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Western Vermont Winter 2020

Grain-Free. Friend or Foe? Forensic Science and Wildlife The Tooth About Your Cat Winter Training Tips

Now you can listen to your favorite stories & articles from 4 Legs & a Tail

Interviews & stories from your favorite writers Listen to the best from past issues Get a sneak preview of upcoming articles Plus, great stories that we just don’t have the room for in the magazine

Inside this issue of 4 Legs & a Tail


2. 4 Legs & a Tail Dateline Pet and animal news from around the world 4. A Provider and Her Pet Menagerie

Peg Bolgioni

6. Celebrate National Walk Your Dog Month 7. The Best of Both Worlds Marti Eagle Should you keep your cat inside or let it out to roam? 8. An Introduction to Therapy Dogs Deb Helfrich The benefits your dog may bring to others 10. Big Love Cathy White Life with five Newfoundlands!

Pg. 6 11. Training in the Winter Time Maria Karunungan Expert tips of indoor and outdoor training and exercise

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12. Winter and Holiday Safety Tips Catherine MacLean, DVM 14. Fat or Fluffy Is your pet overweight? 16. Going The Distance Cathy White One local rescue goes to extraordinary lengths to save Asian Sighthounds from a tragic fate 18. How Forensic Science is Saving Wildlife Catherine Greenleaf 20. Alternatively Speaking: Grain Free Diets Friend or Foe? Anne Carroll, DVM 22.

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February is National Pet Dental Health Month Erin Forbes, DVM There is a 70% chance that your pet will have periodontal disease. Have their teeth checked this winter!

23. Feline Tooth Resorption Farrell Campbell, DVM A reason why your cat may be finicky 24. Helen Keller's Dogs Kate Kelly The canine involvement of this legendary figure will surprise you 28. FUN PAGE

4 Legs & a Tail Volume R.419 P.O. Box 841 Lebanon, NH 03766 603-727-9214 Winter 2020

Publishers: Tim Goodwin, Tim Hoehn Office Manager: Beth Hoehn Graphic Design: Kristin Wolff

If you have a tale about a tail or a photo that will make us smile, we’d like to hear from you. 4 Legs & a Tail is published quarterly and distributed free of charge throughout Western VT. 4 Legs & a Tail, Inc. is locally owned and operated and acts as a moderator without approving, disapproving or guaranteeing the validity or accuracy of any data or claim. Any reproduction in whole or part is prohibited. 1

THAILAND - In this photo, the female green turtle nicknamed “Bank” swims in a pool at Sea Turtle Conservation Center n Chonburi Province, Thailand. Veterinarians operated on “Bank,” removing less than 1,000 coins from the endangered animal. Her indigestible diet was a result of many tourists seeking good fortune tossing coins into her pool over many years in the eastern town of Sri Racha.

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MONGOLIA - Runner Dion Leonard and the stray dog who ran with him through the Gobi desert as part of the 2016 Gobi March race. The dog, named for the desert, later went missing in China, but Leonard was able to find it after a search using new and old media. Leonard has written a book about the experience, and their story has been sold to 21st Century Fox for a movie.

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IDAHO - This photo provided by Adam Pearl shows Pearl with his pet squirrel Joey in Meridian, Idaho. Joey made headlines in 2017, when police nabbed a burglary suspect who reported fleeing a home after being attacked by a squirrel. Pearl says Joey was so young he still had his eyes closed when friends found him on the ground in the summer of 2016 after he fell out of his nest. Pearl says Joey climbed onto his shoulder for an affectionate goodbye earlier in June 2017, then scampered up a backyard apple tree at his Meridian home and hasn’t been seen since.

NEW HAMPSHIRE - Fluffy the cat almost froze to death when her owners found her in a snowbank, snow crusted in chunks around her fur. The 3-year-old cat, whose temperature didn’t register on the clinic’ thermometers when she was first bought in, later made a miraculous recovery. The temperature outside where she was found was just below freezing.

