Archive for the ‘Dog Breeds’ Category

Hybrid Vigor: Real or Assumed?

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Many of us talk about “hybrid vigor”- the notion that mixed-breed dogs avoid the inherited medical maladies passed along to their purebred counterparts. Does proof exist that mixed-breed dogs are indeed healthier? An article  within the most recent edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association helps answer this question. Titled “Prevalence of inherited disorders among mixed-breed and purebred dogs: 27,254 cases (1995-2010)”, this study determines the proportion of mixed-breed and purebred dogs with 24 common genetic disorders including four types of cancer, orthopedic issues, birth defects, bloat, hormonal imbalances, eye issues, allergic dermatitis, and epilepsy.

The Results

Compared to their purebred counterparts, mixed-breed dogs were more susceptible to only one inherited disorder- tearing of the cranial cruciate ligament (the main stabilizing ligament within the knee).

Purebred dogs were more likely to develop ten specific inherited disorders including:

Aortic stenosis (a birth defect within the heart)- Breeds most affected: Newfoundland, Boxer, Bull Terrier, Irish Terrier, Bouvier des Flandres

Dilated cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle resulting in heart failure)- Breeds most affected: Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane, Neapolitan Mastiff, Irish Wolfhound, Saluki

Hypothyroidism (inadequate production of thyroid hormone)- Breeds most affected: Giant Schnauzer, Irish Setter, Keeshond, Bouvier des Flandres, Doberman Pinscher

Elbow dysplasia (malformation within the elbow joint)- Breeds most affected: Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, Mastiff, Rottweiler, Anatolian Shepherd

Intervertebral disk disease (slipped disk)- Breeds most affected: Dachshund, French Bulldog, Pekingese, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Doberman Pinscher

Allergic dermatitis (skin allergies)- Breeds most affected: West Highland White Terrier, Coonhound, Wirehaired Fox Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Tibetan Terrier

Bloat (gastric torsion, twisting of the stomach)- Breeds most affected: Saint Bernard, Irish Setter, Bloodhound, Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound

Cataracts- Breeds most affected: Silky Terrier, Miniature Poodle, Brussels Griffon, Boston Terrier, Tibetan Terrier

Epilepsy- Breeds most affected: Catahoula Leopard Dog, Beagle, Schipperke, Papillon, Standard Poodle

Portosystemic shunt (a birth defect causing shunting of blood around rather than through the liver): Breeds most affected: Yorkshire Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Pug, Maltese, Havanese

 

No differences in disease incidence between the mixed-breed and purebred groups were found for 13 different disorders including:

The cancers evaluated (hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumor, osteosarcoma)

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle)

Cardiac birth defects (mitral valve dysplasia, patent ductus arteriosus, ventricular septal defect)

Hip dysplasia

Patellar luxation (displacement of the knee cap)

Addison’s disease (a hormonal imbalance)

Cushing’s disease (a hormonal imbalance)

Lens luxation (displacement of the lens within the eye)

 

Conclusions

The authors of this study surmised that genetic mutations resulting in inherited defects may have developed at different times during the evolution of dogs. For example, a mutation introduced very early on into the canine genome (closer in time to the wolf progenitor) would have been spread throughout the entire dog population, purebred and hybrid alike. For disorders affecting purebred dogs in higher proportions, the underlying genetic defect may have occurred more recently, after the gene pools for a particular breed (or related breeds) evolved.

It is possible that the same genetic traits that predisposed to domestication are chromosomally connected to the genetic traits that predisposed to the disorders shared equally by purebred and mixed-breed dogs.

It is possible that the hard wiring for some of the genetic disorders is chromosomally linked to the DNA that determines dog size rather than dog breed. While patellar luxations and lens luxations occur without breed specificity, they do occur primarily in small dogs. Conversely, cancers are more likely to occur in large breed dogs.

Lastly, the results of this research may have been influenced by the hospital population (study performed at UC Davis). For example, we know that Standard Poodles are genetically predisposed to Addison’s disease, yet the results of this study do not demonstrate this. If the study population contained an overabundance of Standard Poodles (evaluated for a wide array of diseases), it is possible that their specific predilection for Addison’s disease may have been “diluted out”.

So now what do we have to say about hybrid vigor? Clearly, for some inherited diseases, this theory fits. For others, it is inapplicable.

