You Have a Choice in Learning How to Save Your Pet

Pet ownership is on the rise, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA);

  • It’s estimated that 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 37-47% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 30-37% have a cat.

The more pets there are, the more people are spending on them. 2016 is slated to hit over $62 billion, this includes products, services and veterinary care. In 2015 $15.42 billion was spent on veterinary care alone. I don’t know about you but I remember when my wellness exams were $52, just yesterday I paid a visit to my vet for one of my pups and I walked out with a wellness exam at $71!

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In all honesty, I do not spend a lot on veterinary care for my pets and it certainly is not because I care any less for them;  I am trained how to recognize any issues, tend to many of them at home and avoid the costly $71 wellness exam or worse when it is not needed. That is not to say that I am not DILIGENT about my pets seeing the vet annually, at least 2-3 times when under 1 year of age and at least bi-annually when over 7 and considered senior. This is also not to say that I am trained to avoid my vet, I am knowledgeable about knowing WHEN I need to go to my vet. Ask any veterinarian and you will often hear that people visit them often when not necessary (threw up just once in 24 hrs) or didn’t come in soon enough (hit by a car, waited a day and the dog suffers from internal bleeding). Don’t be that person, learn how save your pet by knowing when to seek veterinary care.

So, how am I saving money, stress and time by avoiding the vet by knowing when it is not necessary to go? I took a pet first aid and CPR class, in fact I have taken, taught and created them.

When you buy a new car or computer you spend a bit of time figuring out how to care for it. Just go with me, I am not comparing the love for your pet to that of your car but rather comparing your desire to keep things well and running. You learn about oil change frequency, warranties, clearing your cookies and cache etc. With a pet your vet simply tells you to come in at least once per year and if anything is wrong come in. We all know going to the dealership or the computer geek can be costly, stressful and time consuming so many of us have learned to do some simple maintenance on our own. You recognize when there is an issue with your car or computer and should be doing the same with your pets.

A limp can be obvious, but there are many more subtle signs a pet can give or not that can be indicative that something is not right. Generally stoic in nature, cats and dogs will often hide their ailments from us as not to seem weak for survival purposes. This can pose a big problem.

So how do you learn how to figure out what’s wrong with Fluffy or Fido, more importantly how do you make their life better? You have choices.

  1. Attend an in-person 2-4 hours pet 1st aid and CPR class. These are typically taught by the Red Cross, which is actually stopping their program in December so hurry up! There are also a nationally recognized companies such as Pet Tech. A former Michigan state police officer created a program, then spent 3 days teaching others who then teach you. Either of these classes will cost you at least an evening or most of a precious Saturday to sit in a classroom and hope that the instructor grabs your attention. You will be handed a book and told to review it but if you’re like me, if it doesn’t fit inside my phone, I will never see it again.
  2. Purchase an online  pet first aid course where you can learn as you go, and for some, review on your computer, tablet or smartphone for a duration of time.

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I much prefer the 2nd option, but there are several on the market so how do you know which is right for you? They range in price from $20-$110 (this is the price range for in-person courses as well), that’s a big range and no the $100 does not get you a course taught by a DVM, DACVECC, board-certified in veterinary emergency and critical care who also specializes in emergency care for small animals instructor; the $50 one does!

I have taken all of the current online courses and my advice in effectively learning how to save Max or Muffin is;

