Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Most Important Dog Training Strategy



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Donna Hill, Donna Hill B.Sc. B.Ed., has a degree in zoology and a teaching degree. She has 20 years experience in adult and child education and enjoyed teaching people how to observe animals in nature as a nature interpreter, field biologist and train-the-trainer for presentation skills and now applies her knowledge and skills to help people and their dogs. She helps people with disabilities to train their own service dogs and has experience working with autistic and developmentally delayed teens. She uses plain English to explain what you are doing and why and also provides analogies you can relate to. She was also a Girl Guide and earned the highest honor as well as worked in the Tourism industry as a information counselor. She loves to share key information with people!

Visit her blog at Online Clicker Training Tutorials & Coaching.

Check out her two Youtube channels supernaturalbc2009 and supernatural 2008 for more awesome videos. Her motto is "Yard by Yard, Life is hard. Inch by Inch, It's a Cinch!" Break everything down into it's simplest parts and it's achievable!

Don't forget to visit Donna's FB group Observation Skills for Training Dogs or connect with Donna on Twitter.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Veterinary Highlights: Rabies Challenge Fund

The Rabies Challenge Fund has received the commitment from a USDA-approved facility to perform the first of the challenge phases of the 5 and 7-year studies. 


This rabies research was undertaken to determine, by challenge, the vaccine’s long-term duration of immunity in dogs and to establish the world’s first canine rabies titer standard.

The research began in November 2007 under the direction of Dr. Ronald Schultz and The University of Wisconsin Foundation and is now in year seven. 

Fees for this first challenge, slated to begin later this year, will involve 15 of the study dogs and will cost $100,000. If successful, two subsequent challenges of 15 dogs each will be conducted in order to meet the USDA rabies vaccine licensing requirements.

These results, which will have been obtained using the same federal standard upon which all currently licensed rabies vaccines and rabies laws and regulations are based, should establish the scientific foundation upon which the legally required rabies booster intervals for dogs can be extended to 5 or 7 years.

Further, for the first time, the accumulated rabies titer data should permit incorporating clauses pertaining to rabies titers into the existing laws.

Currently, The Rabies Challenge Fund will need to raise an additional $24,847 to cover the challenge facility fees.

This is an important undertaking that concerns us all. 

Information on making a donation can be found here.

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Related articles:
Blog The Change For Animals: Rabies Challenge Fund

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Rant About Breast Milk And Dog Nutrition

Do you, like me, find yourself wondering since when having a dog became rocket science?

According to science, domestication of dogs happened some 20 to 30 thousand years ago. Were the hunter-gatherers sitting there, racking their brains with what to feed and how to train their new companions?

And yet everything worked itself out naturally.

But then, hunter-gatherers didn’t have McDonalds or dog Chow, nor did they have pesticides, herbicides or Monsanto … among other things.

Is that significant?

I am a little Czech woman who found her port in Canada about 20 years ago.

Where I come from, dogs were fed left-overs and, if they were really lucky, some meat, bones or risotto type of mixtures. Rural dogs would live on combination of that and fending for themselves. Nobody ever heard of commercial kibble and when it eventually got introduced it was a luxury item normal people couldn’t afford.

The dogs seemed to have lived happy and healthy long lives.

My mom has a friend whose dog is of a ripe age and lives on boiled out chicken carcasses, milk and bread. And only when the cat leaves some. Does that make your hair stand up? Mine too. And yet, the dog survived all these years.

When I came to Canada and met my husband, he had a little rescued Rottie girl. I was new to the country and he had gone through a nasty divorce. We were very broke. We fed her grocery store Chow because that’s all we could afford.

While I would NEVER feed my dog that stuff unless I couldn’t help it, she too survived on that.

A few years after her passing, we got a new puppy, Jasmine. At first we fed her based on her breeder’s recommendation. Because of her constant stool problems, she ended up long term on Hill’s i/d. Not that it made any difference.

It actually wasn’t her food but her treats that got me thinking harder about nutrition. 

She used to get Begging Strips, which she liked a lot. It used to be crispy and smell like bacon. Then they changed the formulation. It became gooey and suddenly it smelled sour and mostly like chemicals more than anything else.

Perhaps just because they sell something for dogs doesn’t mean that it’s good for them …

So I started looking closer at the ingredients. We started making home-made beef jerky treats and I decided to exchange the i/d for California Natural Fish and Potato.

Jasmine’s appetite was also dwindling and stools continued to be bad but frequent vet visits didn’t bring any answers or solutions.

It wasn’t until Jasmine was five years of age, when problems started piling up. 

