That is the question I asked myself as I read some recent data on dogs and canine cancer. The data was posted on The Institute of Canine Biology but came from a scientific veterinary review article by Jane Dobson titled “Breed-Predispositions to Cancer in Pedigree Dogs”.
The data was both interesting and sad. In breeds where the prevalence of cancer is high, the attributing factor is most likely genetics. Certain breeds of dogs are just genetically pre-disposed to get cancer more than others. Whether this is due to closed breed registries I cannot say (I’m just not knowledgable enough about dog breeding to know) but it certainly does give one pause to wonder.
As I looked at the list of dogs, I automatically found myself scrolling down the list to see where Shetland Sheepdogs and Labrador Retrievers fell. Labs were higher on the list (31%) than Shelties (22%), but certainly not as high as the irish Water Spaniel (55.8%) or the Flat-coated Retriever (50.3%).
I found myself whispering a silent “Thank God” and then wondering to myself whether a higher-risk for cancer would change how I felt about a certain breed. If Shetland Sheepdogs were higher on the list would I feel differently about getting a Sheltie again? Would the data influence my decision to stay away from certain breeds? To be honest, I don’t think so, but then again, I am not the owner of a Bernese Mountain Dog or a Vizsla or a Rottweiler or one of the other breeds topping the list. Maybe I would feel differently if my favorite breed was one of these dogs. I just don’t know.
How about you? Would you choose another breed of dog if you knew cancer was more of a possibility?
PDAs. I don’t like them. No. Not those kind of PDAs (although sometimes they can be a bit much). It’s those kind that include public recognition - Employee of the Month, public awards in front of you colleagues, etc. I’m generally embarrassed and uncomfortable by them, at least when I am the recipient.
I also don’t like pandering for votes. It also makes me uncomfortable. It feels like I am saying “Rah! Rah me! Pay attention to me! Vote for me!”
However, today I am going to do a little pandering. Well actually, I’m going to pander for your votes for Cupcake AND for Benny of Two French Bulldogs. He has liver cancer and your votes, and the result it will bring, will help money to pay for his treatment. It’s a cause I can fully support.
So what do you have to do?
Vote for Cupcake.
Vote for other dogs.
Vote for Benny.
You have until September 1st.
About the voting process. Voting opened Sunday at 12:00 noon Eastern Standard time (NYC) and is limited to one IP ADDRESS per 24 hour period. For those of you with multi-computer households it is important to remember that any smart phone, tablet, computer that shares a network also shares an IP address. If you vote on your computer then try and vote on your phone, chances are it won’t work, unless you disconnect from your network. If someone tells you they tried to vote and they can’t, then that is probably the issue.
Yesterday I read a painfully poignant post by Phyllis DeGioia about her dog, Dodger and her decision to put him down due to his aggression (“Euthanizing Aggressive Dogs: Sometimes It’s the Best Choice“). Her words were not only powerful because they came from her own experience, but also because they so clearly articulated the conflicting emotions and guilt one feels when faced with euthanizing a dog due to aggression.
Societally, it is so much more acceptable to euthanize a dog for old age or illness than it is for a dog with behavioral issues. And yet, many a pet owner has had to face making this type of decision. I admire Phyllis for her courage in writing about her decision to euthanize Dodger.
In 2011, I wrote about a dog park friend who had to make this difficult decision after her cream-colored Golden Retriever showed serious signs of aggression at just 11 months old. After trying to resolve the issues herself, then seeking out a trainer, and finally taking Sally to a veterinarian animal behaviorist at the University of Minnesota, she was faced with two options, constantly supervise and manage Sally around her two young children or put her to sleep. The veterinarian made it very clear that Sally’s aggression was not something that would ever get better. It was not her or her husband’s fault. There was simply something wrong with her wiring. And so, she made the difficult decision to put her to sleep. I cried with her as she walked with Sally one last time around the dog park. It was a heartbreaking a decision, but I supported her.
Sometimes something just goes wrong with a dog. He is born with genetically bad wiring or is mentally ill or has suffered so much from abuse, that euthanizing him is almost a kindness rather than a cruelty.
I feel for the pet parent who has ever had to make this type of decision. It’s never an easy one. There is so much guilt, shame and fear. Guilt because you feel like there was something more you could have done or that you somehow failed your dog. Shame that others will think you a bad pet owner. Fear at what might have happened if you hadn’t made such a difficult decision.
