Here is an outstanding article on this subject from Karin Brulliard is a national reporter who runs the Animalia blog. Previously, she was an international news editor; a foreign correspondent in South Africa, Pakistan and Israel; and a local reporter.
The British Veterinary Association, which represents thousands of practitioners in the United Kingdom, felt compelled to hop onto Twitter last week to issue a notable statement: “There’s currently no reliable scientific evidence to indicate autism in dogs (or its link to vaccines),” the group wrote.
The tweet came in response to a widely condemned call-out from the television show “Good Morning Britain” for interviews with pet owners who believe their dogs developed “canine autism” as a result of vaccines or who refuse routine shots over worries about side effects. But the association also suggested its response had roots across the Atlantic: “We are aware of an increase in anti-vaccination pet owners in the U.S.,” it said, “who have voiced concerns that vaccinations may lead to their dogs developing autism-like behavior.”
Has the anti-vaccine movement, which has fueled measles outbreaks in recent years, spread to American pets?
Not exactly, according to major veterinary groups in this country. John de Jong, a Boston-area veterinarian and incoming president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, said his organization firmly agrees with its British counterpart: There’s no evidence for autism in dogs or any link to vaccines — a theory that has been thoroughly discredited in humans. But he also said he has never been asked by a client about this notion, nor does he know of other veterinarians who have.
Heather Loenser, a senior veterinary officer with the American Animal Hospital Association, echoed that.
“I have never had a client voice that concern,” Loenser, who practices in New Jersey, wrote in an email, adding that she has only “seen it pop up on social media from time to time.”
No one tracks pet vaccination rates. That said, both Loenser and de Jong said they’ve seen small increases in clients who question the necessity or frequency of pet vaccinations. De Jong said some are influenced by breeders who tell buyers to wait on shots until after a dog has produced litters, while others express a vaguer skepticism about possible side effects.
More generally, he said, the doubts are reflective of a pet “humanization” trend that has driven a surge in organic and grain-free pet food sales, expensive and invasive end-of-life care, and doggy fitness centers.
“It’s fair to say that a lot of what we see in veterinary medicine seems to follow the curve of what’s popular in human medicine,” de Jong said. “The human-animal bond is at an all-time high, and people consider their pets as extended members of the family.”
The rabies vaccine is required by law for dogs and cats in most states. Other “core” vaccines, including those for distemper and parvovirus in dogs, are strongly recommended. They have been highly effective, veterinarians point out. Rabies has been eradicated in domestic canines, and distemper is extremely rare. De Jong said he treated dogs with parvovirus as a veterinary student in the early 1980s but now seldom sees it.
“If you take a look at the general health and longevity of both animals and people in society today, we have longer and healthier lives due to preventive medications, preventive health care, good diets and vaccines,” he said.
Vaccines can have minor side effects like swelling and very rarely more serious ones. And although pets typically are offered a series of immunizations, pet owners can discuss with their veterinarians which ones, other than rabies, are critical. A cat living in a high-rise condo, for example, might not need a vaccine for leukemia, de Jong said.
“Many of our North American colleagues believe, as I do, that vaccines should be tailored to the individual pet based on the animal’s risk factors and lifestyle,” said Loenser, whose organization offers an online “lifestyle-based vaccine calculator” to help guide owners’ conversations with their vets.
While de Jong said the veterinary association has detected no major cause for alarm about anti-vaccination-driven outbreaks in pets, he emphasized how much he hopes the idea doesn’t spread. Many diseases against which pets are immunized, such as rabies, can infect both animals and people.
“Widespread use of vaccines has prevented death and disease in millions and millions of animals,” he said. “The benefits far outweigh the risks, by a mile.”
Federal health experts say the worst of the country’s nastiest flu season in nearly 10 years is pretty much over.
But while many of us were following doctors orders on how to avoid influenza, many pet owners might not have realized that their canine friends have their own version of the flu, which is almost as bad.
And veterinarians across Florida have been seeing an increasing number of cases in recent months.
It’s caused by the H3N2 virus, which first cropped up in the United States in 2015.
Once dogs catch it, the viral disease makes them feel just as lousy as when humans get the flu. “They become lethargic. They have quite a distinct temperature rise,” says Dr. Colin Parrish, a virologist with the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University. But a continual cough that lasts for a long period of time is probably the clearest sign your dog has the flu.
The viral infection is most commonly spread when infected dogs cough and sneeze anyplace where other dogs are in close quarters, like kennels, dog parks, doggie daycare centers and grooming parlors.
For all the similarities between the human and canine influenzas, dogs rarely die from the disease. And humans can’t catch the strain from their dogs. But there is evidence that the H3N2 strain can be passed to domestic cats.
If you suspect your dog has the flu, experts say you should visit your veterinarian, who may suggest you quarantine the sick dog from anywhere between five days and three weeks, depending on the severity of the infection.
As with the human flu, there’s a vaccine available for canine influenza.
To learn more about the dog flu, please visit the website for the Baker Institute for Animal Health.
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ALBANY — Will you soon be able to provide pot for your pooch?
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, Westchester County, introduced legislation Thursday that would change New York law to allow veterinarians to prescribe medical marijuana to animals.
“Medical marijuana has helped countless people in the management and treatment of chronic and debilitating illnesses,” Paulin’s bill states.
“Research suggests that animals can also benefit from cannabis use to similarly treat their ailments.”
Nevada and California are also considering legislation to legalize medical marijuana for animals, saying it could help pets with chronic illnesses.
“Animal owners and caregivers would therefore be given an alternative option to alleviate their pets’ pain,” Paulin’s bill said.
“This could be helpful to many animals in need of relief, especially those that have chronic illnesses and for whom more traditional medical treatment has not proven to be effective.”
The bill may face an uphill battle with the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The measure has yet to gain a Senate sponsor, and Cuomo has moved cautiously with expanding the state’s medical marijuana program.
New York first started to allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana in non-smokeable forms in January 2016, but the program has struggled.
As a result, the state has expanded the types of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana, let nurse practitioners prescribe it and wants to double the number of dispensaries to 40.
The program currently has 1,500 registered practitioners and about 47,600 patients. according to the state Health Department.
Cuomo indicated in January that New York will also study whether to legalize recreational marijuana.
“This is an important topic, it is a hotly debated topic — pardon the pun — and it would be nice to have some facts in the middle of the debate once in a while,” Cuomo said in his budget address.
Article by Lauren Zumbach and Ally Marotti
Pets on planes are significantly outnumbered by human passengers. But for airlines, dealing with passengers’ four-legged traveling companions can be fraught with problems.
Within the past year, Chicago-based United Airlines has found itself in the spotlight when a giant rabbit named Simon died aboard a trans-Atlantic flight and when the airline denied a seat to an emotional support peacock named Dexter.
Just this week, the airline said it would “assume full responsibility” for the death of a 10-month-old French bulldog that appeared to have suffocated Monday after it was placed inside an overhead compartment on a three-hour flight. On Tuesday, United reportedly sent a Kansas City, Mo.-bound German shepherd to Japan by mistake.
Travel industry experts say consumers increasingly want to be able to bring their pets on their travels. That leaves airlines balancing the desire to cater to those flyers’ wishes with the challenges of safely transporting animals — and the risk of courting fierce backlash if things go wrong.
The U.S. Department of Transportation doesn’t track the number of animals passengers carry on board with them or incidents involving animals in the cabin with their owners.
But United has been carrying a growing share of pets transported in the cargo hold — 138,178 in 2017, up about 42 percent since 2015 and accounting for about 27 percent of all animals U.S. airlines transported last year, according to the Transportation Department.
Over the same two-year period, the overall number of animals airlines transported fell 5 percent, while the number flown by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines declined 63 percent and 41 percent, respectively.
United also reported an above-average number of animals that were injured, died or lost while in its custody. In 2017, 1.3 out of every 10,000 animals the carrier transported in cargo holds died, according to the Transportation Department, compared with 0.47 out of every 10,000 across all airlines that reported data.
