Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The lengths we can go to preserve our precious pups
Following a recent euthanasia, the owner asked me to collect some of his Labrador’s fur. I was under the assumption that he wanted a tangible fragment to remember his dog by, but when I handed him a locket of fur, he told me that he was going to “look into cloning him.” He asked me if fur was enough and if I knew of any cloning resources. I was at a loss. I realize these questions were, in part, triggered by his grief, but it got me thinking about how far people go to hold on to their best friends.
Genetic cloning became popular back in 1996, when scientists were able to duplicate a sheep named Dolly. Today, this high-tech genetic engineering is becoming more accessible—for those with a spare $100,000 lying around.
Currently, the procedure is available at the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea. The process involves collecting fresh eggs from the egg donor, removing the original nucleus and replacing it with the cell of the deceased animal. This “piece” of the original, living pet is injected into the egg, fused together, and then transferred into a surrogate mother. After the normal 63-day gestation period, two identical animals are born.
Some of the controversy arises from current overpopulation of pets and the fact that so many living in shelters need to find homes or face euthanasia. Not to mention the fact that the money it takes to clone a deceased animal could go very far to help those still living.
Another controversy stems from the fact that studies have shown that despite “identical” cloning, you are not going to end up with the same exact dog that you had before; it may “look” identical, but may not behave identically.
All that being said, however, should one judge or deny another the joy of a second life with a best friend that has meant everything and more to him or her? What if it is a therapy dog, who is a cornerstone and foundation for a dependent person? Just thinking …
Well, if cloning is not your gig, there’s yet another option for preserving your pet: mummification. Believe it or not, more than 1,500 people across the world have contacted a business called Summum, which says it’s the world’s only mummification company. The Salt Lake City, Utah-company claims a clientele from around the world, including celebrities as well as us “common folk.”
Summum’s mummification process takes three months, and begins with the removal and cleansing of the organs, which are placed back inside the body, followed by hydration of the body by submersion in a tank for more than 70 days. The body is then covered with lanolin and wax, followed by layers of cotton gauze and a fiberglass finish. Lastly, the body is encased in a steel or bronze animal-shaped casket.
The body of your pet will still look like the day it died—even thousands of years later. This process is a little more affordable than cloning, at just under $24,000 for canine companions. And, to return to where we started, Summum says mummification has tremendous implications for cloning, as it is feasible to later remove DNA by drilling into the casket.
Would you ever consider cloning or mummifying your four-legged best friend?
News: Guest Posts
Free supplements and discounted vet visits provided
The National Canine Cancer Foundation needs dogs for participation in a two-year observational study on the effects of natural supplements in combating cancer. The target start date is May 2012.
The study is funded by Elimay supplements, and will take place in Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and San Diego. Each dog will be required to go to the vet every three months. All supplements will be provided by Elimay. In many cases, vet visits will be paid for or discounted.
Three groups of dogs are needed:
For more information or to participate in this study, contact NCCF co-founder Sara Nice at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include your location, age and breed of your dog, which group the dog would fit into and why you would like to participate.
Wellness: Health Care
Monthly flea prevention warning for homes with dogs and cats
Bayer makes two different flea control products that can easily be confused with one another, leading to potentially lethal complications in our feline family members. Advantage has formulations approved for both dogs and cats, while the product Advantix is intended for use in dogs only. Advantix causes permethrin toxicity in cats, which is a common emergency I see, especially during the spring and summer months, when fleas are at their peak of peskiness.
What exactly is the difference?
Advantix is also a topical solution for the treatment and prevention of fleas, ticks, biting flies, mosquitoes and lice on dogs. The product’s active ingredients are imidacloprid and permethrin. It is the addition of permethrin to the recipe that makes the deadly difference.
Dogs can metabolize permethrin effectively, resulting in a safe product for them. However, cats cannot metabolize this ingredient, and will suffer from toxic effects if exposed. Cats are exposed to Advantix in a variety of ways, including direct application, close contact with a dog who has been treated within 48 hours, or if they have groomed a doggy pal’s fur after an application.