MAINE - A dog in Maine shifted a car into gear, rolling it into a lake. The local police department thanked a local towing company for their help retrieving some submerged property after “a dog took a truck for a wild ride.”

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NEW YORK - A couple of NYPD cops paid $40 of their own money to bail out a goat that escaped a slaughterhouse in Jan. 2016, taking the gruff former fugitive to a Long Island sanctuary. “He fought crime with us,” Sgt. Mary Humburg said. “Best $40 I’ve spent.

CA L IFOR N I A The U.S. Nav y found a missing puppy that fell off a fishing boat nearly five weeks ago in the waters off Souther n California. Luna, a German Shepherd puppy, was presumed to be lost at sea after falling overboard on February 10. She was reunited with her surprised family.

TENNESSEE A coyote made its way into a bathroom at Nashville’s Music City Center Sunday, Jan. 12, 2019, police said. The animal, which police said was scared, was safely trapped and released in a wooded area. 3

Linda McKenna, PA-C, Director of


A Provider and Her Pet Menagerie Peg Bolgioni - Rutland, VT

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Oncology Services, with the Foley Cancer Center at Rutland Regional Medical Center has been growing her Pet Menagerie for the past 20 years. When she first moved to her 10-acre property in Castleton, she brought one cat and a horse. Over time, the menagerie expanded to include 1 queen llama-named “Dolly”, 6 miniature goats, 2 miniature pigs, 2 miniature horses, and 2 Bummer lambs all living together in the barn. The Bummer lambs are those that have either been rejected or couldn’t be fed by their own mothers. Unable to be paired with new ewes willing to nurse them, they are bottle-fed and raised by humans. Inside her log cabin you will find 3 Flemish Giant Rabbits, 3 mixed breed dogs, and 3 cats. “Every one of our animals have been rescued and informally adopted,” said Linda. “A number of them have disabilities and some were also victims of abuse.” Linda fondly recalls how many of animals arrived on her doorstep. Dolly, the llama, was found by a snowmobiler on one of VAST trails. He brought her to Linda, and eventually Dolly stayed on permanently. About ten years ago, the Rutland County Humane Society had asked her to adopt the two miniature horses. They both suffered from poor health due to neglect. Cowboy, one of the horses, was born with an equine genetic disorder that mirrors Down syndrome and struggles with blindness and hearing loss. Carney the pig, came to Vermont from Florida where he had been rescued from the Vermont State Fairgrounds. According to Linda, “Carney was a micro mini pig who weighed about 20 pounds and I was told he would make a wonderful house pet. Now, 9 years later, he weighs close to 250 pounds and spends most of his time outside. Before Carney was transferred to the barn, he got a roommate, Homey, a female pig. There was concern that they wouldn’t get along, but they act like an old married couple. In fact, every night Homey goes into Carney’s hut and makes his bed up for him. Sometimes they even share the same hut.” Despite their challenges all the animals live freely together out in the barn. Linda added, “Having these animals about, is my own version of pet therapy. They love unconditionally, and don’t fight back.” Linda shared an example of how the animals take care of each other. This past winter, we went out to the barn to check on one of our goats, Jeffrey, who had been in declining health. “We knew Winter 2020

when we saw him that he was dying,” she said. “We medicated him to make him comfortable, put him in a warm spot, and covered him with a big horse blanket and hay. We also checked on him numerous times during the night. Then, the next morning, we went out to check on Jeffrey but discovered he wasn’t in his spot. Evidentially he managed to crawl through this small space with this huge horse blanket on him and went into one of the calf huts. The blanket which should have been on the ground was laid perfectly over him. He had passed away. We knew that he couldn’t have been able to do that in his condition. What we discovered is that the pigs, Carney and Homey, took care of Jeffrey. A few weeks before he died, they were letting Jeffrey sleep in their space.”. Linda, along with Brian Olsen, Director of Support Services, and Eva Zivitz, Palliative Care Program Coordinator, was instrumental in bringing the Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) Program to Rutland Regional in 2009. Brian had had a personal connection to this program when his future mother-in-law had been in hospice care with terminal cancer. He saw how much relief and joy brought to her room when the therapy dogs visited. Brian, who had worked in psychiatric services at that time, collaborated with Psychiatric Nursing Director Lesa Cathcart, Linda, and Eva to lay the groundwork to bring the program to the hospital. AAT was initially launched in the Psychiatric Services but has expanded to the Foley Cancer Center, Surgical and Medical Oncology Units. It is now in its 10th year. Linda has witnessed firsthand how animals have impacted a person’s recovery, even her own sister, who has taken one of the cats back to Cape Cod with her. “I know there are many health benefits to owning pets like decreased cholesterol and blood pressure. But for me these animals are just pure happiness and love.” Peg Bolgioni is a Communications Specialist in the Marketing & Public Relations department at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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Celebrate National Walk Your Dog Month J

