Thursday, January 30, 2014

Everything You Need To Know About Parvo

Parvoviruses are a species specific single stranded, non-enveloped DNA Virus.   

Canine Parvovirus. Photo Virus World

The canine virus appeared by mutation in the early 1970’s.  Subsequent mutations brought about the epidemics of canine parvovirus disease in 1978 – 1979.  Since this was a new virus, the pet population did not have immunity to it and most exposed dogs became very ill, many died.

The virus invades and kills rapidly dividing cells and this biological behavior explains the clinical signs that we see.   

Especially susceptible are the cells that line the intestines and the bone marrow.   

Destruction of the lining of the gastro-intestinal tract causes the severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea that are the hallmark of the disease. Bone marrow infections cause low white blood cell counts and compromise the immunity of the infected dog.   

This is a double whammy because the intestinal damage allows bacteria to enter the blood stream and the lack of immunity causes septicemia, which is often fatal.

In the early years, before we had vaccines for this virus, very young puppies had no immunity from their mothers and their developing heart cells were also damaged. This caused a parvo viral cardiomyopathy, which was also often fatal.

There is a 3 – 7 day incubation period from infection to clinical signs in susceptible individuals.   

Once the virus establishes itself, it is shed in large numbers in the stool. Dogs with partial immunity may not become as seriously ill but will still shed virus in their stool. 

Due to it’s ability to survive in the environment, and the large number of viruses shed by infected animals, the virus is ubiquitous, found almost everywhere that dogs go. 

Many people think that bloody diarrhea, or diarrhea with the distinctive smell of blood (as in that dog smells like it has parvo), is always caused by parvo virus (CPV) infection.  

It is important to know that there are many reasons for this severe gastroenteritis in young dogs. We see a similar clinical picture with parasites, other viral infections, dietary indiscretion, and toxin ingestion.   

Many times I hear about a dog being diagnosed with parvovirus infection and it is an incorrect diagnosis. It is tempting to diagnose any dog with bloody diarrhea (very distinctive smell), with parvo. But indeed, parvo is a hemorrhagic diarrhea caused by an infection with canine parvovirus. Therefore, the only way to diagnose it accurately is to get a positive fecal test showing virus being shed in the stool ... There will be false positives if the dog was recently vaccinated. Most, I mean almost all, vaccines for parvovirus are modified live vaccines in the US. Can't speak to the rest of the world. 

The vaccine is very safe and very effective. In fact, once vaccinated correctly, dogs may have life time or close to it immunity.

However, any unvaccinated dog with vomiting and diarrhea, fever, anorexia, and a low white blood cell count is treated as a puppy with parvo virus infection until proven otherwise.  

Diagnosis can be confirmed with a positive fecal test for virus antigen.   

The truth is, these dogs are very sick and whether they actually are infected with canine parvovirus or not, they will need to receive the same aggressive therapy if they are to survive.   

Dogs that are suspected of being infected with CPV are isolated, placed on IV fluids and antibiotics, as well as anti-emetics (to stop vomiting) and GI protectants. Seriously ill dogs will often benefit from IV plasma transfusions. Until infection is ruled out, strict quarantine needs to be observed and all contact equipment disinfected with a bleach solution.

By the time a diagnosis is made, the disease is often fatal.   

The best bet is prevention. All breeding bitches should be vaccinated so that they can pass some maternal immunity to their puppies. Puppies need to be vaccinated every 3 – 4 weeks, starting at 6-8 weeks of age (if they have maternal immunity) until they are at least 16 weeks old.  

Fortunately, immunity is developed rapidly and is relatively long lived.  

A booster at 1 year and then every 3 years should be adequate to maintain adequate protection.  Most vaccine manufacturers will stand behind this vaccine schedule for dogs.

It is rare to see a vaccinated adult dog become ill from CPV infection.  

Reason for vaccine failures include, improper vaccine handling, vaccinating dogs that are not well enough to respond to the vaccine, poor maternal immunity, or stopping the initial series of vaccines before maternal immunity has waned.   

There are some dogs that do not respond well to vaccines and cannot mount an immune response due to a defective immune system, but this is rare.  Vaccine must have been stored safely. Since it is a modified live vaccine, they are not adjuvented. While the virus could theoretically revert to the wild state and cause disease, I've never seen it.

There are also some dogs that are prone to adverse reactions to vaccines, but in the case of CPV, every effort should be made to get the initial vaccine series completed.  

The goal of vaccination is immunity.  

Owners that want to minimize the administration of vaccines while assuring that their dog is protected may opt for a blood test to measure antibody titers.   

This test will measure the level of antibodies to the virus in the blood and help determine if the pet is immune or not.  We recommend titers annually.  The blood can be sent to most reference labs and a new in house test has been developed for use in the veterinary clinic.


Dr. Keith Niesenbaum is the owner and medical director of Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine in 1984, he spent 4 years practicing in New Jersey, while his wife, Anne, finished up her OB/GYN residency. 

They relocated to Long Island in 1988 where he started Animal Bedside Care, a Veterinary House Call Service, which is now an integral part of Crawford's services.

The Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital's team is committed to educating clients in how to keep their pets healthy year round, with good nutrition and exercise.  Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital stays on top of the latest advances in veterinarian technology and above all, remembers that all animals and pets need to be treated with loving care in every check-up, procedure, or surgery. 

Check out their blog or connect with Dr. Keith on Facebook or Twitter.

Articles by Dr. Keith:
Cookie's Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy

Related articles:
Goose Antibodies Parvo Treatment? 

New Test For Emerging Strains Of Parvovirus
Viral Infections: Cosmo's Battle with Parvovirus
Parvo: Cora's Story

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bicipital Tenosynovitis: Kenzo's Shoulder Injury

Kenzo's story is shared with us by my good friend @Kenzo_HW. Check out his blog, it's got awesome information on Hovawarts, tracking, nose work and lot's of other great stuff.

We are one month in on Kenzo's recovery from a shoulder injury. The progress is pain-stakingly slow, but there is progress, which is - and must be - the most important of all.

It started with a limp Kenzo developed last November. 

Actually, he also limped sporadically before that. But we could always manage with a couple of days of rest. When the days of rest got longer, and the interval between limps shorter, more thorough approach was needed..

It took a month of examinations, x-rays, wrong diagnoses, second opinions, more x-rays and examinations, and finally an arthroscopic exploration was done of both shoulders.

The tendon of his left shoulder was bad, very bad, and it had to be surgically transected.

