Well, don't feel too badly about being with the rest of our readers on this one. We've all used the phrase and it means just about the same thing to most of us. A casual survey will usually find that many people believe the phrase is in reference to the conspicuous laziness of domesticated dogs (who are in danger of overheating with too much exercise--see the May 23, 2008 issue) during the hottest days of the summer. When speaking of "Dog Days" there seems to be a connotation of lying or "dogging" around, or being "dog tired" on these hot and humid days.
However,...the term "Dog Days" was used by the Greeks as well as the ancient Romans (who called these days caniculares dies (days of the dogs)) after Sirius (the "Dog Star"), the brightest star in the heavens besides the Sun. The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius, the Dog Star, rose just before or at the same time as sunrise. The Old Farmers Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11. The ancients sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather. Popularly believed to be an evil time, Dog Days were "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and frenzies." Depending upon where you live, it's quite possibly a foregone conclusion that you have experienced some or all of those signs!
Peripherally related to the hot days showing up around the 4th of July, we are reminded of this patriotic quote by Thomas Jefferson:
The flames kindled on the 4th of July 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.
(From a letter to John Adams on 12 September 1821)
Of further extraordinary interest, involving both Jefferson and John Adams, both of these American founding fathers died on the 4th of July 1826, exactly 50 years after America's Declaration of Independence.
CURRENT NEWS OF INTEREST
1) From the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) comes this announcement:
Parasite Education Tour Kicks off in July
Parasitologists from the Companion Animal Parasite Council are traveling the country this summer to spread the word about the latest information on emerging vectorborne disease, zoonotic potential, and parasite control for dogs and cats.
The CAPC education group will be visiting 13 cities in 17 days starting July 22 in New Orleans at the close of the AVMA convention. They will be meeting with veterinarians, veterinary staff, and human health professionals to offer continuing education on parasites, vector-borne diseases, and zoonotic risks.
Road show topics include the expanding geographic range of vectors and disease; new options for control of vectors and vectorborne disease; parasitic threats posed to dogs, cats, and owners; heartworm risks to pets and people; and the presence of common internal parasites and their zoonotic risk.
"We know that the geographic range of some parasites and zoonotic diseases is expanding, and veterinary and human health care professionals need to be aware of these issues and the increased risks they present," said Dr. Michael Paul, CAPC executive director. "The education tour will help us spread the word about these parasitic threats and the latest diagnostic and prevention protocols to most effectively manage them."
More on intestinal parasites in the next section....
2) You might remember from our issue of June 15, 2008, that we briefly discussed the incrimination of tomatoes in the current spate of Salmonella infections affecting people all over the USA. Well, now the search for the source of the outbreak is being focused on fresh made salsas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fresh made salsas typically include tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, garlic, scallions, and cilantro, so...the culprit could be any of these. The CDC says the focus does not involve commercially produced salsas, so canned and jarred products are not being investigated. Stay tuned, get in a supply of dipping chips, and a bottle or can of America's favorite condiment (yes, you read that correctly, it's salsa,...not ketchup!) and let's see where this investigation leads.
3) Last week, on the 2nd of July, it was revealed that real estate mogul Leona Helmsley, who died in August 2007, asked in a "mission statement" that her fortune, worth up to $8 billion, be used for the care and welfare of dogs. But because the document wasn't a formal part of her will or trust, it's not certain all the money will go to the dogs. Two people who saw the statement told the NY Times the document also says the estate trustees may use their discretion in distributing the money. They could, for instance, decide to spend the money for animal rescue groups, veterinary schools or research on canine diseases.
DISEASES, AILMENTS, MEDICAL CONDITIONS
1) Last week, Helpful Buckeye talked about a pet peeve, involving dogs sticking their heads out the window of a moving vehicle. This week, we'll stay in the realm of moving vehicles, while introducing pet peeve #2...dogs riding loose in the bed of a pick-up truck. You've all seen this many times and you've had to ask yourself, "What happens to the dog if it jumps out of the moving truck," or, "What happens to the dog if the driver has to come to a sudden stop?" The answer to both questions is, quite simply, "The dog will either suffer a very serious injury or be killed." Not to belabor the point but, a dog riding loose in the bed of a pick-up truck also has his eyes exposed to any debris in the air (pet peeve #1 from last week) and, in essence, chances a double whammy of having its eyes damaged while getting ready to be thrown from the moving truck! Most states have now enacted a law making this situation illegal, but beyond that, even common sense dictates that a dog shouldn't be transported in the bed of a pick up truck. They have absolutely no protection from any adverse incident. The Humane Society of the United States has taken a strict stance against this situation:
Come on, folks, save your dog from this type of serious or fatal injury...let them ride in the cab, properly restrained. It's simply not fair to your dog to expose it to these kinds of risks. If you're feeling particularly macho about having a big dog riding loose in the open bed of your pick up truck, try riding in the bed of your own truck and jumping out at 50 MPH. You'll view things differently...if you survive the impact!
