Gentle Care Animal Hospital

Gentle Care Animal Hospital

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Puppy love: More pets partake in even formal weddings

Wedding attendants are going to the dogs.

Pet-loving couples are increasingly including their dogs (and other pets, to a much lesser degree) in the wedding parties of some very formal weddings — decking them out in silk and satin and including them in the receiving line, on the program and in the portraits.

"Many people think of their pets as family members, and they wouldn't think of having a special day like this without that member," says Celina Bojorquez, co-owner of Beverly Hills Mutt Club, purveyor of upscale accessories like doggie tuxedos ($70 and up) and couture dresses ($170 to $500).

The shop has outfitted canines for scores of weddings in the last couple of years. Not all have been done up in full-dress regalia; some have merely donned accessories for a little special-day elegance. Bojorquez has sold dog-besotted soon-to-weds silk ties and bow ties for their four-legged pals, satin bandanas, crystal leads and collars, and, in one case, a gold harness and leash to match the bride's gold dress.

Though pets have long been part of casual weddings in meadows, on mountaintops and at the seashore, their participation in chichi affairs at the most ornate churches and refined locales is a more recent phenomenon.

Increased numbers not withstanding, not everyone is completely enchanted with the notion of animals in the aisles or at the altar. Many locales prohibit them; many families and wedding planners discourage their participation.

Lynda Barness of I Do Wedding Consulting in Philadelphia always warns couples of the potential perils — "animals are animals, and they can do animal things," she says — and so far all her clients have concluded that including pets in the wedding party isn't necessary. "But as part of the portraits, that's just fine."

Her concerns range from potty issues to a dog acting up because it's not used to being in a room with 300 people to the fact that "the bride and the groom and others in the wedding party have enough to tend to that day."

Also, "if a dog isn't used to wearing a top hat, there may be issues."

Beth Anstandig of Los Gatos, Calif., acknowledges there may be matters to work out but says having her own two border collies involved made her wedding day even more special. "The guests loved it," she says. And she and her husband cherish the photos featuring the dogs — especially because both have since died.

"We are so happy to be able to look back and remember them as they were on that day."

He's a loved one, too

"The family was a little skeptical," Kaycee English says with a chuckle about the moment last year when she announced that Bowser, the Australian shepherd pup she and John English had fallen for on, would be part of her fancy wedding. "Bowser had instantly become a family member." They adopted him from Purrs and Pups Animal Rescue in Riverdale, N.J., weeks before their wedding day.

"The people I loved would be there, and there was no way Bowser wouldn't be," says English, of Freehold, N.J., who works for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. So she bought Bowser a canine ring-bearer outfit, and he pulled off his wedding-day role without incident (dissolving a worried dad's concern about crazy-dog potential and lost rings).

No pets? 'Unimaginable'

Los Gatos, Calif., psychotherapist Beth Anstandig was something of a trendsetter when, five years ago, she informed her stunned parents that her beloved border collies, Levi, 11, and blue-eyed Frank, 9, would be attending her very fancy, very formal wedding.

The dogs had joined her on road trips, seen her through grad school, accompanied her to classes when she was a teacher and "helped me grow up," she says. It would have been "unimaginable" to have such an important day without them.

Her fiancé, Eric Killough, had grown to love the dogs, too. He joked that he intended to have an "adoption ceremony" to formalize his relationship with them.

On the wedding day, a groomsman walked Levi and Frank down the aisle to the altar, and there they remained quietly throughout the vows. "They weren't there because it was cute to have them there," Anstandig says. "They were there because they belonged there. It would have felt incomplete without them."

Speak now or forever hold your pooch

Jessica Sempek of Skokie, Ill., encountered some "naysayers who thought it was strange" when the topic of Emmie and Lady Bug being part of the ceremony arose during the planning of her elegant wedding to Scott Stewart last summer. But those voices were quickly silenced.

"We have two of the most amazing girls," Sempek says. The couple adopted the two mixed-breed Kentucky-born rescues months apart from Heavenly Hearts Rescue of Southeastern Wisconsin.

