Interesting: The hidden environmental costs of #dog and #cat food

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Gregory Okin is quick to point out that he does not hate dogs and cats. Although he shares his home with neither — he is allergic, so his pets are fish — he thinks it is fine if you do. But if you do, he would like you to consider what their meat-heavy kibble and canned food are doing to the planet.

Okin, a geographer at UCLA, recently did that, and the numbers he crunched led to some astonishing conclusions. America’s 180 million or so Rovers and Fluffies gulp down about 25 percent of all the animal-derived calories consumed in the United States each year, according to Okin’s calculations. If these pets established a sovereign nation, it would rank fifth in global meat consumption.

Needless to say, producing that meat  — which requires more land, water and energy and pollutes more than plant-based food  — creates a lot of greenhouse gases: as many as 64 million tons annually, or about the equivalent of driving more than 12 million cars around for a year. That doesn’t mean pet-keeping must be eschewed for the sake of the planet, but “neither is it an unalloyed good,” Okin wrote in a study published this week in PLOS One.

“If you are worried about the environment, then in the same way you might consider what kind of car you buy … this is something that might be on your radar,” Okin said in an interview. “But it’s not necessarily something you want to feel terrible about. ”

This research was a departure for Okin, who typically travels the globe to study deserts — things such as wind erosion, dust production and plant-soil interactions. But he said the backyard chicken trend in Los Angeles got him thinking about “how cool it is” that pet chickens make protein, while dogs and cats eat protein. And he discovered that even as interest grows in the environmental impact of our own meat consumption, there has been almost no effort to quantify the part our most common pets play.

To do that, Okin turned to dog and cat population estimates from the pet industry, average animal weights, and ingredient lists in popular pet foods. The country’s dogs and cats, he determined, consume about 19 percent as many calories as the human population, or about as much as 62 million American people. But because their diets are higher in protein, the pets’ total animal-derived calorie intake amounts to about 33 percent of that of humans.

Okin’s numbers are estimates, but they do “a good job of giving us some numbers that we can talk about,” said Cailin Heinze, a veterinary nutritionist at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who has written about the environmental impact of pet food. “They bring up a really interesting discussion.”

Okin warns that the situation isn’t likely to improve any time soon. Pet ownership is on the rise in developing countries such as China, which means the demand for meaty pet food is, too. And in the United States, the growing idea of pets as furry children has led to an expanding market of expensive, gourmet foods that sound like Blue Apron meals. That means not just kale and sweet potato in the ingredient list, but grain-free and “human-grade” concoctions that emphasize their use of high-quality meat rather than the leftover “byproducts” that have traditionally made up much of our pets’ food.

“The trend is that people will be looking for more good cuts of meat for their animals and more high-protein foods for their animals,” Okin said.

What to do about this? That’s the hard part. Heinze said one place to start is by passing on the high-protein or human-grade foods. Dogs and cats do need protein — and cats, which are obligate carnivores, really do need meat, she said. But the idea that they should dine on the equivalent of prime rib and lots of it comes from what she calls “the pet food fake news machine.” There’s no need to be turned off by some plant-based proteins in a food’s ingredients, she said, and dog owners in particular can look for foods with lower percentages of protein.

The term human-grade implies that a product is using protein that humans could eat, she added. Meat byproducts — all the organs and other animal parts that don’t end up at the supermarket — are perfectly fine, she said.

“Dogs and cats happily eat organ meat,” Heinze said. “Americans do not.”

Okin has some thoughts about that. The argument that pet foods’ use of byproducts is an “efficiency” in meat production is based on the premise that offal and organs are gross, he says. (Look no further than the collective gag over a finely textured beef product known as “pink slime.”) But if we would reconsider that, his study found, about one-quarter of all the animal-derived calories in pet food would be sufficient for all the people of Colorado.

“I’ve traveled around the world and I’m cognizant that what is considered human edible is culture-specific,” he said. “Maybe we need to have a conversation about what we will eat.”

In the meantime, Okin suggests that people thinking about getting a dog might consider a smaller one — a terrier rather than a Great Dane, say. Or, if you think a hamster might fulfill your pet desires, go that route.

