Puppy Toenails

Keeping your dog’s nails neatly trimmed not only looks nice, it also is less stress on the dog’s foot.  No long nails to splay the feet out.  No long nails to jab into your foot either!

We start when they are just babies, getting them used to getting the nails trimmed and also keeping the quick nice and short.

Having nine puppies means LOTS of nails to trim.  I use a Dremel to grind the nails, which keeps them nice and smooth.  For more detail, check out this old post.

grinding dog nails

Happy Tail & Tail Amputation

Danes are notorious for “happy tail” – they wag their powerful tails hard and sometimes it smacks walls and other objects, causing the end of the tail to break open.  While this doesn’t normally seem to cause the dogs discomfort, it’s not very fun for the owner.  Putting blood on the tip of a wagging tail equals blood spatters on every surface in a room in mere moments (hydrogen peroxide works wonders in getting blood out of fabrics).

Not all Danes have this issue, but it seems once a dog has done it, they will continue to experience issues with it.  In part, because the more the tail gets injured, the easier it is to break open again.  And, in part, because the ones that break it open once are likely to be the type of waggers that continually have the issue.

Of my Danes, Skyy had happy tail.  She wagged her tail all the time and when she got extra happy, that tail was almost lethal.  I joked that she could find something on which to smack her tail in the middle of an empty field.

None of her puppies seemed to have been as cursed with the happy tail problems, until Bree’s recent boarding experience.  Her owner had Bree boarding at a vet clinic and the hard kennel walls, mixed with an excited tail didn’t work well.  Bree, who hadn’t had chronic tail problems, busted her tail open so bad that a tendon was hanging out.  By this point, there isn’t much to do, other than amputating the tail.

tail amputation

Bree's tail amputation

If the tail is to the point of amputation, I would recommend amputating the majority of the tail and leaving a very short tail.  Trying to save “the majority” of the tail does not seem to be very effective as if too much length is left, the dog can still injure the end.  Take enough off so that it will not continue to smack into objects when the dog is wagging.  Word of caution – leave enough of a stub that if there are any healing problems, there is enough skin left for which the vet to work.

For owners dealing with happy tail, it does not always result in amputation.  (Most happy tails do not start out as severe as Bree’s situation!)  There are some taping methods that work fairly well.

You will quickly learn that attempting to tape just the end of the tail is worthless.  The taping method we used for Skyy, a tried and true method, worked really well.  The concept is to tape the dog’s tail up under their body, as if they were tucking their tail.  This keeps them from being able to whip the end of the tail around, allowing the tail a chance to heal.  You leave the injured part of the tail free to breath and heal.

You’ll need an O ring, swivel clip, some fabric to create a “belt” (I used the waist part of an old sweatshirt) and some cloth tape.

O ring

O ring, taped to tail

clip

swivel clip

happy tail taping method

You can unclip the tail when the dog goes out to potty, although the dog will move their tail to the side, so I typically did not unclip it.

Get the tail taped up as soon as there is an issue and leave it taped for a couple of weeks after you think it is healed.  A dog is more apt to break open the tail again if it isn’t healed well.  There is the possibility that you’ll end up doing a fair amount of this taping method off and on throughout the dog’s life.  But, you stand a good chance at being able to save the tail and your sanity, as blood spattered walls are no fun.  For those showing their Danes, a docked tail is a disqualification in our breed, so amputation means the end of a show career.

In addition to taping while the tail is healing, there are other preventative ideas that help.  If the dog is breaking the tail open while kenneled, padding the sides of the crate/kennel might help.  Teaching the dog to sit when greeting you can help as well.

Kizzy has her CHIC number

Kizzy’s CHIC certificate came in the mail yesterday – woo-hoo!  Her CHIC page

CHIC certificate

 

CHIC stands for Canine Health Information Center and it’s a centralized canine health database.  To earn a CHIC number, a dog has to have all required health tests for their breed publicly documented (not all breeds are eligible for a CHIC number).

For Danes, there are four required tests – heart, hips, thyroid and eyes.  These four things are deemed the biggest (testable) issues for our breed and recommended prior to a decision to breed a dog.

A dog does not have to pass all their health test – their owner just has to be willing to publicly list the results.  Kudos to those who are willing to display less than perfect results.  Even if that particular dog isn’t being bred, the information is helpful to those who own related dogs.  And, less than perfect results don’t always mean the dog should never be bred.  It depends on the problem, the severity, and the strength of the dog’s other merits when weighed against those results and the dog’s other weaknesses.

The CHIC program is a wonderful tool for breeders and puppy buyers alike.  It allows breeders to make smarter breeding choices. The more information a breeder has – on the breeding candidate and their relatives – the more informed their breeding decisions.  For buyers, it allows an easy way to verify and research before purchasing a puppy.

Skyy health update

During her recent c-section, a large tumor was discovered on Skyy’s spleen.  Hemangiosarcoma (blood fed sarcoma) is suspected and the prognosis is not good.  We discussed the options available that day and decided not to attempt removal or even a biopsy, as the risk with her bleeding out was too great (the tumor had a very large blood supply feeding it).

There are various options I have to consider, including a splenectomy (removing the spleen and tumor), however the prognosis isn’t good for any of the options.

I have decided not to put Skyy through any additional surgeries and to simply keep her comfortable and well loved during her remaining time.

She did give me a scare earlier this week and she completely stopped eating on Thursday of this past week and was continually vomitting. I started treating her with pain meds, thinking it might be a pain related issue and fortunately, she has started eating again.  I imagine my time with her is very limited, but as long as her quality of life is good, I am going to enjoy her company.

She is still taking wonderful care of her baby boy, who is growing fast!

Titers (in lieu of vaccinations)

I used to believe that being a responsible pet owner meant diligent annual vaccinations.  I now realize that it is unnecessary and even potentially harmful.

needle

I’ve used a limited vaccine protocol for over 10 years now.  I vaccinate for parvo and distemper at 8-9 weeks old, 4 weeks later and then a third, and final, booster at a year old.

Wait until the puppy is at least six months of age before vaccinating for rabies.  A rabies booster is then required 12 months later.  After that, I vaccinate every three years  for rabies (per Iowa law).

Note: Never give a rabies shot at the same time as other boosters – space them out by at least two weeks. Completely avoid 5- or 7-way combo shots (which many vets push).  The combo shots are risky for multiple reasons.  Read about the risk of combo shots.

I do not give any other vaccines throughout the life of the dog. Over-vaccination can be detrimental to your dog’s health.  Challenge studies have indicated parvo and distemper vaccinations give animals 5-7 years of immunity, possibly longer.  So, not only are repeated jabs most likely unnecessary, they also carry a health risk.

I was vaccinating for bordetella (kennel cough) annually, however the last time my dogs received the intra-nasal bordetella vaccine, Skyy suffered a reaction.  It turned out to be relatively minor (in hindsight; it did not seem that way when I was making an ER vet trip in the middle of the night), but it has made me nervous.  I’m still on the fence about using this in the future.

In lieu of vaccinations, I utilize titers.  A titer checks for antibodies present in the blood, which signifies the immune response level.  To titer, your vet simply needs to draw a small sample of blood and send it to an appropriate lab, like ANTECH (some vets might handle titers in house).  The results come back within a few weeks.  In the years that I’ve been titering my dogs, the results have always come back strong, showing an appropriate immune response level.

The lab will dilute the sample of blood to determine the titer levels.  The number of times the sample can be diluted before no antibodies can be detected are read as ratio’s.  If the sample can be diluted 100 times, still showing antibodies, the resulting ratio would read 1:100.  So, the higher the number, the stronger the titer.

My results from ANTECH Diagnostics state, for both parvo and distemper: “A titer of 1:5 or greater, with no clinical signs, indicates immunologic response to vaccination.  A titer of less than 1:5 indicates poor immunologic response to vaccination.”

Both of my girls results, for both parvo and distemper, were listed >1:5, showing appropriate immune response levels.