I used to be one of those people who thought every dog could be saved, but my experience as a shelter volunteer has taught me otherwise. Probably one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make was to recommend a dog I loved, one I had worked with for weeks, be put to sleep. His aggression had reached such a level that even I, the one who loved him most, became afraid of him.
Phyllis’ own words from her experience with Dodger summed up exactly my last experience with him – “Being attacked by someone you love is a visceral slam to your gut. For a short while, rational thought is gone. It happens so quickly. Your body shakes, and your heart pounds as the instinctive fight-or-flight response is set off.” My recommendation to euthanize him was not an easy one, but I don’t doubt my decision to do so. Sometimes, the most difficult decision is the right one.
Reading Phyllis’ piece made me think of one I had recently read on Patricia McConnell’s blog titled, “Love, Guilt & Putting Dogs Down.” Although Patricia’s post was addressing the guilt we all feel as pet owners when we have to say goodbye to beloved pets, I think these words were particularly applicable to those who must make the difficult decision to put an aggressive or damaged dog down.
“It is easier to believe that we are always responsible (‘if only I had done/not done this one thing….’) than it is to accept this painful truth: We are not in control of the world. Stuff happens. Bad stuff. As brilliant and responsible and hard-working and control-freaky that we are, sometimes, bad stuff just happens. Good people die when they shouldn’t. Gorgeous dogs brimming with health, except for that tumor or those crappy kidneys, die long before their time. Dogs who are otherwise healthy but are a severe health risk to others end up being put down. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it hurts like hell. But please please, if you’ve moved heaven and earth to save a dog and haven’t been able to… just remember: Stuff happens. We can’t control everything. (Difficult words to dog trainers I know. . . Aren’t we all control freaks to some extent?) You didn’t fail. You tried as hard as you could. It’s okay.” (“Love, Guilt & Putting Dogs Down“, by Patricia McConnell, The Other End of the Leash)
If you have ever had to euthanize a pet for reasons other than illness or old age, I feel for you. You carry a burden that is more difficult to bear than most. It’s hard enough to euthanize a pet when they are ill and you know that you are easing their pain, but harder still to do so when it involves dog aggression or mental illness. Shame and guilt might be feelings you have, but they have no place here.
Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes doing everything you can to save a dog is just not enough. You did your best. You did not fail.
Last year, I shared a summary of Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2012 report on the state of pet health in America. The report was full of interesting information on the common ailments and diseases they see in the cats and dogs who visit their hospitals. It also called out a disturbing trend being seen in both types of pets – an increase in pet obesity.
In their 2013 State of Pet Health Report, Banfield shares even more interesting information on the average lifespan of pets and some frequently occurring themes (also seen in the 2012 report). This year’s report provides pet owners and veterinarians with even greater insight into the health of all our pets and where we should be focusing our attention.
Here is a summary of some of the more interesting findings:
- Toy or smaller breed dogs live 41% longer than large breed dogs.
- Large breeds reach their senior years (6 years of age) much earlier than small or toy breeds (10 years of age).
- The average life span for cats is 12.1 years while for dogs it varied depending on size (small/toy breeds-11.3 years, medium breeds-10.8 years and large breeds-11.1 years).
- Interesting enough, Montana and Colorado had the longest average life spans for both cats and dogs.
- Spayed and neutered cats lived longer than unspayed and unneutered cats by 39% and 62% respectively, while unspayed dogs and unneutered dogs did so by 23% and 18%.
- Two of the five states with the shortest lifespans (Mississippi and Louisiana) have the highest number of unspayed and unneutered dogs.
- By far, the most common diagnoses seen in cats and dogs (for young adults to geriatric) was dental tartar and obesity. 37% of dogs and 90% of cats were overweight or obese and 91% of dogs over the age of three had dental disease.
- Heartworm infection is one of the top three diagnoses for pets living in southern states, whereas Lyme disease was more prevalent in the northeast.
- In Minnesota, the top five diagnoses were listed as: dental tartar, overweight, Stage 1 periodontal disease, ear infections and gingivitis.
Curious about your own state’s statistics? Or, looking to compare your state with another state? Banfield has created an interactive map to help you find out more information.
Recently a friend shared the news that one of her dogs had tested positive for Lymes disease. She was completely devastated and felt awful that her dog had gotten it in the first place. I immediately felt the need to respond and reassure her. Why? Because one of my dogs had/has Lymes disease too.
Jasper was diagnosed with Lymes disease a few years ago. Although, I caught it fairly early, I was still devastated to know that he had gotten it in the first place. Had I missed a Frontline treatment>? Had I missed a day. I was pretty sure I had given all my dogs regular treatment, but somehow a tick had still gotten past it. Thankfully, Jasper was easily treated with antibiotics, but unfortunately it also left him with occasional flare ups. Something I still awful about.
When my friend shared her story, I expected to be the only one admitting that my dog also had also gotten Lymes. Instead, I was surprised to discover that not only was I not alone, but I was not even one among two or three friends. My jaw dropped open as friend after friend admitted that their dog(s) had also gotten Lymes.
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. It never occurred to me that so many people I knew would have dogs who at one time had had Lymes disease too. All this time I had kept my own sense of failure to myself, thinking I had somehow failed my dog, but as it turns out I was not even close to alone. The question is why? Are we all negligent owners? I find that hard to believe. Some people are more diligent than others in applying some sort of protection on their dogs. So, how is it possible that so many of us had dogs who had at one time had Lymes?
Maybe this story on a new study holds some answers: When Dogs Are Most Likely to Pick Up Ticks.
I encourage you to read the full story, but here is a brief synopsis of what was in the piece:
- Dogs are much more likely to pick up ticks when the temperatures rise.
- There are three species of ticks that are most common and each tends to flourish at different times of the year.
- Although the precise species of tick may vary with the seasons, dog owners need to pay attention to the possibility of ticks throughout the year, especially from March until November.
- Scientists discovered that the number of ticks per day on animals treated with an acaricide, either alone or together with a repellent, was not significantly lower than on untreated animals. Worryingly, the ticks were still capable of causing disease.
- Of the 90 dogs in the study, researcher Michael Leschnik was able to show that over half of them became infected with one or more of the pathogens during the study period. The chance of being infected did not seem to be reduced by the use of an acaricide.
- However, the researcher did mention that “the poor performance of the drugs in our study may relate to low owner compliance: many owners only applied the spot-on drugs after finding ticks and they did not use the drugs often enough. The efficiency is much higher under laboratory conditions, so we should try to raise the owners’ awareness of how to apply the products correctly.”
- Unlike on humans, where ticks tend to crawl to a warm and protected place and feed, on dogs ticks tended to largely confine themselves to a dog’s head, shoulder and chest, most likely latching on where they first arrived.
So is Jasper’s Lymes disease a result of my negligence? Or, were his chances of getting it just as likely as any other dog? I suppose I will never really know, but seeing this study, and knowing how many people I know with dogs who at one time had Lymes disease, makes me wonder. Maybe Frontline isn’t enough. Maybe checking each and every time we return from the park or from a walk is the only way to be certain. It certainly has me thinking.
Even though it may not feel like it here in Minnesota, spring is coming, and with it comes warmer temperatures. Many of us already know that leaving a dog in a hot car is dangerous. We have all seen the stories that usually accompany this time a year… “Two dogs dead after being left in hot car“, “Police sergeant rescues dog locked in hot car“, “Police Are Cracking Down on Dumb Dog Owners in Heatwave.”
But did you know that in several states it is illegal to leave your dog in a car? There are 14 states – Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia, that currently have statutes “that specifically prohibit leaving an animal in confined vehicle“.
The penalties range from monetary fines to being charged with a misdemeanor, and in some states, it even includes imprisonment. The Animal Legal and Historical Center website contains a list of the states with laws and what penalties apply. They even lay out what is allowed/not allowed in those states when it comes to rescuing an animal left in a car.
For instance, in Minnesota, the statute states:
“A peace officer, a humane agent, a dog warden, or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation.
Don’t see your state on the list? That doesn’t mean there are no laws in your state. Many local city and county governments have ordinances covering this issue. Owners may want to know this information, not only for their own benefit, but also for those situations in which they see another owner’s dog in distress and don’t know what to do. You can read more on this issue here.
Just as a reminder on how hot a car can get, I am sharing this blog post by my friend by Julie at The Daily Dog Blog. She has a cool infographic that you can print out and share with your friends. I’m thinking I just may make a few copies and keep them in my car so I can hand them out when I see a dog left in a car.
Yesterday, I saw a story announcing the opening of a new center dedicated to helping fearful dogs. The center, located in New Jersey, is a project being led by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Now dogs who have lived their whole lives in puppy mills or have come from a hoarding situation or were victims of animal cruelty will have the chance to get help meant just for them.