Heinze, for her part, sometimes offers the same counsel to vegetarian or vegan clients who want their pets to go meat-free. They are typically motivated by animal welfare concerns, not environmental ones, she said, but such diets are not always best for dogs, and they never are for cats. read more…

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Dogs lose their appetite when depressed just like humans

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There’s nothing like a good scratch.

However new research has shown that far from the picture of satisfaction and contentment, itching and scratching is a tell-tale sign of depression in dogs.

Scientists discovered that dermatological issues are not only one of the most common health problems among dogs – they’re also one of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety.

One in six trips to see a vet are due to skin problems for dogs. And 75 per cent of dogs diagnosed with dermatological issues suffer depression meaning thousands of pets are probably suffering from the blues.

A series of studies by Zoetis, the world’s leading animal health company, showed that dogs suffering depression exhibit many of the same traits as people.

The most common symptom was being less playful, followed by being less sociable with people, restlessness, decreased appetite, and interacting less with other dogs.

And depression in dogs has a knock-on effect on their owners, with 80 per cent saying their pet’s condition diminished their own quality of life as well.

Dr Anita Patel, one of Britain’s leading veterinary dermatologists, said: “Most people assume that itching and scratching is totally normal dog behaviour. The odd scratch is fine but when you see a dog frequently itching, scratching, nibbling or licking themselves, that’s a strong sign of a skin condition. Left untreated, this can exacerbate the problem and lead to more serious issues.

“What’s not been properly understood previously is how dermatological problems can affect a dog’s wellbeing. What we now know is that skin issues can be one of the biggest causes of depression for dogs. And like people, when a dog is depressed, they lose interest in the things they usually love – like going for a walk, playing, or having a fuss from their owner.”

Itchiness in pets – known as pruritus – is defined as an unpleasant sensation that provokes the desire or reflex to scratch.

It is common in many types of skin disorders and is often accompanied by red, inflamed areas of skin and may lead to pyoderma – infection of the skin.

Analysis of more than 80,000 veterinary appointments at more than 200 practices across the UK found the condition is most common around the ears, accounting for 44 per cent of cases, or around the legs and feet – 27 per cent.

Experts say that consistent itching, scratching, nibbling, biting and licking in dogs is not normal behaviour and owners should seek veterinary help if they see these symptoms.

Allowing a dog to continue to itch and scratch can lead to skin damage with potential for creating a secondary infection requiring antibiotic treatment.

Flea allergy is one of the most common causes of the condition, so summer is the season when dogs are most likely to develop it. Pet owners are urged to use parasite prevention treatments to avoid pruritus in the first place.

It can also be caused by food and contact allergies to shampoo or other household products, while the more serious atopic dermatitis is associated with environment allergens such as pollen and dust.

If allergies are untreated the dogs can get a skin infection and need to be treated with antibiotics prescribed by their vet.

However, for dogs already suffering pruritus, combating the condition has historically been difficult because existing treatments are typically steroid-based and can lead to numerous side effects.

But a new single injection is targeting the itch signalling in the brain. It works neutralising the protein triggered by the immune system which tells the brain to scratch.  read more…

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Basics of dog ownership

Every dog owner should know basic first aid for dogs. You don’t have to become a triage nurse to own a dog but learn how to assess your dog’s injury and treat it. This knowledge can either save your dog’s life or save you a ton of cash. Take a first aid course and learn how to assess, clean, dress, and maintain a wound or injury. You should know the difference between a cut or abrasion that may require daily home care cleaning and a bandage and a wound that needs stitches and medication. Learn how to prepare for, maintain and care for your dog’s injury.

This may sound redundant but food goes in one end of your dog and poop comes out the other. Learn what is healthy on both ends.

Good healthy food will produce healthy poop. Any raw food feeder will tell you we have a bit of an obsession with our dog’s poop as we have learned it is the first indicator of our dog’s overall health. Mucus in poop is not healthy, loose stools are not healthy, a poop that is so large it requires a back hoe to pick up is not healthy. Blood in stools is not healthy, black coloured stools are not healthy. Pay more attention to what comes out of your dog’s back end.

Now that we have covered one end, let’s look at the other.

Dogs will vomit, they do that once in a while. It is completely normal for them to do it a 2 a.m. and choose your antique, vegetable died, hand woven, imported Persian carpet as their vomit vessel. What is not normal is if it is happening regularly.

