Sunday, June 26, 2011


Helpful Buckeye is still on the road in Pennsylvania...has made some progress this week...but, there's still more to go.  I'm hoping to be able to continue with the rest of the stuff from home, to where I plan to be flying on Monday.  Thanks for bearing with me.

This week will conclude the article from The Humane Society of the United States. This will be the 3rd and final part.  Next week, we'll get into some more specific examples of genetic diseases seen in purebreed dogs.

Soul Searching for Dog Lovers

Many within the AKC and its affiliated breed clubs are obviously committed to the health and welfare of dogs. Yet the organization’s continued attempts to support itself with registration fees from puppy mills surely conflict with its efforts to brand AKC dogs as healthy and sound.
And some purebred lovers who’ve been through the economic and emotional wringer have had enough.
Soon after Karin Shulin of Westlake, Ohio, got her Doberman at a local pet store, she found out that the 6-month old puppy had cardiomyopathy—a common condition in the breed—that had already resulted in a stage 3 heart murmur. “I spent thousands,” says Shulin. “I think I put the new wing on my vet’s house.”
She still has a hard time talking about what happened to Ranger. “Last April he was out playing with my other dogs and he just dropped dead,” she says. “It was horrifying.”
Though Shulin has owned Dobermans since she was a child and has worked with local breed rescue groups, she says she’s “done with purebreds.”
But that’s a hard stance to take if you love the loping gallop of a golden retriever, the pep of a poodle, the fire of a German shepherd. For breed enthusiasts, and for dog lovers who delight in the diversity of the species, all of this may mean some soul-searching.
Some of the ways humans hurt animals are clear and easy to see, but others are more subtle—and more difficult to address. Dogs, perhaps more than any other species, have become entangled in our sense of self. Today, many Americans regard their dogs as substitute children; they can also become symbols of identity or status or power. And there’s likely nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn’t compromise the animals’ well-being.
Few animals exemplify the dichotomy of the human-canine relationship like the celebrated white bulldogs who have long patrolled the sidelines at University of Georgia football games. The adorably ugly “Ugas” are venerated by Georgia fans and have achieved national fame: In 1997, Uga V appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
But in November 2009, Uga VII died suddenly of a heart attack at age 4. His two most recent predecessors, Uga VI and Uga V, also died of heart failure, though they were much older.
Their health problems were in no way due to poor treatment. Their owners, the Seiler family, provided the dogs with excellent medical care. Ever since Uga II collapsed panting during a hot practice in 1967—an episode the dog survived, but that left him mostly deaf—the family has been particularly careful to attend to the dogs’ health during games, providing them with air-conditioned doghouses and bags of ice to lie on.
These are necessary strategies for caring for a breed gone awry. English bulldogs have trouble breathing and are prone to heat stroke; most can neither mate nor give birth naturally due to the size of their heads. And according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, more than 30 percent of bulldogs suffer from elbow dysplasia, and more than 70 percent from hip dysplasia.

Frank Seiler isn’t overly troubled by the breed’s problems; he and his family have simply learned to treat them. And any dog chosen to take on the mascot role undergoes special surgery to prepare him for the gig.
“We have these dogs operated on when they’re less than 1 year old,” he says. “ … They go in and clear out the breathing passage under gentle anesthesia, and from that point they don’t have breathing problems. They don’t even snore.”
That kind of devotion to helping the dogs live a more normal life is admirable. But should dogs have to go through surgery simply to function as dogs? Is this what we want for our best friends?

Tips for Finding a Healthy Purebred

At The HSUS, we’re big fans of adoption. By going to a local shelter or rescue group, you stand a good chance of both saving a life and finding a purebred—after all, they make up an estimated 25 percent of dogs in shelters.
When you can’t find the dog you’re looking for, however, responsible breeders are another option; they are devoted to their animals’ well-being and committed to placing them in loving homes. And if every shelter dog were adopted and every puppy mill were shuttered, there would still be a need for good breeders to supply dogs to American households.

Whether you decide to get your next dog from a shelter or a breeder who treated her parents like part of the family, here are smart ways to stack the deck in favor of finding a healthy pup.

• Do your research. Want a particular kind of dog? Check out the available dog health resources, such as the Canine Health Information Center ( and the Canine Genetic Disease Network (, to learn about what disorders your chosen breed may be prone to, as well as what genetic tests are available.

• Check with a rescue group. These groups know their favored breeds and are generally forthright about both their great qualities and the challenges they face. Not only will they try to find you a great dog who needs a home; they’ll be able to give you tips on any health issues the breed is prone to.

• Choose a responsible breeder. How can you tell? A good breeder lets you check out the place where she’s raising the puppies—frequently, her own home. She socializes her pups and doesn’t place them too early. She asks you lots of questions and is concerned about where her dogs are going. She’s able to provide papers that show not only the pup’s heritage but any genetic screening that was done on his parents. And she makes you promise to bring the dog back if you ever become unable to care for him.

• Be realistic. Sometimes, no matter how good a dog’s breeder was, no matter how carefully her parents were screened, she will get sick. There aren’t yet tests for all the genetic disorders out there, so now and then even the best of breeders get a sad surprise (and if one of their puppies does get sick, even years later, they will want to know). For dog owners, it’s good to have some money socked away in case the worst happens—and that goes for owners of purebreds and mutts alike.