  1. Find out about the company that is presenting it, do they even have a background in veterinary science? There is no accreditation council for teaching pet first aid and CPR (although there should be).
  2. Any Tom, Dick or Harriett can teach an online class, so make certain you have a person that actually has experience in the animal care field; particularly one that knows how to help sick pets like a veterinarian.
  3. How long do you have access to review? The range seems to be from 30 days to 2 years, I certainly am most likely not going to have an emergency or issue within the first 30 days, nor am I likely to remember what I just learned 90 days from now. I would like to have access to a course I took for greater than 30 days.
  4. What topics are covered, some are just first aid, excluding the least used but most valuable, cat and dog CPR!
  5. How long is the course? They range from 1.5 hrs to upwards of 4
  6. Is the course current? In June 2012 the AVMA changed the companion animal CPR protocols based on years of gathering information that statistically showed pets have a greater chance at surviving if the newer CPR protocols were taught and used. Just because the course came out after 2012, does not mean it actually teaches the up-to-date techniques.
  7. How much does it cost? Why pay $65, even $100 if the course isn’t taught by the right accredited person, who are you paying to teach you?
  8. Don’t be fooled by CEU false advertising, make certain the company that is claiming to offer the CEU’s through organizations like CCPDT.org, actually do. You can check the lists on the CCPDT.org website to make certain.

By reading this you have taken the first step to making a good choice about making your pet’s life better. If you want a course that;

  • Was created by a company first involved with human emergencies and the creation of accredited programs to teach human first aid and CPR
  • Is the only course online written and presented by a board-certified emergency veterinarian, specializing in emergency care for small animals AND a professor of emergency veterinary medicine
  • Is just under $50 (pretty much a night out and certainly less than a wellness exam)
  • Allows you 2 years to access the information you learned
  • Has the best interactive delivery with videos, lecture and test modules between sections to measure retention
  • Actually allows you to receive valid CEU’s

Then checkout ProPetHero’s online pet first aid and CPR course, its worth every bit as it gives back to Buddy and Bella by teaching you, what to do for them.

Oh and as an added bonus, enter this coupon code CPR-PROPETHERO, to save a little more on saving them.

Note: For the pet care professional, ProPetHero offers great group discounts and a company dashboard that allows you to:

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  • Track employee progress
  • Update company info
  • Print copies of certificates
  • Purchase units of training
  • Add / remove employees
  • Add more training courses

 

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A Minor Celebrity is Moving In

So anyone that has come to the store has seen that a high quality liquor store is going in next door, focusing on wines and beer. Gerry, the owner who also owns the Washington Square Tavern in Brookline will be bringing in his astute knowledge of these greater goods to our neighborhood. He has also mentioned farmers markets in the Spring/Summer as Gerry sources most of his foods from local farmers. –

What Gerry has also brought to the neighborhood is his good friend Bruno, his 2 year old English Bulldog pal. Bruno is a nice guy, no better way to put it but certainly has his say, as most Bully’s do. We’ve met Bruno a bunch of times when Gerry drops by to update us on the progress but it will be nice to have him with him at work just a door down.

Bruno and his Dad Gerry

Now, why did I call him a minor celebrity, well Bruno has a thespian side to him that most could never conceive. Part of his review reads, “the performer in question proved to be a bit moody and unpredictable on opening night at the Davis Square Theatre. He even went so far as to leave the stage and sprawl under a seat, from whence he wouldn’t return until he was offered a treat”.

That’s right, Bruno performs in a play at the Somerville Theater. So in just a few days, we’re hoping tomorrow actually, Beaver Brook Bottles will open its doors. It will be a breath of fresh air to the neighborhood to have the vino flowing and Bruno available for a paw print or pint 🙂

Bruno on one of his visits

Avoiding The Doom of DM

Just the other day my husband asked me, “can you imagine if we had both Dozer and Tank in wheelchairs at the same time?” That’s not a statement said in many homes but if you own Boxers and breeders don’t start to become more conscious of their breeding practices then more people will be saying things like this.

My boys were in wheelchairs because of a cruel disease called Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). Canine degenerative myelopathy  is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in generally older dogs. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 7 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. Since April 2012 the mutated gene responsible for DM has been found present in 115 breeds including German Shepherds, Boxers, Wire Fox Terriers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and both breeds of Welsh Corgis. The disease is chronic and progressive, and results in paralysis.

