Adopt-a-Pet.com, North America’s largest non-profit pet-adoption web service, issued a warning for pet owners: Increased demand for pets during COVID-19 is creating opportunities for thieves to profit.
Americans are desperate for animal companionship during COVID-19 lockdowns, and at the same time, supply has fallen in many parts of the country. Thieves are taking brazen action to steal dogs, not just from backyards but also from people who are out walking their dogs. And those dogs are then being sold, sometimes on street corners, but sometimes on classified sites.
The media is reeling from recent reports of pop star Lady Gaga’s beloved dogs being the latest celebrity victims of pet thieves, but the non-profit warns this is happening every day to pets from all walks of life.
“As reports of violent pet theft rise around the nation, it’s important for pet owners to be vigilant,” says Adopt-a-Pet.com Chief Operating Officer Abbie Moore. “At the same time, we call on online classified sites to up their screening game when accepting posts of pets for sale. Pet owners need powerful allies in this fight to protect their pets.”
As far as preventive measures go, Adopt-a-Pet.com suggests pet owners:
- Never leave pets unattended in yards or tied up outside stores.
- Be careful posting photos of pets on social media. Thieves are on the lookout for dogs and your social media posts may also gives clues to your location and daily habits.
- Be alert when walking. Pay attention to your surroundings. Thieves prey on people who are distracted by their phones.
- Pair up with other pet owners in your neighborhood for socially distanced walks, if possible.
- Make sure microchips are registered and have up-to-date contact information associated.
- Consider taking an online self-defense class.
“If you’re buying a pet from a classified ad or from an unknown seller and you suspect this may be a stolen pet, stay in touch with the seller and contact your local law enforcement immediately,” says Moore. “You can also check for lost pet ads that match the pet’s description. You’ll potentially be saving someone a big broken heart.”
The number of veterinarians using artificial intelligence to interpret radiographs is growing rapidly, stirring questions about what role radiology specialists will play in the future of veterinary medicine.
Executives of the only two U.S.-based startups that appear to be offering the novel technology — SignalPET and Vetology AI — each told the VIN News Service that thousands of practitioners are now buying their products.
The computer software offerings employ artificial intelligence (AI) to read radiographs, commonly called X-rays, and provide an interpretation within minutes, for as little as $10 per study. Users access the software by signing into a website and have the option of linking it to their practice management systems.
Apart from purported efficiency benefits, growth in AI diagnostics is being driven by a shortage of veterinary radiology specialists, the companies say. The shortage, particularly in academia, has been recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American College of Veterinary Radiology.
"With so few radiologists in universities, this impacts not only the production of new radiologists, but also the radiology training of the DVM students," Dr. William Blevins, a professor emeritus of diagnostic imaging at Purdue University's veterinary school, said via email. "Both of these issues produce a 'vacuum' that AI will attempt to fill." (Blevins wrote a commentary in 2018 about the radiologist shortage.)
Veterinarians contacted by VIN News who have used the AI services offered mixed evaluations of their capabilities, ranging from enthusiastic praise to questioning their accuracy or applicability to certain conditions. The companies claim their products provide readings that correlate closely to interpretations by radiologists. They acknowledge the technology can be improved, including through constant feedback from users.
A report released by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and USA Today alleges that Seresto flea and tick collars have harmed many of the dogs and cats that wear them as well as the owners who love them. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates pesticide-containing products, has received 75,000 incident reports of dogs, cats, and people allegedly being harmed by the collars, including 1698 pet deaths and just under 1000 incidents involving people.
According to a 2019 EPA memo, clinical signs in humans related to these incidents vary widely, with most involving skin rashes or lesions; numbness, tingling, or pain; and nasal, ocular, or throat irritation after placing the collar on the pet, after nuzzling with the pet, or after sleeping in bed with the pet. More serious events were also reported. In many cases, clinical signs improved after the collar was removed.
Except for erythema and hair loss below the collar—potential adverse effects acknowledged by Elanco spokesperson Keri McGrath—the signs of harm related to Seresto in dogs and cats are unclear. The reported pet deaths appear to have been sudden.
The reported incident numbers are actually “just the tip of the iceberg,” according to Nathan Donley, PhD, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity and an expert on U.S. pesticide regulation who feels strongly that the EPA should warn the public about this issue. Not only must a connection be made between the pet’s or person’s illness and the collar, but affected individuals must know whom to contact about it. “Most of the time, people are not going to make the connection or they’re not going to take an hour or so out of the day and figure out how to call and spend time on hold,” he says.