anuary is Walk Your Dog Month. Get up, get moving and don’t let the plummeting winter temperatures slow you down. Dogs need plenty of exercise throughout the year and, the best way to keep them active in winter is to take them for regular walks. Even a short walk around the block on a cold day can make a big difference. So, begin this year with a pledge — better health for you and your dog!

Shake things up Change your walking route so that your dog has something new to sniff at. Dogs learn by discovering their surroundings and need some excitement every now and then. Get some company Get a friend with a dog to walk with you. Not only will you enjoy a good chat, you can also keep each other motivated to walk in the winter! Throw a dog sweater party in the park Now, that’s another reason to walk all the way to the park! Make sure you have plenty of treats.

WHY WALK YOUR DOG MONTH IS IMPORTANT Your dog’s health depends on it To stay healthy and live long, dogs need plenty of exercise, even in winter. Besides, a walk is good for your health too! Walking is in their genes Most dog breeds have been selectively developed for herding, sporting, or working. Which means they need to stay active, or they will become hyper and resort to excessive chewing, digging, and scratching. It’s a great way to bond Spending quality time walking and bonding with your dog is the best way to beat the gloomy and lonely winters!

History of Walk Your Dog Month 2011 Walking Strong The largest dog walk, “The Great North Dog Walk” was organized in the U.K. 22,742 dogs took part in it.

1964 New York’s First Dog Walker In New York, Jim Buck started out walking an acquaintance’s dog. Later he went on to employ assistants that were walking hundreds of dogs. He also opened a training school for dogs.

1929 Service with a Walk The first school for training service dogs in Nashville, TN, started training dogs to become intelligent walking companions for the visually impaired.

7000 B.C. The First Strong Walkers In north-eastern Siberia, dogs were getting trained to pull sleds in the snow and go to places that were inaccessible to humans. 6 4 Legs & a Tail

Winter 2020

The Best of Both Worlds Marti Eagle - Corinth, VT


t’s a question most cat owners will ask themselves: “Should I keep my cat indoors or let it roam outside?”. Many factors will need to be considered. Will the cat be in an urban or suburban environment where cars or neighborhood cats pose a threat to their safety? Or is the cat in a rural environment where natural predators abound? When we lived in a more suburban environment, my husband and I allowed our cats to go outside. Although both our previous cats survived to old age, they both suffered wounds from fights with other cats and “went missing” for a day or more, causing us great emotional distress! After the death of our last “indoor/ outdoor” cat and our move to a much more rural area, we decided that our next cat or cats would stay indoors. Nine years ago we adopted two cats (brother and sister) from a local shelter who were 9 months old at the time. At first, we

stuck to our guns and kept Darcy and Lizzy inside, although there was a part of us that felt they should be able to experience the sights, sounds and smells of being outside. But fear of them being attacked and killed by a predator, or going off to explore and not returning home strengthened our resolve to keep them inside and safe. Our vet had told us shortly after we adopted them that the average age of an indoor cat in Vermont is 15 years, but an outdoor cat is only 2! Friends and fellow cat-owners told us: “You know what they’re missing, but they don’t!”. Winter 2020

