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Nutrition

Common food myths busted!

There is no room for improvisation in feeding your dog or cat. Pet health requires daily care with a balanced diet that provides all the essential nutrients (the elements of food that are essential for the organism to function: proteins, carbohydrates, fat, fibre, vitamins, minerals and trace elements).

Production of nutritional food is like completing a complex jigsaw puzzle with more than 50 pieces, each nutritionrepresenting an essential nutrient. Cheap food contains only about 15 nutrients. For 40 years, Royal Canin has been placing the animal at the centre of its research process. Every nutritional innovation is a real improvement for your dog or cat’s health.

Common misconceptions about digestion and nutrition

“My dog eats what I do.”

False. Dogs do not have the same eating habits as humans. Their digestive system works in a totally different way, so, unlike humans, they can digest larger quantities of fat (provided it is good quality fat!). They cannot digest starch (for example, rice) unless it is perfectly cooked. “Kibbles cause calcium stones in urine.” False. In fact, some kibbles are actually formulated to prevent the formation of calculus. Remember to leave a dish of water constantly accessible for your pet.

“My dog needs variety in its diet.”

False. Ideally, your dog should have the same food in the same dish, in the same place, at the same time every day! Dogs are perfectly happy eating the same complete, balanced food and do not get fed up! We sometimes imagine such things by putting ourselves in their place, but remember that any sudden change in their diet can cause digestive disorders….

Common misconceptions on the choice of food

“Homemade food is more balanced than kibbles.”

False. What does your dog or cat actually need in terms of nutrients? How much energy does he need every day? How much protein is in the food you give? To provide a truly balanced diet, you need to know the answers to these questions and many others! Pet food manufacturers have these answers. “Homemade food is cheaper!” False. If you want to prepare a balanced meal for your pet, you would need about fifty ingredients, making it far more expensive than top quality industrial food.

“Dry food is not enough.”
False. Kibbles are manufactured from carefully selected ingredients and developed to produce a perfectly balanced diet. “My pet might break his teeth on kibbles.” False. Dogs and cats do not chew their food; they tear or crunch it. The shape and texture of kibbles are carefully designed to suit each breed, age and morphological particularities… every difference counts!

(Royal Canin products are available exclusively in pet shops & veterinary clinics. Visit: www.royalcanin.in or email at: feedback@royalcanin.in to know more.)

dog health

Health myths busted!

Although pet parents are becoming more and more educated about their pets’ health, care, management and behaviour, many still believe some of the common myths that veterinarians have been trying to debunk for years. Following are some of those myths and the actual facts.

Myth: Mutts are always healthier than purebred dogs.

Fact: Both mutts and purebred dogs can be either healthy or unhealthy. However, mutts generally do not have many of the genetic diseases that may be common in purebred lines.

Myth: Dogs usually get worms when fed on milk.

Fact: Dogs do not get worms from drinking milk. But they will often get diarrhoea because many of them losedog health lactase, an enzyme essential for the digestion of milk, around the age of 6-8 weeks. Young animals often are infested with worms because of direct contamination by their mother during pregnancy or through maternal milk and unhygienic environment. This is why it’s important to treat both mothers and their litters for worms.

Myth: Dogs are sick when their noses are warm or dry.

Fact: A warm nose does not indicate health or illness. There is a ‘myth’ that cold wet noses indicate good health and that warm or dry noses indicate a fever or illness. The only accurate method to assess a dog’s temperature is by using thermometers i.e., indicating a fever or illness. Normal dog temperature is between 100.5-102.5oF.

Dogs have wet noses because some of their tear glands empty into their noses. A dry nose does not necessarily indicate a sick dog. If your dog’s dry nose is not inflamed or infected especially if he is eating and playing normally, then everything should be fine.

Myth: Dogs eat grass when they are sick.

Fact: As dogs are naturally predators and have descended from wild wolves and foxes who used to eat their entire ‘kill’ including the stomach contents of many animals who ate berries and grass. Many scientists believe grass was once part of dog’s normal diet and eating small amounts of grass is normal.

Myth: Sea bath gets rid of ticks and fleas.Fact: Sea salt can kill adult fleas but it cannot kill larva. Also, it cannot eliminate fleas from your home or yard. If your dog has fleas, consult your vet for a holistic treatment.Myth: Dogs with scabies are also carrying rabies.Fact: Perhaps not a common myth, but I have quite a fair amount of clients in the past 10 years who tell me this as fact. I suppose it is because both diseases sound similar. Ignorance is bliss! –Dr Jenny Viegas, Goa

Myth: Dogs will let you know when they are sick.

Fact: This is not true. Dogs generally are very good at hiding that they are sick by survival instinct, thus not to appear vulnerable to “prey”. Often by the time they show you that they are sick, their disease or condition is quite advanced.

Myth: Dogs who are mostly indoors don’t need heartworm prevention.

Fact: This is not true. Indoor pets are also at risk for heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes, which can come inside.