"Since its initial approval in 2012, Seresto has protected more than 25 million US pets from fleas and ticks," McGrath says, adding that it is important for consumers to make sure they’re purchasing collars from an authorized retailer. "Regrettably, there are counterfeits out there."
Karen McCormack, a retired EPA employee, told USA Today that more incidents have been reported with Seresto than with any other pesticide pet product. “I think this is a significant problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later,” she says.
Seresto products generated revenue in excess of $300 million for Bayer in 2019, according to an annual company report. At this time, the EPA is in the final stages of re-approving both pesticides, according to McGrath. There is no timeline on the final decision.
Ensuring the safe treatment of canine patients is the goal of a community-based, volunteer canine blood-donor program at the Kansas State University (K-State) Veterinary Health Center (VHC).
Launched in 2015, K-State’s Canine Blood Donor Program oversees the collection, process, and storage of blood needed for transfusions to treat a variety of conditions in dogs. Since its inception, the service has seen more than 70 canine donors, most of which belong to VHC staff and students, as well as area residents.
“Just like in people, blood transfusions can be crucial for many of the canine patients staying in the hospital,” says the program’s head, Brooke Neiberger, a veterinary nurse. “Having the blood on hand really helps, as many patients are in life-threatening conditions when they arrive.”
Among the emergencies that may require canine blood are poisonings, trauma, injuries, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, clotting disorders, and surgeries.
“The unit of blood is collected from the jugular vein in the neck since this is the most accessible site for venipuncture in the dog,” Neiberger tells K-State Today. “The dogs lie quietly on a table for about five to 10 minutes during the collection process and are praised and petted to provide comfort and positive feedback. After collection, a temporary bandage is placed around the neck covering the venipuncture site and the unit of canine blood is separated into red blood cells and plasma. This processing supplies enough blood for two patients.”
At present time, part of the hospital’s blood supply is ordered off-site, as donations are unable to keep up with current demands. This can result in a waiting period of up to 10 weeks, K-State Today reports. “The volunteer blood donor program helps to meet the transfusion needs of the patients here at the VHC,” Neiberger says. “The demand for blood products for our patients increases every year, which then increases the need for more volunteer blood donors to ensure that every patient in need can be treated.”
The goal of the program, K-State says, is to grow the number of canine blood donors to have entirely universal donors and, ultimately, increase the blood supply at the VHC. “Similar to humans, to be an eligible blood donor, dogs must be in good general health,” Neiberger tells K-State Today. “All prospective canine donors must be friendly—calm—while being cooperative without their owners present.” Other requirements include:
- Dogs must be between one and five years old and heavier than 55 lbs.
- Dogs be current on required vaccinations and free of any medications other than flea, tick, and heartworm preventives.
- Females need to have no history of pregnancy; males must be neutered.
- Dogs cannot have previously received a blood transfusion.
Participants in the program receive a free bag of dog food after each donation, along with flea and tick preventives, heartworm preventives, and annual vaccinations and blood work.
Canine diets comprised of human-grade ingredients might be beneficial for owners looking to scoop less poop.
A new comparison study out of the University of Illinois has found dogs fed fresh diets produce up to 66 percent less excrement than those that consume a diet of dry kibble.
“Based on past research we’ve conducted, I’m not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet,” says the study’s coauthor, Kelly Swanson, PhD.
For a period of four weeks, a group of 12 beagles were fed four commercially available diets: a standard extruded diet (kibble); a fresh, refrigerated diet; and two fresh diets made using only USDA-certified human-grade ingredients (e.g. beef, chicken, rice, carrots, broccoli, etc.).
Researchers found the dogs fed the extruded diet needed to consume more to maintain their body weight and produced 1.5 to 2.9 times as much waste as any of the fresh diets, the University of Illinois reports.
“This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh whole food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day and reported being more satisfied than people eating a more processed diet,” Swanson says.
Further, researchers say the fresh diets uniquely influenced the gut microbial community.
“Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt, fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment,” Swanson says. “As we have shown in previous studies, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins, and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation.”
The study, “Nutrient digestibility and fecal characteristics, microbiota, and metabolites in dogs fed human-grade foods,” has been published in Journal of Animal Science.
Getting feline patients through the door and on the exam table is the goal of a newly revised industry resource.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) have updated their guidelines on the life stages of cats. Written by a task force of experts in feline medicine, the revamped resource aims to provide veterinarians with a framework for designing individualized healthcare plans based on age and lifestyle.
