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Wild horse report concludes that BLM management program needs overhaul

About 50,000 wild horses are in holding facilities, costing about $40 million a year, according to a report

About 50,000 wild horses are in holding facilities, costing about $40 million a year, according to a report. (Scott Sonner, The Associated Press)

Denver Post: GRAND JUNCTION — A long-anticipated report on government management of wild horses and burros has reached a conclusion that all sides of this controversial issue, including the ASPCA, can agree on: The management program needs an overhaul. 

A 14-member panel assembled by the National Academy of Sciences released a report Wednesday, based on two years of research, that found the current method of managing wild horses and burros has only served to worsen the problem of overpopulation in the wild. It has allowed horse populations to grow at a rate of 15 percent to 20 percent annually and has resulted in an untenable and expensive situation of having about 50,000 wild horses in holding facilities at a cost of about $40 million a year.

The 436-page report found that the Bureau of Land Management has used some haphazard science in estimating herd sizes and in predicting how removal of animals would affect herd size and range conditions. The agency also has not done well at incorporating public opinion into its decision-making, the report found.

The $1.5 million report was commissioned by the BLM, the agency responsible for management of the wild herds under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act that mandated protection for the animals.

Wild-horse activists have long charged the agency has unnecessarily shrunk the areas where the animals are allowed to roam, removed too many of the animals from the range to accommodate livestock, and used ineffective and sometimes cruel ways of trying to control herds.

Government bureaucrats and wild horse activists were scrambling Wednesday to digest the lengthy and dense report to try to divine what it will mean for the future of mustangs on the 179 herd-management areas in the country, including four in Colorado.

Horse advocates were lauding what they view as the report’s vindication of their criticisms of the BLM’s management.

“For years we’ve been saying the BLM has been pulling numbers out of thin air,” said Ginger Kathrens, executive director of the Colorado-based Cloud Foundation, which was named for a wild palomino stallion. “Hopefully, the BLM will take this to heart.”

The controversy over management of wild horses had bedeviled former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and he said Wednesday that he hoped the report would help with a problem that has been festering for nearly four decades.

“It has had significant challenges, and many of my predecessors have sought solutions to the problem,” he said, after noting that he hasn’t seen the report yet. “I am sure that my successor is continuing to look at it. It’s a very difficult and complex problem, and I’m hoping that, as the BLM continues to look at those issues, they’ll be able to find a common-sense solution.”

His successor, Sally Jewell, could not be reached for comment. She said last month in an interview with The Denver Post that she was still undecided about how to handle the wild horse and burro issue and that she was awaiting the study to determine how best to handle the horses.

“It’s going to help identify what’s the sustained capacity of our public lands to handle our wild horses, what is the effectiveness of things like birth control methodology to try and deal with the issue,” Jewell said.

The report looked at those issues, as well as the issues of maintaining genetic diversity, estimating population and growth rates, and maintaining enough forage for the animals. It also devoted a chapter to a topic that was a welcome surprise for some involved in horse management — societal opinions.

The report recommended that the BLM find ways to involve citizens in data-gathering and other scientific practices relating to herd management so that the public will have more understanding of the issues involved in management of the horses and burros.

“I do believe the public should have input,” said Callie Hendrickson, a member of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. “But I don’t think that should be how decisions are made.”

Hendrickson suggested that the BLM should turn to local elected officials for more input on herd management in specific areas.

The report also urged the BLM to do more fertility control using three favored methods. They include administering a contraceptive drug to mares, using more of a vaccine that works on stallions and also adding a “chemical vasectomy” for stallions.

Nancy Lofholm: 970-256-1957, nlofholm@denverpost.com or twitter.com/nlofholm

Denver Post Staff writers Allison Sherry and Lynn Bartels contributed to this report.