Do the prospects for future diseases influence which dogs you choose to adopt?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Back at the Keyboard

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

© Diane Gerba

Following a brief medical leave of absence I’m thankfully back at the keyboard.  I’d like to draw your attention to a PetConnection blog post I wrote in which I discuss a study that examined the causes of death in more than 70,000 purebred dogs (82 breeds represented).  While some of the data presented was rather predictable (at least for those of us who have worked with the particular breeds studied), some of the findings were surprising and fascinating.  I invite you to check it out- the blog is called “Breed Profiling: What Does it Mean for Your Dog’s Health.” If you are curious to know what the study had to say about your favorite breed, feel free to ask.  I’ll let you know if it was included in the study.

 

Best wishes for good health,            

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Dogs That Fly

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

The United States Department of Transportation recently released breed-related information about dogs that have died while traveling in the cargo compartments of airplanes since May 2005. Of the 122 dogs that died, 108 were purebred. Brachycephalic breeds (ones I affectionately refer to as “smoosh faced”) such as Pugs, English Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs represented approximately half of the purebred dogs that took their last breath while in the plane.    

Credit: Dallasnews.com, Dallas Pooch Parade

You’d have a tough time finding a veterinarian who would be surprised by these results. For us, it’s a given that the vast majority of these adorable, snub-nosed dogs have some degree of upper airway obstruction because of nostrils that are too small, a windpipe that is too narrow, and/or excessive fleshy tissue in the region of the larynx (the anatomical entryway into the windpipe). When brachycephalic dogs breathe harder and faster in response to heat or stress (both may certainly be factors in the cargo compartment of an airplane) it makes sense that they are much more susceptible to heatstroke and/or respiratory compromise.    

What’s the take home point here?  One should always think long and hard about the potential pitfalls of transporting your dog to and fro via airplane. But if your heart belongs to a smoosh-faced dog, please strongly consider other options such as transport via car, renting a private jet (yeah, right!), or leaving your little sweetie at home. If flying is a must, ask your veterinarian to thoroughly assess your dog’s baseline level of respiratory compromise before you purchase your tickets and discuss ways to potentially make the flight less stressful.    

Have you ever flown with your dog? If so, please share your experiential wisdom.  

Now here’s wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health. 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook   

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.   

You can support your favorite rescue group.  The Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program shares a portion of the sales proceeds with approved non-profit organizations when you purchase a book via the Speaking for Spot website and designate the organization at the time of purchase.

A Dozen Simple Ways to Be Certain You Are Working With a Reputable Breeder

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

So, you’ve decided to adopt a dog and feel certain that a purebred is your heart’s desire.  You’ve done your research to be sure that the size and temperament of the breed you’ve chosen is the right fit for you, your lifestyle, and everyone else who lives with you (including both two-legged and four-legged family members). Now, what’s the best way to find this dog of your dreams? 

Here are some good options for finding your new dog (hopefully, we are in agreement that pet store and site unseen online purchases are not good options- see http://speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=710).  If you are open to adopting an adult dog, let the staff of your local shelter or humane society know what you are looking for- a surprising number of purebred dogs wind up there.  I also encourage you to contact breed-specific rescue organizations (google the name of your breed along with the word “rescue”).  Life’s unforeseen circumstances (death, divorce, financial woes, etc.) cause many wonderful dogs to end up with rescue groups. 

Another good option for finding your new dog is via a reputable breeder.  (For the sake of my writing sanity and your reading sanity, throughout this article I refer to breeders with the feminine pronoun.) The word reputable is reserved for the breeder who is truly passionate about the breed she fancies.  Not only does she possess knowledge about the breed’s history, she knows everything there is to know about their inherited health issues (every single breed has them), temperament, and special needs.  She is a wealth of information about breed ancestries (pedigrees) and the reading material on her nightstand likely includes breed-related magazines. Compare this description to what is referred to as the “backyard breeder,” the individual who produces pups without giving significant thought to inherited diseases, pedigrees, conformation, performance, or temperament.  Their reasons for breeding have nothing to do with preserving the integrity of the breed; perhaps they want their children to witness the “miracle of birth,” believe in the myth that healthy female dogs must have a litter, or are naïve enough to believe that producing pups is a money-making proposition. 

Working with a reputable breeder provides the very best insurance policy that your new pup will have an ideal temperament and the genetic potential for a lifetime of good health.  So, how do you go about finding a reputable breeder?  I encourage you to attend some dog shows and local breed club functions to do some schmoozing. Take note of any consensus you perceive (positive or negative) about particular breeders.  Pay an online visit to the American Kennel Club (if you reside in the United States) and/or the national breed-specific association (i.e. Golden Retriever Club of America).  These sites contain referrals to breeders, but in no way guarantees that they are reputable- you still need to do your homework! Once you’ve created your “short list” of puppy providers, use the list below of a dozen simple ways to be certain you are working with a reputable breeder. 