Myth: Garlic prevents fleas in dogs.

Fact: Fleas are not bothered by garlic or any other plant. If your dog needs flea treatment, consult your vet.

Myth: Dogs eat rocks, lick concrete or eat their or another animals stools because of nutrient imbalances.

Fact: No one knows why dogs eat ‘stuff’ that they should not eat. Some veterinarians believe that some dogs who eat ‘things’ may be trying to get attention or acting out of boredom. It is important for dogs to eat a well-balanced diet that will fulfil their dietary and nutrient requirements and have plenty of opportunities for play and exercise.

Myth: Dogs don’t need to be housebroken – they naturally know where to go. If they make a mess in the house, they should be punished.

Fact: You need to train your dog on where to go. This preferably happens when started at a young age and gives dog positive encouragement for jobs well done, rather than punishment when by find a mess after the fact. Punishment does not serve any useful purpose, and will only make dog nervous.

Myth: Household ‘pet dogs’ don’t need to be trained.

Fact: Every dog is required to be trained.

Myth: Happy dogs wag their tails.

Fact: This may be true but both happy and aggressive dogs often wag their tails. There are several physical body motions and cues that help dogs communicate their intent. A dog who wags his tail slowly and moves his entire rear end or crouches down in the classic “play bow” position is usually demonstrating a friendly wag. While, tails that are wagged when held higher, tails that “twitch” or a wagging tail held over the back may be associated with aggression.

Myth: Licking is healing.

Fact: It is natural for a dog to lick his wound but this not necessarily always ‘healing’. Too much licking can actually prohibit healing process due to regular irritation by licking. Since dogs routinely lick their anus and other objects that are laden with bacteria, licking can also deposit infectious bacteria on and into the wounds, thus potentially causing a serious infection.

Myth: Pets become fat and lazy after being spayed or neutered. In any case we don’t need to neuter males because they aren’t the ones having the litters. It’s better to allow your female to have one litter before she is spayed. Fact: The only changes in behaviour you’ll see are positive ones. Male dogs tend to reduce their territorial spraying and marking depending upon the age at which they are neutered. If neutered young enough, before they develop thehabit of spraying and marking, they may never develop the behaviour. Neutered male dogs fight less, prevent diseases and wander less. If your pet shows signs of putting on a little weight, reduce the calories and increase the walks or play sessions. Spaying your female dog at a young age prevents uterine infections like pyometra, which can be fatal. Infections of the uterus are a major cause of illness in unspayed pets. In fact, spayed and neutered animals live longer, happier, healthier lives.–Dr Kunal, Max Vets Dogs and Cats Hospital, New Delhi

Myth: Dogs like tasty food.

Fact: Dogs eat primarily on the basis of sense of smell as they have very poor taste buds.

Myth: Table scraps are good for dogs.

Fact: Some table scraps such as bones and pieces of fat can be dangerous to some pets. Dogs may not digest the bones and the fat may cause gastrointestinal problems such as pancreatitis, while chunks of bone can obstruct the intestines. Cooked bones are brittle and when they are chewed they can break up into sharp fragments that can pierce the intestines, which can cause a life-threatening emergency.

Myth: Dogs see in black and white.

Fact: Dogs do not see in black and white due to dichromatic vision; they can only see a part of the range of colours that are in visible spectrum. It’s believed that dogs are able to see various shades of yellow and blue since they have cones which detect these wavelengths of light. They have colour vision similar to red/green colour blind people. They only possess two of the three types of core (colour sensing cells in the retina): blue, green and yellow (often called red). Dogs only have blue and yellow and the yellow core detects yellow and red. When the yellow gets stimulated it signals either yellow or red, the yellow when mixed with signals from the blue receptors will detect green. Therefore dogs cannot detect the difference between red and green.

Myth: Dogs age seven years for every human year.

Fact: Unfortunately, it’s not very accurate because dogs mature much more quickly than humans do. Dogs have shorter childhoods and longer adulthoods. A more accurate formula would be: 10 and 1/2 dog years for the first two years, then four dog years per year thereafter. However, this formula does not take the dog’s size into consideration. We know that small dogs tend to live longer than large dogs, as much as twice as long. One way to handle the influence of size on a dog’s aging is to change the multiplication factor used once a dog is past two years old.

For small to medium sized dogs, multiply by four, for large dogs, multiply by six and for giant breeds, multiply by eight.

Myth: All dogs like to be petted on their heads.

Fact: Some dogs do like to be petted on their heads but many do not.

Myth: Dogs who scoot their anal areas on the ground have worms.

Fact: It may be true in some cases but not always. While dogs infected with tapeworms or other intestinal worm may scoot on the ground, most such pets have overly full or inflamed anal sacs. Anal sacs are structures located near the dog’s anus that produce a foul scent. Sometimes the ducts of these sacs close up causing a build up of material that causes itching and burning. In an attempt to relieve this discomfort, the dog scoots his anal area along the ground.

