Sunday, May 10, 2009


The last couple of weeks have provided all of us with lessons on virus infections, virus epidemiology, virus treatments, and virus vaccinations. The swine flu outbreak in Mexico and its subsequent spread to many countries around the world has shown us just how globally-connected disease processes can be. Some people have questioned the necessity of all the news coverage of this disease, saying the hype was not justified. The big problem with that point of view is that any influenza outbreak can have the potential of becoming a really bad pandemic. The influenza virus is constantly going through genetic changes and mutations...that's why the flu vaccination you get each year contains different versions of the virus, depending on what's expected for that flu season. Most of these variations are still just the "regular" type of flu, no worse than what we experience each year. However, when the genetic changes involve components from different species, the results can be devastating. My feeling is that publicity helps people stay informed, and informed people should be able to make better decisions concerning this type of outbreak. The above photo of the swine flu virus makes the virus appear to be a simple particle, but if the right combination of swine, avian, and human genetic information had been incorporated this time, the outbreak could have been much worse.

There are now some virus medications available, for both prevention and treatment of influenza. An additional use of technology for this outbreak was the installation of thermal-imaging devices in international airports. These scanners were used to detect anyone with a higher than normal body temperature going through the airport.

Questions about swine flu and your pets will be addressed later in this issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

Wow, it's hard to believe that it has been a whole year since the beginning of this blog! That's right...May 16, 2008 marked the introduction of Helpful Buckeye and Questions On Dogs and Cats, when we said, "Play Ball!"

Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch painter, said: "Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." The jury is still out on whether this blog has become a "great thing," but it definitely has been the result of small things coming together. This first year has been an evolutionary process, trying new ideas, different formats, and responding to our readers' preferences. It has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience for Helpful Buckeye, and sidekick Desperado, and we hope it has been the same for all of you! Thanks for your interest and support. Onward to the second year!

The polling question last week on pet characteristics you treasure the most prompted a lot of responses. All of the listed characteristics were mentioned, but "Everyday Companionship" was chosen by every respondent. Makes sense to me! Be sure to answer this week's polling question in the column to the left.


1) The Cat Fanciers' Association has released their annual list of the most popular cat breeds, based on kittens registered each year. Persians, the breed that took the top spot in 2008, have been the most registered breed for decades. The Exotic, which many describe as "the lazy man's Persian," overtook the Maine Coon to move into the #2 spot. Rounding out the top ten breeds are Maine Coon, Siamese, Abyssinian, Ragdoll, Sphynx, American Shorthair, Birman, and Oriental. More information on these and other breeds is available at their web site: Exotics resemble the Persian without the long hair issues. A Persian and an Exotic are shown below.

2) The American Veterinary Medical Association has revised their stance on the question of mandatory spay/neuter laws that are showing up all over the country. Their research has shown that some pet owners will avoid having proper veterinary care for their dogs and cats in an effort to hide the fact that they haven't been spayed/neutered. For the whole opinion, go to: If this is truly the case, then more publicity of the benefits of spaying/neutering might be necessary.

3) Stories about lost pets being reunited with their owners have become fairly regular in the news, most likely as a direct result of pet owners making greater use of micro-chip technology. The best story this week comes from Texas and is about a dog that was missing for 8 years:

AUSTIN, Texas - A Texas family said they have been reunited with their long-lost pet dog, but they do not know where the animal has been for the past eight years. Alison Murphy of Austin said she and her family offered a $500 reward for the return of their dog, Dancer, after the dog went missing eight years ago, but they received no word of the beloved pet until the Humane Society in New Braunfels, Texas, called last week, KVUE-TV, Austin, reported. The Humane Society told Murphy that a musician found the dog wandering the streets of New Braunfels, Texas, last week and brought it to the group's office, where workers used the dog's microchip to track down its owners. Murphy said the dog, which now answers to the name Fern, does not appear to have lived on the streets for very long. "Her teeth are in great shape," she said. "She just doesn't look like she's been on the streets for 11 years. Somebody's been taking care of her." "It's just wonderful to have her back," Murphy said. "She's older now and she's a little more mellow than she was, of course, as a younger dog but she still likes to go for walks first thing in the morning. And she likes to cuddle at night. She's still the same old girl."

