Archive for the ‘Canine family members’ Category

We Made It!

November 20, 2011

Quinn and yours truly in travel mode

I’m pleased to report that our menagerie (my hubby and I included) have arrived, safe and sound in North Carolina! Thankfully, our trip was mostly uneventful. We had only one hiccup along the way and that occurred in our very own driveway in California. We had packed the bed of the pickup truck with oodles of stuff including a wooden table. With the very first turn out of our driveway, the gooseneck of the horse trailer pushed the corner of that table right through the rear window of our pick up truck. The result was an explosive noise and flying glass. Fortunately, no one was injured, but I’ve never witnessed two dogs fly from the back seat of a vehicle into the front so quickly! We cleaned up the shattered glass, used cardboard and “gorilla tape” to replace the missing window, took a really deep breath, and headed east. The remainder of the trip was smooth sailing.

Our overnights were spent in Bakersfield, California (where our younger dog Quinn was rescued from a “kill shelter”), Flagstaff, Arizona (a gorgeous place), Tucumcari, New Mexico (I love the way the name of this town rolls off my tongue, but never have our dog’s feet encountered such nasty stickers), Cromwell, Oklahoma (this year a tornado, an earthquake, and a severe drought have ravaged the area), and Jackson, Tennessee where we truly felt like we were in the “east” for the first time.

Part of the gang right after arriving in North Carolina

We encountered fabulous people at every overnight stop along the way. All had fascinating stories to share about their lives and why they ended up where they have. The common thread for all of our hosts was a profound love for animals as evidenced by properties filled with horses, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. Michelle, our host in Cromwell, Oklahoma has several adorable rescue dogs desperately in need of homes. If you live anywhere near Cromwell and are ready to add a new member to your own menagerie, please let me know and I will put you in touch with Michelle. By the way, she also has a rescue horse she is hoping to rehome.

We arrived at our North Carolina home in lovely 70-degree weather and some remaining fall color. Some of the leaves are such brilliant shades of red and orange, that trees appear as if they are on fire. After six days on the road, we all thoroughly enjoyed stretching our legs. My husband’s horse galloped around his new pasture (I am currently horseless, but hopefully not for too much longer), our kitty enjoyed inspecting her new surroundings, and my husband, the dogs, and I took a long hike through a six inch carpet of crisp leaves. The dogs must have run a good five miles on our one-mile hike. It feels great for all of us to be in our new home and we are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving here.

Have you ever moved cross-country with animals in tow? If so, would you ever consider doing it again?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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When Microchipping Matters Most

June 13, 2011

I just read a story about a dog named Hanah who was displaced from her family during the recent tornado that terrorized Joplin, Missouri. There have been a couple of post-tornado Hanah sightings, but to date, she’s yet to be reunited with her anxious and devastated family.   The Good Samaritan photos taken of Hanah show this adorable looking dog without a collar, and her owners report that she has not been microchipped.   My heart sank when I read this.  As far as I’m concerned, a microchip would have increased the likelihood of a happy ending to this story more than anything else.

Let this be a wake-up call to all of us about the importance of microchipping our pets.  Far and away a microchip is the best insurance policy possible for reuniting lost pets with their families.  Bear in mind that implanting the microchip is the easy part. The more difficult part is making sure that you and the professional who places the microchip get it registered properly.  What good is the microchip if its number is not associated with accurate owner contact information?  And when you move or change telephone numbers, remember to update the microchip registry.  As I reported in a previous blog, the microchip failure rate has everything to do with inadequate updating of registry information.

I hope you will read Hanah’s story and share it with all the dog lovers you know with hopes that she will be returned to the people who love her.   If I receive any Hanah updates I will certainly let you know.  If your pets are not microchipped, please call your veterinarian or local shelter right away to set up an appointment to do so. If your pet is microchipped, contact the registry to ensure that your contact information is up to date.  One never knows what life has in store for us and our pets!

