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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The heart of the problem is the cost

Our dog Molly, a cross-breed we adopted from a rescue place about eight years ago when she was reckoned to be four or five years old, has recently been diagnosed with a heart murmur. This came about after she’d been on a much longer than normal walk. At one point on the walk she just lay down on her side for a minute or two, and then got up and carried on as usual. The same thing happened a few days later during a normal walk, but hasn’t happened since.
She has been on her usual walks regularly since, walks lasting between 30 and 60 minutes, with much of the time off the lead in the woods where she sniffs about and probably walks twice as far as me as a result.
We took her to the vet after the two “collapses” and she prescribed Vetmedin (3 tablets a day) plus Frusecare (1 a day).
When I took her back two weeks later I was told she’d have to stay on these meds for the rest of her days, Vetmedin to “keep her heart going” and Frusecare as she “seems to have fluid in her lungs”.
The diagnosis was made by listening with a stethoscope. The Vetmedin cost £56 for 2 weeks supply! We don’t have pet insurance.
I know several people with heart murmurs who don’t have medication and who seem to be very active, so I wonder why Molly has to have medication, and what would happen if she came off it altogether or had a very reduced dose which we could afford. If she hadn’t had the two episodes, would the “fluid in her lungs” have become a problem in itself if left undiagnosed?
Lesley McEwen

Thursday, 24 March 2011

How do you know when it's time to let go?

We have just lost Moses, our beautiful nine-and-a-half-year-old Pyrenean Mountain Dog, to bone cancer. Moses was diagnosed with bone cancer last Friday and he was put to sleep on Tuesday. The house is really quiet without him and we are very upset.
We had known something was up for the last month or so as he was always very happy to charge around but had recently slowed down on walks. I phoned our breeder, who has been wonderful and has offered advice throughout Moses’s life, and she recommended a change of diet. Then after two weeks, he began limping, so we took him to the vet, who diagnosed arthritis and put him on an anti-inflammatory, which seemed to have a positive effect and he was bouncing around again. However, this only lasted for a week or so and he began to slow down again. We knew something was very wrong as he had never failed to get over-excited at the sound of the car starting-up before, but he was now very still.
We took him back to the vet on Friday, who found a swelling on his leg, x-rayed him and told us of his diagnosis. Having googled survival rates, we thought he may have about a month left as he was still eating masses and giving his paw. Our breeder was very sympathetic and quietly said this may not be the case and that we would know when it was time for him to go. Our vet had also said we would know when the time had come, but actually we weren’t really aware of what those signs were. On the Tuesday, Moses was panting a lot and he was wanting to spend time on his own, when previously he had always been around the family, and it was this distance that made us realise it was time.
Moses has had a very healthy life – he hadn’t actually had arthritis – and although the larger breeds are more prone to cancer than smaller dogs, we had not realised quite how aggressive bone cancer is. The vet told us that by the time 90 per cent of bone cancers are detected, the disease has already spread to the lungs. We are obviously very upset at having lost a member of our family so quickly, but very grateful to our breeder and our vet for their wonderful support.
People always say ‘you will know when the time comes’, but I am unsure that we did really know. We weren’t aware that panting was a sign of pain and we weren’t aware of how much pain he was in (we have heard bone cancer is the most painful form). Has anyone else felt this way when their dog was desperately ill? We would not have wanted to prolong his life if he was in pain and hope we have not caused him unnecessary suffering, and I was wondering how others have ‘known’ when it is time to let their dogs go? Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

Jess, by phone

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

How do I get my well-behaved dog back?

I have a 14-year-old Yorkshire Terrier whom I have had since she was six weeks old.
We went to obedience training for two years and she passed all her tests first time. For the whole of her life she has been very obedient and well-behaved and a joy to have.
For some reason she has now become very disobedient and just ignores me when I ask her to do things. She is a bit deaf so I always give her clear instructions and also hand signals. I have started practising some of the basic obedience training and she is quite happy to do that.
Any good behaviour is rewarded and this is really easy as she is very much food orientated. I have been giving her higher value treats at present.
She has a mild heart problem but this predates the change in behaviour by many years. She is seen regularly by a vet who is happy with her health, so I do not think that there is a medical reason for this change in behaviour.
Could you suggest a cause for this behaviour change and suggest what I can do to get back my lovely well-behaved little dog?