• Consider adopting an older dog. Millions of adult dogs are in need of homes—and it is often easier to assess the health and temperament of an already mature companion. An added bonus is that these animals are usually housetrained and have passed the destructive teething and hyperactivity stages. 

~~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.~~

Sunday, June 19, 2011



Helpful Buckeye wasn't able to make it back home this week as scheduled.  The family situation involving my Dad's health has deteriorated and it was necessary for me to extend my stay in western Pennsylvania.  I'm not sure whole long this extension will last but, fortunately, when writing last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, I prepared some material for the next few weeks.  I won't be able to add as much of the personal stuff...but the current topic of Purebreeds and Genetic Diseases will be un-interrupted.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!


Breeding Discontent 

The AKC and its member breed clubs have devoted considerable effort to improving the health of purebreds, in part by funding research to find the genetic markers tied to certain disorders. In 1995, the AKC launched the AKC Canine Health Foundation, a charitable organization that raises funds to support canine health research; the AKC gives the foundation $1 million in annual funding.
Dedicated breeders have also made significant strides, says veterinarian Fran Smith, citing the success in correcting a disorder known as collie eye anomaly. “In order to have that pretty collie head shape, it doesn’t leave as much room in the skull for a particular eye shape,” says Smith, who serves on the AKC’s Canine Health and Welfare Advisory Panel and is president of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. “But collie breeders—the serious collie breeders—have made a huge impact in selecting for dogs who have the correct eye shape without that eye problem.”
But the test for collie eye anomaly was developed only five years ago, and plenty of collies were bred before then. Many have been afflicted with retinal disease; many still end up blind.
Smith doesn’t blame written breed standards as much as people’s interpretation of those standards. What needs correcting, she says, is “this idea that if one wrinkle is good, then 12 wrinkles is better. If a 4-pound Chihuahua is good, then a 1-pound Chihuahua would be spectacular.” It’s a trend that even prompted Consumer Reports to issue a warning in 2003, telling readers that the “demand for ever-more-perfect purebred dogs has concentrated bad recessive genes and turned many pets into medical nightmares.”
Many of the disorders affecting dogs aren’t as visually dramatic as the scenes of yelping and pain shown in the British documentary, says Stephanie Shain, senior director of The HSUS’s Puppy Mills Campaign. But they’re no less awful when they lead to shorter, less comfortable lives for the dogs. “[This is about] the dog who’s going to die when she’s 8 rather than when she’s 12,” says Shain. “It’s the dog who’s not going to be with her person for as long as she should be.”
In the end, genetic tests are one of the only ways puppy buyers can protect themselves; the Canine Health Information Center, jointly sponsored by the AKC and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, serves as a central repository for information about dogs who’ve been screened for genetic disease; its database is accessible to consumers and breeders. Consumers can also check AKC registration papers for health certification numbers indicating that a puppy’s parents have been tested.
But many puppy buyers aren’t likely to find such proof: Plenty of disorders aren’t even detectable yet, and the AKC does not require breeders to test for those that are.
Responsible breeders who value breed health over profits have an interest in accurate testing and reporting. But there’s nothing to compel less conscientious hobbyists and commercial puppy millers who would rather avoid the costs.
Moreover, the AKC has not publicized any plans to encourage its member clubs to update their breed standards, and the organization continues to register puppies from the matings of closely related dogs.
The latter allowance is especially problematic, Bateson says. He notes that the immune systems of inbred dogs do not function as well, “which explains why pedigree dogs run up such large veterinary bills and are twice as likely to get cancer as outbred dogs.”
The issue goes beyond inbreeding. Quality control is an important part of any good business but is largely absent from dog breeding, says Jerold Bell, clinical associate professor of genetics at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, who serves on the AKC’s Canine Health and Welfare Advisory Panel.
The AKC is unlikely to make testing mandatory, Bell notes, adding that such a requirement would drive less responsible breeders to simply register their puppies elsewhere: “They won’t miss a beat in terms of what they’re doing.”
Recent history has proven his point. In 2000, the AKC instituted a requirement that any male dog bred more than seven times would have to have a $40 DNA test. The policy inspired a boycott of AKC registration by breeders in Iowa and Missouri, two states where puppy mills thrive. The Iowa Pet Breeders Association urged members to register dogs through alternative organizations, according to news reports.
With the rise of these competing registries over the past few decades, the AKC—still the nation’s most prestigious—has observed a change in the perceived value of its name.
“Before, AKC represented purebreds and everyone wanted an AKC puppy,” says Bell. “But now you don’t need AKC to be purebred.” He believes that if the AKC continues to encourage testing and to push the message that AKC-registered dogs are healthy and screened, the organization will be able to rebrand itself as the registry for healthy purebreds.

