How To Solve The Pet Overpopulation Problem and End Unnecessary Animal Euthanasia

Currently over 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters in Canada and the United States every year. Euthanasia rates are approximately 60 percent of dogs, and 70 percent of cats, meaning over 4 million potentially healthy adoptable animals are euthanized each year. We have a pet overpopulation problem that is not going away, and animal shelters ( and their staff), should not be the ones who have to bear the brunt of irresponsible pet owners.

According the the American Pet Products Association (AAPA), 10 percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, while 78 percent of pet dogs and 88 percent of pet cats are spayed or neutered. In 7 years, one unspayed cat and her subsequent offspring can produce over 450,000 cats. That estimates come from an average litter of 3, twice a year. In 7 years, one dog and her offspring can produce over 4,000 dogs, with an average litter of 4, once a year.

The number of stray dogs and cats is staggering. According to the ASPCA, it is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States; estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million. From the organization, there are an estimated 600 million stray dogs in the world; thus the organization’s name.

So what can be done?

Dogs and Cats need to be spayed and neutered. Only 10 percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, while 78 percent of pet dogs and 88 percent of pet cats are spayed or neutered. The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for a year. Organizations such as SpayUSA , developed in 1993 have helped hundreds of thousands of people nationwide obtain low cost, quality spay/neuter services. SpayUSA provides referrals to over 1,500 low cost sterilization programs and clinics nationwide with 5,000 veterinarians in the network as of 2011.

Animal Sterilization. is an organization that proposes an animal sterilization pill to cut down on animal population, and in turn, reduce animal abuse and killings. The Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs wants to humanely control pet populations worldwide introducing methods to non surgically sterilize dogs and cats. Scientists have yet to develop a universally safe and effective non surgical sterilant, but ongoing research is promising.

Don’t buy animals from pet stores or puppy mills. Puppy mills are still thriving, fulfilling the consumer demand for inexpensive, and always available types of purebred dogs. The majority of puppies in pet stores ultimately come from puppy mills, and so long as pet owners keep purchasing these dogs, puppy mills keep pumping out puppies. I would encourage stricter government legislation, along with serious fines to help put an end to these unethical operations.

How To Solve The Pet Overpopulation Problem and End Unnecessary Animal Euthanasia

Feral cats are a large part of the cat overpopulation problem. The most effective way to reduce feral cat numbers is through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs. These cats are trapped, brought to a participating veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, and then returned to the area they were trapped in. These organizations need ongoing support, so please support them as they are doing wonderful work in helping decrease the incidence of unnecessary cat euthanasia.

Adopt your pets from a legitimate shelter or non profit rescue group. There are millions of dogs and cats in shelters now waiting to find a home. By adopting from a shelter you will help with pet overpopulation, and also then financially support the shelter to continue their work of rescuing, spaying or neutering, and adopting more animals. If you are focused on a specific breed, still consider a shelter as 30% of dogs are purebred. As well there are hundreds of pure bred rescue groups that you can contact.

Pet overpopulation is a staggering problem, resulting in over 4 million potentially healthy adoptable animals being euthanized each year in just Canada and the United States. More dogs and cats need to be spayed or neutered; all animals adopted from animal shelter should be mandatory altered. An animal sterilization pill, if developed, will make a huge dent in the worldwide pet overpopulation problem. The ongoing efforts of Trap Neuter and Return programs need continued support. Lastly, we as potential pet owners need to be adopting pets from animal shelters and rescue groups, not pet stores.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

I Worked at a Large Commercial Pet Store, And What they Do to Puppies Will Shock You

I worked at a pet store when I was in college. It was a family-owned franchise, and I will say they ran about as good a business as you can for a pet store. They visited each breeder they worked with, and adhered to very strict guidelines on how many litters (and how often) could come from a breeder, in an attempt to avoid puppy mills.