Your wonderful puppy will turn into a juvenile delinquent around nine months of age. This is normal yet highly problematic, especially if you have not participated in any obedience/leadership training up to that point and will be even more difficult if you don’t participate in any obedience/leadership training after that point.

The median age of dogs that are given up for adoption is between the ages of nine months and two years. They are obnoxious teenagers and if they have never been given boundaries and limitations to live within they will be downright horrendous. Take obedience classes and learn how to set proper boundaries for your dog to live within before the problems arise.

A GoFundMe page shouldn’t be needed to pay for your vet bills. Dogs are expensive. The cheapest thing about dog ownership is the price you paid to acquire your dog.

Food, beds, toys, accessories, day care, dog walkers, pet sitters, kenneling, vet bills all need to be budgeted for because it is Murphy’s law or maybe karma that the month you are digging between the couch cushions for extra change is the month your dog will need an emergency vet visit.

Not all veterinarians are created equal. Find a veterinarian that mirrors your own personal health-care regime. You should feel that you can trust your veterinarian 100 per cent and that they are working with you, having your pet’s best health interests at heart.

If you find yourself having to fight for your dogs well-being then find another vet. If you find yourself having to inform your veterinarian about diet and nutrition and the current protocols for vaccines, spaying and neutering, find another vet. If you find yourself having to defend your beliefs in alternative, holistic health care, find another vet. If you find yourself leaving the veterinarian’s office with more questions than answers, find another vet. Read more…

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These #dogs are separated by fences — but that doesn’t stop their sweet #friendship

Very interesting

Messy and Audi are two dogs who live across the street from one another in Thailand. For the last year or so, they’ve had as close a friendship as can be — without ever having actually met face to face.

Oranit Kittragul noticed that Audi would often cry when left alone outside in his yard. So Kittragul would dispatch her dog — the sweet, friendly Messy — outside into their yard to provide some comfort.

Messy would bark a little, which seemed to help Audi feel better. “I don’t know what they are communicating,” she told The Dodo “But he stops crying.”

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When Messy and Audi finally met face to face, they embraced.

Then one day, Audi got loose. He seized the chance to finally have contact with Messy, who welcomed the sweet embrace.

“He ran to my dog and they hugged each other,” Kittragul said.

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Oranit Kittragul luckily caught a photo of the sweet embrace.

Kittragul shared the photos on social media. While the hug actually took place in February, in the last couple of weeks, the dogs have been featured in publications across the world. read more…

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Can Dogs Eat Grapes? Your Question Answered.

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As most pet owners are well aware, most dogs will eat absolutely anything. They will snack on grass, vomit it up, and then eat that. They will inhale another dog’s pile of poop like it was a Michelin-starred meal. If humans stuck to a canine-approved diet, we would grow alarmingly ill, family members gathered around our hospital beds to keep vigil as our condition deteriorates, all while our dog munches on discarded syringes.

Despite their constitution, however, some seemingly harmless foods tend to challenge a dog’s cast-iron stomachs. A common question: Can dogs eat grapes? If not, why not?

More from Life’s Big Questions

There’s absolutely no ambiguity about the former. Grapes—a fruit from the genus Vitis plant—are confirmed to be highly toxic to dogs. Ingesting even a tiny bit of a grape can, in extreme cases, lead to acute kidney failure. Your dog may also experience lethargy, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dehydration, and reduced urine output.

If your dog is suspected of having ingested a grape, urgent medical attention is necessary. You would need to induce vomiting to try and clear the grape out of the dog’s digestive tract. A veterinarian can guide you through the steps.

Whether the dog is able to upchuck or not, urgent veterinary attention is essential. The vet might use activated charcoal to absorb the grape or begin to monitor for signs of kidney damage.

All this over a grape? It might seem ridiculous given a dog’s hearty appetite for things that would make a human double over, but it’s a fact. Researchers don’t yet know why dogs react to grapes in this way, other than recognizing some component of the fruit is absorbed as a toxin in the animal’s system. This also holds true for raisins (which are actually dried grapes, of course), another seemingly harmless snack that can prove fatal for dogs.

If you ask a friend or family member whether dogs can eat grapes, they might tell you it’s breed- or size-dependent. It is not—any dog of any breed or size can have a serious reaction to grapes and raisins. read more…

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Fireworks & dog panicking

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Soon, the darkest hours of my Chihuahua’s life will begin. It’s (curses) fireworks season.