Myth: If a medication is all natural or homeopathic, it must be safe enough for my pet.

Fact: Herbal and natural remedies have the same concerns that regular medications have; they can become toxic if given in incorrect doses, given to a particular species which cannot tolerate the medication, or given along with another medication with which it may cause reactions. Pet parents should always check with their veterinarian before adding any type of medication to their pet’s regular diet, even if the product claims to be safe and nontoxic.

Myth: Only certain breeds of dogs will bite or attack people and a dog who attacks livestock or other animals is always a danger to people as well.

Fact: Any age, breed, sex and size of dog may bite. Some dogs or breeds of dogs may be more likely to bite than others if not socialised, trained and controlled properly. Pedigree dogs will bite for the same reasons as cross breeds and as often. Not all dogs who attack other animals are dangerous to people.

Myth: Dogs will bite people if they are fed fresh meat and will attack if the person has provoked the dog by teasing or cruelty.

Fact: A dog’s diet will not make him attack people but his environment and his pet parent’s behaviour do affect it. Dog attacks can be provoked accidentally and the victim is not always to be blamed.

(Dr Vikas Mahajan is PhD Scholar; D Dhirendra Kumar is Assistant Professor cum Scientist, Division of Animal Breeding & Genetic; Dr Pranav Kumar is Assistant Professor cum Scientist, Division of Veterinary & AH Extension, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences & AH, Jammu while Vibha Raj Shanti is Master in Applied Microbiology & Intellectual Property Law Scholar.)

Breeding myths busted!

When it comes to breeding, a lot of myths surround it. Here are a few of them.

Myth: Breeding a flighty female dog will steady her temperament.

Fact: There is no evidence of this at all. A female-dog with unstable temperament may actually become more 017agitated when her protective instincts regarding her litter come into play. Moreover, the dam of a litter does imprint her character on her offspring. An unstable female-dog should not be bred.

Myth: Any dog carrying an undesirable gene should be neutered.

Fact: It depends on what the undesirable gene is. Every dog has some undesirable gene(s) whether they are expressed or not. Genes that affect the health and quality of life of the offspring should obviously be avoided, but it is important to know what the genetic history of the dog is not just the dog himself.

Myth: Repeat litters are never as good as the first ones.

Fact: There is no evidence that this is true. Each breeding is a combination of the genes of two dogs and different traits may be expressed, especially in an outcross pairing.

Myth: Bully breeds are not safe to adopt or rescue because of unknown genetic history. They attack more humans than any other dog.

Fact: There are quite a few Pitbull variations and they are a prolific and popular breed. They are bred to be territorial and protective. Although many bullies are sweet, some are aggressive. I don’t think there are statistics to support this statement, but the breed should be understood and properly kept.

The genetic history is less important with adoptions and rescues than knowing if the dog has a bite history with other dogs or humans.

Myth: Purebreds are ‘weaker’ than mutts.

Fact: When dogs are inbred, the deleterious genes become more concentrated and are therefore more likely to be expressed in the offspring. Obviously “mutts” are not inbred but they can also inherit undesirable genes. Purebreds can and should be healthy when bred by responsible breeders.

Myth: Genetic means congenital.

Fact: Congenital means a condition that exists at birth. A congenital defect may be an anomaly that results from developmental issues during the growth of a foetus and may not occur in siblings or other offspring. When a number of puppies have a congenital defect, then a genetic cause should be considered.

(Himmat Singh Sekhon runs Saras Tibetan Mastiffs kennel based in Amritsar, Punjab. The kennel was established in 1983 with exclusive interest in the breed)

feactures fun anf frolic

Grooming myths busted!

Various myths about pet grooming always make us doubtful even while doing the right things. Here are some common grooming facts rectifying the realities obscured by general myths.

Myth: Nail grinders are safer than clippers.

URMILA

URMILA

 

Fact: There is nothing like nail grinders are safe than clippers. Both are equally safe. But nail grinders have certain disadvantages against clippers as the sound of the machines sometimes scare dogs during the grooming session.

Myth: Cutting ‘the quick’ can cause the dog to bleed to death.

Fact: It could mistakenly happen to cut ‘the quick’ while trimming paw nails. But it’s wrong to assume that excessive bleeding due to cutting ‘the quick’ is fatal!

Myth: The nail guard on a nail clipper guarantees you won’t cut ‘the quick’.

Fact: There is no guarantee about nail guard on nail clipper being 100 percent safe from cutting ‘the quick’.

Myth: Bathing causes dry skin.

Fact: This is quite a common myth. Of course, excessive bathing removes the essential oil from skin. But there is no harm in bathing once in 10-15 days using the right products designed exclusively for pets. Don’t use any product manufactured for human on dog’s skin.

Myth: Shaving a long-coat keeps dog cooler in summer.

Fact: Clipping the coat in summer is recommended. But it’s completely a wrong idea to clean shave the dog in summer. Instead of giving relief, it may cause sun burn and other skin disorders.