The owners turned away potential customers if they felt they weren’t the right fit, and truly seemed to care about the puppies’ futures after they left the store. It wasn’t unusual for us to stay all night if puppies were sick just to be able to tend to their needs. If a puppy fell asleep, we weren’t allowed to wake her up to show her to customers, because the owners understood that they were babies and they needed their sleep.

My experience there was so nice that when the time came for me to find another job, I once again sought out a job at a pet store.

Big mistake.

This one was part of a large commercial chain. Unlike the first store I worked at, where the puppies would come in healthy and our job was to keep them that way, these puppies started out by coming in sick and full of worms — and our job was to sell them before they died.

As soon as a “shipment” of puppies arrived, it was store protocol to deworm them and start them on antibiotics before they even saw a vet. We threw them on a scale and medicated them according to a little chart on the wall telling us what to give the puppy according to his weight.

The meds, which were stocked in bulk and came from who knows where, were very hard on the puppies’ tummies, so almost immediately they would have diarrhea. They were kept in metal grated cubicles that gave them cage sores, and now they were defecating in them and exposing open cage sores to more bacteria.

How did we counteract that infection? We gave the puppies more antibiotics.

With the puppies’ immune systems already worn down, upper respiratory viruses ran rampant throughout the store. Because the owner didn’t want to pay us overtime, we were instructed to put the dogs three and four at a time into the nebulizer unit (a plexiglass box that pumps in medicated vapors) to get their treatments done faster. This meant that several sick dogs with different viruses and infections would be crammed together in essentially an airtight container, breathing each other’s germs.

We spent so much time cleaning up dog poop and taking care of sick puppies that it didn’t leave a lot of time to get other things done. In an effort to cut down on the time we spent washing the glass water bottles in each puppy cubicle, we were instructed to put a tiny bit of bleach into each bottle so that they were self-cleaning.

When it came to making a puppy sale, we were encouraged to show the sick animals to the customers. If they were feverish and sleepy, “Well, this one is very docile and quiet, great for someone with young kids!”

Our manager spent nearly all of his working hours fielding phone calls from unhappy customers and trying to quiet the ones who would come in screaming about “the sick animal you sold me.” I personally watched the police remove several livid customers from the store — people who just wanted answers as to why they had been sold an animal who was so sick.

I lasted two weeks before the bosses mysteriously let me go. They never fired me; they just told me that they were overstaffed and would call when they had an open time slot.

I have to believe it was because I was the one who stayed late nebulizing the puppies one at a time. I was the one who turned a customer away from a feverish puppy. I was the one who refused to put bleach in the water bottles.

I wasn’t outright fired because I hadn’t done anything wrong; I had done everything right.

Unfortunately the puppy business doesn’t have time for people like me on their schedule; they have sales to make, whatever the cost.

Views on pet stores are to the animal world what discussions about abortion, gay rights, vaccinations, and war are to the rest of the world. There’s a pretty good chance we won’t ever all agree, and everyone will have a pretty strong opinion on why his or her view is the right one. Like I said, not all pet stores are bad. There are in fact a few great stores; you just have to look really hard to find them.

Here’s why you shouldn’t buy a dog from a pet store

The biggest problem with pet stores is that they cater to the instant gratification of wannabe pet owners. “Wake up and want a puppy? Great, come on in and you can have one immediately.”

Don’t do this, people! If you really want a puppy, chances are you will still want one in a couple of months, after you have had time to do a little research. Buying a puppy mill dog on a whim is only setting you up for a rough road ahead.

If you truly just decided that you need a puppy right this minute and have had no time or drive to plan this “purchase,” there is a good chance you haven’t had the time or planning to really think about all the work that owning a dog entails.

People also buy from pet stores because they want purebreds and don’t want to pay private breeder prices, but there is a reason they are cheaper in the pet store: You get what you pay for! It’s like buying a cheap knockoff purse. Sure, it looks great on the outside and can pass for what it’s supposed to be, but the quality sucks and it probably won’t last as long.

