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Wellness: Health Care
DIY Physical Exam: An “owner’s manual” for your dog Part 3
Part 3 in 4 part guide
Animal, Dog DIY At-Home Dog Physical Examinations

Welcome back for part three in our four-part DIY physical exam! This week we are going to move down to the chest area, known as the thorax. 

NECK, CHEST AND BREATHING:

Normal

  • You should not be able to hear your pet breathe at all (except with panting).
  • The act of breathing is for the most part performed by the chest wall; it should move “in and out” easily and rhythmically to and fro during respiration in an effortless way; each breath should look the same as the last.
  • The normal resting respiration rate is 15 to 60 breaths per minute; a sleeping or relaxed dog would be near the low end, while an active and engaged dog would be higher; and just like with heart rates, smaller dogs will tend to have a faster resting breathing rate than our larger dogs.

Abnormal

  • Any unusual noise heard while the dog is breathing could indicate a problem, especially if the noise is new for your pet.
  • A big concern: a change in your dog’s bark can indicate disease processes such as laryngeal paralysis (a common condition in our older large breed dogs such as Labs) or the development of a tumor in the airway.
  • Wheezing during expiration can indicate conditions such as asthma or allergic airway disease .
  • High pitched noises on inspiration indicate an obstruction of the upper airway and immediate medical attention is needed (see our previous blog).
  • Sudden or frequent sneezing can indicate foreign objects in the nasal passages, such as foxtails.
  • If there is noticeable effort by your dog to move the chest wall, or if the belly is actively involved in the process of inhaling and exhaling: these are signs of respiratory distress and can be caused by many conditions.
  • The onset of coughing in an older dog: coughing is one of the more common signs of the development of heart failure or lung cancer in dogs; x-rays of the chest will be needed to further evaluate if you notice this symptom.
  • Your dog stands with elbows held out further than normal, its neck extended out further than normal or, is unable to rest or lie down: these are all outward signs that your dog is having difficulty breathing and getting enough oxygen into its body.
  • An increased resting respiratory rate can be a sign that a previously diagnosed disease is progressing; for example: if your dog with heart disease has a normal resting rate of 15 breaths a minute, and then the resting rate goes up to 30 while asleep, then doubled rate means it’s time to see the veterinarian.

SKIN:

The skin is one of the body’s major organs and it is an important indicator of overall health. The first things to do are to simply look at, smell, and feel your dog’s skin and haircoat.

Normal

  • Shiny and smooth haircoat (except for wirehaired breeds)
  • Soft and unbroken skin
  • Minimal odor

Abnormal

  • Sparse or patchy haircoat: this can indicate underlying endocrine diseases such as Cushing’s disease.
  • Lumps and bumps, which can be normal or abnormal: many older dogs can develop accumulations of fatty tissue known as lipomas; in order to differentiate these benign masses from cancerous ones, an aspirate can be performed (collection of cells with a small needle); this simple and quick procedure can help your veterinarian determine the nature of the lump and help you decide if further tests or treatment are needed.
  • Open sores or wounds, or any ulcerated area of skin.
  • Foul or rancid odor: this can indicate a bacterial or yeast infection in the skin.

SKIN TURGOR TEST:

The skin turgor test is one of the most helpful ways to determine whether your pet is well hydrated; although this test can be affected by several factors other than hydration status, such as weight loss, age and general skin condition, it can help you to make a rough determination of the hydration status. To perform this test, pull up the skin over the neck or back into “a tent” and release it quickly: it should return quickly to its resting position. If the skin returns slowly to position, or if remains slightly tented, then this is a good indication that your pet is dehydrated.

That sums up the thorax region of our pets, including one of the other major organs—the skin.  Keep practicing your physical exam skills—it’s definitely a win/win for your dog! Not only does your pet get a good “once over” from you, he or she gets even more hands-on attention in the process. See you next week as we move to the last parts of the body which will include the abdomen and musculoskeletal system.

Check out DIY Physical Exam: Part 2 of this series if you missed it. Go on the next final part, DIY Physical Exam: Part 4.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
In the Nick of Time
Saving a shelter dog

I’ve always felt that the best way to remember a beloved dog is to rescue another dog in need. I was missing my previous rescued Doberman when a friend who knows that I have a soft spot for them sent me a photo. It was of a Doberman scheduled for euthanasia in a shelter in southern California, many hours away. The dog was a black female of maybe 3 or 4 years old. The sweet face appealed to me and I requested more information. I was told that she was friendly and had come in as a stray. She had a microchip going back to Oaxaca, Mexico and the unfortunate name of “Slash” but the owner never claimed her and no one came to adopt her.