June 7, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Political Change, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures, Wild Animals | 1 Comment

The Mistake That Can Wreak Havoc on Your Dog’s Skeleton

Story at-a-glance

  • Osteochondrosis is one of a variety of developmental orthopedic diseases that occur in young, fast-growing dogs, typically large and giant breeds. The most common form of osteochondrosis in dogs is osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), which can cause angular limb deformities in long bones, and cartilage damage in shoulders, elbows, knees and hocks.
  • Inappropriate nutrition has been identified as an important factor in the development of bone disease in big puppies. Free-feeding, overfeeding, and improper feeding of energy-dense diets, excessive calcium and mineral intake, and an imbalance of vitamin D metabolites present significant risks to growing large and giant breed puppies.
  • The diets of big puppies should be carefully managed to help prevent developmental orthopedic disease. The problem in today’s young, growing dogs is not one of dietary deficiency, but rather one of “over-nutrition” caused by overfeeding and inappropriate supplementation of certain nutrients.
  • To avoid “overgrowing” a large or giant breed puppy, the first step is to feed portion-controlled meals rather than free-feeding. Puppies should be maintained in optimal body condition, not maximal body condition.
  • The best diet for a large breed puppy is designed to meet the nutrient requirements for growth in large breeds, contains the proper amount of calories to avoid rapid growth, and also the appropriate levels of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, and the correct calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.

Large Dog Breed

By Dr. Becker

Osteochondrosis is one of several developmental orthopedic diseases that occur in young, fast-growing dogs, especially large and giant breeds like the Doberman Pinscher, the Labrador Retriever, Great Danes and Newfoundlands.

The most common form of osteochondrosis in dogs is called osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), which is a defect in bone development at the extremity of a bone. The problem is thought to be a disruption in the manufacture of bone tissue that results in injury to growth cartilage. These injuries can cause angular limb deformities in long bones, as well as damage to the cartilage in the shoulder, stifle (knee joint), hock (the joint in the rear leg below the knee), and the elbow.

Inflammatory joint disease often follows osteochondrosis, ultimately leading to degenerative joint disease.

Developmental orthopedic diseases occur during the early stages of bone growth, before the growth plates close. This crucial period (the first year of life) is when a puppy’s skeletal system is most vulnerable to physical, nutritional and metabolic damage due to increased metabolic activity. The reason large and giant breeds are at higher risk is because genetics cause their bodies to grow very rapidly. Another predisposing factor is whether a puppy’s parents developed osteochondrosis.

Nutrition Can Be a Significant Risk Factor for Bone Disease

Studies of nutritional risk factors involved in osteochondrosis have identified free-feeding and overfeeding – especially of high-energy foods designed for rapid growth – as contributors. Energy-dense diets can promote increased levels of growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor, insulin and thyroid hormones. Other dietary influences include excessive calcium intake, excessive mineral intake, and an imbalance of vitamin D metabolites.

For optimal bone development in puppies, diets must include appropriate and balanced amounts of nutrients. Excessive calcium and energy (calories), plus rapid growth predispose dogs to developing osteochondrosis. When a growing dog — especially a large or giant breed — is overfed and overweight, the bones are stressed by both static and dynamic forces that can cause damage to the skeleton.

In one study, Great Dane puppies that were free-fed a diet high in energy and minerals, or a diet high in calcium, developed osteochondrosis with clearly visible symptoms.

Studies have also shown that large breed puppies fed diets with high calcium content or high calcium and phosphorus content also acquired developmental orthopedic disease.

This is because puppies aren’t able to control or limit absorption of dietary calcium and certain other minerals. Absorption occurs through the intestines, and the higher the calcium and mineral content of the diet, the greater the level of absorption and assimilation into developing bone structure. This can disturb the natural process of bone growth and result in lesions in the skeleton and joints.

Even when highly palatable, energy-dense diets are well-balanced, when free-fed to large and giant breed puppies, the risk of OCD and other orthopedic diseases is increased. This is one of many reasons I don’t recommend free-feeding any pet. Most dogs and cats will overeat if free-fed, and as you can see, this is especially hazardous to the health of growing large and giant breed puppies.

To date, no studies have found protein intake to be a factor in the development of osteochondrosis.

Large Breed Puppy Diets Should Be Carefully Managed

Careful management of the diets of large and giant breed dogs won’t eliminate every instance of developmental bone disease, but it’s a crucial step in decreasing risk factors. The problem in today’s young, growing dogs is not one of dietary deficiency, but rather one of “overnutrition” caused by overfeeding and over-supplementation.

Young large breed dogs are at higher risk of developing skeletal problems than small breed dogs, even when both are fed diets with too little or too much calcium. Even when calcium intake is optimal, big dogs have more growth-related skeletal issues than smaller breeds.

To help prevent disease, we must make every effort to control the rate at which big dogs grow by feeding only the amount of calories needed to keep their bodies lean while they develop. The first step is to feed portion-controlled meals rather than free-feeding. We want to help dogs maintain optimal body condition, not maximal body condition.

Diets should not be extremely high in calories. Many super premium dog foods on the market are highly energy-dense. By contrast, large-breed puppy foods have reduced caloric density, calcium and phosphorus levels compared with other canine growth diets.

Switching a big puppy to an adult diet to try to control growth rate is not recommended. Adult diets don’t have the calories per serving that big puppies require, so they can end up eating more food and taking in excessive levels of other nutrients, which can be risky.

The Right Way to Feed a Large or Giant Breed Puppy

The ideal diet for a large breed puppy is designed to meet the nutrient requirements for growth in large breeds, contains the proper amount of calories to avoid rapid growth, and also the appropriate levels of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, and the correct calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. Large and giant breed puppies continue to grow until about 18 months of age, so they should be kept on a specially designed growth diet until they are fully grown.

The goal in feeding a large or giant breed puppy is to keep him lean, with controlled growth. A healthy, large or giant breed puppy will thrive on a portion-controlled, balanced, species-appropriate diet. You can feed an ideally balanced homemade diet or an excellent quality commercially available food.

What about those large breed puppy foods? Traditional puppy foods often provide much higher calorie content than large breed puppies require, causing them to gain too much weight too quickly. This is why pet food manufacturers began producing formulas specifically for large breed puppies.

These are typically diets lower in calorie density (the number of calories per cup or gram of food) than a regular puppy diet. They’re also usually lower in calcium on an energy basis.

These are two very important factors for reducing too-rapid growth in big puppies. Some adult foods may also be low calorically, but often they have high calcium content on an energy basis, which is not what you want for a growing large or giant breed pup.

If you’re going to feed kibble to a large breed puppy, I recommend you look for special large breed puppy formulas or a formula (preferably a balanced, raw food diet) that is "Approved for all life stages." This means the food is appropriate for growing puppies or adult dogs.

I do not recommend feeding a traditional (high growth) puppy food to large breed puppies.

June 3, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Feathered dino may be world’s first bird


Fox News: A birdlike dinosaur from the Middle/Late Jurassic of China could be the first of the bird group. (Masato Hattori)

The skeleton of a Jurassic dinosaur from China could also be the oldest known bird, scientists report.

The fossil of Aurornis xui was found last year in a museum at the Fossil and Geology Park in Yizhou, China, long after a farmer first dug it up in the Liaoning Province. The feathery specimen represents the most ancient of the avialans, the group that includes birds and their relatives since their split from nonavian dinosaurs.

The research also reconfirms the birdlike fossil Archaeopteryx as an avialan, a classification that was challenged by some recent research. [Avian Ancestors: Dinosaurs That Learned to Fly]

Not everyone agrees that the new specimen is strictly a bird. "In my opinion, it’s a bird," study author Pascal Godefroit, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, told Nature News. Even so, he added, "The differences between birds and [nonavian] dinosaurs are very thin."

"Traditionally, we have defined birds as things like Archaeopteryx and closer to things like modern birds," vertebrate paleontologist Luis Chiappe of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who was not involved in the study, told LiveScience. "If you stick to the definition, this thing is not earliest known bird," Chiappe said, but that’s missing the point, he said. What matters, is that it’s a very interesting animal that "still helps us understand better the origin of birds," he said.

Aurornis xui was a feathered dinosaur that lived during the Middle Jurassic period about 150 million years ago, analysis shows. It was about 1.6 feet from beak tip to tail tip, and possessed small, sharp teeth and long forelimbs.

The creature probably couldn’t fly, Godefroit said, but may have used its wings to glide between trees. The fossil’s feathers aren’t well-preserved, but the hip bones and other features strongly suggest it was a relative of modern birds, he said.

The researchers assert that Aurornis displaces Archaeopteryx as the oldest avialan, placing Archaeopteryx further along in the avialan lineage. Since Archaeopteryx was a flying creature, its placement among avialans means dinosaurs would have only had to develop powered flight once during evolutionary history.

The new findings also classify another family of birdlike dinosaurs, known as Troodontidae, as a sister group to the avialans. This reshuffling of the bird-dinosaur family tree suggests birds and nonavian dinosaurs diverged in Asia during the Middle to Late Jurassic.

The findings are detailed in the May 30 issue of the journal Nature.

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June 1, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Unusual Stories, Wild Animals | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment