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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Heartbreaking diagnosis

Dear Dogs Today,

My nearly nine-year-old (2nd October) Dobermann, Madison, has been diagnosed with DCM (
Dilated Cardiomyopathy).

We were out on a walk and she had been running around with the other dogs when she suddenly stopped coughed and collapsed, she was up within a few seconds and behaving normally.

We took her to the vet and had a scan and X-rays done where she was diagnosed with DCM she has an enlarged heart, her lefty ventricular isn't fully closing and she has some fluid around her lungs, my vet says its the early stages of heart failure, she has been put on vetmedin 5mg x 2 per day and frusimide 40mg x 3 per day.

She is doing well and is still enjoying some exercise and play each day - she is raw fed and I'm giving her 1000mg fish oil per day and 500mg L-carnitine but would like others opinions on any other supplements I could give her that may help with this horrible disease. I realise long term prognosis is not good and am heartbroken that I may not have long left with my girl, before her weekend collapse she was enjoying at least two hours exercise, sometimes more, per day, and was fit and healthy.

I have not been to a cardiologist as I don't want her to get too stressed - she doesn't like to be left away from me and when I phoned the cardiologists have told me I cannot be with her whilst she has one and a half hours of tests. I also wonder what more they can tell me even if they do the tests as she will still have DCM - so confused as to what to do for my beautiful girl.

Thanks for your time,

Melissa Malone, by email

Rebecca Barber MPhil, Dobermann Breed Council health co-ordinator advises...

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in Dobermanns, some information for dog owners

What is DCM?

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a common and inherited heart condition affecting Dobermanns. The disease results in an enlargement of the left ventricle (one of the chambers of the heart) which means the heart cannot contract normally to pump blood around the body. The heart chambers become progressively more dilated and blood dams back to the circulatory system from the lungs and the rest of the body. The onset of symptoms related to this is congestive heart failure. The blood dams back in the lungs and fills the alveoli. This causes breathlessness and coughing and maybe even great respiratory distress. Lack of blood flow to the body can result in muscle wasting, poor exercise capacity and weakness.

In some cases the increased pressure within the heart muscle cells can cause abnormal heart rhythms. Ventricular tachycardia can result in lack of forward blood flow and the dog may collapse on over exertion. If the normal rhythm is not restored this can result in death of the dog. The only way to detect these abnormal heart rhythms is with an electrocardiogram (ECG).

It is important to note that DCM does not only affect Dobermanns it also affects many other dog breeds, humans, some cat breeds and even the Syrian Hamster. So due to the diverse host range of the disease and the serious impacts on the host there is extensive ongoing research looking into the genes linked to this disease in order to try and find a suitable DNA test.

Screening for DCM

At the moment the best way to screen Dobermanns for this disease is to perform a heart scan (echocardiogram) and a 24 hour electrocardiogram (Holter monitor). However, these tests are expensive, time consuming and need to be repeated regularly through the dog’s life and requires you to see a specialist veterinary cardiologist. It would therefore be very convenient if a simple blood test, which your own veterinary surgeon can take, identifies those Dobermanns in which the echo / Holter testing should be carried out (focused screening for DCM).

Cardiac Troponin I Scheme

The Dobermann Breed Council (DBC) have recently established a “Dobermann Cardiac TROPONIN I (cTnI) Testing Scheme” in conjunction with the University of Liverpool and the only UK laboratory which commercially run this test.

Cardiac Troponin I (cTnI) can be measured in a blood sample, which correlates with heart muscle cell damage. This is not necessarily due to DCM, as the level can be elevated due to other diseases. Further veterinary attention or cardiology investigations are therefore indicated. A recent study by Gerhard Wess showed that cTnI may be able to predict which Dobermanns are likely to develop DCM before any changes are seen on an echocardiogram or Holter monitor.

The aim of this study is to see if there is any link between the clinical examination of your Dobermann and the levels of cTnI in their blood. We hope also that you are able to update us with any later diagnosis of a normal heart or DCM in your Dobermann.

