Living with a Blind Dog

Apr 07 2010

My beautiful 10-year-old dog, Doc, gradually lost his sight over the course of last year. We can look back now and recognize when his sight started diminishing although when it was happening, we were clueless! I remember being perplexed as to why he was barking so much more. He was my daycare tester dog from the time we opened our doors in July 2004 until March 2009. He evaluated every dog that came into the daycare and was an invaluable asset. His skill at observing and responding appropriately to determine a dog’s intentions and temperament was unparalleled. He could encourage the shy dogs to open up and motivate the hyper dogs to chill out with very little movement or sound on his part. It was beautiful to watch. When he began starting every evaluation with a few barks, I started questioning my dog who had been flawless up to that point. The crowning moment was when one of his very best friends at daycare, a Shih Tzu named Malone, looked up at me and whimpered softly as he sat next to Doc. I realized that Doc unknowingly was sitting on a large portion of Malone’s long tail fur! I encouraged Doc to get up and move and Malone instantly wagged his whole body for me and then ran over to lick Doc’s face as if to say, “I know you didn’t mean it, no harm, no foul my friend!” Prior to that moment, Doc had always been exceedingly careful around the small dogs. Again, I was perplexed. Sadly, I knew I had to retire my beautiful boy from his daycare job. He was heartbroken when he didn’t accompany me everyday to daycare, but he still comes to the daycare occasionally.

We have had to make some adjustments to our life to accommodate his impairment, but much less than I would have thought. I believe it is true that the other senses become heightened when one sense becomes impaired. Doc uses his nose a lot more than he used to and follows the feel of walls and furniture to find his way around. Luckily, we also have a lot of different textures on our floors. We have hardwood flooring with large rugs, ceramic tile, linoleum and carpeting! Almost every room has a different texture for him! If he loses his bearings, he will often circle several times, lie down and start to pant. We have learned that this is our cue to guide him gently by the collar to a familiar rug or dog bed where he can reorient himself.

We have searched for toys that are durable since he really enjoys super-charged chewing (luckily only on his toys!) that also emit sounds! We have found a couple balls that he enjoys chasing after. But, his favorite game is find the treat! Every Easter, the Easter bunny hides eggs for my daughter, Kelsey to find in the front yard. Once we have found those eggs, the family enjoys hiding treats in the living room for Doc and River! We are careful to keep the treats off of surfaces we normally would not want dog noses to occupy! I’m not sure who has more fun on their Easter hunt, Kelsey or the dogs!

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Natural Balance Dog Food Recall

Apr 18 2007

Natural Balance has issued a voluntary recall on all of its Venison dog products and the dry Venison cat food only, regardless of date codes. The recalled products include Venison and Brown Rice canned and bagged dog foods, Venison and Brown Rice dog treats, and Venison and Green Pea dry cat food. Recent laboratory results show that the products contain melamine, the same contaminant found in the Menu Foods recall. A rice protein concentrate appears to be the source of the melamine contamination in this recall whereas a wheat gluten is suspected as the source of contamination in the Menu Foods recall. Kelly’s Training Daycare and Boarding does offer Natural Balance dry dog food to boarding clients by request, but the product we offer, Natural Balance Ultra-Premium Dry Food Original Formula, is not part of this recall. As a precaution, we will be asking all of our boarders to provide their own food until the melamine contamination of dog food is resolved. Melamine contamination appears to be more wide spread than originally suspected. The Menu Foods wheat gluten is no longer an isolated instance. We will keep a close eye on this subject, and keep you informed as we learn more!