1.  A reputable breeder insists that you visit her home and all of her dogs. In addition to the puppies, she wants you to meet their mother and, if they are on site, the sire and other relatives (aunts, uncles, and cousins).  She wants you to see that the dogs are not confined to a sterile kennel environment and that they have many opportunities for human interaction from an early age.  Additionally, this visit provides the breeder with an opportunity to see how you interact with dogs. 

2.  A reputable breeder will want to show you all the paperwork pertaining to her pups’ pedigree and health clearances (consult with the breed association to learn which medical issues are pertinent for your breed).  Not only does she have this paperwork for your pup, but for the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles as well.  She will take great pride in this paperwork as it demonstrates her quest to enhance the breed and produce the very best puppies possible.  She will be sending a copy of this paperwork home with you and your pup along with a binder full of other important documents: general information about the breed, breed related health issues, recommendations for obedience classes, grooming tips, results of temperament testing, vaccination and deworming history, record of veterinarian examination, photos of the relatives, and everything you need for American Kennel Club Registration (and you thought you were just getting a puppy!). 

3.  A reputable breeder will want to tell you about any significant health problems that have arisen in any of the dogs she has produced (no breeder is immune).  Not only does this suggest integrity on her part, it also lets you to know that she has stayed in contact with her clients throughout the lifetime of the dogs she’s placed. 

4.  A reputable breeder has more questions for you than you have for her!  You will likely be asked to fill out an application and provide references.  She will request a description of your immediate family, other pets, prior dog experience, house and yard (she may want to come for a site visit), time spent at home versus work, amount of money you are willing to spend on veterinary care, and what activities you hope to share with your dog. If you feel as though you are being interrogated, it is because you are!  The reputable breeder is looking for a single permanent relationship for her pup; she will readily decline a new home that she feels is less than ideal.  Keep in mind, she is well versed in her breed’s best and worst qualities, and knows that these traits are not well suited to every individual and household.  By the way, you will not be allowed to choose a puppy from the entire litter.  The reputable breeder rarely produces more than two or three litters a year and most of the pups will be spoken for well in advance. If she does not have a pup that is right for you, she will gladly refer you to another reputable breeder. 

5.  A reputable breeder is in no hurry to send her puppies off to their new homes.  They may even be held a few weeks longer than the traditional 6 to 8 weeks of age during which time she continues to evaluate each pup to determine which are show or performance prospects.  She will also continue to evaluate the personalities of the pet-quality dogs for more successful pairing with prospective buyers. 

6.  A reputable breeder is happy to provide you with references including people who have purchased her puppies in the past, other breeders, and the veterinarian(s) who cares for her dogs. 

7.  A reputable breeder will ask you to sign a contract that details not only what she expects of you, but also what you can expect of her.  The contract will include some form of health guarantee and, with rare exception, will require your agreement to neuter your pup at the appropriate age.  The contract will also spell out your breeder’s ongoing involvement throughout your dog’s lifetime. She will be an enthusiastic source of support and advice for you, and will want to be informed about any significant health issues that arise.  Not only might this health feedback influence future breeding decisions, she will want to provide a “heads up” to the people who adopted your dog’s littermates.  Additionally, if for any reason and at any age, your dog needs to be “rehomed” the reputable breeder will want to be involved in the process. She would never want one of her dogs to wind up in a shelter or passed from home to home. 

8.  A reputable breeder does not accept credit cards.  She simply doesn’t sell enough puppies to make this worthwhile. 

9.  A reputable breeder sends her pups to their new homes via automobile or within the passenger compartment of the airplane accompanied by a responsible human.  They are never transported in the baggage compartment of an airplane.  

10.  A reputable breeder works with one breed, or occasionally two.  She truly has a love affair with the breed and has focused a huge amount of her time and energy researching all of its particular nuances. She views “designer hybrids” such as Labradoodles (Labradors crossed with Poodles) and Puggles (Pugs crossed with Beagles) to be no different than any other mixed breed of dog.  They detract from, rather than enhance the breed she loves so dearly. 

11.  A reputable breeder shows her dogs in American Kennel Club recognized conformation shows and/or breed-related performance events (obedience, agility, hunting tests/field trial, tracking, herding, etc.). Her dogs may earn AKC good citizen certificates. All of these are clear-cut way for others who are knowledgeable about the breed to evaluate her dogs.  The breeder’s pride will be evident when she shows you the certificates and trophies detailing the accolades and accomplishments of the dogs she’s produced. 

