Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sea Otter Pup

Here is some video of an adorable otter pup at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Red Panda Born

There may be no cuter animal than the Red Panda, and a new one was born at the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Vicious Dogs in Veteriary Settings

This week, the internet became inflamed from the story of a dachshund named "Spork." According to this article, Spork bit a veterinary technician and now faces "euthanasia or kenneling." He even has a Facebook page. The veterinarian is being defamed as incompetent and uncaring, and Spork and his owners are being portrayed as innocent victims of circumstance.

Sadly, even without knowing the particulars, it is very clear to me that this story has been misconstrued and blown out of proportion by the media. I don't know the veterinarian involved, but I definately sympathize with her. I'll list the inconsistencies and the problems that the media (and, apparently, the general public) do not understand.

1. First, it is important to realize that, if an animal bites anyone in a veterinary clinic, the practice owner is liable. Though slightly different in different states, this fact is widely understood in the veterinary community and precautions are made to minimize the risks. Even an owner that walks into the waiting room and is bit or scratched by their own pet can hold the vet liable, as inane as that sounds. It is for that reason that most veterinary clinics enforce rules such as making sure all animals are properly leashed or confined in a carrier at all times, and that only the hospital staff is allowed to hold any animals for treatment, even if it is something simple. The veterinary staff is trained in ways to safely restrain animals to minimize the risk of injury to any humans or pets around, and workman's comp insurance will cover injuries to staff but not to a client. Even with precautions, occasionally someone will get injured.

2. Secondly, most communities require the reporting of any animal-related injuries, especially if the person bit seeks medical treatment. I do not know how severely this tech was bitten, but many animal bites require copious flushing plus antibiotics if not stitches and the like. The report is made to the local animal control or whatever the local authority is that monitors such things. Then, depending on the community, several routes are taken. For example, in my community, if a dog bites someone, they need to be quarantined for rabies (more on that later) for a period of time, even if they have a recent vaccination. If an animal bites three people causing injury, he may be deemed "vicious" by the city and potentially face euthanasia. Though I am having difficulty wading through the gobs of hype related to this issue and finding out exactly what the regulations in this community are, I have a feeling the vet did as she was supposed to do in reporting the incident and it is the city's business what the next step is.

3. Thirdly, a word or two about rabies...The biggest fear whenever an animal bites someone is the spread of rabies. Though it is very rare now due to good vaccination protocols, rabies is still around. Rabies is always (for all intents and purposes) fatal and hugely difficult to test for. The only was you can test for rabies is with brain, it is always a post mortem diagnosis.

However, for all of its difficulties, rabies follows a fairly predictable course. When an animal is bit, the virus is transmitted via the saliva into the blood and nerve cells of the animal. It then travels via nerve sheaths to the brain. Distance does animal bit on the face will develop rabies faster than an animal bit on it's hind leg due to the proximity to the brain. The virus must enter the brain and multiply before it is then shed in the saliva. So, for an animal to transmit rabies, it must be present in the brain first.

For this reason, in most cases, animals that bite someone are put in a 10-day quarantine (at home or in a veterinary clinic, depending on the community and the situation). The reason for this is, if an animal bites you and is shedding rabies at that time, it will be dead or showing signs of rabies within 10 days. The only other way to test for rabies it by sampling the brain so if the animal cannot be quarantined for some reason, they may be euthanized. This is important because, if a person is bitten by a rabid animal, treatment must be started (which is both painful and expensive) ASAP or the bitten person risks contracting the disease.

4. Any dog can bite...and will! No matter the size or breed of the dog, there are circumstances that will trigger even the nicest dog to feel threatened and, if they cannot flee they will fight. Circumstances are everything!!! Small dogs can bite just as easily as big dogs, but the difference is that big dogs are much more likely to cause serious injury. In my experience, smaller dogs can be harder to restrain than some bigger dogs, so sometimes the risk of biting is greater when dealing with small dogs. Dachshunds are especially tricky because they can be a "bitey" breed (related to their history as being bred as hunters of aggressive badgers), and their anatomy puts their very long nose very near you, especially if you are trying to do something like take a blood sample from their jugular vein or placing an IV catheter in their front leg.
There is a substantial difference between a "normal" dog bite and a bite from a dog that can truly be deemed a "vicious" dog. My own dachshund bit me once. I had him at the clinic for something and it was slow appointment-wise, so I decided to practice performing an abdominal ultrasound on him. He was terrified and I could see it, but I ignored it. Abdominal ultrasound is uncomfortable, but not painful, so I figured he could handle it. Since I ignored his signs, he escalated his behavior and bit my hand. It was nowhere near a serious bite, and I think he and I were equally as surprised. However, it was completely (1) predictable and therefore preventable, and (2) controlled and appropriate to the situation. Those two points are what make that bite "acceptable" versus the unacceptable bite of a truly vicious dog.

