Sunday, July 26, 2009


OK, this is your last chance to name this painting and the artist. Remember that last week, Helpful Buckeye opened Questions On Dogs and Cats with the story of the 40th anniversary of the manned lunar landing. Artist Joan Miro, born in Barcelona, Spain, painted "Dog Barking at Moon" in 1926. Miro didn't die until 1983, so he was also able to witness the manned lunar landing. Helpful Buckeye has to wonder if Miro didn't think just a little about his painting on that night of 20 July 1969....

At any rate, popular myths exist about dogs barking at the moon, but none of these myths have been substantiated by any credible research. There are a couple of theories that make the most sense to me. First, considering that in evolutionary history, dogs have always been animals that lived and traveled in packs, they relied heavily on sight and sound for staying together. At night, they couldn't rely very much on sight and, therefore, had to resort more to barking for communication. Since our skies have at least part of the moon visible on most nights, early human observers thought the barking was directed at the moon. Secondly, behaviorists have observed that dogs will bark at any really bright light shining at night, whether it be the moon, a floodlight, or a distant bright train headlight. It is thought they might be doing so out of a sense of danger and making some sort of attempt to "scare" the light source. Until scientists can get into the minds of dogs a little deeper, this will remain one of those unanswerable questions.

The first poll question last week showed that most of you would prefer to rely on establishing a good ancestral history of having "normal" hips before acquiring a new puppy. The second poll question revealed that many of you have already been to a restaurant that allowed your dog to come along with you. Perhaps this trend will be increasing in the USA? Don't forget to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

Any comments or questions, please send an e-mail to: or click on the word, "Comment," at the end of this issue and submit a comment.


1) Recent food safety outbreaks and recalls have caused many people to question the efficiency and effectiveness of our federal food safety system. In this new podcast from the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Ron DeHaven, Chief Executive Officer of the AVMA, explains which federal agencies work to keep our food safe and discusses what the government can do to improve food safety. Take a few minutes to listen to Dr. DeHaven's presentation so that you will have a better understanding of which part of our government is responsible for food safety issues for both you and your pets:

Helpful Buckeye has addressed this topic in numerous previous issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats. You can access those articles by clicking on "Food Safety" and "Pet Food Recall" in the Labels column to the left.

2) In a July 20, 2009 advisory, the Food and Drug Administration, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, listed tips for using flea and tick products on pets. The EPA advises pet owners to talk to your veterinarian about responsible and effective use of flea and tick products, carefully follow label directions, and monitor your pets for any signs of a bad reaction after application, particularly when using these products for the first time. Keep the product package after use in case side effects occur. You will want to have the instructions available, as well as contact information for the manufacturer.

Reporting Problems

For more information on adverse reactions related to the spot-on type applications for flea and tick control, go to this EPA web site for their advice on increased scrutiny of these products:

3) The AVMA has released a summary of a study on pet owners who also are smokers and their potential efforts to quit smoking. According to the study, the motivation would come from the knowledge that second-hand smoke is also dangerous to their pets.

Study finds pet owners who smoke will try to quit for animals' health

About 28 percent of pet owners who smoke would try to quit if they knew that secondhand smoke endangered their pets, according to recent research. The authors concluded that educational campaigns informing pet owners of the dangers of secondhand-smoke exposure to pets could motivate some owners to quit smoking. Educational campaigns also could motivate these pet owners and nonsmoking pet owners who live with smokers to make their homes smoke free.

For more details on the study, go to:

Helpful Buckeye has also covered the topic of second-hand smoke in 2 previous issues, which you can access at:


Description of Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of worldwide significance that infects many species of animals as well as humans. The organism is of the Leptospira genus, with more than 230 distinct forms known. Only 4-8 of these variants are of importance for dogs and cats. These different strains produce different levels and types of disease depending on the animals they infect. While cats can be infected, they rarely show signs of the disease. On the other hand, Leptospirosis is much more of a problem in dogs, humans, and livestock. Within dog populations, certain strains of the bacterium appear to affect urban dogs, while other strains affect dogs in rural and suburban areas.


Dogs can become infected with the Leptospira organism through both direct and indirect transmission. Direct transmission involves contact with an infected animal through mating (venereal), trans-placental (from parent to offspring during a pregnancy), or fighting (bite wounds). Indirect transmission occurs through exposure of susceptible animals to contaminated (mostly from rats or already-infected dogs) water sources, food, or even bedding. Stagnant or slow-moving water provides a suitable habitat for the organism. In these cases, transmission is more prominent in periods of very wet weather and flooding.

From the ASPCA comes this report: June’s near-constant rains may have helped make dogs in New York City critically ill. In recent weeks, several otherwise healthy dogs are believed to have died from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that occurs worldwide and is transmitted in several ways: through bites, contact with the urine of an infected animal, or exposure to contaminated soil, food, or bedding.

