Han Solo, found by a Good Samaritan, was running near a road with a chain wrapped around his neck. He was very underweight (20 pounds), full of cuts, with fly larvae on his ears and was terrified.

The San Diego Humane Society took him in and put him on a new path to a second chance. When my husband Ryan and I met Han, we saw a dog who felt defeated but just wanted to be loved and have a family. So the next day we adopted Han and gave him his freedom ride to a new life.

It took a lot of patience to help Han feel safe. He didn’t want to eat and would run with his tail tucked between his legs at the slightest sound. We knew we had to be kind and take things at his pace. Our love was new.

Once Han Solo opened up to us, his true personality came out. He is a goofy, outgoing, wiggle butt who loves cuddles and treats.

He had no idea what to do with toys until he met a neighbor pup who taught him how to be a dog. A French Bulldog named Jack showed him how to play and be a puppy.

Those two are best buds and have many adventures and fun together. Han has a very calm and relaxed personality, and we take him everywhere we go. He was once afraid of people and now wants to say hello to everyone he meets.

He loves truck rides and has traveled with us to 18 states, seen a few National Parks, swam in the Pacific Ocean and has visited many breweries and wineries.

People say he is a lucky one, but I truly think we are the lucky ones to have Han Solo in our lives.

Article & Photo Courtesy of Erin Gagnon

By CHERESE COBB

If you’re a dog owner, you probably know that you shouldn’t judge a dog by its breed. But if you’re new to the world of dogs, there’s a huge misconception that every dog breed perfectly matches its standard and profile.

Even if your friend’s Chihuahua acts like a wind-up toy, your neighbor’s Saint Bernard slings saliva on the ceiling or your sister’s Poodle plays the piano, breed isn’t a good predictor of behavior, according to a 2014 study by Bristol University in the United Kingdom.

Researchers poured through 4,000 questionnaires that asked dog owners about their pets’ aggression–whether toward family, toward strangers entering the home or in unfamiliar settings outside.

While just 3 percent reported hostility toward family members, nearly 7 percent said their dogs became forceful when meeting strangers. Then 5 percent also reported violence while meeting people out on walks. The majority of dogs showed aggression in just one of these situations, leading researchers to believe it’s largely taught, not bred.

While American Pit Bull Terriers, Dobermans, German Shepherds and Rottweilers all conjure up images of dangerous, snarling attack dogs due to media hype, their behavior can’t possibly be predicted simply by what they look like. Breed labels are wrong more than 75 percent of the time, and 1 in 3 dogs assessed as a bully breed carry absolutely no DNA of any Pit Bull-type dog. Many dogs are also a mixture of breeds. For example, you may want to assume that your Goldendoodle is the perfect combination of a Golden Retriever’s and a Poodle’s attributes, but that’s not always the case.

Breed labeling is becoming an outdated practice. Often based on myth and misinformation, labels can stick with dogs (and their owners) for the rest of their lives and can mean discrimination, losing their homes or even death threats. Here are five such stories:

I’d Take a Bullet for You

When dog owner Kristin Swoboda adopted Moe from the Wisconsin Humane Society in Racine County, she found everything that she had hoped for in a dog. “He’s my heater, my therapist, my laundry helper (really he just lays on it), and most importantly, my best friend,” she says.

He’s incredibly quirky and playful. “When he gets excited, he runs like a newborn calf, and it makes me laugh hysterically,” she says. “He destroys his squeaky toys within seconds. Then he looks at me with the stuffing still in his mouth like, ‘It wasn’t me.’” He even sits halfway between the couch and ottoman and (not so surprisingly) begs for food. When Swoboda says, “No,” he falls over, looks at her with his sad, brown eyes, and then turns his back to her, refusing to allow her to pet him for a few hours.

“He’d literally take a bullet for any human he comes in contact with,” she says, “but he’s a 7-year-old Pit Bull; so people cross the street to get away from him and even shield their kids as he walks past.” Swoboda once took Moe to Petco to let him pick out his own toy, which was most likely his first, considering that he was abused. He can be rambunctious at times, but he was extremely well-behaved. “We were waiting in line and a woman looked at me and said, ‘If that dog even so much as looks at any of my [five] children, I’ll shoot it,’” Swoboda says. “My heart broke when I looked down at Moe. It makes me sad that there are people who pass over Pit Bulls because they’ve lost the best addition to their families.”

Give a Little Love

At the age of 23 and as a Central Bark Doggy Day Care employee, Erin Hennen quickly realized that she wanted to spend more time with dogs than with people.

“The woman who was grooming my family’s dogs … trained me on how to groom,” she says. “I worked Saturdays or came in on a Friday night for those customers that I really liked.”

Hennen then opened Fancy Pants Pet Salon in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. She took Anakin, her Yellow Lab-Pit Bull mix, to grooming events. “He was a therapy dog and a blood donor,” she says. “He really just looked like a Yellow Lab with a blocky head. When I mentioned that he had some Pit Bull mixed in, people would pull their hands away.”

For Pit Bull Awareness Day, Hennen stood with her dog on a corner, holding a sign that read “Ask me about my Pit Bull mix.” A man purposely walked toward her, while keeping a fair distance, just to tell her that her dog was dangerous.

When she adopted Washburne and Drax, the struggle for breed acceptance became like trying to play darts with spaghetti. Wash and Drax are both Pit Bull-Bulldog mixes. “They both think that they’re lap dogs. If you give either one the chance, they’ll lay on your chest on the couch,” she says. Drax likes to roll onto his back with his stubby little legs waving in the air and a stuffed toy in his mouth. While Wash is all muscle with a head the size of a basketball, he’s really a scaredy cat. “If there’s a bad wind outside, he’ll hold it rather than go out for a potty break,” she says. The momma’s boys get along with Hennen’s 2-year-old daughter and two cats. “Wash makes me smile every day because of the way he looks at me. I’ve never had a dog look at me with as much love as he does,” she says.

Whenever Hennen takes Wash, Drax and Caesar, her 9-year-old Pomeranian-Maltese mix, on walks, people dash across the street or cover their children with their own bodies. “Most frustrating of all, they would come into my grooming shop and tell me that they don’t want their dogs anywhere near ‘those things’ because they don’t want anything to happen to their pups,” she says. Regulars have realized that “my sweet boys are just sitting nicely in their crates hoping for some love … so there’s nothing to really worry about.”

I Need You Now

In 2011, dog enthusiast Debbie Block adopted Mocha, her Doberman Pinscher, from the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission. When Mocha was diagnosed with cancer at the same time as her 95-year-old mother, she had no intention of adding to her family. “Mocha was an incredible soul who loved everyone and changed our neighbors’ perception of Dobbies. They saw what we saw in her and the breed … a dog that longed to be part of a family.”

“Paco came into our lives right after I lost my mom to [bone] cancer, our Doberman named Sugar to congestive heart failure, and our senior cat—all in one week,” she says. She and her husband, John, were at a fundraiser for the Washington County Humane Society in Fox Lake, Illinois, when they received photos of Paco. He was an hour south at the Doberman Rescue Plus. “My husband looked at me and said, ‘No guarantees,’ after we both read the email. Needless to say when we met him, we were both in tears and knew that he was destined to be a Block,” she says.

Dobermans rarely come into the shelter setting. Even though Paco had a snap test done and was heartworm negative, he later tested as heartworm positive. “The hardest thing ever is to have this boy and want to show him what love truly is, and then you can’t even take him out for road trips,” she says. The 8-year-old Doberman recently got the all clear and visited the Girl Scouts in Jackson, Washington. Once he sniffed them all individually, he plopped on the floor right in front of them and rolled on his back to have his tummy rubbed.

He’s fantastic for getting a person to disconnect from technology. “He’ll do anything to have you pet him: cry, stand in front of the TV, nudge you when you’re on your phone, and literally, knock your tablet out of your hand,” she says. He also has a rock-solid temperament. Recently, he heard a child outside crying and started howling. He dragged his owner to the little girl, nudging her and licking her. She started to laugh and loved on him until all of her tears faded away.

Even though he’s a Canine Good Citizen, she has to pay extra liability insurance because of his breed. “Our insurance agent and an underwriter came to our house to meet with us and our dogs before taking us on as a client,” she says. Block brings Paco with her when she’s doing outreach events for the humane society because it helps break the barriers of what people envision Dobermans to be like. “We’ve actually had people come up to us and say, ‘How dare you bring a vicious dog to an outreach event,’” she says. “Anyone who’s met a Doberman knows they all have the same tendencies: they’ll back their rumps up to the couch and sit on it with two legs up in the air and two on the floor, and they’ll look for the crying child or the handicapped person to bring them a sense of security.”
The Problem is People,
Not Pit Bulls

Since 2010, Mecca’s Pit Bull Rescue in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, has saved more than 40 Pit Bulls. “We can only take in one dog at a time,” says President Mecca Curtice, who’s a dog bite safety educator and certified dog trainer with 30 years of experience. She works with her husband, two police officers who are an hour and a half away and one volunteer in Plymouth, Wis. “It’s not about numbers. We’re a voice for Pit Bulls, and we’re focused on continued care, breed advocacy and positive training.”

Pit Bulls aren’t just family companions. They find missing children and lost dementia patients. They pull wheelchairs, open and close doors and interrupt panic attacks. They also comfort nursing home residents and help kids with disabilities become stronger readers.

But they have a 93 percent euthanasia rate. Only one in 600 of them will find a forever home. Good Pit Bulls under the control of bad people do bad things. “Whether an owner understands the reason for the behavior or not, there’s always an underlying cause to a bite or an attack, [usually pain or fear],” says Sara Enos, the founder and executive director of the American Pit Bull Foundation.

“Breed discrimination is wrong,” Curtice says, “because every dog is an individual.” One of the first dogs taken in by the grassroots nonprofit was named Taisha. The American Staffordshire Terrier wasn’t even a year old yet. She had mange in her system and a litter of six puppies. “She never snapped at me even though I was handling them. She really touched me because she had the strength and courage to live,” she says. “Taisha was adopted by a friend who helped with her rescue and all of her puppies have good homes.”

Curtice uses funds from her One Voice T-shirt and Yankee Candle campaigns to provide veterinary care and 15 to 20-minute training sessions for each dog. “We try to do a DNA test if possible. I do it because I like science, and I want to know what’s going on inside of the dogs,” she says. Mecca’s Pit Bull Rescue recently took in Odin (who’s currently adoptable) and Kayla, who was going to be destroyed at just 5 months old because she lacked socialization. Curtice spends more than 60 hours per week with the dogs, training them to follow verbal commands, eventually without hand signals. “When they’re finally adopted, I can tell their new owners about their behaviors and abilities and their likes and dislikes,” she says.

