The Rip Van Wrinkler, XXV, Issue 1, February 2021

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SOME HEALTH & SCIENCE NEWSLeaf with a Nylabone.

1. Club members discuss COVID's affect on going to the vet.

2. On masking pets.

3. Dog on a string.

How COVID is affecting our vet visits. . .

Cindy Griswold - TX -I took Wink in for some blood work this morning for a covid safe visit with her vet.

Here is the other change Covid brought to the clinic. When I pulled in there were 2 cars in line.

I find the message on the right side amusing as it was added later. {ED: Scroll way down for nice Cindy memory}

Lisa Stewart
MO -My vet has been trimming Maddie's nails in the parking lot all along and did euthanasia for my whippet in my lap in the car.

Patricia Rivers
MA - In cape cod, I wait in the car, they take the dogs in and bring the dogs out when ready. We communicate by telephone. I like it better then pre-covid. I don’t have to worry about other dogs in the waiting room.

Renee Meriaux
CA - Make appointments via PetDesk ap.
Call or text when arrived
Staff come out and takes pet.
Vet will call or they call to collect payment.
Pet is brought back out.
I hate it!!!

Susan Kamen Marsicano
NY -Since June 7th, here in this part of NYS, we can go in with the dogs. I was blessed that Guy Noir and Amelia waited until July to pass away. I was with them.
My vet's office is swamped, and there is no assurance that we can get in with a emergency. I'm not used to that. Appointments are booked out months in advance.

Anne MacMillan
FL - Since mid March we aren’t allowed in with the dogs. My vet has a very small practice and usually now only has one pet at a time. They either come to the car or I take my dog to the door. They keep the door locked. Last time I was there they let me (masked of course)wait in the lobby, and kept the door to the exam room open so we were communicating during the exam. Thankfully we haven’t needed anything special this year.

Karen Christensen
NJ - We've been able to get in for "urgent" visits the same day, sometimes with a significant wait; when Chong needed a tooth removed under anesthesia we waited 3 or 4 weeks (which means he received meds for longer). Not allowed in with the pets, during warmer weather the staff came to the car to get the pet and take it inside/bring it back and collect payment, but as it got colder they set up holding outside the exit door (on the side of the bldg; entrance is on front) with a party-tent cover for inclement weather and now one brings the critters to the door for hand-off and pickup/presentation of receipt. The vet calls to discuss with owner what they need to do procedurally (if anything) or what their findings are

Lisa Saban
Meet in parking lot. They take dog in and bring out when done. Has worked out fine, no problems. We communicate by phone. All the vet clinics in my area are extremely busy. There has been over 200% increase in pet adoptions this past covid year my vet said.

Annechien Smith
France - My small clinic with three vets is only by appointment so there are hardly any people inside. My vet of 17 years is verh experienced and sensible, we have often all kinds of discussions and he is keen on the way I have bred in the past. I can go in with the dog(s), one person, one dog. Just masks and cleanliness. Clinic is always very clean and there is enough space.

Clay Bunyard
WI - The emergency vet, a specialist vet, and my regular vet are all doing curbside. Intake is by phone in while you're in the car as well as the debrief with the vet. I even had one conversation with a vet by Facebook messenger but she's my dogs breeder. That was funny. The intake for a dental was done the night before. All the vets now have numbered parking spaces to coordinate transfers.

Susan Kamen Marsicano
Clay, mine asking the color of my car.

Karen Christensen
One time I replied "white Honda Odyssey just like four other cars in the lot" and gave them my license plate

Chelsea James
NY - My vet in Hudson will allow 1 patient inside at a time, we must call when we arrive and they alert us when the room is open, no one is allowed to wait in the waiting room. My other vet in Ballston Spa you call when you arrive, they come to collect your dog, and then either the vet will phone you to discuss dog or will come out to car to discuss.

Chris O'Rear
In California clients are not inside the building we go out and get a history and bring the patient inside for the doctor to examine. The doctor will either go outside or call the owner on their phone and discuss what they found on the exam and any further information that is needed. Then we take an estimate outside and review it with the owners and come back inside to treat the animal. If the patient is hospitalized, we do multiple phone calls a day updating the client. The Only Exceptions are extremely critical patients, or euthanasia, and they are put in an exam room with their pet and can be present and support their dog or cat during the procedure
Afterwards the room is cleaned and sanitized to the best of our ability, and put out of service for the next 24 hours.
All payments are taking over the telephone and prescription medications and prescribed foods are taken outside to the clients. We are booked months out in advance as well and accept emergencies all day long as well as seeing appointments. Emergencies only are seen on Saturday and Sunday, and on weekdays from 5:30 until 8 a.m.
General appointments for routine Health Care are booked between 8:30 and 5 Monday through Friday.

