Safety | Safety Safety en-us Fri, 13 Feb 2015 09:25:00 -0800 Fri, 13 Feb 2015 09:25:00 -0800 Orion <![CDATA[ASPCA Has the Cold, Hard Facts About Winter Weather Dangers ]]> If you live in the Northeast or Midwest, you certainly don't need a reminder that we are in the throes of a very difficult winter. Snow has fallen at a record pace in the Boston area, where I live, and temperatures have routinely dipped into dangerous territories over wide swaths of the country.

This weekend, in the spirit of Valentine's Day, pet adoption drives, like one we featured here on Thursday involving PetSmart Charities, are certain to bring a wave of first-time dog owners into the fold. And while it may seem obvious to protect a new pup –- or even an older pet –- from the effects of the cold, the ASPCA has put out an animated infographic as a reminder to keep pets safe.

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The graphic not only includes ways to protect your pet in chilly weather –- including important tips about grooming and paw protection -- but also has vital information on how to help dogs that may be left out in dangerously cold conditions or cats that are living outdoors.

For more cold weather safety tips, please visit the ASPCA’s Pet Care section. The ASPCA reminds you that if see an animal outdoors and in need of assistance in cold temperatures, you should contact your local shelter or law enforcement agency.

Read more dog news on Dogster:

About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).

Fri, 13 Feb 2015 09:25:00 -0800 /the-scoop/dogs-cold-weather-snow-ice-freezing-temperatures-safety-tips
<![CDATA[Ask a Vet: The Top 7 Holiday Health Hazards for Dogs]]> Dr. Eric "Bad News" Barchas is here to try to ruin yet another holiday with a post about the health hazards that the winter festivities pose to your dog. The holidays needn't be especially dangerous, as long as you follow some basic tips and guidelines with regard to your dog's safety and health.

1. Chocolate

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Christmas chocolate by Shutterstock.

Consumption of chocolate is, by a mile, the No. 1 holiday-related cause of canines coming to my office. Chocolate is everywhere during the holidays, and let me assure you that the overwhelming majority of dogs are bona fide chocoholics. They love the stuff, and they can smell it from 50 yards away. The true menace is chocolate that has been gift wrapped. Humans unknowingly place wrapped chocolate under the tree. The dog knows exactly what's in the package, and helps himself as soon as the owner's back is turned. I see the aftermath all the time. Not only does this place the dog at risk of chocolate toxicity, it also is a waste of a gift. The good news is that chocolate toxicity is rarely fatal when treated. However, the trend towards ever darker and stronger chocolates places dogs at increasing risk. Also, don't forget that chocolate often coats other potential toxins such as macadamia nuts and raisins.

There are many possible solutions to the chocolate problem. My personal favorite is to open gifts early, but for some people that spoils the fun of Christmas morning. If you're among them, consider allowing your dog to sniff the package as part of the standard pre-opening inspection of all gifts (which also includes shaking the package and studying the card). If the dog shows too much interest, then the package might require special care. Another, more Scrooge-ish tactic is simply to bar Fido's access to the living room by closing the door. And here's a reminder: When giving gifts to dog owners, don't give wrapped chocolate.

2. Untended platters of food 

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Chihuahua at dinner table by Shutterstock.

One night last holiday season, Denise and I had guests over. Our pal Buster greeted the family as they arrived. Then, as everyone said hello to one another, Buster took advantage of the distraction to help himself to several pieces of salami from the cheese tray. It would have been the perfect crime if he were a true Labrador who swallows without chewing, but he was busted as a result of his smacking lips.

Buster was unharmed, and fortunately the guests were still willing to snack on the cheese tray. However, a combination of parties, special meals, and guests presents a singular holiday pattern, which sets dogs up for massive dietary indiscretion. I have treated dogs that have consumed entire turkeys, whole hams, and other varied and sundry feasts from the table or the trash. Some of these dogs have developed severe gastrotintestinal upset. Others have come down with pancreatitis and hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, both of which are potentially life threatening. Keep an eye on the dog, the food, and the trash during special meals.

3. Inedible holiday items -- which the dog eats

I also see an uptick in gastrointestinal foreign bodies during the holiday season. In case you didn't already know, dogs are silly creatures and they eat the darnedest things. I have treated dogs for eating ornaments, wrapping paper, ribbons, and all other manner of holiday-related items. My personal favorite was the Labrador (of course) puppy who consumed an entire string of Christmas lights. Believe it or not, the lights passed through his GI system and he did not require surgery.

4. Escalators

If you're tempted to take your dog shopping, or if you are traveling for the holidays and heading to the airport with your dog, beware of escalators and moving sidewalks. Dogs have no business riding these things, ever. They fail to dismount properly with alarming frequency. When dogs' feet get caught in escalators, the effect is similar to getting caught in a meat grinder. Enough said.

5. Outdoor dangers 

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Dog walk on snowy day by Shutterstock.

Short days and long nights mean more night walks, which can mean a higher chance of your dog getting lost or suffering from hypothermia. Use a proper leash and harness and a winter jacket as needed. I also strongly recommend lighting your dog at night. I have found that blinking LED bike lights tend to be more durable than the canine-specific lights from the pet store.

6. Dental disease, the year-round hazard

The nasty bacteria that cause canine dental disease do not take time off for Christmas. How, you might ask, do the holidays pose a special dental disease hazard to dogs? They don't. But since the new year is just around the corner, why not resolve to brush your best friend's teeth every day? It is the simplest thing you can do to help ensure his or her good health in the future.

7. Poinsettia and mistletoe

And finally, no holiday discussion about dogs would be complete without the obligatory mention of poinsettia and mistletoe. When I was in vet school, everyone believed these two plants were downright dangerous and grapes were healthy treats for dogs. Since then things have turned around almost 180 degrees. Nowadays we believe that poinsettia and mistletoe are only mildly toxic, but grape or raisin ingestion may lead to fatal kidney failure in susceptible individuals. Maybe in the future the toxicologists will change their minds again, but for now you needn't worry too intensely about these two holiday plants (although they are not healthy treats, and dogs should not be allowed to consume them). However, a toxicologist recently told me, and I quote, "there is no safe dose of grapes or raisins in dogs."

Happy holidays to all!

Read more about dog safety during the holidays on Dogster:

Got a question for Dr. Barchas? Ask our vet in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. (Note that if you have an emergency situation, please see your own vet immediately!)

Mon, 23 Dec 2013 02:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-holiday-health-hazards
<![CDATA[Tags, Microchips, Tattoos: Can You Have Too Much Dog ID?]]> Even if your dog never goes off-leash when you go out, it makes sense to get ID tags for your dog’s collar. You can opt for simple ones engraved with your dog’s name, address, and phone number, or add a rubber tag cover to prevent the metal ID tag from jingling or hitting other metal tags that your dog might wear.

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Do you have your new phone number on your dog's collar, and is his microchip updated?

Of course, it’s a little more challenging when you have very small dogs like Chihuahuas or dogs with short legs like Dachshunds. Those dogs wear collars, but the tags often hang so low that they almost drag on the ground, plus they rattle every time your little pup tries to eat from the food dish.

Our toy Schnauzer, Dusty, wears a hot-pink collar with her name and contact number embroidered on it. This avoids any noise from rattling tags while still keeping her protected should she somehow slip away.

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Even a trip to the groomer can cause enough stress to trigger a seizure.

Collars and tags are a great first start. However, your dog can easily lose her tags if the clasp breaks or the collar gets stuck on something. In addition, if someone is intent on keeping your dog, they can easily remove the collar and tags.

This is why I also suggest getting your dog microchipped. The grain-of-rice-sized chip is easily inserted by your veterinarian between your dog’s shoulders, and all of your dog’s pertinent information is then stored in the chip manufacturer’s database. If your dog bolts from you and is found by someone, that person can take your dog to a nearby veterinarian, animal control facility, or animal rescue shelter to have her scanned with a RFID wand that captures the information. Your dog’s information shows up in the microchip company's database, and you’re notified that someone has located your dog.

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Buzz with his tags and a microchip, too.

A friend's yellow Labrador Retriever climbed a six-foot security fence in her backyard, wandered the downtown streets of San Diego, and ended up entering the lobby of a luxury hotel. Hotel management used the dog’s ID tag and microchip to contact the owner at work. At first, she thought it was a prank call, but once staff described the dog, she knew it was definitely hers. I guess he was just interested in checking out the sateen sheets on the king-sized beds in the rooms. That and the lunch buffet, of course!

