Classroom Rabbits, Exotic Pets and Canine Flu

Protect Your Dogs from Deadly Canine Flu
Janice Lloyd - USA Today

Shelter officials and dog experts concerned about the spread of canine flu are warning pet owners to be careful about taking their dogs to doggie day care centers, boarding facilities and dog parks.

A shelter in Fairfax County, Va., is the last place hit by canine flu, killing one dog and sickening more than two dozen others, forcing officials to close the center for two weeks and suspending adoptions. Experts say H3N8 is also affecting dogs in four other states.

While the flu has been contained at the Virginia shelter, it will remain closed for two weeks and officials say they suspect the flu is also present in the community.

Canine influenza was first identified in U.S. dogs in 2004 after an outbreak of respiratory disease in racing Greyhounds in Florida. Since then, it has continued to spread and has been detected in dogs in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

The flu can not spread to humans. Pet owners can check with veterinarians about the availability of a vaccine developed in June. Symptoms of the flu include cough, runny nose, and a fever.

Choose Your Dog's Chew Toys Carefully
Robert Yelland - SF Chronicle

Q: I know that chewing bones helps keep my dog's teeth clean, but pet stores offer dozens of varieties. I'm always concerned I'll buy the wrong kind, which might lead to choking, splintering internally or blocking an intestine. Which bones are safe?

A: Giving a dog a bone or hard chew toy risks not only choking, splintering and intestinal obstruction, but dental fractures and excessive wear as well. The problem is that dogs have incredibly powerful jaws. When they chomp down on an object that is equally hard or harder than their teeth, something has to give. And many times what gives is the tooth. Most veterinary dentists use the "kneecap test" to evaluate hard chew toys. If you tap on your kneecap with the chew toy and it hurts, it's probably too hard to give to your pet.

This generally rules out animal bones, nylon bones, hard rawhide bones, cow hooves or "bully sticks." One also needs to be careful with tennis balls. Even though dogs love to chase and chew these furry toys, the fuzz is highly abrasive and can cause significant wear to the point where root canal therapy might be necessary.

Any chew toy made by man or nature can be destroyed by a determined canine; therefore we recommend that all be used with some adult supervision.

To truly clean a dog's teeth and remove the subgingival plaque that is causing periodontal disease, the teeth should be professionally cleaned by your veterinarian. Then maintain oral health by daily brushing. There are special dental diets available that retard plaque and tartar formation. Teeth-safe chews and other oral health care products can be found at, the Web site of the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

Robert Yelland, D.V.M., Dental Services, Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital/Special Veterinary Services;

Classroom Pets Need Special Care
By Hawaiian Humane Society -

Question: I'm a preschool teacher, and my students keep urging me to get a classroom pet. Are there any concerns?

Answer: Keeping animals in the classroom is not ideal unless each animal has an owner committed to its proper and lifelong care. That can mean bringing the pet home on the weekends, ensuring veterinary care and meeting its behavioral and psychological needs.

Rabbits are often popular classroom pets, but they must be handled gently and are social creatures that are not meant to be cage-confined for long periods.

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The Family Pet Ranks Higher
Than Sex to These Women
USA Today

A new book that surveyed 12,000 women in 22 countries says women rank having a pet as the one thing that makes them extremely happy.

While the book is mostly about the retail industry and how women are key to fixing the economy, that tidbit stands out to us. More on that in a second.

In Women Want More ( HarperCollins, $27.99), co-author Michael Silverstein says this about what makes women happy: 42 % said pets are the number one item making them extremely happy compared to 27 % who ranked sex at the top. Food and shopping were third and fourth respectively.

What goes here? Comment away. Men as well as women are encouraged to respond.


