Browsing Category

Dog Health

Dog Health, health testing

There’s a difference between health and health testing

.

Do you have a happy family?

Well, I see this photo of you – you’re all smiling, aren’t you? That must mean you’re a happy family.

In fact, you look so happy in this picture that I am going to come to you guys for marriage advice and for counseling on how to raise my kids.

What do you mean that’s not a good idea – did you see this picture? You guys are practically bursting with love and joy!

.

That is, unfortunately, the attitude that a lot of owners have about health testing. If everyone’s smiling – if every test is passed – this must be a healthy dog from a healthy breed from a breeder concerned with health. If you don’t see that snapshot, this is not a healthy dog from a healthy breed and a good breeder.

.

If you are thinking about bringing a dog into your family and are trying to decide on a breed and find “responsible breeders” within that breed, you need to realize that the situation is much more complex than that. Health testing does not mean the breed as a whole is healthy. Lack of health testing does not mean that the breed is in bad shape or that breeders are irresponsible.

.

There are some health problems that really can be diagnosed and prevented by the kind of picture a typical health test creates. All health testing captures only a single moment in time. If it’s a condition that either exists or doesn’t exist, and is basically unchanging, that kind of moment-in-time picture is really useful. Using the example of the family snapshot above, that photo would probably accurately tell you if everybody had two arms. For conditions that are prone to change, are heavily influenced by environment, or develop over a lifetime, a moment-in-time picture is far less useful. Your family snapshot is NOT very likely to tell you how much the dad will be able to bench-press six months from now. It might give you hints in that direction, but the only truly reliable information is to go see him in six months and make him pick something up.

.

Here’s what you, as a buyer, should know:

– Health testing looks at a very, very small number of issues compared to the number of things that can hurt, sicken, or kill your dog.

– The available health tests are actually quite unlikely to be focused on the main issues of the breed.

– Health testing in many of the “big name” issues has a shockingly small influence on the incidence of those problems. Hip dysplasia is staying at a very steady rate despite decades of rigorous and even enforced testing. We used to think that we could avoid thyroid disease by not breeding affected dogs, but now we’re seeing a much more complex picture that’s not nearly so encouraging.

– The breeds in the worst shape, longevity-wise, tend to be the ones most heavily tested and vice versa. If you, as a breeder, are constantly fighting tons of health issues, you tend to focus on health testing. If, on the other hand, your dogs tend to be hard to kill no matter what’s thrown at them, you don’t. Look at the breeds with the most testing in the OFA database for hips, elbows, and heart – Goldens, Labs, Shepherds, Rotties, Poodles. Poodles also make the top ranks for thyroid. Danes are extremely high in thyroid and cardiac testing. Asking the breeders in the room now, are those breeds in good shape? Do they have a lot of longevity? Would you recommend them as a good risk for a pet owner who wants minimal health issues?

– A snapshot in time doesn’t equal a life free from the problem. Fortunately most breeders realize this, but the pet-buying public usually doesn’t. The fact that your dog’s father had a good thyroid test the year he produced your puppy doesn’t mean that he always will, or that he won’t go into an autoimmune thyroid crisis, or that he won’t die of thyroid disease, or indeed that he will not someday be implicated as the popular sire who so consistently destroys thyroid health that he ruined half a breed.

– Tests tend to focus attention. Don’t be distracted; there is almost always a completely different list of things that are actually far more problematic in the breed under consideration.

.

If you are a buyer and you are looking at a test, wondering if it is something you should cross breeders off your list for, here are some questions to ask your breeder that may help you determine how much weight to put on it:

.

1) How accurately does the test diagnose whether the condition is going to affect the dog? Does a good result mean lifelong safety? Does a bad result mean the dog is definitely going to get the condition?

2) How much influence does the disease have on the breed? (How common is it? Following the example of the family picture, is “not having two arms” a big problem in the breed? How much does having the condition affect the everyday life of the dogs?)

3) Does breeding based on the test change the incidence of the issue? (How “heritable” are good or bad results?)

4) Is there good research linking the test to the specific breed you’re looking at? (For example, as I talked about in a prior post, UPenn’s done some really good research on their method of hip testing and certain breeds, but has not done research on it in many others.)

.

If the answers are “Very well, a lot, a lot (ideally 100%), and yes,” then this is a “must” test within that breed community. As an ethical breeder I’d be making a terrible decision if I didn’t run it and didn’t follow its recommendations. As an owner, you’d better be very serious about only buying from a breeder who runs it.

If the answers are (and let’s choose an actual one – let’s do thyroid testing in Cardigans), “Not very well, unknown (as far as we know it has very little effect on everyday life in this breed), unknown but suspected to be quite low, and yes,” then you have a situation where I’d be very hard-pressed to get mad at a breeder who wasn’t running it.

If you end up with a “must” test for your chosen breed, you have to remember that EVEN THEN, it is only a test for that one particular thing. You STILL need to ask the breeder questions about the breed’s average longevity, the biggest health problems in the breed, the breeder’s own experience with those issues, and whether the breeder is seeing average, below average, or above average longevity for her dogs. What she answers, and HOW she answers (whether you get the impression that she’s really got a handle on the breed and understands the issues and is willing to be truthful with you about them) are actually going to tell you a heck of a lot more about whether that breeder is concerned about health than whether she tests.