Never a Dull Moment

The owner and operator of Paws Are Us in Menomonee Falls, Wis., Mary Tran knew that she wanted to be a dog groomer when she was 10 years old. “We used to have these ratty Field Spaniels, and I’d sit on a cul-de-sac and pretend to show and groom them,” she says. “All my sisters and brothers have multiple dogs.”

Tran would rather have a hand-me-down than a puppy. She’s fostered more than 80 dogs, including Debby, a 4-month-old Beagle, that had been in three different homes. Originally named Jasmine, Debby wasn’t a match with anyone that was interviewed. “She crawled on my husband’s lap and fell asleep, and he was just like, ‘Let’s keep her,’” she says. “She was a hard dog in the beginning to own because my husband worked third shift, and I couldn’t crate her. I had to take her with me everywhere.”

Originally reactive to other dogs, Debby would get stiff and scrunch up her nose before mumbling, “Ra-ra-ra-ra.” Tran taught her to walk away and sit in her bed at the grooming shop. She’s also very intuitive and really understands other dogs. “If owners aren’t going to control their dogs, she expresses her opinion: they need to stay out of her space. If I have friends that have dogs, she’s friends with them,” she says. “[After 12 years,] Debby is very in tune with me. If I’m worried, she’s worried. Out of all of the dogs that I’ve ever had, she really knows how I’m feeling.”

“Most people I know say, ‘I had a beagle…once.’ You either love them or hate them,” she says. Beagles are the eighth most surrendered breed, according to a 2015 study by rescuegroup.org. Originally bred to be hunting companions, they have an incredible sense of smell and this often leads them to wander far from home when they’re hot on the trail of something, like a squirrel or bird. “Debby knows how to unlock the car door and open it,” she says. “One time, I wasn’t done at my shop yet and Debby jumped out of the sunroof.” Because Beagles are skilled escape artists, they often find themselves abandoned by their owners, or they may run away on their own.

Those who choose a Beagle as a regular family pet might surrender them to shelters when they prove difficult to train. Some people say that Beagles aren’t very intelligent, but Debby can spin and give high fives and high 10s. “If you ask her, ‘What does a Beagle say?’ she howls,” Tran says. “If you put your thumb up, she jumps into the air. I’m trying to teach her to sneeze on command.” Debby participates in barn hunting and nose work “She’s qualified a few times [in barn hunting], but as soon as she finds the rat, she turns her nose away like, ‘I’m too good for this,’” she says. “She competes if I ask her to, but then she’ll go, ‘What’s in it for me?’ She knows whenever there are treats in my pockets. She follows me around all day long … and eats the treats out of my friends’ coat pockets as soon as they put them down.”

When it comes to hounds, you have to make them think that everything is their idea. “They have no patience and the common sense of a 2 year old,” she says. Whether they’re finding a rabbit in a hole or secretly snacking on the kibble in your trunk, you can’t tell them what to do.

“You’ve got to figure them out—just like any dog,” she says. At Debby’s last nose work competition, she was prancing through the crowd, and they were like, “She’s so cute and petite.” “Debby knows how to get reactions. It’s not a bad thing … [because] there’s never a dull moment with my Beagle.”

Removing Labels

Lindsey Huffman, the director of Shenandoah Valley Animal Services in Lyndhurst, Virginia, asked all of her employees to write down the breeds of all of their shelter dogs. Every one of them was different. “Basically, we were just guessing, and it was unfair,” she says. “We stopped labeling dogs about a year and a half ago.”

“While breeds are an aspect of a dog, they don’t make up everything about that dog,” says Michael Morefield, the marketing and communications manager for the Arizona Animal Welfare League. Whether your dogs come from a puppy mill, a responsible dog breeder or a shelter, their personalities, their temperaments and their life experiences really make up who they are.

“When you remove breed labels, you open the door to possibility. You have a chance to fall in love without being inhibited by breed,” says Cheryl Schneider, the Director for Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. “Instead, fall in love by listening to your heart.”

Disclaimer: Pit Bull isn’t a breed of dog recognized by any of the kennel clubs, and there’s no agreed upon definition for what a Pit Bull actually is. As an umbrella term, it may refer to American and English Bulldogs, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, or any of their mixes.

By MICHELLE SEROCKI

Breed Specific Legislation. Breed Discriminatory Legislation. BSL or BDL for short. Many of you may have heard these buzzwords or abbreviations at some point, especially in the last several years, as the topic has become a hot one. So, what exactly is Breed Specific Legislation and why is it important for all of us to understand it?

BSL is a law that is passed to ban or place strict limitations on certain breeds of dogs that have been deemed dangerous. Originally, the purpose of these laws was to protect the community. Sounds like a great idea by that simple definition, doesn’t it? However, BSL has a whole host of problems that start as early as the motivation for the law and can extend all the way through the law being enforced.

Unfortunately, laws applying to only one breed don’t protect the community from dangerous dogs as they come in all shapes and sizes. These dogs may be genetically deformed or the product of environments where there has been neglect, lack of socialization, and/or lack of medical care. Any dog can be dangerous as a result of these or several other reasons as well.