As sad as it is, these pet store animals don’t live as long as they should, and their lives are often riddled with the health problems that come along with bad breeding.

Another reason some people feel that it’s a good idea to buy from a pet store is because they believe they can select a breed with the qualities and temperament they want. I’m sorry to break it to you, but this falls under the same category as the knock-off purse. Sure, the dog looks like a Labrador, but let me tell you, his poor little puppy brains are probably so scrambled from years of being bred with his siblings that you would have better luck with a mutt from the shelter, because at least that dog doesn’t have an overlapping DNA strand.

This puppy mill Yorkie was photographed by USDA inspectors in 2011. The breeder refused to get treatment for the dog repeatedly.

But if you’re dead set on buying from a pet store [Editor’s Note: UGH, PLEASE NO!], here’s some advice

Do your research first. Look online to see how many complaints were filed against a store. Check out the Better Business Bureau site and see what their rating is. Go in and talk to the manager, ask detailed questions about their breeders.

Also, do not take the animal to the vet that the store tells you to take it to. The reason they wave the benefit of a “free vet exam” in your face when you buy the puppy is because they are contracted with that vet’s office (at least this was the experience at my store). The vet gets tons of new client business from the store, and they know you will be back when the animal keeps getting sick! And, in my opinion, some unscrupulous vets will even say initially that the pet is “fine and healthy” because they don’t want to lose their contract with the store. Call other vets in the area and see what their opinion is of the pet store — they will give you the most honest reviews of the pets they have treated who were purchased from there.

So that, my friends, is what really goes on in a pet store. You wouldn’t buy a car without doing a little research first, why would you buy an animal without doing the same? At least a car stays in your garage, whereas this purchase will be looking to you to take care of her — and maybe even sleeping in your bed. Don’t you want to know what you are sleeping next to?

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372


Mobdro for iPhone/iPad – Download Free Streaming App on iOS

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Mobdro for iOS

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Pet Pain; How to Tell if Your Pet is in Pain?

Pet pain, would you know? If you’re like most of my clients, you’d say,“Absolutely!” But studies show that pet owners — and even veterinarians — aren’t always good at detecting discomfort in dogs and cats. What’s more, my experience confirms it.

It’s true. Most of my clients seem to assume their pet’s outward calm (or, in some cases, their persistent exuberance) is a sure sign of painlessness. But we’ve learned this isn’t necessarily so.

Over the past couple of decades, veterinary medicine has made great strides in anesthesiaand pain control. In large part, this has come about as the result of the recognition that those who can’t communicate with us and don’t necessarily behave as we do may still be feeling the very same pain we do under similar circumstances.

Learning From Human Medicine

The most notable example of this oh-so-obvious leap in our understanding of other creatures came, surprisingly, from lessons learned in human medicine. Turns out that as recently as the mid-’80s we used to assume that human infants didn’t feel pain the same way we do.

Indeed, it was only when studies demonstrated an increase in survival rates among infants who received anesthesia and pain control during and after surgery that we came to understand the egregious consequences of our misperception: Our babies were literally dying of pain.

Since then, pain-scoring systems have been devised, modified and continually refined to help us better identify not just pain in infants, but also in pets. We’re not so different after all. In this, in particular, it seems we’re quite alike.

What Gets Lost in Translation

But there’s still the philosophical question to grapple with: While pets can’t verbalize when they’re in pain, they have other ways of showing it. But can we, with our human limitations and biases, ever correctly interpret what we see?

It’s true that we veterinarians have a tough job of determining how best to assess a patient’s pain, even with our fancy-schmancy scoring systems adapted from human pediatrics. After all, so much of it is subjective.

What’s more, all animals are given to hiding their pain and distress to some degree. This is an effective evolutionary adaptation designed to help them avoid predators when they’re sick or injured. Even our pets, divorced from their wild cousins though they’ve been, have never lost that natural skill, despite their many thousands of years of domestication.