2) A few weeks ago, Helpful Buckeye gave a brief overview of the infections associated with intestinal parasites. This week's contribution to that discussion will be Roundworms, which are the most common intestinal parasite in dogs and cats around the world. Adult roundworms live in the intestine of dogs and cats, grow to about 6" long, and can be passed in the pet's stools.
A good description of this parasite comes from an AVMA brochure:
What are roundworms and how are they spread?
Animals with roundworms pass the infection to other animals when the worm eggs develop into larvae and are present in the animal's feces (droppings). Your pet can pick up the infection by eating infected soil, licking contaminated fur or paws, or by drinking contaminated water.
Infected female dogs may pass the infection to their puppies before birth or afterwards when they are nursing. Infected female cats cannot infect their kittens before birth, but can pass on the infection through their milk when kittens are nursing.
What are the health risks to pets and people?
Puppies and kittens are the most prone to roundworm infection. Because roundworms live in the small intestine, they steal the nutrients from the food your pet eats and that can lead to malnutrition and intestinal problems. As the larvae move through your pet's body, young animals may develop serious respiratory problems such as pneumonia.
Roundworm infections are zoonotic diseases, meaning that they are animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans. While direct contact with infected dogs and cats increases a person's risk for roundworm infection, most infections come from accidentally eating the worm larvae or from larvae that enter through the skin. For example, children are at risk for infection if they play in areas that may contain infected feces (such as dirt piles and sandboxes), and they pick up the larvae on their hands.
Left untreated, roundworms in people can cause serious health problems when the larvae enter organs and other tissues, resulting in lung, brain, or liver damage. If the roundworm larva enters the eyes, permanent, partial blindness can result.
The two best pieces of advice related to this discussion are to have your dog or cat's stool checked regularly (once a year, if no problems are evident; more frequently, if soft stools or diarrhea persist, presence of vomiting, or unexplained weight loss) and to clean up your pet's stools at least several times per week to break the infection cycle.
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1) Most dog and cat owners freely express their feelings that they wish they could clean their pet's anal glands at home (see last week's issue). However, after having this procedure demonstrated and being frustrated with their results, they usually opt for some type of professional intervention. Running a close second on the "I wish I could do that at home" list would be the ability to cut your own pet's toe nails, wouldn't you agree? Either you have cut the nails too short and they bled or your otherwise very docile pet offers to bite you if you clip just one more nail!
The best way to get you and your pet used to doing this is to start when you first get your puppy or kitten. Start right away with simple handling of your pet's feet...massage the toes frequently so that they get used to having this part of their body worked on. The toe nails at this age will be smaller than those of an adult and, as a result, may not need much of a trim. However, by using either an emery-type filing board or an actual pet nail trimmer, you will acclimate your pet to the process. Simply rubbing or snipping off the point usually suffices for these immature nails. Once your pet learns that you will not be harming their feet, it will be much more likely to accept the same treatment as it matures. Repetition and giving rewards for good behavior will usually pay dividends down the road!
If you consider the anatomy of a dog or cat nail, it makes it a little easier to know where to make the cut.
Most dogs and cats will have at least one nail that is white enough to show the pink area of the blood supply. As long as you cut a short distance from this pink point, there should be no problem with either bleeding or discomfort. Again, this will have been made a lot easier to accomplish if you have worked with your pet from a young age and they don't feel threatened by you working around their feet. There are three basic nail trimming instruments available in all pet stores. The guillotine-type, the pliers-type, and the smaller one for cats:
The guillotine-type is the easiest to use on small to medium-sized dogs...be sure to always use one with a fresh, sharp blade. The pliers-type is best for large breeds of dogs. The smaller type, on the right, is intended for tiny dogs and cats since their nails are more fragile. The underlying secrets to successful use of all three are proper restraint of your pet and a good estimation of where the blood supply begins. When trimming the nails, do not forget to trim any dewclaws that are present (dogs only). The dewclaw is the structural equivalent of a fifth digit and is more likely to be found on the front feet. If it continues to grow, without being trimmed, it will grow around on itself, much like a ram's horn, and become ingrown. This becomes a problem that requires professional attention. If you trim the nails regularly, your pet will have few problems with its feet. If you still don't feel comfortable trimming your pet's nails, have your veterinarian or groomer take care of it.
