Munchausen by Proxy for pets

Although it is rare, veterinarians should be aware of Munchausen by Proxy since it can involve pets.  To understand Munchausen by Proxy it is necessary to understand the Munchausen disorder.

Munchausen is a mental illness that involves faking, producing or prolonging an illness. People who have this disorder will go to great lengths to hide it. It is important to note that this disorder does not include faking illnesses to get out of going to work, winning a lawsuit, and it is not the same as hypochondria where the person actually believes that he is sick.

Munchausen by Proxy is when the mentally ill person fakes illnesses in a child, elderly person or pet to gain sympathy. There is not much data on Munchausen by Proxy in pets, but by understanding how it manifests itself in humans; a veterinarian may be able to detect it when it involves pets.

Here are some of the characteristics of this disorder:

The illness does not fit the classical picture

The Illnesses do not fit well together or do not relate

The caregiver is too helpful

The caregiver is often involved in the medical field

Complications can arise from the injuries

There are dramatic stories about the medical problems

Frequent visits to the doctor/veterinarian

Vague symptoms

Inconsistent symptoms

Conditions that worsen with no apparent reason

Eagerness for testing and surgeries

Extensive knowledge of medical terms and conditions

Frequenting many different medical professionals

Made-up histories

Faking symptoms

Self-harm or inflicting harm

Preventing healing

The persons most likely to have Munchausen disorder are those who:

Experienced a childhood trauma including sexual, emotional or physical abuse

Had a serious illness in childhood

A relative with a serious illness

Poor self-esteem or identity

Loss of a loved one early in life

Unfulfilled desire to be in the medical profession

Work in the health care field

According to the statistics, more males and young or middle-aged people are most likely to have Munchausen disorder.

What should you do if you suspect that your client has this disorder? First try to diagnose the illness in the pet with tests to be certain that it is real. Go for a cure rather than treat symptoms.

Talk to your pet’s owners and being aware of the symptoms listed above.  Listen to your gut feelings if they tell you that something isn’t right.  Most people try to second guess themselves when their first reaction was correct. If you suspect that a client may have Munchausen by Proxy you can alert your local animal cruelty organization. Munchausen by Proxy is a form of cruelty. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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Beech trees are dying, and nobody’s sure why

I do not often write about plants since my expertise is mainly dogs and cats, but as a tree lover, I felt it important to pass along this information.

“In a study published in the journal Forest Pathology, researchers and naturalists from The Ohio State University and metroparks in northeastern Ohio report on the emerging “beech leaf disease” epidemic, calling for speedy work to find a culprit so that work can begin to stop its spread.”

The disease has been found in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Canada. If a tree is infected it will have dark green bands between the veins of the leaves. As the disease progresses the leaves get very dark, shrink and get leathery. Then the limbs that have the disease do not produce buds. From there the tree dies. According to the report young trees are usually hit harder than older trees.

Trees of all kinds are important to wildlife and people. We have already had an infestation in parts of the country that have killed Oak trees and Hemlocks. Elm trees never recovered from the Dutch Elm disease. I would hate to see another species of tree die.

If you suspect that any of your trees are affected, I would suggest that you contact your local agricultural agency or DCNR office. Let’s hope that we can stop the Beech tree disease.

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Beech leaf disease symptoms include dark banding between the veins in early stages, followed by crinkling leaves.

Credit: Forest Pathology, Ohio State

A little brag from me!

I wanted to let my followers know that my latest book, K9 Troubleshooting won first place in the National League of American Pen Woman’s contest and has now been nominated in the Dog Writers Association of American contest. I will not know for a month or so if it wins. Being nominated is an honor in and of itself. There are a lot of books entered. 9781550597363

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dwaa cert

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The truth about Pit bull’s, Bully breeds and mixes

Over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion about Pit bull Terriers as well as Pit or Bully mixes. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about these breeds to the point where the Bully breeds in general have been banned in certain states. Owners are often restricted as to where they can live, what homeowner’s insurance they can get and how they have to house or walk the bully breeds.

People fail to understand the nature of these dogs therefore I have compiled a list to dispel some of the myths surrounding them.

  1. Myth: All Pit bulls will attack another dog.

The truth of the matter is not as clear cut as many are led to believe. First of all, the Pit bull is a terrier. As such it can have a typical terrier personality. In the dog show ring a number of terrier breeds are tested by “sparring” them. Here is a quote from the Kerry Blue Terrier (KBT) web site, “The act of sparring KBTs allows a judge to determine which KBT possesses the greatest amount of poise and fire, tempered with dignity and control. In other words, sparring shows the judge “who’s who”!”

