Monthly Archives: October 2012

Halloween Safety Tips

No Scaredy Cats This Halloween: Top 10 Safety Tips for Pet Parents
Attention, animal lovers, it’s almost the spookiest night of the year! The ASPCA recommends taking some common sense precautions this Halloween to keep you and your pet saying “trick or treat!” all the way to November 1.
1. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 
2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.
3. Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.
4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.

6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.
7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.
8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.
10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increaing the chances that he or she will be returned to you

Bang for Your Bark: AAA picks best canine-friendly cars

Dog owners looking for a new set of wheels can take heart; the American Automobile Association has taken the time to pick a handful of vehicles best suited to moving your furry friend from one place to another. With around 45 million households across the country boasting at least one dog in the family, it should be no surprise that the ability to conveniently and safely move a pet plays a big role in which vehicle consumers choose to buy. A total of 11 SUVs, crossovers and wagons have made the AAA list, each divided into categories like luxury, active lifestyle and efficient and fun.

While we weren’t surprised to see cars like the Subaru Forester and Honda Element make the cut, others, like the BMW 3 Series Touring and the ever fun-to-fling Mazda3 five-door were vehicles we wouldn’t have necessarily thought of as doggie rides. Thrifty buys like the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube found particular favor on the AAA list, thanks in part to their ability to serve up plenty of space with their rear seats folded down. We still say a Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon would do just fine – at least for a low-profile dog like a dachshund or beagle.

By Zach Bowman

Six New Breeds Debut At Westminster 2012

The American English Coonhound evolved from Virginia Hounds, descendants of English Foxhounds. Originally these hounds were used to hunt fox by day and raccoons by night and were named the English Fox and Coonhound. Today’s American English Coonhound is a wide-ranging hunter that possesses tremendous speed and endurance, and excellent voice. A strong and graceful athlete, he needs regular exercise to stay in peak shape. The breed’s hard, protective coat is of medium length and can be red and white ticked, blue and white ticked, tri-colored with ticking, red and white, and white and black. The breed is pleasant, alert, confident and sociable with both humans and dogs.

CESKY TERRIER (Terrier Group)
The Cesky Terrier was developed to be a well-muscled, short legged and well-pigmented hunting terrier that could be worked in packs. The Cesky Terrier has natural drop ears and a natural tail. The Cesky is longer than it is tall and has a topline that rises slightly higher over the loin and rump. It sports a soft, long, silky coat in shades of gray from Charcoal to Platinum. The correct coat is clipped to emphasize a slim impression. The hallmarks of the breed should be unique unto itself with a lean body and graceful movement. They are reserved towards strangers, loyal to their owners, but ever keen and alert during the hunt.

The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is a native of Switzerland, and the smallest of the four Swiss breeds. A medium-sized drover, he has a short, tri-colored coat with symmetrical markings. Purpose and heritage have resulted in an unusually intense bonding between the Entlebucher and his master. Prized for his work ethic and ease of training, he can transform from a high-spirited playmate to a serious, self-assured dog of commanding presence. The Entlebucher should not be considered a breed for the casual owner. The guardian traits of this breed require thorough socialization, and he will remain an active, energetic dog for his entire lifetime.

The Finnish Lapphund is a reindeer herding dog from the northern parts of Scandinavia. The breed is thought to have existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, as the helper dog of the native tribes. In modern day, Lapphunds are popular as family pets in their native Finland. They are devoted to their family, friendly with all people, highly intelligent and eager to learn. The dogs have a thick, dense coat that comes in a variety of colors and beautiful, soft, expressive faces. They are strong but very agile.

The Norwegian Lundehund – or Puffin Dog — spent centuries on the rocky cliffs and high fields of arctic Norway hunting and retrieving puffin birds, an important meat and feather crop to local farmers. Uniquely equipped for their task, this little Spitz-type dog has at least six toes on each foot for stability in the near vertical environs where puffins nest. A flexible skeletal structure enables the dog to squirm out of tight spots or spread-eagle to prevent slips and falls. Lundehunds have a protective double coat, reddish-brown, often with white collar and feet and a white tip on the tail. Today puffin birds are protected and the puffin dog has taken up its new role as an alert, cheerful and somewhat mischievous companion.

XOLOITZCUINTLI (Non-Sporting Group)
The Xoloitzcuintli – “show-low” as it is commonly called – is the national dog of Mexico. Previously known as the Mexican Hairless, it comes in three sizes as well as a coated version – seen in the show ring only in the US and Canada. These dogs descend from hairless dogs prized by the Aztecs and revered as guardians of the dead. Over 400 years later, these dogs were still to be found in the Mexican jungles. Shaped by the environment rather than by man, their keen intelligence, trainability and natural cleanliness have made them a unique and valued pet today.