That’s the technical definition of the disease but if you ask anyone that has shared their life with a DM dog it is a daily heartbreak. Find someone with MS or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and you will have an insight to the daily struggles. From falling to incontinence, this disease will ravage a dog’s body but keep their mind sharp as a tack. And that’s where the problem lies, you will watch your dog watch himself suffer and there is only so much you can do. Cancer is painful, heart problems happen quickly. With cancer there is pain and suffering and as decent human beings we see changes in our dog’s that warrant the gift of death. Hearts will fail our Boxers instantly and without warning sometimes. DM will force you to look into the soul of your astute canine companion while his body literally gives out all around him, starting from the back and moving forward. You can ease physical pain but it is very difficult to ease constant confusion, fear of falling and wetting their bed when they had no reason to other than they couldn’t help it. What shame these dogs experience.

As my journey with my second Boxer boy enters the middle stages of DM I decided it is time to start talking about it. The Yahoo and Facebook support groups provide invaluable advice on how to help you and your dog cope through the phases of the disease, but  I want to take it a step further.  I don’t want to cope with this disease anymore, I want to stop it!

Degenerative Myelopathy in Boxers is genetically traceable (Note: This is not necessarily the case for German Shepherds but many Boxer breeders will use this as one of many excuses for not considering DM in their breeding decisions).

Chart provided by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals

The gene was found five years ago and information is being compiled about it daily. What we know now is that Boxers that are symptomatic of DM genetically test to be “at risk”. The disease cannot be diagnosed conclusively without a necropsy so it it suggestively diagnosed based on symptoms. In the Boxer breed no dogs have yet to be found that are symptomatic and carriers of the gene or clear from the gene and presenting symptoms (this is not the case with some German Shepherds). I want to be clear that only “at risk” Boxer dogs have been found to actually have Degenerative Myelopathy. The below chart illustrates what the genetic percentages are of producing “at risk” dogs (those having the double allele of the gene and being at risk to present the disease).

(click the chart to make it bigger)

So we have the genetic and statistical data to support how to completely eradicate this disease yet we have one more huge battle ahead of us and that is the choices breeders are making.

When I found out DM was genetic and avoidable I thought this would be a popular topic that breeders were discussing like they do about finding the gene for ARVC (cardiomyopathy).  I couldn’t have been more wrong. Some breeders I contacted hadn’t even heard of the disease.  From those that had, not only did I find out DM was a hushed topic, I also found out some breeders would never admit that their dogs had DM; putting them down silently without notifying offspring’s owners. I was shocked! Why in the world would breeders not speak up and be glad that the gene was found so they could prevent future heartaches? It all comes down to perspective of admitting fault.

Dr. Joan Coates of the Comparative Neurology Program at the University of Missouri has been leading the study on this canine affliction. She states, “The “A” allele is very common in some breeds. In these breeds, an overly aggressive breeding program to eliminate the dogs testing A/A or A/G might be destructive to the breed as a whole because it would eliminate a large fraction of the high quality dogs that would otherwise contribute desirable qualities to the breed. Nonetheless, DM should be taken seriously. It is a fatal disease with devastating consequences for the dogs and a very heartbreaking experience for the owners who love them. Thus, a realistic approach when considering which dogs to select for breeding would be to consider dogs with the A/A or A/G test result to have a fault, just as a poor top-line or imperfect gait would be considered faults. Dogs that test A/A should be considered to have a worse fault than those that test A/G. Dog breeders could then continue to do what conscientious breeders have always done: make their selections for breeding stock in light of all of the dogs’ good points and all of the dogs’ faults. Using this approach over many generations should substantially reduce the prevalence of DM while continuing to maintain or improve those qualities that have contributed to the various dog breeds”.

“It is still puzzling to me that breeders are so reluctant to testing for… and breeding away from DM. Just like ARVC, SAS, and hips, DM can be reduced and gradually eliminated over time.”

Instead of sharing this common sense conclusion about Dr. Coates’ study, many breeders choose to focus on the first part of her statement, that an overly aggressive breeding program to eliminate at risk dogs might be destructive to the breed. These breeders claim that a bottle necking of the breed will occur and that we will lose all the other traits that we have come to love. They believe that by working to breed out DM they will be compromising the Boxer standard and decimating the gene pool.

