March 2015
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Pet Circkles.

"I am in favor of animal rights as well as
human rights. That is the way of a
whole human being." ~ Abe Lincol

striped blister beetle black blister beetle

Blister Beetles in Hay Can Kill Horses.

By Redstone Promotional Communications /

Simply touching a blister beetle - either dead or alive - is enough to cause inflammation and blistering of a horse's skin within hours of contact, ingesting one in hay can be deadly within 72 hours.

Blister beetles are members of a family of plant-feeding insects (Meloidae) that contain cantharidin, a toxic defensive chemical that protects them from predators.  Accidentally crushing a beetle against the skin can result in a painful blister, the source of the insect’s common name.  Blister beetles have long (3/4 to 1-1/4 inch) narrow bodies, broad heads, and antennae that are about 1/3 the length of their entire bodies. The front wings are soft and flexible in contrast to the hard front wings of most beetles.

In sufficient quantity, the cantharidin in the bodies of living or dead blister beetles can be toxic, and in some cases lethal, to horses, sheep, and cattle, with horses being the most susceptible. The lethal dose is estimated to be between 0.5 and 1.0 mg of cantharidin per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight. Cantharidin is very stable and remains toxic in dead beetles for a long time. If whole or crushed parts of the beetles are ingested, they can cause irritation and hemorrhages in the stomach.

 Animals may be poisoned by eating crushed beetles in cured hay. The severity of the reaction, ranging from temporary poisoning, to reduced digestive ability, to death, depends upon the amount of cantharidin ingested and the size and health of the animal.  Poisoning symptoms usually appear within hours and include irritation and inflammation of the digestive and urinary tract, colic, and straining during frequent urination. This irritation may also result in secondary infection and bleeding. In addition, calcium levels in horses may be drastically lowered and heart muscle tissue can be damaged. Since animals can die within 72 hours, it is imperative to contact a veterinarian as soon as blister beetle poisoning is suspected.

Where Blister Beetles (And Possibly Contaminated Alfalfa Hay) Can Be Found.

There are over 200 species of blister beetles found in the central to southern United States. The only alfalfa hay that is free of blister beetles is from the extreme northern United States and Canada. Alfalfa hay from the southern and western U.S. is of the most concern, where particular species of blister beetles are present that contain high levels of cantharidin. Alfalfa hay from Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, in particular, is more often associated with incidence of blister beetle poisoning. This is due to the toxicity of blister beetles from these states and the large amount of alfalfa hay produced for horse feed and shipped from these states. In addition, midsummer alfalfa is more likely to contain dead blister beetles than first-cutting hay or late cuttings as the adult beetles are only active during the summer months. Early May and late September are the best harvest dates for buying alfalfa hay for horses. The process of mowing and crimping at the same time during harvest crushes and traps the beetles in the hay. Farms that use separate mowing and crimping procedures, or that use no crimping process are not likely to have a problem with blister beetle contamination.

ash gray blister beetleFour species of blister beetles are relatively common throughout the eastern and central states: ash gray (Epicauta fabricii), black (E. pennsylvanica), margined (E. pestifera), and striped (E. vittata). Female blister beetles lay clusters of eggs in the soil in late summer. The small, active larvae that hatch from these eggs crawl over the soil surface entering cracks in search for grasshopper egg pods which are deposited in the soil. After finding an egg mass, blister beetle larvae become immobile and spend the rest of their developmental time as legless grubs. They pupate during the following summer and emerge as adults. Blister beetle numbers increase dramatically following a dry summer with high grasshopper populations.

Reducing the Potential for Blister Beetles in Hay.

Tips For Hay Producers:

Tips For Horse Owners:

The adults feed on leaves in the tops of a plant but are especially attracted to flowers where they feed on nectar and pollen. They gather in groups, so large numbers can occur in concentrated clusters in a field. These beetles are mid to late summer insects, active in mid-July and early August which translates to the third or fourth cutting.