Most often, BSL is a knee-jerk reaction to fear. A serious dog bite will occur, the media may become involved, and suddenly legislation needs to be passed. Other times, people with deep-rooted fear and dislike for certain breeds work tirelessly to scare more and more people into believing that BSL will protect them. Throughout the past 20 years, the dogs that are typically targeted for BSL are those referred to as Pit Bull-type dogs.

This is an enormous problem, as “Pit Bulls” are the modern day “mutt.” While there are hundreds of thousands of Pit Bull-type dogs in the country, a very small percentage of those dogs are actually purebred representations of any of the three breeds that make up the slang term “Pit Bull.” Those three breeds are the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. DNA testing is helping professionals and laypeople alike to prove this fact. Pit Bull-type dogs are a huge mixed bag of genetics, making it impossible to predict dangerous behavior from them as a group.

Even more concerning is how the legislation is being written to identify the dogs that will be banned or subject to strict rules and regulations. Most BSL that targets Pit Bull-type dogs identifies them as any of the three breeds known as Pit Bulls, any mix with any of those three breeds, and/or ANY dog that resembles any of the breeds or mixes. So the family with the Labrador/Boxer mix that has never hurt a flea and is loved by all is now going to have to euthanize their dog or rehome it or move out of the community or any number of other possibilities because their dog simply resembles a Pit Bull-type mix. Meanwhile, there’s a house down the street with a non-Pit Bull-type dog chained in the backyard that hardly gets food or water, has never been socialized, and whose chain is rusting. When that dog breaks its chain and mauls the next passerby, who is to blame? In this real-life example, BSL fails. So what alternatives are there to BSL? How can we make our communities safe without this type of legislation?

Protecting Communities

There are many proven strategies that work in communities to protect against dog bites and dangerous dogs. Providing education and resources to dog owners is one of the most effective. Teaching people how to provide the appropriate environment for their dog, the value of spay and neuter, and helping them to bond with their pets is key. I’ve met many dog owners that didn’t know chaining a dog was mentally debilitating or could cause aggressive behavior. Once they learned this, they took their dog off the chain. So here’s how to help:

1. Educating youth is incredibly effective. Introducing the next generations of pet owners to proper ownership strategies stops the problems before they even start.

2. Effective animal control agencies can also lend a hand towards safer communities. Proper fees and incentives for responsible ownership can go a long way!

3. Lastly, there are very effective ordinances and legislation that can be considered. Many cities and towns around the country have been replacing their BSL with well-balanced wording that protects against all dangerous dogs and identifies the traits that would suggest they’re dangerous. These are typically described as dogs that are at large repeatedly, dogs that bite repeatedly, and dogs that cause other harm as well as other criteria per the specific problems in the area.

We all want to live with our pets in a safe community. Breed specific legislation has failed to provide comprehensive protection time and time again. Education, offering resources, effective animal control, and well-worded, non-discriminatory legislation are all pieces that, when put together, create long-lasting success.

By PAMELA STACE

They look like miniature Collies, but the Shetland Sheepdog or Sheltie is a completely separate breed developed to herd sheep, poultry and ponies in the rugged terrain of the Shetland Islands between Scotland and Norway. Like Shetland Ponies and Shetland Sheep, these dogs were bred to be compact so that they would eat less and therefore be easier for farmers to keep in a location where food was not always in abundant supply.

History

The origins of the Shetland Sheepdog are somewhat unclear, but it is believed that the foundation of the breed was a Northern Spitz-type herding dog brought from Scandinavia as early as the 10th century. It is thought that these dogs were subsequently crossed with Pomeranians, King Charles Spaniels and other indigenous dogs of the islands. Later, rough-coated Collies were added to the mix for the sake of breed uniformity. Shelties were also known as Liliputian Collies, Toonie (farm) Dogs and Fairy Dogs. In the 19th century, Shetland Islanders began selling Sheltie puppies to tourists, and Shelties became known to the rest of Great Britain. Recognized by the AKC in 1911, almost all Shelties in the U.S. today are descended from dogs brought here between World War I and World War II. In the 1970s, the Sheltie became enormously popular and has remained that way. In 2017, the Shetland Sheepdog ranked 24 out of 194 AKC breeds.

What Makes a Sheltie a Sheltie

The Sheltie is a smart, agile and sturdy dog with a pointy, expressive, fox-like face. They have a harsh and straight outer coat that repels dirt and water, and a dense undercoat which makes them well-suited for life in a harsh climate. Like all herding dogs, a Sheltie wants a job to do. They are eager to please and like to be busy, or they may become depressed. They are vocal and energetic and are sometimes prone to excessive barking, but they respond well to gentle, consistent training. Shelties are sensitive and affectionate and tune themselves into the family dynamic. They want to be with their humans and are often protective of them. They are good watchdogs. Debra Krajec, the owner of three Shelties, told me how 15-month-old Toby often barks and reacts to strangers as if to protect her on their walks. And Marlene Sadrow Carew, the owner of our cover dog, 5-year-old Merlot, mentioned how Merlot will bark to keep her son’s cat away from the dinner table.

A Multi-Talented Little Dog

Shelties enjoy many dog sports and other canine activities. They excel at agility, rally, lure coursing, conformation, herding trials, and especially obedience. They learn tricks easily. Their intelligence and sensitivity also makes them perfect therapy and service dogs. Merlot is extremely popular as a therapy dog in Florida, where she is in high demand at hospitals, assisted living centers and hospices. This past fall, Marlene and Merlot received a request to visit Panama City after Hurricane Michael’s devastating destruction. Marlene wheeled Merlot in a stroller, where she could easily be seen and interact with the survivors there.

