Newsletter - February 2008

Holding true to my New Year resolution, I’ve been doing some ‘fun’ training with Tori. The key has been to find a behavior that she does naturally, and reward her for it. She has learned to ‘go back’ several times in a row. As a result, she usually responds so well that she’ll take four steps backward and sit, repeating this over and over. It’s a fun thing to see because at this point, she will almost back out of a room if I continue telling her to do it. However, it can backfire.

Tori has caught on to the fact that backing up means that at some point I’ll throw the ball or Kong for her, so she now keeps backing up whenever she wants something. We’ve had to explain to friends why our dog backs up when they come into the house. Tori thinks that human beings are hiding great toys that will magically appear! So, if you’re coming over to see us, remember to bring a ball with you or Tori may end up in another room.

Fact of the Month:  Healthy puppies can have ‘abnormal’ blood test results and activities

I’m blessed to be working at something I truly love to do. One of the highlights is working with pet owners who have new puppies. Even seasoned dog owners worry about a new pup. Is s/he eating enough? Too much? Is that a normal gait? Is the puppy drinking enough? S/he sure seems to be piddling a lot! People forget what it’s like to have a new puppy, and while thrilled to have an additional family member, they’re also watching carefully, and are a bit nervous about what health issues the pup might have.

When faced with a need to run blood tests on a puppy, veterinarians do so, and the pet owner usually wants to know the results. Hearing that there is an elevation in alkaline phosphatase makes many dog owners worry about liver disease. However, this enzyme is highly concentrated in the bones and liver. Puppy bones are growing, and at an especially fast rate in large or giant breed dogs. It is not at all uncommon to see this enzyme elevated in puppies. In fact, it is quite normal.

Urea (BUN) may be elevated, but again, this is not usually something to worry about. High protein diets can cause an elevation, but this is not necessarily indicative of a problem. Further, dehydration can also cause this elevation. Most puppies are playing hard and urinating often, so mild dehydration is often to blame for elevated BUN. This is especially the case if the blood draw occurs before the puppy has eaten or had some water, but if the food is high in protein, BUN may be elevated anyway.

Anemia can be caused by a number of things, but in otherwise healthy puppies, internal parasites or fleas are likely causes. Do the blood test results reflect dietary concerns? This is unlikely because blood tests show the circulating amounts of certain minerals such as calcium, and calcium seems to be the biggest concern for puppy owners. The key to growing your pup successfully is to feed a controlled amount of food, and of course, it must be a balanced diet that provides sufficient, but not excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals. Do not free-feed puppies. It isn’t necessary, and can lead to over nutrition. This is where things can go bad. It’s not about the amount of protein being fed so much as the excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals that cause skeletal problems. Free-feed a puppy and s/he is very likely to become overweight, not to mention that the more food consumed, the greater the amounts of vitamins and minerals ingested.

One of the more interesting things I receive email about is concerns over what the puppy finds to eat i.e. bark, clothing fluff, baseboards, etc. Puppy owners worry that this might be due to a nutritional deficiency. Chances are that it points to nothing but a normal puppy. Have you forgotten that at this point, you are living with a curious nose and an eager mouth on four legs? Puppies explore their world with two basic questions in mind: Can I eat this? Can I play with it? The only way to know is to sniff, lick and gulp. You probably don’t need to change the diet, but you may want to invest in a spray bottle of Bitter Apple (not that this helped our Zoey because she thought it was delicious!) Allowing puppy to explore his/her world is part of the fun. As long as the object of their attention is safe, there shouldn’t be concern.

Keep your puppy slim, feed a high quality diet, do not encourage excessive exercise for young pups, allow the puppy to sleep as s/he requires, and trust your veterinarian to interpret blood test results. After all, if you Google all day trying to find the worst possible thing the blood test might point to, you’re missing out on enjoying your new baby, and s/he is missing out on you!

Monica

“No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.’ -- Christopher Morley

 
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