Monday, January 30, 2012


For whatever reason, you have decided to get a new dog.  Perhaps you've just had a long-time pet pass away, or you want to get a playmate for you current dog(s), or you're looking for your very first dog.  The acquisition of a dog involves several steps before you actually can complete the process:
  • Making the decision to get a dog
  • Choosing the right type and breed of dog for you
  • Finding the dog you want
  • Bringing the dog home
  • And, finally, getting the dog comfortable in your environment
...and then, being the responsible pet owner that you want to be, you can begin to work on establishing the human/pet bond.

One of our regular readers, Holly, from Greensburg, PA, has just recently gone through these steps.  Yes, I know...that's my hometown,, I've never met Holly, except for exchanging e-mails.  Holly writes her own blog, Your Mother Knows But Won't Tell You..., which can be followed at:  and one of her frequent topics is her dog family.  I'll let you find out more about Holly's dogs when you read her blog but, for now, she has graciously consented to keep a running account of her quest for another dog.  This is the first part of Holly's story:

“Michael, Lynn’s Lily is going to have puppies!” He responds, “Oh, that’s great,” and went back to watching television. I asked, “Wouldn’t it be great to have another Scottie in the house?” He just looked at me with that look he gives when he thinks I’ve lost my mind. He loves me enough not to point that out, though.

When the five puppies arrived, the first one born was a wheaten female and Lynn named her, Holly, after me. I was so honored! She posted pictures of them on her blog, Rocky Creek Scottie Adventures, so we could all watch this litter of three wheatens, one black, and a brindle grow into Scottie wonderfulness.

In November, Michael and I celebrated our 5th Anniversary. He said, “I have a gift for our anniversary and Christmas, but I don’t want to buy it without your complete approval. Want to see it so you can decide?” I couldn’t help but be curious. I stood by his computer while he pulled it up for me to look over.

When a picture of puppy, Holly, came up, I just stood there with my mouth hanging open! “You’re not serious?!” Mike looked at me, “I’ve already talked it over with Lynn and she’ll hold her for us to talk it over. She’d be thrilled to place one of her pups with us, but needs to know soon. The point though is, you’re the one who will have to deal with her the most because I’m traveling so much. So, I need to know if you’re serious about having another pup.”

Lynn Jennings Spencer is a Scottie breeder I met in the blog world and Facebook. These two communication vehicles have done a great deal to match-up people with similar interests. Like most animal enthusiasts, Scottie people seem to find each other and form relationships over their mutual love of the breed.

One of the things I respect about Lynn is her very pragmatic and down-to-earth view of her dogs. She doesn’t dote on them as pampered pets, but she loves them with a mighty love. She doesn’t baby her dogs, but they are completely cared for. She doesn’t make potential owners go through more of a process than some human adoption agencies make one go through. There are considerations and conversations because she is particular who her Scots go home with, but once she’s vetted an individual, that’s the total of it. She does ask that you sign an agreement that you will contact her and return the Scottie to her in the event that you can’t keep it any longer. She doesn’t insinuate herself into your relationship with your new dog, however, she is always there to help if you need her. She’s an active member in the Scottish Terrier Club in her area and stays current on the medical information and issues as well as grooming and training.

In a flash, all the pros and cons went racing through my head. Rory and Fiona have such a routine and get along so well; they’re now six years and I don’t know how they’d be with another dog in the house. Yes! I’d love to have another Scottie! Wait-- housebreaking, UGH! Scotties can be so stubborn, do I really need to add to the stubborn factor? Fiona is such an alpha female, how’d she be with another bitch in the house? The expense of three would really be high what with vet care and grooming... On and on my thoughts raced and then I heard myself say, “Oh Michael, it’s a wonderful present! Yes, I want a puppy and she is a beautiful puppy but I’m not sure Holly is the best one for us.”

Perplexed, he asked me to explain. “I’m thinking that two females in the house, what with Fiona’s personality, could be trouble especially since Lynn says Holly is the litter alpha. I’m wondering, if the runt, Argyle, the brindle might not be a better choice for us. It would be cool to have one of each of the colors that Scotties come in! Why don’t you talk with Lynn and see what she thinks and if Argyle is available, how about we take him?”

After discussing it with Lynn, who agreed based on her knowledge of Fiona, Argyle became known as Argyle MacPiper to honor his sire. We then waited for him to turn eight weeks old so we could bring him home.

A few days before Christmas, we traveled to Virginia to meet up with Lynn and her husband, Gary. Harrisonburg is more or less half way between their home and ours. They live in a beautiful part of the Blue Ridge Mountain area in Hillsville, VA. We took Rory and Fiona along to meet their new pack mate.

In preparation of his trip home, we had a crate ready. We also bought a lead, puppy food, a food bowl, a harness, enzyme cleaner for the inevitable accidents, pee-pee pads for the crate, chew toys and small stuffies.

And Lynn added to the inventory! Through my years of owning dogs, I’ve dealt with a fair amount of breeders. By far, Lynn is the best of the bunch. Argyle came home to us with: a pound of food; a water bowl and a gallon of their well water to minimize tummy trouble while he transitioned to our water; a blanket that was used with all the pups so it would be a familiar smell in his new environment; toys; a leash and he was already wearing a collar; an identification tag with his name, my name, my address and phone number. Most importantly, she paid to have him micro-chipped and all I had to do was register it via the computer. If a new owner had never before brought home a puppy, Lynn makes certain they have everything they will need as new owners. It is amazing!

Fiona and Rory are excellent travelers and we were ready with treats, water and water bowl at the ready. They thought it was fun but a bit confusing when we rode home with the tiny pup resting in the crate. They made the four plus hour ride home lying close to Argyle.

