Archive for October, 2011

More on Colorblind Adoptions

October 30, 2011

"Tessa" Photo Credit: Jackie Maples

Wow! What a terrific response I received following my recent blog post about colorblind adoptions. I discussed the fact that black colored dogs and cats tend to languish in shelter and rescue situations because they are less likely to be adopted. Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond with your terrific comments. Some of your stories about your own animals brought me to tears.

Jackie Jurasek, supervisor of City of Rosenberg Animal Control in Texas, pointed out that the darker the animal’s coloring, the more difficult it is to capture their facial expression in a photograph. Such marketing photos are key for creating the “Awww!” factor amongst potential adopters. Jackie has recruited professional photographers to take photos of her shelter animals. The photos they take result in higher numbers of adoptions, and as Jackie so eloquently states, “We see a lot of the bad and the ugly in my profession, so adoptions are the ‘balm for our souls’… it is what helps us keep on doing what we have to do.”

The photos in this blog come from Jackie Maples, one of the three professional photographers who volunteer their time snapping photos at City of Rosenberg Animal Control. Jennifer Marie,  a second photographer, has graciously provided us with some tips for capturing the funny, adorable, and endearing expressions on the faces of our dark colored dogs and cats. Thank you Jennifer!

Tips on Photographing Black Pets By Jennifer Marie Photography

Are you tired of your cute pet looking like a black blob with red eyes in your photos? The color black absorbs light thus making it difficult to see texture and shadows on fur. And then if you have used your flash aimed at them, often times you see the red-eye effect and a funny blue-cast on the body.  Ugh! We need to see those cute personalities shine through!

"Elvira" Photo Credit: Jackie Maples

So here are some tips to help:

  • Go outside and turn off the flash! Take your pet outside in the early hours, around dawn or later at dusk when the light is warm, and have the sun at an angle to your back. If you have to go out during the bright daylight, seek shade from a big tree or the shaded side of a building. If those are not options, have a friend hold a big piece of cardboard or a sheet stretched out over the pet to prevent harsh light. Turn off your flash! If you can change your ISO setting (equivalent to film speed) to 800+, do so. This increases the light sensitivity of your exposure but keeps the shutter speed fast enough to capture some small movement.
  •  Turn your flash to the side! If you have to take the photo inside, turn your flash to the side and bounce the light off of a wall close to the pet. This will light your black pet from the side and give some nice shadows and visible texture on the fur as well as reducing red-eye effects. If your flash is built in, try using a piece of white paper just to the side or under the flash to direct the light to the wall or ceiling. Best yet, if you have a large window, place your pet beside and close to the window and turn off the flash. Use the window light from the side as the lighting source instead of the flash.
  •  Be aware of the background! Keep an eye on what is behind your pet, but still visible in the frame of picture. Try to use a background that is not busy or cluttered, that way the attention goes to the pet. Importantly, use a significantly lighter background behind a black pet to create contrast. Vice versa for a white pet. And focus your shot on the eyes of the pet.
  •  Don’t forget treats, squeaky toys, and your high-pitched funny voices to get your pet’s attention for that one second, and then snap away!

Now go have fun with Fido’s photo session!

Tell us about your successes( and your foibles) while taking photographs of your dark colored four-legged family members! Please feel free to share your favorite photos on my Facebook page.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Pedicures: Definitely Not for Everyone

October 24, 2011

Quinn's longer nails

 

I receive oodles of emails with questions from folks who love their dogs and want what is best for their health. A popular  question topic is toenails! Should they be trimmed and if so, how often? What if they bleed? What to do if the pedicure becomes a wrestling match in which the dog is invariably the winner? Here are some general guidelines and recommendations pertaining to your tootsie’s toenails.

Nellie's nubby nails

Every dog wears down his or her nails differently. For example, consider my two doggies. The three of us walk together daily on a variety of different surfaces, from grass to cement. Whereas Nellie’s nails naturally remain at an ideal length, Quinn needs a nail trim approximately once every two months (and he’s the one who runs two miles for every mile I walk).

One technique for determining if your dog needs a pedicure is to manually extend the toes and assess the length of the nails in relation to the bottom of the foot. To do this, place your thumb on top of your dog’s foot and your other fingers on the large pad on the underside of the foot. Gently squeeze your fingers together which will cause the toes to extend outward. With the toes in this position, check to see if the tips of the toenails are level with or extend beyond the underside of the foot. Nails that are level can be left alone. Those that extend beyond the underside of the foot are in need of a trim.

Some dogs have clear nails in which case you can readily see how far the tip of the nail extends beyond the “quick,” the pink to red colored blood filled cavity that runs down the center of the toenail. If the nail extends well beyond the quick, it’s time for a pedicure. This trick doesn’t always work because some dogs with chronically overgrown nails also develop lengthy quicks. And then there are those dogs with black toenails, making it impossible to observe the quick at all. To be certain about whether or not your dog’s nails are too long, consult with your veterinarian, vet tech, or groomer.