Do you know of a story where a microchip saved the day?  If so, I’d love to hear it.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

Age is Just a Number

April 14, 2011

When my clients make decisions on behalf of their senior dogs and cats, they routinely factor in their pet’s age.  I often hear statements such as, “I would pursue a diagnosis if only she weren’t so old.” and “I would treat him if only he were younger.”  When my clients voice such “senior objections” I gently encourage them to consider the situation a bit more objectively by considering their pet’s functional age rather than their chronological age.  For example, it might be far safer for me to anesthetize the vigorous, playful thirteen-year-old Labrador with normal liver and kidney function I evaluated on Monday compared to the debilitated eleven-year-old Labrador with impaired kidney function I examined on Tuesday. Functionally speaking, the thirteen-year-old is, by far, the younger of the two.  When making decisions, savvy medical advocates evaluate the whole package- spryness, organ function, overall comfort, joie de vivre- rather than considering age alone.  Just because a dog or cat is, by definition, a senior citizen doesn’t mean their body is functioning like that of a senior citizen.

I thoroughly enjoyed explaining this point on NPR’s popular show, Fresh Air With Terry Gross. “Terry, you and I could both be 80 year old women in need of knee replacement surgery.  You might be a terrific candidate for surgery, whereas I might be a horrible candidate!”

When making medical decisions, my clients frequently ask about their pet’s life expectancy. Life expectancies for cats and dogs of varying breeds are nothing more than averages.  This means some individuals will never reach “average” and others will far exceed it. 

Here’s the bottom line. If you have a happy, lively, interactive, and agile senior dog or cat on your hands, throw those age-related numbers and averages out the window.  Rather, I encourage you to observe your pet’s overall quality of life, share some nose-to-nose time with your best buddy, look deep into those beautiful eyes, and make important medical decisions based on what’s truly important rather than simply a number.  Have you ever needed to be a medical advocate for a senior pet?  If so, please share your story.

Best wishes for good health,         

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook         

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Avoiding Pancreatitis During the Holidays

November 22, 2010

I wrote the following for one of my favorite magazines, BARK (the inventors of “Dog is my co-pilot”).  With the holidays once again upon us, I thought I’d toss this information out into cyberspace as a timely reminder to avoid overindulging our dogs!

‘Tis the season for family gatherings, gift giving, and food galore.  Veterinarians know that this is also the season for canine pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), a painful, potentially life-threatening condition most commonly caused by overindulgence in foods that are particularly rich or fatty. And what kitchen isn’t overflowing with such foods this time of year?

The pancreas is a thin, delicate-appearing, boomerang-shaped organ that resides in the abdominal cavity, tucked up against the stomach and small intestine. While the pancreas may be diminutive in appearance, its actions are mighty! It is the body’s source of insulin and enzymes necessary for food digestion. When pancreatitis is chronic or particularly severe, this little factory sometimes permanently closes down, resulting in diabetes mellitus (requires insulin shots) and/or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (requires digestive enzyme replacement therapy). 

When a dog eats, enzymes are released from the pancreas into the small intestine, where they are activated for food digestion. Sometimes, for reasons we do not understand, these enzymes are activated within the pancreas itself, resulting in the inflammation of pancreatitis. In addition to rich or fatty foods, certain drugs, hormonal imbalances and inherited defects in fat metabolism can also cause pancreatitis. For some dogs, an underlying cause is never found. Classic pancreatitis symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, and decreased appetite and activity levels. 

Short of performing a pancreatic biopsy (an invasive and risky procedure), diagnosing pancreatitis can be challenging, because noninvasive tests are fraught with false-negative and false-positive results. Veterinarians must rely on a combination of the following: 

• A history of dietary indiscretion, vomiting and lethargy.

• Physical examination findings (particularly abdominal pain).

• Characteristic complete blood cell count (CBC) and blood chemistry abnormalities.

• A positive or elevated Spec cPL (canine pancreas-specific lipase) blood test.

• Characteristic abdominal ultrasound abnormalities. 