Female blister beetles lay clusters of eggs in the soil in late summer. The small, active larvae that hatch from these eggs crawl over the soil surface entering cracks in search for grasshopper egg pods which are deposited in the soil. After finding the egg mass, blister beetle larvae become immobile and spend the rest of their developmental time as legless grubs. The following summer they transform into the pupal stage and soon emerge in the adult stage. This is why blister beetle numbers increase dramatically following high grasshopper populations.

margin blister beetleSymptoms of Blister Beetle Poisoning:

There is no antidote for cantharidin poisoning, the focus is on reduction of cantharidin absorption by administration of activated charcoal followed by mineral oil, control of pain, administration of fluids and electrolytes to correct dehydration and promote kidney function, and removal of cantharidin. The prognosis of the horse depends on how much cantharidin was absorbed in to the bloodstream and how aggressively the horse is treated. If the horse survives 2 to 3 days past ingestion of the toxin, the chances for survival are more favorable.

Photos from top: Striped blister beetle, Black blister beetle, Ash gray blister beetle and Margined blister beetle.


Scrappy's Story.

By Redstone Promotional Communications /

I had a ferret rescue for a little over twelve years whereby I took in the ferrets that the other rescues felt could not be adopted out for either health or behavior reasons. In other words, they weren't adoptable and so would be in a rescue for life. Most of the ferrets I acquired were just plain ssurrendered because they were no longer wanted. People often make the mistake of buying them for their kids or don't realize how high maintenance ferrets are.

Scrappy was a female sable kit that came to live in my rescue from a pet store that was going out of business. She was one of the most intelligent ferrets I ever had, and was nominated by the other ferrets in my clan to be the matriarch (or she nominated herself.) I named her Scrappy because she was a little scrapper that wouldn't take gaff from anybody. She was one of my favorites and was very attached to me and I her; always climbing up to my shoulder when I was around and sticking her tongue in my ear. I later learned this was some form of identification for ferrets or grooming practice. Or maybe, being the matriarch of the ferret clan, and thus the self-proclaimed caretaker of all, she thought my ears just weren't clean enough to her standards.

Things with Scrappy were pretty par for the course for my rescue ferrets. She had her stash, like all the ferrets, of socks she stole out of the laundry, squeaky toys, and anything else she could drag away.
A couple years before I got Scrappy, I adopted a male Silver Mitt ferret I named Pretty Boy Floyd because he was such a bully with the other ferrets: a real gangster type. Pretty Boy developed the typical Ferret Tumor Syndrome by the time he was 3 years old. I was extremely distraught over the whole thing as this was the first experience I had with ferret tumor syndrome at the time, nothing was known about the cause of the condition. I was told by my vet that the local university, Colorado State University, was doing a study on ferret tumor syndrome and that maybe I should talk to them. I did, and when they found out I owned and operated a ferret rescue, they asked me to participate in their study. Since Pretty Boy had developed tumors, I gave CSU permission to use him in their study. He went through 7 different surgeries to remove the tumors. In hindsight, knowing what I know now about the whole ferret tumor condition, I would never subject an animal to that again. But at the time, I really thought I was doing the study a favor and ferrets everywhere. In essence, he turned out to be a guinea pig for their experiments. I know studies need subjects to participate, and without them, medical progress cannot be made, but it was heartbreaking to have him go through all that pain and suffering so they could learn more about his condition and in the end it didn't help him at all.

After all the surgeries, CSU told me I could bring Pretty Boy home. He had been living in a double decker cage with Scrappy and Elvira - a cinnamon female ferret that was the oldest of the clan after her buddy Rikki died. their sleeping quarters were on the top level of the cage and their litter box and food was on the floor of the cage. This helped a great deal to keep their blankets and sleeping area clean.
Scrappy had never liked Pretty Boy much, and would hiss at him every time he came near her. She would not play with him or have anything to do with him. It was obvious she didn't like him and didn't want him around, however, she didn't seem to be downright rude to him when they were sleeping together in the cage.

After his ordeal at CSU, Pretty Boy was very weak and tired when I brought him home, and he had a big, 3 inch incision on his stomach from all the surgeries. I was hopeful that once he rested however, he would eventually heal and be fine. I put him in the top of their double decker cage on top of his blankets. He just laid there and didn't move but tried to sleep, the poor guy had been through hell. I sat on the floor and just watched him for a while to make sure he was comfortable and settling in, and that's when I witnessed the most incredible animal act I have ever seen.

