Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tricks? It's Not Just About The Tricks

I used to think very little about teaching my dogs tricks. I figured I didn't need my dogs do these things. Teach them what they need to know and that's it. What are tricks good for? Showing off at parties?


Little I realized how much we've been missing.

I also didn't realize that to a dog, learning any behavior is really a trick and it is best taught that way. Do you think that a dog knows the difference between a sit being a serious business and sit pretty being a party trick? They might notice the difference in your attitude, though.

Based on your attitude, which one do you think they enjoy learning more?

So I concluded that from now on, any behavior I want, I'll teach it as a trick. It is so much more fun for both parties that way.

But there is more.

By learning tricks, dogs learn learning.

I notice with Cookie how much faster she picks up every new thing we're working on now. She is also more likely to offer different things to see which one will get her a reward. First she'll try the things she already knows, then she might throw in something new. When she gets really excited, she will try everything at once, which is pretty funny.

Learning tricks exercises the brain

When presented with a challenge, I can clearly see Cookie thinking. It is so precious to watch. She might come over to me and sit - nothing happens. She offers a paw - nothing happens. Then she remembers "Oh, I'm supposed to go put the paw on the target thingy."

It's a bonding time and teaches her that paying attention to me means good things.

Our training sessions are high quality time for both of us. We go for walks and play games, but this to Cookie is a type of game too and she loves it.

And she has a lot of fun with it.

It is clear from her excitement. And no matter how tired may be after a day at the farm, she still looks forward to her training games with mommy. She won't pass on it. It became a part of our daily routine.

Related articles:
From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization  
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed  
Who's Training Whom? Stick And Treat 
Observation Skills Of Dogs  
If You Want Your Dog To Do Something, Teach It 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Veterinary Highlights: Worms And Germs Map

A comprehensive veterinary disease reporting, mapping and trending source system is now out there. And, unlike many others, this one is for Canada too. Yay!


This can become quite an awesome tool.

Of course, such map can only reflect diseases as they have been diagnosed and reported. So if the dogs don't get to see a vet when sick, don't get diagnosed, or cases are not properly reported, it could lead to false sense of security.

But let's be optimistic and hope that won't happen that much.

Worms and Germs Map is an interactive, real-time disease mapping system designed to track selected infectious diseases of companion animals (including horses). It is a companion to the educational site WormsAndGermsBlog. Both were developed by Dr. Scott Weese of the University of Guelph and Dr. Maureen Anderson from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

I hope this map will get used to its full potential.

Source website:
Worms & Germs Map

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Does The Thyroid Gland Do?

by Jennifer Coates, DVM

A while back we talked about sick euthyroid syndrome – a condition that complicates the diagnosis of hypothyroidism in dogs. But once it has been determined that a dog truly has hypothyroidism, the question of what the thyroid gland does and how the body is affected by its dysfunction must be answered.

Thyroid gland: Image Pets Adviser

What does the gland do?

The thyroid gland is located in a dog’s neck, one segment on either side of the trachea (windpipe) and makes hormones – primarily thyroxine (T4), but also 3,5,3’-triiodo-thyronine (T3), reverse T3, and other metabolites. T3 is the more potent hormone and is not only produced directly by the thyroid gland, but is also derived from T4. These hormones are made from the amino acid tyrosine and are bound to iodine (this is the only place iodine is utilized in the body).

Thyroid hormone secretion is regulated by a negative feedback mechanism of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis (from the brain to the thyroid). This means that when there is a decrease in T4, more T4 is made. Conversely, when there is an excess amount of T4, less is made.

What do the hormones do?

On a molecular level, thyroid hormones bind cellular receptors (intracellular DNA-binding proteins), enter into cells via membrane transporter proteins and interact with specific sequences of DNA to modulate gene expression – in other words, turn some genes on and other genes off.

