I Say, I Say, I Say, My Dog’s Got Snow Nose

Well, in spite of the Met Office bombarding everyone with warnings, we have had very little snow in London, but we’ve made the best of the sprinkling that we have had.

Whilst risk-averse transport companies and schools have been closing and the fair-weather cyclists are off the road – or rather pavements (Hooray!!!) – London suburbs have been blissfully peaceful. Sadly, so have the parks. It seems that most dogs are only walked in fine weather. In the 167 acre park that I travel through on my way to work, I saw only three dogs this morning. They made up for the lack of company by racing round the old golf course, bumbling in and out of snow-filled bunkers and burying their noses in drifts.

My dog’s prey instincts have gone into overdrive as he is convinced that every yard of snow is hiding tasty rodents. He has even condescended to make a rare foray into playing with a ball by way of sublimation. Luckily, I trained him to play with an orange rubber ball – handy for snow. Two years of my life weren’t wasted after all. Yes, really, it took two years, and when I say “a ball”, I mean “a ball”. I foolishly put the ball into the pocket of a jacket that I don’t wear very often then, assuming that I had lost it, bought a replacement. Well, I thought that it was: he didn’t. I tried everything – a coating of dog toothpaste, getting as much of my scent on it as possible – nothing worked. He would run up to it and then walk away in disgust when he realised that it was not the original.

Luckily the exact weather for my paddock jacket enabled me to re-discover the contents of the pocket (ball, baler twine and poo bags of course!) and we were in business again.

The only fly in the ointment is trying to avoid the de-icing salt on the pavements that burns paws. Oh, and the fact that everyone that we pass seems to think it original to comment that my dog must be enjoying the weather. Funnily enough they never say that in the summer when it hits the upper 20s and above – just like Siberia.

Kung Hei Fat Choy

Today marks the start of the lunar new year as celebrated across Asia and the diaspora. The lunar new year marked the start of preparations for a new growing season and is based on the moon’s orbit around the earth rather than the western calendar that is calculated according to the earth’s orbit around the sun. Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Legend tells that the Chinese new year traditions started because villagers drove out the marauding Nian using firecrackers and red lanterns as his winter hunger caused him to eat livestock and villagers. The Jade Emperor, the first Chinese deity, sent an immortal being into man’s world to select twelve guards for his palace. The animals set off towards the Heavenly Gate, determined to be chosen. Rat got up very early but had to stop at a river. He noticed Ox about to cross the river and hitched a ride on Ox’s ear to win first place. The Year of the Rat starts the 12 and 60 year cycle. Tiger and Rabbit came third and fourth. Good-looking Dragon and crafty Snake came next. Kind and modest Horse and Goat followed with Monkey tailing behind. Lastly, Rooster, Dog and Pig became the guards of the Heavenly Gate, the coming 11th in the race because he frolicked along the way due to his playful nature. According to the Chinese horoscope and the Taoist tradition, each animal is either yin or yang. Each in turn is mitigated by fire, earth, metal, wood or water. 2018 is the year of the yang earth dog. The Hour of the Dog is 19.00 to 21.00 and the dog is associated with the ninth lunar month.

There are many myths and legends involving dogs in Chinese culture and various ethnic groups claim to have had a divine dog as a forebear and dogs accompanied and assisted various legendary heroes. Several peoples preserve a myth that a dog provided humans with the first grain seeds, thus enabling the seasonal cycle of planting, harvesting and replanting. The black dog is also a metaphor for a meteor and is thought to eat the sun or moon during an eclipse. In northern China, paper images of dogs were thrown into water during the Duanwu Festival celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month to drive away evil spirits. Paper dogs were also used to protect the dead.

Although not proven conclusively, it is thought that the dog may have first evolved as a domestic animal in China, followed by two major evolutions of the northern basal breeds and then those from the fertile crescent. The Shar Pei and Chow Chow are some of the earliest dogs to have evolved from a now extinct mega-fauna wolf in Asia.