A Moral Tightrope

But for all the effort the AKC devotes to that messaging, the organization shies away from the kind of tangible consumer advice offered by experts like James Serpell
“Step one,” Serpell says, “is never buy a puppy from a pet store. … What people don’t realize is that you can buy a registered pedigree dog from a pet store [that] … was bred and produced at a puppy mill where there is virtually no regulation of breeding practices whatsoever.”
The AKC’s website provides helpful guidance for making more informed choices, advising pet seekers to find responsible breeders. The group also recommends that breeders meet and screen potential buyers—a practice that suggests a commitment to ensuring the dogs end up in loving homes.
But even as the AKC preaches good behavior, its practice of courting registrations from “high volume breeders” undermines the advice. This revenue source drives the organization to stop short of advising people to avoid pet stores, most of which don’t screen buyers and frequently sell dogs from puppy mills that subject parent animals to lifelong confinement in barren cages. And the AKC’s promotions encourage more such breeding: In April, for example, it launched “Dollar Deal Days,” which allows breeders who register 11 litters or more in nine months to register the 11th for only a dollar.
Some AKC members have fought to reduce the influence of puppy millers. The minutes of a September 2006 meeting document a skirmish. Patricia Laurans, a representative from the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America, questioned the AKC’s plan to form a relationship with Petland, a pet store chain largely supplied by the Hunte Corporation, a large puppy broker.  In 2009, Petland was investigated by The HSUS and sued by consumers who had bought sick dogs.
“I would like to call attention to every single Parent club’s … code of ethics that says we will not sell to pet stores,” Laurans was quoted as saying in the transcript. “I would like to call attention to the fact that, from my humble belief, we are selling our birthright for a few shekels.”
The most thorough response came from David Merriam, a representative from the Duluth Kennel Club and vice chairman of the AKC’s board of directors, who pointed out that the AKC’s coffers had long been lined with money from breeders of all sorts. As long ago as 1981, 96 percent of the group’s income came from registrations. “That money did not come only from the Fanciers or the Sport,” he said. “That money came from all the dogs … which means it was the backyard breeders, and it was the commercial breeders.”
If he applied his personal standards, he said, the AKC’s registry—and consequently its revenue—would be tremendously reduced, resulting in significant reductions of the organization’s services. “I think if we go that direction, the American Kennel Club will not exist 100 years from today,” Merriam said.
In spite of his warning, the delegates voted to recommend that the AKC board drop its pursuit of an official relationship with Petland.  
But since then, there have been signs that puppy mill money has proved too tempting. The AKC is opposing a ballot initiative in Missouri that would crack down on puppy mills by requiring higher standards of care and limiting the allowable number of breeding dogs to 50. What’s more, in 2009, an anti-puppy mill activist obtained a description of an AKC-copyrighted software program designed for use in pet stores. The program, Puppy Registration & Inventory Management Extranet, was intended to make it as easy and seamless as possible for stores to sell AKC registration along with dogs.
The document ended up in the hands of The Dog Press, a web publication for dog breeders and fanciers that lamented the ease with which users of the program would be able to obtain AKC registration for pet store puppies—and to process their “returns.”
“Customers have 21 days in which to return the puppy and that too is easily handled through the PRIME program,” wrote The Dog Press. “Gone is the breeder-instilled commitment to a new puppy. Gone is the traditional breeder support. The sales-aid return policy can lead to unnecessary stress, mismanage [sic], or abuse of puppies.”
When editor-in-chief Barbara Andrews queried the AKC about whether the software was in use, a club official called it an “internal business matter” and declined further comment, according to The Dog Press. (The AKC declined to answer specific questions posed by All Animals as well, though officials did refer us to veterinarians Bell and Smith, who serve in an advisory capacity to the organization.)

That's the end of the second part of this discussion.  The concluding portion will arrive for you in next week's issue.  Again, thanks for staying with me!

A particular "thank you" goes out to the Oklahoma State Cowboy friends of ours who are letting Desperado lean on their shoulders a bit until I get home.  You are, and have been, a very welcome and special addition to our lives!

~~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.~~

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Well, some of you are already on your vacations (possibly with your pets) and some of you are still looking forward to getting away for some fun time this summer.  Regardless of your travel plans, be sure to check in with Helpful Buckeye each week for the latest issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye will be traveling this next week, although this trip is more for family medical reasons than for pleasure...helping Helpful Buckeye's dad get organized in the face of some health issues.  However, I won't leave our readers high and dry without your weekly fix of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

We've added another feature to our blog offerings.  A "Blog Archive" is now available in the column to the left.  You can click on the weekly issues from the most recent month and then from each whole month back to the beginning of this year.  Before that, you can click on each year.  Remember that for specific topics, you can look through the list called "Labels"...also in the column to the left...and click on whatever topic interests you.

Over the last couple of years, Helpful Buckeye has received some e-mails with questions about certain breeds of dogs and any particular diseases that are associated with those breeds.  I've answered those questions on an individual basis but it now appears that this would be a good topic for our weekly discussion.

The subject of genetics first aroused my interest as an undergraduate student as part of my zoology major.  That interest continued into graduate school and veterinary medical school.  The study of genetics at that time was almost rudimentary compared to what is known today.  The many disciplines of genetics have allowed scientists to delve into
the aspects of gene expression and to find a lot of answers to questions about why certain diseases are seen more often in certain breeds of dogs than others.  From the studies of Thomas Hunt Morgan on fruit flies 100 years ago through the findings of Watson and Crick about the structure of DNA to the science of today, geneticists and molecular biologists are able to help us understand how a Golden Retriever can have a genetic eye disorder and how a white cat with blue eyes can be deaf.  I'm not trying to make geneticists of any of you (I'm not one either) but I think most of our readers will find this information pretty interesting.  If you have any questions on this material, don't hesitate to send an e-mail to me at: 

Purebreeds and Genetic Diseases

The Humane Society of the United States has published this very informative article that provides a nice overview of this topic:

The Purebred Paradox

Is the quest for the "perfect" dog driving a genetic health crisis?

by Carrie Allan

In the days leading up to the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the hotels around Madison Square Garden in New York City fill up with owners, handlers, and hundreds of purebred dogs. They come from around the country, spiffed up and ready to shine: prancing white poodles with their fur teased into towering pompadours, basset hounds with their ears held up in shower caps to keep them from dragging on the ground, bright-eyed Chihuahuas peering eagerly out of fancy carriers.