Thank the Tech that Cares for your Pet

As beloved four legged friends, pets are beloved members of our family, and often a top priority. The same should be for their healthcare. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, Inc., (NAVTA) has proclaimed Oct. 14 to 20, 2012, to be the 20th annual National Veterinary Technician Week. Since 1993, this annual event recognizes veterinary technicians for their contributions in pet healthcare, as well as veterinarians, assistants, practice managers and others involved in this care.

“Technicians are an integral part of the pet healthcare team, and play an important role in veterinary care, to both the client and their pets,” said Catherine Holly, CVT, president of NAVTA. “It’s important that we take the time to celebrate technicians. Not only do they provide top-notch care to our pets, but also put in long hours as researchers, and are oftentimes specialized. We just want people to know how valuable technicians actually are.” This year, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, a company dedicated to helping pets reach their full potential through quality nutrition and healthcare, is sponsoring the week-long celebration.

As a member of the veterinary healthcare team, veterinary technicians are educated in the latest medical advances and skilled at working alongside veterinarians to give pets the best medical care possible. They work closely with the veterinarians, veterinary assistants, practice managers, patients, and owners to provide the essential link with all involved in the care process.
NAVTA is a nonprofit organization that represents and promotes the veterinary technician profession. NAVTA provides direction, education, support and coordination for its members. Incorporated in 1981, NAVTA is the national organization devoted exclusively to developing and enhancing the profession of veterinary technology. Pets give us unconditional love and veterinary technicians give us peace of mind. For this reason they should be celebrated during National Veterinary Technician Week. To find more information about NAVTA and this special week, visit

Twice as nice: Rare 2-headed sea turtle hatchling found on Jupiter Island

JUPITER ISLAND — Simon Bilts said he “almost did a double take” when he saw it: a two-headed loggerhead sea turtle hatchling. 

On Tuesday morning, the biologist with Jensen Beach-based Ecological Associates Inc., was on the northern end of Jupiter Island excavating sea turtle nests that had hatched three days earlier to determine the reproductive success rate.

It’s not unusual for a straggling hatchling or two to be found among the empty and unhatched egg shells.

The hatchlings Bilts uncovered soon after he started searching nests at 6 a.m. were escorted to the ocean. The ones found after 9 a.m., in accordance with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission guidelines, were put in a bucket with moist sand and covered with a towel for release after nightfall.

Bilts had several hatchlings in the bucket and was driving an all-terrain vehicle to the next nest when the towel blew off. He was putting the towel back on when he noticed something unusual about one of the hatchlings.

“I looked closer, and sure enough, it had two heads,” he said. “I hadn’t noticed that before. It was a little bit of a shock.”

Bilts said he’s worked with sea turtles “off and on” since 2000, and “I’d never seen a two-headed turtle before.”

Erik Martin, the scientific director at Ecological Associates, said two-headed turtles “are kind of rare. I’ve only seen one before, back in 1984.”

Bilts brought all the post-9 a.m. hatchlings, including the two-headed rarity, back to the Ecological Associates lab. The day spent in a cool, dark area of the lab gave scientists there an opportunity to examine the rare find.

“He seemed to be relatively healthy,” Martin said. “Of course, its shell was somewhat deformed to make room for the two heads.”

Otherwise, the hatchling was active and able to crawl with both heads moving independently.
That night, Bilts released the hatchlings near Jensen Beach.

Only about one in 5,000 hatchlings lives to adulthood, mostly because of predators both on the beach and in the water. Having two heads would seem to have both advantages and disadvantages for young sea turtles.

Advantage: Better peripheral vision.
“Hey, there’s a shark coming up on the left!”
Disadvantage: Potential for arguments.
“How about some crabs tonight?”
“Nah, I’m tired of seafood.”

Unfortunately, said Niki Desjardin, a senior scientist with Ecological Associates who’s been studying sea turtles for 11 years, two heads are not better than one.

“It puts a strain on the turtle’s internal organs,” she said. “And the fact is, you never see adult turtles with two heads.”

In late July, a two-headed loggerhead hatchling was found on the beach at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton.

“Actually, it was almost a two-bodied hatchling joined at the hips,” said Kirt Rusenko, a marine conservationist and head of the sea turtle program at the center. “It had four flippers, two heads and almost two carapaces (shells).”

Rusenko said two-headed sea turtle hatchlings are found “every two or three years” at the center, and a two-headed embryo discovered several years ago was found to have a high level of pesticides in its body.

