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New Shelter Coming to Alameda

Alameda is getting a new animal shelter, the East Bay Times reported recently.

The new facility will be able to accommodate 34 animals, will have two outdoor dog runs, and will be built in the Harbor Bay Business Park near the Oakland airport. It will also have a cat café, a rooftop dog run, and rooms for kids where they can learn about animals.

The price of the building, at 2331 N. Loop Road, is set at $8 million and will be owned by Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter, the nonprofit that runs the city’s animal shelter. The current shelter at 1500 Fortmann Way will remain open but plans are to turn it into an intake-only shelter. It currently can house 72 dogs and cats; the shelter also accepts small animals like guinea pigs and rabbits.

The goal is to open the new facility, which is adjacent to Bright Horizons Day Care and residential housing, in two years. It will be two stories tall and contain about 12,000 square feet. The space for the new center was donated by Joe Ernst of srmERNST development partners. 

FAAS opened a satellite space for cat adoptions at South Shore Center in July. FAAS took over running the animla shelter from the Alameda Police Department in 2012. FAAS rents the Fortmann space, a 36-year-old building, from the city for $1 annually. Alameda provides FAAS with $800,0000 annually plus cost of living adjustments or 58 percent of the FAAS budget,  and the rest of its budget comes from donations.

Refrigerated Is In

Sales for companies that make gourmet fresh dog food, including New York’s Pet Plate, are exploding, the New York Post reported recently. 

Pet Plate has raised $6 million and expects to announce additional funding soon. For now, refrigerated pet food represents a small fraction of industry sales at retail stores — $323 million last year, versus $31.7 billion overall, The Post reported. Still, sales in the refrigerated niche increased 28 percent last year. 

Most of the retail refrigerated business is going to publicly traded Freshpet, a 14-year-old Secaucus, New Jersey, company. It has installed fridges in some 19,500 supermarkets, drugstores, and big-box retailers.  

“Freshpet’s growth is absolutely an indicator of the category’s success,” said Alexandria Jarrell, co-founder of NomNomNow, an East Bay fresh pet food delivery service.

Customers who sign up for NomNomNow get a questionnaire that tracks some 125 data points on their dog, including weight, breed, age, and poop. NomNomNow has raised $13 million from Silicon Valley venture-capital firms, and its sales more than doubled in 2019 and continue to increase month over month.

Huge Parade

Fox 2 Now in St. Louis reported in February that the Missouri town had set a new Guinness World Record for the largest costume pet parade.

The Purina Pet Parade has become part of an annual Mardi Gras tradition for St. Louis, and the 27th annual event topped the 2002 record as the largest costume pet parade in the world. This year, an estimated 100,000 St. Louisans attended, and more than 1,600 dogs marched in the parade — up from the 2002 record number of dogs of 1,326 dogs. Organizers asked participants to donate $10 to the Open-Door Animal Sanctuary.

Beware of Xylitol

Xylitol — a naturally occurring type of sugar alcohol — can be toxic to dogs, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported recently. 

Xylitol is in fruits, vegetables, berries, oats, and mushrooms and is easily synthesized from a form of cellulose and a byproduct of harvesting some trees and corn cobs. It tastes sweet and is used as a substitute sweetener in some human products, foods, and pharmaceuticals. 

But it is a life-threatening toxin in dogs because they metabolize it differently than some other animals and humans. Dogs can suffer severe hypoglycemia if they ingest xylitol, more dangerous than chocolate. The sweetener can also cause acute hepatic necrosis that results in liver failure and death.

Dogs don’t need to ingest much to potentially suffer medical problems. To prevent xylitol toxicity in dogs, read the labels on common products in your home that may contain xylitol. Keep these products out of reach of your dog or don’t purchase them. A good rule of thumb is to treat all dogs like one would a toddler in the home. Anything you don’t want them to mouth or swallow should be secured and out of reach at all times. If you suspect your dog has ingested a product containing xylitol, your dog should be seen and evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Reading to Dogs 

Public Libraries Online recently reported a novel idea: paring dogs with libraries for reading aloud programs for kids.

