Monday, 23 February 2009

Having A Wild Animal For A Pet?

I read about this disturbing story a few days ago in the news:

TV star chimp shot dead by police after woman was badly mauled

Published Date: 18 February 2009
A 14-STONE chimpanzee who once starred in US television commercials was shot dead by police after a violent rampage that left a friend of his owner badly mauled.

Travis, who was 15 years old and domesticated, inexplicably attacked Charla Nash, 55, when she turned up at the home of the animal's owner, Sandra Herold.

Ms Nash had gone to the house in Stamford, Connecticut, on Monday to coax the chimp back into the house after she escaped.After the animal lunged at Ms Nash when she got out of her car, Ms Herold ran inside to call the police. "She retrieved a large butcher knife and stabbed her pet numerous times in an effort to save her friend, who was really being brutally attacked," Richard Conklin, of Stamford police, said.

After the initial attack, Travis ran away and started roaming Ms Herold's property. Police then arrived and set up a security cordon so medics could reach the critically injured woman.

But the chimp returned and went after several of the officers, who retreated into their cars. Travis knocked the mirror off a cruiser, before opening its door and starting to get in, trapping the officer.

That officer shot the chimp several times, Mr Conklin said.

The wounded chimp fled the scene, but police were able to follow the trail of his blood: down the drive, into the open door of the home, through the house and to his living quarters, where he had retreated and died of his wounds.

Ms Herold and two officers suffered minor injuries.

Ms Nash is in a critical condition after suffering what the town's mayor, Dannel Malloy, called "life-changing, if not life-threatening" injuries to her face and hands.

Her sister-in-law, Kate Nash, said yesterday that she underwent surgery on Monday night and came out of it "OK".

Mr Conklin said police didn't know what had triggered the attack. "There was no provocation that we know of. One thing that we're looking into is that we understand the chimpanzee has Lyme's disease and has been ill from that, so maybe from the medications he was out of sorts. We really don't know," he said.

He said Travis had been acting so agitated earlier that afternoon that Ms Herold had given him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in some tea, which doctors say can stimulate aggression in unstable people.

Mr Conklin also suggested the animal might have attacked Ms Nash because she was wearing her hair differently and perhaps wasn't recognised.

When he was younger, Travis appeared in TV adverts, including one for Coca-Cola, and made an appearance on the Maury Povich Show. The chimp was well known around Stamford because he rode around in trucks belonging to the towing company operated by his owners.

After Travis escaped from their car for two hours in 2003, the Herolds told how he was toilet-trained, dressed himself, took his own bath, ate at the table and drank wine from a stemmed glass. He also brushed his teeth, logged on to a computer to look at pictures and watched television using the remote control.

Colleen McCann, a primatologist at New York's Bronx Zoo, said chimps were unpredictable and dangerous, even after living among humans for years.

She said: "It's deceiving to think that if any animal is 'well-behaved' around humans that means there is no risk involved to humans for potential outbursts of behaviour.

"They are unpredictable, and in instances like this, you cannot control that behaviour or prevent it from happening if it is in a private home."

I feel very sad whenever I come across cases such as this.

Travis was treated as a member of the family. Some domestic pets that I know of, such as cats and dogs, are not even treated like Travis.

Yet he is a wild animal.

It is tragic for the woman who was attacked.

It is tragic for Travis' "owner"...and ultimately...

It is tragic for Travis as he was killed.

In reading the last part of the story, I was most struck by how Travis died in his room. He was simply torn between being a wild animal and being one of the family.

It is my personal opinion that exotic animals should not be kept as pets, no matter how they have been tamed...or at least how one believes they have been tamed.

It is my personal belief that exotic animals belong in the wild, with minimal human interference.

I would love to hear what you have to say.

Do feel free to comment on my blog.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Physical Examination For Pets

Your pet cannot tell you how it feels, where it hurts or what's wrong with them. Pets may mask their pain and this is a survival instinct in the wild. A comprehensive physical exam allows us to compile a list of clues that can help us in uncovering a disease. Early detection and treatment are essential to avoid undue suffering and to prolong the quality and longevity of your pet’s life.

As a pet owner, it should be easy for you to detect any changes in your pet's behaviour or eating habits. If your pet is acting abnormally in any way, you should be the first to know about it. This may include such obvious signs as diarrhoea or vomiting, coughing or sneezing, watery eyes or a runny nose, difficulty or accidents during urination or defecation, difficulty in chewing food, difficulty going up and down the stairs or rising from a sitting position.

It may also include acting more sluggish or lethargic than normal, not eating as much as normal, drinking less than normal or drinking more than normal. These signs are more subtle and need more time and careful observation to be noticed.