Understanding a cat’s life stage and lifestyle greatly impacts healthcare strategies, and animal health professionals have a responsibility to stress the need of ongoing care to feline patients at every stage of life, AAHA says.
The guide outlines four age-related life stages (with the fifth end-of-life stage occurring at any stage). They are:
- Kitten: Birth to 1 year
- Young adult: 1 to 6 years
- Mature adult: 7 to 10 years
- Senior: 10 years and older
- End-of-life: Any age
The resource combines feline-friendly care techniques with a lifelong healthcare plan, aimed at improving overall health and wellbeing.
“A cat-friendly approach tailored to the individual patient creates a more positive experience for the patient, client, and care provider, and promotes more frequent visits and improved compliance,” says task force cochair, Jessica Quimby, DMV, PhD, DACVIM.
The guide also features quick reference tables to assist veterinary professionals in developing evolving care plans that grow with patients as they age.
“All cats of every life stage need full, thorough physical examinations at least annually for the best lifelong care, and we recommend checkups every six months for senior cats,” says AAHA chief medical officer, Heather Loenser, DVM. “The guidelines provide discussion items and medical history questions for all life stages, as well as life stage-specific focal points for physical examinations, claw care, litter box management, nutrition, behavior, oral health, parasite control, and vaccinations.”
When we think of management strategies for osteoarthritis in horses, silicon likely doesn’t come to mind. While silicon plays a role in bone and joint health, dietary supplementation of silicon may not affect bone and cartilage of mature horses, according to recent research.*
Silicon, a chemical element in the same family as carbon, supports long bone development and mineralization, and increases collagen synthesis. In addition, silicon appears to affect the absorption of calcium and other minerals needed for normal bone mineralization. Silicon shows promise in some studies for influencing the development and progression of osteoarthritis and reducing lameness.
In one recent study, mature, sedentary horses were offered a silica-collagen peptide supplement for 84 days. Supplementation did not improve either lameness or radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis. Further, supplemented horses did not have altered articular cartilage “turnover,” a requisite for the continued production of healthy cartilage.*
“Instead of silicon, other oral joint health supplements, such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids, should be the first-line products that owners and managers of performance horses select,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research. “These products, when administered appropriately, are an effective part of a multi-modal treatment approach to osteoarthritis.”
As obesity in horses continues to rise, so does the prevalence of obesity-related health conditions, specifically insulin dysregulation, laminitis, and osteoarthritis. These conditions often result in premature mortality.
“Many factors contribute to equine obesity: the perception by owners that ‘plump’ is normal or desired; diminished amounts of physical activity; unnecessary feeds and treats that owners think horses should have; or ignorance regarding the negative effects of excess body weight,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research.
Many horses thrive calorically on forage-only diets. “A forage-based diet may not, however, be fully balanced. To provide nutrients that may be low or missing in the forage portion of the diet, a vitamin and mineral supplement can do the job with minimal caloric impact,” Crandell advised. Other high-quality supplements can be also added to the diet to target specific health challenges.
While it is true that obesity occurs as a consequence of energy intake chronically exceeding energy output, research shows that genetics also plays a role in body weight.*
“In a recently published comprehensive review on the role of genetics on obesity, researchers indicated there is no doubt that obesity is highly heritable,” Crandell shared.
The fact that horses of certain breeds or types, such as ponies or cobs, are at risk of obesity lends evidence to the genetic basis of body condition.
In humans, some forms of obesity are related to specific genetic defects, though these occur rarely. Instead, “obesity is a complex trait, caused by the additive effect of hundreds, possibly even thousands, of common genetic variants,” according to the authors of the review.
Some researchers have searched for genes related to obesity and metabolic abnormalities but with little success. Regardless of species, researchers still have limited data as to which genes are responsible for weight gain or how those genes exert their effects.
Further research into the genetic basis of obesity is important as it will improve patient care and foster understanding of fat deposits in horse health.
A former pet rescue director in Gainesville, FL, has been charged with embezzlement.
Cassie Marie Wheeler, who worked for Haile’s Angels Pet Rescue, is accused of felony theft and embezzlement as well as false entry into financial books, the Gainesville Sun reports.
Authorities say she embezzled more than $41,000 starting in November 2019, CBS 4 reports.
Wheeler started with the rescue in March 2015, initially working as a kennel hand. Eventually she was put in charge of operations for the organizations.
She reportedly admitted to the theft when questioned by Samantha Rivera, president of the rescue board, according to the Sun.
The board released a statement saying it had “taken the necessary steps and coordinated with the IRS and law enforcement to report and to restore all stolen funds from our donations,” WCJB-TV reports.
