L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: Health & Safety

Ask a Vet: What should I do for a puppy who won't eat breakfast?

Have a nonemergency question about your pet's health? Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help! In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford offers some tips for dealing with a puppy who refuses to eat breakfast.

DogEat Jillian's question: My friend adopted Poppy, a 6- month-old puppy, from the county shelter. However, Poppy, who is fed three small meals a day, has been refusing to eat breakfast. She will eat lunch and dinner, but she picks at her food and does not always finish. My friend gives her Wellness dog food and mixes in some wet food as well. Is this a sign of illness? Do you have any recommendations to encourage young Poppy to eat?

Heather Oxford, DVM: This is actually one of the most common questions I am asked as a veterinarian. Some dogs are just finicky, or don't seem to be very food-motivated. In these cases, the most common meal for them to skip is breakfast, and they usually require a little bit of activity or stimulation to become hungry. Also, if your friend is going by the feeding instructions on the pet food bag, there is a strong possibility it is simply too much food. In general, food labels instruct owners to feed 2-3 times what their metabolic requirements call for, which is a major cause of animal obesity in this country.

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Experts warn about the dangers of driving with unrestrained pets in the car

Dog riding in the front seat

Man's best friend is not a driver's best friend.

While lawmakers have been banning drivers from texting or using cellphones, many motorists are riding around with another dangerous risk -- their dogs.

Experts say an unrestrained dog -- whether curled up on a lap, hanging out the window or resting its paws on the steering wheel -- can be deadly. Tens of thousands of car accidents are believed caused every year by unrestrained pets, though no one has solid numbers.

"An unrestrained pet can be hugely distracting -- if he is seeking your attention, putting his face right in front of yours, starts chewing up the upholstery or is vomiting because he is carsick," said Katherine Miller, director of applied science and research for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The issue is drawing attention in some statehouses. Hawaii is the only state that specifically forbids drivers from operating a vehicle with a pet on their lap. But Oregon lawmakers are considering fining drivers who hold their pets behind the wheel. And some cities are taking action, too.

In 2009, 5,474 people were killed and 448,000 injured in crashes caused by distracted drivers in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Researchers find that stress can make healthy cats seem sick, reduced stress can make sick cats healthier

Cat Stress

LOS ANGELES — It's not just people who get sick from stress.

A recent Ohio State University study found that healthy cats show signs of illness when stressed.

At the same time, cats diagnosed with feline interstitial cystitis became healthier when stress levels were reduced, the study showed.

Twelve of 32 cats in the three-year study were healthy and 20 had FIC, a chronic pain syndrome that affects the cat's bladder.

Lower urinary tract diseases occur in about 1.5% of house cats, the researchers said, and a lot of pet owners can't stand the messes that come with it, so millions of sick cats are euthanized or turned over to shelters every year.

The owners of the sick cats had all decided to have their pets euthanized, but agreed to let them take part in the study at Ohio State first.

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Colorado program pairs veterinary students with disabled pet owners to keep animals in their homes

Pocket

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A fun-loving schnauzer named Pocket is stroke survivor Dorothy Kiser's closest companion. But Kiser almost had to put Pocket to sleep when her pet developed diabetes: Kiser feared she wouldn't be able to take care of the dog alone.

Aspiring veterinary students at Colorado State University stepped in to visit the 83-year-old Kiser and Pocket twice a day, giving the dog insulin shots and checking his blood-sugar levels.

The students are taking a class called Pets Forever, which pairs social work and pre-veterinary students with elderly and disabled pet owners who need help keeping their pets at home. Students walk dogs, clean litter boxes and drive sick animals to the vet for home-bound owners.

It's a chance for vets-in-training to care for animals in a home setting -- and helps the elderly and disabled keep companion animals, which studies show can prevent depression and even lower hospital admission rates.

"I don't know what I would have done with Pocket if they didn't come help," said Kiser, a widow who lives alone and has limited use of her left arm. She shook her head as she watched 21-year-old student Lauren Gould take Pocket, 9, to the backyard for a morning urine sample.

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Study shows fewer veterinary students are planning to work with large animals

Cow Vet

FRESNO, Calif. — The number of veterinarians who work with cows, pigs, chickens and other farm animals is on the decline as many prepare to retire and fewer students opt for large animal practice, results from a recent study showed.

Current vets said they already drive for hours to meet with clients, and officials are worried about the impact on food safety because large-animal veterinarians serve as inspectors at ranches and slaughterhouses.

"They're basically on the front line when it comes to maintaining a safe food supply, not only in the U.S.  but in products we export. Vets diagnose diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans," said David Kirkpatrick, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Assn. Results of a survey conducted by the group were released last month.

The study found that only 2% of veterinary school students in 2010 graduating class said they planned to work mostly with large, non-pet animals. An additional 7% studied a mixed curriculum that included all types of animals, but the majority of responses leaned toward practicing pet care.

"We have known for years anecdotally that vets were having a difficult time finding people to work at their practice or selling it when they retire," Kirkpatrick said.

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Disabilities no longer a death sentence for pets

CatAmputee RALEIGH, N.C. — When Beverly Tucker's dog Tobi ruptured a disc in his back, the veterinarian gave her a stark choice: expensive surgery with little chance of success, or euthanasia.

Thanks to medical advances and shifting attitudes about animal care, Tucker, like a growing number of pet owners, opted for a third choice. She bought a wheeled cart specially fitted for Tobi's hind legs, restoring mobility to her paralyzed pooch.

"I would never have my dog put down," Tucker said. "Our option was the wheels, and we're going strong ever since."

Pets with disabilities, including spinal injuries and deafness, still struggle more than healthy counterparts, but their futures are no longer as grim as before. An industry catering to owners of disabled pets has sprung up, offering products such as carts as well as chiropractors specializing in canine spines.