Dogs have mixed cultural associations in China and are, of course still used as a food animal; dog meat restaurants exist in most major cities. As China becomes a wealthier nation, there has been a steep rise in the number of dogs kept solely as companion animals with has been reported that overzealous enforcers confiscate and kill large dogs that have been deemed to have been owned illegally. There are no national welfare or anti-cruelty laws and consequently no prosecutions for mistreatment. Mass culls of dogs still take place when an rabies outbreak occurs. Before we rush to condemn these practices, we should remember that animal welfare legislation covering both companion and food animals in the UK does not prevent suffering and that much legislation is simply not policed or enforced where dogs are concerned. Rabies is largely limited to some bats in Scotland, although of course, all that can change with illegal imports continuing in huge numbers below the radar.

So 2018 is the Year of the Dog. Caution in financial dealings is advised by the CLSA Feng Shui Index. Others predict (not surprisingly) a year of social change and many uprisings throughout the world, but apparently it is worse when the dog year is a Yang Metal year.

Whether you have any truck with these beliefs or not, Happy New (Dog) Year to all and here is my wish list for dogs in 2018:

  • Vastly more resources put into educating owners to improve all aspects of welfare
  • Actual policing and enforcing of all statutes involving dogs
  • The introduction of compulsory domestic passports with mandatory neutering, vaccination and effective worming added to mandatory chipping unless certified as contra-indiciated by a registered veterinary surgeon
  • The cessation of sales of dogs (and all live animals) via websites such as eBay, Gumtree and Pets4Homes
  • The effective policing of canine imports and a ban on importing “rescue” dogs.

What’s on your list?

Proposed Ban on Puppy Sales

DEFRA are calling for responses to a consultation on banning third party sales of puppies. Click on the link to have your say.

If enacted, it could be possible that the commercial sale of puppies and possibly kittens and other animals would no longer be legal from pet shops. Currently, pet shops can apply to their local authority for a licence to sell puppies and are subject (in theory at least), to regular inspection.

However, even if pet shops are capable of providing suitable conditions from which to house and sell puppies which is extremely doubtful, they can only guarantee a regular supply of puppies from mass breeding. As the BBC TV documentary The Dog Factory proved, some of these outlets are a boon for puppy farmers, including those masquerading and even functioning as regular breeders.

This sounds like an excellent proposition, but the only way to prevent it from being just another statute amongst the 50+ laws that deal with dogs in the UK is for considerable resources to be put into enforcing and policing it. That seems highly unlikely in the current climate of severe local authority cuts.

Read the full response from CReDO here…

Anti-microbial Resistance – Are YOU Making Things Worse?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) regards anti-microbial resistance as being “one of the biggest threats to global health”. The Wellcome Trust commissioned a survey in 2015 to evaluate the perception of antibiotic effectiveness and potential problems in the UK. The worrying conclusions were that

“…resistance’ is either not on the radar or misunderstood – everyone assumes it’s the person that becomes resistant”

“There’s a natural tendency to dismiss the idea – or to purposefully blank it out”

“…everyone assumes that the experts will work it out – they are confident that time and money will be spent to find a ‘cure’ and that it will eventually all be ‘sorted’ and some then struggle with what they personally can really do about it”.

The majority of the population alive in the UK today has grown up in a world where antibiotics and mass vaccination are easily available (and often free or heavily subsidised at the point of use). Many of these people have become complacent and latched onto panics when they fail to assess the actual level of risk posed by the miniscule chance that a reaction will occur. Conversely, they are much more likely to ignore the very real risk that resistance is occurring and that the commercial realities of capitalism mean that big pharma mean has not developed an effective new class of antibiotics since 1987.

Antibiotic resistance is not just a problem for humans directly, but for our companion animals and those in the human food chain. Whilst misuse by human and animal health professionals and the public has contributed to the problem, the increasing popularity of raw food diets fed to companion animals may be providing a new source of resistance.

