Category Archives: Human-Animal Interaction

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Because nothing helps to influence people more than intimate knowledge of parasitic diseases. Fact. hydatid being removed from brain.


The Passing of Thistle–A Poem by Peter Davison


This is our first summer without a dog.
Fifteen years of disgraces in the night
(tattered screen doors, overtuned garbage pails,
unexpected puddles on the guestroom bed,
and other misbehaviors) have ended at last.
She had a way of posing in the landscape,
arranging herself against a screen of trees,
upon a lawn or on an outdoor deck
so as to bring out the hero in photographers
who could focus on the challenge of her darkness.
When on the move she carried less distinction:
a scottie, long in the barrel, short of leg,
she trotted country roads like city sidewalks,
so long as a glance behind her could confirm
the support of the authority that gave her hers.
Absent such authority, she panicked:
could be found, after a search, hysterically
galloping somewhere in the wrong direction
if we returned from shopping or the movies
through a region she had not known long enough to own.
On her home turf she brooked no trespassing,
at least by motorcycles, dogs, or horses,
though she’d roll over basely for human intruders.
The children who had grown up while she watched
were patient, watching her as age declined
from sleepiness to blindness, deafness and
incontinence. Before her last collapse
she lived her life entirely through the nose
and sense of touch. And as they watched her sleep
they saw their childhoods disappearing with her
and by so much ceased a little to be children.

I who had shared, in my two-legged way,
in what I could grasp of her doggy memories,
knew we had lived through all the same affections,
felt the same losses, searched through an empty house
for someone who would never be returning,
brooded on sights and voices that had vanished.
Perhaps she had a way of understanding
our loss that she could never share with me,
but now our past belongs to me alone,
now that she’s gone, and no one else remembers
the weekends that we spent in the house together
letting each other in and out of doors.

Copyright © 1989 by Peter Davison. All rights reserved. As published in The Poems of Peter Davison (Knopf, 1995). 

Originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, September 1989. 

Veterinary Medicine Once Again Profession with Highest Suicide Rate in UK

High-risk occupations for suicide.
Psychol Med. October 2012;0(0):1-10.
S E Roberts1; B Jaremin; K Lloyd
1College of Medicine, Swansea University, Swansea, UK.

Article Abstract

BACKGROUND: High occupational suicide rates are often linked to easy occupational access to a method of suicide. This study aimed to compare suicide rates across all occupations in Britain, how they have changed over the past 30 years, and how they may vary by occupational socio-economic group.

METHODS: We used national occupational mortality statistics, census-based occupational populations and death inquiry files (for the years 1979-1980, 1982-1983 and 2001-2005). The main outcome measures were suicide rates per 100 000 population, percentage changes over time in suicide rates, standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) and proportional mortality ratios (PMRs).

RESULTS: Several occupations with the highest suicide rates (per 100 000 population) during 1979-1980 and 1982-1983, including veterinarians (ranked first), pharmacists (fourth), dentists (sixth), doctors (tenth) and farmers (thirteenth), have easy occupational access to a method of suicide (pharmaceuticals or guns). By 2001-2005, there had been large significant reductions in suicide rates for each of these occupations, so that none ranked in the top 30 occupations. Occupations with significant increases over time in suicide rates were all manual occupations whereas occupations with suicide rates that decreased were mainly professional or non-manual. Variation in suicide rates that was explained by socio-economic group almost doubled over time from 11.4% in 1979-1980 and 1982-1983 to 20.7% in 2001-2005.

CONCLUSIONS: Socio-economic forces now seem to be a major determinant of high occupational suicide rates in Britain. As the increases in suicide rates among manual occupations occurred during a period of economic prosperity, carefully targeted suicide prevention initiatives could be beneficial.

Happy New Year! Barely anyone died of Avian Influenza last year,

Making it a good yeargoodyear



Date: Fri 28 Dec 2012

Source: The Poultry Site [edited]



According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there have been 32

cases of avian A(H5N1) influenza virus infection in humans so far this

year [2012], 20 of whom have died.

According to the latest figures, published by WHO on 17 Dec 2012, most

of the victims were in Egypt (11 cases; 5 deaths) but there were also

9 cases in Indonesia, 4 in Viet Nam, 3 in Bangladesh and Cambodia, and

2 in China.