Scrappy had been outside their cage, I usually left the cage door open when I was home so they could come and go as they pleased. The only time they were ever confined to their cage is if I wasn't home; for their own safety and so nobody would enter the house and accidentally let them outside.

She had been hanging around me for about 5 minutes while I was sitting on the floor watching Pretty Boy, then I saw her go into the cage and up to where Pretty Boy was trying to sleep. I thought the fact that she even went near him a bit remarkable itself since she never liked having him near her. She kind of sniffed him a little, then came downstairs to the bottom level of the cage, scooped up some ferret food in her mouth, took it up to Pretty Boy and laid it on the blanket next to his nose. I was astounded. She had always hated him, hissed at him, didn't want him around her, and now was taking food to him? I was so incredibly touched that I actually cried at witnessing this endearing act of kindness from one animal to another.

The rest of the ferrets seemed to care less about Pretty Boy after he came home. They just went about their business as usual. Scrappy, being the matriarch, seemed to take it upon herself to be the caretaker of all the members of ferret clan, but I had never witnessed her take such a direct caring role before. It still, to this day, touches me when I think about what I saw her do that day, and I have never seen such an act of caring from one animal to another again with any of my animals -dogs, horses etc.- that was not a mother taking care of a baby.

About a week later, Pretty Boy developed lesions all over his body. I rushed him to a ferret specialist 50 miles away who said there was nothing he could do and Pretty Boy was put to sleep that afternoon. I was crushed and determined that I was going to learn everything I could about ferret tumor syndrome for the rest of my ferrets.

Scrappy developed tumors herself about 3 years later when she was about 5 1/2 years old. I didn't have the heart to make her go through everything Pretty Boy went through when I now knew it would be a great deal of pain and torture to no avail. So I had her peacefully put to sleep when the time seemed right rather than have her suffer.
There is no cure or surgery for the 90% risk of tumors that ferrets experience. We have just recently finally learned through new studies that the extremely high incidence of tumors in ferrets is because they should never have been domesticated. See an article we did a couple years ago on this new discovery if you are interested.

My heart had been broken too many times by watching my ferrets develop tumors when they were only middle-aged and dying from complications due to them. I eventually quit my ferret rescue and got into rescuing other animals, but ferrets will always hold a special place in my heart. They say everybody has a "spirit animal" that they feel most attracted or connected to. I believe mine is and always will be ferrets. Now days, I use my experiences and knowledge I gained from my rescue ferrets to educate others and I went on to learn and participate in a great deal of research regarding ferret tumor syndrome which I educate the public with whenever possible.

I later immortalized my dear Scrappy by using her in several designs I created as a graphic designer for greeting cards and posters that I sell to raise funds for ferret rescues. The image at the top of this article of her after she had climbed into a Christmas stocking is one of them. I will never forget, and it often brings a tear to my eye, to think of this generous, caring little scrapper who cared for everyone she knew; whether she liked them or not. The Mother Theresa of ferrets.

© 2015 Redstone Promotional Communications/ All rights reserved to images and articles.

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About Pet Circkles:

Allen M. Shoen, a veterinarian and author of "Kindred Spirit" wrote, "Although science has no definite answers, why not assume that sharing a home with a dog, cat or bird - or sharing our lives with a horse or other large animal - has therapeutic benefits that are deeper than simple stimulation of the opiate receptors in the skin through touch? Perhaps, through our connection with animals, we are stimulating some deeply buried aspect of nature within us, rekindling a lost connection that allows us to be more than solitary creatures, but part of something greater - and therefor, more healthy, more whole."

Much scientific and psychological research has proven just that. And also that the human animal bond is mutually beneficial under humane circumstances. Many great philosophers, such as Albert Einstein, recognized that we have a great deal of useful information to learn from animals.
In fact, animals are the great teachers, not us, for they have roamed the earth far longer than we and express genuine thought and expression true to their nature, which we do not. We have a great deal to learn from them. Pet Circkles helps us stay more in touch with their health, diet and social needs so we can give back to those who give us so much unconditionally.

Pet Circkles BACK ISSUES: You can find back issues of Pet Circkles by clicking this link or do a search by topic using the Google Search above.

budgie birds pair

Natural Pet Remedies: Cataracts and overall poor health in exotic birds.