Jean Vale, by post

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Searching for a Siberian Husky DVD

I'm very interested in finding a DVD about the Siberian Husky. I don't own one, so I'm not necessarily looking for a training DVD, rather I sponsor one, so am looking for more general information about the breed, and perhaps footage of them pulling a sled.
I know that there are many books available, but I'm not the best reader.
I would be very grateful for any suggestions.

Dino, by phone

Monday, 14 March 2011

Is agility the answer?

I have a Labrador-collie cross who may have some other breeds mixed in with her. However, she is a rescue and was once a stray so her age is unknown. She is approximately seven years old. I understand dogs of this type need lots of mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. I try doing different activities with her having recently taken up clicker training, which she thoroughly enjoys. I try to play with her lots and have always wanted to do agility. But I don't know how I would go about doing this. I have tried searching the internet for clubs in my area but are there any specific sites that can inform you of agility clubs in your area? Also, would this activity be suitable for my dog? I have often thought of doing agility at home but the prices of equipment are too high! Another thing I would like to know is, will agility (or other activities) make my dog more active? When she first arrived she was very active but has now become very lazy! Any advice would be appreciated.

Lauren Bulmer, by email

Does my EBT have OCD?

My two-year-old English Bull Terrier has a habit of eating anything and everything in his way during his morning walk with his canine chums. As he passes bushes, trees etc he will grab at green/brown leaves, twigs, grass, thorns, plants, flowers and he will eat them. He will forage for and consume twigs, cones and even cigarette ends if we stand still to chat.
He is walked off lead and although he either stays with the group or goes off to meet a new friend, it seems his second favourite pastime after chase and being chased is this obsessive eating. In the afternoon he is walked off lead again in an equally edible environment, but on our own. This time he doesn't go around eating everything in sight whether he sees other dogs or not!
Is this a type of obsessive compulsive disorder? I will not muzzle him because his peculiar eating habit does not make him ill; neither do I want people to avoid him (being an EBT is a big enough trust issue).
My friends think it's hilarious and, apart from turning the forest into dessert, there are no other strange behaviours except for the well-documented "bully wind"!

Janis Conway, by email

Stuck on glue

I love to give our dogs, Megan (13) and Alex (10), empty toilet paper tubes and empty paper towel tubes. They love to shred them and also like to lick the treats inside. I have been told that the tubes are not good for them due to the glue that is used to keep the paper on the tubes. Please let me know if it is all right to give the tubes to our dogs.

Stina Foxford, by email

Alex Campbell of the Veterinary Poisons Information Service said:

I presume the dogs do not eat much of the shredded card and they are not getting these packages several times a day? If that is the case, I think the amount they might manage to ingest of a glue used as a paper/card adhesive from shredding the occasional paper tube is not likely to cause severe toxicity.

I'd be more worried about some of the treats. A recent report by the PDSA found that many dog owners still give their dogs food treats like chocolates, grapes, nuts, cheese and onions that could potentially have rather more harmful effects.

This is from the PDSA PASW Report in 2011 – available from their website: “Seven per cent of owners give their dogs human chocolate as a treat. This is extremely concerning as human chocolate contains theobromine which can cause severe illness or even death in dogs. Other human foods that can be poisonous to dogs include grapes, raisins, sultanas and onions.”

(Please note, the
Veterinary Poisons Information Service is not a public access service.)

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Alleviating an anxious dog

My dad recently acquired a one-year-old castrated Patterdale Terrier cross. When left on his own he chews anything he can get his paws on! I'm currently training to be a veterinary nurse, and spend my lunches and time off walking the dog and trying to keep him mentally stimulated with toys and other games that can puzzle him throughout the day. However his chewing hasn't subsided. My dad is very “old fashioned” in his training methods and punishes the dog when he arrives home and finds evidence of chewing, to the point of our dog running around the house urinating and hiding. I explain to my dad that this is not going to help his behaviour and will probably worsen the chewing because of the anxiety the dog will feel on my dad's return home. It's starting to become a big issue which I'm finding hard to monitor as I don't live with my dad and I'm only there for parts of the day. I'm looking for other advice on how to stop him chewing and possible reading material to get my dad out of his old fashioned ways and build a really good relationship with our dog, where both are happy. So far we have tried toys to keep him occupied throughout the day and a deterent spray but to no avail. Any help will be greatly appreciated. Our dog Barry lives with two other dogs (another crossbreed and a Great Dane), we have had him for almost a year and he is on his own during a normal day for between four and six hours.

