Watch Tip for week of Jan. 30, 2011:
Secondhand smoke is a threat to pets—did you know? It is even more toxic for pets than for humans because not only do they breathe the fumes, they lick the cancer-causing residue from their fur while grooming! Cats and short-nosed dogs are most affected, but all pets in smoking households are more likely to develop lung/nasal/mouth cancers and lymphoma.
If you smoke, be aware of the increased risk of cancer for your pets
Have you ever noticed the smoke residue that coats the walls and windows inside the home of a smoker? In addition to coating lung tissues, that toxic airborne residue infiltrates porous materials, such as clothing and pet fur. Secondhand smoke causes cancer in cats and dogs just like it does in non-smokers who are forced to breathe the same air. The smoke can also cause breathing difficulties and eye/skin irritations. Plus, with their sensitive noses, just imagine how dogs and cats must dislike the strong acrid odors.
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Watch Tip for week of Jan. 23:
Be watchful and deliberate when you load your dog into the vehicle. Make sure your dog gets all the way into the vehicle—tail too—before you slam that door shut or you will injure or break the dog’s tail in the door. Amputation might even be necessary. The dog’s pain will be severe and bleeding may be profuse, yet the accident was entirely preventable.
Every rescue dog in our family has scars from an old tail injury
Most of our dogs, present and departed, are (or were) short-hair dogs so you couldn’t miss a scar. One lovely red tail was straight about half-way, then at a knobby joint in the tail, bent left. One butterscotch tail is pudgy about a third of the way and suddenly gets skinny. One mostly white tail had a round bald patch in the middle. One black and white spotted tail had a bald spot AND a slight narrowing of the tail.
I remember when that last one happened. I was in a hurry and as our young Great Dane jumped into the back seat of my old (heavy-built) sedan, I absent-mindedly swung that heavy door shut. Samson let out such a loud bellow inside of the car that I jerked and almost knocked myself out on the top rim of the front door. He was in obvious pain and as you can imagine I was FURIOUS at myself for hurting him. Luckily he didn’t connect his injury with me so he let me examine his tail. Somehow it didn’t break the skin. But the damage was permanent anyway.
Don’t ruin your trip for a preventable reason! Make sure your pets are loaded safely and securely before you set out.
Weekly Watch Tip for week of Jan. 16:
Urgent: Extreme cold kills outside tethered dogs and cats, especially those animals without heavy coats, the malnourished, the very young and the elderly. Tethered animals in southern regions are at higher risk for hypothermia because they have not grown heavier coats over time like they would have in cooler climates. Watch for animals that don’t have adequate shelter; speak with owners or call the authorities immediately.
Short-hair pets in the south need hay or straw bedding during cold snaps. Fur is not enough!
While all dogs and cats have outer fur and inner fur, the quantity of outer hairs of the fur compared to the inner hairs of the fur (ratio) varies by breed and individual. The texture varies as well. Age matters: it takes six months on average for puppies to grow a complete fur covering of inner and outer fur, if they are healthy. Some breeds can tolerate extreme cold if individuals are healthy and shelter from freezing winds is available.
In addition to breed and health, environment matters too. Individual dogs and cats living outdoors in cooler northern climates will grow longer, fluffier inner fur as daylight shortens that will help hold body heat. But pets in the mid- and far south have not experienced wide swings of seasonal cooling. Their sparse, short inner fur is completely inadequate for sudden winter cold snaps, freezing winds, and snow storms. Short-hair dogs are very vulnerable to hypothermia.
In other words, during a cold snap in Mississippi, that bouncy little Boxer puppy down the street that is tied to a tree 24/7 could be found dead in the morning. Those skinny hunting hounds kept in tiny outdoor pens could suffer from hypothermia and frostbite and the old ones might die. And those skeletal, near-feral pit bulls tied to stakes that sleep in hard hollows dug in the earth? They have never known a kindness. They may be released from their long suffering.
Do you have access to bales of hay or straw? Can you give hay beds to short-hair outside dogs in your neighborhood when a cold snap is on the way? A simple bale of hay can mean the difference between life and death to a dog or cat down south when the cold winds blow. Owners probably will not object. Please help those outside animals.
Watch Tip for week of Jan. 9:
Watch for dogs and cats anywhere near or on partially-frozen rivers and lakes; they can break through. Animals do not have an instinct that makes them wary of thin ice. Keep your pets leashed when you walk nearby. Speak with owners who let animals roam in risky areas.
Guess what! Animals don’t have a mysterious sixth sense for danger.
Most of us would react instantly if our child would wander near thin ice, but our society appears to have an unexamined belief that wild and domestic animals don’t need our guidance like children do. So we let them wander. We believe that animals have instincts that protect from danger, but we couldn’t be more wrong. Animals have accidents just like people do.
The annual winter onset of news articles about police and fire personnel rescuing dogs from thin ice has begun. Hopefully some most will live. An 8-year-old German Shepherd in New York survived his terrifying and frigid experience just today, thanks to “scuba cops.” He did suffer from hypothermia. Yesterday 11 firefighters rescued two Newfoundlands in Connecticut using cold water suits. Their owner had been warned about allowing his dogs to wander near a frozen lake but chose to ignore the advice.
The most tragic stories are of owners and dogs dying together. Owners attempt rescue and go through the ice too. Frigid water is deadly. If you see someone walking with an unleashed dog near ice, speak up. Say their dog could go through the ice. You might save a life. The firefighters and police will thank you too!
Weekly Watch Tip for week of Jan. 2:
Spread the word about the dangers of ingesting button cell batteries found in remote controls, novelties/toys, and musical greeting cards. Pets (especially baby pets) will destroy and eat just about anything. Some things just “pass through” and others get hung up in a fold of tissue. Even intact (unchewed) lithium batteries may cause lasting damage to the gastrointestinal tract in just two hours.
Safety alert! Batteries are dangerous if swallowed—packaging does not inform buyers.
Playful pets who enjoy chewing on household objects are in danger of ingesting batteries, especially little button cell batteries found in so many things, including popular musical greeting cards. If you have a dog who likes to chew paper, you must make sure that musical cards are kept out of cruising and counter-surfing range. The same goes for remote controls (a popular chew toy, according to some dogs and puppies) and small battery-operated toys including pet toys such as battery-operated mice toys for cats (!). Don’t put this off until tomorrow!
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