For these show dogs, who must be registered with the American Kennel Club, this is the Oscars—“the symbol of the purebred dog, in show rings as well as in millions of television homes across America,” according to its marketers. They vie for a hierarchy of awards: best of breed, best in group (sporting, herding, hound, toy), and, most prestigious of all, best in show.

In an interview filmed during the show this February, Kimberley Meredith-Cavanna explained the criteria that she and other judges consider when determining how closely these premium pooches match the “ideal specimen” prescribed by each breed’s parent club. “We’re looking to see what its head should look like, its eye set, its proportions, its size, how the dog moves, and how it should be built,” she said.

While it may seem as though contestants are competing against each other, they are actually judged against standards written by the clubs and ratified by the AKC: Are this dog’s ears long enough to make her an ideal beagle? Is that one’s head big enough to make him a prime example of English bulldog-ness? Does this Rhodesian ridgeback have the correct symmetrical ridge of hair along her spine?

Watching the lively animals in the ring, how can a dog lover not be charmed? Westminster and other shows like the annual AKC/Eukanuba Championship have a loyal following among breeders and casual dog lovers alike.

But the shows are not without their critics. Though the dogs who compete at Westminster are beautiful and most are likely healthy, the rise of such spectacles—and judging measures that in some cases emphasize appearance over welfare—has been blamed for a host of genetic health problems facing scores of breeds today.

Brachycephalic (or short-faced) breeds like bulldogs and pugs suffer from breathing problems; Great Danes and other large dogs from joint problems; long dogs like dachshunds and basset hounds from back problems; wrinkly-faced dogs like boxers and shar-peis from skin and eye problems. And due to prolific production to meet public demand, the most coveted dogs tend to have the most genetic disorders; Labrador retrievers, who’ve topped the AKC’s popularity list for 19 years, are prone to around 50 inherited conditions.

The stories of those who fall in love with these animals, only to watch them suffer, are often heartbreaking. On New Year’s Eve, Janice Pfeiffer’s dog Daisy suddenly “started yelping really loud,” says the New Hampshire resident. “It turned out she had a seizure, and she recovered from the seizure on the floor, and crawled into a corner and just looked glassy-eyed.”

An MRI revealed the painful truth about the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Pfeiffer had bought at a pet store: At less than a year old, Daisy had syringomyelia, a condition in which fluid-filled cavities occur within the spinal cord near the brain. In severe cases, a dog’s brain swells beyond the space provided by her skull. Some studies have indicated that, due to its prevalence in the breed’s gene pool, 30 to 70 percent of Cavaliers will develop the condition.

The Genetic History of Man’s Best Friend

Once upon a time, people believed that purebred dogs were naturally healthier than mixed breeds. How have we arrived at a point where it may be safer to presume the opposite?

Like humans, dogs are diverse in appearance—perhaps one of the reasons we love and identify with them. But that wasn’t always the case.

All dogs share ancestry with the wolf, but since their domestication at least 15,000 years ago, they’ve been selectively bred by people to assist with herding, hunting, and—in the case of the Pekingese—warming the laps of Chinese emperors. For the better part of canine history, the physiques of breeds were driven by dogs’ role as working animals, a classic example of the dictum that form follows function.

As that role diminished and pet keeping became common, dogs began to be bred more for appearance. You can see the resulting diversity any time you go to the dog park and watch an amorous Chihuahua trying to make time with an embarrassed St. Bernard, while a baffled Afghan and whippet look on. They’re all dogs—but if you didn’t know that, you might believe they were different species.

The thought wouldn’t be unreasonable. A recent study in The American Naturalist compared the diversity in the dog to that across the entire order carnivora. They found more difference between the skulls of a Pekingese and a collie than between those of a walrus and a coati, a South American member of the raccoon family.

Left to their own devices, dogs will be dogs—and will eventually intermingle enough to level out extreme differences within the species. Natural selection ensues and hybrid vigor results: Witness the similar color and size of mutts in Mexico and other countries where they’re allowed to roam. To protect particular characteristics, though, breed enthusiasts have long guarded a highly controlled process, regulating genetic lines and creating registries that stipulate which animals can be bred to produce more of the same type.

But therein lies the problem: The more limited the number of mates, the greater the chance a dog will be bred with a relative who shares similar genes. Genetic diseases are caused by recessive genes, so a good gene from one parent will trump a bad gene from the other. But if both parents have a bad gene—such as one that predisposes them to hip dysplasia or blindness—the likelihood of a sick puppy increases.

“What happens when you have a small and inbreeding population is that the probability of two negative recessive genes finding each other increases as the gene pool chokes down to a smaller and smaller pool,” says Patrick Burns, a Dogs Today columnist who frequently writes about genetic health issues on his blog, Terrierman’s Daily Dose.

A closed registry that allows no “new blood” into the mix exacerbates the problem, he argues: “In many AKC dogs, the founding gene pool was less than 50 dogs. For some breeds, it was less than 20 dogs.”

Standard Problems

This year’s (2010) Westminster champion, a Scottish terrier named Sadie, hails from one of these tiny gene pools and is “very heavily inbred,” says Burns. The limited ancestry for AKC-registered Scotties, he adds, helps explain why 45 percent die of cancer.

