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August 31, 2013 Posted by | Animal and Pet Photos, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Pets | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Help Your Dying Pet End Life in a Kind and Gentle Way

Story at-a-glance
  • Dr. Becker interviews Dr. Alice Villalobos, a veterinary oncologist and leader in the field of end-of-life care and pawspice (pet hospice).
  • Dr. Alice, as she is known, realized as a vet student that veterinary oncology was the field she wanted to practice in. She also saw a tremendous need for end-of-life care services for companion animals. When she went into private practice, Dr. Villalobos made the decision to care for each of her patients all the way through their illness to the end of their lives.
  • Dr. Alice created the term “pawspice” to distinguish the goals of hospice care for pets from what happens in human hospice. She also developed the HHHHHMM quality of life scale for pets with cancer that has gone viral.
  • Since the publishing of Dr. Villalobos’s textbook in 2007, the subject of pet hospice and end-of-life care is being covered in an increasing number of veterinary schools. In fact, it is currently the fastest-growing specialty service in veterinary medicine.
  • One of the ways pawspice differs from hospice is the incorporation of palliative medicine, which is geared toward alleviating symptoms that cause anxiety, distress and pain. It involves using standard medicines in different ways to help trigger temporary remission without adverse events in the patient, thereby improving quality of life and happiness for pets at the end of their lives.

Video: Dr. Karen Becker Interviews Dr. Alice Villalobos

Dr. Karen Becker, a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian, interviews Dr. Alice Villalobos regarding veterinary hospice.

    By Dr. Becker

    Today I have a very special guest chatting with me via Skype — Dr. Alice Villalobos. “Dr. Alice,” as she is known, is a University of California-Davis graduate, the director of Pawspice in Hermosa Beach, and she also runs the Animal Oncology Consultation Service in Woodland Hills.

    Dr. Villalobos is a founding member of the Veterinary Cancer Society, the Association for Veterinary Family Practice, and the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. She’s also the past president of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics and founder of the Peter Zippi Memorial Fund for Animals, which has found homes for 14,000 pets since 1977, primarily cats.

    Dr. Villalobos is editor-in-chief for several veterinary-related journals, and she has authored textbooks including Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Human-Animal Bond (Kindle). She also writes a column titled The Bond and Beyond for Veterinary Practice News.

    Dr. Villalobos has received the Leo Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year award, the UC Davis Alumni Achievement award for her pioneering role in bringing oncology services to companion animals, and a Distinguished Practitioner of the National Academies of Practice award. She lectures worldwide on veterinary oncology, companion animal quality of life issues, and “pawspice,” or veterinary hospice, which is the topic of our discussion today.

    Dr. Villalobos made the decision when she entered private practice to see her cancer patients through to the end of their lives.

    I asked Dr. Alice, since she has been a veterinarian for many years, how soon into her career she realized there was a huge gap in end-of-life care services for pets.

    She explained that she was still in veterinary school when she decided to practice oncology, and her animal patients had their end-of-life experiences right there at UC Davis. So Dr. Villalobos was able to see the gap in services first-hand while still a vet student.

    When she went into private practice, she made the decision to see her patients all the way through to the end of their lives, unlike what happened back in those days (1970s) in human medicine, when no one wanted to discuss death. This predated the human hospice movement and the concept of helping people die peacefully, without pain.

    Dr. Alice decided to work with her animal patients and their families right through to the very end of the journey. Fortunately, we are able to help pets have a very peaceful passing because society condones euthanasia for animals. Dr. Villalobos made it a point to talk about the subject with each family from the first day she felt euthanasia was inevitable for their pet.

    Next I asked Dr. Villalobos who she sought counsel from originally, since back in the 1970s there weren’t any mentors or role models for treating pets at the end of life. She answered that in the late 1960s and early 1970s at UC Davis, there was a very special pioneer in the field of animal oncology, Dr. Gordon Theilen.

    Dr. Theilen wrote the first two textbooks on veterinary cancer medicine. Dr. Alice considers him a great role model who is filled with compassion. She mentions Leo Bustad as a role model as well. He was also a part of the UC Davis team and was responsible for the term “human-animal bond.”

    Dr. Villalobos noticed that pet owners would come into her practice wanting to keep their dog or cat with them for as long as possible. They didn’t want a replacement. They wanted to get treatments for their pets and when the time came, they wanted to insure their animals were able to pass on in the right way – at home, with the best of care, surrounded by their human family.

    Dr. Alice looked into what was being done with pediatric oncology. She interviewed human patients and asked questions like, “You have this cancer. How does it feel?” Part of the reason for her research was because at vet school, she was taught animals don’t experience pain on the level they actually, in fact, do. Back in those days, rather than being given pain medications, animals were restrained for procedures and prevented from moving after surgery. Fortunately, all that has changed.

    As a member of the International Veterinary Association of Pain Management, Dr. Alice knows that veterinary hospice practitioners must have extensive knowledge and expertise in pain management, because it is one of the biggest problems for cancer patients (both human and animal) at the end of their lives.

    Taking treatment of terminally ill pets and end-of-life care to the next level.

    I asked Dr. Villalobos if, when she first got started, she was met with conflict. Were her colleagues confused? Did they question her? She replied, “Dr. Becker, I’m still pulling the arrows out of my back.” I asked her to expand on the conflicts and confrontations she has encountered.

    Dr. Alice explained that back in the early 1970s, treating a cat with both leukemia and FIP was “almost blasphemy.” People thought, “What is she doing?” But at UC Davis, they treated cats with lymphoma, and the most likely cat to have lymphoma was also positive for the leukemia virus.

    Dr. Theilen was the doctor who isolated the three subtypes of the leukemia virus that ultimately resulted in a vaccine. UC Davis was working extensively with leukemias and lymphomas in felines. In fact, Dr. Niels Pedersen of UC Davis is the person who characterized the FIP virus and discovered the feline immunodeficiency virus.

    Dr. Alice explains she was surrounded by fantastic researchers and a wonderful atmosphere. When she finished vet school, she was actually in the midst of a “mock” residency with Dr. Theilen who wanted to put a veterinary student through a clinical oncology program. So Dr. Villalobos actually began her residency while still a sophomore in vet school, and she continued that work for Dr. Theilen through her next three years of school.

    So in addition to the stigma attached to treating viropositive animals, Dr. Villalobos also had a passion for helping them die well. I asked her what kind of response she received. She answered that most of her colleagues felt they were already doing that – providing animals with a good end of life experience. But as she further explains, it requires a certain expertise. Palliative medicine is a specialty. She expects at some point it will become a specialty in veterinary medicine just as it is in human medicine.

