Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Friday, December 6, 2013

COPD in Dogs

COPD - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also sometimes called chronic bronchitis.
While some breeds are particularly prone to the disorder -- Westies and Cockers in particular -- this disease can be found in any dog, especially as dogs age.

Jenny when she was healthier

Jenny, a Rough Collie who is between 8 - 10 years old developed COPD this fall. It is known that some dogs will develop the disease due to a genetic predisposition or because they live in a smoky environment, however others like Jenny have no clear reason for developing the disease.

x-ray showing bronchitis in the lung

Signs that a dog may be developing the disease include a hacking cough, sneezing, shortness of breath which might include bluing of the tongue and/or gums, and mucous discharge from the nose. COPD is basically a lung disease but may originally be mistaken for heart disease - both present with a similar hacking cough and either can result in sneezing. It may require a chest x-ray for a vet to see that it is the lungs, not the heart, that are the source of symptoms.

Caring for a dog with COPD is in some respects like caring for any aging and/or ill dog. Nutritious food without too much salt/sugar, constant access to clean water, exercise that is regular but not demanding, and lots of love and attention. It is recommend to walk a dog with COPD on a harness, not a collar, as no added pressure should be placed on the dog's throat. I have found that Jenny seems to sleep best when her head is elevated slightly so that her nasal passages drain a bit more than if she were laying flat - she has pillows and folded blankets to assist her in finding a comfortable position.

It is important that dogs continue to get regular exercise that is not demanding - this helps keep the mucous from building up in the dogs lungs or bronchial tubes. Jenny and I take a daily walk at a casual pace - the idea is to keep her moving without adding to her need to breath harder. We also make sure she gets outside regularly as the fresh air helps her clear her nasal passages, which she needs to do throughout the day.

Humidifier - can help a congested dog in dry weather

There is no cure for COPD and management is necessary; a dog's lifetime may or may not be affected by the disease depending on how sever their individual complications. Jenny's lungs have been compromised by the disease, while some dogs have more limited impacts and may appear fairly 'normal' between flareups. Medication can be very helpful in managing the disease.

I wish I could say Jenny was responding well to medication. At this point we haven't had much luck with finding a med that is helpful; neither have we given up looking. When a dog is chronically ill however, they still are able to enjoy many daily activities and most importantly, they enjoy spending time with their people 'hanging out' and receiving affection. Fortunately, I am able to still keep her comfortable and usually pretty happy. I savor the moments we have together and am building up a bank of memories that I will call on often in years to come.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Adoption Dog - U.P. of Michigan

Today is a Tuesday's Tails blog hop which is designed to promote adoptable dogs. The more of us bloggers from all over who participate, the more shelter dogs we can raise awareness of and hopefully help find homes for.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I live is a large area with a limited population, so I'm going to feature several dogs from several shelters with a geographic distribution across the Western half of the U.P.

First, from the Copper Country Humane Society >http://www.cchumanesociety.com/<we have Whiskey, a girl who has been here for a while now. As a Shar Pei mix, Whiskey is naturally a little suspicious of strangers - which causes her not to show well in a shelter - but once she warms up to a person she will be devoted for life. When she first arrived she had a skin condition - which can be seen in this picture. She's been successfully treated and is ready for a new home. I always found with Shar Pei that the key to keeping healthy skin was to avoid foods with Soy.

Next, from the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (UPAWS)

we have Regis. A West Highland White Terrier x Poodle, Regis is a great size. As a senior, however, he has been having a little trouble finding a permanent home. His foster family reports he's still an active and well behaved little guy and ready to join a home that isn't scared off by the fact he's 12.

From the Northwoods Animal Shelter in Iron River (Petfinder - 49935)
we have a pair of senior German Shorthair Pointers who were surrendered by the owner they'd spent their life with. Faith and Patches still have a lot of life and love to give to someone who is looking for a well behaved pair of companions who have left the puppy foolishness behind them but still like to get out and take a brisk walk in the woods.

Rounding out today's listings, from Ironwood and the H.O.P.E. animal shelter

there is Kodiak, a slightly older Husky who is active, intelligent, and a bit independent. He was found suffering from neglect and would now benefit from a home that is willing to make his life a lot more comfortable.

Several of these shelters are within driving distance of the Wisconsin/Michigan boarder and each of these dogs is decidedly worth the trip.

Remember, these dogs are also just a small selection of the amazing animals waiting for new homes in a shelter near you.

Prioritizing Pets: when there isn't enough time in the day

Someone recently commented on one of the Saved by dogs posts, "Is this a current active site? Doesn't appear to be." 

My immediate response was yes.