The turtle found in July died of pneumonia, he said, because when one head came up to breathe, the other took on water in the lungs they shared.

Of the three species of sea turtles that regularly nest on Treasure Coast beaches, loggerheads are the most common, but still are listed as a threatened species.

Sea turtle nesting season began March 1 and runs until mid-September. Nearly 10,000 loggerhead nests were tallied in 2011 by Ecological Associates, which monitors sea turtles nests in southern St. Lucie County, northern Martin County and northern Indian River County, and by the coastal engineering division of the Indian River County Public Works Department, which monitors beaches in the southern half of that county.

In the same areas, 1,652 green turtle nests and 558 leatherback nests were counted in 2011.
Martin said nest numbers “are looking good so far this year.”

By Tyler Treadway

Think Global, Work Local: Pet Ownership as a Social Justice

If I were responsible for a class or student group dedicated to social justice, the very first cause I would bring to my students’ attention is the plight of the animal shelters: mistreatment, poor health and homelessness of animals, especially dogs. There are several reasons why I think this is an excellent case study for socially-minded young people to cut their teeth on:

1) The injustice is local and concrete and efforts are immediately rewarded. It’s easy to visit a local animal shelter and see a lot of lonely animals looking for homes. The immediacy of the concern provides an emotional punch that more abstract issues may not have.

Though we won’t completely solve the problem any time soon, any student could potentially help a single animal by encouraging a friend or family member to adopt from a shelter instead of a pet store, or many animals by volunteering at the shelter.

2) The underlying factors are global and similar to other social justice issues in their origins. Everything from depletion of fishing stocks to anthropogenic climate change to the blood diamond trade is significantly affected by consumer behavior. We often cast the most far-reaching votes with our wallets. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a more immediate example of the effects of ignorant consumer behavior than the histories of the abandoned dogs in an animal shelter.

You see, it’s all about supply and demand. As long as there is a market for the newest, trendiest puppies, there will be puppy mills churning them out. In the wake of releases and re-releases of Disney’s animated and live-action 101 Dalmatians films, tremendous numbers of people started buying Dalmatians, often impulsively and with little knowledge of the breed. As a result there is a Dalmatian over-population problem even today, since the sort of fickle buyers who adopt trendy puppies on a whim are the same sort to abandon them as adults, often with bad habits from lack of training or emotional issues due to poor treatment.

Even in a perfect world where every new dog owner made a life-long commitment to their new pets, there would still be an over-population problem. When greedy puppy-millers start forcing dogs to be continuously pregnant in order to produce as many “in-demand” puppies in as short a time as possible, there will inevitably be a surplus as demand drops off. And there’s always some flavor of the week. A couple years ago, it was all about the puggles, as several Hollywood celebrities started showing theirs off.

3) The solutions to the problem are both individual and collective. Once you understand the problem, the solution is obvious. Clearly some types of adoption ease the problem of animal homelessness, and some exacerbate it. Buying either purebred or designer dog mixes from pet stores or backyard breeders just results in more and more dogs being produced to meet the demand. Since a not-insignificant fraction of these dogs will later be given up by their owners, faddish dog-purchases only add to the burden of already over-crowded shelters by increasing the over all population of unwanted dogs.

It’s not difficult for would-be pet-owners to see how the adoption choices they make can either mitigate or add to the problem of unwanted pets (not to mention the problem of animal mistreatment that occurs in puppy mill operations). If no one supported puppy mills, they would quickly cease to exist. On an individual level, any one of us planning on adopting has the choice of making things just a little bit better or a little bit worse. Once someone is aware of the consumer power they wield, it’s an easy choice.

As animal advocates, we can have a wider impact by educating other prospective pet owners so they can also make an informed choice. Through public education and outreach efforts (or partnerships with existing efforts by local shelters and organizations like The Humane Society), individual students and groups can do even more good. Regular events like adoption drives can always use more volunteer help and word-of-mouth advertising.

Being an informed consumer is probably at least as important as being an informed citizen. The politico-economic power average people wield is collectively enormous. Having learned a bit about consumer power and the value of public outreach, there are plenty of other issues that young people can take on with those same tools. How do we encourage major international companies to take their social and environmental responsibilities seriously? Reward the best ones with your business, boycott the worst. Educate other consumers to do the same.

There’s a place for political activism in the quest for a better world: a big one. Anyone serious about social justice should write a few letters to their political representatives. But especially for students who don’t yet qualify to vote, it seems obvious to me that the first lesson we should teach them is just how much influence they already have through consumer activism. Companies spend billions on advertising telling the teenage market what to want, wear, watch, buy and do. I’d like to see the teenagers tell the companies what to do for a change

by Joel Boyce

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