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News: Editors
Dogs Lower the Risk of Heart Disease

The American Heart Association issued a scientific statement yesterday that yes, owning a dog may protect us from heart disease. The statement was issued by an expert panel that was convened to look at alternative approaches to combat heart disease. They were prompted to look at the benefits of pet caring because of the growing number of medical studies linking pet ownership to better health.

Dr. Levine, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine said, “there are plausible psychological, sociological and physiological reasons to believe that pet ownership might actually have a causal role in decreasing cardiovascular risk.” Dog ownership, partially because it compels people to walk their dogs and thereby getting more exercise, proved more beneficial than owning a cat. Richard Krasuski, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, thought this statement as more of an indictment of societal attitudes toward exercise. “Very few people are meeting their exercise goals,” he said. “In an ideal society, where people are actually listening to physician recommendations, you wouldn’t need pets to drag people outside.” (Feeling that walking my dogs is one of the greatest daily pleasures in my life, I would not quite agree that many of us actually consider our dogs as “dragging” us outside.)

“Several studies showed that dogs decreased the body’s reaction to stress, with a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline-like hormone release when a pet is present as opposed to when a pet is not present,” Dr. Levine said. Pet owners also tended to report greater amounts of physical activity, and modestly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Some research showed that people who had pets of any kind were also more likely to survive heart attacks. All in all a definite win-win for us and our dogs.

The research also strongly suggested that there was a sharp contrast between those who walked their dogs themselves and those who did not.

Dr. Levine concludes by saying that they were not recommending that people adopt pets for any reason other than to give them a good home.

“If someone adopts a pet, but still sits on the couch and smokes and eats whatever they want and doesn’t control their blood pressure,” he said, “that’s not a prudent strategy to decrease their cardiovascular risk.”

 

 

Wellness: Healthy Living
Choosing Safe Dog Toys
Choose toys with more than fun in mind

They make the world go round. They make it bounce, roll and soar. They’re objects that inspire play, enrich training, ease boredom and curb problem behaviors. Toys, according to the experts (and every dog worth his molars), are a must-have. 

Despite the constant media comments about how we pamper our pets, toys are no mere luxury. Experts say that dogs need them, and need more than one kind. That doesn’t mean more bells and whistles, just different types. Toys can take the edge off a bad day, like a stress ball you squeeze when you’re mad. Softer toys a dog can “baby” satisfy gentler instincts. Frisbees, balls and tugs are ways to share the fun, while squeaky playthings cry out for attack. 

The question is, which toys? With a global pet economy, the options—and problems—keep growing. On the pet aisles, shoppers are greeted with all the persuasive power of an infomercial. Bright, funky objects, packaged to the nines, demand closer inspection—but not too close. The readable text is mostly advertising, not information. “The packaging for these products is incredible and totally deceiving,” says Pattie Boden, owner of the Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va. Boden, who is picky about sourcing safe, natural toys to stock her shelves, says that a 25-year career in advertising has made her a skeptic.

Unfortunately for dogs and owners, manufacturing of pet toys relies on the honor system; for less scrupulous companies, it’s trial by error. In some cases, even errors (discovered through consumer complaints) are ignored. Choose carelessly and our dogs may pay the hidden cost. Among the most familiar hazards are choking and stomach obstruction. Pieces as well as particles may be ingested, and since our pups use their mouths to play, toxic materials and coatings also pose a risk. Yet the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate dog toys, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission only regulates pet toys that can be proven to put consumers (people, not dogs) at risk.

This reality hits hard when a beloved animal is injured at play. One such horror story became news after a dog’s tongue was trapped in a hole in a ball, requiring long and painful medical intervention and finally, amputation of the tongue. The owner was shocked to learn that this wasn’t the first such incident—other dogs had been harmed, even killed, by the same toy. The company, Four Paws, eventually recalled several of its toys, according to its website.

Denise Smalt, a trainer in upstate New York, issues a warning about the harmless- seeming tennis ball. Eight years ago, Smalt sold a Shepherd puppy to a couple. “Even though I tell all my puppy people, as well as all my obedience students, how dangerous tennis balls are for large breeds, they still let their Shepherd play with tennis balls because they had always let their dogs play with them, and had no problems. At two years old, the dog choked to death on a tennis ball in front of his owner. I use his story to help save others,” she says.

The concerns don’t end with injuries and choking hazards. While dyes, preservatives and chemical residue are nothing new, a string of toxic Chinese imports has sparked fresh worries. Tests conducted by ConsumerAffairs.com found a variety of mainstream toys tainted with toxic heavy metals, including cadmium, lead and chromium. From cancer agents to neurological poisons, these chemicals are released from affected toys when dogs lick and chew them, according to Dr. Ernest Lykissa, the toxicologist who assessed them. Another lead-laden plaything is made from latex—a material sometimes recommended in lieu of plastic, which may contain phthalates and BPA (hormone disruptors). Adding to the problem of contaminants is a dearth of toxicity data for dogs. What’s presumed safe for a 40-pound child may be deadly for a half-pint Chihuahua.

“Please don’t think because things are made in the U.S. that they are safe,” Ann Martin, author of Foods Pets Die For, an exposé of the pet food industry, advises. “The massive pet food recall is a good example. They did not bother testing any of the raw materials going into these foods; hence, numerous dogs and cats became ill or died.”

Still, the perception is that U.S.–made means safer. At an H.H. Backer pet trade show in Baltimore, Pattie Boden looked hard for new toys made in the U.S. She found just one. Ironically, the only certified organic toy she could find was made in China. But a few U.S. companies are indeed producing quality toys, and the shorter the production path, the better. Some companies use recycled materials (though that’s not synonymous with safer toys, it’s better for the planet). And a company focused on “earth-friendly” products is more likely to avoid problems with toxic materials.

What makes a toy special to a dog may escape human logic, but knowing your dog can help you make wiser choices.

