Friday, July 13, 2018

How Grain-Free or a Vegetarian Diet Can be Deadly to Your Pet

In previous articles regarding nutrition, I exposed the the grain-free hoax , developed not by veterinary nutritionists, but pet food companies. 

Now the news is worse.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, foods rich in vegetables and based on peas, lentils, or potatoes may be linked to the development of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), or an enlarged heart. This condition can evolve into congestive heart failure.

Normally, this condition is more common in certain breeds, but its turning up in breeds that are usually not susceptible. These included Golden Retrievers, Labrador retrievers, Whippets, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog, Miniature Schnauzers, and mixed breeds. The common denominator was a vegetable rich diet.

Lab work on four DCM cases included three Golden retrievers and one Labrador Retriever found that the dogs lacked the proper amount of taurine, an amino acid that is the building block for protein and necessary for body function. Taurine is added to cat foods, but not dog foods, as the need for protein in the cat diet is higher in the feline. It is believed that this may be the cause or one of the causes of DCM.

Although the FDA refused to name brands, the ingredients listed (peas, lentils, potatoes) are the main ingredients in grain free foods.

There is no secret that foods veterinarians believe to be healthy vary greatly from what pet parents believe to be best for their pets. According to the latest issue of the American Veterinarian, "when asked whether low- or no-grain diets are healthier for dogs, 46% of pet owners said yes, while 63% of veterinary professionals said no, according to a survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Similarly, 63% of pet owners said corn was not healthy for dogs, but 50% of veterinarians said it was."

Perhaps this vegetable rich diet and canine dilated cardiomyopathy connection will be enough for pet parents to realize that pet food companies are not experts on animal nutrition. It is the pet food company's job to convince consumers that their company has the healthiest food for your pet. If they can do that, they can get us to spend double, or even triple the amount of other dog foods.

It is important to mention the dangers of vegetarian diets for dogs (or, God-forbid, cats).  Dogs and cat need protein. They HAVE to have protein. It is not a topic for discussion, it is a fact.

Vegetarian diets are not only unhealthy, but in my opinion, they are cruel. It is our job to care for our pet to the best of our ability. If you, the human, want to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, that's fine, because the human body can be healthy on that diet. However, the nutritional requirements of your pet are different. Do not doom your pet to poor nutrition.

 Just as you would not feed a horse a sirloin steak, neither should you feed hay to your dog or cat.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Dangers of "Free to Good Home" are Worse Than You Think

People sell or give away their pets for a variety of reasons. The most common reason include:

  • The family is moving and can't take the pet with them
  • A couple just had a new baby and the pet is no longer a priority
  • The pet is "untrainable"
  • The pet was the child's responsibility and he/she is not taking care of the pet
  • Someone in the family is allergic to the pet
  • The pet parent passed away
As hard as it is to believe, I have even seen an ad selling a Great Dane because he was too big.

Craigslist and social media sites have made selling and giving away pets much easier. It has also created a hunting ground for people with nefarious reasons for wanting to "adopt" a pet. One of those nefarious folks is called a "flipper". They pose as a person very interested in adopting a free pet and appear to be a good home.  Once they have the animal in hand, they quickly "flip" the animal, selling them for cash to the highest bidder. They don't care if the animal is going to a good home, all they see is the cash.

Flippers don't confine themselves to pets. Free horses are frequently sold to slaughter for good money.

Another hunter of free animals, particularly kittens and small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, etc are snake owners. All of those pets listed make a free warm meal for larger snakes. Sometimes the snake owners will be "kind" enough to adopt all of your litter. You may think "Why not? Its less I have to worry about." How would you feel if you saw this on Facebook?

Its shocking, but important to see. 

Free small (and sometimes larger) dogs are often used as bait dogs to train fighting dogs. Dog baiting usually involves tying a dog to a fence or pole and releasing the fighting dogs to tear the bait dog to shreds. In some areas this is a sport, although it is illegal. Some are even bold enough to post it on Youtube.

Free pets are even adopted by people with the sole intention of abusing the animal. In a recent case, a man bought kittens off of Craigslist in Alabama to later stomp them to death in his kill room.