12.  A reputable breeder has a job other than breeding puppies (unless she happens to be independently wealthy).  Breeding pups to pay the mortgage and put groceries on the table inevitably leads to making poor breeding choices.  As one of my colleagues recommends, “Ask the breeder if they make money breeding dogs. If they say, ‘no,’ or better yet, laugh while saying no, you can figure she is a decent breeder.”   

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

 

           

Puppy Mills: Part II

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

I received an abundance of feedback in response to my recent blog about puppy mills.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your feelings concerning this emotional topic.  Virtually all of the comments expressed agreement that puppy mills are despicable and we wish they would cease to exist.  They also included important ideas that prompted me to think, “Wow, I wish I’d included that in my blog!”  Needless to say, I can’t resist sharing these wonderful comments and stories. 

Many of you reminded me that puppy mills spawn significant behavioral issues in their “merchandise” that can be just as devastating, if not more so, than the health issues that arise: 

Debbie wrote, “The physical abnormalities in puppy mill dogs are often accompanied by behavioral problems as well, fear being a major issue for many of these dogs who receive inappropriate or inadequate socialization. Like many medical issues the damage done due to inappropriate socialization may also be irreparable.” 

Diane commented, “I wanted to point out that for me, behavioral issues are also a major concern in addition to the health problems.  Don’t get me wrong, I get my business from people who buy these puppies, but honestly, I would rather just have a class full of wonderful healthy puppies and find some other way to make money.” 

Viviane wrote, “The health problems associated with puppy mills are truly heartbreaking and your post about this brought me to tears.  As a dog trainer and dog behavior consultant, I also see the behavioral results of this sort of breeding operation all too often, and that too is heartbreaking for unsuspecting souls who fall for a sweet face only to discover profound shyness and/or reactivity.  The dog that should have given a lifetime of joy and companionship and of course received the same, now is a beloved but seriously flawed family member who requires management and training to varying degrees for a life time.” 

Vanna stated, “I think it is really important to also point out that these puppy mill dogs aren’t properly socialized early on and therefore there are often serious issues by the time they bring the dog home.  Of course there is also an issue since they aren’t breeding for temperament.” 

Some thought I was tough enough on the puppy mills, but far too soft on the people who patronize puppy mills.  

Kerri commented, “It angers me because people who are educated about these horrible operations still buy from them. You say in your post, “Puppy mills stay in business by preying on people who are willing to buy a puppy without doing their research.” When I read that, I thought it was letting the buyers off way too easy. By the late 1990s when I rescued my first Doxie and wrote an investigative piece, Disposable Pets (http://www.writeforyou.biz/Disposable-Pets.htm) it was becoming known, but I think the general public could still be excused for ignorance. Today, the puppy mill buying public would have to literally live in a bubble not to know the problem of puppy mills and the terrible conditions from which these dogs come.” 

I couldn’t resist sharing Diane’s inspirational comment with you:  “Here! Here! I go one-step further…… I do not buy ANYTHING from pet stores that sell puppies!” 

A few people reminded me that, as states are cracking down on puppy mills, the innocent victims wind up in shelters and breed rescue organizations.  The people who care for them will require extra help for these emotionally fragile dogs.  There is an instructional DVD addressing this unique situation (check out www.missiondog.com). 

Lastly, before I share Jeff’s poignant puppy mill story, please be reminded:  The purebred dog of your dreams may be awaiting you at your local shelter (yes, many purebred dogs do land there) or breed rescue association.  Please don’t forget to consider these options when you are thinking about “expanding the family.”

Now, here is Jeff’s story:  

“Nancy: As you may perhaps recall, you sent a couple of very kind emails last year when our little Yorkie, Shelly, died suddenly after having three vaccinations in one day.  Soon after we were lucky enough to adopt two Yorkies who were saved from a raided puppy mill near New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Forty-six Yorkies were found in an abandoned house in the winter with no heat or water.  They were living in birdcages.  The Bucks County SPCA is the hero of this story.  Their director, Ann Irwin and her people responded to the police in the middle of the night.  She mobilized her whole staff and descended on the house at two in the morning and snatched up the poor little dogs.  I visited the SPCA a day later when they were giving the little tykes baths.  Most were so matted and filthy that they just shaved masses of fur rather than try to wash them.  We adopted a very small female, Molly, who they estimate is 5-6 years old.  She has numerous cesarean scars on her tummy from her various births.  When we got to the house, I took her outside to pee, but she was shocked at standing on grass; a first time experience.  After a day or so I was concerned that she wasn’t drinking water.  Then it struck me that she probably was not used to drinking from a bowl.  I bought her a tube type water dispenser like you would give to a hamster in a cage.  She practically emptied it.  I don’t think Molly will ever be completely house broken.  The extraordinary thing is how affectionate she is.  Having gone through what she did one would think she would fear humans.  She is the most loving little dog I have ever owned. The second dog is a puppy from one of the pregnant mothers who they let go to term.  We originally called her Lucy, but I renamed her Lucifer because she is so bad!  These dogs are a great joy, but I have no illusions about Molly.  I don’t think she will become an old dog due to her difficult years living in birdcages in unheated basements with poor nutrition.” 

