Sunday, June 28, 2009


The end of this week will be Independence Day, otherwise known as the 4th of July. Traditional observances will include get-togethers with family and/or friends, picnic and barbecues, watching fireworks displays, and perhaps, taking in a baseball game.

If you do take your pets with you to any of these festivities (particularly the barbecues and fireworks), be extra careful to watch what they try to eat at the picnic and that they don't become disoriented and get lost during the boom-boom-booms. Fireworks displays are right up there with Halloween as the two nights of the year when pets tend to get lost. A little caution goes a long way toward keeping your pets safe!

Several years ago, a flower seed farm in Lompoc, CA planted a large field in red, white, and blue flowers as a memorial to the tragedy of 9/11/2001. Some of you may have already seen this photo in an e-mail, but it's still appropriate to include it as a visual example of the patriotic spirit in our country. For Independence Day, here it is:

Immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the Bodger Seed Company of Lompoc, California wanted to do something to lift the our Country's collective patriotic spirits. They decided that they wanted to plant an American Flag. Not just ANY American Flag, but a really, really, BIG American Flag. They were going to plant a really big American Flag using nothing but flowers. Lots and LOTS of Red, White, and Blue Larkspur flowers. It's not like the Bodger Seed Company was new to the Flower Flag making business. After all, the family-owned flower seed business had done it several times before: they had showed their patriotism during World War II in 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945; and then again in 1952. So for the first time in 50 years, they were going to plant an American Flag, and it was going to be a BIG one, and it was going to be made up of thousands of Larkspur plants, and it needed to be ready for Flag Day, June 14th, 2002, and the Lompoc Valley Flower Festival that was to follow a week later! For the 2002 Floral Flag, they planted more than 400,000 Larkspur plants. Each plant was estimated to have had 4-5 flower stems each for a total of more than 2 million flowers. So, HOW BIG was the Floral Flag ??? The 2002 Floral Flag was approximately 740 feet long and 390 feet wide. The Floral Flag covered 6.65 acres! Each of its Red and White Stripes was 30 feet wide and each of its White Stars was 24 feet in diameter!

Lastly, take a few minutes to enjoy Ray Charles and his rendition of America, The Beautiful in this video:

Holly, from PA, sent in a nice comment after last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats on her experience with a pet having arthritis. Her comment: "My first Cairn Terrier, McKeever lived with my father who was a severe invalid. He got very sedentary...more like a cement block than a canine...At any rate, arthritis became a real issue. And, it was because the dog wasn't moving. So, my Dad was sad, but I took him to live with me. The best medicine turned out to be gentle walks, short ones at first, then longer...and longer. Eventually, we got him so that he was moving again quite well. And, that's how he remained until he finally left us at 15. Arthritis is a problem of under use more than over use. We seem to forget that. And, now that there are so many different with it is so much more possible. But, movement is the best treatment of all. Welcome home, Doc!" Thanks, Holly, for sharing your experience.

Helpful Buckeye thanks Neil, over at Life With Dogs, a very interesting and entertaining blog about the everyday activities of his dogs, for the generous recommendation of Questions On Dogs and Cats in his blog issue of this past Friday, 26 June. Life With Dogs can be followed at: and Helpful Buckeye suggests that our readers should check it out. My guess is that you will all find something you like and keep going back!

Don't forget to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

Any comments, send an e-mail to: or click on "Comment" at the end of this issue.


1) Teams from The Humane Society of the United States and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture moved the more than 200 dogs rescued from a Pennsylvania puppy mill earlier this week to the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. Some have been transported to area animal shelters and rescue groups, while others will be moved in the days ahead. The HSUS tells the rest of the story at:

2) Coming right on the heels of our report last week on MRSA and Your Pets, a new study has shown that transmission of the infectious superbug from dogs and cats to humans, and back again, is becoming an increasing problem. Read the results of this study at: and see if the conclusions don't make a lot of sense.

3) An important headline earlier this month from the Food and Drug Administration was this:

FDA: First Drug to Treat Cancer in Dogs Approved

Read the whole press release to understand why this is news-worthy:


Many of you sent e-mails after last week's feature on Arthritis and Your Pets, describing how your pet is acting and asking if it could be some form of arthritis. Most of those questions will be answered in this week's installment:


How do you know if it’s arthritis? Your dog can’t explain what’s wrong with him, so it’s important to watch his non-verbal cues closely and take even subtle changes seriously.

Signs that your dog may have arthritis:

  • Favoring a limb

  • Difficulty sitting or standing

  • Sleeping more

  • Seeming to have stiff or sore joints

  • Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs

  • Weight gain

  • Decreased activity or less interest in play

  • Attitude or behavior changes

  • Being less alert

    You can expect dogs with all types of arthritis to show similar signs of joint pain. They will limp on one or more legs. They may find it hard to get up, and they may be stiff for those first few steps. Perhaps they'll want to turn back early from their walk, or they can't jump up on the couch for a cuddle. They may not want to play, and they may even become a bit more grumpy when they're touched.