What are the symptoms?
What is the treatment?
Prognosis for recovery is excellent with early treatment.
If you do use canine Advantix in a home with cats, apply the medicine to your dog while your cat does not have access to the area or to the dog and allow for the medicine to fully absorb into your dog’s skin—when you can no longer visibly see the oily medication on the fur—before allowing your cat back into the same room. I have treated cats that were obsessive groomers and decided the fur between “their” dog’s shoulder blades needed to be cleaned.
And lastly, always double-check labels and read all the fine print; you can even have someone just “double-check you” as another safety precaution.
Tasty, disgusting, edible or not— everything’s fair game for curious critters
Foreign bodies combine mystery, intrigue, incredulity and guilt to make for a fascinating and fickle assortment of surgical diseases. There seems to be no limit to what our pets will try to cram into their mouths; size, shape, texture and taste often playing little or no part in an oral obsession that for many owners can become a difficult and costly vice to curb. So why do our dogs, cats and even ferrets crave foreign bodies, and why are so many of these pets repeat offenders?
Young animals of two years of age or less are most commonly afflicted, and so, like inquisitive toddlers intent on putting everything into their mouths, simple curiosity plays a part. It has been suggested that in dogs, it reflects the need to hunt, that it is instinctive and a throwback to a time when their prey was eaten in its entirety. Some animals appear to enjoy the act of chewing, experimenting with the feel of an object in their mouths. My favorite theory, and one I believe I can safely share with the majority of Labrador owners, is that “it was there, so I ate it.”
Undergarments—socks, stockings, pantihose, panties—often prove to be popular offending items.Here, perhaps, another etiology applies. In much the same way that bear attacks on people may occur more frequently among menstruating females, the olfactory stimulation of ripe underwear of either sex might prove too tempting for your curious pet.
Foreign bodies related to food make perfect sense. Peach pits, corn on the cob and all manner of bones can prove irresistible to the scavenging instinct of a dog. Those little plastic pop-up timers that tell you when your chicken or turkey breast is perfectly cooked are drizzled in tasty fat, and despite being made of tasteless plastic, slip down nice and easy until they reach the small intestine. The teriyaki stick laden with succulent meaty pieces may not go down with quite the same ease, but who cares until the sharp wooden skewer begins piercing its way through a variety of abdominal organs on its errant journey through the abdomen?
For some pets, the object is simply curiosity. How else can we explain the allure of a diamond ring, a needle and thread, a fishhook and nylon leader, a backpack, bottle caps, coins, gold balls, a leather leash that remains attached at the collar, string still tethered to a helium- filled balloon? The list of irrational objects is endless and limited only by one’s imagination.
Occasionally, the problem can become an addiction.Maisie was a two-year-old Weimaraner with a penchant for stones. Her tastes went beyond the occasional pebble, brick end or fragment of rock because Maisie’s drug of choice was the gravel driveway of her home.We’re not talking about one or two rocks, here. Sometimes Maisie might binge on 50 to 100 large pieces of coarse rock that would either accumulate in her stomach or obstruct her small intestine.After her third surgical procedure, the owners realized that it was far cheaper to put asphalt on the driveway than to continue to pay her medical bills.
But sometimes we choose to ignore what our pet’s behavior is telling us. Consider the case of one Golden Retriever who underwent gastric surgery twice after swallowing a tennis ball whole. The catch here is that the dog had two quite separate surgeries to remove the exact same ball.That’s right; the owners wanted her favorite ball returned to them after the surgery, and gave it back to the dog to play with once again.
* * * * *
Inside Snowball's Abdomen, I find things much as I expect; loose, lazy switchbacks of pink bowel replaced by a lumpy knot of bruised intestines. Carefully, I inspect the surfaces of the duodenum and jejunum, looking for purple areas of perforation where the foreign body might have piano-wired its way through the entire wall, allowing digesting food to leak into the abdomen.Most of her guts may look like twisted telephone cord, but the tissues appear to be healthy aside from the presence of a thin linear material trapped inside the intestinal lumen.
