Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker



"Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go." It's that time of year, when we are all making the pilgrimage home for the holidays. For us, that recently involved a three-day road trip from California to Oklahoma, dogs in tow, of course.

It makes us part of a growing trend. According to the 2013-2014 National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association, 32 percent of dog owners take their pets with them in the car when they are traveling for at least two nights. That's up from not quite 25 percent in the APPA's 2011-2012 survey.

Whether we're going around the block or on a 2,694-mile odyssey, our dogs' safety is paramount. Harper and Gemma would prefer to ride in the footwell, and Keeper likes to look out the window, but their wishes are ignored.

Pets are unsafe when they ride loose in a vehicle. If your pet jumps into your lap or onto the steering wheel, he can cause you to have an accident. In the event of an accident, pets can go flying through the windshield or hit the driver or be ejected from the car into traffic.

They're also a serious distraction to the driver. A 2011 AAA/Kurgo survey of pet owners found that 29 percent of drivers are distracted by their dogs, and 65 percent say they engage in distracting activities such as petting the dog (52 percent), using their hands or arms to restrict the dog's movement (42 percent), or allowing the dog to sit on their lap while they drive (17 percent).

A whopping 84 percent of AAA/Kurgo respondents don't restrain their dogs on car trips. Their reasons?

-- My dog is calm (42 percent)

-- Never considered it (39 percent)

-- Just take dog on short trips (29 percent)

-- Want dog to be able to put head out window (12 percent)

-- Too complicated/too much trouble (7 percent)

-- Want dog to have fun in car (3 percent)

-- Want to be able to hold dog (3 percent)

But an unrestrained dog in a 30-mph collision is flung about with hundreds or even thousands of pounds of force. When he strikes a person or some part of the car, the result can be injury or even death. Veterinarians at emergency clinics have seen unrestrained dogs with broken backs after car accidents.

Dogs and cats are safer when they are restrained in the car, but no safety standards exist for testing pet safety harnesses or crates. A German automobile club called ADAC, similar to AAA, conducted crash tests using crates and harnesses and issued a report in 2008. The results showed that small crates are safest in the footwell behind the front seats. Large crates should be placed in the cargo area of a station wagon or SUV, facing crosswise to the direction of travel (how our dogs ride).

The organization recommends that harnesses have large belts with metal attachments, two tie-ins and a short, stable attachment system. The nonprofit Center for Pet Safety tested pet harnesses last year using the same safety standards used for child restraints and gave its highest rating to the Sleepypod Clickit Utility, a three-point safety harness with a broad padded vest.

Don't let your pet ride in the front seat. If he must -- because your only car is a two-seater, for instance -- be sure you disable the air bag when he's a passenger. The force with which it hits can seriously injure or even kill a pet.

Nothing can completely protect pets in the event of a car accident, but we can reduce their risk of injury by not letting them ride unrestrained.


Discharge and sneezing

can signal nasal disease

Q: My dog has been sneezing a lot and sometimes he has nosebleeds for no apparent reason. Does he have a cold or allergies? -- via Facebook

A: Even if he's not a sniffer dog, a canine's nose is his livelihood. Scent may well be a dog's strongest sense, so good nasal health is essential to his well-being. The signs that something is wrong with the nose can range from frequent sneezing or discharge to bloody noses (what we veterinarians call epistaxis) and seizures.

We see several common nasal diseases in dogs. They include rhinitis, an infection of the nasal cavity; sinusitis, an infection of the sinuses that may accompany rhinitis; and Aspergillus, a fungal infection.

Signs of rhinosinusitis are sneezing, a bloody or mucouslike nasal discharge, and coughing from postnasal drip. Abscessed teeth can sometimes lead to rhinitis and sinusitis, especially in older dogs.

Aspergillus is a fungus that invades the nasal cavity. We see it most commonly in young to middle-aged dogs with long or medium-length snouts. Dogs with Aspergillus infections may have a heavy nasal discharge that contains mucus, blood or pus. Their nostrils can lose color, and the face appears to be painful.

Older dogs often develop tumors in the nasal cavity. The tumors may cause sneezing or sniffling, a runny nose or bleeding from one nostril. Some tumors can even block airflow, making it difficult for the dog to breathe.

Dogs who have snuffled up a foreign object into the nose usually sneeze violently, paw at the nose, and sometimes have a thick or bloody nasal discharge. Nosebleeds, discharge and excessive sneezing aren't normal. Take your dog to the veterinarian at the first sign of irritation of that sensitive snout. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton

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New biomarker could

ID feline kidney disease

-- A new biomarker has been found to identify the onset of kidney disease in cats an average of 17 months earlier than current methods. When a test based on the biomarker is developed, veterinarians and pet owners may be able to identify the disease earlier and prolong cats' lives through diet and other therapies. The findings, by researchers at Oregon State University and other institutions and published in The Veterinary Journal, came from a controlled study of 32 healthy senior cats.

-- If you hit a dog, cat or other domestic animal with your car in Oregon, state law requires you to stop, try to help it and immediately report the injury to the owner or a police officer, according to an article by Monique Balas in The Oregonian. It's a good idea to know what your own state requires in this situation, as well as how to respond safely. If you can do so safely, Lt. Luke Schwartz of the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division recommends pulling over to the side of the road, activating your hazard lights and moving the animal to a safe location. Injured pets can bite or scratch, so take precautions when handling them.

-- Cats and humans have shared the same households for at least 9,000 years, but we know little about how our feline friends became domesticated. An analysis of the cat genome by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reveals some clues. Specific regions of the domestic cat genome differ from those of wild cats in behaviors such as memory, fear and reward-seeking, which are thought to be important in the domestication process. Other differences, such as special fat-metabolizing genes and an ability to hear in the ultrasonic range, help explain why cats eat mainly meat and why they're so good at tracking prey. -- Kim Campbell Thornton


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.


Caption 01: When it comes to safety, don't put your dog (or cat) in the driver's seat. Position: Main Story

Caption 02: Hallmarks of feline domestication include hair color, texture and patterns, such as the characteristic white paws of the Birman, which reveal that people likely bred the cats for this trait. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 3