That’s why cats are notorious for cloaking their pain in a cloud of quiet determination. Dogs, too, may silently slink into their beds and appear to slumber peacefully.

Despite these common adaptive abilities, how an animal responds to pain can differ significantly between catsand dogs, different breeds, individual pets or even the circumstances. Most veterinarians have witnessed adog with a pelvis shattered in half a dozen pieces get up and walk when the owner enters the room, despite X-rays that say he should be in too much pain to do so. And one look at a pet who’s running around just after having her uterus and ovaries scooped out should be enough to make you assume they can’t possibly feel pain the same way we do. Nonetheless, I’m here to tell you that regardless of how they may act, our pets do experience pain.

Their evolutionary advantage — combined with their desire to please their human family, their excitement in our immediate presence and their inability to communicate verbally — means our pets don’t display pain in ways we humans always recognize.

Watch for Obvious and Subtle Signs

As with any invisible issue, acceptance of the problem is the biggest hurdle. Already, veterinarians try to anticipate when a medical procedure may cause an animal pain and provide pre-emptive analgesia, so hopefully the pet doesn’t experience pain in the first place.

But unless a veterinarian or a pet owner recognizes the signs of pain as such, nothing can be done about it. This is the conundrum we confront daily in our profession, one every owner needs to be made aware of. And since pets often hide these signs when in the proximity of the veterinary white coat, we depend on you to tell us when you suspect something’s amiss, even when you’re not quite sure what it is.

Never a day goes by that I don’t advise an owner to think hard on the slowness, hunched back, unwillingness to jump and decreased appetite of their pet. “It’s probably an indication of discomfort, perhaps even severe pain,” I tell them, trying to impress on them the importance of these symptoms. While the limp and the painful cry may be obvious, it’s also important to watch for the more subtle signs: the loss of social interaction, the decrease (or increase) in grooming, the restless pacing, to name just a few.

And yet a surprising percentage of my clients will argue their dissent — vehemently in many cases — even when the possibility of pain clearly exists and cannot be definitively ruled out. “I would know” is their final rejoinder.

Would you?

Perhaps they do. Perhaps you would. But it’s nonetheless possible that our human-centric brains can’t always grasp what our pets’ animal bodies are telling us.

Pain is the one thing we all say we can’t abide in our pets. But it won’t go away just because we don’t see it or believe in it. It takes trust in medicine and an open mind to accept that they may feel what we feel — without all the wincing, complaining and whining that we humans tend to do.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372



10 Myths About Heartworm

Myth 1: Mosquito Season Occurs the Same Time Every Year

According to the American Heartworm Society’s latest survey of veterinarians, unseasonably mild winters combined with early springs bring the perfect conditions for an early start to mosquito season. With the unpredictability of the weather in recent years, no particular months or seasons are guaranteed to be mosquito-free.

Myth 2: Pets Aren’t at Risk During the Winter

Although mosquitoes, like other insects, tend to die off in very cold weather, warm periods with rain can occur during the winter — even in northern states. Also, mosquito seasons can vary depending on the area and according to how much water is present. Don’t take the risk; get your pet year-round protection.

Myth 3: Dry Places Don’t Have a Heartworm Problem

Even in places like Arizona, where the weather is very dry, conditions such as irrigation cycles and scenic ponds can harbor mosquitoes. In fact, according to the American Heartworm Society, heartworms have been found in all 50 states.

The Midwest is also prone to monsoons in the summer, when hot temperatures combined with humidity from incessant rain can create conditions similar to the south. The mosquito season may be shorter, but they still can be found.

Myth 4: Cats Can’t Get Heartworms

While heartworms primarily infect dogs, infestation can also occur in cats. Outdoor cats are especially at risk, especially where mosquitoes are in swarms, but cats that stay inside can still get bitten by a heartworm-carrying mosquito that gets into your house.

