Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Farewell Comrade Sheba

February 25, 2013

The tracker dog that traced criminals in over 100 cases solving many recent crimes died recently – by Malaka Rodrigo

Kotakethana in Kahawatte could probably be considered the most mysterious crime scene in Sri Lanka -– the place where a number of innocent women have lost their lives. When the second double murder took place, the village reeled in shock and fear and investigators were hard pressed to find evidence as the criminals had burnt down the house where the crime occurred.

The Ratnapura police had one last trump card. They called in Sheba – their top tracker dog. Police investigators found the window where the criminals had forcefully entered the house and although it was burnt down, Sheba managed to pick up a scent. Vigorously sniffing the ground ignoring the villagers and policemen gathered at the scene, the dog started following the scent. Sheba’s handler, Police Constable Samantha Wanasuriya followed. A kilometre away Sheba entered a house and began barking. That was a breakthrough in the Kotakethana murders. The suspects were arrested.

A proud handler with Sheba

The Kahawatte investigations made Sheba famous. Sheba’s caretaker – PC Wanasuriya said Sheba had busted more than 100 cases successfully helping the police to trace criminals and follow up crucial leads.

In 2011, a family of four – father, mother, daughter and son were killed in Uda Walawe. The killers had been careful to enter the house removing their slippers, but had forgotten to wear it when they left. Sheba sniffed the dirty slippers and followed their scent to a spot near the road where they had parked the three-wheeler they came in. A SIM card of a phone had been dropped there and in it were photos and other contact details that led the Police to the suspects. The credit for unearthing the most valuable piece of evidence was Sheba’s.

In Nivithigala, a girl living with her grandmother was kidnapped. The kidnapper managed to take her some distance, but as she struggled, he let her go and ran off. But he had left his torch behind and that was all Sheba needed to trace him.

These were only three of the many cases Sheba helped in. But last week, after a brief illness, Sheba passed away. It was a great loss to the Police especially, Sheba’s handler PC Wanasundara.

A female German Shepherd, Sheba was born in 2004. PC Wanasundara became Sheba’s caretaker in 2008 and continued her training under the guidance of Police Kennel Headquarters. Sheba was considered an active member of the Police and was given the number 800.

“Sheba was very obedient and would follow any orders we gave,” PC Warnasuriya said, describing her as a gentle dog who would not usually get angry. But whenever the Police wanted to control a crowd, a simple order would have her barking furiously.

Sheba had a special enclosure at the Ratnapura Police Station. Her daily routine began with her morning exercise and training sessions. Another play session would follow around 3.30 in the evening with her meals being given around 4.30 p.m.

Director of the Police Kennel unit, Superintendent Sisira Weerakoon said Sheba was an outstanding tracker dog. “Selecting a dog for Police duties is done carefully. We conduct several tests and check on the dog’s pedigree. To select 100 dogs, I had to check 286 dogs,” he said. Sheba had showed her colours even as a pup. He said all the Police Dogs are given the same training, but their individual abilities and skills make some more successful like Sheba.

Superintendent Weerakoon pointed out that Sheba’s technique of sniffing too could assist her to trace human scent more accurately. Most of the dogs sniff the air but some dogs stick their noses to the ground and trace through “ground scent”. These “ground scenting” sniffers like Sheba are more successful said the expert on Police Dogs.
The Director of Police Kennels also praised handler PC Warnasuriya pointing out that dog and handler work as a team and his ability to direct Sheba helped solve a large number of cases.

Last week the Ratnapura Police said farewell to their trusted comrade. Sheba’s body wrapped in white cloth was placed in a coffin specially made for her and carried to the grave on the shoulders of the policemen. PC Warnasuriya bade a sad farewell to his best friend with a police salute-“Good-bye Comrade Sheba!.

Published in SundayTimes on 24.02.2013

Day of the Jackal

October 7, 2012

28th.september was the World Rabies Day. News reported that the elephants of Pinnawala Orphanage has been vaccinated against Rabies as it can transmit to elephants too. Hereby I’m re-posting my article done on 2007 covering news about a rabid Jackal and an elephant died of Rabies..!! (published on SundayTimes on 23.09.2007

Day of the Jackal

55,000 deaths occur worldwide annually – a death every 10 minutes

By Malaka Rodrigo

The village of ‘Ali Oluwa’ has been in the news since the Mavil Aru battle last year. Villagers frequently experience the terrors of war in this border village in Seruwila in the Eastern Province. On several occasions, artillery fire has forced them to evacuate to safer ground. This time though they face a new threat- a lone jackal lurking around the village.

