Our veterinarians recommend we vaccinate our pets against rabies, and many American communities require such vaccines. Why should we as pet owners and community residents be concerned about rabies?
A friend of mine who lives in Montana can attest to the need for rabies awareness and vaccinations. Earlier this year she received a major leg injury from a dog bite. She’s not unfamiliar with dogs; in fact, she was conducting an obedience class in her town’s park when the attack happened. Turns out the dog that inflicted the injury had not been vaccinated against rabies.
“Anyone who even touches an animal – dog, cat, horse, bat, whatever – that has rabies, has to get a shot, which can cost $3,000. If the person is bitten, they basically are re-traumatized because the first shot goes into the area where the bite is – think of children who might have to go through that,” she said.
In her community, there were nine bite incidents from January to mid-August, she added. My Montana friend needs to be monitored for the next two years to insure she doesn’t contract rabies.
Although a human contracting rabies is rare, it does happen. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one to three cases of human rabies are reported each year. “The number of human deaths in the United States attributed to rabies has been steadily declining since the 1970’s thanks to animal control and vaccination programs, successful outreach programs, and the availability of modern rabies biologics. Dog rabies vaccination programs have halted the natural spread of rabies among domestic dogs, which are no longer considered a rabies reservoir in the United States,” according the CDC’s website. However, the organization’s website text adds, “each year between 60 to 70 dogs and more than 250 cats are reported rabid. Nearly all these animals were unvaccinated and became infected from rabid wildlife (such as bats, raccoons, and skunks).”
I live in Wyoming, and the CDC notes that an elderly woman in the state contracted and died from rabies in 2015 through an encounter with a bat.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a human who is bitten by a rabid animal receives a series of four shots given over 14 days, plus one that’s fast-acting (rabies immune globulin) given as soon as possible after the bite. Read more here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rabies/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351826.
World Rabies Day
Friday, September 28 is World Rabies Day. Started 11 years ago, this special day was created to raise awareness about rabies and bring together partners to improve prevention and control efforts throughout the world. World Rabies Day is observed in many countries, including the United States. About 59,000 people die from rabies throughout the world each year, according to the CDC. Vietnam, Ethiopia, Haiti, Mexico, and India are some of the countries where people have been exposed to rabies and where the disease is still rampant not only in wild animals, but also in dogs.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, nearly 5,000 cases of animal rabies was reported in 2016. The disease attacks the nervous system and, once infected, death of the animal is certain. The disease passes from animal to animal (or human) when the virus is secreted via the animal’s saliva oftentimes by a bite from the infected animal. Rabies can also be transmitted when saliva from a rabid animal comes in contact with an open cut on the skin or the eyes, nose, or mouth of a person or other animal. Only mammals contract rabies. Vaccines are available for cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep.
The best way to prevent rabies in our pets to have them vaccinated. Raccoons, skunks, and bats are prone to rabies and these wild animals often come into yards and houses. Stray dogs and cats can also be transmitters of rabies, therefore, protect your beloved pet from potential contact with a stray, or unvaccinated, dog or cat. This also can help protect you and your family plus people in your community. If you travel outside the United States, learn what you need to know about rabies in other countries by visiting this website: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/rabies.
The theme for this year’s World Rabies Day is Rabies: Share the Message, Save a Life. Help educate people on the importance of rabies awareness and vaccinating pets against the disease.
Is your dog deaf? How would know if it was?
Like many humans, our canine companions can lose their hearing as they age. My springer/cocker mix, Mary, is now more than twelve years old, and my husband and I have noticed a change – more than one, actually. First, she barks more than she did six months or a year ago. Normally a quiet dog who barked occasionally while in the back yard (after all, we have neighbor dogs and squirrels run through the yard!), she’s started to bark while in the house (very unusual for her) and more so outdoors. Secondly, she doesn’t respond to our voices as readily as she once did. And, third, she is sleeping more deeply than ever. We suspect she is losing her hearing.
Signs of Deafness
According to PetMD.com, these are some of the signs of hearing loss in dogs:
Causes of Deafness
There are a myriad of issues which can cause a dog to become deaf, including the natural aging process. As mentioned, our Mary dog is going on thirteen years of age, and therefore, a senior dog. She also has several allergies and subsequently, her ears are prone to bacterial infections. Inflammation of the outer, inner, or middle ear can cause hearing loss. Here are a few other potential causes:
Some breeds of dogs are susceptible to deafness, therefore, puppies can be prone to the condition (called congenital). Such breeds include cocker spaniels (Mary is part cocker), Dalmatians, West Highland terriers, and Boston terriers, among others.