A simple blood sample can be taken by your vet and submitted to the elected laboratory for testing, the result will indicate if your Dobermann has a normal value cTnI level or an increased level. If the results come back with an increased level of cTnI than normal the next step would be to get an Echo and Holter so that screening is more focused. It is important that Troponin I (cTnI) testing should be done annually, it is a relatively inexpensive test. If the owner of the dog is a member of a DBC member club then the DBC will pay upto £50 towards the testing in return for making the test results available for publication on the DBC website. You will require the appropriate forms for your Veterinary Surgeon a Request Form can be downloaded from or Mrs L Wilkes, 4 Sir Stafford Close, Parc Avenue, Caerphilly, Mid Glamorgan, CF83 3BA email


If your dog has been diagnosed with DCM, depending on the type of DCM that your dog has, there are treatments that are available. These treatments cannot cure the disease but they can help to prolong the dog’s life. The treatments are either directed against the congenital heart failure signs or to control the arrhythmias. The drugs available to help with congestive heart failure are ACE Inhibitors, Frusemide and Pimobendan (more commonly known as Vetmedin). The drugs available to control arrhythmias are Digoxin and Diltiazem (more commonly known as Sotalol, Mexiletine and and Amiodarone) and Beta Blockers may also be considered.

Further Information

The primary cardiologist working on DCM in Dobermanns is Dr Jo Dukes McEwan at the University of Liverpool, more information on her research, other research being done outside of the UK and on the disease itself can be found on the DBC website Alternatively you can contact me on and I will be happy to give you any further information or pass you onto Dr Dukes McEwan if you wish to get your dog clinically examined.

We really need as many dogs as possible to take part in our Troponin I Scheme, the knowledge gained from this will lead us towards hopefully finding a suitable test for DCM which would be a substantial breakthrough in our breed. So, if you are at all interested please do not hesitate to contact either myself or the DBC secretary (email address above) or go to the DBC website and download the forms. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Don't worry, be happy

Dear Dogs Today,

I would really appreciate some advice regarding my four-year-old Jack Russell.

About two months ago she started acting quite lethargic and subdued just before she came into season and during. She is still acting this way and seems tired and sometimes slightly miserable. She has been to the vet's and they said it was probably down to her being in season and that she may be experiencing a phantom pregnancy as she had slightly swollen teats, they said it would sort itself out. I think it is more a behavioural or hormonal rather than medical because she can be fine one minute and then not the next. 

She has been improving recently but still remains quiet when on some walks, and then very active and happy on others. When she acts this she resembles an old tired dog that you have to encourage to walk and always tries to go the shortest way home and pulls to go her way or stops and wont move until I go her way. Sometimes on bad days she won't go out of the garden and just wants to stay inside which only used to happen if it was very bad weather outside but now it can be sunny and she may not go. We are considering having her spayed in October but I'm worried it may make her subdued and lock her into this current behaviour whilst she recovers as she will have to stay inside for awhile, she already seems that running around and playing is a chore to her but I was also hoping spaying may help get rid of this behaviour and she will be more focused on running and playing with me and other dogs, is that possible? Do you think spaying will effect her as she seems like quite a sensitive dog as opposed to puppies that are usually spayed quite young and are mentally robust?

I'm so worried she will end up staying lethargic forever and maybe its just her growing up and this maybe her personality and she may not want to run around anymore. Apart from spaying is there anything else I can do to make her enjoy all her walks and become more active, energetic and playful, I already take her for walks with my neighbour's dog and she sees my friend's dog all the time I try and play with her outside but he prefers chasing things and loves tracking. I would really appreciate any information on clubs I could join with her that have activities such as tracking and racing, chasing as those are things she used to enjoy and I think that maybe she feels she needs to have a job to do? 

Thank you for all your help I am very grateful as I have nothing left to try with her as I really want her to be a happy, healthy dog. If you need any further information I will be more than happy to supply it, this will help me enormously as I don't know what else to try.

Thank you any advice would be great.