Myth: A dog’s skin is healthier with mats in winter.

Fact: This is an absolutely unfounded myth. Trimming with proper de-matting always makes dog’s skin healthier in any season.

Myth: Letting your dog grow a long coat in the winter keeps him warmer.

Fact: It depends on the climatic condition of the region. If the winter is harsh with snowfall or extreme cold, it is not at all a wise idea to clip the coat too short.

Myth: Tooth brushing is unnecessary to a dog’s well being.

Fact: Tooth brushing is ‘must’ to keep your dog healthy. Instead of using brush, chew sticks or other chew items are available in the market for the purpose.

Myth: ‘Hypo-Allergenic’ breeds don’t need grooming.

Fact: It’s a wrong notion. Grooming does not have any ill effect to dogs having any problem.

Myth: Raw eggs make your dog’s coat better.

Fact: This is completely a misconception. There are appropriate ways to make coats better by using grooming products and right food.

Myth: Your dog’s bad breath is normal.

Fact: Dogs have a specific odour in their breath, but it is different from bad breath. The term ‘bad breath’ is equal to foul smell, which is a sign of something abnormal. So, consult your vet in case of any foul smell in your dog’s breath.

(Urmila Dabholkar runs Tail Waggers Pet Salon in Mumbai which has been in the industry for more than 12 years, delivering a wide array of grooming services including haircuts, conditioning and medicated baths, aroma therapy and more)

Training myths busted!

There are many myths surrounding training your dog. Here are the facts for some of the popular training myths.

Myth: If a dog can’t learn behaviour, he is stubborn, dominant, stupid or a combination of the three.

Fact: Dogs are just like people. Some dogs learn quickly while others will take time and more guidance. If a

Dog Training

MALAIKA FERNANDES

dog is unable to learn, it’s only because the dog is not instructed in a way that he would understand. There are other times when a dog will not learn a behaviour because there has been no ‘REWARD’ at the time when he displayed it and is unaware of what you require from him. Another possibility is to consider whether the dog is physically able to display that behaviour – for instance, in the case of a hip dysplasia, dog may find certain positions of ‘sit’ uncomfortable.

Myth: My dog knows he did something wrong because he looks guilty.

Fact: Dogs do not understand language but yes they are able to gauge from your facial expressions and the tone of your voice. So when you say your dog knows he did something wrong, it’s only because of the tone of your voice, that you would use when you are upset with him. The guilty look displayed by your dog is probably a result of learning to exhibit this to appease angry or upset body language that has worked for him in the past with you.

Myth: A puppy has to be at least six months old to be trained.

Fact: Dogs begin to learn as soon as they are born…yes, their attention span of learning is quite limited but once the puppy is above three months of age and has completed his immunization schedule with ‘positive reinforcement’ techniques, he will learn quicker. After all, it’s important to socialise your puppy as soon as possible to new people and surroundings so that he can grow up to be a confident dog minus any unwanted behaviours.

Myth: The ‘positive reinforcement’ training only works with small/happy/regular dogs, not with tough/large/obstinate/stubborn dogs.

Fact: The ‘positive reinforcement’ training will work with any dog irrespective of size as using force or intimidation tactics on fearful or aggressive dogs is only likely to worsen the situation.

Myth: My dog pulls on leash because he’s dominant, or my dog jumps on me because he’s dominant, or my dog lays on the couch because he’s dominant, or my dog won’t let me clip his nail cause he’s dominant, etc.

Fact: If a dog is engaging in behaviours that you as a pet parent find to be dominating, it’s only because you have not taught him, for instance, not to jump on you, not to pull while on a leash, to allow grooming, etc. With the right teaching techniques which involve praise/toys/food or a combination of the three, undesired behaviours can be brought under control or eradicated.

Myth: Using food in training is bribery.

Fact: A reinforcement or a reward such as food or treats is used more commonly and simply because our canines love them and is an easy motivator to use to get a required behaviour.

Myth: I shouldn’t use food to train because then I will always need food in hand to get my dog to do something.

Fact: Food can be used as a positive reinforcer during training provided that you accompany it with praise before you reward the dog with it. Gradually you can stop using food and use only praise as a reinforcer.

Myth: Using human food for training will make my dog beg at the table.

Fact: Feeding your dog in the dining area will cause him to beg at the table. You can either contact a canine behaviourist to sort out the issue or simply place your dog under a stay command, choose to ignore him or get him to do the ‘go to bed’ command.

Myth: Using head collars will cause neck/spinal injury.

Fact: Collars such as choke chains, pinch collars are known to cause injuries in dogs but regular collars used correctly will not create a problem.

Myth: I heard my dog should work for me only because he wants to please me.

Fact: The bond that we share with our canine is a mutual one where we get unconditional love and companionship and in return we provide food, shelter, exercise, love, etc. So, when a dog does something to make us happy, he does it because it also gets him either love, treats or praise in return.