She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She busted her knee ligament. And then, finally, after finding yet another new vet, she was diagnosed with IBD. The cause was determined to be food allergies, which none of the vets ever caught before. (This was about six years ago)

With everything as it was, it meant a major change in her diet and we decided to go with home-cooking. 

We involved a veterinary nutritionist but even then we had to change the recipe a couple of times because some of the nutrients weren’t getting assimilated from some of the ingredients.


The fact is, that once we got it figured out, Jasmine thrived on that.

Looking at the big picture, I was wondering how much of the later problems could have been avoided if her allergies were diagnosed earlier. The new vet said, based on his findings, that she likely had the IBD all along.

How many of the later issues might have been avoided if that had been diagnosed and addressed at the beginning?

I started seriously researching what could I do, in terms of nutrition, to help Jasmine’s body. And that was when dog nutrition became a big part of my learning curve.

I read a long list of books on dog nutrition. I learned about food therapy in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. I felt I didn’t know enough. I took a course on integrative dog nutrition and decided to study dog physiology and biochemistry to really get to understand things.

Do I feel that I know it all now?

Mostly what I learned is that there are more questions to be asking.

Should it be this complicated?

These days, everybody will give you an opinion on what you should feed your dog. Everybody has a strong conviction and the beliefs vary greatly. And most of them believe (and are happy to let you know) that if you choose to feed something else, you’re killing your dog.

I remember meeting my husband’s colleague for a dog play date for the first time. As our conversation went on, I innocently asked what she was feeding her dog. She refused to tell me. When I asked why, she said that I wouldn’t agree with it.

How many judgmental responses did it take for her to simply refuse to disclose what she was feeding her dog?

You get bombarded from all sides. From your breeder, your vet, your friends, your neighbors, the media, and the clerk at the pet store … There are people who use the term “food Nazi” and then there are people who’d likely be best described by this term.

For some, feeding a certain type of diet being the answer to everything.

“I think my dog just broke a leg, what should I do?”
“Switch him to raw.”

Am I exaggerating? Yes, but not that much.

Extruded kibble, baked kibble, canned, semi-moist, freeze-dried, raw, premium, gourmet, all-natural, grain-free, gluten-free, holistic, organic, human-grade, biologically appropriate, ancestral, cooked, home-cooked … those are just some of the terms to contend with.

And all that before you even turn the package to take a look at the back.

Beside the processing method, what the label says on the back actually matters the most.
Back to my husband’s colleague’s feeding choice.

Her dog is doing great. Isn’t that all that matters?


One of the big arguments going on is which is more important, ingredients or nutrients? Are nutrients all that matters and ingredients are irrelevant?

What do you think?

Photo Cavalier Health

Nutrients ARE important. It is nutrients that carry the needed energy, building blocks of tissues and functional elements. Fatty acids, amino acids, minerals, vitamins … those are the things a dog’s body needs to function.

Does it or does it not matter where the nutrients come from, though?

And more importantly, if we're counting nutrients, are we counting ALL of them? And what about food substances that don't qualify as nutrients and yet might be just as important?

Remember the times when baby formula was deemed the be superior to breast milk?


Just today I came across an article on how decoding breast milk secret reveals clues to lasting health.

"Evidence shows that breast-feeding is good for babies, boosting immunity and protecting them from a wide range of health issues such as obesity, diabetes, liver problems and cardiovascular disease."
“Mother’s milk is the Rosetta Stone for all food,” said Professor Bruce German, director of the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute. “It’s a complete diet, shaped over 200 million years of evolution, to keep healthy babies healthy.”

Shaped over 200 million years of evolution ...

So what does breast milk have that formula does not? It has nutrients, of course. But third most abundant to lactose and lipids is a biomolecule that the babies cannot digest. It goes in just to end up in the diapers.

Nobody ever counted that.

Heck, nobody even knew it was there.

"Turns out, the indigestible matter is a slew of complex sugars called oligosaccharides that are extremely difficult to detect and analyze."

If they don't get digested, how could they be important? They don't feed the baby, they feed Bifidobacterium infantis bacteria in the baby's gut. If you're into probiotics, you know what these are. As it turns out, breast milk is loaded with prebiotics.

What does this have to do with dog nutrition?

Perhaps ingredients, and what happens to them in the process, matter after all. Perhaps we should not just count nutrients and think that is all there is to nutrition. Perhaps natural ingredients offer more than meets the eye.

Image: indrja, fotoalba by Centrum.ca

Perhaps we lost sight of what dogs evolved to eat. Perhaps nutrition isn't rocket science after all, just common sense.

What do you think?


