September 23, 2010
Take precaution when traveling with your canine companion.
(Question) I have a question about a problem I have had with my last two attempts to raise a litter of pups. The last litter of pups from my oldest female (six years) all died within three days of birth. She had a small litter of five but that is not much different than the other two litters she has raised without any problems. About three weeks ago, my youngest female (18 months) had a litter of 14 pups. Within three days eight of them had died. Most of them were good-sized, healthy appearing pups that nursed and appeared to have full stomachs. The last six appear to be healthy and I would assume unless something comes up that they will survive. Different males sired these litters but the females were leased by the same kennel owner and had their litters at the kennel. Do you have any suggestion as to what the problem might be and what could be done to solve this problem if I decide to raise another litter in the future? --JL
(Answer) There are several medical problems that can lead to neonatal deaths. The best diagnostic efforts will come from your own veterinarian who can, by physical exam of the bitch and autopsy of the dead puppies, give you a deeper insight into the causes of your problem if indeed it is medical in nature. Some of the more common things are mastitis and postpartem uterine infections. Also, nutritional issues may play a role but should be fairly obvious to those in attendance.
Which brings me to my take-home message and a warning about "those in attendance." If you want puppies out of these bitches of yours, you should be set up to have the puppies at home so that you can give them the personal, uncompromised attention that they need. In kennel situations or any other animal production unit where no owner labor is involved, I see things happening that are not always in the best interest of the animals. Examples are young or inexperienced people being expected to monitor birthing and handle immediate postpartem care. These people are not trained and should not be in this position as bad things often follow. Also, other activities around the kennel such as guiding hunts or training dogs may detract from the whelping at hand and leave too much for Mother Nature to do on her own.
(Question) I know I am about to give you a woefully inadequate amount of information, but it is all that I have. Please attempt to answer if at all possible.
A friend of mine just returned from a grouse-hunting trip in Wisconsin and when he got home, two of the three dogs in the back of his truck were dead. They were all fine when he had them out at a rest area two-and-a-half hours from home. The dogs were being hauled in the back of a pickup truck with a camper top with no ventilation windows. Temps were in the 50s. The two deceased dogs were in a common crate with a divider between them. The third dog was in a separate crate. This travel arrangement had been used many times in the past. The exhaust system of the vehicle is intact and there is no rust in the floor of the pickup truck's bed. Is it possible that these dogs died from carbon monoxide poisoning? Is it possible that wet straw could give off methane or some other gas that killed the dogs?
While traveling with your gun dog keep him in a secured crate, and make sure it's well ventilated.
I know there is very little information here, but I'm hoping to learn from this bad experience. Any thoughts? Thank you. -- CJ
(Answer) This is one of those nightmare stories that we all dread hearing and hope never happens to us. I'm sure we all sympathize with your friend. I would imagine most of us who haul dogs in trucks and trailers have been close to this issue without realizing it. I think the dogs died of carbon monoxide poisoning and it may have been enhanced by the fact that the two dogs were crated together--while the temperature was only in the 50s, with the topper closed up and the dogs closely confined, their combined body heat may have been enough to also overheat them. Some things I've noticed about pickups is that the air above the box edge in a covered truck seems different than the air down in the box. Also, exhaust systems in newer trucks come out just behind the wheel whereas in older trucks it came out under the back bumper. Another thing I've noticed is that there is a large crack between the tailgate and the truck bed. I think you should be careful of this, as a lot of air seems to circulate through this crack.
Here is another interesting thought. If you are fortunate enough to have the limestone rock roads as we have here in certain parts of Iowa, you can drive down them slowly and observe how the air is circulating in your pickup box. Interestingly, if you have the side window vents open the air circulates well and carries the dust out, at least partially. If the vent windows are closed and everything is sealed up the dust seeps in and settles on everything. You can also check this out by buying your buddy a cheap cigar and having him ride in the back while you open and close various windows to see what effect it has. I like to use the sliding camper window of the cab to create more ventilation and send heat or cool air back to the topper as needed.
(Question) I have a 12-year-old springer spaniel. When he was almost 12 I took him to a groomer for his pre-season trim. While there he picked up a kennel cough. When I took him to my vet she noticed that his heart sounded bad. We took him for an ultrasound and were told that he had an enlarged heart and that he wouldn't live much longer.
He is now taking one tab 50 mg a.m. and 1/2 tab p.m. of Furosemide, one tab twice a day of Digoxin 125 mcg, one tab 10 mg Enalapril, one 500 mg Taurine twice a day and one 500 mg L-Carnitine twice a day. He gets walked off lead (no hunting) in the fields every other day and seems happy but tires easily. Is there anything else you would recommend to make the rest of his life easier and more comfortable? What could I have done to prevent this from happening? -- BG
(Answer) The course of therapy your veterinarian has prescribed is the standard treatment regimen for this disease and I would not change anything. Keeping the dog's weight down is helpful and some of these dogs benefit from a low-sodium diet. Also, have your veterinarian reevaluate the dogs' heart every six months.
