Archives for September 2013

Inborn Errors of Metabolism: The Invisible Genetic Diseases of Dogs?

Inborn Errors of Metabolism: The Invisible Genetic Diseases of Dogs?

Inborn Errors of Metabolism are a large group of inherited diseases that occur in both humans and dogs.  These disorders are well defined in humans but far less understood and recognized in dogs.  Individually, each of the inborn error of metabolism disorders is rare, but collectively they are an important and relatively common category of diseases in both man and dogs.  In dogs these disorders are rarely considered by veterinarians as the possible cause to be studied when their patient is ill and failing.  We recently told you the story of Rigel, a blue Afghan hound puppy who ultimately succumbed to one of the many known inborn error of metabolism disorders, mucopolysaccharidosis type 1.  We also discussed that if it were not for one astute veterinarian (out of many veterinarians who evaluated Rigel and his similarly affected sister, Trudy) their condition would have gone undiagnosed and this previously unrecognized genetic disorder would have continued to go unidentified in this breed. 

Cases like Rigel and Trudy’s raise an important question; how often are similarly "invisible" biochemical disorders occurring in dogs and going unrecognized and undiagnosed? Human and canine genetic research discoveries have illustrated repeatedly that ...

Breed of the Week: Australian Cattle Dog

Breed of the Week: Australian Cattle Dog

Better known as a blue or red heeler, the Australian cattle dog originated in the Land Down Under and was used to drive cattle over the continent’s rough terrain. Interestingly, it was developed by crossing cattle-driving dogs of the day with tame dingoes.

According to the AKC, “Australians began crossing Dingo-blue merle Collies to Dalmatians and Black and Tan Kelpies. The result was a dog identical in type and build to the Dingo, only with a thicker set and peculiar markings - and also an excellent worker.”

The mix of dogs is also responsible for the color variation seen in today’s breed, which can either be shades and patterns of merle blue or tawny-red.

The ACD is an active medium-sized, short-coated dog that possesses a high intelligence and which forms strong bonds with its owners. As cattle-driving dogs, ACD’s would nip the heels (hence the moniker) of stubborn cows to keep them moving. Because of their strong herding instincts and close relationship formed with cattlemen moving throughout the countryside, the breed retains a few of those necessary attributes. Namely, they’re prone to nipping, especially at the heels of running children (which should not be taken as biting or aggression), and ...

Breed of the Week: American Eskimo Dog

Breed of the Week: American Eskimo Dog

Sometimes politics and patriotism combine to influence the development of a canine breed. Such is the case with the American Eskimo dog, which originated in Germany (where it was known as the German spitz) and was brought to America in the early 1900s as a companion and watchdog. However, with the rise of World War I and anti-German sentiment, the name was changed from German spitz to American Eskimo dog (and nicknamed the “Eskie”).

The name wasn’t the only thing that changed. The American version of the breed, separated from the German, and perhaps mixed at some point with the Japanese spitz, developed into its own, primarily white, breed.

Eskies were originally used as watchdogs, and as such still retain a tendency to bark at strangers that approach or encroach upon their territory. In America, they became popular as performing animals in circuses, walking on balls, tightropes and performing other tricks. Marketing gurus of the day sold puppies after the show and, as such, many families went home with their very own Eskie.

Because they evolved as alert watchdogs and performing animals, Eskies are intelligent, affectionate, playful and biddable – they love to please. These personality traits make them perfect ...

Dogs Eat Everything – How to Keep Them Safe

Dogs Eat Everything – How to Keep Them Safe

Canines of all ages are notorious for eating the oddest things. From leftovers in the garbage to rocks in the yard, some dogs will consume anything. While their self-induced supplementary diets can make for interesting story sharing, the actual act can pose a risk (life-threatening sometimes) and can cost you a lot of money in emergency vet fees.

Sometimes the weird things dogs eat can be avoided. Sometimes they can’t. I’ll be honest, my dogs have eaten some things that aren’t so good for them, and sometimes that was my fault and others times it just happened.

Hoss, my English bulldog, once ate a pair of my shoes. That was my fault, as I left them on the floor where they would become the subject of his inquisitive puppy nature. The corner of the wall he ate, however, was (I’m convinced) simply because it was in front of him when he woke up. The television remote was left on the couch where he could find it. Likewise, he was left alone in the car with the Labrador’s frozen training ducks. These are just a couple of examples of things one of my dogs has eaten.

If you noticed a pattern ...

Defining Responsible Dog Ownership

Defining Responsible Dog Ownership

In recognition of the AKC’s Responsible Dog Ownership Days, I thought I’d reflect on what it means to be a responsible dog owner, as it’s a very subjective topic.

Some people believe simply providing food, water and shelter is the only responsibility of owning a dog. I’d say that’s the bottom line, lowest common denominator of responsible dog ownership. Below are some thoughts on what it means to responsibly care for, train and breed dogs. Which do you think are most important?

The Basics: As said, providing your dog with quality diet, water and shelter from heat/cold/precipitation are the bare minimums of responsibility. I’d add sufficient exercise and interaction to that list as well.

Socialization: Raising a puppy that has had proper socialization during the first 12 weeks of age will make a difference in its character and psychological stability for the rest of its life. Safely introducing your puppy and allowing it to meet and interact with other dogs teaches it how to behave around other dogs, and what the proper protocols and canine rituals are. Failure to socialize your dog can handicap it; creating a fearful or aggressive dog that will have difficulty interacting with other ...

Breed of the Week: American Staffordshire Terrier

Breed of the Week: American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire terrier (or Amstaff) has an interesting history that relates closely to the bulldog – in fact, the Amstaff more closely resembles the original bulldog than does today’s version of that breed.

In the 1800s the bulldog was taller and more athletic than today’s squat, smash-faced companion breed. It was used for bear and bull-baiting, where the dog would fight those animals prior to their being slaughtered for market. As the sport of baiting fell out of favor in the 1880s, the bulldog nearly went extinct. Aficionados of the breed revived it, breeding for the extremes of character and appearance in the breed that we see today.

The Amstaff split from the bulldog before the fall of the baiting practice and the selective breeding process for extremes was undertaken. At some point, probably in the early to mid-1800s, the bulldog was crossed with a terrier of some sort, which added even more tenacity to the willful bulldog. The Amstaff began to appear in the United States as early as the 1870s, and was used in both America and England, where it originated, to fight in pits with rats, as well as other dogs. In England the bulldog/terrier ...