Wellness: Health Care
DIY Physical Exam: An “owner’s manual” for your dog Part 4
Part 4 in 4 part guide
Doing DIY Physical Exams on Dogs

Welcome back for the last installment of the DIY physical exam for your dog! We have reached “the tail end” of things so to speak, and will be finishing up our discussion with learning some “belly basics” as well as what to watch out for with the musculoskeletal system.


The exam is pretty straightforward: touch and feel the stomach, starting just behind the ribs and gently press your hands into the belly. Like all other parts of the body, you will be getting a feel for what is normal, and then continuing to monitor for any future changes. If your pet has just eaten, you may be able to feel an enlargement in the left part of the belly just under the ribs (where the stomach “lives”), which can be normal just after eating. Continue by proceeding toward the rear of the body, passing your hands gently over the entire area.


  • No lumps, bumps, or masses
  • No discomfort on palpation
  • No distention of the belly


  • Any lump, bump, or mass may be abnormal
  • Palpation that causes groaning or difficulty breathing: any evidence or indication of pain is a serious finding and requires immediate attention; sudden and marked belly pain is what we refer to as “an acute abdomen” and can be caused by various conditions including pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), sepsis (an infection in the belly that can be caused by a ruptured bowel or foreign body such as a foxtail), bleeding into the belly (such as from rat bait or a ruptured spleen), trauma, tumors or abscesses
  • If the abdomen feels hard or tense and it appears distended: this is one of the major signs of bloat or GDV and immediate attention is needed! 


There are many conditions that can all look like “a basic lameness” in our pets. Below are a few of the more common presentations I see and their potential causes.


  • Lameness in any single leg: when a pet becomes lame, sources of the discomfort can be from the bone, soft tissue, joints, or tendon/ligaments.
  • A persistent, non-resolving lameness despite rest and medications: another thing that needs to be considered is a type of bone cancer called Osteosarcoma; this can be common finding in the long bones of large breed, older dogs and an X-ray can be performed to screen for this type of cancer; another typical presentation for bone cancer that I see is a pet that develops a very sudden and severely painful lameness following a “simple” act, such as jumping off the porch.
  • Swelling of the joints: common causes include infectious diseases (tick-borne disease, septic joints), immune mediated disease, vaccine-related reactions, and degenerative joint diseases.
  • Loss of function or paralysis in hind legs: some causes include disease processes such as a herniated disk, cancer, infection, narrowing between the vertebrae of the spine, or degenerative myelopathy; losing the ability to walk is an emergency and immediate care is needed to help improve your pet’s chances of regaining mobility!
  • Recurring, shifting leg lameness, pain, and fever in a young dog: Panosteitis is a disease of the long bones of mostly young, growing large breed dogs; German Shepherd males are most frequently affected but any large breed dog can be affected.
  • Limp tail: this is also known as “limber tail” or “cold tail” and is a condition in which a working dog suddenly develop a flaccid tail; affected dogs usually have a history of prolonged cage transport, a hard workout the previous day, swimming, or exposure to cold or wet weather; most dogs recover spontaneously within a few days to weeks but evaluation by your veterinarian should be done because there are other diseases that can mimic a “limber tail” such as a tail fracture, spinal cord disease, impacted anal glands, and prostatic disease.

I hope this systems approach to an “at-home physical exam” helps you to become familiar and stay in tune with what is normal for your pet. Performing this exam in the comfort of your own home is the best way to learn what is normal and helps you to recognize any early changes in your pets behavior. Consult your veterinarian if an abnormal condition exists or you are concerned about any exam finding.  Early recognition can save the life of your pet! 

By no means is this list exhaustive, and this information is intended as a general reference; it is not intended to replace professional advice or an examination by a veterinarian. 


Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Royal Rescue
The Duchess of Cornwall adopts her second Jack Russell

I always knew that rescue dogs were special and, having recently added my first shelter pup to the family, I've become more aware of the joys of adopting. Rescuing animals has become more popular and mainstream in recent years, perhaps due in part to the many celebrities who've done a great job of promoting pet adoption.  

In the U.K., Queen Elizabeth is well known for her pedigreed Corgis, but I was delighted to learn about some of the royal pups with more humble beginnings.  

Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, just adopted her second Jack Russell Terrier earlier this month. 9-week old Bluebell joins 1-year old Beth, a dog that Camilla also rescued as a puppy from the Battersea Dogs and Cat Home in England.    

