted January 20th, 2011 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

Most American pet owners do not consider the age of their dog or cat when buying pet food, a new survey reveals.

The survey, released Tuesday by pet food manufacturer Iams, says only

11 percent of dog and cat owners in the U.S. say their pet’s age is the most important factor when buying food.

Oftentimes pet owners do not know what stage of life their pet is in, which means their beloved four-legged friend may not get the necessary nutrients for proper health and growth.

“When choosing a food for your cat or dog it is important to select a diet that has the right ingredients for that stage of your pet’s life,” said Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM, emergency veterinarian, in Alexandria, Va., and a member of the Iams Pet Wellness Council. “Diet requirements – including protein levels, calories and vitamins and minerals – vary over the life of a pet and, in turn, an animal’s needs change as he grows from a puppy or kitten, to an adult into a senior.”

The survey also showed that only one out of three respondents say the food’s ingredients is the most important criteria they look at when deciding what food to buy and feed their animal.  Instead, some pet owners buy food based on recommendations. Nearly four out of ten people who took the survey (about 36 percent) say recommendations from a trusted source like a veterinarian is the primary reason why they buy a certain food, while almost 25 percent say price is the main reason they will feed Fido or Tigger one brand of food over another.

– Kristi Eaton

Devilish Trouble in Tasmania

posted January 15th, 2011 by
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By SHERRI GOODALL

“Where ‘s Taz?,” we asked at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania. We were looking for the Tasmanian devil, better known as Taz, the Looney Tunes character.

This not-so-adorable bulldog-sized critter, which looks like a cross between a small bear and a large rodent, is in trouble. A mouth disease has caused nearly 80% of the devils to die and the Australian government has put the devil on its endangered species list.

Tasmania, an island off south Australia, is the only place where devils live in the wild. When we visited at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, the handler entered the fenced habitat holding a pole with a slab of raw meat on the end. From behind trees and under rocks and bushes, devils raced out, snapping and screeching. They were hungry! One big one snatched the meal and ducked behind a bush. With deafening shrieks and growls, the devils began tug-of-war with the meat. Devils get their name from the ear-splitting noises they make when fighting over food or each other. The Devils’ jaws have the same bite pressure as a lion and, like hyenas, their favorite meal is carcasses — bones and all.

If you’ve watched dogs at play, you’ve seen them “mouth wrestle.” Similarly, devils nip and nibble at each other’s faces, spreading the deadly mouth disease.

Australians and Tasmanians are concerned about survival of the animals, because, if the mouth disease is not treated and contained, devils could be extinct by 2025. Scientists, biologists, inventors, and the governments of Australia and Tasmania are working together to save Taz.

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is just one of several centers housing
“insurance” colonies of healthy devils. Within the last two years, farmers have reported seeing Tasmanian devils in remote areas of the island where there were no known colonies.

Why is this exciting news?
Researchers are finding new colonies to be disease-free, where adults and joeys (babies) are thriving in the wild. This is like hitting the jackpot for Taz. Special cameras and recorders are used by researchers to document the nocturnal animals eating, fighting, and routinely making a ruckus in the middle of the night. But, capturing devils for testing is not easy, as they are smart and quickly become suspicious of the bait used for trapping.

Nick Mooney, a wildlife biologist, invented a trap made of a large PVC pipe sealed at one end with a trap door at the other end. By patiently placing bait closer to the pipe trap daily, researchers are able to lure the devils into the traps. Mr. Mooney’s creative trap received the “People’s Choice Award” on ABC TV’s New Inventors program.

Now what?
Australians voted Dr. Katherine Belov, of Sydney University, their favorite scientist in 2009 for her teamwork with fellow researchers at the University of Tasmania, monitoring and testing the new colonies. “There is hope now for saving the Tasmanian devil,” Belov says.

Belov and other researchers established “insurance” colonies of healthy devils on mainland Australia. There are approximately 19 sanctuaries and zoos on the mainland, plus the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania.

So far about 300 healthy devil pairs have produced about 60 joeys. The goal is to eventually re-populate Tasmania with healthy animals.
Work is underway to develop to protect the animals against the fatal mouth disease. Additionally, free range enclosures are being built in Tasmania as natural habitats for the animals to live and reproduce, protected from a diseased population. Much work needs to be done, but things are definitely looking up for Taz.