    Dr. Alice goes on to explain that hospice is another area of expertise. She views it as, “The types of psychology that we need to know to help comfort the bewildered, bereft, grieving, and the anticipatory grief that comes through, even suicide. People feel that they can’t go on another day.”

    When a pet dies, veterinary professionals need to be well versed in all these forms of psychotherapy, comfort care and grief counseling. It’s a necessary service, but in a busy practice, when a DVM isn’t accustomed to working with end-of-life care patients and clients, it just doesn’t happen.

    Dr. Alice’s “pawspice” concept and the HHHHHMM quality of life scale.

    End-of-life care hasn’t been taught in vet schools. Students are taught how to euthanize animals, but that’s about it. I do think palliative medicine is coming, though, and certainly pain management is even farther along, thankfully. But putting all those pieces together to offer truly thoughtful, heartfelt support isn’t there yet.

    I asked Dr. Villalobos if she thinks vet school courses are addressing some of these skills today. She replied she believes they are coming along. She says that after her textbook arrived in 2007, vet schools quickly took the book into their libraries, and some of the programs that were developed even taught pawspice.

    Dr. Alice explains she wanted to call pet hospice “pawspice” because the word hospice is actually very confusing for those who want to adapt the concept for veterinary medicine. She says that in human hospice, the arrival of death isn’t slowed down. Patients receive pain management, but what everyone is doing is simply waiting for the patient to die.

    In veterinary medicine, we can apply a quality of life scale to each patient. In fact, a scale that Dr. Villalobos proposed in 2004 went viral. It went everywhere. It’s the HHHHHMM scale. It’s designed to be easy to remember. The five H’s are for:

    … no Hurt
    … good Hydration
    … no Hunger
    … good Hygiene
    Happiness

    Hurt, Hydration, Hunger, Hygiene, and Happiness. These are the five basic areas that pawspice professionals must be able to talk to their clients about.

    The first M is for Mobility. This is extremely important for large pets, for example, Great Danes. If a Great Dane can’t move around on his own, it’s over unless there are some very strong family members who can physically move the dog as often as necessary. In smaller animals, mobility isn’t such a huge factor. On the quality of life scale, they can have a score of 0 all the way up to 10 and still be okay. It’s similar to people in wheelchairs – they can have great quality of life even though they don’t have full mobility.

    The second M is for More good days than bad days. This is something the pet’s family has to focus on. Is this a good day for Buddy? Or is this a bad day? If there are more bad days, say two or three or four in a row and no really good days, it’s time for the family to consider the gift of euthanasia.

    Our pets only think in present time. They exist in the now. Even if you’re five hours late coming home, they are still full of joy and not mad at you. They’re just happy to see you now, because they exist in the now. If they’re suffering now, that’s all they know, and if there are too many times of suffering, frustration builds up.

    Sometimes people don’t understand this. It can be difficult to understand things from a pet’s viewpoint. When there are more bad days than good days, our pets welcome the gift of euthanasia. They don’t need to live for the graduation of a niece or nephew. They’re not looking back with regret and hoping to reconcile with someone before they die. The human hospice philosophy simply doesn’t apply at the end of an animal’s life. They’re here to enjoy the moment. It their quality of life is poor, it’s up to us as their protectors not to make them endure further suffering.

    This is the way Dr. Alice talks to her clients, “You are his protector. Buddy needs you to make the decision to help him, you know, change worlds.” She says Barbara Myers, a pet loss consultant, uses that beautiful phrase, “Let’s help them change worlds.” It’s often comforting to families to use euphemisms like “transitioning,” or “crossing the Rainbow Bridge.” It’s not necessary to use tough words when talking about the death of a beloved companion animal. Families, and especially children, welcome thoughtful, loving words to describe what will be happening to their pet.

    End-of-life care/pet hospice is the fastest-growing specialty in veterinary medicine today.

    Next I asked Dr. Alice about her passion for teaching and consulting other professionals and vet schools about end-of-life care for pets. She explained that she has taught all over the world, and her textbook is translated into Spanish and Portuguese. When she goes to Portugal, Spain, or South America, she’s treated like a celebrity!

    Dr. Villalobos is also well known in the U.S. for being one of the leaders of the pet hospice movement. She says her decision to treat pets with cancer in vet school was pivotal in creating a specialty service for animals in the final stages of life. She says it’s the fastest-growing specialty service in all of veterinary medicine. New veterinarians in particular are really embracing pet hospice.

    Dr. Villalobos says one of the reasons for its popularity is that DVMs can set up an independent practice. They can do house calls. This is especially attractive to young DVMs who may not be able to find a practice they really like, or who work at a practice in which the owners want them to work more hours than they can handle while raising a family. Going the house call route has worked out very nicely for many of these young vets.

    Dr. Stephen Withrow of Colorado State University’s Flint Animal Cancer Center has incorporated hospice and end-of-life care chapters written by Dr. Villalobos in his textbook, and she says his students call her all the time for help. She says CSU has set up a wonderful hospice service, as have a number of other veterinary colleges in the U.S. It’s also a growing movement in Canada, South America and France.

    Helping pet owners give their animals a good quality death.

    Dr. Villalobos is also passionate about using the term “pawspice” for pets to alleviate the confusion and negative impression many people have of hospice services for humans.

    As she explains it, when a pet owner has arrived at those final moments, she or he is often paralyzed with doubt or fear about causing the pet’s passing by making that final decision to euthanize. Dr. Alice sees her job, and the job of all professionals in the specialty, to help comfort those pet owners by letting them know it’s actually a vet’s duty by the oath he or she takes to prevent suffering.

    In my practice, I tell clients that the decision to help their pet transition is, of course, the most difficult decision they may ever make. But I also explain that as their veterinarian, the most important thing I can do is to help their pet die well rather than poorly. I ask them, “Do you want to rip the Band-Aid off really fast, or really slow?” I explain that they will be heartbroken either way, but for their pet’s sake, we can help by offering a good and peaceful transition. A good quality of death.

    Dr. Villalobos believes quality of life/quality of death questions should also apply to humans. She says that if any of you listening or reading here today have a family member or a child with a terminal disease, you should advocate for a quality passing for that person.

    In human medicine, it’s all about what can be done – we can do this, and we can do that, and we can do something else. Even at the end of the road with, say, a cancer that has been resistant to all forms of treatment, someone will come up with yet another treatment that is usually more risky. The patient has an adverse reaction, winds up in the ICU, and has a bad death.

    One of the things I’m so grateful to Dr. Alice for is helping veterinarians understand it’s okay to tell a pet owner, “We’ve pushed this animal far enough.” It’s human nature, especially for optimists like me, to say, “We can try this and this and this” when our patients no longer want to keep going and their bodies are tired. I tell my clients that sometimes the body becomes a cage for the soul, and the body doesn’t work, so they need to think seriously about setting the soul free. Animals can become frustrated or depressed, and there comes a point where we should stop pushing, which actually takes all the pressure off the pet.

