Category Archives: Health & Nutrition

The Big C Word

gus-june2014-3935What turned out as a routine senior exam because Gus wasn’t feeling good has turned our life upside down for the last couple of weeks.  Gus has lymphosarcoma.  It isn’t slow moving and it is attacking his GI tract pretty nastily.    Our vet didn’t have a whole lot of positive to say because of his age and susceptibility to succumbing if we opted to treat our beloved Elderbull with chemo.  He said that the kindest option would be management and then helping him cross the bridge when the time came – which could be sooner or later.

How did we find out and confirm our worst fears?  Blood work.  We had taken him in because his belly was a bit bloated and he didn’t want to eat his meals and was having trouble controlling his bladder.  The latter is a common problem in the older dogs but I didn’t want him ending up with issues because he had an accident while we were at work and soiled his blanket in his crate.

The results from his blood work weren’t promising.  He has hyper calcemia.  He is anemic.  His thyroid levels were incredibly low.  All of that combined with the added insult, he alsogus-april2014-2622 had a Urinary Tract Infection – the one thing we worked to prevent with his accidents.  The final blow was the lymphosarcoma attacking his GI tract and causing the bloating and unwillingness to eat.

Cancer.  It should be a curse word.  This vile, vile disease is something that takes far too many loved ones from this Earth and runs rampant through our hearts as they deal and cope with this internal Hell until it is time for them to leave us.    We’ve been dealing with it.  We’re making our buddy comfortable.  We are letting him eat whatever makes him eat and keep strength up.  He has been getting to sleep in bed or we’ve been sleeping in the dog beds with him.  We have to keep him cool since he gets uncomfortably hot even though he loves to bake in the sun.  Whatever it takes for however long he has left with us.

We started a bucket list of things to do with him before he crosses the bridge – a “like” campaign on his Facebook page, Gus the Elderbull, in an effort to create a functioning memory that helps other dogs in shelters and a place for owners of their own elderbulls to come and share their memories, going swimming for the first time with us, eating an Oreo gus-july2014-4500cookie even though they aren’t good for him, spending all night cuddling with us.

It hasn’t been easy.  I’ve cried more nights than I care to admit to.  My husband has remained stoic but even he can’t hide the pain.  We’re having to make a decision that no person wants to make.  When is the right time?  Are we being selfish by waiting?  Is Gus happy?  We’re told time and again we’ll know but in my heart, I don’t know.  It’s scary.  I never expected to lose this beautiful soul in such a short time after we adopted him from the shelter – which is currently at almost two months shy of his September 23rd Gotcha Day.  It sucks and it’s something that I could wish on my worst enemy but we will work through it and we’ll make the best of whatever time we have left until Gus lets us know it’s time.

It’s Going to Cost Me What?!

You never expect to have to drop a whole load of money on a perfectly happy, healthy and mikabedactive young dog until that moment when it actually happens because they do something totally unexpected or a horrendous accident occurs.  This was the case last Thursday for us when our darling milk chocolate darling Mika decided that part of a Wubba’s tail, fleece tug and half of one of my bras (the side with the eye hooks) were perfectly edible and polished them off in the wee hours of the morning and I would have found out too late if I hadn’t stepped on a soggy bra (because I was lazy and left it on the floor the night previously) and realized something did NOT look right on it.

My husband and I figured we could get her to vomit it back up with peroxide – especially since she’s notorious for eating stuffing from stuffy toys (and the reason she is banned from them too!) – and so we weren’t worried too at that time.  My husband and I both worked for one or the other (or both of us!) to get out of work, however, and get her into the vet’s office if we couldn’t get her to vomit.  I tried the peroxide when I got home from work since I hadn’t been gone too long since she ingested the items but she failed to throw the items up.

I called the clinic to warn them that I was on my way up (I actually said, because of Mika’s history for needing x-rays for pulling these stunts that “Mika needed another dose of radiation because it had been far too long and she needed a recharge for her super powers.”) and what I suspected.  X-rays were ordered the second we got into the room after her vitals were checked – which showed a slightly elevated temperature of 102 degrees.  Sure as the fact that the sun rises and sets every day, the metal from the bra showed up on x-rays.  I cringed knowing exactly what it meant and how bad the estimate would be.

My vet’s office is, thankfully, absolutely amazing. My estimate was about half what Imikavet expected at a tune of $830 dollars with all the necessary things for surgery plus the bill of $125 she had already racked up with x-rays, etc.   It didn’t stop me from cringing at the bill but it was a little easier pill to swallow since I knew she could be gotten in that day without paying emergency room costs or allowing for 24-hours to pass into a more complicated extraction area like her intestines.

