• Laser lights harmful to dogs
    June 01,2006
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    Just recently I went into a local pet store and saw a prominent display of laser lights as toys for dogs. IPods also has a laser beam dog toy called the iBeam. I volunteer for New England Springer Rescue Inc. (www.essrecue.org), and over the years we have had several dogs relinquished due to obsessions with lights that resulted in destructive behavior (both to property and to the dogs themselves). It turns out that this obsession started when their owners began playing with laser lights. I know there are a lot of good pet owners out there that may not be aware of the potential problems with these toys so I would like to share what some experts say about laser lights as toys for pets.

    Kathy Diamond, author of "Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others," said in a recent article in VeterinaryPartner.com, "Laser lights and flashlight games need special mention. Don't! These games commonly lead to obsessive behaviors. A laser light can also damage a dog's eyes. When an obsession with light-chasing becomes full-blown, the dog may require lifelong medication to control ceaseless searching for any beam of light or shadow to follow."

    In the Jack Russell Terrier Club's Forum section, a question on the use of laser beams or flashlights received the following response: "Very rarely can a terrier fully understand that the beam of light comes from a flashlight or laser light alone, and more often than not, they begin to think they see the light when their owner isn't even holding the mechanism that creates it. When this happens, the owner has succeeded in causing obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in their dog. Can you just imagine how confusing it is to a dog that something that attracts your sense of sight is so unexpected that you can't smell it, taste it, hear it, or otherwise sense it? The dog will begin chasing things around the house like the flash of car headlights coming through a window, or even the glint of light off a watch."

    Dr. Alice Moon-Fanelli is a behavior geneticist and consultant on companion animal behavior at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She recently told me, "It is well known in the academic behavior community that some dogs at risk for developing compulsive behavior can be triggered by laser lights to become compulsive light chasers."

    Please, if you need to exercise your dog, try to find a way to do it without using a flashlight or a laser beam. If you do choose to use them, you may find yourself calling up a rescue group to relinquish your loving family pet due to OCD. So think twice about purchasing one.

    SUE KOHNOWICH

    Bridgewater Corners
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