United spokesman Charles Hobart said the airline is “liberal” in what it considers an injury. The overwhelming majority of deaths were due to previously unknown medical conditions or involved animals that weren’t acclimated to their crates, Hobart said.
“Anytime there’s an incident, injury or an animal passes in our care, we do a thorough review … and we use that information that we’ve discovered to help ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Dog owner says United disregarded her pet’s barks for help before it died in overhead bin
United apologized again Wednesday for the puppy’s death in the overhead bin on a Houston to New York City flight.
The passenger told the flight attendant there was a dog in the carrier, but the flight attendant “did not hear or understand her,” United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin said in an email.
“We take full responsibility and are deeply sorry for this tragic accident,” Schmerin said. “We remain in contact with the family to express our condolences and offer support.”
United said it would begin issuing brightly colored bag tags to customers traveling with pets in the cabin by April to help flight attendants identify bags holding pets.
Airlines have put restrictions on pet travel, particularly during extreme temperatures or for dog and cat breeds susceptible to breathing issues, but rules vary by airline.
Some, like JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines, only transport pets that passengers can bring in the cabin.
American will not let passengers check a pet if the ground temperature is below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees at any location on the itinerary. It also does not allow snub-nosed dogs, such as Boston terriers and bulldogs, to be checked; those breeds are thought to be vulnerable to breathing problems.
The list of adult dog breeds United Airlines does not allow to be checked is shorter: It includes just five types of bulldogs. The French bulldog that died Monday would not have been allowed to fly in the cargo hold, the airline said.
Other breeds, such as adult Boston terriers, American bulldogs or pugs, can’t fly in United’s cargo holds between May 15 and Sept. 15.
Other breeds must have certain crates or may only be accepted up to a certain weight. United’s policy also touches on adult chickens, piglets, sugar gliders, primates and certain giant rabbits.
“We have decided it is in our customers’ best interests to have the option to fly pets with us,” Hobart said. “They can fly in the cabin if the animal is the right size, but if the animal doesn’t meet that criteria, we provide another option. And the overwhelming majority of those animals travel with no issues.”
Airlines generally avoid marketing themselves as the preferred carrier for pet families, said Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group. It’s a “no-win situation” due to the liability and negative publicity when things go wrong and the fact that pet-free travelers, especially those with allergies, aren’t always enthusiastic about sharing the cabin with pets, Harteveldt said.
United mistakenly flies Kansas-bound dog to Japan
But airlines also don’t want to turn away potential customers who want to bring Fido on the family vacation.
Animals have traveled on airplanes for nearly a century, according to the trade organization International Air Transport Association. But the way people think about those furry travelers has changed. They’re not just animals, they’re family members, and experts say more people are traveling with pets.
Susan Smith, the owner of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Pet Travel, said she answers nearly 100 questions a day about traveling with or transporting pets. And the questions aren’t just about domestic flights.
“China to Turkey, South Africa to London,” she said. “We’re a mobile world, and people want to bring their pets with them.”
Baby boomers are traveling with their pets, as are millennials, who have waited longer to have kids than previous generations and bought pets instead, Smith said. Additionally, there’s been an influx of people traveling with emotional support and service animals, which fly in the cabin for free.
On United, passengers who can’t bring a pet in the cabin can use the airline’s PetSafe program. Customers receive information on preparing the animal for the trip, such as familiarizing the pet with its kennel and driving the pet through a car wash while in the kennel, which approximates what it might experience in a plane’s cargo hold, Hobart said.
Animals are taken from the airport to the airplane in climate-controlled vehicles, and they are last to be loaded in the cargo hold and first to be removed, he said.
It’s not cheap to implement those accommodations for pets, Smith said, and pet owners tend to be loyal to airlines that treat their pets well.
“If pet owners have a good experience with companies that provide services for pets, they tell people. They’re very, very loyal and they always come back,” she said. “In this day and age, it’s all about service, because competition has made it that way.”