    Sometimes we need to give clients permission to say, “You know what? We’re going to stop and we’re going to voluntarily withdraw all treatment.” Instead of trying to cure or change the disease situation, we’re going to switch our focus to helping the animal have a peaceful, good quality death.

    The role of palliative medicine in end-of-life care.

    Dr. Alice has really helped veterinarians understand and be able to talk about dying well versus just euthanasia. There’s a gap between the two. When we have a terminal patient and we know euthanasia is coming, there are things we can do to prepare the family, the pet, and our hearts. Dr. Villalobos has paved the way for veterinarians in this regard and I’m really thankful to her for that.

    She explains that one of the reasons pawspice is different from hospice is that it incorporates palliative medicine, which is a very misunderstood area in human medicine, especially in the U.S. There’s this idea that palliative medicine is “giving up,” but it is not. It is simply taking care of symptoms that cause anxiety, distress and pain. Dr. Villalobos stresses that we use standard medicine inside palliative medicine.

    She says that when a pet patient is diagnosed with a life-limiting cancer, with pawspice what she does is select standard therapy for that patient that will hopefully bring a period of welcome remission. But the therapy isn’t one that will be hard on the animal. It will be something that brings only good days – and few if any bad days. Dr. Alice avoids medications, therapies, treatments and regimens that will result in adverse events for the patient.

    For example, she may use a strong drug, but split it to give in two doses instead of one. The techniques she uses are in her textbook, and many DVMs are adopting them. Dr. Villalobos says it has evolved into something called metronomic therapy, which is a continuous low-dose treatment that reduces the formation of new blood vessels, which all tumors need in order to grow. Sometimes she just tries to control the tumor, maybe slow down the growth a little, while preserving the patient’s level of happiness and quality of life.

    Thank you, Dr. Alice!

    Since not all veterinarians are providing hospice care, I asked Dr. Alice where my Healthy Pets listeners and readers can go to learn more about end-of-life care. She invites everyone to visit her Pawspice website, where you can find lots of information and links to other resources.

    I so appreciate Dr. Villalobos taking the time to speak with me today. I’m grateful for all the work she has done and continues to do for sick and terminally ill animals.

    Related:

    Life in a Dog Pack: Old Age

    Beck family spends time with Victor – Photos

    The Kindest Decision – In Home Euthanasia for Pets

    Pet Age

    The Nutrient Your Pet Needs More of As They Age: Protein

    World’s Oldest Dog Dies At Age 26….Requiescat in pace

    The Lottie June Show – WORLD’S OLDEST CHIHUAHUA

    How Long Will Your Dog Be with You? It Depends Heavily on This…

    Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

    Pet owners turning to non-traditional

    A Natural Herb That Fights Cancer, or Chemotherapy for Your Sick Pet… Which Would You Choose?

    ‘Until One Has Loved an Animal, Part of Their Sour Remains Unawakened’

    Adopt a Senior Pet…

    WCBM’s Les Kinsolving’s beautiful tribute to Brendan, Griffen, and all dogs and dog owners

    Heaven and Pets

    If I Should Die Before My Dog…

    Tails of Love

    ‘Dogs Have The Intelligence of a Human Toddler’

    Do Dogs Go To Heaven?

    And God Created Dog…

    Dogs Know

    On the First Day God Created the Dog!

    Meredith and Abbey… A Beautiful Soul at the Post Office

    A Dog’s Purpose – Out of the Mouth of Babes

    And God Created Dog…

    Are Our Pets Spiritual Assignments

    GoD and DoG

    Dog, truly a gift!

    Rainbow Bridge…

    Books

    Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Human-Animal Bond (Kindle)

    Help Your Dog Fight Cancer: What Every Caretaker Should Know About Canine Cancer, Featuring Bullet’s Survival Story, 2nd Edition

    August 30, 2013 Posted by | Animal Related Education, Holistic Pet Health, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership, Stop Euthenization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

    Your Dog’s Tongue Is a Major Indicator of Health – What to Look For

    Story at-a-glance
    • Your dog’s tongue is actually a very important organ, with functions beyond giving sloppy kisses! The tongue is muscled and versatile, and together with the teeth and mouth, comprises what we call the oral cavity.
    • The main jobs of your dog’s tongue are to bring food and water into the mouth and aid in chewing and swallowing; help to regulate body temperature through panting; clean the body; and lick sore spots and wounds on the skin to hasten healing.
    • There are several canine tongue disorders dog owners should be aware of, including inflammation, ulceration, trauma to the tongue, oral papillomatosis (warts), and tumors.
    • Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners use the appearance, color and texture of different areas of the tongue as markers for how well various organ systems within the body are functioning.
    • If you notice that your pet’s tongue is changing shape, color, or texture, or if you notice a new bump or lump, it’s worth discussing your concerns with your veterinarian.

    Video: Dr. Becker Talks About Your Dog’s Tongue

    By Dr. Becker

    Today I’d like to talk about, of all things, your dog’s tongue! It’s a small but very important organ, and since dogs do a lot of panting and licking, it’s also an organ we see a lot of!

    Your dog’s tongue is a long, muscled, versatile organ. It’s attached to the back of the mouth by the basihyoid bone.

    The top of the tongue is covered with five types of tiny mushroom-shaped papillae and pores that lead to taste buds. The rest of the tongue is made up of small bundles of muscle, connective tissue, and fatty tissue. It also contains lots of blood vessels, which is why it bleeds like crazy when it gets a cut. All around the tongue are openings to the salivary glands. Together, the tongue, teeth, and mouth comprise the oral cavity.

    Functions of the Tongue

    The canine tongue has many distinct, complex functions it must perform. That’s probably why it’s fed by five separate sets of nerves that come directly from the brain through small openings in the skull. These are cranial nerves, and they originate from the base of the brain rather than from the spinal cord.

    The main purpose of the tongue is to bring food and water into the mouth and allow your dog to taste what he’s eating and drinking. A dog’s tongue can detect the sensations of salty, sweet, and sour taste. The tip of the tongue gives him the ability to taste and lap water. The tongue also assists with chewing and swallowing.

    Your dog’s tongue helps to regulate body temperature as well. As air passes back and forth over the tongue when a dog pants, it cools down the body. (This is how dogs “sweat.”) The cooling is also enhanced as saliva evaporates from the mouth.

    Your dog uses his tongue to clean himself and lick sore spots on his body, as well as to clean up wounds or irritations on his body. Female dogs use their tongue to groom their puppies and also to stimulate urination and defecation by licking the puppy’s urogenital area.