Health Issues

Shelties are generally very healthy, but rarely, some health issues may occur. These include thyroid, liver, and kidney trouble, Collie eye anomaly, hip dysplasia, and epilepsy.

Home Environment

Shelties are highly adaptable and can thrive in either a rural or urban setting. Being with the people they love is what is most important to them! They are good with kids and other pets, although sometimes this becomes problematic when they can’t stop herding them!

A Mutual Devotion

Maybe because Shelties are so loyal sweet and playful, Sheltie owners are just as devoted to their dogs as their dogs are to them! Marlene takes Merlot, her “little princess,” with her wherever she goes. “She’s my therapy, and I’m her therapy,” she says.

Right from the start, Debra knew that this was her breed. “When I see Shelties, I just melt,” she says.

Links

The Wisconsin Sheltie Rescue was established in 1995. It is an all-volunteer group that exists to educate the public about the breed, and find homes for Shelties in need. www.wisheltierescue.com

The American Shetland Sheepdog Association (ASSA) is the AKC parent club for Shelties. americanshetlandsheepdogassociation.org

Stats

Homeland: Shetland Islands between Norway & Scotland.

Original Job: Being a farm dog & herding sheep, poultry & ponies.

Size: 13-16 inches, 15-25 lbs.

Coat Colors: Sable, black & blue merle with varying amounts of white or tan coloring.

Grooming: Regular brushing, nail trimming, & teeth brushing. Occasional bathing. Heavy seasonal shedding of the undercoat.

Exercise: Moderate exercise with an occasional good romp.

Lifespan: 12-13 years.

By MEGAN TREMELLING

Nobody wants fleas and ticks on their dog. Even people who don’t like spending a lot extra on caring for their dogs don’t want those parasites getting into their homes and biting the humans. Therefore, valuing your dogs’ health and comfort and preventing external parasites is an important part of their overall care. Many people were worried to hear that the FDA had issued an alert in September about a potential danger associated with some flea and tick products that are part of the isoxazoline group: Nexgard (afoxolaner), Bravecto (fluralaner), Simparica (sarolaner) and Credelio (lotilaner).

What exactly is the problem? It seems that some dogs that have been treated with isoxazolines have developed neurologic symptoms, including tremors, ataxia (wobbly gait) and seizures. It is important to understand that millions of doses of these medications have been given to dogs, and that the fact that some dogs developed neurologic signs does not prove that the symptoms were always, or ever, caused by the medication. After all, some of those dogs probably broke a toenail after receiving the treatment, too. The reason this is different is that it is possible that in some cases the medication did cause the problem. We just don’t know enough to be sure. As with every new group of drugs, pre-release clinical studies can only teach us so much, and we learn much more when the medications are approved and used in large numbers of pets with a wide variety of concurrent medical conditions and medications on board. The FDA has more data on these medications than anyone else, and so far their official word is that “the isoxazoline class [is] safe and effective for dogs and cats.”

To get to a more complete understanding, veterinarians are researching possible adverse effects from isoxazolines and similar drugs, including neurologic changes and vision changes. In the meantime, for very young dogs and for dogs that have a history of seizures, tremors, ataxia, or vision loss, isoxazolines may not be the best choice. For dogs with no history of those problems, there is less reason to believe that these medications cause any significant danger.

As with so many things in life, all medical treatments come with risks and benefits. Veterinarians think in terms of minimizing risk because it is impossible to eliminate it. Isoxazolines have the advantage of being very convenient and very effective at killing fleas and ticks and, for most dogs, the benefits far outweigh the risks. I use one for my own dog.

Of course, if you are not comfortable using an isoxazoline for any reason, you should talk to your veterinarian about whether it is the right choice for your dog because many other options exist, with their own benefits and risks. If you think your dog may be having problems caused by an isoxazoline, you need to talk to your vet about that, too. It isn’t as simple as saying “it’s safer not to give the medication” because most of the time that just isn’t true. The benefits of flea/tick medications are enormous and very well documented; they reduce sickness and death from very common diseases that are transmitted by these parasites.

Stories like these sometimes cause people to reach for “natural” remedies in hopes that they will be safer. Unfortunately, they can be, in some cases, far more dangerous than carefully-tested and properly-prescribed medications. Herbal extracts and essential oils may have their uses, but flea and tick control is not among them. On the other hand, harmful effects, including death, are well-documented, especially when used incorrectly. Safety aside, I do not condone putting anything with a strong smell on your dog if you can help it. A dog’s nose is so sensitive that applying any strong smell to their bodies, where they cannot get away from it, is unlikely to be appreciated.

You may feel that your dog is at low risk for getting fleas and ticks, but if he ever sets paw on the ground or comes in contact with dogs that do, then he has the potential to be exposed to them no matter how meticulous your yard care. Never seen a flea or tick on him? You might not; they are pretty good at hiding. However your veterinarian can tell you whether you have a problem and help you find the solution that is right for your pet.

Dear FETCH Friends:

When I hear the words pride & prejudice, I automatically think of the romance novel by Jane Austen, and I start to question how can this relate to dogs? But if you think of those two words as a lens (not just as part of a well-known book), your mind will start to digest where we are going with this issue.