Myth: If you adopt an older dog, he won’t bond to you or learn new behaviours and how to live with a new family because ‘an old dog can’t learn new tricks’.

Fact: You can train a dog at any age…it’s just that the earlier you begin, the better as you rule out the possibility of any unwanted behaviours. Older dogs are calm and have a better span of attention than puppies. The only time when training takes a little longer with older dogs is when you are trying to reverse an unwanted behaviour.

Myth: My dog is trying to show she is in charge when she doesn’t listen to me.

Fact: Dogs don’t have complex emotions like us. When they don’t listen, it’s simply because the dog has not understood or the dog is not motivated enough to do the required behaviour. Most dogs will not do a recall (come while being called) for their pet parents as through past experience they have learnt that whenever they do. They are leashed and taken back home when they would rather stay outside and explore.

Myth: It’s always the pet parent’s fault when a dog misbehaves.

Fact: This is sometimes the case with pet parents who have been ill informed about training methods and have attempted to train their dogs using force and intimidation. However, a bad dog doesn’t always necessarily mean a bad pet parent as there are some dogs who are aggressive due to breeding malpractices, etc.

Myth: When a dog chews up furniture or destroys furniture, it’s because he’s punishing the pet parent.

Fact: When a dog indulges in destructive behaviour, it could simply mean lack of exercise, boredom, separation anxiety, attention seeking behaviour and in a puppy’s case teething behaviour.

Myth: My dog is urinating in the house because he’s angry that I left him alone.

Fact: If your dog is urinating in the house, there are certain things to consider. Maybe he has developed a urinary tract infection, is suffering from separation anxiety, maybe you left him for long and he couldn’t control his bladder, not fully toilet-trained or indulging in attention seeking behaviour. Consult your vet.

Myth: When your dog has a potty accident, it’s important to rub his nose in it to let him know what he did.

Fact: By rubbing your dog’s nose in his own mess will not teach him toilet training. On the other hand, it will teach him to sneak and do his bathroom in another place when you’re not around to avoid a similar confrontation with you making toilet training a difficult exercise.

Myth: You should never play tug of war… this creates aggression.

Fact: Tug of war is a game that you can play with your dog as long as you play against gravity and teach your dog that it’s never alright to put their teeth on your skin when they grasp the toy in their mouth. Also the dog must know to ‘leave’ on command.

Myth: A dog shouldn’t sleep with you or be allowed on furniture or he’ll think he’s the boss and misbehave.

Fact: As a pet parent it’s entirely your choice if you wish to allow the dog on the furniture but if you have a dominant dog on your hands, then it’s best advised to not allow the dog on furniture.

Myth: Shelter dogs have too much baggage. It’s better to adopt a puppy to start with a clean slate.

Fact: Many shelter dogs are well behaved and are not kept by the previous pet parents for several reasons. Adopting an older dog lets you skip the testing stages of potty training and teething. However, before adopting an older dog, it is always best to consult a canine behaviourist who can assess the dog for any behavioural issues and will help you adopt one suitable to your home.

Myth: All dogs should enjoy being around other dogs.

Fact: Just like us, no two dogs are the same, some dogs do not like to socialise with other dogs while some do. Various factors such as breeding, lack of socialisation, etc could attribute to a dog who doesn’t want to mingle with his own kind.

Myth: You should let dogs fight it out when they get into a scuffle.

Fact: This is partly true in the case of maybe a home where a new dog is causing unrest in the pack order established in which case the first fight must have a winner and a loser to avoid more fights in the future. However, as a pet parent, if you have already interfered in the first fight and your home has now turned into a canine war zone, it’s best to contact a canine behaviourist to solve the problem. Remember if you would have contacted a canine behaviourist in the first place, you wouldn’t have had any trouble as prevention is better than cure. Also when the dogs are engaged in a fight, it’s best to distract them with a loud noise, doorbell, treat, etc but don’t try to separate them physically as you would probably be rewarded with a dog bite.

Myth: A dog can’t really be happy unless he can run off leash.

Fact: A leash is a tool that safe- guards your dog against on-going traffic to avoid accidents and a trained dog is quite content to be on leash by the pet parent’s side. Off leash play must only be engaged in an enclosed surrounding

Myth: Dogs are great judges of people, so if a dog doesn’t like someone, it must mean there is something wrong with that person.

Fact: Dogs do have a sixth sense to pick up on cues that go unseen by us but majority of the dogs who display fear or aggression need to do so to safe guard themselves.

(Malaika Fernandes is a certified Canine Behaviourist-Trainer and is Director at Walk Romeo based in Bandra that caters all pet care services like training, behaviour modification, grooming, etc.)

The truth and myths behind rabies

Rabies is one of the most dreaded diseases. Here, The Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD) attempts to demystify this gruesome disease, rabies.

Q : What is rabies? Which part of the body does it affect?

A : Rabies is a fatal viral disease, which affects the central nervous system. It causes inflammation of the brain, leading to death.

Q : How is rabies spread?

A : It is transmitted when infected saliva enters broken skin. This means through the bite of a rabid animal or through its lick on an existing cut or wound. The disease is not airborne and has very rarely been spread by aerosols. It can be spread by all warm-blooded animals (especially mammals), but for humans, dogs are the most important source of infection.

Q : Is it curable?

A : Once the symptoms are developed, it is not curable. However, it can be successfully prevented by prompt post-exposure treatment.

Q : What is the duration of the disease?

A : The ‘incubation period’ is roughly 10 days to one year. It depends on several factors including the site of entry of the virus into the body. Generally, the closer the bite is to the brain, the quicker the progress of the disease. Once clinical signs appear, the disease progresses rapidly to death, generally within 5 to 7 days.

Q : What are the signs?

A : First there are vague, non-specific signs such as fever, nausea or pain. Thereafter, canine rabies can take one of two forms: ‘furious’ rabies or ‘dumb’ rabies. In the furious form, there is great restlessness, abnormal behaviour, salivation, weakness of the back legs and paralysis. The dog is hyper-excitable and aggressive, biting even imaginary objects. In the dumb form, dogs show in-coordination leading to paralysis, and want to hide in dark places. In both forms, there are changes in the voice and inability to swallow. In the last stage, paralysis causes respiratory failure, leading to coma and death.

Q : Does a dog showing these signs definitely have rabies?

A : Not necessarily. Of course, if all the signs are present, there is a strong possibility of rabies. However, certain neurological or other disorders can also show several of these symptoms. Salivation can be caused by foreign bodies or ulcers in the mouth or even by poisoning. People also tend to interpret provoked biting as rabid behaviour. Hence diagnosis should be carried out only by experts.

Q : How is rabies diagnosed?

A : It can be diagnosed either clinically or by laboratory examination. For clinical diagnosis, the veterinarian looks for a combination of symptoms, animal’s history and habits, his attitudes towards his owner (in the case of pets) and towards other dogs. Laboratory examination of brain tissue is carried out after death. Blood tests (ie, ELISA) can be carried out on living animals but are not commonly performed. A layperson is not qualified to diagnose rabies and may cause much harm by attempting to do so.

Q : Is it true rabid dogs cannot bear the sight of water?

A : No, it is more a case of being unable to drink water due to painful spasms and paralysis of the muscles, which assist swallowing. This condition also causes salivation, since the dog cannot swallow his saliva.

Q : Do all stray dogs carry rabies?

A : No. However, they are very vulnerable, since many of them are still unvaccinated and unlikely to get post exposure vaccinations after a bite.

Q : Can pet dogs get rabies? Should they be vaccinated?

A : Yes! Unvaccinated pets who roam freely are at very high risk. Official sources indicate that about half of human rabies deaths are caused by the bites of pets. Pet dogs should be vaccinated every year.

Q : If I am bitten or licked by an animal suspected of rabies, what should I do?

A : Act quickly. (a) As soon as possible, wash the wound for at least 10 minutes with soap water. The importance of washing cannot be overemphasized. It removes 94.4% of the viral particles. (b) Next, disinfect the wound with Dettol, Cetavelon, Betadine or spirit. (c) Consult a doctor and start your post-exposure vaccination course. If any unknown dog makes an unprovoked attack, take the full course. If a known dog makes a provoked attack, take 3 vaccinations at least. In either case the dog should be observed for at least 14 days. This is because in dogs, death generally occurs within 10 to 12 days after the virus reaches the salivary glands. If the animal shows no signs within this period it is more or less safe to assume that he will not have transmitted rabies.

Q : Can an animal who shows no signs of rabies transmit the disease?

A : In real life it is extremely unlikely that a dog who shows no sings will transmit the disease. There is a ‘carrying’ stage called the incubation period, from the time when the virus enters the body and starts multiplying, up to the time it reaches the brain and the animal starts showing signs. Transmission during this period has been very rarely observed and only under laboratory conditions.

Q : Can puppies be born with rabies or get it through their mother’s milk?

A : They cannot be born with it, but the virus could be found in the mother’s milk. However puppies of a rabid female dog are at higher risk through their mother’s lick and bites.

Q : If I am bitten by rabid animal, will I definitely get rabies?

A : No. In fact, human beings are relatively low susceptibility to rabies. According to statistics, on an average only 15-20% of people who have been bitten by proven rabid animals and received no post-exposure treatment die from rabies. However, please do not ever neglect your post exposure treatment. With rabies, you should not take a chance.

Q : What is the rate of human rabies deaths in India?

A : The rate is estimated about 25,000-30,000 deaths per annum. In Mumbai, there were about 50 deaths a year until 1992. The deaths have considerably dropped by 2001, largely due to the implementation of mass vaccination as a preventive measure.

Q : What should I do if I see a rabid-looking stray dog?

