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- Animal Care & Safety
Cases of Neglect in Outdoor Pets: Starting with Collars, Ending with Flies.
Please note that I am going to include a couple of pictures that are pretty graphic. The pictures are of a neck wound on a mixed breed stray pup. These pictures were taken about 15 years ago, so hopefully this pup lived a long, happy life and has probably crossed the rainbow bridge by now, where he can happily chase the shadow rabbits; so you do not know this dog or the owner. We shaved and cleaned this pup's wounds, and if I remember correctly, he was adopted, and the fur did grow back around the wounded area.
I'm not going to put the pictures up right away, I want to talk about this, first.
People are very adamant about pointing the accusing finger at animal abuse, and declare that certain people should not be allowed to own a pet. I agree. Certain people should not be allowed to own a pet. These are the people who do things with complete awareness of what it is they are doing. They don't provide food and water, they chain their animals in the sun, they leave their animals in hot cars, they beat, fight, poison, or otherwise abuse animals. Any harm caused to another is abuse. I feel certain kinds of people do fall into the category of animal abusers.
1. People who hurt animals on purpose; they enjoy causing pain, or they use animals in a vicious type of "sport".
2. People who neglect animals because they can't be bothered to care for them properly; it's too much work. Having to keep their environments clean and their food and water fresh, having to take the animal home first, before stopping at a store to make a quick pick up. Not bothering to provide the right environment; keeping an animal on a chain with no shelter from wind rain and sun. Building a shelter is too much work, or costs too much money.
3. People who neglect animals because they aren't capable of caring for the animals themselves. This is a big issue. Sometimes people suffer a traumatic emotional or physical injury that renders them physically incapable, or emotionally incapable, of caring for their pets. There is no doubt these people love their pets, but they are, in fact, neglecting them. This is a big issue for all the inhabitants that live in that house; it needs to be addressed, with compassion, by friends and family members.
There is nothing wrong with not wanting to take care of an animal; it's not selfish, and it doesn't make you a bad person. A lot of people do not like dealing with animal dirt, hair, and husbandry, and that's perfectly okay. What's not okay is if they do not do these things while owning a pet.
This article isn't directed at the categories of people listed above. The first two categories couldn't care less, and aren't ever even going to read this article. The last category simply isn't capable.
If anyone recognizes themselves as being a part of the last category; you must face the truth, for the sake of your beloved friends. You simply aren't capable of doing it anymore. Perhaps you could find a neighborhood kid who would be willing to help you for a small allowance. But if there is no help to be found, you need to stop procrastinating. You need to let them go.
All of the folks who preach and make others feel guilty for "abandoning" their animals at shelters do not understand the situations some people find themselves in. Owning a pet should be researched and carefully thought out, the same as having a baby, but we all know even babies can come into your life unexpectedly. No matter how much you prepare and plan, events happen that can impair and alter your abilities, and turn your life completely upside down.
When a mother gives her child up for adoption, she does it because she cannot provide for that child. She does it out of love. When you give up a pet, it should be done for the exact same reason; not because you simply don't want it anymore. You should feel guilty, and should not be made to feel guilty, about having to give your pet up out of love.
Some of these animals are starved, obese, filthy, do not have clean environments, have way too much or too little food and water, depending on how capable their owner is of getting it to them. Look around you. What are the conditions your pet is living in? These aren't good conditions for you to live in, either. It's unhealthy for both of you! If you see yourself in this scenario when you read this article, please; become aware of what it is you are doing. At least think about it.
This article is not for those above 3 categories. It's not for the very regimented, well-educated pet owner, either. This article is for the people who care, but do so in a hap-hazard, bumbling way, much as I do myself. One kind of neglect that can be remedied is the kind that comes from ignorance: never seeing, hearing about or experiencing issues that don't often come up, but can. This article is for people who will read this and think, "Oh! I didn't know that!" It's simply to make people more aware.
If you like this article, please let me know, and I will continue to write more along the same lines.
This information is probably more useful for outdoor pet owners; it addresses one aspect of neglect that even the nicest, kindest people can be guilty of. Country people have dogs and cats that never come in the house. It's important to check over your animals; adjust their collars.
