Would I lie to you: Reducing risk of disease in dogs (and humans)

Approximately 35% of households in the United States and Canada own 1 or more dogs, totaling an estimated 75 million dogs in the United States and Canada. Despite continuous development of health promotion and disease prevention products and strategies, infectious disease remains an important contributor to disease and death for dogs. Hundreds of pathogens infectious to dogs have been identified, with more emerging over time.3 Some of these pathogens can also cause disease in people, leading to published recommendations to reduce the risks of human disease associated with animal settings.

sadie-dog-powellMany opportunities for transmission of infectious disease are amplified when dogs are brought together in a shared environment. Settings that involve the temporary congregation of numerous dogs for competition, play, or boarding (often from various geographic locations) are of particular infectious disease concern. Such canine group settings are popular; some of these activities may involve thousands of dogs attending events over several days. Infectious agents introduced into these group settings may lead to disease outbreaks, with the potential for further spread into the communities where the dogs reside, putting many dogs (and potentially humans) at risk.

The process of preventing or reducing the transmission of infectious diseases is complex. Disease agents vary in environmental stability, transmission modes, infectivity (ability to spread between hosts), pathogenicity (ability to cause disease), and virulence (ability to cause severe disease). Additionally, a combination of individual-, population-, and environment-level factors influences the development of infectious diseases in dogs. Individual-level factors include age, immune and health status, acquired immunity (previous infection or vaccination), diet, preventive care (eg, ecto- and endoparasite control), and hand hygiene by the people that handle them. Population- or event-level factors include herd immunity, dog density, event cleaning and disinfection practices, and degree of direct and indirect dog-to-dog contact. Environment-level factors include exposure to infectious agents through pathogen-infected vectors (influenced by geography, time of year, and degree of contact with vector-dense locations) or wildlife or their contaminated environment (eg, urine- or feces-contaminated water).

Some factors have individual- and event-level components requiring an integrated approach to risk management. For instance, to reduce indirect pathogen spread, individual efforts, such as the practice of hand hygiene between handling of dogs and use of effective disinfectants, must complement event-level procedures, such as policies and availability of disinfectant and hand hygiene products.

Given the complexity and importance of integrating individual- and event-level efforts, effective disease prevention in canine group settings would be facilitated by evidence-based guidelines that could be widely disseminated and flexibly applied to create disease prevention, risk mitigation, and control programs. In human group settings, disease prevention programs involving standards, recommendations, and regulations are commonly used; similar programs are also being applied in equine group settings. On the other hand, limited standards, guidelines, recommendations, or regulations currently exist regarding infectious disease prevention for canine group settings. For instance, the American Kennel Club has limited rules for addressing infectious disease opportunities during its dog events, and although policies have been developed for many dog parks and privately owned boarding facilities, no standard set of recommendations exists to guide such policies.

Animal shelters house concentrated populations of dogs and have developed resources to guide disease prevention and control programs in their facilities; however, such settings involve a largely unowned population, necessitating somewhat different strategies. The objectives of the literature review reported here were to identify the specific risks of infectious disease transmission among owned dogs in transient group settings in the United States and Canada and use this information to develop prevention and control recommendations.

Risk reduction and management strategies to prevent transmission of infectious disease among dogs at dog shows, sporting events, and other canine group settings

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

September 15, 2016, Vol. 249, No.6

Stull et al

http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/full/10.2460/javma.249.6.612

Can humans get Norovirus from their dogs?

Human norovirus may infect our canine companions, according to research published online April 1 in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology.

sadie.dog.powellThat raises the possibility of dog-to-human transmission, said first author Sarah Caddy, VetMB, PhD, MRCVS, a veterinarian and PhD student at the University of Cambridge, and Imperial College, London, UK. Norovirus is the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The research showed that some dogs can mount an immune response to human norovirus, said Caddy, who will be a junior research fellow at the University of Cambridge, beginning in August. “This strongly suggests that these dogs have been infected with the virus. We also confirmed that that human norovirus can bind to the cells of the canine gut, which is the first step required for infection of cells.”

