Month: August 2017

Make Changes to Accommodate Your Aging Dog

Animal Advocacy Blog Animal Welfare janet Bovitz sandefur

At first you notice more grey around their muzzle. They eyes have lost that sparkle and appear to have sunk a bit deeper.

For most owners, the process begins with their dog appearing less interested in the activities they once thrived on. They are no longer interested in chasing a ball or Frisbee for what seemed to you, like hours! They hesitate before jumping into or out of the car. It takes a little longer for them to get to you when called.

dog arthritis

Basic routines are becoming more strenuous. They have to go out more often, or have “accidents” in the house. Walks are slower and shorter. They may begin to limp more. They get out of breath quicker. Their breathing, even when resting, is more labored. They are more prone to injuries.

You notice they now eat to live, rather than how they were jokingly known to live to eat. They have lost their taste for certain foods.

They appear to have lost their “sense of humor.” Some are less tolerant of other animals and children. They growl or retreat to a private space more often. They appear depressed.

There are a number of easy and inexpensive ways to help your dog pass through this critical stage of their life, with less pain and more dignity. They include:

  • First, take them to your veterinarian for a check up and assessment of their current condition. Your vet may recommend supplements that will help relieve pain.
  • To manage arthritis in dogs, veterinarians recommend controlling the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis with medication. This should also be accompanied by a suitable diet and exercise and supplements.
  • Get a ramp, so they can get into and out of the car on their own.
  • Raise their food and water bowl, so they do not have to bend down to far to eat or drink comfortably.
  • Change their diet. Their sense of smell may no longer be as keen. This often makes food seem less appealing or palatable.
  • If they are having problems with their teeth, switch to smaller kibbles or softer food.
  • Feed less, but more often.
  • Soak their food in salt-free broths.
  • If you allow your dog on the sofa or bed, there are “stairs” available in pet stores and on line, to help them get up and down, without causing pain.
  • Get them a softer bed. Tile and wood floors are tough on their old bone.
  • Keep physically stressful activities short, but interesting and fun.
  • Have a short new adventure together every now and them. Go some place different! Try something different. Many dog owners have found, the canine social interaction from joining a dog training class, often piques their dog’s interest in life again.
  • Take them out more often. Give them more time to take care of “business.”
  • If they are losing their hearing, get a whistle, to get their attention.
  • If their vision is failing, they may be nervous going outside alone in the dark. Keep them company…light up the yard, or carry a flashlight.
  • Be tolerant of “accidents.” They may not have the bladder or bowel control they once had. Don’t expect them to be able to “hold it” as long as they once could.
  • Keep the walks short, but do it more often.
  • Give them a private place to retreat to…and respect it.
  • If there are other dogs in the house, do not tolerate bullying. It often happens as a senior alpha dog transitions to a lower pack status.
  • Massage your dog, or have them professionally massaged. It makes a huge difference!
  • Be patient if they appear “needy.” They cannot explain it to you, but something physical may be happening, and they feel safer with you.
  • Expect less from them. Appreciate and praise any efforts they make. Positive reinforcement is an amazing motivator!

Bottom line: Your dog may no longer be what they once were. Nonetheless, that doesn’t change how much they love, respect, and need you. Make this ultimate stage of their life as vital as possible. Give them the dignity they have earned and deserve. You owe it to them.

By Karen A. Soukiasian

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And All It Took Was To Use My Voice (from Janet)

Animal Advocacy Blog Animal Welfare janet Bovitz sandefur

Jump back five years. I am at one of our local wildlife rehabilitation centers, and I notice a large Bard Owl sitting in a cage behind the door to the center.

The cage isn’t clean, and it’s too small for the owl, so he can’t even stretch his wings.

When I ask about Bard Owl, I am told that he is blind and has been with this center for a while now.  If you look at some of the other bird cages in this center, they too are dirty and messy, many times simply because the birds can poop at a surprisingly fast and often rate.  

As the majority of the other wild animals that find their way to this center, I am feeling assured that Bard Owl was being taken care of and would be out of that cage shortly once recovery progressed.

NOT true.

Five years later, May 2017.

This past May, I found myself at the same local wildlife rehabilitation center, when I  brought in a turtle that had been hit by a vehicle, and left for dead on the side of the road.  

While there, I asked if I could drop in on the rehab center.

And there, behind the door, was same poor Bard Owl. Same too-small cage, same dirty environment.

When I asked about Bard Owl, I was told that Bard Owl had been blind for some years, and he just sat perched in the same cage, 24/7.

You mean no-one took him out? No.

You mean no-one offered him a bigger cage? No.

You mean he wasn’t able to even stretch out his wings? No.

First thought: OMG.  Maybe I should have known and said something five years ago.

Second thought: Hm.

And then, here I go again.

Immediately, I called the owner of this center.  My calls were never returned.  

Then, I reached out to a local organization that houses and cares for permanently injured birds of prey on our area (Wild Wings) to see if they would be able to help. They were supportive and interested, but this issue needed escalating first.

Not many people realize that there is more than one way to report abuse and neglect.  For a wild animal in the care of a rehab environment, a good place to start if you have questions or concerns about the treatment and care of that animal is your local chapter of the DEC (Department of Conservation).

The DEC has the power to investigate and go where other entities (like myself or another wildlife rehabber) cannot. They can request records, certificates and licenses, and all things related to the animal in question.

My calls to the New York State Department of Conservation (our local chapter) began. Concerned citizens can make a complaint anonymously or not.  My contact at the DEC laughed when I told him he could have all of my information, and even tell the rehab center who was making the complaint – because they receive so many people who want to remain invisible.  I am NEVER anonymous when it comes to Animal Welfare, in fact, I am proudly, quite the opposite.

It didn’t take long for the DEC to update me with the information I already knew in my heart – that this center should not have been keeping this Bard Owl.  

Why? First, licensing. Rehabbers need specific licenses for specific services. Second, when a wild animal is proven to be unrelease-able (back in the wild), a rehabber is permitted to care for that animal based on licensing and criteria based on that animal. If the animal cannot be properly cared for and maintained according to guidelines set by licensing, then that animal would need to relocated or be euthanized for quality of life reasons.

In the case of Bard Owl, permanent blindness obviously made him unable to ever be released into the wild.  There was no licensing in place to maintain him, and there was nothing being done to expand his quality of life. 

Such a sad, lonely, tiny life this Bard Owl was living, and it. made. me. very. mad.

It took some weeks for the DEC to organize transfer of this Bard Owl to Wild Wings, but it did happen.   And a few weeks ago, I received a call stating that Bard Owl was in a new home.

I went to visit  Bard Owl at Wild Wings the first weekend he was there.  In speaking with the Director of Wild Wings, Bard Owl was renamed “Archer” and was put in a lovely outdoor enclosure with a roommate Bard Owl named Hunter (also blind). 

Injured Turtle May 2017
Archer’s wings had atrophied because he was in such a tiny cage without room to stretch or use them for so long, and no-one is sure (yet) whether he will be able to move his wings as well because of that. As soon as Archer has been given time to adjust to his new digs, and once is it observed that he is eating well (a must and a priority), he will be taken out for walks and socialization.

Sometimes the DEC will fine or take away licensing for a rehabber not doing what they are licensed to do. It came out during the course of conversations that the owner of the rehab center didn’t have the heart to euthanize Archer because he was so beautiful, so he made the decision to keep him instead.

A beautiful thought in theory, but a horrible decision for Archer, who spent at least five years in a tiny, cramped, dirty cage – alone. Frankly, the decision was selfish, and the owner knew better.

The DEC did not fine the center because overall, they do great things for injured wild animals in our area. There aren’t many wildlife rehab centers, period, so it would be shameful to close down or fine a center that usually does so much good for animals in our city. 

But now they are aware that there ARE eyes on the outside, and now they are on DEC radar. Can’t hurt.

After Archer was safely in his new home, I called the owner of the rehab center again. This time he took my call. I told him who I was, and why I had made the complaint.  I just wanted him to know that **I** knew.  He didn’t have much to say, and that’s okay. Having Archer removed said everything.

Wild Wings took the high road by not mentioning the name of wildlife rehab center or the owner, so we will also.  But sometimes it’s hard to bite my tongue (still biting).

To see how Archer is doing, follow him (and the other permanent residents of Wind Wings) on their Facebook page.

Thank you to the NYS DEC (our local chapter) and Wild Wings for helping to make a difference.

Saving or bettering the life of an animal in need is my heart. And all it took to JUST DO SOMETHING for Archer was to use my voice.

Hopefully we ALL are using our voices in the same way. It matters.

Animal Advocacy Founder signature Janet Bovitz Sandefur


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Top Ten Pet Poisons (from Janet)

Here’s a Top Ten List you wouldn’t want associated with your pet.

APCC =  Animal Poison Control Center

1. Prescription Human Medications

The APCC handled 24,673 cases regarding human prescription medications in 2013. The top three types of medications that animals were exposed to include: heart medications (blood pressure pills), antidepressants and pain medications (opioids and prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Many of these exposures were due to people dropping their medication when preparing to take it, and before they knew it, Fido had gobbled the pill off the floor.

2. Insecticides

Insecticides are used in the yard, home and on our animals. While 15.7% of all calls to the APCC are about insecticides, more than half of the calls involving cats pertain to felines exposed to insecticides. Always read the label before using any insecticide on your pet, in your home or in your yard.

3. Over-the-Counter Human Medications

Over-the-counter human products accounted for 14.7% of calls to APCC in 2013. This group contains acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen as well as herbal and nutraceutical products (fish oil, joint supplements). Many of these products are tasty to pets, and some can be life threatening if ingested.

4. Household Products

There were nearly 17,000 calls to the APCC about household products in 2013. Household toxins can range from fire logs to cleaning products. Some items can be corrosive, while other can cause obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract requiring surgical intervention.

5. People Food

Human foods are especially appealing to pets, especially dogs. Dogs can get themselves into serious trouble by ingesting onions/garlic, grapes/raisins and xylitol, a sugar substitute which can be life-threatening for animals.

6. Veterinary Products and Medications

Veterinary products slid down two spots in 2013. Both OTC and prescription veterinary products are included in this group. Flavored tablets make it easy to give your pet pain or joint medication, but it also makes it more likely for them to ingest the entire bottle if given the chance.

7. Chocolate

Chocolate is still the number one people food that pets ingest (APCC received an average of 26 calls a day last year). Too much chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, high heart rate and seizures.

8. Rodenticides

When putting out baits to kill mice and rats, never underestimate the resourcefulness of your pet. Approximately 5.5% of calls to the APCC in 2013 were related to baits. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestion can cause internal bleeding, kidney failure or seizures.

9. Plants

More than 9,000 cases in 2013 were pet parents calling about their animals eating plants. This is one category that cats lead dogs in the number of exposures. Lilies can cause kidney failure and death in cats. Please see the list of toxic/non-toxic plants for more information. 

10. Lawn and Garden Products

Fertilizers, which can be made of dried blood, poultry manure and bone meal, are very attractive to pets, so it is not surprising that APCC receives many calls (over 5,000 in 2013) on lawn and garden items.

If you have any reason to suspect your pet, or any animal, has ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.

Keeping your eyes and ears open can help save a life. 


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How to Workout With Your Dog Safely!

As most of you know, building a workout routine with your mutts can be extremely beneficial. A lot of people find it fun and motivating to workout with your dogs. However, there are certain cautionary steps pet owners should take when exercising with your mutts. Here are some tips:


  • Evaluate your mutts’ physicality – Don’t just dive into an intense workout session with your dog; build up to it. Make sure you know what your dog is capable of and consider its breed and age for certain exercises. It would be good to consult your trusted vet before you start a workout regiment with your mutts.
  • Environmental Considerations – Running, hiking, biking, or walking in cold or hot weather may not be the best times for you or your mutt. If you’re exercising outside during the summer, try to go early or late evening when the pavement is not hot on your mutt’s feet. During the cold winter, consider walking or running your dog on a treadmill.
  • Prep Yourself with Food & Water – Make sure you bring some food and water for both you and your mutt, especially if you plan on doing a lengthy or intense workout. Dog treats and an energy bar may help boost you and your mutt’s energy and water will help prevent heat stroke.


  • Train Your Dog – Properly train your mutts to walk or run the same side of you every time to avoid tripping each other. Teach them not to pull on the leash or not to run ahead of you unexpectedly to avoid throwing you off balance.
  • Safety Comes First -Make sure you wear a helmet, knee pads, and other protection when appropriate. Don’t tie the leash to your wrist in case your dog pulls and jerks you off balance. Don’t push you or your mutt too hard. If either of you are starting to show signs of exhaustion, pain, or trouble breathing, then that’s a good indication to stop the workout and rest.
  • Again Stay Hydrated – Allow you and your mutt to drink plenty of water throughout the exercise and a little bit of food here and there to boost your energy (but don’t exercise on a full stomach either).


  • Cool Down & Body Check – After your workout, make sure to cool your body down and stretch out your muscles. Also take some time to check your mutt’s leg and paws for any cuts, bruises, ticks, and other foreign objects. You may also reward your dog with a treat for working hard.
  • Once Again, Hydrate You and Your Dog – Also be sure to allow the proper amount of rest for you and your mutt in between workouts for your bodies to recoup.

And remember – hot weather is here.  In no specific order: Know your dog’s limitations, don’t push him or her if they don’t want to engage, always have water available, rest in the cool and in the shade, and be familiar with signs of heat exhaustion/heat stroke.

Have fun!

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