 I agreed to foster her and waited to hear back. On a Thursday I heard that she had to be pulled by the next day or she would be euthanized. I had no way to pick her up until Sunday as I had to work and there was no one to cover me. I offered to give the shelter a credit card or whatever it took to hold her. The response: “You don’t understand. We want to help but there is no room. She will be euthanized Friday unless she’s picked up by closing.”

It was a sad reality to hear that this shelter was so overcrowded that friendly, healthy dogs were being euthanized. It was a frantic scramble to try and find a way to save the dog. I would have driven there after work but they would be closed. It was a long shot for a dog that I hadn’t even been able to evaluate but I made a bunch of phone calls and fretted.

Finally one of the rescues got back to me with the news that a nearby kennel would board the dog for $10 a night and a rescue transport could bring her part way up to Northern California on Sunday. I was also asked to pick up a Pit Bull who had also been scheduled for euthanasia and had a foster home waiting.  We met on interstate Hwy 5 at a gas station on a desolate stretch of barren freeway.

 The rescue driver snapped a lead on “Slash” and brought her out. The dog greeted me eagerly, her stump of a tail wiggling with delight. I was thrilled with her sweet temperament and confident friendliness.  Her coat was dull and she was thin but I knew that was easily remedied. The Pit Bull was a sweetheart as well and I walked them both before loading them into crates in my station wagon and starting the long drive back.  As I glanced at the Dobie in the rear view mirror I decided to change her name to Breeze.

I dropped off the Pit with her foster family and when I got home I took Breeze out into my fenced pasture and let her loose. She began racing huge joyful circles around the field, darting back to give me kisses before she was off again. As the sun set over the trees I glanced at my watch and realized that she and the sweet little Pit Bull would have been dead by then if not for the combined efforts of a lot of people. My eyes filled with tears as I continued to watch her run.

I introduced Breeze to my complicated family of teens, husband, elderly house-mate and other dogs. She couldn’t have been any sweeter with soft playful body language and a constantly wagging tail. She also had an endearing habit of carrying her stuffed toys, her “babies” everywhere she went.  I was absolutely smitten.

The only snag was introducing Breeze to the cats. She had major cat issues and those took a lot of work to overcome and manage. She is such a truly wonderful dog in every other way though that it’s been more than worth it and she became a permanent member of our family.  Every time I watch her racing joyfully on the beach, playing with the other dogs or feel her sweet head on my lap, I’m thankful she’s alive.

I’m so grateful to all the people who spent their valuable time making it happen. My friend who sent me Breeze’s photo and made rescue arrangements, the overburdened shelter workers, the woman who agreed to board her for two nights and the people who transported her on their own time all had a hand in saving this wonderful girl’s life. For those of us who think dogs are one of our greatest treasures on earth, it’s time well spent.

News: Editors
Awards Galore for The Daily Show

We would like to extend a hearty, and non-expletive, congrats to Jon Stewart and the whole crew and cast of The Daily Show for snagging another Emmy last night. This latest award marks the tenth year in a row for this comedic “faux” news program, truly an amazing feat somewhere along the lines of DiMaggio’s hitting streak. We happen to think that The Daily Show has discovered a secret formula for popular success that includes their wide open-door policy shown to their office pooches. So their 10th Emmy isn’t the only award bestowed upon them this year, they also grabbed The Bark’s Best Place to Work (in the World) Award.  If you missed our behind-the-scenes look at this canine paradise, check out our article.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Dies on United Flight
A Golden Retriever succumbs to heatstroke en route to S.F.

Maggie Rizer, best known for gracing the covers of Elle, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar, has made it her mission to get the word out on the dangers of flying pets.

Two weeks ago, Maggie was traveling from New York to San Francisco with her two dogs. Tragically, Bea, her two-year old Golden Retriever, did not make it through the flight, despite Maggie taking every possible precaution. She chose United Airlines for their Pet Safe program, got the necessary pre-flight health clearances, bought special kennels, and even drove six hours from their vacation home to New York City so the dogs wouldn’t have to make a connecting flight.

According to Maggie, the United employees showed little compassion for Bea’s death and even lied to her about the whereabouts of Bea’s body while they figured out how to handle the liability. United’s internal investigation claims that they did nothing wrong since none of the other pets on board died. Maggie’s veterinarian claims otherwise. He performed an autopsy and concluded that Bea died of heatstroke—a horrible and preventable death.

Flying with pets makes me very nervous and hearing about Bea is heartbreaking. This story also comes at a time when many of my friends are flying with their dogs to agility nationals in Colorado. Some people are able to drive, but many live too far and can’t take the days off from work to be able to do so.