Two years ago I began to wonder if it might be possible to teach our cats how to walk on a leash. Most websites I visited said that the older the cat, the more difficult it is! Our cats were over 7 years old at the time so it didn’t seem very promising. Many pet stores offer nylon harnesses but they looked pretty flimsy and I thought our big Norwegian Forest cats would be able to escape pretty easily. Then one day I found a website that sold what’s called “The Kitty Holster”. This is a soft vest with super-strong velcro closures that fasten under the neck and belly. There is an “O” ring on top where you attach your lead. We decided to give it a try and ordered a tiger print vest for Darcy, our male cat (to match his beautiful orange and white fur) and a grey vest for Lizzy, who is grey, black and white. Hey, if we’re going to take our cats outside, we want them to look stylish! We started by laying the vests on the f loor so the cats could inspect them. Next came laying the vests on them, but both cats would immedi-

ately lay down on the f loor. Finally, we decided to just do it and while I held Darcy, my husband got the vest on him. We attached the lead, carried him outside and put him down on the grass. He loved it but as he began to pull on the lead I was afraid that somehow he would get out of the vest. That first walk was pretty short, but we began to take him out each day and as time went on, he became accustomed to the feel of the lead (we use extending leads so we have some control over how far we let them go). Meanwhile, Lizzy seemed interested and would watch from the window but resisted the vest for a while. Eventually, she indicated that she wanted to go outside, too, so we followed the same procedure with her. She was not as adventurous at first, wanting to stay very close to the house, but over time she also has come to love her walks. In fact, it has become a daily routine to take them out as soon as we get home from work. During the summer, they like to find a spot to watch for chipmunks, so my husband and I carry portable camp stools and will sit while they patiently wait and watch. Lizzy has actually caught two chipmunks while out for her walk and has quickly released them, not being sure of what to do with them! Things will change soon when winter comes when both cats prefer to stay in their cat beds by the woodstove. But next spring we expect to be outside with them again. We feel that they truly are getting the best of both worlds - experiencing the outdoors and getting some exercise, all while remaining safe. 7

An Introduction to Therapy Dogs Deb Helfrich - Therapy Dogs of Vermont


t’s been a dreadful day. The car wouldn’t start. Traffic made you late. You spilled coffee on your new pants. The boss moved your deadline UP by a week. Full of frustration, you throw the front door open…and there is YOUR dog. Her entire body wags. She rolls on her back for a tummy rub.


Paw Thaw

Call or stop in at any of our locations. Our project design associates will be happy to help you design the perfect Garage, Barn, Shed or anything else you can dream up.

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You can’t help but smile. As you touch her soft fur and feel the warmth of her body, thoughts of stained pants and looming deadlines slip away. Think about the capacity our own pets have to ease stress, make us happy, offer comfort. Apply this to elders in nursing homes, patients in hospitals, children in day cares—this is the heart of canine therapy. Canine therapy works toward the emotional health of people in a wide variety of settings. In fact, elder care facilities may be one of the most frequented types of places for therapy dog vis its. Visiting with elders can be a wonderful experience for both dog and handler! For example, the highlight of my week is visiting my friends at Starr Farm Nursing Center. I’m sure any of our TDV members can tell you a heartwarming story or two about the places they visit and the people they meet. It is a joy to me when my dog lights up the face of an elder who perhaps doesn’t get many visitors, and I enjoy listening to the wonderful stories elders carry with them. And, the special moments when I can comfort an elder who may be depressed, disoriented, anxious, afraid, or ill are ones that simply make everything worth while; these are the moments when the magical interaction between animal and human is unmistakable. Tears dry. Frowns become smiles. Inactive hands caress soft fur. Silence becomes a conversation whispered softly in a dog’s ear. During visits, dogs may play ball with a patient, sit to be patted, do a few tricks, or take walks with those who are able. For a bedridden patient, a dog might hop on the bed and rest quietly with him or her. Sometimes, all a dog can do is be there for someone to look at. There are all sorts of activities and levels of interaction possible—based on whatever the person needs at the time.