Having an older dog like Mary and noticing behavior changes, including sleep patterns, can also help you determine if your dog is losing its hearing. For example, if you think your dog is sleeping heavier than normal and s/he doesn’t wake up to noises in your home, or if s/he startles from deep sleep, then your canine companion may be going deaf.
How Can You Know?
DeafDogsRock.com suggests some activities to test your dog’s hearing ability.
A Word on Deaf Cats
Like certain breeds of dogs, there are certain cat breeds that are more susceptible to hearing loss; those include Ragdolls and white Persians. In fact, white cats with blue eyes are the most prone to deafness. If you are the pet guardian of a cat and you’re concerned about hearing loss, PetMD.com and PetWave.com are good resources for you: https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/ears/c_ct_deafness
What to Do?
First, consult with your veterinarian. S/he may find an ear infection that can still be treated. If that’s not the case, seek advice from your pet’s vet.
Second, if you haven’t taught your furry friend hand signals yet, do so. Dogs learn quickly, even older canines. As long as your dog can still see, communicating via hand signals is a major asset and provides your dog the mental stimulation it needs. Train your dog basic commands with hand signals. Keeping your deaf pet safe is of even greater importance as it will not hear cars coming or other noises. Find training tips for deaf dogs here: https://deafdogsrock.com/category/training-tips.
You may need to adjust how you interact with your deaf dog, but living with a canine with hearing loss is not a huge problem. Learn more about living with a deaf dog here: https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/senior-dogs/preparing-a-dog-that-is-going-blind-or-deaf
No matter the type of pet you have, its health and happiness depend on you. If your furry friend is or becomes deaf, take the time to help both you and your pet adjust – there are many resources on and off-line available to help you do just that.
Does your dog ever get the hiccups? Mine does.
Sweet Jeremiah, who has been part of my household for a year now, occasionally gets a bout of the hiccups. I don’t remember this experience happening to previous dogs I’ve had, but Jeremiah gets them somewhat regularly. I admit, it’s cute to watch his 12-pound body twinge and a slight “burruup!” come from his tiny mouth. Recently, though, I began to wonder if many dogs get the hiccups since I’ve not had the experience before adopting our little Shih Tzu. Here’s what I learned researching “hiccups in dogs.”
According to PetMD.com:
If your dog does experience hiccups, here are a few things you can do to assist your canine friend through the experience:
Hiccups in dogs are generally not life-threatening nor require a trip to the vet. Just as with humans, they eventually go away; in fact, doggie hiccups usually only last a few minutes. However, there are rare instances when hiccups can be a sign of a more serious health problem, such as respiratory defects, pneumonia, asthma, pericarditis, or heat stroke.
If your puppy or adult dog experiences hiccups, don’t be overly concerned unless the episode lasts longer than 30 minutes. Then, experts say, contact your veterinarian for recommendations, which may include making an appointment to learn if there is an underlying health issue that needs to be investigated.
Here's to cuteness hiccups, not concerning ones!
September can be considered Pet Ownership Responsibility Month, with the American Kennel Club designating Saturday, September 8, as Responsible Dog Ownership Day.
What does pet ownership responsibility mean? First, it means more than simply providing food and water to your dog or cat. Not doing that basic is illegal and is called neglect. But, is it neglect if you only provide food and water and don’t provide attention and interaction with your dog, leaving him or her on a chain under a tree all day? In some places, yes, in other places no.
For those of us who love our pets, it’s a no-brainer to provide them with shelter from wind, rain, snow, and heat, and to interact regularly with them – sitting on a couch watching TV, taking walks and hikes, playing with toys, going for drives, etc.
How can all of us be more responsible pet owners? Hop over to this article posted on the American Veterinary Medical Association website and learn how we can be more responsible toward our furry friends and how we can educate others how to be as well.
