A Shameful Circus

Aug 19

circus-tiger-through-fire-hoopI recently got on my soapbox about SeaWorld and the scientific reports that whales held in captivity suffer both physically and psychologically. Now I will get on my soapbox again, to say the same for animals forced to perform in circuses across the globe.

Responding to widespread public outcry, Ringling Brothers has decided to retire all of their circus elephants. This is a definite step in the right direction. However, there are a number of lesser known circuses in the United States, and even more in other countries, who utilize tigers, lions, elephants, zebras and other wild animals.

BoredPanda recently reported on this heartbreakingly malnourished, bald tiger who was recently rescued from mistreatment in a traveling circus. Fortunately Aasha the tiger is now flourishing at an exotic wildlife sanctuary.

It’s baffling to me that there are still people purchasing tickets and bringing children to these types of circuses. Thanks to the movie “Blackfish“, increased awareness of the captive Orca whale’s plight has prompted widespread boycotts of SeaWorld. We can only hope that will start to be the case for circuses who showcase exotic animals for human enjoyment.

Author DrDVMD
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Pups on Public Transit?

Aug 17

Subway dogSome subway passengers in New York have gone to great lengths to obey the transit law, which states “No person may bring any animal on or into any conveyance or facility unless enclosed in a container.”

It’s impressive that anyone could train a Husky to ride in a tote bag on the subway.

I’m not sure if these pet owners should be commended for their commitment to their dogs, or reprimanded for putting the dogs into a potentially stressful situation (e.g., a noisy, crowded subway car). What do you think?

Author DrDVMD
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Disasterously Cute

Aug 15

BulldogWho doesn’t love bulldogs? Their squishy faces, snorty noses, stubborn personalities and awkward limbs make them cutely comical. According to the American Kennel Club, English bulldogs have been the fourth most popular registered dog breed in the United States for the past several years.

While the pet-owning public may love bulldogs, veterinarians have an entirely different perspective on these dogs. There’s a long running joke in our industry that the bulldog breed alone can keep a veterinarian in business. Why? When we genetically select for and breed for purely cosmetic traits (such as excess skin folds, malformed legs and a pushed-in nose), there is a significantly negative impact on the health of the animal. In fact, there is an entire syndrome named just for the breathing problems seen with bulldogs and other breeds with malformed faces: brachycephalic airway syndrome.

They may look cute but bulldogs can’t breathe, are riddled with severe skin and ear infections, have trouble walking as they age and are so heat intolerant they often fall victim to heat stroke. Couple these major medical problems with the fact that bulldogs cannot be born naturally due to the excessive size of their skulls (virtually all of these dogs are delivered by c-section surgery), and it’s amazing the breed has remained so popular.

Bulldog faceGenetic researchers at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine have recently published a paper in which they express concerns about the long-term viability of the breed, given the extreme health problems and lack of genetic diversity in the bulldog breeding pool.

Bulldogs are some of my favorite patients, but they are not healthy animals. The breed deserves more from us than a focus on looks at the cost of health and longevity.

Author DrDVMD
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No Puppies For You!

Aug 12

PuppiesMost clients have received the loud message us veterinarians have been sending: spay and neuter your pets! There are health benefits, behavioral benefits and societal benefits to spaying and neutering. I’ve written about this topic before, but the message cannot be shared enough.

Just because your puppy is cute, or unique, or “pedigreed” does not mean she should be bred. Most dog owners don’t have any sense of their pup’s genetic background, and whether there may be genes for congenital diseases lurking deep in the DNA. Hip dysplasia, heart disease, certain types of cancer, ocular abnormalities…these are just a few genetic conditions that can be avoided with responsible breeding. Maybe contact your local rescue or humane society to adopt a new puppy instead of breeding the one you have!


Author DrDVMD
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Rat Patrol!

Cat and mouse expand
Aug 10
Cat and mouse

Cat and mouseA Chicago cat sanctuary, Tree House Humane Society, has come up with an innovative way to deal with the city’s rat problem and feral cat problem simultaneously. Tree House is putting feral cats to work, doing what cats do best: rodent extermination!

I’m certain these cats are happy being “employed” and they find permanent homes at the same time. It’s a win/win!

Author DrDVMD
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They Hear Us. They Just Don’t Care.

Aug 08

Ignore Grumpy CatIf you’ve owned a cat, you won’t be surprised by this study. Scientists at the University of Tokyo have confirmed what us cat owners have known for years: cats can recognize our voices, yet they often choose to ignore us!

To me, this is what makes cats so intriguing. We really have to work to win their affection! Dogs manifest their affection easily: they come when you call, they wag their tails, they greet you at the door. Cats, however, only deign to show us affection when they feel like it. But it’s worth trying to win them over, isn’t it?

Author DrDVMD
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Goats Are Friends, Not Food

Aug 05

GoatI have a long list of favorite animals. A really long list. High on that list are goats. Veterinary students at the University of Pennsylvania are required to learn about large animals as well as small animals. I spent several months caring for horses, cows, goats and sheep at New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large animal hospital. By far, my favorite patients were the newborn pygmy goats.

My experience with goats is that they are much like dogs: social, curious, friendly, smart and sometimes really poorly behaved! Popular Science has recently written about the similarities between canines and caprines. Goats are notorious for being escape artists, and for eating every item in site (which is one of the many reasons they are used for weed clearance on large properties).

Author DrDVMD
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Darkly, Deeply, Beautifully Blue

Aug 03

BlueI have a friend who is a jewelry artisan and she recently posted this article. To me, there is something really interesting about the junction of art and science. When something beautiful is made by accident, as with this gorgeous blue color, it’s even more compelling.

Author DrDVMD
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Give Peas a Chance!

Aug 01

Eat vegetarianI try not to get on my vegetarian soapbox too often. Really, no one wants to hear anyone else preach about their religious, political, dietary, exercise or any other strongly held beliefs. Now and again, though, an article appears that warrants sharing for conscious eaters. This article from the Washington Post sums up one of the main reasons why all environmentally aware consumers should consider reducing the amount of meat eaten weekly, if for no reason other than to benefit the health of our planet.

I’ve written before about why I became a vegetarian. By no means do I think that everyone must embrace vegetarianism. I do, however, think that we are all responsible to know where our food comes from, how it is treated before it is brought to market, and what impact our food choices have on our environment.

Author DrDVMD
Category Good Eats
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City of Puppy Love?

Jul 29

No-dogs-allowed-signI’m a lifelong Philadelphia area resident, and a passionate defendant of our wonderful city. The restaurants, the history, the beautiful architecture: Philadelphia has a lot to offer. One area where we seem to fall short is dog friendliness. I often hear from clients how difficult it is to find a dog-friendly apartment. There are a few dog parks in the city (more now than ever before) but according to apartment listing website Zumper, Philadelphia ranks a lowly 76th on the list of pet-friendly cities.

The fact that our ranking is 76 is not lost on this history buff, but it also means we have a long way to go to improve our pet friendliness! What are your suggestions as to how we can make Philadelphia more pet friendly?


Author DrDVMD
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