My dog, Bailey, like many other dogs, goes into an absolute panic when the explosions begin. His eyes open wide, staring in terror, and he begins panting. If I’m seated, he makes a beeline for the top of my head, then he starts running up and down the stairs in search of a safe place.

By the end of the conflagration, which can go on for hours, he has devolved into a whining, angst-ridden creature who can’t be comforted.

Last year, my vet prescribed a sedative, acepromazine, a common tranquilizer that appears to work by keeping dopamine, which transmits emotion signals, from reaching brain receptors. It also stabilizes heart rhythms and lowers blood pressure.

It worked on July 4, and again on July 5 and again on July 6. I apparently live in a very patriotic neighborhood. By July 7, I grew concerned about possible side-effects, but fortunately, the neighborhood seemed to have exhausted its arsenal.

While I was glad that he was not in a complete meltdown, I felt like one of those bad parents that get eviscerated on Facebook for giving their cranky children Benadryl to make them sleep.

I know I’m not alone in this, so I decided to get some more advice on treating Bailey’s anxiety. JustAnswer.com put me in touch with Dr. Michael Salkin, a veterinarian with expertise in advanced training in dog behavior. Salkin worked in the Bay Area for many years before joining JustAnswer.com, where he says he now works harder than he ever did before. Fortunately, he loves it.

Salkin says anxiolytic benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) are good choices for easing anxiety in dogs. They shouldn’t be used long term, however, because dogs can build up a tolerance to them, making them less effective. They also impact the quality of life for the dog.

Instead, Salkin says, vets are using a new treatment, prescribing Sileo (dexmedetomidine), which has been used for years as a light anesthetic. It alters the perception of stimuli, such as explosions, Salkin says, and “lightly spaces them out so they don’t react adversely to the sound.”

A drawback of these medications is that each must be administered about an hour in advance for it to work properly, and you might not be able to predict when the noise will start.

To avoid drugs altogether, Salkin recommends a behavioral modification he calls the “happy routine.” He cautions, however, that you might not want to do this in public.

Once the explosions start, he says, run around your house, waving your arms, shouting and throwing treats around. The dog’s attention is deflected from the explosions and onto its crazy owner. Eventually, the dog can start to associate fireworks with treats and lose its anxiety.

It takes time, however, but if we start now, our dogs might be habituated to explosions by New Year’s Eve’s — Bailey’s second worst night of the year. read more…

 

What you think of these Crazy #Dog Laws?

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There are some crazy laws related to dogs throughout the United States. In most cases, it is not clear how they are enforced or why people believed there was a need for such a law. It is obvious, however, that dogs play a large enough role in our communities to warrant a lot of legislation about them.

In Illinois, it is against the law to give a dog whiskey. It is also a violation of the law to give a dog a lighted cigar. There is nothing on the books about whether the dog may light the cigar on his own.

International Falls, Minnesota passed a law making it illegal for a cat to chase a dog up a telephone pole. Hopefully, there is no victim blaming if a dog does get chased up a pole by a cat.

For a dog to mate in a legal manner in Ventura, California, a permit is required. Presumably, there are many violations of this law, as is often the case with forbidden behavior.

If you’d like to hold hands or display any other forms of public affection while walking a dog on a leash, you can’t do it in New Castle, Delaware without violating the law. I suppose this protects a dog from getting tangled up in a weird love triangle?

Dogs and cats in Barber, North Carolina are not allowed to fight. It certainly seems wise, but why is it illegal for these fights between species to occur? It’s possible that the motivation was preventing an underground world of fighting along the lines of cockfighting and dogfighting.

Animals in California, including dogs, are not allowed to mate within 500 yards of a church or a school. Apparently, these sexual escapades are something that we need to prevent those at church or at school from witnessing.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, dogs who bark after 6 pm are violating the law. Enforcing this one seems absurdly challenging!

In Galesburg, Illinois, there is a statute stating that no person may keep a smelly dog. There is quite a spectrum for canine odor, so it’s hard to imagine an exact legal definition of “smelly” for dogs.

If you have a French Poodle who you want to take to the opera, you will have to do so someplace other than in Chicago, because there is a law on the books prohibiting that. Apparently, someone opposes exposing these dogs to that particular cultural experience. Read more…

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