03/3/16

Photographic Guide to Saving Swimmer Puppies

Saving a swimmer puppy

 

 

I’m proud that, for a number of years, the most popular post on this blog is ‘How to Save a Swimmer Puppy‘. However, I am frequently asked for photographs to illustrate the techniques I mentioned. I have recently had a litter of puppies, so I could stage images showing techniques on young puppies for saving a swimmer puppy.

 

Sling Method

This is by far the most simple method. I use a pillow case, suspended from the back of a chair, and then the puppy is placed inside the pillow case, meaning the puppy is basically in a hammock. When the puppy is placed in the hammock, is important that their legs are tucked underneath them, or the puppy is on their side.

It’s important that the puppy is not allowed to get cold while in this sling, too. You can warm the material of the hammock before placing the puppy inside, and then you can also put a heat pack underneath, on the ground, too (as hot air rises).

You can do this several times a day, ensuring that the puppy stays warm and gets plenty of time to feed in between its time in the sling. Puppies are surprisingly tolerant of this process and rarely object when their stomach is full and their a good temperature.

This is a (zebra-print) pillow case that is suspended on the back of a red chair. Inside, is a baby puppy.  This process will help to fix swimmer puppies.

This is a (zebra-print) pillow case that is suspended on the back of a red chair. Inside, is a baby puppy.
This process will help to fix swimmer puppies.

A puppy (little black blob at the bottom) in a suspended sling. This will help puppies recover from swimmer syndrome.

A puppy (little black blob at the bottom) in a suspended sling. This will help puppies recover from swimmer syndrome.

 

 

Handcuff Method

Using electrical tape, you can create handcuffs that pull the puppies legs inwards, preventing them flailing out to the side as a swimmer. It’s important when using this method that you don’t do it too tight. (To be honest, when I’ve used this method, I’ve had it fall off numerous times a day because of how loose I make it. Fine by me!) You also want to make sure you don’t put too much length between the cuffs – remember the cuffs are supposed to pull the pup’s legs inwards, so if you make the cuffs too long, then the puppy’s legs are still going to be able to swim.

Tools required for the handcuff method: Electrical tape and a pair of scissors!

Tools required for the handcuff method: Electrical tape and a pair of scissors!

Step one: Cut a length of tape. We only need one length of tape, and the exact length will depend on your puppy and how far east west its legs are.

Step one: Cut a length of tape. We only need one length of tape, and the exact length will depend on your puppy and how far east west its legs are.

Step three a: Make one loop of the handcuffs. (This image is for illustration purposes - in reality you'd need the puppy's leg in that loop!)

Step two a: Make one loop of the handcuffs. (This image is for illustration purposes – in reality you’d need the puppy’s leg in that loop!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step three b: Make a second loop of the handcuffs. (Photo for illustration purposes - in reality, there would be a puppy with a leg through each loop!)

Step two b: Make a second loop of the handcuffs. (Photo for illustration purposes – in reality, there would be a puppy with a leg through each loop!)

I’m sorry that I am not much of a photographer, but here are some pictures to try to illustrate how these handcuffs look actually on a puppy.

A puppy in swimmer handcuffs.

A puppy in swimmer handcuffs.

A puppy in swimmer handcuffs.

A puppy in swimmer handcuffs.

A puppy in swimmer handcuffs.

A puppy in swimmer handcuffs.

The benefits of the puppy handcuffs is that they can stay on for long periods of time, and the puppy can still feed and cuddle mum and litter mates while wearing them. Sometimes mothers will remove the handcuffs, and sometimes they fall off, so you are likely to have to put on new handcuffs several times a day. Initially, for a severely affected puppy, you may need to start with long handcuffs then reduce the distance between the handcuffs over time. Puppies are surprisingly tolerant of the handcuffs and rarely fuss once they’re on and they’re back at the milkbar!

 

For more tips please do see How To Save a Swimmer Puppy.

03/1/16

Eat Less, Live Longer

Eat less, live longer

 

ResearchBlogging.orgLast year I went to a Primal Paws workshop in Adelaide, and Dr Jamie mentioned research which suggested that dogs that stayed skinnier lived longer healthier lives. Obviously, I had to know more, so I found the 2002 paper on Labradors.