Do you have a Type-A chomper? Technically, dogs don’t chew toys, but rather, tear and shear them as they would prey, using their premolars and molars. These teeth are situated farther back in the mouth, and any toy that finds its way into this set of grinders is a potential victim—so look for appropriately sized toys your dog can’t work to the back of his jaws. Martin relies on her dog Kodi’s play style to choose his toys. The 160-pound Newfoundland is a power chewer who “eats rather than plays with toys. He has some very good squeaky toys he has not destroyed,” she says. Most of his playthings “are the heavy-duty rubber kind.” Kodi’s style, not his large size determines Martin’s toy selection; a small dog can be a power chewer just as a giant breed can be gentle on toys.

From hyper puppyhood to senior moments, knowing your dog also means selecting toys based on his life stage. A dog who’s teething doesn’t play like an old soul whose teeth are worn. A rambunctious adolescent craves different toys than a placid adult dog.

Before buying, use your senses. Strong chemical smells indicate residual chemicals. Brightly dyed fabrics may contain toxic ingredients and leach dye when wet. (Fabric dyes aren’t tested for consumption.) Avoid toys treated with fire retardants or stain guard, as they may contain formaldehyde and other chemicals. Study labels and visit manufacturers’ websites for additional information. Conscientious companies are transparent about their processes.

Safe fun: two words that often collide in a dog’s world, where mysterious edges and flimsy seams can make the most alluring objects. As long as the toy industry is an unsupervised playground, it’s up to loving owners to keep their eyes on the ball …and ring and squeaker.
 

Smart Choices
Here are a few companies that make toys worth a woof.

Go Dog
Realistic plush toys that will thrill most dogs, but aren’t suitable for aggressive chewers. A new proprietary process (Chew Guard technology) has been added to some stuffed products, enabling them to withstand more rigorous play. The toys, made in China, are double-stitched, reinforced and machine washable. Their label, “New Material Only,” means the product is not made from reprocessed fabric, vinyl or plastics.

Kong Company
Kong is based in Colorado, and all of its rubber products are made in the US. The original Kong is a treat-holding, nearly indestructible object with a tantalizingly odd bounce. The Kong Flyer, a soft rubber disc, is top-notch Frisbee equipment. The squeaky toys don’t hold up to power squeakers—a bummer for dogs who thrill to the squeal—but the silenced squeaker remains safely inside the toy. Think durable fun for power chewers (and hope for upgraded squeakers). Their website offers a breed search to help shoppers to determine the right size toy.

Nina Ottosson Zoo Active
These unique wooden puzzles operate on the principle that dogs actually enjoy working for their grub. Power chewers may also discover that brute force isn’t as effective as using noggin and nose. This Swedish company’s interactive games are available in the U.S. from pawlickers.com.

Planet Dog
A “values-based” Maine company that offers a full spectrum of fetching, nontoxic, recyclable U.S.-made toys. Shop by life stage: Everything a pooch could want is here, from stuffed Alphabet Blocks to Slobber Wicks for seniors. The Orbee-Tuff toys, from the TUG, with its mighty “flip-grip” technology, to spongy pastel-hued baby bones, come in a range of strengths; chew on the website’s “Chew-O-Meter” to determine the right ones for your dog.

West Paw Design
This Montana-based company focuses on environmentally friendly production. Its “Zogoflex” is a tough yet flexible proprietary material that utilizes 10 percent post-industrial waste. While that “green” claim may sound as appetizing as “eat your greens,” the toys are recyclable (if returned to the company). Zogoflex is advertised as nontoxic, FDA-compliant and free of “any known sources of lead, cadmium, mercury, latex, natural rubber, phthalates, hormones, Bisphenol A, or asbestos.” The dishwasher-safe Tux has an inner lip for hiding treats, adding another layer of fun and challenge.

Wellness: Healthy Living
Species-Spanning Medicine
When it comes to remedying diseases and disorders, dogs and people are in it together

Call it a movement, a philosophy, a revelation or a revolution.

Call it “one medicine,” “one health” or “zoobiquity.”

Call it something new, or—given that the “aha” moment on which the concept is based came in the 19th century—call it something old that’s been remembered and repackaged amidst the growing awareness that solving the mysteries of animal diseases and disorders, from injured spinal cords to cancer, can lead to possibly curing our own.

Over at least the past five years, there has been a rekindled recognition of the species-spanning nature of diseases, and of the value of species-spanning research. About 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases that affect humans have their origins in animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

On a theoretical level, the concept of “zoobiquity,” a term coined in the 2012 book of the same name, suggests that, no matter our species, we’re all in this together, subject to most of the same infirmities, capable of passing a lot of them back and forth, and more likely to find cures and treatments if we look at the big picture—at the earth and all its creatures —as opposed to focusing solely on humans.

On a practical level, species-spanning thinking—referred to by various monikers—has led in recent years to veterinary schools reinventing themselves; to a heightened spirit of cooperation between doctors and veterinarians; to new sources of funding for research; and to the realization that, when it comes to diseases shared by humans and animals, the latter may provide a quicker and less expensive route to a cure for all.

Where do dogs fit in? Right at the top. No other animal—if not physiologically, at least in terms of sharing our genetic markers and our home environment—is as close to us.

That’s why Texas A&M veterinarians and University of California, San Francisco, medical researchers have teamed up to study spinal problems in Dachshunds and other dwarf breeds and to test a new drug that blocks secondary infections. The research, which is funded by the Department of Defense, has potential application to battlefield injuries

That’s why, in New York, veterinarians with the Animal Medical Center have joined forces with physicians and researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to set up trials in which electrical impulses are used to treat tumors of the urinary tract in canines, with an eye toward possible human application.

That’s why the Mayo Clinic has partnered with two veterinary schools, a medical school and a private corporation to study the effectiveness of a device aimed at predicting and controlling epileptic seizures in both dogs and humans. While traditionally, research into canine epilepsy has been funded primarily by the American Kennel Club’s Canine Health Foundation and breed clubs, the Mayo Clinic collaboration received a $7.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

That’s why Tobi, a paralyzed Golden Retriever, is getting stem-cell treatments that may help him walk again as part of a clinical trial headed by Dr. Natasha Olby, veterinarian and neurologist at North Carolina State University’s (NCSU) College of Veterinary Medicine. The trial will involve as many as 30 dogs over three years.