.

Dog Health, health testing, hip dysplasia

“Hip dysplasia susceptibility in dogs may be underreported” – PennVet study

This link is going to be big news over the next few days. The headline says OH MY GOSH WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE.

Here’s the abstract of the actual study, by the way.

.

Here’s what the real story is:

As you should know, UPenn tests hips according to how far out of the socket they will move when the dog is in different positions. This result, called the “distraction index,” is expressed as a percentage of the hip itself. If the hip moves 30% of its own diameter, the DI is 0.3. If it moves 60%, the DI is 0.6. And so on.

DI correlates to the chances of the dog developing osteoarthritis of the hip joint later in life. The lower the DI, the lower the chance of developing osteoarthritis.

UPenn has determined that a DI lower than .3 is associated with virtually zero arthritis.

OK, that’s the backstory.

.

What this study did was quite simple: It compared OFA ratings and DI scores on about 400 dogs.

It found that a huge number of dogs who had Good and Fair ratings had DI scores over 0.3.

That’s it.

.

Joanna’s editorials:

– This is NOT new news. Every study that’s ever been done to compare OFA and PennHIP scores shows that they don’t correlate very well, because they’re looking at COMPLETELY DIFFERENT things.

– You are seeing the outworkings of a longstanding feud between the two camps – expect to see some kind of answering research from OFA.

– The headline of the study makes it sound like OFA is some kind of crashing disaster, and all OFA results are invalidated or something. That’s actually not what the study showed. It set an extraordinarily high cutoff – 0.3 – and considered a “failure to predict” anything that OFA passed that turned out to have a DI higher than that number.

– Numbers above 0.3, in real life, don’t automatically get arthritis. IN THE FOUR BREEDS STUDIED (and this is critical), which are Labs and Goldens and Shepherds and Rotties, the risk of arthritis is around zero for 0.3 and rise to close to 100% for a DI of 1.0 (obviously, since that indicates a hip that comes completely out of its own socket). A dog with a DI of, say, .33 is listed as a “failure to predict” in this study, but UPenn’s own numbers would give it only a very, very small chance of developing arthritis (and, critically, in all of those four breeds a .33 would be a “do breed this dog” result).

– This study looked at UPenn’s four target breeds. The extent to which this study applies to you as a breeder honestly depends on how closely your breed resembles one of these four. UPenn does not have (repeat: DOES NOT HAVE) any published data reliably linking distraction index scores and arthritis risk for any other breeds. The extent to which, say, a bulldog’s DI influences arthritis is not known.

– Once you get out of the sighthounds and the very leggy dogs, you’re not going to find very many scores smaller than 0.3 regardless of breed. This actual study showed an average DI across all breeds of .435 +/- .14. In other words, not only did the average dog fail this “predictive” score, the sizeable majority of the entire study failed.

– According to this study, every single Cardigan on earth would “fail,” because our mean DI is higher than 0.6. We’re in absolutely hideous shape, according to UPenn.

This study wasn’t really designed for breeders, except to imply that nobody should use OFA and everybody should use PennHIP. If the 0.3 cut-off was used to actually drop dogs from breeding programs, we’d be wiping out a good hundred breeds and decimating most of the rest.

.

For a fantastic look at what average DIs are across breeds, look at http://www.marshfieldkennel.com/PennHIP.html.

Dog Health

Polygenic, modifiers, environmental triggers and other meaningless words

If you came to me right now and told me that your dog had been diagnosed with Hideous Nasal Syndrome That Nobody Has Ever Seen In Dogs Before And The Vet Gasped And Fell Over, the first thing I’d say to you is “Well, I can tell you immediately that it’s a polygenic trait, likely with unknown modifiers, and something environmental triggered it.”

If you came to me and said your dog had been diagnosed with an allergy, I’d say, “Well, I can tell you immediately that it’s a polygenic trait, likely with unknown modifiers, and something environmental triggered it.”

If you came to me and said that your dog had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, I’d say, “Well, I can tell you immediately that it’s a polygenic trait, likely with unknown modifiers, and something environmental triggered it.”

If you came to me and said that your dog had been in a car accident and had fractured his femur, I’d say, “Well, I can tell you immediately that it’s a polygenic trait, likely with unknown modifiers, and something environmental triggered it.”

Getting the picture?

In medico-speak, there is one completely safe thing you can say about any disease, any disorder, because it’s true of all of them and doesn’t even need to be verified: “Well, I can tell you immediately that it’s a polygenic trait, likely with unknown modifiers, and something environmental triggered it.”

Dog breeders hear those words and they assign majestic significance to them. We have a few disorders that are largely governed by single genes – PRA is one of them – and we WANT to have a kind of genetic determinism attached to every single problem we have in dogs. So when someone says that a disorder or disease is polygenic, we figure that means it’s just like PRA, meaning that we just have to identify the genes and then breed away from them.