Molly at the SPCA after being shaved and bathed

Molly at the SPCA after being shaved and bathed

Molly in her new home

Molly in her new home

Molly and Lucifer

Molly and Lucifer

Thanks to everyone who shared their opinions and stories.  Let’s hope for ongoing progress in the fight against puppy mills.   Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

 

Please share this blog with your dog-loving family and friends:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Puppy Mills: People and Their Puppies Pay the Ultimate Price

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Twice during the last month, I’ve experienced feelings of anger while in the midst of euthanizing one of my patients.  Normally I feel mostly sadness, often combined with an element of relief knowing that suffering is gently and humanely coming to an end.  Anger is an unusual visitor, but this emotion is sure to surface whenever I euthanize the innocent victim of a puppy mill (puppy mills are large scale breeding operations that produce puppies for profit with little or no attention paid to breed related inherited diseases).  I feel angered when confronted with a sweet little life, cut way too short and clients left confused, bereft, and devastated by the untimely loss of their beloved puppy. Such was the case with Max and Chloe and the people who cared for them. 

Max, was an insanely sweet and adorable Boston Terrier.  Once an effervescent, bubbly Boston, this nine-month-old pup had become listless- fatigued by the exertion of breathing.  You see, Max was born with an abnormally narrowed windpipe (imagine you or me trying to breathe through a straw).  My client Ed recalled thinking that his new pup’s breathing seemed abnormally noisy when he picked him up from the airport. He was shipped to California at 10 weeks of age from a breeder in Missouri.  Ed had been looking for a Boston Terrier and fell in love with Max the moment he saw his photo online.  He did not feel the need to visit the kennel where Max was born because he was so reassured by the emails and telephone conversations he and the breeder had exchanged.  She seemed to provide all the right answers to Ed’s questions.  Max’s health was guaranteed- any problems and Max could be returned, no questions asked. 

Other than the extra noise associated with Max’s breathing (not uncommon in a smoosh-faced breed such as a Boston Terrier), Ed thought he had a normal puppy on his hands.  It was only as Max’s body grew in relation to his small windpipe that he developed labored breathing, eventually needing to utilize almost every ounce of energy struggling simply to breathe. Ed was devastated by the news that we had no way to fix this problem.  With his own heart breaking, he held his sweet little Max tightly as I injected the euthanasia solution.  

Chloe, an eleven-month-old Cocker Spaniel, was born with defective kidneys.  Joe and Cindy first laid eyes on Chloe when they happened to pass through a shopping center pet store on their way to the movie theatre.  They never made it to the movies that afternoon- they bought a puppy instead! They simply couldn’t resist the charms of the little blonde puppy with the big brown eyes.  Joe and Cindy noticed that Chloe drank lots of water, and she could never be fully housetrained. A few months later, when she began vomiting and refusing her food, kidney failure was diagnosed.  Ultrasound revealed that both of Chloe’s kidneys were small and malformed- clearly a birth defect.  The once vigorous playful puppy gradually had become profoundly weak and lethargic.  Unfortunately, we had no reasonable way of creating long-term improvement for Chloe.  Heartbroken, Joe and Cindy gently stroked and loved their little girl as I ended her life. 

Puppy mills stay in business by preying on people who are willing to buy a puppy without doing their research.  These puppy purchasers simply don’t know better or allow their emotions to override their sensibilities.  They are vulnerable to the precious face in the online photo or the adorable puppy in the pet store window (pet stores are notorious for purchasing from puppy mills).  Puppy mill breeders often “seal the deal” by guaranteeing their puppies’ health, knowing full well how emotionally traumatic and near impossible it is for most people to “return a pup” once deep attachment occurs (deep attachment typically requires less than five minutes!).   

