Dogs Working in Haiti

The rescue efforts in Haiti wouldn’t be possible without the work of search dogs. That’s a fact. Every day, TV news programs show video of dogs sniffing through the rubble for the sounds of people breathing or calling out for help.

One dog, a Border Collie named Hunter, and his firefighter owner, Bill Monahan, located three girls who had been trapped alive in the devastating earthquake. They were combing through an area near the Presidential Palace when Hunter detected the survivors’ scent under four feet of rubble.

Hunter alerted Monahan using a “bark alert,” and a rescue crew from California Task Force 2 dug out the girls and provided them with immediate first-aid.

Hunter and Monahan were trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, a nonprofit organization that partners rescued dogs with firefighters and trains them to find survivors from natural disasters.

Hunter and Monahan did great work in Haiti. Another reason we love dogs so much.

Report: U.S. Pet Product and Service Sales Up 4.8%

U.S. sales of pet products and services increased 4.8 percent to $54 billion in 2009, according to a report released Jan. 19 by market research publisher Packaged Facts.

“True to the market’s ‘recession resistant’ claim to fame, sales of all pet products and services rose 4.8 percent in 2009 to reach $53 billion, meaning that the market added $2.5 billion in the midst of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” states the report, “Pet Supplies and Pet Care Products in the U.S., 8th Edition: Pet Health and Pampering: The New Value Equation.”

Sales of veterinarian services increased the most at nearly 10 percent, followed by pet food at 5 percent, other pet services at 4 percent and non-food pet supplies (which includes grooming products and bedding) at 3 percent, according to Packaged Facts.

The human-animal bond played a particularly important role in insulating the industry from recessionary cutbacks, according to Packaged Facts. The company pointed to an informal survey in which the majority of U.S. pet owners indicated that they value the comfort and security their pets offer more than ever. Packaged Facts suggested that this means pet owners are willing to invest in goods directly beneficial to their pets’ health, such as natural and organic pet supplements, heated pet beds and dog toys.

Premium demographics are also significant contributors insulating the market, because wealthier households are less likely to feel the financial pinch of a downturn as quickly or intensely, according to Packaged Facts. In addition, the company noted that wealthier consumers are more likely to read labels and pay attention to health claims. As a result, this group is said to consider higher priced products as worth the extra money.

Packaged Facts cited the growing clout of premium demographics as an indication of the success pet supply marketers have had in tapping into pet owners’ willingness and desire to pamper their pets with the healthiest products available.

Chow Chow

A powerful, sturdy dog of Arctic type, medium in size and muscular with heavy bone, the Chow Chow is an ancient breed of northern Chinese origin. While the breed was originally a working dog, he primarily serves as a companion today and is seen in show rings across the country. This lion-like, regal breed comes in five colors – red, black, blue, cinnamon and cream – and is known for its blue/black tongue and stilted gait. Their coats can also be either rough or smooth.

The true origin of the Chow is unknown, but the breed as it is known today is easily recognizable in pottery and sculptures of the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 22 A.D.). An all-purpose dog used for hunting, herding, pulling and protection of the home, some scholars claim the Chow was the original ancestor of the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound, Pomeranian and Keeshond.

Affectionate and devoted to family, the Chow is reserved and discerning with strangers. Their cat-like personalities make them independent, stubborn and less eager to please than other breeds. They require early socialization and training, and some kind of exercise daily. Regular grooming and bathing is a must to maintain their double coats.

  • Non-Sporting Group; AKC recognized in 1903.
  • Ranging in size from 17 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder.
  • Hunter; guard dog.
  • Size: 40-70 pounds
  • Coats & Colors: Coats: rough or smooth
  • Colors: black, blue, cinnamon, cream, red

Ways To Make Vet Visits Affordable

Cutting down on your pet’s health expenses without compromising its health is possible, veterinarians say. Pet owners can forgo some procedures and even discard inoculations from their pet’s protocol without risking their animal’s lives. But the process of choosing which ones to keep, and which ones to drop, depends a lot on the pet’s habits. Here are some factors to consider in seeking more affordable care options.

Pet Care by the Numbers

American pet owners spent an estimated $12.2 billion on veterinary bills in 2009, according to the American Pet Products Association. Nevertheless, some veterinarians have seen a severe downturn in income from non-medical procedures and services, such as boarding. To cut expenses, many are cutting their employees’ hours. But, unfortunately, most are not cutting their fees.

Tips for Lowering Costs

Cost cutting can begin with evaluating your pet’s annual inoculations. Not all inoculations need to be administered yearly, as many vaccines stay in the bloodstream longer than was previously thought.

“People who have been getting vaccines for their pets every year, probably could slide on some of them,” says Dr. Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian at the Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Hills, CA.

If there is any doubt how much of last year’s inoculation is still potent in the pet’s bloodstream, the vet can conduct what’s called a titer. Talk to your vet about whether the fee for a specific titer is less than the potential savings from skipping the inoculation.

In evaluating which vaccines to drop and which to keep, a pet’s location and lifestyle are also important factors to consider.