Agility dogs frequently seem to have these types of injuries to the tendons in the shoulders due to repetitive strains. Although I never did agility with Kenzo, the scenario is recognizable, knowing how he behaves when we are out and about.

By the way. Why it was necessary to shave his whole front for such a tiny incision needed for an arthroscopic procedure remains a mystery.

Although the fur will grow back, the tendon unfortunately will not, but most dogs do recover just fine. According to the article Surgical Management of Bicipital Tenosynovitis via Arthroscopy:

Arthroscopic transection of the bicipital tendon, also referred to as tendon release, is the ideal surgical option. It consists of completely cutting the biceps tendon at the degenerative biceps groove. The tendon will adhere to the humerus over time, allowing future normal biceps muscle function.

Although vets don't seem to agree whether the biceps tendon will recover to a level that can support Kenzo's previous activity level, it should be possible to get very close, if we follow a rigid program of short leashed walks and physical therapy during the months to come.

Short Leashed Walks

I thought it wouldn't be possible. Kenzo on short leashed walks - a maximum of  four walks a day, 15 minutes each - sound like a contradiction in itself. But it is going good. Very good indeed. His "shave" from the operation keeps others at bay, and people are, surprisingly, really nice to ask before they approach with their dogs.

I soon learned that the "Halti" was necessary, as Kenzo tried to expend as much energy as possible in each short walk, and it became more like trying to keep my eyes on a bouncing ball, instead of walking a dog.

He is very aware of the "Halti", and it automatically seems to keep him calm during walks.

We find fun things to do, do a lot of sniffing, so we at least can stay out longer, and why not do a 45 minute drive to the beach, even if you can only walk for 15 minutes? Getting your paws wet and sandy, is always a feast.

He must miss his off-leash action, but he doesn't show it or complain, and I think he is quite content with what we are doing.

Home Exercises

At home we do exercises with Kenzo at least four times a day to strengthen his biceps and keep him flexible.

We let him stand with his front-legs on the couch, and move a treat up and down in front of him, and by following it he is working his biceps muscles, similar with push-ups.

The vet also provided us with a Fitpaws Balance Disk, which is also to strengthen his muscles. With his front paws placed on the disc we move a treat in a back and forth motion, or left to right, while he is balancing on the inflated disc.

You might wonder if getting your fingers nibbled upon by sharp front teeth for 5 minutes in a row is painful, yes, it is. No pain, no gain.

Next to the biceps excercises, we also do massages, and general stability excercises. Kenzo loves all the attention and we think we might continue with this also when he has healed completely. Who doesn't like a little bit of wellness and work-out.

Underwater Treadmill

Our biggest surprise. Kenzo hates the underwater treadmill. For a dog that loves everything that has something to do with water, this is clearly the exception. We hope it will get better by time, as the treadmill is such an important part of therapy.

Not only because it is great muscle training. Also because you can control the duration and difficulty-level, giving a great insight in how he is doing, and if he could be ready to be let off the leash on walks.

We use toys and treats to no avail, the treadmill remains a chore, and the only thing on his mind is how to get out of there.

Thankfully, Kenzo never lost a lot of muscle according to the vet, so it might not be necessary to do it more than 5, maybe 10 times. We'll see about that.

That's where we are now. 

If you have any suggestions for fun exercises we can do at home we would love to hear them. This will still take many months, before he is healed again, but we focus now on the first step, to go off leash.

His fur is coming back rather quickly, don't you think?

I hope the tendon heals just as fast.


Kenzo is the founding father of Kenzo the Hovawart blog. We got him as a puppy from a responsible breeder. Kenzo is an active dude and has participated in a lot of different dog training activities like obedience, "schutzhund", tracking and nosework. He even attended dog shows - alright, one - with good results.

Hovawart males tend to rival a lot with other male dogs, but Kenzo is one of the exceptions. He is just friendly by nature. A dog with a heart of gold.

Viva was adopted from the shelter when she was 5 years old, and we don't know a lot of her history. Viva came with a lot of health issues and fear of most other dogs, but is doing a lot better today. She is very persistent and has an iron will. When Viva wants something, she doesn't give up easily.

She loves to go for walks in large open spaces, where she can be sure there are no other dogs and she can investigate her surroundings undisturbed.

We are all living together in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Living With The Dog Mamma: (Part 3) Maybe Having A Dog In The House Isn't Such A Bad Idea After All

by Jerry Rade

As said in the last part of this series, after Roxy’s passing Jana had made it very clear that she didn't want another dog.

Although I could fully understand Jana’s feelings, I really missed having a dog around. I’ve had dogs for most of my life and find that I am most at ease with dogs around. However, having a dog is a serious commitment for all in the house so I had to wait for something to change.

And wait I did.

For a number of years I have belonged to a hot Rod club in town. One of our members had told me a story of what happened to him the previous night, and I shared the story with Jana.

At about 2 o’clock in the morning they were awakened by a knock on the door of their house As my friend answered the door, there were two police officers holding a television set. They asked him if it was his television. He took a quick look and replied puzzled, “Yes why are you holding it”?

It turned out that their house had been broken into while he and his wife were sleeping. 

The police had been driving by and thought it was a little bit odd to have two people running down a driveway carrying a television set at 2 o’clock in the morning.

When I was done telling the story to Jana she quite innocently remarked, "Maybe having a dog in the house isn't such a bad idea after all."


Before I can go further in the story I have to explain something that occurred to me several years ago. I woke up one morning with a clear memory of a revelation that had been given to me through the night. Of course the first thing I had to do is wake Jana and share it with her. “Honey, I have had a revelation that helps me understand women better. Men can be bad but it takes a woman to be truly evil”.

She thought about it and answered as she usually does to my pearls of wisdom, "Yes, dear."

To make my point, I explained, “Men can only be bad because were not smart enough to scheme and brew on something for years in order to exact revenge. So, men can only be bad. Women on the other hand will never forget, they will quietly bide their time, and get even in mean and nasty ways”.


So when Jana came out with that simple, innocent statement, a little light in the recesses of my mind said “Jerry, get in touch with your feminine side”. Which is exactly what I did. I didn’t move a muscle, I didn’t flinch, and I simply gave the male auto-reply “Uh-huh”.

Of course, Jana immediately recognized the major mistake she had innocently made and looked to see if there was any indication I was really listening to her. 

I, on the other hand, made a Herculean effort to ensure that there was nothing in my posture, in my voice, or in further conversations to give away that this was one of those rare occasions where she had my full attention.

Now I had to try to think like a woman in order to get what I wanted. 