2) Let's say you're considering getting a dog. Selecting a dog can be a lot of fun for the whole family if you've done your homework. This whole process can take some time if you go about it properly. In the next few weeks, Helpful Buckeye will get into greater detail about the basic aspects of acquiring a new dog. This week, we'll consider the initial types of choices you will need to choose from:
- size of the dog,
- haircoat lengths,
- colors of hair,
- temperaments, and
- activity levels.
For instance, a dog's size may affect its lifespan: the lifespan of a large-breed dog tends to be shorter than that of a smaller dog.
Secondly, what kind of dog will best fit your lifestyle? Feeding, grooming, exercise needs, and waste elimination are daily needs that must be considered. Consider the following factors:
- Do you live in the city, suburbs, or country?
- Do you rent or do you own your home?
- Do you live in an apartment or a single-family home?
- Do you live at ground level or on the 21st floor?
- How long is your work day? Do you frequently have obligations after work?
- Who will care for your dog in your absence?
- Do you have other pets?
- Are there any restrictions on number or types of pets where you live?
- Are you prepared to meet the grooming needs of a dog...either at home or done professionally?
- What are you looking for in a dog...jogging or hiking companion, security buddy, cuddly lap dog, or a high-energy companion?
The answers to these questions will start you in the right direction; however, before finally making the decision, there will be many other factors to consider. Over the next few weeks, Helpful Buckeye will guide you through the rest of the selection process. While thinking about the points to consider for this week, watch and listen to this big video hit from 1953, featuring Patti Page: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AkLE4X-bbU
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WORDS AND DEFINITIONS OF THE WEEK
1) Zoonotic, adjective--describes an animal disease that can be transmitted to a human, such as rabies, dog roundworms, or scabies.
2) Dewclaw, noun--a vestigial digit of the paw of many mammals, including the dog, in addition to the four claws on the ground. Occupies the same position as your thumb, but does not have any function.
3) Vestigial, adjective--the remnant of a structure that functioned at one time in a previous evolutionary stage of a species, such as the tail bone, appendix, and wisdom teeth in humans, rear leg bones in whales, wings on emus, and the blind eyes of moles.
1) On 7/1/1874, America's first zoo was opened at the Philadelphia Zoological Society. More info: http://www2.philadelphiazoo.org/about/AboutZoo.htm
2) Last week, we mentioned the death of UGA VI, the University of Georgia mascot. A picture of him is now available:
We also wondered about other colleges/universities with dogs as their mascot. How many were you able to come up with? How about:
- Mississippi State--also the Bulldogs
- Univ. of Washington--the Huskies
- Univ. of Connecticut--also the Huskies
- Fresno State--also the Bulldogs
- Louisiana Tech--also the Bulldogs
- Univ. of New Mexico--the Lobos (wolves)
- North Carolina State--the Wolfpack
- Northern Illinois--also the Huskies
That isn't all of them...there are still a few more, some of which might surprise you.
3) More "Laws of Cat Psychology":
- Law of Cat Landing--A cat will always land in the softest place possible; often the midsection of an unsuspecting, reclining human.
- Law of Cat Disinterest--A cat's interest level will vary in inverse proportion to the amount of effort a human expends in trying to interest him or her.
- Law of Cat Composition--A cat is composed of Matter + Antimatter + It Doesn't Matter.
4) On 5 July 1946, French designer Louis Reard introduced the bikini swimsuit. The hippopotamus from our 1 June 2008 issue thanks you, Louis!
5) A few worthy bumper stickers have been reported since we asked for your sightings.
- We have enough youth, how about a fountain of Smart?
- Few women admit their age; Fewer men act it.
- A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory.
- There are 3 kinds of people: those who can count & those who can't.
We've all heard and used the phrase, "the opera ain't over till the fat lady sings." Dan Cook, the longtime San Antonio sportswriter, who covered the Spurs, and first popularized this phrase, passed away on Thursday, 3 July.
The LA Dodgers have scraped back to within 1/2 game of the Diamondbacks...partly because we're playing a little better and partly because the Diamondbacks have looked terrible! The good news is that we're getting back a few of our regular players from the disabled list next week...and there is still half the season to go.
Helpful Buckeye will leave you with this quote from Mark Twain:
It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so. --Mark Twain
See you next week...
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~