There is no cure for pancreatitis—much like a bruise, the inflammation must resolve on its own. This is best accomplished by allowing the pancreas to rest, which means giving nothing orally (not even water) to prevent digestive enzyme secretion. Treatment consists of hospitalization for the administration of intravenous fluids; injectable medication to control vomiting, pain and stomach acid secretion; and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection or abscess formation. Dogs should be monitored around the clock for the life-threatening complications that sometimes accompany pancreatitis, such as kidney failure, heart rhythm abnormalities, respiratory distress and bleeding disorders. Small amounts of water and a fat-free diet are typically offered once vomiting has stopped, abdominal pain has subsided, and there is blood test and/or ultrasound confirmation that the inflammation has calmed down. If your dog has pancreatitis, count on a minimum of two to three days of hospitalization, and be sure to ask who will be caring for your dog during the night. 

Long-term treatment for pancreatitis typically involves feeding a low-fat or fat-free diet. This may be a life-long recommendation, especially if your dog has been a “repeat offender.”  Most dogs fully recover with appropriate therapy; however, some succumb to the complications associated with this disease.

Nicky 

How can you prevent pancreatitis during this food-oriented time of year? You can avoid feeding holiday leftovers altogether (this would cause canine mutiny in my household) or you can heed the following recommendations. New foods should be fed sparingly and only if well tolerated by your dog’s gastrointestinal tract and waistline.  Keep in mind that whether offered a teaspoon or a tablespoon of something delicious, most dogs will gulp it down in the same amount of time and reap the same psychological benefit. Don’t offer tidbits from the table while you are eating. This is a set up for bad behavior. Offer the treat only after you’ve left the table. If you shouldn’t be eating the food yourself (emphasis on shouldn’t), please don’t feed it to your dog! By all means, give your precious poopsie a bit of turkey breast, but without the turkey skin or fat-laden mashed potatoes and creamy gravy. Go ahead and offer your sweet snookums a bite of brisket, but please —no potato latkes or sour cream! Bear in mind that most dogs are so darned excited about getting a treat, they don’t care what it is, only that they’re getting it!

Some people dream of sugar plum fairies, a white Christmas or a stress-free family gathering. I’m dreaming of a holiday season in which not a single dog develops pancreatitis!

Wishing you and your four-legged family members a joyful and healthy holidays season.

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free Christmas or Chanukah guft wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Boo!

October 11, 2010

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  Skunks and caterpillars and zebras, oh my!  Never have I seen such an adorable and hilarious assortment of canine Halloween garb as can be found at OhMyDogSupplies.com. I hope you will check it out (click on the link at the bottom of this blog), but I recommend doing so only if you have an empty bladder- you’ll be laughing so hard you just might ……….   have an accident!  I keep going back and forth about which is my favorite costume- it remains a toss up between the Cheerleader and the Spicy Taco!


   

Please have a look and then let me know which Halloween outfit is your favorite!  When you respond be sure to provide the following information:

1.  The name of your favorite costume (just one) from the OhMyDogSupplies website
2.  Your dog’s size (see sizing recommendations provided on the website)
3.  Your dog’s name, age, and breed (best guess if he or she is a mix)

Be sure to respond by October 18th because on October 19th I will randomly choose five names from those of you who have responded.  If your name is chosen, you and your dog will receive a wonderful Halloween costume (we’ll try to provide you with your favorite) compliments of OhMyDogSupplies.  In return, I will ask that you provide me with a photo of your dog in his or her Halloween duds so I can share them with my blog audience.  Happy Halloween!

Now here’s wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health. 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Oh My Dog Supplies

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

You can support your favorite rescue group.  The Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program shares a portion of the sales proceeds with approved non-profit organizations when you purchase a book via the Speaking for Spot website and designate the organization at the time of purchase.

Dogs That Fly

September 19, 2010

The United States Department of Transportation recently released breed-related information about dogs that have died while traveling in the cargo compartments of airplanes since May 2005. Of the 122 dogs that died, 108 were purebred. Brachycephalic breeds (ones I affectionately refer to as “smoosh faced”) such as Pugs, English Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs represented approximately half of the purebred dogs that took their last breath while in the plane.    