Still, many airlines are still struggling to keep their policies up to date with how people feel about their pets, said Kelsey Eberly, a staff attorney at the Animal Defense Fund. No one views animals like pieces of baggage anymore, she said.
“So often our laws and even corporate policies are stuck in the past and continue to treat them like a chair, like a bag,” Eberly said. “Really, their value is so much greater.”
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West Sacramento pet hotel keeps tails wagging
A customer checks in her dog at Wag Hotel in West Sacramento. SARAH DOWLING — DAILY DEMOCRAT
By Sarah Dowling, Woodland Daily Democrat
POSTED: 01/30/18, 10:13 AM PST |
Kristen Rau greets Wag Hotel regular “Auggie” at their West Sacramento location. SARAH DOWLING — DAILY DEMOCRAT
When Kristen Rau walks the halls of West Sacramento’s Wag Hotel, she greets her guests with a smile, knowing most by name — of course sometimes the names are of the “Fluffy” and “Fido” variety.
Nestled behind a group of commercial buildings and marked by a simple, three-letter sign, Wag caters to cats and dogs, providing lodging, grooming, play groups and more for Sacramento-area residents.
The hotel chain, with locations in West Sacramento, San Francisco, Redwood City, Oakland and most recently Santa Clara, opened in 2005 by pet lovers who couldn’t find a suitable place to leave their pets during business trips. West Sacramento was the first.
“There was a lot missing for pets in terms of good care,” explained Rau, Wag’s director of customer service. “Back then there were only kennels.”
Wag first started as a boarding facility, but has expanded its services to daycare and overnight stays, just like its human counterpart. The hotel is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year including holidays, Rau added.
Standing in the lobby, Rau pointed out a hanging menu behind a service counter, which allows people to build a “customized stay” for their pets.
“We have all different types of dogs (as guests),” Rau said. “Crazy energy dogs to more mellow ones. People check in and find what’s best for their dog and (staff) guide them through.”
Giving a tour of the West Sacramento facility, Rau started in the kitchen, explaining that pet parents can request specialized meals for their dogs and cats. Some want simple dry food, while others want steak, chicken or eggs for their pets. Hotel staff do their best to make this happen for a more personalized stay.
While Wag specializes in care for dogs, there is a smaller boarding area for cats. According to Rau, most of their feline guests live in a home with dogs — their parents bringing both to Wag for care. The cat section also has its own air filtration system, so the cannot smell the dogs and the dogs cannot smell them.
During a recent visit, only one cat guest was present. A single staff member cared for her, letting the cat roam around the room.
“I want to take her home,” the staff member said.
There are around 180 rooms — of various sizes — in total. From the smaller kennels similar to what can be seen in an animal shelter to the “Capitol Suite,” there are options.
“The Deluxe Suites are a client favorite,” Rau explained. These rooms have webcam access tot he pet from anywhere in the world at any time, that way pet owners “have the comfort of knowing” what their dogs are up to. The rooms also have memory foam bedding, toys, and a mounted television that usually plays Animal Planet or a similar channel for guests.
Meanwhile, in the Capitol Suite, pet parents can Skype with their dogs or Fido can simply watch a movie on Netflix, which is included in the package.
“Some parents are very specific and pick out movies for their dogs,” Rau said.
The room also has a “lavender scent infusion” to create a calm, relaxed atmosphere.
When not in their rooms, guests are able to join different play groups — both indoors and outside — with other pups. A handler is always on site to make sure everyone gets along. Sometimes staff have to adjust play groups based on how certain dogs interact.
In the outside area, Rau greeted a guest named “Auggie.”
“He comes every single day since he was a puppy,” she said, petting him. “He has grown up with us.”
Auggie is just one of many dogs to do just that.
For more information, visit waghotels.com.
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The Food and Drug Administration has not approved cannabis for pets, in part because there is little research showing its effectiveness. Veterinarians are not allowed to write prescriptions for the products and, in states where marijuana is illegal, are wary of discussing the idea. Last year, a proposed state law was defeated in Nevada that would have made it possible for veterinarians to prescribe cannabis to pets with chronic illnesses. Still, users swear by the products.