The ride home was the easy part, however, having the new puppy at home? Let’s just say, I think it must be like childbirth...there’s a natural amnesia that occurs to help one forget the hard parts. Otherwise, no one would ever have children; likewise, no one would ever bring a puppy into their home. It takes a huge amount of patience and effort to change a wild animal into a canine companion.

So, how’s that transition progressing? Tune into the next segment to learn more about the Adventures of Argyle and Holly!

While you're making the decision to get a dog, it helps make the decision a bit easier if you can compile a list of what you'd like or not like in a dog:
Choosing the Right Dog for You

The selection of available canine companions can overwhelm you! Man's best friends come in all shapes, sizes, and—of course—personalities.

While almost any dog can make a wonderful, lifelong companion for you and your family, some of those bundles of energy will make less appropriate pets for you than others.  The key is knowing what to look for. Here are a few things to think about:

What's your lifestyle?

Choosing the right dog generally means identifying the type of animal who matches your lifestyle. If you live alone in a small, third-floor apartment, for instance, adopting a large, active retriever-mix might not be the best choice. Conversely, if you have a family of four and are looking for a companion to match your active lifestyle, such an animal may be perfect. A dog's size, exercise requirements, friendliness, assertiveness, and compatibility with children should all figure into your decision.

Breeds and mixes

How do you find out which dogs have the qualities you're looking for? Information is the key: learn about various breeds by reading some dog breed books, talk with your acquaintances who have dogs, talk it over with your veterinarian (or if you don't already have a veterinarian, most vets would gladly listen to your questions), visit with animals at the local shelter, and speak with an adoption counselor at the shelter for guidance.

Dogs fall into one of two categories: purebreds or mixed breeds. Most animal shelters have plenty of both. The only significant difference between the two is that purebreds, because their parents and other ancestors are all members of the same breed, are similar to a specific "breed standard." This means that if you adopt a purebred puppy, you have a good chance of knowing about how big he'll get and what general physical and behavioral characteristics he'll have.

Mixed breeds

Of course, the size, appearance, and temperament of most mixed breed dogs can be predicted as well. After all, mixed breeds are simply combinations of different breeds. So if you know the ancestry of a particular mixed-breed puppy or can identify what type of dog he is (e.g., terrier mix), you have a good chance of knowing how he'll turn out, too.

Mixed breeds offer several advantages over purebreds. When you adopt a mixed breed, you benefit from the combined traits of two or more breeds. You also get a dog who's likely to be free of genetic defects common to certain purebred dogs. Mixed breeds, in fact, are often considered the more "natural" dog. When you adopt a mixed breed, you adopt a unique companion.

Visit with shelter animals

If you are able to visit a shelter, keep in mind that it is a stressful place for any animal. Quite often, a dog's true colors won't show until he's away from other animals and the shelter environment. So even if you walk past a kennel with a dog who isn't vying for your attention, don't count him out. He may just be a little scared or lonely.

An adoption counselor can help you select canines who will match your lifestyle. When you spend time with each animal, consider the following questions:
  • How old is the dog? You may want to select a puppy as your new companion. However, young dogs usually require much more training and supervision than more mature dogs. If you lack the time or patience to house-train your pup or to correct problems like chewing and jumping, an adult dog may be a better choice.
  • How shy or assertive is the dog? Although an active, bouncy dog might catch your eye, a quieter or more reserved dog might be a better match if you don't have a particularly active lifestyle.
  • How good is the animal with children? Learning about a dog's past through a history sheet or from an adoption counselor can be helpful, but past information isn't always available. In general, an active dog who likes to be touched and is not sensitive to handling and noise is a dog who will probably thrive in a house full of kids. Also keep in mind that puppies younger than four months of age, because of their fragility and special needs, often won't be adopted out to families with young children.
Choose a pal for life

Most dogs can provide you with boundless love and companionship, and every dog certainly deserves a lifelong home. But some dogs are better for you and your lifestyle than others. That's why you should take the time to make a thoughtful choice. After all, you're choosing a pal likely to be with you 10 to 15 years—or even longer. Select the right dog, and you and your new companion will enjoy those years to the fullest.

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Once you've made your selection, it's time to take the new dog home.  As simple as that might sound, there are several considerations to remember:

Bringing Your New Dog Home

The key to helping your new dog make a successful adjustment to your home is being prepared and being patient. It can take anywhere from two days to two months for you and your pet to adjust to each other. The following tips can help ensure a smooth transition.


Prepare the things your dog will need in advance. You'll need a collar and leash, food and water bowls, food, and, of course, some toys. And don't forget to order an identification tag right away.

Welcome home

Try to arrange the arrival of your new dog for a weekend or when you can be home for a few days. Get to know each other and spend some quality time together. Don't forget the jealousy factor—make sure you don't neglect other pets and people in your household!

Health care

Animal shelters take in animals with widely varying backgrounds, some of whom have not been previously vaccinated. Inevitably, despite the best efforts of shelter workers, viruses can be spread and may occasionally go home with adopted animals. If you already have dogs or cats at home, make sure they are up-to-date on their shots and in good general health before introducing your new pet dog.

Take your new dog to the veterinarian within a week after adoption. There, the dog will receive a health check and any needed vaccinations. If your dog has not been spayed or neutered, make that appointment! There are already far too many homeless puppies and dogs; don't let your new pet add to the problem. Most likely, the shelter will require that you have your pet spayed or neutered anyway. If you need more information about why it is so important to spay or neuter your dog, read our online information on spaying and neutering.

House rules

Work out your dog-care regimen in advance among the human members of your household. Who will walk the dog first thing in the morning? Who will feed him at night? Will Fido be allowed on the couch, or won't he? Where will he rest at night? Are there any rooms in the house that are off-limits?

