Monday, February 7, 2011


For those of you who might be wondering whether Helpful Buckeye would be able to "answer the bell" and finish this week's issue of the blog after watching the Pittsburgh Steelers essentially give away the Super Bowl, I'm here to tell you that the sun will still come up tomorrow morning (a Flagstaff sunrise shot from our deck)!  More on this later.... 

Most of the USA suffered a major dose of rough winter weather this past week.  Here in northern Arizona, we felt the grip of -25 degrees of wind chill for most of 2 days, while we watched the TV coverage of the winter storm that crossed the country.  Even though the groundhog (Punxsutawney Phil, in Pennsylvania) didn't see its shadow, we still felt the intense grip of winter.  Andrew Wyeth, the famed American artist, apparently loved winter:  “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape—the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” 

Considering the extremes of winter seen in the USA this year, Andy can have all the winter he wants...but, as for me, give me spring, summer, or fall!

Only about 40% of our pet-owning readers have their pet's teeth checked at least once a year by their veterinarian.  That number should be at least twice that high!  Let's work on that in 2011....

Most of you (75%) feel that the Humane Society of the US is not getting their message across by using Michael Vick as part of their awareness programs.  80% of respondents said they allow their pets to be loose in a moving vehicle...a true recipe for disaster!  Only 10% of you said you would pay for a DNA analysis of your dog's heritage.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

Remember that you can submit any questions or comments to Helpful Buckeye by e-mail to:  and by clicking on the "Comments" icon at the end of this issue.


Certain pet treats distributed nationwide under the name Jr. Texas Taffy have been recalled because they have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella.  No illnesses have been reported, according to the manufacturer, Merrick Pet Care Inc. of Amarillo, Texas.

Salmonella can affect animals, and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products. Healthy people infected with salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Pets with salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain.

If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, you are advised to contact a veterinarian immediately.  Consumers with questions can contact the company at 800-664-7387 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.


Do you have a senior citizen canine?  Join the crowd! Fifty percent of dog owners share their hearts with pets age 7 or older. Modern veterinary care helps many dogs stay healthy much longer.  A longer life increases the odds dogs develop "senior" problems, though. Medical help is important, but you can keep your old-timer happy and healthy with simple and/or inexpensive tips for dealing with these eight common aging dog issues.
  1. Arthritis
  2. Cataracts
  3. Constipation
  4. Deafness
  5. Dental Issues
  6. Incontinence
  7. Obesity
  8. Senility
If you are fortunate enough to have a dog live into its senior years, you will face dealing with most, if not all, of these issues.  Helpful Buckeye will go into these topics in greater depth beginning with next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats


Not too long ago, coyotes were only found in the states west of the Mississippi River.  Now, they are present in all states east of the Mississippi as well.  Since coyotes feel comfortable living around humans and their pets, it is becoming more important to be aware of some of the concerns about this "cousin" of the domestic dog.

Valerie Blaine, a naturalist with Kane County, Illinois, presents a very informative overview of coyote behavior and ecology and what it might mean for your pets:

Coyote sightings and even periodic attacks on dogs have become part of the suburban culture. Separating facts from fiction, and learning how to protect your pets during coyote mating season, can help prevent public panic.

It's time for the proverbial Paul Revere to race through town crying, “The coyotes are coming! The coyotes are coming!”

The citizenry of suburbia will soon be up in arms, public officials will be a-tizzy, and the media will have a heyday with news about vicious maulings by these purportedly ruthless varmints.

But I'm going to head off Revere at the pass. Coyote's not just coming, he's here. And he has been here since the last public panic a year ago. The much-maligned coyotes are a reality in suburbia and knowing a bit about their behavior and ecology will help dispel unnecessary alarm.

First, let's look at when and why most concerns about coyotes are raised.

Mating season

The coyotes that have been living at the perimeter of your subdivision, at the edge of the cornfield and behind the strip mall are more visible come February because it's courtship and mating season. These wild dogs are searching the canine equivalent of Coyotes take the dating game very seriously and will cover a lot of territory to find a match. That territory may well include your neighborhood.

As with human dating, coyote courtship is an expensive endeavor. Instead of cash, however, it's calories that coyotes need.

As they pair up, they need calories in order to find and fashion suitable dens. An abandoned badger borrow may be a fixer-upper for a den, or Mr. and Mrs. Coyote may redesign a brush pile out back, or they may remodel the woodchuck hole under your garage.