And that’s why Peggy, a Chihuahua from Albuquerque who was born with three legs, is being outfitted with a “bionic” paw at NCSU. Implanting the prosthetic device, which will have electrodes that connect to her nerves, will allow her to run and scratch, and could add to the growing use of comparable technology in humans.

Similarities between dogs and humans, especially when it comes to genes, are also the basis for Dr. Matthew Breen’s research into the most common cancer in dogs, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, at NCSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Breen and fellow researchers have, with help from the canine genome map, developed a test that can accurately predict how long a dog treated with chemotherapy will remain in remission. In collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and others, they’re in the process of converting the canine test to a human one.

“If that happens, it will be big news,” says Breen, a geneticist and professor of genomics. Breen lost his first dog to cancer when he was 12 and, as an adult, played a role in the mapping of the canine genome—a game-changing achievement that helped place dogs front and center when it comes to health research.

“It’s likely that we will learn more about cancer by looking at what happens in our dogs over the next five to 10 years than we will in the next 20 to 30 of looking solely at cancer in people,” he predicts.

But the key, he emphasizes, is looking at both at the same time.

“If we consider dogs as dogs, we’ll be able to do so much. If we consider people as people, we’ll do so much. But if we consider them both as mammals, and look at what’s common between them, we will find some intriguing answers.”

The possibilities extend well beyond non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and well beyond cancer. Dogs, long our antidote for loneliness, may hold the most promise of all animals when it comes to solving medical mysteries and curing what ails us.

“The answer to some of nature’s puzzles about genetics and disease,” Breen says, “has been walking right beside us for the last few hundred years.”

***

In reality, we’ve been turning to dogs for thousands of years, sometimes quite cruelly, to try to solve our human ills: from the time of Aristotle, who conducted experiments on live animals, and the era of Galen, whose second-century experiments earned him the title “the father of vivisection,” to the period of Pavlov, whose 19th-century experiments included severing the esophagi of living dogs to better study their digestion and, as a sideline, bottling and selling their gastric juices to the public as a cure for dyspepsia.

Many of the medical treatments we now take for granted were either discovered through the use of dogs or tried on dogs first.

In England during the 1600s, the first administration of medication intravenously was accomplished in a dog, via tubes and a pouch made of an animal bladder. In the 1920s, experiments on dogs led to Frederick Banting’s discovery of insulin. Banting and fellow researcher Charles Best surgically stopped the flow of nourishment to a dog’s pancreas and, after it degenerated, removed it, sliced it up, froze the pieces then ground them up. They named the extract “isletin.” When it was injected into another dog in which they’d induced diabetes, the dog’s blood glucose level dropped.

In the 1960s—long before they were ever slipped into clogged human arteries—stents were inserted into those of dogs. When a ballooning version was developed in the 1980s, it too was first tested on dogs.

Currently, as humans wait to take full advantage of its purported promise, stem-cell therapy is becoming more common—though expensive, at around $2,500 per treatment—in treating dogs with arthritis, hip dysplasia and spinal-cord injuries. Removing, treating and reinjecting stem cells (and even differentiated cells) have led to some miraculous recoveries.

Dogs may have access to novel cures and treatments yet to be made widely available to humans, but there’s a trade-off. They are still, in a way, being used as guinea pigs. The difference is—compared to Pavlov’s day, compared to some of the unsavory experimentation on dogs that still goes on—they’re not healthy dogs, or dogs in whom diseases have been induced. Most often, they’re patients, sick dogs who have run out of alternatives and whose owners have enrolled them in clinical trials in hopes of, if not curing their own pet, furthering research that might help other dogs.

The canine cancer samples from around the country that end up in Breen’s lab come from willing donors, or at least willing owners, many of whom see contributing to such research as a way their dogs can leave a lasting mark.

“By providing that data point, it’s almost a legacy for their own dog,” Breen says. “Every dog we recruit, we ask the owner for a picture to put on our wall of honor. We have hundreds and hundreds of pictures of dogs. It helps ground people in the lab, and makes them realize what they’re dealing with is not just a piece of tissue but somebody’s beloved companion that needs to be treated with the same kind of respect.”

Under microscopes, Breen studies chromosomal changes within cancer cells, changes that have been shown to duplicate those that occur in humans. “If we look at what overlaps, it’s those shared genes that highlight the major drivers in the cancer process,” he says.

The aberration of particular chromosomes allows Breen to identify which therapies will offer maximum survival chances. In lymphoma cases, up to 90 percent of dogs respond to chemotherapy and go into remission, but only about half live longer than nine months. By looking at the genetic differences between the dogs who survive for short times and those who survive longer, Breen’s team has developed a test that determines how long a dog will stay in remission; this test will, it is hoped, eventually be available for use with humans.

Experts estimate that one in four dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime. About 50 percent of those over age 10 will die from it. The types, incidence and outcomes aren’t always identical to those in humans, but even in those differences, other clues and opportunities may be found.

Bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, for example, affects a whopping 60,000 dogs a year. In humans, there are only about 900 cases a year and, as a result, its research has never received the kind of funding awarded to work being done on more widespread cancers.

By looking at the disease itself, as opposed to its effect on a singular species, some less high-profile diseases (in humans) can get more attention, and progress can be made more quickly, Breen says.

“We ignore whether it’s in dogs or people, focus on the cancer and get to the biology faster.”

Down the road, such research might keep someone else from hearing those five fateful words Breen remembers hearing as a child, when his own Border Collie cross was stricken with cancer: “There’s nothing we can do.”

***

Rudolph Virchow, though he wasn’t credited for it in his lifetime, is considered the father of “one medicine.” The 19th-century pathologist coined the term “zoonosis” and created the field of comparative pathology.

“Between animal and human medicine there is no dividing line—nor should there be,” he said. “The object is different but the experience obtained constitutes the basis of all medicine.”

Two centuries later, a variety of factors breathed new life into his old idea. Recently identified zoonotic diseases, like swine and avian flus and West Nile virus, became major public health concerns. At the same time, dissatisfaction was mounting with research studies involving mice, primarily because their findings often weren’t transferable to humans. There was a growing recognition that all animals, both wild and domestic, serve—like the canaries once used in British mines—as sentries for environmental hazards.