Credit: Dallasnews.com, Dallas Pooch Parade

You’d have a tough time finding a veterinarian who would be surprised by these results. For us, it’s a given that the vast majority of these adorable, snub-nosed dogs have some degree of upper airway obstruction because of nostrils that are too small, a windpipe that is too narrow, and/or excessive fleshy tissue in the region of the larynx (the anatomical entryway into the windpipe). When brachycephalic dogs breathe harder and faster in response to heat or stress (both may certainly be factors in the cargo compartment of an airplane) it makes sense that they are much more susceptible to heatstroke and/or respiratory compromise.    

What’s the take home point here?  One should always think long and hard about the potential pitfalls of transporting your dog to and fro via airplane. But if your heart belongs to a smoosh-faced dog, please strongly consider other options such as transport via car, renting a private jet (yeah, right!), or leaving your little sweetie at home. If flying is a must, ask your veterinarian to thoroughly assess your dog’s baseline level of respiratory compromise before you purchase your tickets and discuss ways to potentially make the flight less stressful.    

Have you ever flown with your dog? If so, please share your experiential wisdom.  

Now here’s wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health. 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook   

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.   

You can support your favorite rescue group.  The Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program shares a portion of the sales proceeds with approved non-profit organizations when you purchase a book via the Speaking for Spot website and designate the organization at the time of purchase.

Canine Cancer Walk 2010

March 26, 2010

K9 Cancer Walk

April 24, 2010

 Join Us to Help

Morris Animal Foundation Fight Canine Cancer!

Elk Grove Regional Park – Elk Grove, California 

Registration/Check-in: 8:30 a.m.

K9 Cancer Walk–3K/7K: 10:00 a.m.

Speakers’ Program: 11:30 a.m. 

Speakers:

  • Dr. Wayne Jensen, Chief Scientific Officer, Morris Animal Foundation
  • Dr. Nancy Kay, Diplomat, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine & Author of Speaking for Spot
  • Dr. Michael Kent,  Associate Professor, University of California–Davis School of Veterinary Medicine  

If you are local please come and walk in memory of dogs that have lost their battle with canine cancer or celebrate those that have survived. Your participation helps us help your best friends lead longer, healthier lives. 

Too far to participate in person?  Join Speaking for Spot’s virtual walk team.  Participants will receive a T-shirt and a dog bandanna this year, compliments of the Sacramento Canine Cancer Campaign Volunteers and I will draw the name of one Speaking for Spot team participant who will receive a personally signed copy of Speaking for Spot.

To join the Speaking for Spot virtual walk team click here: http://maf.convio.net/site/TR/Events/CCC?px=1004841&pg=personal&fr_id=1040.

Have you lost a canine family member to cancer or do you have one currently diagnosed with cancer?  Please share your story with us in the comments below or on my Facebook Fan Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nancy-Kay/105415179814.

For more information visit www.K9CancerWalk.org.

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, ACVIM
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Breed Profiling

March 13, 2010

Racial profiling is considered taboo, and for good reason.  Breed profiling, however, is fair game for those of us in the veterinary profession! We breed profile on a daily basis particularly pertaining to health issues.  Name just about any breed of dog or cat and I can provide you with a laundry list of potentially inherited diseases.  Patty Khuly, VMD (the “VMD” means her veterinary degree is from the University of Pennsylvania) has created a wonderfully comprehensive list of canine breed related diseases (the feline list is in the works).  I encourage you to check it out at www.embracepetinsurance.com/PetHealth/default.aspx. Not only does she list the most common maladies for each dog breed, she rates the risk for disease inheritance (low, medium, or high), describes each disease, and provides the approximate (emphasis on approximate) cost to diagnose and treat each disease. Hats off to Dr. Khuly for creating such a useful tool!  And if all of this weren’t enough, Dr. Khuly also manages to find the time to pen a witty and informative daily blog (www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted).    

So how might Dr. Khuly’s information about breed-specific diseases be useful for you?  Certainly, if you are thinking about adopting a purebred pup, what you learn might sway your opinion about a particular breed.  If you already have your heart set on a specific breed, the disease-specific information will empower you to ask the right questions of the breeder to learn if the litter’s dam, sire, grandparents, and aunts and uncles have been affected.  A word of warning: don’t dare rely on the proverbial, “None of my dogs have ever had that problem.”  A conscientious breeder will offer forth official paperwork rather than verbal reassurances. Finally, if you already share your heart and home with a particular breed or think you know what breeds have gone into the “making of your mutt” being informed about the diseases that may arise will allow you to better be on the lookout for early symptoms. Timely detection and intervention can favorably affect the long-term outcome.     

Official White House Photo

Now, just for kicks, let’s check Dr. Khuly’s list of inherited diseases pertaining to Bobama (the name I’ve affectionately bestowed upon the newest dog in the White House).  According to the list, Portuguese Water Dogs are at medium risk for hip dysplasia (instability of the hip joints that results in arthritis), and at high risk for Addison’s disease (a hormonal imbalance) and follicular dysplasia (a hair follicle issue resulting in abnormal hair growth).  President Obama might be interested to know that one of his predecessors in the White House had Addison’s disease- none other than the late John F. Kennedy!  I wish Bobama a lifetime of good health, not only for the sake of the first family, but for the sake of the White House veterinarian as well!   

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health,   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook    

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids): a Proven Treatment for Canine Arthritis

January 30, 2010

 I had the good fortune of receiving my veterinary school training at Cornell University.  Part of what made this education so fabulous was that the senior faculty spent a great deal of “face time” with their students.  I have fond memories of a seasoned clinician patiently holding a Dachshund for me while teaching this novice how to collect a blood sample from the jugular vein.  Another taught this city slicker how to collect a milk sample for mastitis testing from the teat of a cow.   A major “take home point” my classmates and I received from these icons in veterinary medicine was, “First, do no harm.”  In other words, before subjecting our patients to diagnostic testing or treatment, we should strive to be as confident as possible that the potential for benefit was far greater than the potential for harm.  “First do no harm” has always been my mantra and is the main reason I try to rely on “evidence based medicine” (facts substantiated by research) rather than anecdotal information to support what I do. 

Unfortunately, there is a paucity of evidence based medicine pertaining to the use of many commonly used supplements, nutraceuticals, and herbs for dogs and cats.  This is the reason a big smile appeared on my face when I opened a recent edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.  It contained two studies on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) for the treatment of osteoarthritis (also known as arthritis or degenerative joint disease) in dogs.  The study designs were excellent in that many dogs were included, there was a control group (some dogs received a placebo rather than the fatty acids), and the observers were “blinded”- neither the veterinarians nor the dogs’ families knew if the dogs were receiving the fatty acids or the placebo.  

Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids)Here’s what the studies showed.  Compared to the placebo group, the dogs receiving omega-3 fatty acids had a significantly improved ability to rise from a resting position and play by six weeks after beginning supplementation, and improved ability to walk by 12 weeks.  Additionally, compared to the control group, dogs receiving the fish oil had improved weight bearing on the affected limbs as assessed by force-plate analysis (an extremely humane testing method).  No significant adverse side effects from the fish oil supplementation were reported. 

If you’ve spent any significant amount of time with dogs (especially large dogs), guaranteed you’ve known at least a few with arthritis.  It is estimated to affect up to twenty percent of dogs over one year of age. Dogs with arthritis resemble people with arthritis- they are often stiff and slow to rise when they first get up in the morning, as well as after vigorous exercise.  There are many ways to treat this common canine malady including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (the equivalent of ibuprofen for humans), acupuncture, rehabilitation therapy, and supplements that increase the production of normal joint fluid.  The effectiveness of all of these modalities, including fish oil, will vary from individual to individual.  The beauty of fish oil is that, likely the only potential significant risk is for you- your dog may develop fish breath! 

I love the fact that veterinarians now have evidence based support for recommending fish oil as a treatment for their canine patients with arthritis, and in doing so, they can abide by the mantra of, “First do no harm.”  If you suspect your dog has arthritis (if you have a large breed dog over eight years of age, chances are that you do), talk with your veterinarian about the pros and cons of all the treatment options.  And the next time you are dining on fish, don’t be surprised if your dog’s nose appears right beside your dinner plate.  Chances are, your dog clearly recognizes the benefits of fish oil supplementation!  Now, pass the salmon please. 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

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A Dozen Simple Ways to Be Certain You Are Working With a Reputable Breeder

January 23, 2010

So, you’ve decided to adopt a dog and feel certain that a purebred is your heart’s desire.  You’ve done your research to be sure that the size and temperament of the breed you’ve chosen is the right fit for you, your lifestyle, and everyone else who lives with you (including both two-legged and four-legged family members). Now, what’s the best way to find this dog of your dreams? 

Here are some good options for finding your new dog (hopefully, we are in agreement that pet store and site unseen online purchases are not good options- see http://speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=710).  If you are open to adopting an adult dog, let the staff of your local shelter or humane society know what you are looking for- a surprising number of purebred dogs wind up there.  I also encourage you to contact breed-specific rescue organizations (google the name of your breed along with the word “rescue”).  Life’s unforeseen circumstances (death, divorce, financial woes, etc.) cause many wonderful dogs to end up with rescue groups. 

Another good option for finding your new dog is via a reputable breeder.  (For the sake of my writing sanity and your reading sanity, throughout this article I refer to breeders with the feminine pronoun.) The word reputable is reserved for the breeder who is truly passionate about the breed she fancies.  Not only does she possess knowledge about the breed’s history, she knows everything there is to know about their inherited health issues (every single breed has them), temperament, and special needs.  She is a wealth of information about breed ancestries (pedigrees) and the reading material on her nightstand likely includes breed-related magazines. Compare this description to what is referred to as the “backyard breeder,” the individual who produces pups without giving significant thought to inherited diseases, pedigrees, conformation, performance, or temperament.  Their reasons for breeding have nothing to do with preserving the integrity of the breed; perhaps they want their children to witness the “miracle of birth,” believe in the myth that healthy female dogs must have a litter, or are naïve enough to believe that producing pups is a money-making proposition. 

Working with a reputable breeder provides the very best insurance policy that your new pup will have an ideal temperament and the genetic potential for a lifetime of good health.  So, how do you go about finding a reputable breeder?  I encourage you to attend some dog shows and local breed club functions to do some schmoozing. Take note of any consensus you perceive (positive or negative) about particular breeders.  Pay an online visit to the American Kennel Club (if you reside in the United States) and/or the national breed-specific association (i.e. Golden Retriever Club of America).  These sites contain referrals to breeders, but in no way guarantees that they are reputable– you still need to do your homework! Once you’ve created your “short list” of puppy providers, use the list below of a dozen simple ways to be certain you are working with a reputable breeder. 

1.  A reputable breeder insists that you visit her home and all of her dogs. In addition to the puppies, she wants you to meet their mother and, if they are on site, the sire and other relatives (aunts, uncles, and cousins).  She wants you to see that the dogs are not confined to a sterile kennel environment and that they have many opportunities for human interaction from an early age.  Additionally, this visit provides the breeder with an opportunity to see how you interact with dogs. 

2.  A reputable breeder will want to show you all the paperwork pertaining to her pups’ pedigree and health clearances (consult with the breed association to learn which medical issues are pertinent for your breed).  Not only does she have this paperwork for your pup, but for the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles as well.  She will take great pride in this paperwork as it demonstrates her quest to enhance the breed and produce the very best puppies possible.  She will be sending a copy of this paperwork home with you and your pup along with a binder full of other important documents: general information about the breed, breed related health issues, recommendations for obedience classes, grooming tips, results of temperament testing, vaccination and deworming history, record of veterinarian examination, photos of the relatives, and everything you need for American Kennel Club Registration (and you thought you were just getting a puppy!). 

3.  A reputable breeder will want to tell you about any significant health problems that have arisen in any of the dogs she has produced (no breeder is immune).  Not only does this suggest integrity on her part, it also lets you to know that she has stayed in contact with her clients throughout the lifetime of the dogs she’s placed. 

4.  A reputable breeder has more questions for you than you have for her!  You will likely be asked to fill out an application and provide references.  She will request a description of your immediate family, other pets, prior dog experience, house and yard (she may want to come for a site visit), time spent at home versus work, amount of money you are willing to spend on veterinary care, and what activities you hope to share with your dog. If you feel as though you are being interrogated, it is because you are!  The reputable breeder is looking for a single permanent relationship for her pup; she will readily decline a new home that she feels is less than ideal.  Keep in mind, she is well versed in her breed’s best and worst qualities, and knows that these traits are not well suited to every individual and household.  By the way, you will not be allowed to choose a puppy from the entire litter.  The reputable breeder rarely produces more than two or three litters a year and most of the pups will be spoken for well in advance. If she does not have a pup that is right for you, she will gladly refer you to another reputable breeder. 

5.  A reputable breeder is in no hurry to send her puppies off to their new homes.  They may even be held a few weeks longer than the traditional 6 to 8 weeks of age during which time she continues to evaluate each pup to determine which are show or performance prospects.  She will also continue to evaluate the personalities of the pet-quality dogs for more successful pairing with prospective buyers. 

6.  A reputable breeder is happy to provide you with references including people who have purchased her puppies in the past, other breeders, and the veterinarian(s) who cares for her dogs. 

7.  A reputable breeder will ask you to sign a contract that details not only what she expects of you, but also what you can expect of her.  The contract will include some form of health guarantee and, with rare exception, will require your agreement to neuter your pup at the appropriate age.  The contract will also spell out your breeder’s ongoing involvement throughout your dog’s lifetime. She will be an enthusiastic source of support and advice for you, and will want to be informed about any significant health issues that arise.  Not only might this health feedback influence future breeding decisions, she will want to provide a “heads up” to the people who adopted your dog’s littermates.  Additionally, if for any reason and at any age, your dog needs to be “rehomed” the reputable breeder will want to be involved in the process. She would never want one of her dogs to wind up in a shelter or passed from home to home. 

8.  A reputable breeder does not accept credit cards.  She simply doesn’t sell enough puppies to make this worthwhile. 

9.  A reputable breeder sends her pups to their new homes via automobile or within the passenger compartment of the airplane accompanied by a responsible human.  They are never transported in the baggage compartment of an airplane.  

10.  A reputable breeder works with one breed, or occasionally two.  She truly has a love affair with the breed and has focused a huge amount of her time and energy researching all of its particular nuances. She views “designer hybrids” such as Labradoodles (Labradors crossed with Poodles) and Puggles (Pugs crossed with Beagles) to be no different than any other mixed breed of dog.  They detract from, rather than enhance the breed she loves so dearly. 

11.  A reputable breeder shows her dogs in American Kennel Club recognized conformation shows and/or breed-related performance events (obedience, agility, hunting tests/field trial, tracking, herding, etc.). Her dogs may earn AKC good citizen certificates. All of these are clear-cut way for others who are knowledgeable about the breed to evaluate her dogs.  The breeder’s pride will be evident when she shows you the certificates and trophies detailing the accolades and accomplishments of the dogs she’s produced. 

12.  A reputable breeder has a job other than breeding puppies (unless she happens to be independently wealthy).  Breeding pups to pay the mortgage and put groceries on the table inevitably leads to making poor breeding choices.  As one of my colleagues recommends, “Ask the breeder if they make money breeding dogs. If they say, ‘no,’ or better yet, laugh while saying no, you can figure she is a decent breeder.”   

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

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