ANIMAL HEALTH

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1994:

No face-branding halt yet despite what mass media reported
July 7 media reports that the USDA would no longer require face-branding of steers import-
ed from Mexico were incorrect. Such an announcement was expected, but was apparently delayed by
the White House to get input on the rules change from the National Cattlemen’s Association. The
USDA did amend the import rules for Mexican heifers, who now must be given a local anesthetic
prior to spaying, and are rump-branded. The steers are branded to help inspectors backtrack cattle car-
rying bovine tuberculosis; the heifers are spayed to prevent the transmission of brucellosis.

Rabies update
Rabies panic and anxiety over puma
attacks were both stoked in northern
C a l i f o r n i a on August 16 when a rabid puma
jumped four campers near Dos Rios. Troy
Winslow, 50, of Eureka, lost his left thumb;
Kathleen Strehl, 50, was bitten on the arm; and a
pet collie was bitten on the face. Robin Winslow,
48, finally killed the puma with a kitchen knife .
Both rabies and related panic contin-
ue to spread in the east as well, 17 years after a
hunting club touched off the ongoing mid-Atlantic
raccoon rabies pandemic by releasing rabid rac-
coons from Florida in West Virginia, near the
Virginia border. Among the more publicized
recent incidents, a Virginia woman and four chil-
dren received post-exposure vaccinations in mid-
June after a dog they found two months earlier at
Chincoteague Bay proved rabid. In July, 12 resi-
dents of Litchfield County, Connecticut, required
post-exposure vaccination after adopting a rabid
kitten at a flea market. Since June 15, Vermont
owners of unvaccinated cats, dogs, ferrets, and
wolf hybrids have been subject to a fine of $500,
but town officials in Cabot sought stronger mea-
sures, urging residents to kill stray cats––prefer-
ably humanely––lest they get rabies.
Anxiety in the U.S. was heightened by
reports of outbreaks abroad. In Shanghai,
China, dog attacks increased 4.5 times in 1993
over 1992; nine people died of rabies. “We must
resolutely halt illegal dog-raising,” deputy mayor
Xie Lijuan said, “and slaughter hundreds of thou-
sands of unlicensed dogs on the spot.” A similar
campaign is underway in Beijing. China permits
keeping vaccinated dogs, but the vaccine is scarce
and expensive. The situation was grimmer still in
Rwanda, near the border of Zaire, where rabies
broke out among dogs whose families either died
or fled amid massacres, civil war, famine,
cholera, typhus, and dysentery. The rabies out-
break came just a month after the World Health
Organization announced that in 1995 it will begin
the first field trials of oral rabies vaccine for dogs
at selected sites in Tunesia, Turkey, and parts of
southern Africa. Like the oral raccoon rabies vac-
cine, the canine oral vaccine is adapted from the
fox rabies vaccine successfully used in Europe for
nearly 15 years. WHO earlier this year began a
coordinated effort to purge fox rabies from 10
European nations through use of the oral vaccine.
New York is to test the long-awaited
oral raccoon rabies vaccine this fall in Albany
and Rensslaer counties, comparing results with
the situation in nearby Columbia and Greene
counties, which will not receive the vaccine. Now
close to gaining final federal approval, the vaccine
has already passed trials in parts of Virginia,
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
Other zoonosis
Researchers from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention announced in
the July 20 edition of the Journal of the American
Medical Association the discovery of a new tick-
borne bacterial disease, granulocytic Ehrlich-
iosis, which has already contributed to the deaths
of three elderly former cancer patients among sev-
eral dozen known cases. Other cases have been
treated successfully with antibiotics.
The USDA is trying to halt the spread
of Lyme disease in Maryland and Texas by
inducing deer to eat corn that has been treated
with ivernectin, a systemic pesticide which kills
any ticks on their bodies. Rodents are the primary
hosts of the so-called deer tick, which is most
often implicated in Lyme disease, but deer are
believed to be most responsible for carrying the
ticks into new habitat.
A simple, inexpensive blood clot test
has proved 80% accurate in identifying Lyme
infections, according to researcher Paul Mitchell
of the Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield,
Wisconsin––a significant improvement over older
tests, which are no more than 50% accurate.