The bottom-line of this story is that we do not have all the facts. There are clearly extenuating circumstances in Spork's case that are not being adequately aired and recognized. Spork would not be facing euthanasia for biting one person once unless there is some very serious issue the we don't know about.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Antiobiotic Use in Agriculture

A veterinarian's perspective on the issue: (link)

By Alyn M. McClure, DVM with Herd Health Management, LP

Recently, CBS News producers created a special report on the use of antibiotics in livestock production. The piece, reported by Evening News anchor Katie Couric, is not a factual representation of the scientific, safe and careful use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

My lifetime of experience in animal agriculture makes their report seem to me biased and misleading. My parents who migrated from family farms in Oregon raised us in a small Southern California community with chickens and rabbits for meat and eggs. I worked my way through high school and college on farms and fruit orchards, a 12,000 head beef feedlot, and a university owned dairy and milk processing plant. Professionally I have worked for 36 years with dairies, feedlots, cattle and sheep ranchers in 12 states in the U.S. and in Mexico.

Without exception I have found these owners and managers to be very concerned about the ethical treatment and welfare of their animals including the responsible use of antibiotics. They have been interested in scientific and applied research, and have worked diligently to improve every aspect of herd health and implement management programs to prevent disease and minimize the need for the use of antibiotics.

Last week I was leaning against a fence post on a third-generation family dairy farm in Arizona pondering how I might respond to the CBS report since I’d gotten word they’d be airing a story on the subject. While I was reflecting, I was watching cows returning from the milking parlor playfully loping back to their pen and rapidly placing their heads side by side through the self-locking stanchions to eat. They were voraciously consuming a well-balanced total mixed ration of locally grown forages, processed grains and agricultural by-products. They had just been calmly milked by caring professional milkers using state-of-the art milking equipment. These cows walk to and from their pen twice a day on dry, padded concrete walkways to be milked. They are bedded on clean, dry and comfortable bedding in open dry lots and under shades that protect them from the elements in the winter and cool them with water spray and fans in the summer. This family has implemented many technologies to now efficiently and humanely manage thousands of milk cows better than when they started with 40 cows years ago. These cows have never been fed antibiotics, and are only treated with antibiotics when needed to cure or prevent a bacterial infection to prevent pain, suffering and death, to enable these cows to achieve their potential to feed us and a starving world with safe, wholesome, and affordable food. That is how less than 1% of the U.S. population is involved in agriculture and can provide for the other 99% and have surplus to export to developing nations.

How are antibiotics used in animal agriculture? Besides treatment of an individual sick animal, after every possible effort has been made to successfully manage genetics, housing, environment, nutrition, feeding, vaccination and other herd or flock health practices, antibiotics may be used in feed or water to treat, control or prevent disease and to promote growth and feed efficiency. This use has been proven to improve animal health and welfare (less disease and mortality), improve growth and feed conversion (reduces bad bacteria; promotes good bacteria), and improve food safety.

I welcome open dialogue and evaluation of our agricultural production practices. It can only make us better. I do ask the evaluation to be scientific and objective, and the reporting to avoid sensationalism, hyperbole, and misleading statements aimed at inflaming opinion. The CBS News report is extremely critical of the use of antibiotics in agriculture, repeating the oft-stated but unsupported assertion that there is an alarming rise in the incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria among farm animals. I have not recognized this as a problem in 36 years of dairy practice. Surveillance data regarding bacterial isolates from cattle by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System does not support their claim either.

Opponents of antibiotic use in food animals claim that we don’t need antibacterials to produce meat and eggs, that their use has lead to a significant increase in antibiotic resistant bacterial infections in humans, and that their use reduces the effectiveness of human medicines. In 1999, the Heidelberg Appeal Nederland Foundation, renowned for its unbiased scientific research, conducted a study on the effect of antibiotics used for growth promotion in food animals, and concluded that there was no conclusive evidence that their use contributed to human disease or compromised the efficacy of related antibiotics in human medicine.