I don't think there is much you can do as a preventative as we can't readily identify individuals that are going to develop the disease. However, we do know that certain breeds have a predilection to dilated hearts and I don't think that in those breeds we do much to delay the progression of the disease process. This is a disease that is sometimes treated with a heart transplant when it occurs in people.
(Question) I have some questions about canine hypothyroidism. I have two Brittanys, a neutered dog and a spayed bitc
h. The dog has been diagnosed by a local vet as needing thyroid supplements. The thing that concerns me is that she keeps telling me that she hopes to make him "a more lively dog," but I've never seen a problem with his activity level. Both dogs are pretty laid back in the house but are quite active in the field, hunting or even just out for a run. The male is 10 years old.
Here's what happened. I had taken him in for his shots and mentioned that recently after running he'd come up lame in his hind legs for a while (not immediately but after a nap). The lameness typically lasts for an hour or so and has never carried over to the next day. She moved his hind legs through their range of motion and thought she detected something slight. I can't recall how she described it--perhaps a click or a roughness? She also noticed a bare area along his sternum. That area has been there since he was a pup; I always thought that he rubbed the hair off when he lies down on the carpet in his crate and in my house.
The vet took a blood sample. She explained the results as follows: Billy's thyroid-4 level was 1.9 (no units were given). She said that "normal" is between 1.0 and 5.0 but that they like to supplement when it's in the low normal range. We began the supplement (thyrosyn 6 mg once daily) for 60 days, and then another blood sample was drawn (four hours after giving him the pill for that day). That result was 7.8 and she said that they like to have it somewhat above the normal range with supplementation.
What concerns me is this: If the supplementation increases the thyroid level in his blood (especially to a higher than normal level), won't his body "think" that he's producing too much thyroid hormone and decrease production as a result?
I asked about that when last I spoke with my vet but her reply was less than informative. She spoke all round the subject but never (that I recognized, at least) said one way or another whether that can happen. She was disappointed that I had not noticed a significant increase in his activity level during the first 60 days of supplementation but, as I said, I'd seen nothing wrong with it before.
Personally, as long as he's not lethargic (and he is not), I don't really see any reason why one would be concerned with a hormone level anywhere in the "normal" range and I certainly don't want to tell his thyroid to decrease production--assuming that can happen--by tricking it with supplementation if it is not absolutely needed. -- CS
(Answer) Here are some things to think about. First, hypothyroidism is not easily diagnosed and a T-4 value by itself is not diagnostic. Blood should be sent into an endocrinology lab such as Michigan State University, the one I use, for a complete thyroid profile. This is important because one needs the thyroid stimulating hormone levels, the autoantibody levels, and the free and bound T-3 and T-4 levels to adequately evaluate thyroid function in a dog. The normal starting dose of thyroid supplementation is .1 mg per 10 pounds and unless I miss my guess, I doubt very much that your Brittany weighs 60 pounds. Thyroid supplementation is one of the most misused drugs among the show dog people and seems to be one of those "popular" diseases that show dog people want to treat their dogs for when they do not win in the show ring. Basically all you are doing is speeding up the dog's metabolism so that it appears showier in the ring.
Why don't you get a second opinion?
(Question) We have a shorthair that is two years old. Sydney is extremely loving, very well behaved and really smart. She goes everywhere with us. The only concern I have is that when she gets excited, she spins.
She does this when we throw her ball or take her out to the field to hunt. When we throw the ball she does it when the ball is picked up to be thrown. When we are hunting it's when she retrieves the bird and drops it at our feet. I was just wondering why she does this--is it just her personality or do other dogs do this? When she does this, people always comment because it sort of looks strange. -- SJ
(Answer) I chose this question to answer because I have a pointer that will do the same thing. She doesn't do it on retrieves because my friend Harold Adams force broke her to deliver to hand and she comes straight back. . .except that she occasionally likes to play catch with the bird. This is an invitation by the dog for you to come and play.
My pointer loves to do it when I put the dogs in their crates. She has an old rag that she likes to throw and catch, swing around and spin with and just delights in having me throw it for her. Then she likes to crouch in the front with her legs extended and her butt in the air. This is an invitation to play and if you don't believe that, try getting down in that position and see what she does. She will think you are the most fun person in the world.
Questions: Contact Tom Holcomb, DVM, by email email@example.com.