Myth 5: Heartworm Disease is Rarely Fatal

Fact: Heartworm disease is a serious, life-threatening illness that mandates preventive measures and aggressive treatment. If left unchecked and untreated, heartworms can multiply to 50 or even 100 in severe infections, and can block blood flow and oxygen availability. Your pet cannot live without adequate blood supply and oxygen to breathe.

Myth 6: It’s OK if My Pet Misses a Month of Heartworm Preventives

Actually, the American Heartworm Society says you should be concerned if your pet is on a monthly preventive cycle. They also advise that you consult a veterinarian and immediately start your dog back on heartworm preventive medication and retest in seven months. Why seven months? Heartworms must be approximately seven months old before the infection can be diagnosed.

Myth 7: Heartworms are Contagious

Fortunately, this is untrue. The only way your pet can get heartworms is if he is bitten by an infected mosquito. Although that same mosquito can go on to bite another pet, it couldn’t transmit the heartworm from one animal to another. The incubation period of the heartworm in the mosquito makes it a one-bite deal.

Myth 8: People Can Get Heartworms from their Pets

Again, the only way to get heartworms is to be bitten by an infected mosquito. The parasite only affects dogs, cats, ferrets, and other mammals. According to the American Heartworm Society, humans can be infected (by mosquitoes) in very rare cases, but the heartworm cannot complete its life cycle in humans and only causes a benign lesion in the lung.

Myth 9: There’s No Effective Natural Prevention

According to Dr. Gerald Wessner of the Holistic Veterinary Clinic in Summerfield, FL, holistic pet parents do have an alternative to traditional heartworm preventive drugs. He has documented success over an 8-year period using heartworm nosodes (a homeopathic vaccine) in conjunction with Paratox (a multi-remedy of homeopathics) and including diatomaceous earth in pets’ food.

Myth 10: Puppies and Kittens are Born with a Natural Heartworm Immunity

While mother cats and dogs pass some immunity through the colostrum in their milk, puppies and kittens are not immune to heartworms. In fact, experts recommend beginning prevention habits early. Consult with your veterinarian as to when your young pet may be ready to start on a heartworm preventive regimen.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372


Tips for Preventing Cancer in Cats

Cats are susceptible to many of the same diseases that can affect humans. Cancer is no exception. Cats can and do get cancer, albeit not as commonly as dogs and people. Unfortunately, in cats, cancer tends to be more aggressive.

Obviously, not all cases of cancer can be prevented. There is likely a genetic component involved that makes some cats more susceptible. However, there are some things that the average cat owner can do to help prevent cancer for many cats. Let’s talk about a few of those preventive measures.

Spaying/neutering is something that is recommended for all cats not used for breeding, for reasons of population control. However, for female cats, being spayed at a young age will significantly decrease the cat’s chances of developing mammary cancer, or breast tumors. Ideally, female cats should be spayed prior to the first heat cycle. Doing so will nearly eradicate the potential for breast cancer.

Feeding your cat a high quality diet is important for many reasons. Such as a diet will help maintain your cat’s health and will strengthen your cat’s immune system. There is evidence that fatty acids in the diet, such as EPA and DHA, may be helpful in both preventing cancer and in feeding cats that have cancer.

While a complete and balanced diet is essential, overfeeding should be avoided. Endocrinologists now recognize that fat is part of the endocrine system, secreting hormones and other substances that can have a number of undesirable effects on the body, including increasing inflammatory responses. Obesity may make your cat more prone to cancer of various types.

Secondhand smoke can affect your cat’s lungs and has been implicated as a potential contributing factor in cancer, just as it is in people. At a minimum, you should avoid smoking around your pet. Ideally, the risk to your pet (and the rest of your family) will provide the encouragement needed for pet owners that are smokers to stop smoking all together.

Use household and lawn chemicals with caution. Ideally, your cat will go outdoors only when supervised and will either be on a leash or in a catio. Either way, these cats can still be exposed to lawn chemicals if they are applied to the area your cat frequents. Avoid using pesticides and other known cancer-causing agents both on your lawn and in your home. Consult your veterinarian for help choosing an appropriate parasite prevention program for your cat, using medications that have a proven track record for safety and efficacy.