That may sound simple to some but, in truth, it’s very difficult. What’s an appropriate timeline? How should I sneak around this? How can I make this seem very innocent? How can I make it seem like her idea? And finally, how can I make absolutely sure I’m going to get my own way? Subterfuge comes naturally to a woman, but men just cannot plan that far ahead or to that level of detail.

I came upon a plan. 

A few weeks later I innocently said to Jana, “Honey, why don’t we go for a drive”? Not realizing my intent she said, “Certainly, where we going to go”? I replied, “Just out into the country, there are some people who have Rottweiler puppies for sale and I thought we would just take a look”.

I realized that this was the most sensitive part of my plan. 

I would have to let Jana think that she was in total control of the situation. So I added, “We're just going to look. I don’t expect us to get a dog but I just thought we could go and look. If you’re not comfortable with it we’ll just drive away”.

I could tell by the deer in the headlights look that Jana was way outside of her comfort zone. 

She really didn’t want another dog, but she did remember her earlier comment, and I was letting her be in charge. So, with Jana fully believing that we would not come home with a dog, we went.

This is a little bit like fishing. 

I got the fish close, it’s interested in the bait, and it’s nibbling at the hook. Of course I wasn’t worried about setting the hook or in reeling in the fish, my money was on the power of puppies.

Things started out pretty much as I planned. We drove out, I kept assuring Jana that we were just looking and by no means was I planning on getting a dog today.

So there we were, sitting on the breeder’s porch with seven or eight Rottweiler puppies crawling all over us. 

And, of course, the puppies were making a big fuss over Jana. They were crawling on her, climbing, and licking her everywhere. Inwardly I smiled; I knew Jana would not be able to resist a powerful voodoo such as this.

As I was watching all this, I started to get worried, "Wait a minute, I wanted to get just ONE dog!"

Puppy voodoo is very powerful. I did manage to talk Jana down to one, and we picked one that was full of life with just a hint of mischief.

And that’s how Jasmine came to live with us.

To be continued ...


Articles by Jerry Rade:
The Ups And Downs Of Dog Ramps
Living With The Dog Mamma: (Part 1) The Rest of the Story
Living With The Dog Mamma: (Part 2) A Dog In The House 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Primer On Lipomas

by Rae Worden DVM 

A lipoma is a soft, round, moveable lump or bump of fatty tissue under the skin. 

Image Surgical Photo Gallery

Because the dog tolerates the mass, they’re usually identified at check up or spotted by owners when petting or grooming their dogs. However, each new lump should be examined to ensure that it is a  lipoma and not a malignant growth.

A fine needle aspirate (FNA), in which a thin needle is used for a quick in-clinic microscopic look at the lump’s cells, should be done for each lump. 

A biopsy may still be necessary if the results of the FNA are equivocal.

Lipomas can be removed surgically. However, if your dog’s lipoma is only a cosmetic issue, you may take a wait-and-watch approach. (We will check the lump on a regular basis to make sure it hasn’t changed.)

It has been our experience that removal of most lipomas makes the patient feel better. 

The lipoma can be removed when your dog is scheduled for anesthesia for another issue. However, if the lipoma interferes with movement or it is so large it’s irritating or bothering your dog, we recommend that the surgery be scheduled sooner rather than later.

Lipomas on muscles often infiltrate into the muscle proper and cause pain, reduced use of the muscle and lameness.

These should always be removed and removed quickly to keep the function of the body as normal as possible.

Lipomas are very common in dogs and are seen occasionally in cats.

Lipomas are usually benign.

They grow slowly and stay in one place. Lipomas that tend to cause problems are the ones that are large, or that interfere with movement. (If the lipoma is in an area such as an armpit, it can hamper movement or become irritated by movement.)

Once a dog  has had a lipoma, it is likely to develop others. Lipomas occur more often in middle-aged dogs and overweight female dogs but some younger dogs can get lipomas.

Dog breeds that are more likely to have these include cocker spaniels, dachshunds, poodles, and terriers.

Infiltrative Lipomas

Rarely, a lipoma can become cancerous. They affect the area around the original lipoma and can also metastasize (spread) to other areas of the body. These malignancies are called infiltrative lipomas.

Your veterinarian will need to take a biopsy for histopathology examination at a veterinary pathology center. Infiltrative lipomas are difficult to control. Treatment may require radiation and surgery. (Chemotherapy does not work on infiltrative lipomas.) Infiltrative lipomas are fairly rare, but because of the difficulty in treatment, you should always have new fatty lumps checked by your veterinarian.

Masses that mimic lipomas

Cysts, Hives, Mast Cell Tumor, Fibrosarcoma, Hematoma, Abscess, Mammary Gland Tumor, etc., (may all look and feel like a lipoma)


Established in 1981 and moving to a new location with updated facilities 2011, Fergus Veterinary Hospital uses the most modern and practical approaches for today's' pet health issues. 

From one of the first in the world to use online medical records where you can keep track of all your pet's health issues, to a webstore where thousands of pet products are available for lower cost. 

One of the first to have dental facilities, one of the first to do stem cell treatments, one of the first to have post op laser treatments to reduce pain, one of the first to use a capnograph for anesthesia monitoring, and so on. Making Lives Better is a continuous challenge and requires continual updating.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Is Cookie Going To Be Another Medical Challenge Or Are We Looking To Closely?

Cookie finished her series of ten underwater treadmill sessions and we took her to the primary vet for evaluation to see what will be our next steps. She seemed doing well, it's been a while I've seen her favor the leg. She wasn't limping even after her weekend farm visits, though I'm still on pins and needles. I suppose I'm going to be that way for a while now.

According to the evaluation, the legs are doing well.

Her primary vet couldn't identify any painful areas and the muscle size is almost back to symmetrical. Seems the therapy worked well.

The swelling on her left ankle is still there and requires further topical treatment but that one never seemed to bother Cookie at all. It is a low movement joint and the injury doesn't really interfere with function.

Cookie's ears also looked good with a regiment of weekly cleaning only.

That's the good news.

However, during this last check-up, her submandibular nodes were enlarged.

I really don't like words like enlarged nodes.

She isn't acting sick but it certainly gives me something else to worry about. Examination of the mouth didn't reveal any issues. Our vet feels it's the immune system's reaction to some irritation and might resolve on its own.

It is true that on Friday I had her veterinary chiropractor check them also and she said that one felt normal size and one just a tiny bit enlarged. To her they were returning to normal from whatever made them angry. I certainly hope so. Meanwhile, I'm watching Cookie like a hawk.

Unless something else happens in the meantime, her vet wants to see her for re-check at the end of the month. Fortunately, that's is going to be next week.