Bluebell was found by the rescue group in a local park, scared and suffering from a severe skin condition. Now the puppy is healthy and happy in her new home at the Clarence House, also the former residence of Queen Elizabeth and her Corgis.

I love that Bluebell found a loving home and that Camilla chose to go the rescue route for a second time. I'm sure her choice will influence others in England to adopt!

News: Letters
The Dogs We Need: Two Views

As an avid Bark reader who frequently hikes with my dog, I was so excited to see that this issue prominently featured exploring nature with your dog. I see the opportunity to share wild spaces with other hikers and wildlife as a privilege, not an innate right. This means following leash laws and not allowing my dog to be a nuisance to other hikers and wildlife on the trail.

I was horrified as I read Lee Harrington’s description of hiking with Wallace in “Getting the Dog You Need.” I am simply astounded that she thought it was okay to ignore leash rules on the Breakneck Ridge trail and let her dog run out of control, chasing animals and “barking wildly in the distance.” Then on top of that, she went out and adopted another high-energy dog and tried to do the exact same thing with her.

This is incredibly selfish, and a perfect example of how irresponsible dog owners ruin it for the rest of us when park officials decide to ban dogs completely from a trail or park. By publishing Harrington’s story, Bark is implicitly condoning such behavior, and I’m afraid that other readers will think it’s acceptable to let their dogs run wildly on trails. These places are supposed to be refuges for wild animals, and allowing a dog to chase those animals over long distances is certainly very stressful for them. They have no way of knowing that the dog is (one hopes) just in it for the fun. They’re running in terror from a potential predator. Additionally, other hikers are understandably leery of being approached by strange dogs with no owners in view.

Owner of high-energy dogs are responsible for finding safe and appropriate ways to exercising their dogs: jogging, agility, playing fetch and so forth. I too share a tiny apartment with a huge, high-energy dog but would never use that as an excuse to unleash him on unsuspecting hikers and wildlife on the trail.

—Elizabeth Wagner

Lee Harrington hit the nail on the head with the recent chapter of the “Chloe Chronicles.” I would say that not only do we get the dog we need, we get the dog who needs us. Our dog Khan is an excellent example of that principle.

When he first came into our home, he was a terrified, aggressive and very reactive dog with a serious potential to cause harm. Our behaviorist’s prognosis was not promising. Khan arrived about a year after we had gone through a terrible ordeal attempting to rehabilitate another dog, Clay, which unfortunately did not work out. After losing Clay, I had a lot of self-doubt, and questioned the training methods I used with him, which included positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning techniques. For Clay, they were ineffective, and I had the bite marks to prove it.

Khan needed much the same type of rehab work as Clay, but my wife and I were willing to try again. After a year of individual consults and reviews, Khan and I were finally able to enroll in a class from which we were not immediately asked to leave because of his disruptive behavior. Five months after that, I found two agility trainers who graciously allowed Khan to join their classes in spite of his fearful nature. These classes helped Khan tremendously, allowing him to develop his own self-confidence; they also gave me continued opportunities to practice counter-conditioning and other positive-reinforcement training methods to combat his anxiety and fear. It was daily work. Like the mailman, neither rain nor fog nor fatigue kept us from working each night in one location or another. Our goal was to pass the CGC test.

After two more years of continuous work, Khan got his CGC! Considering his problems, this was something I thought he would never achieve. However, we didn’t rest on our laurels. Along with agility, we discovered the joys of lure coursing; you’d think he was part Whippet, the way he pursues the lure.

About two years after coursing on weekends and two more years of agility training, a friend observed that Khan seemed especially receptive to seniors and might make a good therapy dog. One of my other dogs does therapy work, and based on Khan’s history, it was the one thing I would never have believed he would enjoy doing. However, after watching him interact with a variety of seniors, I was amazed at just how far he had come. Three months later, he was a working therapy dog.

One visit in particular stands out in my memory. We were at a facility that specializes in the care of those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. One of the patients we visited was in bed, curled up and facing the wall. Normally, I don’t allow Khan to jump in bed with patients, but our usual means of being accessible to those with limited mobility were not effective. Khan very gently and gracefully hoisted himself onto the bed, inched over and lay down where the patient could pet him. I never would have believed that a frightened ball of fur could turn into an animal with such sensitivity to human need.

