Sunday, July 5, 2009


Wow, what an Independence Day celebration! Desperado and Helpful Buckeye had a little bit of everything for our 4th of July sampler. First, we took a long walk through our neighborhood, enjoying all of the American flags and bunting being displayed. Then, we were treated to one of nature's special thunder and lightning shows during the afternoon...the kind that is tough to match with man made pyrotechnics. For dinner, we grilled marinated Portobello mushrooms to be used in our version of Mother Nature's "vegetarian " hamburger, along with baked beans, and Southwestern potato salad. With a dessert of raspberry sorbet, we watched the 4th of July show from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. And, what a show it was! Jimmy Smits, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, the cast of Jersey Boys, the National Symphony Orchestra, and Natasha Bedingfield combined to produce a 90-minute show of pure enjoyment. Just as we finished watching the show, our local fireworks display in Flagstaff began and we were able to see most of that from our deck. What a day!
Helpful Buckeye received several e-mails with birthday messages for my good buddy, Ken. Most of them were of the garden variety type of message, saying things like, "Hope he enjoys each birthday a little more than the last one," or simply, "Happy Birthday to Helpful Buckeye's special friend!" One person picked up on the "other OSU" theme and asked if Ken is a fellow Beaver, the mascot of Oregon State University. Helpful Buckeye responded that, "No, the OSU in this case is Oklahoma State University, and Ken is most definitely a Cowboy!" Thanks for all those best wishes...Ken will appreciate them!

Helpful Buckeye received the following e-mail this week from a reader in eastern Pennsylvania:

Last week, my wife came down with chills and fever. Throughout the following week her symptoms included back pain, nausea, dizziness and headaches. On Monday, June 17 she went to our family doctor who suspected Lyme Disease and on Wednesday, June 19 the blood work came back positive. Long story short -- she just returned from a seven day stay in the hospital. She has what is called Stage 1 Lyme* with acute neurologic symptoms. Her vision is double, with temporary loss of optic nerve function and a drooping eyelid. Her headaches have lessened quite a bit, but her back pain is acute (similar to shingles) and is being treated with Percocet every 6-8 hours. She has a PICC line and is being infused once a day with a powerful antibiotic called Rocephan for a total of four weeks. While in the hospital she was seen by a gastroenterologist, ophthalmologist, cardiologist, infectious disease specialist and a neurologist. She received x-rays, ultrasounds, blood and urine work, four CAT scans and an MRI. We have been assured that the facial palsy and vision will be corrected as the antibiotic does its business.

My advice: Check yourself for ticks. Although the adults are small, perhaps 1.5 mm, the first instar nymphs are the size of this period (.). One other thought, how ironic that I'm unscathed (even though spending a lot of my time in the woods), whereas she, who hardly ventures into the back yard, is stricken.


* Lyme has three stages if no intervention sets in. Stage 1 (early Lyme) is characterized by skin rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle pain, and joint ache. Stage 2 (early disseminated Lyme) means the spirochete has spread from skin to organs like heart, joints, liver, meninges, brain. Besides the symptoms of Stage 1, the patient may have neurologic deficits including temporary loss of optic nerve, facial nerve paralysis, or even paralysis of a limb. The headaches seem to worsen because the bug is in the meninges causing meningitis. Rarely, there is an abnormal heart beat. Stage 3 (Late chronic Lyme) usually means the bug persists for years within being treated or incompletely treated. This leads to chronic neurologic deficits, memory loss, chronic arthritis, and often chronic muscle pain.

Now, that story is a first-hand testimonial to the ravages of Lyme Disease in humans. Helpful Buckeye has discussed Lyme Disease in pets in previous issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats, which can be found at: If you missed these presentations, check them out now. If you need a review, go back and read them again, but every pet owner needs to understand the threat of this disease for their pets as well as for themselves.

The two poll questions for last week produced some interesting opinions. The first question on MRSA possibly being transmitted between owners and their pets showed that almost all of you feel that you would still have those pets. The second question about attending a wedding in which a dog or cat participated showed that about half of you had done so. Perhaps Helpful Buckeye is "out of the loop" on this one because I've never seen this at a wedding. Be sure to answer the poll question for this week in the column to the left.

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


1) The American Kennel Club has reported this news item from California: The California Board of Equalization (BOE) has sent letters to several breeders in California informing them that they need a Seller's Permit and are required to pay sales tax on puppies and dogs they have sold.

If you can read between the lines, this is part of California's effort to find additional revenue to help balance their state budget. If this is successful in California, you can expect it to show up in other states as well. The rest of the AKC report is at:

2) The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine has published a nice review of heat exhaustion in pets at:

Helpful Buckeye has presented two separate issues on heat exhaustion and your pets and they can be found at: and if you are looking for more in depth information on this important topic.


A form of degenerative joint disease, otherwise known as osteoarthritis, was mentioned in the last series on Arthritis and your Pets. This is the disease of Hip Dysplasia, which most of you have at least heard mentioned. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal development of the hip joint in large dogs that is characterized by joint looseness and subsequent degenerative joint disease. Excessive growth, exercise, nutrition, and hereditary factors affect the occurrence of hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia simply means an "abnormal formation" of the hip joint. Think of the condition first as a looseness in a joint that should be snug - then most of the problems that accompany hip dysplasia are a result of this "looseness". Hip dysplasia is a widespread condition that primarily affects large and giant breeds of dogs. There is a strong genetic link between parents that have hip dysplasia and the incidence in their offspring. There are probably other factors that contribute to the severity of the disease as well.

The Anatomy of Hip Dysplasia

To understand hip dysplasia, we must have a basic understanding of the joint that is being affected. The hip joint forms the attachment of the hind leg to the body and is a ball and socket joint. The ball portion is the head of the femur (thigh bone) while the socket (acetabulum) is located on the pelvis. In a normal joint the ball rotates freely within the socket. To facilitate movement the bones are shaped to perfectly match each other; with the socket surrounding the ball. To strengthen the joint, the two bones are held together by a strong ligament. The ligament attaches the femoral head directly to the acetabulum. Also, the joint capsule, which is a very strong band of connective tissue, encircles the two bones adding further stability. The area where the bones actually touch each other is called the articular surface. It is perfectly smooth and cushioned with a layer of spongy cartilage. In addition, the joint contains a highly viscous fluid that lubricates the articular surfaces. In a dog with normal hips, all of these factors work together to cause the joint to function smoothly and with stability.

Hip dysplasia is caused by a looseness of the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments that would normally support the joint. As this happens, the articular surfaces of the two bones lose contact with each other. This separation of the two bones within the joint is called a subluxation, and this causes a drastic change in the size and shape of the articular surfaces. Most dysplastic dogs are born with normal hips but due to their genetic make-up (and possibly other factors) the soft tissues that surround the joint develop abnormally causing the subluxation. It is this subluxation and the remodeling of the hip that leads to the symptoms we associate with this disease. Hip dysplasia may or may not be bilateral; that is, affecting both the right and/or left hip.

The very first step in the development of this form of osteoarthritis is cartilage damage due to the inherited bad biomechanics of an abnormally loose hip joint. With cartilage damage, lots of degrading enzymes are released into the joint. These enzymes degrade and decrease the synthesis of important constituent molecules that form more cartilage. This causes the cartilage to lose its thickness and elasticity, which are important in absorbing mechanical loads placed across the joint during movement. Full thickness loss of cartilage allows the bony surfaces to rub together, resulting in pain. In an attempt to stabilize the joint to decrease the pain, the animal's body produces new bone at the edges of the joint surface, joint capsule, ligament and muscle attachments (bone spurs). The joint capsule also eventually thickens and the joint's range of motion decreases.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), at:, has stated that even though the disease process of hip dysplasia is fairly straightforward, the controversy begins when determining what causes or predisposes a dog to end up with the disease.

  • Genetics: Researchers agree that hip dysplasia is a genetic disease. If a parent has hip dysplasia, then the animal's offspring are at greater risk for developing hip dysplasia. If there are no carriers of the hip dysplasia trait in a dog's lineage, then it is highly unlikely it will contract the disease. If there are genetic carriers, then he may contract the disease. We can greatly reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia through selective breeding. We can also increase the incidence through selectively breeding. We cannot, however, completely reproduce the disease through selective breeding. In other words, if you breed two dysplastic dogs, the offspring are much more likely to develop the disease but the offspring will not all have the same level of symptoms or even necessarily show any symptoms. The offspring from these dogs will, however, be carriers and the disease will most likely show up in their offspring in later generations. This is why it can be challenging to eradicate the disease from a breed or specific breeding line.

  • Nutrition: It appears that the amount of calories a dog consumes and when in the dog's life those calories are consumed have the biggest impact on whether or not a dog genetically prone to hip dysplasia will develop the disease. Experimentally, it has been shown that obesity can increase the severity of the disease in genetically susceptible animals. It stands to reason that carrying around extra weight will accelerate the degeneration of the joints in a dog; including the hip. Dogs that may have been born genetically prone to hip dysplasia and are overweight are therefore at a much higher risk of developing hip dysplasia and eventually osteoarthritis. Another nutritional factor that may increase the incidence of hip dysplasia is rapid growth in puppies during the ages from three to ten months. Experimentally, the incidence has been increased in genetically susceptible dogs when they are given free choice food. In one study, Labrador Retriever puppies fed free choice for three years had a much higher incidence of hip dysplasia than their littermates who were fed the same diet but in an amount that was 25% less than that fed to the free-choice group. Feeding a diet that has too much or too little calcium or other minerals can also have a detrimental effect on the development of the hip joint. However, with today's complete and balanced dog foods this has become a rare occurrence. The practice of feeding home-made dog foods is popular with some dog owners. These diets must be carefully monitored for proper nutritional balance; not only for calcium and the other essential minerals but for all nutrients.

