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Wellness: Health Care
DIY Physical Exam: An “owner’s manual” for your dog Part 1
Part 1 in a 4 Part Guide
Dog Exam - DIY Dog Physical Exam at Home

To identify an illness or abnormal situation, you must first be able to recognize what is normal for your dog. You know your dog better than anyone else and you will have to decide when an abnormal situation warrants professional help. Sometimes the condition is so serious it leaves no doubt. Frequently, however, the changes are subtle, or happen over a longer period of time, making noticing a problem more difficult.  

Over the course of the following weeks, I will provide you with information on how to perform an at-home physical exam, helping to determine and establish what is normal for your pet. It is recommended that you occasionally perform this exam- while there is nothing wrong- so that you can begin to get used to what is normal. This practice will help allow for the early detection of changes in your dog’s health.  

I will start with the basics this week: A good look, temperature, and how to obtain a heart rate. Next week will continue with a systems approach beginning with the head area, followed by the chest, and lastly, the abdomen. At the completion of these 4 blogs, you should have a complete home guide on how to perform a screening exam.  Ready?!

THE BASICS:

First, before you start your hands-on exam, stand back and just simply look at your dog for a few minutes. The posture, breathing, activity level, and general appearance can really tell you a great deal. Get a good picture of your dog’s “normal” in its relaxed home environment—this mental snapshot will help you notice any subtle change.

TEMPERATURE:

Taking your dog’s temperature is an easy and important procedure. Use a digital rectal thermometer (the ear type is less reliable and mercury thermometers can break!). Lubricate the end with petroleum jelly and gently insert the thermometer into the rectum about 1 inch for small dogs and about 2 inches for larger ones. If it does not slide in easily, do not force it. And do not risk taking your pet’s temperature if you feel there is a risk of being bitten.

Normal

  • A normal temperature is between 100 F and 102.5F
  • The thermometer is almost clean when removed

Abnormal

  • Temperature is below 99 F or above 102.5 F
  • There is evidence of blood, diarrhea, or black, tarry stool on the thermometer; black/tarry stool can indicate a bleeding ulcer in the stomach or small intestines, or point to other sources of disease

PULSE AND HEART RATE:

Learn to locate the pulse on your dog before a crisis. The best place on a dog is the femoral artery in the groin area (see picture).

Here’s how: place your fingers around the front of the hind leg and move upward until the back of your hand meets the abdominal wall. Move your fingertips back and forth on the inside of the thigh until you feel the “roll” of the artery and the pulsing sensation as the blood rushes through it. Count the number of pulses in 15 seconds and multiply by 4. This will give you the pulse rate in beats per minute. Pulse rate is a highly variable finding and can be affected by recent exercise, excitement or stress. Do not use the heart rate at the sole evidence that your pet is sick or healthy.

The heart rates that are listed are for healthy dogs at rest in their home, not for animals that are evaluated in a veterinary clinic where higher heart rates might be detected due to excitement, stress of a visit to the clinic, or disease.

Normal

  • Dogs: 60 to 160 beats per minute (bpm): relaxed, large breed, or athletic dogs tend to have slower heart rates, while small breed dogs and puppies tend to have higher heart rates. This marked variability in heart rate stresses the importance of knowing what is normal for your pet.
  • The pulse should be easily felt and the quality of it should be strong and regular

 

Abnormal

  • Too rapid or too slow
  • Pulse is weak, irregular, or hard to locate

 

Practice these essential skills and I’ll see you next week for all things head related, including the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth! See DIY Physical Exam: Part 2.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Fulfilling a Canine Bucket List
Boy seeks treats for his dying service dog

When eleven-year old Cole Hein found out that his Jack Russell Terrier had only weeks to live, he created the “Lick It List,” a canine bucket list to honor his pup Bingo. For five years, Bingo has been taking care of Cole, who has a medical condition that can stop his breathing. The thirteen-year old dog is trained to alert adults if the boy needs CPR.