Some of these breeders do in fact have “at risk” dogs, and of course some have not experienced DM that have this perspective. Not all dogs that are at risk will develop DM. They can die before they get it from something else like cancer, they can never develop the disease or their owners may not report that their dog had it.

Bottom line is that we have inexpensive testing available, and we have a population of 17% clear dogs so why not try just a little to get that number higher? Breeders did it and continue to do it with the the gene found for cardiomyopathy. Why can’t we apply similar energy towards reducing the prevalence and eventually eradicating Degenerative Myelopathy?

The good news on what I thought was a hopeless fight was that it’s not a fight at all. We are all entitled to our different opinions and breeders all get to play God when they breed their dogs. None of these breeds would exist without a human hand involved so we have to be thankful for what we know and love about all the breeds in the world. When I broached this topic a few years ago with breeders I was met with ignorance and some hostility. Now the winds have changed and there are many DM conscious breeders out there. These same breeders are not just singling out DM but including it with heart, structure and temperament into their breeding programs. One local Massachusetts breeder said it best, “It is still puzzling to me that breeders are so reluctant to testing for… and breeding away from DM. Just like ARVC, SAS, and hips, DM can be reduced and gradually eliminated over time.”

And that Boxer and dog lovers is exactly my point; we’ve caused these genetic mutations and now have the ability to track them. Why not move them out of the lives of our best friends?

So if you are considering adding a Boxer to your life, ask what health tests have been completed, ask what the grandparents or other dogs in the line have died from and by all means, ask to see the proof. I’m not saying that doing all of your homework will guarantee a 14 year healthy lifespan for your Boxer, but breeders not considering DM will have no reason to consider it in their breeding program if they aren’t at the very least asked these questions. A breeder from Pennsylvania kindly posted in a discussion about DM, “Pet Owners are doing their homework………..and that is a fact. I recently had a Couple that waited two years for a Dog that would not have
DM”.

For those breeders that are consciously working on breeding out DM as well as other health issues in Boxers, I have compiled a DM Conscious Breeder List. If you would like to be added please email me at cara@getactivepaws.com. The dogs that you breed must have their test results for DM listed on the OFA website.

Did you know it runs in the family?

About six years ago Active Paws experienced a boom that we weren’t quite staffed to handle. Who better than to jump in and grab some leashes than a family member? Gerard’s brother Mark came to help out for 2 wonderful weeks that summer seemingly so long ago.

Since that summer Mark has never looked back, lets just say it was puppy love. He gave up his restaurant management position and started The Pooped Pooch. But Mark’s help didn’t stop there. While he was growing his own dynamite pet care business he still contributed to the growth and success of Active Paws. We added grooming services on Mark’s suggestion, which worked out so well that we out grew our basement! Only problem was we couldn’t afford a building yet but be certain that will return. Mark has also been instrumental in advising but the best idea he ever had was getting our own dog park.

The Pooped Pooch and Active Paws are two of the only pet care services in the Boston Metro area that have their very own privately owned and fenced dog parks. Tired of the day to day dealings with the dangers of public parks, not to mention the unscrupulous blame that is placed upon dog walkers, Mark came up with this brilliant idea.

We look forward to growing and sharing ideas with each other for many more years. If for any reason you would dare move out of the Waltham, Watertown, Belmont area and head East to Boston Proper, then at the very least stay in the family.

The Pet CPR & First Aid Instructor Takes The Pet CPR & First Aid Class

On Thursday 11/08/12 I attended a Pet CPR and 1st Aid class in Newton. Now, I know those of your that know me are saying, “huh, aren’t you already a certified instructor”? Yes I am but I saw this class pop up on one of my many dog club related emails and I wanted to take it for several reasons: first and foremost it was being taught by a local veterinarian and I wanted to make certain that the information I was teaching my students was indeed current, correct and appropriate. I also wanted to see if I would learn something new and lastly not going to lie I like networking.

