Cardiac Arrhythmias in Dogs

Overview of Cardiac Arrhythmias in Dogs

Cardiac arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms that can occur in dogs. These disorders are classified based on the area of the heart in which they originate. They originate either in the upper chambers of the heart, the lower chambers of the heart, the area of the heart responsible for creating the heartbeat, or the electrical conduction system within the heart.

Each heartbeat originates as an electrical impulse in the upper right chamber of the heart (sinoatrial [SA] node). The impulse then travels across the upper chambers of the heart (atria), to an intermediate station (atrioventricular [AV] node), and finally to the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles). The electrical impulse generates the typical pattern seen on an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). Disturbance in the generation or transmission of the electrical impulse in the heart causes a cardiac arrhythmia. Some cardiac arrhythmias are temporary and do not cause illness. Others are serious and may be life threatening.

Cardiac arrhythmias may affect dogs of any age or sex. They may also affect any breed, but there are some breeds that are more at risk of developing arrhythmias than others. Giant breeds of dog are more prone to a type of arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation, which is rapid abnormal beat originating in the atria. Labrador retrievers are prone to supraventricular tachycardia, which is a rapid heart rate originating just above the ventricles. Doberman pinschers and boxers are prone to ventricular tachycardia, which is a rapid abnormal heart beat originating in ventricles. Sick sinus syndrome is an abnormality that affects the SA node: It most commonly occurs in miniature schnauzers, dachshunds, cocker spaniels, and West Highland white terriers. Spaniels, German shepherds and Labrador retrievers are predisposed to certain types of heart block.

The prognosis (outlook) for animals with cardiac arrhythmias depends on the type of arrhythmia, the underlying cause of the arrhythmia, and the type and extent of any existing heart disease. Dogs in congestive heart failure have a guarded-to-poor prognosis.

What to Watch For

  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Slow heart rate
  • Fast heart rate
  • Erratic heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of appetite

Diagnosis of Cardiac Arrhythmias in Dogs

Blood work, including a complete blood count and biochemical profile, should be performed to look for any underlying abnormalities. Some dogs may be anemic, have an elevated white blood cell count, or have organ dysfunction. Some diseases, such as hypothyroidism, may be the cause of cardiac arrhythmias.

Cardiac arrhythmias are diagnosed with an electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG). The type of arrhythmia can be diagnosed from an ECG oscilloscope or from a printout of the trace.

Thoracic (chest) radiographs (X-rays) may help determine if heart disease or heart failure are present.

A cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram) is sometimes performed to determine evaluate cardiac function and identify any underlying heart disease.

Treatment of Cardiac Arrhythmias in Dogs

Treatment depends on the severity of the arrhythmia and the presence of any underlying disease. There are a variety of cardiac arrhythmias and each is managed differently. Some are serious and require medication or even electric shock treatment. Others are innocuous and do not require any treatment at all.

In addition to treating the cardiac arrhythmia, any underlying heart disease or other disease should also be addressed.

Home Care and Prevention

There is no home care for abnormal heart rhythms, except that you should administer any medications your veterinarian prescribes. If you suspect that your dog has an abnormal heart rate or rhythm, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Cardiac arrhythmias are difficult to prevent, but early diagnosis and treatment of predisposing causes can reduce the risk of arrhythmias developing.

Information In-depth on Canine Arrhythmias

Normal heart rhythms begin in the sinoatrial (SA or sinus) node, which is located in the right upper chamber (atrium) of the heart. While abnormalities of the sinus node are typically a consequence of a systemic disorder, such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, primary sinus disease is common and can lead to a type of arrhythmia known as sick sinus syndrome. Other arrhythmias arising outside of the SA node may occur. Among the most serious of these is atrial fibrillation. Arrhythmias arising from the ventricles include premature ventricular contractions and ventricular tachycardia. More serious arrhythmias sometimes lead to cardiac decompensation and acute or chronic heart failure. Some arrhythmias worsen to the point of fibrillation and eventually the absence of any heartbeat (asystole).

Cardiac arrhythmias can lead to a very slow heart rate (potentially as slow at 40 beats per minute), termed bradycardia; very fast heart rate (potentially over 200 beats per minute in a dog), termed tachycardia; or an erratic heart beat. Numerous different types of arrhythmias may occur. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Atrial tachycardia
  • Ventricular escape rhythm
  • Ventricular premature complex
  • Ventricular tachycardia
  • Ventricular fibrillation
  • First-degree heart block
  • Second-degree heart block
  • Third-degree heart block

Often, cardiac arrhythmias are associated with underlying heart disease, such as dilated cardiomyopathy, congestive cardiac failure, or cardiac birth defects. In addition, a variety of other diseases or events may cause cardiac arrhythmias including:

  • Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid gland)
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Anemia
  • An overdose of certain medications such as digoxin, narcotics, xylazine
  • Administration of anesthetic agents
  • High or low blood potassium
  • Tumors of the heart
  • Trauma
  • Toxicity, such as chocolate poisoning
  • Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease – a disease of the adrenal glands)
  • Urinary obstruction
  • Lyme disease
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Head trauma
  • Hypothermia
  • Fear
  • Excitement
  • Pain
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus
  • Diseases of the spleen
  • Severe infections

Diagnosis In-depth

Cardiac arrhythmias are often detected during physical examination. Your veterinarian will listen to your dog’s heart with a stethoscope to determine if its heart rate is too slow, too fast, or erratic. If an arrhythmia is detected or suspected, it is confirmed by means of an electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG). Your dog will be positioned on his right side and will have clips or pads attached to his arms and legs. This procedure is painless. The ECG is then turned on and a tracing is obtained of the electrical activity of the heart. The tracing is examined to determine if the heart rate and rhythm.

Puppy Diary #12: The Highs, Lows and In-Betweens of Sommer’s First Year

Dear Diary,

Soon we will celebrate Sommer’s first birthday. What a ride this year has been! From the high of picking her up at the trainer’s house and watching her darling littermates tumbling around the pen, to the low of rushing her to the emergency hospital after eating Advil, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for the world (well, maybe I would trade the Advil incident). But, just because Sommer is a year old doesn’t mean we automatically wake up that morning to a full-grown, fully trained dog. No, I expect Sommer to act like a puppy for a long while to come. Even physically, she might continue to change, as she is still lean, and her vet says she might fill out a bit. At nearly a year old, her energy level is high, although less frenetic as when she was tiny. In some ways, now that she is full grown, she needs more outdoor exercise than when she was smaller and could run around the house and tire herself out in the process.

Even as we wrap up the final official month of puppyhood, Sommer requires huge amounts of my attention: She is not an independent type. I’ve been told that this “people person” tendency is a doodle characteristic. I’m not sure if that’s true of every doodle, but I can attest that Sommer wants to be next to me every minute of the day, under any circumstances. If I get up off the couch and move to a chair five feet away, she gets up off the couch and moves to the chair. She’s no dummy. She’s going to stay close to the pack leader!

That leads me to nighttime, which has been one of our biggest challenges this year. She’s doing better at sleeping on her bed on the floor of our bedroom, but she still jumps up on our bed at 5:45 a.m. And that’s not the only habit we have yet to break. She still gets overly excited when visitors come to our house. She still is timid going for walks. She still goes berserk after a bath, zooming around the house and issuing a series of sharp barks that has me covering my ears while she tears around. There are days when she rings the bell to go outside dozens of times a day. I open the door for her, and she stands at the threshold and sniffs the air for the longest time, which drives me batty! Then she looks at me with those big, expressive brown eyes and it feels like a hug. The first year was indeed a journey from puppy to love.

Sommer was born in a litter of four girls and one boy, and from the first time the breeder emailed photos, I knew she was the one for us. Miraculously, even though we were the last family to pick (meaning we didn’t pick, we took the pup who was left after everyone else picked), we got her. That bond has only grown stronger and more sure since the first time I saw her tiny face in the breeder’s photo. We brought her home at ten weeks old. From that day, our lives were never the same. Those initial weeks were not unlike the two times in our lives when we brought home a new baby. Our sleep was definitely challenged. As it turns out, Sommer would tolerate being in her crate at night, until she wouldn’t. When she would wake in the early morning hours, she would decide she needed to be with her pack members and she would bark and whine plaintively. Unlike a baby, there was no “crying it out” method that ever worked for us. Sommer never gave up barking and fell into an exhausted sleep. Instead, she had the willpower and stamina to bark for seemingly hours on end – not that we had the patience to let her bark for that long. Her barking resulted in the entire household being awakened, an equally unappealing prospect when school and work awaited us in the morning. Sommer’s clear preference was to be on the bed with my husband and I. We didn’t prefer that, though, so when she was about 10 months old, we moved her out of her crate and onto a dog bed on the floor of our bedroom, which we thought was a fair compromise. The arrangement works, until she wakes us up early in the morning by jumping on the bed. Sleep, for sure, continues to be our biggest challenge as we complete the first year.

Marijuana (Pot, Cannabis, THC) Exposure and Toxicity in Dogs

Overview of Marijuana Exposure and Toxicity in Dogs

The recent legalization of marijuana for human medicinal treatments has increased marijuana (pot) exposure and toxicity in dogs. In fact, according to the Pet Poison Helpline, there has been approximately a 450% increase in veterinary visits and calls to animal poison hotlines from marijuana exposure and toxicity.