In the first six months the two were together, Bingo saved Cole's life three times, leading to her induction into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame in 2010. Now it's Cole's turn to help Bingo make the most of her time left as the pup battles Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

Here is Cole and Bingo's Lick It List:

1) Let Bingo "taste" the world by getting him dog treats from around the globe

2) Take Bingo for one last "public" outing to Ruckers (a favorite game-and-pizza place)

3) Walk around the block twice with Bingo

4) Do a photo shoot with just Bingo and Cole (which has already been arranged)

To help Cole achieve Bingo's Lick It List, he's asking people around the world to send treats. No monetary donations will be accepted (Bingo's medical care is taken care of). Any treats that Bingo can't consume will be donated to the local animal shelter. Likewise, if you're not able to send treats, Cole asks that you make a donation to your favorite animal rescue in Bingo's name.

Dog treats can be sent to:

Cole Hein/Bingo Hein
P.O. Box 413
Shilo, MB
Canada
R0K 2A0

If my dogs had a bucket list, treats would certainly be number one! What would be on your dog's Lick It List?

News: Guest Posts
The Most Incredible Sit Ever
If London can do it, any dog can.

http://youtu.be/b3vIPrO9zME

Before he turned six months of age, London lost the use of both front legs. It was not due to disease or an accident, but sickening abuse and negligence at the hands of his Northern California owners. A local shelter representative rescued him from the situation. Ultimately, he was placed in the care of Panda Paws Rescue (PPR), a nonprofit group in Vancouver, Washington, that focuses on special needs canines.

PPR founder Amanda Giese arranged for an evaluation with a surgeon Brandon Sherman, DVM, of Animal Care Clinic, who determined that both legs were shattered and required amputation. London had been suffering in this state for a month or longer. During that time, he had somehow managed to tolerate the pain and move using his hind legs and his face to serve as the third "leg."  

On August 1, 2012, Dr. Sherman performed a successful surgery. As you can see in the video above, London is adjusting well and thriving in his foster home. He will be fitted with a wheelchair so he does not damage his spine or back. 

Two weeks later, based on statements and evidence supporting that London was brutally beaten on two separate occasions, the Crescent City Police Department arrested multiple suspects who remain in custody and are being charged with felonies.

London's surgery was covered by donations totaling $5,000. This generosity lead Giese to start the Team London Scholarship, with a goal of raising $100,000 to help other special needs canines. PPR is an all-volunteer, nonprofit rescue, so all funds go directly to the animals it serves. To read more about London and his extraordinary spirit, go to We Are Team London.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dangerous Snack Bags
Penn. pup suffocates from a potato chip bag

It’s well known that plastic bags pose a suffocation risk for both children and pets. Most packaging carries a warning as a reminder. However, I never considered that snack bags could also be dangerous. 

Last month a Pennsylvania family came home to a heartbreaking scene. The Elwoods knew something was wrong when their 4-year old Pit Bull didn’t greet them at the door. Amid trash scattered around the house, they found Lucy with her head stuck in a potato chip bag she stole from the garbage can.

CPR was attempted, but sadly the poor pup had already suffocated. The Elwood family has now made it their mission to prevent this tragedy from happening again. The fliers they created advise people to either cut out the bottom of bags or tear them open completely before throwing them away. The Elwoods also contacted the Frito Lay company about adding a warning label to snack bags.

My dog, Nemo, is a perennial garbage raider, so I’ve always had to be careful about his access to trash cans. Considering Nemo’s habit, I’ll definitely be cutting any bags that I throw out. It’s a good safety measure in addition to keeping garbage cans out of reach.

Please spread the word in Lucy’s memory.