Dogs, while at the forefront of much modern research, also played a large role in reviving the species-spanning way of thinking. On top of the tremendous diagnostic and research value it held for dogs, the successful completion of the canine genome map in 2005 showed how similar dog genes are to our own. It also reinforced how much more quickly canine health research can progress. Mapping the sequence of the canine genome cost about $50 million and took one year, while mapping the humane genome cost more than $3 billion over 15 years.

It was one year after that benchmark, in 2006, that the American Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association issued a joint declaration encouraging more partnerships and information sharing between the two branches of medicine.

For far too long, doctors of human medicine and doctors of veterinary medicine—and researchers in the two fields—operated on separate planes. By coming together and sharing their findings, proponents of one medicine held, new opportunities could be realized and new cures, possibly, found.

To those involved with treating and researching animal diseases, the increased respect from those in the world of human medical research is palpable. Dr. Jorge A. Piedrahita, geneticist and professor in the Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences at NCSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, remembers a time when overtures from the veterinary medical community to the human one would result in “blank stares, as if they were thinking, What would we want with you?”

“The human medicine field in the past has looked at us [veterinary schools] as technicians,” he says. “They came to us if they needed a pig or a dog, but they never saw us as partners. Now we sit with them really as equals.”

Piedrahita serves as director of the Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research, which was created seven years ago. Based at NCSU, one of the first vet schools in the country to fully jump on the one-medicine bandwagon, the center includes 116 researchers at five colleges. The thinking behind the center, he says, is “if we help one species, we’re helping all of them.”

Since then, Piedrahita says, the road between veterinary practitioners and doctors has become much more of a two-way street. “There have been an amazing number of new interactions, and we’re still a very young center. It’s really becoming almost like a partnership.”

Doctors and vets are not the only two cultures the movement has brought closer together, he notes. It has also led to “increased sharing between clinicians, or those working with patients, and researchers, who are confined to labs.” The result, he says, is faster and more efficient research, capable of reaching solutions sooner.

Breen’s cancer research is one example of that. Another is a project Piedrahita is involved with in conjunction with Wake Forest University’s Center for Regenerative Medicine, which is seeking a solution to urinary incontinence.

While it’s a significant issue for women, especially elderly ones, one might not think that dogs—generally a less-prone-to-embarrassment species—would rank it too high, even the spayed ones, in which it is most common. Piedrahita is quick to correct that thinking.

“It’s a very big deal,” he says. “It’s the reason many of them end up in shelters, or being returned to shelters. For the dog, it may not be that big of a deal, but for the owner, it is.”

Throw in its human applications, and it becomes even bigger.

Using cells from the patient—for now, canine patients—the treatment involves reinjecting cells, usually taken from a leg muscle, into the urethral sphincter itself, where they regenerate and build new muscle. The project has received funding from the American Kennel Club’s Canine Health Foundation, and clinical trials involving as many as 40 dogs were expected to begin in January.

***

Of all the microscopic matters detected in a typical veterinary research lab, irony is not usually among them. But here’s one that has surfaced.

Among purebreds, breeding for certain traits, and to get a certain look—most often accomplished by using dogs who are closely related—has led to recessive disorders, more than those found in any other animal except humans.

It’s believed to be why Boxers are prone to mast-cell cancer and brain tumors, Scottish Terriers to bladder cancer, and Bernese Mountain Dogs to histiocytic sarcoma. It’s why one in five Golden Retrievers is diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma.

But the limited genetic diversity that has led to cancer-causing mutations in many purebreds is also what has led to dogs becoming such a valuable tool in studying disease. Breen compares it to tuning in a radio station. With the dog genome, there’s none of the noise and static from competing frequencies—just a clear signal.

Pointing fingers is useless, Breen says. “I don’t blame anybody.” But he’s among the first to admit that limiting the gene pool has made purebred dogs “a very powerful tool for simplifying genetics.”

With their “less noisy” genetic make-up, purebred dogs offer a speedier research route. It takes thousands of human patients with cancer to identify risk factors, he notes, but the same can be accomplished with as few as 100 canine patients.

***

In the book Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us about Health and the Science of Healing, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, a cardiologist who consults with the Los Angeles Zoo, delves into the many sicknesses we share with animals. (Editor’s note: For a review of Zoobiquity, see the October 2012 issue of Bark.)

Co-authored by Kathryn Bowers, the book points out that not only humans get breast cancer, but kangaroos, beluga whales, wallabies and sea lions—to name a few—do as well. Rhinos get skin cancer; gorillas get depressed; horses suffer from erectile dysfunction; and sexually transmitted diseases plague the non-human world as well, from syphilis in rabbits to chlamydia in koalas.

By looking at the big picture, we’re likely to further our understanding of species-spanning diseases, of the planet and of the environmental factors that contribute to ill health. Two annual conferences on zoobiquity have urged medical practitioners to do just that.

In terms of the latter, dogs, once again, serve as prime examples and perfect models. They sleep in our beds, share our food, lie on our flame-retardant-treated couches and frolic on our insecticide-treated lawns. When we go for a walk, it’s usually with them at our sides or pulling us along behind them.

They may soon lead the way in science as well, as rodents take a back seat when it comes to research examining the role environmental factors, such as secondhand smoke and household chemicals, play in causing disease. While much of it was going on years before the AMA-AVMA declaration was announced or the term “zoobiquity” was coined, research involving dogs (and cats) is increasingly looking at the link between pollutants and cancer.

On top of the fact that the canine genome is 80 to 90 percent similar to that of the human, dogs are constantly at our sides, making them perfect candidates for studying not just cures but also, causes.

Since dogs are such accessible and efficient, not to mention friendly, models, the question arises (or at least ought to): should one health/one medicine/zoobiquity—and more particularly, the view of dogs and other animals as sources of solution to our own diseases—raise animal welfare concerns?

Despite their all-inclusive, holistic and harmonious sounding names, none of the calls for a species-spanning approach to medicine state that all animals are our equals, or that their value parallels that of humans. Only that they get many of the same diseases we do.

