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  • Animal Behavior and a Total Eclipse 

    Let us just start by stating as fact that animals in general are very intuitive and smart. Those of us that have spent a lifetime observing animal behavior with rapt curiosity know that dogs can predict the weather, or sense danger, or even detect human medical issues such as epilepsy and diabetic sugar emergencies. In addition to observing animals, as a veterinarian who practices emergency medicine it is a truism that we see far more emergencies on full phases of the moon. Other weather changes and phenomenon such as earthquakes and tremors, sudden changes in barometric pressure, and the one we have all seen during rain and thunderstorms.

    Having all this in mind I decided to explore any data available in the scientific literature to objectively look at the affect, if any, our upcoming total eclipse may have on the health and mental well-being of our domestic animals. The most data found were studies about large animals such as dairy cattle, horses, sheep and goats. The data conclude a significant drop in grazing, eating, drinking, and milk production during the phenomenon of a total eclipse. The results show a concomitant increase the closer to geographic locations where the eclipse arc is 80% or above.

    Dogs and cats will be shown to observe behaviors similar to those during an earthquake. They may hide or whine as if frightened. They may vocalize and pace as if wanting to warn others of impending danger. We certainly can expect a decrease in normal eating and drinking behavior.

    Other nocturnal animals may become confused by the darkness and emerge cautiously as if it is night. As a matter of fact in 2010 there was a citizen scientific initiative (eclipse watch) to track, observe and report animal behavior.

    My recommendation would be make sure to put horses in the barn, dogs in their crates to create a sense of "home" and wellbeing; particularly if the animal has storm or separation anxiety. This will hopefully keep horses from running into fences or hurting a leg running in fear through a pasture. Also for keeping dogs from running away to hide, trying to break into or out of the house, and provide safety and security for the few hours during the eclipse.

    I am excited about this unprecedented natural event that puts Rabun County as a destination. I just hope I am able to watch the eclipse safely with my family and not have to come in to Rabun Animal hospital to see an avoidable animal emergency.

     Stephen Arbitter, DVM


    The Dangers of Dogs Riding in Pickup Truck Beds 

    Dangers of Dogs Riding in Truck BedsYou may see it quite often as you're driving around town: dogs riding in the back of trucks. You might even know someone who does it. Why not? It seems so convenient to just load your dog up in the back and take them with you.

    According to the Humane Society of the United States, 100,000 dogs are killed each year in accidents involving riding in truck beds. In addition, veterinarians see numerous cases of dogs being injured because they jumped out or were thrown from the bed of a pickup truck. If these dogs are lucky enough to still be alive, broken legs and joint injuries are among the most common types of damage that they sustain and often result in amputation. There are many dangers of having your four-legged friend loose in the bed of a truck while you're ramming the roads.

    Eye, Ear & Nose Damage
    This may not have even occurred to you, since dogs always have a tendency to stick their heads out the window of a moving vehicle to smell all of those new smells on the open road. But being in the open air traveling at high speeds (whether their head is out the window or they're in the back of the truck) can likely cause damage to the delicate parts of their face. The swirling of the air currents in the bed of a pickup truck can cause dirt, debris and insects to become lodged in the dog's eyes, ears, and nose.

    Being Ejected from the Truck
    We've all had to slam on our brakes while we're driving at some point; it's inevitable. Now imagine slamming on your brakes while your beloved dog is in the truck bed. He's going to get a serious jolt and it's possible that he could fly right out of the bed and into the road. You also run the risk of getting into an accident while you're traveling with your precious cargo which could also force him out of the bed. And if you think that securing him with a rope or chain is any better, you're wrong. There have been cases where dogs were thrown out of the back of the truck while still attached and being dragged on the road while the owner is still driving. Talk about a nightmare situation.

    Jumping Ship
    Even if you don't slam on your brakes or get into an accident, your dog may have plans of her own. Does your dog get easily distracted by squirrels, dogs, or other animals? Who's to say she's not going to willingly jump out in order to better investigate a situation? How long would it take you to realize she's gone? How will you be able to protect her from getting hit by other cars or straying too far away while you're in the driver's seat? Just because your dog would never do that doesn't mean that it could never happen; you never know what might trigger her at any given time.

    What are the Laws?
    In February of 2009, Maryland Senator, Norman Stone Jr. proposed a bill to ban riding around with dogs in truck beds. This bill was defeated in the Senate 30-17. Although the bill was passed by the House unanimously in 2008, some Senators questioned whether or not it was a real problem. Others worried that farmers would be unable to ride with their dogs, leading to a lot of unhappy dogs.

    There are, however, a number of individual states that have banned this type of pet travel and other states have bills pending.

    What's the Alternative?
    Even though it's not against the law in all 50 states, traveling with dogs in the bed of your pickup trucks should never be an option. The Humane Society of the US notes that they don't know of any brand of harness that is safe for the back of the truck. It's best to have the dog in the cab with you, and if it's an extended cab, the dog should be restrained in the back and away from the windshield. For trucks, pet travel cratespet safety belts, and pet car seats are the safest bets. And if none of these are available to you at the time you're taking your truck (or any vehicle), consider keeping your dog safe at home.

    Trips with Pets has even more tips, pet travel advice, and pet friendly hotels to make sure that your beloved pooches are safe and happy no matter where your travels take you.