Marijuana, also known as “pot”, is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis plant that has been around for hundreds of years. The term Marijuana most commonly refers to the tobacco product made from Cannabis leaves. There are two commonly discussed species of the Cannabis plant – Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Cannabis is used for both recreational and medical purposes.

There are approximately 483 known compounds in the Cannabis plant and over 80 cannabinoids with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the most potent and psychogenic. The amount and concentration of each cannabinoid varies with the different plants and stains of plants.

THC is present in the leaves and flowering tops of the cannabis plant. Hashish, another THC containing product, is the resin extracted from the plant. The second most commonly recognized cannabinoid is cannabidiol, commonly referred to as “CBD”. The difference between the THC and CBD is that THC causes psychotropic effects (affect mentation) while CBD is felt to have limited toxicity and is not psychotropic.

The Cannabis plant is also known as “hemp” but more commonly refers to strains with less psychogenic properties because of the minimal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In people, THC is sometimes used to alleviate nausea associated with chemotherapy, help with muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, to treat seizure disorders and much more.

Learn more about the medical use and possible toxicity of CBD oil in Dogs.

Unfortunately, because of the illegal nature of these drugs and the concern over societal stigmas, diagnosis and treatment are sometimes delayed. This brings up the point – what does your vet do if you bring a dog in with an illegal drug exposure? Learn the answer here.

How Does Marijuana Affect Dogs?

Dogs are usually exposed to marijuana by ingestion of the cigarettes, dried leaves, or baked products containing marijuana. There are also reports of second hand smoke causing intoxication. Sometimes, owners may intentionally give marijuana to their pets to “see what happens.”

With the legalization, there are many varieties of marijuana as well as many forms. Cannabis can be used by ingestion of various foods including candy, gummy candy, suckers, baked good, butters, as well as by smoking or vaporizing.

When inhaled or ingested, the THC enters the body and binds with neuroreceptors in the brain including norepinephrine, serotonin dopamine, and/or acetylcholine. This binding alters normal neurotransmitter function.

Signs of Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs

The most common side effects of marijuana intoxication in dogs are depression, lethargy, listlessness, loss of motor coordination or balance (stumbling), incontinence of urine, low heart rate, low blood pressure, respiratory depression, dilated pupils and glazed over eyes, vocalization such as crying or whining, agitation, drooling, vomiting, seizures and coma. Some dogs may experience hallucinations and have increased sensory stimulation to noises or fast movements.

The stereotypical dog that presents to a veterinary clinic for possible marijuana exposure is lethargic, listless, stumbling, glazed over eyes, and may dribble urine.

One danger with marijuana is that vomiting is common, and if the dog is profoundly lethargic and begins vomiting, aspiration of the vomitus into the lungs can lead to severe breathing problems and even death. This is relatively uncommon.

The signs of exposure can begin as quickly as 5 minutes to 12 hours after exposure. The signs can last from a half hour to several days depending on the amount and type ingested.

Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs: How Toxic is Marijuana?

THC is readily stored in the body’s fat tissue including the liver, brain and kidneys. The liver metabolizes it and much of it is excreted in the feces and urine.

The good news is that marijuana exposure or ingestion is rarely deadly and long-term complications are uncommon. Toxicity of marijuana is low. It takes about 1.5 grams of marijuana per pound of body weight to be fatal. Therefore, death from marijuana ingestion is not common.

The most severe problems relating to marijuana exposure or ingestion in dogs have been from high concentrations of medical grade THC.

Diagnosis of Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs

Diagnosis of marijuana ingestion or exposure in dogs is often based on the physical exam findings and history of exposure. There are urine tests to determine the presence of THC. Human tests can be used but are not dependable in dogs.

Treatment of Marijuana Toxicity in Dogs

There is no antidote for marijuana. This means that the treatment of marijuana exposure usually involves trying to eliminate the drug in their system, treat secondary signs, and provide support until the drug is eliminated from their systems.

Why Are People Using CBD Oil for Pets?

Overview of Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil for Pets

Marijuana, also known by the common term “pot”, is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis plant that has been around for thousands of years. The recent legalization of marijuana for human medicinal treatments has increased interest in the properties of the Cannabis plant and has led to a substantial increase in marijuana (pot) exposure and toxicity in pets. In fact, according to the Pet Poison Helpline, there has been approximately a 450% increase in calls to animal poison hotlines due to marijuana exposure or toxicity.

The Cannabis plant contains approximately 483 known chemicals and over 80 cannabinoids. A cannabinoid is a class of chemicals isolated from Cannabis that can cause various effects on the body. The amount and concentration of each cannabinoid varies with the different plant and strain of plant. The two most studied and available cannabinoids are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being the most potent and psychogenic. It is used medically to treat nausea, muscle spasms, seizures, anxiety as well as other medical problems. Learn more about the ingestion and toxicity of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). (INSERT LINK).