“We do not need to have a closed registry to keep a breed,” Burns says, pointing out that breeds existed long before there was an organization to track them. “We did not create the dogs we love in a closed registry system—we have only ruined them there.”

Some breeders would doubtless disagree with Burns on this issue. But the inherent difficulties of protecting the health of a breed within a closed registry are exemplified by a project undertaken by the Basenji Club of America, which has in the past requested that its stud book be opened temporarily to bring in healthier animals.

Genetic problems in registered Basenjis were detected in the 1970s, when many of the small curly-tailed dogs known for being “barkless” began suffering from hemolytic anemia. After a test for the disease was developed, breeders tried to protect the gene pool through euthanasia of affected dogs, says club president Sally Wuornos. But eliminating dogs with hemolytic anemia left a much smaller number of registered Basenjis. And many of the remaining animals now displayed a different problem, a kidney disease called Fanconi syndrome. By addressing one disorder, the breeders had unwittingly amplified another.

Instead of repeating past mistakes and culling Fanconi carriers, the club received the AKC’s permission to open the Basenji registry to dogs from countries with no AKC-accepted registry. Since then, Basenji lovers have brought dogs back from isolated areas in the Congo and successfully integrated these healthy animals into the breeding pool.

Obtaining such permission to bring in new genes is unusual. Many breeders and clubs employ less dramatic measures: They pair mates who are healthy. They keep dogs with known disorders out of their breeding stock. They insist on conducting available genetic tests.

Yet in spite of these efforts, purebred health problems have continued and in some cases worsened. While genetic testing has made precautionary measures possible for some breeds in recent decades, people have been breeding dogs for centuries. Much damage has already been done. The modern German shepherd provides a classic example: One of the breed’s primary disorders, hemophilia, is thought by most experts to have spread almost entirely through the descendants of a single popular stud dog born in 1968 in Europe.

Though veterinarians learn about such problems in school and see them in their practices, even they are sometimes still surprised by their prevalence. When veterinarian Paula Kislak adopted retired racing greyhounds, she assumed the breed “at the very least was physically strong because it was being bred for athleticism,” she says.

But because many racing greyhounds are killed when they cease performing on the track, few people knew of their genetic issues. As her dogs aged, “they were getting some really serious conditions in a proportion that was much higher than … the general population,” says Kislak, a member of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association’s leadership council. “The oncologists were seeing a lot of osteosarcoma. In fact, 50 percent of the greyhounds I’ve had have died of some sort of cancer.”

A Shot Across the Bow

While pet owners have been dealing with these issues relatively quietly for decades, the documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed recently brought them to the forefront.

Broadcast in the U.K. in 2008, the film was critical of the Kennel Club, the British equivalent of the AKC, and showed purebreds with a range of health problems. Among its revelations: The 2003 champion of Crufts, the country’s most prestigious dog show, was a Pekingese who had to be photographed sitting on ice blocks because his flat face made him so prone to overheating. The film showed images of certain breeds in the early 20th century alongside pictures of the same breeds today, demonstrating how a century of selecting for looks had lengthened the back of the dachshund, rounded the skull of the bull terrier, and dropped the hindquarters of some German shepherds into an almost froglike stance.

The filmmakers interviewed the RSPCA’s chief veterinary adviser, Mark Evans, who noted that his group was extremely concerned about “the very high levels of disability, deformity, and disease in pedigree dogs.” According to the documentary, sickly purebred dogs were costing British owners 10 million pounds a week in veterinary fees.

In response, the Kennel Club and the Dogs Trust—a charity that, along with the RSPCA, had been critical of the club’s policies—jointly commissioned an independent inquiry led by Cambridge University professor emeritus Sir Patrick Bateson. The resulting report largely confirmed the documentary’s findings, concluding that inbreeding, selecting for extreme characteristics, and the practices of mass breeding facilities known as puppy mills were negatively impacting dog welfare.

Describing the tension at the heart of the issue, Bateson wrote, “To the outsider, it seems incomprehensible that anyone should admire, let alone acquire an animal that has difficulty in breathing or walking. Yet people are passionate about owning and breeding animals which they know and love, even though the animals manifestly exhibit serious health and welfare problems.”

Britain’s Kennel Club has since banned the registration of puppies from closely related parents (matings of fathers and daughters, for example) and revised many breed standards, adding language to emphasize health and soundness, says the group’s public relations manager, Heidi Ancell.

Many of the standards, she says, were amended to ensure they don’t encourage extreme features. The Pekingese standard now specifies that a “muzzle must be evident.” The bulldog’s standard calls for a “relatively” short face, stipulating that pinched nostrils and heavy wrinkles over the nose should be severely penalized by show judges—who have in the past rewarded high marks for such features.

Some breed clubs have welcomed the changes; others have protested. But in the United Kingdom, at least, there seems to be momentum for change. Whether that momentum will gather steam in the U.S. remains to be seen.

This should be enough to stoke your interest in this subject.  Even if you don't have a purebred dog, you will know someone who does.  Come back and see us next week for the 2nd installment of this topic.

Remember to NEVER bite off more than you can chew....

~~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.~~

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Judging from the e-mails received after last week's issue about "Pets On Vacation," many of you will be doing just that in the next several months.  This week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats will conclude the series with some reminders of what might happen once you hit the road with your pet and plenty of suggestions on how to avoid the more unpleasant occurrences.

