Sunday, April 23, 2017

Making the Best of Things


It’s a sad fact of life that sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want.  This definitely applies to dog ownership.  Maybe you had unrealistic expectations for your dog or made a poor choice of breeds for the life you lead.  Maybe you didn’t realize how much training a new dog needs.  Maybe you forgot how much trouble puppies can get into.  Whatever the reason, sometimes “perfect” just isn’t going to happen – at least not right away.

I have many clients whose dogs don’t behave the way they expected them to.  Sometimes the fix is fairly simple – owner education, increased exercise, training, and maybe a bit of behavior modification.  Sometimes it’s not so simple.  A frequent problem is that the client simply chose the wrong breed for his or her living situation.   The dog is too big, too active, or too strong for the owner, or the breed is not known for being easy to train and socialize.  My goal as a trainer is help the owner be happy with the dog he or she has by teaching ways to deal with challenges that come up, and to help find ways for the dog to lead a happy life. 

Too many people choose their dogs for the wrong reasons.  They felt sorry for a puppy in a pet store or flea market and brought it home, not thinking about what kind of life they could offer this dog.  Or they bought it on impulse.  They chose a breed because of its appearance and image or because it’s trendy, not knowing how much work they would have to put in to make it a satisfactory pet.  They chose a dog requiring large amounts of exercise or work daily to keep it sane, even though their schedules would not allow for this. 

The good news is that owners can usually make things work if they’re willing to take on a long-term commitment.  If the problem is the dog’s need for more exercise than you can give it, check out a good doggy daycare facility.  Try an Agility class or other active dog sport.  Hire a responsible kid to walk or run the dog daily. 
There are ways for “workaholic” dogs – those who need jobs - to be great pets.  There are interactive toys are on the market that will allow a dog to “hunt” for treats or work puzzles with his snout and paws to get rewards.  They can also be taught to do household jobs such as putting away their toys or carrying things for the owner. They thrive on training and take well to learning skills and tricks.  Creativity will help the owner come up with meaningful work for these dogs.

There is even hope for the imp-puppy from Hell who chews everything, bites hands, soils carpets, tries to herd the kids, guards its toys, and makes you question why you keep him.  Learn the tools of the trade for “civilizing” young puppies.  Understand that the solution to most puppy problems is closer supervision.  
Gently teach him limits – no chewing, biting, digging, etc.  Teach him to rest quietly in a crate or cage with a special toy or chewy for short periods when you need a time out.  Patience is crucial because - training or not - puppies are a handful.  Age will solve a lot of problems, along with a little work.

If the situation involves one of the “image” breeds (Rottweilers, Bully breeds, Mastiffs, etc.) a of training and socialization is absolutely required.  They can be wonderful pets, but their owners must be prepared for the responsibility of owning large, powerful animals.  If the choice was a high-energy “Doodle” or terrier, there may not be such a thing as too much exercise for the dog.  They’re smart, too, and if they aren’t adequately trained they’ll use those awesome brains on something that might not make you happy.

In short, most problems with dogs can be resolved.  But solutions don’t come without work.  If you absolutely must have perfection, maybe a stuffed toy might have been a better choice, but they’re not near as much fun as the real thing.
By Dorothy Miner 

Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor, judge of canine events, and author.  She teaches weekly classes for the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution’s PETS Program and provides training and consultation under the banner of “Sidekicks” and “Training for Dogs and Their People.”

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Rainbow Bridge: A Veterinary Technician's Perspective

            The Rainbow Bridge. The safe, happy place our beloved pets go after they have brought so much love. No one wants to think about a pet’s passing, that they will ever leave us. I’d like to think that my pets will outlast me.

            My husband and I are surrounded by happy critters: our dogs, Copenhagen, Tilly and Philo, and our cats...Stella and Sambo.  Each day we have the pleasure of returning home to be greeted by these happy, four-legged kids.