So many dog owners have pride. Their dogs are a big part of their worlds, and these four-legged companions survive some amazing situations. One situation being the prejudice they face by uninformed individuals. Our main feature, “Don’t Judge a Dog by Its Breed,” reveals examples of how people have endured some very hateful situations regarding the looks of their dog.

Because it’s breed that predicts behavior, right? Well, not exactly. You cannot tell just by merely looking at a dog what breed it is or how it behaves. Some dogs you can have a pretty good assumption, but for others they are mutts, they are black sheeps, they are trail blazers, they are ginormous lap dogs, etc. And “Pit Bull” is not a breed. It’s a label. And not one people take very lightly. Every dog I’ve had since I was a little girl has been called a “Pit Bull.” And I’ve had trouble with so many people not wanting to be around my dog or not allowing me to rent from them. I will never understand how people can assume anything about another without fully knowing who they are as an individual. Dogs are individuals. People are individuals. People who think dogs are all the same are not true dog people.

So please take the time this holiday season to spread the word on these issues to people who are uninformed or just feeding off the fears of others. Try to reach out to the community and donate some of your time by just explaining the positive experiences you’ve had with one or two of these persecuted breeds. SPREAD JOY, not hate. And simply be aware of your dogs and how others see them.

To a newer & wiser 2019,

Nastassia Putz

By MEGAN TREMELLING, DVM, LVS

This summer, a Wisconsin woman died of an infection caused by a bacterium called Capnocytophaga canimorsus, and a Wisconsin man suffered serious illness requiring multiple amputations from the same organism. The infections are believed to be derived from contact with family pet dogs. This is scary stuff for those of us who share our lives with dogs, but there is no need to panic about Capnocytophaga.

Capnocytophaga species are found in the mouths of healthy dogs, cats, and humans. Normally it does no harm, but under certain circumstances, it can cause disease. Studies estimate that up to 74 percent of dogs and up to 57 percent of cats have Capnocytophaga living in their oral cavities. In short, if you have a dog, odds are very good that it carries Capnocytophaga.

In spite of how common Capnocytophaga is, however, serious infections are exceedingly rare. Nobody knows exactly how many cases occur, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received only 12 case reports in 2017, and only about 200 cases have been reported worldwide since this type of bacteria was first identified in 1976.

Capnocytophaga infections can be transmitted by bites from dogs or cats, or through close contact with an animal, especially contact with its saliva. Since humans also frequently carry Capnocytophaga, it is possible to develop an infection without any animal exposure.

Most of the time, Capnocytophaga is not your main concern after a dog or cat bite. Other bacteria, such as Pasteurella, Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus, cause many more infections. Rabies is uncommon in the United States but is so deadly that any possibility must be taken very seriously. Lastly, deep puncture wounds of any origin can result in tetanus.

When Capnocytophaga does cause problems, they can vary widely. Local cellulitis (tissue swelling, redness, and pain) is the most common finding associated with bite wounds contaminated by Capnocytophaga. In more serious cases, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body such as the heart, brain, or joints. When the infection affects the whole body in a condition called sepsis, there can be long-term effects from infection, including gangrene that necessitates amputations; heart attacks; or kidney failure. About 3 in 10 people who develop sepsis due to Capnocytophaga will die.

Most people who are exposed to dog saliva don’t get Capnocytophaga infections because their immune systems protect them. However, there are factors that can affect your immune system’s ability to keep you safe. One of the most serious risk factors is having had your spleen removed as a result of an injury or illness. Other risk factors include alcohol abuse, old age, or immune compromise due to disease such as cancer, diabetes, or HIV, or taking certain medications such as chemotherapy or glucocorticoids. Some people do get sick with no known risk factors.

Capnocytophaga infections are hard to test for. The bacteria are very difficult to grow in a lab. Fortunately, new technologies such as PCR amplification and gene sequencing are becoming increasingly useful for identifying challenging organisms like Capnocytophaga. The good news is that Capnocytophaga can be treated with common antibiotics, and so far antibiotic resistance isn’t a big problem. However, treatment must be started quickly, without waiting for a lab to confirm the infection.

There are ways to reduce your risk of a Capnocytophaga infection. Don’t let your pets lick faces, wounds, or irritated skin, and wash with soap and water after handling your animals. Minor bite wounds should be washed thoroughly with soap and water. See a health care provider if the wound is deep or serious; if it becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen; or if you feel feverish or weak. You should also see a doctor if the dog was acting strangely or is not known to be vaccinated against rabies. Most people who are going to become ill with Capnocytophaga will do so within 3 to 5 days after exposure, but it can take as little as a day. If you have any risk factors such as immune compromise, you should see your doctor right away for any bite wound that breaks skin, even if you don’t feel sick.

By MEGAN TREMELLING, DVM, LVS

Ever since humans realized the value of animals, we have wanted to provide some kind of medical care to keep them healthy. And for as long as medical care has existed, people have realized that what works for humans does not necessarily work for animals. However, the importance of veterinary medicine to human health has always been clear.

Veterinary medicine is as old as written history, with Sumerian texts making reference to doctors who treated oxen and donkeys. At the time, illness was believed to be due to malign spiritual forces, and seers and priests were considered to have a role to play in protecting the health of both humans and animals. However, clinical practitioners had developed a tradition of practical medicine in spite of them.