About 50% of respondents to last week's poll questions said they would be taking a pet with them somewhere this summer.  Approximately 90% of you admitted that you don't keep your pet restrained while in a moving vehicle, although one of those said that she does not allow her dog to stick its head out the window of a moving she's at least half-way to earning her "pet-in-the-car" merit badge.  Lastly, about 50% said they have used the services of a pet sitter and about half of those reported that they had the pet sitter doing other things for them around the house.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

The conclusion of Pets On Vacation will begin with what happens after you've decided that your pet will be going with you on vacation rather staying behind in a boarding facility or in the company of a pet sitter.

Hitting The Road

More and more people are hitting the roads and airways with their pets in tow, and apparently, loving it., a pet travel service provider, today announced the results of its second annual Summer Pet Travel Survey of more than 10,000 pet owners worldwide, finding that 60 percent traveled with pets during 2010.

The survey also shows that 48 percent of the pet owners spends less than $500 annually on pet travel-related products and services. However, nearly thirty percent of pet owners said they spend $1000 or more.

Last year's survey showed a lot of people felt pet flying with your pet was so expensive, it wasn't really possible for them. This year's survey found only 18 percent view airline fees as too expensive.

Although a lot of people felt the number of pet-friendly hotels was not large enough, those who chose to stay at hotels because they are pet-friendly jumped by 10 percent from 2010 to 2011, with 78 percent of respondents indicating they had stayed at a hotel because it allowed pets or was considered to be "pet-friendly."

This was adapted from:
and the complete results from this year's survey are found at:

Take a few minutes to look over the survey results...there are some interesting findings!

One thing you should have accomplished BEFORE taking your pet with you on vacation is have a micro-chip implanted into your pet.  The American Veterinary Medical Association has offered this up-to-date information about micro-chips:

Q: What is a microchip?

A: A microchip is a small, electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder that is about the same size as a grain of rice. The microchip itself does not have a battery—it is activated by a scanner that is passed over the area, and the radiowaves put out by the scanner activate the chip. The chip transmits the identification number to the scanner, which displays the number on the screen.

Q: How is a microchip implanted into an animal? Is it painful? Does it require surgery or anesthesia?

A: It is injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle. It is no more painful than a typical injection, although the needle is slightly larger than those used for injection. No surgery or anesthesia is required—a microchip can be implanted during a routine veterinary office visit. If your pet is already under anesthesia for a procedure, such as neutering or spaying, the microchip can often be implanted while they're still under anesthesia.

Q: What kind of information is contained in the microchip? Is there a tracking device in it? Will it store my pet's medical information?

A: The microchips presently used in pets only contain identification numbers. No, the microchip cannot track your animal if it gets lost. Although the present technology microchip itself does not contain your pet's medical information, some microchip registration databases will allow you to store that information in the database for quick reference.

Q: What do they mean by "microchip frequency?"

A: The frequency of a microchip actually refers to the frequency of the radiowave given off by the scanner that activates and reads the microchip. Examples of microchip frequencies used in the U.S. include 125 kiloHertz (kHz), 128 kHz, and 134.2 kHz.

Q: How does a microchip help reunite a lost animal with its owner?

A: When an animal is found and taken to a shelter or veterinary clinic, one of the first things they do is scan the animal for a microchip. If they find a microchip, and if the microchip registry has accurate information, they can quickly find the animal's owner.

Q: Will a microchip really make it more likely for me to get my pet back if it is lost?

A: Definitely! A study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2% of the time. Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time. (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009) For microchipped animals that weren't returned to their owners, most of the time it was due to incorrect owner information (or no owner information) in the microchip registry database – so don't forget to register and keep your information updated.

Q: Does a microchip replace identification tags and rabies tags?

A: Absolutely not. Microchips are great for permanent identification that is tamper-proof, but nothing replaces a collar with up-to-date identification tags. Your pet's rabies tag should always be on its collar, so people can quickly see that your pet has been vaccinated for this deadly disease. Rabies tag numbers also allow tracing of animals and identification of a lost animal's owner, but it can be hard to have a rabies number traced after veterinary clinics or county offices are closed for the day. The microchip databases are online or telephone-accessed databases, and are available 24/7/365.

Q: I just adopted a pet from the animal shelter. Is it microchipped? How can I find out?

A: If the shelter scanned the animal, they should be able to tell you if it is microchipped. Some shelters implant microchips into every animal they adopt out, so check with the shelter and find out your new pet's microchip number so you can get it registered in your name.  Most veterinary clinics have microchip scanners, and your veterinarian can scan your new pet for a microchip when you take your new pet for its veterinary checkup. Microchips show up on radiographs (x-rays), so that's another way to look for one.

Q: Why should I have my animals microchipped?

A: The best reason to have your animals microchipped is the improved chance that you'll get your animal back if it becomes lost or stolen.

Q: I want to get my animal(s) microchipped. Where do I go?

A: To your veterinarian, of course! Most veterinary clinics keep microchips on hand; so, it is likely that your pet can be implanted with a microchip the same day as your appointment. Sometimes local shelters or businesses will host a microchipping event, too.

Q: Why can't I just buy the microchip and implant it myself?

A: It looks like a simple-enough procedure to implant a microchip – after all, it's just like giving an injection, right? Well, yes and no. Although it looks like a simple injection, it is very important that the microchip is implanted properly. Using too much force, placing the needle too deeply, or placing it in the wrong location can not only make it difficult to detect or read the microchip in the future, but it can also cause life-threatening problems. Microchips should really be implanted under supervision by a veterinarian, because veterinarians know where the microchips should be placed, know how to place them, and know how to recognize the signs of a problem and treat one if it occurs.