It seems like such a simple thing, adjusting your pet's collar as they grow. Pets grow a lot quicker than people, so you need to check the collar frequently. This is also true of animals that have gained a lot of weight.
You should be able to easily slide 2 fingers underneath your pet's collar, and if your pet is a cat, you should have a special cat collar, especially if you allow your cat to go outside. These collars will break off if the cat manages to hang itself up on something - which they do, even inside the house. A hung cat can't protect itself from other animals, they can choke to death, they can die of thirst or from exposure to severe weather. Cat collars are a bit more expensive, and it is annoying to have to buy them frequently if you have an outdoor cat like mine who loses hers about 3 times a year, but it's something the caring pet owner will do.
These pics came from a puppy that was abandoned. Someone had claimed him as their own and put a collar on him. For whatever reason, the pup was lost to them, and the collar was never adjusted again. He came to us very listless, but otherwise looked normal. His long fluffy fur hid the wound. He is, of course, well anesthetized in these photographs.
I've seen several animals like this, the worst of which was a Doberman that was wearing one of those lethal looking, spurred, metal training collars.
I do not have any pictures of the Doberman, but I do have a picture of a spurred metal training collar. When this collar is put on the dog, the barbs face inwards, towards the dog's neck. The collar itself isn't inhumane, in much the same way as guns don't kill people. They should be hung loosely around the dog's neck, with the leash attached to the circlet on the chain. Pulling on the chain tightens the collar, which pulls the barbs up against the neck. These collars can be used correctly on large dogs, like Mastiffs and Rottweilers, and the animals need to be stable and calm, which makes using the collars seem like a moot point. You cannot use them on hyper animals that bounce and pull, or they will be injured by the spurs. Personally, I believe it is a tool that should only be used on animals that are already fully trained, and it should be used like the bit in a horse's mouth; very gently.
In the case of the Doberman, someone had actually left the training collar on the dog so long that the animal's neck grew through the pieces of chain link. Each link had to be cut away in order to remove the collar. The metal spurs were actually buried, deeply, into the animal's neck. But animals will not admit to weakness for the most part, so when she came in, she was walking and breathing in what appeared to be a normal fashion. The veins and arteries in the dog's throat had adjusted and grown around the collar as it tightened, like a tree does when it has a chain wrapped around it.
How that animal was alive and breathing, I will never know; but life will find a way. The skin healed beautifully, and even the fur grew back, although some of it grew back white, if my memory serves me correctly.
A simple thing, like not adjusting a collar, can lead to open neck wounds. This leads to other issues of unintended neglect; especially in summer, and finally I come to my point. This is the ultimate issue I would like to address.
Flies are a big issue in the summertime, and if your animals spend any time outdoors, they are going to have to deal with flies. A wound such as the one shown above is a great attraction to flies. What I'm about to tell you is a gruesome horror story, so once again, I offer fair warning if you don't wish to read further. Unfortunately, these stories are true; I'd like to see future stories prevented. Once again, these stories happened to people I knew many many years ago, and I will be offering no recognizable details.
A very loving, sweet person adopted a dog; a wild, skittish, beautiful collie mix pup. She put a collar on her new puppy, claiming her as her own. When she got home to the farm where she lived, the pup bolted out to of the car and into the trees. She was fast. They couldn't catch her. But she hung around; they kept putting food and water out for her, hoping eventually to draw her in close enough so that they might be able to catch her, but they never did. This went on for several months. Finally, one day, our person put out the food and water and the dog teetered up to her for the first time, and fell at her feet. She picked the puppy up and immediately brought her into the vet.
The collar looked much the same as it did on the puppy pictured above. There was one other thing of note: the dog smelled dreadful, like decaying meat. Once we had the collar off, we thought to give her a good bath before she woke up.
This was horrible. I'll never forget it.
She was lying on the grate over the bathing sink, and I started spraying water around her head and neck area. I filled my palm with shampoo, then started to rub it in. The fur pulled off into my hand. The fur, the skin; the whole hide. It just sloughed off so easily. Under the fur and the skin, on top of the animal's now exposed muscle, was a teeming mass of maggots.