In fact, those phrases – polygenic, unknown modifiers, environmental triggers – are the same thing as saying that “it happened to a living creature.” Every single thing that occurs in a living body, from an injury to a cancer to an allergy to a crazy rare disease, is the action of lots of genes and the modifiers of those genes combined with an environmental trigger. And yes, even the accident – your dog may have broken a femur where my dog would not; my dog might have broken a rib instead, because her genes for bone formation and the tensile strength of the bone are different from your dog, and her diet has been different.

I said in the title that those words were meaningless – that’s perhaps the wrong word to choose. It’s more that they’re IMPACTLESS. Knowing that whatever it is that went wrong is polygenic gives us absolutely nothing to do; it gives us no more information than we had before we knew that. It’s in many ways very cruel, though I know it’s well-meaning, for researchers to imply that they actually know anything about a disorder when they say it’s polygenic or that it’s a genetic tendency combined with an environmental trigger. It makes breeders think we know something, or are on the cusp of knowing something, when nothing has changed.

Learn to ignore those words. Instead, look for studies that identify REAL genes or real proteins. If they don’t exist – and let me tell you that they do not exist for hip dysplasia, autoimmune disorders, most canine cancers, and so on – then realize that we don’t actually know anything about that problem than we did before those words existed. Those words have no power and no instructions attached to them; they deserve none of your respect.

dog diets, Dog Health

The myth of dog food switching

So how do you switch from one food to another? Do you begin by adding a few kibbles at a time? A quarter-cup? Gradually add a scientifically calculated increasing proportion until you’re finally down to 99% new brand and 1% old? Did you try going cold-turkey once and the dog had diarrhea for a week?

If so, let me suggest that you’re maybe thinking the wrong way about how dogs should eat.

Wouldn’t you be pretty concerned if every time you ate more than a quarter-inch slice of something you got raging runs? It’s no more normal for dogs than it is for us. What we’ve done very incorrectly is that we’ve been convinced that dogs should only be fed one brand, often only one flavor of one brand, for their entire lives.

WRONG.

Dogs should be able to handle just about everything you throw at them – hopefully healthy, but let’s face it. It’s not evolutionarily sound for a dog to not be able to tolerate an occasional dose of Quarter Pounder leftovers and a heel of bread, much less a switch from Mister Magoo’s Chicken and Sweet Potato to Mister Magoo’s Lamb and Rice Formula.

The reason they get so out of sorts is that their stomachs and intestines are tricked into thinking there are only five substances in the world – chicken that’s been cooked at 500 degrees for half a day and then ground up, ground yellow corn, sweet potato flakes, and tomato pomace. Or substitute whatever ingredients your kibble uses. A digestive system that has never seen anything else freaks out when lamb meal and rice are introduced – it speeds up to dump what it thinks might be dangerous strange stuff out as fast as it can, and the dog gets what we affectionately call “cannon butt.”

The solution is SO simple, all it requires is ignoring TV commercials. Oh, and sometimes your vet. Dogs do NOT, heavens no, need to stay on one brand or one flavor. You can have twenty-five bags sitting on your counter and take from each as you desire. For most people that’s kind of silly, but for sure you should never be scared of feeding two or three. Or, if you absolutely love your one brand and flavor, scrape the peas off the kids’ plates into the dog bowl. The next night empty the yogurt container in it. Keep a bit of variety going in every day.

This will really save your bacon when you get a hundred miles out of town and realize your husband forgot to pack the food that you have to mail-order from Tasmania every six months. Knowing that you can pick up a small bag of a lesser-but-acceptable stuff and your dog will feel normal on vacation is a heck of a relief.

dog diets, Dog Health, raising your puppy

When should I switch my dog off puppy food to adult food?

Answer: He never should have been on it in the first place.

This question is one of those “If I had a nickel” ones. It comes up pretty much daily on general-interest dog boards and breed discussion lists.

The problem is this: the whole idea of “puppy food,” which is just a higher-calorie (often vastly higher-calorie) formulation of kibble, is based on two flawed assumptions and one major marketing truth. Assumptions first:

1) Puppies need to be “supported” in rapid growth; just keep them from getting fat.

2) Rapid growth is better than slow growth.

And the marketing truth:

People love to feel that they are doing something special for their new baby. I’ve seen discussions on pet-food marketing boards about this, because numbers one and two up there are well known in the industry. They know perfectly well that there’s no reason to feed puppy food.

But people WANT it. They clamor for it. When it comes to a puppy, even those who are going to feed Ol’ Roy or Pedigree (the sales of which, by the way, so completely dwarf all other brands that it’s staggering) will pay the extra two bucks a bag to get Pedigree Puppy and Ol’ Roy Puppy.

Up at the higher end of the scale, you have companies whose main product is the typical chicken-based food in a carefully low-key high-end bag suddenly breaking their two-color-press rules to feature pictures of tiny puppies  so you’ll know they’re the right choice; even hipsters go mushy for baby dogs.

Even companies who will TELL you you don’t need a puppy food (like Innova) still make one. They lose huge wads of people who go buy a competitor’s product because it has the picture of the Golden puppy on the front if they don’t.

Here’s the truth:

After puppies are fully weaned, they need to grow as SLOWLY as possible. Slow growth is strong growth.