My new year’s wish is that my veterinary colleagues and I will see far fewer victims of puppy mills in 2010.  You can help my spreading word to people you know who are interested in purchasing a purebred or “designer hybrid” pup.  Educate them about the dangers of purchasing a puppy online, sight (and site) unseen.  Encourage them to avoid the impulsive pet store purchase.  By buying online or from a pet shop, they may be risking losing their beloved new family member at much too young an age, or inadvertently committing the next 10-15 years of their lives to taking care of an inherently unhealthy product of a puppy mill.  One less purchase from puppy mills, even indirectly is one step closer to their eradication.  Please stay tuned.  In my next blog, I will teach you how to recognize the telltale signs of a conscientious breeder. 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

The Results Are In!

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Thanks to everyone who provided their guesses about the breed composition of my puppy, Quinn.  I was chastised a bit for not providing enough information about his height (his back comes to just below my knee), his weight (he’s 18 pounds soaking wet), and his behavior (he’s wonderfully animated and super quick and agile).  Here were the breed guesses provided: 

-Papillon

-Corgi

-Sheltie

-Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

-Rat Terrier

-Collie

-Spaniel

-Australian Shepherd

-Basenji

-Chihuahua

-Border Collie

-Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

-Shiba Inu

-Rhodesian Ridgeback

-Golden Retriever

-German Shepherd 

My favorite guesses came from Cassandra and Pam.  Cassandra thinks that Quinn might be a Canardly (canardly tell), and Pam suggested I refer to my pup as a Yurgess (yurgess is a good as mine).  Many of you agreed that Quinn looks more like a fox than anything else!  I will certainly let you know if ever I do decide to learn more about Quinn’s DNA.  Thanks again for your wonderfully entertaining feedback!

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health, 

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

The Wisdom of Knowing…… or Not

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Our puppy Quinn came to us via a local rescue organization.  Apparently, he was next in line for the needle at an overcrowded shelter in Bakersfield.  Although he has been part of our family for six months now, I remain clueless about his breed ancestry.  This is unusual for me- I’m like one of those people who guesses people’s weights at the circus.  Only, what I’m good at guessing is which breeds have gone into the making of a mutt.  I can watch the dog for a minute or two, then accurately size up his lineage. Quinn, on the other hand, has me completely bamboozled.  Sometimes I think he’s a Chihuahua-Border Collie mix.  At other times there’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Papillon, or Sheltie looking at me.  And, every once in awhile, he’s got Basenji written all over his sweet face.  I’ve included some Quinn photos so you can have a look for yourself.

I’ve been toying with the idea of obtaining a DNA determination of Quinn’s genetic makeup. I have first hand experience with a DNA testing company called Wisdom Panel™.  Some of my clients have used their service, and I recently gave a Wisdom Panel™ screening to one of my nurses as a gift to use on her adorable mutt named Izzy.  All that’s needed is a small blood sample. DNA is extracted from the blood cells and screened for 157 American Kennel Club breeds. While the testing is far from perfect, it does seem to provide some useful information, especially when one of the parents happens to be a purebred.

So, what’s the downside to running the DNA test?  Yes, there is some cost involved, but the truth of the matter is, finally having an answer would eliminate all the fun of conjecturing about who Quinn’s parents are!   His appearance inspires curiosity.  When Quinn and I are out and about, guaranteed most passersby will ask, “What kind of dog is that?”  My response is usually, “He’s a bona fide mutt from Bakersfield,” or “I haven’t a clue!”  If I’m in an impish mood I might even make up a ridiculous answer such as, “He’s a fox!” or “Why this is a Romanian Burrowing Ferret Hound.”

Any response I choose invariably ignites more conversation. The person who asked the question and I conjecture about “what” Quinn is based on his appearance and temperament.  We then transition to conversation about their dogs’ pedigrees and personalities, both past and present.  By the time the discussion ends, Quinn and I feel as though we’ve made a new friend.  What would happen if Quinn’s breed origin was known and I answered their inquiry with, “He’s a Spaniel Chihuahua mix”?  I doubt that the ensuing conversation would be nearly as lively and entertaining.

I will continue to carefully observe Quinn’s conformation and behavior as he transitions into adulthood.  Whether or not I ever learn more about his pedigree, I do know with certainty is that my little Quinn is 100 percent cute!  And that just may be all I need to know.

Feel free to send me your best guess about Quinn’s pedigree (http://speakingforspot.com/contact.html).  If ever I do decide to run the Wisdom Panel™ I’ll let you know if you were close!

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross –