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. 

Nails – Dremel

Keeping your dog’s nails short is good for your dog’s foot.  Long nails can cause discomfort for the dog and be hard on your floors or furniture.   Not to mention they hurt like mad when the dog steps on your foot!

I use a dremel to grind my dogs’ nails. I like the dremel as I’m less likely to injure the dog (quicking the nails with clippers can be a bloody mess) and the nails end up smooth.  I picked up my cordless dremel at Target for around $20.  Use the course sanding head.

There are now specific dremel tools for doing your pets’ nails.  It isn’t necessary to get the pet-specific tool, although if they’re price comparable, there isn’t anything wrong with them either.

I have to charge the battery immediately before use (I plug it in the night before I plan on doing nails), in order to make it through both dogs’ nails.  I also find that I have to replace my dremel about once every year or so as the battery gets to the point it will barely make it through the job.  I’ve thought about going to the electric variety, but like the freedom of the cordless.

To keep the nails short, I do nails about once a week.  If your dog currently has long nails, you won’t be able to get them short in one sitting, you’ll have to make the quick recede over a period of time by doing the nails more frequently, every 3-4 days.

When dremeling the nails, keep in mind that the friction will cause heat to build.  Use a tap-tap method on the nails and be mindful of the heat.

To start, I dremel off the ends, taking the desired length off of all of the nails on one foot, similar to if I was using a nail clipper.

Notice how the end of the nail is blunt

Then, I go back to each toe and smooth all the sides:

In the end, you’ll have nice, smooth short nails!  They look nice on the dog and help prevent injury to their feet – and yours!  (Please disregard Kizzy’s dirty feet – we had just come inside from a run in the field!)

Alternate Heartworm Preventation

I’m trying something new this year for heart worm prevention and giving liquid Ivomec to the dogs.  It’s substantially cheaper than Heartguard or Interceptor, while offering the same protection.ivomec

After having my vet perform a heart worm check on both dogs, and having it come back negative, I purchased Ivermectin from Jeffers Pet Supply (1% Iovmec).  Ivermectin is the active ingredient in Heartguard. I also purchased needles & syringes from Jeffers to be able to draw out the correct dose.

I made the mistake off purchasing the 200 ml bottle, hoping it would last me several years.  However, the expiration date on the bottle that I received is in 2010.  Next time I’ll be purchasing the 50 ml bottle, which will be able to treat both of my Danes for the entire HW season.

The Ivermectin is stored in my refrigerator and the dogs are dosed every 30-45 days.  To dose the dogs, I’m calculating 1/10 cc per 10 lbs. of dog weight.  This is given to the dogs orally. I draw the solution out of the bottle with the needle & syringe and then either take the needle off and squirt it down the dogs’ throats or add it to a treat and then give it to them.

Please note: Ivermectin can not be given to certain breeds because of a genetic defect in the mechanism that prevents drugs from building up in the brain.  This mutation is recessive and is called mdr1-1Δ.  The normal gene that protects the brain is called MDR1.  There is now a commercially available test you can do on your dog if you’re unsure if they have this sensitivity – Multidrug Sensitivity in Dogs.  They list the most commonly affected breeds as:
Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherd (Mini)
Long-haired Whippet
Silken Windhound

Additional information on this prevention method:

Update on my leg – healing well!  No surgery and I can stay in a boot as opposed to a cast (luck of it being a non-weight bearing bone).

Vaccinosis – reaction to vaccine

Had a bit of a scare with Skyy this past weekend.

Saturday night, she became increasingly uncomfortable. She acted as if maybe she was nauseous, swallowing repeatedly.  She kept swallowing these big gulps of air and was obviously distressed.  I couldn’t determine what was wrong, so squeezed some Phazyme (gas relief) capsules down her throat, out of concern about bloat.

