All posts tagged 'dog life'

Five Ways a Puppy Changes Your Life

Labradoodle-puppy

Is there anything quite as wonderful as puppy breath? I keep reminding myself of this, and all the other happiness-inducing qualities of puppies in general, while mine is attempting once again to gnaw on my fingers even as I write this. But seriously, watching a pupper experience all of his “first things” is a source of joy. And guess what … March 23 just happens to be National Puppy Day, so let’s celebrate!

First-Ride-Home
Dr. V's new puppy, Dakota, on his way to his new home

It’s been eight years since we’ve had the pitter-patter of puppy paws in the house, and we’re just a couple of weeks into the process with our poodle mix Dakota. As a vet, I try to warn prospective pet parents that puppies require a significant investment in time and energy. Our memories are kind when it comes to recalling just how much work they can be. Even so, it’s worth every second. In honor of Dakota and National Puppy Day, here’s my list of the Five Ways a Puppy Changes Your Life:

1. Get a Head Start on Spring Cleaning.

Puppies get into everything, and I do mean everything. Dust bunnies under the couch. Shoes you forgot you had. Every little crumb and morsel you missed while you were vacuuming. All the socks you thought you’d lost. The cat’s litterbox. Puppies force you to be very honest with yourself about how good (or not so good) of a housekeeper you’ve been. A few days of that and you’ll be cleaning up more than ever before.

2. You’ll Get in All Your Steps.

One of the benefits of housetraining a dog is achieving your step count earlier in the day. Going outside every couple of hours means extra moving on your part, especially if you’re taking them on a short walk. And don’t get me started on chasing him around when he finds whatever forbidden item you thought you had hidden well but really hadn’t. Yes, you’re going to be burning all sorts of calories!

Muddy-Dakota
Uh-oh, you didn't track that through the house, did you?

3. Better Stock Up on Cleaning Products.

Even if you’re religiously housetraining your pup, accidents are bound to happen. Just like with babies, messiness is part of the puppy bargain. Be sure to check out our pet-safe, family-friendly cleaning product, Bio-Base Floorwash, available on our Pet Care page.

4. Improving Your Agility.

Avoiding the tiny, shark-like puppy teeth provides an excellent opportunity to perfect your lightning-fast reflexes. Pretty soon, you’ll be honing ninja-level quickness almost overnight.

Dakota-and-Kitty
Dakota isn't sure what to make of this kitty creature

5. Spending Quality Time With Your Vet.

Ever wish you got to see the smiling face of your veterinarian just a little more often? Good news! You’re going to be spending a lot of time shuttling back and forth over the next few months. Bring your favorite Life’s Abundance pet treats to ensure your puppy has a positive outlook on trips to the vet’s office. Want to score some bonus points? Bring cookies for the people too! Positive reinforcement is fun for everyone.

OK, this list might be a bit tongue in cheek, but it does reflect the amount of time you need to be prepared to dedicate to raising a happy, healthy, well-adjusted puppy. As we can all agree, the effort you put in at the beginning is well worth the results! Between your time commitment and a healthy Life’s Abundance diet, your puppy - and my Dakota - are going to be off to the best start possible!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

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About That New Puppy

Blonde-Lab

Few things in life are quite as joyous as finding a new puppy to bring home. First come the aww-inspiring introductions, the wobbly walk, the pure delight of a super-fast wagging tail … well, you get the picture. But before the intoxicating aroma of puppy breath has confused your mind, there are definitely some things you need to take care of first.

Before you pick up your new pup, follow these simple steps in the infographic below to ready your home and protect your new little one. Because once they’re home, you’re going to want to be spending all of your time playing and sharing adorable “first-time” pics and video online. Also, don’t forget, house training.

Be sure to check out our amazing Healthy Start Packs for Small & Medium-Size Puppies and for Large Breed Puppies. Everything you need to feed and care for your new doggo is included, from food to treats to supplemental nutrients to care products!

With just a bit of prep work, you and your newest family member can get down to the business of bonding and creating adorable memories.