  • Exercise: Exercise may be another risk factor. It appears that dogs that are genetically susceptible to the disease may have an increased incidence of disease if they are over-exercised at a young age. But at the same time, we know that dogs with large and prominent leg muscle mass are less likely to contract the disease than dogs with small muscle mass. So, exercising and maintaining good muscle mass may actually decrease the incidence of the disease. Moderate exercise that strengthens the gluteal muscles (the rump), such as running and swimming, is probably a good idea. Whereas, activities that apply a lot of force to the joint are not a good idea. An example to avoid would be jumping activities such as playing Frisbee.

Who Gets Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia can be found in dogs, cats, and humans, but for this discussion, Helpful Buckeye will be focusing only on dogs. In dogs, it is primarily a disease of large and giant breeds. German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, and Saint Bernards appear to have a higher incidence; however, these are all very popular breeds and may be over represented because of their popularity. On the other hand, sighthounds such as the Greyhound or the Borzoi have a very low incidence of the disease. This disease can occur in medium-sized breeds and rarely in small breeds. It is primarily a disease of purebreds although it can happen in mixed breeds, particularly if it is a cross of two dogs that are prone to developing the disease.

For a comparative basis, the OFA has provided the results of hip x-rays (the main diagnostic test which will be discussed next week) taken over a 25-year period of at least 100 individuals from each breed of dog. Spend a few minutes looking at this chart,, observing both the column titled "number of evaluations" and "percent dysplastic." Try to draw a few conclusions of your own, based on the breed, the number of evaluations, and the percent dysplastic. We'll begin with that discussion next week as we move into the physical signs of hip dysplasia, the diagnosis of the disease, and the various treatments being used at this time.

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


1) The Humane Society of the United States has provided a timely video for those of you who might consider letting your dog go for a swim this summer. For some tips and good advice, go to: and, if you watch beyond this first video, you will also go right into another short video on the dangers of heat exhaustion and your pets. Are you picking up on the repetitive theme of heat exhaustion and hot temperatures???

2) The folks at Potty Patch have a new product on the market and it just might be what a lot of you have been looking for. Take a look at their web site, turn the volume on, and enjoy their presentation: Be sure to let us know if you try this product!

3) Since the subject of swimming came up in #1, here's another human sport that has attracted the interest of at least one Bulldog, named Bazooka. Go to: and play the video to watch what Bazooka has accomplished!

4) Helpful Buckeye has presented several discussions on Traveling With Your Pet. These next two items might bear some interest if you plan to take your pet with you on a trip this summer. First, if you will be near the northern Arizona city of Sedona, you might want to consider staying at El Portal, advertised as Sedona's pet-friendly inn. For staying one weeknight in July or August, they will give you a second weeknight free if you bring your pet along. Your pet will have his or her own bed and special treat basket, plus you can also request special feeding requirements. Check out this offer on their web site: You can also call them at: 800-313-0017 and ask for the "Pet's Night Free" special. Sedona is such a beautiful location...everyone should see it at least once!

5) The second travel item of interest is the ranking of airlines in order of those with the pet-friendliest policies by Pet Finder, a web site that specializes in animal adoptions. Go to their web site at: to find out why they have ranked the top 5 airlines as Continental, JetBlue, Air Tran, American, and United.

6) On a visit to Tinkertown, New Mexico, Helpful Buckeye and Desperado found these assorted dog bandannas hanging in the gift shop. Not a bad idea....


Manny Ramirez made his long-awaited return to the LA Dodgers on Friday night in San Diego. We had a 7.5 game lead when he returned, so it will be interesting to see what happens to that lead now that he's back. He was obviously rusty and out of shape, plus it remains to be seen how well he'll fit in again with a team that played pretty without him.


An interesting quote from an anonymous contributor: "Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?"

And this, from Rodney Dangerfield: "Some dog I got. We call him Egypt because in every room he leaves a pyramid."

Another anonymous quote: "Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened."

~~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. THANKS for the birthday good wishes...and NO Ken has never had Hip Dyspasia :^)

  2. Oops , left my L out that should read Dysplasia

  3. So, Doc!
    Where were you with the info on the Potty Patch when I was house training two wild Scottie Terrorists at the same time!!!!! OMG, did that take some patience.

    The other thing...Scotties can't swim! No leaving them unattended around water. It must be because they're like little cement blocks and their legs are so short. My Cairns could swim, but these two, nothing but sinking like stones.

    Last, thanks for the info on arthritis and's something for those of us with little dogs to consider....

    Do NOT let them go jumping off things! It's hard on their shoulder joints. I had two dogs end up with real problems because I didn't find out till much too late that they don't have ball and socket joints like Humans. Uugh.

    From any sizable height, I've trained Rory and Fiona to wait to be lifted down. I'm fairly certain that I've helped to maintain their agility thanks to knowing the anatomy better.

    What do you think?

  4. We love your blog!!

    Thanks for sharing the CA tax info.... we live in the "great" state and are constantly amazed that the state is in the situation that it is... considering the amount of payroll tax taken each pay period and the increase in sales tax in our area!

    :) martine