There are several causes either vitamins or metal poisoning. The bird may suffer from a vitamin B deficiency which relates to mostly pantothenic acid, inositol or choline barbitrate. If the skin is a problem that resulted in lost of feathers it might be niaicinamide. Usually bird seeds are quite nutritious, but exception does occur if the seed has been heated to a high temperature or over-processed such that all vitamins are destroyed.

It is noted that the drinking container should be plastic and non metallic. The birds find metals quite toxic to their system. Certain birds might be sensitive to a vitamin deficiency differently so this may explain why one is okay and another is not. The other possibility is that one of the birds have been chewing on the cage and it is high in toxic metals. So the best way to deal with it is to let the bird stay in a cage free from metals and certain lead based or metal based paints.


bull terriers

Featured Monthly DOG BREED: Characteristics and Concerns. (We will get to cat breeds later.)

Bull Terrier.

Early in the mid-19th century the "Bull and Terrier" breeds were developed to satisfy the needs for vermin control and animal-based blood sports. The "Bull and Terriers" were based on the Old English Bulldog and one or more of Old English Terrier (now extinct) and "Black and tan terrier", now known as Manchester Terrier. This new breed combined the speed and dexterity of lightly built terriers with the dour tenacity of the Bulldog, which was a poor performer in most combat situations, having been bred almost exclusively for fighting bulls and bears tied to a post. Many breeders began to breed bulldogs with terriers, arguing that such a mixture enhances the quality of fighting. Despite the fact that a cross between a bulldog and a terrier was of high value, very little or nothing was done to preserve the breed in its original form. Due to the lack of breed standards—breeding was for performance, not appearance—the "Bull and Terrier" eventually divided into the ancestors of "Bull Terriers" and "Staffordshire Bull Terriers", both smaller and easier to handle than the progenitor

Spuds McKenzie is no doubt the most famous Bull Terrier ever. He was the star of several Budweiser commercials in the 80s. Bull Terriers can be both independent and stubborn and for this reason are not considered suitable for an inexperienced dog owner. They are protective of their family, although comprehensive socialization when they are puppies will prevent them from becoming over-protective and neurotic.

They have a strong prey instinct and when unduly challenged may injure or kill other animals, especially cats. However, puppies brought up with cats and other animals get on well with the animals they know. Early socialization will ensure that the dogs will get along with other dogs and animals.

Health Concerns: All puppies should be checked for deafness, which occurs in 20% of pure white dogs and 1.3% of dogs and is difficult to notice, especially in a relatively young puppy. Many Bull Terriers have a tendency to develop skin allergies. Insect bites, such as those from fleas, and sometimes mosquitoes and mites, can produce a generalized allergic response of hives, rash, and itching. This problem can be stopped by keeping the dog free of contact from these insects, but this is definitely a consideration in climates or circumstances where exposure to these insects is inevitable.

Weight: Male 22–38 kg (50–85 lbs)
Height: Male 45–55 cm (18–22 in)
Coat: Short, dense
Color: white,brindle and white,fawn,and black and white

Life span: A UK breed survey puts their median lifespan at 10 years and their mean at 9 years with a good number of dogs living to 10–15 years.

Looking for a Bull Terrier? Use our Pet finder tool below and search for an adoptable dog that needs a home in your area now.

To view breeds we've already written about, search our archives in the Google Search at the top of this column.

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Featured Animal Rescue of the Month:

Ferret Dreams Rescue & Adoption, Denver Colorado

ferret dreams organizationFerret Dreams Rescue & Adoption is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Denver, CO. We rescue sick, abused and abandoned, neglected or surrendered ferrets in Colorado and surrounding states. We are a no-kill rescue, dedicated to serving the needs of the domestic ferret regardless of age or health. 

We have rescued more than 800 ferrets since 2005.

Donations to Ferret Dreams pay for medical treatment for our permanent residents, those on medical hold, and those adopted out with pre-existing conditions. In 2013, medical fund expenses were $25,612.20 for exams, medications and surgeriesIn 2012, medical fund expenses were $26,486.67.  We were able to provide this care only because of support from generous donors. Learn more about how you can help us help ferrets.





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