If you have never before trimmed a dog’s toenails, my advice is this. Ask a pro (veterinary technician, groomer, breeder) to teach you how. Pedicures can be tricky business! If your dog has clear nails (quicks readily visible) and happens to be an angel about having his or her feet handled, you are good to go. Black nails or dogs who are moving targets make the job far more difficult. It is easy to hit the quick, and that can be painful for your dog. And nicking the quick results in bleeding, not in an amount that is harmful to your dog, but it sure as heck might be harmful to your carpeting! If bleeding occurs, your best bet is to drag the tip of the toenail through a softish bar of soap with hopes that the soap will form a plug that stops the bleeding. A safer bet to stop the bleeding is to have some silver nitrate sticks or powder on hand.

Some dogs (even the most well behaved dogs) absolutely, positively hate

having their nails trimmed. They will fight tooth and nail (pun intended) before allowing a pedicure. If your dog resembles this description, know that you are not alone. Trimming just one or two nails at a time may be the ticket for success. For others, the use of a dremel tool rather than nail clippers may restore sanity to the situation. Certainly routine handling of your dog’s feet and lots of praise can be of benefit in preparation for pedicures.

There are those dogs who, no matter what, struggle to the point that four people are needed to accomplish the nail trim- three to restrain the writhing, wriggling beast, and one to trim the nails (and these are dogs who are often perfectly well behaved in every other situation). In such cases one has to question whether or not it is really worth it. If your dog becomes a professional wrestler in response to a pedicure, I encourage you to talk with your vet about how to make the nail trim less stressful and more successful. She might be able to recommend a more effective restraint technique, behavior modification strategies, and/or the use of Rescue Remedy or chemical sedation.

Performing pedicures on black toenails and/or wiggly dogs is not for the feint of heart. Don’t hesitate to request help from a seasoned veteran. It will be a relief for you and your dog! Have you ever attempted to trim your dog’s toenails? If so, how did it go? If you happen to be a dog trainer or behaviorist, your advice is always most welcome here.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

 

 

The Time of Year to Think About Colorblind Adoptions

October 16, 2011

I see pumpkins everywhere in my neighborhood reminding me that Halloween is right around the corner. This might be a good time to repost the following blog that I wrote a couple years back. Enjoy!

Dr. Nancy Kay with her dog Lexie (all black before her muzzle turned grey)

Whenever I meet with a patient (the pet) and client (their human) for the first time I always ask some version of, “How long have you two known each other?” I love watching my client’s face light up as they recall that first moment of kitten or puppy love.  I delight in hearing the wonderful and amazing tales of how their lives managed to cross paths. If my patient happens to be a black cat, I always provide kudos to my client for having performed an extraordinarily good deed. You see, black kitties are notoriously more difficult to find homes for than are cats of other colors. Perhaps this is related to black cat Halloweenish superstitions. What I hadn’t realized, until now, is that black dogs are also more difficult to place than their colorful canine counterparts.

According to an NBC News article by Emily Friedman, just as is the case for black cats, large black dogs tend to be the last ones to be adopted from shelters. There are a few theories as to why. Many shelters offer no natural lighting, making it hard for the face of a black dog to stand out. It is more difficult to distinguish their facial features than it would be in lighter colored dogs or those with contrasting markings. Kim Saunders, the head of shelter outreach for the Web site Petfinder.com believes that black dogs are overlooked because they don’t photograph as well as lighter colored animals. When people are shopping for the next love of their lives, they are looking for a face that stands out with special appeal. Some theorize that it is human nature to be drawn to things with more vibrant color or riveting hair coat patterns. Placing solid colored black cats and large black dogs can be so difficult that some shelters run promotions and try to create more color and appeal- necks adorned with colorful scarves, discounted adoption fees, and even superhero names.

When you are ready to begin searching for the next canine or feline love of your life, I encourage you to pay special attention to those that are solid black in color. They’re in need of a special advantage when it comes to landing in the type of loving, caring home that every dog and cat deserves.

Have you ever adopted a dog or cat with a solid black hair coat? I would love to hear your story.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

 

 

 

Can you take your dog by surprise when it’s time for a walk?

October 10, 2011

Nellie and Quinn on a walk Photo: Susannah Kay

Are you able to prepare to take your dog for a walk without him or her knowing what you are up to?  Is your dog ever surprised when you show up with leash in hand?  Why do I ask such seemingly silly questions?  I ask because both of my dogs seem to possess some sort of canine walk-related mental telepathy.  No matter how sly I am- I can distract them with their favorite chew toys, I can grab the leashes while they are barking at the UPS truck, and I can be moving clothes from the washing machine to the dryer.  It doesn’t matter.  They always know when the mere thought of taking them for a walk has crossed my mind. Spell rather than say the word “walk”?  Forget it, my dogs could win spelling bees. Don my sneakers while pretending to go to the bathroom or hide their leashes in the garbage can?  Not a chance! They know exactly what I’m up to!  Do such crazy things go in your household?

Here’s a typical “prewalk” scenario with my two little mutts, Nellie and Quinn.  I’m at the computer, fingers flying with a mug of coffee close at hand and my two adorable pupsters sound asleep at my feet. I take a quick peek out the window, sense it’s getting hot, and silently ponder, “Hmmm, perhaps I should get the dogs out sooner rather than later.” Within a millisecond, Quinn’s chin is resting on my knee. How does he know?  Could he feel the flutter of my eyelashes as I looked out the window? Did he sense that my coffee and/or my ability to write had turned cold? Does my body produce some sort of yet-to-be-discovered “dog walking pheromone”?

