Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Prevent Hypothermia in Dogs

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Symptoms of hypothermia for dogs:

.Strong shivering and pale skin (roll back the fur to check for white or dull-gray skin tone)

. Unexpected listness and lethargy changing the pace of moving outside

Emergency treatment:

.Wrap your dog in warm blankets heated on the radiator or in the dryer.

.Apply a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel to the dog’s abdomen.

.Give warm fluids.

.Raise the body temp to above 100 degrees F (38.8 C) before removing the water bottle.

With my warm coat over fluffy fur, I'll stay well insulated for my hike.

Raja and I are trying to preach to the unconverted, not those of you who are knitting, shopping, designing up a storm to make sure your dogs are warm in winter.  You people don’t need to read further.   (Yarn is on sale now post Christmas.  Stock up.)


We are writing to the unconverted. May this post find you die hards out there.  We know who you are.  When we post listicles for Dogster, you are those fighting mad reactionaries who write in, “Dogs have fur, Stupid.”  or “That’s why they’re dogs not people.” when we  advocate weatherproofing your pup.  You should read and learn the above symptoms and treatment.

Let’s go back to our favorite ancient subject, wolves.  Yes, dogs evolved from wolves.  Wolves do not wear coats.  In the wilds, they hunt prey, drink from chilly, pristine streams, sleep in the snow and live an average of five years.  The cause of death probably is not lack of coats, but general wear and tear of living the life of a hunter/forager in all kinds of weather: cold, hot, hungry, thirty, tired, hurt, diseased… all discomforts you seek to protect your dog from.

Now let’s consider your dog.  Unless your dog is one of the dogs of snow-Malamute, Alaskan Sled Dog and similar breeds- and unless you yourself live outside  in a very cold climate and your dog was born right  there in your ice cave- your dog probably needs a coat or sweater when the temperature dips below 35.  If your domestic dog is as comfortable as you are with temperatures between 62-70F  inside, he won’t be comfortable for extended periods when the temperature is 40 degrees less.

So, for short outings around the property or to the corner and back, your dog will probably be happy without the ritual of coating up, but, for long walks in cold air, a coat helps your dog feel comfortable by insulating a warm layer near the skin in the fur.  Rather than making you look simpleminded,  a coat broadcasts that you know what you’re doing as a dog owner.

Temperatures across the mid to northern US have been highly changable. Some weeks have been an average of -10 degrees F and some weeks have averaged 45 degrees F.  Beware the effects of radical changes because extreme cold will be especially debilitating after a week of mild temps. If you are complaining about how cold it is, then your dog, too, probably needs outerware.

Don't end up like this snowman and his frozen doggy!

Raja says, “Travel safely and warmly, live long and happily.”  (Many of Raja’s outerwear, including his Folklore Cape-Coat, comes from Carolyn’s Originals.)


Raja wants to spread the word about dangerous jerkey treats!

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Mission bound to save pets from bad food!

Notices are traversing the internet about dangerous jerkey treats from overseas.  Is the report an urban legend, or are jerkey treats really killing pets?  It’s not an urban legend.  Jerkey treats are dangerous.

Our vet, Dr. Karen Johansen of Three Rivers Holistic Veterinary Services in Madison NJ, sent an excellently written notice around via her client newsletter.  As you will read at the end, this cause is personal for her.  By permission, we are reposting most of it.  Please read…

“DO YOU FEED COMMERCIAL JERKY TREATS TO YOUR PET?  You may have seen the news report:  the FDA has recently issued a warning to both veterinarians and pet owners regarding chicken, duck and sweet potato jerky treats. The agency said it has linked illnesses from jerky pet treats to 3,600 dogs and 10 cats since 2007. About 580 of those pets have died. Pets can suffer from a decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting and diarrhea within hours of eating treats sold as “jerky tenders” or “strips”. Severe cases have caused kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder known as Fanconi syndrome. The FDA is now appealing to pet owners to send them more information on animals who may have gotten sick after eating the treats.

If you or anyone you know are feeding these treats to their pets, please stop!!!!  DO NOT trust the packaging information on these treats.  Manufacturers are NOT required to disclose where ingredients are originally sourced from.  Claiming ‘Made in USA’ on their packaging only means it was packaged here, NOT that the ingredients came from the US.  More information, including how to file a complaint, can be found on the FDA’s website:

**We at Three Rivers have a very strong opinion about the dangers of jerky treats….we recently said goodbye to Dr Johanson’s red and white Papillon Noli Canoli… Noli had been valiantly struggling with severe kidney damage since 2008 after ingesting tainted jerky treats***”

Raja and I feel that consumers are betrayed by unregulated packaging.  Your cheerfully worded, English language package you find on the pet store displayer can say, “Made in the USA,” but the contents can be made anywhere in the world, in small factories, under unsanitary conditions, by unscrupulous manufacturers.  It’s not moral, but that’s not the issue.  We cannot track down these manufactureries and we cannot regulate them.