    If a dog has infective arthritis, it will show the symptoms described above, but the affected joints are also usually swollen and painful. It will often have a fever, and be quite unwell. The lymph nodes in the area of the infected joints may be enlarged.

    Similarly, dogs with immune mediated arthritis also might have a fever, reduced appetite and lethargy. The lameness may come and go, and it may appear to affect one leg, then another. This is known as a shifting lameness.

    If your dog seems to have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks take it to your veterinarian for an examination, which will involve a physical exam and possibly X-rays. If your veterinarian feels that some form of arthritis is probable, the best thing to do for your dog in managing its arthritis is to get a diagnosis and start a treatment plan as soon as possible.
    At your pet's appointment, your veterinarian will give it a general physical and an orthopedic exam. The vet will look for swelling, heat, or asymmetry between the animal's limbs. They will flex and extend each joint to check for decreased range of motion, pain, or abnormal joint sounds. X-rays may be recommended. The animal will be examined for bone changes, such as mild dislocation or bony outgrowths known as osteophytes, which are early signs of degenerative joint disease. Sometimes the only way to check for early onset is by checking the fluid that lubricates the joint (synovial fluid). This is done by draining off and analyzing some of the fluid from a suspicious joint and is known as a joint tap. Your veterinarian may also recommend other diagnostic tests for arthritis.

    Obviously, the treatment of arthritis depends on the cause of the disease in an individual dog.
    If the arthritis is infectious, the appropriate treatment is antibiotics. It's often a good idea also to flush the joint to remove any thickened joint fluid and bacterial debris. With the immune mediated diseases, treatment involves using medication such as corticosteroids and non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs to suppress the immune system, and to reduce the inflammation in the joint. There are many approaches to treating degenerative joint disease. If the dog is overweight, he needs to go on a strict diet. Low impact exercise such as swimming or hydrotherapy is very important in maintaining joint function.

    Veterinarians usually advise a three-way approach to the medical management of arthritis; exercise moderation, weight control, and anti-inflammatory medication. Too little exercise can cause an arthritic animal to become stiff and sore, but too much can cause pain. Weight control is important because excess weight places undue stress upon the joints, accelerating joint degeneration. If you have an overweight animal, talk with your vet about a suitable weight loss program. Exercise moderation and weight control keep most arthritic pets comfortable for the most part, but when your pet has a bad day from time to time, your vet may prescribe an anti- inflammatory medication until the acute inflammation has subsided - usually in a couple of days.

    Therapies may include:

    • Healthy diet and exercise to help maintain proper weight.

    • Working with your veterinarian to find a drug treatment that helps relieve the pain.

    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): the most common form of pharmaceutical treatment for arthritis in dogs.

    • Over-the-counter pet treatments, such as pills or food containing either glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate or Omega fatty acids. Both have shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis in dogs.

    • A veterinarian-prescribed NSAID and an over-the-counter treatment that together may help decrease pain and disease progression.

    Pain relief is an important part of making sure your dog has a good quality of life. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the commonest prescription medications used to treat arthritis in dogs. They may cause side effects such as kidney disease and stomach ulceration, so it's important to perform blood tests on a regular basis, to make sure no problems are developing.
    Never give your dog human medication without checking first with your veterinarian. Certain medications can be toxic to dogs – particularly acetaminophen and ibuprofen – and a safe dose will differ between a greyhound and a dachshund. No matter how you decide to treat your dog’s arthritis, make sure you work with a veterinarian to ensure that you select a program that helps your best buddy.

    Natural therapies such as acupuncture and massage can help ease a dog's pain. Physical therapy such as gentle bending and straightening of the affected leg may also improve joint mobility.

    The "last resort" treatment for arthritis is a procedure called arthrodesis. The cartilage on the end of the bones is surgically removed, and a bone graft is placed between the bones. The joint is then splinted, so the bone can heal together. The result is a joint that doesn't move any more. The leg will still be functional, but the joint is fused, so there is no more pain.

    There may be things you can do to your dog's environment to make it easier for him to live with arthritis. Avoid polished floors, as they may be slippery, and your dog may fall. Give him a soft place to sleep, and keep his bed off the floor in a draft free environment. Try and avoid the need for him to climb stairs to get to his bed or food bowl.

    We can’t help it. We spoil our pets. If you focus more on your dog’s health than on yours, try these tips to keep both of you healthy and active:

    • Visit the doctor. Your pet needs to see the veterinarian at least once a year for a check-up – maybe more. When you make his appointment, call your own doctor and schedule one for yourself. Make sure you both get some baseline X-rays to chart your bone deterioration.

    • Shed excess pounds. Pay more attention to what your pet eats and when, and do the same for yourself. Read the food labels for each of you to make sure that every bite is giving you both good energy and nutrition. Limit your servings and don’t cheat by eating between meals or slipping Fido extra snacks.

    • Coordinate your dog’s medication schedule with your own to make sure you both take your dosage every day. Arrange medicine with mealtime if it needs to be taken with food. Use colorful stickers or permanent markers to help distinguish whose medication is whose, especially if you have trouble reading small print.