The class was taught by Dr. Kate Wissel, DVM. Dr. Wissel just left her job as an emergency room veterinarian at Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital in Woburn, MA. While she loved the ER she also loves her family, which she was not seeing a lot of working the grueling hours of the ER. Dr. Wissel will soon be at Commonwealth Vet as an associate veterinarian.

The first portion of the two-part class that she taught last Thursday night was extremely informative and mirrored what I teach in my class. I did learn a few cool factoids like I had set out to do and one of them was about the Boston Mycological Club. There is a group of mushroom geeks that will help give you information about any mushrooms that your pup may ingest. Just take a picture with your smartphone and email them. I thought that was worth mentioning.

I also learned from a veterinarian’s perspective what I already knew from a pet care provider’s perspective; people panic and bring their pets to the emergency vet for silly reasons. If your dog has a tick, don’t go to the ER, if your dog threw up once don’t rush to the ER and she begged, by all means if your pet got skunked DON”T BRING THEM TO THE ER!

Another great tip I took away from this class was about The State of Massachusetts Animal Response Team, or SMART. SMART is a “network of organizations, agencies, and individuals committed to responding to the needs of the animal population in disaster situations throughout Massachusetts”. I had just been sending people to the MSPCA web site or even the ASPCA. Now I was aware of a state organization that can help us in times of natural disasters or other states of emergency.

The class was mostly comprised of Newton dog-owning residence who wanted to make sure they were doing the best by their dogs. It is always wonderful to meet people who want to learn how to improve their pets lives while at the same time it was fantastic to see the veterinarian’s side. It is possible to improve your pet’s lives while avoiding driving a veterinarian nuts or bleeding your wallet dry.

So this Thursday Dr. Wissel will teach us how to perform basic first aid and CPR. She asked us to bring a stuffed animal from home, I volunteered to bring my CPR dogs, it will save us the hassle from trying to figure out where the dog’s heart will be on our stuffed toy elephant. I’m excited to continue to learn more and refine my skills.

Sexy Seniors

On September 30th most of the original Active Paws crew headed out to Hopkinton State Park for the annual Boxer Bash party hosted by The Boxer Rescue. It was a rainy cold Autumn day that brought out 10’s of rain-coated Boxers and their adoring owners. Over $1400 was raised for the rescue, one of the most successful single-breed events I have ever attended and on such a dismal day.

Among those Boxers that attended the event I saw a lot of white-faced seniors milling around collecting cookie bounties and pets from anyone that would doll them out. I noticed the seniors were a bit more sly than the youngsters. The young pups would jump and bark at people, overtly misbehaving so that their humans would give them a command then reward for doing a good job. The seniors had it all figured out and rather than be bad to start with, they would saunter up to an unsuspecting cookie-wielding human and just give the look. You know that look;

Tank, giving Kelly one of the directors of the Boxer Rescue the “beg face”

The foundation dogs of Active Paws are Boxers, so we have a natural affinity towards the breed, but just as the business creeps towards its 10 year anniversary so have many of the Active Paws pets. As humans we generally think of youth as the cornerstone of health, beauty and all that we strive for with the millions spent on beauty products that make us look younger. With dogs however, I have found myself drawn to the seniors, the older the more I want to squeeze them! With Boxer’s especially they get that white face that never lies it shows the life of the dog through the peppery white hairs to the clouding eyes that say, ‘love me harder, hold me closer and you know what, let me get away with it because I’m old!’

Photo: Tank at woofstock wearing the Dozer shirt

Tank won “Sexiest Senior” at the Boxer Bash, he’s pictured here at another rescue event sporting his blue ribbon

I’m not exactly sure how my love of senior dogs manifested but I pickup the pace every time I see one. I get down on my knees and beg for them to come lean into me. I just want to shower them with love. Don’t get me wrong, I love the young-ins but they get all the attention. Seniors need and deserve that little bit more.