The safest thing we consumers can do is to avoid commercially manufactured jerkey treats categorically.

Let’s all help our pets live long, healthy lives!!!!

Raja apologizes for the delay in posts.  He has been very busy.  You can imagine how it can be for a traveling dog.  He’ll be staying in town through the holidays and he’ll catch up on his posts and share some of his adventures.  Right now he’s looking at ski destinations, but he’s still so undecided.

Hot Dogs Love to Swim!

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

For resident dogs in the US Central and Atlantic regions, the summer has been brutally hot. For California and Southern regions, the heat never actually goes away for long. What’s a furry dog to do when temperatures soar? Just lie around the house?

Raja says, “NO! Take to the water!”

Raja mastering his dog paddle.

Most dogs can swim, although admittedly some dogs do it more naturally than others. Who are the great swimmers in the dog world? The spaniels and the setters are usually naturals. Newfoundlands, Portuguese Water Dogs and Goldens also are often great swimmers. Is every individual in these groups a swimmer. Absolutely not. Dogs are land animals, and some just do not swim well or cheerfully.


This blog is not for them. A safe three inches of water in a wading pool is for them. Dogs, like children, should not be forced to do sports for which show no aptitude or interest.

Here’s Sherpa, the Tibetan Spaniel showing how a good doggy cools off on a hot day in his backyad pool. Returning to the idea of dogs who can manage in water, most dogs can learn to swim and most dogs end up enjoying swimming, which can be extremely beneficial. Water cools the core, exercises the legs, strengthens the spine and gives dogs a feeling of confidence discovering a new skill. While many dogs will leap into water and swim forcefully and competently, no dogs should be left alone in water and most dogs should be closely supervised.

To teach a dog to swim, gently carry him into a warm pool’s shallow end. Walk beside him supporting his mid section. Let him get his bearings, wait for him to paddle and gently release your tight hold, keeping a hand under his chest. Stay by his side. If your dog seems to swim feebly or drop in the rear quarters, fish him out and buy him a canine flotation device to make his swims safer and less strenuous.

As for Raja, seriously, how does he like his new sport? It went like this: surprise (what’s she thinking!?), disbelief (she actually did drag me in here?), paddling (hey this isn’t bad), stronger paddling (my tail seems awfully heavy), emerging confidence (yes, I can keep my tail up if I give it a little effort), pride (I am the new Michael Phelps). He likes it a lot, but he can’t be expected to jump in on his own, can’t be left alone in a pool and can’t be asked to swim for more than ten minutes dragging his water logged coat.

If you have access to a pool, never let your dog swim alone. Provide two exit ramps on either side of the pool and teach him to get himself out. Watch out for signs of fatigue. Stay in the shallow end. A scared dog might leap on top of you and it would be best to have your feet on the bottom and your upper body out of the water so you are safe if your dog panics. Swimming benefits the young and fit but also dogs who are recovering from injuries (by doctor’s permission), overweight dogs, dogs with joint troubles, elderly dogs, bored dogs and hot dogs.

Raja's own backyard pool.

For those of us who don’t have big pools, a hot little dog can get a large size blow up pool like Sherpa’s and have loads of swimming fun in a small space. Here’s Raja’s own backyad pool. Not Olympic in size, but Olympic enough for him!


Travel Dogs in Tuscany, Italy! Chapter One!

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Stick close to me in Montalcino, Sherpa and don't worry.

Raja the Travel Professional decided to help Sherpa the Travel Novice put down her paws for her first overseas trip in Italy’s central region, Tuscany- famous for glorious hill towns, painterly landscapes, handcrafts, wine and, especially food! Italy is a good travel spot for adventuresome, hardy American dogs.

Why Italy?

1.Europeans often travel with family dogs in bucolic Tuscany.

2.Most Italians have dogs they are very proud of and many bring their dogs when they go out to dinner. (Yes, at nice places too, but always begging is uncool.) Hotels usually welcome dogs, but you always should ask.

3.Dogs are expected to be trustworthy and socialized in Italy, but Italians enjoy and celebrate the “dogginess” of dogs… the wagging tails, the slurpy tongues, the need to roam, the need to bark and even the assertiveness of dogs.

4.And, as we see in sculpture and painting, dogs have always been a celebrated part of the beauty of Italian life.

A display of marble dog sculptures in the Vatican Museum.

In the next blog series we are going to tell you all our fun adventures and recommended spots, but first we want to bark about a few ground rules for canine travel. Good canine travel looks easy, but the prep is enormous.

Plane Transport: Small dogs under 15 lbs. can travel in cabin on most airlines in most seasons. We don’t know anything about travel in cargo for larger dogs and we feel it’s not fair that airlines relegate large dogs to cargo. We don’t feel confident about cargo and would never have any of our dog friends in cargo. Others may disagree, but the isolation and unaccountability of cargo concerns us too much to advocate cargo transport at this point. (We’ve already written an awful lot about how to choose a travel bag, train for plane travel, buy a dog ticket from the airline and help your dog not have to pee in flight. It’s all in our archives.)

