Tag: dog bite

Rabies in the 21st Century

Nature, the first frontier.  So much has been learned about the world around us but one of the things we haven’t figured out is how to eradicate rabies.  Yes, rabies is still out there and an affliction with it can be devastating.  The Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario does its best to vaccinate the wildlife but sometimes it isn’t enough.  This is where the reality of your pet’s health and the welfare of the general public comes into play.

Photo courtesy of Edie the Pug

Photo courtesy of Edie the Pug

Why is this especially important now?  In December 2015 & January 2016 alone, 35 cases of rabies  (though as of September 12, 2018 per the Ontario Animal Health Network a total of 450 cases) have been diagnosed in raccoons in Ontario alone, primarily in the Hamilton area.  Fortunately, it has not spread too much further as we have not seen cases where I live in Kingston.  The re-emergence of rabies was noted when two dogs were picked up by animal control and placed in a van with a sick raccoon.  Subsequently, the raccoon and one of the dogs both got loose and were fighting.  The dogs were not vaccinated against rabies and their fate remains undetermined as of December 2015.  Additionally, several of the raccoons have also been diagnosed with distemper which is also transmissible to dogs (but not people).

Signs of rabies occur in phases:

    • dilated pupils, fever, hypersensitivity around the wound

    • constricted pupils, aggressive behavior, excessive drooling, stumbling, seizures

    • progressive paralysis, voice change, inability to swallow, dropped jaw, coma, death

Rabies vaccineWhy don’t vaccines get updated?  For some, it becomes a matter time or cost.  Maybe it’s because the anti-vaccine movement has picked up ground though for the record, there are extremely few reasons to not have your pet vaccinated and they don’t typically get noted until pets are older in life.  More often, the reason I’m given is that some pet owners feel their pets are indoors only (many cats) or that they never leave the yard or live out in the country.  The fact remains that bats can fly indoors and wild animals can migrate through yards.

Animals that are not vaccinated and either bite a person or get bitten by an animal are at risk for being quarantined or in certain cases will be euthanized and tested for rabies.  Yes, your beloved pet may be euthanized all because it wasn’t vaccinated for a preventable and deadly disease.  Is it worth the risk of losing a furry family member or putting people at risk of being exposed?  Besides, every city, town, municipality has laws that require rabies vaccines for any pets over 4 months of age.  So no more excuses please; do what is right.  Protect your pet & your community.

Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain opinions which may not necessarily reflect those of any current or former employers.

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Dog Parks – The Good, The Bad, & The Furry

Dog Parks – The Good, The Bad, & The Furry

Over the past several years, dog parks have sprung up in communities as a place for your canine companion to get some exercise and depending on rules, meet other dogs.  Dog parks can be wonderful places, but they aren’t meant for everybody.  Let’s look at why this is and also review some etiquette.

The Good

Photo: Herne Bay Coastal Park

Photo: Herne Bay Coastal Park

Everyone loves their own dog.  Many people love other dogs.  Visiting the dog park is a great place to get your dog socialized to other people and dogs to help acclimate them and hopefully avoid some unwanted behaviors.  Dogs evolved as pack animals and the social aspect can be good for their mental stimulation.  You also will get to meet new people, maybe even your future spouse or a new close friend.  Rover will also get that much needed exercise to help fight off obesity by staying active.

The Bad

Photo: personalsafetyexpert.com

Photo: personalsafetyexpert.com

Remember what I said about dogs being pack animals?  Well, that can work against them as dogs meet each other for the first time, the potential for dominance aggression behavior is always possible.  Yes, dogs like children might fight on the playground.  Fights should try to be broken up by calling your dog or making some noise to distract them which might make it easier to pull them apart.  Another downside to these public places is that they can be a breeding ground for disease.  Infectious viruses, bacterial infections, or parasites can all be picked up at the park.  Also, dogs will be dogs…and if your dog is not spayed or neutered, then somebody could be expecting puppies in around 2 months.

The Furry (the Etiquette)pickupafteryourpet1

  • Make sure your pet is vaccinated and is free of fleas.  Not only are you protecting your dog, but also everyone else and the public.

  • Spay or neuter your pet!  This will help prevent unwanted behaviors which can lead to fights or unwanted puppies.  If spay/neuter is not an option, please keep your in heat dogs away for at least 2 weeks after the visible signs have stopped.

  • Teach your dog simple commands – sit, stay, and come are three basic commands to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable time.

  • Before letting your dog off leash, it can be a good idea to let them meet the other dogs to see how their personalities and initial reactions are.  If there are obvious signs of aggression, you still have control while they are on leash and can pick another time to come back.

  • If you know your dog is anxious or does not play well with others, go at times that are less busy.  This category might also include a new dog to the family that has not had time to get trained yet.  Another recommendation is to tie a yellow ribbon onto their leash or collar as a sign to others that your dog needs space.  For more info, check out the Yellow Dog Project.

  • Avoid bringing toys or other personal possessions of your dog which may cause conflict with others.  If you bring something, perhaps a new toy is in order so your dog does not feel possessive.