Khan restored my faith in my ability to help him overcome his fears, and found the family he needed to help him become the very special dog that he is. Here’s to our special dogs, who give us what we need and allow us to give them what they need.

—Clark Kranz

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Strong Bond Takes a Pup Miles from Home
Husky travels over two miles to find his person at the hospital
When John Dolan was admitted to New York's Good Samaritan Medical Center earlier this month, his Husky, Zander, started whining and moping around the house. After a few days, the 7-year old dog went missing. It wasn't unusual for the furry escape artist to slip out the back door unnoticed, but John's family was shocked to find Zander at the hospital.

Incredibly, the Husky traveled over two miles, under a major road and across a four-lane highway to find John, in an area of town the dog had never visited. A hospital employee found Zander across the street from the hospital and informed a very surprised John. The dog has been like a child to John ever since he adopted the pup five years ago from a local shelter. This adventure clearly shows the special relationship that they have.

Every now and then I hear about these amazing dogs who find their families, miles away from home. We may never know how these brave pups do it, but it's certainly a testament to the human canine bond.

I'm also glad that Zander wasn't hurt making such a dangerous journey. Back in July I wrote about hospitals that allow patients' pets to visit. If the Good Samaritan Medical Center added a similar program, Zander wouldn't have had to escape in order to see John. It would certainly make many happy canines and humans!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mirror Method Comes to the U.S.
The trainer behind the viral videos opens a school in Texas

In 2010, two videos featuring a group of Hungarian dogs decorating a Christmas tree and setting up a beach scene took the internet by storm. These impressive pups not only wowed us with their abilities, but they also introduced the world to the Mirror Method.

The idea behind this approach is that our pets are a reflection of us—our training abilities and the relationship we have with them. So often the dogs get blamed for behavioral problems when it’s our job to us to teach them.

There are three parts of the Mirror Method—leadership (being a “parent” figure and setting rules), training (using reinforcement based methods), and lifestyle (providing enough physical and mental exercise). None of it is necessarily groundbreaking on its own, but put together the Mirror Method is a powerful way of looking at training—not just solving a single behavior problem, but looking at the whole picture.

After the videos made the internet rounds, many people wondered how they could train their dogs using the same techniques.

Fortunately (or at least for some lucky pups in Texas), the lead trainer behind the videos is bringing the training philosophy to the United States. Nora Vamosi-Nagy just opened the Mirror Method’s first school in Athens, Texas, which will begin classes later this month.

One of the most interesting things about Mirror Method classes is that they’re all conducted off leash. Nora believes that the dog’s behavior, without restrictions, provides immediate feedback on the relationship and respect between the dogs and people in the room.

Should be an unique experience for the first U.S. Mirror Method graduates… if only I lives a little closer to Texas!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Facebook Dogs
Increase in animal lovers creating social media accounts for their pets

Although a lot of people complain about Facebook, I don’t know what I’d do without the infamous social networking web site. It lets me connect with busy friends, keep up with family across the world, and stay up-to-date on my dog sport pals’ latest accomplishments. Both of my pups even have their own Facebook profiles, which I use to tag them in photos and post tongue-in-cheek updates about eating Kongs and traveling to agility class.

While pet profiles aren’t technically allowed, I figure, if my friends’ babies can have profiles, why can’t my dogs. After all, they are my children! However, my pups’ online jaunts may soon come to an end. Now that Facebook is publicly traded, the company is cracking down on millions of non-human accounts.

Nonetheless, a study by pet insurer Petplan found that seven percent of British dog people set up a Facebook page for their pups, a 36 percent increase from last year.

The ban doesn’t mean that Facebook is not animal friendly. People can set up pet pages in the form of a fan page, which is what Mark Zuckerberg set up for his Puli, Beast, who is “liked” by over one million Facebook users.

If you want to be proactive about your pets’ profiles, Facebook has instructions on how to convert them to a fan page.

Does your pup have a social media account?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Postponing Their Wedding to Save a Dog
Couple gives up their nuptials to pay for their pup’s medical bills

Recently my Sheltie, Nemo, had to get three emergency surgeries in the span of one week. Needless to say, he is lucky to be alive and I am amazed at the advances in veterinary technology. The operations also left me with quite the veterinary bill. I was fortunate to have the money saved, but it really left me thinking of how important it is to be financially prepared for these kinds of emergency.