From all of us here at Life’s Abundance, we send our heartfelt wishes for a long, healthy and happy relationship with your new canine companion!

New-Puppy-1New-Puppy-2

Pack a Go Bag for Your Pet

It’s hard to pick up the news these days and not be worried about the safety of our family. As a California resident, I can tell you … the fire here is pretty terrifying. When a wildfire grows larger than the size of Manhattan, it truly beggars belief.

Whenever I start to worry, I make plans. Plans help us feel more secure in the moment, and should disaster strike, we’ll have the confidence of being prepared.

Most of us will probably never have to deal with anything more extreme than an extended power outage. But, as we see in the news, situations can arise at the drop of a hat that necessitate having to leave home in a hurry.

Few things can put your mind at ease like having a go bag. You’ve probably seen these in films and TV shows. It’s a pre-packed travel bag with a few days’ worth of supplies. You may already have one ready to go … but can you say the same for your companion animal? Here’s a short list of items to pack in case you need to bug out with your dog or cat.

Simply click on the image below to view the full-size PDF and print for later reference. It’s always good to be prepared!

PDF Document
PDF Document

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Which Holiday Character is Your Pet?

Yorkshire-Holiday

No matter how old I get, I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow my inner child when it comes to excitement over the holiday season. The characters in this play of life may vary, yet one thing remains the same: as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is done, my holiday season begins.

My pets may not know what Christmas is, but they do know something is happening: the furniture moves around, someone’s always cooking and they get to spend their nights curled in front of a fire (well, as many as our warm SoCal evenings allow). Most of our December evenings are spent watching some sort of holiday movie or show. After so many years, I know all the beloved casts of characters by heart.

Part of the fun of revisiting these classics is imagining which roles my companion animals most closely resemble. Like people, our dogs and cats each have their own distinct likes, dislikes and personality quirks. Does your dog or cat remind you of any of the following pop-culture favorites?

The Grinch

Does your dog skulk around the house with a Grinch-like frown? Does your cat steal random ornaments and hide them away in the fireplace? Could be because the holidays can be stressful for many companion animals who are disturbed by the extra activity, changes in routine and houseguests. If your pet becomes Grinchy every December, make sure to provide them their own sanctuary. Just as the Grinch needed a cave on Mount Crumpit, sometimes they just need a temporary escape from all the noise, noise, noise, noise!

Kitty-Christmas-Tree

The Bumble

In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the angry, roaring Bumble is reduced to a big old softie after Hermie the dentist removes his teeth. Dental disease is a big problem for both dogs and cats. Often going untreated, the result is many cranky mini-Bumbles wandering around with sore mouths. Want to give your pet a truly meaningful holiday gift? Make sure their mouths are healthy and disease-free. I am astounded at the turnaround many make once their dental disease is addressed and the source of constant pain resolved.

Heat Miser

Who can forget the Miser Brothers angrily hurling snowflakes and lightning bolts at each other in The Year Without a Santa Claus? While cold winter air can be refreshing, seniors (especially those with arthritis) might find winter less than comfortable on ailing joints. If your dog or cat seems to slow down when the temperature drops, shows difficulty negotiating the stairs, or seeks out the warmest spots in the house, make like the Heat Miser and crank up the heat. Cozy orthopedic beds, keeping the house at a comfortable temperature when they’re home alone and providing joint support can help seniors stay comfy even when the weather is frightening. Of course, make sure any new symptoms are brought to your veterinarian’s attention.

Naughty-Nice

Garfield

All Garfield wants for Christmas is plate after plate of lasagna. As a vet, I can tell you he’s not the only one with an ambitious appetite. The holidays are one of the busiest times of year for emergency clinics who witness firsthand the aftermath of counter-surfing Collies and trash-diving Torties. Pancreatitis, foreign bodies and the ever-present carpet-ruining “GI disturbances” are just some of the unfortunate consequences of four-footers gobbling holiday goodies. If your dog or cat has a reputation for sneaking a snack or seven, try not to leave them unguarded. Also, give them some healthy treats instead. Life’s Abundance offers a host of wonderful options that make for perfect stocking stuffers for dogs and for cats!