I was trained to start at the point of fixation, in this case, Snowball’s stomach. The luxury of pulling a linear foreign body out of a single incision is unusual, especially for an object as intent on getting out the other end as this one, so opening the stomach affords the surgeon his or her first glimpse of the culprit as well as an opportunity to cut the anchor, breaking the drawstring effect and releasing the tension on the bowel.
It takes two more small incisions in the intestine to remove the entire problem, and after everything is sutured up and Snowball is resting comfortably in recovery, I head to the waiting room.The Duggan family sits watching television, but they are up on their feet as soon as they see me approach.
The answer to this mysterious foreign body had been in front of my eyes the whole time. Mrs. Duggan was wearing pumps. Mr. Duggan, a pair of well-worn work boots. Kerry Duggan sported a pair of old sneakers made unusual by one feature common to both feet—crisp, white, brand-new shoelaces. Guess what happened to the old ones?
News: Guest Posts
How do you put a price on love?
In his recent story for The New York Times, William Grimes provides an interesting look at recent advances in veterinary care, especially in the treatment of cancer (including bone marrow transplants), urinary-tract disorders, and even dementia. Thanks to improved technology, drugs, surgical techniques and holistic care—there are many more options for keeping our dogs and cats healthier longer. All of which comes as a comfort to those of us with pets.
But as with human medical care, these interventions come at a price, often a high price, for animals who are only very rarely covered by insurance. Bills can easily run into the thousands of dollars, even the tens of thousands, making for a difficult cost/benefit calculation. Grimes suggests it comes down to the question: “Precisely how much do I love my dog?”
I’m not sure that’s really the question. Sometimes loving your dog might mean forgoing expensive treatment. Extending a dog’ life by a few months with painful surgery, frustrating crate-rest and a long, slow recovery—regardless of the cost—may not be the most loving gesture.
If you read the story, be sure to check out the comments. The story sparked an interesting conversation about how we value our dogs, with many personal, heartfelt stories. I’d love to hear how Bark readers have navigated these difficult questions.
Wellness: Health Care
Become an advocate for your dog
How much easier it would be if vets had Dr. Dolittle’s ability to talk to the animals—when we took our pups in for a check-up, they could speak for themselves. Since that’s not the case, our dogs rely on us to act as their advocates in the exam room. In Dr. Nancy Kay’s ground-breaking book, Speaking for Spot, she provides us with the tools we need to do just that, relayed clearly and with gentle humor. We’re pleased to offer our readers a sample.
Here are 10 tried-and-true secrets to making every visit to your dog’s veterinarian exceptional for you and the entire office staff. They also directly benefit your dog’s health—and nothing is more important than that.
I: Thou shalt push thy veterinarian off her pedestal.
In most cases, the pedestal on which a veterinarian resides is a figment of the client’s imagination. I’m delighted that the profession is viewed favorably, but vets truly don’t deserve any extra helpings of adulation. So, before you arrive at the veterinary clinic, prepare yourself to “push” the vet off her pedestal. Remember, this is a simple mind-over-matter endeavor. And if your vet clings fast to her pedestal, consider choosing a different teammate!
II: Thou shalt be present.
When a dog is experiencing significant symptoms or is sick, it helps to have all the decision-makers present at the time of the office visit. If this is difficult to arrange, the person present should take notes, and even consider tape-recording the conversation with the vet. This is useful, since details inevitably get lost in translation—especially when traveling from spouse to spouse! Consider bringing the kids along (unless they will create a significant distraction), as they can be wonderfully uninhibited sources of information and keen observers of their dog’s habits.
Lastly, turn your cell phone off before entering the exam room. A client who answers a call while I am discussing her dog’s health isn’t truly “there” with me.
III: Thou shalt let the staff know if thy dog is aggressive.
I clearly recall a nasty bite to my hand with no warning glare or growl to clue me in. As I stood by the sink washing my wound and muttering under my breath, the client had the audacity to inform me that the same thing had happened to the last veterinarian they had seen! I momentarily fantasized about biting her, but showed tremendous restraint.
