** A message from the K-9 Angels Outreach and Education Committee **
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** A message from the K-9 Angels Outreach and Education Committee **
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KHOU11 – Houston
April 15th 2016
Local News Video HERE
By Dr. Becker
I have some encouraging news!
On March 1, 2016, the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control Committee, under the auspices of the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, published revised recommendations for the handling of pets overdue for a rabies re-vaccination in the event they’re exposed to the virus.
The new guidelines, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, recommend that cats and dogs exposed to rabies who are overdue for a vaccine be given a booster shot (re-vaccination) followed by an observation period rather than be quarantined or euthanized.1
Currently, if a pet with a lapsed rabies vaccination is exposed to a rabid animal, the law in many states requires the pet to be quarantined for several months at the owner’s expense, or euthanized.
The revised guidelines also recommend reducing the quarantine period from 6 months to 4 months for unvaccinated cats and dogs exposed to rabies.
The new guidelines follow the results of a study conducted at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (KSVDL) by veterinary researchers led by Dr. Michael C. Moore.2
Dr. Moore and his team set out to evaluate whether dogs and cats overdue (by law) for a rabies vaccine respond satisfactorily to a booster (re-vaccination).
For 4 years, between 2010 and 2014, the researchers collected blood samples from 74 dogs and 33 cats that had 1) been exposed to rabies and brought to a veterinarian, or 2) were brought to a veterinarian for a rabies booster.
The KSVDL researchers gave a rabies booster to each dog and cat to evaluate their anamnestic antibody responses.
They discovered that after 5 to 15 days, all the animals – both those with current vaccinations and those overdue for a vaccination – had rabies neutralizing antibody titers of ≥ 0.5 IU/mL, indicating immunity to the virus.
The study results demonstrate that when an animal with an out-of-date rabies vaccination receives the booster, the antibodies in his or her blood rise, protecting against exposure to the virus. The study authors concluded:
“Findings supported immediate booster vaccination followed by observation for 45 days of dogs and cats with an out-of-date vaccination status that are exposed to rabies, as is the current practice for dogs and cats with current vaccination status.”3
Moore said, “When it comes to vaccinating either people or animals, they don’t just all of a sudden on a predetermined date have zero protection or loss of priming.”
The team at the Rabies Laboratory at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory gets several calls each month about cats and dogs that have been exposed to rabies and are overdue for a vaccine. Traditionally, the only options available have been a very costly 6-month quarantine or euthanasia.
“We are very excited that people might have an additional option if their cat or dog is out-of-date and exposed to rabies,” said Moore.
More interesting than the rabies booster findings for those of us fighting against over-vaccination of pets is what the researchers discovered about the dogs and cats in the study before they were given rabies re-vaccinations.
Based on blood samples drawn on day 0 of the study, several of the animals whose rabies vaccinations were out-of-date had acceptable and even high rabies antibody titers pre-booster. Examples:
- A dog that was 3 months overdue for a 3-year vaccination had a pre-booster titer of 9.7 IU/mL
- A dog 5.5 months overdue for a 3-year vaccination had a pre-booster titer of 12 IU/mL
- A dog 2 years overdue for a 1-year vaccination had a pre-booster titer of 0.6 IU/mL, as did a dog 3.5 months overdue for a 1-year vaccination
- A dog 1.5 years overdue for a 1-year vaccination had a pre-booster titer of 1.8 IU/mL
- A cat 9 months overdue for a 3-year vaccination had a pre-booster titer of 12 IU/mL
For the entire group of 74 dogs, those with current vaccinations (55) had a median pre-booster titer of 2.6 IU/mL. The remaining 19 dogs with out-of-date vaccinations had a median pre-booster titer of 2.0 IU/mL –well over the ≥ 0.5 IU/mL that indicates protection against the virus.
Of the 33 kitties, 7 had a current rabies vaccination and the remaining 26 were overdue. The cats with a current vaccine had a median pre-booster titer of 2.4 IU/mL, and interestingly, the kitties whose vaccinations were out-of-date had a median pre-booster titer of 6.3 IU/mL – again, well over the ≥ 0.5 IU/mL target.
This means the vast majority of pets in the study, whether they had a current rabies vaccination or were overdue for a 1- or 3-year vaccine, had adequate rabies neutralizing antibody titers and were protected in the event of exposure to the virus prior to receiving a rabies booster.
Unfortunately, the veterinary community can only provide recommendations with regard to the management of pets exposed to rabies. According to Dr. Richard Ford, an emeritus professor at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine:
“The application, interpretation and enforcement of rabies vaccination laws can vary significantly from state to state, and even county to county. Complex and sometimes conflicting rabies laws can lead to considerable confusion, misinterpretation of state and local statutes and inappropriate actions on the part of individual practitioners.”
As Dr. Jean Dodds, veterinary vaccine authority and chairperson of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) Communications Committee, points out in a press release titled “Changes Sought to Rabies Vaccination Laws Based on Scientific Research”:
“Until legal changes occur, animal guardians and veterinarians must comply with existing legal statutes. Rabies serum antibody titering can be performed for information, documentation, and to satisfy export and import requirements, but this does not replace the legal requirement for rabies booster vaccinations.”4
Hopefully, I’ll have more good news to report in the near future about states adopting the new recommendations in the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, 2016.