After growth promoting antibiotics were legislatively banned in food animals in Denmark in 1999 in an attempt to protect public health from antibiotic resistance, there has been no reduction in the incidence of antibiotic-resistant hospital isolates in humans. In some cases resistance has increased and the incidence of some types of infections in humans has also increased. Unfortunately, disease and mortality have increased among animals, producing adverse animal welfare conditions. As a result, to treat the higher incidence of disease in animals in Denmark, it has been necessary to increase the use of antibiotics for therapeutic treatment in animals. The use of antibiotics in humans has also increased. The increased health costs and labor and the reduction in growth and feed conversion in pigs have resulted in increased production costs of $5.29 per pig.

Some purport that antibacterial-free farming makes food safer. The truth is that antibiotic use in food animals makes them healthier which makes our food safer. Chickens raised without antibiotics are three times more likely to carry bacteria that can make people sick. When the EU phased out certain antibiotic uses there was no discernable improvement in food safety. Food handling and preparation has a much greater impact on food safety. In the U.S., food-borne pathogens decreased by 15 to 49% from 1996 to 2001 following the implementation of the new FSIS/HACCP (Food Safety Inspection Service/Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) regulations. Proper food handling and cooking prevents human infection by food-borne pathogens.

Some bacteria are naturally resistant to certain antibiotics; others acquire resistance by genetic mutation over time; and some acquire resistance after exposure to an antibiotic used in human medicine or animal production. For a person to have an antibiotic treatment failure due to acquiring a foodborne bacterial disease from eating, for example, pork, the following things would have to happen:
- The antibiotic would be used in the animal
- The animal would have to develop a resistant bacterial strain
- The resistant strain would have to survive through food processing/handling
- The resistant strain would have to survive through food preparation
- The resistant strain would have to transfer to the human
- The resistant strain would have to colonize
- The resistant strain would have to cause a disease
- The antibiotic treatment would have to fail

What is the probability of a person experiencing a treatment failure due to antibiotic use in swine? Here are some risk comparisons:

Risk Comparison
Annual Probability
Being struck by lightening
1 in 550,000
Dying from a bee sting
1 in 6 million
Dying from a dog bite
1 in 18 million
Acquiring resistant campylobacter from macrolide-treated swine resulting in treatment failure
<1 in 53 million
Acquiring resistant E. faecium from macrolide-treated swine resulting in treatment failure
<1 in 21 billion

It’s easy for me to say that antibiotic resistant bacteria are not a problem when I haven’t personally experienced such an infection, but that’s meaningless to a person who has. It’s like trying to console a person who has been unable to find work for six months by informing them that the national unemployment rate is only 10%. In fact, while competing in high school athletics my daughter got a nasty skin infection on her leg caused by antibiotic resistant staphylococcal bacteria (MRSA). A few months later my wife got a lip infection caused by the same type of bacteria. These infections did not come from animal agriculture nor did the antibiotic resistance. The resistance is real but many scientists believe the primary cause is misuse (over prescribing) of antibiotics in human medicine and/or failure of patients to complete the prescribed regimen.

Antibiotic use in animal agriculture is by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian using antibiotics approved by the FDA, having passed its stringent testing requirements for efficacy and safety (for animals, our food and the environment). All major industry associations have established prudent drug usage guidelines: the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, American Association of Avian Pathologists, National Chicken Council, National Pork Board, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and others. These guidelines and FDA oversight insure that antibiotic use in food animals will protect animal health and welfare leading to production of safe, affordable and abundant food, critical to our U.S. food security.

Maintaining the health of U.S. herds and flocks requires agriculture producers and their veterinarians to have all approved safe and effective technologies, including animal health products, available to us. It would be a tragedy for misconceptions, misrepresentations or non-science based political agendas to deprive us of any valuable tools for preventing animal disease without substantial evidence of a benefit to human health.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wild Pigs in the Dakotas

Feral swine population growth is a problem that many states face. Here is an article about the issue from North Dakota: link for source
An animal estimated to cause $800 million damage in the U.S. annually first appeared in North Dakota in 2007 and state animal officials are strongly urging the public to report all sightings. After feral swine moved into the state, the Legislature passed a bill last session, in 2009, to regulate the animal.

“We’ve had a few situations that have come up recently in which individuals saw wild pigs on their property, or on property they were hunting, yet did not report it to the BOAH (Board of Animal Health),” said Greg Link, assistant chief of wildlife for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “There will be serious consequences if feral pigs establish a permanent population in the state.”

Ryan Powers, wildlife disease biologist for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, said there have been reports of feral swine across the state, including Billings, Rolette, Sheridan and Nelson counties as well as in the Turtle Mountains.

During hunting season last fall, sightings of feral swine in the Badlands were reported, NDGF Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Dan Grove said, adding they were later thought to have been escaped domestic pigs.
But, their presence leaves something for concern.