While Craigslist claims that pets cannot be sold on their website, they do allow pets to be adopted with a "rehoming fee". To many that's just another word for "sold". There is no regulation of the amount of the rehoming fee. In an interview with ABC 7 News, the U.S Department of Agriculture claimed it has been "cracking down on online pet sales over the past couple of months". They also said that they are" requiring online breeders to have a federal license" but told  ABC 17 News that "they can't regulate Craigslist pet sales."

Craigslist and Facebook sale pages have become the most common way for backyard breeders and puppy mills to not only sell their animals, but take those free pets who are not spayed or neutered, and use them for breeding. This doesn't mean that they live in loving homes and only are bred as "nature intended". These animals can be locked in cages, sleeping on their own feces, and taken out only to breed and give birth. Although the seller may claim that the puppies have been dewormed and vaccinated, often they are not and once you get the puppy home, he or she may soon die of common preventable diseases such as parvo. Unscrupulous breeders may also remove and sell the puppy before he or she should be weaned, so that they new pet parent will think they are getting a miniature toy puppy.

This also happens with pig breeders. Very few pigs sold as pot bellied pigs are actually pop bellied pigs. Instead they may be hog piglets that have been taken from their mother early. In a few months, you will be left with a 200+ lb hog that ready to root (dig with the nose). He or she will dig up your carpet, dig up your garden, and generally make a mess of things. Unaltered pigs, particularly males become increasingly aggressive. When this happens, what will you do? The breeder certainly will not take the pig back.

Locally,  I often see ads saying "must get rid of today", "first come, first served", "will be taken to the shelter if not adopted today." These words are nothing but bait for these exploitative hunters. They are indeed the hunter, and your pet is the prey.  

For me, perhaps the most shocking pet hunters and flippers are for-profit "rescues".  Non-profit rescues have all their animals spayed or neutered, dewormed, and vaccinated. They also have the proof that it was done. They carefully screen potential adopters, do home visits, and have a contract stating that the pet must be returned to the rescue if he or she is unable to remain with the adopters.
For-profit "rescues" are just an unethical pet store by another name and they will sell the pet as soon as possible and for as much money as they can get. Again, they have no concern where your pet will go.

It costs money and time to become a non-profit, so becoming a 501c3 non-profit rescue or sanctuary is something flippers are usually unwilling to do. Non-profits must report that money coming into the rescue is used for the upkeep of the animals, vet visits, supplies, food, litter, etc.  For-profit "rescues" can pocket the money and run.

If you really want to find a good home for your pet, the following are guidelines are a good start:

  • NEVER adopt on a first come, first served basis or say you "must get rid of today." Prepare in advance. Its the least you can do for your pet.
  • NEVER offer the pet for free. Ask a rehoming fee of at least $25 for dogs or cats.
  • NEVER guilt someone into adopting by saying the animal will go to the shelter tomorrow unless he or she finds a home. These placements rarely work out. 
  • Have the potential adopter fill out an application before they come meet the animal that also serves as a contract that the animal will not be sold for profit, baiting, or experimentation. Include questions on the application such as will the pet be kept indoors or outdoors? Do the potential adopters have a fenced in yard or will the pet be kept on a chain or in a kennel?  Are there any other pets in the house. How long has the other pet lived with the family? Are there any children in the family?
  • Get vital information including name, address, phone and drivers license number. Refusing to give this information can be one indication that the adopter may not have the best of intentions. 
  • Ask for references. Vet references are preferred. Inquiring on the care of other pets in the home can help the pet parent decide if the potential home is a responsible one. Ask if the pets are up-to-date on vaccines and if he or she is neutered or spayed. 
  • Check with the landlord to see if the potential adopter is allowed pets
  • Insist on a home visit. When there, observe how the other pets are treated. How do the children and other family members interact with your pet.  Also note if the application was filled out truthfully. 
  • Give an honest impression of your pet or your pet may find its way to the animal shelter before long.  If you pet is not potty trained for instance, tell the potential pet parents. Never adopt a pet that does not get along well with other pets or children with homes that have one or both. 
  • Offer the rehoming fee back once the pet is spayed or neutered. Sometimes, those looking to breed will be unwilling to spay or neuter.
While these guidelines may seem like too much, your pet deserves the best home you can find. You owe him or her that much. 