Caddy and collaborators performed the latter research using non-infectious human norovirus particles, which consist solely of the virus’ outer protein, called the capsid. The capsid is the part of the virus that binds to host cells. By itself, it is non-infectious because it lacks genetic material. (The non-infectious capsid is the basis for a new norovirus vaccine which is being tested in clinical trials, said Caddy).

Nonetheless, it is not clear just how much of a problem canine infection and transmission may represent for humans, said Caddy. Despite dogs’ apparent susceptibility, the investigators failed to find norovirus in canine stool samples, including those from dogs with diarrhea. They found it in serum samples of only about one seventh of 325 dogs tested.

Additionally, it is not yet known whether human norovirus can cause clinical disease in dogs Assuming that dogs become infected with human norovirus as per this study, it also remains unknown whether they could shed the virus in quantities sufficient to infect humans—although clinical investigators have estimated that as few as 18 virus particles can cause human infection.

Moreover, it is yet to be determined whether dogs play a role in the epidemiology of some outbreaks of human norovirus. Some of the biggest outbreaks occur in places from which dogs are absent, such as on cruise ships and in hospitals.

Real Housewives of New York dogs drink too

In the latest episode of the Real Housewives of New York, Ramona is having a calendar shoot with her dog when Sonja shows up for a chat with her pup. The four are seated on an elegant couch when the guest doggy gets thirsty. Sonja, without missing a beat, offers her pooch her water glass and tells him kindly it is too early for champagne.

RHONY-dog RHONY-Ramona RHONY-Sonja

Ramona, polite but taken aback says, “I have water right in the kitchen. You know, I hope you’re not going to drink from that after.”

Sonja replies distracted, “I miss Milou so much but this dog is just…” and sighs.

And then Sonja takes a drink from the same glass.

Perhaps she learned her etiquette from Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, Lisa.

Must love dogs – the Australian Internet dating version

Oh John Cusack and Diane Lane; you were both so cute in the 2005 romantic comedy, Must Love Dogs.

And that’s why Jodie O’Brien and her husband, Tom, started www.lovemelovemypet.com.au, a dating website for a particularly niche clientele.

"We started to notice over the years that a lot of our friends are really intelligent, good looking people, easy to get along with. But they’re having trouble finding a partner simply because they themselves might be big dog lovers and they can’t find someone with the same passion for animals as them. Sometimes it has come down to that making a difference.:

Match-making for animal enthusiasts is just the latest service in Australia’s booming pet industry, which, in recent years has expanded from pet shops and pooch salons to doggy daycare facilities, dog sports training, pet portraits and even pet psychics.

With around 65 per cent of Australian households owning at least one pet, Sydney dog-owner Brittney Smith recognised the large market for her website, dogtree.com.au, which she set up earlier this year.

Described by many as Facebook for dogs, dogtree.com.au is a social networking site where owners can set up backyard playdates for their cuddly companions, instead of leaving them unsupervised to cause havoc at home.
 

Pets and Service Dogs in grocery stores; the line must be drawn

I am constantly annoyed with pet owners that take their little dogs to the store, especially the grocery store. Oregon is too.  The state Department of Agriculture started a public awareness campaign last month reminding Oregonians that it’s illegal for dogs to enter grocery stores – unless it’s a service dog. Stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Home Depot aren’t good places to be bringing your pet, but there can be legal consequences in stores and restaurants that serve food.

There have been some arguments made for and against patrons bringing pets to stores. Some say their personal pets are like “children” to them, as if they are another family member, but bringing pets into stores is not a good idea for public safety in a microbiological sense and also a physical sense. I hate tripping over toddlers at Walmart, and I don’t want to add tripping on leashes or small dogs to this problem.

By law, grocery stores must allow service dogs into grocery stores.  According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, business owners may ask if an animal is for service, yet they cannot require a customer to show certification or other proof that an animal is certified. In fact, legitimate service animals aren’t always certified. (For more information on the law, call 1-800-514-0301.) A quick search on Google brought up Service Animal IDs for $30, no verification paperwork needed. This ID doesn’t classify the animal as a service animal, but most people aren’t able to tell the difference between the real thing and phonies. IDs such as this one could allow anyone to bring a pet into a store selling food, and most likely store managers wouldn’t do a thing about it.