Training and discipline

Dogs need order. Let your pet know from the start who is the boss. When you catch him doing something he shouldn't, don't lose your cool. Stay calm, and let him know immediately, in a loud and disapproving voice, that he has misbehaved. Reward him with praise when he does well, too! Sign up for a local dog obedience class, and you'll learn what a joy it is to have a well-trained dog.


Assume your new dog is not house-trained, and work from there.  Be consistent, and maintain a routine. A little extra effort on your part to come home straight from work each day will pay off in easier, faster house-training.


A crate may look to you like the canine equivalent of a jail cell, but to your dog, who instinctively likes to den, it's a room of his own. It makes house-training and obedience-training easier and saves your dog from the headache of being yelled at unnecessarily for problem behavior. Of course, you won't want to crate your dog all day or all night, or he will consider it a jail cell. Just a few, regular hours a day should be sufficient.

The crate should not contain wire where his collar or paws can get caught, and should be roomy enough to allow your dog to stand up, turn around, and sit comfortably in normal posture.

If a crate isn't an option, consider some sort of confinement to a dog-proofed part of your home. A portion of the kitchen or family room can serve the purpose very well. (A baby gate works perfectly.)

Let the games begin

Dogs need an active life. That means you should plan plenty of exercise and game time for your pet. Enjoy jogging or Frisbee? You can bet your dog will, too. If running around the park is too energetic for your taste, try throwing a ball or a stick, or just going for a long walk together. When you take a drive in the country or visit family and friends, bring your dog and a leash along.

A friend for life

Finally, be reasonable in your expectations. Life with you is a different experience for your new companion, so give him time to adjust. You'll soon find out that you've made a friend for life. No one will ever greet you with as much enthusiasm or provide you with as much unqualified love and loyalty as your dog will. Be patient, and you will be amply rewarded.

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Obviously, Holly was well-prepared for her arrival home with her new pup.  Helpful Buckeye knows you're already looking forward to the section on introducing your new dog to your household.  When Holly has accumulated enough to write about that, we'll address that topic for you.
Any questions or comments, either e-mail Helpful Buckeye at or register your comment at the end of this issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats. 
Ohio State's basketball team, still ranked in the top 5, played #20 Michigan today in Columbus.  Being tied with Michigan and Michigan State for the Big 10 Conference lead, we needed to get some separation from those guys.  The Buckeyes broke open a close game in the 2nd half to win convincingly by 15 points.


Helpful Buckeye is on track to total more than 400 miles on the bike for the month of January...the first month to be over 400 since May of last year.  The difficult situation with Dad's deteriorating health and ultimate death, soon followed by my torn calf muscle seriously reduced my biking miles and racquetball playing.  It feels great to be again pushing the pedals (as a spoke jockey) and smashing the ball around the racquetball court...I fully expect to be at 100% in both areas very soon.

Helpful Buckeye and Desperado will be spending 3 days in the Phoenix area this week, as part of our "Get To Know Arizona Better" quest.  Helpful Buckeye has a lot of places lined up for the 3 whatever we can't see this time can wait for the next time...and there will be plenty of next times.

In reviewing all the quotes I used over the past year, these four, taken together, really illustrate how things have been for me since May 2011 until the present time:

"Midway upon the journey of my life,
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost."   Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

"Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They're what make the instrument stretch -- what make you go beyond the norm." Cicely Tyson, American actress

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure.  There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”  J. Nehru, Prime Minister of India, 1947-1964

“Will you join me…for a roam through wonderland?”  William Wallace Bass, entrepreneur in the Grand Canyon, 1900

~~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.~~

Monday, January 23, 2012


Well, the subject of feral cats sure stimulated an outburst of comments from some readers who obviously feel strongly about the topic.  Helpful Buckeye also received numerous e-mails asking about concerns for humans possibly contracting diseases being spread by these feral cats.  Those concerns will be addressed in this week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats

We left off last week with some of the problems feral cats face as they fend for themselves in the wild.  Let's say that some or many of these cats are also being exposed to certain zoonotic diseases as they make their way through their territory each day.  You'll recall that a zoonotic disease is one than can be transmitted from an animal to a human.  The list of these diseases is quite long, but the most common of these from cats and dogs are intestinal parasites, ringworm, scabies, plague (from fleas), Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Babesiosis (all from ticks), and rabies.  Other serious concerns would be the bacterial infections that result from scratches and/or bite wounds that people receive when trying to handle feral cats.  For the moment, let's leave these diseases for an overview of other animal-related diseases that might be of a concern to humans:

Animal-Related Diseases Concern Scientists

Health researchers and wildlife biologists say the number of infectious diseases that have jumped the boundary from animals to humans and between animal species is on the rise. Scientists believe the increase may be a result of more frequent contact between humans and wild animals, as well as the growing trade in wild animals, both legal and illegal.

Towards the end of the 1990s, several Asian countries lived one of their worst health nightmares. A new, highly pathogenic, strain of Avian Influenza known as H5N1 killed hundreds of people. Over the next years, more than 9-million chickens were destroyed in an effort to stem the epidemic. Scientists believe the H5N1 virus was transmitted from wild birds to domestic poultry and pigs, which then passed it to humans. H5N1 is just the latest of various influenza strains that have killed up to 100 million people over the last century.

Now scientists are concerned about the appearance of new illnesses. Jonathan Sleeman is the director of the National Wildlife Health Center at the U.S. Geological Survey.  "Human health, wildlife health and domestic animal health are all interconnected within the context of the environment," said Sleeman. "And environmental changes and changes in environmental quality will have negative impacts in all 3 groups."

