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.

Fighting Dogs – Cruelty or Art?

The Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan is about to run an exhibition called Art and China after 1989: Theatre of the World. It is a multi-media exhibition that was to include a seven minute video of a “performance” entitled “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other” by Huang Yong Ping that had been staged in a museum in Beijing in 2003. A (distressing) five and a half minute version is available here.

Following multiple protests, the museum has removed this and two other works featuring live animals, not because they acknowledge the abuse inflicted on the dogs, but because they felt threatened. They stated: “Although these works have been exhibited in museums in Asia, Europe, and the United States, the Guggenheim regrets that explicit and repeated threats of violence have made our decision necessary.” They add “Contrary to some reports, no fighting occurred in the original performance and the presentation at the Guggenheim is in video format only; it is not a live event”.

That’s OK then, according to the Guggenheim.

Morally, if this is acceptable then so are snuff movies, images of paedophilia and any other kind of abuse that people inflict on others.

The Guggenheim statement continues “Reflecting the artistic and political context of its time and place, Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other is an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control…We recognise that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalisation and the complex nature of the world we share”.

Fortunately, many people recognise the sentiments for the offensive drivel that they are: the video was withdrawn from a show in Vancouver in 2007 after local protesters requested modifications.

There is nothing artistic about encouraging voyeurism, sadism and cruelty. Power and control is being exercised by the people who force the dogs into this position. They are clearly distressed and are being pushed to the limits of their endurance. It is unlikely that an ethics committee would permit this in the pursuit of research. There do not appear to be any vets in attendance.

It is not that abuse like this and far worse does not occur elsewhere, but that right-minded people sanction its public display in the name of art. What is sickening is that the people who acceded to this cannot recognise the abuse that they are perpetrating. I am not a congenital idiot, so I can work out that there are problems with the social conditions created by globalisation and the complex world that “we share” without abusing animals.

I suggest that those who have the choice protest directly to the Guggenheim and boycott the exhibition.

Of course the abused dogs had no choice.

FSA Warn Against Raw Chicken – Again

Yet again the FSA has been obliged to issue a warning against eating raw and undercooked chicken. The latest warning was prompted by a chef who was promoting chicken sashimi and who stated that “…if birds have been free range, kept in quality conditions and processed in a clean environment, there’s not so much to worry about”.

Not much other than campylobacter, salmonella and e coli that is. The FSA state yet again that “All raw chicken is unsafe to eat” regardless of the conditions in which the birds have been kept. They add that, in humans, eating raw or undercooked chicken can result in “Symptoms [that] include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. In some cases, these bugs can lead to serious conditions”.

In an update on October 19th, 2017, the FSA published their annual results, and, although levels of campylobacter have continued to fall in tested chickens, between 46.7% and 67.3% of chickens tested positive. the high-level campylobacter prevalence among the top nine most popular retailers surveyed was 5.6%. That means for every 100 chickens purchased, at least five are likely to have very high levels of contamination. Smaller retailers and butchers had a significantly higher prevalence at 17.1%. This is especially significant as people who feed raw diets are more likely to shop at independent retailers, presuming that the food will be “healthier”.

Dogs have different digestive systems to humans; they have a shorter digestive tract and a higher stomach acidity. This means that, if otherwise healthy, they are less susceptible to the pathogens present in raw chicken as bacteria do not stay in the dog’s body for as long as they do in a human. The bacteria have less time to multiply to dangerous levels and dogs are generally better able to cope with the toxins that the bacteria produce which is the cause of illness in humans and dogs. Whilst healthy dogs might be able to cope with the pathogens that they shed when fed a raw diet, young, old or sick dogs will be less resilient and all of the humans with which they come in contact will also be exposed.

A peer-reviewed paper published in April 2017 noted that the cats in the study shed pathogens as a result of eating a raw diet “for months” and concluded “The practice of feeding raw meat to dogs and cats may increase the potential transmission risk of meat-borne pathogens to people. Pet owners, especially individuals at increased risk for infectious diseases (small children, old people and immunocompromised individuals), should be aware of the safety risks of feeding RMBDs”[raw, meat-based diets]. Of course the transmission of pathogens from handling the food and the dog or cat will not only affect people in the household. Dogs and outdoor cats have the potential to come into contact with vulnerable people every day as well as other animals.
Charity Burns By Your Side is the most recent organisation to exclude dogs from their volunteer scheme if they are fed a raw diet.