Related articles:
"Natural" With Regard To Dog Nutrition (Part I): What Does It Mean And Does It Matter? 
The Whole Food Philosophy And The Tale Of A Giant Sugar Beet
Brad Pitt Doesn't Believe in Germs. Could he be right?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

To Amputate Or Not To Amputate: Heidi's Story

by  Krista Magnifico, DVM

As a veterinarian there are so many talks that you discuss so many times that you feel as if it might just be a whole lot easier to video tape the discussion, push play when the next appropriate patient presents, and pop back in the exam room to discuss the final details of the treatment plan.

Wouldn't it be so simple? 

You bring your pet in, I diagnose the problem, tell you how to fix it, and then we schedule it the following day.

No wasting time, no idle insignificant chit chat, no silly feelings about your pet "not wanting to go through any procedures," or ridiculous excuses about “sparing them from the hardships of recovery,” etc. etc.

It can be frustrating to feel as if I need to repeat the same thing over and over. 

And yet, I’ll do it tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after,.Its my job. To tell you what disease, condition, ailment, need, etc., that your pet has and how I suggest it be treated.

How do I keep myself from feeling like a broken record? Well, I employ my clients to serve as future character witnesses, provide their own personal experiences, and pass it forward.

Here is one story I find myself repeating often. It is about bone tumors.

In large breed older dogs that present to me with swelling, lameness and intense pain at the site I will place a bet that your dog has a bone tumor. The diagnosis is usually pretty easy. OK, well, I should back track a bit and clarify.

In the earliest stages of bone cancer it can be difficult to pin the diagnosis exactly. Because your pet knows before the x-ray does that there is a problem.

The typical presentation of a bone tumor is a progressive limb lameness that persists.

On the first trip to the vet we corroborate your suspicion; The leg hurts and the pet is limping.

The normal course of events after that first trip is to prescribe an NSAID, (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and monitor for response to treatment and resolution of clinical signs, (they stop limping). These work very well on pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis (OA). Most older dogs, just like most older people, have some joint pain because their joints get sore after years of wear and tear.  A response to treatment is a quick, cheap, easy way to help confirm a diagnosis. If we are right, and if it is just OA, then the medications lessen the inflammation which in turn will help alleviate the pain. If we are wrong then the owner will call back in a few days/weeks and report that the lameness is worse, or no different.

Trip number two is for a re-check and x-rays.

Depending on the degree of bone destruction we may or may not have visible evidence on the x-ray.

 (One little tip here from a weathered vet; take the x-ray of the whole foot..shoulder /hip to toes. It makes you look like a bone head when you miss the big lytic (destruction of bone) lesion in the foot because you cut the film short).

If there is a lytic lesion on the bone it is most likely a bone tumor, and the most common bone tumor is an osteosarcoma.

Osteosarcomas are incredibly painful aggressive tumors. They essentially eat away at the bone until it crumbles. They also spread fast! Those little microscopic cancer cells will hijack a ride through the bodies internal highway system (blood stream or lymphatics) and land in remote areas where they then lay down roots and begin to eat away at another part of the body.

After you and I have gotten to this point the waters get muddy and the navigational gear gets all screwy.

The dance of the decisions, the debating, the doubt, the second guessing, hesitation and indecision begins.

Here’s where I'd like to take the command and remove you from the bridge. What I really want to say, “OK, I got the wheel. I am steering the ship. Here's what you need to know: The estimate for surgery is $800 - $1000, average lifespan after surgery 6 months. But, trust me, your pet will be happier because they will no longer be in pain."

At which time you say, “OK, thanks doc, see you tomorrow for surgery.”

Now, I understand there is a lot to discuss. But remember I have had this discussion about 300 times before you, so in truth, I’m not looking forward to number 301.

Here are the arguments and points of discussion that pet parents have:

Number One:
“I don’t want to put my dog through that.” OK, I’m going to put on my best “be nice” face. Your dog is in an immense amount of pain. That pain is manageable only for a short period of time. At some point we will be putting your dog down because they refuse to move, or eat, or do anything because they are in so much pain. SO, if you are telling me this I will remind you that not taking that leg off is not wanting your pet to be pain free. Be honest. I think that most people use this excuse because they don’t want to put their wallet through the procedure.

Number Two:
“He will be unhappy with three legs. I can’t do that to him.” My response; Your dog is already three legged. They are just three legged with one additional painful rotting limb stuck to them. Another important point to remember is that at some point the cancer will eat away so much of the bone that it will fracture, or crumble.

Number Three:
“The recovery will be too much on him.” Like the current excruciating minute to minute with no chance of relief in sight is better?

Now, I understand that I am not being subtle. 

Here’s why. I cannot stand seeing an animal in pain if there is anything that can be done about it. So get over your phobias, and cosmetic disfigurement, and get that damned leg off!


Here is a story of a patient of mine. Her name is Heidi.