Young Black LabradorThe basic design of this study (published in 2002) involved 48 labradors. Each labrador was buddied with another labrador at 6 weeks of age (choosing a buddy based on sex and body weight), and then one pup in the pair was fed 25% less than the other dog in the pair throughout life.

The focus on his study was basically to see the effect that 25% less food had on longevity and other illnesses in dogs. Apparently, many other studies have been done, primarily on rodents, that have shown that less food (regardless of many other variables) results in longer living and healthier animals. However, this research hasn’t been conducted on larger mammals. (This is the first study, that the authors know of, on dogs. Research on primates is ongoing.)

Each year, for at least 14 years, the dogs alive had bloods taken and body composition scoring. Also, their deaths and any diseases that occurred were recorded alongside the year of acquisition.

 

The main points:

  • Dogs that had less food’s median life span was significantly longer.
    Dogs who were fed less had a median lifespan of 13 years, compared to 11.2 years in their partners.

  • “The onset of clinical signs of chronic disease generally was delayed for food-restricted dogs.”
    For dogs who had oestoarthritis (which was 43/48 dogs), 43 of these dogs required treatment. For controlled fed dogs, first treatment was needed from 6.8 years to 12.9 years. In the restricted fed group, first treatments was needed from 7.9 years to 14.1 years. Mean age was 10.3 in controlled group and 13.3 in restricted group, which was statistically significant.
    39 dogs required treatment for 1 or more chronic conditions. “Mean age to which 50% of the dogs in each group survived without requiring treatment for a chronic conditions as significantly lower for the controlled-feeding group than for the restricted-feeding group.”

  • ”No signs of nutritional deficiency (eg, progressive weight loss and general or specific clinical signs of a nutrient deficit) occurred during the study.”
    It’s important to note that, even though 24 dogs were fed a lot less food, they were still healthy!

  • Dogs in both groups had increased body condition scores (i.e. were fatter) from 6-12 years.
    This is just an interesting tidbit that illustrates a lull in the body’s metabolism at this particular point of time.

 

Problems

It’s hard to know whether this study will be replicable in different breeds or different genetic stock. Considering the history in the duplicity of results in other species, I think we can be pretty confident these results are solid. However, more research does this would be great.

Even though 48 dogs is a pretty good number for a sample, a bigger sample size is always better.

One question I found myself asking throughout this is, if it’s better to feed less food of a higher quality to maintain weight, instead of more food of poor quality? This would also be a good area for further research.

Indi mourns over the understanding that it's better for her to have 25% fewer chips.

Roxy mourns over the understanding that it’s better for her to have 25% fewer chips.

 

Take home points:

  • Feed your dog less. It might live longer.
  • Feed your dog less. It might be longer before it needs treatment for oestoarthritis (if they develop the condition).
  • Feed your dog less. It might be longer before it needs treatment for any chronic condition.
  • Feed your dog less, especially once he turns 6 years old.
  • Point from the actual text: “We recommend that for purposes of health and longevity, dogs be fed to maintain a body condition score less than 5.”

I’ve never been happier with my decision to keep my dogs at a lean weight throughout life.

 

Reference:

Kealy RD, Lawler DF, Ballam JM, Mantz SL, Biery DN, Greeley EH, Lust G, Segre M, Smith GK, & Stowe HD (2002). Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 220 (9), 1315-20 PMID: 11991408

 

Further reading:

How to Reduce Your Dog’s Weight

02/24/16

CECS is a Gluten Sensitivity

ResearchBlogging.orgThe idea that CECS is a Gluten Sensitivity has been presented by recent research.

They were actually quite confident with the link between the two, saying in the research,

Canine epileptic cramping syndrome in [border terriers]s is a gluten-sensitive movement disorder triggered and perpetuated by gluten and thus responsive to a gluten-free diet.

This is pretty exciting stuff! CECS (short for Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome, or sometimes called ‘Spike’s Disease’)  is an unusual condition found almost exclusively in border terriers. These dogs are normal dogs except for when they have an ‘episode’ or a seizure. During an episode, the dog will ‘cramp up’. Typically, they remain conscious, but can’t walk, and sometimes appear worried following an episode.