Experts say there are many causes: the increasingly rapid movement of people and animals around the world, increasing human contact with and consumption of wildlife, and the legal and illegal trade in wild animals.  "It's no longer a wildlife conservation issue, it's no longer a separate human issue. It's a combination. It's both a conservation and human health issue," added  Sleeman.

Scientists from a variety of disciplines met recently in Washington to share their concerns about pathogens spreading from animals to humans.  It's not a new problem. The AIDS virus, HIV, is now known to have originated from a similar virus in African chimpanzees. An estimated 30-million people have died of AIDS since the early 1980s. Other human diseases with animal origins include SARS, Ebola hemorrhagic fever and West Nile encephalitis.

New animal illnesses generally originate in invasive species. Zebra mussels that have spread throughout the U.S. Great Lake introduced a type of botulism that has killed some 100,000 birds in the last decade. A fungus spread by the trade in amphibians has led to the extinction of about 120 species of frogs around the world.  Many other imported, exotic animals escape or are released into local ecosystems. They disrupt native ecologies, out-compete native species and potentially spread new diseases.

Jonathan Epstein, with the EcoHealth Alliance, says 13 million animals have been confiscated in the past few decades, as part of the illegal trade in exotic species.  "The global illegal wildlife trade is second only to the trade in narcotics and weapons," said Epstein. "Just between 2000 and 2006, we had about 1.5 billion animals imported into the U.S."

Experts say more attention must be paid to the human disruption of wildlife and ecosystems to avoid the emergence of other infectious diseases with deeper and even more severe consequences.

Adapted from: 

You can see that this is a problem with a much larger scope than just here in the USA, due the global nature of travel and communication.  However, right here is where we live and there seems to be a huge demand for the importation of exotic species, in addition to the more common animals that also arrive:

Wildlife trade bringing viruses to U.S.

A study has found evidence of retroviruses in illegally imported wildlife and animal products seized at several U.S. international airports, researchers say.  The study led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearly demonstrates potential human health risks from the illegal wildlife trade at major international travel hubs, a release from the American Museum of Natural History said Tuesday.

The global trade in wildlife has contributed to the emergence of new diseases in livestock, native wildlife and humans as international travel creates a pathway to disease emergence in animals and humans, researchers said.  "The increase in international travel and trade brings with it an increased risk of unmonitored pathogens via the illegal wildlife trade," said Denise McAloose, chief pathologist for the Global Health Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

In addition to animals, illegally imported bushmeat was monitored in the study.  "Exotic wildlife pets and bushmeat are Trojan horses that threaten humankind at sites where they are collected in the developing world as well as the United States," W. Ian Lipkin of Columbia said.  "Our study underscores the importance of surveillance at ports, but we must also encourage efforts to reduce demand for products that drive the wildlife trade."

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So, what do we do?  Much of this activity will require global attention to stricter regulations on the transporting of any animal species.  Then, here at home, we need to be more aware not only of the problem with feral animals, but also how we can live in proximity with them and not be picking up something contagious to us.  Let's use the example of a species that, although wild, has become quite common in every state of continental USA and actually seems to thrive in close proximity to humans...yes, the coyote:

Teaching People and Coyotes How to Peacefully Coexist

Unique program saves coyotes' lives by re-instilling their natural fear of people

The Humane Society of the United States is reaching out to animal control officers, law enforcement agencies, and community animal advocates from around the country, offering special training on how to deal with conflicts involving one of America’s hardiest wild creatures: coyotes.

Lynsey White Dasher, Urban Wildlife Specialist with The HSUS, has been teaching classes on the latest methods to reduce suburban conflicts with coyotes. Coyote-human conflicts have increased, White Dasher said, because the wild creatures “have learned that people are not a source of danger.”

White Dasher teaches people how to "haze" coyotes, by making noise, shining bright lights, spraying water, and generally acting unpredictable. It might seem a little odd, but it's the compassionate way to prevent coyotes from being killed. Some municipalities trap and kill coyotes who hang around neighborhoods. But that doesn’t reduce the coyote population, and it doesn’t solve the problem.  “We want to teach them to be afraid of people, as they naturally should be,” White Dasher said.

Re-educating coyotes—and people

White Dasher presented the latest research and techniques at the International Urban and Wildlife Management and Planning Conference in Austin, Texas. Later, at the Animal Care Expo in Orlando, White Dasher and Ashley DeLaup, wildlife ecologist for the City and County of Denver, Colorado, trained about 30 animal advocates and animal control officers from around the country on how to best haze wild coyotes.  “I think that hearing about successful coyote hazing programs encourages them to try it out in their own communities,” White Dasher said.

DeLaup developed a successful coyote hazing program for community residents in Denver after coyotes preyed on people’s pets. The HSUS has helped develop a similar program in Wheaton, Illinois, outside Chicago.

"Go away coyote!"

Blowing whistles, yelling, and making sudden movements around coyotes is “a way of marking our territory, which is something coyotes understand,” says DeLaup.  “The more we make them think we are unpredictable, the more they want to stay away,” DeLaup says. “If I go out and scare a coyote and then a second person scares a coyote, once the third time comes, the coyote thinks: You know what? I don’t want to stay around here.”

White Dasher adds, “When you teach one coyote in a family group, he or she will pass that information on to other members of a family group.”

Adapted from:

Of all the diseases we've mentioned that are frequently associated with feral and wild animals in the USA, the worst by far, of course, is rabies.  Let's review:

The State of Rabies: Treating a Disease That Often Leads to Death

The archetypal zoonotic disease, rabies can spread between animals and humans as it has the ability to infect -- and kill -- all mammals.