Thankfully, we have a CareCredit card (which is, in my opinion, an essential thing to have if you have dogs because you NEVER know when one of them is going to have a stupid moment like Mika did…!) which allowed for 18 months of no interest payments on our painful bill.  If we hadn’t, we’ve got an emergency fund specifically for the dogs but I avoid tapping into that unless I have no other choice but the cushion was there for that off chance.

mikavet1Mika went into surgery at round 12pm.  The surgery took around a half an hour from start to finish and was, in relative terms, a simple exploratory surgery because she hadn’t passed any of the items into nastier territory.  My vet, Dr. Eugene over at Hoover Road Animal Hospital, was pleased with the work and when she was in recovery, I was allowed back to sit with her while she came out of anesthesia and see what all she ate.  It was, to be honest, utterly disgusting but I was glad she didn’t eat more or worse.

Ultimately, Mika’s antics taught me a very valuable lesson on being prepared.  The painful and expensive opportunity to know what to watch for when it comes to dogs who don’t think twice and get into things they shouldn’t even when you least expect it.  The financial responsibility overall on a dog may be minimal but an emergency surgery definitely is not and it always pays to save for a rainy day – even if it’s only a few dollars here and there.  You never know when it will be necessary!

Winter Fitness: Dog Treadmills

philgroundhogWinter is dragging on and on…and on.  It seems that our winter-predicting groundhog friend, Punxsutawney Phil, has said another six weeks of this cold, nasty weather that has held the dogs pretty much hostage in the house other than trips to indoor venues and the occasional winter event – like the snow pulls we’ve attended.  The dogs are going stir crazy and all that pent up energy has expressed itself in a few inappropriate actions too since they’ve started to nitpick and nag at each other more than usual.  It’s getting rather old but we thankfully have a few options to exercise not only their minds but their bodies as well – the treadmill.

Thanks to dog owners becoming more and more interested in the fitness of themselves andryker-october2013-4148 their canine companions, finding these types of exercise equipment available is becoming more and more readily available.  Years ago, when I first got into the APBT as a breed enthusiast, having a dog-powered treadmill and the use was often linked by everyday pet owners as a sign of dog fighting.  Thankfully, this is no longer the case and much of the so-called dog fighting propaganda is being realized to be useful for all breeds and types of dogs.

There are many types of treadmills that can be used for dogs.  Some treadmills are dog-powered and others are electric.  I personally prefer the dog-powered variety since it allows the dog to set their pace and not be forced into something that is uncomfortable for them but it can also allow a lazy dog to balk at doing more then they want to – which can be a pain if you have a dog who needs to shed a few extra pounds.

With dog-powered treadmills, there are two varieties that are typically seen – the carpet-type and the slat-type.  The carpet-type tends to be harder to turn and will develop a bunchier, flashier muscling on a dog.  The slat-type is much easier for a dog to move and tends to develop lean muscling which is phenomenal for a dog who needs a boost of endurance.  They both have their pros and their cons and we personally recommend that if you’ve got the room and funds to purchase both and use both in a conditioning regiment that you do that – especially if you have multiple dogs.  There are quite a few dogs who will balk at the use of a carpet mill because of the difficulty level.

lyric-october2013-4167In the case of electric-type treadmills, many people convert humane-designed treadmills for the use with their canine companions but there are other options available which are geared in size and type toward canine companions.  They are free-spinning like the slat-type treadmill and will typically allow for a more lean muscle-type to be created.  For many people, this is the easiest option because you can find inexpensive electric treadmills (often called e-mills) on places like Craigslist for next to nothing.  The only down fall, in my opinion, is that you have to watch and gauge when your dog has had enough and for many dogs that can be a pain since they don’t want to admit to being tired!

There are a few safety and training precautions to remember when using a treadmill with a dog.  Please make sure to read them and follow them for the safety of all involved – especially the dog:

  • No matter which direction you choose to go if you decide to look into a treadmill, you always need to make sure you do slow, positive introductions to the equipment.  Some more sensitive or nervous dogs may be afraid of it at first.  We always recommend teaching a load up onto the treadmill for a few days before turning it on or allowing it to be moved so that they’re able to figure out how to get their feet under them as they jog/run.
  • A well fitting harness that allows for proper breathing ability is also a big requirement because you don’t want your dog to end up short of breath from construction from a connector cutting their airway off from the collar.
  • Always keep it positive and build up your dog.  Don’t expect that they’re going to be able to jog for 30 minutes right off the bat when you couldn’t do it if you weren’t used to it either!