The focus of this article is on ingestion and toxicity of CBD oil in pets.

What is the Difference between Marijuana, Hemp, THC and CBD?

These terms can be confusing and are often mistakenly used in the media. The term Marijuana most commonly refers to the tobacco product made from Cannabis leaves. THC and CBD are both cannabinoids derived from the Cannabis plant. The difference between the THC and CBD is that THC causes psychotropic effects (affects mentation) while CBD is felt to have limited toxicity and is not psychotropic.

Hemp is a type of Cannabis plant that is known to have more CBD than THC. CBD is often extracted from the plant and sold as an “oil”. Cannabidiol is thought to decrease anxiety, decrease nausea and vomiting, decrease seizures and have anti-inflammatory properties. It is increasingly being used in both humans and dogs.

There are HUGE differences in the quality and purity of CBD (more below).

CBD Oil for Pets: Can Dogs Get CBD Toxicity?

CBD is not approved by the FDA for use in dogs. The true safety of CBD in dogs has not been researched. We do not know how it may interact with other medications or treatments.

However, CBD is not psychotropic and appears to have limited toxicity in dogs and cats. As with any supplement or medication, there is a risk of adverse effects. In people, the most common side effects of CBD are a dry mouth, drop in blood pressure, and drowsiness.

Many CBD products are oil based and have the potential to cause nausea and vomiting in some dogs. The risk of toxicity will depend on the dose given to your dog, the quality of the product, preservatives or additives present, and the potency of the product. Overdoses with impure products can lead to symptoms of THC toxicity. Pets may be lethargic, listless, stumble, have glazed over eyes, and be incontinent of urine.

If you are giving your dog CBD oil and you have any concerns, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

Can CBD Oil Help Your Dog?

CBD is most commonly being used in dogs for pain relief, treatment of seizure disorders such as epilepsy, and for anxiety-related issues. There are no formal research studies about the use of CBD in dogs. Much of the use and information is extrapolated from human studies. With that being said, many veterinarians have found positive effects from using CBD in their canine patients.

The most common uses of CBD in dogs include:

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety and fear problems including noise phobia and separation anxiety
  • Cancer treatment (some CBD is thought to have anti-tumor properties)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Glaucoma
  • Immune system stimulation
  • Inflammatory problems such as those associated with inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatitis
  • Nausea, especially nausea associated with side effects to drug therapy
  • Neurologic diseases such as degenerative myelopathy or canine cognitive dysfunction
  • Pain relief from arthritis
  • Seizures such as epilepsy

The AKC Canine Health Foundation with Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is currently conducting research to determine the usefulness of CBD in dogs with epilepsy.

Is CBD Legal?

CBD is legal in most states however new rulings have changed this in states such as Ohio. As a veterinarian in Ohio at the time of this writing, it is illegal for veterinarians to sell or prescribe CBD oil. However, it is available in some states over-the-counter without a prescription.

How Do You Pick a Good CBD Oil for Your Dog?

Discuss the use of CBD oil with your veterinarian. Because of the popularity in this product, there are many products on the market. Some may have pesticides, some have small levels of THC, and the amount of CBD actually in the product varies greatly and may be as little as none.

Could Dogs Help Find a Cancer Cure?

Dog Cancer Research Could be Leading to a Breakthrough

Every dog owner can agree that their canine feels like they’re part of the family. Dogs and humans have relationships that go back thousands of years, and it’s easy to see why when you look at all the things that dogs and humans are able to share. Unfortunately, not everything that we have in common with dogs is positive, and diseases are one of those things.

While no one wants to think about their dog getting sick, there is a recent silver lining that has emerged for dogs, and humans, who are suffering from cancer. At the Penn Vet Cancer Center symposium this year, one of the topics was the discovery of the similarities between cancer in humans and cancer in dogs. The way that dogs develop cancer is extremely similar to the way that we do, which means that treatments can work for both. If a cure is found for dogs — a cure could be found for humans.

Most cancer research is done by studying the effects of treatment in mice, but because dogs are so much more similar to us, it’s much more beneficial to look at how treatments can aid a dog suffering from cancer than a mouse. The majority of breakthroughs that have occurred in cancer research have come due to animal research, and by looking at dogs, we can attempt to learn even more.

It’s important to note here that no dogs are given cancer for the sake of research. Dogs already diagnosed with some form of cancer are being seen at research centers as patients.

The reason this research is so promising is due to the fact that dogs develop cancer naturally, just like we do. Human cancer typically develops over several years, and in dogs, it does the same.