If titer results are weak, it doesn’t necessarily mean the dog needs a booster shot.  Read more about weak titer results.

The titers are used for “proof of vaccination”, for when my dogs attend training classes, are boarded, etc.  This is actually the primary reason I titer, as there isn’t concern on my end regarding lack of immunity.  Just need proof that the lack of vaccinations isn’t done out of neglect and my dogs carry an appropriate immune response level so they are not at risk.

Just had titers ran on my two dogs.  It was $57/dog for a set of parvo/distemper titers, so I walked out of the vet’s office paying $114 total.  This is more than shots, but this way my dogs are not subjected to something potentially harmful.

Skyy Needs a Tooth Pulled

As a raw feeder, I’ve always rested easy about my dogs’ teeth health.  The raw meaty bones clean their teeth naturally.  Unfortunately, Skyy only chews her bones with her back teeth (she refuses to use her feet or do any ripping of raw meaty bones), which has created some issue with the teeth in the front of her mouth.  Her canine teeth have some tartar build up, although they still look good for an almost seven year old dog.  However, she has one premolar that has become problematic.

dog teeth

She is going in tomorrow to have the problem tooth extracted.  The vet will also clean the canine teeth while she is under.

Going forward, I will be using more recreational (chew) bones, as well as brushing the teeth, in hopes of keeping those front teeth cleaner.

Kizzy’s health test results

Got the official certificates in the mail last week and OFA’s database is updated now as well.  Kizzy’s elbows & patellas looked great and she was rated “Good” for her hips.  Here is the link to her results – http://www.offa.org/display.html?appnum=1419704#animal .  YAY!  Next we’ll be looking for a cardiac clinic as well has do her thyroid testing. 

Skyy also recently passed an updated CERF (eyes) exam with great results…at SIX!  Another YAY!

Health Testing; Kizzy wins 2 more points

Kizzy picked up two more points, going Winners Bitch and Best of Opposite both days in Marshalltown.  Picture hopefully coming soon!

Kizzy also had her x-rays done for hips, elbows and patellas.  Everything looked great on the x-rays, so now we’re just waiting for the OFA expert review.  I will post link to her OFA results as soon as they are available.

Great Danes have four recommended health tests prior to the decision to breed them – hips, thyroid, cardiac and eyes.  A breeder might choose to do additional tests as well.

These health tests go beyond a simple “well dog” check-up at the vet.  While a dog might not exhibit any signs of a health issue, they can still pass problems to offspring. They might be a carrier of the problem; might not be exhibiting symptoms yet; or even have a non-symptomatic level of the problem (and paired with the wrong breeding mates, the puppies could then be symptomatic).

Health tests aren’t about getting the best rating, they’re about knowing what potential issues your dog may pass on to offspring and how to make smart breeding choices. The more information a breeder has – on the breeding candidate and their relatives – the more informed their breeding decisions.

For hips, a vet takes an x-ray and then the x-rays are submitted to OFA, PennHip, or OVC.  I am only familiar with OFA, but will say that putting the dog under anesthesia is not required for the x-rays.  I spent around $250 for Kizzy’s x-rays and OFA submission (this included all the costs for the hips, elbows and patellas).

For thyroid testing, any vet can draw the blood sample and then it is sent to an OFA approved lab for testing.

For cardiac testing, a board certified cardiac specialist is required.  This screening can not tell you if the dog will ever come down with a heart problem, but it can detect current problems, big and small.

For eyes, again a specialist is required.  A board certified veterinary ophthalmologist examines the dog’s eyes for any eye issues (e.g. cataracts, eye lid issues, etc.) and the results are sent into CERF, whose database is linked with OFA.  For breeding dogs, eye CERFs should be repeated as the dog ages.  I just had Skyy’s CERF done again and spent $30 on the exam an additional $8 for CERF submission.

Once a Great Dane has these four tests completed and the results are public, the dog earns a CHIC number.  A dog does not have to “pass” these tests in order to receive a CHIC number, however the owner has to be willing to share good and bad testing results.