Q: Once the microchip has been implanted, what do I do? Is there any sort of maintenance needed?

A: There really is no maintenance required for microchips themselves, although you do need to keep your contact information up-to-date in the microchip registration database. If you notice any abnormalities at the site where the microchip was implanted, such as drainage (oozing) or swelling, contact your veterinarian. Ideally, the microchip should be scanned during your animal's yearly checkup to make sure that it is still in place and working as it should.

Q: I heard about a dog that was euthanized by a shelter because his microchip wasn't detected by the shelter's scanner. How can I know that won't happen to my pet?

A: Unfortunately, there was a case where a dog's ISO standard chip was not detected by the animal shelter's scanner (because it only read 125 kHz microchips), and the dog was euthanized after the usual holding period because they could not locate its owner. Although this was a very sad case, the good news is that this case helped bring national attention to the need for universal microchip scanners to prevent this from happening again. Much progress has been made, and the likelihood that this will happen again is very low.

Q: Why are microchips sometimes not found?

A: As with almost anything, it's not a foolproof system. Although it's very rare, microchips can fail and become unable to be detected by a scanner. Problems with the scanners are also not common, but can occur. Human error, such as improper scanning technique or incomplete scanning of an animal, can also lead to failure to detect a microchip.  Some of the animal-related factors that can make it difficult to detect a microchip include the following: animals that won't stay still or struggle too much while being scanned; the presence of long, matted hair at or near the microchip implantation site; and a metal collar (or a collar with a lot of metal on it). All of these can interfere with the scanning and detection of the microchip.

Q: Do the benefits of microchipping outweigh the risks? I know that you said I have a better chance of being reunited with my lost or stolen pet if it is microchipped, but I'm worried there is still a chance that the veterinary clinic or shelter won't be able to read the chip or my pet will have a reaction.

A: The benefits of microchipping animals definitely outweigh the risks. Although we can't guarantee that a shelter or veterinary clinic will always be able to read every microchip, the risk that this will happen is very low, and getting even lower. Animal shelters and veterinary clinics are very aware of the concerns about missing an implanted microchip, and take extra measures to determine if a microchip is present before a decision is made to euthanize or adopt out the animal. Universal scanners are becoming more available, and solve the challenge of detecting different microchip frequencies.

There are more detailed questions and answers available from the AVMA at:

Any dog or cat that can get out of your house, let alone go with you on a vacation, should have a micro-chip properly implanted.

Some of you have most likely tried using a travel crate for keeping your pets confined during a longer trip.  Helpful Buckeye has received several inquiries about such a crate for a larger dog.  Apparently those are a little more difficult to find in pet stores.  The folks at have put together a list of 5 different types of crates that would work well for a larger dog and are available from ABO Gear, Orvis, Pet Gear, Remington, and Noztonoz.

The descriptions of these and clickable websites for them are available at:

Don't fret, all you cat also describes 5 selections of cat carriers for your consideration: also offers this selection of travel items that might come in handy for your dogs during the course of your vacation trip...Sun Relief Spray, Doggy Life Jacket, Seat Belt Harness, Natural Dog Treats, and Playtime Ball Launcher.  Descriptions available at:

For those of you who haven't looked into pet-friendly lodging while on the road, check out this website that claims to have more than 25,000 facilities listed:

OK, now for some of the unusual problems you might encounter on your travels with your pet.  Most pet owners are by now fairly familiar with the kinds of trouble their pets can find while at home in their own environments (at least the regular readers of Questions On Dogs and Cats are well informed).  However, once you're out on the road, there are a lot of regional difficulties that you might not even be aware of.  Helpful Buckeye will point some of those out right now.

Cane Toads

These huge toads are not native to the USA but have become well-established in south Florida.  They have a couple of external glands that produce a secretion that will kill a good-sized dog pretty quickly if the dog gets the secretion into its mouth.  Read this account of one dog owner's experience in Tampa:

Christopher Martineau knew something was wrong early Saturday morning when several of the family dogs began making a lot of racket.  The dogs were outside with Marinteau's wife and Christopher saw one of the dogs acting strange, but wanting no part of whatever the others had cornered. But Spot went for it, and as of about noon Saturday, he was on life support after biting a poisonous cane toad.  "The dog was foaming at the mouth and shaking, then went into a seizure," said Martineau. "All I could think of is that he bit it."

White, sticky foam was oozing out of the toad's back, Martineau said.  In no longer than 10 to 15 minutes, Spot's eyes began rolling back in his head and he had a seizure. The dog lost control of his bowels on the way to the veterinarian's office.  "The doctor said dogs usually die in 10 to 15 minutes after being poisoned by one of these toads," Martineau said.  But three hours later Spot was still alive, with at least three IVs flushing out the toxin. He was blinking his eyes and breathing, said Martineau.  "I've lived in Florida all my life and never seen a toad like this one," Martineau said.  He killed the toad.