“Anytime that you introduce anything that’s that large and sizeable and destructive into an area that it’s not native to you going to have some major problems,” Grove said.

Officials say the animals can cause complete destruction.

“They’ll pretty much eat anything they come across,” Grove said. “They destroy native habitat. They’ll kill native species. They tear up the native prairie as well as being a potential source of disease for our domestic livestock as well as our wildlife in the state.”

Aside from the damage, disease-related issues are a major concern.

“Feral swine are capable of carrying 30-some different viral and bacterial diseases in addition to parasites and some of those diseases can be passed on to domestic livestock, wildlife, humans, pets … ,” Powers said.
Officials are unclear as to how the animals landed in the state.

“Usually they are escapees,” Grove said. “Sometimes they are released for the purpose of hunting which has actually been banned in the state.”

The newly-passed legislation regulates several aspects concerning feral swine.

It is illegal to possess live feral swine and to hunt or trap the animal.

Powers said while the wild swine existed in southern states for many years, their numbers have gradually increased along with their distribution shifting to the north.

“We don’t want feral swine to become established in North Dakota because of the potential impacts they could cause,” Powers said.

More than 4 million feral swine are estimated to be across the U.S., existing in at least 40 states, Powers said.
“They are probably the most prolific large mammal we have in the U.S.,” Powers said.
And here is an article addressing the issue in South Carolina. These pigs are everywhere! Article Link

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Puppy Mill Regulation in Iowa Tightening

Full Article Here

Iowa is one step closer to tightening regulation of puppy mills, in a bill approved Wednesday by the House.

Iowa would pick up the responsibility to inspect roughly 450 breeders who currently are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under House File 2280.

Advocates say the bill would save millions of dogs from cruelty at the hands of irresponsible breeders who have little oversight.

Opponents argue that the federal government has failed in its responsibilities and that that failure will cost innocent Iowa operations - such as nonprofit pounds and animal shelters - new $75 fees.

In total, the bill would cost Iowa businesses $335,000 a year, mostly in new license fees. It also would require the state to hire five new inspectors.

"Yes, I love dogs, and yes, I care about whether or not they're getting the proper care, but there needs to be more work put into this bill," said Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant. "The way it sits right now, I can't support it."

Advocacy groups such as the Iowa Voters for Companion Animals have lobbied for several years to tighten regulation of some Iowa breeding facilities. Documentation in video and public records on the group's Web site show emotional scenes, such as a dog that grew permanently deformed because she lived too long in a small cage.
"We have an epidemic," said Rep. Mark Kuhn, D-Charles City, whose wife rescues dogs from puppy mills. "There's an overpopulation of these animals. If we are concerned about the humane treatment of these animals, it's imperative that we pass this legislation."

A 10-member study committee of Democratic and Republican lawmakers voted unanimously in September to recommend that the 2010 Legislature authorize state inspectors to begin inspecting federally licensed dog breeders when they get complaints.
Committee members said their appeals to U.S. regulators largely are ignored.

The bill passed, 77-22, and heads to the Senate for further consideration.

"Saving one animal will not change the world, but it will change the world for that animal," said Rep. Jim Lykam, D-Davenport, who led discussion on the bill.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yet Another Elephant Picture

You all may be sick of the elephant pictures....but I'm not! Here is an adorable one of the calf mentioned in earlier posts that was born in Australian recently. She almost looks like she is smiling!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Elephant Calf at San Diego

There was another elephant calf born, this time an African Elephant at the San Diego Park Zoo. One of the especially neat things about this birth is that the elephant park at San Diego is a very large, naturalistic enclosure. The entire herd of elephants, now numbering 13, was present for the birth as is common in the wild. Also, the herd apparently did some very loud trumpeting after the birth, announcing the new arrival to the world!
You can also view the elephants 24/7 via a live webcam! Click here for the link.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Baby Tamarin Monkeys

Tamarin monkeys (of which there are many species) are one of the smallest species of primates. These new little babies born at the Antwerp Zoo would easily fit in the palm of your hand!


This one looks a little crabby!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tiger and Child

Adorable picture...this here is one of the strongest things that can be said in support of zoos. Zoos and such organizations provide opportunities for us common folk to come up close to some of the most amazing and exotic animals in the world, and to develop an appreciation for them (in a safe environment!). You just have a feeling this little girl will grow up with this as being one of her favorite pictures of her childhood, and tigers being one of her favorite animals.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Animals are very adaptive to all sorts of situations. Here, a black bear has adapted very well to life with just 3 legs. And, I have to say, the very human-like quality of her bipedal walking is kinda disturbing!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

First American Gorilla Baby of 2010

The first Lowland Gorilla baby of 2010 was born at the Louisville Zoo! Click here for a link to the zoo's website information about the new arrival!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wild Cats of Borneo

Images and video have been captured of some of the rarest wild feline species in Borneo.