So I felt complete sympathy when I heard about a Florida couple who postponed their wedding for a second time to use the money for their dog’s life-saving operation. Melanie Cannon and Eddie Hanna adopted Koda, a Pit Bull mix, just six months ago from the Halifax Humane Society in Volusia County, Florida. But last month they found out that Koda had a liver shunt, the worst their veterinarian had ever seen.

Melanie and Eddie had pet insurance for Koda, but after their claim was rejected, the couple forfeited their wedding deposits and used the money saved to pay for Koda’s medical care. This was actually the second time the couple had to postpone their wedding. Last October, Melanie’s grandmother passed away a week before their wedding date. None of the vendors refunded their money, so Melanie and Eddie were forced to save up for a second time.

When the Halifax Humane Society heard about what Melanie and Eddie did for Koda, they were determined to put on a wedding for the couple. The animal shelter approached local companies and soon had a catering company, reception hall, music, and flowers lined up for the special day.  

Even better, Koda made a full recovery and attended the wedding held earlier this month.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Back-Up Dog Care
Handling sudden needs

Most of us have regular routines regarding who cares for our dogs when we are out of town, whether it’s a kennel, neighbors, friends, or relatives who step in to keep our pups happy and safe. Most of us have also been caught in a bind when plans fell through and we needed to make back-up plans, usually in an awful hurry. For example, I received this e-mail from a friend of mine whose dog care plans had fallen through the day before he was headed out of town. If you’ve ever been in a similar situation then you will be able to hear the desperation behind this simple request between friends.

>“How much do you love us? No, really? How much? ;-) We're out a dog sitter this weekend. Our neighbor can commit to watching Brick, our good girl, but is elderly and she can't commit to watching Pearl. Is there ANY chance you could watch little Pearlie girl? Clearly, she's all puppy, but she has a good heart and I still have some shekels in my pocket. Could we bring her out to your place tomorrow afternoon through Sunday? Let me know. . . And, if you say no, that's ok. I know you love us.”

I have previously written about this family’s adorable dog Pearl, describing how she ran into a neighbor’s house and unrolled most of a roll of toilet paper and ran about the neighborhood being chased and having a grand old time. She is a love of a dog, but a bit mischievous.

Normally, we would have said yes to hosting Pearl for a few days, but in this case, we had to say no to the opportunity. We were in the middle of having the floors redone in two rooms of our house—a situation that was incompatible with dog sitting any dog, and especially such a young and energetic one. Luckily, Pearl’s family did find a responsible friend to take care of her, but it was stressful for them until they figured out a back-up plan.

Do you have a back up for when your usual dog watching system doesn’t work for whatever reason?

News: Editors
The Daily Show Dogs on TV

Inspired by our own exclusive behind-the-scenes examination of the dogs of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Brian Williams’ “Rock Center” takes up on that story. Watch tonight as all our favorites, Kweli, Ally and Parker (and their humans too), and even more of their office dogs come out for the big time bright lights of TV. See how well everyone clicks into place and why we were so inspired by their humor and harmony. We’ve seen a preview clip so not sure if we’ll get to see Williams’ own dog make an appearance, he is, after all huge dog lover, same with Jon Stewart and his pair of French Bulldogs, hope we get to see them! Watch Rock Center tonight on NBC 10pm/9C. (And, nope, no The Bark there.)

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Groupon Helps a Dog in Need
Popular deal web site raises money to buy prosthetic boots for a pup

Deal web site Groupon revolutionized how people save money and find new local businesses to try. I’ve used these vouchers on frozen yogurt, pet supplies, and even a horseback ride. Although people go to Groupon to get more for their money, a new initiative called Groupon Grassroots is getting deal buyers to donate money to a good cause.

One of the latest Grassroots deals raised money to buy Pirelli, a 7-month old Golden Retriever/Labrador mix, a set of prosthetic boots. The poor pup was born without a back left paw and will continue to need new boots as he grows. Eventually the goal is to give Pirelli a surgically implanted prosthesis.

Users were given the opportunity to donate $10 to Pirelli and Canine Assistants with donation matching. Over 340 deals were purchased, raising over $7,000.

Pirelli is training to be the spokesdog for Canine Assistants, which trains and places service dogs. Pirelli will visit schools and teach children about disabilities. I’m always inspired by the enthusiasm animals have, living life to the fullest no matter what comes their way. Pirelli will surely have a positive impact on every kid he meets.