It’s known as canine influenza virus and it’s causing quite a stir among dog owners. The dog flu, known as H3N8, does not affect humans. It is however quickly spread from dog to dog. Originally this virus affected only horses, or so it was thought, until a pack of greyhounds turned up with it in 2004.
The outbreak on the East Coast and Colorado has caused alarm among pooch pet parents. And that is understandable, after all , who wants to see their beloved Fido go through the misery of the flu? The good news is there is a vaccine that was approved in May. It doesn’t prevent your furry canine from getting the flu but it does reduce the severity of the symptoms. This vaccine is administered in shots given two weeks apart.
But is it really necessary to vaccinate your dog or to be concerned? Apparently not if you live in Texas. The doggy flu has not hit Texas—yet.
Dogs who are at high risk for this flu are dogs who are enrolled in doggy day care or who are boarded at the kennel. Dogs who travel extensively are also at risk.
The good news is that if your dog is the typical household dog who goes for walks around the neighborhood and who rarely has social contact with strange dogs the risk of contracting dog flu is very low.
What are the symptoms of doggy flu? The same as any human flu: runny nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing, and fever. Your veterinarian can do a test to see if your dog has the H3N8 virus.
Have you ever dealt with a little leash puller? I have! My dog Shonee thinks she is sled dog, pulling me hither and yon, sometimes she almost drags me. Her chest would be so low to the ground that it was actually scraping along it.
The problem with leash training her is that I do not agree with the technique that enforces jerking and yanking with the leash. This method certainly will not foster a positive relationship between pet parent and dog. Besides, it can damage your dog’s neck and spine. So, I was overjoyed when I stumbled upon Turid Rugaas. With over 30 years of proven dog behavior under her belt and the ability to read and direct dogs of all types she has mastered most of the difficult challenges people face with their canine companions. Of course, Turid also hails from my homeland of Scandinavia and that makes her “Number One” in my book.
Turid’s method is so simple and it completely eliminates any stress for both the pet parent and the dog. Basically it involves your making a unique noise with your mouth. Think of the sound someone might make to a horse when they want the horse to move forward. A clicking sound with the tongue or a smacking sound. It doesn’t matter what sound you make as long as you only make that sound when you want the dog to move towards you.
The first step is to “prime” the dog to this sound. This involves a handy bag of treats. Stand close to your dog, make the sound and when your dog turns to look at you give the dog a treat. Repeat this as many times as you want for a few minutes (puppies might take longer to “get” it). Now step a little further away and make the sound. Your dog should move towards you, when he reaches you give him a treat. Repeat this for a few minutes a day until your dog begins to associate that noise with you and a TREAT!
Next add the leash and begin in an area with few distractions. Walk the dog as you normally would, the moment your dog begins pulling, stop. Do NOT move. Instead make your unique noise. Your dog will move towards you and when he does you will need to turn around and move forward so that your dog is actually following you, as he comes up along side of you give him a treat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
The direction behind this is create an environment of positive reinforcement for following you. It WILL work and with much less hassle and stress to you and your dog than other methods of training that involve sharp jerks on the leash. Turid’s little book entitled, My Dog Pulls, What do I do? can be purchased also and I highly recommend it. Or you can visit Turid’s web site, I have placed a link directly to the method of training that Turid recommends: loose leash walking.
You will be happily surprised (as was I) at how quickly your dog will respond to this type of training. Shonee actually stops herself when the leash becomes taut and returns to me! It is amazing! For the most part she now walks nicely on the leash, she may not heel or walk exactly beside me but the leash is slack and my arms are not being jerked out of their sockets.
Naturally, my pups will be a “work in progress” but I am delighted with this method. I am now using it on an 8 month old puppy that I am fostering. She is now walking very nicely on the leash and it is such a delight to see how quickly she progressed from an extreme puller to a nice walker.
Here is a video of Turid demonstrating how to help your dog stop pulling. As Turid states this will take time and patience (particularly if you have a puppy) but it will work. Just stick with it.
Whatever Happened to the Food and Drug Administration’s Animal Feed Safety System?
On the heels of the 2007 pet food scandal the shamed-faced FDA scrabbled to regain its composure by attempting to develop animal feed safeguards. As a result, in November of 2007 the FDA released its Food Protection Plan, aptly named the Animal Feed Safety System, or AFFSS. Unfortunately, rather than take responsibility the FDA offers us a spoonful of pabulum by referring to America’s previous safety record for animal feed. Conversely the FDA’s only mention of what really prompted their action is, “the public became alarmed last year when imported feed ingredients, contaminated with melamine and related compounds, were used in pet food, which resulted in sick dogs and cats.”
That is of course an understatement. Dogs and cats did not just become ill, they died! And America’s track record for animal feed safety may be “good” compared to third-world countries but this is America and Americans expect and demand higher safety standards. It could be said that it took the death of thousands of innocent American pets to get the FDA to take action on imported and domestic pet food products.
Supposedly the FDA Food Protection Plan’s intent is to identify potential food hazards before damage occurs. Here is the FDA’s own definition of the Animal Feed Safety System’s directive:
A risk-based, preventive animal feed safety program [that] will require producers and distributors of animal feeds to take into consideration hazards, whose presence in or introduction into their feeds pose an unacceptable risk to animal or human health and to develop a plan to prevent or eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level, those hazards.
However, FDA bureaucracy enjoys adding more acts, programs, and titles, just to keep things complicated. So, not only is there an AFSS but the FDA Amendments Act of 2007 was passed to put the pressure on the FDA itself to “improve the safety of pet food and ingredients¹.” Title 10 of this act requires the FDA to establish, “by regulation, ingredient standards and definitions, processing standards, and labeling standards—including nutritional and ingredient information—for pet food. It also requires the FDA to establish an Early Warning Surveillance and Notification System to identify adulteration of the pet food supply and illness outbreaks and to notify veterinarians and other stakeholders of pet food recalls.²”
Confused by all the abbreviations, programs, titles, and acts? You are not alone! It’s no wonder that it takes a whole team of people to keep up with it all. This team is the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), also part of the FDA. In April 2008 the CVM filed its 3rd version of the AFSS Framework Document. The idea was to identify and plug in any gaps found in the original framework document. The bottom line is, what have Americans received thus far? Revisions and more revisions — all with the idea of improving the initial AFSS food protection plan.
Currently, there are still no enforceable regulations to protect pets from food contamination. Yet, it is well over a year since the deaths of thousands of America’s pets that spurred the FDA to set up the AFSS in the first place. Never mind that the tainted pet food in early 2007 resulted in a 24 million dollar lawsuit. Or that there is still no early warning notification system in place. So when will regulations for ingredients, processing, and standardization of feed labels be introduced? And, when will an early warning notification system be in place? Your guess is as good as the FDA’s!
¹2008 - Volume XXIII, No. III, FDA Newsletter
²2008 - Volume XXIII, No. III, FDA Newsletter