There is a lot of anecdotal support that can be found online from supporters of raw diets but, not only is there no peer-reviewed evidence to back it up, a growing body of a veterinary organisations and scientists are finding that such diets are harmful because they lack essential nutrients and can cause damage when digested and excreted.
There is another worrying factor that is not immediately obvious for some owners who feed raw. There is evidence to suggest that such owners are also less likely to use prophylactic health care such as vaccination and treatments that prevent parasitic infestation because they do not trust veterinary advice.

The serious contamination of pet food with illegally imported melamine in 2007 still has repercussions, although food in the UK was not affected. Marion Nestle’s Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine provides the only independent account of this scandal. Anyone contemplating feeding raw because they do not trust commercial dog food should read it. Similarly, scares about the dangers of human vaccines abound, even though disproven and have spread to companion animals.

The wide availability of NHS services means that most people in the UK are not used to paying for healthcare at point of use. Many are therefore shocked at the cost of veterinary treatment and accuse vets of profiteering, having no idea of the actual cost to the vet, and ignoring the fact that, if vets do not make a profit, they will go out of business. They are similarly inclined to accuse pharmaceutical companies of advising over-vaccination. Again, this is illogical: no vet would ethically or professionally administer a drug that was not necessary. In fact they could be prosecuted if they did.

Not vaccinating puts your dog and every other dog at risk from dying of parvo-virus, leptospirosis, canine parainfluenza, distemper and hepatitis. Not worming your dog puts other dogs and humans at risk of picking up tapeworms, lungworm and toxocariasis amongst others.
Some of these diseases such as parvo virus and distemper were rare due to mass immunisation in the 1970s and later, but are now on the increase fuelled in part by the number of illegally imported dogs. This, combined with irresponsible owners not vaccinating their dogs reduces the herd immunity conveyed when the majority of dogs are protected, so the danger of catching a potentially fatal disease is increased for each unvaccinated dog.

The evidence is plain. Don’t feed raw , vaccinate your dog and treat it for fleas and ticks. It is your responsibility to your dog, every other dog and your community.

Accessible and Safe – Not Much To Ask

The ability to exercise dogs in open spaces has come under increasing threat from restrictive by-laws in recent years and several campaigns have sought to protect long-used access. However, in addition, a new threat was brought home to me this weekend when a dog was killed by an event organiser in a local park.

Many parks and open spaces that were run by councils for the general benefit of the public have been privatised and are now run by large companies such as Mitie, Carillion and Amey that have fingers in several pies. There are approximately 27,000 public parks in the UK, although it is difficult to arrive at an exact figure as many councils do not have accurate records and planning guidelines no longer define public parks. Most are owned by local authorities, although there are “royal” parks in London such as Hyde park, Bushey park and Richmond Park that are owned by the crown and run by a government agency. Some parks were deliberately created in the early 19thC in an attempt to prevent Chartists from holding “monster” rallies and some, including the “royal” parks, were hunting grounds. Many parks were created when philanthropists bequeathed them in perpetuity for the benefit of local people. The latter is true of the park where the dog was killed and should be protected by a set of covenants that attempted to restrict building and other uses to ensure that the public would always have free access.

Parks had traditionally been funded by local authorities with support from community groups that volunteer and raise funds. There are approximately 5,000 such organisations across the UK generating about £30M annually. A Heritage Lottery Fund report found that 86% of parks had revenues cut in the three years prior to the study. Almost half of councils are planning to dispose of some of their green spaces with 19% considering outright disposal of parks. Many more are selling off sections of parks for development and/or running multiple, intrusive events, claiming that the revenue generated will fund upkeep.

The park where the dog was killed occupies 186 acres of land and includes Grade II listed buildings and many extraordinary plant and tree specimens. It is a much valued resource for local dog walkers and is one of the few parks in the area not to impose on-lead restrictions. Since it was gifted to the public in 1926, it was run jointly by two local authorities who spent much of the last 35 years or so passing the buck in a perpetual rally that resulted in the buildings going to wrack and ruin, the planting being overgrown and the tress neglected – sometimes dangerously so. Recent lottery funding has seen huge improvements being made to some of the buildings, but staffing levels remain low and some planting has been ripped up to save on maintenance costs. Management of the park will be handed over to a so called “Community Interest” Company (CIC) which, in the council’s own words “provides freedom for the park to operate in a commercial manner”. This has included winning a successful licence to run multiple commercial events including sound systems, alcohol and vehicles all year round and increased the finishing time from 21.00 hrs to 23.00 hrs. Up to 10,000 people would be licensed to attend for the larger events and in total, events are allowed to be held for 28 days every year. This of course does not include the setting up and striking of events which typically occupies several days either side of public access. In spite of 109 written objections and opposition at the hearing, which ran for four hours until nearly midnight, permission was granted in full.