Slow-growing dogs have a dramatically lower rate of joint issues, including hip and elbow dysplasia, OCD, and so on. Part of this is because the growth of the bone doesn’t outstrip the growth of its tendons and muscles, and some of it is because slow-growing dogs are lighter dogs and don’t put as much strain on developing joints. Both are good reasons to keep a puppy growing for a long time rather than a short one.

Puppies will use every bit of food they’re given to grow. Puppies don’t get fat unless they have so many calories dumped on them that even their incredible metabolism is overwhelmed. You can’t judge whether a puppy is getting too much food by whether he or she is fat.

Puppies are not cows. You’re not finishing them for market before they’re a year old. They should not look adult or have anything close to an adult weight until they really ARE adults. If your puppy has 95% of his adult height and weight at six months – and many people consider this to be normal and expected – you’re following the principle of fattening a lamb for slaughter, not growing a dog.

In a wolf pack, which is how your dog’s body evolved and how its metabolism still works, when puppies are eating EVERYBODY’S on a low-calorie diet and the puppies are on the lowest of all. The size of the pack is indirectly related to the number of calories consumed; when there’s a litter growing up (and in wolves this is until about 18 months old, when they leave to form their own groups) everybody’s skinny. After the regurgitation phase is over, puppies are not given anything close to the choicest bits. They’re supposed to survive on what they can get their heads in and grab. That’s a very good rule of thumb for growing dogs as well; 18 months is when you should see full growth and (close to) full weight. Males in particular will often put on a little bit more later, but you should be able to visibly tell between a 12-month-old and an 18-month-old.

In my experience this also translates to a much later maturity in other ways; I don’t get first heats in the girls until they’re well over a year old. Calories are given first to maintenance (living), then to growth, then to reproduction. If the calories are low enough to limit growth, they don’t get put into reproduction until growth slows. This follows the wolf rule as well, and protects everybody. Bodies shouldn’t be reproducing until the structure can support them, and a first heat at 15 months is a breedable heat and the bitch will be fine. (I haven’t even bred on a first heat, before anybody freaks out, but at that age I would not hesitate to do so from a health standpoint; she’d probably have an easier time of it than most!)

So what should you do?

In all breeds but the toys, if you’re not feeding raw you can wean right to an adult food and keep them on an adult food their whole lives. And there’s no magic in a single brand, either; go ahead and mix six of ’em if you want to.

The toy breeds, which are prone to hypoglycemic crises, sometimes need a more nutrient-dense food for a few more weeks so that every bite has enough calories to keep their blood sugar from dipping too low. But even the toys can go on adult food as soon as that danger period is over.

Whatever you feed, if you have a normal healthy puppy who eats eagerly, you should NOT be feeding to satiety. The puppy should not be walking away from food. A good healthy puppy should be lovingly licking the bowl or the floor for a few minutes after he or she is done, wishing for more. If your puppy is not a good eager eater, you may need to coddle them a bit more, but don’t fall into the trap of feeding too much just because the puppy only takes a few mouthfuls at a time.

Your puppy should be smaller than the other puppies his age at the dog park or training class. Since most people ARE going to be feeding way too much, your puppy is going to look small and wiry and they’re going to look big and sleek and beautiful. Don’t feel bad! Your puppy is going to be much better off in the long run.

What’s thin-but-not-too-thin?

One of the most often misunderstood directions for dog weight is “can you see a waist from the top.” You can ALWAYS see a waist from the top. Very few dogs, even the tremendously obese ones, have no indentation where the waist is. Heck, I have a waist and I’m (mumble mumble bad number). What you want to see is that there is a clear sinking in behind the bulk of the BONES OF THE ribcage (the top arrow up there on Juno, who conveniently stretched out so I could show you) and then a clear widening where the BONES OF THE pelvis and femur come out (the bottom arrow). Not “the big mounds of fat vaguely associated with the bones of the ribs and pelvis.” A proper “waist” is relatively long and rather square.

Juno was 19.8 lb yesterday; she’s almost 7 months. If I was letting her grow as fast as she wanted this would be a DISASTER, because it would mean she was going to top out at 22 lb or something. But since I know she’s going to grow for a long time I’m not at all concerned. Juno’s never going to be big, which is exactly what I wanted, but she’ll make her mom’s size (typically 26-27 lb) just fine.

A small, hard, wiry puppy? Great. A skinny puppy? No. If you’re looking at a puppy you should not be able to see the bones of the individual ribs or put your fingers between them. You should not be able to see the bones of the hips or put your fingers between them. The femur should be surrounded by good strong muscle, and you shouldn’t be able to grab any bone ends. When the puppy breathes or runs, you should see the trailing edge of the ribcage and (on short-haired dogs) count the last two or three ribs. You shouldn’t be able to count all the ribs unless the puppy is a sighthound.

On the typical 9-point scale, which is commonly used by vets to characterize body condition, I like to see a puppy at about a 4 and that’s where I keep my adult dogs too. I’ll bring them up to a 5 to show in order to smooth out the topline a little, but that’s about it.