Peanuts

I’ve saved my favorite special for last. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown frets about the consumerism of the holidays. He takes in a sad little tree and transforms it into something beautiful. As much fun as it is to get swept up in buying gifts for our furry companions, or how tempting it is to try and capture the perfect “Santa Paws” pic for Instagram, at the end of the day, the only things our critters want from us is our love and attention. Being with family and making time for each other truly makes the season special.

My dog Brody is a Linus for sure. No matter how many holiday cookies I stress eat over travel plans or finding “the right gift” for someone, Brody is there to offer a constant source of friendship and calm. I can count on him to put his head in my lap and remind me to take a breath, and be grateful for all the gifts I have this season.

I wish you and your family joy, love, and good health this December and in the New Year to come!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

The Secret to Finding a Lost Dog

Chevy-Koko

Few feelings of dread are as harrowing as the moment you realize your dog is missing.

Late Sunday afternoon, our long-time employee, Dawn Tate, experienced just such a moment. After hanging out with her two dogs, Chevy and Koko, in an open field near her home, Dawn realized that her Florida cur, Chevy, had not returned from her recent romp. Minutes later, as Dawn’s searches became more and more frantic, she realized that Chevy had vanished.

After a several minutes of fruitless searching, Dawn launched a full-out rescue attempt. Not only did she contact her local Animal Control Department, but also the police. Both agencies expressed concern for Chevy’s welfare and were only too happy to receive her emails with photos of Chevy, so they could keep an eye out. In addition to contacting the authorities, Dawn turned to social media for help. She posted images of Chevy and shared her last-known location with her friend network. Unfortunately, there were no sighting reports of Chevy.

frantic-phone

Dawn was determined to bring her baby home, searching the surrounding areas as late as 2 a.m. and then was up before the crack of dawn to resume search efforts.

Thanks to a helpful friend, Dawn decided to try a recovery strategy that someone shared online. It’s a method that’s popular among outdoorsmen for lost hunting dogs. The trick is this … return to the location where you first became aware you were separated from your canine. At the scene, place at least one article of recently worn clothing (not anything freshly clean from the wash). The more scent it holds, the better. If at all possible, also bring along a crate or carrier and two or three of your dog’s favorite toys. It is recommended that you also provide a bowl of water (not food, as it may attract wildlife that might scare off your dog). You might also consider leaving a note for any people who happen by, requesting that the items remain undisturbed and why.

The basic concept here is that your dog wants to return to you, he just can’t find you. Thanks to their incredible sense of smell, they will be able to find their way back to these familiar items. Time and time again, this method has proven highly successful in reuniting lost dogs with their caretakers.

Why is it so effective? Dogs have an amazingly keen sense of smell. Their noses possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors, which is 50 times more than humans. To convert all of the sensory data picked up by these detectors, there’s a great deal of processing power. The canine brain allocates 40 times more brain power proportionately, compared to people.

It’s hard to quantify exactly how much better a dog is at detecting scents compared to ours. Some experts say it’s a 1,000 times better, while others say it’s one million times better. And humans actually have well-developed sniffers. All of us have had the experience of returning home and opening the front door to smell that someone’s been cooking. You were probably even pretty sure what dish was being made. If we can smell this, a dog could detect the same in a house the size of an average-sized city!

Dogs are able to pick up on a whole host of information from smells. When it comes to knowing their pet parent, they can read unique chemical markers (such as hormones) that we’re not even aware we’re emitting. With one breath, they can easily determine if we’re fearful, anxious or sad. That’s astonishing! Just remember, the next time you’re walking your dog and she lingers to smell the grass, she’s reading all sorts of information from the last dog that passed by. In this scenario, veterinary experts would say that your dog’s interior thoughts probably sound like, “Let’s see, you’re also a girl, you’re about 4 years old, you had a chicken-based meal this morning, you were super excited on your walk, etc.”

A HAPPY RESOLUTION

It was a frightening 24 hours, both for Dawn and for Chevy. But thanks to the innovative strategy we just explained to lure her back to the exact spot where they were separated, Dawn, Koko and Chevy are now safely back under the same roof. Yay!

Chevy

Have you ever become separated from your companion animal? What strategy did you use to search, and were you successful? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Share your stories in the comments section below!

Make Thanksgiving Great For Your Dog

Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is surely a canine favorite. There's abundant food, there's full gatherings of friends and family, and did we mention the food?

The downside is much of the bounty you'll be serving at your feast doesn't jibe too well with a dog's digestive system. Sure, they'll enjoy it in the moment, but there can be some serious side effects to all the sneaky feeding of scrumptious table scraps.

Fortunately, we have some food for thought, presented in the following holiday infographic. You'll learn about some of the incredibly tasty and oh-so-nourishing alternative foods and treats your dog is sure to love. After all, we all want this Thanksgiving to be the best it can be for your beloved pup-pup.

To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below. And be sure to share this post with your friends and family!

PDF DocumentPDF Document

Funding Awarded to German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue

foster-friend

It’s time once again for an update from our non-profit charity, The Dr. Jane Foundation. This month, we’re excited to share news of a financial award to an intrepid group of rescuers based in Denver. A breed-specific rescue group, this organization places homeless German Shorthaired Pointers (GSP's) and Pointer mixes with foster homes until they're matched with their ideal adoptive families.

All Points West German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue is a relatively new not-for-profit association, having just celebrated their 1st anniversary this year! In the short time they've been rescuing, All Points West has helped to rescue, rehabilitate and find forever homes for dozens of dogs, not just in Colorado but also in neighboring states and the Pacific Northwest.

This excellent group of experienced, dedicated rescuers has 20 years of combined rescue and foster experience. Their passion for Pointers can hardly be understated! In just a year of operations, they've already rescued 49 dogs; and of those, 41 have been successfully adopted! They graciously attribute their amazing rescue rate to their volunteers and to the groups and individuals whose contributions fund their work.

All Points West's mission supports the long-term goal of lowering euthanasia rates in the region through adoption programs. With each additional rescue, they're working for a future in which all rescued GSP’s find responsible, loving homes where they can live free from abuse, hunger, fear, loneliness and receive the care and respect they deserve. Not only do they celebrate and honor this noble, adventurous and loving breed, they regularly sing the praises of every pet parent who chooses to adopt rather than purchase a new dog.

foster-cuddle

At any given time, this group provides essential daily care for dozens of GSP's and Pointer mixes, covering the costs of all veterinary expenses. Given the state of some of their rescued pups, this is no small feat. Because they have been able to achieve so much in so little time, the decision by our non-profit to fund their grant application was an easy one. Thanks to a top-notch foster program and superb veterinary care, our Board of Directors feels confident that All Points West’s vigilant and dedicated team will save countless GSP's.

Their Pointers come from a variety of heartbreaking backgrounds. Some are relinquished to shelters, others are abandoned in the wild. For the dogs who are fortunate enough to be accepted into a shelter, many will wait a very long time before anyone pays them interest. The sad fact is, there is a common misperception that these creatures are “good for hunting but not as pets”. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Pointers are known to be adoring, affectionate and great family dogs. Even as they work to rescue as many dogs as possible, All Points West has also made strides in changing the prevailing narrative concerning this loving breed.

All Points West has used our financial award to help defray the costs of medical care. Founding Board Member Gail Wise had this to say about our grant: "We appreciate the Dr. Jane Foundation’s belief in our work and support for that work. Without financial underwriting like that of the Dr. Jane Foundation, we couldn’t save these dogs and offer health, comfort, and in many cases, a first-time loving home to them. Our excitement over the possibilities for life saving medical care that this level of support provides for our rescued dogs will truly be one of the highlights of 2017 for us. It allows us to keep saving more dogs and helping them to live happy and healthy lives with their forever families."