    • Never let your dog take your medicine – and don’t take his – without discussing it with your doctor.

    • Let Rover take you for walk. Instead of kicking your dog off the couch so you can stretch out, kick him off, grab the leash and stretch out together. Take a walk or run with your four-legged friend. You’ll both strengthen the muscles around your joints, which reduces stress on the joint itself. But don’t over do it. Both of you need to increase exercise levels slowly and stay hydrated. Monitor how you both feel after the walk to determine if you need to increase or decrease your level next time. Don’t only treat your own blisters and sore feet – be sure to check Fido’s paws and pads after exercising for lesions or lacerations.

    How To Prevent Your Dog Developing Arthritis

    There is not much you can do to avoid the erosive immune mediated joint diseases. Without knowing exactly what causes rheumatoid arthritis, you can't take steps to prevent it.

    With non-erosive immune mediated arthritis, it occurs secondary to a disease process elsewhere in the body, but not all dogs with disease develop this arthritis. All you can do is treat the disease, and hopefully there won't be any effects on the joints. Your veterinarian can help with the diagnosis of what these other diseases might be.

    Infective arthritis similarly is just an unfortunate occurrence. All dogs have the occasional accident, and that may include a wound to a joint, such as from a stick when you're out hiking. If your dog has an infection elsewhere in the body, early treatment with a suitable antibiotic can stop it spreading in the bloodstream and infecting the joints.

    Dog fanciers can reduce the occurrence of degenerative joint disease in their favorite breed by only mating dogs which have normal joints. This will reduce the incidence of conditions such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, which often lead to osteoarthritis.

    All dogs can develop osteoarthritis if they're overweight. Vets estimate that up to 40% of dogs are too heavy. This not only leads to joint pain, but may also lead to heart disease, skin fold infections and diabetes. You would be doing your dog a great favor if you restricted its diet.

    Arthritis In Dogs - Conclusion

    Arthritis is a very common disease in dogs, and it can be debilitating. Pain and stiffness make a dog miserable, and the fever and ill health that accompanies infective or immune mediated arthritis only makes them feel worse. Fortunately, there is help available for your dog. There are several options for treating arthritis that will ease the pain and improve its well being. It may take some trial and error to find what works best for your dog, but when you do, it will again hopefully enjoy a more comfortable life. Be sure to include your veterinarian in the process of deciding how to approach this very common problem.


    Dysplasia--noun; an abnormal growth or development of cells, tissue, bone, or an organ. More specifically, Hip Dysplasia in the dog is defined as an abnormal formation of the hip socket that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the hip joints. Hip Dysplasia will be an upcoming feature topic.


    1) "The state of Maine takes great pride in taking care of pets" goes the lead-in for this column by Sharon Peters of the USA Today. Ms. Peters grew up in Maine and relates her opinion of why Maine is one of the nation's leaders in taking care of pets:

    2) "When Merlin, a Labrador/Doberman mix, was nearing the end of his life last summer, the family that had loved him for 14 years resolved that he would draw his final breath at home. The at-home euthanasia was performed by veterinarian Ann Brandenburg-Schroeder, whose Denver area practice, Beside Still Water, is devoted exclusively to providing that service." In another article by Sharon Peters, in the USA Today, the interesting story of veterinarian Ann Brandenburg-Schroeder comes to life: This is a type of service that might see more interest in coming years.

    3) Earlier this month, scientists in California say they have cloned a dog that helped with search-and-rescue efforts after the New York terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Five German Shepherd puppies have been cloned from the hero dog, Trakr:

    4) Under the category of "You thought you had heard it all, " there are now dogs being involved in wedding ceremonies! The last of the articles from Sharon Peters, of the USA Today, this week, Ms. Peters explores this new concept: Wow, at least, the tuxedoes and gowns are comparatively less expensive!


      The LA Dodgers have still been playing pretty well, but you can almost sense the team is waiting to see what happens when Manny Ramirez returns to action this Friday, 3 July. Helpful Buckeye hopes the team chemistry (no pun intended) is not disrupted too much by his return.


    Helpful Buckeye's special friend, Ken, celebrated a birthday today. Ken, a graduate of another "OSU," needs to remember that: “Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese.” ---Billie Burke...(1884-1970), Oscar-nominated American actress remembered for her role in the musical film The Wizard of Oz.

    ~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

    1 comment:

    1. Loved this post today, Doc! I know I say that a lot but it's true. A couple of things... the whole would you have an animal if it can pass MRSA along? Well, would you want to live your life with no people in it because of MRSA???? Of course not...seems to me animals would be as important, too!

      And, the at home euthanasia? I so wish other Vets would start seeing the need for that and providing such care. My Vet, will when he can manage it, but he's so very busy with his practice that it's difficult. Still, I admire hime for his willingness to do what's best for his clients.

      Thanks for helping me remember McKeever to others. He was a great dog. But, then again, I think we always think our first loves are great, don't we? ;-)