Why am I so worried about the nodes?

Jasmine had them very enlarged once, so much so that it was making her cough. According to Jasmine's vet at the time it was a toss up between an infection and lymphoma. We started antibiotics and, fortunately, the problem resolved and never came back. However, Jasmine also had a fever, Cookie does not.

The most likely reasons for these nodes to be enlarged is a regional infection or neoplasia. That's one of the words I'd like to erase from the dictionary right there. Infection could be in the mouth or in the ears, which both seemed to check out fine. Lymphoma or melanosarcoma are things I don't want to think about.

Really hoping that on the next check-up the nodes will be back to normal and remain that way.

Cookie's primary vet doesn't seem overly worried, so there is some comfort in that. That doesn't mean that it's not going to sit on my brain until I hear that the nodes are normal.

Are they trying to kill me?

I never said those words out loud, even though I was thinking it. My dear friend Dr. Krista did. "If they're not worried, they shouldn't have even told you and just put it in the notes."

I concur. That is one down side of online medical records, though. Even if they just put it in the notes, I'd still see it there anyway. Might as well just discuss it with me.

Am I a jinx for the girls I love?

Let's see ... Cookie has been with us for five months now. She already had a mysterious lameness which turned out being a porcupine quill in her foot that she brought along from her previous life. She almost choked on a dental chew and she managed to find outside and swallow what could potentially had been a pot brownie. She had an ear infection. Then she injured the leg. And now the damn nodes ...

Maybe we're just looking to closely?

Maybe it's just the downside of looking so closely. The harder one looks, the more stuff they find. Maybe, if she wasn't at the vet's to evaluate progress of the leg injury, nobody would know about the nodes and life would go on.

Well, it is what it is. For now, I have something else to mess with my sleep.


Related articles:
From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
And So It Begins Again(?) Our First Health-Related Heart Attack With Cookie 
I Didn't Know I Could Fly: Why Cookie Wears A Harness Instead Of A Collar
C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Chews For Dogs CAN Be A Choking Hazzard 
Our First Health-Related Heart Attack With Cookie: The Knee Or The Foot? 
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Too Young For Pot: Cookie's Snack With A Side Of Hydrogen Peroxide  
Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization  
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed  
Putting The Easy Back Into Walking
Cookie's Ears Are Still Not Happy 
The Threat Of The Bulge Is Always Lurking 
Today Is Cookie's Three-Months Adoptoversary  
Cookie Meets The Electric Horse Fence And Her First Chiropractic Adjustment  
Why Examine Your Dog's Vomit? 
Why Is That Leg Still Not Happy? Cookie's Leg Keeps Getting Sore 
Cookie Too Is Insured With Trupanion
Does Being Insured Mean Being Covered? Our First Claim With Trupanion
Is Cookie's Leg Finally Getting Better?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Living With The Dog Mamma: (Part 2) A Dog In The House

by Jerry Rade

As explained in part one I had to marry Jana in order to keep my dog, Roxy.

What I didn’t realize at that time was that Jana was not really a dog person. Not yet.

She liked dogs, as long as they belonged to somebody else and lived in somebody else's house.

Suddenly she was living with her new husband and a large dog in a small apartment.

To Roxy, all was well. She got to live with people she loved and had a large field nearby in which to go for walks.

The apartment may not had been all that large, but there was a nice soft couch Roxy used to love to lay on. Jana, not used to living with dogs, really didn’t like Roxy on the furniture. I explained that Roxy was used to laying on the bunk in my truck and would probably consider this the same thing.

However, I wished Jana luck in trying to teach Roxy not to get on the couch. My money was on the dog.

You can imagine my confusion when I came home from work early one day and found Roxy hiding in the bedroom and oddly looking couch. There was a sheet on the couch with a number of irregular shapes underneath it. Jana had taken some items from the kitchen, put them on the couch, and then covered them with the sheet. It looked like Roxy had jumped up on the couch and then immediately jumped off. She never got up on the couch again.

Jana's reasoning was that if we couldn't convince Roxy that she SHOULDN'T get on the couch, maybe she could convince her that she DOESN'T WANT TO.

I have lost the bet.

Even though Jana did not want her up on the furniture, Roxy loved her with all her heart. 

Wherever Jana was, Roxy was. At night, Roxy used to lay on the floor on Jana’s side of the bed. This was touching, but there was one little problem.

You see, Roxy was a very special dog.

With absolutely no effort she could take distilled water and turn it into a noxious gas. 

We’re not talking slightly smelly – I mean make you gag and swoon bad gas. So while innocently sleeping on the floor beside the woman she loved, Roxy shared a bit of that gas.

One night, about 1:00 in the morning, Jana shakes me awake, “Do something!”

There was an extraordinarily powerful odor and I started seeing spots in front of my eyes.

To this day I’m not really sure of what Jana expected me to do. Think about it, we are in an apartment on the second floor and there is only one small window. It’s not as if you could shove it back where it came from.

Now I do appreciate Jana’s position. We both ran and shoved our heads out the window gasping for oxygen. Meanwhile, Roxy stared at us with an innocent look on her face trying to figure out what was our problem.

Roxy also wasn’t really what I would call a dog that was easy to walk. 

It seems that once a leash was attached to her collar, she immediately went into her pulling mode. She was small for Rottweiler, only 72 pounds, but could pull like a team of mules. Normally this wasn’t an issue. I took her out for her walks and fortunately I weighed more than she did, a lot more. So all her pulling wasn’t a problem until that one fateful day when I came down with a bad fever. It was in the winter, and we had had quite a bit of snow which melted and then froze.

The field in which Roxy would go for walks was half covered with ice.

I felt so poorly that I just didn’t have the strength to take Roxy out for her walk. Jana, being the supportive wife that she is, volunteered to perform this duty for me. I thought that this would be a good thing. It would give the two of them some quality time together. So, they left and I decided to watch their progress from the window. It started off not too bad, Roxy was pulling Jana around a bit, but Jana is pretty task and seemed to be holding her own ground. That was until they hit the ice.

Roxy kept forging ahead with Jana in tow but there was a bit of a problem. Jana's legs weren't moving.

It was really quite a picture to watch. Jana did not find it as humorous as I did.

There were things that Jana really did like about Roxy.

If I gave Jana a little tickle and she let out a yelp, Roxy would come over and pull my wrist away. She was very gentle, but she made it absolutely clear that she was not going to let me cause Jana any distress, no matter how minimal.

For some inexplicable reason this endeared Roxy to Jana.

And so they bonded in their own way.

Roxy lived with us for four and a half years. She was happy and was with people she loved. The sad day came, as it inevitably does, when Roxy finally passed on. The loss of a pet is always traumatic.

Jana is a very sensitive person and Roxy's passing hit her pretty hard.

She told me at that time that she never wanted to have another dog. 

But those of you who read Jana’s blog know that it didn’t stay that way forever.

More to follow.


Articles by Jerry Rade:
The Ups And Downs Of Dog Ramps
Living With The Dog Mamma: (Part 1) The Rest of the Story 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

When To Take A Vomiting Dog To The Vet

by Dr. Greg Magnusson, DVM

The top three presenting complaints for dogs in every small animal veterinary clinic are ear infections, itchy skin, and vomiting.

The Vomiting Dog is Difficult for Veterinarians to Diagnose

Working up the vomiting dog is a diagnostic challenge for veterinarians for several reasons, including:

  1. The physical exam of a vomiting dog is often totally normal, especially if Fido feels icky because he licked something yucky in the back yard but is otherwise fine.
  2. Most foreign objects that can fit down the throat of a dog are either too squishy or too small in relation to the size of the dog to be felt just by the veterinarian squeezing on your dog’s tummy, especially if said foreign object is still in the stomach, safely tucked away under your dog’s rib cage.
  3. Routine blood tests can detect conditions that may cause nausea leading to a vomiting dog – damage to the kidneys, liver, pancreas for instance – but blood tests alone cannot detect a problem that is occurring purely within the stomach or intestines. If your vomiting dog ate something funky in the yard, blood tests will likely be totally normal.
  4. X-rays are great at taking pictures of bones and super dense foreign objects like rocks or metal, but not so good with soft tissues or soft squishy foreign materials inside a vomiting dog.

WE RECOMMEND BLOOD TESTS AND SURVEY X-RAYS ON ALMOST EVERY VOMITING DOG, because by ruling out bad organ disease with blood tests, and obvious foreign objects with routine x-rays, we can eliminate some dangerous, treatable problems that might, untreated, rapidly kill your beloved pet.

Yes, it’s true, nine times out of ten, those expensive tests will be totally normal, but the one out of ten dogs with an abnormal test might die without a rapid diagnosis.

Medicine is an inexact science.

Better we run a test and your dog is fine, than NOT run a test and miss something easily treatable.

Many a vomiting dog will improve with veterinary medicine to treat the symptoms

Luckily for our patients, most vomiting dogs get better with help. Here’s the scenario we most often end up seeing (telling the tale using 20/20 hindsight, after a vomiting dog has already recovered):

The stomach of a dog often knows when something bad is inside it, and dogs are designed with a defense mechanism where they throw up repeatedly until the stomach is FOR SURE empty. So if Fido eats some yuck from the back yard, he’ll vomit 15 times over 3-4 hours until only white foam or little puddles of yellow bile are coming up, then he’ll gack a few more times, empty, just to make for SURE sure all the bad stuff is gone.

Eventually, he stops throwing up, but he’s had an exhausting day. He’s a little shaky, a little tired, and just wants to sleep it off. He feels crummy for 24 hours, moping around and not wanting to eat, then he finally starts to feel a little better and picks at his (bland, veterinary prescribed) food for a few days before returning to normal. Sometimes he might even develop diarrhea as whatever it is that made him sick completely works its way out of his system. This is the story that happens MOST of the time.

Dogs with foreign bodies in their intestines often present exactly the same way, they just don’t get better, and continue to vomit, and vomit…

So how does a veterinarian predict if a vomiting dog will get better or not?

Assuming most vomiting dogs present looking normal, feeling normal, with normal blood tests and normal x-rays, how on earth can veterinarians tell the difference between the dog who licked yuck in the back yard and will be fine 24 hours later, vs. the dog who ate Barbie’s head and might die?

Sometimes it’s the duration of vomiting that clues us in – vomiting once, we might not worry as much as vomiting that continues for 12 hours and even water comes right back up. Sometimes we make Fido drink barium, a benign substance that happens to light up like a Christmas tree on x-rays, to confirm or rule out foreign bodies. Sometimes we recommend endoscopy, which is to anesthetize Fido and feed a camera down into his stomach to take a look around.

Most times, when a veterinarian is presented with a normal looking vomiting dog who ends up having normal blood tests and normal x-rays, we often send home and/or administer medications we think might help settle his stomach, then we cross our fingers and hope he gets better. This explanation is often unsatisfying to the pet owner who expects a concrete diagnosis, but it’s often the best a veterinarian can do to say “try this and call me in the morning”.

In conclusion…

The grand, overall message of this post should hopefully be coming clear. If your veterinarian can’t even tell what’s wrong with your dog or predict his outcome after a physical exam, blood tests and x-rays, there’s no WAY you can tell what’s wrong or predict how things will go at home.

Instead of trying to predict your dog’s future, here’s what we recommend.

Write yourself a list, including:
  1. EVERYTHING you can think of that Fido might have put in his stomach: food, toys, bones, rawhides, everything.
  2. Any recent changes to his diet.
  3. Whether or not you have rodent poison out, a puddle of antifreeze in the garage, any other potential toxins, plants, cleaners, whatever.
  4. How much of exactly what kind of people food he’s eaten in the last week. Be honest, we’re not going to yell at you, we just need to know.
  5. Previous history of similar episodes, treatments that were performed and outcome – records from your last veterinarian are incredibly helpful here.

Then when you’ve got your list of symptoms, timeframe, potential exposure and recent changes, call your veterinarian and they’ll help you work through whatever ails poor Fido, come what may.

Reprinted with permission from Leo's Pet Care, 10598 N College Ave # 200, Indianapolis, IN 46280 | |

Greg Magnusson, DVM describes himself as Leo's daddy. Public educator, mender of wounded bodies, healer of troubled souls, veterinarian in Indianapolis at Leo's Pet Care - out to change the world for one little boy...
Contact Dr. Magnusson via his Leo's Pet Care Facebook Fan Page or @IndianapolisVet on twitter.

Articles by Dr. Magnusson:
What's In The Blood? Blood Testing And Interpretation  
Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Anal Glands 
What Causes Bladder Infections in Dogs?
Indianapolis Vet On The Nose Bleeds Nightmare
Why Does My Vet Want To Xray My Dog?
Natural Home Remedies For Hot Spots

Related articles:
Vomiting in Dogs: Is He Actually Vomiting?
Vomiting Versus Regurgitation
Causes of Vomiting in Dogs 
What’s In the Vomit?
Why Examine Your Dog's Vomit?
The Story Of Flossy And The Mystery Vomiting

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Home Cooked Kong Filling

I usually don't publish recipes for our goodies. Most of it is either very simple or very individual. I think you might enjoy this one, though. I know your dogs will.

I originally started making it as a treat and addition to the home cooked diet but it turns out that it works wonderfully as Kong filling too.

It is also quite simple, though it does require a bit of work. I normally call it a "bone meal" which is not a very inspired name. Maybe you can help me name it too.

So here it goes.

The filling consists of slow cooked meat with small bones, such as chicken necks, backs or wings, pig feet or button bones etc. The smaller the bones, the faster it cooks. Most of these require about 12 hours on high for the bones become tender enough to break up between fingers easily.

Meanwhile, I steam some vegetables. Yeah, I know, I'm kind of anal about these things. Of course you can slow cook the vegetables along with the meat and bones. But I don't like over-cooking anything. All the veggies need is about 20 minutes of steaming (depending on the type of veggies you choose). So why cook them for 12 hours? I just get that way. Same with organ meats. I always cook them separately, because, cut small enough, all they need is up to 5 minutes of cooking. Basically I cook organ meats only long enough for it to change color. The more cooking, the more nutrient loss.

Once I have the ingredients cooked, I run it through a grinder.

I use about a 50/50 ratio of bone and meat with vegetables. Once ground, you end up with a paste, to which I then add a bit of olive oil.

As for vegetables, I use a variety. Cabbage, brussel sprouts, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, mixed veggies ...

Tip: if you pick out and grind the bones and meat just after it cools a little bit, it seems you get just the right amount of fat with it so it's not really fatty but gets the right flavor. If I do this after it cooled and I collected the fat, it ends up a bit bland.

The dogs just love it.

And it is quite tasty. I could live on it if I cared to go through all that work for myself!

So to recap, here are the ingredients:
  • chicken wings/chicken necks/chicken backs/pork feet/button bones or anything else with reasonably small bones 
  • variety of veggies
  • little bit of olive oil
Cook it, grind it up and you're done.

Note: after I pick out the meat and bones I let the liquid cool, pick off the fat and use instead of water to rehydrate food or in meals.

The dogs are always more than happy to help cleaning the pot.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Living With The Dog Mamma: (Part 1) The Rest of the Story

by Jerry Rade

For those who follow this blog on regular basis, Jana’s love for dogs is obvious. And her affection for our female dogs is evident. In the background, cowering in the corner in fear, are the males of the family. Actually were not really afraid of her but we like her to think so.

Through the years that Jana has written on this blog I’ve constantly joked with her about telling her readers the true story behind her love for dogs. Well, she has taken me to task and told me that I have to write my version of the story. And, of course, from my perspective this version is the TRUE version.

So, to quote the late Paul Harvey, this is “The Rest of the Story”:

First I have to provide a little bit of my background prior to my meeting Jana for the first time. For many years I drove a truck long-haul. Although based out of Canada, most of my driving was done through the continental United States.

In 1991 I happened to be in a truck stop in Pennsylvania where someone was trying to sell a Rottweiler puppy for gas money. 

Although I never had experience with the breed, and was never really that attracted to Rottweilers, this poor sick puppy tied up with a piece of clothesline captured my heart. My initial thought was to get her nursed back to health and find a good home for her.

I gave the little girl the name Roxy, and before I could get her fully nursed back to health she captured my heart. 

Needless to say I couldn’t part with her.

Of course, I was concerned about her well-being, especially with me living in a truck, but we ended up finding ways to make things work. I made sure she got exercise every day, the customers I went to all fell in love with her so she got extra attention, and we were never separated. I always joked that Roxy had pooped in every state in the continental US and all but one of the Canadian provinces.

In 1995 I left the truck driving industry and was staying with friends who had a horse farm. Although I went to work every day, Roxy was in the company of other dogs and out in the fresh air. In my off time we were always together. She was my true buddy.

In early 1996 I met at Jana. 

I’m not quite certain on how she survived our first date, I took her to Taco Bell for our first dinner, but for some unknown reason she agreed to a second date. Then a third followed, etc.  My feelings for Jana grew but I was in a point in my life where I really didn’t trust my feelings all that much.

So, it was time for the acid test.

I took Jana to meet Roxy. From my point of view I had just met Jana, but I had known Roxy for five years.

I trusted Roxy’s instincts much better than I trusted my own.

Well, the meeting didn’t go quite as I thought it might.

Roxy came up to Jana, flopped against her, and stared up into her eyes pleading for Jana to love her. This had never happened before, nor has it happened since.

Well, that put me into quite a predicament.

I ended up having to marry Jana just so I wouldn’t lose a good dog ...

Part 2 to follow.


Articles by Jerry Rade:
The Ups And Downs Of Dog Ramps 

Related articles:
Why Do We Choose The Breeds We Do?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pain And Itch: Are They Two Sides Of The Same Coin?

by Jennifer Coates, DVM

Pain and itch – two sensations that are really just intensified versions of the sense of touch.  

They play an important role in protecting dogs from harmful stimuli and/or irritants, but when the sensations become chronic, dogs suffer.

For years, scientists have longed to determine how closely itch and pain are related. 

Historically, it was believed that the nerve cells for itch and pain were the same.

In the past few decades, researchers are discovering that the two sensations are distinct.  

Why does it matter? If itch and pain nerve cells are separate, more effective, specific treatments can be developed.

A plethora of studies have led to an increased understanding of these two sensations, but the information is often conflicting or has changed as new discoveries are made. Most of the studies I have read ultimately focus on differentiating pain nerve cells from itch nerve cells in humans.  However, much of the research is first studied using animal models.

In the mouse “cheek model,” the behavior responses to either painful or pruritic (itch-causing) stimuli are unique.  

Specific chemicals are injected under the skin in the cheek pouch of the mouse. The pruritogenic (itch-causing) substances (such as histamine, imiquimod, or formalin) result in the mouse scratching the site of injection with his hind foot, indicating itching. The nociceptive (painful) sensations induced by injecting chemicals such as capsaicin (think chili peppers) and mustard oil, cause the mouse to wipe at his cheek with his front paw, indicating pain. 

By studying the reactions of the mice, it might be possible to determine which medications are effective in blocking pain, itch, or both.

Both sensations start from the same place—a bundle of nerves at the base of the spine known as the dorsal root ganglion.  

The endings of the itch-specific nerve cell fibers are located superficially in the skin and travel to the spinal cord. This is why you don’t feel itching in your internal organs.

The pain-detecting nerve fibers also extend into the muscle, bone, and internal organs and allow you to feel pain in those areas. When a noxious substance activates a sensory nerve receptor (itch or pain), the receptors open up and depolarize the nerve cell, which transmits an attention-grabbing signal (pain and/or itch) through the spinal cord to the brain.

In 2007, a research team led by Dr. Zhou-Feng Chen, an investigator at Washington University’s Pain Center, discovered the first itch gene, named GRPR (gastrin-releasing peptide receptor).

This gene makes a receptor in the nerve cells that detect the pruritogen (itch-causing substance). 

When mice were bred to omit the gene, they exhibited less scratching when exposed to the itchy stimuli than their normal littermates.

This is useful when we consider that many opioid pain medications (like morphine) have a common side effect of itching. 

Chen and his colleagues were able to block painful stimuli by giving spinal injections of morphine and found that the mice without the itch gene did not have the side effect of itching. The investigators then showed that if they injected normal mice with a GRPR inhibitor, the morphine would still block the painful stimulus and the mice did not scratch.

In considering the different types of itch, scientists have separated them into two groups – 

1) Histamine-dependent itching – caused by bug bites or allergic reactions.  Anti-histamine drugs are effective in blocking this type of itch.

2) Histamine-independent itching -  the type found in over 50 diseases, such as shingles, AIDS, kidney disease, obsessive compulsive disorder, and with medications such as opioids (like morphine) and anti-malarials (like chloroquine). This type accounts for over 2/3 of chronic itching and currently has no effective treatment.

Another way to develop effective treatments for this type of chronic itch is to identify the itch-specific nerve cells. 

Recently, Associate Professor Xinzhong Dong, of the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine did just that. He identified itch-specific nerve cells that had receptors (called MrgA3) for chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug widely used in Africa. As a side effect, this medication causes intense itching in up to 70% of black Africans, leading the patients to stop taking the important drug.

The researchers were now able to study these fibers by labeling them with a fluorescent protein to determine where they are located, how they are activated (i.e., what pruritogens can induce them) and how they could be de-activated (e.g., killing these itch fibers with a toxin eliminated or reduced the itch).  This is an important step in developing medications that can block chronic itch.  Professor Dong hints that it may only be a matter of a few years before this is realized.

How does all this pertain to our canine companions? 

We can extrapolate that they have the same types of itch and pain sensations as humans, so this on-going research will likely provide benefits to both species in the near future. Medications and treatments that eliminate chronic itch due to a large number of causes might be available within a few years and will undoubtedly lead to an improved quality of life.


Jennifer Coates, DVM graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999.  In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado.  She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms: Vet-speak Deciphered for the Non-veterinarian

Dr. Coates has recently joined the PetMD team and she is now writing for the Fully Vetted column; great blog, do check it out.

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics.  Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

Articles by Dr. Coates:
Kidney Disease – Say What? 
What Happens In The Dog's Body When The Kidneys Fail To Function Properly? 
Heat Stroke: What Happens In The Dog's Body?  
The Perplexities of Pancreatitis
The Other Side Of The Coin: The Cost Of Defensive Medicine
To Neuter Or Not To Neuter… That Is The Question
Don’t Forget the Physical Therapy
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 1)
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 2)
Picking the Right Dog to Breed
When Is It An Emergency?
Dog Allergies: Common, Commonly Misdiagnosed, or Both? 
Why Does The Spleen Get No Respect?
Protect Your Dog From Snake Bites 
More Creepy Crawlies
Why I Dislike Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Salmonella – A Significant Problem, Or Not? 
What’s In the Vomit?
Cortisol: What Happens In A Dog’s Body When It Goes Awry?
What Happens In The Dog's Body With Zinc Toxicity? 
What Happens In The Dog’s Body: Xylitol Poisoning 
What Happens In The Dog's Body: Insulin 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Is Cookie's Leg Finally Getting Better?

As soon as we had a plan, we started working on getting Cookie's leg back in business.

The goal was to get whatever soft tissue injury was going on healed, and compensation for the shorter leg corrected.

Our plan included physical therapy and hydrotherapy.

For enough treats, Cookie will do anything.

We started underwater treadmill twice a week. We included massages after each walk and physical therapy exercises at home. We tried to limit her craziness to our best ability. Keeping Cookie subdued is like trying to tame a tornado.

Every time it looked like the leg was doing fine, it got sore again.

The pattern was strange, though. From time to time we would let Cookie run and play with JD and the leg looked good after that. Then, being grounded for a day with the freezing rain and everything outside being straight ice, it was just a bit sore by the next day.

After that, we were quite limited with our selection of walk destinations and had no choice than keeping the guys on the leash. That is not to say that Cookie didn't do her share of bouncing at the end of it. And the leg looked good.

Finally, when it became reasonably safe, she got to go to the farm and ended up quite sore yet again.

This all had been going on for about a month.

Between the weather and trying to get the leg healed, Cookie was not happy with all the limitations at all. I find it funny how both her vets ordered rest and slow leash walks. Her physical therapy vet knows better now, having seen what Cookie looks like after intensive underwater treadmill session. For her, it's just a warm-up.

"Was she tired last time?" he'd ask. Nope, she came home bouncing of the walls ...

Last weekend we decided that she needs to get out and have some fun, whether she's going to be sore or not. For her and our own sanity's sake.

Cookie's underwater treadmill session at Mitchell Animal Hospital

She spent the two days at the horse farm.

She was restricted somewhat, but was allowed to play and run and enjoy herself.

She did not limp after!

I was so relieved! So maybe the leg is finally getting healed up. Hopefully.

Meanwhile, we continue on the other part of the plan, getting the muscles even out and get her to walk more evenly.

The physical exercises we're doing at home include the following:

Cavaletti type of exercise; I sit on the ground and have Cookie walk over my legs. It's not as fancy, but kind of practical because no equipment is needed and I can adjust the distance and height on the fly.

Figure eights; that was easy enough, because we were already doing weave between the legs as one of our canine freestyle moves. Having great fun with that.

Walking backward; figuring out how to get Cookie to do it was kind of challenging but then I found some great videos.

Whatcha-call-it; I have no idea what it's called but it was suggested by Cookie's chiropractor. It consists of front legs standing on a raised platform while the rear end is moving in a circle around it. It's a sideways movement of the rear end, I don't know if you can picture it.

At the moment, I'm just very happy that Cookie got a weekend at the farm and didn't have to pay for it with pain later.

She's a young vibrant girl and should be able to have all the fun she wants.So that is our goal.


Related articles:
From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
And So It Begins Again(?) Our First Health-Related Heart Attack With Cookie 
I Didn't Know I Could Fly: Why Cookie Wears A Harness Instead Of A Collar
C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Chews For Dogs CAN Be A Choking Hazzard 
Our First Health-Related Heart Attack With Cookie: The Knee Or The Foot? 
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Too Young For Pot: Cookie's Snack With A Side Of Hydrogen Peroxide  
Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization  
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed  
Putting The Easy Back Into Walking
Cookie's Ears Are Still Not Happy 
The Threat Of The Bulge Is Always Lurking 
Today Is Cookie's Three-Months Adoptoversary  
Cookie Meets The Electric Horse Fence And Her First Chiropractic Adjustment  
Why Examine Your Dog's Vomit? 
Why Is That Leg Still Not Happy? Cookie's Leg Keeps Getting Sore 
Cookie Too Is Insured With Trupanion
Does Being Insured Mean Being Covered? Our First Claim With Trupanion

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Primer On Reverse Sneezing

Dr. Becker is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of 

You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ramps!

by Susan E. Davis, PT 

It’s all about guiding and empowering you to help your pet avoid injury, provide practical solutions and achieve rapid restoration of health and function!   

The thought of a small to medium sized dog jumping down from a sofa or bed makes me cringe! The sight of a large, older dog leaping out the back of a truck or van makes me gasp as their joints come in jolting contact with the hard ground. Am I just the “nervous type”?  Well, that’s for another discussion……no, I’m just a concerned physical therapist who has had more than her share of patients who have sustained torn ligaments and injuries to the spine and extremity joints that probably could have been avoided, if not for the repetitive trauma from vertical leaps and jumps.

There is an easy solution in these scenarios: placing a ramp to allow the dog to walk up and down at a reasonable incline.

What about those prefabricated boxes with small stair steps for the pet to climb? 

Well, those are still stairs, even if small ones!  Climbing up and down steps is better than jumping, but it can still produce dangerous torque forces on the joints, so the angled walking ramp is the best way to prevent injury.

Ramps can be expensive, bulky, and it might be tricky to find just the right size, so I am going to offer some suggestions and guidelines for making a custom ramp for your beloved dog!  

These will apply to toy, small and small/medium sized dogs, for negotiating on/off furniture such as beds and sofas. Medium/large and large breeds that have sufficient limb length to climb on and off furniture without needing to jump will not need a ramp. These dogs will only need a ramp for getting in/out of a truck or van/SUV with a high rise platform.

Here are some general guidelines:

Ramp width should be about 11-12 inches for toy and small dogs, and 22-24 inches for medium size breeds.

Rise of the ramp should allow an angle of incline at roughly 18 to 25 degrees. A toy or small dog will need 18-20 degrees and a medium size dog 22-25 degrees. That might seem steep, based on ramp specs used for humans in wheelchairs, but canines have a lower center of gravity and have a mechanical advantage as “quadrupeds”.

For a sofa or bed measuring 14 to 16 inches high vertically, you will need the ramp length to be 3 feet, in order to achieve the correct incline angle.  For a vehicle loading platform of 24-30 inches high, you will need a ramp length of 5 to 6 feet.

This ramp is used indoors and made with Pine, ¾ inch thick. It has been sanded, stained (can try to match with your furniture) and finished with a clear satin outer coat.  It can be painted instead of using a wood stain. I recommend adding vertical “sides” to ramps for the pet’s sense of security and protection.  They will appreciate seeing or sensing a boundary on each side, when negotiating the ramp. This ramp has a 1.5 inch lip in each side.  You can also add a carpet runner (find a carpet sample with a short nubby nap) and tack it down, driving the tack heads deep.

For added security, build a horizontal base and attach it to the ramp at the far end, with two plain butt hinges, like the ones used on doors. Build a smaller vertical flap 1 foot in length, attached with a hinge, just inside the near end of the ramp.  You will need to place a small 2-inch high stop at the near end of the horizontal base, so that the flap sits at a bit of an angle, not fully perpendicular to the floor.

Now for the cool part, this ramp can be collapsed, folded and stored under the bed or couch, when needed.

For ramps used outdoors or for the van/truck, you probably do not need a horizontal base or hinges (unless needed for folding, storage and space-saving purposes), but if you decide to use them, make sure they are stainless steel hinges.

I recommend using an 8 inch aluminum kit build for ramp tops, attached to the near end of the ramp.  These are found in automotive stores, vendors that sell hauling equipment, trailers, etc. Use outdoor artificial “carpet green” for the ramp surface.

Your efforts in building a proper ramp will be well rewarded in an injury-free, safe and happy dog!


Susan E. Davis (Sue) is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 30 years of practice in the human field, who transitioned into the animal world after taking courses at the UT Canine Rehabilitation program.  She is located in Red Bank, New Jersey.

She has been providing PT services to dogs and other animals through her entity Joycare Onsite, LLC in pet’s homes and in vet clinics since 2008.

She also provides pro bono services at the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, NJ.  Sue is the proud “dog mommy” to Penelope, a miniature Dachshund with “attitude”.  For more information see her website , or follow on Twitter @animalPTsue.

Sue is also the author of a fantastic book on physical therapy, Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation For Animals: A Guide For The Consumer.  

Physical therapy can do so many great things for your dog. Understanding all the possibilities physical therapy can offer will change your dog's life. This book definitely belongs on the shelf of every dog lover.

Articles by Susan E. Davis:
Functional Strengthening Exercises: the What, Why and How
One Thing Leads To Another: Why The Second ACL Often Goes Too
Compensation: An Attempt To Restore Harmony
Paring Down to the Canine Core
Canine Massage: Every Dog ‘Kneads’ It”
Photon Power: Can Laser Therapy Help Your Dog?  
Physical Therapy in the Veterinary World  
Reiki: Is it real? 
Dog Lessons: Cooper  
The Essentials Of Canine Injury Prevention: 7 Tips For Keeping Your Dog Safer 
It's Not Just Walking, It's Therapy! 
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part I)
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part II Physical Therapy)
Range Of Motion: It’s A Matter Of Degree…
The Weight Of Water And How It Helps Dogs 
By Land or By Sea? A Comparison of Canine Treadmills 
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part I)
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part II) 
Scar Tissue: Is it Too Much of a Good Thing? 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ramps! 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Indoor Duo Dog Exercises!
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Best Practices After Your Dog’s Surgery

Related articles:
Jasmine's Disc Injury: Spanking New Ramp
The Ups And Downs Of Dog Ramps