When the couple — she works for the American Medical Association, he's a hospice nurse — exchanged vows, the two dogs were at the altar. They were walked down the aisle on rhinestone leashes by the groom's nephew.

By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

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Friday, June 19, 2009

New airline Pet Airways' only passengers to be four-legged

A solution to some of the anxiety that Deborah Kehoe Wade and other pet owners suffer when they have to put a furry family member on a plane may be around the corner.

It's the sort of anxiety Wade experienced when she moved from Washington, D.C., to Bogota, Colombia, two years ago, despite paying a New York pet travel service more than $2,000 to ship her pets.

"The guy in New York did a good job," Wade says of the service. "He was very nice. But it was kind of disconcerting. You never met him. You just talked to him on the phone. And you're trusting him with your pet.

"I do think it would be nice to take your dog out to the airport and hand your pet to a person who can tell you that they personally will put your pet on the plane and see to his needs," she says.

Soon, pet owners who live in a handful of large U.S. cities will have the ability to do that. Pet Airways plans to begin service on July 14 as the USA's first pets-only carrier — no human passengers allowed. The introductory fare: $149 each way. For that, pets will be flown in individual crates in lighted and pressurized plane cabins, with a human attendant checking them every 15 minutes. They'll board, just like people, from their own airport lounges and get overnight lodging accommodations on long-haul flights. Their owners can track their whereabouts at all times online. They can even earn "pet points" as frequent fliers.

Pet Airways won't solve every owner's needs initially. It will serve only five U.S. destinations: Baltimore/Washington International Airport, plus non-commercial airports in the New York City area, and in Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. It's catering to dogs and cats starting out. And it'll fly each route once a week.

But Pet Airways founders, husband and wife team Alysa Binder and Dan Wiesel, have big expansion plans and are convinced there will be plenty of demand from pet lovers to achieve them.

"We're planning on growth to 25 cities in the next couple of years," Binder says.

Potty breaks for 'pawsengers'

Lots of start-up airlines with big ambitions have failed. Unlike Pet Airways, most didn't launch amid a deep recession. But Binder and Wiesel believe they've found the right specialty market and a modest enough operating plan to make it.

"There're about 87 million U.S. households that have pets. It's a niche market, no doubt. But the pet community — pet owners and pet lovers — they get it," Binder says. "They've known for a long time that there's a need for this. We're pet owners ourselves. We are our own market."

The key to Pet Airways' success may be its choice of aircraft: the affordable, economical Beech 1900. Designed as a 19-passenger turboprop for use by regional carriers serving small markets, the 1900 used to be one of the most widely used planes by regional airlines. But travelers' preference for jets forced airlines to abandon turboprops starting in the late 1990s, even though jets are more expensive to operate. That left the market flooded with little-used 1900s.

Geoffrey Gallup, co-owner of Suburban Air Freight, an Omaha-based air-freight specialist that will operate Pet Airways' planes under contract, says he can supply as many 1900s as Pet Airways needs. If it needs more than the four 1900s currently in Suburban Air's fleet, Gallup says, more can be obtained for about $1.5 million each. That's paltry compared with the $10 million to $35 million price tags on used jets.

The 1900 won't fly as fast or as far as a jet. But unlike time-conscious humans, dogs and cats shouldn't mind. Making more frequent stops for fuel actually is a good thing for animals. It'll give attendants time to get the animals out of the plane for a walk and potty break.

With all its passenger seats removed except those for in-flight pet attendants, the 1900 can hold up to 50 small animal crates, though typically it will fly with smaller numbers of what the airline calls "pawsengers."

"It's a completely novel idea that is fascinating to me," Gallup says. "The more we talked to Dan and Alysa about it, the more we came to see that they've done their homework."

Pet comfort and owners' peace of mind are what Pet Airways is selling more than the transportation. It's a lesson Binder and Wiesel learned from experience.

In 2005, the couple moved from California's Bay Area, where they'd been successful recruiters for and consultants to several venture-capital groups and tech start-ups. They figured that Zoe, their 17-year-old Jack Russell terrier, was too old to make the cross-country drive to Delray Beach, Fla., comfortably. Zoe traveled in the dark belly of a jetliner.