Newly pregnant females also require extra caloric input. Both males and females hunt, but the males take over most of the grocery shopping when mom is great with pups. She will take whatever form of prenatal vitamins, snacks and sustenance she can get.

It doesn't matter whether the calories come in the form of Pekingese or possum, Maltese or mouse, Bichon or bunny. Coyote is not a respecter of food. Is this malicious maleficence or the ecological reality of the complex food web?

The gestation period for coyotes is roughly 60 days. The female will give birth to four to nine blind and helpless pups in late April or May. As the pups are weaned, hunting is intensified for all the new mouths to feed. It will take five to six weeks for the pups to grow and develop enough to venture outside the den. Here they enter coyote kindergarten, the beginning of a lifetime of survival education.

Adapting to suburbia

Coyotes are quick learners. From Suburban Survival 101 they work their way to earning doctorates in the field. These savvy canids have survived all attempts to wipe them out — from bounty hunting to poisoning, shooting and trapping. Now they have proved an uncanny ability to adjust to the drastic changes in habitat brought about by humans.

From prairie to farm fields to housing developments, coyotes have altered their lifestyles accordingly. They've shifted their housing needs from tree hollows to porch decks and their menu from deer to Dachshunds.

Perhaps you've recently seen a coyote in your neighborhood and are wondering if this one has friends around the corner. Probably. Dr. Stan Gehrt of Ohio State University has directed extensive research on coyotes over the past decade, focusing on the greater Chicago area.

In The Ohio State Research journal Gehrt stated, “We couldn't find an area in Chicago where there weren't coyotes. They've learned to exploit all parts of their landscape.”

Coyotes may hunt individually, so you may just see one, but they also form packs for territorial defense. Gehrt's research found that “roughly half of all urban coyotes live in territorial packs that consist of five to six adults and their pups that were born that year. These urban packs establish territories of about five to 10 square miles.”

The coyotes that don't belong to a pack roam as loners throughout the 'burbs. A coyote on its own has to cover more territory than a pack, and Gehrt's study found these individuals can range over as much as 50 square miles in one night.

“The first solitary coyote we tracked covered five adjacent cities in a single night,” reported Gehrt.

Fears and facts

These wild canines bring out people's fears and fire their imaginations. In the Wheaton, Illinois, coyote panic that occurred a year ago when several pet dogs were killed by coyotes, a Wheatonite was quoted as saying these coyotes were “enormous … possibly 80 pounds.” In fact, an exceptionally large male coyote weighs at most 50 pounds. Average coyotes range from 22 to 42 pounds, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' Furbearer Guide.

Are they dangerous? To small dogs, rabbits and rodents, most definitely. To humans? When habituated to humans, coyotes are emboldened and may be aggressive. There are scattered reports of aggression toward humans. These habituated animals are dangerous, as many wild animals are, when in proximity to people.

There are two key points to bear in mind in the suburban coyote conundrum. Coyotes, at their meager forty pounds, are the largest predator in an ecosystem sorely lacking native predators. (Really large predators, the wolves and cougars, were extirpated from Illinois in the early 1800s.) The die-hard coyotes are a critical strand in the food web, consuming untold numbers of rodents, rabbits and other natural prey each year.

Secondly, it's up to us to prevent coyotes from becoming “nuisance animals.” The cardinal rule is to not welcome them into your yard. This translates into keeping all possible food items inside and/or out of reach — pet food, leftovers on the grill — and your Shih Tzu.

Protecting your pet

But you have to take Fido out, you say. Yes. If you have a small breed, however, you must take extra precaution when, where and how you let the dog out. A small dog in a yard bordered by an invisible electric fence is a meal waiting to be eaten. An old-fashioned fence is a better choice — not foolproof, as a coyote can easily climb over a fence, but it is at least a deterrent. There are roll bars that can be added to a fence to prevent unwanted guests from coming in.

“Hazing” has been touted as another preventive measure to make coyotes feel unwelcome. This involves making a big racket when you see a coyote, jumping up and down, waving arms and generally acting weird enough to scare the 'yotes away.

You should also be mindful that clever coyotes learn the daily schedules of people and their pets. If you let your dog out every evening at 9 p.m., chances are that a coyote is well aware of your routine and is waiting in the shadows at 9 p.m. sharp. There's an old Navajo saying, “Coyote is always out there waiting, and Coyote is always hungry.” So change your schedule a bit, walk your dog on leash close to you, and keep a close eye on her at all times.