Has this post inspired you to look into treadmills for your dog?  We hope so!  If you are, here are a few companies you can look into for them:

  • Grand Carpet Mill – Carpet-type treadmill, as the name implies.  We have this particular brand and won it in a raffle a few years ago at a dog show.
  • Jog A Dog Treadmill – Electric Treadmill.  It seems to be very spendy.  I’ve seen these in action but not personally used one.
  • Dog Trotter – I’ve heard great reviews on this one.  It’s probably the most commercially available slat-type treadmill out there.

If none of these fit your budgets, there are other manufacturers out there that are easy to track down with Google.  I’ve also seen plans available if you’re a DIY-er and want to try your hand at making your own dog treadmill!  Happy exercising!

Safety First: Building a First Aid Kit

Always be prepared.  That’s the scout motto isn’t it?  Well, it certainly is in our house.  Since my husband and I are both fairly active with our dogs, because they wouldn’t have it any other way, means that we always have to be prepared for that one thing to go wrong.  The just in case situation that can be a simple fix or even a lifesaving action on the way to the vet (thankfully, we’ve not had any of the latter just yet.  *knocking on wood!*).

For all of those scratches, cuts, allergic reactions, burns, etc. that your dog may encounter (or you for that matter!), it is always good to have a first aid kit on hand.  Our first aid kit is pretty extensive and covers pretty much anything that can be thought of.  It contains items both for dog and people use and gets put in the car if we leave with a dog or five for that chance encounter with disaster but your kit doesn’t have to hold as much if you’d prefer it didn’t.  We’ve seen some kits that had the bare essentials and then our behemoth-type kits so it’s personal preference.

Our First Aid Kit

Our First Aid Kit

When making a first aid kit, remember to have a container specifically designated for your items.  This kit needs to be as sanitary as possible so be prepared to have a lot of bags and what not to contain items so they don’t encounter things that could potentially make a situation worse.

In our kit, we have the following items:

  • Mesh Muzzles (ones that will fit our dogs)
  • Slip leads (the veterinary variety)
  • Anti-Diarrheal medication
  • Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • Hydrocortisone Cream
  • Glucose Tablets/Gel
  • Thermometer (and Tip Covers)
  • Pill Crusher and Pill Cutter
  • White Hand Towels
  • Q-tips and Cotton Balls
  • Gauze Pads and Wrap
  • Liquid Bandage
  • Cloth and Self-Adhesive Tapes
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Bag Balm
  • Vet/Sport Wrap
  • Safety Pins
  • Bulb Syring
  • Antacids, Asprin and Ibuprofen
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • Calamine Lotion
  • Saline Eye Wash
  • Eye Dropper
  • Instant Cold Compress
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Epsom Salts
  • Styptic Powder
  • Rescue Remedy
  • Pedialyte Unflavored or Orange (we change this out every couple of months)
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • LED Flashlight
  • First Aid Books for dogs and people
  • First Aid Instruments (gloves, splinter remover, scissors, tweezers, finger splint and light)

As I said, it’s pretty extensive.  There are a few things I’d like to add but the kit is always a work in progress when I learn something new and/or important for the wellbeing of the beasts or the humans.  We have our current veterinarian’s information on a laminated 3×5 card and make temporary cards with veterinary information for areas we may be traveling near for those just in case moments along with other important numbers  – like poison control!

 If you’re not up for making your own, there are many ready-made kits available online in every price bracket and at many local pet suppliers as well.  It is, however, incredibly important to have something like this assembled before an emergency occurs with your pet or yourself.   These items could be a lifesaving difference if something occurred and are a smart idea in any home with or without pets.

Quit Bugging Me!


With the weather having warmed up, those of us outdoor lovin’ dog owners are venturing out onto trails, walking paths or anything else we can do with our dogs in Mother Nature’s glory.  Unfortunately, a few of our eight-legged creepy crawly friends are joining us on our adventures and with them they bring all sorts of nasty health and welfare concerns too.

In Michigan, we’ve seen a massive explosion in tick populations statewide.  Experts are linking these growth spurts to a variety of factors including the following:

  • Warmer winters;
  • Suburbanization (bringing wildlife and people in closer proximity);
  • A boom in the white-tailed deer population;
  • Migratory birds transporting ticks and other parasites to new areas;
  • The use of fewer insecticides.