On a physiological level, thyroid hormones have numerous effects in many, if not, all areas of the body. While their absence or excess may not be life threatening (well, not immediately anyway), maintaining appropriate levels is certainly important for good quality of life. Some known effects of thyroid hormones include:

  1. Metabolism – thyroid hormones help to regulate body temperature, and can stimulate fat and carbohydrate metabolism. This results in increased fatty acids and glucose in the blood. When the hormone is deficient, as is the case in a hypothyroid dog, the blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels become elevated.

  2. Growth and brain development – normal growth and brain development in young animals is dependent on thyroid hormones. A thyroid deficiency results in growth-retardation and neurologic impairment.

  3. Cardiovascular effects – thyroid hormones cause an increased heart rate, cardiac output, and blood flow to many organs.

  4. Central Nervous System – thyroid hormones cause agitation and anxiety in excess, and sluggishness and dullness if deficient.

  5. Reproductive System – fertility is affected by lack of thyroid hormone

  6. Many other effects - such as maintaining healthy skin and good muscle tone

You can see why having appropriate amounts of thyroid hormones is critical to the well being of dogs. 

Thankfully, treating hypothyroidism in dogs is about as easy as it gets. Simply give synthetic thyroid hormone as prescribed by your veterinarian and follow the monitoring schedule that he or she recommends (it can take some time to find the right dose and a dog’s needs may change).

If despite this, your dog’s condition does not improve, the initial diagnosis of true hypothyroidism versus euthyroid sick syndrome needs to be revisited.

***

Jennifer Coates, DVM graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999.  In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado.  She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms: Vet-speak Deciphered for the Non-veterinarian

Dr. Coates has recently joined the PetMD team and she is now writing for the Fully Vetted column; great blog, do check it out.

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics.  Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.


Articles by Dr. Coates:
Kidney Disease – Say What? 
What Happens In The Dog's Body When The Kidneys Fail To Function Properly? 
Heat Stroke: What Happens In The Dog's Body?  
The Perplexities of Pancreatitis
The Other Side Of The Coin: The Cost Of Defensive Medicine
To Neuter Or Not To Neuter… That Is The Question
Don’t Forget the Physical Therapy
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 1)
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 2)
Picking the Right Dog to Breed
When Is It An Emergency?
Dog Allergies: Common, Commonly Misdiagnosed, or Both? 
Why Does The Spleen Get No Respect?
Protect Your Dog From Snake Bites 
More Creepy Crawlies
Why I Dislike Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Salmonella – A Significant Problem, Or Not? 
What’s In the Vomit?
Cortisol: What Happens In A Dog’s Body When It Goes Awry?
What Happens In The Dog's Body With Zinc Toxicity? 
What Happens In The Dog’s Body: Xylitol Poisoning 
What Happens In The Dog's Body: Insulin  
When Is Hypothyroidism not Hypothyroidism? 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blog The Change For Animals: Everybody Our Own Threshold

I've been thinking about a topic for Blog the Change for Animals and this is something that's been on my mind.

I feel we all might be doing too much preaching and not enough doing.

Back in my country we have a saying, "Sweep your own threshold." Stop looking at what everybody else is doing wrong, take care of your own mess first.

I know there are many people who work really hard at making the world a better place for animals.

But there is so much preaching going on.

Do the words fall on a fertile ground?

The social media is full of petitions. There seem to be as many petitions as there are people out there. We sign petitions telling other countries what they should be doing.

And yet we still euthanize dogs in our shelters, puppy mills always find a way to survive, dog fighting is alive and well, dogs get abused ...

Whatever happened to leading by example?

It kind of reminds me of the Christian church - everybody is preaching and nobody is listening. Why?

Because Christians live lives no different from anybody else. They are unhappy, greedy, selfish, adulterous ... they just dress up nice from time to time and preach.

There ARE some Christians who are different.

I remember our English instructor. He was a Canadian from Buffalo. I know ... don't ask, I don't know. He was a student and came to my old country to teach English.

He never said a word about his faith. 

But he felt different. There was something about him. At first I thought it was because he was a Canadian (or American or whatnot). I couldn't figure it why it felt that way, it just did.