Health: Only robustly healthy dogs should embark on strenuous travel. We are not barking about dogs who have good health, but take some regular medication. We are barking against taking fragile, highly medication-dependent dogs on strenuous trips. Don’t kid yourself. Travel is for the fit and perky. It’s only fair to make sure your dog is travel healthy.

Before leaving, get a health check up from your vet. Carry the inoculation records as well as a signed letterhead letter from your vet that certifies the good health of your dog, in your own language and translated into the country’s language. (Google Translate will help you and your vet to create a pretty good foreign language translation.)

Use online search engines to research local vets in the areas you will visit and keep the list with your documents.

Sherpa loves playing in the countryside.

Bring shampoo and grooming tools and groom your dog daily. Travel creates mats and, as one example, Tuscany’s hillsides are full of burrs and foxtails. Watch out for eyes and ears. Maintain brushing teeth. Wash paws after long, grimy walks. As a style destination of the world, Italy is the place for your dog to look pretty every day.

Food and Supplements: Take all required medication or regular vitamins, treats and food (if your dog eats packaged food.) Raja and Sherpa eat home cooked stews, so they travel with a day’s supply of frozen food and a few jars of baby food to tide them over. (Note, if your dog eats home cooked, you will need accommodations with a kitchen. If your dog is an avid restaurant foodie, as Raja and Sherpa can be, plan not to be shy when asking a restaurant to make your dog some chicken and rice. After all, you’re paying, so don’t act pitiful and unentitled and feel confident requesting no onions and no salt. (Many restaurants will kindly offer you free food composed of the table scraps of other diners. It’s a thoughtful offer, but other people’s scraps are not a trustworthy source of dog food. Refuse politely. Say, “Thanks so much, but his stomach is sensitive.”)

Toys and Beds: One or two favorite toys help pass the time in transit. A favorite blanket makes a dog feel at home and is easy to pack. Raja loves these snuggle beds. They fold flat and delight him when he sees them reshaped in the hotel. Raja and Sherpa got plush boars in Tuscany. All dogs like to bring back a little souvenir.

A memento of my trip!

Water: A hiker’s light-activated water purifier or bottled water is best for traveling dogs. If you are not drinking from the tap, you dog also should not drink tap water.

Clothing and Heat: If it’s cold, your dog could need a coat or a raincoat. If the weather at your destination is hot, your dog could need a tummy shave down. On hot day trips, soaking the paws and tummy in water provides instant relief. Rome and some other Italian cities have frequent water fountains along the streets. While you can’t actually soak your dog in them, nobody would blame you for splashing a hot doggy with water from the aqueducts of the Romans. (Do not plunge your dog into the Trevi Fountain unless it’s a real emergency. That’s kind of not done… unless you really, really must.)

Harnesses and Leads: Yes, bring one and a back up. If you normally use a retractable lead, consider a short nylon lead for travel. It’s lighter and Italy’s crowded streets don’t accommodate a long lead.

We could go on, but Raja says we have found our balance between advising and helicoptering. Next blog, it’s paws on the ground in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport and off by car to the lands of good food and sunshine!

Winter Disaster Prep for Pets

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Staying warm on a really chilly day inside.

Hurricane Sandy wasn’t the best at Raja’s house, but it was disastrous in other parts of New Jersey and New York.  Since climate change is a reality and since we can anticipate future challenges, Raja and I want to bark about home prep for pets in power outage cold weather conditions.
So… Let’s all do a little cold prep for our pets:
. Sweaters: Every small, thin or older dog needs a couple of fluffy, lofty sweaters.  As we know for ourselves, fluffy sweaters trap air and are warmer.  Put the sweater on in the house and keep it on until the pet doesn’t need it.  (You might be thinking, “But he has fur to keep him warm.”  Sure he does, but you have hair and yet wear a hat when it’s cold, right?  And, I’m guessing that if you’re reading this blog, you have no problem with canine winter apparel.)
. Fur Care: Do not leave a single sweater on for days at a time.  Sweater fiber mats fur, reducing loft and reducing the natural warming properties of fur when neglected.  Daily remove the sweater, comb and brush your pet’s fur gently and put on a different sweater.  Keep alternating so one sweater doesn’t wear fur too much in the same places.
. Socks:  No, we’re not being funny.  Dogs lose heat through their paws on freezing floors. Little dog socks with slip free patches help, if your pet is compliant.
. Hats:  Without a hat, Raja’s nose was icy cold.  With a hat, his nose was appropriately cool. That’s all.
. Calories:  A recent NYT article discussed the extra five pounds apartment grounded New Yorkers gained in the past two weeks.   Dog physiology is different.  When dogs worry, they do not binge eat.  They mope.  If you have a dog who is inclined to be thin, increase calories.  Bulk supports warmth and chilling promotes weight loss.
. Exercise: Keep your dog’s spirits up and keep the blood pumping by playing in the house.  Well, do what you can.  When we exercise we feel happy and we warm up.  You will too.
. Feet: While you can’t wash your dog when you have no hot water or power for a blow dryer, you can keep his feet clean.  Wet feet make a cold dog colder; matted fur makes for less effective drying; dirt is unhealthy.  Using a damp cloth and a dry towel, you can  maintain those fluffy paws.
How did Raja do during the days of cold and no power?
Having fun in my fierce Yeti costume in the sunny snow!