Escherichia coli (E.coli) is just one of the so-called “superbugs” that is causing worry and is prevalent in commercial raw food diets for companion animals examined recently in the Netherlands. The study found that cats and dogs fed raw meat are much more likely to become infected with such antibiotic-resistant bacteria than animals on conventional diets and that shedding of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae was more likely in dogs that ate raw meat.

Campylobacter infection is a serious concern in poultry and, while the FSA has made great strides in working with supermarkets to lower the levels of contamination, the same cannot be said of independent retailers where owners feeding home made raw diets may shop for products such as chicken wings that are not available in supermarkets.

There was “universal agreement” at the recent British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) congress “that homemade raw feeding is dangerous because it is so difficult to get right in terms of nutrients and balance. They also agreed that handling raw meat products is riskier.” Several studies were presented to the congress proving that raw meat diets pose a “serious health risk to the animals concerned, their owners and the wider public”. Mike Davies, a vet who specialises in clinical nutrition stated that veterinary professionals would be “crazy” to recommend raw diets not least because they could be held legally liable and open to prosecution if a person became seriously ill or died as a direct result of them recommending a raw diet. Marge Chandler who practices as a private consultant in small animal medicine and nutrition also concluded that homemade raw diets are too variable, unbalanced and lacking in essential nutrients and that few commercial raw diets have
been properly evaluated in feeding trials. Davies suggested that clients be asked to sign disclaimers if they opt for raw feeding but that would still do nothing to protect staff or the wider public from the effects of pathogens that their animals are shedding. (Veterinary Record 2017 181: 384 doi: 10.1136/vr.j4709)

The presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in raw diets poses a serious risk to animal and human health because infections are difficult to treat and because they contribute to a widespread occurrence of the bacteria in the environment.

Don’t contribute to the problem in the false belief that your animal will be healthier – nothing could be further from the truth.

With thanks to Paul Overgaauw for making the full text of his study [Zoonotic bacteria and parasites found in raw meat-based diets for cats and dogs, Veterinary Record, V182(2)] available as well as published articles discussing the results.

Scotland Sees Sense – Now Come On England

After an outcry when Scotland effectively considered creating a “qualification” in administering electric shocks to dogs in the name of training, MSPs have backtracked and Scotland has issued draft guidance with the aim of advising against the use of shock collars.

Whilst an outright ban would have been preferable, this is still good news for the approximately 820,000 dogs in Scotland and the approximately 590,000 dogs in Wales that are already protected by a ban. The approximately 7.5 million dogs in England and the six counties of Northern Ireland are still waiting.

Of course, even a UK ban would on be the tip of the iceberg in preventing punishment being meted out to dogs on a daily basis by ignorant owners and “trainers”. It would be a great start though.

What’s In Your Pie?

In spite of plenty of peer-reviewed studies and veterinary advice to the contrary, owners are still being conned by the “feed raw” myth.

Well unsurprisingly, another peer-reviewed study has concluded that raw food is often riddled with parasites and bacteria:
Bacteria

  • Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 (infection can lead to haemorrhagic diarrhoea and kidney failure) – present in 23% of products
  • Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases-producing E coli (can cause urinary tract infections that can also progress to sepsis and which are resistant to many penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics and other types of antibiotic) – present in 80% of products
  • Listeria monocytogenes (one of the most virulent food-borne pathogens responsible for an estimated 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths in the USA annually, with 20% to 30% of infections in high-risk individuals proving fatal) – present in 54& of products
  • Other Listeria species were present in 43% of products
  • Salmonella species the second most common food-borne pathogen in Europe) – present in 20% of products.

Parasites

  • Sarcocystis cruzi (causes acute fever, myalgia, bronchospasm, pruritic rashes, lymphadenopathy, subcutaneous nodules associated with eosinophilia, elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate and elevated creatinine kinase levels. Symptoms may last for five years in humans) – present in 11% of products
  • S tenella (causes similar effects as Sarcocystis cruzi) – present in 11% of products
  • Toxoplasma gondii (can cause changes in human behaviour by altering the effects of dopamine and testosterone causing reduced psychomotor performance) – present in 6% of products.