“Leptospirosis crops up periodically all over the country,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. “It’s more prevalent in wetter regions and less of a risk in cool, dry areas.” Outbreaks increase during periods of heavy rainfall because the Leptospira family of bacteria thrives in stagnant or slow-moving water. Dog runs with poor drainage that also lack a source of fresh drinking water create ideal conditions for catching the disease.

In rural and suburban areas, increased exposure to raccoons and opossums, as communities encroach on wildlife habitats, may explain the increased incidence of Leptospirosis. Of course, in urban settings, the main rodent responsible for aiding in transmission is still the rat.

The organism gains entrance to the bloodstream through mucous membranes (nose, mouth, or genital tract) or wounds. Once in the bloodstream, the organisms spread rapidly to body organs, mainly the liver, spleen, and kidneys.


The ASPCA urges dog owners to be on the lookout for the following signs: fever, vomiting, poor appetite, lethargy, coughing and labored breathing. Infected dogs may become jaundiced (yellowing of the eyes and skin) if the liver is involved or stop urinating if the disease affects the kidneys. There is no age or gender predilection. The incubation period is 4-12 days and most signs of infection will show up within that time period. Since there are different degrees of severity, depending on the organs involved, the signs observed may be all of the above or only some of them. The majority of dogs with only moderate involvement of their liver and/or kidneys will go on to recover from the disease, although they may need further treatment due to shedding the organisms in their urine for months or years.


Leptospirosis is most often diagnosed through a blood serum test that measures the level of antibody present. Further tests would then be used to determine which variant is responsible for that particular infection. In some cases, the bacterium can also be isolated from a urine specimen. Once Leptospira is indicated by these tests, other blood tests will need to be done to help determine how much involvement there is with the liver and kidneys. These results will help in determining the outlook for recovery.


There are several antibiotics from which your veterinarian can choose that will effectively kill the Leptospira organisms. In addition to this antibiotic therapy, any liver or kidney disease would be treated with intravenous or subcutaneous fluids to help correct any dehydration. Special consideration would need to be given to a vomiting patient.


Prevention involves keeping animals out of contact with potential sources of infection including contaminated water sources, certain wildlife populations, and domestic animals that are either already infected or chronic carriers. Humans can also contract Leptospirosis from these sources and any potentially infected animal should be handled very carefully. Limiting the exposure of your dog to Leptospira may necessitate draining or fencing off sources of possibly contaminated water. Rodents may need to be better controlled in residential and rural areas. One of the best ways to do this is to seal and protect all sources of dog food that rodents might get into.

Furthermore, as Dr. Murray of the ASPCA warns, “when outdoors, whether at the dog run or by a pond, dog owners must be vigilant about not letting their pets drink stagnant water.”

There are numerous vaccines available for the common variants of Leptospira. These are what make up the “L” in the DHL or DHLPP vaccines most of you have gotten for your dogs in the past. Most of these vaccines are given as part of the puppy series of shots at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, and then are boostered at yearly intervals, depending upon your veterinarian’s recommendation. Part of the shortcoming of these vaccines is knowing which variant your dog might be exposed to, since there does not appear to be good cross-immunity between the variants. Many local veterinary hospitals and some of the university veterinary hospitals no longer recommend that household urban dogs be vaccinated for Leptospirosis due to some reactions that are being seen to the vaccine and to the unpredictability of which variant may be involved. Due to the low infection rate seen in cats, there are currently no vaccines available for them.

If you have any concerns about the exposure risk of your dog to the Leptospira organism and the advisability of getting the vaccine, you should take the time to have that discussion with your veterinarian in order to clarify your particular situation.


The AVMA has put together a list of questions and answers to help pet owners with a very current topic of interest:

What animal owners should know about Internet pharmacies

With the recent emergence of Internet pharmacies, many pet owners have questions regarding their safety and credibility. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) appreciates the rising cost of health care for pets as well as humans, but cautions pet owners to be aware of the risks that may be involved. Like you, we want to ensure the highest quality of care for your animal.

Q: A friend told me about an Internet site that sells drugs for pets, and it's cheaper than I pay at my veterinarian. Why shouldn't I order my pet's drugs over the Internet?

A: Finding a "deal" makes you feel you've outsmarted the system. But it's only a great "deal" if you're also receiving a quality product. Without quality, lower prices can prove to be a false savings. And sometimes the prices are not lower.

Q: Internet pharmacies sound like a good deal. But some people are against buying drugs from them. Why?

A: A number of problems have been reported, such as sales of pet medications without valid prescriptions. These drugs could pose a health threat to pets, and we're concerned about the welfare of these animals.

Q: Why can't I get a prescription from just any veterinarian?

A: For the same reason you can't walk into any doctor's office that's listed in the telephone directory and ask for a prescription for yourself. Because it's illegal, not to mention unethical, for a veterinarian to authorize a prescription without a valid "veterinarian-client-patient relationship." In order for you to get a legal prescription, you must be a "patient of record."