Maggie took every precaution that I would have taken to ensure her pets’ safety. I’ve heard good things about the Pet Safe program, which was adopted by United Airlines when they merged with Continental. This tragic story just shows that no matter how good an airline’s pet program is, flying animals in cargo will never be 100 percent safe. It’s a shame that there isn’t a safer alternative to travel with pets on major airlines (specialized companies like Pet Airways don’t cover all areas of the country). I know that there are challenges for accommodating pets on planes, but I hope one day that airlines will figure out a way where pets can fly safely.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Developing Superior Noses
UPenn to find out what makes up a superstar sniffer dog

Working canines use their amazing noses to help us do everything from finding explosives to detecting cancer. Raising and training these dogs takes a lot of time and money, so people are always looking for ways to increase the likelihood of successful dogs.

In Korea, the Customs Service started cloning star drug detection dogs due to their costly breeding program. Only 10-15 percent of puppies pass the behavior test just to quality for training, and only 30 percent of those dogs graduate from the program.

In the United States, the University of Pennsylvania’s Vet Working Dog Center is now setting out to study genetics and behavior in a program designed to develop superior scent dogs.

Seven puppies were donated by breeders-- two Chocolate Labradors, Thunder and Papa Bear; three Yellow Labradors, Socks, Sirius and Morgan; a Golden Retriever, Bretagne, and a female Dutch Shepherd, Kaiserin. They’re all named after brave 9/11 search dogs and will live with foster families when they’re not at the Center.

For the next two years, researchers will collect and analyze genetic, behavioral, and physical data to understand what makes a successful scent dog. The information will be used to build a breeding program to produce superstars--better search and rescue canines, better drug sniffing pups, and even better cancer detection dogs!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pets Poisoned in New York
Four dogs died in a two-day span after walking in the park

My Sheltie, Nemo, is always on the hunt for a snack, so I’m always worried that he’ll eat something bad. I take all sorts of precautions, like checking hotel room floors for abandoned medication and watching Nemo like a hawk when we’re on walks. But it’s impossible to see everything that goes into his mouth.

When I lived in Manhattan, I was always worried about rat poison left to control the rodent population. So I was horrified to learn that four dogs died in my old Upper West Side neighborhood from a toxin, possibly left to intentionally harm them. A dog lover’s worst nightmare.

During a two-day span in July, a Chihuahua, terrier mix, French Bulldog mix, and Shih Tzu starting seizing, vomiting, and frothing at the mouth after walking in Riverside Park. One of the dogs died on the way to the animal hospital and the other three at the veterinarian.

After ruling out a number of possibilities, all of the vets came to the same conclusion—all four dogs ingested a toxic substance. Then, an anonymous call came in from a man claiming that the poison was left intentionally. The caller said that a local building superintendent admitted to placing poison in the park because he was tired of people not picking up after their dogs.

Devastated, Kim Heismann, whose dog Charlie passed away, started posting warning signs in the area and reported the pattern of poisonings to the ASPCA. The neighborhood began rallying for action and the ASPCA is now investigating the case. PETA is also offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone found to be responsible.

Many of the Upper West Side residents have been walking in Riverside Park with their dogs and children for years. This tragedy has made everyone question the safety of the neighborhood. I hope that they find out who did this soon and that no other dogs are hurt.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Regulations for Pet Stores
N.Y. signs a law protecting doggies in the window

The journey began almost ten years ago in Long Island, N.Y. with a story that’s sadly all too common. When Lorianne LaMarca-Pegano visited a pet store in 2003, she fell in love with a Brussels Griffon that she brought home and named Charlemagne. Within six months, the poor pup was diagnosed with parasites, a corneal ulcer, and eventually kidney disease, high blood pressure, and a heart murmur. By the age of three, Lorianne was forced to euthanize Charlemagne.

The fluffy Brussels Griffon came to the pet store from a puppy mill in Kansas. So in Charlemagne's honor, Lorianne made it her mission to put a stop to the cruel breeding operations. After years of lobbying, some progress has finally been made in Lorianne’s home state. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Charlemagne’s Law this year, which goes into effect on January 14, 2013. 

Under the legislation, any licensed pet dealer must follow new requirements, such as hiring a veterinarian, giving mandatory vaccinations, increasing regular exercise, and creating a quarantine area to separate sick animals. Stores must also create a program to respond to diseases and designate an employee to monitor health. Businesses in violation of the new law could lose their license.

The horrors of puppy mills have gotten a lot of media attention in recent years, but people continue to buy dogs from pet stores. It frustrates me to no end.  No responsible breeder would ever sell one of their puppies to a pet store.

I’m happy to see that New York is taking action to improve the conditions in pet stores. But it’s not going to solve the root of the problem. The animals in pet stores are bred in horrific conditions with no regard for genetic health. Even if the dogs in the window look healthy at the store, these puppies are prone to developing problems later on since their parents were not tested for genetic diseases at the puppy mill.