If you have ever had a fearful dog, one who has had little exposure to the world or has been abused, then you know that rehabilitation takes time. Unfortunately, time is not always an option for them. Many are euthanized because the amount of time and dedication (and money) it takes to work with a fearful or traumatized dog is more than most shelters can give.
This center is a source of hope for these dogs and the people who rescue them. The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J. will take dogs from shelters across the country as well as those that come those animal seizures involving the ASPCA. Their first guests, Malamutes, are coming in from Montana in the next few days. These were the dogs who were seized from a breeder charged with animal cruelty (I wrote about them a couple of months ago).
Dogs who come to the center will stay on average about 6-8 weeks, but they are not putting a strict time limit on their stay. As anyone who has worked with a puppy mill dog knows, sometimes it can takes a year or more before a fearful dog can really function in their new environment. Knowing there is a center, and people, focused on helping these dogs is really encouraging. I hope that what they learn can be used to help more dogs in the future. I suspect Debbie Jacobs from FearfulDogs.com could tell them a lot, but I am hoping that more will be learned from their work that can be used by rescuers across the country to help dogs like these, like Daisy and Cupcake.
I’ll be watching to see what they learn. How about you?
Recently, I came across a news piece debunking common animal myths. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about most animal myths (I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to animals), but it turns out I had more to learn.
For instance, did you know that touching a baby bird does not mean the mother won’t take it back? Or that porcupines don’t shoot their quills at a predator? You can read more about these common myths at Animal Facts & Myths Debunked By Wildlife Experts.
Reading some of the myths we have about wild animals made me wonder what kinds of dog myths I may have fallen for that turned out not to be true. So, off I went a-Googling to see what I could find. It turns out there are quite a lot of dog myths out there. Who knew? (Just kidding. Given how many myths there are in the dog training world, I had to figure there were a lot more myths about dogs.)
Here are some of the more interesting ones I found:
Dogs are sick when their noses are warm – It turns out this is a myth (one I actually believed). “The temperature of a dogs nose does not indicate health or illness or if they have a fever. The only accurate method to access a dog’s temperature is to take it with a thermometer. Normal dog temperature is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees F.”
Dogs like to be petted on their heads – Past experience has taught me that this is definitely a myth. While some dogs may not mind it, most dogs DO NOT like to be pet on the head. In fact, a hand coming at them over their head can be quite an intimidating thing to a dog and can be seen as a threat.
Happy dogs wag their tails – Another one that so many people think is true. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a wagging tail does not always mean a dog is happy. “A wagging tail can mean agitation or excitement. A dog that wags his tail slowly and moves his all rear end or crouches down in the classic “play bow” position is usually a friendly wag. Tails that are wagged when held higher, twitches or wagging while held over the back may be associated with aggression.”
Dogs eat grass when they are sick – Haven’t you always wondered why your dog eats grass? I know have. I actually believed this one was true. but according to Dr. Debra Primovic, “Dogs descended from wild wolves and foxes that ate all parts of their “kill.” This included the stomach contents of many animals that ate berries and grass. Many scientists believe grass was once part of their normal diet and eating small amounts is normal.”
Dogs destroy furniture and other items in the house because they are angry – This is actually one of my favorite myths. So many people believe that their dog takes out their anger on them when they are gone. How do they know this? Why their dog looks guilty of course! Afraid not. More and more studies are showing that the guilty look your dog gives you is in response to you (your tone of voice, body posture, etc.) NOT because they actually felt guilty for doing something they knew was wrong. You can read more about a study done in 2009 here.
You should never comfort a scared dog – This is one of those old myths I heard growing up as a kid. My dog Indy was fearful of thunderstorms and we were told to ignore the behavior or it would reinforce it. We did. It didn’t. Her fear just got worse with time. Poor Indy. Now I know better and I comfort Daisy when there is a thunderstorm or fireworks are going off in the neighborhood. Why? Because I finally met someone who understands and works with fearful dogs, Debbie Jacobs. According to Debbie, “One of the first things someone working with a fearful dog needs to understand is that it’s ok to comfort a dog that is afraid. It’s ok to give them a piece of cheese or take them away from what is scaring them.” Daisy is the lucky recipient of this wisdom and I am so grateful. So is Daisy.
Dog growling is always a bad thing – I used to believe this one until I got my dog Indy. Have you ever had a dog who was vocal? Well, Indy was and she loved nothing more than to growl when playing tug or wrestling with another dog. As shared by Eric Goebelbecker of Dog Spelled Forward, “Dogs have a very limited vocal range, and like reading body language, making a judgement based on a single indicator like a growl is a bad idea. Growling during play, such as a game of tug, is perfectly fine.”
Using head collars will cause neck/spinal injury – I recently came across this one when someone I know on Facebook admonished a foster mom for using a Gentle Leader on her foster dog. According to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), a well-recognized and respected dog-training association, “This is an oft-repeated claim that can be found all over the Internet. In fact there are no documented cases of dogs getting neck and/or spinal injuries from head collars. Proper use of these types of collars should have no ill physical effects on your dog.”
Dogs are descendents of wolves and therefore training should be based on how wolf packs interact with each other – Ah yes. The whole “pack theory” approach to dog training. You can read my friend Pamela’s post Why is the Dominance Theory of Dog Training Still So Darn Popular? but you may also want to read what APDT has to say on this… “Dogs are not wolves and there are many significant differences between dog and wolf behavior such that wolf behavior is completely irrelevant to how we live and interact with our dogs. Moreover, when wolf behavior is mentioned as a model for dog training, the understanding of wolf behavior used is often incorrect and based on studies that have long since been disproven by research scientists who study wolves extensively.”
Pitbulls have jaws that lock, thus making them more dangerous than other dog breeds – False. False. False. I wish I knew where these myths got started. Somewhere I imagine a dog fighter bragging to his dog fighter scumbag buddy that his pitbull has a jaw that locks. Can’t you just see it? According to the Pitbull Rescue Center’s (PBRC) Media Center page “there is NO SUCH THING AS “JAW LOCKING” IN ANY BREED.” And this, from several veterinarians who were consulted on this matter. The whole “pitbulls have a 1600 PSI bite pressure”myth is also false. PBRC shared some very interesting information on animals and bite pressure:
- Humans: 120 pounds of bite pressure
- Domestic dogs: 320 LBS of pressure on avg. A German Shepard, American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) and Rottweiler were tested using a bite sleeve equipped with a specialized computer instrument. The APBT had the least amount of pressure of the 3 dogs tested.
- Wild dogs: 310 lbs
- Lions: 600 lbs
- White sharks: 600 lbs
- Hyenas: 1000 lbs
- Snapping turtles: 1000 lbs
- Crocodiles: 2500 lbs
Pretty interesting isn’t it?
I look back at when I first became a dog owner and shake my head. What I knew then and what I know now are ages and ages apart. How many of these myths did I believe when I was younger? Probably all of them. It’s amazing what you learn as you grow as a person.
So what myths did you have as a kid that you have since learned were untrue? Did any of the myths listed above surprise you? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Over the past few days I have received several comments from people about Daisy’s weight. It’s not the typical “your dog is fat” comment. No. The comments from both family and friends have been “Daisy looks really thin.” or “Daisy is looking pretty thin.”.
How odd it is to have people tell you your dog is too thin. To be honest, it kind of made me a little paranoid to hear so many comments in such a short period of time. Was Daisy too thin? Was I not feeding her enough? Should I be feeding her more?
I started to feel bad. Was I being a bad dog mom?
When I first brought Daisy home, she was way too thin. You could see her ribs.
Having seen way (WAY) too many fat Labs in my life, I have always tried to keep Daisy at a healthy weight. When she was too fat, I got concerned about what that would mean for her joints and energy level. I didn’t want her to be one of those older dogs, waddling along, hardly able to go for a walk around the block. She’s 9 years old now and arthritis is a real possibility. Extra weight would not help her in this area at all.
But, all the recent comments made me wonder if I was keeping her too thin. Should I add some food to her dish each morning and evening?
This past summer I saw a body condition chart at a dog adoption event and I remembered wondering where my dogs fit on that chart. Surely I could find one online and see where Daisy fell on it, right?
It turns out there are several variations of the body condition chart online (see below), but Body Condition Score chart I like is one on the Hospital for Companion Animals.
So where did Daisy fall?
Using images in the first chart (above), I determined that she fell within the ideal weight category. On the second chart, she scored between a 2 and 3 – which falls anywhere from thin and an ideal weight. And, on the third chart, she scored as “moderate”. So is Daisy too thin? I don’t think so. She’s healthy and happy and looking like a dog at a healthy weight.
Is it possible that we have gotten so used to seeing overweight and obese dogs that our view of what a healthy weight looks like on a dog has been skewed? Maybe. It’s hard to know. But, to be sure, I am going to take her into our vet and see what she says. I think that will give me more peace of mind.
What about your dog? Do you get comments on their weight? Too thin? Too fat?