As cures come closer and as dogs are increasingly seen as the road to such cures, could our zeal lead to what animal-welfare advocates might see as reckless driving?

The book Zoobiquity points out that in virtually all of the examples it uses, animals involved in the research were already sick. When, on ABC’s “Nightline,” Natterson-Horowitz was asked if the concept could lead to testing on healthy animals—if the Hippocratic Oath of “do no harm” should apply, for instance, to hippos—she replied, “I can’t give you a simple answer, because it’s a very complicated, nuanced question.”

Breen, for his part, doesn’t hesitate. “We don’t induce cancers in dogs. The key issue about cancers, and many genetic diseases in our dogs, is that these are all spontaneous conditions … All the dogs in our study are part of a family, sharing their homes and their lives. The path to discovery involving cancer and our dogs is one we walk along side-by-side with the owners.

“We have access to state-of-the-art technologies to ask key questions, but these are worthless without the willingness of the dog-owning community to collaborate by submitting cancer specimens from their dogs. By building a strong relationship with pet owners, and realizing that their pets are like family members, like a child … it actually means the chances of ever inducing disease are less. I just can’t see it happening; it wouldn’t happen in my lab, let’s put it that way.”

Breen’s bigger fear, when comes to biomedical research, “is that all this will raise people’s hopes too high and too soon.”

That applies to the owners of afflicted pets as well as those who are afflicted themselves, or have human loved ones suffering from a disease. We’re eager to find cures. Dogs, being such perfect models for study, provide what may be one of the quickest routes to them. While a resurgence in the use of otherwise healthy dogs in intrusive experiments isn’t likely, the future (which seems to be getting here faster and faster) isn’t crystal clear.

This much is, however: fairly early in their domestication—and in what was perhaps one key component leading to it—dogs exhibited their ability to stand sentry, to serve humans by warding off dangerous, life-threatening intruders.

In a way, thousands of years later, they’re doing it again.

News: Guest Posts
ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center Opens
Overcoming fear, Learning to trust again

Many dogs, rescued from the trauma and abuse of puppy mills or hoarders, need lots of extra TLC before they're ready for their forever homes.

Lacking social skills, having lived with fear, pain, and hunger, some remain overwhelmingly fearful even after being removed from their deplorable conditions and given physical, medical and emotional support. Their psychic wounds can cause them to cower, retreat from a loving touch, pee submissively, even growl or bite to keep humans and other animals away.

Such behaviors, while understandable, make them a challenge for shelters already overwhelmed with dogs needing homes. Fearful dogs often become part of a revolving door problem, being returned to shelters by adopting families ill-equipped to deal with the behaviors. Or worse, they may be euthanized because they can't be placed.

ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has created a flagship program that will attempt to fill the gap between rescue and placement for the most severely traumatized dogs, the fearful ones. The ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J. opens this week.

"For some animals, the reality is that after a lifetime of neglect and abuse, the rescue is just the beginning of their journey to recovery," said Dr. Pamela Reid, vice president of the ASPCA's Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team. "The ASPCA recognized the need for a rehabilitation center that will provide rescued dogs customized behavior treatment and more time to recover, increasing the likelihood that they will be adopted. We partnered with St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center and identified the unique opportunity to utilize their space and collaborate with their behavior and care experts for the rehabilitation of victims of cruelty and neglect."

To start, dogs rescued from animal cruelty investigations will be eligible. To help reduce these dogs' fears and anxieties, the rehabilitation team will gently introduce them to unfamiliar sounds, objects, living spaces and real-life situations that a normally socialized dog handles with aplomb, but can induce trauma and extreme stress in this special population of dogs.

The ASPCA has funded this project for two years. The work done at the Center will become part of a research project, studying and evaluating methods for rehabilitating undersocialized, fearful dogs. The findings will be shared with animal welfare organizations and other researchers nationwide with the goal of helping shelters and rescue organizations rehabilitate abused and fearful dogs coming into their own facilities.
 

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Recall: Steve’s Real Food Turducken Canine Recipe Patties
Recalled Because of Posssible Health Risk

Steve’s Real Food Recalls Turducken Canine Recipe Patties Because of Posssible Health Risk

March 7, 2013 - Steve’s Real Food of Murray, Utah is recalling its 5 lb. bags of Turducken Canine Diet – 8oz. Patties due to potential contamination of Salmonella. Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and have these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

The recalled Turducken Canine Diet – 8oz Patties in a 5 lb. bag were distributed from October 2012 to January 2013 in retail stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, California, Minnesota and Tennessee.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The potential for contamination was noted after a routine sampling of one 5 lb. bag by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Production of the product has been suspended while the company and the FDA continue their investigation as to the source of the problem.

The product comes in 5 lb. green and cream-colored biodegradable film bags with lot number 209-10-27-13 with an expiration date of October 27, 2013.

Consumers who have purchased 5 lb. bags of Steve’s Real Food Turducken Canine Recipe are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions should contact the company at 801-540-8481 or gary@stevesrealfood.com Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm MST.

 

 

Culture: DogPatch
SpaGo Dog Mobile Grooming
Q&A with Miki Chan of SpaGo Dog

From a corporate office to a mobile dog-grooming van may seem like a demotion, but for Miki Chan, San Francisco Bay Area owner/operator of SpaGo Dog and former insuranceindustry underwriter, it was a huge step up. For 15+ years, Chan devoted her time to the demands of her job. Then one day, her supervisor, who previously had worked for AIG for 25 years and lost most of his net worth when it collapsed, advised her to do what she loved. Taking his advice to heart, she began to plan a way to return to her dog-grooming roots.

Chan had grown up with dogs, and when she was in college earning a degree in computer science with a minor in business, had a part-time job with a groomer, and loved it. So she went back to grooming school, got certified and worked for others to update her skills. Her financial background and marketing insights led her to believe that people would support a grooming salon that came to them. Plus, she didn’t like putting dogs in cages, as happens in most brick-andmortar operations. A mobile set-up would be quiet, personal, relaxing and clean—spa-like, you might say.

Chan finds working with dogs to be joyful, and is gratified that she’s been able to help them by sharing information with their owners on brushing, dental care, and health issues that the grooming process can reveal, such as lumps, skin tags, ear infections and so on.