By Larry Madoff

When my father was a boy, in the 1930s, living in Clinton, Massachusetts, he was attacked and bitten by a dog in the woods near his home. The animal was never found and, rabies being so prevalent among feral dogs at the time, he was forced to undergo preventive treatment for the disease. In the late 19th century, Louis Pasteur, the French scientist, devised a strategy to immunize against rabies by progressively attenuating a virus by successive passage through rabbit spinal cords. The "Pasteur Treatment" involved injections of up to 25 doses of this crudely purified vaccine, three on the first day and then one per day over the next three weeks into the abdominal wall. The idea is to develop immunity -- antibodies to the virus -- before the virus has a chance to invade the central nervous system. Throughout his life, my father recalled the horror of the treatment -- even more than that of the dog bite.

Painful as it was, the treatment may well have saved him from the gruesome fate of rabies. We learned last week that a man in Massachusetts had been diagnosed with rabies. Believed to be the first case acquired in the state since 1935, the man is in critical condition, indicating that he is already manifesting the disease. Sadly, at this stage, rabies most often leads inexorably to death.

It is bats that have become the problem for humans in the U.S., accounting for more than two-thirds of rabies cases.

The disease has become rare in this country, with no more than a handful of cases occurring throughout the U.S. in a given year. (Worldwide, however, rabies is common. Estimates put the number of cases between 55,000 and 70,000, nearly all from the bites of rabid dogs.) Rabies can begin insidiously, anywhere from a week to many months after the bite of a rabid animal. Agitation, fever, restlessness, irritability, and increased sensation at the site of the bite may be the initial symptoms. Delirium often ensues. Classic hydrophobia, when it develops, is startling. Initially manifested as the inability to swallow liquids, it progresses to the point that merely the sight of liquid can cause gagging and laryngeal spasm. This finding is so classically associated with rabies, in animals as well as people, that the words hydrophobia and rabies were once synonymous.

Wild swings in pulse and blood pressure follow (as the autonomic nervous system becomes affected), waning of consciousness, and finally seizures and respiratory arrest, with most of those affected dying within a week of contracting the illness. Historically, survival from rabies infection has been extremely rare. A recent approach pioneered in Wisconsin in 2004 appears to have led to a handful of survivors, but the prognosis remains grim.

Rabies is perhaps the archetypal zoonotic disease, one spread between animals and humans. It has an extremely broad host range, with the ability to infect all mammals. The ancients understood that when a mad dog bit another dog, it too became mad. Canine rabies remains a huge problem around the world, but in the U.S., where vaccination of dogs against rabies has become nearly universal, other species have become more important in spreading rabies. Skunks, foxes, and raccoons are all important to the rabies problem in various parts of the U.S., in addition to bats.

While rabies is transmissible between any species, most transmission occurs within the species -- bat to bat, raccoon to raccoon -- and the virus adapts slightly to its host. That means each virus carries a signature in its genetic sequence indicating the species and geographic location of the "donor." In one recent case, we were surprised to learn that a patient had died of infection by a rabies virus whose genetic signature indicated that it originated in a South American dog, though he was reported not to have been in that region for many years. It remains mysterious whether we were missing some history of a more-recent visit there, or the incubation period was unusually long.

But it is bats that have become the problem for humans in the U.S., accounting for more than two-thirds of rabies cases. That doesn't mean they should be eradicated, of course: Bats are too important to the ecosystem to think of as disease-spreading pests. Their insectivorous diet makes them vital to reducing the burden of disease-transmitting mosquitoes. Nonetheless, keeping bats out of our homes, particularly our sleeping quarters, is a key public health measure in reducing human rabies. Bats have small, very sharp teeth and a sleeping victim may simply be unaware that a bite has occurred. For that reason, we counsel people to get prophylaxis if they wake up in a room where a bat is found, whether or not they are aware of a bite.

With a disease so horrible, and treatment problematic, prevention is the mainstay of public health. More effective and tolerable post-exposure prophylaxis also began to appear in the past few decades. Now, instead of the 25 abdominal shots my father endured, we offer a single dose of antiserum (infused around the wound or given intramuscularly) and four doses of a much safer rabies vaccine given over a two-week period. This is almost completely successful in preventing the disease when given within a reasonable time after exposure. (With domestic animals, we can even observe the biting animal for signs of rabies; if none manifest within ten days, the animal is deemed free of the disease and prophylaxis can be avoided.) There are problems with this approach, however: it is very expensive, and in many parts of the world, where rabies is prevalent, it is simply not available. The fact of so few cases here, and the easy availability of prophylaxis, means we are lucky. While working on better treatments, we should work on ways of vaccinating dogs and lowering the cost of prevention in the rest of the world, in addition to providing better education about the dangers of rabies in feral and wild animals.

Adapted from: 

Now, do you think you'll be more careful the next time you encounter an unknown cat or dog that has no sign of being someone's pet?  Helpful Buckeye sure hopes so.  A couple of recent episodes of possible exposure to rabies underscore the fact that the disease is out there:

There's always a risk for rabies

This past December, two kittens tested positive for rabies in southeastern Minnesota. This is a good reminder that rabies is always a risk, even in this area, and even in something as cute and innocent as a young kitten.

Rabies is fatal. There is, for all intents and purposes, no cure. Post-exposure prophylaxis (a series of vaccines) can be successful in preventing rabies in exposed humans, if performed in time.

The most common species of wildlife to contract rabies in Minnesota are bats and skunks. Animals unlikely to transmit or die of rabies include squirrels, rabbits, mice, rats, and other small rodents.

Infected skunks and bats transmit the rabies virus in their saliva, usually through a bite wound. Bat bites often go undetected because of the small size of bat teeth.