Fall foliage – reds, oranges, yellows – will soon spring to life. The end of summer vacations and the start of autumn adventures occur soon with America’s Labor Day weekend, September 1 – 3. As sunsets start earlier, temperatures become cooler, and the leaves of trees and shrubs turn more colorful, the new season of fall beckons walks, hikes, and trips in the car. Where might you and your furry friend enjoy going this fall? Here are a few ideas for travel in America:
New England and Mid-Atlantic States – from Maine through New England to the Great Smoky Mountains, a palette of vivid colors splash nature’s canvas. The leaves of hardwood trees, like maples and oaks, turn vivid shades of red, orange and yellow, creating a natural painting unlike one can find anywhere else in America.
Western National Parks – on the other side of the U.S. national parks beckon with yellow leaves of aspen and bugling elk. The mating season for these majestic creatures takes place each fall, and in addition to the trumpeting, the males clash with one another for mating rites. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho are some of the best places to see both bull elk and golden aspen leaves.
Southwest Desert – Even America’s Desert Southwest experiences color changes in autumn, which comes later in the year than most places in the U.S. Summer temperatures can remain through October, but this is one of the best places to observe wildlife as well as fruits on cacti and yellows of shrubs. Butterflies, raptors, and other migrating wildlife species call southern Arizona and New Mexico home. Therefore, a trip to the Desert Southwest over Thanksgiving might be one to consider.
Gulf Coast – food , fun, and frolic entice people to the Gulf Coast, and with cooler temperatures, autumn is an excellent time to visit. Beaches, food fests, and historical homes and battle sites are just some of the places to visit in America’s southern states.
Oregon Coast – speaking of coasts and beaches, the state of Oregon has some of the most breath-taking views of the Pacific Ocean. State-run beaches cost little to nothing and are wonderful places to picnic, beach comb, horseback ride, and wildlife watch. Known as “the second summer,” August through October often brings more sunny days than other times of the year.
As pet parents, there’s nothing worse than leaving Fido and Fluffy behind when we travel. While not all animals can jet-set with us, road trips make for a great way to include your furry friend on your adventures. Use this dog road trip guide from CarRentals to learn tips and tricks for keeping your furry best friend safe and happy while on the road together.
Additionally, here is another helpful website and guide regarding traveling and hotel accommodations when you and your pet take an adventure together:
We’ve all seen videos or Facebook posts about animal heroes, courageous critters who save people’s lives, alert family members to fires or intruders, K9 and military dogs who sniff out drugs and bombs, and search and rescue canines who find lost children and elderly people with dementia. Each and every one of these creatures are brave and persevering. Their loyalty is beyond measure.
Many such dogs, military heroes, search and rescue champions, service stars, and others, are honored annually through American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards; the program is telecast each fall. Voting for Hero Dog of the Year continues through September 5.
Perhaps you know a courageous critter – a dog that rescued your child or a neighbor’s child from a situation, such as drowning. Maybe your grandmother’s cat alerted her to a fire. Or, you’ve read a story about such a brave pet.
I lived with one. No, she didn’t save the family from an intruder nor did she pull someone to safety. Her name was Sage, and she lived with blindness most of her life. Instead of rescuing people from danger, she courageously lived life, navigating stairs she couldn’t see, whether at home or in a strange building; she jumped up on furniture without having the security of knowing she’d land on the bed, couch, or chair – she couldn’t see and therefore, she bravely tackled the attempt. Sage inspired me, and she inspired others. Through classroom trips and library visits, Sage encouraged children who faced challenges, whether physical or emotional – her life as a blind dog epitomized courageous and perseverance. She lived both daily.
I wrote stories and books about Sage’s life and her impact upon others. One story was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? Titled “Seeing with the Heart,” I share the impact Sage had on some of the children we met during classroom visits. Her ability to sense when a child needed comfort touched many hearts, including my own, and her kindness and triumph over her disability impacted many kids.
My husband and I adopted Sage in 2001; we weren’t told, and we didn’t realize she was losing her sight. Although we were shocked when our veterinarian told us, “I’m sorry but your dog is going blind; she has an irreversible disease known as Progressive Retinal Atrophy,” we came to accept the outcome. We expected a depressed, dejected dog, but Sage’s courage and perseverance arose, and she tackled many obstacles, which inspired many. That special springer spaniel was the catalyst for me to become a strong advocate for pet adoption and to become an author. My first book, Sage’s Big Adventure: Living with Blindness, was created to encourage children to face their own obstacles with the tenacity Sage exhibited. Five years later, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog, was published; this devotional-style publication discusses the many lessons I and others learned from Sage.
We humans can learn great lessons from the pets in our lives as well as from those who don’t share our household. Animals can inspire us, if our hearts are open to the lessons and encouragement.