Visit this site for pictures

And this site for video

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Disney-inspired Salmonella Cases

Apparently, there has been a spike of Salmonella cases among children that is being blamed on the recent Disney movie, "The Princess and the Frog." A high majority of the cases were in girls under the age of 10.

So, make sure to tell any young kids in your acquaintance that only bad things can come from kissing frogs!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lawyers for Animals

This possibility of lawyer representation for animals is on the ballot in Switzerland. (Click here for an article on it) And, that is not a good idea.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Microchip Your Pet

This article serves as a good reminder to microchip your pet!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Smartest Breeds of Dogs

It seems like several times a year, people come out with their list of the smartest breeds of dogs. Using results from obedience competitions, this researcher came up with the following list of the top 5:

1. Border Collies

2. Poodles

3. German Shepherds

4. Golden Retrievers

5. Dobermans

The problem with that method, naturally, is that many breeds aren't represented in large numbers in obedience competitions. One thing that is interesting, though, is that labs didn't make the top 5 though they are by far the most popular breed in the US. Sadly, I don't think dachshunds (or any other hound, really) will ever break into breed intelligence lists. ;)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lucky Hawk! (?)

A hawk was released to the wild today from a wildlife clinic in California. The hawk had been hit by a car, and had gotten stuck in the car's grill! Amazingly, the bird survived, and the driver was given the honor of officially releasing the bird. Visit this link for a full story plus pictures and video.

Many hawks are killed along roadways. This one was certainly lucky!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ghost Dog

Can you find the dog in this picture? If it wasn't for his collar, it would be nearly impossible to see him!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Smiling Dog

Another Japanese video, this one shows a smiling dog. I know some dogs who do that. We need to get recordings, apparently!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cat Commercials

OK, I think these commercials are for an internet search engine? Or a hotel? Or sushi? I'm not sure, but they are kinda funny....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tiger Populations Plummet

This may be the Year of the Tiger, but the tiger population is facing a huge crisis. Wild tiger populations in Southeast Asia have all but collapsed, only an estimated 350 remaining. Tigers are threatened by both illegal hunting due to demand for tiger parts in traditional Chinese medicine as well as habitat destruction and fragmentation (the artificial separation of habitats by deforestation and building). The next Year of the Tiger is in 2022, and it could very well be that there are no more wild tigers in Southeast Asia by that time. World tiger populations are also dropping, now numbering at about 3,200, down from an estimated 20,000 in the 1980s. Interestingly, Russian Prime Minister Vladimer Putin himself is going to be hosting a tiger conservation summit in Vladivostak this September.

Tigers, besides being amazing creatures, are a "flagship species." Flagship species are the major, headliner animals that live in particular habitats, and the health of their population gives an indication of the overall health of the ecosystem. Also, flagship species tend to be the large, flashy, popular animals that people are more interested in saving rather than the more "homely" creatures that count on the same ecosystem. By saving flagship species, you save many other species as well.

Tiger conservation certainly is a difficult proposition. Tigers are large, aggressive carnivores that are a threat to the people and livestock that live their habitat. That alone makes locals less concerned about tiger welfare than those of us who don't need to worry about tigers in our own backyards. Also, the long tradition of the use of tiger parts in traditional medicine is ingrained into the culture of the people. Deforestation and habitat loss are difficult problems that we face around the world, not just in Southeast Asia. Significant funding for tiger conservation would need to go into education of the locals in alternative agricultural practices and better access to Western medicine. A national park system such as has been present in the United States would be ideal, but lots of money would be needed to maintain it and keep up patrols for poachers.

Whatever is decided upon, action must be taken quickly. This magnificent creature, and the other animals that live in this habitat, are highly endangered, and may be extinct in the wild within the not-so-distant future.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

I thought these would be funnily appropriate today. Here are some trailers for the movie Groundhog Day, remixed to make the movie fit several genres. Some are better than others, but if nothing else, it shows how much music can lend something to the mood of a trailer

First, we have the intense, emotionally charged drama:

Second, the thrilling action movie:

And lastly, (and most believabley) the horror film:

Reposting of clips from this article.

Monday, February 1, 2010

National Geographic Photo Contest 2009

A bit late in posting, but certainly cool, here are the winners of the 2009 National Geographic Photography Contest. Click on the link to see the winners! The first (elephant-related) is my favorite, of course.