Capture for testing

If physical contact with a bat is suspected or known, the bat should be captured and tested for rabies.  To be safe, exposure should be assumed if a dead or live bat is found in a home where access to sleeping individuals or unattended children is possible.  Be careful not to risk further exposure when capturing the bat for rabies testing. Use a firm container with a well-fitting lid. Do not use a pillowcase, towel or other fabric item that a bat could potentially bite through.  Wear leather gloves at all times when dealing with the bat. Approach the bat carefully and place the container over it. Then slide the cover underneath and firmly secure with tape.  The bat should be refrigerated but not frozen. A frozen sample cannot be tested for rabies. Contact your veterinarian to arrange submission of the sample for testing.

Signs and symptoms

Signs of rabies disease are neurological in nature. Nocturnal wild animals may be spotted wandering about during the day. Dogs that used to be aggressive may act docile. Friendly dogs may become jumpy and agitated.  Cats tend to become aggressive. Cattle may vocalize, and develop walking and swallowing difficulties.

Never attempt to handle or catch an injured animal, whether it’s a wild animal or a stray pet.

When someone gets bitten by a pet, wash the site immediately with soap and water to reduce risk of contamination. If possible, contact the pet owner to determine if the animal’s rabies vaccination is up to date.  Contact animal control for further instructions, which can vary widely depending on the pet’s rabies vaccine status. Bring the bite victim to the attention of a doctor to discuss further care.

If someone gets bitten by a wild animal, it should be captured if possible, then euthanized and tested for rabies. If your pet gets bitten by a wild animal, contact your veterinarian and/or animal control officer for further instructions.

Vaccination against rabies is vital for dogs, cats and ferrets. Vaccinated pets prevent the spread of this fatal disease between wildlife and people.

Teach children to never approach an unfamiliar or wild animal. Coach them to confide immediately in an adult if they ever get bitten.

Stray pets should always be reported to the local Animal Control, as well as wild animals exhibiting odd behavior.

Bat-proof your home, prevent garbage raiding by wildlife, and don’t keep wild animals as pets.

Adapted from:

...and this scary episode that actually occurred last week in my hometown back in Pennsylvania:

Man, Dog Being Treated For Possible Rabies Exposure After Coyote Attack

James Kozusko said he was walking his 7-year-old German shepherd named Smokey behind the Hillview Bowling Lanes, in Greensburg, PA, on Jan. 12 when the incident happened.  Kozusko said his dog locked eyes with a prowling 50-pound coyote and attacked.  "Down over the hill it went, Smokey right on his tail, and then I heard it all break loose down there," said Kozusko.

Kozusko said he wiped some blood off of his dog, which is why he, too, is being treated for rabies.

Pennsylvania Game Commission officials said there is a healthy population of coyotes in Western Pennsylvania. Officials said, however, coyote attacks are rare and usually the coyote survives.

Kozusko said he wants people to be aware of what happened so they can be careful.

Adapted from:

If you've been with us for these two issues on feral cats, you now are aware that this is a multifaceted problem.  The animals themselves are constantly in danger of being injured or becoming sick with some type of contagious disease.  Pets that come in contact with anything that is feral are also at risk.  And, finally, humans can experience the threat of zoonotic diseases.  Therefore, ultimately, a more satisfactory approach must be found than what is currently being used.

Any comments about this topic can be sent to Helpful Buckeye at: dogcatvethelp@gmail  or registered at the end on of this issue under "submit comments."

The New England Patriots eliminated the Ravens from the playoffs, which made Helpful Buckeye a little happier.  The hated rivals of the Steelers played a pretty decent game but it was good to see them lose.  Then, the NY Giants upset the 49ers in overtime to make Helpful Buckeye even happier.  It should be a great Super Bowl in 2 weeks.

Ohio State's basketball team is tied for the Big 10 lead and remains in the Top 5 in the rankings.


Desperado completed her first trail hike in more than a year this past week down in Sedona.  Not only were we thrilled that she could do the hike with no ill aftereffects, but also we found a new favorite Sedona hike, the Cibola Pass Trail.  In addition to some striking red rock formations, we also came upon an immense sink hole that was about 100 ft. wide and 100 ft. deep.  What a sight!  Now that Desperado has re-earned her hiking merit badge, we'll be hitting the trail with gusto this year.

Helpful Buckeye celebrated Desperado's hiking accomplishment by making one of his specialties...Ruby Tuesday's White Chicken Chili.  A great combination!

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye took part in a birthday celebration for one of our friends this really did cap off a very good week for all of us.

~~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.~~

Monday, January 16, 2012


Helpful Buckeye has been writing Questions On Dogs and Cats long enough to know ahead of time to expect almost-guaranteed reactions when certain things are mentioned.  Take this issue's title, for instance.  I know that most of our dog-owning readers are already figuring they can skip this issue.  Not so fast, my friends!  This has more to do with you than you might be aware.  Stay tuned....

It has been almost 3 years since Helpful Buckeye addressed the subject of feral cats.  Since the problem seems to be getting worse rather than better, it's time to discuss it again...along with more information about the far-reaching implications of the negative side of this situation.  When Helpful Buckeye read this article from Utah, it became apparent that this topic has aroused even political interest:

Feral cat bill passes Utah House

The so-called "feral cat" bill allowing animals deemed pests to be shot was passed by the House Friday after several changes.  House Bill 210 was stripped of much of its original intent in committee but the bill's sponsor, Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, managed to restore some key language.  Oda said the bill is needed to allow farmers and ranchers to control feral animal populations without fear of being charged with animal cruelty.

The House agreed to add back a provision allowing the humane shooting of an animal in an unincorporated area of a county if the shooter "has a reasonable belief" the animal is feral.  Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said feral animals are ever-present in rural areas. He said it's not a matter of if they're coming for his cows, but when.

And while many representatives acknowledged the necessity of controlling feral animals in rural areas, Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Salt Lake, said her family encouraged keeping feral cats, instead of killing them, because they kept the mice population down.