I understand the question though. We don't always look active, do we?

My last most recent post was in September and here we are in November. So in some ways, I guess it hasn't been very active - even though people continue to find the blog and continue to use it for reference purposes, which is designed to be one of its main uses. The information about breeds, training etc. remains relevant.

So where have I been? Like I'm guessing everyone who finds this blog, I work. I'm also a writer and ironically, I've been so busy writing I haven't had much time for blogging - because when I'm not writing for more pressing publishing demands I'm using more of my time for being with my dogs and less of my time these last few months writing about them. And there's a reason for this.

Those of you who have stopped by in the past know I live with a wonderful Collie, Jenny. I also live with a few other dogs -  Gracie the English Bull Terrier,Lil the Labrador, and Chi Chi the Chihuahua. I tend however, to think of Jenny as 'the good dog' because she is usually the lowest maintenance, happy to just be, gentle natured, a sense of humor that doesn't require her to bounce off the walls or me, and a spirit that makes her a pleasure to be around. 

Of my current crew Jenny has been with me the longest and while each has their spot in my heart, Jenny has that place that an oldest child has in a family - the one who tends to be responsible and can be counted on in a way the 'puppies' and younger children maybe can't be (can you tell I'm the oldest sibling in my family? Fortunately my younger siblings don't read this so I can slight their birth order without fear of reprisal.)


As said, Jenny is usually a low maintenance dog. This fall, however, Jenny has not been well. She started with a cold that appeared to be kennel cough. She hadn't actually been to a kennel but even so, a cold isn't impossible to catch outside kennel conditions. The first round of antibiotics which was meant to help clear this up seemed to be helping at first, then she started getting sicker. Back to the vet for chest x-rays (we were all worried she maybe had a heart condition) only to find she had developed pneumonia. Several medications and months later with many medical ups and downs and it now appears that Jenny has doggy-emphysema, or as it is more commonly known these days, COPD. How? Who knows. We don't smoke or mine asbestos but these things can happen. 

The result of all this though is that I've been spending a lot more intentional time with Jen. She needs her nose wiped regularly. Her walks need to be by herself - no doggy siblings - and slow. I keep a humidifier running for her and otherwise seem to find a lot more little things to do for her. She is eating well, enjoying taking her casual strolls, and still maintains her role as big sister to the pups. She scolds them when they get too rowdy and invites them to the occasional game when they get too quiet. She still nibbles my arm when she thinks I'm working too hard or otherwise needing to pet her. She also has coughing spells, sneezes a lot, and seems to constantly be fighting a low-grade infection. How long can we go on like this? Who knows. We take each day as it comes and we try to remain optimistic, although some days that is a little more of a struggle than others.


I enjoy this blog, I enjoy the interaction with both readers and fellow bloggers whom I've met online. I realize though that lately, with the limited number of hours we each have in a day, we sometimes have to make choices between the handful of things we enjoy, and then give priority to some over others. I miss my blogging community but I know that most of the blogs I enjoy reading will still be around in a month, or ten. So I will blog and read blogs when I can and that may not be as often as in the past - not that I was ever the most frequent commenter. I'll try and keep my toes in the water. I know that those of you who read this will understand my priorities, just as I know your best wishes will be sent out for Jenny to do as well as possible as long as possible. Meanwhile, I am reminded once more that dogs live in the moment and we must do the same when spending time with them.   



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Airedale Terriers: Fun, fiesty, fine companions

Airedale Terriers are on my mind today.
I recently observed my Aunt attending her first dog show as a participant - showing her lovely Airedale, Bess, in their first show. Bess is just over a year old and a great example of her breed.
Bess completed her first two points towards her championship, won many ribbons, and won Best Terrier. What makes Bess a special girl though, is that the rest of the year she is a much loved companion, who just put on the show-dog role for one weekend of her life. My Aunt recently retired from teaching and showing a dog was on her bucket list :-)

One of my good friends grew up with a pair of Airedales and this was the same thing his family loved about the breed - they are just great companions. Cheerful, good with children, energetic, a nice size if you want a dog with a bit of substance but not one that takes up the whole floor.

Airedales are a 'forward' dog, inquisitive and intelligent yet a bit aloof with strangers, they make natural watch dogs who will bark to warn their people of changes in their territory.

They're also diggers.
If a well manicured lawn, minus holes, is vitally important to you, then this would not be a good breed to live with - unless you're willing to give over a fenced in area of the yard just for digging. In fact, some people do install sand pits or digging areas for their Airedales in the yard, just so the dog has a doggy-digging designated area.