Along with that, there are so many different breeds of dogs — about 400 — that researchers are able to identify which breeds are predisposed to certain types of cancer. For example, Golden Retrievers are more likely to be genetically disposed to types of lymphoma. Their research has also shown that squamous cell carcinoma often occurs in standard poodles, but only if they have black fur. What researchers are able to do with this information is further break down the links to complex cancers and identify how individual genes are contributing to different forms to develop more effective treatments.

How does this help humans? The other information that their research is showing, is that specific breeds that get specific cancers also affect specific humans. For example, osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer, specifically affects children — and large dog breeds like German Shepherds and Great Danes. The similarities here are key to identifying a treatment that can help both dogs and humans recover.

In fact, some of this research is already in progress and working. At the Penn Vet Cancer Center, Dexter, an Old English Sheepdog, was treated with a new type of immunotherapy that taught his immune system to seek out and destroy anything that looked like bacteria, including his tumor cells. More than five years later, Dexter is still alive and cancer-free.

The success of this specific immunotherapy has shown that dogs that received it were more than twice as likely to survive at least two years compared to dogs that received standard treatment. The success from this treatment can now be used to see if it will work in children.

This is just one of many ways that successful cancer research in dogs is helping to advance human treatments. And one day, if and when researchers are able to discover a cure, we might just have man’s best friend to thank.

Tips for Bringing Your Dog to Thanksgiving

How to Make Your Holiday Stress-Free and Safe for Your Pup

Thanksgiving is a time for everyone to come together and celebrate the things that you’re thankful for — so your dog should definitely be involved! However, with the holiday season comes a lot of commotion and chaos that can easily overwhelm you and your dog.

There are a number of things that can harm a dog during the holidays, from food on the counter to decorations. You’ll also want to make sure he’s on his best behavior — especially if you’re taking him to someone else’s home. Having your dog at Thanksgiving can make your holiday a fun time for your entire family. Here are tips to help ensure everything goes as planned.

1. Make Sure Your Dog is Allowed to Attend

If you are heading to a family’s or a friend’s house for Thanksgiving, make sure they’re okay with your dog coming first. The host might not be prepared to have a dog in their home, or they might have concerns that their own pets and yours might not get along. It’s better to check in and make sure your dog will be welcomed beforehand to make thing easier.

2. Have Some Fun Before Dinner is Served

Take your dog for a long walk or spend some time playing together to tire your dog out before you head in for a dinner. A lot of people in one place can create a lot of hectic energy which can cause your dog stress. The last thing you want is for your dog to be over-stimulated, so wearing him out before dinner is served can help him stay relaxed.

3. Make Sure Your Dog Looks His Best

You want to look your best for Thanksgiving, so don’t leave your dog out! Take a fresh trip to the groomers or make time for a bath to make sure your dog is looking (and smelling) his best.

4. Keep Your Dog Away From the Food

Don’t recreate a scene from the movies. Keep your dog out of food by making sure dishes are placed well out of reach, or even use a gate to ensure that he stays out of harm’s way. With things coming in and out ovens and off of stoves, the kitchen can be a dangerous place. There are also foods that can be dangerous to your pet, so watch what you hand him under the table.

5. Bring Along Something Familiar

Bring a toy or a bone, or even a blanket that your dog uses frequently to give your dog a comforting item in a new place. Your dog might even be able to find a comfortable space in their crate if you travel with it. Otherwise, ask your host if there’s a space where your dog can relax, that way if things start to get overwhelming you can have a plan B to keep things from getting out of control.

6. If it’s Better to Keep Him at Home, Keep Him at Home

Some dogs just don’t do well in high-stress situations or around large groups of people. If you know your dog gets anxious or stressed, don’t force him into a situation he’s not prepared to handle. There are plenty of options for dogs who aren’t able to attend Thanksgiving, from finding a pet sitter to boarding your dog for the day.

Having a dog at Thanksgiving can be fun for everyone, as long as you’re prepared! You can learn more about planning for a great Thanksgiving for your dog here.

Florida Votes to End Dog Racing — What Now?

The Change Will Affect Thousands of Dogs in Florida

Voters in Florida have passed an amendment that will end dog racing in the state by 2020. Amendment 13 to the Florida Constitution was put on the ballot for November to phase out greyhound racing tracks around the state.

The amendment needed 60 percent approval to pass, and it received 69 percent, which came as a surprise to both sides of the ballot. The group that pushed for the amendment cited mistreatment of animals as a key reason to support the approval.

There are a total of 17 dog racing tracks in the United States, and 11 of them are in Florida. Before the amendment passed, the state was one of six states that still allowed dog racing in the United States. Now that 11 of the tracks will be closing, that means that thousands of greyhounds around the state will soon be in need of homes.