The board said it had terminated Wheeler’s employment.
Since announcing his intentions to travel to the moon in 2023, the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has fluctuated in his choice of desired companions.
First, he wanted visionary artists, future Picassos and John Lennons. Then he searched for a “bright and positive” girlfriend to accompany him on the spaceflight. Scrapping those plans, he has now opened applications for eight seats in a rocket engineered by Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX.
A businessman who made his fortune in Japanese retail fashion, Mr. Maezawa, 45, gained prominence in 2018 when Mr. Musk introduced him as the first private customer to pay a “very significant deposit” for a trip around the moon. That was when Mr. Maezawa first shared his plan to select five to eight of “Earth’s top artists” as fellow passengers on the rocket, which he booked out completely.
On Wednesday, Mr. Maezawa said he would widen his search to include eight people around the world. “I began to think that maybe every single person who is doing something creative could be called an artist,” he said in a YouTube video.
There are two broad criteria. Applicants have to be visionaries who seek to make the world a better place. They must also be “willing and able to support crew members who share similar aspirations.”
“Are you satisfied with what you’re doing right now? By going to space, could you do something that’s even better, even bigger?” Mr. Maezawa said. “If that sounds like you, please join me.”
There would be 10 to 12 people on the weeklong journey in space, he said, including those operating the rocket.
Mr. Maezawa has a history of attention-grabbing social media announcements. On New Year’s Eve in 2019, he offered to split more than $9 million among 1,000 randomly selected people who shared his post about it on Twitter, in what he described as a social experiment related to the concept of basic income. More than four million people entered the giveaway.
A few weeks later, he posted calls online for a “life partner” to join him in space and said his matchmaking quest would be the subject of a documentary. “Why not be the ‘first woman’ to travel to the moon?” he asked.
Carl Sagan once said that Earth is but a “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” He would probably be thrilled to know that, around the time of a new moon, Earth is a speck of dust suspended in a moon tail. The moon, lacking an atmosphere to shield it, is constantly under attack. When meteorites bombard its volcanic surface, sodium atoms fly high into orbit. The sun’s photons collide with the sodium atoms, effectively pushing them away from the sun and creating a tail-like structure flowing downstream from the moon. “It makes the moon sort of look like a comet,” said Jeffrey Baumgardner, a senior research scientist at Boston University’s Center for Space Physics. “It has a stream of stuff coming off it.”
For a few days each month, when the new moon moves between Earth and the sun, this comet-like tail dusts the side of our world that is facing the sun. Our planet’s gravity pinches that sodium stream, narrowing it into a beam, invisible to the naked eye, that wraps around Earth’s atmosphere and shoots out into space from the opposite side of the planet.
This moonbeam can be seen by special cameras as a spot in twilight skies. Sometimes it appears brighter, sometimes dimmer. Ever since the tail and its beam were first seen back in the late 1990s, scientists have been wondering what controls the beam’s brightness. As reported Wednesday in a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 14 years of observations suggests meteors — particularly larger, faster ones that bombard the moon at random — may explain what controls its flicker.
Boston University has placed several all-sky-imaging cameras — essentially fish-eye lenses that see the entire visible sky — around the world. Originally designed to spot auroras, they can see sodium in Earth’s atmosphere with a filter. They commonly observe it when meteors burn up before reaching our planet’s surface.
In November 1998, during the peak of the annual Leonid meteor shower, a team working with one such camera at the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas, hoped to see those sodium flares. They were puzzled when, just after the peak, a spot of sodium persisted in the sky for three nights. This spot, appearing on the side of the world facing away from the sun, brightened as the new moon approached, then quickly faded.
After additional work, including models that simulated where the sodium spot could be coming from, the team concluded that it must be the result of a comet-like tail of sodium stretching out at least 500,000 miles from the moon. The tail may be sprinkling the world with sodium, but it is extremely diffuse, so there’s no chance any moon dust dandruff will gather on our heads, said Luke Moore, a senior research scientist at Boston University and a co-author of the study.
If a suitably sizable asteroid slammed into the moon with enough momentum, it might be able to expunge enough sodium to produce a moonbeam anyone could see with the naked eye, said James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency who wasn’t involved with the research. And if you could observe it, “it would be a fuzzy patch of light about the size of the belt stars of Orion,” Mr. Baumgardner said.
But even invisible, knowing that Earth has a meteor-fueled moonbeam is satisfying enough — a reminder of the moon’s dynamism. +++++++++++++++++++++++++