To spar a dog is when the dogs are put face to face and they must show a willingness to challenge another dog. Although they are not allowed to fight, sometimes due to poor handling a fight will ensue.

The difference between the Pit bull and other terriers is that the Pit bull breed was bred not to bite his handler when pulled apart in a dog fight. There are few dogs that will not bite any hand that gets in the way of a dog fight. This is why if your dog is in a fight, never try to pull the dog’s apart by their collar, you will be bitten. The Pit bull is the only breed that is specifically bred not to bite people.

However, many Pit bull dogs will not fight other dogs. It is primarily a matter of training by their owners. The proof of this is how many Pit bull dogs have been beaten, abused, killed and otherwise discarded by those people who would use them in a dog fight, because they will not fight!

  1. Myth: Pit bull dogs can account for most of the human deaths by dogs.

This is difficult to prove because many dogs that are labeled as Pit bull dogs or mixes are in fact not at all Pit bull’s or mixes. It is difficult without a DNA test to determine if a dog is a mix between a Boxer, Boston terrier, Staffordshire terrier, Bullmastiff or a Rottweiler—just to name a few breeds. Many of the people who label a dog as a Pit bull or mix are not well versed in identifying breeds of dogs to make that determination. Even professionals in the dog business can find it difficult to determine what breed or mix a dog is. For example, if you saw a small Bull mastiff standing next to a large Pit bull, or a Pit bull standing next to a Staffordshire terrier or an American Bulldog, or even a Boxer, would you be able to tell the difference?

3. So why are the Pit bull types most often linked to attacks of all kinds on humans and other animals? Part of the reason is that they are currently the popular breed used by drug dealers, and other unsavory people that train the dogs to attack. In the past other breeds were popular with this element of society such as German Shepherds, Dobermans and Rottweilers. Also, when smaller dogs attack it is often not reported because they do not do much damage. The main thing to consider when you hear or read about a dog attacking a human, is to find out if the dog was taught to be aggressive and/or mistreated.

There are a number of key factors that come into play as to why any dog will attack or bite.

a. The way the dog was bred is vital to this issue. Many dogs that come from backyard breeders, commercial breeders, puppy mills or people who do not understand genetics and careful breeding can have a bad temperament. This is not limited to the Bully breeds which are why organizations such as the American Temperament Test Society formed to encourage people to show that the dogs they want to breed or own have a sound temperament. Any dog that does not have a sound temperament can be dangerous, especially if they are a large breed of dog.

b. The way the dog is raised by its owner plays an important part in how the dog will develop. Each puppy, no matter what breed, must receive proper socialization in order to increase its chance of adjusting to life with humans. This is why many dog trainers and dog clubs offer Puppy Kindergarten classes to help dog owners properly raise their puppies.

c. What the dog is taught is also critical. Every dog should have “no force” obedience training. This is critical for large dogs as well as the terrier breeds since they can be very focused on other things and a challenge to train for the novice dog owner.

d. The environment that the dog lives in is very important. Dogs are very intelligent and the latest research shows that they are much more intelligent than previously thought. When a dog’s needs are not met, the dog can become “mentally ill” in that he misjudges how he is supposed to behave. Solitary confinement — defined as being tied to a dog house, kept in a pen or a room in a house can have the same effect on a dog as it would a human—irrational behavior, violence and hostility. Even if the dog is not confined, aggressive behavior by the owner toward the dog or even other people can cause aggressive behavior in a dog.

e. The owner’s attitude can also play an important part in the way a dog behaves around other people. For example, the person that purchases the dog for protection will act differently when someone comes to their door or into their house than the person who only wanted a companion. Either consciously or unconsciously, they want the dog to attack an intruder to protect their home. They expect the dog to bite but they do not want the dog to bite everyone. They expect the dog to understand the difference between a friend and foe.