El Paso residents were warned July
2 7 to avoid picnic areas at Franklin Mountains
State Park, after a mouse infected with a deadly
hantavirus was trapped about 1,500 feet from one
of them. First identified in 1992, the hantavirus
has killed 44 of the 80 known human victims.
Veterinary practice
Among the record 500 scientific
papers presented to the 3,100 veterinarians at the
annual conference of the American Veterinary
Medical Association in San Francisco in early July
were reports on the use of Prozac to control obses-
sive-compulsive behavior in bored and confined
pets; the lack of health care given to the estimat-
ed 89 million pet fish in the U.S.; and obesity in
birds. Also attracting serious professional atten-
tion was a paper published in the July 1 edition of
the Journal of the AVMA, “An assessment of the
outcome of the alternative medical and surgical
laboratory program at Tufts University,” which
concluded that medically unnecessary surgeries
need not be part of teaching veterinary technique.
The July 1994 edition of The Cat
Fanciers’ Almanac extensively reviews the med-
ical aspects of early neutering. Request copies
from The Cat Fanciers’ Association, POB 1005,
Manasquan, NJ 08736-0805.
Pet health insurance industry data
confirms the skepticism ANIMAL PEOPLE
found toward pet health insurance in a national sur-
vey of pet owners, published in July/August. The
largest pet health insurance firm, Veterinary Pet
Insurance Inc., estimates that under one pet in 200
is covered. Interest is strongest in California,
where VPI believes one pet in 53 is covered. VPI
policies begin at $59 per year for maximum annual
benefits of up to $5,000. Most pet owners told
ANIMAL PEOPLE they would buy pet health
insurance only if it cost circa $40 per year. The
ANIMAL PEOPLE and VPI findings agree that
lack of coverage of routine neutering and vaccina-
tion tends to daunt many pet owners.
The two-year-old Animal Medical
Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, i s
Veterinary Economics’ 1994 veterinary hospital of
the year, beating out 43 other nominations.
The University of Pennsylvania veteri-
nary school, which narrowly survived a budget
crisis in 1993, took a costly hit on July 27 from a
tornado that destroyed five buildings and badly
damaged another.
Miscellany
Jean Cole, of Janesville, Wisconsin,
is back in court with her six-year-old shar-pei,
Hippo-Lips-Ride-Um-Cowboy, alleging that he
suffered arsenic poisoning by gnawing the pres-
sure-treated boards on her deck. In 1990 Cole and
the shar-pei––then living in Sonoma,
California––made tabloid headlines when a neigh-
bor sued them after the neighbor’s dog became
pregnant. A court-ordered DNA test cleared the
shar-pei of any involvement.
A USDA ban on the import of brush-
tailed opossums and hedgehogs from New
Zealand took effect on June 17. The animals are
said to pose a risk of transmitting bovine TB.
Australian pathologists seek the cause
of a mysterious brain disease that has blinded
numerous kangaroos––otherwise in excellent
health––in the Darling River area. The rash of
blindness cases began in early May.
Equine encephalitis killed 10 horses in
two weeks in southeastern Louisiana during July.
On August 14, in an apparently unrelated out-
break, mosquitoes carrying the rare disease, usu-
ally fatal to both humans and horses, were inter-
cepted in Suffolk County, New York.
Bull story
Gille Buidhe of Benmore, a 14-year-old Scottish Highland bull owned by
retired attorney Gordon Kohl of Georgeville, Quebec, won a permanent stay of execu
tion when Canadian Federal Court justice Max Teitelbaum ruled July 10 that a death
order from Agriculture Canada was “patently unreasonable.” Pressured by the
Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Ag Canada in January ordered the killing of all
cattle imported from Britain after 1982, to prevent the spread of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease. Kohl presented expert testimony
that there is no evidence to indicate mad cow disease has a long latent phase, nor any
evidence that Gille Buidhe ever ate the cattle meal made from sheep guts that is
believed to have transmitted a mutation of the scrapie virus from sheep to cattle to
introduce mad cow disease. After the verdict Ag Canada ordered that Gille Buidhe
remain in quarantine, where he has been since January. “He could die from foot-rot
if he’s forced to stay in those conditions,” Kohl raged. “He’s going to get sick and
he’s going to die there, and of course that’s just what they want, the sons of bitches.”
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