A : Call the Municipal Dog Squad and ask them to catch the dog immediately and isolate him for observation. (WSD is a non-profit organization carrying out a mass sterilization-cum-vaccination programmme for stray dogs in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. In the last few years, the organization has sterilized and immunized over 22,000 stray dogs.

They can be contacted at: The Welfare of Stray Dogs, C/o Akanksha, Voltas House ‘C’, TB Kadam Marg, Chinchpokli, Mumbai-33. Tel: 022-23733433/9892974973. or email: wsd@wsdindia.org)A : Rabies is a fatal viral disease, which affects the central nervous system. It causes inflammation of the brain, leading to death.

Q : How is rabies spread?

A : It is transmitted when infected saliva enters broken skin. This means through the bite of a rabid animal or through its lick on an existing cut or wound. The disease is not airborne and has very rarely been spread by aerosols. It can be spread by all warm-blooded animals (especially mammals), but for humans, dogs are the most important source of infection.

Q : Is it curable?

A : Once the symptoms are developed, it is not curable. However, it can be successfully prevented by prompt post-exposure treatment.

Q : What is the duration of the disease?

A : The ‘incubation period’ is roughly 10 days to one year. It depends on several factors including the site of entry of the virus into the body. Generally, the closer the bite is to the brain, the quicker the progress of the disease. Once clinical signs appear, the disease progresses rapidly to death, generally within 5 to 7 days.

Q : What are the signs?

A : First there are vague, non-specific signs such as fever, nausea or pain. Thereafter, canine rabies can take one of two forms: ‘furious’ rabies or ‘dumb’ rabies. In the furious form, there is great restlessness, abnormal behaviour, salivation, weakness of the back legs and paralysis. The dog is hyper-excitable and aggressive, biting even imaginary objects. In the dumb form, dogs show in-coordination leading to paralysis, and want to hide in dark places. In both forms, there are changes in the voice and inability to swallow. In the last stage, paralysis causes respiratory failure, leading to coma and death.

Q : Does a dog showing these signs definitely have rabies?

A : Not necessarily. Of course, if all the signs are present, there is a strong possibility of rabies. However, certain neurological or other disorders can also show several of these symptoms. Salivation can be caused by foreign bodies or ulcers in the mouth or even by poisoning. People also tend to interpret provoked biting as rabid behaviour. Hence diagnosis should be carried out only by experts.

Q : How is rabies diagnosed?

A : It can be diagnosed either clinically or by laboratory examination. For clinical diagnosis, the veterinarian looks for a combination of symptoms, animal’s history and habits, his attitudes towards his owner (in the case of pets) and towards other dogs. Laboratory examination of brain tissue is carried out after death. Blood tests (ie, ELISA) can be carried out on living animals but are not commonly performed. A layperson is not qualified to diagnose rabies and may cause much harm by attempting to do so.

Q : Is it true rabid dogs cannot bear the sight of water?

A : No, it is more a case of being unable to drink water due to painful spasms and paralysis of the muscles, which assist swallowing. This condition also causes salivation, since the dog cannot swallow his saliva.

Q : Do all stray dogs carry rabies?

A : No. However, they are very vulnerable, since many of them are still unvaccinated and unlikely to get post exposure vaccinations after a bite.

Q : Can pet dogs get rabies? Should they be vaccinated?

A : Yes! Unvaccinated pets who roam freely are at very high risk. Official sources indicate that about half of human rabies deaths are caused by the bites of pets. Pet dogs should be vaccinated every year.

Q : If I am bitten or licked by an animal suspected of rabies, what should I do?

A : Act quickly. (a) As soon as possible, wash the wound for at least 10 minutes with soap water. The importance of washing cannot be overemphasized. It removes 94.4% of the viral particles. (b) Next, disinfect the wound with Dettol, Cetavelon, Betadine or spirit. (c) Consult a doctor and start your post-exposure vaccination course. If any unknown dog makes an unprovoked attack, take the full course. If a known dog makes a provoked attack, take 3 vaccinations at least. In either case the dog should be observed for at least 14 days. This is because in dogs, death generally occurs within 10 to 12 days after the virus reaches the salivary glands. If the animal shows no signs within this period it is more or less safe to assume that he will not have transmitted rabies.

Q : Can an animal who shows no signs of rabies transmit the disease?

A : In real life it is extremely unlikely that a dog who shows no sings will transmit the disease. There is a ‘carrying’ stage called the incubation period, from the time when the virus enters the body and starts multiplying, up to the time it reaches the brain and the animal starts showing signs. Transmission during this period has been very rarely observed and only under laboratory conditions.

Q : Can puppies be born with rabies or get it through their mother’s milk?

A : They cannot be born with it, but the virus could be found in the mother’s milk. However puppies of a rabid female dog are at higher risk through their mother’s lick and bites.

Q : If I am bitten by rabid animal, will I definitely get rabies?

A : No. In fact, human beings are relatively low susceptibility to rabies. According to statistics, on an average only 15-20% of people who have been bitten by proven rabid animals and received no post-exposure treatment die from rabies. However, please do not ever neglect your post exposure treatment. With rabies, you should not take a chance.