Separating the true service dogs from the personal pets makes it hard for those that rely on their service animals for help with a disability.  The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Most people think of service dogs as performing functions such as leading the blind and opening doors, but they are also psychiatric service dogs that help people with psychological problems. Unfortunately there is where the lines become very grey. Assistance Dogs International has three categories: guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired, hearing dogs for the deaf and hard of hearing and service dogs for people with disabilities other than those related to vision or hearing. Service dogs may be needed by people with disabilities that are not visible and perform activities such as alerting of oncoming seizures or a variety of psychiatric disabilities. While grocery store owners are allowed to ask if an animal is a service animal or pet, they are not allowed to ask what their disability is (if not visible).

This issue spins round and round. Untrained animals shouldn’t be brought into areas of food. But disabled people need service animals present to help with disabilities. But pets may not be able to be distinguished from service animals, and patrons may abuse the fact that the store owner can’t ask what their disability is. But the store owner has a right to exclude pets from areas with food for sale.

The long and the short of it is, there isn’t a federal regulatory agency that dictates how these animals are certified as service dogs. Even if we did have the regulatory agency, would that ensure resolution of all the service animal disputes? Of course not, just as the existence of the FDA and USDA doesn’t ensure the 100% safety of our food supply.

 

Oregon: Live dangerously with dogs; lose a sandwich

Oregon seems like a lovely place. Never been, although the sense of dopiness in the state has apparently gotten so bad that the state Department of Agriculture has to allocate resources to a public awareness campaign to remind Oregonians it’s illegal for dogs to enter grocery stores – unless it’s a service dog.

Vance Bybee, administrator of the agency’s Food Safety Division, told the Charleston Daily Mail,

"There’s a trend, a growing trend, for people to treat their pets like a member of the family, but they forget we still have to draw the line between our furry children and those without paws.”

Is he talking about my hairy baby? Is he discriminating against children with paws? This is probably the worst attempt at being cute in a quote — ever.

"Interestingly enough, we get more complaints in Bend and in the Pearl District of Portland where people are more affluent and have the opportunity to pamper their pets and feel this pet is a part of my family so I am entitled to do with it what I like."

Bybee said the division gets more than 100 complaints a year about dogs doing inappropriate things in grocery stores, from urinating in the aisles to sniffing and licking food. The Portland Farmers Market banned dogs earlier this year because vendors and shoppers complained about sanitation, safety and crowding. One vendor lost a sandwich to a dog, and one customer who got tangled in a leash had to be taken to the hospital.
 

Salmonella can come from pets

Yesterday, a local story in a county newspaper in Texas carried the headline, “Salmonella can come from pets.”

The story reported,

“Three cases of salmonella among children in Lubbock County since December 2008 are likely the result of exposure to reptiles, said Judy Davis, a spokeswoman for the city of Lubbock health department.”

The spokeswoman explained that handwashing is the key to preventing salmonella associated with reptiles and amphibians, such as snakes and turtles.

I just wanted to point out that, although less of a problem, handwashing is also important for preventing salmonella infections from furry pets.

In 1999, the CDC received reports from three state health departments of outbreaks of multidrug-resistant Salmonella serotype Typhimurium infections in employees and clients of small animal veterinary clinics and an animal shelter.

The CDC’s report stated,

“Salmonella infections usually are acquired by eating contaminated food [including produce and peanut butter]; however, direct contact with infected animals, including dogs and cats, also can result in exposure and infection.”

Doug and Phebus, at the end of the lengthy video (from September 2008) below, also recommend washing your hands after handling food and treats for your pets… especially when they’ve been recalled.

Pedigree pet food and pregnancy: Managing cross-contamination risks at home

I am now 6 ½ months pregnant and still somewhat peacefully coexisting with our four pets. But pregnancy has meant giving special attention to handwashing and avoiding cross-contamination.
Although I thought I was being overly cautious, on Sept. 13 Pedigree small crunchy bites and Pedigree large breed complete nutrition dry pet food products were recalled due to possible Salmonella contamination (see http://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/2008/09/articles/animals/dogs/pet-food-recall-salmonella/). This appears to be the same food we feed our dogs and I know one of them was throwing up outside yesterday. Of course … she also likes to eat grass and other vomitous materials.