If your pup has previously growled or attempted to bite in a clinic setting, it is vital that you divulge this information. Trust me, withholding such important information is the quickest, most effective way to alienate yourself from an entire staff, and you will not be welcomed back. The flip side of this coin is that veterinarians have nothing but respect for the client who brings along a muzzle that’s just the right fit.
A dog acts out of character in a hospital setting for a number of reasons. Pain, fear, a bad experience or the need to protect their human can all provoke aggression. Fortunately, there are many humane ways to work effectively with an aggressive dog: chemical sedation or muzzling is a reasonable option. Sometimes, simply separating a dog from his human subdues this aggressive tendency. Restraining with brute force (a.k.a. “brutacaine”) is never warranted.
IV: Thou shalt provide information.
Medication and Diet
And, know the brand name of the food your pup eats. The color of the bag and name of the store where it was purchased simply won’t give your veterinarian adequate information.
Prior Medical Conditions
V: Thou shalt confess everything.
I once had to confess to a large-animal vet that I’d fed rhododendron trimmings to my goats. Rhododendrons are toxic to goats, causing terrible abdominal distress—something every veterinarian learns in school, but I’d somehow managed to forget. Ingestion requires immediate and specific therapy, so my confession facilitated my goats’ complete recovery, thank goodness. I still feel a wee bit embarrassed when I cross paths with the vet who saved them. Ah, the things that keep us humble!
VI: Thou shalt pause for confusion.
Most veterinarians, myself included, lapse into “medical speak” because we are so used to these terms running around in our heads. We might say to a client, “Ruffy is in renal failure and needs aggressive diuresis,” instead of, “Ruffy’s kidneys aren’t functioning properly, and we can help him by giving him intravenous fluids.” We need you to stop us in our tracks when we confuse you. If you are a “visual learner,” ask your vet to draw a picture or show you what she is talking about on your dog’s X-rays, lab report or ultrasound images. Remember, always “pause for confusion”—when you don’t understand, stop and get clarification.
VII: Thou shalt share thy concerns.
• Are you feeling scared or angry? (Anger is a normal stage of the grief process—many people experience it in response to a dog’s illness.)
• Are financial limitations creating a roadblock?
• Are you convinced your dog has a terminal disease?
• Are you terrified by the thought of anesthetizing your dog because a beloved pet once died unexpectedly while under anesthesia?
• Are you receiving pressure from family or a co-worker to put your dog to sleep, but you don’t think it’s time yet?
Your vet will be better able to understand your reasoning if she knows how you are feeling, and you will receive a much-needed dose of empathy.
VIII: Thou shalt ask questions.
IX: Thou shall treat the entire staff well.
X: Thou shalt always come away with a plan.
• Your six-year-old Norwegian Elkhound has just had his annual checkup, and, much to your delight, everything is completely normal. The “plan” is to bring him back in one year for his next “annual.”
• Your three-year-old Chihuahua-Jack Russell Terrier mix has just been evaluated for coughing, and prescribed an antibiotic and cough suppressant. The “plan” is to call the hospital in one week to report whether or not the cough has fully resolved. If not, chest X-rays and a blood test will be scheduled.
• Your Golden Retriever puppy has a heart murmur. Ultrasound reveals a problem with the mitral valve in his heart. Future prognosis is uncertain. The “plan” is to repeat the ultrasound in six months, or sooner if coughing or decreased stamina is observed.
• Your Terrier mutt just had surgery to remove bladder stones. At the time he is discharged from the hospital, the “plan” is to feed him a special diet to prevent stone reformation, return in two weeks for removal of the stitches, and schedule a two-month follow-up to recheck a urine sample.
Vets often fail to provide clear follow-up recommendations and well-intentioned clients often fail to comply with them. Do your best to solidify the “plan” and put it in writing. You’ll be glad you did.
Wellness: Health Care
Working in the ER, I often see dogs suffering from blood loss as a result of trauma, which can become life-threatening if not properly treated. If bleeding is severe or continuous, a dog can lose enough blood to cause shock.