An increase in the tick population means a far greater risk of tick-borne diseases like Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Babesiosis.  These diseases can be viral, bacterial or parasitic in nature and each is dangerous in their own rite. Thankfully, there are many easily performed actions that will reduce or prevent these nasty monsters from wrecking havoc on your adventures into Mother Nature’s abode.

To reduce the chances of encountering  disease carrying ticks on you or your pets, make sure you adhere to these simple solutions:

  • Check your pets and yourself for ticks daily, especially after spending time outdoors.
  • Remove any ticks found immediately.
  • Have your vet perform a flea and tick check at each exam.
  • Become informed about tick-borne diseases and species in your area.  (Click here for species identification.)
  • Talk to your veterinarian about using flea and tick preventatives on your pet(s).
  • Reduce the tick habitat in your yard.
  • If out hiking, wear light-colored clothing and check your gear.

While ticks are fast becoming a major problem, their effects on enjoying Mother Nature’s splendor is still fairly simple.  We personally follow most of the above suggestions like making sure we dose our dogs (and cats!) with Advantix 2, using an additional spray on us and the dogs (Off! Deep Woods for us and UltraShield EX for the dogs) and following the check and remove (highly recommend this tick remover!) procedure.  We still deal with a few ticks here and there but not nearly as bad as they possibly could be (and have been!).

Here’s to a happy and safe tick season (hopefully tick-free!) from our pack to yours on your outdoor adventures.



Holiday Concerns and Precautions


With the stress of making the holiday season wonderful for all of those coming to enjoy it with you and yours, the dangers that are incorporated with this jolly time of year may have not even crossed your mind with the thoughts of tinsel, presents and Santa running through your mind so here are a few things to keep an eye out for this season.

Poisonous Plants

Poinsettias, while colorful and joyful, are toxic to your pet.  Within minutes of ingestion, the sap will cause blisters to occur in your dog’s mouth and will cause other problems like stomach upset or worse.

Holly, both the berries and leaves, can cause stomach upset or worse.  In some cases, ingestion of this plant has been fatal for some animals.

Mistletoe can cause stomach irritation in mild cases or cause the heart to collapse in severe cases.

If you want to have these plants around for the holiday season, it is recommended that they be placed well out of your pet’s reach so that they do not gain access to them or utilize the artificial plants available in most craft stores.

Decorations and Present Wrapping Materials

When you’re wrapping up the gifts for the family, please make sure to keep all string, adhesives, string and yarn out of range of your pet.   Most glues are very toxic to pets while the string, ribbon and wrapping paper may be linked to blockages.

The Christmas Tree

Some dogs will urinate on the tree – especially if you use a real tree.  This could lead to electrical shock or worse.

These same dogs may see ornaments as toys and remove them from the tree – sometimes rather forcefully.

This may lead to the tree collapsing on the pet or worse.  Wires from the lights are also a big concern with puppies that enjoy chewing.

The water used in keeping real Christmas trees alive for the season may contain sugars or aspirin and this is very toxic to dogs.  To combat this, make sure there is water available at all times to your dog.

There are many other concerns to be had but these are some of the main ones that we have found to keep an eye out for with our crew.  We put a puppy pen around the tree unless there are people there to supervise the naughty pack and their romping to keep everyone safe.

We hope that you and yours have a wonderful and safe holiday season with your pets and family.

Speuter Nation: Sterilizing the World

Let me preface this by saying that I am absolutely not opposed in the slightest to spaying and neutering to ensure that owners are held honest and responsible if getting their dog from a shelter.  I am, however, wholly against propaganda being used by those who would prefer that everything with testicles or a uterus and ovaries be ‘sterilized’ for the implied betterment of pet ownership.

Unfortunately, keeping an intact dog has become a social faux pas in today’s society.  It isn’t acceptable for Fido to go walking around with his testicles swingin’ in the breeze or Fifi to be wearing cute panties when it’s that time of the year because those are sure signs that those people are breeders and breeders are the Devil, don’tcha know?  Sadly, I’ve experienced it first hand with comments like, “When are you going to neuter him?  Those danglies are so gross!” in reference to my intact goober boy.  It makes it hard biting my tongue with comments like that but it’s typically better off that I don’t spout off a nasty remark as a retort and focus my time into educating them why I choose to leave my dogs intact as a personal choice – even if I were to never consider breeding him (or any other intact dog that may live in my home in the future).