Such information will allow your veterinarian to focus on specific body systems in order to reach a diagnosis regarding the cause of the abnormalities. A thorough physical examination is where any such diagnosis starts, although additional testing (such as blood tests, x-rays and ultrasonography) may be necessary to accurately diagnose certain conditions.

Physical examination is an essential part of the routine healthcare for any pet. A thorough physical exam explores all parts of your pet's body, from the nose all the way to its tail.

In addition to helping your veterinarian determine what is wrong with your pet when it is not feeling well, regular physical examinations may also help detect early signs of disease in pets which are still acting normally. Often, many painful conditions do not become obvious until they are in a seriously advanced stage. In this case, your veterinarian may be able to help you treat the problem before your pet begins to feel badly.

Physical examinations are important for pets of any age. However, as your pet starts to age, they become even more important. Your vet may even advise more frequent physical examinations for your pet as it ages. Our pets age much faster than we do, so regular physical examinations will help you and your vet to detect any abnormalities which may affect your pet's quality of life.

By finding these abnormalities early, it is often possible to make changes to your pet's routine activities, which eliminate or slow the progress of diseases such as heart failure, kidney failure, arthritic pain, dental disease and many more.

A physical exam is a complete hands-on assessment of your pet’s health status. Veterinarians are trained to detect disease by listening (auscultation), feeling (palpation) and looking (visual observation and evaluation). First, we weigh your pet and measure its temperature, heart rate and respiration rate. After taking these basic measurements, your pet is examined from head to tail, during which all vital organs along the way are gently palpated. Every body system is checked for disease.

During the physical exam, veterinarians assess the risks your pet has for contracting preventable diseases caused by internal parasites (heartworm and intestinal worms) and external parasites (fleas, lice, ticks and mites) and viruses. You will receive advice on how to prevent these disease-causing agents with medications and/or vaccinations.

As a pet owner, you are responsible for periodically performing a physical examination on your pet. Such a physical exam is not difficult to learn, and most vets would gladly show an owner how to do it and what to look for.

Here are step-by-step guidelines that I hope will help you understand more about physical examinations in pets and help to get you started:


As a pet owner, you should be able to examine the eyes for any abnormalities. Once an abnormality is found, your vet should further examine the eyes with an ophthalmoscope for cataracts, glaucoma, corneal injuries and retinal disease. Some retinal diseases indicate systemic problems such as high blood pressure and infections. Glaucoma screening may be recommended for some animals.


Your pet's ears should be examined to make certain they are healthy and that there is no evidence of infection, inflammation or other abnormalities such as polyps. Ear infections and parasites are quite common. Your vet can further examine the ears with an otoscope, an instrument used to see into the long and angled ear canal to the eardrum of dogs and cats.


The mouth is visually checked for lesions and abnormal growths, which could be tumours. Teeth are examined for tartar build-up, abscesses, fractures and missing teeth. Gums are felt for how moist or dry they are and checked for signs of gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) or ulcers. Gum colour should be examined, making sure they a normal pink colour and not pale (from anaemia), yellow (as a result of icterus, often due to liver failure) or cyanotic (as a result of breathing difficulty). The gums should also be gently pressed and observed for capillary refill time. Do not forget to observe for bad breath.


As a pet owner, you should learn to feel for your pet's pulse to check its pulse rate, to make sure it is not too fast or too slow and that there are no "missed" beats. You should also learn to check its respiratory rate. Find out from your vet what the normal range for the pulse and respiratory rate is for your pet. If you find anything amiss, your vet should be able to confirm this by auscultating the heart and lungs with a stethoscope and by rechecking its pulse rate. By using a stethoscope, your vet will be able to listen to your pet's heart and lung sounds, detect for heart murmurs, abnormal heart rhythms and abnormally harsh or abnormally quiet sounds in the lung fields.


You should be competent enough to palpate your pet's abdomen to make certain you cannot feel any abnormal masses within the abdomen. Any indication of pain during abdominal palpation is also abnormal. Your vet should be experienced enough to palpate the abdomen for anomalies of organ size and character, such as enlargement of the liver or spleen, changes in kidney size, bladder stones, tumours and intestine abnormalities.


The skin should be examined for hair loss, lesions, redness, lumps, bumps or abnormal growths. Observe closely for skin parasites and for signs of itching, scratching, biting or even a dull, flaky hair coat.


The externally-palpable lymph nodes are palpated for symmetry, tenderness and to make sure they are of the normal size and not swollen.


The nervous system is evaluated by observing your pet’s behaviour and testing for reflexes.


The external genitalia should be examined for abnormal discharge, colour, swelling or growths. Your vet should be able to further palpate the prostate gland for abnormal size and character.


Your pet's manner of standing and walking is observed for signs of lameness. Joints are palpated to detect tenderness and inflexibility that may indicate problems such as arthritis.