Over the course of the night, she wasn’t improving and seemed to be getting worse.  My concern grew.  Loaded up and headed to the ER vet around 4:00 AM.  Upon initial evaluation, the vet was quick to blame our raw feeding method, even hinting at the chance of salmonella. (ha)

We did x-rays of her stomach & trachea and a blood panel.  After several hours at the ER clinic, nothing could be determined, so an anti-nausea injection was given and I took her home, with instruction to give a Pepcid-AC once a day for the next couple of days and continue to monitor her.

Skyy was still uncomfortable and continued the swallowing air, along with some gagging and retching.  I took her into my regular vet on Tuesday for observation, concerned that we might be dealing with some sort of impaction.  I had been feeding way too much bone lately and became concerned that might be the problem.  Raw bone is digestible, but too much bone (in relation to meat) in the dog’s diet can cause constipation.  Thankfully, my vet was able to rule that out, although we were all still stumped on what could be wrong.

Tuesday evening, Kizzy started doing the odd swallowing, as well as some gagging.  She wasn’t in distressed state and her symptoms were more subtle.  In fact, her symptoms were so minor, I wouldn’t have paid them a lot of attention if they weren’t mimicking Skyy’s more severe symptoms.

After Kizzy started with her symptoms, I started looking at other ideas of the problem.  Both dogs had been given an intra-nasal kennel cough vaccine the previous Monday.  Upon some research and follow up discussion with both my mentor and my vet, it was determined that we were dealing with a reaction to the vaccination, also known as vaccinosis.  Any adverse reaction to any vaccine can be classified as vaccinosis.  It seems to be a rather broad term, encompassing minor reactions all the way to serious reactions, including death. 

In this case, my dogs weren’t infected with kennel cough, rather their reaction was due to something being sprayed up their nose.  The allergic reaction in the trachea and bronchial tree caused inflammation and subsequent irritation of the throat. 

To give a little more detail about kennel cough vaccines, there are two ways to administer – an injectable or intra-nasal.  The intra-nasal is preferred for both a faster  and better immunity response.  Because of the nature of kennel cough, being picked up through the nasal passages, there is also a believed benefit in the location specific antibodies.

When reporting the adverse reaction to the vaccine manufacturer, I spoke with a staff veterinarian.  Less than 5% of dogs have a reaction to this vaccine (what luck!).  Treating the dogs’ reaction with Benadryl would have likely taken care of it.  To have known that $300 (and lots of worry) ago!

To report adverse vaccine reactions in dogs, you (or  your vet) can go directly to the USDA website or contact the vaccine manufacturer.  I went through the vaccine manufacturer and then they will report it to the USDA. 

I’ve been a long time believer in a limited vaccination protocol, due to problems like vaccinosis and the fact that repeated vaccinations do not improve immune response.

For those unfamiliar with a limited vaccination protocol, this is the vaccination schedule we use:

8 – 9 weeks Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV (Modified Live Virus)
No 5- or 7-way combos
12-13 weeks
(4 weeks after 1st)
Same as above 
6 months or older Rabies 
1 year Distemper + Parvovirus, MLV
1 year Rabies, killed 3-year product (give 2-4 weeks apart from distemper/parvovirus booster)


Instead of annually repeating parvo/distemper vaccinations, I titer my dogs.  A titer checks for antibodies in the blood, to get a picture of the dog’s immunity to specific viruses.  I strongly recommend titering, as opposed to blindly vaccinating.  A titer is noninvasive and only requires a simple blood draw, so any vet can perform a titer.  The blood sample is sent away to a lab and then the results come back within a few weeks.  In the years that I’ve been titering my dogs, the results always come back showing an appropriate immunity level.

I have also recommended the kennel cough vaccination every 6-12 months for dogs routinely exposed to other dogs.  At this point, I’m unsure if I’ll continue to give kennel cough.  The vet believes that Skyy’s reaction was a one-time deal (it was the first time she had the intra-nasal), but I’m still hesitant.

Thankfully, Skyy is almost back to normal.