There are around five to seven thousand greyhounds currently in Florida’s dog racing industry, and as the tracks close over the next two years, they’ll all need to find a place to go. Adopting retired racing greyhounds isn’t a new thing, either. The National Greyhound Association says that around 98 percent of retired racing greyhounds find forever homes and the remaining two percent work on farms as breeders. But with so many more greyhounds on their way, people are concerned that they’ll end up overflowing shelters.

What Can You Do to Help?

Since the amendment was just passed, pet owners who are interested in some of these dogs should be patient. The tracks are going to close over a period of time, and most haven’t announced their intentions yet. Since they have a little over two years to shut down operations, the retired greyhounds will likely be released over a period of time.

Keep an eye on your local greyhound rescue organization. More information about the fate of the dogs will likely be available later in 2019. Chances are these greyhounds will be headed to groups all around the country, and there are plenty of groups that you can find one near you! You can look through agencies in your state here.

People who want to adopt greyhounds also need to be aware of what it’s like to bring a retired racing dog into their home. They’re not for everyone, but the homes and families that they do fit with, they make wonderful, loving, lifelong companions.

Here are some quick facts on adopting retired racing greyhounds:

  • Racing Greyhounds are frequently handled and trained, so they’re familiar with people. This makes them very sociable dogs. They often have experience with children as well, which makes them suitable for families.
  • Racing Greyhounds are often shy and gentle dogs. They’re highly intelligent and independent.
  • Greyhounds retire from racing anywhere from 2 to 5 years old, and they can live for 12 years.
  • Racing Greyhounds are bred to be highly-trained athletes, so physical and temperamental problems have been avoided.
  • Racing Greyhounds only know other Greyhounds. They’ve never been around other breeds, and they’ve never encountered a cat. Some retired racers can do well in a cat household, but many cannot. If you have a cat, your organization can help you find a dog that can handle felines.
  • Some racing Greyhounds love to run after they retire, some don’t. Greyhounds can reach speeds up to 45 mph for a short period of time.
  • Although racing Greyhounds are trained, it’s not in the way you think. Most retired Greyhounds don’t know how to sit, play games, or climb stairs because they’ve never had a reason to learn. With patience and time, they can learn.
  • Racing Greyhounds have a strict schedule, and once they retire it helps to keep a steady routine with feeding and walking.
  • When you first bring a retired racer home, it might be a little strange for your new dog, because he’s never been in a house before! He might be scared, stressed, or confused but will adjust over time.

While retired racers need a little more effort at first than other rescues, they can still make a great companion. Often referred to as couch potatoes, Greyhounds like to sleep for up to 18 hours a day! Retired racers seem to truly embody the definition of “retirement,” but they’ll still enjoy a run or a walk every day. You can learn more about the Greyhound breed here.

Puppy Diary #11: Mastering the Holidays with a Puppy

Dear Diary,

Each year, from October 31 through January 1, our lives are punctuated with special events, festivities, and merrymaking. While we as humans can understand concepts such as, “It’s Halloween, so the doorbell is going to ring 100 times tonight, yet there is no cause for alarm,” our pup Sommer does not have the same capacity. If only I could explain the reason and assuage her fears! But alas, the same goes for lovingly wrapped gifts under a tree. Anything on the floor is fair game and a potential plaything, right? And while we’re at it, I can imagine her asking herself, “What’s up with having a spruce tree inside the house? What is this madness?” It’s fascinating to try to see the holidays from a pup’s point of view.

As we rounded the corner and headed into the last few months of the year, our family was nearly giddy with anticipation. Sharing the holidays with a pup would mean memorable moment after memorable moment. Imagine our pup in a Halloween costume! Playing with ribbons from discarded Christmas wrapping! Tasting a bit of the Thanksgiving turkey! At the same time, I realized that the holidays would be full of potential pitfalls. (Remember the dreaded emergency room visit that happened when Sommer mistook a bottle of Advil for a delicious treat? No one needs a repeat of that episode!). I didn’t need Sommer breaking into a bag of chocolate Halloween candy – that much is certain – and I was determined to not only enjoy the holidays with our pup but to keep her safe, too.

Our first stop on the holiday gauntlet was Halloween, and to be honest, it was the one that filled me with dread. As I’ve mentioned, answering the door has become a two-person job in our house, as one person manages the dog and the other greets our guest. The prospect of the doorbell ringing incessantly was not an appealing one, to put it mildly. And I wasn’t the only one concerned: Many dogs don’t do well at Halloween. According to Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company, Halloween is the time that they hear more about dogs dying or straying. That makes sense because if Halloween is intended to scare or startle us, it will certainly do the same to a pup.