  • Limit your time at the park to no more than 60 minutes.  Not only does this let other dogs & families have a turn but it also is a good way to make sure your dog does not get over heated.

  • And lastly, pick up after your pooch!

A trip to the dog park can be a great bonding experience for you & your canine companion.  Just be sure to be safe and courteous so that everyone has an enjoyable time!

 Disclaimer:  Blog posts may contain opinions which are my own and do not reflect that of any current or former employers.

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The Fallacy of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)

When I started this blog, one of my goals was to provide an informative and open forum with a real honest look into veterinary medicine, not just in my home of Kingston, but also from a larger world-wide perspective. Right now, with an upcoming election in Ontario, there is a small focus on Breed Specific Legislation (BSL for short) and in many places are slang-termed “pit bull bans.” What really needs to happen is that BSL needs to be brought to the forefront of the discussion within the public and veterinary community. The short and long of the discussion is that BSL is ineffective and ethically wrong. Here’s why…


MLK paraphrase pit bullIn short, Breed Specific Legislation is tantamount to discrimination. The majority of the world has morally accepted and even placed laws into effect to ban discrimination. So why are we taking a step back and writing laws to encourage a bias against a group? It’s not 19th century America anymore! What kind of lesson does this teach children especially in today’s world and the ever present topic of bullying? Society is encouraging the picking on of some dogs for what amounts to how they look, not how they act.


The roots lie in the Dog Owners’ Liability Act which was amended in 2005 to include a specific ban on “pit bulls.” The act was originally intended to protect victims of dog bites while at the same time offering some degree of protection to the dog owner but also holding them liable, so people knew what to do after dog bite incidents happened. In theory, it’s a good idea by enforcing leash & muzzle use for a previous offender and requiring spaying or neutering. The problem goes back to the amendment that placed a specialized ban on “pit bulls” which in itself is “a misnomer and does not refer to a singe, recognized breed of dog, but rather to a genetically diverse group of breeds which are associated by certain physical traits.” The act defines multiple breeds to be considered “pit bulls” including American Staffordshire Terrriers & Staffordshire bull terriers. This creates a potential problem for the dog owners as there may not be a way for them to prove that the dog is not a pit bull. But in some cases, a DNA test will show that a dog is not a pit bull even if it has visible physical characteristics as was the case of a court action I was involved in back in Florida. This helps prove the old adage, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

pit bull with tennis ball, playful dog

Does this dog look dangerous? Don’t judge


Let’s look at part of an example of a breed description from United Kennel Club, which is one of the groups the DOLA directs us to use in identifying a pit bull.

  1. SKULL – The skull is large, flat, deep, and broad between the ears. Viewed from the top, the skull is square. There is a deep median furrow that diminishes in depth from the stop to the occiput. Cheek muscles are prominent. MUZZLE – The muzzle is broad and thick, with a very slight taper from the stop to the nose. TEETH – Has a complete set of 42 large, evenly spaced, white teeth. NOSE – The nose is large, with wide, open nostrils. Black color is preferred, but shades of red or brown are acceptable. Lack of pigment is a cosmetic fault. EYES – Eyes are medium in size, round to almond shape, and set well apart. All colors are acceptable, but dark brown is preferred. Haw is not visible. Black eye rims are preferred. EARS – Ears may be cropped, but natural ears are preferred. Natural ears are small to medium size, high set, and may be drop, semi-prick, or rose.
  2. SKULL – The skull is large, flat or slightly rounded, deep, and broad between the ears. Viewed from the top, the skull tapers just slightly toward the stop. There is a deep median furrow that diminishes in depth from the stop to the occiput. Cheek muscles are prominent but free of wrinkles. MUZZLE – The muzzle is broad and deep with a very slight taper from the stop to the nose, and a slight falling away under the eyes. TEETH – Has a complete set of evenly spaced, white teeth meeting in a scissors bite. NOSE – The nose is large with wide, open nostrils. The nose may be any color. EYES – Eyes are medium size, round and set well apart and low on the skull. All colors are equally acceptable except blue, which is a serious fault. Haw should not be visible. EARS – Ears are high set and may be natural or cropped without preference. Prick, or flat, wide ears are not desired.

Can you tell which dog is a pit bull? They sound pretty similar. The other dog is not listed in the breed ban but is in fact an American Bulldog. The second description is that of the American Pit Bull Terrier. This again presents the problem of how these dogs are identified based on appearance and ultimately leads to the killing of thousands of innocent dogs.

pit bull puppies

Puppies like these are condemned to die because of how they look

Now, most veterinarians are against BSL in any city or municipality, including here in Kingston, Ontario. We have 8+ years of university education behind us and realize that the behavior of dogs is not tied to their breed but rather their handling and socialization. The act goes on to insult the veterinarians by placing the onus of writing a letter after a violation of the act (your dog bites someone) stating that a dog is a pit bull. This is wrong because I feel we cannot morally condemn a dog without knowing the facts. What caused the person to get bit? Did they approach the dog’s home? Did they try to pet it without asking the owner first? Was the dog running loose? Were any warning signs of defensive behavior shown? And most importantly, why are we not asked to write such a letter when the family Golden Retriever, Pug, or Border Collie bites someone?? This is flat out discrimination.


