Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dog Bite Prevention Week

Did you know…
….more than 4.5 million Americans are bitten every year by a dog and 83% are children?
….50% of all U.S. children will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday?
….Each year 800,000 bite injuries are severe enough to require medical attention?
….If you Google “Orange County dog bite prevention” you will get pages of attorneys and law offices ready to sue for dog bite injuries?

Whether you own a dog or not, these statistics affect you in one way or another. They also point out one major problem in the U.S. and it is a lack of dog bite prevention education and responsible dog ownership.

To raise awareness for this perpetual public health problem, the U.S. Postal Service and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) joined forces along with other organizations to promote National Dog Bite Prevention Week during the third week of May each year.  And although this week has brought about an increase in awareness, there are still dog bites happening every day, which only demonstrate the need for greater awareness and education efforts nationwide.

The beginning of your basic education must first start with some sort of understanding of dogs.
“Even the gentlest dog, if it is physically or mentally unhealthy, is in pain, feels threatened, or is protecting its food or a favorite toy, can bite,” Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Division said. “Not only is it important to understand how dogs behave, it is important to understand how our behavior may be interpreted by a dog. To prevent dog bites, we need to find a common language. Finding that common language is the focus of effective dog bite prevention educational efforts.”

According to the ASPCA, “The vast majority of dog bites are from a dog known to the child—his or her own pet, a neighbor's or friends.” A common misconception among people is that because they are around a certain dog a lot they assume that dog must like and feel comfortable around them. But dogs have their own rules of etiquette and they give lots of body language they people don't pick up on, which leads to an "out of the blue" dog bite.  And because children are so close to the dog’s size, their bites are usually worse on the face or neck.  

Dog bites are a problem for children and adults alike. So what can you do to avoid being bitten by the next dog you encounter?

The Proper Way to greet a dog

When meeting or greeting an unfamiliar dog, first ask the owner if the dog is friendly and then ask for permission to pet the dog.  You should then ask the dog for permission to pet him or her but letting the dog sniff the back of your hand before petting the animal. Always pet a new dog under the chin, on the shoulder, or on the chest, but never on their head first.  A dog may misinterpret a person leaning over them as a dominant behavior and feel threatened.
Here are basic tips put together by the U.S. Postal Service and the ASPCA to avoid being bitten by a dog:
·         Don’t run past or away from a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch prey. 
·         If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact because dogs interpret this as a challenge. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
·         Don’t approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tethered or confined.
·         Do not tease a dog behind a fence or tethered in a yard.
·         Do not touch or play with a dog that is eating or sleeping.  

·         If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle. Otherwise, you should stand still “Like a tree trunk” with your arms crossed over your chest (closed fists). If you or your child should fall to the ground, you should curl into a ball, with your knees to your chest and your fingers interlocked covering the back of your neck. If you stay still, the dog will most likely sniff you, loose interest and leave you alone. 

A great tool for children, and adults alike, is this educational video produced by the AKC to help kids avoid being bitten by a dog.  I highly recommend all parents watch this video with their kids and encourage your schools to show the video to each class as well. Education has to start with children not only to stop kids for getting bitten but to plant a seed for future responsible pet owners that will break the cycle. Check out the AKC website to view the video or to order a free copy for your school or community group. They also provide a workbook for kids to go over after the video to ensure they understood what they learned. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Is your Dog and Home Armed Against Fleas and Ticks?

It's Springtime and like every year, as temperatures start to warm up, the bugs start to come out and reproduce.  What does this mean for your dog? It means a heightened exposure to ticks, fleas, and other parasites; especially when spring is a peak season for deer ticks.

The dangers of fleas

The Small Animal Hospital in Riverside gives a little light on Understanding the Flea and says, “When a flea bites your dog, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Some animals may have fleas without showing discomfort, but an unfortunate number of dogs become sensitized to this saliva. In highly allergic animals, the bite of a single flea can cause severe itching and scratching. Fleas cause the most common skin disease of dogs – flea allergy dermatitis.” – Dr. Doug Brum.    

Symptoms of flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) include redness, bumps, scabs, and severe hair loss due to scratching.  Fleas can also carry tapeworm, as they are a main host for the parasite.  If your dog ingests a flea they might also be ingesting a tapeworm, which can be hard to detect because they show few symptoms.  Taking the steps to keep your dog flea free will prevent a lot of trouble down the road.

The dangers of ticks

Ticks can also cause medical problems for your dog because they can transmit serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. 
“It is not the tick bite but the toxins, secretions, or organisms in the tick's saliva transmitted through the bite that causes disease.” – Charles P. Davis, M.D., Ph.D.  When ticks feed they bury their teeth deep into the skin of their host.  In addition, the blood in their stomach is poisonous.  For these reasons, it is very important that ticks are removed carefully and in one piece.  If the head of a tick is left in the skin, your dog can still contract a disease.  If the tick body is opened and blood is released into the open wound of your dog it can cause a skin infection. 
Signs of a tick bite on your dog include fever, loss of appetite, sore and swollen limbs, skin infections, lethargy, and arthritis.  Both ticks and fleas can cause Anemia (low blood count) in a dog from losing too much blood.
Because the signs of a tick bite can be commonly mistaken for another issue, it is best to check over your dog anytime they have been exploring outside or in an area that might carry ticks.  Ticks often look like a large brown flea, but have eight legs like a spider.  They bite into your dog and feed on his blood, and like a mosquito, they get bigger as they feed. By running your hand over your dog’s coat, you would feel a strange bump if a tick is attached.  Check inside your dogs ears as well since ticks can easily hide in there.  By checking your dog as soon as you come in from outside you are increasing your chances of catching a tick on your dogs coat before they have attached themselves.  
Remember, ticks do bite humans too, so preventing your dog from attracting a tick is a preventative measure for the whole family.  

Now that you know the threat that fleas and ticks pose, what do you do to keep your dog safe from these pesky parasites?  Do you wait until Fido has a patch of fur missing on his rump?  Well, if you want to shell out a hundred bucks or so for blood work, a cortisone shot, and some antibiotics to take home from the vet, then sure.  But if you’re a responsible pet owner, as I’m sure all of you are, then you know prevention is key!  

Ways to protect your home and your dog from fleas and ticks

Outside- Bugs do not know the difference of a zip code.  Whether you live in the populous downtown area or back in the hills where your closest neighbor is a five minute drive away, fleas and ticks can find you.  They can live in bushes, tall grass, and crawl spaces (to name a few) and they can get there without your dog ever leaving your property.  You can protect your yard by:
·         Having regular bug control service, such as Terminix or Orkin, spray the perimeter of your house and areas of the yard. 
·         Buying a bottle of flea and tick yard spray that you can attach to your hose and spray the areas in your yard that your dog likes to be.   This yard spray can be purchased at most pet retail stores, feed stores, some veterinarian offices, and online.

Inside- All it takes is one flea or tick to make it in the house and lay eggs for you to have a problem.  And this doesn’t only happen in dirty houses, it can happen in the cleanest houses as well.  If you leave the problem unattended then it becomes a bigger problem and before you know it, you are ankle deep in a swarm of fleas. You can protect the inside of your home by:
·         Using a flea and tick spray (on carpet or upholstery) that will kill all pests and their eggs.
·         Using a home fogger that will kill all pests and their eggs for several months.
o   (Check out HartzHome Spray and 4 in 1 Home Fogger)
·         Vacuuming regularly will pick up all pests and their eggs but be sure to either use a flea powder on the carpet first or throw away the vacuum bag right away; otherwise it is just an incubator for the eggs, causing a larger problem.

Your dog- Making sure your dog is protected is your safest bet when fighting fleas and ticks.  You can protect your dog by:
·         Grooming him/her regularly (ie. Bath, brush, ear cleaning). You can even use flea shampoo or a flea comb to be more thorough.
·         Getting a flea dip
·         Using a heartworm preventative
·         Using a flea/tick preventative (flea/tick medicine or a flea collar)
·         Dietary changes (for this and other natural bug repellent ideas, check out

Keep your dog safe and happy this spring and all year long by incorporating these preventative measures in your home.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Its Easy to Be Kind to Animals

A little known fact about the first week of May is that although it is a time to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and Mother's Day, it is also National Pet Week and Be Kind to Animals Week. While we are easily kind to our own pets, do we overlook or take for granted the other animals in our area (or around the world)?

From the beginning of time, animals have been enriching our lives, whether we realize it or not.  From bees to killer whales, animals keep our world in balance on a daily basis by doing things that we often see as insignificant, and we take for granted their important contributions.  We even tend to take for granted the animal that has the largest impact in our lives, supplying us with unconditional love regardless of our flaws - our dogs.  

This first week in May has been set aside for us to notice these contributions and to say “Thank you” for them by changing our own habits and implementing ways to be kind to animals.

Here are 10 easy things you can start doing in your life to show a little kindness to not only your own pets, but to animals all over the world.

1.  Plant trees, shrubs, or flowers in your yard to make birds and other wildlife feel welcome.

2. Put out a bird feeder, bird house, or bird bath in your yard.  You can get the kids involved by building a bird house together or by letting them help you fill the bird feeder regularly.

3. Adopt a shelter pet, donate to an animal shelter, or volunteer at an animal shelter.  Sometimes help comes in different ways, and ensuring animals are cared for while waiting for a new home can make a world of different to an animal.

4.  Keep your dogs (and cats) vaccinated and take them for regular check-ups to prevent illness.

5. Keep up with your dog’s hygiene regularly by brushing their teeth, cleaning their ears, bathing them, trimming their nails, brushing their coats, and expressing their anal glands (if needed). Groom your dog regularly to ensure their coat/skin is healthy, check for fleas and ticks, and to help your dog keep cool in the summer.    

6. Spend quality time with your dog daily.  There’s no better way to show your dog some love than by giving him regular exercise, but dogs also love a good massage.

7. Never tolerate animal cruelty.  If you see an animal being abused, report it immediately.

8. Recycle as often as you can to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills and pollutes the ocean.  This includes properly disposing of old antifreeze or other toxins and cutting up all nets and 6-pack plastic rings to make sure animals don’t ingest or get caught in such hazardous waste. Also try using reusable bags when shopping, instead of plastic.   

9. Leave all wild animals (and their homes) in their natural environment (insects, lizards, and sea creatures included).

10. Educate others about the importance of kindness to animals. 
Parents- teach your kids though books, wildlife shows/movies, and by example.  
Kids- teach your peers by using animal issues as topics for school projects and book reports and by always showing a good example. 
Everyone- Pass on your belief in animal kindness to your co-workers, neighbors, family, and friends and always show a good example.

“We speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” – G.T. Angell