Even in an economic slump, people are willing to take care of their pets.

Total spending on pets has grown each year since the recession began, rising from $41.2 billion in 2007 to an estimated $47.7 billion this year, according to the American Pet Products Assn.

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Schwarzenegger vetoes landlord-renter declawing-debarking bill

Cat

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have made it illegal in California for landlords to require pet owners to declaw or devocalize their animals as a condition of tenancy. 

In his veto statement, the governor said, "I support the goal of this bill, which would preclude landlords from making inappropriate medical decisions as a condition of occupancy. However, I cannot sign a measure that contains findings and declarations by the Legislature that are unsupported by science. In addition, this measure suggests that declawing should be prohibited for any 'non-therapeutic' reason, which would include the legitimate medical needs of a pet owner. Regrettably, this bill goes too far in attempting to deal with inappropriate demands by landlords."

Declawing is a surgical procedure in which the claws and last bones of an animal's toes are removed to prevent the animal from scratching. Devocalizing, or debarking, involves surgically cutting an animal's vocal cords to reduce barking or other vocalizations.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), the author of AB 2743, said via e-mail: 'I am very disappointed that the Governor vetoed my bill. Declawing and devocalization are complex surgeries that can have severe complications for animals, and emotional and financial consequences for pet owners. Cats often change their behavior in unacceptable ways after being declawed and some dogs develop scar tissue that interferes with their ability to eat. Sometimes these procedures are performed routinely."

Dr. Dean Henricks, president of the California Veterinary Medical Assn., which represents more than 6,000 veterinary medical professionals, said his group was "pleased" with the governor's action and he applauded him for taking a stand on it. In a Sept. 2 letter to Schwarzenegger asking him to veto the bill, CVMA wrote that the organization supported the goal of the bill but had concerns with language in it that it deemed "unnecessary and problematic."

This language included a statement that declawing has been associated with ...

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American Kennel Club, Pfizer Inc. announce partnership for dog disease research

Dog Veterinarian

TRENTON, N.J. — Pfizer Inc. said Wednesday its animal health unit and the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation entered an exclusive partnership on new areas of research on dog diseases and treatments.

Pfizer said the goal is to strengthen efforts to prevent, treat and cure canine disease, but the research eventually could lead to medicines for people as well.

"We have the opportunity to gain enormous insights and be part of pursuing scientific discoveries that not only impact animals, but ... humans," Dr. David Haworth, director of Global Alliances for Pfizer Animal Health, said in a statement.

The world's biggest drug-maker will provide $500,000 over two years and will include both basic and applied research. The New York-based company and the American Kennel Club will share leadership and scientific expertise.

They already have worked together through projects including the Canine Comparative Oncology and Genomics Consortium at the National Cancer Institute.

Pfizer said the deal is part of its ongoing commitment to veterinarians and the future of their profession.

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Bills about fur labeling, declawing, pet insurance and animal neglect are approved by California lawmakers

Dog and cat

Several bills affecting animals have made their way through the California Legislature in recent months and are poised to become law if they are signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here's a roundup of recent legislative efforts to help animals in California.

Pet insurance: AB 2411 would require greater disclosure to policyholders by pet insurance providers. The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), was approved by the state Assembly earlier this year. The state Senate amended it before passing it, requiring a second vote from the Assembly, where it passed again this week.

AB 2411 would require pet insurance providers to disclose to consumers any coverage limits; exclusions of coverage based on a pet's preexisting condition; or reduction of coverage or premium increase based on prior claims. It would apply only to insurance policies issued on or after July 1, 2011. (Read the full text of the bill in PDF format.)

Declawing and devocalization: AB 2743, introduced by Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), would prohibit landlords in California from requiring pet owners to declaw or devocalize their pets as a condition of tenancy. The bill would also prevent landlords from giving preferential treatment to tenants with declawed or "debarked" pets or phrasing advertising for their rental properties in a way that would discourage tenants with pets that aren't declawed or devocalized from applying for tenancy.

AB 2743 passed an Assembly vote in May; the state Senate amended it before passing it, and the Assembly passed it with the Senate's changes this week. (Read the full text of the bill in PDF format.)

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Labrador who ate an entire beehive wins pet insurance company's award for oddest claim

It would be difficult to argue with the pet-loving folks who voted Ellie, a year-old Labrador retriever from Santee, Calif., the winner of VPI Pet Insurance's Hambone Award for oddest insurance claim.

After all, she did eat an entire beehive -- a fact her owners, the Coe family, only discovered when she began vomiting bees by the hundreds.

Exterminators had sprayed a beehive in the Coes' yard with pesticide, and Ellie apparently consumed the hive after the bees inside it were dead. Odd as it sounds, that seems to have worked to Ellie's advantage, since she didn't suffer any bee stings. Once the Coes discovered Ellie's big problem, they rushed her to an emergency veterinarian, who gave her a dose of anti-nausea medication and observed her for a few hours. ("Additionally, Poison Control indicated the pesticide did not pose a significant risk of toxicity," according to VPI.)

Ellie beat out 11 other animal accident victims -- all of whom survived their ordeals -- including a border collie who chased a mailman right through a closed window and a standard poodle who ate two plastic baby bottles and a (used) diaper.

This is the second year in a row that VPI has presented the Hambone Award. Last year, a bulldog named Lulu who swallowed 15 baby pacifiers, a bottle cap and part of a basketball, won the award.

RELATED PET HEALTH NEWS:
British vets list the 10 weirdest items eaten by pets
Ask a Vet: Are fruits and nuts safe treats for dogs?

-- Lindsay Barnett

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