Last year, 2011, there were 62 cases, of whom 34 died.


Since the emergence of H5N1 influenza in 2003, 610 people are reported

to have become infected, 360 of whom have died.


Still virulent after all these years

Still virulent after all these years

Euthanize Your Pet Now, and Avoid The Holiday Rush

May 8, 2012 - Source: John Moore/Getty Images North America

May 8, 2012 – Source: John Moore/Getty Images North America

Holidays in the Veterinary ER

Animal emergency clinics are tough places to work. There is a fair amount of suffering and dying that goes on in them. To be sure, the work can be very rewarding–a veterinarian can make a big positive difference in a short period of time at an emergency clinic.

Unfortunately, many times the animal arrives in extremis. The owners have brought in their pet either because it looks like it’s about to die, or they already know that it’s time for their friend to be eased out of this existence and into whatever comes next.

Alas, the worst time of the year in e-clinics seems to be Christmas. Inevitably, it seems, either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or Boxing Day, some family brings in a pathetic case that should have been euthanized at Thanksgiving if not at Halloween. However, they wanted to keep it alive, just until Christmas. One colleague recalls his worst Christmas,  euthanizing 10 in a single day.

We understand the motivation. Maybe the kids are coming home and want to see their childhood pet just one last time. Maybe the family wants just one last picture under the tree,  or maybe the idea of the holiday without the pet is too painful in a season where one is supposed to be happy, especially for those people who consider their pet their best friend.

What happens when trying to hold out for Christmas is that instead of the Happy Last Christmas for Fluffy we get the creation of a new annual holiday:  The Day We Had To Put Fluffy To Sleep.

Isn’t Christmas stressful enough already? I hear that it is, but if not, you can always save that euthanasia for near-darkest day of the year, while the Yule logs burn and the wassail flows.

The above picture is from a photoessay on at-home euthanasia. You can find it here at

My dog has Ehrlichiosis!! Anaplasmosis!! Lyme Disease!!

Or does it?

The American Dog Tick (only infects American dogs)

When I was a practicing vet, I saw how the medicine of fear works to beef up the wallets of practicing vets. As much as I like a meaty wallet, I found that hucksterism just isn’t my cup of suet. Am I being hyperbolic? Using too many high-cholesterol food metaphors? Probably. Also, working now in public health, I find that one of main jobs is to instill the proper amount of fear in the population at large.

What’s an appropriate amount of fear?

Why, what we in public health decide is appropriate!

Anyway, if you have a dog, or if you worry about the above vector-borne diseases, or if you have an interest in how medicine can be practiced when it’s just consumer and provider and no third-party payer, read my article from The Bark.

Public Poisoning of Dogs in Chile

I was a few miles above South America, flying on American Airlines flight 2110 (which was late, due to the airline’s inability to have the aircraft in proper working order before we left—local manager Claude Rains was shocked and had all of the usual suspects  rounded up and sent off), and pulled this letter to the editor from the Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio.

Why use man-hours when Strychnine can do the same work for a fraction of the cost?

Even with my Homer Simpson-like abilities in Spanish (“May I have a beer, please” is translated as “MAY I HAVE A CERVEZA, PLEASE”), I could tell that this article was about dealing with stray dogs with the abhorrent practice of poisoning by strychnine.

Strychnine is a potent neurological poison. Death from strychnine poisoning painful , prolonged (several hours), dramatic, and difficult to watch (don’t click if you are squeamish). The following description is from Wikipedia:

Ten to twenty minutes after exposure, the body’s muscles begin to spasm, starting with the head and neck. The spasms then spread to every muscle in the body, with nearly continuous convulsions, and get worse at the slightest stimulus. The convulsions progress, increasing in intensity and frequency until the backbone arches continually. Death comes from asphyxiation caused by paralysis of the neural pathways that control breathing, or by exhaustion from the convulsions. The subject will die within 2–3 hours after exposure. At the point of death, the body “freezes” immediately, even in the middle of a convulsion, resulting in instantaneous rigor mortis.

Of late, Chile has been considered one of the success stories of Latin America. Generally–but often mistakedly– we associate improved social conditions with better treatment of those less who are less able to protect themselves. Cruelty and callousness are contagious, and hard to eradicate. Strychnine poisoning is not the way to control the very serious problem of stray dogs and the diseases associated with them: rabies and serious injury from bites.