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Pet Food Recall Update

Apr 15 2007

Additional manufacturers have voluntarily recalled additional pet food brands as a result of the finding of melamine contamination in the wheat gluten purchased from a Chinese company. Previously, the list was restricted to “cuts and gravy” style pet food in cans and pouches. Unfortunately, this list has grown to include more brands of wet food as well as jerky treats, beef sticks, biscuits and one dry food. To see the complete list and get the latest information pertaining to the recall status, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website,
Pet food manufacturers, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, P&G Pet Care, Nestle Purina PetCare Company, Del Monte Pet Products, and Sunshine Mills, Inc. have joined Menu Foods, Inc. in the recall of pet food brands. This is one of the largest pet food recalls in history, according to the Pet Food Institute, a trade association representing pet food manufacturers. According to Stephen F. Sundlof, Director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, manufacturers have recalled more than 100 brands of dog and cat food across the nation. The FDA has received more than 12,000 reports during the past four weeks, which is more than twice the number of complaints that are typically received in a year. Since the current illnesses and deaths affecting our pets is still a mystery, FDA scientists, in conjunction with academia and industry, are reviewing blood and tissue samples of the affected animals to understand how wheat gluten contaminated with melamine contributed to the pets’ illnesses. Hopefully, they will have an answer soon!

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Dog and Cat Food Recall

Mar 22 2007

This recall is limited to “cuts and gravy” style pet food in cans and pouches manufactured by Menu Foods. Some of the brands sold in our area affected by this recall include Iams, Nutro, Eukanuba, and Mighty Dog. The food was sold under numerous brand names so please check the full list of dog and cat foods on the menu foods website, to be certain your pet’s food is not listed. The actual cause of the poisoning is unknown at this time, although some of the 60 million cans and pouches of food have been blamed for causing kidney failure in numerous animals nationwide and for causing the death of at least 16 pets. Signs of kidney failure include loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting. Los Angeles County officials have confirmed at least nine cases of kidney failure in dogs and cats exposed to the recalled food, said Jonathan Fielding, County Director of Public Health. Most notably is Pebbles, a local 7-year-old Yorkshire terrier who has been battling kidney failure at Sylmar’s Collett Veterinary Clinic since eating Nutro brand dog food. County health officials are concerned that the recalled foods have not been completely removed from store shelves. Menu Foods CEO and President Paul Henderson said Wednesday that the company is still investigating the cause of the kidney failure because the food linked to the deaths has shown no signs of contamination. FDA inspectors have identified wheat gluten, a protein source used to thicken the pet food gravy, as a possible source of the contamination, said Stephen F. Sundlof, the FDA’s chief veterinarian. The FDA is screening pet food samples for substances known to harm the kidneys, like toxins produced by molds.
A similar tragedy occurred in 2005 when 19 varieties of dog and cat food were recalled due to the presence of aflatoxin, a naturally occurring chemical that comes from a fungus sometimes found on corn and other crops, which can cause severe liver damage. Aflatoxin poisoning can cause sluggishness, lack of appetite and in severe cases heavy vomiting, fever and jaundice. The recalled pet food was sold under the brand names Diamond, Country Value and Professional. In the 2005 recall, the Food and Drug Administration said contaminated dog food had caused the death of almost two dozen dogs nationwide and sickened 18 others.
COMING SOON! Take the Kelly’s Training Dog Food Quality Quiz! Check back soon!

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Doggie No-No’s: Toxic Items around the House