File pic of jackal at Yala by Fonny Fonseka

A farmer was attacked on September 15 as he bent down to wash his mammoty in the canal near the village. He reports that the snarling animal attacked him from behind but he managed to chase it away with his mammoty, avoiding serious injury. Washing the wound, he went to the doctor, only then getting to know of this new threat to his village. Three other villagers had been attacked by the same jackal.

The animal looks like a rabid domesticated dog, but the bushy tail and the body colour confirms it as a jackal. It has since been sighted in different places, striking fear in local families. It is believed that the animal is infected with rabies and the delay in capturing it increases the possibility of a series of rabies cases. Jackal bites to other animals, especially domesticated animals, carry that danger.

This jackal was seen roaming in broad daylight. “We realized that the animal was off-colour, but we could not do much. We are not supposed to kill the animal, as it is illegal,” commented a villager. In Sri Lanka, the jackal is protected under the Flora and Fauna Act. Scientifically known as Canis aureu, it lives in both the wet and dry zones, preferring the edges of the jungle.

Being the only wild canine in Sri Lanka, the jackal is also a carrier of rabies. “During the dry season, jackals sometime raid villages in search of food. Poultry, young goats, small cattle are their main targets. This often results in conflict with the villagers and their dogs and helps the virus cross over from domesticated dogs to jackals and back,” commented the Regional Veterinary Surgeon for Seruwila, Dr. G. G. N. P. Seneviratne.

“Attacks by jackals have been reported from different parts of the island. There were cases of jackal attacks in places like Wathupitiwala, Galigamuwa (Kegalle), Bulathsinhala and even in Kaluaggala. Often the dogs confront their wild relatives and get themselves infected,” said Dr. P. A. L. Harischandra, Director of the Public Health Veterinary Services Unit.

Wild animals like jackals, mongoose, and bats sometimes can be live carriers, where they do not get infected, but can transfer the virus to a dog or a human through their saliva. So in case of an attack, it is always necessary to get treated for rabies, even though the animal has not showed signs of rabies, he advises.

Bats can possibly be another carrier of rabies. These flying mammals are threatening European and American countries that have successfully eradicated rabies from domesticated animals. Bats have sharp teeth and a simple bite may transfer the disease.

Dr. Vipula Yapa, who is conducting bat studies in Sri Lanka says he never allows untrained students to handle bats when they get caught in mist nests while doing research. Some of these flying mammals like Horseshoe bats are very aggressive and researchers are often bitten. Revealing an interesting fact, Dr. Vipula Yapa said that he and other researchers in his team are always vaccinated against rabies.

The virus causing rabies affects the brain and the first indications of developing rabies is usually a change in personality or behaviour. Once symptoms of the disease develop, rabies is fatal to both animals and humans.

There are two general types of rabies known as Dumb Rabies and Furious Rabies. A dog with dumb rabies usually has a dropped jaw with tongue hanging out and saliva dripping from its lips. This is caused by paralysis of the throat muscles. This animal can bite but is usually not vicious.

Furious rabies is an entirely different story. The symptoms include change in personality and may result in a change in the sound of the bark due to partial paralysis of the vocal cords.

The animal tries to hide in dark corners, closets or under beds and becomes highly excitable and restless. It starts to roam and may wander for miles, snapping and biting at anything that gets in its way. Usually in four to eight days paralysis develops and the animal dies.

Gentle giant not spared too
Even an elephant can be infected by rabies. Recently an 84-year-old female elephant owned by a temple was diagnosed with rabies. The elephant was brought for treatment with a complaint of tiredness and lethargy.