Clue says: I can hardly wait until my puppies are eating; that is my favoritest time ever. Also, I am NOT at a 4 right now. (Sigh; true! I am anticipating that she’ll get really sick again this time so I’ve brought her up to about a 6, the heaviest I’ve ever let her get. She’s about 29 lb now and she looks weird and bad to me.)

News on the home front: Clue is taking her sweet time. She’s beginning to get super affectionate and mushy with the other dogs, and spends long minutes carefully grooming Friday and Juno. She’s not very enthused about Bramble yet; she is flagging but I have learned to completely ignore that as a signal for her, the hussy. She still barely looks in heat, so I am guessing she won’t really do much until next week. Last time we bred her days 16, 17, 19, 20 and the 19 was the magic one. If that holds true this time I will ONCE MORE be shipping semen over a weekend. Geez. If you want convenience, don’t breed dogs!

Dog Health, Responsible Breeding

Esterilsol and Neutersol – chemical neuter of dogs

One of the things I’ve been watching relatively closely, as a breeder, is the availability of nonsurgical neuter methods.

A few years ago a company got FDA approval for, and marketed, a product called Neutersol, which was a simple injection of zinc gluconate into each testicle. Zinc gluconate is caustic to tissue and kills the sperm-producing cells.

It was incredibly safe and effective, but died quickly and was withdrawn from the market. Why? Because somebody decided that it was a goose that would lay a golden egg, and they priced it so high that it was comparable to surgical neuter. No vets would buy it, and very few owners wanted it. It seemed ridiculous (and I agree) to pay that much for an injection.

Also killing the sales was the fact that the injection left the dog with a lot of testosterone production, though he couldn’t produce sperm. So it didn’t produce quite the same effect as early physical neuter – the dog would still have some interest in female dogs. And – and apologies to those who are now going to close their eyes and grimace – it didn’t produce the same cosmetic effect. Most pet owners think that the neutered penis – which is very, very small – is a “normal” one, and that an unneutered one is big, gross, and ugly. Neutersol allowed the dog to grow a normal-sized one.

A very small number of dogs got what looked like infections or injuries from the neuter, which nobody could figure out.

The final nail in the coffin was that the injection was approved only for puppies, from three to ten months old. That was too small a window for most vets to feel it was worth it.

(As a very interesting aside, my sister’s dog Wilson was – I don’t even know what to use as a verb… unmanly-manned? – with neutersol, which means his age, which was a mystery when she got him, was able to be rather precisely dated because Neutersol was on the market for such a short time and was only used in puppies.)

Over the last few years, however, with the explosion of dog sport, there’s a much larger demand for a neuter-that’s-not-a-neuter. People who work their dogs want the protection that testosterone provides. And breeders often prefer to keep the testosterone flowing as well; testosterone closes the growth plates and intact dogs are typically shorter, wider, and sturdier than neutered ones, and their muscle tone and tendon strength are better.

Vets and NGOs in developing countries were also dismayed to see Neutersol go, because they had this “It was almost great!” feeling about it. An injectable neuter is pretty much the holy grail.

And so, with support from a whole set of places, a few organizations continued to work with the compound-that-had-been-Neutersol (it’s not exactly hard to put your hands on). They wanted to solve the big issues with it and push it into wider production again. They’ve now (sort of) done that, and their version of the same injection – tradenamed Esterilsol – is now available everywhere BUT the US.

Surprisingly, the way they solved the problems with Neutersol was not by changing anything about it. They just changed the way it was used. They figured they had nothing to lose by giving it to a bunch of older dogs, so they did, and lo and behold it works beautifully on dogs of any age. As an added benefit in developing countries, there are much smaller changes in cosmetics, so the dog doesn’t look neutered. They’ll even breed with females, though their libido is reduced. They just can’t produce puppies.

They eliminated the cost issue by actually charging what it was worth, which ends up being about $4.

And they realized that the infections were caused by the zinc getting on the skin and badly irritating it, which made the dog lick and bite it, which caused all kinds of problems. They were able to pretty much eliminate the problem by simply changing needles before the injection; it’s drawn from the bottle with one needle and then the needle is changed, so it’s clean and doesn’t leave any zinc on the skin.

With those changes, it becomes a solution that’s actually viable, and I am hoping like crazy it will come back to the US as well. It’s something I’d be MUCH happer with owners taking advantage of than a surgical neuter, because the continued production of testosterone is so protective and because it avoids the need for anesthesia, which has always been the biggest risk of any conventional neuter.

Now if only they’d invent an injectable debarker…

On the home front: Still waiting on Clue. She’s doing the same annoying slow-to-get-going thing she did in her last heat, so (unlike the last time) I am relaxing and letting her tell me when things are starting to chug along. She may decide to ovulate on day 17 again, so we could be into September before anything exciting happens.

dog diets, Dog Health, General

Is drinking ice water or eating ice bad for dogs?

The following story is making the rounds again. The first time I saw it on Facebook causing panic I thought it was silly; the second and third and fourth times showed that it really does need a response. Here's the text that is being spread:

 

Hello Everyone,

I am writing this in hopes that some may learn from what I just went through. We were having a good weekend till Saturday. On Saturday I showed my Baran and left the ring. He was looking good and at the top of his game. He had a chance at no less then one of the two AOM’s.