Devils in the Down Under
Tasmanian devils are marsupials. The mothers carry their newborn joeys in a pouch. Australia and Tasmania are home to most of the world’s marsupials, including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and wombats.

coming full circle – The Simones

posted January 15th, 2011 by
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By Marilyn King

In a way, TulsaPets Magazine started with Simone. A little over five years ago, when I first hatched my idea to do a pet’s magazine, one of my first goals was to write about Simone, the Golden Retriever at Saint Simeon’s Episcopal Home in Tulsa.

Not only did Simone have a story in the first issue of the magazine published four years ago this month, she was the magazine’s first cover girl! For those of you who don’t know Simone, she’s a companion dog at Saint Simeon’s, famous for her loyalty and friendship to all persons she knows. The large center includes independent cottage living, various levels of assisted living, a health care facility, and care for Alzheimer’s patients – a lot of territory for a caring dog to cover! She’s semi-retired now, but for all of her 13 years, she has faithfully come to Saint Simeon’s every working day, making a difference in the lives of residents, employees and visitors. She has been “employed” there her entire life, but goes home from work each day with her mom Kathy Hinkle, Director of Continuing Education for Saint Simeon’s. Simone’s reason for being is to befriend residents, and during her “reign,” she has made countless special friends, instinctively knowing who is especially fond of her.

She made her rounds to see them each and every day. Her specialty, though, was com- forting patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Often, when no human could reach the patient, Simone’s presence connected person with pet, amazingly bringing the patient into the present for a few moments of reality.

She has attended many activities at the center — celebrations, fund raisers, funerals of her friends. Now, as a semi-retired “senior citizen,” her friends at the center come to see her, as it has become difficult for her to walk the long halls to visit. Simone inherited a leaky heart valve at birth from her mother and it’s taking a noticeable toll on her energy.

And now it’s all come full circle. Enter Simone II. She’s the new Golden Retriever “interning” with Simone to learn how to take over when the old girl fully retires. Simone II came on board in June, 2009, coming to work each day and learning to make the rounds visiting with residents. She’s now one year and nine months old, and goes home each day with her mom, Dara Harris, the Unit Clerk in the Memory Center.

It’s a big task to learn to walk in Simone’s pawprints! And while senior Simone has never been around other dogs (she has spent all of her time with humans), she is serving as a patient role model for Simone II and her calm, gentle nature expresses an understanding of what’s to be. They both seem to know the special role each has in the scheme of things. It’s a bittersweet relationship.

As of this writing, Simone is hanging in there. She now spends her days in one spot in the main hallway where she has the best view of what’s going on at all times, to see who’s coming and going, and, of course, to keep her eye on the food cart! Plans are already in place to have a special memorial service for her in the same chapel that she has visited many times, attending memorials or funerals of her special friends. Godspeed, Simone! You have served a most purposeful life and will be remembered by many.

This article, written in the first part of December 2010, is actually now a Tribute to Simone. In late December her health rapidly declined, and she had to be euthanized on the evening of December 27th. She passed away peacefully in the comfort of her home with her caregiver, Kathy Hinkle, by her side. Rest in Peace Sweet Simone!

Marilyn King is founder and publisher of TulsaPets Magazine. She wrote about the senior Simone in the magazine’s first issue, published four years ago.

Life Lessons from the Pet

posted January 15th, 2011 by
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By TENISHA EDWARDS

When a child and a dog meet, it’s love at first sight and that was true for eightyear old Larry Edwards, when he met a little white Maltese dog named Happy. Their hearts locked and I knew that Happy would become a part of our family.

Out of his love for his for dogs, Mommy and Me Doggie Wash, a mobile dog washing business, was created. Larry’s eyes light up when he’s washing a dog, doing what he loves.

A dog washing business is one way kids learn life skills and pet responsibility, and it builds confidence. Kids have passion and turning their passion into a business can be fun for children and their families. Establishing a business serving pets can involve creating flyers to hand out to friends, family and neighbors and learning about money matters by creating a money plan for managing the dollars. On a large colorful paper, write down with the child how he might spend the business income and how much will be saved. Let the child pick a charity that’s important to him to donate a portion of the profits.