Opposition to the event at the weekend had run for many years as it was clearly seen by many to be breaking the covenants on the use of the park. The original owners had sold off adjacent land after World War I resulting in the park being fringed by housing and local residents were (rightly) worried about the levels of disruption. Permission was however granted and the organisers began to set up for the 2017 last week. The event occupies the old polo grounds and was not segregated from the public during set up. Fencing was erected on the day of the event to prevent revellers from accessing the existing café and the staff member there was in turn prevented from accessing the lavatory which was subsequently damaged. It could be deduced from these actions that the fencing was there primarily to protect revenues rather than people.

Complaints had been made by several park users about the speed at which vehicles were traversing the park. Great care has been taken during the building works to ensure that plant and other vehicles travel within the 5mph limit and plant is accompanied by a supervising pedestrian. No such care was taken by the event organisers and, in spite of being warned by park staff, one of their member ran into a dog. The dog subsequently died of its injuries.

The increasing use of parks for commercial events not only deprives the users for whom it was intended of facilities, it further restricts the ability for dog owners to exercise their dogs in a relaxed environment. Parks, towpaths and pavements are already major hazards for pedestrians and dogs due to illegal and reckless cycling. Even if dogs are safe and segregated, few will want to access parks whilst amplified sound is being blasted out and hordes of people are crowding the spaces.

This should be a spur to all to redouble their efforts to save and preserve open spaces as havens of peace and quiet in an increasingly tumultuous world. A dog should never again been sacrificed to commercial gain just by engaging in natural and essential behaviour.

Cornwall Cool Dog Campaign

It seems sadly inevitable that on a baking hot bank holiday weekend a woman left three dogs in a hot van from 11.00 hrs – 15.30 hrs. Luckily, attendees at the Newlyn fish festival intervened and saved her dogs from certain death. It remains to be seen whether she will be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, Cornwall Live are running photographic competition to find the coolest dog in Cornwall.

Bear in mind that forcing your dog to wear clothing as shown in many of the images may make them even hotter than they are already.

No Room for Complacency

High-level campylobacter prevalence (>1000cfu/g) among the nine retailers surveyed by the FSA was 5%, compared to 7.8% in January – March 2016. Marks and Spencer, Morrisons and Waitrose had significantly lower levels (2.5% – 2.8%) compared to the average and to smaller retailers and butchers where the average was 16.9%. There was a slight reduction (50% – 48.8%) in chicken skin samples that tested positive for campylobacter at any level compared to the same period last year.

However, there is no room for complacency as 7% of chickens surveyed still tested positive for the highest level of contamination. It is also possible that people feeding raw diets may also buy chicken from smaller outlets, believing it to be healthier and there is no control over the source of raw chickens in commercially prepared diets.

The reduction in the level of campylobacter whilst welcome, does not negate the very real dangers of raw feeding for dogs, not least in respect of other pathogens, inbalance of nutrients in the long-term and the mechanical damage caused by ingesting and excreting bone fragments.

A Valediction for John Noakes

It is with mixed feelings that I heard of the death of television presenter John Noakes. His final years had been blighted by Alzheimer’s disease and he narrowly escaped death when he wandered from home in the summer of 2015. The pain of realising that this complex, intelligent man, so full of life on screen, had been transformed by the ravages of the illness was visceral for those of us who only knew his work persona as well as those who were his friends and family.

In so many ways this marks the passing of an era; not just because those of us who grew up watching him on Blue Peter are now well into middle age, but because the creative environment that enabled him to shine on television is long gone. His colleagues on Blue Peter providing inspiration and leadership for a generation as well as enabling those of us who did not have pets at home to experience what it was like to own tortoises, cats and, of course dogs, even if it was vicariously.

Although his first official companion canine was Patch, son of the unforgettable Petra, it is Shep with which he will forever be associated. Although officially “property” of the BBC, one suspects that Shep may have been the dog of a lifetime for John Noakes; Shep was gifted to him when he left the programme in 1978. Contractual restrictions to which John Noakes did not agree meant that they did not live together for Shep’s remaining nine years, although Shep appeared in
Go With Noakes which overlaped his time at Blue Peter and ended in 1980.

What is striking looking at still images and videos of John Noakes with Shep is the bond between the two. Even when a still puppy, they had clearly established a strong rapport.

Television is a very different place today. Blue Peter is screened on a specialist channel as the medium has fragmented and, tragically, Television Centre and the Blue Peter garden were sold to property developers in 2013. Although the outer fabric of the building is Grade II listed, it will never be more than an empty shell, a sad monument to the greed that has trampled over the creativity and idealism that allowed the likes of John Noakes to flourish.