Unfortunately the dog will sense the owners fear that the dog will bite wanted guests and friends. However, the dog never associates himself as the cause of the fear or anxiety and thinks that everyone who comes near the owner, or to the door, is a threat. Pit bull’s are loyal dogs who instinctively want to protect their family, just like many other breeds. Therefore, as the dog becomes more protective and the owner becomes more fearful, when people come to the door, the dog’s protective instinct increases with every encounter. It is a vicious cycle.

f. One aspect that people hesitate to discuss or consider is the neighborhoods and types of people who own Pit bull’s and what they do with the dogs. Do most bites occur in a neighborhood where people have the dogs for protection, engage in dog fighting, or as a warning for illegal activities? As explained above, the owner plays a big part of why dogs behave as they do.

g.  When looking at dog bite statistics it is important to consider what percentage of the whole population of Pitbull’s (real Pitbull’s not dogs labeled as Pitbull’s) bite humans compared to other breeds.

h. Lastly, each bite must be evaluated based on its own merits. Was the dog trained to bite? Was the dog teased? Was the dog mistreated, etc.

All dogs will bite given the right circumstances. A bite is not always an act of aggression. A bite can be a warning to be left alone. People seem to forget that a dog’s mouth is also his “hands.” They communicate, manipulate, explore, and learn by using their mouth. If a dog owner does not teach a dog to inhibit his bite, a playful nip can hurt.

According to statistics, approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur each year. The following list ranks breeds in order of the most bites attributed to that breed.

  1. Chihuahua
  2. Bulldog
  3. Pit Bull
  4. German Shepherd
  5. Australian Shepherd
  6. Lhasa Apso
  7. Jack Russell Terrier
  8. Cocker Spaniel
  9. Bull Terrier
  10. Papillion

While the Pit Bull Terrier is ranked third on the list, of all of the bites reported, they do not represent the majority of bites.  Note that three of the breeds on the list are toy breeds.

Many if not the majority of Pit bull’s and the Bully breeds are sweet, wonderful companions. It is ironic that in today’s world it is against the law to use certain words, and people protest being profiled. Yet the Bully breeds are being profiled and persecuted no matter what the individual dog is like, even if the dog only looks like a Bully breed or mix and in reality is not.

The following photo is from on on-line free photo site: Can you tell what breed it is?

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Dog bites and children – prevention

A recent study by Lead researcher Professor Kerstin Meints, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology, found that both children and parents misinterpret the signs of distress and anxiety in dogs. Often children thought dogs were happy when they were growling and snarling. The study found that young children around three years old especially found it difficult to identify a dog’s distress signals. About 17% of parents were incorrect as well. About 65% of the children tested thought the dog was smiling.

The researchers then gave the children and parents a training session and found that as a result of the educational experience, 72% of the children tested were able correctly identify anxiety and distress in a dog’s body language.

It would benefit all my readers to go to this site and order the power point presentation on canine body language. If you can, offer to show it to children in the classroom as well as other organizations where children and adults can learn about canine body language. This is the power point presentation that I have used for years in my college program about dog training and behavior. (No I do not make any money by promoting it.)

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A way to preserve a loved one’s ashes

I have boxes of ashes from quite a few of my pets. Because we move so often, I did not want to bury them and then have to leave the ashes behind. I investigated a pet cemetery and the cost was prohibitive. Then I came across another option for those of us who have lost a beloved pet, or a family member.

The ashes can be incorporated into a beautiful glass object. It can be any type of object that you wish, something for the mantel, desk, dresser, curio cabinet or even a piece of jewelry. The size, shape and colors are limitless. The process does not require a lot of ashes, so you can scatter, bury or spread most of the ashes and keep some in a glass object. I hope this will help some of my followers. Glasslight Studios can send the glass anywhere in the world.

For more information contact, Glasslight Studios, PO Box 310, St. Peters, PA, 19470, or email them at glasslightstudio.com@gmail.com or go to www.glasslightstudio.com

The photos are examples of some of the objects that they have made.

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How animals detect odor

Professor  Nowotny, Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange in the University of Sussex’s School of Engineering and Informatics had determined that animals may not single out a specific odor when they look for a substance. He has found that animals may find it easier to detect a collection of odors instead of a single substance. If this is true, then most of the detection dog training that focuses on teaching a dog to look for one odor rather than a scent picture, may not be the best way to train a dog.

Waiting patiently to search croped (Jib a Border Collie)

One single odor does not exist in a natural environment, rather there are a collection of odors. When you consider that it is impossible to isolate a single odor in a natural environment, this discovery makes sense. Of course it is possible and often likely that a single odor is stronger than the surrounding odors, but still it is not the only odor present.