In our house, Halloween also meant guests, as our kids often would invite friends over for dinner, followed by trick-or-treating and then a scary movie, which would engender delighted screams and howls. All of that excited energy could be overstimulating for Sommer, and that wasn’t even considering the doorbell ringing and costumed kids yelling “trick or treat!” Chocolate too is toxic to dogs and must be avoided at all costs. When the kids got home from trick-or-treating, I made it clear that they were welcome to empty their bags and trade candy, but that it had to be done on the dining room table rather than the family room floor.

My goal was to make sure the kids had their fun while keeping Sommer as calm and protected as possible. Fortunately, Sommer has been around kids her whole life, so despite the fact that kids can be unpredictable, loud and aggressive in their behavior, groups of kids don’t faze her. Still, the last thing I wanted was for Sommer to get spooked and dart out the front door!

Sommer was able to greet the kids’ friends and enjoy being around the dinner activity. Once the kids headed out trick-or-treating, I took Sommer upstairs where we relaxed in the master bedroom while my husband handled door-answering duties. She whined and paced a bit at first, but then settled down with a chewy stick. Once the heaviest period of trick-or-treating passed, Sommer and I came downstairs and she was able to greet the occasional group of kids at the door without incident.

The remaining holidays of the year were less treacherous than Halloween, thank goodness! Whether Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or Boxing Day, the holidays mostly involved managing a pup’s manners around guests and steering clear of potentially toxic items. Now, I have friends who close the dog off in another room when hosting guests. Or, they might even send the dog to someone else’s home for a playdate or overnight. And believe me, I understand! Either option makes sense if your dog is likely to be overwhelmed by visitors or could get underfoot in the kitchen. (One thing you do NOT need is to trip over your dog while carrying a platter of Thanksgiving turkey to a table of guests).

Puppy Diaries #10 Mastering the Perfect Puppy Walk

Dear Diary,

Sommer is ten months old and is in the full-blown teenage years, I mean, months. The joke’s on me, because now I have an actual human teenager in the house, plus a canine one to boot. Sommer is becoming a free and independent thinker, just like her 15-year-old human brother. She is by turns enthusiastic and stubborn. One minute she is tearing around the house with a case of the “zoomies,” as we’ve come to call it, and the next she is fearful and skittish. She’s getting more clever in her attempts to buck the system, whether that means trying to sneak up onto our bed at night (she is installed on her dog bed in our bedroom, but that doesn’t seem quite close enough to us for her liking) or staring at me blankly as I call “Come!” and then turning her back on me and calmly trotting off in the opposite direction. On the more positive side, she is bright and happy and loves to learn new games. We’re currently working on “fetch,” because although she does have some Labrador retriever and some golden retriever in her, the concept of retrieving the ball and then bringing it back to me so I can throw it again seems foreign to her. The chasing the ball part? Well, she’s a natural at that. And she’s fast. Which brings me to the topic of needing to get her plentiful exercise by walking.

At ten months, Sommer is no longer a little puppy. She’s nearly full grown, and has started to fill out regarding her muscle tone. Even now, she weighs only 17 pounds. We thought she might be as big as 25 pounds, but it turns out that she takes after her 15-pound mama more than her 35-pound daddy. That’s fine by me! But it does pose some interesting challenges concerning aggressiveness, as she is well aware that she’s smaller than most dogs she encounters. And the time when we notice this most is when we go out for a walk, which seems to alternate between happy sniffing and terrified high-pitched barking when another dog charges us from its yard, barking like it wants to kill us both (even though I can see its tail wagging!).

In other words, walking with Sommer is great fifty percent of the time. The other fifty percent could use improvement.

Problem number one is that as a puppy, Sommer has no concept of regulating her walking pace to mine. Then there is pulling and jerking as she trots off to the side to sniff something particularly tantalizing in the grass, and next thing you know, she’s walked around my legs, and now I find myself standing there immobilized, like a potted plant abandoned in the street. As a small dog, fortunately, she isn’t strong enough to pull my shoulder out of its socket, and for that I am grateful. Still, the worst leash-walking habit that she has is randomly and without warning crossing in front of me, causing me to attempt to come to a halt, usually on my tiptoes with my arms stretched outward as if to break an impending fall. And as bad as that habit is, the worst walking incident we’ve had so far had nothing to do with Sommer and everything to do with our Minnesota winters. Last winter, I hit a patch of black ice that was camouflaged under a fresh layer of fluffy snow and as if in a cartoon, my legs went flying out from under me and I landed flat on my back. Now, the blessing of this was twofold: One, no one was around to see my humiliating slip; and two, I was bundled up in a massive puffer coat, including a hat and giant puffy hood, which cushioned the fall. But the point of the story is that Sommer thought this was hilarious. Far from coming to my rescue in canine concern, Sommer jumped all over my prone body, thinking this was a game. So in any case, if I can fall while walking when Sommer was behaving on the leash, imagine what could happen if she cut in front of me on one of those snowy days.