The study examined 203 products from 21 brands. Alarmingly, the authors noted that warnings and handling instructions on packages were lacking from all but one brand”. Even where that one warning was apparent, it does not mitigate the fact that salmonella in particular are resistant to destruction even when food bowls are cleaned at high temperatures, using detergents in a dishwasher or treated with disinfectant. Salmonellae infection in raw foods varies from 7% to 80% in Canada and 5% to 45% in the USA. A systematic review of case–control studies has shown that direct contact with companion animals plays a major role in human salmonellosis and direct transmission has been reported frequently. Human outbreaks of salmonella infections have been associated with contaminated dried pig ears and contaminated chicken jerky treats as well as raw diets. Animals are exposed directly to foodborne pathogens when they ingest food and humans through direct contact with the food, contact with a contaminated animal by sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands, contact with household surfaces or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food. Cross-contamination may occur after preparing RMBDs or cleaning infected food bowls.

Unlike in companion animals, L monocytogenes can cause serious illness in human beings. Infection of healthy adults usually leads to influenza-like symptoms, but can be life-threatening, especially in neonates and pregnant women where it may cause abortion. Contaminated food products, including raw meat, are common sources of infection and the bacteria replicate easily in food bowls at room temperature. Vacuum cleaner waste from households with RMBD-fed dogs has also been shown to be more
frequently contaminated with salmonella species than waste from other households because animals fed on raw food will be continually shedding pathogens into the environment.

The authors of the study concluded “The results of this study demonstrate the presence of potential zoonotic pathogens in frozen RMBDs that may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and if transmitted pose a risk for human beings. If non-frozen meat is fed, parasitic infections are also possible. Pet owners should therefore be informed about the risks associated with feeding their animals RMBDs”.

Dogs and cats may be asymptomatic even though infected. Humans are more likely to develop illnesses picked up from their animals because pathogens remain for much longer in the digestive tract and have the opportunity to multiply. Young, elderly and immuno-compromised people are much more at risk and can be infected by asymptomatic humans as well as their animals. Pathogens can also harm other animals: bitches have aborted when infected by pathogens from raw meat products and fatal septicaemic salmonellosis has killed cats fed on raw meat diets.

So, apart form not providing a balanced diet including all of the requisite nutritional elements for dogs and cats, feeding raw diets could result in illness and death as pathogens are shed by animals into the environment and spread after being handled by humans.

Shocking Decision from Scotland

Maurice Golden MSP, a long-time supporter of the campaign to have electric shock collars banned, said: “Electric shock collars are harmful and have no place in modern dog training. The advice from academia, dog behaviourists and trainers is clear – electrocuting dogs does not help train them.

Scotland could have joined Wales where there is a ban in leading the way in welfare but instead has effectively promoted abuse that is lietrally and figuratively shocking.

Sign the petition to ban shock collars in the UK: https://www.change.org/p/the-scottish-government-ban-electric-shock-collars-in-scotland

In November 2016, the Scottish Government published a consultation on potential controls or prohibition of electronic shock devices in Scotland covering collars and fences and sound, vibration and spray collars. Four proposals were adviocated: retain the unregulated status quo; develop guidance or a statutory welfare code; develop regulations on the use of electronic collars and ban the use of electronic collars. 1,032 responses were received:

60% were from Scotland and 26% from the remainder of the UK. 64% were from companion animal owners, 13% from trainers, 7% from the general public, 4% from animal welfare professionals, 4% from behaviourists, 3% from veterinary staff, 2% from owners of working dogs and 1% from animal care professinals. Unsurprisingly, animal care and animal welfare respondents were opposed to the use of electronic devices: pet suppliers and owners of working dogs were supportive. Owners were fairly evenly divided.

Again unsusprisingly, professionals involved in welfare cited learning theory and scientific evidence in support of the ineffectiveness of the devices, not to mention the cruelty, whilst supporters relied largely on their own perceptions of how the devices worked. 3 in 10 reposndents complained that their business would be
affected by a ban or stricter regulations on static pulse collars. However “The most frequently identified possible effect was dealing with fewer animals
suffering from the negative effects of having been trained with an electronic training aid”. An interesting result given the relatively small number of behaviourists responding.

Scotland however has decided not to ban the use of aversive collars but to introduce regulations that would include a new qualification for up to 100 dog trainers across the country to enable them to promote and use shock collars on dogs. The UKKC state that “…the Scottish Government has been meeting with the Electric Shock Collars Manufacturers Association and dog trainers in Scotland who currently use shock collars, yet has not had any meetings with any of the professional dog training associations who oppose the use of electric training devices”.

There is no legislation in Scotland regarding the manufacture of electronic devices. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also undertook research into the use of electric shock collars in dog training (Cooper et al 2010a and Cooper et al 2010b). The authors conducted an internet search in 2007 and discovered more than 170 different models of e-collars available for purchase in the UK. New collars were bought online and one was found to be counterfeit. It was included in the survey because “…as it is obtainable in the UK and was possibly attractive due to its low price”. The collars had up to four functions controlled from a radio control handset: a tone signal, a vibration signal, a short electrical stimulus lasting between 4 and 500mS, and a continuous stimulus lasting for as long as the appropriate button on the controller is pressed, but usually time-limited. The energy dissipated by the e-collars when set to their most powerful level was found to be 81 times greater than that dissipated with the e-collars set to their least powerful level. The electrical output of the e-collars depended on the impedance presented by the dogs’ neck and differed according to whether the dog was wet or dry. “There were considerable differences between tested e-collar models in the voltages, the number of pulses in, and length of each stimulus, but little variation within individual models of e-collars. The peak voltage delivered by e-collars varied significantly with the resistance of the dog, from as much as 6000V at 500kΩ to 100V at 5kΩ”.

The collars are sold with manuals but, the study found that although collar operation was explained clearly, information on using the e-collar in training varied widely. Some suggested using the e-collar before introducing a command, some advised never to use a command and others advised it in specific circumstances. Most advice suggested application of continuous stimuli until the dog showed the desired response. There was little advice on when the momentary stimulus could be used and manuals advocated training at the perception threshold or above. One manual advised the owner to start “at least in the middle of the intensity range” for “serious” unwanted behaviour such as chasing livestock. “Behavioural signs indicative of the appropriate level ranged from the expression of specific behaviours such as attention redirection, to ‘outward signs of discomfort or confusion’. The latter is ambiguous and may be interpreted by inexperienced users as also including behaviours which occur at a high level of stimulation”. Only three manuals mentioned that if the dog vocalises when the collar is used, the level is too high. A follow-up questionnaire completed by owners showed that “Advice in manuals was not always taken up by end-users…”

The authors concluded that the “…project has highlighted the very variable outcomes between individual dogs when trained using e-collars…The combination of
differences in individual dogs’ perception of stimuli, different stimulus strength and characteristics from collars of different brands, differences between momentary and continuous stimuli, differences between training advice in manuals, differences in owner understanding of training approaches and how owners use the devices in a range of different circumstances are likely to lead to a wide range of training experiences for pet dogs…Thus it seems reasonable to conclude that the previous use of e-collars in training is associated with behavioural and physiological responses that are consistent with negative emotional states.

The use of e-collars in training dogs has been proven to lead to a negative impact on welfare. Stress as measured by cortisol levels, was higher at a baseline level in dogs trained using an e-collar suggesting, as with Schilder’s and van der Borg’s study (2004), that stress remained high even when the electric collar was not in use.

A follow up study (Cooper et al 2010b) compared two groups of dogs trained by trainers from the Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association, one with use of e-collars and one without, and a group trained by Association of Pet Dog Trainers members without aversive training of any kind. “In this context dogs showed responses to e-collar stimuli which were clearly discernible…and showed changes in behaviour and physiology that other studies have interpreted as indications of aversive arousal or anxiety…no trainers assessed the dog’s sensitivity to collars prior to training, either choosing a setting they expected to be effective, or checking that the collar was operational using a low but detectable setting, then choosing a pre-determined higher setting for association with sheep chasing”. Dogs in the APDT group “…engaged in more environmental interaction such as sniffing…were less often observed yawning…spent less time tense during training sessions…had their tail in a low position less often and …moved away from the trainer less often”. Dogs in the group trained using e-collars “…yelped more …and panted more…” than dogs in the other groups.

There has been no evaluation into the effects of use of shock collars by inexperienced people nor to the long-term effects in the animals subjected to shocking, for instance to evaluate the extent to which it damages the human-animal bond and/or results in learned helplessness. In a study (Schilder et al 2004) that compared groups of guard dogs trained using electric shock collars, the authors concluded “… that being trained is stressful, that receiving shocks is a painful experience to dogs, and that the S-dogs [shocked dogs] evidently have learned that the presence of their owner (or his commands) announces reception of shocks, even outside of the normal training context. This suggests that the welfare of these shocked dogs is at stake, at least in the presence of their owner”.

This study was the first to look at long-term effects of shock collars in training and demonstrated clearly that the association made with the shock was linked with the handler. This makes for ineffective training because even if the dog makes an association with the undesirable behaviour occurring at the time that the shock is administered (which is totally dependent on the precision of the timing), it has also been demonstrated to be made also some time afterwards with the handler. There is every possibility that this could result in learned helplessness on the part of the dog, robbing it of all mechanisms of self-preservation when it is expected to work in life-threatening situations or at least ones where the prospect of injury is much higher than with a companion dog.

So the very person that the dog should be able to trust and who should guide him through training is clearly associated with fear, pain and punishment, none of which are conducive to learning.

Using punishment of any sort – throwing metal rings at dogs, puffing air or water in their faces, jerking leads and shouting – not only stop the dog from learnign and damage the relationship between handler and dog, they are useless for teaching alternative behaviour. In fact, evidence shows that they create even more unwanted behaviours, including serious redirected aggression.

Cooper J et al (2010a) Effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems, on the welfare of domestic dogs, DEFRA Research AW1402 [accessed online 16/8/2017 http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=11167_AW1402SID5FinalReport.pdf]

Cooper J et al (2010b) Studies to assess the effect of pet training aids, specifically remote static pulse systems on the welfare of domestic dogs; field study of dogs in training, DEFRA Research AW1402A [accessed online 16/8/2017 http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=11168_AW1402aSID5FinalReport.pdf]

Schilder MBH et al (2004) Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, V85(3–4), pp 319-334

Sentience and Sensibility

It is probably fair to say that those who voted to leave Europe had absolutely no idea of the implications of their actions and, let’s face it, those who voted to remain probably didn’t in any detail either. Well, the pigeons are coming home to roost thick and fast now.

As far as the EU Withdrawal Bill is concerned, those pigeons are designated as not being sentient. An amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to transfer the EU protocol on animal sentience into UK law was defeated by 313 votes to 295 in a Parliamentary vote and MPs have argued that both farm and domestic animals are covered by existing legislation, some of which goes beyond EU protocols. There has been widespread outcry from various quarters to this decision, but it easy to have a knee-jerk reaction as we well know, otherwise we would not be in this position in the first place.

The existence and degree of sentience across the animal kingdom is a long way from being fully understood, let alone agreed upon, but few would dispute its existence in the major species that could be affected by the UK’s decision to drop the designation from its legislation. Michael Gove has hinted that specific UK legislation may be tigtened, including a promise to crack down on puppy farming.

At the end of the day, all the legislation in the world cannot protect animals from harm unless it is policed and prosecuted where breaches occur. Many of the more than 50 statutes that supposedly protect dogs alone are routinely breached and that includes statutes that could prevent puppy farming. Let’s face it, the Kennel Club did nothing when one of its members, a prominent breeder and show competitor was exposed as a puppy farmer and it continues to register puppy farmned dogs. If the organisation that purports to care about the welfare of all dogs does nothing, there is little hope in a climate of austerity and maximising profits for the few that much will be done. Whatever government is in office in the near future will have its hands full coping wityh the effects of leaving the EU; puppy farming will only become a priority if it is seen as being politically expedient or as a smokescreen for “burying bad news”.

Out of Office – Not Out of Order

The Guardian reported today that a university admininstrator in La Sapienza University, Rome has set a legal precedent in Italy by successfuly obtaining paid leave to look after a dog that was due to undergo surgery. She was initially refused permission by her HR department in spite of explaining that she lived on her own and could not delegate the care of her dog. The Italian Anti-vivisection League took up her case and discovered that there is legal precedent that could have made the owner criminally liable for lack of care of her dog had she been unable to facilitate the surgery and post-operative recovery. Her employer finally accepted proof from the owner’s veterinary surgeon and granted the paid leave.

The Italian Anti-vivisection League has hailed it as a victory for recognition that companion animals “are in all respects family components” and hope that it might result in an amendement to the Civil Code.

In the UK, enlightened employers and medical staff are recognising the value of companion animals and, given that 25% of the population own at least one dog and 26% at least one cat, similar recognition could affect a sizeable proportion of the population. Parents have an enormous amount of legislation supporting paid leave, numerous other benefits and financial incentives, yet just 18.9% of the population is under 15 years old. It could also be argued that the same principles apply here and that the AWA 2006 would be breached were an employee unable to care for a companion animal sufficiently.

Italy has a long way to go in respect of other aspects of canine welfare, not least their no-kill shelter policy that condemns many dogs to a life of misery and facilitates the dumping of unwanted animals. However, in terms of human rights, today’s news should be hailed as a victory.

Oriental Eye Worm – A New Threat

The PETS Passports scheme in combination with the illegal import of thousands of puppies to fuel the online trade in dogs, has led to a huge rise in diseases and infections that were not previously seen in dogs the UK. One recent problem is the spread of the thelazia parasitic worm. A survey in 1978 found that 40% of examined in a Surrey abattoir two year previously were infected by the thelazia parasite. It has now started to affect dogs. usually found in the Far East, Russia and other parts of Europe and also known as Oriental Eye Worm, the species found here is Thelazia callipaeda. If only a few worms are present, dogs can be asymptomatic but, as they multiply, signs include conjunctivitis and excessive watering, keratitis and light sensitivity, spreading to visual impairment and ulcers or scarring of the cornea. if not treated, an infected dog can go blind. Thelazia callipaeda affects cats and humans as well.

The parasite is not transmitted directly on contact but requires an intermediate vector, usually the common housefly (Musca domestica) or blow flies (Calliphora vomitoria) and crane flies (Tipulidae). Adult females release larvae into the tears of the infected animal and are ingested by flies. Infected flies transmit the next stage of the larvae via the eyes or surrounding tissues where they complete development to adult worms in 3 – 9 weeks. Adult worms can live for up to a year in their final host.
Aural ivermectin, milbemycin oxime, moxidectin, injectable moxidectin and spot-on selamectin have been found to be effective in dogs. However, some treatments (not just ivermectin) can be toxic to genetically-prone dogs, particularly collies, so veterinary advice is essential. There is no vaccine available currently.

Although house flies are beginning to die off, it is still very mild for the time of year and peak season for crane flies.

My dog has been infected twice recently by irresponsible owners who have not treated conjunctivitis and let their dogs run freely in the park. Luckily, on both occasions it was just a mild case of conjunctivitis, although the effect on my budget was not so light. It is vital that any eye problem that do not clear up with saline flushing within a few hours are treated by a vet and that the dog is isolated from other dogs until the eyes are clear and/or a course of medication is completed.