Adapted from:

As if you need another reason to be sure about your pets' vaccinations being up-to-date....
Not only do those vaccinations have to be up-to-date to satisfy most state requirements in the USA, but also you never know when your pet will encounter a rabid animal.  Rabid animals can be found in just about every state of the USA, even in normal times.  Then, you have to consider the occurrence of rabies outbreaks that exceed those normal times.  Two states, Arkansas and Texas, are currently experiencing such outbreaks and are warning pet owners of being extremely careful about their pets' vaccinations and possible exposure to rabid skunks and raccoons.
For more information on this, go to:
Also, remember that when traveling with your pets (especially when crossing state lines), you are supposed to carry with you a valid Health Certificate, signed by your veterinarian.
Another disease that your dog should be regularly vaccinated for is Leptospirosis.  This is mostly spread by wildlife and is mostly prevalent in areas that have standing water.  With all the states in the Midwest and the East Coast getting so much rain the last few months, the chances of an un-vaccinated dog being exposed to Leptospirosis have been increased.  This account of the present danger comes from Michigan:
Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is spread by a species of tick that is found in great numbers in certain parts of the USA.  It can cause problems for both humans and dogs.  Certain areas of the country are expecting big increases this year in the number of reported cases, partly due to the rainy spring followed by warmer weather.  You need to practice good tick control when in those areas with your dog.  Also, you should consult your veterinarian BEFORE going to those areas about the advisability of vaccinating your dog against Lyme Disease.  Parts of the USA that are already warning of an increased incidence this summer are:

Plague, also known as Bubonic Fever and the Black Death (in medieval times), is still around in certain areas of the USA, most notably the "Four Corners" region around the juncture of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.  It is caused by the bite of a flea that is carrying the bacteria, Yersinia pestis.  These fleas are mostly found on certain rodents, mostly prairies dogs in this region.  A bit from one of these fleas can cause this disease in a human, as well as a dog or cat.

An account from New Mexico about dogs and a cat:
Valley Fever
Valley Fever is a potentially serious disease caused by a fungus found in the desert soils of the American Southwest.  It sometimes takes a while to show up as an illness following the initial exposure and if you've been traveling with your dog in the southwestern states, you might be back home before noticing its effects on your dog.  In that case, you'd be wise to advise your veterinarian of the dog's possible exposure to the fungus.
A dog owner's account of the infection:
As a final reminder about keeping your pet happy and healthy while on the road, review these warnings from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area:
Keep your pets happy, healthy on the road

Sixty-one percent of pet owners travel with their four-footed family members -- and no wonder, because road trips are an affordable, convenient way to keep your canine (or kitty) with the pack and out of pricey kennels. Follow this advice to help your pet stay healthy and happy the whole time.

Car seating

One in five dog owners surveyed by AAA admitted to driving with pets in their laps, which is incredibly dangerous. Dogs should never ride freely -- not in the back seat, not in the bed of a pickup, and especially not in the front seat, where the air-bag risk is the greatest. You have two main options: a crate or a seat-belt harness. "A crate that's secured to the vehicle with tether anchors and engaged child locks is the safest way for your dog to travel," says Gregg Takashima, a veterinarian and president of the American Animal Hospital Association. "Harnesses are also good, but keep your pet away from air bags, which can easily break her neck if deployed." If your pooch isn't acclimated to the method you choose, take him for short trips before your vacation to get him used to his new gear.

Window warning!

Your dog should never be allowed to stick his head out the window of a moving car. "Debris can be driven into a pet's eyes, nose and ears -- especially at high speeds -- causing injuries and pain," Takashima says. "I've also seen dogs that have jumped out of a slightly opened window".

Adapted from:

Hopefully, you'll now feel better prepared to have a great vacation...along with your pets!  Travel safely and get back home healthy!

Well, I'm not getting too giddy about this just yet...but the LA Dodgers have actually won their last 3 consecutive series...something they haven't done all season.  Things don't usually happen in a hurry in baseball and it is a long season, so...there just might be a smidgen of hope for my guys in BLUE.

The Dallas Mavericks pulled a major upset in the 2nd game of the NBA Finals and took the home court advantage away from Miami...only to go back home and lose.  Now, Miami is ahead 2-1 in games.

Under the "it's about time!" category, Ohio State finally gathered up the courage to get rid of Jim Tressel, our lying football coach.  Now, to make the complete sweep of people who were asleep at the wheel while all this was going on, the university needs to get rid of the athletic director and the president.  This needs to happen for us to regain any hope of being respected for doing things the right way.  You heard it here!


A couple of things happened this week related to my bike.  First of all, Desperado knew I was looking for a new helmet and she found the perfect one.  The color will go great with all of my riding color combinations.  Secondly, I blew out a couple of spokes on the rear wheel and had to take my bike in to the shop for repairs.  As is frequently the case, a couple more problems surfaced upon closer inspection and had to be taken care of.  A couple of hundred $$ later, I now have a much sturdier and tougher bike and it should be in peak condition for my big event in the Colorado Rockies in July.  I also bought a new bike rack for the back of our road vehicle.

Desperado and I are going to dinner Monday at a restaurant in Sedona that we had been to a few times when we first moved to Flagstaff and really liked.  A couple of years ago, it burned and had to be rebuilt and now they are open again for business.  We're getting ready to take a short trip back to the "homestead" in Pennsylvania at the end of this week, so this dinner will give us a chance to relax and enjoy the surroundings in a location we really treasure.

I've got a great picture to finish with this week, so I'll give you a quote from Mark Twain as a lead-in:
"The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime...if not asked to lend money."  from Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

We all tend to have our own somewhat arbitrary definition of what being a good friend means but Helpful Buckeye thinks we'll all agree that this is a view of best friends:

~~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.~~