What great life lessons to learn from your doggie friend!

Tenisha Edwards is the owner of Mommy and Me Mobile Dog Grooming and the author of children’s book Mommy and Me Doggie Wash.

Winter Blues

posted January 15th, 2011 by
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By Kristi Eaton

Has Fido seemed a little lethargic and down lately? Is Spot’s tail wagging less? Experts know that pets can help people with depression, but your pet can get the blues, too. Veterinarians and research studies note that, as with humans, there are many reasons for pets to feel blue.

“They can be depressed from the loss of a pet friend or owner, change in routine – their humans going back to work or back to school, or inattention from their owners,” says Suzanne Hurst, veterinarian at Kindness Animal Hospital in Tulsa.

She also believes some pets suffer from chemical imbalance, leading to depression, although that linkage in pets lacks research, she adds.
In humans, depression can be caused by imbalances in levels of certain neurotransmitters.

Most anti-depressants increase levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the body. Humans may suffer from seasonal affective disorder when melatonin, a compound found in animals, plants and microbes and produced by serotonin, is increased and serotonin is decreased.

“In wintertime in northern parts of our country, people may feel down because everything is bleak and it is cold,” says Hurst. “We can’t go outside as much because of the weather. The trees are bare. The grass is brown. It gets dark before we get home from work.” But what does this have to do with pets? A lot, says the veterinarian, because pets have the same neurotransmitters that humans do, so it’s logical to assume pets have similar imbalances in brain chemicals and can therefore suffer from depression.

Additionally, it’s logical to assume pets react to shorter daylight hours. “If it is cold and they cannot get the usual amount of exercise and romping outdoors, I can see how that may cause a depression for them,” she says. “Further, if their owners are glum then they may pick up on those vibes and mirror our emotions.”

Science Takes a Look
An Ohio State University study found that hamsters can suffer from anxiety and depression in the heart of winter. The study compared about 100 Siberian hamsters, which were offspring of breeding pairs housed in 16 daylight hour days or eight hours of daylight. The newborns remained in the same light levels until weaning, then were moved to the opposite light period. At about two months of age, the animals were measured for anxiety and depression.

Many of the tests, according to Randy Nelson, co-author of the study and a professor at Ohio State, are the same ones used by pharmaceutical companies to test anti-depressive and anti-anxiety drugs in animals. “We found that the amount of light exposure to hamsters to pre-natally and through weaning did have enduring effects on behavior in adulthood,” says Leah Pyter, a doctoral student involved with the study. “But these effects were tempered quite a bit by whether they spent their time as adults in long days or short days.” What pets have going for them, according to veterinarian Hurst, is that, unlike many humans, our four-legged friends live in the moment. They don’t dwell on things, as do humans.

“We may sit around and look at the calendar and watch the weather forecast and get bummed out because we know it will be a while before it is warm again. For humans there can be more of an emotional or cognitive component to the winter blues,” she says. But while humans can do other activities indoors to combat boredom and depression, pets are not so lucky. The highlight of their day might be their walk, and if they can’t go out due to ice or snow, they may get anxious or bored. “So in that respect it may be harder on them. They can’t get enmeshed in a book, game, or television show to pass the time,” Hurst says.

Helping Fido Feel Better
Hurst recommends maintaining a normal walking and exercise routine “Not only is it fun, but exercise stimulates the body to release other neurotransmitters that elevate mood and feelings of well-being,” she says. “If it is too cold or icy to go for a walk, a vigorous play session daily indoors can be substituted.” Also, make sure your pet has plenty of sunlight. Keep blinds and curtains open, especially those in south-facing windows for maximum sunlight exposure. Give Fido toys that are challenging to offset boredom. “There are many great new interactive toys for both dogs and cats available,” Hurst says.

However, before assuming that a lethargic Fido is depressed, Hurst recommends a vet check to rule out physical disorders. “Lethargy can also be a symptom of many illnesses and conditions, including cancer, hypothyroidism, arthritis, kidney disease and more,” she says. “If your pet is acting lethargic, schedule a thorough check-up with your veterinarian.”