Want to read about my delightful dog named Sage? Pick up a copy of one of my books about her!
Learn more about and purchase Sage’s Big Adventure: Living with Blindness here.
Learn more about and purchase Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog here.
View a video about my brave springer spaniel Sage and the books about her below.
Is your dog a digger? Many are, and they dig for different reasons. If you have a flower or vegetable garden, or certain shrubs and plants you don’t want excavated by your canine friend, learning the “whys” a dog digs and “how” to protect your veggies, flowers, herbs and shrubs will go a long way to help you and your pooch come to a compromise in the digging department.
According to Drs. Foster and Smith, a dog may dig for various purposes:
What do you do with a digger? If your dog wants to/likes to dig, here are a few ideas by which a compromise can be established:
Keep in mind some breeds are prone to digging because of heritage. Terriers, for example, were used to control vermin, and not just mice, but other creatures, like badgers (which are natural diggers). The dogs were trained to go after these underground wild animals, and therefore, trained to tunnel for them. This is an inherited behavior and cannot readily be changed.
Several of the dogs I’ve had were/are diggers, including my blind springer spaniel, Sage. She dug a hole near the foundation of the house we lived in as a cool spot. Even though we had shrubbery and a tall cottonwood tree in the back yard, she chose to create a large hole in the dirt next to the house. I believe she dug it in this location also because it was close to the patio, and therefore, helped her navigate the yard and the house’s back entrance – she used the hole and other textures (like the brick of the patio) as locators since she couldn’t see.
Mary, our springer/cocker mix, digs holes near trees at our mountain property. The holes she creates are not large, like Sage’s was (but Sage only dug the one hole in the backyard; Mary creates several at the forest-laden property). Mary also digs for coolness, and she chooses locations in the shade of the pine trees.
As hunting breeds, springer spaniels, Sage and Mary might also have that heritage of digging, at least regarding cooling off, as a trait of their lineage is going the distance with the hunter. Again, this is an inherited trait, and so we haven’t tried to change it. In such cases, the best a person can do is (1) accept it and (2) try to teach the dog where it can and cannot dig. If there’s an outlet given, your dog (whether hound, terrier, spaniel or other hunting/digging breeds) will likely dig where appropriate – you just need to patiently train it.
Learn more about digging behavior in dogs and ways to prevent it at Rover.com: https://www.rover.com/blog/how-to-stop-dog-digging/
Last week, my two cats turned 13. They are not teenagers, they are seniors. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that cats were considered seniors at eight years of age, according to an article from Cornell University’s Veterinary College. Thanks to improvements in nutrition and veterinary medicine and other steps to keep cats healthy, today’s felines are considered seniors in the 12 to 14-year arena; so, my girls are right there.
These two sister cats, Murphy and Bailey, came into our lives when they were about 10 weeks old. Their mother was a stray found on my friends’ ranch; she was very pregnant when my friend Judy found her and, after setting a live trap, brought her into the house; a few days later, six kittens were born. The tortoiseshell, Bailey, and her long-haired black and white sister, Murphy, came to live with us while most of their siblings stayed at the ranch (someone else took the Persian-looking kitten).
These two cats have brought us great joy. Murphy is super-affectionate and loves our dogs. Bailey was very independent for most of her life, staking claim to closets and the basement as her places of privacy. However, at about 10 years of age, she began to seek more attention and affection from people, including those of us who feed her and clean her litter box. She is tolerant of the dogs, but never has been a true canine fan.
Now that they are older, we’ve noticed how they have slowed down. Arthritis has set in Bailey’s back and hind legs and she is pre-diabetic. Murphy has stomach issues now and then and therefore is given a kitty version of Pepto Bismol every few weeks.
I once had a cat who lived to be almost 19 – she was considered geriatric. Her later-year issues included kidney failure. However, there is a plethora of senior cat medical issues one must be alert for, including:
Additionally, there are practical things we can do to help our aging cats. Those include:
Just as people have a more difficult time as they age, so do our pets, including cats. Although felines seem to tolerate a great deal of pain, don’t stress them out by ignoring their difficulties and health issues. One of the greatest gifts we can give our aging kitties is the love and attention they desire in their golden years.