Tamara Allen
CA - In San Diego very similar to what Chris O'Rear wrote. The come out, get the patient, put on a slip lead, have us remove our leash, walk the dog in for procedure. We wait in the car. They call with results and authorization for payment. Call when they bring the animal out, exchange leashes. From 6 plus feet away, masked up, small discussion / questions. When we get home they do a follow up call. A lot more time and effort on the vets part with no increase in charges. Basically no general public allowed in our vets office. A lot of calling/phone discussions. We are pushing off routine non essential visits. We pushed off dental for Stella for over 7 months due to covid. At that time, last March/April, conservation of masks and supplies for Covid for non-essential procedures were in place.

Jackie Dering
PA - I make a list of questions and concerns before I go and text when we arrive. A vet tech comes out and checks us in taking the dog with her. I wait in the car and the vet tech or the vet comes out with the dog when they are finished to talk with me. I take the very best dog home.

Karla Schreiber
IL - I will not allow my dogs to be seen for anything if I'm not present. I go in and out the back door at off hours. I encourage all owners to remind vets they work for us and not the other way around. There are ways to make everyone as safe as possible while still ensuring animals are not traumatized and their care is not compromised. I'm grateful for my vet's flexibility.

Susan Marsicano
Karla, my vet has to follow state law, or will be shut down. Before June 7th, no clients allowed in the building, by law, just like no one allowed in a bowling alley.

Karla Schreiber
We never had a legal directive like that here - some vets just decided they were going to go with "curbside" ... It doesn't fly with me. It's like asking me to let a non-verbal toddler go see a pediatrician while I sit in the car. I have my own moral and ethical responsibilities. If the law prohibits something I do not expect vets to break the law - but here that was/is not the case.
Susan, yes because again, if the State mandates curbside as a criteria for being able to be open - that's not optional. Here in IL, these decisions were optional. I have no problem being pushy if a decision is optional and I believe it compromises my dogs' care.

Chris O'Rear
Karla, it is not an option here in California you're operating under local guidelines and rules.
We also don't have any off hours - we are open 24 hours a day, and have to be extremely cautious. We always have someone out on quarantine and right now we have three people out from contact with sick clientele that bring their animals in. We got a warning when we were allowing people in, so had to change our tactics. So the only time they will make allowances are for euthanasia.

Carole Kirk
Kentucky - Susan Kamen Marsicano it is the same for the vets in Kentucky, West Virginia & Ohio. It is state law that the client cannot be allowed in. When I took a dog into a vet in West Virginia back in November for his first visit they allowed me in with him. But then there was increase in COVID so at his 2nd visit with that vet I was not permitted in with him. I have not been permitted in with my dogs with vets in Kentucky due to state law. Same in Indiana earlier this year when I was helping a friend out who lives in that state as I was not permitted in with Flinn in spite of how ill she was. I lost her and was not able to see her at all once she went into the vet's care. It still hurts that she passed without me with her as I'm sure she felt that I'd abandoned her.

Chris O'Rear
I am so sorry Carol that is my worst nightmare
We do roll the dice for critically ill animals so that others can spend some time with them.
There is a large chance of the possibility of being shut down, but there's some situations but you just have to rely on your compassionate heart. Being with your pet in that situation is very important.

Malley Heinlein
NY - My vet has been very helpful with doing phone consultations and writing prescriptions for us. She knows I won’t let them handle my dogs without my being there.

Miluš Mečířová Novotná
No changes. Only in the waiting room can wait only 2 people with their animals. Other must stay outside.

Lisa Marshall
WI - The veterinary clinic I use for Brady and the nearby emergency 24 hour clinic were unbelievably busy this summer. Luckily Brady only needed his annual check up in November and his rabies update. I had to bring him to a service door and let the tech take him while I waited in the parking lot. He was back in about 10 minutes and I chatted with the doctor over the phone following that. I don’t like it but he survived.

Do NOT Mask Companion Pets: COVID-19 Updates January 2021
January 15, 2021 / Coronaviruses / By Hemopet

Hemopet is frankly appalled to learn that companies are preying on and heightening anxiety levels surrounding COVID-19 by profiting from selling pet face coverings. One pet mask company reported that sales spiked 500%.
The Bottom Line: Don’t put a mask on your companion cats and dogs to protect them from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advise strongly against it because a mask can distress companion pets and make it difficult for them to breathe. In particular, we are thinking of brachycephalic breeds, pets with tracheal collapse, or any type of respiratory disorder.

