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.

A String of (Avoidable) Misery

I have spent a rotten weekend trying to find a suitable home for an unwanted dog. Usual story. Family decide that they want to add a dog to their home in spite of having no previous experience, heavy committments to their childrens’ activities and working full time away from the home. They choose a small terrier because of his size and because he looks cute. They don’t do any other research or bother to train him but then start having difficulties because he is barking and jumping up.

They find a “trainer” who instructs them to buy a citronella collar. He does not assess the dog’s temperament or suggest any other form of training. Their already nervous dog is totally freaked out by the collar. They contact the trainer who shouts at them to “Just get on and use it”. Their son damages his skin trying it out on himself so they, thankfully, throw it away. They try a group class but the pup is now too frightened to cope.

I take over the training and advise that their by now very nervous and withdrawn adolescent dog needs a behavioural consultation. Despite being wealthy, they are unwilling to pay. Non-aversive training gradually helps the dog but they cherry pick the advice and don’t undertake frequent sessions. They work during the day and leave the dog in charge of their ex-nanny because “she has had dogs all her life”. They have been instructed not to take the dog into situations where they know he will be frightened. The nanny ignores this and an incident occurs. The dog is seized by the police under the DDA with no warning and kennelled for a week before being released. The owners do not pay for any rehabilitation or training following the incident. The nanny is given a clicker which she uses as a recall toy. The dog becomes more and more frightened, is still being taken out by the nanny, has lost his understanding of the clicker and becomes reactive to people and other dogs when on lead. The owners admit that they cannot be bothered to do any more with him and so decide to get rid of him.

Feeling very low, I take my dog for a walk with friends. One of them asks to hand on my details because his cleaner has a relative who bought a sled dog puppy at the same time that she was having a baby. Weeks into ownership, they decide that they cannot cope. They want £600 for their puppy. I offer to help to rehome it but only on the understanding that they will not be paid. In fact, I will propbably ask them to pay me for my time and trouble.

Weekend continues on a downer as I am refused the bus because the driver is scared of dogs. I have to miss an event and have wasted money on a bus pass. Hey ho, yet another complaint to TfL.

Monday morning, I get a telephone call as I am preparing to leave for work. An owner, a senior clergyman no less, has dropped his dog off to board with my friend who bred the dog. The owner says that the dog has an occular discharge. He doesn’t. His entire eye is so badly affected that his sight may be compromised. The eye was closed and the poor dog had rubbed the hair away from the surrounding area. The owner did nothing about it, obviously preferring to prioritise his holiday.

On my way through the park I meet another owner, this time without her dog. Her dog was about an inch shorter than mine but nearly two and a half times heavier. When I first saw him a year or so ago, he could still at least waddle. Recently he has only been able to walk a few steps before collapsing. She gave him a huge piece of food to get him up again. Eventually they would make it to the café where she stuffed him full of more food. I’d noticed that he had stopped taking notice of anything other than his food bowl and even that with only a flicker of interest. I last saw her on Wednesday when she asked me what it meant as he was peeing blood. I said “It means you need to go to the vet today”. She ranted on about having seen the vet three days earlier and him not knowing what he was talking about so I cut her short and told her to go to a different vet because it was serious.

It took her two more days before she bothered to go to the vet by which time her dog could no longer urinate. The dog was put down.

He was 5.