Besides the sheer pleasure of working with dogs, she’s also glad that she no longer has to deal with office politics, plead for time off or spend endless hours for the benefit of corporate shareholders. We asked if she had any tips for others considering a career change, particularly self-employment, and she shared a few with us. Before jumping, Chan recommends that people be sure they can support their preferred lifestyle (whatever that might be) without their previous paycheck. She also points out that knowing your target audience is crucial, as are time-management and customer-service skills. And being knowledgeable about what you’re doing is key to building trust.

The insurance world’s loss has been the dog world’s gain, and we’d bet the planet’s happiness quotient has gone up a few points as well.

Do you find that people are comfortable with the concept of a mobile groomer?
New clients are often unsure about our service … lots of worries and lots of questions. But once we put them at ease about the process, the wall comes down and you see them relax, and they’re happy to hand over their dog.

What’s a typical grooming session like?
The dogs are usually calm and relaxed. There are no other dogs to disturb them and they are not in a cage. I can sense they feel comfortable, as they can see their home right outside our van. While I’m grooming, I usually talk to the dogs about current issues or sing some song that’s stuck in my head. Yesterday, it was Call Me Maybe.

When it comes to nail trimming, black nails can be really difficult. What do you advise?
If the nails haven’t been trimmed for a while—two months or more—the quick may have grown closer to the tip, so trim slowly and take off just a bit at a time. Look for a black dot on the underneath of the nail; that’s where the quick ends. (See hqbullies.com for an excellent diagram of a dog’s nail.) And if you’re too anxious, have your vet or a groomer do it. (Editor’s note: Miki also puts the dogs up on a table; as groomer Robyn Michaels observed in our Summer 2012 issue, tables are enormously helpful, because being even a foot off the floor shifts dogs to a different mindset.)

What kinds of things do you see most often?
I see a lot of dogs each month and it seems to me that they have more lumps and skin tags than normal. I can’t speculate what’s causing it, but most of the clients I speak to about it have put flea products on their dogs for years.

Wellness: Healthy Living
Preparing for Natural Disasters
Lessons learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy
Pet Evacuation / Preparing for Natural Disasters

Hurricane sandy claimed hundreds of lives and caused billions of dollars in damage across the Caribbean and along the east coast of the United States. My family was fortunate to have weathered the storm safely, but I learned a lot of things that will help me better prepare my pets for the next storm.

Hunkering Down at Home
Keeping boredom at bay. Dealing with cabin fever was the least of my concerns, but it was practically a full-time job keeping Scuttle, my six-monthold Border Collie, entertained. We did everything from playing tug to figuring out a new Nina Ottosson puzzle toy. Scuttle even learned how to walk backwards. Being stuck in the house was a great excuse to teach new tricks, and mental exercise is just as important, if not more tiring, than physical exercise.

Dealing with anxiety. I was fortunate that none of my pets were afraid during the hurricane, but if you know that your dogs are prone to anxiety, it’s good to have a few tools on hand to help them cope, such as a Thundershirt, Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) spray or Rescue Remedy. Just remember to introduce these things before the scary storm so they don’t become part of a bad association.

Potty time. Falling trees killed many people during Hurricane Sandy, including two in New York City who were out walking their dog (the dog was injured but survived). The howling wind was so terrifying that a couple of times, I immediately ran back inside withouteven giving my pups a chance to do their business. I immediately wished I’d prepared an indoor potty area in my garage with a litter box or a tarp filled with dirt and grass. You can also put down housebreaking pads if your dogs will use them.

If you don’t want to bother with a potty area, you should at least determine the safest spots outside. During the storm, I tried to stay as far away as possible from trees and power lines, while watching out for downed wires and other debris.

Surviving blackouts. Power outages were widespread during the hurricane, forcing people to go for days without heat, and some, without running water. Most people I know bundled up and hoped for the best, while others relied on generators (which became tricky because of the gas shortage), or stayed with friends who had heat. The length of the blackouts highlighted the importance of having a backup plan, particularly if you have pets who are sensitive to extreme temperatures. I was lucky to have many friends who offered generators and places to stay, but these are the types of arrangements you want to line up before you need them.

Finding Lost Pets
Unfortunately, during every natural disaster, there are always too many stories of pets who got spooked and ran off. It goes without saying that identification tags and microchip registrations need to be up-to-date, but sitting in my house, I kept thinking that if I were to lose one of my dogs, I had no way of making posters without electricity. It would be invaluable to print out fliers with your pet’s photo ahead of time, along with a list of phone numbers for local shelters and veterinarians. When an animal is missing, every minute counts.

Preparing to Evacuate
After the hurricane ran its course, there was nothing more haunting than images of houses completely destroyed by the storm. Thanks to the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, local and state government agencies are required to come up with an emergency plan that includes animals. Still, many people, who assumed they couldn’t bring their pets, left them behind. It’s critical to know ahead of time where your dogs will be welcomed: at an evacuation center, a hotel or a friend’s house.

Two things will also make evacuating a lot easier: creating a go bag (see the Pet Evacuation Bag Checklist) and crate-training your dogs. Evacuation centers require pets to be in kennels, and you don’t want an emergency to be the first time your dog sees a crate.

My friends and I endured several days of blackouts, road closures and gas shortages—and we were the lucky ones. Sandy was the second hurricane to hit our area in 14 months and I’m determined to be as prepared as possible for the next one. I know my pets are depending on me.

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Jerked Around Again
Another jerky recall hits home

There has been another large-scale recall of pet treats, including jerky. But this time it isn’t products manufactured in China, rather it affects treats made at a Kasel Associated Industries facility in Denver, Colorado. The products may be contaminated with Salmonella, both animals and humans are at risk. The treats have been distributed widely from April 20 to September 19, 2012. We are trying to find out why it took them so long to identify this threat, although this is a voluntary recall.

A number of brands have been affected by this recall, including the new “No Junk… More Jump” BIXBI out of Boulder, Colorado. I am disappointed to learn this because I have been giving my dogs their Hip & Joint Chicken Breast Jerky (100% USA Sourced), not knowing that it was manufactured along with other brands, including treats for Petco. Luckily for my dogs, the lot/expiration date does not seem to be among those in this recall.