Fall Feasts and Feasting Dogs! Read down for a delicious fall feast recipe for your dog.

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Tulips and daffodils are not good doggy snacks!

Dogs love fall. It’s cooler so they have more energy and the chaos of swirling leaves and gusty cool winds makes dogs feel like running and barking all day long. Or at least that’s how Raja feels.

Now, running in the wind makes a dog hungry and a hungry dog will begin to forage. Just because a dog wants to eat something he finds does not mean that the food is safe. Wild dogs learn the hard way. Your dog has you to sort out the forrage from the fodder.

Acorns:  Pigs, squirrels, chipmunks and deer love them. Dogs should not eat them, but the smell of deer, squirrel and chipmunk in the areas where acorns fall might draw your dog to them. Acorn contain gallotanin. While in lab tests gallotanin has been associated with antioxidation, anti-inflammation, blood lipid and glucose lowering action and anti-aging, acorns are not a good way to ingest gallotanins. Basically, acorns will cause gastric distress and the hard crushed nut material could injure the intestine. So if you see your dog rooting like a truffle pig amid the fallen acorn leaves, haul him out and redirect him to some other more productive.

Tulips:  You guessed it, tulips are considered to be toxic. They contain tulipanin, which is an anthocyanin, which is a water soluble plant pigment, which is present in eggplants and red wine, but which is supposed to be poisonous to dogs. Hmmm, eggplants are OK for dogs, but red wine is not. Squirrels and deer love tulips and seem to thrive on them, as they do after a big meal of acorns.???Look, tulips may attract the gastronomic dog in some way. Just don’t let them eat them. They’re probably not fatal in moderation, but I bet even one will make your dog sick.

Dadodils:  Even deer that are starving won’t eat daffodils. It is unlikely your dog will try to eat them, but if she does, they are very bad news. Pobably the scariest symptom is cardiac arrhythmia. And that’s very scary indeed.

Alliums:  Those gorgeous puffball purple and white spring flowers with the strappy leaves are allium family. They are onion relatives, very toxic to dogs, can cause dangerous anemia and some crazy dogs seem to like raw onions.  Plant them deep and make sure your pup doesn’t dig them up.

You don’t need to worry about these toxic and irritational plant materials unless your dog is a mischievous snacker. Raja won’t eat bulbs and acorns, so avoiding his contact with them is just paranoid.  As for you and your doggy, well, some dogs will try anything at least once, so keep an eye open.

What can your doggy eat in fall?  To support good food in fall and not to seem like two spoil sports, we have created a seasonal, sustainable early fall garden-inspired dinner for your dog.  It’s much tastier than forage- a cooked meal with meat, fruit, vegetables and grain.  Some of you may buy your dog food; some of you may feed raw; some of you may be anti-grain.  Raja and I are not canine nutritionists, but we are canine home cooking enthusiasts.  Do whatever you think best; we’re not doctrinarian… but Raja really loved this seasonal stew made with our own beans and figs:

A seasonal stew with a fall theme...

Cornucopia Lamb Slow Cooker Stew

1 tbsp olive oil

1 lb ground lamb (crumbled in small morsels)

1 medium yam (cut in medium dice)

15 fresh purple Tuscan beans- green are fine too- (cut in one inch dice)

4 ripe figs (quartered)

1 cup faro (rinsed)

3 cups water or onion-and-MSG-free meat or vegetable broth

Coat a slow cooker with the olive oil.  Add all ingredients making sure the liquid covers the faro.  Cook on high for 4 hours or until done.  Cut to desired bite size and serve.  Makes eight ShihTzu- sized portions or three Lab-sized portions.

Readers… what seasonal foods do your dogs like?  Let’s hear your ideas for snacks and meals of the season.




Keep your promise to play with your dog

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Dull playtime for dogs

Puppies play all the time.  They’re awkward and fairly chaotic. But, we get a handle on that.  We socialize our puppies to be calm and placid most of the time.  We have to- chaos and randomness rule  the house otherwise, right?

Over time, our desire to control doggy chaos and organize our pets into our own compartmentalized days means that “play” often becomes the daily walk- a scheduled, stately, linear, tromp down the  concrete sidewalk.  Playful initiatives on our dogs’ parts are discouraged.  We don’t want them running into somebody else’s yard, tripping other pedestrians or sniffing anything at all- whatsoever. We want them to go out purposefully and return expediently, and cleanly.  Sometimes we try to run off their excess energy so we let them become joggers with us.  Just FYI, jogging doesn’t work all the muscle groups for them either.  Only Dalmatians, Fox Hounds and a handful of other breeds really get into running.   (Dalmatians prefer it if horses are involved.  Fox Hounds like something smelly to chase.)

Let’s be honest, part of the reason we control dog play is that we sometimes don’t feel too playful  ourselves.  After a day of work, we think we want to go home and sit down.  (ummm… weren’t many of us doing that all day?)

As the video reveals, true dog play is something different from exercise and often extends way beyond puppyhood.  Watch street dogs in Puerto Rico, as one example. Though they are semi-feral foragers, the adults love to play, chasing, tugging, growling and wrestling spontaneously. There is no real fighting, even though the play seems loud and fierce.  After tumbling and rolling about, the dogs get up, shake, and wander off together to find a snack.  Our point is:  dogs love to play throughout their lives.

If your dog has lost her playfulness, it could be because she’s not feeling well or it could be because there’s nobody to play with because YOU, the designated doggy companion, have lost your interest in play.

A playful dog is happy, energetic, flexible, well muscled and relaxed.  A playful dog owner has pretty much the same characteristics. Help your dog stay youthful and happy. Don’t discourage doggy play.  You know it’s good for you too.

Free Eye Exams for Service Dogs: Read & see if your animal can qualify

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Raja and I are happy to share this news with our readers:

These eyes are watching out for you!

In May 2012, the 5th Annual American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists®/Merial® National Service Dog Eye Exam Event brings together veterinary ophthalmologists and thousands of service animals for free eye exams.  Registration begins April 1st for May 2012 event.

For dogs and other service animals who dedicate their lives to serving people, more than 200 board certified veterinary ophthalmologists throughout the U.S., as well as Canada and Puerto Rico, are  providing free eye exams to thousands of eligible service animals.

Registration for service animal owners and handlers begins April 1, 2012 at Log on and register your service pet!

During the exam, veterinary specialists look for problems including:  redness, squinting, cloudy corneas, retinal disease, early cataracts and other serious abnormalities.  Early detection and treatment are vital to your working animal.  “Our hope is that by checking their vision, we will be able to help a large number of service animals better assist their human friends,” says Stacee Daniel, Executive Director of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.

A sampling of groups served since 2008 includes:  Transportation Security Agency, military working  dogs from Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Puppies Behind Bars, local fire, rescue and police agencies, and also individual service dog owners and handlers who rely on their amazing animals daily.


To qualify, animals must be “active working animals” that were certified by a formal training program or organization or are currently enrolled in a formal training program. The certifying organization could be national, regional or local in nature. Owners/agents for the animal(s) must FIRST register the animal via an online registration form beginning April 1, 2012 at Registration ends April 30th. Once registered online, the owner/agent will receive a registration number and will be allowed access to a list of participating ophthalmologists in their area.  Contact a listed specialist to schedule an appointment. Appointments will take place during the month of May.  Times may vary  depending on the facility and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Raja’s favorite eye specialists, Dr. Brown and Dr. Holmberg of the Animal Eye Center of New Jersey will be participating for a week in May out of the Little Falls, NJ office (973-890-4430).




Update on Tonka the Great Pyrenees, the dog with the Best Dog-Mom in the World

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Tonka with his friends!

Our blog pal Tonka has been going through a rough patch, but his brilliant dog-Mom Alice is keeping his spirits high.  Now he’s headed toward better times.  Alice has researched his very unusual and often misdiagnosed medical condition and she tells us about it in depth lest we ever encounter anything similar.  Here is Alice and Tonka’s Informative Guest Update….

I want to give a big thank you to Raja and Helen for allowing me to share Tonka’s ongoing neurological medical journey and some important information with you.

Neurological problems are very sneaky things because they can also mimic other problems.   Some are insidious and creep up slowly while others are very sudden. Slowly developing problems have some subtle signs that are easy to overlook such as toenails being worn down unevenly or the tail not being as active or held high like normal. Others are easy to dismiss as being caused by something else such as difficulty rising or laying down which can be attributed to an existing orthopedic problem or aging. Not so subtle signs are unsteadiness, toes bent under while walking (knuckling), rear legs crossing under the body or crab walking (sideways), rear leg drag, urinary and or fecal incontinence and loss of balance.

Sudden events that cause loss of use of one or more limbs, facial paralysis, sudden repeated seizures and collapse are more dramatic and time is very critical in reaching your emergency vet.

Dogs such as dachshund, basset hounds, Beagles, Corgis, Cocker Spaniels, Pekingese, Shih-Tzus , German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers and Poodles are more prone to
a condition called IVDD or Intervertebral disc disease. A dog’s spinal cord runs through the spinal column and is protected by the vertebrae. The intervertebral discs are structures that lie between adjacent vertebrae and act as a cushion between the discs. Each disc forms a joint that allows movement and every disc has a fibrous tissue outer layer that surrounds a soft inner  core sort of like a jelly filled donut. With IVDD there is a premature hardening of the center of the disc, and weakening of the outer layer leading to rupture. When the outer layer of the disc ruptures, the inner material is pushed upwards against the spinal cord. This material injures the spinal cord and results in spinal cord swelling and compression. This compression in turn pushes against the nerves within the spinal cord that correspond to the legs and urinary bladder. This will result in loss of function that can range from limb weakness to paralysis, and possibly urinary incontinence. IVDD is usually diagnosed with an MRI and depending on the severity of rupture and the immediate care given can have a positive outcome. Mandatory crate rest for 4-6 weeks is a must and anti-inflammatory drugs are usually prescribed. If the
event caused minor damage the symptoms can reverse but if the damage is severe surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure. This pressure release or decompressive surgery is called a hemilaminectomy (the removal of bone over the area of spinal cord compression). Following surgery will be very strict crate rest, medication and eventually physical therapy. The rule of thumb is a 6
month window in which to regain mobility if after 6 months there is no improvement chances are the damage is permanent.

Another sudden event is called an Fibrocartilaginous Embolism  or (FCE) also known as a spinal stroke. This is more common in giant and large breed dogs. In this case your dog could all of a sudden not able to use a leg at all or can have decreased mobility with toes knuckling under. There might be a yelp of pain initially but this condition once it has occurred is not painful. With an FCE just like the IVDD this is an event involving the disc within the vertebral column.  This time some of the jelly doughnut substance (its real name is nucleus pulposus) has leaked sideways and into the spinal arterial system. Depending upon where it catches it causes an obstruction to clot the blood supply to a portion of the spinal cord. This is also known as an infarction and depending upon what part of the spinal cord is affected will dictate the limb or limbs involved. This area of the spinal cord will die and the neurologic loss that occurs with a 24 hour window is most likely permanent. This is why it is critical to get to a vet immediately so that a course of steroids can be started quickly. After the initial treatment and 24 hours no further damage is likely and then everything you do becomes supportive care.  Helping them stand and eat, expressing their bladder if needed, and turning them so that they do not develop sores or ulcerations, keeping them clean to avoid urine scald, these are all things you may have to do. Within a week or two there should be some improvement and progress can occur for months. Additional supportive therapies can also be tried such as physical therapy and acupuncture.

A slower progressing disease that has no cure is called degenerative myelopathy (DM) and primarily strikes German Shepherds, Corgis, Boxers and mixed breeds. It presents typically around age 5 or later and uneven wear and intermittent scraping of the nails can be the first subtle sign of the onset. The dog progresses to having difficulty getting up and will be weak in the hindquarters. There is no pain but the
absence of pain also means that they can get hurt and not know it. The feet will drag and knuckle and their gait will be unsteady. The tail will droop and no longer be able to wag and eventually the legs will not work at all. Fecal and urinary incontinence are also inevitable with DM. The timeframe for this
disease to progress to a dog being totally down is several months to a year. Eventually the disease makes its way to the brain and there is nothing you can do to stop it. There is a nutrition and vitamin supplement protocol that is thought to help extend the timeframe that a dog can still be mobile but the
scientific community as a whole has yet to endorse it.

These are only a few of many types of neurological problems that can affect a dog and many can be helped with surgery or medication and supportive care. My hope is that you never have to deal with any of them but if you do there are some great support groups and a variety of commercial aides to make life for both of you much easier.

In August/September my dog Tonka started having nosebleeds and after lots of tests and a rhinoscopy
(scope of the nose to rule out cancer or foreign bodies) he was put on a course of prednisone. He did not do well on the Prednisone and I started weaning him off as soon as possible. It was towards the end of September that two very odd things starting occurring. The first was that whenever Tonka was on a tile floor he would splay out his last toe on his back leg really far to the side so that you could actually see the webbing between the toes. I thought the floors were just extra slippery and that I needed to trim the hair between his pads. The second was a little more disturbing as he started defecating while walking and Tonka has always been a very private guy when it comes to going to the bathroom. I mentioned it to the vet and we thought maybe the prednisone had something to do with it since it has such a variety of weird side effects it can cause.

Then the first week of October Tonka developed a slight limp in his left hind leg and the x-rays showed some hip dysplasia that we already knew about  from x-rays in 2009. Thinking that it was a flair up from that he went on a pain killer and a course of strict rest, we could not start an anti-inflammatory since he was coming off the steroids.  We started a series of adequan shots to help soothe, lubricate and rebuild cartilage within the joint. The limp steadily became worse and his foot started knuckling under and dragging. I called to schedule an orthopedic  evaluation and was told that with those symptoms I needed to see the neurologist. I took the first available appointment and started looking up his symptoms from a neurological view instead of orthopedic. His appointment consisted of a review of his rather long medical history and a physical exam where he was made to walk and hop and was poked and prodded in some rather sensitive areas.  The exam found some neurologic deficits that would be consistent with a problem in the lumbar (lower back) area of the spine. He was also seen by an orthopedic at that same appointment to rule out any possible problem coming from the hip or knee. There was no definitive diagnosis from either orthopedics or neurology and an MRI and Spinal Tap were suggested to find out exactly what was causing the problem.

In the first quarter to the year Tonka had heart surgery to repair a Patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA (basically a hole).   Then midyear he had the rhinoscopy to look at his nose and both of those
procedures require anesthesia as does an MRI.  I did not want to put him back under anesthesia so quickly after the last procedure so I opted to try conservative treatment and wait a while.  Conservative therapy was rest and an anti-inflammatory which we put him on as soon as the steroids had cleared his
body. Over the next few weeks he became slightly incontinent and would dribble urine upon standing and stretching or walking on any type of incline. Since he would dribble he had to wear a belly band with a poise pad inside while in the house. This progressed to fecal incontinence usually while he was asleep. At this point I had to learn to express his bladder and his bowel so that we would not have accidents at night.

Next he started with a sideways walk and could not stand at his food bowl without his hindquarters slowly sinking towards the floor. He had great difficulty rising from a laying position and would have to be helped up. He did not like to be left alone at night and many nights I would have to sleep on the floor next to him.  His walk was a shuffling gait and I could not let him on concrete without something to protect his toenails from wearing to the quick and bleeding. In the beginning, I would use dog socks and wrap duct tape around the toe area because I could not find a boot light enough to allow him to walk.

With this downward decline we went back to the neurologist and scheduled the MRI. The MRI showed nothing significant in the lumbar region and in the thoracic area findings were inconclusive. They did a cerebral spinal tap as well and the results were within normal ranges so we were back to orthopedic problems as the cause.

I had a second orthopedic surgeon evaluate Tonka and he took yet another set of x-rays and was told there is no orthopedic cause for his problems. Frustrating became the word of the month with no  diagnosis and a steady decline in his mobility. The neurologist and the orthopedist agreed that we should try some rehab therapy to try and gain some function in the leg.

Tonka started seeing an acupuncturist and some canine rehabilitation specialists along with getting B12 shots (B12 is essential for the central nervous system, spinal cord and brain, to function properly). Over the course of the next couple of months we had improvements in his mobility and ability to maintain a standing position for longer periods. He would still occasionally walk and go to the bathroom but he did attempt to maintain a squatting posture which was a good sign. We had a second neurologist look at him and his test results and the theory that perhaps there is a tumor either in his cervical (neck) area or his head was formed.  In order to find out definitively there would have to be another MRI done but his time of the brain and cervical area.  I had him measured and fitted for a cart with the hope of keeping him mobile longer and build up his muscle and being able to go to the park to “see” his friends. Unfortunately the support rings on the cart for the hind legs put pressure on the nerves that are most affected and would not work.

Over the past 5 months the canine rehabilitation (physical therapy) has done the most for him. He can now walk without crossing his legs and although he does still scuff his feet, he is not dragging his nails. He stands to eat and will stop and posture to go to the bathroom about 90% of the time. We do not have accidents anymore and he will bark to let me know he needs to go out. I no longer have to sleep
on the floor with him and most nights he sleeps through the night. He still has some difficulty getting up on his own at times but we are working on that. His therapists are hands on with him every week and for the first part of the session they listen to everything I have to say about what has changed and how he is doing. This exchange of information is very important in his recovery since I/you the owner see little things that change that someone who is not with the dog all the time does not. No-one knows your dog like you do and only you can pick up on the subtle cues of what is working and what is not.  I cannot say enough about how amazing his therapists are as they have given him back some normalcy to his days.

I have now had three orthopedists and three neurologists look at this case and all we know for sure is what it is not. His ankles, knees and hips are strong and even if he walks funny for the rest of his life it should not cause an orthopedic problem which was one of my concerns. Sometime this year we will  have the other MRI done, but it most likely will not change the type of supportive therapy/care that we are giving him now. If it is a tumor and it is operable we will have to look at the risks associated with that since that is a very intricate type of intricate surgery. For now he will continue to go to therapy once a week and twice a month he will go twice a week since we have tried that once before with some very positive results. If he will tolerate it we will add using an underwater treadmill to help strengthen and preserve muscle mass but Tonka is not a fan of water in general so we will see if that is viable.

It has been a long five months but he is making progress in the right direction. We were having good days and bad days but I have learned to stop calling them that and to appreciate every day because of something his Ophthalmologist asked me. His last eye exam also happened to be on a bad day and after having a small meltdown in the exam room she asked me if I thought he was still happy. I had to stop and think of the magnitude of that question because at the end of the day that is really what is  mportant, and he is still happy. He is always happy, happy to be outside, to be petted, to “see” someone or just to chew on a toy.  I am the one that classifies the days as good and bad not Tonka. He deals with every day as just another day full of possibilities and so now I try to look at it from his perspective.

If you do happen to have a companion with a neurological condition here are some things you may have to do or learn.

Do buy a good orthopedic bed if your dog will sleep on a bed.

Learn to watch for signs of sores and ulcers. You need to make sure to reposition your friend often so these don’t occur.

Do chart all progress and setbacks as well as medications and reactions.

Do get second and third opinions.

Learn about diapers and belly bands.*

*Carolyn at made some really nice belly bands for Tonka.

Learn to express a dog’s bladder and bowel. Knowing that they are empty makes for much less stress for you and for them. Most dogs that have been house trained do not like to soil their living area and it will cause them distress.

Do keep to a schedule to have a sense of normalcy.

Do measure them for a canine cart while they can still stand in case you need one later.

Do keep the hair trimmed between their pads so they do not slip and watch for abrasions and sores on
their feet. Their gait will be off and the normally very tough pads will be scuffed raw without protection.

Try to stay on grassy surfaces as much as possible. Do not let them slip and fall, throw rugs and
carpets become necessary on tile and hardwood areas.

Do be prepared for a roller-coaster ride of emotions, Learn to have your meltdowns away from your friend, this will  just confuse them. They don’t need to have their leader falling apart.

Do celebrate the little accomplishments as well as the big ones. You will be amazed at what sorts of
things will make your day complete. An attempt to squat to defecate can become a reason to have a party.

Learn about harnesses and slings, dog socks and boots, you may have to try several sizes of socks and different kinds of boots to find what works for your dog. You may have to use a sling or harness to help your friend get around.

Do become inventive to make life more comfortable and stress free.

Learn to plan for the weather, ice and even snow are not your friend. If your dog is still mobile but weak or wobbly even a little snow is hard to push through and walking on ice does not work at all.

Do be your friends advocate, research everything, document everything and be prepared to challenge the.  Doctors with your questions and theories. If they don’t like it get another Doctor. The Doctor should be willing to really listen to your observations and explain to you what is going on every step of the way. Have whomever is running any tests prepare you step by step what every procedure entails.*

*One thing I was not prepared for was the shaved space on Tonka’s head. He had the MRI at night
and they carried him out and placed him in the back of the SUV so I did not see him until we got home. I reached down in the dim light thinking his ear was flipped up and touched a bald Tonka head.

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Button up Your Dog’s Overcoat: Taking Care in Flu Season

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

If it's ski season, then it's cold weather season for small dogs. Raja helps buy new gear.

Thanks to all the readers who emailed and posted in.  Raja will be delivering two cases of Blue Buffalo dog food to his local shelter before flying to Vail, Colorado for his ski week.  It’s dog flu season, so he’ll be protecting his immune system, in part, by taking coats, hats (yes dogs lose heat through their heads like people) and boots (right, the soles of the feet are a prime heat loss location and even the sled dogs wear boots… in fact the canine boot business began with the sled dogs of Alaska).  But I digress….

Canine Influenza was identified by the Center for Disease Control in 2005.  So it is a relatively new influenza, a serious problem for dogs only, not transferable to their humans.  If your dog displays the symptoms, don’t wait around.  You need a vet and Clavamox.  Thanks to Carol Mahler, RN and Shih Tzu specialist, I have the scoop on Canine Influenza and how antibiotics assist in dealing with this viral illness.

A mutation from a horse virus, canine influenza spreads between dogs and can even be spread through the human touch, dog to dog- so do not fondle every new dog you meet or pick up every product you see in the pet boutique and then pat your dog.  If you volunteer at a shelter, please wash your hands and change your clothes before greeting your own dog at home.

Symptoms include: sleepiness, lack of appetite, a runny nose and, finally, a cough.  Short nosed dogs may never get to the cough because their passages are so small, so don’t “wait and see.”  The virus itself weakens the system allowing secondary bacterial infections to thrive, which is where the Clavamox comes in.  The Clavamox combats the bacterial infections, rendering the viral infection weak and negligible.  This seemingly mild respiratory problem can progress to pneumonia, so too much “wait and see” can be dangerous.

Returning to winter warmth.  Yes, it is true that nobody catches a cold by being cold.  But challenges to the body, like sustained cold, can challenge the immune system.  Vail Valley, Colorado was hit last week by a wide spread human respiratory influenza- meaning even winter-hardy mountaineers can go down fast when a virus attacks.  Yes, dogs of long ago didn’t have coats, but dogs of today live much longer.  Protecting the body’s first line of defense- the skin and temperature maintenance- is part of dog longevity.

Raja and I want to wish everybody a happy, healthy New Year and lots of winter fun!  And next blog, we will tell you all about Raja’s adventures in the snowfields of the majestic American Rocky Mountains!!!!!!