Abbie Evans, by email

Friday, 24 August 2012

Join the club


I'm thinking about starting a training club. How do you go around about it, and what are the rules and regulations that you need to start one?


Danny Cooper, by email

Val Harvey, chairman of the APDT UK advises…

The first thing you need to do is learn to be a Dog Training Instructor (ie someone who teaches people to train their dogs). People often think that because they have trained their own dog, they can set up classes. However, training your own dog, and teaching other people to train theirs requires different skills. Of course you need to

understand how to train the various exercises, but you also need to know how to successfully share that information with other people, both adults and children. People learn in different ways, and dogs also learn in different ways. You cannot say “this is how I teach a ‘down’” and expect that every owner will be able to teach their dog using that method. Most dogs might, but some won’t. You have to understand learning theory, why some things work better than others. You need to know about reinforcement schedules, progression of exercises, what to do when things go wrong etc.

For an idea of what is involved in the role of Dog Training Instructor look at Where it says ‘animal’ you should read ‘dog’. There is a lot to the role, not just being able to train a dog. You might want to also look at – details there of ‘what to look for in a class’.

Once you are a competent Instructor then you need to look for a suitable venue to hold classes. This may be indoors or outdoors – a private paddock, or a village hall, for example. This venue has to be safe, easily cleanable and large enough for the dogs to carry out the activities you are planning to take into your class. You will need to do a risk assessment of the venue as you have a duty of care to the people and dogs who come to your classes. You need Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance. You might need an accountant. If you have staff working for you, they also need insurance, PAYE and NI and possibly there are other work related requirements.

My advice – please do not think about setting up classes until you have learnt how to be a good Dog Training Instructor.

Keep calm and carry on

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to manage increasing anxiety levels in a 10-year-old Miniature Poodle? Something homeopathic perhaps?

He is stressing himself for no apparent reason before and after a walk, when travelling in car etc.

Helpful suggestions appreciated.

Anita Foley, via Facebook

An autoimmune problem shared...

CIMDA (Canine Immune Mediated Disease Awareness) has launched a new website with a forum for canine health-conscious:

Although only a qualified vet can and should issue veterinary advice, the friendly forum is a great place to discuss everything associated with a dog's autoimmune problems with dog owners who have experienced the process and can offer anecdotal advice, and help and support.

The group also encourages owners to report any reactions to veterinary drugs or vaccines to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. Vets can and do volunteer this information, but it is estimated that only about one per cent of suspected adverse reactions are reports. The more information known about adverse reactions, the greater the chances of an investigation into the cause. The suspicion that an adverse reaction has been caused is enough to report it, you do not need confirmation that a drug or vaccine was the definite cause. For more information, and to report an adverse reaction, visit:

One for the road

Dear Dogs Today,

On Friday 3rd August, I broke down in the Harlow area, en route to my brother’s in Kent from my home in Leeds. I had my two dogs, a Labrador and working Cocker with me, and my parrot.

When I phoned Green Flag, with whom I have breakdown cover, I was told my dogs probably wouldn’t be allowed to travel with me in the cab and they would have to remain in the car with it being towed. I explained that when I renewed my policy, I checked with them that my dogs would be able to travel with me in the event of a breakdown, and was told that yes, this would be the case. I informed the person on the phone of this, stating I wouldn’t have renewed otherwise, and that I wished my dogs to remain with me. My Cocker is 14 and is nervous after having been attacked recently, and my Lab has spondylosis, so I like to stay with her at all times too. The gentleman on the phone suggested they could take the car but leave me and my dogs. As a pensioner I didn’t like the sound of this option.

Thankfully, after a bit of persuading, the gentleman who came out did let me keep my dogs and parrot in the cab with me. I shall be forever grateful to him for that.

 I was told the reason some drivers at Green Flag do not take dogs is because some people are allergic to dogs, or don’t want to get dog hair on their clothes. I carry an unopened blanket and plastic sheet in case of events such as this, so I can keep the hair left in another person’s vehicle to a minimal amount. I would be happy to pay an extra £20 or so a year to be guaranteed a driver who is dog-friendly. Perhaps this could also cover the cost of plastic sheet covers.