Veterinary surgeon Dr. D.S. Kodikara had been treating the elephant for many years but although known to the animal, the elephant kicked him without obeying orders as usual. Realizing that something was drastically wrong, Dr. Kodikara instructed the mahout to chain the elephant. By the next day the elephant was unsteady on its legs. This continued and a few days later, she became aggressive and restless. Dr. Kodikara suspected that the elephant may be infected with rabies. On the ninth day, she died.

An autopsy was conducted and brain smears were sent to the MRI in Colombo. After a thorough test, Dr. Omala Wimalaratne, the Head of the Rabies Diagnosis Unit of the MRI- confirmed rabies in the elephant. Tissue samples sent to the USA for further investigations confirmed this. The virus found in the elephant was the canine strain, indicating that the elephant had got rabies through a dog bite.

Three months later, another male elephant that was part of the same elephant squad showed the same symptoms. Dr. Kodikara was called in and the initial testing proved the second case of rabies in an elephant. It was the first live elephant that was treated for rabies. But it was too late and the second elephant was also died after a few days.

Dr. Omala Wimalaratne presented the case at a high profile WHO seminar. Now the WHO has issued a directive to vaccinate all elephants in captivity against rabies.


The main culprits: Domesticated, stray dogs
Though occasionally wild animals are the culprits, like in the case of Ali Oluwa, it is mostly the domesticated and stray dogs that spread Rabies. The culprits are dogs in 97% of these cases, cats 2% and 1% by other animals. Responsible pet ownership and controlling the stray dog population are the main preventive initiatives.

The government spends over Rs. 260 million to treat humans for rabies. Not all the dogs that bite people may have rabies, so those bitten may not need to follow the complete course of medicine. This will help to save the money spent on drugs unnecessarily.

The Head of the Department of Rabies Diagnosis Research-Medical Research Institute (MRI) Dr. Omala Wimalaratne urges the public to cooperate in this effort. By examining the brains of the dead animals, MRI issues a diagnosis within 24 hours. People can bring the heads of the deceased animals to MRI’s regional labs located in Kandy and Karapitiya or MRI’s main laboratory located in Danister de Silva Mw, Borella (opposite Lady Ridgeway Hospital).

Statistics show that 55,000 deaths due to rabies occur worldwide annually- a death every 10 minutes. It is estimated that there are over 2.5 million dogs in Sri Lanka (of which a large proportion is not vaccinated)and that over 2000 dog bites occur daily. During the first 7 months of this year 26 human deaths were recorded due to rabies according to Health Department statistics. During the last 8 months, 388 animals have tested positive for the deadly disease.

Realizing that ‘prevention is the best way to fight against Rabies’, the World Health Organization, co-sponsored the first World Rabies Day on September 8 which was held in Sri Lanka as well.

Salute to Snowy

April 26, 2012

Just came to know ‘Snowy’ – the Army Tracker Dog that has also been a war hero died recently. Herewith posting my article published on 04.05.2008 as a tribute to Snowy’s brave act and heartening loyalty his master…

Malaka Rodrigo reports on an Army dog’s courage on the battlefront

The place is Weli Oya and the date March 14. Terrorists are engaging with government troops and a soldier has been injured. Two Army units set out in search of the attackers, and an LTTE cadre is killed. The Army officers decide to enlist the support of their tracker dogs, and the next day Army dogs “Snowy” and “Bonny” are sent to the battlefront in the company of their handlers.

The dogs are given stray items of clothing left behind by the rebels. Snowy, a Golden Labrador, and his handler Lance-Corporal H. Sampath pick up the trail in a seemingly deserted spread of scrub jungle. Spotting someone hidden in the bushes, Snowy rushes forward. Sampath starts firing and the hidden rebel explodes a grenade, wounding both Sampath and dog. Seeing his master badly injured, Snowy goes again for the attacker, despite its profusely bleeding wounds.

Soon, help arrives in the shape of a helicopter with troop support. Lance-Corporal Sampath is airlifted and rushed to hospital. Meanwhile, Snowy’s condition is worsening. The weakened animal has difficulty breathing. Priyankara, the other handler on the scene, rushes Snowy to an animal clinic in the vicinity, in Parakramapura, but the vet is missing.

Snowy is then taken to Anuradhapura, where the animal receives basic medical treatment, and then rushed by ambulance to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at the University of Peradeniya, on the instructions of the teaching hospital’s Dr. Ashoka Dangolla.

By now, Snowy is very weak from loss of blood. Handler Priyankara has hooked the dog to a saline drip, on instructions from Army veterinary surgeon, Captain Sudheera Thalagala. It is 11pm when the ambulance arrives at the hospital. The waiting team of veterinary surgeons, led by Professor Indira Silva, moves swiftly into action. An X-ray reveals 11 pellets embedded in Snowy’s body. Some pellets have penetrated deep, coming close to vital organs such as the heart, but thankfully Snowy is out of serious danger. Meanwhile, the dog must have a blood transfusion, and a matching dog donor has to be found.

Over the next few days, in the expert hands of Prof. Silva’s team, Snowy’s condition starts to stabilise. A group of veterinary students keep vigil by Snowy’s side, checking the dog’s temperature hourly and talking to the animal. But Snowy looks depressed. Dogs are “one master” animals, and the dog’s thoughts are no doubt with its master, whom it had last seen lying badly wounded on the battlefield. The four-year-old Labrador has spent the greater part of its life with its handler, Lance-Corporal Sampath. Depression can slow the healing process, so the veterinary team decides to give Snowy a dose of anti-depressant.

Prof. Indira Silva attending on Snowy

Meanwhile, up in Anuradhapura, Lance-Corporal Sampath is undergoing treatment. Sampath’s Army colleagues have an idea. They decide to videotape Sampath sending his greetings and wishes for a speedy recovery to Snowy. The tape is made and dispatched to Peradeniya, so that Snowy can hear his master’s voice and see his face.

The master-dog reunion takes place a few days later. No sooner Lance-Corporal Sampath is back on his feet, he makes a trip to Peradeniya to see his beloved friend. Snowy is overjoyed to see his master, jumping up and down and running around. It is the first time he has wagged his tail since arriving at the veterinary faculty.

“The reunion was very, very moving,” Prof. Indira told The Sunday Times, after the team’s heroic week-long effort to bring Snowy back to health. “Credit for Snowy’s survival goes to the whole team,” she added. Snowy, now on the path to recovery, has been nominated for the Ranaviru Medal for bravery.

No kevum, no kokis for your pet on Avurudu

April 12, 2012
Diabetes is not confined to humans alone, so take care of your pets this Avurudu season – By Malaka Rodrigo
Like humans, dogs can get diabetes too. Many dogs develop an appetite for sweets, pleading a piece from their owner as they consume something sweet. So the Avurudu festive season is a period when they can develop diabetes or exacerbate it if the disease already exists warn veterinary surgeons.
Larger breeds of dogs are more susceptible to dog diabetes than smaller ones, say vets. Like humans, obese dogs, especially female dogs, have a higher risk o f developing diabetes.

“Dogs with diabetes need utmost care and support because it is a life-threatening disease. Diabetes can also lead to cataracts, making the dog blind, so it should be taken seriously,” says Dr. Jagath Jayasekara, a veterinary surgeon attached to the Zoological Gardens.

The problem aggravates especially because the dogs cannot communicate their sugary problem. This makes early diagnosis very crucial and dog owners should be vigilant and watch for signs that their dogs might be developing the disease. This Avurudu season could be a good time to pay attention to the behaviour of your dog – especially dogs that develop an appetite for sweets.

The symptoms of dog diabetes are very similar to the humans, says Dr. Jayasekara. The dogs would show signs of a great thirst. Diabetes also brings on frequent or excessive urination. Puppies often urinate in different places, even in the house but as they get older they learn to control this habit. However diabetes can lead to sudden house ‘accidents’. Your dog’s appetite also might change when it develops diabetes. They can develop a bigger appetite in the early stages of the disease and a loss of appetite later. There could also be sudden weight loss which warns you that the dog could be a diabetic patient.

‘Cloudy eyes’ too is another warning sign. If diabetes is left untreated, the ultimate result could be blindness due to the developing cataract in their eyes. Unfortunately most owners detect the situation only when the dog shows signs of blindness. So vets advise a regular checkup for the dogs that are more prone to diabetes.