One of the earliest veterinarians, in the sense of a healer who treats animals but not humans, was Shalihotra, son of Hayagosha, said to have lived in Uttar Pradesh, modern India, sometime in the 3rd millennium BCE. The Sanskrit work credited to him is a large treatise on the care and husbandry of horses, including notes on the anatomy of elephants. He was one of many writers in the Indian tradition that discussed veterinary science and may have been trained by the same teachers who laid the foundations for Ayurvedic medicine in humans.

Legend has it that the Chinese veterinarian Zhao Fu was practicing on horses during the Western Zhou dynasty in the 10th century BCE. Unfortunately, he was performing bloodletting procedures that have not stood the test of time. Textbooks of traditional Chinese veterinary medicine were produced regularly and discussed the use of acupuncture and herbal medicine.

By the time of the Roman Empire, veterinarians were recognized as professionals whose work was important enough to the state that they were exempted from public duties, like architects and physicians. The most important veterinary work at that time was the care of horses because they were important to the Roman military, to the post and to the huge horseracing industry.

Modern Western veterinary medicine is usually dated to 1761 when Claude Bourgelat founded the first European veterinary college in Lyon, France. The idea of improving animal care by training practitioners with rational scientific principles soon caught on. Veterinary schools began opening around the world. Daniel Salmon who spent his career in public health and identified the bacterium Salmonella earned the first DVM degree granted in the United States in 1872.

Working in clinical practice or public health, as many veterinarians do, does not lend itself to fame and fortune. Many of the most prominent veterinarians are people whose names are not familiar to the average person, although their work has freed us from diseases that have plagued humans since antiquity. In 1892, Leonard Pearson introduced tuberculin testing to the American dairy industry. In the 1920s, Swiss-born veterinarian Karl Friedrich Meyer developed safe canning procedures for food, saving many from botulism. French veterinarian Camille Guérin worked with physician Albert Calmette to develop one of the first vaccinations against tuberculosis for humans in 1921.

In recent years, American veterinarian James Thomson developed the first human embryonic stem cell line. Australian veterinarian Peter C. Doherty won a Nobel Prize for his research in immunology. Two veterinarians have gone into space, including Martin J. Fettman, a veterinary clinical pathologist who flew on a NASA mission in 1993, and Richard M. Linnehan, who undertook no less than 4 space flights from 1996 to 2008.

Many veterinarians have written about their experience. Most famous of course was Alf Wight, who wrote under the pen name James Herriot. His endearing stories of mixed animal practice in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1940s, published in a series including “All Creatures Great and Small,” inspired innumerable young people to pursue veterinary medicine (your correspondent included) and were made into 2 films and a television series. Louis J. Camuti and Baxter Black are two other veterinarians who have charmed audiences with their writing.

Of course, there are many veterinarians who have turned their talents from practice to less clinical fields. They have served in the U.S. Senate and the Cabinet. The first President of the Gambia was a veterinarian, Dawda Jawara. John Boyd Dunlop, who developed the first practical pneumatic tire in 1887, was a veterinarian. Peter Ostrum, who as a child played Charlie in the original Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie, is now a large animal veterinarian in New York. Debbye Turner, who took time out from veterinary school to be Miss America in 1990, is a popular TV host and motivational speaker.

Finally, in case there remains any doubt that veterinarians have greatly contributed to the quality of life for humans as much as for animals, no review of famous veterinarians would be complete without a mention of Elmo Shropshire, famous for recording the immortal Christmas song, “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”

By MANETTE KOHLER, DVM

The red carpet was rolled out on June 23 at the Sonoma-Marin Fair for the 30th annual World’s Ugliest Dog contest in Petaluma, California. Many worthy competitors shuffled, snorted and slobbered their way down the red carpet to strut their stuff for the judges, vying for the coveted, prestigious title.
The winner, sporting a beautiful pink collar and matching toes, was Zsa Zsa, a 9-year-old English Bulldog from Anoka, Minnesota. It wasn’t her fashion sense, however, that caught the judges’ attention. Zsa Zsa embodies the well-known English Bulldog physical traits including short legs, massive shoulders, chest and head, and wrinkled face, but her most endearing quality has to be her incredible, lolling tongue, hanging just inches from the ground thanks to an over-pronounced under bite and crooked teeth, both top and bottom.

Zsa Zsa’s owner, Megan Brainard of Anoka, Minnesota, was over the moon with excitement when the judges crowned Zsa Zsa the winner of the contest. As if sneezing and flinging drool on the judges wasn’t enough to tip things in her favor, Megan feels it was Zsa Zsa’s awesome personality that won the judges over.

“Everyone loved her the second they laid eyes on her!” says Brainard. “The audience couldn’t get enough of her.” Zsa Zsa and Brainard received $1,500 and an impressive trophy. NBC flew Brainard, her fiancé, her father, her baby and Zsa Zsa to New York City for a three-day visit and an appearance on the Today Show.
While lovingly mocking beauty-challenged dogs may be one part of the contest, it is actually a celebration of the contestants, many of which were rescued from puppy mills and shelters and promotes the idea of adopting dogs in need of homes. Zsa Zsa herself was a puppy mill survivor.

“She was a breeding dog in a puppy mill in Missouri,” says Brainard. Identified by a number instead of a name, she ended up at an auction when the mill was done with her where Underdog Rescue in Minnesota purchased her. Brainard owns two grooming shops, and when she saw Zsa Zsa on Petfinder four years ago she messaged the rescue group offering to groom her for free. “She was exactly how I thought she would be…. Sweet and such a ham!” shares Brainard. After all she’d been through, Brainard was amazed at how “go-with-the-flow” and happy she always seemed to be. “We groom many puppy mill dogs who act quite the opposite,” says Brainard. Needless to say, Brainard’s home became Zsa Zsa’s home.