Chip, a border terrier that does not have CECS

Chip, a border terrier that does not have CECS

So far, there has been no real diagnostic test or explanation for the condition. In December 2013, a study looked at CECS, but it was an owner-survey, information-gaining exercise. Which is important, but doesn’t give us answers!

It was so important that it actually spurred this research. In the December 2013 study, 50% of dogs were found to ‘respond’ (i.e. have less episodes) on a gluten-free or hypoallergenic diet.

So now let’s welcome this lovely small study titled ‘The Clinical and Serological Effect of a Gluten Free Diet in Border Terriers with Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome‘, which begins to look at how we can both diagnose and treat CECS. Exciting stuff!

The aim of the study was to work out if a gluten-free diet would effect dogs with CECS. Not only did the researchers want to know if the dogs stopped having episodes, but if their blood looked different with and without gluten. Naturally, they wanted to know if these things were correlated.

The dogs involved were 6 border terriers (an equal mix of male and female). Each dog:

  • Had had CECS for at least 6 months
  • Had been diagnosed with CECS via veterinary observation (including video)
  • Had had at least 2 CECS episodes
  • Had not tried gluten-free diets before

For interest sake, the average age of onset for CECS in this small sample was 2.6 years.

Winnie, another border terrier who does not have CECS

Winnie, another border terrier who does not have CECS

Once recruited, the dogs had blood taken and the owners were given instructions for the dog going on a total gluten-free diet (Hypoallergenic Canine Dry from Royal Canin). The dog underwent a general physical examine (and some dogs went through more intensive procedures, owners consenting) and all were determined to be healthy, beyond the presentation of CECS.

The blood was again taken at 3, 6, and 9 month periods.

The blood was tested for antibodies which are considered important in diagnosing gluten sensitivity in humans.

The blood of non-CECS border terriers was also taken and tested.

The owner was asked to keep a record of the incidents of CECS in their borders.

Are you ready for the results? They’re pretty compelling.

So all that changed in these border terriers’ lives was that they were put on a completely gluten free diet. With this one change, all of the borders terriers, when they adhered to the gluten free diet, stopped having seizures within 4 weeks. Three dogs did not have seizures at all once they started the diet.

Two dog owners, upon completion of the trial, accidentally fed their dogs treats with gluten… And the dogs had seizures again. So not only did a gluten free diet stop seizures, the reintroduction of gluten caused seizures.

Now let’s talk about “Dog 6″. Dog 6′s owner is the epitome of why these kind of studies, where dogs are left with their owners, are hard work! Throughout the study, Dog 6 was a dog that continued to have seizures. Dog 6′s owner presumably fed the dog the gluten free diet, but then allowed the dog to continue to graze on horse poo when out and about.  This issue wasn’t identified until late in the study and so Dog 6 was excluded from the serum results listed in this article. However, when Dog 6′s owner actually did was they were told and stopped the horse poo eating, Dog 6 stopped having seizures too! When Dog 6′s blood was tested 3 months after the study ended (but 3 months into the owner actually doing it right), that dog’s blood results was consistent with the other dogs, and it too had ceased having episodes.

Why is this study such a big deal?

Up until now, we have had no way to diagnose nor treat CECS. (In fact, one of the criteria established in the 2013 study of CECS indicated that if a dog fails to respond to epilepsy medication then it probably is CECS. Nice to know, but not a great deal of help.)

The blood results from these dogs showed high levels of relevant antibodies in affected dogs while they consumed a diet with gluten. The presence of gluten-associated antibodies could be used to diagnose CECS.

Clearly, a treatment has been identified too: avoid gluten!

Other areas that are of interest:

  • Signs of gastrointestinal upsets could be a sign of gluten problems, or of future CECS. Vomiting, soft stools, or belly grumbling was reported in 2 of the dogs featured in this study. The presentation of belly problems and CECS together can be an indication of just one problem – gluten sensitivity!
  • The story of ‘Dog 6′, to me, really shows the importance of owners in being vigilant. I feel that many dog owners take a rather lazy approach to food elimination diets, but elimination means to completely remove. If you don’t completely remove, you can’t say that it’s been tried!
  • In humans, celiac disease has sometimes been associated with a rash… Which makes me think back to the correlation between CECS and skin-conditions in borders identified in the 2013 study.