Oct 05 2006

Unfortunately, toxic items can often be found in every room of the house! Common household cleaners (even the all-natural stuff), antifreeze, prescription and over-the-counter medicines (usually your dog does not just “take one”!) should ALWAYS be kept in drawers or cabinets not accessible to canine family members.
There are also some items that may surprise you!
Xylitol, a common all-natural sugar substitute found in certain sugar-free chewing gums (Trident for example), candies, baked goods and other products can potentially cause serious and even life-threatening problems for dogs. Signs to look for include a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures. These signs can develop quite rapidly, but if the item ingested has a low level of Xylitol, symptoms may be delayed as much as 12 hours from ingestion. If your dog ingests any product with Xylitol as an ingredient seek veterinary treatment immediately as xylitol ingestions (even small amounts) may be linked to the development of liver failure.
Cocoa bean shell mulch is becoming a popular landscaping product used by gardeners and homeowners because of it’s attractive odor. In small amounts, cocoa bean shell mulch consumption can cause signs similar to that of chocolate poisoning, including vomiting and diarrhea. In cases where very large amounts of mulch have been consumed, muscle tremors, seizures and death can occur. Unfortunately, most dogs find any type of organic material spread out on a lawn to be a delicacy, and therefore are at great risk for toxicity. Know what products your gardeners or family members are using on your lawn and avoid neighbor’s lawns when any fertilizer, manure, pesticide or any organic material is present. Your dog may not immediately present with obvious life-threatening signs even after ingesting large amounts of cocoa bean shell mulch. So seek veterinary attention immediately, irregardless of lack of symptoms, if you suspect your dog has ingested cocoa bean shell mulch.

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Physical and Emotional Well-being in your dog

Sep 29 2006

I appreciate the comments I have been getting from readers. One of the comments I received on the Cesar Millan article has inspired me to write today’s blog.

As our society’s perspective of the dog shifts from worker (herder, hunter, sled puller, for example) to family member, our attention to the emotional and physical needs of the dog must keep pace with those changes. We have an obligation to exercise our dogs both mentally and physically. This is where training can be so useful. To Cesar Millan’s credit, many behavior problems are a result of owner miscommunication and misunderstanding and his show does succeed in highlighting that issue. Unfortunately, many professional dog trainers continue to employ techniques that have proven to cause serious injury to the dog as well as to the bond between dog and human.

Many trainers use a mixture of new positive techniques and old force-based techniques, making it difficult to determine their true philosophy. My personal opinion is that absolutely all positive motivational methods should be thoroughly exhausted by several different trainers and a comprehensive vet examination must rule out any mental or physical cause for the behavior before any mild force-based method should be attempted under the guidance of a professional dog trainer. And under no circumstances should a force-based method be used that could potentially cause severe or irreparable physical or emotional damage.

Training is teaching, helping another to learn by instruction and practice. When we are trying to learn something new, we are most receptive when our teacher provides clear instructions in a calm, stress-free learning environment without fear of abuse if we choose the wrong answer, and huge rewards if we choose the correct answer. I know of very few instances in pet dog training where positive motivational training will fail to provide results. These rare cases can be related to medical conditions which if discovered by a veterinarian can often be treated or managed. Again, you know your dog best. The best indicator is your own gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, get a second opinion, or third or fourth until you feel comfortable.

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“The Dog Whisperer” techniques raise controversy

Sep 20 2006

When dog-related issues appear in the media, I will do my best to inform you through this blog. Recently, concerns have been expressed about the techniques used by Cesar Millan on the popular show “The Dog Whisperer”. Here are some articles on the topic; the American Humane article, the SPCA article, the New Yorker article feedback, the Esquire article. There is much debate on the topic of force-free methods vs. the use of adversives in dog training.

This is a good opportunity to discuss how to evaluate a trainer. Look for a dog trainer who employs humane training methods which do not cause physical harm, great pain, or undue distress to the dog. Dog training should be fun for both canine and human participants, so make sure that the professional you choose is approachable and encourages your active participation and questions. Former or current students are a valuable source of information. A competent trainer will encourage you to visit a group class and consult current or former clients about their experiences.

To summarize the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) guide for selecting a trainer, during a training session a skilled and professional trainer will:
1. Explain each lesson.
2. Demonstrate each behavior.
3. Provide clear written handouts on each behavior.
4. Assist students individually with proper implementation of techniques.

Always remember to follow your instincts. If you are uncomfortable with anything your trainer suggests, speak up. A competent trainer will explain the reason for the use of a specific technique and offer alternative options as needed. Remember that your emotions travel through your leash to your dog. So if you are uncomfortable, it is likely your best friend will be uncomfortable as well.

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