One of Helpful Buckeye's columns on Micro-Chips in Pets has been published this week on the All About Dogs and Cats web site at: If you missed this column the first time around, check it out.


The AVMA has put together a nice set of questions and answers about the Swine flu outbreak and it ramifications for pets. Take a few minutes to go over this list and, if you still have questions, send them in an e-mail to: or post them as a comment at the end of this issue.

Frequently Asked Questions About 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus
Updated May 4, 2009
The recent outbreak of a new strain of H1N1 influenza among people in North America has heightened awareness of this type of influenza commonly called "swine flu," and has raised fears of a 2009 H1N1 flu epidemic or even a pandemic. These questions and answers are based on what is currently known about the virus, and will be updated as we get new information.
Q:What is swine flu?
A:Swine flu is a respiratory disease caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. The "classical" swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930. Swine flu viruses cause illness in pigs, but the death rates are low. This new virus, although it is being called "swine flu," is not the same virus.
Q:How does this virus differ from bird flu?
A:The 2009 H1N1 flu virus is an entirely different virus than the bird flu you've been hearing about in the news. Among these differences is that humans infected with bird flu were infected by direct contact with sick birds, and this new virus is not spread by contact with animals. In addition, the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus that causes the bird flu in the news has not been reported in North America.
Q:Did this flu come from pigs? Can I catch it from pigs?
A:Although this new influenza was originally labeled as a "swine flu," it is being spread from person to person, not from pigs to people. None of the U.S. cases had contact with pigs. In addition, no U.S. pigs have been found to be infected with this flu strain.
No U.S. pigs have been found to be infected with this flu strain. However, on May 2, Canadian authorities announced 2009 H1N1 infection in a herd of pigs in Alberta. Based on the evidence to date, the pigs were likely infected by a farm worker who had been infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus during a recent trip to Mexico. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is investigating the situation. For updates, go to the
CFIA's Web site.
At this time, we don't know exactly where the virus came from. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are investigating the cases.
Q:What is known about the 2009 H1N1 virus?
A:This new virus was first reported in late March/early April in central Mexico and the border states of California and Texas. Experts predict that the virus has the potential to spread worldwide, and has been reported in other countries outside North America.
The symptoms are very similar to human respiratory flu, with possible additional gastrointestinal side effects such as vomiting, stomach ache and diarrhea. In the United States, the cases so far have had self-limiting flu-like symptoms—just as with the "normal" seasonal flu, they are ill for a few days and then recover. In severe cases, pneumonia can develop.
The information is rapidly changing because this is an emerging situation. For up-to-date information, the
CDC H1N1 Flu site is a good resource.
Q:How did the new virus develop? Where did it come from?
A:In general, influenza viruses commonly stick to one species when it comes to infection; for example, dogs and cats don't get seasonal flu from their owners. However, under the right conditions, influenza viruses from different species are capable of mixing and swapping DNA (this is called reassortment), resulting in a new virus. Swine flu can merge with other influenza viruses, such as avian or human flu, to produce new strains. The 2009 H1N1 flu virus consists of North American swine influenza viruses, North American avian influenza viruses, human influenza viruses and swine influenza viruses found in both Asia and Europe.
Q:Can my pet get the 2009 H1N1 virus?
A:To date, there is no evidence that pets are susceptible to this new strain of influenza; it appears to be transmitted only from person to person or from human to swine. There still is not enough information yet for us to know for sure if the virus can be transmitted to other animals. The best advice is to always follow common sense guidelines when dealing with animals (eg, washing your hands). In addition, it's more important than ever that pet owners keep a good eye on their pet's health and consult a veterinarian if their pet is showing any signs of illness. Keeping your pets healthy reduces their risk of becoming ill.
Q:Can my pot-bellied pig get the 2009 H1N1 virus and give it to me?