The management of dog diabetes starts with a proper diet. There are fibre rich foods that your dog should eat in order to help this condition. On the other hand, there are certain foods that can possibly make your dog’s diabetes become worse. Sweets and bread are not good for them. When your dog is suffering from diabetes, regular visits to the vet are essential. You may also be required to start using prepared meals instead of giving your dog its regular food.

Certain medications may be required for dogs suffering from the worst cases of this disease. Insulin injections are very important because they can extend the life of your pet and allow it to live normally despite having diabetes.

So if you have a doubt that your dog too could be a diabetic patient, this Avurudu season could be the best for a checkup. Most importantly, diabetes or not, don’t be inclined to pass on those Avurudu sweetmeats to your pet.

Published on SundayTimes on 08.04.2012

Avurudu crackers and dealing with pets

April 16, 2010

Imagine a series of bombs exploding before you? Wouldn’t you be terrified? Luckily, we do not have to live in fear for bombs, but firecrackers which are lit in these festive times create a similar horrific atmosphere for our pet dogs who have very sensitive ears. To make the matter worse, firecrackers are also being lit for the elections and what with the frequent April storms with loud claps of thunder, animals can be easily traumatised.

“We’ve already got few dogs that developed a fear psychosis for firecrackers, whose behavioral patterns have changed. They’re not taking their food properly and are always trying to hide, giving the impression to the owner that they are sick,” the Head of the Veterinary Clinical Sciences Department of the Peradeniya Vet Faculty, Prof. Indira Silva told the Sunday Times. “The level of fear of loud noises varies from animal to animal, but those who have a fear psychosis need to be looked after carefully during this festival season,” the Prof. warns.

The frequencies that dogs can perceive and hear are almost twice that of humans and they can pick up and distinguish sounds at roughly four times the range of humans. For example a sound that you can hear at 20 metres, a dog can detect, pinpoint and interpret at 80 metres. So a loud noise for us would be almost unbearable for a dog. Prof. Indira also points out that the dogs are sensitive as well to the vibrations loud noises cause, so they may get startled as well as scared.

Your pet might even try to escape and find a place where it can hide from the loud noise. We often hear of dogs getting lost during this season or cats going missing for few days.

For some precautionary steps to help our canine companions see

What to do

* Create a safe place: Try to create a safe place for your dog to go to when it hears the noises that frighten it. But remember, this must be a safe location from its perspective, not yours.

* Distract your dog: Encourage it to engage in any activity that captures its attention. Try to interest the animal in doing something that it really enjoys. But if you cannot keep its attention and it begins acting afraid, stop. If you continue, you may inadvertently reinforce its fearful behaviour.

* Behaviour modification: Begin by exposing your pet to a level of noise (perhaps a recording of a loud explosion) that does not frighten it and pair this with something pleasant, like a treat or a fun game. Gradually increase the volume as you continue to offer your dog something pleasant.

* Consult your veterinarian: Medication may be available which can make your dog less anxious for short time periods in extreme cases.

What not to do

* Attempting to reassure your dog when it is afraid may reinforce its fearful behaviour. If you pet, soothe or give it treats when it is behaving fearfully, the dog may interpret this as a reward for such behaviour. Instead, try to behave normally, as if you do not notice its fearfulness.

* Do not punish your dog for being afraid. Punishment will only make it more afraid.

* Locking your dog in a kennel to prevent it from being destructive is not recommended. It will still be afraid and is likely to injure itself, perhaps even severely, while attempting to get out.

* Do not try to force your dog to experience or be close to the sound that frightens it.

Published on TimesOnline – web version of ST on 12.04. 2010

Take care of your dog in hot weather

March 28, 2010

Is the heat getting you down? If you’re hot and sweaty most of the time, spare a thought for your pets. They can be subject to deadly heat strokes, warn veterinarians – By Malaka Rodrigo

I once had a Pomeranian called Punkey that was cute and cuddlesome. But on one tragic day, it was left alone in the car for about five minutes with a half open window. When we came got back to the car, Punkey was panting vigorously. It drank all the water given to it, but still continued panting with its tongue out. Later that night it died. I did not realise the reason for the death could have been a ‘heat stroke’, until I started researching this article.