Thank you.

Miss H Melia, by email

Monday, 7 March 2011

Getting our teeth into dental health

My three-and-a-half-year-old Cavalier is starting to show signs of dental plaque and I would like to deal with this before it becomes a health problem.

I brush his teeth twice daily with two different brands of doggie toothpaste. I add a product that removes plaque to his dry kibble on the off chance it might help, as it is cheap and easy to administer. He has always been fed dry food, but swallows most of the biscuits whole so they do not actually have an abrasive affect on his teeth. He gets given daily a large square of a fishy treat and has chew toys available at all times.

After many months, what I am doing does not seem to be making any difference and his breath is starting to get a little unpleasant.

Does anyone have any advice?

Options I have considered are:

-feeding raw bones. Would this benefit his teeth at all if given raw twice per week? Does a raw diet remove existing plaque or just prevent new plaque from forming?

-changing to a larger kibble, this would mean changing to large dog variety and I'm still not sure he would crunch them.

-adding a supplement to his water (which claims to break down plaque and tartar). I am dubious.

-Stagbars, would they help remove existing plaque or just prevent more forming?

-supplementing his diet with co-enzyme Q10

Any feedback very much appreciated! I really don't want him going through the trauma of a dental clean in a couple of years time if there's anything more I can do now.

Thank you

Claire, by email

Friday, 4 March 2011

Should I get a second dog?

I have a three year old Jack Russell spayed bitch who I have had since a puppy and who stays with a friend on a farm when I'm at work all day and then she's at home with me in the evenings and on my days off. I will be moving house shortly and as a result, she won't be going to the farm anymore and she will be alone some mornings for three to four hours. I was thinking of getting another dog of similar type but I'm worried that it might upset her and selfishly I'm worried that another dog will change our relationship. Please may I ask for the experience of others about getting a second dog.
Many thanks
Yvonne Rigby-Jones

It's always difficult knowing what the dynamic will be like when you have two. My two dogs play with each other and love each other (spayed female entire male), but it's probably true that if they were single dogs they would be more human focused. People say two females are more likely to fight. I think you need to observe how your dog interacts with others as to whether she'd welcome some canine company. Plus if you are out for 3-4 hours you would struggle housetraining a pup without some help.
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Cross examining

I was wondering what others think about the implications of crossbreeds? Unfortunately when you cross two breeds, which seems to be the fashion nowadays, you effectively make a new breed. We did it to open up the gene pool for Berger Picards by crossing them with Greyhounds, as we have been trying to re-establish the breed for a long time now, but I will admit I opened up a bit of a Pandora's box like the chap who started Labradoodles has already said.

I only bred two litters, just to get breeding stock for the Picard breeding programme. I have now stopped it, as it didn’t solve our problems, because as soon as we bred back to the Picards, the problems came back as quick as they went away.

The Picardy Lurcher is a lovely healthy good-looking dog. The trouble is, although both the Picard and Greyhound are steady gentle dogs and both make good pets, as do Lurchers, once you cross these two breeds it seems to really fire up the working instinct (prey drive). In the offspring you get the intelligence of the Picard combined with the speed of the Greyhound. This is fine in an experienced working home and the cross is held in high esteem by people who are working them. Mine are only pets, but I am very experienced with dogs and originate from working stock myself you could say, so understand the mind of a working dog.

My point is the Picardy Lurcher is sound but it does have such a high prey drive it truly needs to only go to a working home and even then to experienced owners only. Although I was involved in the formation of this cross I do not wish it to become popular. From experience I believe we should leave pedigree breeds alone; we have enough breeds already. I would wish to inform others of the pitfalls of crossing two breeds.

Has anyone else come up against similar obstacles when crossing breeds? The Berger Picard is such a lovely breed and it would be a shame if it were lost. I should add that I have experienced both sides of the argument and am an accredited pet care professional, I just do not want to lose this breed and would love to know others’ comments.

Shirley Hitchman, by email