“An out-and-about pet needs more vaccines more than a couch-potato kitty or dog who takes it easy,” Dr. Cruz said. An indoor cat may simply not require a leukemia vaccine booster. A pooch romping through a deer-tick ridden field in Connecticut needs a vaccine for Lyme Disease; but a city dog strolling a Southern California sidewalk may not.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners issues protocols of what vaccines are needed at each life stage. Though the AAFP “highly recommends” the FeLV vaccination for all kittens, booster inoculation is recommended only in cats considered to be at risk of exposure.

There are just some procedures pet owners can’t stint on, however.

“Hard times are not an excuse to skip your pet’s annual shots,” said Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, ASPCA’s Executive Vice President, National Programs and Science Advisor, “but it does make sense to talk to your vet about personalizing your pet’s vaccine protocol. Some vaccines are optional, while others are essential in preventing serious diseases.”

But skipping on the pet’s annual exam altogether is not an option. “It’s much more expensive—and risky—to treat illnesses than to protect against them,” Zawistowski said.

Evaluating Other Types of Pet Care

Owners can also cut economic corners in other modes of preventative care, such as for periodontal disease. Dental care—vital for keeping bacteria in the gums from leaching into the bloodstream and ultimately into an animal’s kidneys, liver, or joints—does not have to be conducted under anesthesia in every case, not even for cats.

Although not all veterinarians conduct dental work on conscious animals, the difference in price could well be worth seeking out a veterinarian with that expertise. Gas anesthesia can cost from $94 to $112 for a 60-pound dog, plus $27 for anesthesia monitoring, according to a 2009 study by EC Veterinary Economics & Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates. Though tooth cleaning can be less effective when not done under anesthesia, this option is preferable to not cleaning the teeth at all.

As with all types of care, because every individual pet is different, be sure to talk your veterinarian about the best protocol that will work for your pet.

Ten Most Common Pet Poisons

Is your pooch mad for people food? Does your kitty like to self-medicate? Sadly, not everything we love is good for us. In fact, many common household goods that we take for granted as harmless can poison our furry friends. In 2009, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, IL, handled more than 140,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic household substances, including insecticides, cleaning supplies and prescription medications.

Human Medications

For several years, human medications have been number one on the ASPCA’s list of common hazards, and 2009 was no exception. Last year, the ASPCA managed 45,816 calls involving prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants and dietary supplements. Pets often snatch pill vials from counters and nightstands or gobble up medications accidentally dropped on the floor, so it’s essential to keep meds tucked away in hard-to-reach cabinets.

Insecticides

In our effort to battle home invasions by unwelcome pests, we often unwittingly put our furry friends at risk. In 2009, our toxicologists fielded 29,020 calls related to insecticides. One of the most common incidents involved the misuse of flea and tick products—such as applying the wrong topical treatment to the wrong species. Thus, it’s always important to talk to your pet’s veterinarian before beginning any flea and tick control program.

People Food

People food like grapes, raisins, avocado and products containing xylitol, like gum, can seriously disable our furry friends, and accounted for more than 17,453 cases in 2009. One of the worst offenders—chocolate—contains large amounts of methylxanthines, which, if ingested in significant amounts, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, urination, hyperactivity, and in severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors and seizures.

Plants

Common houseplants were the subject of 7,858 calls to APCC in 2009. Varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, lilies, kalanchoe and schefflera are often found in homes and can be harmful to pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats, and can cause life-threatening kidney failure even in small amounts.

Veterinary Medications

Even though veterinary medications are intended for pets, they’re often misapplied or improperly dispensed by well-meaning pet parents. In 2009, the ASPCA managed 7,680 cases involving animal-related preparations such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, heartworm preventatives, de-wormers, antibiotics, vaccines and nutritional supplements.

Rodenticides

Last year, the ASPCA received 6,639 calls about pets who had accidentally ingested rat and mouse poisons. Many baits used to attract rodents contain inactive ingredients that are attractive to pets as well. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestions can lead to potentially life-threatening problems for pets including bleeding, seizures or kidney damage.

Household Cleaners

Everybody knows that household cleaning supplies can be toxic to adults and children, but few take precautions to protect their pets from common agents such as bleaches, detergents and disinfectants. Last year, the ASPCA received 4,143 calls related to household cleaners. These products, when inhaled by our furry friends, can cause serious gastrointestinal distress and irritation to the respiratory tract.

Heavy Metals

It’s not too much loud music that constitutes our next pet poison offender. Instead, it’s heavy metals such as lead, zinc and mercury, which accounted for 3,304 cases of pet poisonings in 2009. Lead is especially pernicious, and pets are exposed to it through many sources, including consumer products, paint chips, linoleum, and lead dust produced when surfaces in older homes are scraped or sanded.

Garden Products

It may keep your grass green, but certain types of fertilizer and garden products can cause problems for outdoor cats and dogs. Last year, the ASPCA fielded 2,329 calls related to fertilizer exposure, which can cause severe gastric upset and possibly gastrointestinal obstruction.

Chemical Hazards

In 2009, the ASPCA handled approximately 2,175 cases of pet exposure to chemical hazards. A category on the rise, chemical hazards—found in ethylene glycol antifreeze, paint thinner, drain cleaners and pool/spa chemicals—form a substantial danger to pets. Substances in this group can cause gastrointestinal upset, depression, respiratory difficulties and chemical burns.

Prevention is really key to avoiding accidental exposure, but if you suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.