Shock from blood loss is classified as hypovolemic shock, which basically means that there is not enough fluid (blood) circulating throughout the body. Without an adequate volume, organs such as the kidneys and GI tract are not being perfused (nourished), and this state can quickly turn deadly. Your veterinarian can tell if your dog is in shock by physical exam findings such as a high heart rate, a low blood pressure and weak pulses.
Did you know the loss of as little as 2 teaspoons of blood per pound of body weight can result in shock? This blog post describes ways to control bleeding in your pet during transport to your nearest veterinary hospital.
The following techniques are listed in order of preference. As a word of caution: The first rule when dealing with an injured pet is to avoid injury to yourself. Take appropriate precautions, such as the use of a muzzle, to avoid being bitten. You can create a “make-shift muzzle” by using a long piece of material such as a men’s tie, non-retractable leash or piece of cloth. All too often, I see owners having to make a trip to the emergency room for themselves as well as their pet.
The best way to learn these techniques is in a pet first aid class. April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month, a perfect opportunity to sign up for pet first aid classes, which are offered by local chapters of the American Red Cross, some shelters and humane organizations. Also, it's a good reminder to have a complete pet first aid kit (which includes a muzzle) among your dog supplies.
If blood soaks through, do not remove the pad. This will disrupt the clot; simply add additional layers of cloth and continue the direct pressure more evenly. The compress can be bound in place using loosely applied bandage material, which frees your hands for other emergency actions. If you don’t have a compress, you can apply pressure with a bare hand or finger.
Elevation uses the force of gravity to help reduce blood pressure in the injured area, slowing the bleeding. Elevation is most effective in larger animals with longer limbs because of the greater distance from the wound to the heart.
Applying pressure on the supplying artery
Use a 2-inch wide piece of cloth or leash, and wrap it around the limb twice and tie it into a knot. Then tie a short stick or similar object into the knot as well. Twist the stick to tighten the tourniquet until the bleeding stops. Secure the stick in place with another piece of cloth and write down the time it was applied. Every 20 minutes loosen the tourniquet for 15 to 20 seconds. This is potentially dangerous and can result in the need to amputate the limb. Remember, a tourniquet should only be used as a last-resort, life-saving measure.
Internal bleeding can often be more dangerous because it occurs inside the body, and being less obvious, delays evaluation by your veterinarian. There are, however, some external signs of internal bleeding, which can include any of the following:
If your pet is bleeding externally, or you suspect any internal bleeding, immediately transport your pet to your veterinarian or to your closest emergency hospital for treatment. I hope you never have to use the information in the blog, but I feel it is important for everyone with a pet to know.
Wellness: Health Care
Giardia, not muddy paws
Diarrhea. Boy, do I see lots of this, and when I say “lots,” I mean lots. In fact, on some shifts, it feels like that’s all I see. One of the common causes of diarrhea in dogs worldwide is giardia, a ubiquitous single-celled protozoan parasite. Giardiasis is transmitted by a fecal-oral route, meaning that the parasite is swallowed in food and water (think: puddles, lakes and streams) contaminated with feces. Note: Your pet does not have to eat feces to get the parasite!
Infection can be present without symptoms, but when signs are present, the most common one we see is large volumes of watery feces, oftentimes with blood and mucus. Weight loss, decreased appetite and vomiting can occur as well.
How is the diagnosis made?
How does one treat this parasite?
Giardiasis is generally treated with an inexpensive antibiotic called Metronidazole (Flagyl) that is readily available. In small puppies, such as Rascal, or dogs sensitive to this antibiotic, a dewormer known as Panacur can be used instead for five to ten days.
How do I prevent it?
Dog park puddles carry a higher risk than, say, fresh rainwater pooled in a birdbath or fountain. Remember, giardia is transmitted by a fecal-oral route, and what better place to have concentrated levels of feces than a dog park, especially when some pet parents are not diligent about removing their doggy’s waste. Think of it this way: If a dog infected with giardia defecates on the grass, and the rain creates a puddle of water in grass, your dog is essentially drinking a giardia martini.