The recall covers the brands, Boots & Barkley, BIXBI, Nature’s Deli, Colorado Naturals, Petco, and Best Bully Stick items. Lot numbers as shown in 1 Year Best By Date Table and 2 Year Best By Date Table, which follows.

Consumers who have purchased any listed products are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Kasel Associated Industries at 800.218.4417 Monday thru Friday from 7am to 5pm MDT.

 

UPDATE: We just read about another recall involving chicken jerky, this one involves Nurti-Vet's Chicken Jerky Treats distributed nationwide through online sales and in retail stores from April 2012 through February 2013 with Best By Dates ranging from April 20, 2014, through October 3, 2014.For a more complete listing, see the FDA site.

 

2 Year Best By Date UPC   Lot/Best By Date 085239043165 Boots&Barkley American Beef Bully Stick 12″ 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 085239403495 Boots&Barkley American Smoked Beef Femur Bone 3″ 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 085239043103 Boots&Barkley American Flossie 6-8″ 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 085239403440 Boots&Barkley American Pig Ear Strips 8oz 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 085239043202 Boots&Barkley American Chicken Stuffed Beef Femur Bone 6″ 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 085239043110 Boots&Barkley American Braided Bully Stick 5″ 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 085239043325 Boots&Barkley American Chicken Jerky 16oz 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 085239043400 Boots&Barkley American Chicken Jerky 8oz 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 490830400086 Boots&Barkley American Variety Pack 32oz 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 647263899196 Boots&Barkley American Beef Ribs 2ct 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 647263899172 Boots&Barkley American  Beef Knuckle 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 647263899158 Boots&Barkley American Pig Ears 12ct 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 647263899189 Boots&Barkley American Beef Bully Sticks 6ct 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 647263899165 Boots&Barkley American Pork Femur 20APR2014 DEN-03OCT2014 DEN 681131857246 Roasted Pig Ear Dog Treats 28oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 800443092903 25 PK Natural Pig Ears 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 800443092910 12 PK Natural Pig Ears 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 800443092927 12 PK Smoked Pig Ears 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 800443092934 7 PK Natural Pig Ears 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 800443092941 7 PK Smoked Pig Ears 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 647263800291 16oz Chicken Chips 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 647263900151 16oz Salmon Jerky 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 647263800178 4oz Chicken Jerky 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 647263510176 4oz Lamb Jerky 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 647263900175 4 oz Salmon Jerky 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 647263801175 4oz Beef Jerky 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 647263800291 16oz Chicken Jerky 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 647263700157 16oz Pork Jerky 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 091037018021 BIXBI Skin & Coat Beef Liver Jerky 5oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 091037018045 BIXBI Skin & Coat Lamb Jerky 5oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 091037018007 BIXBI Skin & Coat Chicken Breast Jerky Treats 5oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 091037018069 BIXBI Skin & Coat Pork Jerky 5oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 091037018144 BIXBI Hip And Joint Pork Jerky 5oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 091037018120 BIXBI Hip And Joint Lamb Jerky 5oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 091037018083 BIXBI Hip And Joint Chicken Breast Jerky 5oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN 091037018106 BIXBI Hip And Joint Beef Liver Jerky 5oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN Bulk TDBBS, Inc Buffalo Hearts Sliced 3 lbs 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN Bulk TDBBS, Inc Knee Caps 25 Ct 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN Unknown TDBBS, Inc Pork Jerky Strips 16oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN Unknown TDBBS, Inc Chicken Jerky 16oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN Unknown TDBBS, Inc Turkey Cubes 4.5oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN Bulk TDBBS, Inc Pig Snouts 25ct 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN Bulk TDBBS, Inc Beef Lobster Tails 1ct 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN Unknown TDBBS, Inc Turkey Jerky Sticks 6ct 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN Unknown TDBBS, Inc Hearts of Lamb 4oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN Unknown TDBBS, Inc Lamb Jerky 4oz 04202014 DEN-10032014 DEN

 

1 Year Best By Date UPC   Lot/Best By Date 647263800215 Nature’s Deli Chicken Jerky 3lbs 04202013 DEN-10032013 DEN 647263800208 Nature’s Deli Chicken Jerky 2.5lbs 04202013 DEN-10032013 DEN

 

Wellness: Healthy Living
Essential Oils and Dogs
Sniff Test

Essential oils are aromatic, naturally occurring chemical components of plants that are usually extracted by distillation. Thorough lab testing of these chemical constituents has led to an understanding of their benefits, and in recent years, interest in therapeutically blended essential oils for canines has increased. The questions are: Do they work, are they safe and are they preferable to pharmaceuticals?

Most essential oils have been found to confer benefits of one kind or another—among them, anti-infectious (antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial), sedative, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), immunostimulant and expectorant. For example, lavender essential oil is soothing to the central nervous system, and a 2006 study showed that its use reduced dogs’ movement and vocalization during travel; the lavender species was not identified, but was probably Lavandula angustifolia. The study’s author went on to conclude: “Traditional treatments for travel-induced excitement in dogs may be time-consuming, expensive or associated with adverse effects. Aromatherapy in the form of diffused lavender odor may offer a practical alternative treatment …” (Wells 2006).

A study of a more traditional (i.e., pharmaceutical) treatment method involved 37 dogs and the use of diazepam for anxiety-related issues. Separation anxiety, for example, one of the most common canine behavior problems, is diagnosed in 20 to 40 percent of dogs (Schwartz 2003). Although 18 dog owners found diazepam “somewhat effective” in relieving their dog’s anxiety, 19 discontinued its use due to adverse effects such as agitation, increased activity, increased appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea (Herron 2008). A number of drugs have similar laundry lists of unpleasant effects, which can make the use of essential oils—among them, lavender, petitgrain, sweet orange, marjoram and vetiver—more appealing.