Another quote from the study:

These investigations support the hypothesis that CECS is a manifestation of gluten sensitivity, making this the first [sudden onset] movement disorder in veterinary medicine with a serological link to gluten.

What research from here?

This is a very small study, and it’s important that we do more research before making solid conclusions. This study itself suggests further research:

  • With a larger sample size
  • More research into the correlation of gastrointestinal upsets and CECS
  • A double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial

But in the meantime, while we’re waiting to know more, these researchers (and I!) recommend that, if you have a border terrier with CECS, you switch the dog to a diet that eliminates all gluten foods.

 

Reference:

Lowrie M, Garden OA, Hadjivassiliou M, Harvey RJ, Sanders DS, Powell R, & Garosi L (2015). The Clinical and Serological Effect of a Gluten-Free Diet in Border Terriers with Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome. Journal of veterinary internal medicine / American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 29 (6), 1564-8 PMID: 26500168

 

Further reading:

Gluten Sensitivity Triggers Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome in Border Terriers

 

CECS is a Gluten Sensitivity

 

08/27/15

Flea Prevention in a Foster Home

Anyone who has had fleas in their house before knows what a nightmare it is – for the humans and the dogs. The clean up following a flea infestation is very painful as well.

In coordinating a dog rescue for about seven years, I have got flea control down to an art. Here are my suggestions on ensuring that foster homes stay free of fleas.

When a dog enters care and has evidence of fleas (e.g. flea dirt around their groin), or for any dog that has come from a pound environment, flea treatment and prevent starts on pick up.

  • As I put the dog in the car, I treat with a spot-on flea treatment for dogs (like Frontline).
  • In the case of multi-dog transport, then all dogs in the car are treated with a spot-on treatment.

Once the dog has vacated my car, I then have to make my car flea-free. I use bug spray on pretty much everything. This includes bug-spraying:

  • Each side of the bedding the dog had in the crate.
  • The internal surfaces of the crate.
  • On all surfaces in the car, including in particular fabric surfaces.

Any bedding the dog used then goes either straight into the wash, or, if soiled, into a secured bag and into the bin.

Any other pets in the new foster household should be treated with a spot-on as well.

Following these steps should help flea infestations taking hold in a foster home. If, however, a dog ‘sneaks’ fleas into the house, then you will need to take remedial action. My process is:

  1. All animals in the household are dosed with a flea treatment.
  2. All bedding occupied by the flea-infested dog is treated with bug spray and washed.
  3. All areas of the house are vacuumed.
  4. All surrounding areas the dog came into contact with (like carpets, couches, etc) are doused in bug spray. I particularly concentrate the bug spray in nooks (e.g. under and behind furniture) and on the thresholds of rooms (e.g. in doorways).

It took me quite a few years to work out the exact method for getting a handle on flea infestations. I have learnt that prevention is easier (and cheaper!) than cure. Despite having some close encounters (such as foster dogs sneaking in their flea-visitors), I have never had a major problem in recent years. I put it down to these techniques.

Do you have any additional ideas on controlling fleas in a foster home?

 

Other posts of interest:

5 Ways to Keep Fleas Out of the House

Parasite Treatment Comparisons

Oral Flea Treatment Most Effective in Dogs

06/24/15

My Say: Mandatory Desexing

(This is the last post in a four part series on dog and cat reforms in South Australia. See post one here, post two here, and post three here.)

Screen shot of the YourSAy website.The YourSay website invites submissions to a citizen’s jury. While we could discuss the validity of allowing (quote) “32 ordinary South Australians” to decide on whether various animal species should undergo the medical procedure of a gonadectomy… Unfortunately, this process has already been decided on, and hence we must make a submission according to this format.

When accessing the site, you will need to download a word document to make a submission. It is only on this document do we get the date that submissions are due in by: Friday 10th July 2015

This form also asks the question:

Last year in South Australia over 10,000 unwanted dogs and cats were put down.
The State Government recently announced some reforms to dog and cat laws.
What further measures can we introduce or trial to reduce the number of unwanted pets?