Does anyone have any really good experiences with their breakdown provider? Are there any breakdown companies who will guarantee to take well-behaved dogs in the cab? I’d love to find a dog-friendly one.

Mrs Pearson, by phone

A Green Flag spokesperson says...

Our terms and conditions state that onward transportation of any animal is at Green Flag's discretion and that of our individual network patrols who deal with cases out on the road. Clearly, while we appreciate the preferred option for the customer you speak about, it can be a concern for several reasons. From a safety perspective, having a dog travelling in the cab could be at best distracting and at worse dangerous. A patrol would also have to clean the vehicle afterwards given our customers expect a high level of service and could be allergic to animals. Given the volumes of customers we deal with on a daily basis, this would mean allocating time to cleaning vehicles and delaying patrols being able to get to their next job posting and helping someone in need at the roadside.

Anecdotally, very few customers offer additional money to pay for the cleaning, particularly where an animal has an accident in the cab, but it is less about the cost for us than the time it makes the vehicle unavailable. We have had drivers attacked when driving and by dogs that we are told are very placid plus other dogs that are just allowed to run round the cab as they please because they aren't used to being restrained. How do we differentiate between responsible owners with well behaved dogs and those that are not?

As stated, for sensible reasons, the policy is such that it is at Green Flag's discretion because there could be a myriad of different situations we may have to deal with involving animals so there is not one rule fits all. The customer will have been told what our general policy was and as it happens in this case, the patrol did kindly help to accommodate her animals which may not have been the case with a different patrol who may not have wished to take the risk and transport the animals.

I should also say that we have offered to transport the dogs in the broken down car on the back of a transporter where the animal will be happy in its own environment while the customer travels in the cab with the driver...this works for some customers but not others so its a mixed bag of requests as I'm sure you can appreciate but we always try and strike a balance between the need for safety and the customers requirements.

Practice makes perfect

What questions should I ask of a new vet to ensure I choose the right one for my dog? I'm hoping to change to a smaller practice with the hope of greater continuity.


Delyth Evans, via Twitter

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Rogue rescue


I have a question - what constitutes a rescue? Is there anything or anywhere that a rescue needs to register?

After helping one rescue, I discovered there were many allegations of donations being used for personal use by the person who set up the rescue. I later found out the person had been asked to leave another rescue they had volunteered at for the same reason. I then heard from the co-ordinators many stories when dogs were lied about (people were told they were in foster when in fact they had been put to sleep or had been abandoned). Much of this became apparent on Facebook pages. There was a catalogue of lies and neglect to dogs, fosters and adopters. There had been some excellent care but much of this came from co-ordinators that have now quit due to these reasons. Is there a professional body I can complain to?

Having said this some 6-8 out 10 dogs do well. Personally I no longer support this rescue but how do I found out if a rescue is legitimate? Does a rescue have to register anywhere? Is it legal for donations to be paid straight into someone's personal account?


Name and address supplied

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Why does Bertie lick the carpet?

Hi Beverley

This is Bertie, my two year old Westie.  We have two other female Westies, Daisy 14 and Lily 9.  Bertie is very dominant over the 9 yr old, and loves her, but deferential to the 14 yr old, who ignores him.  He's very healthy and happy, extremely intelligent. bores easily, gets tired like a toddler in the evenings and winds himself up - constantly asking to go out into the garden and just barks when he's out there.  As soon as you put him to bed, he practically passes out.  He's pretty hyper on walks and can't be trusted off the lead.  He's had training and socialisation, but that also seemed to wind him up although he was very good at 'tricks' as he's so bright.

In the evenings, when we're all calming down, he'll lie or sit with us for a while, but soon starts padding around, licking the carpet.  He'll do it obsessively, even walking along.  You can distract him for a couple of seconds but very quickly picks it up again.  He seems to get into a groove with it.  Sometimes if he's sitting with me on a chair he'll lick the furnishings too.