In the meantime, you can bookmark RabiesAware.org, a new site (sponsored by the veterinary drug company Merial) that “provides rapid access to current, validated state-level laws and regulations on rabies vaccination.” The information is a resource for veterinarians, but pet guardians will also find it useful. The site is still being populated as of this writing, so not every state has information available yet.
By Dr. Becker
The first few weeks you and your new dog spend together will shape your future relationship and forge the lifelong bond between you.
To make the most of these crucially important first days and weeks, it’s very smart to do some advance planning, including the following steps.
Taking excellent care of a pet requires time, energy, and commitment. To avoid either neglecting the new dog, or battles over who didn’t do what to care for him, it’s best to set everyone’s expectations ahead of time.
Before your new pet arrives, sit down with all members of your household to discuss the many details involved in becoming dog guardians.
For example, decide what family members will be responsible for which pet care chores. Often, children ask for a pet and their parents oblige without realizing a child’s desire for a pet doesn’t always translate to a desire to take care of a pet. Also, children need help to learn how to care for a pet properly.
Even the adults in the family, if chores aren’t assigned ahead of time, can assume it’s the responsibility of someone other than them to, for example, pick up the dog poop from the backyard.
- If everyone in the house leaves for work or school every day, who will come in and care for the puppy?
- Who’s on potty walk duty? How about when your new furry family member needs to go out in the middle of the night?
- Who will feed and exercise the dog? (Meals, exercise and playtime should happen on a predictable schedule each day.)
- Who will take him for his veterinary wellness exams?
- Who will be taking care of trimming nails, dental care, and brushing and bathing the dog?
Dogs thrive on routine and consistency, so there are household logistics to consider, for example:
- Where will your new dog eat her meals?
- Where will her bowls of fresh water be placed?
- Where will she sleep – in your bedroom? Will she sleep with you or in her own bed?
- Will the dog be gated off from certain parts of the house? If so, how?
- If you plan to crate train, where will you keep it?
I’m an advocate of crate training, especially for puppies, but also adult dogs. If you haven’t already, take a look at my videos on crate training, which offer a step-by-step guide to getting your dog used to his crate.
I consider crating a very important part of keeping your dog safe when you’re not at home or can’t keep a constant eye on him. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of a crate, keep in mind that dogs, by nature, are den animals. They crave being in a small, safe, dark spot.
Have the crate ready when your pet comes home. If he’s allowed to sleep in your bed with you for several days and then you move him to a crate, he’ll likely have a more difficult time adjusting. This is because your dog will have learned his nighttime sleeping spot is your bed.
I recommend purchasing all necessary pet supplies before you bring your new dog home. This includes a leash, collar or harness, non-toxic food and water bowls, ID tag, toys, biodegradable potty bags, non-toxic bed, crate – everything you’ll need to be well-equipped when the new addition arrives.
I also strongly recommend you keep your dog on the same food she’s been eating, even if it’s poor quality, as you transition to a healthier type of food. Your home may be a blessed improvement over what your dog been used to, but her body will still interpret this wonderful change in circumstances as stressful. Change, whether good or bad, gets translated as stress in your pet’s body.
Puppies, in particular, experience a lot of stress because they’re being separated from their mom and littermates for the first time. They’re also changing environments – often both indoor and outdoor environments – which can bring new allergens that affect their immune system.
Your new dog has a brand new family of humans and often other four-legged members as well. The last thing her body needs right now is a brand new diet that might cause tummy problems.
That’s why I recommend you continue to feed whatever diet your pet is currently eating, and then slowly wean her onto a better quality diet after she settles in.
This is definitely something you’ll want to do before bringing your new dog home with you. You might not think of everything you need to do right off the bat, but at a minimum, you should move cords out of reach, plus plants and other hazardous temptations.
If you’re bringing home a puppy, you’ll have a built-in incentive for keeping a neat, clean house, because if it’s been lost or left behind, puppy will find it!
Pet-proofing your home before your new canine companion arrives is the best way to prevent choking, vomiting, diarrhea or another crisis during those important first few weeks.
If your dog will be in your yard off-leash, you’ll want to insure there’s no way he can escape. You’ll also want to avoid using herbicides or pesticides, make sure there are no potentially toxic plants growing, and clear away any brush and debris that could harbor pests during the warmer months of the year.
Whether your new canine companion is a puppy or an adult dog, you’ll want to get her socialization underway as soon as you bring her home, along with basic obedience training. The best time to start puppy play groups is at 8 weeks of age, then moving on to puppy kindergarten, beginning, intermediate and advanced obedience classes. These are essential elements in raising a well-balanced dog.
What I tell new dog parents is if you bring home a dog but don’t plan to socialize or educate her properly, it’s a lot like having a child and deciding not to allow her to make friends, have adventures, or attend school. And starting puppy class at 6 months of age is like beginning to parent your child on her 14th birthday; there will be some behaviors that will be hard to correct.
Puppies and dogs are educated about the world through socialization early on with other people, dogs, cats, and environments outside their houses. Dogs that don’t get out of their home environment long before 6 months of age often wind up with developmental or social difficulties later in life.
There’s a period of time in every puppy’s life, typically from 6 to 12 weeks of age, during which mental and social development is most achievable. If your pet isn’t socialized during that time, it can set the stage for problems years down the road.
If you adopted your dog from a shelter or rescue organization, she may have some behavior problems, fears, or lack basic training. Many dogs abandoned to shelters weren’t given the best care, and staying in a shelter environment for any length of time can also have an effect on an animal’s behavior.
Because your dog may come to you with emotional or behavioral baggage, you should be prepared to put in the time and effort required to help her succeed in her new life with you. Behavior modification using a positive reward system is the key to encouraging good behavior.
You may be able to accomplish this on your own, or you may need the help of a veterinarian or an animal behavior specialist. Most importantly, you may correct one training issue only to find another fear or phobia pop up 4 months later; hang in there with positive behavior modification until you see the desired results.
There’s a wonderful program I recommend to all new parents of adopted or rescued pets that helps dogs adjust to a new home in the least stressful manner. You can find it at A Sound Beginning, and you can immediately begin using the book’s tips and tricks and the calming music CD on your dog’s first day home.
I always recommend that dog guardians take at least a few days off from work – preferably a week – to properly welcome a new pet home. It will take some time for your puppy or dog to get acclimated to his new environment and into a consistent daily routine.
If you’re gone from home for several hours most days, I also recommend arranging for a regular dog walker or doggy daycare a few days a week. Most dogs have difficulty spending hours alone every day with no one around and nothing to do. This goes double for new canine family members, and triple for dogs who have just come from a shelter environment.
The more time you’re able to spend with your new canine companion giving him lots of positive attention and teaching him the rules and routines in his new home and life, the better the outcome for both of you.
Picture this: You’ve decided to retire in an exotic foreign country, where you don’t know the language. A friendly native looks after you but doesn’t really understand how you feel because of the language barrier. Over the years, you start to get some aches and pains, and eventually everything hurts. Your joints ache so much that it can be hard to stand up and walk—sometimes you even trip and fall, which makes you hurt even more. You used to love to be outdoors, to go for a run, but now that’s impossible—you can hardly keep your balance anymore.
To make matters worse, your eyesight is going and you can’t hear anymore, so you’re out of touch with what’s happening in the world. All you can really do is lie around and sleep, but that’s so boring, and besides, the throbbing pain in your joints keeps you from sleeping well. Your liver is worn out, so you often feel queasy, and you also get diarrhea, but you can’t hold it long enough to get your achy, stiff body to the bathroom. So you have accidents. You feel so ashamed.
You wish you could tell your caretaker all the things that are bothering you—you’ve also got an infected tooth that hurts, an itchy rash on your leg, an ingrown toenail, and a strange heavy feeling in your chest. Sometimes you can’t catch your breath and you breathe harder these days as you struggle to fill your lungs. No one really looks at you much anymore, so no one notices how badly your health has deteriorated and how poor your quality of life has become. You don’t enjoy life anymore and have very little left to live for. But there’s no escape. Every morning, you wake up and have to face that relentless pain yet again …
‘Old Age Ain’t No Place for Sissies’
Truer words were never spoken, and they apply equally to our animal companions. As they begin to age, somewhere between the ages of 6 and 9, depending on size, their bodies undergo many changes that can sneak up on their guardians if they aren’t paying close attention.
That’s why it’s vital to put your hands on your animals every day, not only to show them affection and reassure them that you care but also to check them over thoroughly: Peek into their mouths and ears, check under their tails, part their fur, examine their feet, including pads and nails, and run your hands over their entire body. Never assume that a strange new behavior or symptom is “just old age.” Feel, look, sniff, and notice—you are searching for problems that could make your animal pal uncomfortable or be life-threatening. Your animal needs and depends on you to notice and watch for signs that something is amiss. And if something is amiss, every second counts!
What are the warning signs of health problems that you should look for? Here’s a list organized by body part:
Many of these symptoms are caused by conditions that are highly treatable, so if you see any of them, be sure to get your animals to the veterinarian right away so you can start them on the road to recovery and feeling better.
Some conditions are not treatable and cause considerable discomfort. If your animal is in pain every day and/or has a terminal illness, don’t prolong the agony just because the decision to euthanize is hard on you. Put your animal’s pain first. Our animals deserve a dignified, peaceful death—timed to take place BEFORE things become unbearable. When in doubt, consult with someone whose judgment you trust. Get a second opinion and a third if you need to, but if your gut tells you that your animal is suffering, don’t delay—arrange for euthanasia as quickly as possible, preferably at home, surrounded by loved ones.
Aging is inevitable, but suffering isn’t, so let’s do everything we can to make sure our animal companions’ golden years are comfortable, healthy, and happy.