When asked about the inspiration for her name, Brainard described how Zsa Zsa used to lounge on her bed, looking like she was modeling. “I googled famous models and saw Zsa Zsa Gabor,” says Brainard. “I just knew that was going to be her name!” Lounging was actually Zsa Zsa’s favorite thing to do, be it on her pink leather bed or the couch. Toys weren’t her thing, but she loved going for car rides, watching “The Price is Right” with Brainard’s father, and having a snack at Chipotle.

All of Zsa Zsa’s favorite things are now past tense as, sadly, Zsa Zsa passed away in her sleep a few weeks after she won the contest. While she did have some typical signs of poor breeding, most of which helped her win the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, she had no life-threatening health problems that Brainard was aware of. Brainard’s heart is broken and she is still trying to process Zsa Zsa’s win, her fame and her passing. They had so many plans to help rescue groups, be advocates to expose puppy mills and get the word out to adopt rather than shop. But most of all, that Ugly Is Beautiful!

We can all do our part to expose and shut down puppy mills and their irresponsible breeding practices. While Zsa Zsa has gone over the Rainbow Bridge, her beautiful face can still be the inspiring face of change.

Did you know that 12 million cats and dogs are diagnosed with cancer every year? With new advancements in veterinary medicine, veterinarians can now diagnose and treat cancer with greater success. There are even veterinary cancer specialists who can provide expert cancer care to your pet. Early detection is crucial when it comes to cancer. Cancer is the number one cause of disease-related deaths in older cats and dogs, and detecting cancer early can make all the difference in the life of your pet.

For young and adult pets, schedule annual visits with your family veterinarian for a full checkup. For older or senior pets, schedule checkups every six months. Animals age quickly, and regularly-scheduled checkups will allow your vet to determine any changes in your pet before they may become severe issues.

Look for these early warning signs of cancer.

Be observant of any changes in your pet’s physical appearance and behavior. Not all cancer warning signs are apparent right away, with some changes developing over time.

Here are the top 10 warning signs of cancer in cats and dogs. If you notice any of these, contact your veterinarian to check things out as soon as possible. Depending on the cancer type and stage, your pet’s health can deteriorate very quickly, so it’s always best to get an exam. When in doubt, get it checked out.

1.) Enlarged or Changing Lumps and Bumps
Once or twice a month, take a few minutes to feel your cat or dog’s body for any lumps, bumps or abnormal swelling. Check for swollen lymph nodes, which can be a sign of lymphoma. Lymph nodes are located throughout the body but most easily detected around the jaw, shoulders, armpits, and behind the legs. Make a note of any bumps (their size and location) to make sure they aren’t growing or changing shape over time.

2.) Sores that do not Heal
If your pet has an open wound that will not heal, it could be a sign of something more serious, such as an unresolved infection or cancer. Tell your veterinarian as soon as possible and have it checked out.

3.) Chronic Weight Loss or Weight Gain
If there is no change in the diet or food, but your pet is gaining or losing weight, this could be a sign of illness. Weight loss or weight gain can indicate a possible tumor in the stomach. Another related symptom could be chronic vomiting or diarrhea.

4.) Change in Appetite
Is your dog or cat eating more than usual? Eating less than normal? Are they trying to eat foods they were previously uninterested in? Drastic changes in your pet’s appetite could be a sign of cancer.

5.) Persistent Cough
There are many reasons why dogs might have a persistent cough. For younger pups that were recently adopted or placed in boarding, a persistent cough could be a sign of kennel cough. In older dogs, a dry persistent cough could indicate a tumor near the heart or lung cancer.

6.) Persistent Lameness or Stiffness
You may find that your pet is limping on one foot or no longer wants to walk or exercise. Persistent lameness or stiffness can be a sign of osteosarcoma or bone cancer.

7.) Unpleasant Odor from the Mouth
A foul smell from the mouth can be a sign of oral cancer. Not all pets that have oral cancer exhibit pain or have trouble eating, so it is a good idea to consult your veterinarian if they have persistent bad breath.

8.) Difficulty Breathing, Eating or Swallowing
A tumor in the mouth or neck can put pressure on the area and make it difficult for your pet to eat or drink. A tumor near the esophagus, nose, or lungs can block airways, making it harder for your pet to breathe.

9.) Difficulty Urinating or Defecating
Dogs and cats can develop tumors in their urinary tracts, which can make it difficult to urinate. Similarly, if you see your pet is having trouble defecating or there is a sustained foul odor from the rear, a mass near the anus may be the culprit.

10.) Bleeding or Discharge from Any Opening
Consult your veterinarian if your pet experiences any unexplained bleeding or discharge from any opening. Bleeding is a common sign of cancer and other illnesses. Oral cancer can cause gums to bleed. Nose cancer can cause the nose to bleed.

Regular wellness exams will provide your veterinarian the opportunity to check for signs of cancer, but you can take a more proactive approach to your pet’s health by looking for these warning signs regularly. Your furry family members depend on you to keep them healthy for as long as possible. And they’ll be sure to thank you for catching their cancer early with cuddles, love, and loyalty!

Courtesy of PetCure Oncology