A:To date, the 2009 H1N1 virus has not been reported in pot-bellied pigs. However, the recent report of probable human-to-pig transmission of the virus warrants extra caution by pig owners. After all, pot-bellied pigs are considered swine, and therefore may be susceptible to the virus. For the time being, a cautious approach would include all contact between your pig and anyone who is ill or has recently been exposed to an ill person. Remember that pot-bellied pigs can become ill from a number of causes, and keeping your pig healthy and free of disease helps protect your pig as well as you. If you have a pet pig and it appears ill, consult a veterinarian immediately.
Q:There are feral pigs in my area. Can they spread the 2009 H1N1 virus?
A: To date, the 2009 H1N1 virus has not been reported in feral pigs. However, the likely infection of a swine herd in Alberta, Canada by an infected worker means caution is recommended. Remember that feral pigs can spread other diseases, and it is best to avoid contact with them—this goes for you and your animals. Feral pigs are best left to the proper authorities to handle, so contact your local animal control office if you need to report a feral pig problem.
Q:I keep hearing the words "pandemic" and "epidemic." What do they mean, and what is the difference?
A:An epidemic is a marked rise in disease in an area. This new virus is certainly causing an epidemic. This is not unusual for a new virus—because people have not been exposed to the virus before, their immune systems aren't ready to fight it off, and more people become ill. The SARS epidemic of 2003 is an example.
A pandemic is like an epidemic that's expanded to a larger area. In most cases, "pandemic" is used to describe a world-wide epidemic of disease. The 1918 Spanish flu and the Black Plague are extreme examples of pandemics. Keep in mind, though, that a pandemic doesn't necessarily mean millions of deaths—it means a widespread epidemic.
Q:Will this become a pandemic?
A:That remains to be seen. The appropriate responses are caution and increased awareness, not panic.
Q:I've heard news reports of a swine herd in Canada that has 2009 H1N1 flu. How does this change the situation?
A:Keep in mind this is an ongoing investigation, and there is still much to be learned from it. The most important thing learned from this is that people can pass the infection to pigs. Swine farms and veterinarians are continuing their surveillance and biosecurity programs to protect our nation's herds and our public health. Otherwise, the situation really hasn't changed for most of us. Caution and common sense are still important, and pork products are still safe to eat.
Q: How should I protect myself from getting the 2009 H1N1 virus?
A:Common sense is always the best guideline. According to the CDC, the following precautions should be taken at all times to promote good health:
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then dispose of the tissue—flu and cold germs are spread mainly by person-to-person contact and the coughing or sneezing of infected people.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, as these are the primary places germs can enter your body.
Have limited contact with people who are obviously sick.
If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.
Q:Can I get the 2009 H1N1 virus from eating pork?
A:No. There are no reported cases of the 2009 H1N1 flu virus in people from eating pork. This new virus is not a food-borne disease. However, good food hygiene is always recommended to protect yourself and your family from disease.
As always, when consuming meat products safe food practices should be followed. You can consult the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Be Food Safe site at for tips on the cleaning, preparation and safe cooking temperatures for pork, as well as other meat and poultry products.
Q:I think I might be sick with the new virus, and I want to get a prescription for an antiviral. Can I get that from my veterinarian?
A:No. It is illegal for a veterinarian to prescribe medications for people. It is also unethical and illegal for a veterinarian to write a false prescription for a pet so the pet’s owner can obtain the medication for themselves.
Q:What if my pet needs an antiviral drug? Will my veterinarian be able to get the drugs?
A:This new H1N1 virus is spreading by human-to-human contact, and there is no evidence to date that it can infect animals. Keep in mind that pandemic planning, by necessity, must place a priority on treating infection in people—for that reason, antiviral medication supplies will be closely guarded and there may be strict guidelines in place that will determine how they are dispensed. Availability of antivirals may be low for non-pandemic response use. We encourage veterinarians to use their clinical judgment and weigh these factors when considering the necessity of an antiviral drug for a client’s pet. The use of antiviral medications in food animals is strictly regulated—and is prohibited in some species—and food supply veterinarians are already aware of these regulations.