News: Editors
A Friend's Sudden Passing

Recently we got the sad news that a friend from the dog park had passed away suddenly. She was on a backpacking trip in the Sierra mountains with a group of friends when she had a heart attack, a few hours later she died at a friend’s home. It is all so horribly sad! Luckily her two dogs were not with her; they were being cared for by another friend/dogsitter back in Berkeley. Unfortunately Carol did not leave a will, she was a single woman who adored her dogs but there were no instructions about what to do if something like this would happen. I know that few of us, especially those as healthy and as robust like Carol was (even at the age of 69), think of doing such things. I don’t think we like to ponder our own mortality. The welfare of Carol’s two dogs was now in the hands of her dog sitter, a challenging assignment for anyone. Other friends at the park offered what they could by the way of advice and assistance. Luckily a woman, who had the littermate, took the Husky in, and the dog sitter kept the young Jack Russell for a while until another of the dog park pals, took him in too. All that was a great relief to everyone who knew Carol and who loved her dogs. No matter what age you are, and especially if you are a single person with dogs, it is really important to consider doing a living will or setting up a pet trust. This was a lesson to me that we simply can’t leave such important matters in the hands of others.

Wellness: Health Care
Ick! It’s a Tick on My Dog!
The top 5 tick myths dispelled

Disease-carrying ticks can pose serious health risks to both dogs and people, no matter what state you live in. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that ticks in every state can carry disease, and the number of tick-borne diseases is on the rise. Here in Northern California, they seem to be everywhere, and it is not uncommon for me to find an “incidental tick or two” during my physical exam.  This usually leads to a tick-related conversation where I sometimes have to dispel a tick myth or two.

Fiction: “I heard that the best way to remove a tick is with a lit match, petroleum jelly, or alcohol”

Fact: None of these methods cause a tick to “back out” of the skin and can actually cause more injury. When you try to remove an embedded tick in this manner, you can actually aggravate it, causing the tick to deposit more disease-carrying saliva into the wound, and increasing the risk of infection. The best way to remove a tick is by using tweezers, grasping it as close to the dog’s skin as possible, and pulling the tick out with a steady motion. Dispose of the removed tick down the toilet or by placing it in rubbing alcohol.You should clean the skin with mild soap and water after its removal. You may see a little red circle (like a bull’s eye) or bump of redness on the skin at the insertion site following removal- this can be normal and may be visible for up to a couple of days. You should see your veterinarian if the region of redness increases in size or if it doesn’t go away within 2-3 days.

Fiction: “My dog doesn’t go hiking in the woods, so I don’t have to worry about exposure”

Fact:  Ticks live on the ground no matter the locale, and this includes our urban parks and rural areas. Ticks typically crawl up blades of grass, looking to hitch a ride as our pets pass by. Ticks like to migrate upward, which is often why they’re found on the head.

Fiction:  “Ticks aren’t a problem in the colder weather, so I only have to worry in the summer”

Fact: In most areas of the country, “tick season” runs from April to November, however, infection can occur any time of the year. For example, in the winter, some tick species actually move indoors, while other species make a type of “internal antifreeze” to survive during the winter months. This is often why veterinarians will recommend year-round tick prevention.

Fiction:  “Lyme disease is the only illness that ticks can transmit to dogs (and their humans)”

Fact:  While Lyme disease is the most widely known and common disease caused by ticks, there are other diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis (one of the newer discovered diseases, see Jane Brody’s article about it), and ehrlichiosis. These diseases can have equally devastating effects on our pets.

Fiction:  “If I find a tick on my pet, or if I see the “bull’s eye” red ring on my pet’s skin, I should get a blood test because this will tell me if my pet has disease”

Fact: If your pet is ill, and you are aware of tick exposure, a tick-borne disease screen is highly recommended.  However, it should be noted that lab tests run for tick-borne diseases are often negative on the first sample and require a second test in two to three weeks to confirm infection. Therefore, a negative test does not necessarily mean that your pet is free from disease. It should also be noted that many dogs with tick-borne illness do not experience any symptoms, especially in the early stages of disease.

And one last tip to throw into the mix:  if you do attempt to remove a tick at home, make sure that it is actually a tick!  I cannot tell you how many times I see a pet on emergency for an accidentally removed nipple!  Ouch!

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Named After a Dog
“Wild Karen” the inspiration

I recently met another woman named Karen, and our conversation turned to dogs. Of course, there’s a tendency for many of my conversations to take that route, but this one arrived at the subject quite directly. The other Karen told me that she bet the story of how she got her name was more interesting than the story of how I got mine. 