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When's Momma coming home?

If you’d like yet a third option for providing identification for your dog, you might want to consider tattoos, which are becoming extremely popular for dogs. Now, I’m not talking about a shoulder tattoo that reads “I Love Momma!” These are usually a series of numbers and letters comprising a code that has meaning to the dog’s owner. The code and dog’s identifying information is usually registered by an authorized agent, who also applies the tattoo. I see this type of tattoo most often with high-end breeding and show dogs or AKC-registered dogs. 

I remember one client who had his Doberman tattooed and registered. In addition, the dog had a collar and tags. The dog was stolen from a boarding facility while he was on vacation. His dog was eventually recovered, but only by providing proof of ownership through the dog’s tattoo. The tattoo was placed on the dog’s stomach near the fur line; people who aren’t familiar with dog tattoos would never think to look in that area. Even if they did, the tattoo would be hard to cover up or to make unrecognizable.

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No, not that kind of tattoo. (This one is on the arm of Dogster editor-in-chief Janine Kahn.)

I’ve worked with thousands of people trying to locate and identify their lost animals. In my opinion, there’s no such thing as too much identification for your dog. Does your dog have a tag, microchip, or tattoo? Share your pictures and stories on Dogster.

About Tim Link: All-American guy who loves to rock out to Queen while consuming pizza and Pinot Noir and prefers to associate with open-minded people who love all critters. Considers himself to be the literal voice for all animals. Author, writer, radio host, Reiki Master, Animal Communicator and consultant at Wagging Tales

Read more by Tim Link and about dog ID on Dogster:

Thu, 24 Oct 2013 12:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-safety-id-identification-tags-microchip-tattoos
<![CDATA[Protect Your Dog with Some TLC: Tag, License, and Chip]]> Lost pets are a serious issue. I am fortunate that I’ve never lost my own dog, but there are plenty of people I know who have gone through the ordeal of losing a pet and having to take steps to reunite. This isn’t uncommon. In fact, one in three pets will be lost in his or her lifetime. Many will never return to their worried owners and most will end up in shelters. Sadly, this is because these pets do not carry identification, or their identification is out of date. Without current identification, there is no way for even the most resourceful person to figure out where these poor animals belong.

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Me with my dog, Rufus.

This is why it is so important to practice TLC and place a tag on your pet’s collar with your current contact info, license your pet with your local city or county, and chip your pet with a scannable microchip.

Tagging your pet is elementary –- the first place a Good Samaritan will look when they encounter a wandering pet is at the tag on her collar. As obvious as this should be, you would marvel at the number of times tags contain outdated contact numbers. Make sure yours is current, with your phone number listed, and update it every time you move or change your number.

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My dogs are microchipped and always wear their collars.

Licensing your pet is something that many of us don’t think about, but it is one of the best ways for animal services workers to verify that a pet belongs to a caring owner. By entering your pet’s unique license number into their system, shelter workers can pull up your name, address, and other information necessary to track you down and return your pet to you. In many areas, licensing your pet is the law and revenues from yearly renewal fees go right back to important city or county animal services, like your local shelters, where the money is used to care for lost pets.

So you have your pets tagged and licensed, why then take the extra step to get your pet microchipped? Well, look no further than recent natural disasters such as Katrina, Sandy, and the current spate of El Reno tornados. If your pet goes through a natural disaster and survives, that doesn’t necessarily mean his collar did as well. A collar can easily slip off your pet and get lost in a crisis situation; a microchip cannot.

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An implanted microchip, about the size of a grain of rice, is the only permanent form of pet ID. So even if your pet gets away from you, and his collar and tags get away from him, he can be scanned by a vet or a shelter and returned to you anyway. The cost of a microchip is negligible compared to the worry and heartache it will help you avoid if your pet is ever lost. Make sure your pet is microchipped and registered with up-to-date info at a microchip registry such as Found Animals, which is free. Keep in mind that a microchip only works when registered with the correct pet parent contact information, and needs to be updated every time you move or change phone numbers.

So show your pet a little TLC. By ensuring your pet is tagged, licensed, and (micro)chipped, you are providing the best loss prevention for your pet, as well as protecting your own peace of mind.

About the Author: Aimee Gilbreath is the executive director of the Found Animals Foundation.

Read more on lost dogs: 
Mon, 01 Jul 2013 12:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-safety-tlc-tag-license-chip-microchip
<![CDATA[Our Bonehead of the Week Left Her Poodles in a Hot Car for 20 Bloody Hours]]> Last Friday night, Sharon Mulcahy, 62, raced into a Best Western in Baltimore with her "bowels overflowing," according to the Baltimore Sun. She checked in, presumably did her business, and then went to sleep. She said later that she tried to check on her Poodles, but she didn't. She went to sleep. For a long, long time. 

Where were her dogs? They were inside her car, sealed shut except for a two-inch gap on the passenger's window. As Mulcahy slept, night turned into day, and the temperature rose. Inside the car, the temperature soared. She didn't leave any food or water for the dogs. 

The day wore on. Outside temps reached the mid-90s. Inside, CBS Baltimore imagines temps might have reached 160 degrees or more. 

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By the time police arrived at 3:15 p.m., after a hotel employee finally called, it was too late. A 6-year-old brown Poodle named Missy was dead. Another Poodle, a 10-year-old named Bear, was still alive but very weak. He was located "underneath the steering column in one of the only places inside the vehicle that had shade from the sun," according to the police report. 

The dogs had been in the car nearly 20 hours. 

The police report paints a grim scene: "The interior of the vehicle was covered in fecal matter. The inner door handles were scalding to the touch and the temperature inside the vehicle was overwhelming."

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Sharon Mulcahy. Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Police Department.

Mulcahy was arrested, charged with six counts of animal cruelty and two counts of restraining a dog without shelter or food and water. Anthony Guglielmi of Baltimore City Police says there's no excuse for the woman's actions.  

“She had tried to go down to check on the dogs but had fallen asleep, fallen asleep for quite some time, and the dog died in the car. But regardless, that’s still not an excuse,” he told CBS Baltimore. “You just can’t do this to animals. You have to have respect for animals, you have to care for animals. They should have been put in better conditions than what they were left in.”

We don't like bringing you these stories, but let it serve as a reminder: If you see a dog locked in a car on a hot day, do something. Don't leave a dog's fate in the hands of a bonehead. 

Via the Baltimore Sun and CBS Baltimore

Fri, 07 Jun 2013 04:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/woman-baltimore-2-poodles-dogs-hot-car-20-hours
<![CDATA[File This Under "Awful News": Swarm of Bees Kills a Rottweiler in Florida]]> A terrible story came out of Florida last week, as a six-year-old Rottweiler named Ricco was attacked by a swarm of bees. His owner, Robert Denmark, 65, was able to rescue his dog and take him to the vet, but the dog later died. 

It all started when Denmark was washing his dog in the backyard. The bees swarmed out of a tree in a nearby yard and headed right for Ricco, drawn by the shampoo, according to the Sun Sentinel

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The yard where the bees attacked Ricco.

"They started getting on [Ricco] because the shampoo I was using was attracting them to him," Denmark said. "I didn't know a nest was over there and all of a sudden they just started swarming down and they just covered my face."

Denmark fought for his dog. He turned the hose on the bees, getting stung himself, but the bees weren't affected. 

"They swarmed him, they swarmed me, too. Probably 1,000 bit me all in the face. The only thing I could do was run," he told

Then Denmark had the idea to use fire.

"The only way I got them off me was I lit a fire," he said. "I went in my shed and got some mineral spirits and poured it on a rag and lit it and waved it."

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Robert Denmark.

Demark called 911, and firefighters, too, were confronted by the swarm.

"They rescued the man and got him to safety," said fire rescue spokesman Mike Jachles. "The dog was stung numerous times [and Denmark] drove the dog to the vet, but unfortunately the dog didn't make it."

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Neighbor Beatrice Rivera called Rolie Calzadilla with Bird and Bee Removal to get rid of the hive, which he found in a void in the base of the tree trunk. He used an insecticide smoke.

"The smoke penetrates everything," he said. "When the smoke got in it sounded like a helicopter in the hive."

Calzadilla figures that there were upwards of 50,000 bees in the hive. 

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Honeybee swarm by Shutterstock.

The neighbor who owned the tree said he had no idea it contained a hive. "When I got home I saw all the commotion and heard about the neighbor who got bit, then I heard about the dog that died," Willie Rivera said. "I felt really bad about what happened."

This is the second such attack in Florida in recent years. In 2008, bees attacked Palm Beach County resident Nancy Hill and her three dogs. Hill survived. Her dog, all three of them, died.

Calzadilla wasn't able to confirm that the bees that killed Ricco are the more aggressive Africanized honey bees, but he suspects they are. 

 Via Sun Sentinel

Mon, 22 Apr 2013 10:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/swarm-of-bees-kills-rottweiler-in-florida
<![CDATA[If 420 Means Something to You, Read This for Your Dog's Sake]]> Look, we're not dumb. We're based in San Francisco -- we know what some of you are planning for this Saturday (and it involves a large pizza and a dozen cupcakes all to yourself). Our position on marijuana is hey, if it helps people -- and dogs -- then we trust you're adults who can make your own decisions. And open a darn window.

If you plan on partaking, for the love of dog, please keep your stash out of paw's reach. We've got some quick facts on marijuana and what happens if your pooch accidentally eats your pot.

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Save this and pass it on!

Marijuana is made from the dried leaves and flowers of the plant Cannabis sativa. As a recreational drug, marijuana is more commonly known as “weed,” but as marijuana proponents push for its legalization, marijuana is being used more and more to treat the side effects of chemotherapy, glaucoma, and as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients. While marijuana is generally safe for human use, it can have toxic effects on animals.

From January 1998 to June 2002, the ASPCA Poison Control Center consulted on more than 250 cases of accidental marijuana ingestion by animals. 96% of those cases involved dogs, 3% were cats, and 1% included other animals.

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"Aw yeah, man, this is the ish." Photo: A chihuahua rollling in the grass by Shutterstock

The most common side effects were depression, an inability to move, and a decreased heart rate. Other signs of ingestion were agitation, vocalization, diarrhea, excessive saliva, irregular heartbeat, lowered body temperature, dilated pupils, urinary incontinence, seizures, and coma.

The most common consumption of marijuana in animals occurs orally, with effects beginning within 30 to 90 minutes following ingestion. Effects may last up to 72 hours.

While it’s critical to seek immediate veterinary assistance if you suspect your dog has eaten marijuana, the prognosis for animals with no secondary complications is favorable. Out of more than 250 cases of accidental marijuana ingestion by animals, only two resulted in death, and in both cases, other factors may have affected their outcomes.

Be safe out there tomorrow, Dogsters!

Source: Above info is via Veterinary Medicine (note: link downloads a PDF file)

Top Photo: Cheerful couple by Shutterstock

Fri, 19 Apr 2013 12:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/420-safety-for-dogs
<![CDATA[How to Keep Your Dog Safe During Rattlesnake Season]]> A reader named Karen recently posted on my Facebook page asking about rattlesnake vaccination for a dog that is moving to Chico, CA. Her timing was excellent -- rattlesnakes have been on my mind recently. Rattlesnakes are common and venomous. They frequently bite and inject venom into dogs. This is painful and life threatening, and treatment is expensive. Fortunately, however, with treatment most dogs survive rattlesnake bites.

Depending upon where you live, rattlesnakes might be a threat to your dog year-round or only seasonally. But regardless of your location, your dog is more likely to be bitten during the warmer months. Rattlesnake season is firing up.

If you live or recreate in rural areas, you should beware of snakes. In my experience larger, active dogs such as Labrador Retrievers are bitten most frequently, but small dogs also are at risk. In fact, a strike is much more likely to be fatal in small dogs, and I know plenty of Chihuahuas who like to hike.

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Western rattlesnake by Shutterstock.

Dogs explore the world with their noses, and they are most frequently struck by rattlesnakes when they try to sniff them. The nose and muzzle are the most frequent sites for the bites, which is unfortunate because swelling from the strike might compromise the dog's airway. Dogs being bitten on the forelimbs is also common. Direct strikes to the chest and into the heart have been reported.

Rattlesnakes are not poisonous. Rather, they are venomous. Poisonous animals contain tissue that is toxic when eaten. Larger rattlesnakes are more deadly than smaller ones. (Some people believe the opposite is true.) Also, thin rattlesnakes are hungry, and they're more dangerous than well fed (and fatter) ones for the simple reason that they usually haven't struck any prey recently and have more venom at their disposal. Snakes that are heading out for their first foray of the season -- such as they might be doing now in many places -- are the most dangerous of all.

Rattlesnake venom contains a complex mixture of active toxins, and nobody frankly completely understands how it works. These toxins include enzymes, metals, proteins, lipids, glycoproteins, biogenic amines, and amino acids. (Hat tip to Richard F. Clark, MD, who provided this information at a great talk on rattlesnakes at the 2012 Squaw Valley Wilderness Medicine Conference.)

However, what happens when an individual is bitten is much more clear. Swelling and pain are universal. Local tissue and blood-vessel damage are common. Blood clotting disorders and a condition called thrombocytopenia (which further exacerbates blood clotting problems) are common. Seizures, coma, heart disturbances, and death might occur.

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Red Heeler on a fallen tree by Shutterstock.

Where and when to avoid snakes

Your dog, your stress level, and your bank account will be better off if you don't encounter a rattlesnake. The best way to protect your buddy is the same way to protect him from fights, foxtails, getting lost, and being hit by a car: Use a leash and pay attention. It also helps to know the ways of your adversary. Rattlesnakes are most active in the heat of the day, and they are most frequently found around rocks, shrubs, and bushes (although they might bask in the open, especially in the morning). Some trainers and vets offer rattlesnake aversion training, and I recommend this for people who live or play in high-risk areas.

What to do after a bite -- and what not to do

Unfortunately, dogs can be bitten even if their owners do everything right. If this happens to you, go straight to the vet, as soon as possible. Do not try to suck out the venom, do not cut the skin overlying the site, do not apply to a tourniquet to the area, do not administer aspirin or any other nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, and do not ice the site. Stay calm, try to keep your dog calm, and go to the vet. If your dog is small, carry him to the car. If not, walk him back. During the walk, focus on the fact that most rattlesnake bites are not fatal to dogs.

Ice, incisions, and tourniquets can exacerbate the tissue damage that is caused by the venom, and they do not significantly affect outcome. Aspirin and similar drugs can exacerbate blood clotting problems, and they might interfere with treatment at the vet. Venom sucking is an ineffective rural legend. It will not affect the outcome, and I should point out that applying your lips to a painful wound on your dog's muzzle could cause your dog to bite you on the face.

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Syringe by Shutterstock.

Treatment regimens

The main treatments for dogs are pain control (using narcotics, not nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs) and antivenin. Antivenin is produced most frequently by injecting rattlesnake venom into sheep or horses. This causes the animals in question to develop antibodies to the venom. Later, their blood is drawn and the serum, which contains proteins (including antibodies) is dried into a powder.

Antivenin neutralizes the toxins in the venom, and its rapid administration makes a huge difference. However, antivenin also contains large quantities of proteins that are not relevant to the treatment. These can cause complications and allergic reactions. Fortunately, recent advances in antivenins have improved their safety. Nonetheless, antivenin is nowhere near as good as prevention.

Also, antivenin is expensive. In veterinary clinics it might cost $600 or more per vial, and three or more vials might be necessary. If you think that's bad, consider the human side. Human antivenin has a base cost of $3000 per vial, and more than 10 vials might be used.

A controversial vaccine

So, what about the vaccine? I love the theory behind the vaccine: It's designed to stimulate dogs to produce their own antibodies -- in other words, their own antivenin. And one thing is clear: Individuals who are bitten repeatedly by rattlesnakes experience decreasing symptoms with each bite. But the vaccine is controversial. Why?

To start, no good studies have been offered up to show that it works. The vaccine has been demonstrated to cause increases in "protective antibodies," but nobody knows the quantity of antibodies that are necessary to offer true protection.

In the vaccine's defense, the only way to prove its efficacy would be to run a prospective study that would involve dogs being injected with rattlesnake venom. If that sounds unethical to you, you're not alone. If such a study were under way I'd be tempted visit the site with a pitchfork and a torch.

Eventually a large retrospective study might shed light on whether the vaccine works. For now, we must rely on anecdotal reports, and these reports are mixed but mostly favorable. Many vets believe the vaccine works well, but some do not. Anecdotal reports contain variables such as "dry strikes" (ones that contain no venom), the fact that different dogs react differently, variations in quantity of venom injected during strikes, and possibly each snake's individual venom composition.

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Golden Retriever in purple moor by Shutterstock.

The vaccine is designed to help protect against the venom of western diamondback rattlesnakes. Efficacy against other species is unknown. So getting back to Karen in Chico, western diamondbacks might be less common in that area than other species, so the vaccine might or might not have an impact if your dog is bitten.

Complications from the vaccine are rare in my experience. I believe the benefits outweigh the risks for active dogs who frequent high-risk areas.

If you vaccinate your dog, remember this: The vaccine is meant to help a bitten dog survive until he can be treated by a vet. All dogs -- vaccinated or not -- need immediate veterinary care after suffering a rattlesnake strike. Always.

Karen, don't just vaccinate your dog. Use a leash, pay attention, and get some snake-aversion training for your pal. Prevention truly is the best medicine.

Tue, 16 Apr 2013 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-health-safety-rattlesnake-season
<![CDATA[Would You Tether Your Dog in Front of a Store Unsupervised?]]> I recently visited my local Target store and saw that someone had tethered an Australian Shepherd to a bench out front. I was shocked to see the dog there unattended and assumed his human companion was inside shopping. However, in today’s world, he could have just as easily been left there for someone else to find and, hopefully, take care of. Shortly thereafter, I noticed two people walk out of the store, collect the dog and begin walking home. I guessed they lived nearby, decided to take their dog for a walk, and then decided to go shopping.

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Photo by oatsy40

At the time, I was puzzled as to why both people had to go inside. It was a beautiful spring day, and one of them could have sat on the bench and kept their furry companion company. Apparently, they didn’t realize that their dog could have been distracted by any number of things and broken free from his tether to run into the parking lot or adjacent street. Apparently, it also didn’t occur to them that someone could have simply untied the leash and stolen their dog. It made me think, who would do such a thing?

Some of you may support me on my thoughts and comments, while others may feel I am being too dramatic. However, in working with thousands of lost and stolen animal cases over the years, I’ve seen too many occasions where the above occurred.

There have been numerous times where I have been contacted regarding a dog stolen while tethered in front of a store. On one occasion, someone left their Yorkie tied to a newspaper stand in front of a store while they went in to pick up a few items. Swearing that they only left the dog for a few minutes, the video recording from the store showed it was actually 37 minutes.

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Dog chained to gate by Shutterstock.

On another occasion, someone tethered their dog to a chair in front of an ice cream store while traveling. They stepped inside to wash their hands, returned after a moment, and the dog and chair were gone. Later, they found the chair a distance away, but they never found their dog.

Another time, someone tethered their dog to a tree in their backyard for a couple of hours of sunshine and fresh air. The dog escaped, and I assisted them in locating the dog the next day. The dog was found in a wooded area, wrapped around a tree by the tether, unable to move.

I am also the former president of a no-kill shelter in my county. The county consists of a new, progressive and growing area to the south and an older, rural area to the north. I was heavily involved in legislative issues at the state and local level.

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Big dog with doghouse by Shutterstock.

One of the issues involved anti-tethering laws for the county. The county was torn between those who never left their dogs tethered and those who tethered their dog often or on a full-time basis outside. Those tethered outside were often left with little shelter to protect them from the elements and poor conditions in which to live. It actually took two years for the citizens, including myself, to convince the county that anti-tethering laws were necessary in order to ensure that dogs were not left outside on tethers for their entire lives. 

I recently came across a product on the market called Stay Boy Lock. The product claims to provide an alternative to leaving your dog on a leash tethered to a pole while you quickly run into a store. It works similarly to a lock that you’d use on a bicycle. It has a long metal cable with an adjustable noose on one end that slips around the dog’s head and a combination lock on the other end to secure to a post or tree.

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From the Stay Boy Lock website.

I’ve not used the Stay Boy Lock with my dog. And, personally, while it’s an improvement over simply tying your dog’s leash to a pole outside of a store while you shop in hopes that they’re still there when you return, someone could use wire cutters to cut the cable and steal your dog. Worse yet, your dog could become tangled in the cable while waiting for your return.

If you’ve read my previous articles on Dogster, you know that I take my dog, Dusty, virtually everywhere I go. She stays with me, my wife, or both of us at all times. I would never dream of tethering her outside of a store unless one of us stayed with her. If she can’t go inside the store, then my wife or I will stay with her outside or in the car. Her safety is our main priority, and we’d never leave her unattended outside.

Let's hear from you, readers. Would you tether your dog for any reason? Do you believe there are circumstances in which it's appropriate? What do you do when you see a dog who's been tethered? Let us know in the comments!

Dog theft is on the rise, and tethering dogs might be a contributor. Read "8 Ways to Get Your Dog Stolen." Read other stories by Tim Link including "Does Your Dog’s Personality Match Yours?," "Does Your Dog Stick His Tongue Out in Photos on Purpose?," and "This Sounds Nuts, But I Believe in Reincarnation for Dogs."

Thu, 04 Apr 2013 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/would-you-tether-dog-unsupervised
<![CDATA[Possums Are NOT Puppies, But I Foster Them Anyway]]> I've been working in the field of animal welfare for years, so I've been foster mom to many a dog and puppy. One of the major purposes of fostering dogs, of course, is to get them acclimated to living in our (human) world. It's not just the shelter and food and basic care that a foster home provides -– it's socialization, which is truly just as important to the dog's long-term survival and well-being. Dogs need to learn to trust humans, to accept their care, and adapt to their ways.  

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Little YaYa was the sole survivor of a litter whose mother also died. She was a tough little fighter.

This socialization aspect is crucial for every foster dog or puppy, but especially for orphaned, unweaned puppies. For example, I once fostered a tiny white puppy who came to me at the age of one week. Someone brought the puppy to the shelter where I worked, saying that the mother and all the littermates had died for unknown reasons, and this puppy was the lone survivor. 

The puppy, who I named YaYa, was up against tough odds to survive, but she was a fighter. She had to be bottle-fed with puppy milk replacement formula and diligently kept warm. But also, as a foster mom, I had to try to replace the social care that would have been provided by her natural mother and siblings, as well as the human socialization that any puppy needs.

I took her to work with me at the shelter most days, and my personal “pack” of dogs nurtured and played with her at home, teaching her how to be a dog.

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Owls are adorable, but I knew I couldn't get too attached to these beautiful wild creatures.

In another example, I fostered a Dachshund and her puppy with ringworm who had been confiscated during a puppy mill seizure. In my home, I kept them warm and fed, and carried out their prescribed ringworm treatments; but equally essential was petting, holding, playing, and interacting with them. They were destined to become someone's pets -– no longer just breeding machines in a factory -– and they needed to acquire the social skills for their new role.

While working at the animal shelter, I also became interested in volunteering with wildlife. Let's just say it was a huge jolt when I entered the world of wildlife rehabilitation, because the operational philosophies are a tremendous contrast with those of domestic animal welfare.  

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This beaver lived at the sanctuary and I helped care for her there.

I began my training and volunteer work with a great organization, Clearwater Wildlife Sanctuary. Under the direction and mentorship of the licensed wildlife rehabilitator who headed the program, I earned the privilege of fostering orphaned baby birds, squirrels, and opossums. Additionally, I sometimes worked at the program's headquarters sanctuary, which housed native wildlife from raptors to rabbits.  

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I lavished love and attention on this Doxie and her pup when they stayed with me.

When dealing with wildlife, my goal was almost the opposite of puppy socialization: I was supposed to avoid taming the animals or habituating them to human contact. Ultimately, we aspired to release the birds and critters back to the wild once they were capable of surviving out there. They needed to remain appropriately wary of humans.

So, when raising baby songbirds, for example, I'd feed them with tweezers, approximating a mom bird's beak, rather than with my own fingers, and I would not pick them up or handle them more than necessary to change bedding or clean their “nest.”  

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A tumbling heap of baby possums.

It was a difficult transition from one world into the other, requiring an entirely different mindset. I had the urge to “love on" all the wildlife. The doves cooed so invitingly, the squirrels were almost irresistibly furry, the opossums so curious and gentle. I wanted to make pets of all of them, and had to constantly remind myself that this was NOT in their best interest whatsoever. Indeed, if I truly loved them, I must not love on them.  

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I fostered quite a few birds to adulthood.

Learning this lesson was hard, but the payoff was huge. When my first orphaned baby mockingbird grew up, he had changed from a helpless creature who was almost all hungry mouth to a fine fellow with the most perfect feathers I'd ever seen. When he was ready, and I released him into the wild, the feeling was profoundly fulfilling.

And so I revisited what I'd known on an intellectual level all along, and yet now experienced with my own senses and emotions. I realized again that wild animals are to be admired for what they are, and that a life of confinement or forced adaptation to human ways would only be a disservice to them.

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It was really hard not to want to snuggle with the baby opossums the way I do with puppies.

Subsequently, I raised many wild orphans to the stage of release. The awe and wonder and sheer happiness of those moments never diminished.

The contrasts I experienced while working with wildlife also helped me appreciate anew our relationships with domestic animals. How our lives with dogs are so fully intertwined, according to the spectacular partnership that has evolved over all these hundreds and thousands of years we've spent as two species living side by side. Dogs and humans: We belong together.

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Squirrels are used to humans, but I knew I shouldn't try to tame them.

Too often, in my years of working in the field of animal welfare, I've often heard a colleague identify herself as an “animal person” but not as a “people person.” Indeed, sometimes I have heard someone mention (almost proudly) that she doesn't particularly like people. This field is actually a poor choice for someone who truly feels that way. It could only lead to feelings of hopelessness and cynicism. 

Pets need people. It's as simple as that, really. Humans are half the equation, half the partnership. Domestic animal welfare isn't about the animals, really; it's about animals and people together, the lives we share, and the bonds we create. Any work in the field must be based on some core of faith in those principles, and a belief in the will and desire of humans to do what is right for animals in their care. 

Read more about pets and wildlife:

Mon, 04 Mar 2013 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/foster-dogs-wild-animals
<![CDATA[8 Ways to Get Your Dog Stolen]]> Christmas Eve should be a time of peace and solace, but for Cory and Sarah Malchow, it was the start of a nightmare. Sarah was walking her dog when she was attacked from behind and her 4-month-old Pit Bull mix was stolen.

Reports indicate that one assailant grabbed Sarah from behind, held her in the air, and threw her to the ground. Meantime, another assailant approached from behind, unclipped the dog from his leash, and took off in a car.

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Dogs rely on us to keep them safe from harm

According to, as many as 2 million pets are stolen every year. Sadly, only 10 percent are ever reunited with their pet parents. Stolen dogs meet many ends. Some are sold to research labs, others are used by unscrupulous breeders in puppy mills, while still others are forced into dog fighting, among other very disturbing horrific purposes.

To catch a criminal, think like the criminal, right? To prevent a dog from being stolen, think like the low life. Here are eight things dog thieves want you to do -- followed by ways you can prevent your dog from becoming a statistic:

1. Leave your dog alone in a car

This is a favored method of pet thieves. Not only are dogs at risk of death in the warmer months from being left alone in cars, but they also can freeze in the winter time. I recall a local story about a gentleman who ran into a shopping mall, leaving his two Samoyed dogs behind for a “short time.” He returned to find the windows smashed and his dogs stolen. The bottom line: Don’t do it.

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Know where your dog is at all times and be sure he or she is supervised.

2. Tie your dog up outside, alone

A 7-year-old girl was out shopping with her mom for the Christmas holidays recently and leashed her dog up outside the store. As the duo perused items, a thief was caught on hidden surveillance unleashing Marley, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The thief attempted to sell Marley on the streets, where a teacher bought the dog because she felt something was wrong. The dog was eventually reunited with his family, but this is rare. Criminals are waiting for you to leave the leash behind, with the dog attached. If you wouldn’t leave a baby alone outside, apply the same principle to your pets. The bottom line: Don’t do it.

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Dogs should not be made to live outside unsupervised.

3. Cruise dog parks and dog-friendly beaches

Look around the next time you let your dog roam off leash to his heart’s content. In my many years of covering dog travel, I have discovered that dogs are stolen from dog-welcoming properties such as dog parks and beaches. Chatting with friends while your eye roams away from your dog is exactly what criminals want. The bottom line: Let your dog have fun, but know where he or she is at all times.

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Have fun but be aware

4. Skip the microchip and ID tags

If your stolen, lost, or missing dog happens to luck out and end up at a shelter, the chances of a reunion with you increase dramatically if that dog is microchipped. Though collars can be taken off by thieves, identification tags that remain intact, especially something like a PetHub tag using QR code, increase the chances of reunion. If you move or change phone numbers, update the microchip contact info. The bottom line: Keep identification current and get a microchip.

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Is your current contact information on your dog's ID tag and microchip?

5. Leave dogs home alone without supervision

Please don’t jump on me for this one because I know a large majority of dog moms and dads reading this work outside the home. A pet sitter, doggie daycare, or a security system are all viable options to prevent pet theft. Thieves case homes where pets are left alone, and sadly, homes are cased to wait for the right moment that dogs are home alone. The bottom line: If you must leave your dog alone for any significant period of time, ask a neighbor to watch your house and return the favor with a neighborhood watch. I also never leave my dog alone in a hotel room when I travel.

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Do you know where your dog is at all times?

6. Let your dog live outside

This hotly contested topic went round and round when I wrote about not allowing a dog to live outside. Reason #864 to never let a dog live outside as his or her primary “residence?" Theft. Recently a dog in Cedar Falls, IA, was stolen from his heated dog kennel right near his owner’s home. reports that thieves in this situation are leaving notes for the owners letting them know the dog is “safe.” Bottom line: Never let your dog outside without your watchful eye.

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An indoor dog is a safe dog -- play outside, live inside.

7. Don’t use locks, fences, or alarms

This is a thief’s best friend: The property that is poorly lit, without a secure lock on a gate, and out of view of passersby. “It happened in broad daylight” is something that has become all too common as it relates to pet theft. Use an alarm or bell, and if possible, a security light, so you can hear and see anyone who comes on your property. The bottom line: Good fences make good neighbors. They also keep criminals away, and coupled with pet parent supervision, they keep dogs safe and secure.

8. Be unaware

I tell my pet friends and contacts this all the time: Know your surroundings. I remember watching an episode of Oprah years ago and learning about the book, The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker. Considered one of the nation's leading experts on violent behavior, de Becker shares how to spot subtle signs of danger -- before it's too late. Do not walk late at night by yourself, have a cell phone handy, and be aware of your surroundings. The bottom line: Know before you go.

As of press time, the Malchows had their dog returned, but this case is very unusual, and they are very fortunate.

Have you ever known someone who had their dog stolen? Got any tips to keep dogs safe from danger? Let me know in the comments below, and let’s stay safe out there.

Wed, 30 Jan 2013 10:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/8-ways-get-your-dog-stolen
<![CDATA[Is Charlie the AmStaff a Victim of One Agency's War on Dogs? ]]> Dogs and the outdoors: They go together naturally. But dogs in public parks -- even huge ones with lots of space to run free -- not always. And to us, that's a shame, if not an outright injustice. At least, it can be. We recognize that everyone should be able to enjoy public lands, and some regulation is needed -- for animals as well as things like motorized vehicles, performances, and so on -- in order for that to happen.

But what if a public agency has it out for dogs and their owners? What if its actions look like it's aiming to make dogs less equal than other park users?

That sure seems to be the case with the U.S. Park Service in the Bay Area in recent years.

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Charlie the American Staffordshire Terrier

The service has, for years, attempted to restrict access for dogs on the region's parklands, and since the 1970s tensions between dog owners and park officials have been characterized by raucous public hearings, court cases, and, most recently, harsh treatment of dogs and their owners. 

In the past year, a U.S. park ranger Tasered a 51-year-old man for walking his Rat Terrier off leash in San Mateo County, and since August, U.S. park officials in San Francisco have aggressively sought the euthanasia of the young dog Charlie, an American Staffordshire Terrier who bit a mounted police horse despite the fact Charlie has no previous record of aggressive behavior. His owner is now appealing Charlie's death sentence.

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Charlie on the beach

In the late 1970s, after years of public wrangling, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area established a pet policy that allows dogs on approximately one percent of Bay Area parklands. The 1979 Pet Policy also established off-leash rules and designated off-leash areas, one of which is a portion of Crissy Field in the San Francisco Presidio. 

But the GGNRA was never happy with the policy, and in the 1990s, illegally closed some dog walking areas designated in the 1979 Pet Policy, most notably at Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, and West Beach at Crissy Field. However, the closures did not withstand citizen-based legal challenges, and most of those areas have been reopened. 

Currently the GGNRA is attempting to roll back the 1979 Pet Policy through a new dog-management plan that would completely prohibit dogs from areas they are allowed in and require dogs be on-leash at Crissy Field. The public outcry to the draft plan was so great -- 4,713 people commented on the plan and 80 percent of the comments favored current dog policies -– that the GGNRA is revising the draft plan, which will be released again for public comment in February, 2013. 

But the public’s wishes have not stopped the GGNRA from aggressively intimidating dog owners for minor infractions and taking harsh actions against dogs who act aggressively.

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Charlie as a younger dog

In the past year, there have been at least two controversial incidents involving dogs that have caught the public’s attention. In January, Park Ranger Sarah Cavallaro stopped 51-year-old Gary Hesterberg for walking his Rat Terrier off-leash at the Rancho Corral de Tierra property, which was recently acquired by the GGNRA. In fact, the property was so newly acquired there were no “dogs on leash” signs posted in the area, according to Hesterberg’s attorney. Hesterberg, a local who had been walking his dogs in the area for years, complied with Cavallaro’s demand to leash the small dog. But Cavallaro would not allow Hesterberg to leave the scene and she would not explain why she was detaining him. 

Hesterberg tried to walk away twice, according to witnesses, and on his second attempt, Cavallaro unholstered her Taser and shot him in the back. The high-voltage charge knocked Hesterberg to the ground, and he was arrested after being examined by paramedics. In the days following the violent attack, there was a rising chorus of complaints about Cavallaro’s actions. The U.S. Park Service defended her actions and after a disciplinary investigation, which found that Cavallaro actions were within park policy. 

However, the 200-page investigation report was not released to the public, which brought the ire of U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, who demanded an independent investigation and publicly criticized the park service’s actions, findings, and refusal to release the report. 

Given the circumstances, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office refused to prosecute Hesterberg for the misdemeanors of walking his dog off-leash, failing to follow an officer’s orders, and giving false information about his identity. “In light of all the circumstances, we decided that a criminal case was not the appropriate path to take,” District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said. “We’re confident that a jury wouldn’t convict him and this case would be better by not entering the criminal justice system.”

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Charlie and his owner, David Gizzarelli

In July, Hesterberg filed a claim with the U.S. Park Service seeking $500,000. The park service has until January to respond to the claim. 

Hesterberg’s attorney, Michael Haddad, said the park service should release the report on Cavallaro, who had previous complaints about her interactions with dog owners, to the public. “This is the only way to shed some real light on what happened,” Haddad said. “If the park service contends the ranger honestly thought it was within their policies to Tase this guy in the back, then clearly their policies need to be clarified or strengthened.” 

The most recent incident involves Charlie a Staffordshire Terrier who attacked a U.S. Park Service mounted police horse at Crissy Field on Aug. 6. Charlie, who was 18 months at the time, had never seen a horse before and he became excited. He charged the horse, Stoney, who was being ridden by Officer Eric Evans, from approximately 200 yards away. According to Evans, he put Stoney into evasive action by pivoting the horse, which further excited Charlie and he bit Stoney, causing the horse to fall and Evans to be thrown. Charlie chased Stoney for a little more than half a mile and bit the horse several more times. 

Charlie’s owner, David Gizzarelli, was arrested and Charlie was taken to San Francisco Animal Care and Control, and released to Gizzarelli the next day. But after a vicious dog hearing on Aug. 23, hearing officer John Denny ordered that Charlie could be euthanized in the new year, despite the fact that Officer Evans misrepresented and exaggerated the facts of the case and provided next to no hard evidence of his claims. 

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Officer Eric Evans and Stoney the horse

GGNRA spokesman Howard Levitt has said on more than one occasion that the park service has nothing to do with the legal proceedings against Charlie, and that Charlie’s punishment is entirely up to the city and county of San Francisco. But according to court records, the GGNRA not only requested the vicious dog hearing, but also requested Charlie be euthanized. We've found that the official case against Charlie is weak.

Gizzarelli has been fighting to save Charlie, but reportedly Denny will only agree to lift the death sentence if Gizzarelli relinquishes ownership of the dog. The requirement is odd because Denny refuses to say exactly why Gizzarelli is an unfit owner. Neither the U.S. Park Service nor Denny have responded to requests for comment on the case. 

In the meantime, Charlie has been kept in a small cell surrounded by truly vicious dogs, and he is not allowed human contact. “Charlie continues to be in an 8x4 cell with no walks and no visits,” Gizzarelli posted his Help Save Charlie Facebook page. “And who knows what else because NO ONE is allowed to visit him. We are filing a new stay and continuing to fight, sue, and protect Charlie and dogs like him.” 

Fri, 11 Jan 2013 09:03:00 -0800 /the-scoop/charlie-amstaff-golden-gate-national-recreation-area-war-on-dogs
<![CDATA[New Year's Resolutions for Dog Owners -- One Per Month]]> Did you know four out of five people who make resolutions break them by the end of January? The main reason for resolution failure is setting so many goals that trying to stick to them becomes arduous. A little trick that has worked for me (and my dog): Space your goals out to one per month!

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Don't overreach. Set achievable goals for you and your dog.

Month by month, set a goal of something you will do with or for your dog, and then make it happen. At the end of 2013, you and your dog will have achieved 12 goals. Here’s a month-by-month goal calendar for you and your pooch:


Wednesday, Jan. 2, was National Pet Travel Safety Day, but even in retrospect it's a good reminder to check items related to automobile travel. Ensure your dog’s tags are up to date, double check any harnesses or travel safety belts in your vehicle, and start planning for your next trip.

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Start the year with checking travel safety.


Though February is a shorter month, it is long on love. Set a goal to keep your dog’s heart healthy by scheduling a veterinary visit for a wellness check. With that checked off the list, get to keeping Fido fit! I recently wrote about rainy day games, which can be played year-round indoors.

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Love your dog by keeping their heart healthy and mind active.


National Poison Prevention Week occurs in March, so clean out those medicine cabinets, safely dispose of expired medications and treats, and ensure prying paws do not have access to cupboards or doors that house dangers behind them.


It’s National Pet First Aid Awareness Month! If you do not already have a “go to” home emergency kit and travel emergency kit, now’s the time to make them. Read our article on how to build your own first aid kit for dogs. An item I’ve recently added to my dog's first aid kits is the Pet Clot single-use mesh pouch for bleeding emergencies.

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Dogs can have an accident anytime, anywhere: Be prepared with a first aid kit for dogs.


There is a bevy of dog celebratory and awareness weeks and dates peppered throughout May, but perhaps one of the most important is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. (Speaking of teeth, you are brushing your dog’s teeth daily by now, right?) According to the ASPCA, 50 percent of all children in the United States will be bitten by a dog by the age of 12. If you have human children, teach them the dos and don'ts of approaching a dog, including when to pet a dog and how to do so.


Although this month celebrates National Take Your Dog to Work Day (June 22), set a goal to check your dog’s urine. I do this once a week with my dog. I use the Siemens Multistix, which tests for 10 different levels of things in my dog’s urine. If your dog battles urinary tract infections (UTIs), these strips can be a lifesaver for detecting levels such as pH and blood in urine. Collect the dog’s urine with a free catch in the morning when it is most concentrated, dip the stick in, follow the time recommendations (two minutes for most), and then compare against the colors on the bottle. Use these in conjunction with veterinary visits and to keep an eye on any levels that are cause for concern.

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To pee or not to pee, that is the question.


Do you have an escape plan that includes your dog if a fire were to occur in your residence? July 15 is National Pet Fire Safety Day. Firefighter Dayna Hilton and her fire safety dogs have made it their mission to save lives, reduce injuries, and decrease property loss from fire. Ensure you have a fire-escape route plan in place, check your smoke alarm batteries, and learn more by visiting the Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog blog.


August 26 is National Dog Day. The day was founded to celebrate shelter dogs. If your heart beats dog as mine does, take some time this month to give your dog some extra TLC (tender loving canine). Give your dog a tummy rub or pat down. Dogs are calmer, happier, and connect with us emotionally when we pet, massage, and rub them. Additionally, you'll be aware if any concerning lumps or bumps develop. 

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Rub me tender, rub me true.


Back to school time means back to basics. Set a goal to regularly examine your dog’s paws and pads, looking for any cuts, cracks, blisters, or lacerations. Keep hair between pads groomed and nails adequately trimmed by a qualified groomer.

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Pug-tacular shoes, right?