    Common Canine Tongue Disorders

    A problem with your dog’s tongue can be a primary condition or a condition secondary to another problem in the mouth. Signs of a tongue problem can include a reluctance to eat, abnormal chewing motion, excessive drooling, a bloody discharge or a bad smell coming from the mouth.

    Inflammation of the tongue is called glossitis. It can occur alone or in combination with stomatitis (inflammation of the soft tissues of the mouth), gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), or cheilitis (inflammation of the lips). There are a number of possible causes for inflammation of the tongue and mouth, including foreign body ingestion, exposure to toxic chemicals or plants, bacterial or viral infections, immune-mediated disease, metabolic disease, and nutritional disorders.

    Another tongue disorder is ulceration that occurs as a result of systemic diseases like kidney failure or cancer. Ulcerations also develop in a strange, mysterious disease called eosinophilic stomatitis.

    The tongue is also a potential location for tumor growth. Unfortunately, most tumors of the tongue in dogs are malignant (cancerous). Another type of growth on the tongue of dogs is oral papillomatosis, which is caused by the papilloma virus. These growths are actually teeny tiny warts. They kind of resemble tiny cauliflower heads, and they can appear all over the oral cavity. Fortunately, the condition tends to subside or resolve on its own after several weeks.

    Your dog’s tongue can sustain trauma from burns, cuts, punctures, or bites.

    There’s also a disorder that can develop in a dog’s mouth that may initially appear to involve the tongue. It’s called a ranula. It’s actually a cyst that grows on the underside of the tongue, where the sublingual salivary glands stem from. The cyst causes swelling to the point where the tongue can actually be pushed up towards the roof of the mouth or off to the side. Dogs with this condition may have trouble eating, they may drool excessively, or show signs of a painful mouth.

    Flat, black pigmented areas on your dog’s tongue and gums or inside the lips and mouth are perfectly normal. These dark areas are a result of microscopic melanin granules and are nothing to worry about. Often as a dog ages, these melanin areas tend to grow or change shape.

    What isn’t normal is a dark area that’s not flat, but is raised above the surrounding tissues. If you notice any type of dark, pigmented tissue on your dog’s tongue, lips, or anywhere inside the mouth that looks like a bump or is raised instead of flat, it’s important to have your veterinarian look at it right away. It could be a melanoma.

    About half of all cancers affecting dogs’ tongues actually end up being a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Other types of tumors that can occur in a dog’s mouth are granular cell tumors and mast cell tumors. The earlier one of these cancers is diagnosed and treated, the better your dog’s chances of recovery. If you notice anything of concern in your dog’s mouth, you should have your vet take a look.

    There’s also a condition called cyanosis in which the tongue and gums turn a blue or purplish color as a result of poorly oxygenated blood. Causes for cyanosis are quite serious and include heart and respiratory diseases.

    If your dog is not a breed with a naturally dark tongue like a Chow Chow, and if you notice that your dog’s mucus membranes anywhere in the mouth or on the lips are turning blue or purple, it’s very important that you have your pet seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

    Your Dog’s Tongue as a Measure of Her Health

    I recommend, as a part of your at-home wellness exam, that you include your dog’s tongue in your observations. Look for ulcers, bruises, or bleeding from the tongue or elsewhere in your dog’s mouth.

    Also check for bumps within the oral cavity. Move your finger under each side of the tongue and push it up a bit, so you can get a good look at the underside of the tongue as well as the roof of the mouth.

    Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners use the tongue as a tool to provide additional information about the body’s well-being in conjunction with a physical exam.

    A healthy tongue is normally pink unless, of course, you have a Chow Chow or another black-tongued breed. The tongue should not be coated, and there shouldn’t be any lumps, bumps, growths or raised areas.

    Tongue colors of pale or white, deep red, blue or purple, and yellow orange can be assessed according to TCM principles:

    • A pale or white tongue may be a sign of a weakened body condition. This tongue color is seen in animals with anemia, leukemia, blood pressure problems, loss of blood, edema (fluid retention), generalized weakness, gastric system malfunction/GI issues, lung weakness, malnutrition, and lethargy.
    • A deep red tongue may indicate hyperactivity of one of the organ systems of the body and may involve a bacterial or viral infection, fever, gall bladder or kidney stagnation, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, cancer, or an accumulation of toxins somewhere in the body.
    • A bluish or purple-tinged tongue can suggest pain or congestion somewhere in the body and may point to a problem with the vascular system, heart disease, circulatory problems, respiratory problems, liver disease, toxicosis, organ stress, hepatitis, or autoimmune issues.
    • A yellow-orange tongue may indicate gastritis and gall bladder or liver malfunction.

    TCM practitioners also evaluate any coating on the tongue. For example, if the coating is thick or pasty, it’s frequently a sign of imbalance in the digestive system, which is the largest immunologic system in your dog’s body. This often occurs when there is a yeast overgrowth in the body, and is commonly seen in pets fed grain-based diets that lack the bioavailable nutrients and enzymes required for healthy GI function.

    TCM practitioners also do sort of a “regional analysis” of the tongue. Different areas of the tongue can point to problems with various organ systems within the body.

    All that to say, if you notice that your pet’s tongue is changing shape, color, or texture, or if you notice a new bump or lump, it’s worth discussing your concerns with a holistic veterinarian.

    August 30, 2013 Posted by | Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

    Portuguese Water Dogs & Pit Bulls: The Politics of the President’s Pets

    By Edie Jarolim | Published: August 26, 2013

    Will My Dog Hate Me?:  Anything that President Obama does is news, which goes with the Leader of the Free World territory. And when the President does something warm and fuzzy, like getting a pet for his family — as opposed, to say making recess appointments of agency heads – more sections of the blogosphere than just the usual political ones pay attention.

    Bo and Sunny

    Bo and Sunny, First Dogs (actually, first and second ‘First Dogs’)

    The official announcement on the White House blog on August 19 read:

    Today the Obamas welcomed the newest member of their family – a little girl (puppy) named Sunny!

    Sunny was born in Michigan in June 2012, and arrived at the White House today. Just like Bo, she’s a Portuguese Water Dog, which works great for the Obamas because of allergies in their family.

    Sunny is the perfect little sister for Bo – full of energy and very affectionate – and the First Family picked her name because it fit her cheerful personality.

    In honor of Sunny, the Obamas are making a donation to the Washington Humane Society.

    Lots of people had something to say about this. 

    Normal people’s reactions

    Here is the typical normal pet lover’s reaction to the following film, released by the White House along with the article:

    Awww!! She’s so cute! She plays so well with Bo, who was lonely for doggie company before Sunny came along. It’s nice that the family got a breed that Melia, who has allergies, could enjoy. It’s nice that the Obamas donated money to a shelter.

    Awwww!! Ooooh! 

