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Remember your pets this allergy season

In Animal News on June 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Photo courtesy of WellPetClinic.co.uk

As humans we are able to recognize allergies almost immediately. From a sneeze to a scratchy throat to watery eyes, our symptoms manifest themselves in very obvious ways. However, that is not the case for our four-legged friends.

Dogs and cats have seasonal allergies similar to us, yet most of their caretakers are not even aware that their playful pooch or frisky feline is suffering. The problem lies with the human assumption of how an allergen affects a human.

“It’s because of a lack of information,” Says Dr. Kate Ball, DVM. “[Our pets] just do not exhibit what most of us think of when we hear ‘seasonal allergies.’ Some [caretakers] think it’s fleas or dry skin when they see constant itching, but allergies are not always the first to come to mind.”

With dogs and cats, allergens are absorbed through the skin, usually the exposed areas like the paws and belly, and stimulate histamine production, which in turn causes inflammation.

According to Veterinary Pet Insurance statistics, one in seven dogs suffers reactions to these allergens, up from less than 10 percent in recent years. Of course some breeds are more susceptible, so guardians with Retrievers, Terriers, and Dalmatians should be mindful and pay closer attention to their dog. Most cats, however, suffer from food allergies and are less affected by airborne allergens such as pollen, mold, or dust mites.

The most common reaction to look for when determining if your dog or cat has allergies is the amount of scratching. Some dogs scratch just because they like it, others because they are bored, nervous, or stressed. However, as a guardian, if you should notice your dog is scratching more often throughout the day, for longer amounts of time and more intensely, he or she may be having an allergic reaction.

“There are varying degrees, of course,” says Dr. Ball.  “[The effects] can range from constant and debilitating to a minor annoyance.”

Some of those effects involve pets chewing at and licking parts of their body, especially the paws, which may lead to raw skin, raised welts, hair loss, open sores, and infections. Guardians should check their pets’ ears for redness, inflammation, or a distinct odor—all of which are signs of an allergic reaction.

Watch for sleeplessness, too. Most dogs sleep anywhere between 14 and 16 hours a day, and if they are constantly uncomfortable from itching, that lack of sleep may result in lethargy and a decrease in immune response.

Luckily, there are a wide variety of ways to alleviate and avoid these allergies.

First, speak with your veterinarian—the most important step before you begin any medical regimen. Your vet may have a particular medicine or may recommend over-the-counter anti-histamines such as Benadryl.

You can also try anti-itch shampoos, topical treatments, and diet changes and supplements.

Little things like turning the air conditioning on during hot days, closing off the basement, and keeping your pet indoors when the lawn is being mowed will likely make a noticeable difference. Avoiding fields and using dehumidifiers will help, too. –Brendan Quealy


American Humane donates $12,000 to rebuild Tennessee sanctuary after flood

In Animal News, Help the Animals on June 30, 2010 at 5:09 pm

The American Humane Association in June presented Tennessee animal rescue group Tipton Treasures/PAWS New England, Inc., with a $12,250 Animal Emergency Services grant in the wake of the Loosahatchie River flood. The flood destroyed the Tipton Treasures sanctuary in Millington, TN on May 1.

“Overnight, we literally saw almost four years of hard work wiped away and the figure to rebuild was staggering for such a small rescue,” said Kelly Parker, co-founder and vice president of Tipton Treasures/PAWS New England. “We were concerned that our rescue would have to close. American Humane literally saved our organization during these critical hours.”

Although sanctuary workers rescued all 43 dogs living in the sanctuary at the time of the flood, the water ruined the dogs’ housing. The sanctuary routinely rescues 15 to 20 dogs a week but has not been able to accept new animals since the disaster.

Tipton Treasures/PAWS New England has been a lifeline for local animal shelters in Tennessee with high euthanasia rates due to an epidemic of animal overpopulation and low number of local adoptions. At the sanctuary, dogs receive medical and behavior examinations before being transported to foster or forever homes in the New England area. Since 2006, the sanctuary has saved the lives of 3,500 dogs.

“It is our commitment to support local shelters, especially when disasters strike,” said Debrah Schnackenberg, vice president of American Humane’s Animal Programs.  “We look forward to seeing the sanctuary rebuild so Tipton Treasures/PAWS New England can continue their vital work.”

Animal Emergency Services grants are made possible through donations to American Humane. Learn more about how to donate directly to American Humane’s Animal Emergency Services at AmericanHumane.org/Donate. –Valerie Lute

Abandoned chickens call Minneapolis home

In Animal News on June 24, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Mary Britton Clouse founded Chicken Run Rescue—the only urban chicken adoption program—in 2001 after previously working with dog and cat adoption. Many people are aware of cruelty and abuse against dogs and cats, but Britton Clouse felt that no one was there for the chickens.

“Chickens are the most abused animals on the planet,” says Britton Clouse, referring to the fact that anticruelty and humane slaughter laws do not apply to chickens. Although sanctuaries for former farm animals exist, there were no agencies actively finding homes for the displaced animals. To date, Chicken Run Rescue has placed nearly 700 domestic fowl in forever homes.

Although raising chickens properly has a high start-up cost, they can live comfortably in an urban backyard for their 14-year lifespan. Chickens are social animals, capable of bonding with their own species and with humans. Like other companion animals, chickens have their own temperaments. Some prefer solitude, while others love to be held and stroked. Chicken Run Rescue adopts loving animals as pets within 90 miles of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

The trend of urban farming has led to an increased number of abandoned birds. Since April 2009, there have been more than 300 surrender inquires for chicken and other fowl in the Minneapolis area. Often new hobby farmers do not realize that a hen’s egg production peaks at 18 months, or that half of all birds bred will be male.

One rooster, later named Ernst, was going to be given away for slaughter after his sex was discovered. A woman stepped in and took Ernst to Chicken Run Rescue, where he stayed until a woman who had recently lost her rooster of the same breed adopted him. During his time at Chicken Run Rescue, Ernst was hand tamed and learned to love people, eventually following Britton Clouse around the yard as she gardened.

When adopting from Chicken Run Rescue, new owners can be assured knowing the sex, health, and personality of the bird, unlike when purchasing from a hatchery. Chicken Run Rescue is committed to the birds for life and will find new homes for the birds if the owner is unable to keep them for any reason. Adopters are also given comprehensive information packets and encouraged to contact Chicken Run Rescue for advice on care, health and behavior at any time, day or night.

Because of Chicken Run Rescue’s devotion to the animals, it is not surprising that chicken lovers are passionate about this unique adoption agency.

For more information, visit brittonclouse.com/chickenrunrescue/. –-Valerie Lute