            As a veterinary technician, I have the opportunity to share joyous moments with clients daily. I get to hold and snuggle puppies with a pocketful of treats to hand out, even if my patient jumps on the cupboards. I walk into the hospital every morning, knowing that there will be clients to teach and pets to care for. But as vet techs, we are also there to comfort.

            Yes, first time puppy ownership is scary--- we are there to answer those not so silly questions. Vaccine pokes and bloods draws are terrifying--- we are there to hold and comfort. The dreaded scale! Don’t worry, we will be right there. Vet techs help loved ones trust that everything will be okay. Comfort isn’t something we do only for our patients, but that we do for clients as well as we build strong relationship with them every day.

            So the question is why am I writing about trust and comfort between clients and veterinary technicians? Because I have wanted to---simple as that. Yes, we get to see all the happy times, and some of the scary times. But, we also see the pain of broken hearts when it’s time to let our pets go.

            Just a little about me...while in high school, I loved working in a small town veterinary clinic. It was the highlight of my day. I didn’t have technician training yet, but I did my best to learn fast and help in any way I could.

            There was one Monday I’ll never forget. I had a final exam that afternoon and it was the only thing I could think about. The veterinarian told me a euthanasia was scheduled that morning and that I would need to assist. When the family and their Labrador arrived, they were in tears. I put my head down and followed them into the room. They said many good-byes as I held the beloved dog for his last breaths while the doctor administered the injection.

            But, wait…why did I not feel the same way they did? I know I said that I would keep them in my thoughts and prayers, but did I mean it?

            Time went on, and I  helped with many more euthanasias, thinking that same thing, and going on with my day. Then something changed.

            My first dog was a Siberian Husky named "Holly." She was a blessing to my family, and she was 13 years old when cancer consumed her body. Now I’m the family in the exam room with tears flowing, and I realize I’m looking for comfort, comfort and trust. The first face I see is that of the vet tech. The way she was there for us was eye-opening. There were no hugs or words shared, just comfort knowing that my Holly was going to be okay. 

            She then crossed it...Holly crossed The Rainbow Bridge.

            From that day, I knew why I wanted to be a veterinary technician. I wanted to help the patients, but I also wanted to be there for the clients. I want them to know  I am here to help, to hold your loved one through your good-byes and tears. I now find myself weeping with families, then hiding in the bathroom at work until my eyes dry up.

             We hurt with the families, and our hearts break, too. We do it because we are needed most in those moments. Some days I wish my job was to just play with fluffy animals. But, instead, I get to help. I get to comfort.

            Those last moments with our furry family members are not something we want to think about. But know that if you want hugs, we have open arms. If you want to cry, we will be there with comforting words and tissues. And, if you want to talk about good times and laugh, we will find Dr. John to tell some jokes.

            Just know, you are not alone. It’s not scary. Our pets will be free of pain and suffering as they cross over that bridge.  And know that there will be a vet tech with you the whole way.
By Sarah Burford, VT

Sarah (Koeneman) Burford, VT is a graduate of the Vet Tech Institute of International Business College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She provides care and comfort to the clients and pets at Delphos Animal Hospital.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Lump in the Throat

            In all my thirty-two years as a veterinarian, I don't recall ever seeing any kind of animal with a goiter. Then I received a phone call from a Boer goat raiser named Joel. He had just started kidding, and several of his first kids were born dead with odd lumps in their throats. Photographs he sent showed the classic bilaterally symmetrical swellings in the location of the thyroid gland. They could have been textbook photos of goiters.

            From the tone of his voice, I could tell Joel was quite concerned.       If he's not the most conscientious goat breeder I know, he is at least in the top two. His herd management  has always been top-notch. So why was he having this problem? And why now?

            Joel couldn't think of anything he was doing that was different. He was feeding the same grain mixture and minerals he had used for the last few years. Furthermore, the moms that were producing the kids with goiters were his older does who never had any issues like this before.