Thus as coyote courtship and mating season is here, you will likely see a coyote or two or three. Remember that they didn't just get here and they're not invading en masse, so there's no need to panic. With knowledge of coyote behavior and ecology, we can take prudent measures to prevent conflicts in the wild kingdom of suburbia.


One of our readers, Suzanne, from Houston, saw this film clip on CBS TV and was reminded of our news item in last week's issue about the AKC accepting 3 new breeds of dog.  This video shows a veterinarian talking about the 3 new breeds:;photovideo

Take a few minutes and enjoy this selection....


1) With powers of smell far superior to those of humans, dogs can sniff out buried earthquake victims. They can unearth hidden bombs or drugs. They can also apparently detect colorectal cancer, Japanese researchers suggest.  Researchers from Kyushu University and colleagues report that a specially trained 8-year-old female Labrador retriever named Marine is able to detect colorectal cancer among patients with up to 98 percent accuracy.  A graduate of the St. Sugar Cancer-Sniffing Dog Training Center in Chiba, Japan, the dog was initially trained for water rescue and could already detect 12 types of cancer in patients' breath samples before she joined the colorectal cancer study, the researchers said.

For the rest of this unusual story, read:

2) It's that time of year again.  This is when the ASPCA compiles its annual list of the Top 10 Pet Toxins.  The list for 2010, in order from #1 to #10, is:
  1. Human Medications--The most common culprits include over-the-counter medications (ibuprofen, acetaminophen), antidepressants and ADHD medications.
  2. Insecticides--The most serious poisonings occurred when products not labeled for use in cats were applied to them. Always follow label directions.
  3. Rodenticides--Always make sure these items are placed in areas that pets cannot access.
  4. People Food--Xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic are commonly ingested by our pets and all can be toxic.
  5. Veterinary Medications--Many medications made for our pets are flavored for ease of giving. Unfortunately, that means that animals may ingest the entire bottle of medication if they find it tasty.
  6. Chocolate--Chocolate can cause agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, high heart rate, muscle tremors, seizures and death.
  7. Household Toxins--Cleaning supplies, such as bleach, acids, alkalis and other detergents, can cause corrosive injury to the mouth and stomach. Other household items such as batteries and liquid potpourri can cause similar problems.
  8. Plants--Both house plants and outdoor plants can be ingested by our pets. Keep house plants and bouquets away from your pets.
  9. Herbicides--Many herbicides have a salty taste, and our pets will commonly ingest them. Always follow label directions and keep pets off treated areas until they are dry.
  10. Outdoor Toxins--Antifreeze, fertilizers and ice melts are all substances that animals can find outdoors. Keep these items in securely locked sheds or on high shelves where pets cannot get to them.
3) Pet owners know it can be very difficult to prevent a dog or cat on a diet from eating another pet's food. Now a Houston-area veterinarian claims to have devised a simple solution to the problem.  The U.S. government acknowledged her invention with a patent last week.

Read about this ingenious concept at:

4) Spend a few seconds watching this will amuse you:

5) Most of our regular readers already know that the Labrador Retriever has been at the top of the AKC list of registrations for a lot of years.  How many consecutive years do you think they have topped this list?  Think it over...the answer will appear at the end of this issue.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers played Super Bowl XLV (45) on Sunday in Dallas.  The Steelers played giveaway in the game, turning the ball over 3 times, each resulting in a Green Bay touchdown.  Even though the Steelers out-played Green Bay otherwise, the game is all about what you do with your opportunities...and the Packers made the most of theirs.  Still, it was a pretty good year for the Steelers.  After all, with nobody expecting us to do much at the beginning of the season, we played through a lot of off-the-field problems and on-field injuries to reach the title game.  Only 2 teams made it this far and 1 had to go home a loser.  Second best is still pretty good...and congrats to the Packers and their fans!

The Ohio State men's basketball team continued as the #1 ranked team in the USA this week.  We have 3 tough road games coming up in the next 10 days, any one of which could provide our 1st loss of the year.  Pitt's men's basketball team held the #4 spot in the rankings.

The San Antonio Spurs continue to enjoy the NBA's best record.


"When life hands you lemons, make some lemonade" says the famous philosopher, Anonymous.  Helpful Buckeye got handed some lemons this week...from Charlene and Ken...and lemonade will be soon as I can find my juicer!

The lovable and very popular Labrador Retriever has been at the top of AKC yearly registrations for...20 consecutive years!  That's an amazing run of popularity, when you consider how frequently people change their minds about most things.
~~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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