Oda ended up circling his bill before the midday break Friday after a lengthy debate about where such shootings should be allowed.  Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake, said the broad language of the bill would allow individuals to shoot animals in unincorporated areas, such as Millcreek.  "It's just so not appropriate," Biskupski said.

Later Friday, the bill was amended to apply only to areas where hunting is not prohibited, and quickly passed, 44-28.

Before the vote, Minority Assistant Whip Brian King, D-Salt Lake, said he is concerned the bill provides a loophole for individuals who want to "satisfy their own perverse sense” by killing animals for pleasure.  House Minority Leader Dave Litvack, D-Salt Lake, spoke out against the bill earlier Friday, calling it "an embarrassment.  We all had a lot of fun with the original bill, I don’t think that’s really where we want to go as a policy of the state of Utah."

There was some fun, too, during the Friday afternoon vote that sent the bill to the Senate. A number of representatives could be heard meowing as they cast their votes.

Adapted from:

Right here, it's important to provide a definition of the word, "feral":
1) existing in a wild state; not domesticated or cultivated
2) having reverted to the wild state
3) ferocious; savage; brutal....

Bear in mind that this is Felis catus we're talking about, the domestic cat.  These feral cats are descendants of cats that were regular domestic cats that spent most or all of their time outdoors, breeding, and having a lot of kittens.  Most of them probably haven't ever been handled by a human.  Let's see what researchers have to say about the life of a feral cat:

The Secret Lives of Feral Cats

Do feral kitties live good lives? The Washington Post asked that question last week in a story that examined the practice of controlling feral cat populations by trapping cats, spaying or neutering them, and then releasing them back into their former home environments (it’s often called Trap-Neuter-Return or TNR).

The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and other supporters say the nation’s estimated 50 million to 150 million feral felines often live healthy lives. They also say TNR has added benefits: After a cat colony is sterilized, nuisance behaviors such as fighting and yowling are reduced, and the feral population stabilizes. Feral cats can keep rats in check, too.

Skeptics, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and some veterinarians, argue the life of an alley cat is rarely pleasant. In many cases, they say it’s actually more humane to euthanize cats, rather than condemn them to a harsh life on the streets.

Some insight into the lives of both feral and owned kitties comes from a new study, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, in which researchers set out to track free-roaming feral and owned cats by placing radio transmitters on 42 kitties in and around Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. Twenty-three of those transmitters also had tilt and vibration sensors that measured activity.

The scientists found that the feral cats had home ranges that stretched across large areas; one male kitty’s range covered 1,351 acres (2.1 square miles). They roamed over a wide variety of habitats, most often in urban areas and grasslands, including a restored prairie. In winter, they preferred urban spots, forests and farmland, all places that would provide greater shelter from bad weather and help them keep warm. Cats that had owners, meanwhile, tended to stick close to home, with their range sizes averaging a mere 4.9 acres.

Feral kitties were also more active than cats that had homes. Unowned cats spent 14 percent of their time in what the scientists classified as “high activity” (running or hunting, for example), compared with only 3 percent for kitties with owners. “The unowned cats have to find food to survive, and their activity is significantly greater than the owned cats throughout the day and through the year, especially in winter,” says study co-author Jeff Horn of the University of Illinois.

In addition, the feral cats’ daily activity patterns—sleeping during the day and being active at night, which likely reflects the behavior of their prey, small mammals, as well as lets them better avoid humans—was very different from kitties with homes. Those animals were most active in the morning and evening, when their owners were likely home and awake.

Only one owned kitty died during the study, compared with six feral cats. Two of the feral cats were killed by coyotes, and the researchers believe that at least some of the others were killed by other cats, as the owned kitty was. Cats that live outdoors, even just part of the time, are at risk of death from other cats as well as diseases such as rabies, feline leukemia and parasites, the researchers note.

And of course there’s the fact that cats, owned and unowned, kill wildlife. “Owned cats may have less impact on other wildlife than unowned cats because of their localized ranging behavior, or conversely, they may have a very high impact withing their smaller home ranges,” the scientists write. “Free-roaming cats do kill wildlife and pose a disease risk; cat owners should keep pets indoors.”

But there’s nothing in this study that convinces me that feral cats are living such harsh lives that death would be better, as PETA and other TNR skeptics have contended. Feral cats do have harder and shorter lives than our pets. They have to find their own food and water and shelter, and this isn’t easy. But that’s what any wild creature has to do, and to imply that their lives are worthless because they are hard is, frankly, ridiculous.

Adapted from:

That study points out some of the dangers that await any cat that spends much time outdoors.  A further comparison of outdoor versus indoor cats:

Should your cat be an indoor or outdoor cat?

Some people think cats need the freedom to roam, while others say indoor cats have a longer life span and better health. The decision is, of course, yours.

On today's Pet Vet, our contributing veterinarian, Randy Aronson, stopped by to talk about this choice. He says the difference in lifespan between an indoor car and his outdoor counterpart is amazing.

"On average, an indoor cat lives twelve years but some cats can live for as many as twenty years," he said. "In comparison, an outdoor cat's life expectancy is less than five years."

Some of the dangers of living outdoors include:

Birds of prey, like hawks and owls, coyotes, automobiles, cacti and their spines, pesticides, spoiled food, poisonous plants, and intentional poisonings.

Adapted from:

Protecting Pets From Wildlife

As pet owners, we do all we can to safeguard our pets from dangers in and around the house. We can do a lot to keep some risks—like medications, poisonous plants, and antifreeze—away from our pets, but some dangers—like wild animals—may be out of our control. In this podcast, Dr. Bernadine Cruz, associate veterinarian at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Woods, Calif., talks about what we can do to protect our pets from wildlife.