 Personality wise, though, this is a great breed. As far as terriers go, the Airedale tends to be a bit easier going then for example, their cousins the Wire-Haired Fox Terrier. This is not however, a laid back breed - they have a lot of go and like an energetic walk or play time every day. Bess is making sure that my Aunt's retirement still includes early morning walks at a brisk pace.

Jack and Bess as a pup

Of course, as often happens at such times, everyone in the family forgot to bring a camera with them to the dog show...so the one picture I have of Bess is of when she was a pup. At the time this picture was taken, her adopted big-brother Jack the Giant Schnauzer, was showing her how to fit into the family. Sadly, Jack developed cancer and died this past year. Bess has been a comfort during this time of loss, another role she adapted to with grace and ease.

 For those interested in a somewhat active dog that requires grooming but sheds little, is medium sized, and fairly adaptable to moving between activities with their person - this is a breed worth considering. They do best when raised with other animals; terriers in general tend to chase smaller animals that move suddenly if they do not learn otherwise when growing up. At the same time, this is a breed that is fairly adaptable to sharing life and home with a range of other animals and they tend to do well with other dogs.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Palative care for terminally ill and elderly dogs.

Dogs do not live as long as people, or parrots, or horses...we know from the moment that we allow a dog into our life that we are likely to outlive our canine companion. Most of us have difficulty with saying goodbye to a beloved friend. Some people will choose to do everything that is medically and financially possible to extend the life of a canine.

My personal belief system includes the idea that life is temporary for all of us and that the quality of our existence is meaningful; for dogs quality of life means more than quantity, because dogs do not have a sense of time that allows them to contemplate the future or lack of future. They live in the moment and if the current moment is not comfortable, combined with too many uncomfortable moments clouding their time, then they are not having a good quality of life. They are surviving and hoping for relief from pain.

When living with an elderly and/or ill dog, it is important to monitor them for signs that life is still giving them a reasonable amount of pleasure and not a burdensome level of pain. Does the dog wince, or react when touched, held, picked up - or do they still enjoy a brief game or shuffling walk around the block? Do they enjoy eating or are they reluctant to eat even what is usually a high value treat, i.e. the really good stuff? Are they easily confused? Do they seem anxious and uncertain where they are, or do they still just need a sniff to know who is in the room?

Some dogs age with grace and some find the loss of vision, hearing, and mobility very distressing. As care-givers we must learn to read our canine friend's body language and behavior. We are responsible for providing pain management while it is possible to manage their pain. When it is no longer possible to provide the quality of life that outweighs the discomfort and confusion, we need to marshal our strength and allow them a dignified exit from their suffering.

Sooner or later I think we all look at a beloved canine companion and wonder, "will I know when it is time?" and "How will I manage in their absence?" As the wonder-collie Jenny ages, I note her face becoming greyer and some days her joints, despite the supplements, seem a little stiffer. She and I both have days when we have to get up and move a little before look reasonably mobile. Additionally, we have another senior canine in our mix, His Majesty Chi Chi, Lord Sovereign of all he Surveys and Chief Administrator of Verbal Reprimands.

His Majesty and I have entered a new phase of life - we're both having to come to terms with connective tissue disorders - turns out he has his and I have mine. We're more simpatico then we even realized on first sight. We both are going to have good days and shaky days, and days when it is with reluctance that we leave our bed. We are in agreement, however, that we want our good days to be very good, and our so-so days to be manageable.

I know if I want this standard of more bearable moments than unbearable - and I can look forward to future lower-pain events -  then it is even more important for the canines in my life to only be asked to carry on while they are comfortable. They can only live in the present. Once one is no longer able to keep a canine comfortable in more moments than not, then it is time to seriously reconsider what we are demanding of them.

Let us all learn to be more like our doggy friends; let us enjoy the pleasure of each day, whatever that means for us as individuals. Let us revel in all the good moments we are allowed to share with those who matter most to us.
Do not borrow tomorrow's trouble today; trust yourself to do what is best for your companions when the time comes for those decisions, until then, be as present in the current moment as possible.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Doberman Pinscher

A working dog designed for a specific purpose, the Doberman's temperament has intentionally been "softened", particularly in North America, by breeders who wanted a dog that was suited to more than just guard work.

Typically, Dobermans are still naturally protective of their families however, some individual Dobies are so loving and friendly that even their owners question if they would be protective should the need arise. Among Doberman breeders, the consensus generally is, if you ever needed your dog's aid, the dog would probably rise to the occasion.

My friend's family had a female Doberman that was one of the sweetest, kindest dogs I've ever met. She would bark with joy when anyone drove into their yard, then wag her way over to greet visitors. Technically, this made her a watch dog, because she let everyone know when someone had arrived.

