L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: Health & Safety

Text warning drivers about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars to be added to California driver's manual

Dog in a hot car

Despite all the warnings against leaving animals in hot cars, we still hear all too often the horror stories of dogs that suffered or even died after being left in vehicles as temperatures inside soared.

One local assemblyman -- Democrat Anthony Portantino of the 44th District, who represents cities including Pasadena, South Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge -- decided to do something about it. When one of his constituents, Phyllis Daugherty of Highland Park, contacted Portantino with her concerns about the ongoing problem of dogs left in hot cars, Portantino began working with California's Department of Motor Vehicles to add a warning to the California Driver Handbook.

As a result, California will become the first state to add language warning drivers about the dangers of leaving dogs unattended in their vehicles with the publication of the 2011 handbook. The warning will point out that leaving a dog in a parked car is not only illegal, but carries a penalty of up to $500 in fines and six months in jail if the dog in question is injured or dies as a result.

"I am especially pleased that we were able to work out these changes without having to impose legislation," Portantino said. "The DMV understood the need for providing animal safety information just as they provide educational information on leaving unattended children in vehicles."

Advocacy group United Animal Nations applauded the move; the group's president and Chief Executive Nicole Forsyth said there's "no doubt many animal lives will be saved" as a result of the new handbook language. Last year, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office launched a campaign to warn pet owners and distributed posters that showed a dog inside an oven alongside the text "Hot Oven, Hot Car ... It's the Same Thing."

Microchip helps San Diego dog find his way home five years after disappearance
USDA licenses first-ever canine influenza vaccine

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A Riverside County animal control officer works to rescue a dog locked in a parked car in 2004. (The dog was later taken to an animal shelter.) Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Pet insurer holds contest to choose winner of Hambone Award for oddest accident

Stories of pets being goofy abound, but in the pantheon of animal wackiness, few things top the 12 tales being offered up in a pet insurer's contest for most unusual claim of the year. The Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., known as VPI, is asking the public to vote on which of the company's animal clients had the wackiest accident (all the pets survived) in the last 12 months and deserves the Hambone Award. The prize is named for a dog insured by the company that got into a refrigerator and ate an entire ham.

Not surprisingly, several of the dog injuries involved gluttonous eating. This year's contestants include a Santee, Calif., Lab named Ellie, who ate an entire beehive -- which her owners were alerted to when the pooch started vomiting bees. Fortunately, most of the bees that she ate were dead because her feast occurred after an exterminator had sprayed the hive. Nor did the pesticide harm her. She spent a week on antacids and a diet of chicken and rice to recover.

The one cat calamity, of course, involved sneaking into some place the animal shouldn't have been -- in this case, a clothes dryer. An Abyssinian named Sandy in Irvine took a brief spin before her owners heard a weird thumping sound and discovered her in the dryer.  She emerged from the cycle with a couple of bruises and a broken rib.

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Feline's Pride, Merrick Pet Care issue product recalls over salmonella concerns; United Pet Group expands recall


Three pet-product manufacturers -- Feline's Pride, Merrick Pet Care and United Pet Group -- have recently issued or expanded voluntary recalls of some of their products over concerns about possible salmonella contamination.

Feline's Pride, a New York-based company that makes raw cat food, has recalled 2.5-pound containers of its Natural Chicken Formula cat and kitten food produced on June 10 and 21.

The company's owner, Shelby Gomas, took issue with the Food and Drug Administration's salmonella concern in a statement on the Feline's Pride website, noting that testing in independent laboratories found no evidence of salmonella contamination. "We feel that [the FDA] did not provide sufficient refrigeration to allow the samples to be properly shipped and maintained safely. On that basis alone, I requested an FDA hearing, and to this day I have not received any response," Gomas wrote Monday.

Merrick Pet Care, based in Texas with distributors around the country, has recalled 86 cases of its Beef Filet Squares for Dogs treats. Affected products are 10-ounce bags with a best-by date of March 24, 2012, and bearing the lot number 10084TL7.

Customers with affected packages of Beef Filet Squares for Dogs are asked to return the product to the place of purchase.

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Microchip helps San Diego dog find his way home five years after disappearance

A San Diego family has been reunited with their dog five years after he was lost thanks to a microchip.

Mikey Brown, a mixed-breed adopted from an animal shelter thirteen years ago by owner Scott Alix, was the family's beloved pet until he disappeared one day. Alix told Fox 5 San Diego that he'd been warned Mikey was an accomplished escape artist, and that turned out to be true -- the dog took to sneaking out of his home to beg hot dogs from the neighbors, who owned a deli.

One day, little Mikey didn't come home, and Alix was unable to locate him. Somewhere along the way, a stranger took him in, renamed him Rooney and cared for him until her recent death. The dog wound up at the San Diego Humane Society, where a routine scan for a microchip turned up Alix's contact information.

Soon the family was reunited with their lost dog, and they explained on YouTube that they're calling him Mikey Rooney so he doesn't get too confused. Mikey Rooney appears to have been well cared for over the years -- he's perhaps a little on the hefty side, but otherwise none the worse for wear.

"He was my first son. I had him before I had my two sons," Alix told Fox 5.

L.A. City Council committee approves plan to mandate microchipping for lost-and-found pets
Orange County couple are reunited with their lost dog -- four years later -- thanks to a microchip

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: Mikey Rooney's welcome-home party. Credit: kandulce via YouTube

New law banning devocalization of dogs and cats to go into effect in Massachusetts

Barking Dogs

Massachusetts on Wednesday will become the first state to ban the surgery that devocalizes dogs and cats, which many animal rights advocates see as a cruel and unnecessary procedure.

Under the new law, anyone in the state who cuts or removes an animal's vocal cords for nonmedical reasons may be punished by fines and up to five years in prison.