It's Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month! But if you are unable to do so, there are many other ways to help shelter animals. When you shop at “give back” websites, companies provide money, food, and treats to shelter dogs. Also consider sponsoring a dog. I send $10 a month to a Cocker Spaniel rescue and foster group.

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Help shelter dogs from the comfort of your own home.


As remnant leaves scatter about the earth, ticks burrow beneath, waiting for the chance to leap onto your dog as a host. Do a flea and tick check and talk with your dog’s vet about year-round protection. I am never without a tick key on my keyring (and in my dog’s first aid kit) for those “just in case” moments.

But remember: Just because something is dubbed natural does not mean it is 100-percent safe. Always check with your vet prior to applying any product. 

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"Can ticks see me with this disguise?"


Life is short, dogs live in the moment, so celebrate and set a goal to make December a time of tradition. 

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Holiday traditions with dogs make for fun photographs, too!

If you made it this far with all the goals, congratulations! Don’t be afraid to rotate these goals and suggestions for year-round canine health.

Have you set any goals set for your dog in 2013? Let me know in the comments!

Thu, 03 Jan 2013 09:03:00 -0800 /lifestyle/new-years-resolutions-dog-owners-one-per-month
<![CDATA[Are Car Restraints for Dogs Just One Big Farce?]]> “My dog sits still most of the time and does not need a restraint when traveling.”

“My dog would never allow me to restrain him in the car.”

“I don’t go on long trips, so I don’t need to buckle my dog up when traveling.”

Do any of the above questions apply to you? If so, you are not in the minority. According to the 2011 AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Survey, 84 percent of respondents bring their dogs on car trips but do not use a restraint. I sheepishly bow my head and admit to falling in that 84 percent now and again for the “short trip to the park” treks we make just about daily. This might not be such a bad thing, or so it seems, in light of recent findings released by the Center for Pet Safety.

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Do pet restraints live up to their hype?

In July, the Center for Pet Safety ran a series of videos from its pilot study of the “crash-worthiness” of canine automotive restraints. They report a third-party independent test lab, MGA Research Corporation, tested a variety of pet harnesses to the conditions of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 for child safety restraints.

The results were a complete failure -- for ALL restraints tested. Four harnesses were tested in the control group, and every time there were multipoint failures. At one point, the videos reveal a complete separation from the connection point; another shows an instance of complete decapitation of the test (dummy) dog as a result of the harness moving upward on impact. In its press release, the Center for Pet Safety reported, “no protection would be provided to either the dog or to vehicle occupants in similar crash conditions.”

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With a name like Travelin' Jack, Jill Lane hits the open road with her pooch often.

So what is a dog parent to do in order to protect Fido while traveling? After all, humans are required to buckle up, and in many states, so is Rover.

An unrestrained 80-pound dog in a wreck going 30 miles per hour equates to 2,400 pounds of projectile force, per the AAA/Kurgo study. If traveling through a state such as New Jersey, I could be fined if Fido is sans seatbelt (should present legislation succeed in becoming law). Pets are not allowed on the lap of Hawaiian drivers, and in Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine, laws pertaining to distracted drivers can be enforced where pets are involved. Now what?

A dire need exists for a product that will comfortably restrain a dog yet allow some flexibility in movement while traveling. Sleepypod, a company that designs products for pet safety at home and during travel, took a step in the right direction. They hired a crash-test facility sponsored by the United States’ Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to test the crash-worthiness of its entire line of pet carriers.

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Sleepypod test dog, Max, gets ready for a test drive.

Each of Sleepypod’s pet carriers passed a 30 mph frontal crash test. The crash tests were performed at this speed because that is the standard for child safety seats in the United States. There is NO legal standard for car restraint systems (or crash worthiness of carriers) for pets. Video footage of Sleepypod’s Pet Passenger Restraint Systems showed that they remained intact, without damage. Personally, I would love to run out and purchase the Sleepypod, but my dog is well over the maximum 15 pounds that the Sleepypod safely allows.

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Putting pedal to the metal, Sleepypod tests their pet restraints and carriers.

Dog parents are faced with a dilemma: To buckle or not to buckle. Alternative options include a crate or kennel, a car seat (such as a booster seat), or a car barrier designed to block off a section of the vehicle. I know of someone who was in an accident with her two medium-sized dogs and credits a floor-to-ceiling metal gate with saving the lives of her dogs when her vehicle was rear-ended.

According to, “Restraints help protect pets in case of a collision and keep pets from running loose and distracting the driver.”

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Some states require Fido to buckle up.

It seems pet parents are left with a frenzy of information to decipher on their own. I write about pet products often and have traveled with dogs for 20 years, and I, too, am dizzied and left wondering, “So now what?” Loose, unrestrained dogs can not only distract the driver but may be killed or injured by airbags. Sudden stops pose projectile dangers, and free-roaming Fido can easily block or move the gear shift, steering wheel, or gas pedals. One of my greatest fears is getting in an accident and having my panicked dog escape, become lost and never recovered.

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Millions of dogs are riding shotgun with us.

I thought researching this piece would provide me with a sense of security, but I feel very uneasy by the massive amount of pet-restraint options and the lack of solid proof that they work. Lindsey Wolko founded the Center for Pet Safety in 2011, after she was in a car accident with her pooch, Maggie. At the time, Maggie was restrained in a harness, but she suffered spinal injuries as a result of the accident. In other words, the harness failed.

The Today show recently aired a segment on the topic. In two of the tests performed on a 55-pound test dog, the harnesses snapped completely and the dog was sent flying through the air, unprotected. However, Walko is not blaming the manufacturers, and says in the segment that she feels the lack of safety standards is the real issue.

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Dexter wears a harness that doubles as a restraint in the car.

For me, I sit Driving Miss Daisy-style most times in the car, as a family member drives with me and my harnessed pooch in the back seat. I still wonder how to best protect him and what to report to the more than 78 million dogs who live in U.S. households. No doubt, millions of them are traveling with their pet parents, restrained and unrestrained. Now, I am not so sure which of the two is the lesser evil.

Do you restrain your dog when traveling? Do the findings of the Center for Pet Safety report alarm you? Let us know in the comments.

Photo Credits: Dog in Car at top via Shutterstock; all others courtesy Carol Bryant

Mon, 12 Nov 2012 03:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-restraints-for-dogs-safety
<![CDATA[In Humboldt, Dogs Are Getting Sick from Eating Marijuana]]> California's booming marijuana industry is sickening -- to dogs, that is. Dogster's resident vet, Eric Barchas, has treated hundreds of dogs for marijuana intoxication.

Large numbers of dogs suffering serious symptoms -- vomiting, seizures, staggering around, losing bladder control -- are brought into veterinary hospitals in the counties where pot production is highest, according to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. And the numbers are rising. A Sonoma County vet quoted by the newspaper reported seeing as many as 10 cases of canine marijuana toxicity per month, while a Humboldt County vet sees at least one case every day.

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“We see more cases than anybody in the world," says Joe Humble. “We're well known up here" for pot-growing and everything that comes with it. “It's kind of an embarrassment.”

Humble told the Press-Democrat about a dog that was brought to his clinic, "limp and unresponsive," with a dangerously low heart rate.

The dog's mouth was full of baking soda. The owner thought that was what had made the dog sick, "but it turned out it first had eaten a bag of marijuana-laced cookies. Marijuana food products can pose particular problems [for dogs] because they taste good and contain concentrated amounts of pot."

A case of the munchies had driven the dog to eat baking soda. Marijuana toxicity is far less commonly seen in cats because cats are notoriously picky -- and thus far less likely than dogs to gorge themselves indiscriminately.

Treatments for canine marijuana toxicity include induced vomiting and the administration of activated charcoal and antiseizure medications.

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"Animals find pot to eat in a variety of places. They may find discarded marijuana while on a walk, at a neighbor's house or in an ashtray in their homes. ... Owners also have been known to administer medicinal marijuana to their pets, erroneously believing that what alleviates their ailments will help their pets," according to the Press-Democrat.

Now there's yet another good reason to totally stash your stash.


Wed, 23 May 2012 07:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/in-humboldt-dogs-are-getting-sick-from-eating-marijuana
<![CDATA[Dog Mannequins Make Bloomingdale's Sonia Rykiel Window the Height of Chic]]>

Attention, fashion hounds: This window, currently available for your viewing pleasure on the Third Avenue side of Bloomingdale's in New York City, is a real head-turner.