“Leaving a dog in a vehicle in hot weather can be fatal. A parked vehicle can get heated in no time and can bring on a heat stroke in your pet dog,” said Dr. Jagath Jayasekera, a veterinary surgeon of the National Zoological Gardens. Dogs do not sweat through their skin like humans and they release heat primarily by panting. If a dog cannot effectively expel heat with this act, its internal body temperature begins to rise. This can damage the animal’s internal organs, which can be a cause of death if not treated promptly.

Symptoms of heat stroke include excessive panting or difficulty in breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, a state of unconsciousness or even collapse. The situation can be dangerous if the dog gets a fit (seizure), bloody diarrhoea or vomits along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees indicating that internal organs are damaged. “If your pet shows these signs, the animal should be immediately taken to a veterinary surgeon,” advised Dr. Jayasekera.

It is said that the animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept in cool places as much as possible in these days where outside temperatures are very high.

The Sunday Times also spoke to a few dog owners to find out how they help their pets cope with the unbearable heat these days. “We do not chain our Great Dane. Whenever it is hot, our dog Bonzo comes near the fan,” Sankha Wanniatchi told us. He usually bathes his seven-year-old pet once a week, but does so more frequently these days to help it to cope with the heat. Vets advise that it’s best to bathe dogs in the morning around 10, when it is not too hot outside. Another mechanism is to have a water sprinkler near the kennel and activate it occasionally. The kennel should be moved to shady places and the roof can have a heat reflective roofing foil.

“We trim our dog’s fur during warmer periods of the year,” said Dulani – the owner of Duke, a mixed breed ( Japanese Spitz and Pomeranian). Dulani had received this advice from her veterinary surgeon a few years ago and has continued the practice. Duke apparently enjoys the shorter hair cut in warmer periods and is more active, Dulani says. She also has a cat that seeks out shady corners on these warmer days. “Perhaps, cats are less prone to stress in hot weather as they are more domestic and spend the day inside the house or have the ability to creep into a shady cooler place than dogs,” she said.

Dr. Jayasekera also warned that the parasite attacks can be on the rise as warm weather can cause an outbreak of ticks etc. Heat stress can also lower the immune system of animals and pets can be more vulnerable to diseases like fungi attacks and skin rashes during this period. Vitamins can be helpful for pets too – get your vet’s advice.

Stages of overheating

* Your dog will begin to “heave” as it pants
* Your dog will begin to “roar” – best described as sounding like severe asthma
* It will begin to look tired and distressed
* Its tongue will be very floppy and very red in colour
* Its body temperature will rise (normal temp approx 38.6oC)
* Its airway will swell and throat become full of white foam (caused through the excessive panting)
* It will quickly become exhausted and will fight for breath
* it could die

How to prevent ‘heat strokes’

* NEVER leave your dog alone in the car on a warm day, regardless of whether the windows are open.
Avoid vigorous exercise on warm days. When outside, opt for shady areas.
* Keep fresh cool water available at all times.
* Do not expose dogs with airway disease or impaired breathing to prolonged heat.
* Don’t confine dogs to concrete areas or keep them chained without shade in hot weather.
Confine a dog only in an open wire kennel.
* Provide shade and cool water to dogs living in outdoor shelters.
* Certain types of dogs are more sensitive to heat – especially obese dogs and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds. Use extreme caution when these dogs are exposed to heat.

First aid
* First, move your dog out of the heat and away from the sun right away.
* Begin cooling your dog by placing cool, wet rags or washcloths on the body – especially on the foot pads and around the head.
* DO NOT use ice or very cold water! Extreme cold can cause the blood vessels to constrict, preventing the body’s core from cooling and actually causing the internal temperature to further rise. In addition, over-cooling can cause hypothermia, introducing a host of new problems. When the body temperature reaches 103°, stop cooling.
* Offer your dog cool water, but do not force water into your dog’s mouth.
* Call or visit your vet right away – even if your dog seems better. Internal damage might not be obvious to the naked eye, so an examination is necessary (and further testing may be recommended).
* Put a cold damp towel under the dog for the journey to see vet
* Recruit others to help you – ask someone to call the vet while others help you cool your dog.

From &

published on SUndayTimes on 28.03.2010