With the plethora of information available out there that shows the pros and cons of spaying and neutering, J.Q. Public is sadly lacking in the knowledge department.   For many people, the need to actually have that dog go through the surgery is a convenience for their lives because, let’s face it, intact animals can be a pain in the fanny if you don’t have the time or effort to manage potential accidents.  That being said, if you’re planning on spaying or neutering your animals you should at least be informed of the reasons both for and against the argument.  I would highly suggest reading this article, but if you’d rather it not, here are a few pros and cons for you.

The pros of spaying and neutering include some of the following:

  • Eliminating the risk of testicular cancer (which is <1% roughly).
  • Reduces the rate of non-cancerous prostate issues and perianal fistulas.
  • Nearly eliminates the risk of pyometra (which affects approximately 23% of intact female dogs and has a fatality rate of about 1%).
  • Removes the very small risk of uterine, cervical and ovarian tumors in female dogs.
  • Reduces the risk of mammary tumors in female dogs if spayed before 2.5 years of age.

The cons of spaying and neutering include some of the following:

  • Neutering a dog prior to one year of age significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer).  This commonly occurs in medium/large breed dogs and typically has a very poor outcome.
  • Increases the risk of cardiac hemangiosarcoma occurrence by 1.6 times.
  • Triples the risk of hypothyroidism.
  • Quadruples the small risk of prostate cancer.
  • Increases the risk of orthopedic disorders (like torn ACLs) and increases the risk of reactions to vaccinations.
  • Can cause “spay incontinence” in 4-20% of female dogs.
  • Increases the risk of vaginal dermatitis, recessed vulva, etc. in female dogs – especially when altered prior to puberty.

Those are just some of the reasons given both for and against the procedure.  We must not discount the risks involved in surgery – no matter how advanced the procedure has become – when involving the life of an animal that we care about.  The risk will always be there when it involves anesthetics and surgery.

With all of that being said, however, it still comes down to a personal decision for the owner of said dog(s) because it is their ultimate responsibility to keep those dogs safe, sound and happy for their lives.  If an owner cannot or will not maintain their pet from wandering the streets looking for bitches in season to breed with, train and manage their pet as to limit any potential occurrences of same sex dog aggression or simply wants to ‘enjoy the miracle of life’ for their children or otherwise looking to make a quick buck off of puppies, I would highly suggest having this elective procedure performed for the benefit of your own personal sanity and the sanity of the rescues and shelters that have to take of the brunt of the ‘problem’ when you can’t find responsible, permanent homes for that dog’s offspring.



Health Testing: Tools of the Dog Breeding Trade

When you bring up health testing amongst pit bull breeder’s you’ll hear an entire range of reasons for and against the practice.  Unfortunately for our breed, we need to be utilizing every available resource to help maintain and improve upon the absolute travesty that keeps occurring.

In OFA hip scores, from January 1974 until December 2011, only 733 dogs have been tested – of those tested, we had 24.1% dysplastic.  That’s atrocious for a working breed like the American Pit Bull Terrier.  Why aren’t more people testing these dogs?  Out of 733 dogs tested there were 177 that are considered dysplastic. Considering the number of APBTs that are registered yearly with the ADBA and UKC, the number of dogs tested is incredibly low.

The overall cost of health testing a breeding dog or bitch truthfully isn’t much in the long run – especially if a breeder plans to utilize the stud or bitch more than once.  It should also give the puppy buyers AND the breeder piece of mind knowing that they did everything possible to reduce the potential of throwing a genetic disease.

Unfortunately, not all breeders believe this and give reasons like, “It’s too expensive” or “My dog works just fine.  There aren’t any problems in the line.  It would show.”  Those of us who do health test know this is complete and total baloney.

A dog who is dysplastic, has cardiac or thyroid issues can and still do work through it more often than not without showing any symptoms.  That being said, they eventually do get to the point when they’re showing and then what happens?  If it’s a cardiac issue the dog could fall over and die on a walk or if it’s dysplastic the dog’s quality of life could diminish immensely as a young dog.  Neither of which is fair to the dog or the people who have to see the animal suffer – especially if it’s a puppy buyer.

No, health testing doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a puppy that doesn’t have a health condition since it takes ninety-two chromosomes to match in every puppy and the good matches aren’t always going to be possible.  That being said, it doesn’t mean it won’t significantly reduce the chances of a problem in an unborn puppy.  The risks associated with not health testing far outweigh those of testing and getting a puppy with a genetic condition that reduces the quality and quantity of that dog’s life and the time they will spend in the loving hands of their owner.  To me, personally, it doesn’t add up as to why more and more people AREN’T testing for the betterment of the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Ryker’s OFA X-rays.  He came back OFA Good.