It’s no wonder that some veterinarians are interested in essential oils’ possibilities and are experimenting with them. In a survey sent to members of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, 15 respondents reported significant use in their practices, and in quite disparate ways (Keith 2010). They were diffusing lavender in waiting and exam rooms, using essential oils for odor control, doing light massage with frankincense, blending lemongrass in sweet almond oil for cruciate or joint injuries and using a sequence of seven essential oils in a Terminally Ill Energy Transition Set to help animals adjust to impending death and let go (Bell 2004).

In addition to veterinarians, aromatherapists have weighed in with their own anecdotal successes. Their uses include blends for increasing appetite; boosting the immune system; combating fatigue; and dealing with puppy teething, ear cleaning, breath, colds and congestion, separation anxiety, and many more. Application methods range from soaps and shampoos to salves and sprays.

If you’re curious about this modality and want to explore it, it is important to work with someone who understands the organic chemistry of essential oils and how to dilute them appropriately. Look for a registered aromatherapist (aromatherapycouncil.org) or a member of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (naha.org) in your area. Dosage and length of treatment are extremely important in order to avoid organ toxicity and reduce chances of sensitivity. For instance, tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is considered a remarkable antifungal, but doses that work well on humans are sometimes too strong for animals, and there have been reports of adverse reactions in dogs, especially at higher concentrations (Villar 1994). A knowledgeable aromatherapist will undoubtedly opt for a different, softer essential oil in its place. In any case, this is all the more reason to involve the dog’s veterinarian in the decision process.

So are essential oils safe? Anecdotal evidence and the few studies available would indicate they are remarkably effective and safe when carefully blended by someone with good training in their use. Are they preferable to pharmaceuticals? That depends on the pharmaceutical, the severity of the problem being treated and the pet’s response to the drug. Ultimately, owners must decide what is best for their pets. Until more conclusive studies are available, essential oils will probably remain a complementary rather than an alternative treatment option to pharmaceuticals.

A dozen essential oils that can be used effectively on dogs:

Cardamom
Chamomile (both Roman and German)
Frankincense
Geranium
Ginger
Helichrysum
Lavender
Marjoram
Niaouli
Peppermint
Sweet Orange
Vetiver

Wellness: Healthy Living
Hospice Care
Hospice care eases the way

“They have been our loyal companions throughout their lives, and in hospice, they need to know that we will dance to the end of the song with them.”
—Thomas F. Wilson, PhD

When our dogs are young and healthy, it seems as though we have all the time in the world with them. But, as it always does, time catches up with us, and eventually, the “end of the song” begins to play. For many of us, our companion animals are so integral to our lives that their decline and death affect us similarly to the loss of human family members.

However, the heart-wrenching words “Nothing else can be done” do not mean that euthanasia is the only option. As they move into the closing stages of their lives, pets (we’ll focus on dogs here, but the concept is the same for other companion animals) can benefit from animal hospice, and so can their people.

Like the program for humans, animal hospice exists to provide support and care during the last phase of an incurable disease or at the natural end of life; its primary goal is to manage pain. As such, hospice care is geared toward maintaining comfort and ensuring the highest quality of life possible during a time that may be measured in months, weeks or days. It focuses on creating a safe, loving and intimate endof- life experience in a familiar setting. This approach also gives us time to plan, grieve and say good-bye to our dogs. And—perhaps most importantly —it is a way to allow our best friends to spend their final days at home rather than in a hospital setting. This interval can be invaluable, as it helps us come to grips with our dog’s condition, and to say good-bye in our own way.

Though it can be extremely rewarding, hospice care does require preparation and effort. The first step is to connect with a veterinarian who is comfortable with the concept (not all are).

He or she will guide you in how to best provide for your dog’s needs, and in setting up a care plan to carry out at home: administering medications, supplying nutritional support, recognizing pain, implementing proper nursing care and tuning into your dog’s general emotional and physical state. If you are unsure about taking on these kinds of responsibilities, you may be able to employ a vet technician to assist you as needed.

As mentioned, one of the most important aspects of hospice care is pain management. Because it is easier to prevent pain than to relieve it, a multimodal approach—in which a variety of methods, including various classes of pain medications, natural supplements, acupuncture and massage therapy, to name a few, are employed—usually results in the best control. Part of this protocol involves monitoring your dog’s behavior and physical state, since agitation and vocalization may be signs of pain. In providing hospice care, you are the eyes and ears of the veterinary team, recording changes in your dog’s weight, temperature, eating habits, mobility and other characteristics and reporting them to the vet so that interventions or adjustments to the care plan can be made in a timely manner.

When it comes to end-of-life matters, we are faced with the difficult decision of allowing for a natural death or intervening with humane euthanasia; for some, a natural death is preferable to euthanasia as long as no suffering is involved. The decision if and when to euthanize is as individual and personal as you and your dog, and it’s important to keep in mind that no one knows your dog better than you do. You have spent your dog’s lifetime learning to communicate by reading body language and developing a unique bond. Attend to what your dog may be trying to tell you and, above all, trust your heart.

Identifying the point at which your dog’s quality of life has irrevocably ebbed requires personal courage and sacrifice, and many people fear they will not be able to recognize when the time is right. Seek guidance in the decision- making process from family members and friends, as well as from your veterinarian, all of whom share a bond with your dog. You will need the support of those who truly understand.

After months (or more) of caring for a dog in declining health, it can often be difficult to decide when the end has come, which is why it is helpful to determine ahead of time at what point you feel your dog’s quality of life is no longer acceptable. This may be when he or she ceases to find joy in eating, no longer enjoys interaction and connection, can no longer stand or walk, or when pain begins to be difficult to control. It is often helpful to consider good days versus bad days; more bad days than good is another indicator that the time is near. By establishing these criteria in advance, you are better prepared to make the appropriate decision, since emotion can cloud your thinking during the difficult final days of your dog’s life.

Hospice can be a wonderful, caring option. Regardless of how you choose to navigate this stage, it is good to know that it exists. Whether we opt for a natural death or a peaceful euthanasia, hospice care not only allows our dogs to live out the remainder of their lives as fully as possible, it also allows them to embark upon their final journey with dignity while surrounded by love in the comfort of their familiar home environment. Hospice care is truly a gift, both to our dogs and to ourselves.

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