It may also be advisable to treat other animals in the same household while treating the infected, symptomatic pet. There is a vaccine available for giardia in dogs, but most veterinarians don’t recommend it unless your dog is at really high risk or is one of those pets who gets giardiasis frequently.
Don’t forget: People can get giardia too. Younger children are at a higher risk as hands often find their way to mouths during outside playtime (grass can be contaminated with giardia cysts as well). And those adorable doggy kisses we love so much? Let’s just say that it is easier to accidentally ingest one of those little cysts than you might think.
There are also environmental control measures that can be taken to prevent reinfection. People should be vigilant in clearing fecal material from the environment. If your pet has been diagnosed with giardia, it is often recommended that you wash as many areas of your environment as possible, followed by disinfection with a solution of bleach diluted in water (another measure that is easier said than done).
As with anything medical, there is no one clinical sign that equals a definitive disease, and diarrhea happens to be of the most common clinical signs of any disease process. Because of this, if your pet has diarrhea that persists beyond 24 hours, or is very sudden and severe, a veterinary exam is in order.
And, on that note, I’ll leave you with this closing mantra: No drinka da puddle, no snout in da bay. Pick up poop in da yard, quickly throw it away!
News: Guest Posts
Plus, five simple eye-care tips for all pups
One of my favorite types of dog stories to read or write are those that feature working dogs. From guide and assistance dogs to search-and-rescue and arson-detection dogs, I am always inspired by their ability and willingness to do what we ask and in the process transform our lives. So I was thrilled to hear about the 5th Annual ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event.
Channeling the spirit of service, more than 200 board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists throughout the U.S., as well as Canada and Puerto Rico, provide free eye exams to thousands of service dogs. Last year, a record 4,000 service animals received exams.
During the complete ocular exam, the veterinary specialists look for problems including redness, squinting, cloudy corneas, retinal disease, early cataracts and other serious abnormalities. Early detection and treatment are vital. Just think about how critical good vision is to these dogs with jobs and all of those who depend on them.
To qualify, dogs must be active “working animals” that were certified by a formal training program or organization or currently enrolled in a formal training program. Additional registration details can be found at www.ACVOeyeexam.org.
Owners/agents for the dog(s) must first register the animal online from April 1–30, 2012. Once registered online, the owner/agent will receive a registration number and can then contact a participating veterinary ophthalmologist directly to schedule an appointment, during the month of May. Appointment dates and times are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
Eye care basics
News: Guest Posts
Jane Brackman, PhD
In the beginning was the word and the word was dog and the people made more dogs and used more words to differentiate those dogs until they had more than 400 different kind of dogs and more than enough words to explain the differences. —Doctor Barkman
Breed standards are one of the tools breeders use to suspend change in purebred dogs. But breeds evolve anyway, even when standards remain unchanged. How is that so?
Exaggerated traits come and go with fashion. If the standard says the skull should be “very short from the point of the nose” to the eye (Bulldog), or “egg-shaped” (Bull Terrier), fashion will dictate the length and shape of the head. A note of caution though—breeds are not mix-and-match combinations of thousands of small parts where you pick and choose what you want. They’re more like combinations of genes, pre-packaged in bundles and shuffled around. A whole lot of genetic stuff, good and bad, goes along for the ride when a breeder pulls out a trait.
This is what a Bulldog looked like in 1900...
A Bull Terrier in 1900...
If the standard says, "The ears are extremely long," in a hundred years the ears will be really, really long.
This is a Bassett Hound in 1900...
Some breed haven't changed much in a century.
This is the German Pointer in 1900...
A standard is a handy tool for dog show judges who need to evaluate dogs in competition, but it doesn’t suspend change. It’s really just a lexical snapshot of a breed on its way to being something else. Breeds evolve. It’s the breeder’s job to make sure they evolve in a healthy way.
To learn more, read the entire article about how standards influence purebred dogs in unintended ways.
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