    Reasonable and useful reactions from the pet community

    This is a teachable moment. The Daily Beast had a sensible article by a veterinarian that includes information about whether you should get a second dog, introducing the second dog to the first dog, etc.

    All good things to know. 

    Well intended but misguided reactions from the pet community

    A piece from the Christian Science Monitor, titled New White House pup Sunny: Why not a rescue dog? is typical of the reactions of the “should have adopted” community. After a feel-good introduction, so as not to antagonize everyone who had the above-mentioned “awwww” reaction, such pieces cite a well-known figure in the animal welfare community to make the case.

    Cue Wayne Pacelle, director of the Humane Society of the United States:

    [Pacelle] noted on his blog Tuesday that the Obamas made little reference to exactly where Sunny came from, other than to note that it’s the Great Lakes State.

    But given her pure-bred status, it’s unlikely that Sunny came from a rescue organization or a shelter. [emphasis mine, and not sourced to Pacelle]

    “As we always say in such circumstances, we hope the Obamas considered adoption or rescue as the first choice in obtaining a pet,” wrote Mr. Pacelle.

    Like all the other should-have-rescued articles I came across, this one misrepresents or ignores one bit of important information: That about 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred. There is a breed rescue for Portuguese water dogs, as there is for most breeds.

    The fact is, the Obamas went through a reputable breeder for both Bo and Sunny. If they had ordered Sunny over the internet or bought her at a pet store, the pet community would have something to squawk about. But reputable breeders play an essential role in the world of animal lovers. It would be a good thing to emphasize that more, and scold less. 

    Off-the-wall reactions from the pet community (or an ostensible member)

    Yes, pit bulls can be sweethearts

    Yes, pit bulls can be sweethearts

    This article from Salon.com titled Another Portuguese Water Dog? The Obamas Should Have Made A Different Statement is likely just link/click bait because it is both ill-informed and wildly off kilter. It starts:

    Bo Obama, America’s first dog, has a new playmate named Sunny and the first family is getting criticized for not adopting a mutt from the animal shelter. If the Obamas had gone to their local shelter, the Washington Humane Society, they wouldn’t have found a purebred Portuguese water dog. Instead, they might have come home with a pit bull — and that would have been a good thing.

    There are three problems right off the bat.

    • The link in “the first family is getting criticized” clause directs us to PETA. A writer who knew anything about animal welfare would know that criticism from PETA means diddly squat — and especially in the context of an article related to pit bulls. PETA advocates that all pit bulls that turn up in shelters be put down.
    • What part of “the Obamas need a certain breed of dog because Melia has allergies” doesn’t the author understand?
    • As I noted above, 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred. You cannot say with authority that the Obamas would not have found a purebred Portuguese water dog at the Washington Humane Society.

    I have written often here about how pit bulls are unfairly demonized. But bringing a rescued one into the White House is a ludicrous idea, for many reasons; they are detailed in the 300 plus comments that this piece drew. I couldn’t have summed it up better, however, than commenter “Schmoopi”:

    You are fucking kidding me, right? You want the president who can’t do anything without it being made political and a “Black thing”… to adopt a dog that is the stereotyped official dog breed of the ‘hood?…

    I like pits. They are a much maligned breed. They are naturally sweet-natured, loyal and affectionate….Pitbulls are also heavily abused and over bred by idiots…. Nevertheless, I find the suggestion that my President, our first Black president, a man who spends every day being “nibbled to death by ducks,” should deliberately do something that would enable the racist trolls of our country to hit new heights of asshattery to be the dumbest thing I have heard all summer.

    This leads me to…

    Bat-shit crazy political reactions

    The supposition that the name Sunny was chosen because it’s close to Sunni, the sect of Islam to which Obama purportedly belongs, may be a joke, but the observation made by the right wing Daily Caller wasn’t:

    With the addition of Sunny, the Obamas now have two black Portuguese water dogs.

    The Obamas do not have any white dogs.

    As for more comments about how diabolical the decision to get Sunny was, see Atlantic.com’s Best Conspiracy Theories About the Obamas’ New Dog, Sunny., and you be the judge…

    Boring but important political pet news that got lost in the Sunny fuss

    While the President was busy not adopting a pit bull, he did something much more important. The White House responded to a petition asking it to “Ban and outlaw Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in the United States of America on a Federal level!” with the following statement:

    We don’t support breed-specific legislation — research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.

    In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at twenty years of data about dog bites and human fatalities in the United States. They found that fatal attacks represent a very small proportion of dog bite injuries to people and that it’s virtually impossible to calculate bite rates for specific breeds.

    The CDC also noted that the types of people who look to exploit dogs aren’t deterred by breed regulations — when their communities establish a ban, these people just seek out new, unregulated breeds. And the simple fact is that dogs of any breed can become dangerous when they’re intentionally or unintentionally raised to be aggressive.

    For all those reasons, the CDC officially recommends against breed-specific legislation — which they call inappropriate. You can read more from them here.

    As an alternative to breed-specific policies, the CDC recommends a community-based approach to prevent dog bites. And ultimately, we think that’s a much more promising way to build stronger communities of pets and pet owners.

    That’s a far better use of the President’s bully pulpit — pun intended — than making the family dog into a political statement rather than a pet.

    What I would add is that at least the next time Bo gets to go on vacation on his own jet… he will have a four-legged companion to travel with… JOMP~

    You be the judge…

    Related:

    Yet Another Taxpayer Paid Luxury Vacation For The Obamas, Including a Private Jet For The First Dog… Again

    Obama admits to eating dog … fur finally flies

    Bo Obama’s dog trainer dies at age 52 (Jan. 2011)

    Bo the First Dog and His Trainer Arrive in Martha’s Vineyard… – Bo travelled on his own jet on the taxpayer’s nickel in 2011 as well. I’m as big of a pet advocate as anyone… but really? Guess we are off the green kick and global warming???

    The mystery of Bo’s ‘Hawaii trip’ is solved: White House says he stayed in Washington and never went on holiday with First Family

    President Bush and His Pets

    Arrival of New First Pooch Imminent

    Bush and Barney, Just Like Old Times

    Busts of presidential pets Barney and Miss Beazley at George W. Bush Library

    Presidential Pet Museum.com

    August 28, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

    CORONA: Gourmet dog treat ready for its close-up

    TERRY PIERSON/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

    PE.com: Jackboy’s Dog Bakery owner Athena Yap of Corona with her dog Kernel and some of the many dog treats she makes in Corona, CA. The all natural artisan doggie pastries are good enough to eat but they are made for dogs.

    As the founder of Jackboy’s Dog Bakery, Athena Yap has an uncanny talent for thinking outside of the bone.

    And thereby hangs a tale of a former aerospace engineer who used to convert fighter planes into drones. These days she transforms dough into doggie delectables for a clientele that includes the T.J. Maxx Corp.

    Now Hollywood has come knocking. Eventually, you can catch one of her cookie creations on a new series, tentatively called “Game of Pawns,” or “Pawn in the Game,” that Yap was told would begin later this month on the Discovery Channel. However, a spokeswoman for them, Emily Robinson, wrote in an email that the cable network hasn’t officially announced the show and there’s no definite air date yet.

    Since Yap launched Jackboy’s in Corona six years ago, Jackboy’s has been a hit with customers who have helped double her revenues every year. Yap said sales of her 50 varieties of homemade, all-natural canine confections range from between $8,000 and $20,000 a month.

    Clients include pet spas, animal hospitals, groomers, doggie boutiques and gift stores. About 70 percent of her business is online, catering to purists who clamor for Yap’s gluten-free, salt-free, filler-free, dye-free, chemical-free cakes, cake pops, cupcakes, cookies and artisan pastries. They’re made with human-grade ingredients that include honey, olive oil, carob, eggs, roasted peanuts, oatmeal and minimal sugar.

    In fact, these pooch products are so good that Donna Kennedy Clark spotted her 3-year-old niece nibbling a Cranberry Bis-Scotties at The Paw Spa she owns at 320 S. Main St. Corona.

    “I only carry top-of-the-line natural, holistic cakes and cookies,” Kennedy Clark, 47, said. “Athena cares about every ingredient that goes into them. She even makes her own sprinkles using beets and turmeric for the colors. Customers come in looking for her cookies because their dogs won’t eat any other kind.”

    Yap said with a laugh that some people think she uses a fake name enhance her business. Actually, Yap, 40, is Chinese and grew up in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia in an animal-loving family. At 19, she enrolled in Iowa State University in Ames because of its ranking as one of the top schools for aerospace engineering. After graduating, Yap received her MBA during her 15-year tenure in the industry, specializing in composite materials and processes. Her most recent position was supervising four engineers at BAE Systems in Mojave, but Yap wanted to be her own boss.

    Her next move became clear after she and her fiancé, Steve Sunde, rescued from the streets a red German shepherd and dingo mix they named Jackboy, “He picked us,” Yap said. She began making her own dog food in 2007 after many animals died from eating poisonous pet food from China containing tainted wheat gluten. But the snacks and treats Yap whipped up really piqued Jackboy’s palate and with him as her chief taster, a business was born.

    At their Corona home, Yap experimented, initially mixing wheat flour, canola oil and parmesan cheese to produce her classic twists called Knotty Parmesan. As her research intensified, so did her commitment to the finest ingredients and a ban on artificial colorings, flavors and commercially produced beef and chicken bouillon. She swapped the canola for 100 percent olive oil. “Everything evolved and business began snowballing,” she recalled.

    Yap figures she’s invested more than $150,000 to grow the business. In 2009, she rented a commercial unit on Ott Street in Corona. A year ago July she relocated to her current, 800-square-foot site at 109 N. Maple Street, Unit B, where she employs two workers who bake every day but Sunday. Retail prices run from about $6.99 for a 5-ounce bag to a big birthday cake for $34.99

    “People want instant gratification,” Yap said of her two-day turnaround. Jackboy stores shipments for its 15 to 20 daily orders in the warehouse of her boyfriend’s Corona business, Rockwell Aviation Services.

    Jackboy died in April at age 12, but another rescue, a Chihuahua and miniature pinscher mix, now helps vet each new roll-out and disdains all but fresh baked goods. Her beau christened him “Colonel,” but Yap mistook the high-ranking title for the seed and registered the mutt as “Kernel.”

    The showbiz request came last February from a freelance Hollywood producer who found Jackboy Dog Bakery online. Yap designed the cookie to replicate a World War II-era license plate for a pawn shop in Branson, Mo., that gives customers the chance to earn their asking price by playing a little trivia game. Jackdog’s confection represents the soybean license plates made by some states in the 1940s to save metal for the war effort. The plates began disappearing when animals began eating them right off the cars.

    The indefatigable Yap seems to dream up a new goodie every week. Fare includes Garlic Pup-zels, Coco-Mutt Macaroons, Snickerdroodles, Muddy Paws Carob Fudge Sandwiches and Honey Dough-Mutts. “I do it all,” she said. “The design, recipes and labeling. I have a mission to make people appreciate their pets and treat them as part of the family.”

    Follow Laurie Lucas on Twitter @LaurieLucas and check her blog on pe.com/business

    August 26, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, pet fun, Pet Nutrition, pet products, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

    The Genius of Birds: Watch a Hummingbird’s Tongue in Action – Amazing… Especially for you Hummingbird Enthusiasts

    Video: FLIGHT: The Genius of Birds – Hummingbird tongue

    David  Klinghoffer/Nature News:  We recently got a hummingbird feeder for our back porch and my kids were delighted to see how quickly the local hummingbird population discovered it. I tried to explain to them what’s so amazing about the creature’s tongue.

    In order to fuel its heart and wings that can flap up to 100 times-per-second, a hummingbird must eat several times an hour. This groundbreaking sequence from Flight: The Genius of Birds illustrates the system of mechanisms that enable a hummer to consume several times it body weight in nectar each day. The DVD & Blu-ray are available for purchase now – visit http://www.illustramedia.com for more information.

    Watch this clip from the new Illustra documentary Flight: The Genius of Birds. Paul Nelson’s commentary is also very eloquent and interesting.

    Marion/JOMP:  We have a hummingbird feeder and it is both fascinating and enjoyable to watch the little birds.  My father-in-law who suffers from Alzheimer’s gets a childish joy from watching them.

    h/t to George King

    August 24, 2013 Posted by | Animal and Pet Photos, animal behavior, Animal Related Education, animals, Just One More Pet, We Are All God's Creatures, Wild Animals | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

    Life in a Dog Pack: Old Age

    by Dave Schuler on August 16, 2013  -  The Glittering Eye

    When you live in a dog pack, eventually, if you are very lucky, you will experience life with an old dog. Tally, at 15 years four months, is the oldest dog it has been our good fortune to share our lives with.

    Living with a geriatric dog means that every day is a new adventure. Not only are there the regular routine activities of meals, potty breaks, and medications, we try to remain sensitive to Tally’s limitations, adapting to them as new challenges arise, so that we can ensure that she is as happy and comfortable as we can keep her.

    We’ve placed cheap runners and area rugs strategically so that Tally can move about without being forced to navigate bare wood floors. As she’s gotten weaker over the years her ability to manage bare floors has diminished and we’ve changed to take that into account.