I decided to consult Google to get some expert advice on my dog-walking dilemmas. What I gleaned from leading trainers was that leash training was a pain, but well worth it in the long run, and is part of training that does have a considerable safety component – both for you and your puppy. I learned that I should be the first one out the door, reinforcing that I am the leader and that I should also be the one back in. Another expert advised that you should train your puppy to sit patiently while you take off your shoes and hang up the leash. That sounded a whole lot like something Mr. Rogers would do, and I immediately implemented it. A nice meal or treat at the end of the walk was another recommendation to reinforce to Sommer the message that she has worked for her food. The experts recommended morning as the ideal walking time, for a period of 30 minutes to one hour. This is where having a small dog is nice: Thirty minutes is plenty long for her.

Symmetric Dimethylarginine (SMDA) Blood Testing in Dogs

Understanding the SMDA Blood Testing in Dogs

Kidney failure, often referred to as renal failure, is a common medical condition in dogs. There are many causes of renal failure and decreased kidney function over time (also known as chronic kidney disease or CKD). Some common causes of kidney function changes and failure can require toxins, infections, inflammation of the kidney, kidney stones (calculi), Lyme disease, neoplasia, hypercalcemia (elevated calcium), and various inherited conditions of the kidney. More information can be found in the library in these articles: Chronic Renal (Kidney) Failure (CRF) in Dogs and Acute Renal (Kidney) Failure (ARF) in Dogs.

Chronic kidney disease is a common progressive condition in dogs. Early diagnosis and treatment can slow the progression and improve patient quality of life. Early stages of renal disease can be difficult to detect, as your dog may not show any signs until a significant amount of kidney function is lost. Often one of the earliest signs will be increased urination (polyuria) and increased thirst (polydipsia). Dogs will tend to show these signs earlier than cats.

Traditionally, creatinine has been the blood marker that is used in the clinic to monitor renal function. Creatinine does not increase on bloodwork until 75% of renal function is lost. It can also be affected by decreased muscle mass, dehydration, Addison’s disease, low blood pressure or other causes of decreased cardiac function, and muscle trauma or inflammation. There is a newer test available that will allow your veterinarian to monitor renal function changes much earlier than previously detected.

This blood test is called the SDMA (symmetric dimethylarginine assay). This article will explain what we can learn from SDMA monitoring and how this test is run.

What Does SMDA Blood Test Reveal in Dogs?

SDMA is made as the body processes protein. It is excreted from the bloodstream through the kidneys, if the kidneys aren’t able to filter as well as they should (like in chronic kidney disease or renal failure) the SDMA will increase in the blood. The SDMA value will start to increase when the kidneys have lost 40% of their filtering ability. If you remember from above, creatinine does not increase until 75% of this function is lost.

Besides early detection, SDMA also has the benefit that it is not affected by lean muscle mass. In aging dogs, their muscle mass will decrease and can cause the creatinine to be lowered and difficult to interpret. SDMA is also not affected by some factors that can alter lab machines’ ability to read certain values like lipemia, hemolysis or icterus. It is less affected by dehydration than BUN, another value on bloodwork that is used to monitor kidney function.

SDMA is not meant to be used as a sole test- the results need to be evaluated in combination with other blood values (BUN, creatinine and others), urinalysis (especially urine specific gravity and protein level), blood pressure and potentially other tests depending on your dog’s history and clinical picture.

What Are the Potential Uses of SDMA?

An early indicator of renal disease in patients with otherwise normal kidney values (BUN and creatinine)
Better assessment of renal function in patients with severely decreased muscle mass (cachexia)
Aid in differentiating renal versus non-renal causes of elevations in BUN and creatinine
Monitoring during rehydration therapy for patients with elevated BUN and creatinine
Monitoring response to therapy for renal disease over time

How Is SMDA Blood Test Done in Dogs?

Your veterinarian and their technical staff will use a needle to obtain a blood sample from your dog, they will usually need 3cc or less (about 1/2 teaspoon) to run the SDMA and other associated tests to evaluate your dog’s kidney function. They will put the sample into specific blood tubes and send it in to the laboratory. Depending on the lab used and when it is delivered to them from your veterinarian, you should have the results in 1-2 days.

Is SMDA Blood Test Painful to Dogs?

Any pain involved is associated with the collection of the blood sample, since a needle is used to pierce the skin and enter a blood vessel to draw the sample. As with people, the pain experienced from a needle will vary from dog to dog. Often pets resist being held still for the blood draw as much or more than the actual collection itself!

Is Sedation Needed for SMDA Blood Testing?

Neither sedation nor anesthesia is needed in most dogs; however, some dogs resent needle sticks and may need tranquilization or ultrashort anesthesia.