            A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Typically in goats, it occurs as the result of an iodine deficiency. The thyroid gland utilizes iodine in the production of thyroxine, or thyroid hormone. If iodine levels are low, thyroxine cannot be produced, thus causing the "master gland of the body"- the pituitary, to produce thyroid stimulating hormone, which is sent to the thyroid gland. This prompts the thyroid gland to work extra hard to try to produce it's hormone, and almost like a muscle lifting weights, it will enlarge. 

            In addition to low levels of iodine in the diet as a cause of goiters, there are certain plants which are termed "goitrogenic." These plants interfere with the uptake of iodine in the thyroid gland, and include cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, soybeans, and turnips. I discussed these plants with Joel, but it was kind of a moot point. His goats ate none of those things.

            I heard from Joel again about three weeks later on a Friday afternoon. His report was not good. Twenty-one kids had been born dead with goiters, including a set of twins that morning. He inquired about having them necropsied, the animal version of an autopsy.

            Fridays are not the best day of the week for collecting tissue samples, because they have to sit over the weekend before being shipped off on Monday. I asked Joel if he would be willing to drive the kids down to the Ohio Department of Agriculture Lab in Reynoldsburg that afternoon. He had no problem with that. Like I wrote before, he is conscientious.

            When I spoke to the pathologist who worked on Joel's kids, he confirmed the goiter diagnosis. He also told me this: "Boer goats are more susceptible to goiters than any other breed." I didn't know that, and I see a lot of Boer goats. The pathologist then told me that goiter development usually occurs between the first and second month of a goat's five month gestation.

            When I relayed this information to Joel, he had a revelation for me. He found out the clover hay he had purchased, which he fed for the first couple of months of his does' pregnancies, was harvested from a field that had a cover crop of turnips on it the winter before.

            Cover crops are becoming more popular in this area for a variety of soil improvement reasons. Turnips, by virtue of their large bulbs and deep root systems,  help to decrease soil compaction and open the soil for worms and nutrient penetration. However, as they decompose, apparently some of those goitrogenic properties can be taken up by growing clover plants.

            In Joel's herd, it was only the older does who had the affected kids. Even though they were fed the same clover hay, his younger does were supplemented with a grain ration that did contain some iodine. It wasn't a large amount, but evidently it was enough.

              So goat breeders, before the next kidding season arrives, make sure there is adequate iodine levels in your feed and mineral mixes, or supplement the herd with iodized salt. Then, hopefully, the only lump in the throat you have to deal with is the one in your own. The source, of course, coming from the pride you feel when you see your beautiful new kids.
By Dr. John H. Jones

How to Help "Hangry" Pets Be Happy

                                My Welsh Corgi, "Betsy Louise," is a food whore. There...I've said it.

                                Those who know Betsy have seen her in action, and will echo my sentiments. Her predecessor, Welsh Corgi "Princess Bunny," shared Betsy's obsession with food.  Bunny actually went on not one, but two, suicide missions involving food while at work with us.    

                             Bunny's first "attempt" was finding and breaking in to a canine cranberry urinary supplement that contained potassium citrate to neutralize acidity of dog urine. Thank goodness for her dog sitter, Ashley Oxendine, who expediently discovered Bunny's "mission" and put the ball in motion to rescue her from a life threatening potassium overdose.

                                On her second suicide attempt, Bunny found an open bag of prescription dog food and proceeded to stick her entire head and shoulders in the large bag to feast on as much food as her corgi stomach could accommodate. Her "adventure" was revealed as she waddled up to me, smiling in her satiety glory, looking much like she swallowed an over-inflated basketball. Canine "bloat" is a true and life-threatening phenomenon that became yet another badge on Bunny's food-seeking sash.

                                I was reminded of Bunny's shenanigans recently when two staff members approached me to say Betsy Louise was attempting to eat her way into a donated bag of dog food left in a location convenient for all low-riding dogs to enjoy. The tattling was followed by the comment, "And she got a little nasty when she was busted."