Q : What is the rate of human rabies deaths in India?

A : The rate is estimated about 25,000-30,000 deaths per annum. In Mumbai, there were about 50 deaths a year until 1992. The deaths have considerably dropped by 2001, largely due to the implementation of mass vaccination as a preventive measure.

Q : What should I do if I see a rabid-looking stray dog?

A : Call the Municipal Dog Squad and ask them to catch the dog immediately and isolate him for observation. (WSD is a non-profit organization carrying out a mass sterilization-cum-vaccination programmme for stray dogs in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. In the last few years, the organization has sterilized and immunized over 22,000 stray dogs.

They can be contacted at: The Welfare of Stray Dogs, C/o Akanksha, Voltas House ‘C’, TB Kadam Marg, Chinchpokli, Mumbai-33. Tel: 022-23733433/9892974973. or email: wsd@wsdindia.org)

Myths and truths about dog keeping

Many people wish to keep a pet dog but are surrounded by certain myths that stop them from fulfilling their wish. Not only this, some of the dog owners go to an extent of abandoning their pet dogs because of these myths. Dr. S.K. Pandey addresses certain common myths and truths about dog keeping. In this changing world, each one of us strives for betterment and have very little time left for our family members. In such a situation, pet dog is the one who gives unconditional love and loyalty. However, many people are hesitant in keeping a dog as they believe in certain myths about them, which are infact baseless.

Here are some myths about dog keeping:

Every dog bite causes Rabies: Rabies is a dreadful viral disease that is transmitted to human beings through the bite of rabies infected dog, monkey or rodents. It is to be clearly understood that bite of a normal healthy vaccinated dog does not cause rabies. This bite is just like a normal injury that may be treated normally. The pet dog remains totally free from rabies until bitten by a rabid animal, which happens only when the pet dog is left to stray out.

Dogs cause asthma and allergies?:?Asthma and allergies are primarily genetic in nature that may be triggered by certain allergens. Amongst many other allergens, certain secretions from dogs may also trigger the problem. But, this happens only if an individual is allergic to this secretion, which is a rare possibility. Hence, it is to be clearly understood that the presence of dog in the house is not the cause of asthma and allergies. On the contrary, the incidence of these problems is less in families where dogs are kept. This happens because the presence of low-grade allergens makes the body immune.

Dogs transmit many diseases to human beings?:?A well-kept dog does not transmit any disease to the human beings. The serious and dreadful diseases of dogs like parvo virus, canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis, canine influenza etc are not transmitted to human beings. Other problems that may be transmitted by dogs are skin problems and tape worm infestation, both of these happen only if the hygiene conditions are compromised with.

Dogs will harm the new born babies?:?It is a pity to see that many pet dogs are abandoned with the arrival of a new born baby in the family since they feel that dogs will harm them. This myth is totally baseless as it is invariably seen that a well-behaved and socialised pet dog in the house is very protective towards the infants and never harms them. There are many instances when dogs have come to the rescue of infants and children through their guarding and protective instinct. However, it is advisable to watch the attitude of the dog towards the new born baby before a close proximity is maintained.

Dog recognise only one master and may attack other family members?:?Dogs are very sensible and they easily recognise all the family members. They enjoy family life. Aggression in dogs is however due to various other reasons like provocation from some family members, lack of training and exercise. It should be ascertained that the dog is properly socialised during the initial phase of life to avoid any untoward incidence.

Infact, dogs change the outlook of a person and you can lead a fulfilling life if you have one.

Here are some of the benefits of keeping a dog at home:

Dog brings discipline and joy in your life?:?A dog in the family can change the lifestyle of the owner and suddenly you become more disciplined, happy and healthy. This is because health and joy goes with their normal temperament.

  • You need to take your dog for morning and evening walks which are good for your health as well.
  • With this furry bundle of energy, you cannot throw things around as he can chew it up. So, your house is more organised.
  • When you are feeling low, your pet dog will pull you out from it through his love, affection and mischief. Best companion : Dogs provide excellent company to old, children and other disabled people who find their life more meaningful when they spend their time with them.

Dog acts as a stress buster?:?Today, life is full of stress, which may lead to health hazards such as insomnia, anxiety, high BP, heart problems, low immunity, gastric ulcers, etc. When you spend quality time with your dog, you are able to detach yourself from the mundane problems of life. Interestingly, there are reports that people with dogs live a healthier life. They are found to have fewer incidences of heart ailments, blood pressure problem, psychological disorders and stress induced aches and pains.

(Dr. S.K. Pandey, M.V.Sc. (Medicine), apart from his specialisation in canine medicine, holds special interest in dog behaviour, nutrition and lifestyle. He can be contacted at: Doggy World & Fish Planet, B-6/147, Sector-8, Rohini, Delhi, Ph: 011-27942285, 09811299059, 09811299055.)