Friday, May 30, 2008

Dogs and thunderstorms

Thunderstorms are prevalent in the south during the summer. I know that some dogs simply don't like thunderstorms because of the noise and the lowering of barometric pressure. I've heard of dogs that run into closets or under beds. We've been fortunate in that our dogs have adjusted to thunderstorms. They seem to take the noise in stride.

However, Stella and Mia seem to be two that don't like storms at all. Both begin to show distress by panting heavily. Stella wants to be with her human and stick right at his side. There are a couple of suggestions for how to possibly alleviate fear of storms.

One of the things is to provide a crate as a haven for a dog during the storm. Cover the crate with a blanket and let the dog relax in the crate. Talk to the dog in a reassuring manner while the dog is in the crate. Behaviorists claim that purchasing a CD of storm noises and playing it during the day, gradually increasing the volume can help to modify behavior. Personally, I think that Labradors would recognize a recording from the real thing. It is suggested that if you get a recording, reward the dog with a special treat for not panting and showing signs of fear. If you increase the volume, watch to see how the dog reacts. If the dog becomes anxious, then lower the volume and after the dog calms down, then try raising it again and leaving it raised for a few minutes. Then lower the volume again. I've read that this works but have never tried it.

As a last resort, there is also medication that can be given. However, given that thunderstorms arise quickly down here, I don't think that would be much help either.

Probably the most important thing is to calm the dog as much as possible. Let him go into a darkened crate if he wants, but if he wants to be near you, then let him. Hopefully, the dog will get used to the fact that thunderstorms roll through fairly quickly.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


I just learned that a friend's dog has osteosarcoma. This is a type of bone cancer that is generally found in the leg bones of large breed dogs. Many years ago I had a Rottweiler that developed osteosarcoma. The cancer generally occurs in middle aged or older dogs. It is an aggressive cancer and can become more painful as it grows outward and destroys the bone from the inside out.

In my Rottweiler, I first noticed that she was limping. The limping became worse and a large lump appeared on the leg. This large lump was the tumor that was growing inside the leg bone. I had to stop all obedience work with her because tumorous bone is not as strong as normal bone and can break easily. Such a fracture won't heal readily.

I took Zoe in to the vet and a radiograph revealed the presence of osteosarcoma. There are several characteristics that can be observed on the radiograph:
  • The “lytic lesion” – looks like an area of bone has been eaten away.
  • The “sunburst” pattern – shows as a corona effect as the tumor grows outward and pushes the more normal outer bone up and away.
  • A pathologic fracture may be seen through the abnormal bone.
Osteosarcoma does not cross the joint space to affect other bones comprising the joint.There are few options with osteosarcoma. Some vets indicate that amputation of the leg may buy some time. Others suggest amputation and chemotherapy. The problem is that the dog is then very uncomfortable and by the time the disease is diagnosed in the leg, it has likely spread to the organs of the chest such as the lungs.

I hope that Cayenne will continue to enjoy life as much as possible. She has been given around 4 months. She doesn't go to the beach anymore but seems happy enough limping around the house. It's sad to see such a once active dog no longer able to do the things that she so enjoyed. Osteosarcoma is a bad disease and one that I had hoped to not see among my doggy friends again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Brain tumors

I was sorry to hear about Ted Kennedy and the diagnosis that he has a glioma brain tumor. My cousin was diagnosed a couple of years ago with glioblastoma multiforme, Stage Four. I've seen him go from being a healthy active person to someone who can no longer walk, has difficulty speaking, and who is living marginally.

I say marginally because he can no longer read, has great anxiety, is bedridden, and communicates minimally. His glioma was in the left parietal lobe, the same location for Sen. Kennedy's tumor.

My cousin did have surgery, followed by chemo and radiation. He has been on a number of drugs used to counter the effects of swelling on the brain and to help wipe out the tumor. His last MRI showed no further growth of the tumor. But the effects of the surgery and radiation have taken their toll. Further, it seems likely that the tumor has "branched" out and is still active at a level that is undetectable by MRI.

His wife has remained devoted in her care of him but she has suffered a terrible toll also. She has given up any kind of life for herself to be his sole caregiver. I wonder what will happen to her when he dies.

I heard on the news that Sen. Kennedy is finding out as much as he can about the tumor. If he has read about it, then he knows that it is devastating. I wish him the best. It's a tough diagnosis with a bad disease.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Island tornado

A tornado tore up part of Wadmalaw Island last evening. There were severe thunderstorm warnings which isn't unusual for this time of year.

But what happened was the evening sea breeze and the thunderstorm convection interacted to form an F2 tornado. It tore up trees and caused damage to houses. The winds were estimated at 120 mph.

What's scary is that there was no warning about this. If such a tornado had touched down at Surry, there would likely have been major damage to the dog kennels and injury to the dogs. Severe thunderstorms occur in the south frequently but now I view these as being much more dangerous than I ever considered before.

I don't think that it's feasible to bring all the dogs inside at every threat of a thunderstorm but I certainly will give more thought to bringing them in when a severe storm is forecast and tornado warnings are a possibility.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Labradors as therapy dogs

I received this from Dr. Stacy Nelson. Her Tweedle is shown here with her Tester/Observer at her 3rd Pet Therapy Visit in Miami. She is now eligible for Registration as a Pet Therapy Dog.

Labradors make great therapy dogs because of their gentle temperament. Therapy dogs visit nursing home residents and emotionally disturbed children. It has been shown that therapy dogs have a positive benefit in the healing process. They often help people cope with their illness and are stress relievers. They also offer physical contact to someone who is lonely and needing such contact.

Therapy dogs must be obedience trained and have proven to be gentle and outgoing. Labradors love people and to be around them so they are especially good at being therapy dogs. It's often best to wait until a Labrador is out of the young adult stage though because a therapy dog must be calm.

Therapy dogs must be observed and be determined to be:

Social and interactive with people they are visiting. They must enjoy being petted and hugged. The dog should be accustomed to people on crutches, canes and wheelchairs.

A therapy dog must be protected with vaccine against rabies and have all its annual shots up to date. It will be necessary to provide proof of immunization in order to qualify as a therapy dog.

Therapy dogs must be at least one year of age and have a Canine Good Citizen Certificate. A therapy dog must be used to strange noises and it would be helpful if the dog knows a few simple tricks, such as shake hands, in order to entertain the patients.

It's a great feeling to bring your dog into a home and put a smile on someone's face. I hope that you will look into having your dog certified as a therapy dog.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Every girl is in season

It's the dormitory effect here at Surry in which one girl after another has come in season. The boys are sniffing everywhere and howling at night.

I've decided not to do any breeding for a while. This has been something that I've been thinking about for a while. I simply think that right now is not the time to do a breeding and have a litter. For one thing, I have 3 Labradors that I'd like to finish. The time that it takes to whelp and raise babies is significant. I also am enjoying having some free time (for once). It's nice to be able to come home and just enjoy the dogs that I have rather than worrying about little ones.

I think that after having bred for a number of years, I feel really good about taking a break. The stress of whelping has always been high for me. I've never really gotten used to losing babies and the loss of a bitch during whelping is something that was a nightmare.

So in the meantime, hormones are raging at Surry. The good news is that the heat cycle will only last another week or so. Then things should be quiet for the summer.