It seems more and more libraries are inviting therapy dogs to sit and listen as young patrons practice their reading aloud. Angie Hall, Quad Cities Canine Assistance Network President, said the benefits of reading to a therapy dog are extraordinary.

“Dogs don’t judge. They just listen. A child who struggles with reading won’t feel embarrassed when reading to a dog, because the dog does not care if they are a good reader. The dog just loves spending time with them,” she said.

Such a bond permits youngsters to concentrate on reading, improving their literacy skills. The relaxing presence of a dog helps a child let his or her guard down; the child feels more comfortable, which improves reading comprehension. In short, these kinds of programs make reading fun for the kids, who look forward to the event every month.

Siba, Best in Show

ICYMI, Siba the standard poodle was named Best in Show at the 144th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in February

“She’s just a great dog,” Siba’s co-owner, Connie S. Unger told USA Today. “She loves the showing; she’s in her element when she’s being shown. She’s really an all-around great dog.”

During the this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, more than 2,600 dogs representing 204 breeds and varieties competed for the coveted Best In Show title in New York City, New York. 

The remaining finalists were Bourbon (hound), Bono the Havanese (toy), Conrad the Shetland Sheepdog (herding), Daniel the Golden Retriever (sporting), Wilma the Boxer (working) and Vinny the Wire Fox Terrier (terrier).

Overwhelming. Thrilling. There are so many words,” said Siba’s handler, Chrystal Clas. “This is the ultimate goal in our sport. So I’m just beyond pleased.”

Dogs Get an Assist

A team in the Netherlands that focused on the impact of dog-assisted therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder and Down syndrome have found dogs seem to help the kids, Psychology Today reported. 

These genetic disorders affect cognitive and social-emotional development, and while there are many differences in the behaviors of children with ASD and DS, there are some similarities in how they socialize, specifically with impaired behavioral synchrony. For kids who struggle with behavioral synchrony, dogs might help move it along. 

The research team used cross-recurrence quantification analysis to determine synchrony between a child and his or her therapy dog over the course of the six sessions. In the end, nine out of 10 children showed a significantly higher proportion of synchrony in the last therapy session compared to the first one, making this the first study to show an increase in synchrony through DAT. On average, the five children with ASD showed more synchrony with their dogs compared to the children with DS and showed a decrease in what’s categorized as “problem behavior” after the DAT sessions, but neither of those findings was statistically significant.  

The preliminary evidence suggest that behavioral synchrony could be a key mechanism underlying the effectiveness of DAT for children with ASD and DS, and it adds to the ongoing conversation about varying individually-tailored forms of therapy for these children.

Grain-Free Worries

According to the FDA, hundreds of dogs have gotten the same diagnosis, some even died, because they were eating grain-free dog food, reported WZZM in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“We know that there’s a link between grain-free food and specifically foods that have lentils and peas and maybe sweet potatoes in them,” said Ryan Carpenter, a veterinarian for Family Friends Veterinary Hospital. “So those foods are causing dilated cardiomyopathy.”

Dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, is a genetic condition in dogs, typically seen in large or giant breeds, that results in the decreased ability of the heart to generate enough pressure through the vascular system.

In July 2018, the FDA opened an investigation into the potential link between grain-free food and heart failure in dogs. The FDA found that grain-free foods blocked the absorption of taurine, a significant amino acid needed for a dog’s heart to function.

In addition to finding the taurine link, the FDA also discovered certain breeds of dogs, Labrador retrievers, mixed breeds, and golden retrievers in particular, are affected more. Some dogs whose taurine levels are low can survive on a taurine supplement. 

 The FDA continues to investigate the link between grain-free dog food and heart failure. The FDA has learned that the age of the dog doesn’t matter. Puppies as young as six months to 15-year-old dogs have been affected.

Researchers are asking anyone who has fed their dog a grain-free diet to participate in the FDA study. 

The details on how to submit your case report can be found at “How to Report a Pet Food Complaint” on the FDA website, 

Here is a list of the dog food brands associated with the FDA investigation: Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety, NutriSource, Nutro, Rachael Ray Nutrish. 

If you would like to learn more about grain-free diets and taurine deficiency, you can join the Taurine-Deficient (Nutritional) Dilated Cardiomyopathy Facebook group, which is administered by a veterinarian.