It did not work out that way. After showing we went back to our site/setup and got the dogs in their crates to cool off. After being back about 30 min. I noticed Baran was low on water. I took a hand full of ice from my cooler and put it in his bucket with more water. We then started to get all the dogs Ex’ed and food ready for them.

I had Baran in his 48′ crate in the van because this is the place he loves to be. He loves to be able to see everyone and verything. After checking him and thinking he was cooled off enough, we fed him. We walked around and one of my friends stated that Baran seamed like he was choking. I went over and checked on him. He was dry heaving and drooling. I got him out of the crate to check him over and noticed he had not eaten. He was in some distress. I checked him over from head to toe and did not notice anything. I walked him around for about a minute when I noticed that he was starting to bloat. I did everything I was taught to do in this case. I was not able to get him to burp, and we gave him Phasezime.

We rushed Baran to a vet clinic. We called ahead and let them know we were on our way. They were set up and waiting for us. They got Baran stabilized very quickly. After Baran was stable and out of distress we transported him to AVREC where he went into surgery to make sure no damage was done to any of his vital organs. I am very happy to say Baran is doing great, there was no damage to any vital organs, and he still loves his food. In surgery the vet found that Baran’s stomach was in its normal anatomic position. We went over what had happened. When I told the vet about the ice water, he asked why I gave him ice water. I said that I have always done this. I told him my history behind this practice and his reply was, “I have been very lucky.” The ice water I gave Baran caused violent muscle spasms in his stomach which caused the bloating. Even though I figured his temperature was down enough to feed, and gave him this ice water, I was wrong. His internal temperature was still high. The vet stated that giving a dog ice to chew or ice water is a big NO, NO! There is no reason for a dog to have ice/ice water. Normal water at room temperature, or cooling with cold towels on the inner thigh, is the best way to help cool a dog. The vet explained it to me like this: If you, as a person, fall into a frozen lake what happens to your muscles? They cramp. This is the same as a dog’s stomach.

I felt the need to share this with everyone, in the hopes that some may learn from what I went through, I do not wish this on anyone. Baran is home now doing fine. So please, if you do use ice and ice water, beware of what could happen.


This story has been circulating for a couple of years and it is FALSE. There is absolutely no reason that dogs cannot drink ice water or eat ice, including after heavy exertion. 

Ice water is actually very good for lowering body temperature and does NOT cause cramping. Or colic. It's good for horses, it's good for people, it's good for dogs. If the dog in the story ever existed in the first place (notice how all identifying information besides the dog's name has been stripped from the story, so this is reported as being anything from a Corgi to a Dane) it's the story of a dog who bloated at a show. As many, many dogs do. 

If people who have been exercising heavily fall into a frozen lake, they haul themselves out and actually experience less injury afterward than if they had rested. 

If horses who have been exercising heavily are soaked in ice water and given refrigerated water to drink, they recover faster. 

Dogs who are having heatstroke recover fast when ice water is dumped in their stomachs.

This persistent old wives' tale can, thankfully, join "Don't swim after eating" and "Gum stays in your stomach for seven years" – it's false, and your dog can enjoy as much ice and ice water as he would like. 

Dog Health, General, Responsible Ownership

When do you know it’s time to put a dog down?

Leanna asked me to address this on the blog and, wow, that's about the hardest question I can even try to answer. All I can do is suggest the kind of things I think about, but by so doing I'm not saying that it's easy or clear or in any way black and white for me. This is a question that's immensely hard for everyone. 

Here's what I generally think about, when I'm trying to make this decision:

Dogs don't fear death. They don't anticipate death, they don't know how long their lives have been, they don't feel robbed of years or impact. All of those emotions are ours alone. Dogs only know where they are right then; how they feel right then. As far as we know they have no idea of "I will get better" or "I am getting worse"; they only truly know how they are right now. 

So, for me, when the dog has hit the point where the majority of his or her time is either painful or confusing, even if they are still eating or still able to walk and so on, I don't believe that keeping them going is very kind to them, recognizing who they are and how they depend on the moment they live in. I need to be sure that a dog can be made comfortable and that its world makes sense to it; as long as that's still the case I keep going. 

One very useful rule, one that you put into place BEFORE the end – when you're thinking this may be getting close – is to list three things that show you that your dog is joyful. Maybe for your dog it's eagerly eating, chasing the cat, picking up the ball. The response time may be slow, but if the dog is still feeling enough engagement to do those things, she's probably still happy and comfortable. When two of those things have disappeared – she may still be eating but she shows no interest in the cat or her ball, or she'll still chase a ball but has stopped eating – it's time to let her go to heaven. The reason I say that you decide this early on is that it becomes incredibly hard to decide it later. You'll see any sign of the way she used to be and think that she is still "fighting" or words to that effect. You need to decide before it gets to that point.

Last – of all the times I have dealt with this, of all the people I've talked to, all the dogs I've wept over, nobody has ever said "We did it too soon." NEVER. But many, many say "We waited too long." Once the dog inside the dog is gone, it's time. 