He is incredibly bright and needs a lot of stimulation and possibly doesn't get enough of that in the evenings, but this seems to be more to do with habit or tiredness, and not being able to relax.

Any ideas?

Tracey Walton, by email

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Getting the hump

My friend has a rescued Lurcher bitch, Daisy, aged about 18 months old. Daisy has been spayed and has lived with Wendy and her family for about six months. Within the last two weeks Wendy's father has come to stay and brought with him Mr Tibbs, an elderly entire male Yorkshire Terrier. Daisy and Mr Tibbs get on pretty well - apart from the odd squabble over food.

In the last few days, Daisy has started humping Wendy's leg! She's quite a large dog so its no joke - and Wendy's worried her young grandsons could be knocked over by this exuberance. Daisy has never exhibited this behaviour before. Mr Tibbs isn't interested in playing with her - although she tries her best to encourage him, and he certainly isn't interested in her in a sexual way either!

Has anyone had experience of this? Is this humping linked to the arrival of a male dog in the home - or is it just coincidence? Why has Daisy suddenly started humping Wendy? Any ideas on how to stop it please?

Rosie Peace, by email

Karen Wild, behaviourist, advises...

Hi Rosie,

Sometimes dogs can start humping out of excitement or stress, so I would imagine that with the change in routine and general family disruption (even though it is enjoyable having family to stay) then Daisy could be reacting to this.

It is common for bitches to hump, spayed or unspayed, so I’d say that whilst hormones do play a complex part in their behaviour, it may not simply be that it is because there’s a male dog in the house. The only sure way to test it might be to bring another female in, or castrated male, but this is just testing theory and does not really help the current situation.

In particular Daisy needs to be controlled and prevented from practicing on people as children will not be able to control her if she is large. By all means, provide her with a large cuddly toy she can hump as this might help her maintain some enjoyment. As for the human side of the equation, treat her humping behaviour in the same way as you would deal with any other unwanted behaviour from a dog. Put a lead or houseline on her collar so that you can move her gently and calmly away from the situation, teach her an ‘off’ command and reward her well for moving away, or if you cannot supervise her place her in a quieter room with something tasty to occupy her. Try not to pay her too much attention when she does it, and concentrate your efforts on settling her more readily so that she does not reach the same excitement levels. You might want to get an ADAPTIL plug in which is a pheromone therapy that can help create a calming atmosphere as well as putting the above into practice.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Work of art


I know I've seen adverts of companies/contacts who can produce a cross-stitch pattern from a photo of my dog but can't, at the moment, find any! Please can you help out on this?

Many thanks,

Alison Howells, by email

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Home from home

Dear Dogs Today,

We've just taken on a rescue crossbreed and are after some advice.

We're thinking ahead to next year when we go on holiday as we will be visiting friends in the US for two weeks, which we booked a while ago. We're not sure about putting Rusty into kennels when we go away, or whether it'd be better to have someone look after him at their home. We don't want him to think we're taking him back to kennels.

Can anyone advise of our options?

Many thanks,

Mr and Mrs Port, by email

 Alison Logan, vet, advises...

This is a difficult decision to make. Your holiday is not until next year so Rusty’s memories of being at the rescue kennels should have faded. Visit several kennels and go with your instinct – a small homely kennel with friendly and experienced staff would be a great find. A trial one or two night stay would be worth considering. 

The alternative is to find someone who will look after Rusty in their own home. Obviously, you need Rusty to be happy in the person’s company. Another option would be for someone to move into your home to care for your dog in his usual environment, whilst coincidentally looking after your house. It goes without saying that in both situations you need to trust the person implicitly.

The advantage of kennelling is that your dog will be monitored and secure. I always worry that a dog being cared for at home or in someone else’s home might escape and go off to look for his or her owners, with the attendant risks of accidents, being impounded for straying… The flip side is how a rescue dog will cope with being kennelled once more. You have wisely given yourself plenty of time to decide.

I would certainly put a pheromone collar on him before kennelling, in fact in all situations when leaving him to go on holiday, whatever you decide.