In addition to pet food which may contain pathogens, I pay close attention to the handling of dog treats which have been found problematic in the past. Our dogs have been getting their fill of bones lately because we haven’t had the usual time and energy to devote to their exercise. I try to avoid touching the dog bones when I take them out of the package and I wash the scissors I use to cut the packages open. I always wash my hands afterwards.

It really isn’t easy to think about washing hands every time you feed and pet the dogs, but the following are things I am trying to do to keep me and my future baby safe:

  • regularly wash the dog dishes
  • wash my hands every time I fill the dog water and food bowls (the dogs eat and drink, spreading any microbes from one bowl to the next)
  • wash my hands after opening treats and/or giving them to the dogs
  • wash the scissors after opening treat bags
  • wash my hands after playing with the pets
  • avoid letting the dogs lick my face of hands
  • wipe down the counter where pet treats have touched

These steps are all much more difficult for me than they sound. I’m usually very playful and affectionate with my pets, even though I no longer allow the dogs on the bed or couch. It’s also very difficult to think about handwashing when you are out on a walk with the dogs and give them treats as part of a training process. In those cases I just remind myself not to touch my face or use a wet wipe when I have one handy.

I am still learning after years of taking it for granted that my dogs’ food was safe. Food safety, even for pets, is not simple.

For human symptoms of salmonella poisoning, check out http://barfblog.foodsafety.ksu.edu/2008/06/articles/salmonella/salmonella-symptoms/

According to an article in the North Country Gazette (April 3, 2007) related to a past pet food recall:

Pets with salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Apparently well animals can be a carrier and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian
.
 

Dog or beef for dinner?

I think it’s funny the way my roommate from India always asks before taking food from anyone if it contains any beef.

If the answer is yes, she tries hard to hide her face of disgust and politely says, “No thanks.”

It is not surprising. Indians consider cows to be sacred and magical, more than what we think of our pets.

I imagine the same reaction in American tourists when scanning the dog section of a restaurant menu during their trip to the Olympics.

The Beijing Catering Trade Association banned dog meat from the Menu of all the 112 designated Olympic Restaurants, to avoid this reaction of dog-loving tourists.

It is a big disappointment for those who were daring enough to try this treat they would never be able to consume in their own countries.

However, it is probably not going to affect the residents, since they don’t tend to eat dog meat during the hot months of summer anyway.

All this fuss about banning dog meat in Beijing during the Olympic season makes me wonder if officers should be more concerned about food safety rather than scaring off a few tourists.

In the end, isn’t killing a dog for its meat the same as having beef for dinner? My Indian roommate would probably agree.

Setting Boundaries: Pets and your newborn baby

My ex mother-in-law once told me that if I had a baby I would have to get rid of my cats. I replied, “No cats, no baby.” My step-brother’s cats mysteriously disappeared once his firstborn was old enough to crawl. Doug and I have two cats and two dogs and no intention of giving them up or sending them outdoors once the baby arrives. Sure, there’s dog hair all over the floors and it’s going to be a hassle learning to manage new and old responsibilities – and much more difficult to keep pet hair out of the baby’s mouth once she’s mobile. But we committed to the pets long ago and have been working on teaching them their order in the home.

The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, recommends that the dogs not even be allowed near the baby’s belongings at first to teach them that Baby is Alpha. Let them sniff at a distance until they know their place. When the dogs go for a walk, it should be behind the stroller, and they shouldn’t get unsupervised visitation, if they are allowed at all, in the baby’s room. It’s all about setting boundaries.

The Worms and Germs Blog by Doug’s ex-hockey buddy Scott Weese (he’s still a buddy but no hockey for Doug in Manhattan) recommends in “Old pet, new baby…new problems?” that we visit our veterinarian and the humane society to get advice on introducing the dogs and cats to the baby. Scott provides relevant downloadable pamphlets from the Calgary Humane Society in his blog post.
We want all four pets and the three of us to survive the transition without nips, scratches, or territory marking. We get enough of that from our friends and colleagues.