The law, signed by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick in April, is dubbed Logan's Law after a dog that underwent the controversial surgery but was later abandoned.

"To take the voice of an animal would be the equivalent of taking a person's voice or a person's ability to communicate," Brian Adams, spokesman for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), told Reuters.

Supporters of the new measure say it is more important for pet owners to understand the needs and motivations behind their pets' making noise.

The silencing surgery may suit the needs of the owner, but not the health and welfare of the animal.

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Ask a Vet: Are fruits and nuts safe treats for dogs?

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 has some tips for reader Jasmine about the dangers of feeding some "people foods" to dogs:

Grapes Jasmine's question: Hi Dr. Oxford, is it safe to feed dogs fruits and nuts?

Heather Oxford, DVM: Great question, especially with us going into fruit season. Fruits and nuts that are toxic include grapes, raisins and macademia nuts. Feeding large amounts of rinds of citrus fruits can also cause toxicity due to increased ingestion of essential oils. All other fruits and nuts are not known to be toxic to dogs, but must be fed in moderation or else gastrointestinal issues could occur.

To submit your question for Dr. Oxford, just leave a comment on this post or send us a tweet @LATunleashed and look for her answer in an upcoming installment of Ask a Vet!

About our vet: Dr. Oxford received her bachelor of science degree at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. She also received a master's of public health degree in epidemiology from Emory University and went on to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She then went to the University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine, where she received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree. She practices at California Animal Rehabilitation and is also certified in veterinary rehabilitation and acupuncture. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Wade, and German shepherd, Tess.

Photo: Los Angeles Times

See Oscar the Bionic Cat in action [video]

We were astounded last week by Oscar, a cat outfitted with bionic back legs. After an unfortunate run-in with a combine harvester, the black cat ran into some good luck in the form of modern science and robotic appendages.

Mind-blowing story, but we just had to see this feline in action.

The BBC has a video illustrating the procedure and astounding results. For a quick peek at the bionic kitty, check out the YouTube video we stumbled across, embedded at the top of this post.

Your morning adorable: Cat answers phone (but his follow-through leaves something to be desired)
Your morning adorable: Kitten finds his own paws terribly, terribly delicious

-- Mark Milian

Salmonella concerns prompt voluntary recalls of some Natural Balance dry dog food, Pro-Pet dog vitamins

Several companies that manufacture food and supplements for dogs have issued recalls over salmonella concerns over the past few weeks.

Natural Balance Pet Foods, the company co-founded by actor Dick Van Patten, has issued a voluntary recall of its Sweet Potato & Chicken dry dog food after random-sample testing by the FDA revealed salmonella contamination. Products affected by the recall are 5-pound and 28-pound bags with a "best by" date of June 17, 2011.

Recalled Natural Balance Dog Food

Natural Balance has stressed to its customers that it has received no complaints of adverse affects in dogs that have eaten the affected food, but says it is recalling it out of an abundance of caution. Further testing conducted at Natural Balance's request in an independent laboratory found no evidence of salmonella, according to the company.

"I am sure your dogs are like my dogs -- they sleep on our beds, they watch TV with us and if they are lucky enough, they come to work with us. This is why we are following the FDA’s recommendation and issuing a voluntary recall," Natural Balance President Joey Herrick wrote in a letter posted on the company's website. "Since we have not had any complaints on this product and it was manufactured six months ago, I expect that most of it has already been consumed."

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British 'bionic' cat back on the move after receiving prosthetic paws

Oscar the bionic cat

LONDON — Oscar the cat may have lost one of his nine lives, but his new prosthetic paws make him one of the world's few bionic cats.

After losing his two rear paws in a nasty encounter with a combine harvester last October, the black cat with green eyes was outfitted with metallic pegs that link the ankles to new prosthetic feet and mimic the way deer antlers grow through skin. Oscar is now back on his feet and hopping over hurdles like tissue paper rolls.

After Oscar's farming accident, which happened when the 2 1/2-year-old cat was lazing in the sun in the British Channel Isles, his owners, Kate and Mike Nolan, took him to their local veterinarian. In turn, the vet referred Oscar to Dr. Noel Fitzpatrick, a neuro-orthopedic surgeon in Eashing, 35 miles southwest of London.

Together with biomedical engineering experts, Fitzpatrick gave Oscar two metal prosthetic implants, or pegs. Those were attached to custom-built faux paws that are a bit wobbly, to imitate a cat's natural walk. But first, he covered the brown implants with black tape to match Oscar's fur.

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USDA licenses first-ever canine influenza vaccine

DogmaskA vaccine to protect dogs from canine influenza, or H3N8, has received the U.S. Department of Agriculture's stamp of approval.

The company Intervet/Schering Plough Animal Health released the vaccine, called Nobivac, last year. Since then, Nobivac had been in limited use during a conditional period while additional safety tests were conducted, according to Intervet veterinarian and technical service manager Dr. Lisa Saabye.

Canine influenza is a highly contagious virus that was first identified in greyhounds at a Florida racing track in 2004. Since the virus was discovered, the USDA has noted outbreaks in 33 states, including several in California.

Infected dogs can exhibit symptoms similar to those for kennel cough, including cough, fever, nasal discharge, appetite loss and fatigue. The virus is spread primarily through infected dogs' respiratory secretions, so dogs that spend a lot of time in the company of other dogs (in boarding kennels, doggie day-care facilities, animal shelters and other places where animals are housed in close quarters) are most at risk. There's no evidence that the virus has ever spread from a dog to a human.

Learn more about the vaccine at The Times' health blog, Booster Shots.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A dog wears a mask after Chinese media reported that several dogs had become sickened with H1N1, or swine flu, in late 2009. Credit: Associated Press


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