Zoe survived the flight better than Binder and Wiesel, who fretted while their dog was in transit.

"We thought there had to be a better way," Binder says. That was the genesis of Pet Airways.

Owners' fear bigger than risk

Few of the estimated 1 million or more animals that fly annually are lost, injured or die during air travel. In 2005, the first year that airlines had to report those numbers, 102 pets died, 48 were reported injured and 30 more were lost. In 2008, only 31 pets (dogs, cats and birds) died in transit on airlines, with only eight injuries and four animals reported as lost, according to the website

But it's not necessarily statistics that matter most to owners. It's a perceived lack of comfort, the sometimes hassle involved in transporting live animals by air, and a fear that their pets will be harmed that spark anxiety.

There are commonly quoted, but hard-to-substantiate, statistics from various animal welfare groups that suggest more pets are harmed in transit than the officially reported numbers indicate. Pet Airways itself quotes a study by the San Francisco SPCA that estimates that about 5,000 animals are injured, out of an estimated 1 million to 2 million that travel by air each year.

It's Pet Airways' goal to ease those concerns by convincing owners its service is safer.

"We're going to provide a level of care that will both keep your pet comfortable and make you comfortable with the whole process of transporting them," Binder says.

Not the only way to fly

Pet Airways isn't launching its service into a competitive vacuum. Although their policies vary widely, all the USA's biggest passenger airlines allow at least some type of pet travel.

Even Southwest (LUV), which had never allowed pets onboard, announced last month that it would let cats and dogs in the cabin if their approved carriers fit under a passenger's seat.

In recent years, two airlines, Continental (CAL) and Delta (DAL), have created special operations aimed at treating animals better. The few available statistics don't prove conclusively that their approach is safer or more successful, but their goal is to make people comfortable with the idea of putting their pets on planes, thereby giving the owners greater reason to fly on them, too.

Continental's PetSafe program (Delta's similar program is called Pet First) features airport kennels at its hubs and temperature-controlled vans that deliver pets to planes moments before they push back from gates and pick them up immediately after a plane docks. That gives pets last-on/first-off treatment and reduces chances of prolonged exposure to temperature extremes on the loading ramp and potential hazards in cargo areas.

"We have specialized workers in our hubs who actually bid for PetSafe jobs. That's all they do, work with animals all day long," says Lisa Schoppa, manager of product development in Continental's cargo division. "Most importantly, they're empowered. If they see something wrong with a puppy, for example, they have full authority to pull that puppy off the flight line and take them to a vet if they think that's necessary."

In addition, there are about 300 independent pet travel specialists around the world who are members of the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association. These companies are best described as travel agencies for pets, says Gay O'Brien, IPATA's president and head of family-owned O'Brien Animal Transportation & Services in Foster City, Calif.

Pet travel companies help humans navigate the complex and often contradictory rules that govern animal travel.

Their services, which can include door-to-door service or other special handling arrangements, cost more than dealing directly with the airlines, even though most animals shipped this way wind up being on the same planes. But pet travel companies argue that their value-added services reduce owners' hassles, and are worth it.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Obesity Is A Problem For Dogs, Too!

It's not just humans that suffer from obesity - vets say that emerging obesity problems in dogs are leading to shorter lives and reduced quality of life.

The warning comes in the wake of the launch of an over-the-counter weight loss treatment for humans.

Dr Alex German, an expert in dog nutrition and obesity problems, from Liverpool University, said: "Some estimates say that around 40% of pet dogs in the US are overweight or clinically obese*, and the anecdotal evidence from colleagues is that we are already seeing a similar problem in Europe.

"Excess weight results from lack of exercise and inappropriate diet and, if owners are working longer hours, they will have less time to exercise their dogs properly. The credit crunch may potentially have an impact, since it may make owners more reluctant to take their pet to a veterinary surgeon, thereby missing out on important advice on health and wellbeing."

As in humans, overweight dogs may experience associate medical problems including arthritis, respiratory problems, diabetes and incontinence. Some pre-existing conditions, such as osteoarthritis, may be exacerbated, and the dog's quality of life reduced because of its impaired ability to play and take exercise.