She almost wins that one by default because my story is that my parents found “Karen” in a book of baby names and liked it. Riveting, isn’t it? Karen does indeed have a much better tale. Her stepfather went to the greyhound racing track and a speedy dog named “Wild Karen” won, and that’s who she was named after. She told me that as a child, she hardly ever shared that story because being named after a dog would have invited a lot of teasing from other kids.

I understood completely, but oh, how times have changed! Now, it sounds pretty cool that she was named after a dog. (Of course, going to the greyhound racetrack is not viewed as positively as it once was, but that’s another issue.) Because Karen had expressed concern about sharing this story, I made sure to ask her if I could write about it for The Bark’s blog, and she agreed. It turns out that she just received The Bark for Christmas and loves it!

Lots of dogs share names with humans these days, and some of the really common names such as Emma, Zoe, Sadie, and Sophie are popular for both species, but it’s hard to know who’s named after whom anymore, or whether parents and guardians simply liked the name. Do you know of any people who were named after dogs?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Facebook Pup Learns to Herd
Mark Zuckerberg introduces his dog to sheep for the first time

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla, made headlines last year when their family grew by one 8-week Puli named Beast. Since then they’ve been spoiling the furry pup in their Palo Alto home. Beast has his own Facebook page and even escorted Priscilla down the aisle when the couple got married in May.

Going back to the Puli’s Hungarian Sheepdog roots, Zuckerberg recently took Beast on his first sheep herding lesson. Photos can be seen on the dog’s Facebook page in an album captioned, “Dad took me to herd sheep for the very first time!” Herding breeds are very active by nature, so it’s important to keep them stimulated by introducing them to activities like rounding up sheep.

It’s also pretty amazing to watch. I remember the first time that I brought my Border Collie, Remy, herding. He had never seen a sheep before in his life, but as soon as he saw the flock, he immediately ran over and started circling them. The natural instinct was incredible!

I hope that Beast’s herding adventure inspires others to find activities to share with their pets.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Joy of Fostering

She was another one of the many neglected strays I pick up on my job as an animal control officer but I was shocked by how emaciated she was. Her spine and hips stood out in stark relief, especially over her rump where much of her hair was missing. Her belly was hugely swollen and closer inspection showed that she was ready to deliver. She was incredibly sweet and looked like a Border Collie/Lab mix; all black with beautiful big brown eyes.

It was clear that she would give birth before her stray hold period was up and in her condition, the shelter was not the best place for her. Her photo was posted online in case an owner came looking for her. They would have had to do some explaining as to why their unspayed dog was roaming and in such terrible condition if they had tried to claim her. I named her April and took her home and made her comfortable in a cozy, spacious kennel that I keep ready for dogs in need.

Within days she delivered 8 beautiful puppies in shades of gold and black. She was a doting mama and her puppies thrived. Getting full choice puppy kibble and several warm wet meals a day she actually began to gain weight even while nursing. She was delighted when I gently examined her puppies each day and would wag her tail proudly while licking each one as I checked to be sure they were gaining and healthy.

On the ninth day I went in to do my daily puppy cuddle and was shocked and saddened to find one of the gold puppies dead. It’s not unusual to lose a very young puppy, especially when mom was in such terrible shape, but they had been so fat, shiny and healthy the day before. When I examined the rest of the litter I found others that were failing too. Even mama April was off her food and seemed like she didn’t feel well.

I consulted with the vet, who thought they had probably picked up a nasty infection. We started antibiotics twice daily and I began tube feeding and gave warmed subcutaneous fluids to the ones that weren’t able to nurse.  Some of them rallied while others went downhill. Having worked in numerous shelters and vet clinics I’ve dealt with sick puppies many times.  Often the very young pups die even with extensive treatment.

It was heartbreaking to have to poke the sick babies with needles and stick tubes down their throats but it was all that was keeping them alive. Several of the pups never did get sick and they continued to grow and gain weight. I took the chubbies out several times a day to give the weaker pups a chance to nurse without competition.