Who now is the vicious dog? It's not fair to generalize.

Who now is the vicious dog? It’s not fair to generalize.

Sure, I’ve been bitten before; I remember my first dog bite back in 1999. You know what it was? A dachshund! I’ve also been bitten by chihuahuas, Yorkshire terriers, and Jack Russell Terriers. You know what’s missing? Yeah, “pit bulls” are not on my list despite seeing 2-3 a day when I used to practice in Florida. Of course, I’ve come across a few that growled at me but who likes to go see the doctor anyway. Just a few days ago, I was nearly bitten again…by a labrador. The time before that I was lunged at by a Saint Bernard. Now, let us look at some facts.


The Canadian Veterinary Journal (distributed by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association) published an article in 2008 listing fatal dog attacks in Canada for the preceding 18 years. Of these 28 fatalities, only ONE dog deemed to be a pit bull was involved. The remaining dogs were husky breeds, rottweilers, a bull mastiff, a border collie, malamute, chow chow, and mixes including German Shepherds or labradors. In a few cases, the dog breed was not identified. A majority of these attacks (18 of 27)were also by dogs known to the victim or their family. Upon further review, a majority of these fatalities were due to the victim entering the dogs’ area/yard. Looking further at US statistics, since BSL was introduced in various parts of the countries, dog bite fatalities have actually increased. When you review the accurately detailed list on Wikipedia, numerous breeds are implicated. Yes, pit bulls are there but so are Rottweilers in large numbers, Saint Bernards, dachshunds, huskies or husky mixes, English sheepdogs, chows, and even a Pomeranian.

Is your dog next?

Is your dog next?


You’ve made it this far. I hope you’re getting to the same conclusion I am…it’s time to repeal the breed ban and end the discrimination. If the fallacy of the BSL isn’t apparent through statistics, the difficulty in breed identification, or the simple fact that thousands of dogs have been condemned to die for simply being from the wrong gene pool, perhaps the testimony of a parent named Donna Trempe who lost her child to a dog attack. It was not a pit bull either; it was a bull mastiff. You can read the full statement before a committee here but I have included a few excerpts.

  • I applaud certain sections of the bill: doubling fines to dangerous dog owners up to a maximum of $10,000, jail sentences, the requirement for dog owners to pay restitution to victims, and giving police and municipal bylaw officers the authority to search for dangerous dogs. What I don’t agree with is banning specific breeds.”
  • In my opinion, Bill 132 has its good points and its bad points. A bull mastiff, not a pit bull, killed my daughter. Rottweilers killed a three-year-old boy in Vancouver. Presa canarios killed a woman in San Francisco. Even small dogs such as west highland white terriers and cocker spaniels have been recorded as killer dogs.”
  • Am I against dogs? Not in any way. I love dogs and own a German shepherd. What I am against is irresponsible dog owners. I agree with the Humane Society of Canada that banning only pit bulls will not solve the dog-biting problem. German shepherds, cocker spaniels, Rottweilers and golden retrievers are actually the most common biters.”


educate not discriminate

Photo from Smilin’ Pit Bull Rescue

Ultimately, the root of the dog bite problem lies with the owners who don’t properly socialize their dogs and potentially those few who train them to be aggressive. The main facet of all this still remains that ANY dog can bite, maim, or kill a person. The problem lies with the people; not the dogs. It’s been suggested by numerous people and groups (including the OVMA, the Humane Society of Canada, and the Canadian Kennel Club) that Ontario replace this heinous legislation with the Calgary model which aims to prevent bites through education, spay/neuter programs, and penalties for owners. One of the reasons I believe that pit bulls have been targeted, is that the media hypes these reports up as they always love a good story. Other dogs bite too but you NEVER hear about it because it doesn’t get people’s attention. Despite the bans, bites haven’t decreased. Multiple attempts have been made to repeal the law but the government here in Ontario has always found ways to kill the bill. Fortunately, you can elect leaders who will support legisislation such as Hershey’s Bill. It’s time for a change. It’s time to end the Breed Specific Legislation in Ontario.


Me with 2 great pit bull/mixes, Dagny (left) and Ethy (right) - some of my favorite patients ever. Very well behaved and a prime example of responsible owners.

Me with 2 great pit bull/mixes, Dagny (left) and Ethy (right) – some of my favorite patients ever. Very well behaved and a prime example of responsible owners.


Acknowledgement: Inspiration for this post and major assistance with research go to @MacBarksBack or visit her blog mac.bravesites.com for more info about what you can do to help end BSL.

Additional Links:

Kerry Vinson’s Toronto Pet Blog (expert witness in Trempe inquest) article discussing BSL

Ontario Veterinary Medical Association letter to political parties in 2012

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) position statement on BSL

Trempe Inquest recommendations

Testimony before Committee prior to enactment of BSL from the CVMA, OVMA, & OSPCA

Letter from Kerry Vinson read into record by Randy Hillier during hearings in 2012

Toronto Humane Society position letter on BSL

Legal Senselessness of Doggie Racism by Gordon Campbell, attorney

The Majority Project – They’re Just Dogs

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

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