A CHIC number is not necessarily indicative of good health, rather the owner’s support of the open health database, which benefits our breed.  By allowing the information to be publicly available, owners of related dogs gain perspective when making their breeding choices. Having a health issue arise should not be a dirty little secret – only by sharing the test results can the breed move forward.

Always verify any claims of health testing – OFA’s online database – before purchasing a puppy.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

Welcome to winter!  We have had over a foot of snow dumped on us over the last few days!  The interstate was closed between us and Des Moines for most of yesterday and, of course, the area schools were all closed.

Kizzy loves the snow (any excuse to run madly about the yard), but Skyy is more content inside.  Skyy would much rather bake in the summer sun!

I took the stitches from Kizzy’s gastropexy out yesterday and the incesion looks great.

LAG Gastropexy incesion 11 days post op

LAG Gastropexy incesion 11 days post op

Bloat & Prophylactic Gastropexy

As many people know, Great Danes are the number one breed at risk of Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, (GDV) commonly known as bloat and torsion

Bloat is when the stomach fills with gas, then the stomach flips (torsion/volvulus), cutting off blood supply to the stomach, which causes the stomach to start to die.  Often, the spleen and major blood vessels in the area twist as well.  This causes the dog to go into shock.  Bloat episodes can often be fatal and progress quickly.  Immediate veterinary assistance is imperative. 

It should be noted that the cause of bloat is unknown.  I’ve heard of some Dane owners that restrict exercise for an hour before and an hour after eating.  Personally, I find that excessive.  Considering the fact I work during the day and feed my dogs twice daily, if their exercise was restricted for four hours each day, they wouldn’t ever have time to play!  If they’ve been on a run before a meal, I make sure they’ve had the chance to cool down before I feed them.  I also would not take them on a big run right after eating.

There have been claims that feeding from a raised dish either prevent or cause bloat, I don’t subscribe to either belief. 

There are various other theories, but when it comes down to it, there is not a way to prevent bloat.  The best course of action is to become familiar with the symptoms of bloat and know your vet’s emergency procedures.  Check out Ginnie Saunders’ Bloat Links for more information on bloat.  The Great Dane Club of America has a helpful Bloat Chart available, too.

There is a preventative surgery, called a gastropexy, that will hopefully help prevent torsion, the fatal part of a bloat episode.  This will not stop a dog from bloating, but it should buy the owner time in getting the dog to the vet and might even save the dog’s life.

This past Monday, I took Kizzy in for a Prophylactic GastropexyProphylactic  means preventative.  (Gastropexies are also done during emergency bloat surgeries.)  A gastropexy (gastro = digestive system; pexy = surgical fixation) adheres the stomach to the body cavity.  Even if your dog has had a “pexy”, if you suspect your dog is bloating, seek emergency vet care.

We recommend gastropexies on Great Danes after 18 months of age.  We avoid doing the pexy on immature Danes as their bodies grow and change so much before maturity. 

There are various gastropexies methods.  We opt to do a Laparoscopic-Assisted Gastropexy (LAG).  The advantages to doing this laparoscopically are the small incisions and quick recovery time. 

Laparoscopic-Assisted Gastropexy

 

Laparoscopic-Assisted Gastropexy (LAG)

Laparoscopic-Assisted Gastropexy (LAG)

LAG procedure - grasping the stomach

Kizzys gastropexy adhesion

Kizzy's gastropexy adhesion

 

Kizzys gastropexy incisions (click for larger image)

Kizzy's gastropexy incisions - morning post op (click for larger image)

I drive to Morris, IL (4 hours one way) to Pine Bluff Animal Hospital to have Dr. Brian Schmidt perform the surgery.  Dr. Schmidt has performed hundreds of these surgeries on Danes.

The hardest part of the gastopexy experience is keeping the dog quiet for a week post op!  The dogs tend to recover quickly and want to be back to playing and running like normal.  Too much exercise too soon after the surgery can cause lots of swelling at the sight of the incision (some swelling is normal) as well as interfere with the quality of the adhesion.