BlueCornMoon (0 friends, send message) wrote: 2d 1h ago
I'm single & not married because I haven't met the right man. Hard to find good ones nowdays;the best ones are married & many are gay altho they make great friends for women. Sadly,too many men are at the bottom of the food chain : some are looking for a sugar mama, some are irresponsible, & then there are the sex maniacs that would find a way/reason to cheat even if they had whatever women they wanted & the out & out mutants that no sane women wants. Compared to that list of creeps, my cats are much better companions.

labradorluv25 (0 friends, send message) wrote: 2d 8h ago
I have to can always rely on your pet to be there for you. Men, not so much..

ilove2chatter (0 friends, send message) wrote: 2d 10h ago
I love my husband, I would follow him anywhere...and I do. But I bring my dog along wherever I go too! Check out our sailing adventures on

Strickland20012 (10 friends, send message) wrote: 2d 17h ago
I think it is like comparing apples to oranges. I adore my pets...wouldn't trade them for anything. But, the intimate aspect to my marriage is extremely important. I wouldn't want to give up either, but for totally different reasons!!

J.M.C. (2 friends, send message) wrote: 1d 21h ago
Women typically sabotage their sex lives by being insecure, playing games, grudgeships, etc.

And men sabotage their sex lives by not bothering to shave, shower, brush their teeth, let alone knowing the meaning of 'foreplay'. Women can't just 'turn it on baby'.. My ex stopped trying to be attractive the minute the ink dried on the marriage certificate. He'd come home form work smelling to high heaven, and think that I should just fall into bed.

Um.. no.

Ree410 (0 friends, send message) wrote: 4d 5h ago
I think they polled CRAZY CAT LADIES!

Blondie6 (42 friends, send message) wrote: 4d 5h ago
Not gonna lie i would way rather have sex than hang out with my animals. Is that wrong?

I Love Animals Every Moment
By Susan Braudy -

From feral cats to pouting puppies, the pets who’ve shared my life

This is a tale with twists.

I am the sort of person who lurks at the pet store on Lexington Avenue at 63rd and convinces other people to buy the puppy they’re cuddling. Gentle reader, I confess, I also say hello to a cardinal and a raccoon in Central Park.

My first pet wasn’t a pet at all. He was a bushy, feral cat who lived on my aunt’s dairy farm 20 minutes from my house in Philadelphia. I passed intense afternoons trying to pet him. Farm cats frequently aren’t allowed in the house. They’re mousers whose rich coats are a result of hanging out in unheated barns. I’d toss food near the cat, and after he wolfed it down, I positioned tidbits nearer and nearer to myself. He inched over and ate. This went on until one day I was happily stroking him, and then he scratched me and ran.

Indeed, many pet stories aren’t cute. My first boyfriend gave me two ducklings that we eventually set loose on my aunt’s pond. After dinner one night, my aunt said I’d eaten my pets.

My next cat was a sleek Siamese with huge apprehensive blue eyes. He’d been abandoned in an apartment I rented one summer near Columbia. At night, he’d sleep curled into my neck. We were two of a kind. I remember our bus ride to graduate school in Philadelphia, the cat meowing nervously in a supermarket carton. (Siamese are big talkers.) I whispered back that things were going to be fine—and they were—even though I soon started wheezing when he settled into my neck to sleep. We compromised: he slept between my ankles.

When, I learned poodles don’t cause allergies, I bought a black standard puppy advertised in the Times. Rocky laughed by lolling his tongue foolishly out of one side of his mouth. He danced on his hind legs to Ray Charles. When we played hide-and-seek, I’d say, “stay,” and hide in the closet or shower until he found me.

I found my next dog Rocky 2 at the Harlem ASPCA. Every part of him was wriggling, but the manager said he was totally adoptable and promised to the North Shore Animal League, the Cadillac of adoption centers. When Rocky 2 (a poodle-schnauzer) got indigestion, I began cooking chicken, brown rice and vegetables for him. This diet, plus the fact that he was a small mixed-breed (now named a “schnoodle”), helped my companion live for 20 years. Your longest relationship, said an ex-boyfriend.

These days I live with a man and a fancy, silvery white Maltese named Tootsie. Tootsie had looked miserable, pacing in his cage at the Lexington Avenue pet store. (I now know little white dogs often have leaky sad eyes.) But when I asked why he was unhappy, a wily salesman said his brother’d been sold.

I brought the man I live with to meet Tootsie, but Joe Weintraub stormed out, saying anybody who pays this much for a dog is nuts.

Weeks passed. Every day Tootsie tugged like a pit bull on my sneaker laces. I finally paid two months’ rent to liberate the sad puppy.

In our apartment, he transformed into the happiest, most loving creature.

Here’s the twist de resistance. He’s a one-person dog—and his person is Joe. Tootsie’s bliss is sitting on Joe’s lap, his expensive chin hanging over Joe’s bare wrist. Maybe it’s male bonding, but I know Joe owes me big time.

Susan Braudy is the author and journalist whose last book, Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, was nominated for a Pulitzer by publisher Alfred Knopf.

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Vet's Advice: Beware the Rising Risk
of Heartworms in Dogs
By Scott Line, Special for USA TODAY

Heartworm infection, once limited mostly to the South, is now being found in all 50 states, according to the American Heartworm Society, and the number of cases across the USA is on the rise.

Information from testing shows that more than 1 million dogs in the USA are infected with heartworms. Veterinarians in parts of the country where infection rates have been low, such as the Rocky Mountain states and the Pacific Northwest, are seeing an increasing number. Veterinarians in areas that have long had a high rate of the disease, including the Southern states and the Mississippi River Valley, are experiencing an even greater escalation.

Summer and early fall are peak seasons for mosquitoes, which can carry the threat. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, it can deposit immature heartworms that grow under the skin for about two months. The worms then migrate through the bloodstream to the heart and arteries in the lungs. After lodging in the lungs' blood vessels, these worms grow to up to 1 foot long. Heartworms can live for years, damaging the lining of the blood vessels that carry blood to the lungs and eventually leading to heart disease.

Signs of heartworm disease vary and can include coughing, tiring easily, difficulty breathing and fainting. Dogs that are more active are more likely to show such signs, and activity itself worsens the damage. Signs are often not detectable until the disease is well advanced.

Heartworms also can infect cats, causing severe inflammation in the lungs. But heartworm disease often is not recognized in cats because the infection is more difficult to diagnose than in dogs.

Pets that live indoors exclusively are also at risk of infection because mosquitoes that get into your house can transmit heartworms.

Left untreated, heartworm disease can be fatal.

Heartworm treatment — which is available only for dogs — can be risky for the dog and is expensive, sometimes as much as $1,000. That's why it makes sense to prevent heartworm disease.

The good news is that prevention is simple and inexpensive. A number of medications are available that can prevent heartworm disease. They do not prevent heartworm infection from mosquitoes; instead, they work by killing the immature heartworms migrating beneath the skin before they can reach the heart and blood vessels of the lungs.

Most heartworm products must be given monthly, and because dogs may get bitten by infected mosquitoes every day during peak mosquito season, giving the monthly preventives at the same time every month is important for their success.

Although you may think of heartworms as a summer problem, it's a disease that can be a risk to your pet at any time of year. A warm autumn extends the risk, and even a few days of warm weather in the winter can allow mosquitoes to become active. Because you can't predict when your pet will be at risk, experts recommend using heartworm preventives all year long.

Adult heartworms can be detected with a blood test, and experts recommend testing your dog every year to be sure it remains free of heartworms.

If your dog is found to have heartworms, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent serious consequences of heartworm infection.

Annual testing can help make sure this hasn't happened to your dog. See your veterinarian — and keep your pet healthy.

Puppy Stolen from Pet Store
in Shakopee is Returned
TIM HARLOW - Star Tribune

A 3-month-old dog taken Tuesday afternoon from a Shakopee pet store has been returned unharmed.

The black female pug had a "smile in her eyes" and ate a lot when store employees got her back Wednesday afternoon, said store owner Heather Latko.

A brother of one of the women who allegedly took the puppy from the store at 8091 Old Carriage Court arranged for his sister to meet a store employee in Eden Prairie after he learned about the theft. A video showing two women leaving the store with the dog was featured on local news media outlets.

"We care so much about the puppies," said Latko. "You think of the worst-case scenario: that it isn't getting enough food, or is stressed out and not getting the proper care, all the things we go over when a dog is going to a new home."

According to surveillance video, the suspects were seen stuffing the puppy into a medium-sized tote bag around 5 p.m. and dashing out the door. Store employees chased them, but the suspects were not found, Latko said.

Latko said the suspects had come into the store around 4:30 p.m. and had been playing with the pug in a cubicle called a "socialization room." The women asked a store employee about the dog's age, vaccination records and "information potential owners might want," Latko said. When the employee went to check the puppy's records, the suspects scooped her up and walked 10 to 15 feet to the front door.

Latko said she doesn't know whether she'll press charges.

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Animal Files: Be Aware of the Responsibilities
Before Getting an Exotic Pet
by Bonney Brown -

When Roberta first got the pot-bellied pig, he was so cute. She named him Ralph. But in spite of promises from the breeder that he would stay small, he grew to be quite large. His behavior also became harder for Roberta to manage. He was determined to find things to eat and got into absolutely everything. He had a strong need to root and overturned things in the house with his snout. Then he became very agitated and aggressive when anyone came to visit. Roberta was at her wits end, and she began searching for a sanctuary for Ralph.

It's a common story of life of an exotic pet.

At first it sounds thrilling to have a unique or exotic pet, but it is not uncommon for animal shelters and animal services agencies to get calls about these pets from people who are frustrated and ready to give up on their now-troublesome pet.

Chameleons, iguanas, snakes, sugar gliders, pot-bellied pigs -- these animals have special needs that can be expensive and time consuming. Some people will go to the trouble of learning what their unique pet really needs to be happy and healthy, and then go the distance to provide it. But few people have the time or resources necessary to ensure the animal's well-being.

The needs of these animals catch people off guard. Most people who are giving up their exotic pet will tell you that they bought the pet because having one seemed so fascinating, but they really had no idea what they were getting into.

Unusual pets often require expensive and specialized veterinary care. Many have challenging daily care needs, too. For example, reptiles need a heat source and special lighting, and you need to maintain a safe heat spectrum for them within their living environment. Some animals have very precise and sometimes elaborate dietary needs. Big cats need fresh raw meat and supplements that are expensive. Any large, intelligent animal needs room to exercise and mental stimulation. Some exotic animals and birds are highly social and suffer when housed alone.

In some cases, the animal ends up with a life of neglect because the care needed is so burdensome that their person just gives up on even trying. There are a few sanctuaries for exotic animals, but there are not enough to meet the demand. Most zoos will not take former pets, and rarely will the dealer take the animal back.

When faced with limited options, some frustrated people decide to set the animal free. This is not only illegal, but it puts the animal at grave risk. If somehow the animal -- now used to being a pet -- manages to survive outdoors, the former pet could pose a risk to native species or other pets.

Since the exotic pet is not usually adapted to the environment, they can suffer greatly in their struggle to find food, water and shelter. Most of them end up getting into some sort of very unfortunate situation and, ultimately, taxpayers and local animal shelters end up footing the bill for their recapture. The fate for many is death, as most shelters are not equipped to care for exotic animals.

In many communities, you might need a special permit for larger exotic pets; before acquiring one, check with your local animal services department. If you buy an exotic pet, you need to be very aware of the source of that animal. Illegal trafficking in exotic animals for the pet trade is a big and cruel business -- one you do not want to be supporting.

If you still have your heart set on a unique pet and feel that you have the time, financial resources and commitment to provide a good home for them, please adopt one. Animal shelters and exotic pet rescue groups often have unique pets in need of a good home.

If you want to adopt an exotic pet, or need assistance with one, contact the Animal Help Desk at 775-856-2000, ext. 200.

For the right person, giving a good home to an exotic pet that needs to be rescued is a marvelous experience. But the truth is that most of us are better off with a couple of lovable dogs or cats.

Bonney Brown is executive director of the Nevada Humane Society.

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