He didn't speak a word of Czech and felt pretty lonely. Because I spoke a little bit of English, we hung out a little. It was then, during our awkward conversation, when I found out that he was a Christian.

Was that making him different?

It wasn't my time then yet, but later on, that memory was part of what did lead me to faith. It was because he was a Christian and he WAS different.

If the world actually SAW some difference, I bet it would be willing to listen. As it stands, why should anybody be listening?

Let's give them a reason to listen.

Let's clean up our own act, set a good example. Then they might follow.

So I'm going to shut up now and go and do something about the mess on my own threshold.

My Dog Can't See, But She Isn't Blind ... To Our Love: Cleo's Story

by Sharon Castellanos

My dog Cleo has always been clumsy. 

Starting the day we brought her home from our San Francisco SPCA she has rushed into closed doors, bumped her head into tables, stumbled off curbs, tripped over shoes, and generally got into as much clumsy mischief as an 85 lb. Husky-Shepherd dog could.


She chased a squirrel up a tree once, and couldn’t figure out how to get down. There was a moment on a beach excursion when Cleo didn’t see a wave coming and found herself under water for a few seconds. A few years ago at a friend’s house, her interest in the bathroom trash can pulled Cleo into a space that was so narrow and awkward for her big body that when she turned around to leave, her butt and tail closed the door. She silently and patiently stayed behind the bathroom door waiting for them to find her. Cleo has a deep ability to trust her caregivers.

Today, my senior dog still gets into much of the same mischief as before only at a slower pace, and without most of her vision.

Cleo was diagnosed with diabetes over two years ago. 

We have managed it well with daily insulin injections and a balanced diet, but it caused her develop cataracts quickly. We’ve considered taking her to an ophthalmologist to see if she’d be a good candidate for cataract surgery but we have not. I’m concerned about her going through the surgery and the recovery, besides being wary of whether the results would have enough of a positive impact on the quality of her life to be worth the stress on us both. We don’t know her exact age but she is definitely close to 13 years old — which is elderly for a big dog.

If the ophthalmologist thought she’d do well with the surgery, would her being able to see that chair, or that corner of the couch, or the stairs, significantly increase the quality of her life? Would she bump into objects any less? Would her confidence increase? Who can really say. We certainly know any increase in vision will not reverse the ache in her aging joints from arthritis.

Our holistic approach

Instead we choose to focus more on what we know she enjoys, and give her a good life — each day we have together. We’re celebrating what we have with her, and accepting her as she is, an aging dog who is still sweet natured, loving to all, food motivated and curious about the smells that surround her.

We cope on a practical scale with Cleo’s blindness by not moving furniture. 

We’ve taught her useful words such as “step” to use negotiating stairs or sidewalk curb. We praise all of her excursions along the hallway leading from the front of the house to the back. We also have modified our schedules so someone is always at home with her.

Pets, in my book, whether they are cats, bunnies, fish or a cute dog, are a gift to human-kind. They make wonderful teachers, if you just stop for a second, and let them. If they happen to be blind, or without a complete set of legs, or whatever, it just means you are in for a treat. You know why?


Because they use their ability to problem solve in really unique and joyful ways!

These skills can be very translatable to humans too. We’re often learning something new about ourselves from life with Cleo. I’ve become much more compassionate towards my father’s own struggles managing his diabetes. So the next time you feel sorry for a disabled dog, don't.

They don't want our pity, they’re social creatures and want our attention. And probably a treat.

Though our dog Cleo doesn't see much with her eyes, she isn’t blind to our affectionate gestures. She can hear love in our tone of voice. I know she can feel my parental attention when I groom her and check her over for any new lumps or hotspots.

I believe Cleo copes well with her vision loss because of our holistic approach to her quality of life — and that is what I care about the most.

***

With her dog Cleo as her muse, Sharon Castellanos is inspired to share through Grouchy Puppy how dogs give fearlessly and positively influence our lives. Demonstrations by dogs and the people who love them are everywhere proving the human-animal bond is real. Grouchy Puppy is focused on highlighting them.

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