    Tally no longer sleeps with us. She gave up climbing stairs several years ago and since then we’ve left her on her own recognizance on the first floor. Generally, she’s just fine there—she’s always preferred her own company—but, occasionally, we’ll hear a yelp and rush downstairs to find she’s trapped herself beneath a chair, slipped off the rugs we’ve placed for her convenience and safety, or walked into a corner and is too befuddled to make her way out without assistance.

    On rare occasions she’s had nighttime “accidents”. That’s just the cost of doing business. She’s always very embarrassed about it.

    Walks have become increasingly rare. She wants to walk and sometimes demands a walk but we understand that she really doesn’t have as much ability to handle a long walk as she thinks she does. I’m not prepared to carry a tired fifty pound dog home in my arms so we limit her walks to three or four blocks, sometimes just a block depending on how she feels that particular day.

    She wants to play ball but, sadly, her vision is failing so, if you throw the ball more than a few feet away from her, she won’t be able to find it. My wife is better at playing ball with Tally these days than I am.

    Every night we have the same ritual. I’ll let her out the back door for her final nightly elimination and she won’t come back in until I’ve chased her one slow circumnavigation around our backyard, then helped her up the two stairs into the house. The joy in her eyes during these low speed chases is a delight to see. I’ve taken to calling her “the White Bronco”.

    Last night we had something of a scare. When she rose from a nap she began a series of odd, hopping bounds. She wouldn’t stop. It was quite alarming.

    We moved the other dogs elsewhere in the house and let her outside. She continued the hopping. My wife thought it was some sort of neurological malfunction. I thought she’d awoken with a stitch in her leg and, like an athlete with a leg cramp, was trying to run it out. She was unable to put weight on her left foreleg but wasn’t strong enough to maintain her balance and stand in one place. Hence the odd, forward-moving, hopping bound.

    After a while she stopped and, although she was still hobbling a bit, she was behaving much more normally. I gave her an extra half Rimadyl before we went to sleep and this morning she’s shown no signs of a return to her previous condition.

    It was, however, a reminder that Tally won’t be with us a great deal longer and we must savor every moment we have with her. We are resolved that Tally will enjoy her life as long as she lives. So far, so good.

    The other dogs show Tally considerable deference, each in their own way. Will is extremely fond of her. Nola gives her a wide berth (although she’s not above stealing some of Tally’s food when she has the chance—stolen food always tastes better). Smidge, with typical Australian Shepherd temperament, is worried about her. She herds her, blocks her from moving into spaces she thinks are too dangerous for her (Smidge and Tally have different views on this subject), and sleeps curled up with her. It’s like having her own personal sheep.

    I don’t know how our pack dynamics will change when Tally is no longer with us. It’s not something I look forward to. Although she’s always been highly independent, she and Jenny made us into a pack. Tally taught us all to howl.

    Related:

    Pet Age 

    The Nutrient Your Pet Needs More of As They Age: Protein 

    World’s Oldest Dog Dies At Age 26….Requiescat in pace 

    The Lottie June Show – WORLD’S OLDEST CHIHUAHUA 

    How Long Will Your Dog Be with You? It Depends Heavily on This… 

    Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live 

    Pet owners turning to non-traditional 

    A Natural Herb That Fights Cancer, or Chemotherapy for Your Sick Pet… Which Would You Choose?

    ‘Until One Has Loved an Animal, Part of Their Sour Remains Unawakened’ 

    Adopt a Senior Pet… 

    WCBM’s Les Kinsolving’s beautiful tribute to Brendan, Griffen, and all dogs and dog owners

    August 22, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, responsible pet ownership | 10 Comments

    Should You Adopt a Second Dog?

    Dogster: My husband and I frequently debate about whether to add another dog to our family. We adopted Sasha, our Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, five years ago when she was three years old, and she’s brought so much joy into our lives. Wouldn’t two dogs be twice as fun? I think that dogs are pack animals and most would prefer to live with other dogs. My husband contends that Sasha would prefer to be an “only dog” and not have a canine sibling. I can’t tell if he really believes this or is projecting his anxieties about getting a second dog.

    Is there room on the couch for another dog besides Sasha?

    It doesn’t help that I volunteer for Copper’s Dream, a rescue organization that saves dogs from high-kill shelters in Central California and brings them to foster homes in the San Francisco Bay Area for adoption. I help post adoptable dogs on Craigslist, and at least once a week I fall in love with a dog’s smile or beautiful sad eyes. Like many of us dog lovers, I feel the urge to save them all.

    I consulted with a couple of dog trainers to get professional opinions on this topic. It turns out that neither me nor my husband are correct (darn!). What it boils down to is whether the pet parents are prepared to take on the additional responsibility and how the introduction between the dogs is handled.

    Gloria Post, a certified dog trainer with Hands On Dog Training, recommends that pet parents consider the following factors when weighing whether to add another dog to the family:

    • Do you have the time to commit to another dog? For instance, time for walks and training?
    • What type of temperament does your current dog have? What would be a good match for your dog? Does your dog like to run and play all day or is the dog contented to stretch out on the couch and relax?
    • If you decide to get another dog who is the same age as your resident dog, you should consider that someday they will both be old at the same time. This might involve large medical expenses. Is that something that you’re willing to do? A three to five year age span seems to work best between dogs.

    Post added that dogs of the opposite gender seem to be more compatible than same-gender dogs, and some rescue organizations or shelters may restrict adoptive parents to only adopt a dog of a different gender from their current dog. She says terriers are most prone to this sensitivity.

    Once you’ve determined that you are indeed ready to adopt another dog, keep in mind the age, personality and gender of the dog that might be most compatible with your family when you conduct your search. When you find a dog that might be a match, set up a play date for the dogs. Marthina McClay, certified dog trainer with Dog Training for People, suggests you schedule one or two play dates and let your dog decide if he or she likes the other dog. “Go slow, don’t rush things,” she advises.

    And don’t bring the new dog into the house (aka your dog’s territory) right away. Instead, have them meet on neutral territory and slowly check each other out. If things appear to be going well, then bring them to the front yard and later inside the house. This means that both dogs appear relaxed and neither dog is exhibiting rude behavior such as mounting the other dog. McClay advises keeping an eye on the dogs’ posture to see their level of acceptance with the new arrangement and that neither dog appears overly aroused, nervous, stiff or fearful. And above all, don’t lavish too more attention on the new dog, so that you’re resident dog doesn’t feel left out.

    Read more on getting a new dog:

    JOMP:  We have 4 furkids and due to business related moves, we have had to temporarily introduce a new dog into our pack twice now in two years and amazingly, even though ours are little hesitant to socialize because they have developed a bit of a pack mentality, they have adjusted both times without any problem…

    Leaving CA  - We Are Sooo Ready to LeaveStair Patrol

    August 19, 2013 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Animal Rescues, animals, Chihuahua, Chiweenie, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Adoption, Pet and Animal Training, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, responsible pet ownership, Success Stories | , , , , , | 5 Comments

    Policeman Rescues Dog Running from Auto Accident

    South Londonberry Patrolman Nick Ague carries a German Shepherd who was injured after running away from a car accident.