Heidi was an older mixed breed dog who presented with the above scenario.

Her dad is one of the most devoted genuine guys around. He is direct, honest, and not at all uncomfortable making you uncomfortable when it comes to his pets. I like him all the way around. We are kismet. I get him. I don’t mince words, and he doesn't tolerate it to begin with.

When Heidi first came to see me she was lame, exceptionally lame. 

She was in pain all the time. He knew he had to do something and he was leaning towards putting her down. When he said this I started to pull out all of the tricks of my medical bag.

There was arm wrestling, and some somewhat questionable, unethical promises. I also pulled out the “past experience” card. He was so stubbornly stuck on not being able to put her through surgery that I doubled down and confided to him:

"If Heidi was my dog I would take her leg off.”

Now I’m going to be really honest. I hate when vets do this. It is coercion in my opinion. We should never ever use this as a way to persuade. While I’m being so honest I will also admit that I do say this. For my friends I feel OK saying it.

Before I convince you to take a bad terminal leg off, do your due diligence. 

A pet that is a candidate for amputation should have a full bloodwork and urinalysis done. They should also have a full 3 view set of chest x-rays. If everything is clear and normal I recommend amputation.

If there is evidence of metastasis to the chest than the prognosis is poor and the floor is opened up again for discussion and debate.

I have some distinct advantages to being so sure footed here. I have years and years of cases to use as my precedence. I have never had one owner tell me that they regretted amputating a leg after they did it. Every single pet a week later was a thousand times happier than they were the day before their surgery.

Taking pain away from a pet is giving them back their life.
"Within 24 hours of her amputation, Heidi was remarkable.  I brought her home, using a towel sling to carry her into the house.  What did she do immediately after I released pressure on her towel sling? She took off on her own accord across the house to go to her water bowl and then down the hall to her bed.  We were moved beyond words by her strength and resilience."  ~Heidi's dad

About a year later Heidi passed away at the clinic with her dad and I. 

She was unable to hold herself up anymore. Before her surgery her hips were weak and arthritic and the additional stress and strain her body had to carry with the loss of her front leg made the hip stress more pronounced. Her dad bought a special harness for her with a handle to help her get up and provide an extra point of stability. The harness was also the way that her dad could help carry some of her weight and keep her from slipping or falling.

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Krista Magnifico, DVM owns a small animal hospital in northern Maryland, where she practices everyday. She wants to make quality veterinary care available to everyone, everywhere at any time; trying to save the world 1 wet nose @ a time.  Her blog is a diary of he day-to-day life & the animals and people she meets. 

Dr. Krista is also the founder of pawbly.com, free pet advice and assistance.

To contact her, you may leave a comment on her blog, email her or catch her on Twitter or Facebook.

Articles by Dr. Magnifico:
Don't Make This Mistake: Ruby's Death To Heat Stroke 
Parvo: Cora's Story 
Jake's Laryngeal Paralysis
The Tip Of The Iceberg: The Unexpected Dental Dilemma
The Ear Ache That Wasn't Going Away: Tottsie's Story
Cody's Eyelid Tumor
Ruger's Mysterious Illness
The Day The Heart Stood Still: Timber's Story 
Different Definition Of Comfort Food: Levi's Story 
Savannah's Pancreatitis  
Histiocytoma: Rio's Mysterious Bump
Von Willebrand's Disease: Greta's Story 
Alice's Heart Murmur  
Jekyll Loses His Tail Mo-Jo 
Pale Gums Are An Emergency: Bailey's Story


Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!

What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from you!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Adoption Monday: Joe Joe, Shepherd Mix, Deerfield, NH

Check out this awesome boy at Mary's Dogs Rescue and Adoption!


Joe Joe is a handsome Shepherd mix who is coming to NH soon and is looking for a great home! 

He loves the outdoors but would also like to cuddle up at the end of the day.

Joe Joe does great with other dogs and walks well on a leash. He would make a great addition to any family!

Joe Joe is neutered, house trained and current on routine shots. Want more info on Joe Joe? Call Mary's Dogs: or send along an email: marysdogsrescue@gmail.com

Ready to bring Joe Joe home? Tell us about yourself and your interest in Joe Joe in the adoption questionnaire. Check out all the wonderful dogs on Mary's Dogs Facebook Fan Page.

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Mary’s Dogs rescues and re-homes dogs and puppies from Aiken County Animal Shelter, a high-kill shelter in South Carolina, USA. They also serve as a resource to communities in Southern New Hampshire and pet owners nationwide by providing education and information on responsible pet ownership, including the importance of spay/neuter, positive behavior training, and good nutrition.

Don't forget to check out Mary's Dogs Shop where you can shop dog and support their work!


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