Hemopet last reported major COVID-19 updates about pets on July 27, 2020. The story remains the same today: There is no evidence to date of companion cat or dog SARS-CoV-2 transmission to humans. If companion pets such as cats do develop symptoms, they are only mild and pets recover.

Hemopet does agree that sometimes the way the CDC phrases precautions can cause misunderstanding and even panic. Let’s take a look at some of the agency’s statements, dissect and explain them in context.

CDC Section #1
What to do if you own pets
“Because there is a risk that people with COVID-19 could spread the virus to animals, CDC recommends that pet owners limit their pet’s interaction with people outside their household.
• Keep cats indoors when possible and do not let them roam freely outside.
• Walk dogs on a leash at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from others.
• Avoid public places where a large number of people gather.
• Do not put a mask on pets. Masks could harm your pet.

There is no evidence that the virus can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of pets. Do not wipe or bathe your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or other products, such as hand sanitizer, counter-cleaning wipes, or other industrial or surface cleaners. Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about appropriate products for bathing or cleaning your pet .”

Hemopet Context: The CDC says nothing about animal-to-human SARS-CoV-2 transmission. It is only about protecting companion pets from this virus or other exposures and keeping them healthy.

CDC Section #2
Stay healthy around animals
“Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.”

Hemopet Context: Using the word “low” without qualifiers can raise concerns. The CDC is not ruling out possible transmission in the future due to viral mutations, but the agency does not typically rule out anything for any microbial-based infectious disease. As the AVMA clearly states, “There is little to no evidence that domestic animals are easily infected with SARS-CoV-2 under natural conditions and no evidence to date that they transmit the virus to people.”

CDC Section #3
Can I take my dog to daycare or a groomer?
“Do not put masks on pets, and do not take a sick pet to a groomer or boarding facility. Signs of sickness in dogs may include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, discharge from the nose or eyes, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you think your pet is sick, call your veterinarian.”

Hemopet Context: Numerous infectious diseases exist such as the Kennel Cough Complex that can cause similar symptoms. So, we are protecting other companion pets from any respiratory viruses that can be transmitted amongst a particular species.
Also, look at it from this perspective: the CDC guestimates based on planning scenarios that 40% of humans are asymptomatic, but can still be infectious. So, you or someone in your household could be infected and asymptomatic, and could then pass it on to others including a pet groomer or boarding facility.

Testing Pets for SARS-CoV-2
There are advertised SARS-Cov-2 tests for pets, but some are unreliable or not validated. Thus, if your pet’s veterinarian tests your pet for SARS-CoV-2, any positive result will need to be confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL). This is simply because researchers and scientists need to track how this coronavirus may spread.

Bottom Line
Please wear a mask, but do not put a mask on your companion pet. We understand that you want to protect them, yourself and others from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. We also appreciate and applaud you for being cautious, and for following reliable documented information sources.

The CDC recognizes that companion pets are vital for human physical and mental health particularly in this necessary time of social distancing and use of personal protective equipment. The agency has laid out pet companion guidelines – none of which has included putting a mask on a pet.

Dog on a String November/December, 2015 The Canine Chronicle.

The Collar vs. Harness Debate

by Amy Fernandez

The dog walking routine has cycled through countless fads and stages. And I’ve done it long enough to observe plenty of this unfolding drama. Back in prehistoric times, I was the lone dog walker pounding the pavement. Admittedly, I was considered the neighborhood eccentric. On the other hand, my only genuine concern came in the form of kamikaze raids by unleashed dogs.

Maybe we can credit good old Cesar Milan or the escalating message of dog owner responsibility, but somewhere along the line this antiquated custom returned to favor. And that’s a good thing. Legions of owners have rediscovered its multiple training/bonding/socialization benefits along with the fact that it’s generally enjoyable. Consequently, the time-honored terror of suburban neighborhoods – unleashed dogs – have become a rarity. And likewise, that’s a good thing.

All this should add up to a utopian dog walking experience, right? NOT! At 7:00 AM and PM, my streets are virtually gridlocked with platoons of conscientious owners with deliriously happy pets in tow; well…it’s usually the other way around. Wired up, determined dogs of every shape and size propel their hapless owners block after block.