    (CNN) — A Pennsylvania patrol officer who chased down a German shepherd following a car accident is being called a hero by some. A photo of officer Nick Ague carrying the 75-pound dog over his shoulder was posted to the South Londonderry Township Police Facebook page on Sunday getting more than 6,000 "likes" and 1,300 "shares." In the comments people praise Ague’s compassion for animals and thank him for his dedication.

    Despite the sudden Internet fame, Ague is "keeping a level head," said fellow patrolman Scott Firestone.

    On Sunday, Ague responded to an accident involving at least one vehicle in Palmyra, the department posted on Facebook. Two dogs in the vehicle escaped. One was captured right away but Mya, the German shepherd, began running, Firestone said.

    Ague, himself a dog owner, gave chase. Mya and Ague continued running for about two miles, Firestone said. When Mya finally came to a stop, Ague realized her paws were injured — presumably from running across hot asphalt and the rough terrain, the department posted on Facebook. Ague scooped up Mya up and walked her back to her owner’s vehicle as a fellow patrolman snapped their photo.

    Firestone said Mya is at home recovering and doing well. He said Ague is taking advantage of the incident to add momentum to his continuing effort to start a K9 unit within the small police department.

    "If you look on our Facebook page you can see we’ve searched for lost hikers and things like that," Firestone said, but "by far this is the most attention anyone in our department has received."

    August 18, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Unusual Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | 6 Comments

    Olinguito: ‘An Overlooked’ Mammal Carnivore is a Major Discovery

    olinguito_new_mammal

    BBC:  Scientists in the US have discovered a new animal living in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador.

    It has been named olinguito and is the first new species of carnivore to be identified in the Western hemisphere in 35 years.

    It has taken more than a decade to identify the mammal, a discovery that scientists say is incredibly rare in the 21st Century.

    The credit goes to a team from the Smithsonian Institution.

    The trail began when zoologist Kristofer Helgen uncovered some bones and animal skins in storage at a museum in Chicago.

    "It stopped me in my tracks," he told BBC News. "The skins were a rich red color and when I looked at the skulls I didn’t recognize the anatomy. It was different to any similar animal I’d seen, and right away I thought it could be a species new to science."

    Meet the olinguito and the man who discovered the new mammal species

    Dr Helgen is curator of mammals at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, which houses the largest mammal collection in the world.

    More than 600,000 specimens are flat-packed in trays to save space, their bones picked clean by specially bred beetles and stored in boxes alongside their skins.

    The olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina)

    • Smallest member of the animal family that includes raccoons
    • Measures 14 inches in length (35cm), has a tail of 13-17 inches and weighs 2lb (900g)
    • Males and females of the Bassaricyon neblina species are similar in size
    • Eats fruit mainly, but also consumes insects and nectar
    • Solitary and nocturnal animals that spend their time in trees
    • Female olinguitos raise a single baby at a time
    • Found only in cloud forests of northern Andes in Ecuador and Colombia, at high elevations

    Source: Smithsonian Institution

    Many were collected more than a century ago and were often mislabeled or not properly identified. But recent advances in technology have enabled scientists to extract DNA from even the oldest remains.

    The 35cm-long (14in) olinguito is the latest addition to the animal family that includes raccoons. By comparing DNA samples with the other five known species, Dr. Helgen was able to confirm his discovery.

    "It’s hard for me to explain how excited I am," he says.

    "The olinguito is a carnivore – that group of mammals that includes cats, dogs and bears and their relatives. Many of us believed that list was complete, but this is a new carnivore – the first to be found on the American continent for more than three decades."

    Dr. Helgen has used such mammal collections to identify many other new species, including the world’s biggest bat and the world’s smallest bandicoot. But he says the olinguito is his most significant discovery. Its scientific name is Bassaricyon neblina. The last carnivore to be identified in the Americas was the Colombian Weasel.

    But even after identifying the olinguito, a crucial question remained: could they be living in the wild?

    "We used clues from the specimens about where they might have come from and to predict what kind of forest we might find them in – and we found it!"

    MAP

    The olinguito is now known to inhabit a number of protected areas from Central Colombia to western Ecuador. Although it is a carnivore, it eats mainly fruit, comes out at night and lives by itself, producing just one baby at a time.

    And scientists now believe an olinguito was exhibited in several zoos in the US between 1967 and 1976. Its keepers mistook it for an olinga – a close relative – and could not understand why it would not breed. It was sent to a number of different zoos but died without being properly identified.

    Olinguito Washington’s National Zoo had an olinguito in the 1960s but never identified it as a separate species

    "The vast majority of the discoveries of new species are made in museum collections," says Chris Norris, of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in Connecticut and president of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

    "Often people working 70 years ago or more had different ideas of what constituted a new species – maybe they didn’t recognize things that we would as being distinct, or they might not have had access to technologies, such as being able to extract and sequence DNA."

    But there is no central museum database and scientists have little idea of what each collection contains. Many organizations are now putting their inventories online, and Dr Norris says that will make research faster and more accessible.

    Another challenge is keeping specimens in good condition. Many are hundreds of years old and are prone to moth and insect infestations.

    The oldest surviving collection was assembled in the 17th Century by John Tradescant. Its most famous specimen is a dodo that is now on display at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in the UK.

    Continue reading the main story

    "But not all of it," says Dr Norris. "There’s just the head and a foot left because everything else got eaten.

    "It’s a cautionary tale for anyone working on museum collections today. You get to do exciting science but you have to take care of them or they won’t be there for people to use in the future.

    "Our economy is in the middle of a rough period and spending on museums sometimes seems difficult to justify when you look for example at some of the more shiny or spectacular scientific tools that are out there. But it’s important to think of these things, not as rather bizarre collections of dried skins and pickled bats in jars and drawers full of snails, but as a research tool in the same way that you might think of a new telescope or a Large Hadron Collider."

    Scientists have catalogued only a fraction of the planet’s lifeforms. New species of insects, parasitic worms, bacteria and viruses are discovered on a regular basis, but new mammals are rare.

    "This reminds us that the world is not yet explored and the age of discovery is far from over," says Dr Helgen. "The olinguito makes us think – what else is out there?"

    Three other new species in 2013

    Tailorbird

    Cambodian tailorbird, Orthotomus chaktomuk, found in Phnom Penh (above)

    A new, smaller-skulled species of the Hero Shrew called Scutisorex thori

    A dinosaur named Nasutoceratops titusi, which means big-nose, horn-face

    August 16, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Unusual Stories | , , , , | 2 Comments