                                Betsy, like so many pets and people gets "hangry" around food, especially as meal times approach or if they are delayed. This behavior is also observed in cats that conduct piercing stare-downs with their feeders or grab on to their owners' legs as they stride toward the feeding station. For dogs like Betsy and Bunny, and hangry cats, consider the following tips:

1) Many pets obsessed with food benefit from frequent, small meals fed on a consistent schedule. Pets thrive on and are more content with daily routines that are well-established. Pick a feeding schedule three to four times a day that you  can adhere to and stick with it.

2) Make meal times fun and challenging. Feed dogs that inhale their food from puzzle dishes, food balls, Kongs, or muffin tins. Consider hiding your cat's food throughout the house to tap into its instinct to hunt for prey, or use puzzle balls (Egg-cersizer) to make it work for its meals. The latter are especially effective for obesity-prone cats.

3) Avoid rewarding your pet's "hangry behavior." Initially, this is a tough task because it actually involves undoing your own behavior of "giving in" to your pet's vocal and physical demands. Many pet owners have been conditioned to relent just to make the whining, barking, pawing and pacing cease. After all, it gets annoying! But, you are inadvertently reinforcing the undesirable.  Instead, you must CONSISTENTLY  IGNORE your pet's obnoxious behavior, and stick to the above suggestions. This may result in the hangry behaviors escalating at first as your pet becomes confused by your new behavior. Simply stay the course and your pet will learn that food will be available at consistent mealtimes, and not when he or she demonstrates offensive behaviors.

4) Seek your veterinarian's advice about your pet's nutrition.  Your pet could be on an inadequate diet and feeding schedule. When your veterinarian inquires about which food and how often you feed your pet, she is assessing the pet's body condition score and overall health as a reflection of the diet. Many pets are fed inadequate amounts once daily and that often creates  hangry pets that are truly unsatisfied.  Quality of food ingredients can vary tremendously as well. Two different food bags  may share similar ingredients list, but the actual performance of each can be widely different. 

5) Schedule your pet's wellness exam with your veterinarian "twice a year for life." Remember that your pet ages more quickly than you, especially in its senior period. Intestinal parasites and medical conditions such as Cushing's Disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism can make your pet hangry and uncomfortable! Don't let your pet suffer needlessly with treatable conditions that when addressed will improve the quality of your pet's life and yours.

                                As a human being who also experiences hangry periods, I empathize with hangry pets. It is not a good feeling to have your body and brain possessed by hunger.  Ask your veterinarian to help you turn your pet's hanger into happiness.

                                 I'm feeling a little hangry right now.  It's 1:30 p.m.---approximately 30 minutes past my lunchtime...hmmm. 
By Dr. Bonnie Jones

Dr. Bonnie Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital with her husband, John H. Jones, DVM .  She was valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Clinician of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1985.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The "Perfect" Puppy


          Bringing a puppy into your home is a huge decision---one that everyone in the home needs to be part of. All family members need to be on the same page as far as the time and commitment it takes to properly raise and socialize a puppy. Then there's the financial responsibility for preventive health care, including vaccinations, spaying/neutering, etc. Some choose to get their new canine family member from a dog rescue or shelter, a wonderful way to give a deserving dog a home. For those who prefer a particular breed however,, or have a desire to compete in sport or show, breeders are the best source. But, how do you find a reputable breeder to ensure the dog you want is perfect for you?
          Finding a good breeder starts with knowing your breed. You may want to research what health issues are common in your breed so you can ask the breeder if they test for those conditions. This step is crucial in helping to ensure you get a healthy puppy! If a breeder doesn't test for health problems, or isn't familiar with the health problems present in their breed, proceed with caution! Or, even better, seek a different breeder. As a veterinarian, nothing is more heartbreaking than telling a pet owner their dog has a condition that could have been prevented with proper parental testing. Take time to ask breeders why they have chosen their breed. And, ask to meet the parents of your future pup to ensure they are healthy and well-socialized.
         Also, do some research to ensure the breed you desire is a good fit for you. I see many posts on Facebook or at local pet stores stating a dog needs a new home because "they need room to run" or "have gotten too big." Researching the breed you desire to make sure they fit your lifestyle, not just as an eight week old puppy, but as an adult will pay big dividends. Great Danes are wonderful, but if you have a four hundred square foot apartment, it may not be the best fit. My Miniature American Shepherd, "Lady," is an awesome, little dog, but she is always on the go! If you dislike spending time outdoors, love to sleep in, and don't enjoy daily walks and runs, she could turn into a destructive little dog quickly, as she was bred to be active and work; she will do both one way or another.
          Finally, as you start your journey to seek the perfect puppy, be prepared to wait! Good breeders often have waiting lists for several months to a year or more to get a puppy. Waiting is hard, but at the same time, buying the first puppy you find, whether it is healthy or not, can lead to heartbreak, as well as unexpected veterinary bills. If you have questions about a certain breed or its health conditions, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your concerns and obtain important insight about your new companion. We would love to help!