As dogs age, just like with humans they need different care. This means feeding better nutrition, paying close attention to any growths that show up, checking out their teeth more frequently, paying close attention to any lameness and of course making life easier/less stressful on their bodies.

According to the AVMA, approximately 40% of dogs seen by veterinarians are 6 years or older, remember, old age is not a condition or disease, its a stage in life. We would care for a puppy differently than a 4 year old dog so please think closely about what could better your 10 year old’s life. Aging occurs slowly and almost imperceptibly over time for our pets, try and be objective and proactive, finding a limp or a lump too late can be devastating for you and your pet.

Its fun and a great bonding experience to help improve the quantity of your senior pet’s life. I teach a Pet First Aid and CPR Class where we learn how to do a “Snout to Tail” assesment. Basically you methodically go over your pet’s body checking everything snout to tail. My 10 year old thinks its the longest best message of his life!

Just this morning after a quick snout to tail to figure out why my boy had some pain trembles going on I gave Tank a puzzle toy. A younger dog would have this all over the place in a second but Tank systematically worked on getting each plug out to methodically lick out the treats stowed underneath. He thoroughly enjoyed the toy and I was tickled pink watching him.

I know some people see the white in their pet’s faces but don’t see any of their age, I used to be one of these people until I really stepped back and took a long hard look at my dogs. If your pets show any of these signs, its time to get them to the vet!

  • Difficulty chewing food
  • Ulcers, lumps or masses
  • Increased water intake
  • Change in weight
  • Difficulty in getting up
  • Bad or foul breath
  • Intolerance to temperature changes
  • Aggression
  • Incontinence
  • Change in appetite
  • Excessive panting
  • Stiffness in joints
  • Hearing or sight loss
  • Sleeping more
  • Decrease in activity
  • Change in behavior

Senior pets should see the vet more frequently regardless of any apparent issues. Vital organs can start to head south very quickly, its better to catch an issue early before it causes discomfort or worse, death to your pet. Plus, older pets have a reduced ability to withstand the effects of infection, injury or disease. They need our help more. Kidney disease is the #1 killer in cats, #2 for dogs (heart is #1 in dogs).

Also how is your pet’s gate? Do they walk with a slight limp or are they noticeably stiff when first getting up? Consider joint supplements like Joint Mobility from Wholistic Pet Organics. I noticed a big change in my 10 year old’s flexibility.

So the long and short of my sexy senior rant is don’t be afraid to pay close attention to the older feline and canine companions out there. They might not chase after the laser pointer or retrieve the ball like they used to but they deserve even more of your time and attention; after all, they have spent the larger portion of their lives loving a human so love them back greater. Also if you’re looking to adopt and look over the senior pet because they wont be with you as long, keep in mind they will appreciate your time and attention so much more.

I wanted to take some time to share with you some of the white faces with whom we have had the pleasure to share our days.

In this video link is our friend Lexi, she is 12.5 years young! https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=519568240005

Pawtastic Up Coming Events

If we had a bigger store you know Active Paws would be hosting a myriad of rescue events but we are restricted to our tiny location. Don’t worry, plans are in the works to expand but until then, besides hosting events, our favorite charitable past time is to attend them.

Active Paws will be making their rounds at these up coming events. Please feel free to meet up with us or even just find us to say hello. Our very own founding dog Tank will be making his first public event debut in his Eddie’s Wheels cart! He’s got a great license plate and loves to say hello to friends. We will do our best to have baby wipes ready, he’s a very kissy boy 🙂 Hope to see some of you at all or some of these wonderful fall events.

Active Paws will have a booth at The Boxer Rescue‘s Boxer Bash this Sunday September 30th at the Hopkinton State Park from 12-5

Friends of Attleboro Animal Shelter 9th Annual Harvest Fest Saturday October 6th at the Attleboro Animal Shelter from 10-3

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Buddy Dog Humane Society’s Woofstock Saturday October 14th at the Hudson Elks Pavilion from 11-4 

Special Events

Come join in all the fun, bring your well behaved pups, support local rescues and vendors.