Q: Can I buy my pet's drugs from a Canadian Internet pharmacy?

A: No. The importation and use of drugs not approved by the FDA is illegal.

Q: I found an Internet pharmacy that says I don't need a prescription. Do I?

A: It is illegal and unethical for a pharmacy to send prescription drugs for animals without a valid prescription obtained from your veterinarian.

Q: Well then, how can I find an Internet pharmacy that's credible?

A: We haven't found a fool-proof way to assure a "good" pharmacy. That's why the AVMA acknowledges a program called "Vet-VIPPS," a voluntary certification program created by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The Vet-VIPPS seal of approval identifies those online pharmacies that are, according to NABP, appropriately licensed, are legitimately operating via the Internet, and that have successfully completed a rigorous criteria review and inspection. If you do experience problems, you should report the pharmacy to the Boards of Pharmacy in your state and the pharmacy's state.

Q: Can my veterinarian tell me if the Internet pharmacy I'm using complies with regulations designed to protect me?

A: No. Veterinarians cannot ensure compliance nor are they obligated to do so.

Q: If I'm still thinking about buying my pet's medications over the Internet, what should I do?

A: Please be careful. Insist on the same quality that you would expect from your veterinary clinic or from your neighborhood pharmacy. Your pet deserves nothing less.

Q: What else can I do?

A: Talk to your veterinarian. He or she wants to offer both convenience and good will, and is likely to offer you some assurance about the legitimacy and safety of his/her medication.


1) This past week, Mark Buerhle, of the Chicago White Sox, pitched what was only the 16th perfect game since 1900 for Major League Baseball. For those of you who aren't baseball fans, a perfect game means that no hitter reaches base, by any method...not by a hit, an error, a walk, not hit-by-pitch, not by catcher's interference. It's one of the most impressive feats in any of the major sports. Anyway, Mark Buerhle has for awhile been an advocate for the Humane Society of the United States, as part of their Pets for Life program. Watch him in this short public service announcement:

2) The American Humane Association, by way of Marie Belew Wheatley, their President and CEO, has issued their response to the latest developments in the on-going Michael Vick situation:

Spend just a few minutes reading Ms. Wheatley's opinion piece and try to draw your own conclusions about this very sensitive issue.

3) This past week, Gidget, the trustworthy Chihuahua of Taco Bell advertising fame, passed away in California at the age of 15. See if you remember this film clip from 1997, featuring Gidget: Then, read this short memorial tribute to Gidget, a very popular dog:

4) In a ghastly story from Kentucky, we are reminded of the gory potential that exists in the human and dog relationship. Fortunately, the story has a better outcome than what you might have expected:

5) The ASPCA has released this news update about an increased incidence of Leptospirosis in New York City: “Leptospirosis crops up periodically all over the country,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City. “It’s more prevalent in wetter regions and less of a risk in cool, dry areas.” Outbreaks increase during periods of heavy rainfall because the Leptospira family of bacteria thrives in stagnant or slow-moving water. Dog runs with poor drainage that also lack a source of fresh drinking water create ideal conditions for catching the disease.

Helpful Buckeye has received a few questions concerning the disease Leptospirosis and, with this news story from the ASPCA, decided this would be the perfect time to include a more in-depth presentation on the disease.

6) For a free sample of Greenies Dental Treats for your cat or dog, go to: and fill out the form.

7) For free samples of products from Doggy Delightz, an all natural-organic doggy bakery, go to: and fill out the form.


The LA Dodgers completed a fairly successful home stand, winning 6 of 10 games. They still aren't pounding the ball consistently like they were before the All-Star break. A big test awaits on the upcoming road trip to St. Louis and Atlanta, where both teams have been playing well.


Desperado and Helpful Buckeye went to see The Lion King stage production this week, along with our two favorite Cowpokes. We all agreed the production was beautifully done, especially with the costumes, staging, and imagination. The folks at Disney sure came up with a winner on this one!

Our old friend, Mark Twain, stopped by this week with this quote: " far as being on the verge of being a sick man I don't take any stock in that. I have been on the verge of being an angel all of my life, but it's never happened yet." - Mark Twain, a Biography

~~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.~~

1 comment:

  1. Good thing the Twain quote doesn't pertain to you, because despite any flaws you may have...the fact that you do this blog makes you quite the angel in my book. And wish you many more years of health to enjoy.

    So, I share that my vet has come up with some pretty cool ways to combat the allure of using on-line medication services.

    I don't even have to go to pick up the medications there. If the dogs are regular clients, and the script is still active, all I need do is call in. They will have it ready and waiting for pick up. Or, and here's the best part, they deliver it to me. Free of charge.

    Now, we all know that yes, the meds are more expensive through your vets, but not by much. And, isn't it worth the wellness of a beloved pet to pay the difference?

    Have a great week, Doc!