Viruses such as the feline leukemia virus and the feline immunodeficiency virus can be potential causes of cancer as well. Have your cat tested for these diseases. Testing is simple and easy, and requires only a few drops of blood.

Regular veterinary examinations are a requirement for all cats. Early detection and treatment of cancer provides more a better chance for a successful outcome if the worst happens and cancer is detected. The same is true for many of types of diseases as well.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372


Treating Chronic Pain in Dogs


I have a special interest in geriatric medicine. While roly-poly puppies always brighten up a veterinarian’s day, for me, nothing beats a gray muzzle smiling up at me. The most common condition I have to deal with in my older patients is chronic pain. When the source of that pain cannot be eliminated (think osteoarthritis in multiple joints or some types of cancer), effective pain relief can quite literally be a life-saver.

Because I treat pain so frequently, I have come up with a go-to combination of medications that I reach for unless the dog’s condition demands something different. Most chronic pain patients respond best to what is called “multi-modal” pain relief. In other words, by using several medications that have different mechanisms of action, we can achieve better pain control and reduce the incidence of side effects.

Most dogs that I treat for chronic pain receive some combination of the following:

A Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID)

  • Examples include carprofen, deracoxib, etodolac, firocoxib, and meloxicam.
  • NSAIDs work by blocking enzymes that promote the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.
  • Common side effects – decreased appetite
  • Occasional side effects – vomiting, diarrhea, dark or tarry stools, behavioral changes
  • Rare side effects – increased water intake, increased urination, pale or yellow gums or skin, incoordination, seizures
  • Should not be given to dogs who are not eating or have stomach ulcers, major kidney or liver dysfunction, known bleeding disorders, or previously not tolerated NSAIDs well. Stomach protectants, such as famotidine, can be used as a precaution in dogs who have sensitive stomachs.
  • Do not use in combination with prednisone or other NSAIDs. Ideally 4 to 7 days of “washout” time should be allowed between ending Prednisone or another NSAID and starting an NSAID.


  • Tramadol acts at the level of the brain, binding to opioid receptors and affecting the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters, which reduces the perception of pain.
  • Works best for chronic pain when combined with other pain relievers such as NSAIDS, gabapentin, and/or amantadine.
  • Generally well tolerated, but may cause sedation and/or incoordination. Tastes bitter, hide well in food. Pets may drool if they taste the medication.
  • Occasional to rare side effects include anxiety, agitation, tremor, poor appetite, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea.
  • Best to start with a low dose and increase as needed.


  • Gabapentin was developed as an antiseizure medication but is also useful in the treatment of chronic pain. It’s mechanism of action is not fully understood, but it is thought to decrease the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are associated with the sensation of pain.
  • Works best combined with other pain relievers such as NSAIDS, tramadol, and/or amantadine.
  • Generally well tolerated, but may cause sedation and/or incoordination.
  • Best to start with a low dose and increase as needed. Dogs with advanced arthritis and muscle atrophy may have more trouble with coordination, walking, and standing.


  • Amantadine was developed as an antiviral medication but also is useful in the treatment of chronic pain. It works by partially blocking a receptor within the central nervous system that is associated with pain pathways.
  • Works best combined with other pain relievers such as NSAIDS, gabapentin, and/or tramadol.
  • Generally well tolerated, but may cause gastrointestinal effects (diarrhea, gas) or some agitation, both of which tend to resolve as the pet adjusts to the medication.
  • Use with caution and decrease dose in patients with liver or kidney dysfunction, congestive heart failure, and seizure disorders.

All dogs will not benefit (or even tolerate) any or all of these drugs. But if your dog is in pain, it is certainly worth asking your veterinarian if more can be done to help him or her enjoy their golden years to the fullest extent possible.           Dr. Jeniifer Coates

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372