I hope that one day New York will replace this law with a complete ban on selling pets in stores, like West Hollywood and South Lake Tahoe have put in place. But for now Charlemagne’s Law is a step in the right direction.   

News: Editors
A Lit Favorite: Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz was one of the leading Polish Jewish authors of the 20th century, although he only wrote two collections of stories during his lifetime. He was born in 1892 in the town of Drohobycz in what is now the Ukraine (but was, at one time part of Austria and then Poland). The town of Drohobycz  is currently hosting an art and literature festival to honor him. He has been acclaimed as one of the greatest stylist in Polish literature.

Schulz, who was also a graphic artist was residing in that town during WWII, under the “protection” of a S.S. officer, Felix Landau, in exchange for painting a mural on the walls of his villa. But Schulz was slain in 1942, shot as he was walking down the street by a Nazi commander who was said to kill him in retaliation toward Landau. Horribly the killer had said,” You killed my Jew—I killed yours.”

His first book, The Street of Crocodiles, was published in 1934 and he was hailed as one of the major avant-garde writer and visual artist in that era. Contemporary writers, David Grossman,  Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, Cynthia Ozick, Jonathan Saffron Foer, have all paid homage to him. In the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Schulz “wrote sometimes like Kafka, sometimes like Proust, and at times succeeded in reaching the depths that neither of them reached.”

We became acquainted with Schulz’s work through  a recommendation from a reader. We were honored to be able to publish “Nimrod,” a story from his first book, in 2004. It remains one of our lit favorites. As David Grossman said about his discovery of Schulz’s writing that when he first read him “Even today it is hard for me to describe the jolt that ran through me.” We feel the same, and hopefully you agree that this story merits a place in the dog literature canon.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
N.Y. Hero Named K-9 of the Year
SAR dog ignores his handler in order to save a missing man

A New York police dog was named K-9 of the Year on Saturday by the Suffolk County SPCA. Last week, Chase, a 4-year old German Shepherd, located a missing Long Island man after unfruitful efforts by human rescuers.

Jerome Nadler, a 76-year old doctor and Vietnam War veteran, disappeared on Labor Day after going fly-fishing. Rescuers used divers, off-road vehicles, and a helicopter in an unsuccessful three-day search before asking Suffolk County’s K-9 Search and Rescue team to join the effort.

It wasn’t long before Chase found Jerome in a thick wooded area that rescuers were already veering away from. The man was dehydrated and covered in bug bites, but thanks to Chase's skill and perseverence, Jerome is now recovering in the hospital.

Chase, who is trained to stay with a found person, waited by Jerome’s side even when he was being called back by his handler, Sam Barreto. Chase didn’t move until Sam and the other officers caught up.

I’d love to know what was going through Chase’s brain. We know he’s is an extremely obedient dog, but he was also smart enough to distinguish between a more important behavior, staying with Jerome, and what his handler was asking, to return to the group.

We’ll probably never know what Chase was thinking, but it’s very impressive that the heroic pup is able to negotiate priorities. The possibilities of the human-canine bond certainly seem limitless!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Parking at Ikea
The trendy home store creates a hangout area for pets

Since I spend so much time at work during the week, I like to take my dogs shopping on the weekends, when it makes sense. They love meeting new people, so it’s fun for them to come along. Stores also make great places to socialize friendly puppies after they’re housebroken. Now that most American families have a pet, companies are starting to realize the importance of being pet friendly. I’ve definitely noticed more stores rolling out the welcome mat to dogs.

I see small dogs in the trendy home store, Ikea, from time to time, although they’re not technically allowed. Ikea stores in Germany are now catering to pet lovers who don’t want to leave their furry family members at home.  The company recently unveiled “Dog Parking,” a covered outdoor area with individual patches of astro-turf, with tie outs and water bowls, and small kennels shaped like dog houses.

The idea was inspired by Ikea’s in-store childcare, which is available at Ikea locations worldwide, and Manland, an entertainment area for husbands that some Australian Ikea stores tested for a few days last year.

I’m happy to see that Ikea is trying to accommodate families with pets, but I’d never leave my crew in the “Dog Parking.” The pets are left unattended, so there’s no stopping someone from stealing a dog or feeding the pups something they shouldn’t have. Insurance reasons alone will probably prevent the “Dog Parking,” idea from coming to our side of the pond, but I do like the idea of Ikea stores becoming more pet friendly. I don’t think that there’s a need for doggie daycare, but perhaps they can start with more pet products. I love Ikea’s funky designs, but I was always surprised that they don’t make more items for animals.

Is your favorite store pet friendly?

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