You can probably guess where this is going. Regardless of breed or manageability, every dog wears a harness; typically in combination with a nice long retractable lead, equipment which provides virtually no control over these canine juggernauts, especially when unforeseen situations arise. Usually, the dog is well into its agenda of mayhem while its flustered owner frantically grabs at yards of leash like they are reeling in a big fish. Equally often, the dog simply backs out of its harness when it has better things to do like charging headlong into traffic after a squirrel, launching a stealth attack on unsuspecting kids or canines, or the ever popular treasure hunt outside every fastfood takeaway.

The scale of this problem can be gauged by glancing at a few pet training chat lists. They are awash with advice about the newest, safest harness, and they are quite expensive compared to collars. Everyone seems to have safety concerns, but they remain committed to this choice.

Obviously, I’m out of the loop. However, at some point the pet owning public began perceiving the traditional leash/collar combo as a torture device. This radical reassessment isn’t a local phenomenon according to Australian trainer/groomer Sophie Bush. She says, “I have come across this negativity in classes. Unfortunately there is a real thing against choke chains nowadays, as if you are going to strangle the dog.” Reiterating the obvious she adds, “A dog should never be left in a check collar as that is very dangerous.” True, but training literature has highlighted that safety protocol ad infinitum for a century – along with proper use for this training equipment. “For safety on the street, you cannot beat a check collar – chain or fabric. This way I know they cannot escape if they get nervous or spooked and try to run. They are far safer than in a harness that frequently slips off. I also wonder how many dogs get shoulder problems from pulling while in a harness,” she says.

Pulling is the key issue according to behaviorist/trainer Steve Diller. “I think I heard this best from Peter Borchelt who used a bit of history to clarify his position. Harnesses were developed to allow animals to pull weight behind them using the strength of their chest. Harnesses provide a reflexive cue to pull without fear of discomfort,” he says. He adds that the omnipresent harness/retractable lead combo simply intensifies that instinctive response. He continues, “There’s always tension on the lead causing the dog to reflexively forge ahead.”

Sounds plausible, but the harness is something altogether different these days. It encompasses mind boggling variations of straps, clips, loops, and buckles entwining the dog from various angles from nose to tail, including a few double lead styles that make dog walking more like a puppet show. They’re all designed to produce the same result of walking calmly and contentedly without pulling, lunging, balking, or tangling.

The traditional back clip harness has been reengineered in every conceivable way. Fashion conscious consumers can choose from countless colors, styles, and decorative embellishments along with a related offshoot, sort of a coat/harness combination. Every version attempts to combine style and functionality, but does nothing to discourage pulling for the previously mentioned reasons. That led to the next innovation, the tightening harness, which as its name implies becomes tighter when dog pulls. Logically, it seems like that would exacerbate the pull reflex, but hey, what do I know.

If that doesn’t work, there’s the self-explanatory head halter and its newer variation for short-muzzled dogs, the nose loop.

Front clip harnesses that attach to the dog’s chest promise more directional control to curb behaviors like lunging and jumping. Diller calls them, “A dirty trick for dogs. They suggest pull and when the dog does, a clip in front of the harness turns it around, a dirty trick!”

Babette Haggerty, daughter of dog training legend Captain Haggerty, has no use for any of them. “Harnesses stink for a lot of reasons. They teach dogs to pull more comfortably, and make it impossible to teach them to walk on a loose leash.” She recounts a recent success story to prove her point, “A 70 pound Hound mix. The owner, a strong guy, had the dog on a harness for two years. He was truly dragging the dog around on walks when it wasn’t dragging him. This increased the dog’s drive and energy level. His daughter couldn’t walk the dog and neighbors avoided them on the street. After couple of corrections, he was walking nicely on a loose leash by the end of his first session. The dog was more relaxed without that harness putting pressure on his shoulders. The collar removed his incentive to pull.”

None of this is news to the average overworked breeder who routinely leash trains whole litters. So why did this straightforward, efficient approach become obsolete?

“I think it started when vets began warning Toy dog owners about collapsing trachea and it just snowballed from there,” says Haggerty. Noting the obvious, she adds, “Pressure on the neck doesn’t cause a collapsed trachea. Of course, if the dog is taught to walk properly on the leash, and the collar is correctly placed, there is no pressure on the neck.” Even so, “Vets and positive trainers have convinced owners that collars are a bad idea and every dog needs a harness.” She’s right. Judging by the cautionary tone of mainstream training advice, every dog under 20 pounds possesses the neck strength of a bobblehead doll.

She says, “When owners get a dog that isn’t leash trained it pulls, which looks horrible. They are afraid they will hurt it using a collar, so they go to the pet store and are given the miraculous cure of a harness. The dog no longer seems to be choking. Walking it becomes easier because the dog can now do as it pleases, which is pulling. Harnesses are smoke and mirrors. They appear to produce results but when you remove that tool you are left with a dog that has no clue about properly walking on lead.”

Calling it a “band-aid fix” Steve Diller also concedes that it’s got traction. Not only that, this baffling harness conundrum is the tip of a big, crazy iceberg. He says, “The field of dog training is all gnarled up. The politics are unbelievable.” After 40 years in the business, Diller should know. He says, “Little by little, it is happening under the headings of scientific-based principles and humane treatment. Common sense has been replaced by the nonsense notion that everything can be accomplished via positive reinforcement.” He also has plenty of stories to emphasize his point. “One of my clients ran into a trainer on the street, puppy in a nylon buckle collar, trainer stops her, gets a harness from her car and gives it to the owner ‘you should be using this!’ This no collar zone is horrible. I have a few Malinois that I can send over to these harness folks for training, see how it goes,” he says.

Diller isn’t quite sure where this trend started but suspects, “(Ian) Dun-bar has to share some serious blame here. APDT (Association of Profes-sional Dog Trainers) largely comprises growing numbers of caring owners who believe that their readings have made them qualified trainers.” If you are not sufficiently confused by now, consider this tidbit. Of the 12 most common trainer certi-fication programs currently offered, only three require hands-on. practical experience with dogs.

“Everyone is now a dog trainer” says Haggerty. “Correcting a dog effectively, without harm, requires skill. Someone who was a cashier at a big box last week doesn’t have it.” She’s seen training standards decrease in direct proportion to the number of trainers entering the business. “The graduation requirements for a typical training class are much lower. (There are many reasons for that, including profit).” Conceding that the prevailing culture of her profession has demonized the once ubiquitous Koehler method, she says, “They are still around and the results that a Koehler class produces in six weeks runs circles around dogs that have ‘graduated’ from other training classes.”

It’s small consolation, but slightly reassuring to know that our sport doesn’t have a monopoly on self-appointed “experts” dishing out dubious advice. As a second generation trainer, Haggerty has a unique perspective on that controversial sector of the canine universe. “Everyone wants to be ‘all positive’ and there is the belief that training has become ‘kinder’ and perhaps on a certain level it has. We have brought dogs closer to the hearth and started training earlier; consequently, training in general isn’t as tough.” But she clarifies that statement by noting a less obvious and far more relevant reason for this sea change saying, “Dogs of 40 or 50 years ago were different than the dogs of today. Temperaments have improved, aggression has decreased. It’s been more than ten years since I had a Boxer in for eating through a wall. I can’t even remember the last nasty Doberman I met, much less trained. My dad got them in for training on a regular basis for those problems.”

Behavior is a tricky genetic package but breeders across the board have done a superlative job revising traits like sharpness, shyness, reactivity, hyperactivity, you name it. Regardless of breed specific tendencies, balanced temperament is the rule. Those encouraging observations are, however, limited to dogs from planned, responsibly managed breeding programs. And they represent only a portion of the canine armada marching down urban/suburban streets. A growing contingent of this group is comprised of “rescues” acquired from a variety of sources. Many of these dogs are wonderful, but many are untrained, unpredictable and, tem-peramentally, they run the gamut from saintly to demonic.

And like every dog and human on the planet, they’re all accessorized with a customized pac-kage of issues. Peace and love is a great approach, but this isn’t a situation where one size fits all. Diller calls, “balanced or mixed reinforcement trainers a dying breed.” Mentioning Gary Wilkes and Michael Ellis, but overall, “It’s one here and there.”

Training protocols seem to have simultaneously evolved and dissolved. At the moment that seems to equal a fragmented mishmash of behavioral science, traditional methodology, and personal ideology.

I will leave you with one more discouraging item. Recently, some of my neighborhood dogs have been sporting a new accessory to their retractable lead/harness equipment: a muzzle! I haven’t seen muzzled dogs on the street for years. Diller isn’t surprised. He says, “I hope that the fad is short-lived. Corrections are impossible with a harnessed dog and giving a dog his ‘head’ to shop around the streets only promotes trouble. Allow a dog to practice bad behaviors; they get good at bad behaviors, so muzzles up!”

Needless to say, none of this is reassuring to anyone contending with the daily challenge of walking their dogs. On the other hand, our politically contentious, complicated, bewildering little niche in this dog game doesn’t look so bad in comparison. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten pretty good at flipping two Chinese Cresteds into my hands, tucking them under my arm and running for cover.

Cindy Griswold up here in the Catskills, with Annelies Kamen, 2003.