Now that we are getting back into the time of year when thunderstorms and other violent weather patterns make their appearance, it would be a good time to review some of our pets' phobias related to the weather. The AVMA has produced this very interesting podcast on Storm Phobias:

After listening to this podcast, you might also want to go back and review 2 of Helpful Buckeye's columns on thunderstorms at: There are actually 2 separate issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats referenced at this site...simply cursor down to find each reference.


You came home and saw gouges on your front door the size of claw marks. Then you saw the puddle, again. Wasn't your fault traffic was at a standstill and you were twenty minutes late getting home. Or, you are dead tired and just want to veg out on the couch, but it seems every fifteen minutes or so, Fido or Fluffy wants out…again! You need to install a pet door!!

So goes the advertisement for The Pet Door Site, at: After reading over the information available at this site, a pet owner will almost feel a little guilty about not having one of these installed for their dog or cat. Click into each of the categories and you will find a model for just about every situation.


OK, tell Helpful Buckeye, in plain English, what this phrase means: "It is fruitless to attempt to indoctrinate a super-annuated canine with innovative maneuvers." Send your answer to: or submit a comment at the end of this issue.


1) Archaeologists at the University of Pennsylvania have used a CT scan to determine that the small mummified bundle found with a mummified human in an Egyptian tomb is that of a puppy. This discovery was considered to be a bit unusual because Egyptians of 2300 years ago usually only buried birds or cats with their owners. The whole story is at:

2) For those of you who have to leave a dog at home unattended during the work day, you might want to consider this set-up for a diversionary activity for your dog: Watch "Jerry Dog" as he entertains himself....

3) Domestic cats purr at about 26 cycles per second, the same frequency as an idling diesel engine. A domestic cat hears frequencies up to about 65 kHz, humans up to 20 kHz. Its sense of smell is about 14 times stronger than that of humans.

4) We've all played Simon Says at some point in our lives and remember how easy it was to be tricked into doing something at the wrong time. Well, watch this dog playing the game (with your speakers turned on) and determine for yourself if you could beat him:

5) Helpful Buckeye's former business partner (yeah, he's a Buckeye too!) sent this interesting web site along for inclusion in the blog. IDEXX, a company that produces a lot of the laboratory tests available in veterinary medicine, has put together a really nice and informative site about the various tick-borne diseases at: In addition to information on tick-borne diseases, dog owner tips, and Frequently Asked Questions, you also have the option of selecting your state (and even your county) to find the incidence of the various tick-borne diseases:

6) This past week, a dog in southern California helped save his owners from an attack by a mountain lion on a trail. The dog, named Hoagie, surely lived up to its name and became a "Hero"....(which is also another name for a hoagie). This canine hero had to have several hours of surgery to take care of its wounds, but is expected to survive:


In addition to learning a lot about viruses this past week, we also had the opportunity to learn a lot more about human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), courtesy of Manny Ramirez. Unfortunately, Manny didn't learn enough about HCG and it cost him a 50-game suspension. It will be interesting to find out how well the Los Angeles Dodgers will be able to adjust to life without Manny.


From time to time, Helpful Buckeye has used quotes about optimism and/or pessimism, mainly because those two concepts have so much to do with how we get through our day. Rene Descartes, French philosopher and mathematician, had this contribution: "An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out?"...while President Harry Truman said this: "A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties."

In part, as an observation of our first anniversary of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye and Desperado, joined by the two Cowpokes, will be making an attempt to conquer the West Fork of Oak Creek this Thursday. This is considered to be one of the best hikes in the state of Arizona and the weather looks like it will be perfect! Two of us are true-blue optimists (I wonder if it could be the Pisces effect?) and two of us are confirmed pessimists. Whatever goes, it seems to make for an interesting combination when we're together!

I just went over 1800 miles on my bike this week, from the 1st of January....

~~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.~~


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