Listen to this short podcast from the American Veterinary Medical Association at:

As Dr. Bernadine Cruz points out in this podcast, dogs and cats that are allowed to be outdoors can face conflicts with snakes, coyotes, raccoons, squirrels, scorpions, javelinas, porcupines, ground hogs, skunks, and rats.  In addition to bite wounds inflicted by these wild animals, your pet may also come in contact with parasites, bubonic plague, and other diseases.  Look around your yard to see if you are offering an attractive situation that might lure wildlife: trash cans, bird feeders, ponds, open crawl spaces, overgrown bushes and shrubs, and fallen fruit.  Keeping your pets up-to-date on their vaccines, in particular, their rabies vaccination, will help relieve your worries if there is exposure to a rabid animal.

To close out this part of our discussion on feral cats, here are some important tips on:

How To Care For An Outdoor Cat

Do your cats live outside? Or come in and out of the house? If your cat does spend a lot of time exploring the great outdoors, there are some concerns and dangers you should be aware of.  A sad statistic is that the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is half as long as an indoor cat's. In fact, according to, it may be more like one-third: 5 years.

The purpose of this post, however, isn't to shame you into locking your cats inside. Instead, we want to arm you with the information you need to keep your outdoor (or indoor/outdoor) cat safe in the great big world. To help us with this, we've enlisted the help of former American Veterinary Medical Association president, Dr. Gregory Hammer.

According to Dr. Hammer, the dangers posed to outdoor cats fall under three categories: infection, trauma and parasites. The threat level of each of these risks can vary depending on your location (rural, urban, suburban, etc.), but unfortunately the risks are always significantly higher for outdoor cats.

Danger: Infection

The more contact your cat has with the outside world, the more likely it is to be exposed to some sort of infectious disease. "The most common diseases to watch out for are distemper, leukemia and upper respiratory infection from contact with other cats," Dr. Hammer tells Paw Nation.

Contact with other neighborhood cats is a primary source for respiratory illnesses and feline leukemia, which is highly contagious between cats. More like HIV than the leukemia that affects humans, feline leukemia (FeLV) is an immuno-suppressive virus that infects the white blood cells. Yet another dangerous infection outdoor cats may be exposed to is, of course, rabies.

What you can do: The mantra here from Dr. Hammer is vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. Many of the common infections that can threaten a cat's health -- like distemper, rabies and leukemia -- are preventable with simple vaccines. If you own an outdoor cat, it's imperative to keep these vaccinations current.

Danger: Trauma

Outdoor cats have a greater risk for traumatic injuries. These include, but aren't limited to cat bites, abscesses, dog attacks, and getting hit by cars. When you take these into account (especially car accidents), it's easy to see why the average lifespan of outdoor cats is so much lower.

What you can do: Perhaps the best way to combat these injuries is to focus on treatment. Abscesses are a fairly common result of a territory dispute between two rival cats. If your cat does sustain a wound due to a fight with another animal (even another cat), it's a good idea to have the wound checked out by a vet before it has a chance to get even worse.

Danger: Parasites

Obviously, a cat that lives outdoors is more likely to come in contact with fleas, ticks, lice, and other pesky insects. However, a number of common parasitic threats are less easily detected, e.g. hookworms and roundworms. To make matters worse, many of these internal parasites are transferable to humans.

What you can do: The best chance you have to avoid parasites is by using preventative measures, such as flea-and-tick medications, as well as routine inspections. Dr. Hammer recommends monthly spot checks for external and internal parasites. External parasite checks are fairly straightforward. When it comes to internal parasites, it's probably best to consult with your vet to come up with a workable strategy.

"There are a number of good products available," says Dr. Hammer, "The over-the-counter products can sometimes get the job done, but the prescription products are quite a bit stronger."

Are There Benefits to Letting Your Cat Go Outdoors?

Unfortunately, there aren't many clear advantages for letting your cats roam. "The bad things far outweigh the benefits, I'm afraid," Hammer tells Paw Nation. "I've seen too many bad things happen to outdoor cats."

If your cat loves being outside, one option is to treat your cat more like a dog and train it to walk on a leash. "I have a number of clients that take their cat out in the backyard on a leash like a dog. That's perfectly safe," says Hammer.

Adapted from:

That one statement from Dr. Hammer seems to resonate in your mind, over and over..."I've seen too many bad things happen to outdoor cats"....

Magnify that by considering that a feral cat faces all those concerns 24 hours a day, 7 days a week...without the prospect of having a home to return to.  Yes, the feral cat problem is a big one, both for the public and for the cat.  Next week, Helpful Buckeye will introduce even more concerns related to pet animal interactions with wildlife.


The Ohio State basketball team is still in the top 5...even with a few losses.  I still don't think we're quite as good as we were last year but we'll be much tougher by the NCAA Tournament.

Helpful Buckeye got tickets this week to see the LA Dodgers in spring training in March.  The prospect of getting a new owner who actually cares about the quality of the team is invigorating.  Baseball fortunes are looking up!


For Desperado and Helpful Buckeye, 2011 was a year of turmoil.  A lot of things happened that were distressing, disrupting, and disturbing.  However, through it all, I somehow knew that things would eventually straighten out...and they have...thanks to Desperado.  She was my compass for re-acquiring a proper perspective on what lies ahead:

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”  Albert Schweitzer, Physician and philosopher

We have been looking at several short excursions around the state of Arizona to places that played an important part in the early history of our state.  With the Centennial coming up on 14 February, we'll choose a few of those trips to get under way...beginning with a hike this week down in Sedona.  Desperado hasn't been able to hike for more than a year and she's now eager to get back on the trail.  As the Latin majors used to say...Carpe Vacationum!   Which means, Seize the vacation!
~~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.~~