While the downloaded word document doesn’t explicitly mention desexing, the site does with the comment:

The government has also sought a specific verdict from the Jury on the matter of whether de-sexing should be mandatory.

The form also specifies that the your submission should not be more than two pages, and yet asks for examples to be provided… It’s an impossibility to provide ample compelling evidence in these narrow frames.

However, my response (which you are, as always, welcome to use in shaping your own) is below:

I am adamantly opposed to mandatory desexing. The reasons for this opposition are:

 

Mandatory desexing has not been shown to reduce the incidence of euthanasia in animal shelters. In areas where it has been implemented, often there is a subsequent increase in the number of animals entering the facility, as people are financially unable to desex their pets and, to avoid risk of prosecution, they choose to relinquish them. Internationally this affect has been seen Los Angeles and, more locally, in Western Australia. Mandatory desexing has actually been demonstrated to increase euthanasia, and therefore should not be an option for South Australia on this basis alone.

 

However, mandatory desexing is a move that is rejected by the Australasian Veterinary Association (AVA). The AVA represents veterinarians across Australia, and so it would be sensible for policy makers to develop legislation that corresponds with statements made by this peak body. Additionally, it is anticipated that veterinarians would be responsible for performing desexings (mandatory or otherwise), and so their support is crucial for successful implementation of mandatory desexing. Considering that veterinarians have significant financial gains to be made from such a policy, yet choose to reject it is, is an indicator of the lack-of-support for mandatory desexing.

 

Finally, and crucially, there is evidence that desexing in dogs can pose some health risks to animals. These risks include:

  • Increased incidence of some cancers (including mast cell tumours, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, osteosarcoma, and lymphosarcoma),
  • Higher incidence of joint disorders (including hip dysplasia and cranial crucial ligament tears), and
  • Increased incidence of behavioural problems (including reactivity, aggression, and anxiety, storm phobias).

Studies that indicate these problems have been published in peer-reviewed academic journals, illustrating that this is not ‘sensationalised’ content, but the results of real research on dog populations. Considering the available evidence, it seems immoral and contradictory to animal welfare goals to obligate pet owners to subject their animals to such risks.

 

As alternative means to reducing the number of unwanted pets, there are a number of approaches that could be trialled. The most obvious would be requiring improvements in reclaims. For many animals entering shelters, they have homes that want to get them home. Unfortunately, the large shelters in Australia are not proactive in listing impounded animals. This makes it difficult for owners to know where their pet is to bring them home. Further, if they do visit a facility to reclaim their pet, many times there are large fees that they are required to pay to get the impounded animal out. This is a barrier to individuals getting their pets home, while if they stay at the shelter they may be at risk of euthanasia. An additional barrier is poor opening times of this facility, meaning in many cases animals have to stay in the shelter longer due to their owner’s inability to access the facility. In summary, the procedure for individuals reclaiming animals needs to be improved by:

  • Impound facilities clearly listing all impounded animals online.
  • Legally enforceable guidelines regarding the scanning of microchips and the use of the information to find the owner.
  • Fees and charges for the release of impounded animals being reduced, waived, or available on a payment plan.
  • Impound facilities having opening times that make them highly accessible to the public.

 

Other changes that could be made at a shelter level to reduce euthanasia include:

  • Oreo’s Law – the requirement that animals are not euthanised if there is any individual or group who is willing to take them.
  • Mandated time for adoption – require facilities to offer all animals for adoption for a set period, perhaps 72 hours.

 

Finally, a big reason that animals end up in shelters is due to owner accommodation issues. This includes those who are renting, or fleeing their home due to violence.  If we deal with human issues, people will be more likely to retain their pets. Changes that encourage landlords to permit pets, and providing temporary accommodation that allow pets, are important to prevent animals being relinquished to shelters.

 

In summary, suggestions for reducing shelter euthanasia include:

  • Creating legislation that requires shelters to:
    • Do more to assist reclaims,
    • Allow adoptions for animals who have no choice but euthanasia, and
    • Allow all animals to be available for adoption for a minimum period of time.
  • And dealing with community issues surrounding owner accommodation issues.

 

Further reading:

“Just stop breeding until the pounds are empty”

Is desexing a cult?

Why would you NOT desex your dog???

Are you willing to be wrong about that?