Here are just a few of the sweet, lovable Pointers who have benefitted from All Points West's lifesaving assistance …

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Foster

This past summer, APW rescued Foster, a GSP found wandering country roads completely emaciated and severely dehydrated. All of his teeth were broken or missing. Had he not been found, he surely would've perished. He has some complex and serious health issues, but with our financial support, Foster has regained some of his health with the help of specialists and holistic veterinarians. An All Points West representative said that receiving our award was "a wonderful coincidence" that "the generosity of a company that believes in holistic animal care is helping to provide exactly that for sweet Foster!" They added that without our "critical financial support he would have died alone or had to immediately be euthanized and not have had the chance to be loved, to play and cuddle, to go camping and hiking with his new family." As you can tell from the previous photos above, Foster really enjoys snuggling with his new siblings.

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Yankee

This sweet, goofy adult male was discovered deep in the New Mexico desert, after fending off both feral dogs and coyotes. Based upon his discomfort with other dogs and his physical symptoms, his rescuers believe he was held in a small enclosure before being abandoned in a remote desert canyon. All of his joints were extremely red and swollen. After a full medical work-up and x-rays, vets determined he had chewed his joints repetitively, perhaps out of fear or anxiety. But, thanks to the incredible care they provided, All Points West was able to locate a loving home. His new pet parents are helping Yankee to learn how to feel secure as a beloved family member.

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Brexie

An orthopedic special-needs girl, Brexie was born with a malformed lower spine. Incredibly, she was adopted by a chiropractor, which turned out to be a perfect match! Thanks to a significant investment in medical care and physical therapy, she now lives pain-free, is able to remain continent in the house and has developed additional musculature in her hindquarters. In fact, she's able to run and play with her foster pack on miles-long, off-leash hiking adventures every afternoon! Her new family totally dotes on her, and her specially trained dad who works with her every day to help her further overcome her spinal issues. It's an amazing sight to see her living her best life, especially considering that she was facing euthanasia prior to her rescue by All Points West.

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Jake

After being rescued, Jake's foster care parents sussed out that Jake was having trouble with separation anxiety. Otherwise, he was perfectly healthy. The adoption coordinator thought that given his anxiety issues, having a job might be beneficial. As a result, Jake discovered his true calling ... being a therapy dog. He was adopted by a loving couple whose young son was suffering from a severe, debilitating case of anxiety. It was so pronounced, he had developed agoraphobia, and experienced extreme fear whenever he left the house. Fortunately for both, the pairing proved unbelievably successful. Jake and the boy have formed an inseparable bond, and now they do everything together, including outdoor chores, biking and running, even playing outside with other friends. Way to go, Jake!

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Jasper

This handsome doggo is one of four seniors All Points West has placed thus far. Unlike many of their rescues, this 10-year-old only needed an initial intake exam. Jasper is a real cuddle bug, loves to swim and is widely regarded as "just about the nicest dog you could meet." As with the other three seniors, Jasper has found an adoring home that provides love, snuggles and a comfy place to lay his head.

Anyone looking for more information about this amazing rescue can visit their site at www.allpointswestgsp.org or email them directly at AllPointsWestGSP@gmail.com. For any Colorado residents, this rescue encourages interested adopters to contact them immediately, as well as anyone interested in becoming a foster parent.

From all of us here at Life’s Abundance headquarters, we thank this committed network of lifesavers for their incredible work. And we thank all readers and customers … through your personal donations and continued patronage, you’ve helped make all of our grants possible. Your generosity and loyalty have helped to make the world a better place for abandoned, abused and neglected animals across America.

And there’s more good news … The Dr. Jane Foundation is now accepting applications for funding in 2018. If you know of an animal rescue organization that deserves special recognition and financial support, please encourage them to submit an application today.

Check back soon for more good news from The Dr. Jane Foundation. Together, we’re making a difference!

Canine Influenza: What Pet Parents Need to Know

SadPug

Two years ago, if you had asked me whether or not I recommended the canine influenza vaccine, I’d have told you, “probably not.” Even as recently as one year ago, I probably would have said the same thing, at least here in San Diego. But that’s the thing about medicine, especially when it comes to emerging diseases ... situations can change rapidly. Recommendations that made sense as recently as six months ago no longer hold. Such is the case with the current outbreak of canine influenza. Here’s what we know based on the latest information from the CDC, American Veterinary Medical Association and the veterinary schools who are helping to research the disease.