The two remaining blond pups and the little blaze-faced male were so sick that I doubted they would survive. After nearly two weeks the blond pups started to improve but little Blaze lingered, barely alive, day after day. More vet consults, more meds and fluids. I started to wonder if I was just prolonging his suffering but he didn’t seem painful, just terribly weak and frail. I was certain he would die but he hung on and would at least attempt to nurse so I continued the treatments.

He finally improved briefly but then I found him nearly comatose one evening. I put Karo syrup on his tongue for energy and gave him warmed fluids. I sat up half the night with him cuddled up on my chest and dripped miserable tears onto his tiny body. He remained unresponsive and there didn’t seem to be any hope. Around 1 a.m. I finally tucked him into a warmed blanket on low heat and kissed him good-bye.

I was emotionally and physically exhausted after 2 weeks of round the clock puppy care but I tossed and turned until six before getting up and preparing to bury Blaze. I was positive that he couldn’t have survived the night and was shocked to find him rooting around for a meal when I opened the blanket. Hurrying him into see April, I moved the bigger puppies out of the way and placed him on a nipple.  She nosed and licked him eagerly and I supported him while he nursed for a moment before falling asleep. He was still very weak and I helped him nurse every hour or so until he grew stronger and stronger.

Blaze finally turned the corner and he and the other pups never looked back. Mama April and all the puppies were adopted into wonderful homes and we get together for reunions so they can play together. I’ve been doing fostering and rescue for more than 25 years but the rewards of helping needy dogs still feel just as sweet.

I would love for Barks readers to consider fostering a needy dog or share experiences of fostering.  Most shelters and rescues welcome the assistance and there’s nothing like the feeling of making a difference.

News: Guest Posts
Guide Dog Makes a Good Fitness Partner

Without being able to drive, I’ve always thought that blind people and our guide dogs—especially those of us who live in big cities—must walk more than the average person-and-dog team does.

A new wellness program at my workplace gave me a chance to prove it. I work part time at Easter Seals Headquarters in downtown Chicago, and in June they started a six-week “Walk For U, Go The Extra Mile” challenge. Every employee received a free pedometer to keep track of our progress for six weeks, and those of us who met the daily goal of 7,000 steps per day—a distance of 3.5 miles—throughout the entire six weeks would be entered into a drawing to win a six-month fitness club membership.

The human resources department realized I wouldn’t be able to read the number of steps I’d taken each day on my own, so they ordered a special talking pedometer for me—it said my results out loud. And so, I was on my way to prove my theory.

The list of requirements for people applying to train with a Seeing Eye dog says candidates need to be able to walk one or two miles a day. When you live in a city you can’t simply open a sliding glass patio door to let your guide dog out. When my Seeing Eye dog Whitney (a two-year-old Golden Retriever/Labrador Retriever cross) needs to “empty,” I take her down the street, around the corner and to her favorite tree. That’s 1,000 steps per trip, and that trip takes place at least four times a day. And for the rest of the day, well, running errands in a city is like using one big treadmill. Add the safety shortcuts Whitney and I take across busy city streets (rather than deal with traffic, we go down the subway stairs on one side of busy streets, traverse underneath,  then come up the stairs on the other side) well, every El station is a StairMaster.The first two weeks of our experiment included one week of 100-degree temperatures in Chicago. We stayed inside with our air conditioner on more than usual, but hey, a girls gotta go. Even in that hot weather Whitney and I averaged 9,871 steps a day, and our steps per day increased when temperatures cooled down the next week.

Just when I’d started planning which new equipment Whitney and I would try out when we won the free health club membership grand prize from the Go The Extra Mile challenge, I pressed the button to hear the number of steps I’d taken so far that day, and, nothing. My talking pedometer stopped talking. I shook the thing and pressed the button. Nothing. I turned it upside-down and rightside-up again. Nothing. I stuck it in a bag of rice for a day. Nothing.

And so, what happened with the challenge? Well, human resources offered to buy me a new talking pedometer, but I told them not to bother. I have a new theory now: blind people and our guide dogs—especially those of us who live in big cities—walk so many steps that a talking pedometer can’t keep up with us.

 

 

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