By Dr. Jill Dentel

Dr. Jill Dentel is an associate veterinarian at Delphos Animal Hospital. 

Frights and Phobias



          A scared dog is not a happy critter, and can be a danger to himself and others.  Some dogs may have exhibited fearful behavior for as long as the owner can remember.  Other times, the fear reaction shows up a bit later in life, usually after some incident that terrified the dog.  Fears may become serious phobias that can pose a threat to the dog’s physical or mental safety.  Others are much less debilitating.  A dog that is extremely frightened may exhibit any of the following symptoms:  pacing, drooling, panting, trembling, hiding, “gluing” itself to the owner, destructiveness, whining, self-mutilation, and soiling itself.

           Sound-related phobias are fairly common.  The sound of thunder and flash of lightning can send a dog racing in a panic for a place he feels is safe.  A dog can sense when a thunderstorm is coming even though it isn’t happening yet, most likely by feeling the changes in barometric pressure and static electricity.  Dogs with thunder phobia must be kept indoors during the storm, and provided with a safe spot to hide.  Outdoors, they may panic and run.  These dogs may try to find refuge in a shower or bathtub, behind a chair, or in the back of a closet. 
          A crate may not be a safe place for a terrified dog as he may try to dig his way out of it, hurting himself in the process.  Fireworks, firecrackers, and gunfire can also scare the wits out of dogs   The swaddling sensation of a “Thunder Shirt” may help in many cases of sound sensitivity and, in some cases, a veterinarian may prescribe anti-anxiety medications.  Good old Fergus the Airedale has an interesting sound-related fear.  Sneezing scares him.  He isn’t afraid of other people’s sneezes – just mine.  He reacts as if my head just exploded.  (I’m told that my sneezes are nothing out of the ordinary – he just thinks I shouldn’t sneeze!) 

          Some fears aren’t related to sounds.  I had a dog who was very worried about overhead things, including light reflections on the ceiling.  This dog was shipped to me as a pup by airline and I was told it was a rough flight.  I suspect things in the cargo hold may have fallen and scared him pretty badly.  A friend’s dog, a very confident Airedale, came up with an interesting way to deal with something that gave her a significant scare.  These folks had a neighbor who had a hot-air balloon, and one day he and his balloon flew very low over their property. 
          This dog was on the back patio at the time, and the sight of this huge space invader and the roar of the flame gave her quite a fright.  This didn’t result in a permanent fear, but rather a permanent hatred for hot air balloons - and for water towers, which she decided were the same thing.  She may never have seen another hot air balloon, but she would go berserk and attempt to attack any water tower that she saw after that.  Phobias and fears may also involve odors, people, vehicles, wind, and a host of other things.   

          Fears and phobias come about if an event causes enough of a traumatic reaction that it leaves a lasting imprint on the dog.  If a scary event happens during one of the puppy fear periods it can turn into a lifetime phobia.  Many of these fears can be lessened through de-sensitization and counter-conditioning, and by learning proper calming techniques.  (Some things we do that we think will help calm and soothe a frightened dog can actually reinforce the fearful behavior.) 
          There are many sources of information that may be helpful, including books and the internet, but sometimes the help of a good trainer is the best thing.  In severe cases, the dog’s veterinarian may recommend medication to use along with the behavior modification program.  Punishing the dog or forcing him to “face his fears” is definitely not helpful. 