KC Plays Tail End Charlie

The KC has just published a report entitled What the Kennel Club does for Dog Health

Many dog owners may feel that the title is a bit rich given that canine health would probably not be in such dire straits were it not for the KC’s implementation of closed stud books and perpetuation of breeding for looks.

The Kennel Club has been playing tail end Charlie in the court of public opinion since at least 2008. Its brand is being seen as being increasingly toxic and any efforts that it makes to improve the situation are likely to be doomed to irrelevance in the face of the scale of the problem that is, after all, largely of their own making.

Is it too little too late?

Read more…

Man Bites Dog

Last year, an American bulldog dog killed a three year old. Although fatalities from dog attacks are still extremely rare, incidents such as this still crop up a few times a year and of course attract far more attention than the 1,700 people killed in traffic accidents or the 78,000 deaths directly attributable to smoking that occurred over the same period.

The owner of the American bulldog has just been given a 12 month custodial sentence, suspended for two years. She was also disqualified from owning a dog for 10 years and ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.

The dog of course was euthanised.

So how will this punishment help? It certainly won’t bring the dog back. It won’t prevent other people and other dogs from ending up in the same position, not to mention the 7,000 or so people who will still be bitten by dogs and require hospital treatment in any given year.

In theory, this woman and others like her could just go out and get another dog in 2027 and nothing will have been done to educate her in responsible dog ownership. Her community service is likely to entail removing graffiti, clearing litter or decorating public buildings. How much more beneficial if she spent those 100 hours – equal only to two weeks work – learning about dogs.

The causes of such attacks are usually depressingly similar. Bad breeding, lack of socialisation, bad handling, lack of stimulation and exercise, lack of training, poor diet.

The owners often live in similar depravation. It is hardly surprising that most of the people who get bitten and even killed by dogs are relatively poor; the impoverishment being as much social as financial. Just as the status dogs of the relatively wealthy often comprise gun dogs that suggest the landed estate, the dogs of the poor are usually musclebound hulks providing the illusion of power that is lacking for people with minimal education, poor job prospects and limited opportunities. There’s also the chance that they will protect you from the loan shark or the drug dealer or the gang member.

Wealthy people just give their dogs away when they can no longer cope with their lack of training and socialisation or dump them on the dog minder for most of their lives. The poor compound their errors until, every so often, the dog, through no fault of its own, kills someone.

Cows Can Kill

A farmer based near Bradford on Avon has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after two elderly brothers were attacked and injured while walking their dogs on lead on a public foot path. The man who survived suffered multiple rib fractures, a punctured lung and contusions. The incident was the fourth in five years involving injuries to members of the public caused by this farmer’s cattle; he was given a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 2 years, and ordered to pay costs of £30,000.

18 members of the public were killed by cattle between April 2000 and March 2015. Most of the incidents involved cows with calves and people with dogs. Cattle can attack the walkers because they perceive a risk to their calves from the dogs. Farmers and landowners have a legal duty to assess the risks from livestock to people using any rights of way on their land and they must take all reasonable precautions to prevent injury.

Wherever possible, farmers are advised to avoid keeping cows with calves in fields with public footpaths or to erect temporary fencing to keep cattle, walkers and dogs apart.

Dog owners also have a responsibility to act safely around livestock. Even if there is a right of way, it is much safer to avoid walking past cattle and calves. Backtracking and suggesting to the farmer that the situation is unsafe is a much better option than adding to the statistics of fatalities, human or dog. Dogs should always be on lead near livestock, however reliable they may seem. If you are charged by cattle DROP THE LEAD and seek safety. Your dog will look after himself and you are unlikely to be able to protect him or avoid injury to yourself when faced by an angry cow. It does not matter if you are in area that is designated as being on-lead only by a PSPO; your safety and even your life may be at stake.

Please also remember to worm your dog with a comprehensive, prescription-only (VPOM) wormer. Speak to your vet about the best option. Unwormed dogs can risk spreading diseases such as neosporosis which can cause cattle to abort calves and sarcocystosis which has a similar effect in sheep. Dogs can pick up both infections by eating raw meat (including from carcasses) and placental or foetal material from infected stock. Not all infected animals show signs of illness so it is another reason not to feed a raw diet as it is not possible to be certain that uncooked meat fed to dogs will not be contaminated.

All dog waste should be removed from grazing land and disposed of responsibly so that cross-infection cannot occur between dogs, sheep and cattle.

Walking through farm land is a privilege, and both landowners, farmers and dog walkers have a responsibility to ensure that it is a safe activity for all concerned.