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Saturday, 31 January 2009

Seeing is believing

When my dog was very ill I consulted someone for help who surprised me by claiming to have some psychic abilities. Among other things, she claimed my dog strongly disliked the colour green.
Now I thought all dogs were colour blind, but I've since been told they can see some colour, but not in the same way we do.
I'd just like to know if green is one of the colours dogs could potentially see? And how do we know this?
Name and address supplied

Preparing for the shots

I am equally worried about vaccination reaction and my dogs catching deadly diseases and was wondering what protocols other breeders are using these days.
I am about to have a litter and was wondering if there is anything I can do to help my pups cope with their first vaccines.
Name and address supplied

Cavalier breeder Bill Knight contributed this post to our other blog about Beardie Taiga's death from a suspected vaccine reaction (Click here to read the full post):
"We used to find that after their first vaccination our puppies would be very sleepy, off their food, often with an upset tum and with a painful lump at the site of the vaccination. About 14 years ago we changed our regime and we now don't have any of these problems. We now use Dog Combination 30c from Ainsworths in London when the pups are two and half weeks old. It contains homeopathic potencies of Hepatitis, Leptospitosis, Hard pad and distemper, Parvo virus and Kennel cough and it must be crushed - you can't touch it and it must be given without food. You need to ask for a leaflet that tells you how much to give and when. The dogs then get their traditional vaccine at eight weeks and since we've started using the Ainsworth Dog Combination we've not had any problems with reactions. We always insist on Nobivac and the other thing we do is keep all our pups until they are 10 weeks so they don't have any stress. There are four things we do that might otherwise be traumatic - the pups are jabbed, tattooed, chipped and litter screened before going to their new homes so we like to keep them for that extra two weeks to make this as untraumatic as possible. If anyone wants to know more I'd be happy to explain further. I'd just like to say how very sad I am about Taiga and send Lorraine all my sympathy."

Old dogs... new tricks?

I would be very grateful for some advice on my 11-year-old rescue Collie cross Labrador, Rosie. We have had Rosie since she was 18 months old and she has always shown aggressive tendencies towards children. As Rosie is a nervous dog and has shown active defence reflexes (growling) previously in these situations, we have managed the issue by keeping her separate from any visiting children. However our circumstances have changed, as I am now thirteen weeks pregnant. Is it possible at this late stage in Rosie's life to improve her reaction towards children? Any advice that you could provide would be gratefully received, as we would never want to consider the option of rehoming Rosie.
Kate Bailey, by email

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Nervous about NatureDiet!

I've had terrible trouble finding Naturediet recently and it's the only prepared food I have found that agrees with my dog. Anyone know what the problem is? I've heard rumours on other forums - I'd hate for it to stop being available as it's a brilliant food.
I've just found a pet shop that had some fish variety left, but if I get stuck again any pointers for other superior petfoods to try?
Mary Robbins, Crawley, Sussex

We've contacted Naturediet and the message is 'don't panic'!
As you may have noticed the supply of Naturediet packs has been a little thin on the ground recently. The Internet rumour mill has been working overtime as bloggers and forum users nation wide speculate as to why they cannot get their hands on Naturediet. This speculation has not gone unnoticed by the management team at Naturediet, who would now like to clear the air.
“It’s true that we have had supply problems of late.” Says Naturediet UK Sales Manager, Emma McKenzie. “To put an end to the rumours, these problems were caused by a technical fault with one of our machines. This has been fixed, and we are now producing again at full capacity. We would like to apologise to all of our customers who are still waiting for fulfilment, and to re-assure them that they will receive their orders soon.”
During this period supplies of Naturediet have been getting through to wholesalers, but despite operating at full capacity again, the company has warned that it will be a number of weeks before production can catch up to demand.
If anyone has any queries on the disruption in supply, contact Naturediet on 01362 822320.

Does your dog hate balloons enough to be a record breaker?

We've been asked to help find a dog who likes popping balloons who would like the chance to try to break the world record on TV.

Click here to view the last record attempt, is your dog this obsessed? This has had us all giggling today! This dog just loves to hate balloons!

The record is currently held by a Jack Russell who burst 100 balloons in 47 seconds.

Please get in touch if your dog would like an audition!

What's the best dog car?

My Nissan has died (frozen up and exploded, lots of black smoke).
I wasn't happy as the police insisted on towing me off and charged 150 quid on the spot although I have AA relay, they said the AA would take too long to get there.
Anyway when it was looked at and it's terminal.
Any suggestions for a car where I can fit 10 Beardies to take them to the beach or three people, plus all the dog gear, crates, tables and sometimes a tent and camping gear and several dogs?
Plus it has to be cheap and I mean really cheap.
Gill Burfitt, Anglesey

What's the best dog vehicle you have ever owned? Nominate your favourite doggie vehicle here. I am very happy with my diesel Mercedes estate (the smallest size) - lots of room for doggies, not too big to park and very economical for fuel. I've got ultra dark tinted windows that keeps it cooler in the summer when we're stuck in traffic jams! (However it is a little bit too attractive to mice for my liking! Although I've not seen any evidence of inhabitation since the chewed KitKat incident - long story!). Why is your car the best? We're looking for nominations for small, budget, kids and dog, best multiple dog vehicle and best professional vehicle for dog walkers and groomers.
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

I would love a Mercedes Vito - it's my dream vehicle, but it's pricey. I drive a diesel Citroen Berlingo and on my second one so I must like them, they are very good value for money! They are very roomy. With the back seats removed I can comfortably fit in three large crates and still have loads of storage space. It has a huge sun roof too which is good for ventilation. The Renault Kango and the Peugeot Partner are both worth a look.
Christine Bailey, Dogs Today accounts department

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Heart beat needed

I am trying to find a website where I can find the sounds of a dog's heart beat, both normal and with an arrhythmia.
I have tried, Google, You Tube etc but I am unable to find anything. Do you know of anywhere where I can find this?
Thanks for your help.
Robert Cobb, by email

I can only suggest what I would do, which would be to use a Search Engine, trying different phrases such as ‘Canine heart sounds’.
The normal canine heart beats at between 80 to 160 times per minute, depending on the size of the dog – the bigger the dog, the lower the heart rate. A single beat is two clear heart sounds (‘lub-dub’); there should be no slurring, nor any extraneous noises or beats. There is generally a slight increase in the rate during inspiration as the dog breathes in, and a slight decrease as he breathes out, so-called normal respiratory dysrhythmia.
More to the point, though, I wonder why you are needing this. If you have concerns about your dog’s heart rhythm, then I would rather you take him/her to be examined by your veterinary surgeon. You could always ring and explain your worries over the telephone first. I have often let owners have a listen through my stethoscope and explained what can be heard if there is an abnormality or, more importantly, to reassure the owner that the heart sounds are normal.
Alison Logan, Vet

The trials and tribulations of having a poo-eating Labrador

I first wrote to you about this subject (my poo eating Labrador) in March/April 2007 and received a very comprehensive reply from Jon Bowen dated 10 April 2007. I carried out all his suggestions to no avail. We have tried a water pistol - which he loved, a muzzle which he didn't like but still managed to "mash and sieve" the poo through it!! (Sorry if you are eating!) and also, on the advice of our vet, tried an electric collar, which had to be turned up to its maximum strength to be effective. It did work on any particular occasion but did not teach him not to eat poo long term and I HATED USING IT. We also have a citronella spray collar but all that does is make him smell quite nice! He is very crafty in that he gets ahead of us quickly snatch and away munching, citronella spraying all around! We are both in our 70s and fit but unable to keep abreast of him all the time! We live in the country, surrounded by lovely walks, so 90% of our walking is off lead. Yes, we could keep him on the lead but that does make for a miserable prospect for all of us. We have another Labrador, a bitch, who is an absolute gem and they do love to run together. Our vet has lost the plot and just told us we have a poo eating dog for life!! Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Monty is three years and four months old, not overweight but well fed, twice daily. Otherwise well behaved (for a three-year-old male Labrador) and we have 40 years experience of Labradors!
Marian Dinkele, by email

I must confess that our Labrador is just the same, and she is now nine-years-old! She especially likes sun-baked dog poo because it is all crispy then! Yuk!
There are specific tablets available which you feed to your dog to taint her own faeces and, hopefully, put her off eating them. Adding a little tinned pineapple, for example, to the diet will also taint the faeces. This will not, however, necessarily stop her from eating other dogs’ poo because, obviously, they will not be affected by the tablets, unless she finds the taste of her own faeces so distasteful that she cannot bear to try any other dogs’ faeces.
Eating faeces or coprophagy is a repulsive habit (especially when your dog rushes back to greet, wanting to lick you!) which is very hard to break, as you have found. Faeces are a source of food, containing undigested food matter, so as far as your dog is concerned she has found herself a wonderful food source and can snack whilst out on a walk. I have pretty well resigned myself to this – I do still yell at Pippin when she puts her head down, and fortunately it is often an apple she has found because we walk around an orchard.
Have you tried walking your dog when she is not hungry? I do not generally suggest exercise after feeding, but perhaps she would be less likely to eat other dogs’ poo if she was not hungry.
Of course, if all the other dog owners were to pick up their dogs’ faeces, there would be no dog poo about for our dogs to eat!
Alison Logan, vet

In my experience, when fixed on a particular source of obsession-which for this breed so often means food!—some Labradors can be stubbornly resistant to a range of deterrent devices that are far more effective on more sensitive dogs or individuals.
When using such deterrent devices, it is also critical that owners have pinpoint timing; ideally activating them just before a ‘wrong’ thought in a dog’s mind has become an actual action, and thus nipping it as early as possible in the bud. More often than not, however, they either use them at the wrong time, or too often, so the dog never learns the right lesson from the experience, or learns to simply work on through the deterrent effect as it becomes increasingly more insensitive to it.
I am surprised your vet recommended an electric collar, because if these devices are going to be used at all then it should only be in extreme situations and in expert hands, as it is incredibly easy to psychologically damage a dog, and give it further problems, through their misuse. This is also a reason why so many people in the dog world would like such devices banned.
Either way the electric collar effect, as a deterrent, has not worked in your dog’s case because, even if you got the timing right, you clearly did not use it consistently enough and long enough to put him off eating poo long-term.

It strikes me that for Monty, the whole issue of eating poo has now moved well beyond a more casual or sporadic experience to a total obsession; not least because of the vast amount of attention you clearly give it. Labradors can also be notorious scavengers.
Your frantic attempts to stop Monty’s behaviour may also be the trigger for him gobbling down any poo as rapidly as possible, before you can prevent him. It is also possible—horrific as you may find this—he believes you are openly competing with him for the stuff.
A solution to your problem could lie in better training—and, in particular, teaching Monty to ‘leave’ something on command. To do this, start by filling your pockets with really irresistible treats and then put Monty on a long line. Next, place an empty food bowl some way ahead of him. As he goes up to inspect it, call him back to you, reeling him back if necessary on the line. As soon as he leaves the bowl to come to you, say the word ‘leave!’, then reward Monty immediately with one of your really tasty treats for complying.
Next, put something like grated carrot in the bowl, and then maybe something like rice. Again, as soon as Monty goes near this, call him back as before, saying the word ‘leave!’ as he leaves the bowl, and rewarding him with a tasty treat. You may have to do this quite a few times before Monty reliably comes straight to you, and leaves the bowl, on command, in return for a treat. It is vital he never gets a chance to eat whatever is in the bowl before you can reward him for leaving it. And your treat must always be far more desirable than whatever you put in the bowl.
Only when Monty is responding really well to this exercise, try him near poo, but still on a line, and try the same ‘leave’ command in return for a reward. Do this as many times as possible to condition this training in and do not even think about letting him off the line near poo again until you feel he will still reliably leave it on command, otherwise you will be back to square one.
Taught well, this exercise can be very effective. But if it does not work for you you may ultimately have to decide what is more important; Monty being off the lead or Monty not eating poo, as it could be you will have to choose between the two options.
Carol Price, behaviorist

Coprophagia (eating faeces) is an example of depraved appetite or pica (so called after the Latin name for magpie pica pica pica which has a reputation for taking things it shouldn’t). It is a sign of non-specific ill-health, probably of the digestive tract. It is not a sign that the dog is hungry, nor is it a sign that something is lacking in the diet. Other common examples of depraved appetite are eating soil, wood even grass. The condition can usually be corrected by improvements to the diet. This does not mean that you can just try something else to see if that will work. You have to have professional expert advice and be prepared to follow it. Here at Burns Pet Nutrition we have had good results. Management must include feeding very sparingly. The correct type of food will not work if the quantity is wrong. When the diet is right, the dog will not be attracted to faeces.
At the same time as correcting the diet, it is helpful to deny access to faeces in order to break the habit.
John Burns, vet, Burns Pet Nutrition,

When is the ideal time to spay?

I have a four and half month old Labrador bitch from working lines and have decided to get her spayed. My vet recommends doing this before her first season, which means from the age of five to around seven months old. But this seems really young to me and she is still growing very fast. Could you please give me your opinion or maybe someone that I could get some advice from? Many thanks.
Carol by email

Contentious topic! As a practice, we routinely spay before a first season, provided the external genitalia are well developed; otherwise, we postpone until three-and-a half-months after the first season to give any changes associated with a false pregnancy to resolve, giving more time to grow and mature. I would therefore be guided by your veterinary surgeon who will be able to examine your bitch when your she is nearing six months of age and advise you further.
I do know breeders who have their puppies neutered at eight weeks of age, so that the puppies are sold already spayed and castrated.
We had our Labrador Pippin spayed at 5.5 months old. I seem to think she weighed 17.5kg at the time. I had not been aware of being at all worried about the operation until that evening, when she was lying in front of the fire, I remember feeling relieved that it was all over – there would be no need to worry about spotting her coming into season, and whether it would be whilst we were away camping. Not easy to confine a bitch in season away from amorous males whilst staying under canvas!
Pippin certainly made a rapid recovery. The next morning, she was so bright, bouncing around and wanting to go out for her usual walk. I did give her follow-up doses of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for pain-relief, but it was very hard to keep her quiet whilst she was healing up!
Since then, Pippin has matured and grown as I would have expected, and has not had a problem retaining her waistline. At the moment, she is in fact a little underweight at 23.5kg; she certainly looks better nearer to 25kg. When a bitch is spayed once fully grown, it is advisable to cut back the ration to avoid weight gain through a post-neutering fall in the so-called Basal Metabolic Rate, meaning that the body works at a lower rate and therefore burns off less energy. This is one reason why owners of overweight bitches are advised to work on weight-loss before spaying, in addition to reducing anaesthetic risks. Being spayed whilst still growing, you will continue to change the amount and type of food so, psychologically, I think it is easier to avoid your bitch becoming overweight.
I hope this helps.
Alison Logan, Vet

Thursday, 8 January 2009

We're scratching our heads, too!

I recently adopted a Alsatian x Collie, three years old.
She's a very good girl although very nervous of strangers, the only problem we have is that on occasions she will shake her head violently and scratch her ears.
We have used ear drops for mites etc and this helps, we do for the amount of days instructed, then we have a clear spell, then it starts over again.
There are no visible signs of mites. Sometimes she will also rub down the side of her nose. We have put her on hypoallergenic dog food and treats to see if that makes a difference.
Any help appreciated.
Many thanks
Denise Nicol

The commonest reasons for a dog scratching at her ears are indeed ear mites and food hypersensitivity. Has a veterinary surgeon actually looked down your dog’s ears with an auroscope? Ear mites themselves are white, and move around when the warmth from the auroscope’s light falls on them – quite spectacular! You would not necessarily see them with the naked eye by simply looking into the outer ear.
The presence of ear mites can predispose to an infection, classically characterised by the presence of brown wax but, again, this may be deep down in the horizontal part of the outer ear canal. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to prescribe ear drops which not only kill the ear mites but also have action against a secondary infection and alleviate the itchiness.
The fact that it settles with the ear drops you are using and then re-starts could indicate the hatching out of ear mite eggs once treatment with the drops has stopped. If I see ear mites in a dog’s ears, I generally recommend a specific ear drop for a week, a week’s break and then another week’s treatment. There is also a spot-on which is effective against ear mites, applied to the back of the neck as usual.
If ear mites are effectively ruled out but the itchy ears continue then a food trial is indeed worth trying, given your dog’s young age. The theory behind hypoallergenic food is to be feeding a protein which your dog is unlikely to have eaten before, or in which the protein present will not trigger a reaction. Do ensure that your dog is only eating truly hypoallergenic food, including treats. I must admit, I tend to advise using the hypoallergenic diet as a source of treats as well so that just the one food type is being fed. It does mean ensuring she does not eat or scavenge whilst away from home, visiting family and friends and out on walks. Can be difficult!
If your dog continues rubbing at her ears, then I would seek help from a veterinary surgeon. There is nothing quite like painful ears …
Alison Logan, Vet

Absolutely barking

I have a 19 month old red and white male Border Collie. I know collies can be vocal but he seems to bark a lot - if someone comes in, down the stairs or maybe just for what seems like our attention.
I realize somewhere we have probably responded to his bark hence why he does it.
Also he gets noisy in the car, on the way home, after his run when he's tired.
If I am out walking with my friend with her Alsatian, who's not really dog- friendly (except with my boy) he will bark nine times out of 10 at another dog which he doesn't normaly do.
If I do street walking on lead, he will make strange noises all the way until we arrive back home. I have tried clicker training, discs and many other things to no avail.
I hope someone can help as its quite frustrating
Denise Nicol, by email

Having lived and worked with collies for umpteen years, I can assure you that your problem is really common and I can fully understand how annoying it can be.
You are right; collies can be very vocal dogs. They will often bark, yap, whine or whinge at seemingly the slightest excuse, but particularly when they are excited, anxious or frustrated. This all a part of their highly reactive and excitable nature as a breed.
If you are not careful, however, to nip this kind of behaviour in the bud as soon as it starts, with appropriate training it can soon turn into an incessant neurotic habit, or a highly manipulative device. Or both at the same time.
For example, frantic yapping/whining, just before a walk or meal, is not just excited anticipation, but also a way dogs pressurise their owners into doing something faster. They will often do the same thing when you stop on a walk, perhaps to talk to somebody, or when they want you to throw them a ball. It is pure attention seeking, and controlling behaviour, and you have to realise this and see it for what it is. Otherwise your dog ends up calling all the shots in your relationship and thereafter will become less and less responsive to your commands or authority.
In many dogs the yapping/whining problem gets out of control only because the owners do not handle it correctly. They either get irritated, exasperated or angry and start shouting, which usually makes the behaviour worse, or they are far too inconsistent in their approach, ie sometimes they correct their dog for this behaviour, and other times let him get away with it. Or they try this gadget or that gadget but don't use any of the properly.
When you say, for instance, that you have tried clicker and discs training, I am just wondering whether this was done under the supervision of a highly experienced dog trainer or behaviourist? If not, be aware that if such devices are not used in an expert and knowledgeble way, with total consistency, correct timing and some real understanding of how dogs learn, they will not work, and may even make some problems worse.
Similarly devices like water sprays, or remote control spray collars may work for some dogs in solving the yapping problem. Others, however, will only be temporarily deterred and then yap on regardless.
Ultimately, when it comes to over-excited or unruly behaviour in any dog, there is simply no substitute for calmer, more resolute authority from owners twinned with far better training. You need, for instance, to teach your collie how to 'stop' what he is doing (ie barking), 'watch you' and 'be quiet', as outlined below. In the car he needs to be taught how to be 'quiet', then 'lie down' and keep still and settle ('wait').
It is best to start such training with your dog on a long lead or training line. Begin with exercises like 'stop!' and 'watch me'. As your dog walks ahead a little, stop him suddenly on the line. As he actually stops, say 'stop!'. As soon as he looks at you, then say 'watch me'. Praise him well for this and give him a treat or toy to play with. Practice this religiously until you can get your dog to 'stop' by himself, at varying distances from you, on command, and also get him to 'watch' you on command, off the lead/line as well as on it.
Now try 'sit' and 'watch me'. Reward your dog for sitting and watching you on command. Then try 'down' and 'watch me'. Reward your dog for lying down and watching you on command. Next try 'sit' or 'down' and 'watch me' plus 'wait'. Make your dog sit or lie down and watch you, then keep prolonging the time that elapses before you reward him. While your dog stays still, waiting for a reward, say 'wait'.
Teach your dog to be 'quiet' on command. First get a tasty treat in your hand and deliberately encourage your dog to bark, or wait for him to do so. As he barks, say 'speak!' and praise him, then show him the treat. As he stops barking to get this, instantly say 'quiet!' and give him the treat. He will quickly learn what 'quiet' means.
Such exercises, if sufficiently well taught, give you the tools to keep your dog calmer/under better control in any variety of situations. You can use them individually, or strung together - ie stop-watch me-down-wait.
Remember to always make eye contact with your dog prior to giving him a command. Remember to always remain calm, but firm throughout this training. Do not get cross, irritated, impatient or try to wheedle or cajole your dog into doing things. He will either defy you or switch off. And NEVER be the first to give in. Keep relentlessly but calmly applying your commands until you get what you want from your dog, no matter how long this takes, then go overboard with praise and rewards when you finally do. The more persistent and determined you are from the start, the less and less resistance you should eventually get from your dog.
Collies can be strong-willed dogs, which means that your determination to over-rule your dog's behaviour has to be even stronger. I am also thinking that your friend's Alsatian is a particularly unhelpful role model for your dog and vice versa. Your friend could clearly do with some behavioural help herseld, and both your dogs would benefit far more from the company of calmer dogs to walk with. Is there any way you could arrange this? Perhaps a local dog training club could help?
Meanwhile I wish you all the best for a quieter life!
Carol Price, dog trainer and behaviourist

Irritable growl syndrome?

I wrote to you recently about farting in my young Whippet! Your reply was very helpful, so now I am writing to you again about another digestive problem, which has cropped up unexpectedly. I have had four Whippets over the past 16 years, Willow, Barley, Darcy and Bingley. Willow, but especially Barley, used to suffer from a very noisy stomach first thing in the morning. She would get two or three spells of it during a year, lasting for two or three days. She would sometimes tighten up and whine for a minute, which presumably was a colicky spasm, and eat plenty of grass. The vet was never able to find anything wrong and it wasn’t related to change of diet. We decided it might be emotional, Whippets being rather sensitive little dogs, but we have never solved the problem. The vet gave me Buscopan tabs to give her when she had a bad spell of this. Barley, always a very healthy dog, died aged 15 and a half. Bingley (the farty one!) didn’t experience it until two days ago, much to my frustration. They have a good life, regular walks, regular meals, lots of company, and plenty of training, attention and love. However over Christmas I was housebound with a dreadful cold, he did go for walks but not as often as normal, especially as the ground was too hard and lumpy for the speed of a Whippet free running. The only other thing I can think of is that I also gave them some brown rice instead of biscuit. Your replies are so helpful and hopefully it might help someone else. I would be interested to know if anyone else has experience this, particular with Whippets, it’s very frustrating. Many thanks.
Ruth Pritchard, Blandford, Dorset

Poor Bingley, afflicted by farting and now by colic. It does seem a mystery why some dogs are prone to colic. Some breeds do seem more often affected – Westies and Boxers more than most in my experience - and ‘sensitive natured’ dogs do appear to be more frequently affected too. Certainly factors such as a change of diet or change of exercise pattern can be triggers, as can stress of any kind. However, there is often no rhyme or reason why an individual dog suddenly experiences a colicky bout. The natural remedies and supplements I suggested as a cure for farting will also help to minimise bouts of colic, so Charcoal, Lacto B, Slippery Elm and homoeopathic Carbo veg, given long term, will undoubtedly be beneficial as a preventive.

If a bout does occur, then here are a few things you can do that will usually settle it down very quickly:

• Give the homoeopathic remedies Carbo veg, Colchicum and Colocynth (all in the 30c potency) one tablet of each of the three remedies, together, every ten minutes for an hour, then every hour for three hours.

• Gently massage essential oil of Lavender into the tummy area (where the skin isn’t covered by hair) for five minutes.

• Give one 50mg Oil of Peppermint capsule, followed by another half an hour later

All being well the colic will be soothed and gone before you know it!

Richard Allport, Alternative vet