          Maybe this old Scottish prayer would help these dogs:  “From Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-Leggedy Beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us!”

By Dorothy Miner

Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor, judge of canine events, and author.  She teaches weekly classes for the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution’s PETS Program and provides training and consultation under the banner of “Sidekicks” and “Training for Dogs and Their People.”

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A New Cat's Purpose


            I haven't seen the movie, "A Dog's Purpose,"  but from the trailer which has been played repeatedly on television, it appears to deal with the reincarnation of a pet. Recently, my wife and I had some firsthand experience with this subject. Although, in retrospect, I think I have had some experience with this phenomenon most of my life.

            Border Collies have been part of my existence since I was six years old. Last year I wrote a column, "My Two Wives and Me," about the somewhat complicated relationship between my Border Collie "wife," Robbie, and my real wife, Bonnie. Robbie isn't my first dog wife. Since I was twenty-two, I have had three. Robbie came after Chrissy III, who came after her mother, Chrissy II.

             All three were typical female Border Collies- hard working and endlessly devoted to me, but with a hint of bossiness. Their personalities and behavior were so alike that I often find it difficult to keep the memories straight. So, is this reincarnation or do I just select dogs with similar traits that I like?

             A few weeks ago, the topic of reincarnation came to light again with the introduction of a new kitten to our family. His name is Stevie, and he sports a fine black and white tuxedo coat.    

            Bonnie has had a thing for black and white cats ever since she adopted a kitten named Porky, from her first job in Lima. He had a nice long life and lived to be eighteen. His successor, Jobey, joined our family when he "followed" me home from a farm call nearly seven years ago.

            Jobey quickly became the animal spark in my wife's heart. I hesitate to say she loved him more than me, but it may be closer than I'd like to think. He was more dog-like than cat, would greet us at the back door, and liked to sleep between our pillows at night. In addition, he had a penchant for hogging my kitchen chair and rolling on my day's clothes left at the end of the bed while I showered.

            Sadly, Jobey died suddenly three days before Thanksgiving , the victim of one of the cruelest of  cat diseases, feline cardiomyopathy. My wife, to say the least, was also heartbroken.

            Fortunately, we have a kind and compassionate client named Jill Smith. Jill knew of  Bonnie's

loss, and of her fondness for black and whites, and generously gave her the aforementioned Stevie, a kitten she had raised from a wee lad.

            The strangest thing happened when we brought Stevie home. He was greeted by our other cat, Diane, who as a rule, is rather antisocial. She walked right up to him, without a hiss, and touched her nose to his, in a gesture I can only describe as "Welcome home" and "Where have you been?"

            That night the little rascal slept between our pillows, although his purr wasn't nearly as loud as Jobey's. The next morning he went right to my clothes, and did what he apparently was compelled to do. Not kind of like Jobey, but exactly.

            Last Sunday, my wife was sitting at our kitchen table reading The Lima News. Stevie was once again sprawled out on my chair, like his predecessor. Wanting to read the paper as well, I grabbed the back of the chair and began to pull it away from the table. "Move Jo..." snuck out before I could catch myself.

            I looked apologetically at Bonnie who smiled sweetly and said, "It's okay. I've done that, too."

            This encounter with Stevie and Bonnie reinforced something I have believed for a long time. We get new pets, not to forget or replace the old ones, but to help us remember them even more. And that is a good thing.

            Of course, I'm sure most of these goings-on with Stevie can probably be explained as some sort of crazy cat behavior coincidence, and has nothing at all to do with reincarnation. Probably.

            One phenomenon I really do see on a regular basis is when their pet dies, many people will swear they'll never get another. I know the pain from a loss can be great, but please reconsider. You may be passing up a wonderful opportunity for a visit with an old friend, even if it is only a memory.

Dr. John H. Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital. He has a special fondness for "black and whites," canine and feline, too.