Some areas are forming groups that weed out and report the names of flippers, backyard breeders, those convicted of animal cruelty, and for-profit "rescues". They monitor Craigslist and Facebook for sale pages noting who are frequently adopting and reselling animals that are free to good homes.

Locally, you will find the group  Animal Lovers Against Back Yard Breeders of East Tennessee on Facebook. Their purpose is "for East Tennessee animal shelters and rescues to help keep their DNA (Do Not Adopt) lists current. We will expose known dog flippers, backyard breeders, & those known for cruelty & neglect." Consider starting a similar group in your area.

For more information on pet adoption, pet health, and important animal related information, see

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Glaucoma: A Potentially Painful and Shocking Disease

As you may know, at Tiny Paws Sanctuary, we specialize with animals with special needs. This may include physical or emotional problems caused by abuse or neglect, senior animals with serious and costly medical needs, and dogs with behavioral problems also caused by abuse.
Goldie before surgery

Glaucoma is a disease we are very familiar with. At this time, we have two animals that suffered from glaucoma and another on his way.

Glaucoma is caused by severe inflammation that creates protein and other debris that blocks the tear duct. When this occurs, fluid continues to build up causing increased pressure of the eye That pressure can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve, and can result in blindness.

There are two types of glaucoma, primary and secondary. Primary glaucoma is usually genetic and occurs more often in particular breeds of both dogs and cats. It can also be caused by physical traits such as narrow angles and small pores that usually allow fluid to drain. Predisposed canine breeds include Cocker Spaniel, Poodle, Samoyed, Chow, and Siberian.  Burmese and Siamese are among feline breeds prone to primary glaucoma. 

Goldie post surgery
Symptoms for sudden primary glaucoma can include frequent blinking of the eye, redness of blood vessels in the whites of the eye, cloudy appearance of the eye, a dilated pupil, or a pupil that does not respond to light, and the eyeball might roll to the back of the head. Long term, there will be a swelling of the eyeball and obvious vision loss.

Glaucoma can also be caused by an eye infection. This is called secondary glaucoma. It has much of the same symptoms including cloudy and red appearance, and debris may be seen in front of the eye. Head pressing may relieve headaches caused by the condition. The pet may have a behavioral change, such as avoiding play, and may not eat.

Your vet can test the pressure in the eye by using a tonometer. Normal pressure in dogs, cats is 10-20 mmHg. Increased intraocular pressure of 30 mmHg or higher are common in dogs and cats with glaucoma. It is not that unusual for them to have a pressure as high as 50 mmHg. In contrast, humans with glaucoma have pressures of 20-28 mmHg.
That is why we see such painful and shocking appearances in dogs and cats with glaucoma. Medication in the form of liquid drops can help slow the progression, but as Thomas Kern, DVM, associate professor of ophthalmology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says "Once the condition occur, it is not reversible, and by the time the clinical signs of glaucoma are noticed, substantial vision loss will already have occurred.” 
Chico before second surgery

If left untreated, the pressure will continue to grow, and much like a balloon, the eye ball will continue to expand until it can take no more, collapsing and releasing the pressure. This process is extremely painful leading up to the collapse, but once the pressure is relieved, the pressure subsides.

The final treatment to relieve that pain before it reaches the point of collapse is an eye enucleation, or eye removal. As repulsive as that sounds, the dog or cat wakes up feeling so much better. You will probably notice an increase in activity, a better appetite, and all around improvement because he or she is no longer in pain. 

The surgery isn't inexpensive, but it is worth every cent. If you are having difficulty affording it, try signing up for Care Credit, talking to your vet about the possibility of making payments, or do an internet search for financial help for pet parents. Start a crowdfunding fundraiser. If all else fails, you may have to give your animal up to someone who will be able to pay for the surgery. Who knows?
There may be a special needs rescue in your area.

Never treated for Glaucoma

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Traditional VS Holistic Pet Care: How to Interpret the Research to Discover the Truth

Traditional (or conventional) medicine is what is practiced at most veterinary hospitals. The approach to treatment is normally pharmaceutical in nature. Holistic (or natural) medicine is practiced by veterinarians trained in one or more disciplines such as homeopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, herbal therapy, and aromatherapy.

Some complain traditional medicines focus too much on the illness and praise holistic medicine for its whole health approach. On the other hand, doctors of traditional medicine as being unscientific and unproven. The question is, who is correct? How do you know what has been tested and proven?

It is important to understand the difference in anecdotal proof (testimonials for instance) and hard scientific, fact based research based upon well prepared and executed study. The studies can be repeated by another independent scientist, and with the same result. The components of an "empirical [or scientific] study article should include an abstract, an introduction, a discussion of the methodology employed, a statement of the results, a conclusion, and a list of references," according to The Center of Innovation in Research and Teaching.

Since 1796, holistic medicine has hundreds (if not thousands) of anecdotal stories offered as evidence. While the testimonials may agree, since 1796, almost no scientific based study has been done. Homeopaths claim that there are 299 studies published in 114 journals that prove that there are substantial health benefits that help a wide array of health conditions. There were two problems to this claim: First, the research method was seriously lacking. There were no proper components or methodology to the research. Second, not one study was published in respected medical or veterinary journals.

In 2010, a large study was conducted on the best evidence homeopathy had to offer. The evidence and studies were provided by the Cochrane Central Register. The study includes some of the 299 studies mentioned above. The study conclusion states that " [t]he findings of currently available Cochrane reviews of studies of homeopathy do not show that homeopathic medicines have effects beyond a placebo"

Nosodes are homeopathic substances that are created by diluting the secretions of a diseased person or animal with alcohol or distilled water until no molecules of the original substance remains. This substance is then put to the test in “provings” or homeopathic pathogenetic trials (HPTs). While there are some studies that attempt to support the efficacy of nosodes in veterinary medicine, there are other studies that show that "giving animals placebos can play active roles in influencing pet owners to believe in the effectiveness of the treatment when none exist."

To give you an example of  homeopathic "research", below is the study to show the efficacy of using the blood of an individual who died of the AIDS virus to dilute into nosodes, or homeopathic remedy:

We followed Jeremy Sherr's general proving methodology in this proving, however, individuals, timings and codes are not given. Additionally we recorded our experiences some minutes after beginning the proving. This is given at the beginning of the proving report. We got images (such as billowing clouds, popping seed pods, orange flowers, and responses to these images such as associated feelings, sensations or thoughts); feelings (such as joy, sadness, and their responses such as smiling or closing off); sensations (such as floating, burning, itching, and their responses such as restlessness or scratching); thoughts and concepts which in turn may evoke images, feelings and sensations. This then is our primary data. It would be in accordance with tradition to say that proving responses are headed up by an image at the top of a natural hierarchy which proceeds down the levels, through thoughts to feelings to sensations. But some provers vary here, for instance, by having a preponderance of sensation experiences, or feeling responses. This depends upon their innate personality structure, as would be described elementally as preponderances of Fire, Air, Water, Earth.”

This is homeopathic "research". 

That isn't to say that there are not natural remedies that are helpful, but it is a wake up call to assume that all natural remedies are safe or have well researched studies to back them up.  For instance, tea tree oil is recommended by many natural medicine practitioners for pets, but unless given in the absolute correct dose, it can be harmful to pets. As a matter of fact, it is listed as a toxin on the Pet Poison Helpline. 

It is important that we learn how to determine if treatments, both traditional and holistic, are of benefit to our animals, or have potential for danger. As pet parents, we need to ask questions, do research, and not assume that the information given (even by a professional) is correct. There may be biases that we are unaware of. 

In some ways, it is as easy as using the internet to find our answers, but we have to know where our information comes from. For instance, a scientist working for a pet food company, may be biased to prove the claims made by his employer. Holistic websites such as are proponents of the holistic medicine, so may be biased toward a particular treatment. Research done with the financial support of a pharmaceutical companies may be biased and adjust the results to support that their drug cures or treats certain medical conditions, If repeated by an independent researcher, however, the findings may be different. 

So be the protector of your pet. Do the research to the best of your ability, and don't be afraid to ask your veterinarian to provide you with the information to be able to see the studies yourself. Its just one other thing we can do to be proactive pet parents.  




Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Grain Free Hoax

The grain free diet was not created by veterinary nutritionists, but by pet food manufacturers.  

Following the deaths of animals across the country in 2007, the contaminant causing these deaths was found to be in wheat gluten.

Grains are seeds of grasses cultivated for food. The outer layer of the grain, or bran, provides fiber, while the inner portion, or endosperm, is a good source of starch. The reproductive part of the seed known as the germ, is a good source of vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, and phosphorus and whole grain is the entire seed. Wheat gluten, is food made from the main protein in wheat.

Consumers needed assurance that their pet food was safe. Pet food companies rushed provide this assurance, and their answer was to limit all grains and market a grain free diet.

According to four diplomats of the college of Veterinary Nutrition, "Vilification of food grains as pet food ingredients may be myths started by small pet food companies as a way to compete with larger, established companies."

Dr. Cailen Heinze, MS, VMD, who is also a member of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, stated "[The grain free diet] is not based on any data, and there are excellent diets that contain one or more of those items."  There are many more veterinary nutritionists that agree that there simply is no science behind the claims made by grain-free pet manufactures.

When grains are removed from from pet food, they have to be replaced by something. Most common are highly refined starches such as tapioca (cassava), potatoes, or sweet potatoes. According to Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University "These ingredients often provide fewer nutrients and less fiber than whole grains, while costing more."

We as consumers have been led to believe two (or more)  myths by grain free pet food producers. The first myth is that their diets are more healthy for animals with food allergies.  While food intolerance may be triggered by some grains actual food allergies are caused by protein, not grains. Beef is the most common culprit in food allergies.

The second myth is that more expensive, grain free diets, are made from human grade meats. Dr. Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard professor of food studies and public health at the New York University stated, "All pet foods are made from the byproducts of human food production. No matter what the package says, your dog is not getting whole chicken breasts, but what remains after the breasts have been removed for human food."

One high priced food manufacturer, Blue Buffalo, found they were in trouble on May 6, 2014. Purina, one of the largest pet food companies in America, filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo for false advertising after finding the presence of poultry by product meal in some of Blue Buffalo's top selling foods.

Blue Buffalo offered a "True Blue Promise" that states that their food "contain(s) NO chicken (or poultry byproducts, NO corn, wheat or soy, and NO artificial flavors, colors or preservatives." Unfortunately for Blue Buffalo, it did. 

After a year of denial, Blue Buffalo admitted that "substantial" and "material" portion or Blue Buffalo pet food sold to consumers contained poultry byproduct.

Dr, Nestle pointed out that "People are willing to spend anything on their pets. The $18-billion-a-year pet food industry is considered to be recession-proof. Although during this economic downturn shelters have been overwhelmed with pets people could not afford to keep, those who have kept their pets are not stinting on what they spend to feed them."

Blue Buffalo sells for $1.26-2.59 per pound while Purina Dog Chow sells for an average of 62¢ per pound.

This begs the question, are pet parents who cannot afford expensive grain-free diets shamed by purchasing cheaper brands? According to Dr. Nestle, while "premium" brand foods cost three to four times more than supermarket brands, no valid research provides evidence of the added value to health and longevity.

While we all want to provide what is best for our pet, we should never be conned into believing a myth. The grain-free diet is one of the biggest myths in the pet food industry.

To learn about the evolutionary basis of pet food nutrition, the safety of our food, actual pet food requirements, and a discussion on BARF or raw diets, please refer to Secrets of a Vet Tech II: A Low Cost Guide to Pet Care Guide for Pet Parents, Animal Shelters, Rescues, & Homesteaders

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Power of Pack Love

Its been a long time since I last wrote, but for a good reason. T.Paws Rescue & ARFanage became Tiny Paws Sanctuary for Special Needs Animals. We are now a non-profit organization dedicated to those who have been neglected, abused, or have just grown old and need special medical care.

When I speak of "special care", it can mean many things. It can be physical damage caused by cruelty. Jeffery came to Tiny Paws when he was rescued from an animal cruelty case. Most of his teeth were falling out and x-rays revealed that he had a hip dislocation and knee fracture that was never treated. His knee cap was turned inward and his hip joint found itself a new home. It was very difficult for him to walk. The injuries were too old to fix, but with pain management, he can run.

Sarah was another that required special care. She was blind. She was not born blind, but developed glaucoma, a condition that causes pressure to build inside the eyeball itself. The eye expands, much like a balloon if left untreated. It had been recommended a few years ago for Sarah's eyes to be removed, but the owner didn't follow through. So her eyes continued to expand until, much like that balloon, they ruptured. Once that occurred, she was out of pain. She came to Tiny Paws to avoid euthanasia.

Sometimes those special needs may be genetic. Elsie was born deaf. Little did we know, she also had asthma. When part of our ceiling collapsed from a small leak that had built over time, the dust and insulation triggered a severe asthmatic reaction. Thanks to our vet and a week in the hospital, she was saved. However, x-rays revealed that she has an enlarged heart as well.

Age is certainly a factor that creates a special need. Our pets live longer these days, and with longer lives come conditions that we rarely saw before. Ruby was diagnosed  as few years ago with canine cognitive disorder as I mentioned in an earlier article. CCD is similar to dementia or Alzheimers. Before she was medicated, Ruby became very fearful. It seemed that she didn't recognize me. She would run under the bed and growl as if I was going to hurt her. Thankfully, medication has lessened her symptoms. She still needs a very predicable routine, particularly in the evening.

Emotional damage from past abuse can also create a special need. Bo is probably the most clear example of that. The experience of living most of his life caged in a puppy mill left him very fearful of people and also created some behavioral issues. When he first came, he wouldn't let me get near him. I have to catch him with a slip lead in order to get him to the vet, give him flea prevention, or trim his nails. Since he had to live in his own feces and urine, crate training was out of the question. Barking seemed to be his soothing behavior.  I have worked to build Bo's trust in me for the last five years. He will now eat out of my hand and he's realizing that he likes to be petted. I can pick him up but he runs for the corner and crouches in the corner expecting punishment. I'll keep working with him until he expects love.

Special needs animals require a lot of medical care. Last year, our medical costs were over $8000, and unless something changes, we will exceed $10,000 this year.  However, there is one other factor that I have learned is imperative in a sanctuary of special needs pets, and that is the power of pack love.

The power of pack love is not something I invented. The pack taught it to me. Dogs, in particular, need a pack. The pack is their family and gives them a sense of security and contentment. They know what is expected of them and what their role is. The younger dog learns from the older dog, or in our case, from the dogs who have lived here longer. When a new animal comes in, I step out of the equation for a while. I have learned it is much easier for the other dogs to communicate to the new arrival that they are safe here.

Goldie came to Tiny Paws not long ago. She suffered from glaucoma much like Sarah. Over the years, I've learned who is calm upon meeting another dog, and who is not as calm. Since she only had vision in the right eye, I only introduced her to the older and more handicapped dogs first. That pack I refer to as Abigail's pack. Sarah was a little concerned about meeting them, but the others sniffed her and went back to bed. I gave her a couple of days to get used to the older pack, and then moved on to the younger group I call Teddy's pack, who stay in a different bedroom. I introduced her out in the dogs' play yard one by one. Just like Abigail's pack, they were interested, said "hi" and went about their business.

In order to take all the dogs out to potty (except Sarah and Jeffery),  they all have to go through the dining room (which is not used as a dining room, but more space for the dogs).  The walk through that door to the dining room intimidated Goldie so much. She simply wouldn't go. So I remained at the half-door between the two rooms and called for Ruby, who was already outside. She came in and I had her go to Goldie and then turn around and head back towards me. Goldie followed her. It took repetition of this same scenario before she confidently went through the door and out with the other dogs. I didn't teach Goldie, Ruby did. I didn't give Goldie confidence, Ruby and the pack did. I just operated the door. Once the time came to have her eye removed to relieve her pain, she was not shy when she came home. She went out with the others, and it was obvious that she was now an established member of the pack.

If you've read any of my books Secrets of a Vet Tech I or II, you know about the daily howl. The daily howl was started by Teddy several years ago. Depending on the anxiety in the house, Teddy or Bo will begin howling. Then one by one the others join. It may last a short time, or it may last several minutes. When it is over, there is a calm and contentment among the entire pack. Bo, who has barked all day and is filled with anxiety, can finally rest. Those who had grappled, make peace.  The daily howl bonds them as a family and it is really the voice and a demonstration of the power of pack love.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dog-on Dangers of Dog Fences and Other Confinement Methods

Chain link fencing

In most areas of the United States there are city or county ordinances that require that a pet be confined to your property and not allowed to roam. This may mean that the pet is kept inside and put on a leash while outside, or confined by a fence or kennel. Some people choose to put their pets on chains or tethers  because they cannot afford a fence, or the landlord or city ordinance will not allow a fence. Other pet parents may choose invisible fencing which is a wired, underground fence and collar.  
L Footer
There are potential concerns or dangers associated with any type of confinement. A dog may dig under a privacy fence or learn to jump or climb over a chain link fence. Dogs kept in kennels can display stressed-induced compulsive behaviors, such as constant pacing, jumping, barking and spinning.

There are solutions to prevent digging and jumping. 

Diggers can be deterred by installing an L footer along the fence line. An L footer is created by laying and attaching fencing along the inside bottom of the fence at a 90 degree angle. The L footer can be buried underground if desired.

Jumpers can be outwitted by attaching a roller on the top of the fence using wire and pvc pipe. The roller spins when an animal attempts to grab the top of the fence, making it nearly impossible to get the needed foot hold to jump. This can keep, not only your pet from jumping the fence, but coyotes or strangers from jumping in.  

The compulsive actions associated with kenneled dogs can also be addressed. Being the social animals they are, dogs need their families. Bring the pet inside for family interaction and if the dog must be kenneled while the family is at work or school, provide interactive toys.

All dogs need a way to expend energy, so play time is important. Daily walks can stimulate the brain as they dogs get to see, hear, and smell new, exciting places.

Without question, the perpetually chained or tethered dog, is the most miserable dog. Not only can they exhibit compulsive behaviors, but the experience itself can encourage aggression. Chained dogs tend to pull against the chain to reach anything out of reach, including their freedom. They may do so as a result of their instinct to breed, protect their territory, or out of absolute boredom. If the dogs break the chain or tether, all the pent up aggression and emotions are directed, often at the first thing they find. That "first thing" may be a child, adult, or another animal.

It is one thing to be on a leash or tether for an hour or two. It is another to have a never ending, lonely existence. Thankfully, in many jurisdictions, it is becoming illegal to chain dogs 24/7.

Many pet parents have turned to invisible fencing. It is generally less expensive than traditional fencing and can be used in neighborhoods that do not allow privacy fencing or chain link. Since it is underground, it doesn't inhibit a beautiful view. Its flexibility works on challenging terrain, that can often impede other types of fencing. 

Invisible, or underground fences, work along with a collar worn by the pet. When the pet nears the underground fence line, a warning sound is given followed by a "mild" shock. While underground fence manufactures advertise that only a mild shock is required, many pet parents find that a more substantial shock is needed to deter their pet.

When first installed, these fences are marked with small flags. Once in use, however, the flags disappear in time. Having no visible markings of the placement of the wire can cause great anxiety in a dog. His only signal that he is near his boundary is the sound and shock itself.

Also, unlike privacy fences, the dog can see other dogs or cats beyond the barrier. This can encourage aggression. Seeing no visible markers only adds to the frustration.

If the dog does cross the boundary, he will be shocked, but the shock will not continue. Once the shock stops, the dog will only be shocked again if he tries to re-enter his own yard.

Other dogs and animals are not impeded from entering the yard. Aggressive, larger animals have been known to attack and kill dogs contained by underground fences. Humans, including children, are not prevented from entering the space. Pets can quickly and easily be stolen with no physical barriers inhibiting the thief. Children wandering into the yard can be attacked by the pet.

Generally a red light flashes on the collar to alert the pet parents that the battery needs to be replaced. Without the battery, the containment system will not work. If the battery loses power when the family is gone, the pet will be free to roam. Underground wires can also break anywhere along the system. Often, the first indication that the fence is not working is a lost dog.

It goes without saying that choosing a containment system for our pets is an important decision. The quality of life and safety of your pet, your neighbors, and other pets must be considered. It is best to consider this need prior to adopting a pet. If your intention is to confine a dog alone with little interaction, whether on a chain, in a kennel, or with a traditional or underground fence, reconsider you decision.

A lonely dog is the saddest dog of all.