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A Deer That Thinks It's a Dog

Animal lovers often debate whether or not it's acceptable to turn a wild animal into a domesticated pet. But when a family becomes attached to an animal they are trying to rescue, the bond is often difficult to break.

Regardless of your personal feelings on the matter, it's hard to deny how adorable little Dillie is, parading around the house and eating off her owner's plates as though she were a common puppy. She certainly leads a good life -- with her own room with a full-sized bed and a backyard that's big enough for her to run at her top speed. Which leads me to today's question: is it wrong for a wild animal to become domesticated even if it means a better life?

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Animals
Here's One Way You Can Help Hurricane Harvey Victims: Foster a Pet
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SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, it’s estimated that at least 30,000 Texans have been rendered homeless and forced into temporary shelters. While rain continues to fall as the tropical storm moves along the Gulf of Mexico, many people are wondering what they can do to help. If you’re a pet lover with some extra space in your home, why not consider fostering one of the thousands of pets who’ve been displaced because of the storm?

By being proactive, Texas nonprofit Austin Pets Alive! was able to transport more than 235 animals to its facility—and out of harm’s way—by Saturday morning. But, according to the organization's website, “there is still a lot of work ahead of us. As we continue to care for the animals we have already saved, we have to prepare for even more animals who will need us in the coming days. We’ve been receiving reports from shelter partners in areas hit hardest by the hurricane and areas expecting the most flooding that over the course of the next 24 to 72 hours, they are anticipating another significant influx of animals that they may not be able to help.”

In addition to donations of money and pet supplies like litter boxes and leashes, APA is looking for foster parents who can commit to keeping a pet through adoption, a process that includes meeting with potential adopters, taking photos of the pet, and generally spreading the word about the ball of fuzz you're sharing your home with. Visit the organization’s website to find out about their current needs, and email foster@austinpetsalive.org if you’re able to assist.

Texas isn’t the only place where shelters are lending a helping hand. In Davenport, Iowa, King’s Harvest Pet Rescue is asking people to open their homes to displaced dogs, with the shelter providing all of the necessary supplies, including food, beds, and treats.

In Tenafly, New Jersey, Robyn Urman—founder of Pet ResQ—is working to transport 200 cats and dogs from Texas to the Garden State. On Tuesday morning, more than a dozen pets arrived in New Jersey, with another 60 expected this week. (Potential fosters can email petresqinc@aol.com.)

Not all of the animals being transported were directly affected by Harvey. On Monday morning, Wings of Rescue flew 105 animals—20 dogs and 85 cats—from Louisiana to California to make more room in local shelters in the south. In Georgia, the Atlanta Humane Society began making room for pets in the path of the hurricane so that Texas shelters would have as much space as possible to care for affected animals. “They reached out to us and we're happy to help,” Atlanta shelter manager Amanda Harris told WSB-TV. “So they can be close to their owners and have the best possible chance to be reunited with their families.”

Even if you don’t have the ability to foster a pet, there are plenty of other ways to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, from donating diapers to giving blood.

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Animals
Animal Food Allergies May Be More Common Than We Think
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Experts at the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) say we might be underestimating the prevalence of lactose intolerance and other food allergies among our furry friends. They published their report in the journal Allergy.

Rates of allergies and other autoimmune conditions are climbing in countries around the world. The cause of this increase is not totally clear, although many studies suggest that our sterilized environments and processed diets may be damaging our microbial ecosystems.

But it’s not just our bodies that are itching (or cramping, or wheezing). It’s Fido’s, and Fluffy’s, and Mr. Ed’s, too, says lead author Isabella Pali-Schöll of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna.

"Not only humans but basically all mammals are susceptible to developing allergies, as their immune system is capable of producing immunoglobulin E," Pali-Schöll said in a statement.

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is an antibody released when the body meets an allergen. It’s meant to help keep us safe. The problem is that when we have allergies, our immune systems mistake harmless foods like wheat, eggs, milk, peanuts, or seafood for deadly poisons. The flood of IgE can cause hives, difficulty breathing, nausea, and anaphylaxis.

Most people with allergies are diagnosed because they decide to see a doctor about their symptoms. Animals don’t have that option (and probably wouldn’t go even if they did). The report, which reviews what we know and don’t know about our pets’ food allergies, finds that their reactions can be harder to spot.

“The true prevalence of food allergy in dogs, cats, and horses is unknown,” the authors write. Estimates vary widely depending on how the animal was diagnosed; studies have found that food allergies may affect anywhere between six and 25 percent of dogs, and 0.22 and 22 percent of cats. “In horses,” they write, “there is only anecdotal evidence with few cases documented in peer-reviewed literature.”

Diagnosing a pet’s allergies is not unlike diagnosing a person’s, except that the patient can’t describe his or her own symptoms. Veterinarians often use an elimination diet to determine the root of the pet’s problems.

"During this period of diagnosis, the animal will be fed homemade food or diet food prescribed by a veterinarian. Only then, and if there have not been any dangerous allergic reactions before, can 'normal' food be gradually reintroduced,” Pali-Schöll said.

As with human allergies, the best treatment is often just to avoid problem foods altogether. Most commercial pet foods are made with grains, meat, and soy products, which means this may be harder than it sounds, but a healthier, happier pet is worth it.

Scientists are working to develop medicines that will knock pets’ allergies out altogether. "The first few trial phases have already achieved some success,” Pali-Schöll said. “But it will take several more years for any products to see market launch and standard application.”

The bottom line, the authors concluded, is that we’ve still got a lot more to learn about how—and how commonly—these conditions affect our animal companions.

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