I don't have any quotes about the Rainbow Bridge or the Happy Hunting Grounds or anything like that. This is one of the few times I'll bring my theology training into play, and it's to say that the Bible tells us two things about animals: One, that their story is not our story; they have a different relationship with God than we do. So it should not surprise us that whether they end up in paradise isn't addressed; God figures we have enough to work on letting him get US there.

Second, he loves them very, very much. God is a fan, and I really do mean that. He pays very close attention to how we treat them, and he keeps track of every single one.

So while I cannot tell you whether THIS dog will end up in OUR paradise, though I rather suspect that he will, I can tell you without a shred of doubt that he is not going without a Very Important Person keeping a loving eye on him.

dog diets, Dog Health, General

Oh my gosh the obesity

Pem people, this has got to stop. If I see one more photo of Precious Pooky Peedler who can barely drag himself around because the amount of fat wrapped around his PROSTATE is more than any dog should have to carry over his whole body, I am going to scream. What is the deal? Why the epidemic of incredible fatness in this breed when owned by pet owners?

Dog Health, General, Responsible Breeding, Responsible Ownership

Is your dog a throwback?

A Boxer with a long head? An Akita with a sparse coat? A Beagle with a sharp face? A giant Yorkie? These features – and you can fill in the blank for just about any breed – are often defined (and even delighted in!) by owners and breeders as "throwback" characteristics, or "old-style" characteristics. 

How do you know if that's the case, or if what you have is just a poorly bred dog?

Here are a couple of rules of thumb to know if you do NOT have a throwback dog:

1) The supposed "throwback" characteristic is one that affects the main visual difference between the breed and every other. 

For example, if you think about a Dalmatian, it's the round and separated spots. If you think about a Cocker it's the face and ears. If you think about a Collie it's the heavy coat. 

The reason those are the first things that come to mind is often because those are the traits that are the most unlike any other dog, the traits that took the longest to develop (for breeders) and are the hardest to maintain. Because they're so hard to maintain, as soon as you stop working so deliberately on them they quickly revert back to the more generic. 

An American Cocker with a long, pointy nose is almost never a throwback; it's just a poorly bred dog.

2) Breed-specific rescue is full of dogs that look like yours. 

Purebred rescue is the best place to see a whole bunch of poorly bred purebreds. If the coat on your dog is the same as the coat on thirty dogs that the national breed rescue is trying to place, what you have is not a throwback. It's just poorly bred.

3) There was no specific effort on the part of your breeder, and no criteria for rejecting the effort.

There's nothing wrong with deciding that a different style or conformation suits the job better and breeding toward that end. Right now we're on the leading edge of purpose-bred dogs for flyball and agility, which look like they'll follow the model established by the sport horse movement – dogs selected for a body and a brain that succeed at the highest levels of organized gaming. These will, I predict, be the forces that shape new breeds from now on, not the older jobs of hunting or herding or protection. 

If someone is building a dog for agility and wants something that looks like a cross between a Jack Russell and a Whippet, and are doing so by breeding taller and taller and taller purebred JRTs, more power to them, as long as they have criteria for defining success beyond "She's cute" and are rejecting the majority of their attempts as failures and making sure they're not being bred on from. 

Another great example is the development of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, where the English toy spaniel fancy had gone for very flat faces and then (thanks to a challenge in the Crufts catalog) good, passionate, interested breeders decided to re-create the earlier type and asked for the very best examples of longer-faced dogs to be brought to them so they could be retained as breeding dogs. In that case they did go looking for an older (and many would at that time have said plainer) type, but they were immediately putting the dogs back in the show ring and asking them to satisfy the requirements of sound type and good construction beyond the appearance of the head. 

If your breeder just happened to get Bichons without curly hair, that's not a throwback. 

Or, picking on my own dogs, Ginny looks very much like the REALLY old toy spaniels, Victoria's spaniels for example. She is thinner in bone and face than the modern Cavalier and has more color. But that is NOT because she's a "throwback" to a good old genuine type; it's because she's super poorly bred in a puppy mill from a combination of breeds. It would never be responsible to breed on from her, no matter how much I might personally like the way she looks.

Which brings us to the next question – 

You have a dog that somebody told you is the old style, or a throwback, or you personally think looks like the older style of whatever breed he or she is. Should you breed him or her?

The questions you need to ask yourself are the same as above.

Is there any benefit, beyond visual, to the characteristic you have? Is it available in any other breed?

If your corgi has really long legs and a really short body, do you understand what that means in terms of her herding style? Is she genuinely offering anything new or better that a person can't get by buying a Vallhund or even a Border Collie? Have you actually improved something, both biomechanically and in terms of the breed's unique function? Do others in your peer group and your orthopedic vet agree with you? This question must be answered with no thought to how much you may personally love her or how much you may enjoy the way she works – you have to separate her from her body. She may be a great little herder, but is it because her body actually works better than everyone else's body? That's the question you have to answer before you reproduce that body.