The very stylish mannequin is dressed head-to-toe in Sonia Rykiel, a favorite French createur de mode. This inanimate fashion plate is no dummy; she happens to be my kind of stylin' Dogster, all dressed to the canines in a drop-dead-gorgeous outfit that sportsa bright-yellow top, for maximum visibility and safety. And she's walking not one, or two, but six -- count 'em, six -- four-footed friends call them creatures de mode), the leashes held confidently in her hands.

The breeds represented are, from left to right: what appears to be a mutt (perhaps a cross between a pit bull and a Whippet); a Jack Russell terrier; a Beagle; a Yellow Lab, a Boston Terrier, and a Boxer.

My only beef with this otherwise charming vignette is the odd scale of some of the figures. The mutt at far left, the largest and most lifelike, towers over the Lab and Boxer, when in actual fact those breeds would both be bigger. Perhaps they are meant to be puppies? To the window dresser's credit, the JRT, Beagle, and Boston appear to be actual size.

You can only hope to look even one-tenth this stylish on dog-walking duty this spring. Have you ever been dressed to the canines for an outing with Spot? Have you spotted any super-stylish store windows recently, and if so, where? Please share outfit details and retail coordinates in the comments!

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 13:21:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-mannequins-make-bloomingdales-sonia-rykiel-window-the-height-of-chic
<![CDATA[How Savvy Dogsters Can Spot the Safest Dog Leashes]]>

After years of walking strong pulling dogs, I've had several instances of collar malfunctions we're talkingpoorly stitched, brittlecollars that actuallybroke in the middle of a busy city intersection but I never had a leash malfunction on me untilvery recently.

While out walking Desiree, my German Shepherd, something caught her attention and she began doing what I call her Joe Cocker impersonation. All that lunging and flailing caused the clasp on her leash to undo itself. Desiree was standing in the middle of a grassy parkway, with traffic going in two directions on either side. The moment she realized she was not tethered to me, she gave me a twinkly-eyed look that clearly said "Cool!!!", then turned tail and began giving chase.

I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

Finally, Desiree stopped long enough for me to grab her collar, which thankfully had stayed on her neck. I'd left the worthless leash behind, and it was dark out, so I didn't want to hunt for it while holding this high-energy creature by the collar.

The stress of this experience is not something I wish to repeat. So, in theinterest of preventinganother leashmalfunction,I decided touse only high-quality reflective leashes like the one by Sporn pictured above, and toeducate myselfabout leash hardware and what kinds are the safest.

The type of clasp on the leash that malfunctioned was designed to snap onto the D-ring of a dog's collar for ease and convenience.It looked like this -->

But dog walking isn't about convenience; it can be a fabulous form of fitness, but not unlike mountain climbing, it requiresreliable gear, or your routineouting could quickly become a matter of life or death. A leashshould bemuch more than a style statement; ithas tobe a high-performance tool to which you entrust the safety of your beloved canine companion.

Needless to say, I won't be using any leash ending in this type of clasp ever again, and I recommend you don't either.

Most leashes attach to a dog's collar with a standard snap hook (<-- like this). This hardware is fine for small to medium dogs who are not strong pullers, or jumpy Joe Cocker impersonators like Desiree. However, when standard snap hooks become wet, rust can make the lever harder to operate. And invery coldweather, a rusty snap hook can actually freeze up andunclasp unexpectedly.

Inventor Joseph S. Sporn has spent the past25 years creating performance dog products including the often-imitated Sporn No-Pull Harness that don't let dogs or their handlers down. Before building his dog-daycare company, Yuppie Puppy, into a $12 million enterprise, he was an in-demand dog walker, so he knows all about preventing leash malfunctions. And his choice for the safest, most reliable leash hardware is the trigger snap hook


"Our leashes are made for folks who are daily dog-walkers, who have constant use of the leash," explains Sporn, who subjects his designs to rigorous testing. "As you can see, the larger thumb lever on the trigger snap is much easier to use, especially for women with long nails. The trigger snap is not only easier but also safer, because ithas a stronger spring mechanism and provides an overall better strength than a standard leash snap hook. And in wet orfreezing weather, the trigger snap still opens and closes freely."

Here's another advantage oftrigger snaps: "Theyare easier to attach and quicker to prevent a dog from running off," Sporn concludes. "In pull strength tests, hardware failure tends to be the number one culprit over failure of a stitch point. The trigger snap is typically thicker than conventional snap hooks at the point where the most stress is put on it, making it the superior choice for larger breed dogs that lunge or pull against the leash."

What's your experience with leash hardware? Please share thoughts, tips, and recommendationsin the comments!

Fri, 17 Feb 2012 05:47:00 -0800 /doggie-style/how-savvy-dogsters-can-spot-the-safest-dog-leashes
<![CDATA[A Simple Way to Keep Dogs Stay Safe in Snowy Weather]]> The lovely powder started falling early this morning, and by the time my dogs and I awoke from our luxuriousnine-hour hibernation, the streets and grassy areas in our 'hood were concealed beneath a glistening white blanket.

Snow day, yay!

To ensure that all my dogs — but especially my sweet senior K9 Sheba - don't go slipping and falling, or burning their paw-pads on salty ice melter, I scattered paw-friendly, salt-freeMorton Safe-T-Pet on and around our building's stoop.

That's Sheba in the photo,supervising Operation Safe Stoopas only a Border Collie can.

Here's another way Morton is helping keep dogs safe this winter: Until the end of this month, Morton Salt will donate $1 to the ASPCA for every "Like" received on its Facebook page. Read more about the product here.

What are some simple ways you keep pets safe in snowy weather? Please share in the comments!

Sat, 21 Jan 2012 14:11:51 -0800 /doggie-style/a-simple-way-to-keep-dogs-stay-safe-in-snowy-weather
<![CDATA[Doggie Flash Mob Makes TV History this Morning in NYC]]> As reported here, this morning on theplaza outside the Fox and Friends studio in midtown Manhattan, a doggie flash mobstarted assembling at 7 to celebrate National Keep Pets Safe in Winter Day, which is today, December 22. The dogs were bright-eyed; the humans, a bit bleary!

But all were thrilled to receivespecies-specific goodies: ArkNaturals Paws in the Pie pumpkin treats for the pets and Dunkin Donuts for the people.

A veritable rainbow coalition of K9s turned out for the festivities:dogs large and small, purebred and mixed, young and old. One scene-stealer who richly deserved her turn in the spotlight is Patsy the Pit Bull (below), a sweetheart, a looker,and a real good kisser who's available for adoption from the ASPCA.

Also on hand and paw for the event were several sweet adoptable dogs from Animal Haven Shelter, including acharming Chihuahua named Eazy E (below).

Dogs were offered sweet sweatshirts emblazoned with the logo of Morton Safe-T-Pet, the paw-friendly ice melter that sponsored this fun event. The dogs' handlers, meanwhile, got logo'dblue fleece hats.

Piggy the terrifictripod mutt,below,was born with a warmthermal layer(he's a Border Colliemix, after all), so he showed up in his birthday suit and gamely sported a blue fleece hat for this photo (along with his dad, Darwin Animal Doctors founder Tod Emko)!

Thu, 22 Dec 2011 11:14:49 -0800 /lifestyle/doggie-flash-mob-makes-tv-history-this-morning-in-nyc
<![CDATA[New York Dogs Invited to Make TV History Tomorrow Morning!]]> Dogsters and their best four-footed friends are invited to make history on TVtomorrow, Thursday, December 22!

To celebrate National Keep Pets Safe in Winter Day, Morton Safe-T-Pet is orchestrating the largest-ever Dog Flash Mob — a gathering of 200-plus Paws! — outside the studio of TV's Fox & Friends at 7.30 a.m.

This holiday-time hound happening should make it into the Guinness Book of World Records — and will doubtless be a big hit on YouTube after the fact.

To be a part of it, New York, New York, all you have to do is show up with your dog(s) at7.30 a.m. and stay until8.30.

On hand and paw will be tempting treats for humans and K9s — for the people, Dunkin Donuts delicacies, and for the dogs, Paws in the Pie treats. Plus, the first 50 medium-to-large dogs will score a vest, and the first 50 handlers get a winter cap.

So, New York City area Dogsters, go get yourself and your dog on TV and make some K9 history! Meetup tomorrow at 7.30a.m. on the southwest corner of 48th Street and Avenue of the Americas.

See you there!

Wed, 21 Dec 2011 20:19:11 -0800 /lifestyle/new-york-dogs-invited-to-make-tv-history-tomorrow-morning