With nothing more than Quinn’s chin on my knee, I remain in complete control of the situation.  I can either continue my work by completely avoiding eye contact with my little doe-eyed darling (and I will feel like an inhumane lout for the remainder of the day) or I can meet Quinn’s gaze.  At this point, going eyeball to eyeball with Quinn is an act tantamount to Barbara Woodhouse yodeling “Walkies!!” (She and Julia Child must have been related, don’t you think?).

Quinn begins scrambling to and from the door while Nellie barks orders at me.  Her terrier-speak can be interpreted as,  “Get your shoes on for crying out loud!” “Forget the poop bags!” and “The laundry can wait!” I can slow down all of this hustle bustle with a firm command of “Wait”, but their tremoring muscles and joyous expressions would give one the impression that my two little darlings were about to be turned loose into a field of sedated gophers.  In their happy little worlds, life simply does not get any better!

Admittedly, this anticipatory joy tickles me- otherwise I would do more to “tame the beasts”.  And their uncanny knack for reading my mind truly intrigues me.  What are your thoughts and theories about this? What goes on in your household when your dogs are in their “pre-walk mode?”

Speaking of dog walking, I want you to know about a terrific book that just hit the market.  It is called Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound: How You and Your Dog Can Lose Weight, Stay Fit, and Have Fun Together (New Directions in the Human-Animal Bond Series).  Author, Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board certified veterinary surgeon and a friend and colleague (we veterinarians who like to write have a definite affinity for one another!).  He and coauthor Rebecca Johnson, a human nurse and expert in the field of human weight loss (and she happens to be one heck of a nice person), clearly recognize that many canine health issues are exacerbated by obesity.  Their book successfully inspires better health for dogs and the people who love them.  Their recommendations result in loss of body fat, improved fitness, and enhancement of what we all cherish- the human animal bond.  Dr. Zeltzman says that writing a book on canine weight management was a natural response to his frustration of dealing with so many patients who probably would not have needed his services had they been at an ideal body weight.

Let me hear what you think about Walk a Hound Lose a Pound and I can’t wait to hear if and how you manage to surprise your dog with a walk.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

 

 

 

Criticism Welcome Here

October 2, 2011

Photo Credit: Kathie Meier

While I’ve never bought into the notion of “making everybody happy” I do believe that everyone is deserving of an explanation.  My kids never heard, “Because I said so!” (though I sure did feel like screaming it at them from time to time).  No matter how long my client’s list of questions, I address each and every one.  And as an author, I do my best to respond to all of my readers’ comments, be they good, bad, or ugly.  It simply feels like the respectful thing to do.

Critical comments from my readers invariably prompt introspection. Case in point, I recently received a comment criticizing my facebook post of an American Kennel Club (AKC) Health Foundation podcast featuring an interview with Dr. Gary Stamp, Executive Director of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society. Here is what my facebook friend had to say.

“Nancy, it would be critical and wise that you look into the AKC’s possible affiliations with puppy mills, before you promote anything which AKC may sponsor. I need to delete you from my facebook if you are at all promoting the AKC.”

These comments certainly got me thinking.  In fact, I have been concerned and annoyed that the AKC has not been vocal enough about the puppy mill issue.  Given my public stance against puppy mills am I being hypocritical in promoting something positive that the AKC has to offer? Here’s where my logic took me and how I responded to the facebook comments.

“Thanks for your feedback.  Please know that I share your concern about the AKC.  They are in a position to have a huge impact on eradicating puppy mills, yet they choose not to do so and that is truly discouraging for me.  I am not 100% clear about their motivation, be it financial or something else.  That being said, I do respect the AKC Health Foundation and their stated mission which is ‘to advance the health of all dogs and their owners by funding sound scientific research and supporting the dissemination of health information to prevent, treat, and cure canine disease.’  Note that their goal is to serve all dogs, not just purebred dogs. Their podcasts consistently provide timely, accurate, and educational information, the kind of information that truly helps people become more effective medical advocates for their pets.  And if you’ve read much of what I’ve written, you know that I am passionate about medical advocacy!  For purposes of full disclosure, you should know that I have participated as an interviewee in an AKC Health Foundation podcast and, no, I was not paid to do so.

While I disapprove of the AKC’s lack of action regarding eradication of puppy mills, the AKC Health Foundation serves a definitively positive purpose. This is a classic case of not wanting to throw the baby out with the bath water.

If you’ve consistently read my blog posts you know that I am rabidly opposed to puppy mills, and it sounds like you are as well.  Hopefully this common ground will allow us to respectfully agree to disagree.  Thank you for sharing your opinion with me. If you choose to ‘unfriend’ me (or whatever the heck such a facebook action is called) I understand.  Thanks for hearing me out.”

Introspection is always a good thing.  Feel free to keep those critical comments coming, though not too many all at once!

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.