Professor Nowotny suggests that animal and human olfactory systems may not be made to do analytic smelling of pure odors. He uses the example of how an animal will give off pheromones, a complex set of odors, as a form of communication and that it is important that an animal recognize the entire chemical message and not a single element in the chemical message.

For years I have maintained that when teaching a dog scent work that there is no such thing as an uncontaminated scent article. Professor Nowotny has confirmed this with his latest research. Although more studies need to be done, and we should still train our dogs as we have in the past, it does open the door for a less narrow view of what dogs detect and how they detect it and may lead to new training methods.

Lifelong learning is important for old dogs and cats

We know that it is critical for humans to learn new things and keep their mind active as they age. It goes a long way to help our minds from deteriorating and creates positive emotions helping to stave off depression.

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The same is true for our dogs and cats as they age. Unfortunately physical limitations may keep an older dog or cat from participating in physical activities or even being physically unable to learn new tricks. However, Cognitive biologists from the Messerli Research Institute at Vetmeduni Vienna have developed a form of K9  “sudoku” to help old dogs stay mentally active.

Using a computer touch screen, they have developed a reward-based brain teaser. Once the dogs learn to use the touch screen the ones tested became avid computer gamers. The success of the project in the laboratory has led researchers to hope that industry will be motivated to develop the touch screen games for home use.

In the meantime, dog owners and cat owners (cats have the same mental needs as dogs) can set up treat puzzles or interactive games for their pets. There are some on the market that work well. You can google “treat puzzles for dogs or cats” to find them.

The main thing is to keep your aging pets mentally active. It will enrich their lives and keep their normal skills sharp.

Hypoallergenic pets and children

In the past, researchers have determined that children who have a pet dog or cat, or those who live in rural areas around livestock, have less of a chance to develop asthma and allergies to pets.

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A recent study conducted by Tove Fall, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Medical Sciences — Molecular Epidemiology at Uppsala University, who led the study with Professor Catarina Almqvist Malmros at Karolinska Institutet showed some interesting results.

They determined that the sex of the dog was a factor in reducing an allergic reaction in children. It seems that children who lived with female dogs and more than one dog in the home had less allergies.

They also found that children who lived with the breeds and mixes of dogs that are supposed to be ‘hypoallergenic’ actually had a higher percent of allergies. That the hypoallergenic dogs were not better for children.

A child will benefit the most from having a pet in the home if they are raised the first year of their life with the pet.

The fact that the hypoallergenic breeds are not really hypoallergenic is especially important information for those parents who may be considering a dog for their child who has allergies.

Many people are duped into paying high prices for supposed hypoallergenic designer mixes and breeds that are labeled as hypoallergenic. No matter what the mixed breed is supposedly mixed with, it is still a mixed breed with no proof that it is what the breeder claims to be. I have personally seen many cases where the supposed mix of Goldendoodle or Labradoodle grow up to have the characteristics of a completely different breed. In some cases DNA tests showed the dog was not what it was claimed to be.

Although more research needs to be done, it appears that getting a female dog of the breed that you want is the best course of action. If you plan to start a family, get the dog first. Have the dog trained by the time you start the family. It will make the situation much easier and benefit the children that join your family.

Arthritis in Cats

Many people do not realize that cats suffer from arthritis. We are used to our cats being very athletic and supple. However, feline arthritis affects 80 to 90% of all cats. About 33% of younger cats develop arthritis, so it is not limited to older cats.

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Because cats can hide pain very well, it is prudent that a cat owner understand and look for the various signs that indicate your cat is developing or has arthritis.

Here are the warning signs:

  1. You cat cannot jump up or down or is reluctant to do it.
  2. General stiffness
  3. Difficulty getting up when they are laying down.
  4. Personality change such as not wanting to be held or petted like they used to.
  5. If your cat does not groom himself as much. This could be a sign that it is                                 painful to reach parts of his body.
  6. If your cat tends to hide whereas he did not before. Pain can cause a cat to want to               hide.
  7. Your cat may sleep more than normal.
  8. Loss of appetite.
  9. A cat may stop using the litter box because it is painful to do so.
  10. You may notice that your cats’ muscles are atrophied.

If you see any of the signs listed above, you must take your cat to your veterinarian for a checkup. Some of these signs could also be due to another type of illness.

Arthritis is not a clear-cut issue. There are different types of arthritis and they can have different causes, from infection to injury. Therefore it is critical that your veterinarian determines if your cat has arthritis, the type of arthritis your cat has and how to treat it.