What is Canine Influenza?

Influenza is a family of viruses that affect a wide variety of species. It has two characteristics which really set it apart from other types of virus: one, it can mutate very rapidly (hence the need for a new flu vaccine every winter); and two, it often jumps species. Such is the case with canine influenza.

Until recently, the only strain we saw in dogs was H3N8, a mutation of equine influenza that’s been circulating in the United States since 2004. While a vaccine is available for H3N8, few veterinarians recommended it as the disease was very limited and most infected dogs recovered on their own.

All this changed in 2015, when H3N2 emerged on the scene. H3N2, thought to be a mutation of an avian influenza, arrived in Chicago with a group of dogs imported from Korea. This virus behaves very differently from H3N8, as the veterinary community soon discovered. It mutates very rapidly, meaning there are already different strains of the virus all around the country. Also, it is highly infectious, spreading to all corners of the US much more quickly than anyone had anticipated. As of now, H3N2 has been identified in 46 states.

What Does Canine Influenza Do to Dogs?

Canine influenza manifests in two forms. In the mild form of the disease, dogs experience a soft cough that lasts from 2-4 weeks. They may act lethargic, demonstrate a diminished appetite, have a low fever (102.5-104), exhibit sneezing, and maybe have some eye and nasal discharge. As you can see, these are fairly vague signs that show up with many sorts of canine disease processes, so many cases of canine influenza have probably gone unidentified.

In its rarer, more severe form, dogs can become very ill. They can run a high fever (104-106) and develop pneumonia, which can lead to life-threatening complications. The fatality rate for canine influenza is less than 10%.

Other species can be infected with H3N2: it’s been diagnosed in cats, ferrets and guinea pigs. In these species, it manifests like an upper respiratory infection and usually resolves on its own. Fortunately, H3N2 has not manifested in people according to the latest data from the CDC.

Which Dogs Are Most At-Risk?

In theory, all dogs are at-risk of H3N2. Virtually all dogs who are exposed to the virus become infected (i.e. have circulating virus in their systems); about 80% of those dogs show some clinical signs of disease. What makes this virus particularly nasty is that infected dogs shed tremendous amounts of the virus whether or not they are showing signs of disease; they can shed virus for more than three weeks! That means one dog, travelling across the country to dog shows or staying in boarding facilities, can infect hundreds of other dogs in a short period of time.

Dogs are at highest risk of exposure when they are in direct contact with other dogs. The virus only lives in the environment for 24 hours, so most infection occurs from contact with respiratory secretions like sneeze droplets. Dogs at boarding or daycare facilities, training classes, competitions, dog shows and shelters are at highest risk. Of these dogs, those who become the most ill are the very young, seniors and the immunosuppressed.

How is Canine Influenza Diagnosed and Treated?

Canine influenza can’t be definitively diagnosed based on history and examination because the symptoms are so vague. If your veterinarian suspects influenza, she may recommend specific blood or nasal swab tests which can isolate the canine influenza virus.

Like human influenza, the treatment consists of supportive care and treating the symptoms while the body fights off the virus. Fluid support and antibiotics for secondary infections are the mainstays of supportive care. Infected dogs should be quarantined from other dogs for at least 21 days.

Is There a Vaccine?

Two manufacturers make vaccines for H3N2. The vaccine schedule consists of two doses three weeks apart, with a yearly booster. If you are considering this vaccination for your dog, make sure you are getting the right one because a vaccine for H3N8 also exists.

If you’re not sure whether or not you should get your pet vaccinated, your veterinarian is always going to be the best source of information as they will be aware of whether the disease has been diagnosed in your area. You can also check out the Infectious Disease Risk Calculator from the Ohio State college of veterinary medicine, which asks you a series of questions and gives you a risk assessment based on the most current data (https://idrc.vet.ohio-state.edu).

The virulence of H3N2 took the veterinary community by surprise. Fortunately, public health surveillance exists specifically for this reason. The infectious disease community was able to identify and get the word out about H3N2 quickly, so veterinarians are able to better support the wonderful canines we are fortunate enough to treat. While the virus is scary, we know a lot more than we did even a few short months ago, including how to protect your pups. You can help by getting the word out about this virus, and encouraging those you know to visit the vet if there’s any concern H3N2 may be present.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

For more information, check out these trusted resources:

www.vetgirlontherun.com
https://www.dogflu.com
http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/canine_influenza.pdf
https://ahdc.vet.cornell.edu/news/civ.cfm
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/canineflu/keyfacts.htm

Futuristic Pet Technologies & Gadgets

smart-dog

Fans of Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy know of the amazing convenience offered by the T.A.R.D.I.S. and Babel fish, both of which offer real-time translation of any form of communication, from humans to animals to aliens. A device allowing for instantaneous translation has long fired the imagination of many.

The language barriers have been breaking down since the launch of the internet’s first translation website (interestingly enough, called babelfish). We haven’t gotten to the point Douglas Adams envisioned just yet, but technology inches us ever nearer this holy grail of communication.

These days, all you need is your phone to get around the world. For example, Google’s Translate app allows you to translate road signs and blocks of text with nothing more than your camera phone!

While such advances are remarkable, we’ve only gotten as far as other humans. Cat meows, dog barks, bird chirps, and whale songs are just as much of a mystery to us as they have ever been … but that may soon change. According to a report commissioned by Amazon*, pet translators could be on the market within the next decade. What would that even look like?

The obvious problem with the concept is that dogs and cats don’t rely on verbal communication the way we do. Cats don’t even meow to other cats, just to people. A collar that claims to translate vocalizations therefore isn’t going to give us a whole lot of useful information. Therefore, one would ideally require some sort of technology that would evaluate body language, which is integral to the way that so many pets communicate.

lap-dog-ball

For the past decade, wearable tech has struggled to come up with a device that pet parents actually find useful. Smart implements claiming to translate barks fell by the wayside quickly, due to impractical tech. GPS trackers fared a bit better, but most people find they don’t lose track of their dogs and cats often enough to need them. But the final path to progress, at least based on how the technology has evolved recently, seems to be in devices that capture and interpret a pet’s movement.

Fitbit-like devices that simply tell you how much exercise a pet is getting aren’t that popular. Rather than responding to the tracker’s complaints by upping daily walks with the dogs, most people simply put the trackers in the drawer to avoid the guilt. But rather than focus on the amount of movement, pet trackers are now trying to determine patterns of motion. The newest trackers claim to recognize not only the length of physical activity but the type. Consequently, they’re able to differentiate between an itchy dog scratching all night from an anxious dog pacing around the house. Even better, these trackers could even help pet parents determine if that new allergy drug is helping, or if a dog on arthritis medication is feeling any better. Actions speak louder than words, right?

At the end of the day, as researcher John Bradshaw points out**, technology shouldn’t replace pet parents simply doing a better job of understanding the needs of their dog. A person who lives in a small apartment and works 12 hours a day may run into problems if they adopt a Weimaraner puppy. Knowing that your dog spends the first 15 minutes after you leave the house running at warp speed or tearing up the cushions is useless unless you realize this likely indicates separation anxiety, which can’t be resolved without some sort of behavioral intervention. The true benefit of these technologies is in getting a better handle on what is going on when we aren’t present.

canine-buddies

If you’re an early adopter of pet tech, you’ve probably accumulated all sorts of gizmos. Dog cameras that spit out treats with the push of a phone’s button. Remote tennis ball launchers. Specialized collars that can track a dog’s respiratory rate throughout the day. One of the more popular pieces of pet tech is the Nest camera. Many a canine and feline mystery has been solved thanks to the watchful eye of hi-def video monitoring.

The path to technological advancement is by necessity littered with castoff items that fail to meet their potential, but that’s the nature of innovation. For all the times we try out a new gadget and never use it again, there are occasionally bursts of technical genius that truly makes life better for us and our companion animals.

So, what do you think Life’s Abundance reader? Are you itching to try out mind-bending future tech to communicate with you companion animal? Or are you content with your own tried-and-true methods when it comes to canine interactions? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Online References:
* gadgetsandwearables.com/2017/07/21/amazon-shop-the-future
** theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/21/dogs-talk-tell-home-truths-technology-pets-feeling

Supporting Military Service Members

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This week, one of our military veterans received a hero’s farewell. In Muskegon, MI, hundreds gathered to witness the passing of Cena, a black Labrador who retired in 2014 after serving three tours of duty sniffing out explosive devices in Afghanistan. After his recent diagnosis of terminal bone cancer, his caretaker made the decision to end Cena’s life with dignity, and some well-earned fanfare. Cena was one of many military service animals who have saved countless lives for decades.

We reflect with gratitude on the history of those who have served, both human and companion animal, alike. For those of us who don’t serve and are fully entrenched in the civilian way of life, military life can feel like foreign territory. Given that so many have given so much, we’re left to wonder, “What can we do to help?” To that we say, “We’re glad you asked” and we encourage you to open your heart to these following possibilities.

Foster During Deployment: If you answer “no question, my dog/cat” when asked who you’d want with you on a deserted island, fostering an animal for service members deployed overseas may be the role for you. Like anyone, active military service members can and often do have doggos and kitties. They also have the unique hardships of extended out-of-town training, deployments and living far away from a network of family or close friends. Lest these difficulties bar service men and women from being pet parents (or worse, surrendering a pet), there are organizations that exist to “matchmake” service members with volunteer pet boarders. These groups seek private homes and boarding facilities that would care for a military foster pet for as short a period as a couple of weeks, up to one year and everything in between. If you live near a military base, check for a regional service in your area or visit one of the national services like DogsOnDeployment.org.

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Adopt a Hero: In an ideal scenario, a retired military working dog (MWD) is to ultimately be adopted by their handler partner, but this is not always possible. If you are a fan of dogs who demonstrate a real drive and purpose, perhaps you have a place in your home for a retired hero! The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act was cause for great celebration because it means that retired military working dogs are now, for the first time, assured of being returned to the U.S. Previously there was tremendous advocacy and expense required on the part of the handler or other caring humans to get these dogs back home. Some adoption organizations currently have waiting lists for MWDs, but this new act could mean an increase in the number of retired working dogs seeking forever homes. To learn more about retired MWD adoption, please check out U.S. War Dogs Association and Mission K9 Rescue.

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Make a Contribution: There are approximately 2,500 U.S. Military Working Dogs currently in service around the world. Consider spending the time to assemble a care package for one, two or even a few of these remarkable canines and their handlers. A little bit of comfort can go a long way towards helping service members endure conflict hardships and feel connected to home. There are also a handful of non-profit groups that facilitate medical care, housing and adoption for retired military dogs – all of which need financial assistance. And let’s not forget our local law enforcement agencies! These groups are often under-funded and under-equipped for their K9 officer programs, relying on grants, private donations and out-of-pocket contributions from their officers. Project Paws Alive works to centralize fundraising efforts for departments actively seeking help. Or simply contact your local fire rescue, sheriff or police department to learn about their specific needs and how you might be able to help.

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Become an Advocate: As ‘excess and out-of-service equipment’, Retired MWDs do not receive government funding to support their integration into civilian home life. It’s not uncommon for them to have costly medical needs, or to be without a safe place to heal from the effects of Post Traumatic Stress. Others simply need temporary housing or even just transportation to their new forever home. There are also ‘guardian angel’ volunteers who keep track of MWDs re-apportioned to private contract companies in hopes they may be assured a loving home when their service finally ends.

In light of everything our service members do for us (human and canine), embrace that patriotic spark and let your gratitude inspire action. And be sure to share your own stories in the comments section below!

Read more about Cena here:
www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/27/military-dog-cena-jeff-deyoung-michigan