Learn more about helping your senior or geriatric cat one these websites:
The third month, and often hottest time of summer (for the U.S. anyway) is upon us. We are in the midst of “The Dog Days of Summer” and this time of year generally sees little moisture, especially on the high desert plains where I live. With wildfires raging across many western states already, those of us who live in such locations dread the onslaught of August.
But, there are reasons to celebrate, especially if you’re a pet parent. There are many special dog and cat days ahead, starting the end of July.
National Mutt Day & Spoil Your Dog Day
Tuesday, July 31 is National Mutt Day, also known as National Mixed-Breed Day. This special day recognizes, honors, and celebrates mixed-breed dogs. It was first established in 2005 by Colleen Paige, a celebrity pet and family lifestyle expert and animal welfare advocate. The goal of this day is to raise awareness of the numerous dogs in animal shelters waiting for homes, in particular mixed breed dogs.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates the number of pure-bred animals in America’s shelters is about 25 percent. That means the majority of dogs and cats waiting for adoption are mixed-breed.
People argue which is healthier: purebreds or mixed breeds? A study conducted in 2013 and reported on by the Institute of Canine Biology two years later indicates mixed breeds may have a slight health advantage over purebred dogs. A summary of the findings include:
An article on DogTime reminds us that it’s “the personality, not the pedigree” that matters in a companion animal. Even so-called “designer dogs,” like Labradoodles (mix between a Lab and a Poodle) and a Puggle (mix of pug and beagle) are truly “mixed breeds” of dogs.
August 10th is National Spoil Your Dog Day. Since that’s a Friday, why not take the day off work and spend a 3-day weekend with your special pooch? Perhaps a short trip you’ve not taken before or a trek into the woods, to the lake, or up a mountain? We can spoil our dogs in many ways – whatever you do, your pup will appreciate the extra attention!
Cats Have Their Days Too!
There are several special days for cats also coming up. On August 8, the world celebrates our feline friends during World Cat Day (also known as International Cat Day). First created in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the idea is to celebrate this popular pet.
We’re hardly the first to fawn over felines. Cats were idolized in ancient Egypt, even considered goddesses. The penalty for injuring or killing a cat back then was severe, according to the Cat Museum of San Francisco. Cats were used on ships to keep the rodent population in check and on farms for the same reason. There were times when felines weren’t popular, such as in Medieval Europe, when cats were associated with witches and heretics.
These days we may not treat our cats like goddesses or think of them as the devil’s kin, but some people certainly do spoil them while others keep them at arm’s length. Some may do the latter because of allergies while “cat people” dote on their feline friends as much as “dog-lovers” do their canine buddies. Cats can be seen dressed up for Halloween or a costume contest. Cats can be walked on leashes if trained at a young age. Cats offer a soothing purr when content, make good lap sitters (when they want to), and provide health benefits to their human friends, such as stress reduction and decrease in anxiety and depression. Cats are amazing creatures, so let’s celebrate them on their special day just as dog people do with their canine companions.
Friday, August 17 is Black Cat Appreciation Day. Black cats get a bad rap, again associated with superstitions and witchcraft. Like black dogs, black cats are less adopted in animal shelters. However, again like dark-colored canines, these regal creatures often have wonderful dispositions and make excellent companions.
Take time these next several weeks to honor the affection and gifts of cats and dogs. Perhaps adopt another furry friend or volunteer at your local animal shelter. You can also spread the word about the joys of these amazing animals, teaching others about the delightful companionship of pets.
According to recent statistics, there are nearly 70 million stray animals in the United States, and only about six to eight million enter the nation’s shelters. Additionally, only two percent of stray cats are reclaimed by their owners compared to the (still low) number of 30% for dogs.
July is Lost Pet Prevention Month. There are many ways to insure your pet’s safety and offer hope for a safe return in case it does become lost.
My husband and I have a variety of ways to keep our pets safe. We use the Whistle and Marco Polo on our dogs, especially when we travel, and all of our pets have microchips. Our cats are indoor animals with cat trees and other furnishings near windows to give them outdoor viewing opportunities. The dogs also live inside and when they are outside in our 6-foot wooden fence backyard for extended periods of time, we are with them. They also wear collars with ID tags.
Losing a pet is difficult. I have walked that road before, thankfully, with a happy ending. I also have friends whose pets have gone missing, one lost her dog for nearly three weeks before successfully finding her precious pup and bringing her home.
For your sake and the sake of your furry family members, do all you can to help them NOT become a lost pet statistic.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.