I once worked with a dog trainer from a city police K-9 unit who claimed that the Dobermans he'd met were either always "on" or "off" - that is, a Dobie either was a constant watchdog, alert to trouble, or it was a big love sponge. While this may have once been true (we had this conversation almost 30 years ago) selective breeding has made changes within the breed.

Modern Dobies are capable of being alert and wary of strangers, while sweet and loving with those they know. A Doberman is devoted to their people and also has the potential to be a therapy or service dog. This is a very intelligent breed that trains well and was designed to be around people. This is not a breed that does well when left alone in a yard - they require social interaction. They would prefer to be couch potatoes who receive a couple of brisk walks a day.

Some lines have more drive than others, and require more activity. Adopting a Dobe from a rescue can allow a family to know ahead of time how much exercise, and additional training, their companion will need. And just because a dog is a Doberman, doesn't mean it was born to be a guard dog. Many dogs can be watch dogs, given that a watch dog's role is to alert people (bark) when there is something out of order, or a new person in their environment.

Guard dogs are usually trained to provide specific responses to specific stimuli; these responses usually include the capacity to escalate behavior that deters a person, like giving chase, or grabbing a person. Just as not all Labradors were born to be guide dogs, not all Dobermans were born to be guard dogs. Some Dobermans have personalities that are too gentle for this kind of work.

A watch dog is like a lock - it helps keep honest people honest. A barking dog deters people from wandering into one's yard and home. Burglars also usually avoid the houses where there is a barking dog. And some breeds have a look and a reputation which deters people from interacting with them - which can also lead to downfalls like breed specific legislation.

 In North America, Dobermans' looks have been shaped by the established practice of cropping ears and docking tails. In many European countries cropping and docking are no longer permitted. North Americans are showing a slowly growing willingness to leave their dog's ears natural - I think we're a long way out though from seeing Dobe's here with natural tails.

Regardless of how a Doberman looks, they tend to have big hearts, strong bodies, quick minds, and a willingness to please their people. A devoted breed that is suited to people who want a willing pupil to train and an oversize lap dog to cuddle, this is a breed that deserves a better reputation then they sometimes have.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Old English Sheepdog

An online friend was wondering about a breed of dog that would be big enough to assist as a mobility service dog, good natured  enough to be part of a family with grandchildren visitors, and with a capacity to herd the family cow in from a field. The Old English Sheepdog fits the bill.

Trainable, affectionate, natural herders, and having a sense of playfulness, this is a breed that has a great deal of underutilized potential. Their lack of popularity may be due to the rumor that their coats are hard to keep - in fact no more so than any long haired breed, or it may be due to their need for exercise. As with any breed, this is not a breed for everyone, it is a breed for families and individuals who want a furry, friendly, active companion.

When one of my friends had her first toddler she chose a Sheepdog to help her watch over her son. The family had a very large fenced in yard and when the little boy would stray to the far end of the yard, the Sheepdog would help my friend by herding him back towards the house. Unlike some herding breeds which use nipping at the heels to try and move children - an unwelcome behavior - the Sheepdog would simply use her body to block the toddlers movement in every direction but the one she wanted him to move in. Of course the child would get frustrated but the dog would patiently endure his screams of outrage and he would eventually give in and move in the desired direction.

(My friend was supervising - this isn't a case of the dog being used as a nanny - just an aid.)

 Sheepdogs tend to have an affinity for children and other animals, making them good candidates for busy households. That said, this is not a breed that can be left alone in the yard all day and expected to behave well for 20 minutes of family time in the evening. These are very people orientated dogs; modern Sheepdogs affinity for being out with animals has been adjusted but they still require a sense of belonging - they now want to belong with people, in the middle of what the family is doing.

They'll be happy to help the children practice soccer in the backyard, train for track and field, then flop out in the evening to watch a show. They do need to be given some kind of outlet for their energy, or they may create their own activity. Bored and under exercised dogs usually become destructive dogs.

With a good nature and at times a bit of silliness, this is generally a cheerful breed that will be a welcome addition to those homes that are willing to provide the lifestyle this breed thrives in. There are breed specific rescues working to place adult Old English Sheepdogs and the breed also turns up from time to time in all-breed rescues.

If choosing to buy a puppy in North America, look for breeders who are members of the Old English Sheepdog Club which has a code of ethics breeders must adhere to. This code includes testing for health problems; at one point Sheepdog's life expectancy was down to about 7 years due to health complications. Better breeding now places the average back where most large breeds are - around 11 years. If buying a puppy outside North America, again, look for a breeder who is conducting the appropriate health tests on all adults before breeding.