Monday, April 19, 2010

Retractable leashes pose problems for people and their pets

Reposted from Consumer Reports Blog

Heather Todd didn’t bring a leash with her the day she took her pooch Penny to a pond near Boston in 2005. So she borrowed a retractable dog leash to help keep her Labrador retriever in check. But it didn’t. Retractable leashes pose problems for people and their pets  The 90-pound dog suddenly took off running and dragged Todd across the sand. When she came to a stop and recovered her wits, she spotted something lying on the sand. With horror, she realized it was a human index finger; with greater horror, she realized it was her own. The cord of the retractable leash had looped around her finger and pulled taut when Penny bolted.

“It just cut it off like a sharp knife,” Todd says.

She wrapped her hand in a towel, grabbed the finger, and headed to the hospital, but doctors were unable to reattach it. Todd, who’s now in nursing school, says there are times when her missing finger causes problems. “I get by. You just adjust,” she says.

Todd’s story may sound like a freak accident, but retractable leashes are responsible for a surprising number of injuries each year, including amputations.

In 2007 there were 16,564 hospital-treated injuries associated with leashes, according to Consumer Union's analysis of statistics collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of those, about 10.5 percent involved children 10 and younger; 23.5 percent involved injuries to the finger. The CPSC's data does not parse the leashes into types but it's likely that the amputations were caused by retractable leashes.

The most common injuries reported were burns and cuts, usually sustained when the cord came in contact with skin as it rapidly paid out from the handle of a leash. Others occurred when the cord got wrapped around part of the owner or the dog.

Todd sued the maker of the leash as well as the distributor, as have others who have been injured by retractable leashes. Todd told us that the company settled her case for an undisclosed amount.

Retractable-leash makers do put some pretty stark warnings about their products on their Web sites and on the packaging. Germany-based Flexi, one of the largest manufacturers of the leashes, has a long page of warnings on it Web site. Here’s how it begins:

“To avoid the risk of eye or face injury and cuts, burns, and amputations to your body or the body of another person from the leash cord/tape or all belt and hook, (sic) read and follow these Warnings and Directions for Use before using your Flexi leash.”

The CPSC has announced only one recall of retractable leashes in recent years. Last September 223,000 “Slydog” brand retractable leashes (at right) were recalled after several complaints were received by the agency about the metal clip breaking and flying off. The company subsequently changed to plastic clips.

Karen Peak, a professional dog trainer in northern Virginia who runs a Web site called SafeKidsSafeDogs, says she often observes injuries from retractable leashes-and has experienced a couple herself.

“One day a dog got away and I grabbed the cord to keep it from running into the street and it gave me a painful cut between my fingers,” she says. “And it was a little dog, a Maltese.”

Peak says she doesn’t allow retractable leashes in her training classes and thinks they should only be used on well-behaved dogs that respond to voice commands.

“They should never be used on neighborhood walks or in stores or other situations where there might be distractions that can make a dog suddenly bolt,” she says. In those types of situations, she advises owners to use a solid leash no longer than six feet long.

Peak says dogs can suffer some of the same types of injuries from retractable dog leashes as people do. In addition, dogs suffer injury to their necks and backs when they are suddenly jerked to a stop when they run out the length of the leash.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dear Labby

Tackling Springtime Allergeries

Dear Labby,

Lately I have noticed that my Labs’ allergies are getting worse and causing more frequent itching and licking. Do you know what may be causing it?

Katie in Kennesaw

Dear Katie,

Spring pollen is in the air… and on our cars, lawn furniture and unfortunately on our pet’s fur. Unlike humans who react to allergies with a stuffy nose, watery eyes and a scratchy throat, pets react with skin problems, goopy eyes and ear infections.

Unfortunately there is no magic pill to cure your Labs’ allergies but there are a lot of treatments for the symptoms. Check with your vet to see if any of these suggestions may work for your situation:

  • Change your pet’s food to a natural brand for 8-10 weeks and watch for allergic reactions. If there is no reaction, feed your four-legged friend the original food. If the symptoms return, then the diagnosis is probably a food allergy. Your vet will then help you choose different foods that eliminate certain ingredients until the culprit is determined.
  • A cold bath with a medicated shampoo can do wonders for some dogs. For my dog, it certainly gives him a little relief from the itchies.
  • When your Lab comes in from the yard, try to wipe his feet off before he comes in the house. It may seem like a lot of work, but remember that whatever they step in outside ends up on your carpet and floors and then gets inhaled again.
  • Adding Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty acids to your Labs diet may also do the trick. They are a natural anti-inflammatory remedy and are virtually harmless to your pet if given as directed. I add a few squirts of the liquid version to my Labs meal every day.
If you are not seeing success with these tips, your vet may choose to go a step further and prescribe medication:

  • Antihistamines, such as Benadryl, are safe medications that see about a 33% success rate among users. The main side affect with this type of treatment is that in some animals (just like people) the drug may make them sleepy. Be sure to check with your vet for correct dosage amounts.
  • Immunotherapy or allergy shots typically show a 70%+ success rate. Your dog will be tested to determine what inhalants they are allergic to including mold, pollens, dust, feathers, wool, cotton and cats. A specific serum is developed for your pet and the shots are administered for up to 12 months by the pet owner at home. They are safe but it may take six or more months to see any improvement.
  • The last resort is administering steroids, which help to reduce the inflammation that causes itching. Steroids are a final remedy because they may damage the pet’s liver, cause diabetes and possibly promote behavioral changes such as increased or decreased appetite, thirst and urination.
Allergies are becoming more and more common in pets. Don’t give up hope if it is determined your Lab has allergies. There are many different options that you can explore to find the right combination so that your dog will live a long, happy, itch-free life. Until next time, Woof!

© 2009 Atlanta Lab Rescue