Flies will lay their eggs on dead meat. An untreated wound has scabs and dead flesh attached to it, so the flies will lay their eggs there. As maggots feed, they kill the tissue they are living in; my understanding is that they eat only the dead flesh and aren't eating the animal alive; but they are killing the tissue first, then eating it. So as far as the amount of pain an animal is actually in while this process is going on, I can't tell you. I can only tell you that the reason the dog finally collapsed was because the collar finally became too tight. She was brought in because of the tight collar; the maggot issue was completely hidden until I attempted to bathe her. As easily as it came off, I found this remarkable. But then it happened again. And again.
We did what we could to save the dog, but the skin and fur was dead; it sloughed off all around her neck, leaving bare muscle and vessels exposed. There was no way of replacing it. We had to put her down, and her poor horrified owner blamed herself completely, as she should; it was her fault. But you can see that this is a different kind of neglect than that of the categories listed above. It could have been prevented. Had she known that this could happen, she may have taken more aggressive steps to try and capture the dog.
What is truly horrifying is that these larvae eat away at the animal under the skin and leave the fur and skin intact. The skin dies, but stays in place; the fur looks dry and matted, which is another thing people may take no notice of, and should. The only thing a person might really notice is the odor, but unfortunately, some folks think their animal has simply been rolling on a dead fish or some other kind of carrion they found by the creek.
As mentioned, this happened again. Other instances of maggot infested wounds were due to a variety of things that the animals were brought in to be seen for: one was scratches from a barbed wire fence, another was open wounds on the ears, caused by the biting flies themselves. These wounds went unnoticed in these animals until the animals actually showed some sign of physical distress that could be detected by sight. Like the example of the Doberman, animals will instinctively hide signs of weakness, so that when you can actually see signs of distress and pain from a distance, it may already be too late to save them.
If you have outdoor pets, run your hands over the animals and check for wounds, and use fly ointments on their ears to keep the flies from biting. A lot of folks don't bathe their outdoor animals, because it seems like wasted effort; their animals will roll in the mud or play in the pond. Regular bathing will allow you to look for many issues your pet may be having that you wouldn't notice otherwise. How do you inspect a hissing and spitting barn cat? Take a good look at them at feeding time, and pick them up if they will let you. It really is a good idea to be able to handle all your pets even if you don't interact with them on a daily basis.
Owners of outdoor animals love their animals as much as folks who have lap pets, but some people don't understand that there are different ways to love. Some people care for their animals as if they are babies, carrying them with them wherever they go and hand feeding them, while other people let their pets roam outside, or live completely independently; they simply set out a bowl of food and water on the front step. There are many ways to care for and love an animal. People will argue about what way is the right way until the end of time, no doubt. No matter what method you use, you are responsible for that animal's health and well being. You have to take steps to make sure it is healthy and well fed. You can't do this just by looking at your pet from a distance. You have to do an up close, physical inspection, and you should do it more often than once a month. Check the collar, squeeze the paws and belly, run your hands down the legs and look inside the ears, eyes and mouth.
Don't feel too bad if you haven't been doing these things; not doing these things isn't neglect until you are aware that it is neglect. Nobody runs their hands over a deer or a coyote, and a lot of country people see their pets in this light; as free animals. But wild animals are very capable of living independently; they were born and raised untouched by human hands. The key thing to remember is that your pet is your responsibility, regardless of whether it is a koi in a fish pond or a fine bred stallion. The fish has food thrown at it occasionally, the horse is highly pampered. Both still require your attention.
People who truly neglect won't even be bothered to read this article. People who care will. And people who know of people who don't have access to articles like this might make an effort to see that it reaches them. When people read it, they will become aware. (Perhaps it will save a new greenhorn Veterinary Technician from ever having to experience what I did when trying to bathe a dog.)
It happened to me three times in that one summer; it caught me off guard twice. I was suspicious before I started working on the last dog; by that time, I had become familiar with the signs and the scent. It's a preventable thing I'd like to see eradicated.