Dr German said: "Once a dog becomes obese, or even overweight, it really is best to take veterinary advice about how to solve the problem. Sudden implementation of a rigorous exercise routine, without consideration of co-existing health problems, may exacerbate the problem.

"Weight loss usually involves a combination of dietary energy restriction, increasing activity levels and, in some cases, prescription medicines," said Dr German

"Although many of these impose a potential financial cost and in a recession, owners may be less willing to carry the financial cost."

In some breeds, and in cross breed dogs, it can be difficult for owners to establish the ideal weight, and information available on the internet may not always be accurate or appropriate.

He stressed that dogs can become overweight for all sorts of reasons - including compulsive eating and theft of food, begging from people other than the owner, and pre-existing medical conditions which limit their exercise. "Food is associated with love, which means you are dealing with both diet and psychology," he said.

*According to The American Veterinary Association, a dog which is 5-20% over its ideal weight is 'overweight', and one which is 20% or more over its ideal weight is 'obese'.

For further information, please visit

Pfizer Animal Health, a business of Pfizer Inc, is a world leader in animal health, committed to providing high-quality, innovative health products, including pharmaceuticals and biologicals for livestock and companion animals. Pfizer Inc, a research-based pharmaceutical company with global operations, discovers, develops, manufactures and markets leading prescription medicines for humans and animals.

Pfizer Animal Health

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

New Canine Mast Cell Tumor Treatment

Pfizer Animal Health today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first canine cancer therapy in the U.S. - PALLADIATM (toceranib phosphate) - which was developed by Pfizer to treat mast cell tumors in dogs. Pfizer made the announcement to veterinarians attending the 2009 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) Forum and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Convention.

"Pfizer Animal Health is proud to bring the first canine cancer therapy approved by the FDA to U.S. specialists, their patients and caregivers," said George Fennell, vice president, Companion Animal Division, Pfizer Animal Health. "In the weeks and months ahead, Pfizer will introduce PALLADIA to boarded specialists to expand the body of clinical experience with this new therapy. The experience gained during this time will enable us to support veterinarians more effectively when we make the product available for purchase in early 2010," Fennell said.

Pet caregivers should continue to consult with their local veterinarians about options for their dogs with cancer, who may then refer appropriate cases to specialists for treatment with PALLADIA.

A new option to treat canine mast cell tumors

According to the Morris Animal Foundation, cancer is a leading cause of death in dogs. 1

Pfizer Animal Health estimates 1.2 million new canine cancer cases are reported in the U.S. every year. 2 Mast cell tumors are the second most common tumor type and are often seen as lumps in the skin. These tumors are classified as grade I, II or III, with grade III being the most severe. If not treated, they can spread to other parts of the body including lymph nodes.

Prescription-only PALLADIA is an oral therapy indicated to treat Patnaik grade II or III recurrent cutaneous mast cell tumors with or without regional lymph node involvement. PALLADIA belongs to the tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) class of compounds. It works by blocking the activity of key receptors important for the development of blood vessels that supply tumors, as well as receptors critical for tumor survival.

"PALLADIA is an exciting, new treatment option for dogs with mast cell tumors," said Cheryl London, DVM, PhD, board certified medical oncologist and associate professor at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

"At the completion of a PALLADIA clinical study, approximately 60% of dogs had their tumors disappear, shrink or stop growing. Also, we determined that dogs whose tumors responded to PALLADIA experienced an improved quality of life,"3 said Dr. London, who has helped Pfizer Animal Health's Veterinary Medicine Research & Development to develop PALLADIA since 2000.

PALLADIA can be administered in a veterinary clinic or in the home by a dog's caregiver. PALLADIA is not for human use and is only available in the U.S. Adverse events with PALLADIA can be serious but most are mild to moderate and are generally manageable. The most common side effects of PALLADIA involve the gastrointestinal tract and signs include diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy and vomiting. Life-threatening adverse events are rare but possible and early recognition is critical. Children should not come in contact with PALLADIA. In addition, all individuals, including children and pregnant women, should avoid direct contact with broken or partially-dissolved PALLADIA tablets or biological waste from dogs treated with PALLADIA. For specific dosing and prescribing information, visit

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