If the characteristic is coat – and it seems often to be – then are you offering something that actually doesn't exist? As you know, I have very little attachment to coat as a "must," but I think any coat should be functional if you're going to start actually TRYING to fall off the wagon of the established breed coat. If you have a very thin-coated Pekingese and you love it because it's easy to groom and no burrs stick in it, the only reason it would be worth deliberately reproducing as a characteristic is if it is ALSO better (not just for you, but for everybody) than the Pug coat, the Tibetan Spaniel coat, the Japanese Chin coat, the English Toy Spaniel coat, etc. If it isn't, then you should just send people who like your dog's coat to the national club for Japanese Chin, not populate the earth with weird-coated Pekingese.

Will the puppies offer anything not available in rescue?

There is absolutely no value in producing a ton of Poodles with really soft, sparse hair, if that's the characteristic that you like. Poodle rescue is choked with them. There's no value in producing long-legged Dachshunds; there are thousands of them in rescue. Tall, thin Yorkies? Old English Sheepdogs with lots of spots? Malamutes that are small? Danes with small heads? Labs with super long legs? Scotties with single coats? Long-legged short-bodied Pems? Blue-eyed ANYTHING? Every single one of these is available by the hundreds and thousands in rescue.

If you personally love the feature your dog has, and it's commonly found in rescue dogs, what a huge blessing, because you'll be able to keep rescuing dogs instead of ever breeding, and you'll be able to send others who like that feature to rescue too.

Are you making excuses?

If you love your dog, and you SHOULD love your dog, you need to be very careful that you are not letting your love for him make the decision for you. There's a tendency we have to do like we do with our kids, when we feel that they've been hurt or impugned; we gather them close against our sides and say "I'd rather have you than anyone else in the world – why would I ever want that dreadful Janice girl? Have you seen her teeth?"

If the dog in front of you is genuinely worth reproducing, you should never start a sentence with "I know he's not like those show dogs, but…" or "I know he isn't as hard-driving in the field as the dogs I saw last week, but…" or "I know he can't track like a Shepherd, but…" or "I know his topline is terrible, but…"

Those are pretty sure statements that you know you shouldn't be breeding this dog. Every dog has faults, but your first thought needs to be "I am so THRILLED with the looks/performance/conformation/drive of this dog; he's the best I've ever seen (in hopefully at least one characteristic) and I've seen a lot."

Do you have a plan and criteria for success?

If you decide that you really do have something – if your dog can do something uniquely well because of this characteristic, and his strength is not available commonly – then you have to have a plan not only for perpetuating that strength but for rejecting those offspring who don't share it. 

You need to identify if the strength you see in your dog is actually going to be reproducible – was it in his parents? His grandparents? If not, he's unlikely to have kids who share it. Can you find this or a very similar strength in a similarly well-bred partner? If not, you're going to be stuck breeding him and then breeding him back to his daughter, and I think that's a great way to wreck a breeding program even before it begins. 

How will you test this strength in front of your peers? How will you identify it reliably in the real world? What tasks will you be asking your dog's offspring to do, keeping in mind that in order to keep going they have to be able to do whatever it is BETTER than the purebreds that don't share this unique feature?

Do you have a way to place the many puppies you'll produce who don't have the desired characteristic, and are they going to be sound enough to produce with good conscience? 

Do you have the support of your peers – do others agree that this really is an improvement, and are they willing to partner with you and willing to test their own dogs on the same scale? 

Isn't this sort of a victimless crime? Shouldn't we be glad that people are proud of their dogs and want a better label than poorly bred?

Here's what prompted this post: A person who runs a site celebrating a breed that we all know and love posted a picture of a dog from the 1930s. 

The response to his picture was HUGE, and it was overwhelmingly of this type: "Wow, I thought my dog was a mix, but now I know he's just of the genuine old style!" "Wow, that dog is just like mine!" "Oh, goodness, I saw a dog just like him last year and he had a great temperament too!" "I used to worry that my dog didn't look anything like the dogs in the show ring, but this shows me that they're perfect!" and, my favorite, "Goes to show that a XX is an XX, no matter what he looks like!"

None of those people actually had either "throwback" or 1930s style dogs or field-bred dogs or working dogs. They had pet store dogs, puppy mill dogs, backyard bred dogs, and a few (thankfully) have rescue dogs. What worries me a great deal is that, given a response like that, both those people and a bunch of people reading the response (and seeing the fantastic reception given to dogs who look nothing like the standard) will think, when they see the breed for sale somewhere in the Wal-Mart parking lot or on ebay classifieds, that because it looks nothing like the dogs they'd seen on TV it is actually BETTER. It's truer. It's older. It's more antique or genuine. And they'll tell everybody they know how awesome it is that they were able to get an authentic whatever instead of those doofy-looking dogs at Westminster. 

It's a victimless crime when it comes to the humans involved – self-deception is nothing new. It's a TERRIBLE crime when it comes to creating a market for badly bred dogs. 

If you want to get a field-bred cocker spaniel, whose breeders are actually working the dogs, and in so doing you also get less coat, that's FANTASTIC. You do NOT have to get a show dog to support a good breeder. But a field-dog breeder is ALSO not breeding "throwbacks"; she's breeding dogs whose qualities are up front and in the last generation, not looking for something from 50 years ago to randomly pop up in a litter.