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Dogs can have a profound ability to touch and engage people. For example, during their visits, therapy dogs routinely: • Bring joy and laughter to institutions that might feel sterile, cold, and frightening. • Give something to do, talk, and think about other than the illness, difficulty, or problem. • Help people cope with illness, loss, depression, and loneliness. • Stimulate the senses, facilitating exercise and activity. • Encourage communication and break the ice. • Provide a source of touch and affiliation. • Boost morale and lower stress levels. Therapy Dogs of Vermont (TDV) is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization of well-mannered, sweet tempered, people-loving dogs and their handlers. Our handler/canine teams work toward the emotional health of people in a variety of settings such as hospitals and other health-related venues, nursing and retirement homes, child and adult day care centers, correctional facilities, and schools. All dogs are certified and insured. For more information about becoming a certified therapy dog team, to request therapy dog visits, or to make a donation, please email us at or visit our website: Winter 2020 9

Cassie, Poppy and Seamus lead the good life as therapy dogs


Cathy White - Walpole, NH

magine that your beloved dog weighs a whopping 150 pounds, devours two pounds of raw food daily, sheds his thick black coat yearlong, and has some issues with drool. Now imagine that you live with five of him! That’s life for Rob and Deb, childhood sweethearts who went their separate ways, but reconnected and married in 2003. They live in a sleepy rural town near Keene and share their modest cape-style home with five enormous Newfoundlands. “Newfies” to aficionados of the breed, (who are many - they rank 38th in AKC registrations) are massive dogs. Living with one can present challenges. Living with a pack of five is an adventure! Let’s meet this weighty bunch: Cassie and Rosie, 10, are littermates. Poppy, 8, is next in the hierarchy, and then come “the boys”, Seamus, 7, and the baby of the group, Boom, 3. That’s approximately six hundred pounds of Newfoundland. How did they end up with these five behemoths? The couple isn’t quite certain themselves. Obviously, they adore the

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individual spaces in an orderly manner; a sight perhaps reminiscent of dairy cows coming into the milking barn. Life with Newfies is not for the neat freak. Drooling, and shedding what appear to be smaller versions of themselves are typical. How do you keep the house clean? “I don’t!”, Deb laughs, adding that she’d have to vacuum twice a day to keep their home fur-free. When the upright does makes an appearance, the dogs choose to remove themselves from the room; though Rosie very much enjoys a good grooming with the shop-vac. Newfies don’t drool constantly, so it’s really only with food and when it’s hot outside. None-the-less, walls will periodically require a wipe down, and sofa and chair arms are often covered with toweling. This is more for any potentially squeamish visitors than for the couple themselves. And of course, there are Newfie-sized bibs. Having five Newfoundlands randomly splayed about the house requires some agility on the couple’s part; especially during meal preparation. “I have to high step over dogs every time I work in the kitchen”, says Deb, adding “They are my cardiovascular workout.” There’s always a party at the door when either returns from work (he’s a nurse, she’s a data analyst), with a canine crowd busy vying for attention. All dogs have some health issues and the Newfoundland is no exception. As with all large breeds, bloat and orthopedic issues can be concerns. But there’s a specific condition common in this breed that Deb wants people to be aware of; especially if they are considering ownership. Newfies can suffer from a congenital heart defect called subaortic stenosis (SAS). This life threatening problem cannot be detected in puppies younger than ten weeks; thus it is vital that puppies be tested, checked and cleared no earlier than that before being placed in a home. Logistics aside, it’s evident that this couple wouldn’t have things any other way. Deb states that what she loves most about this breed are “Their hearts.” They are “devoted, loving, sweet animals.” Would they add any more of these plussize sweeties to their family? Maybe. While they know Newfie owners who have “downsized” to smaller breeds, Rob and Deb don’t know what they’d do without these wonderful giants in their lives.

breed; well-known for its friendliness, devotion and huge heart as well as its huge physique. (Seamus is even a registered Therapy Dog and Boom is about to become one.) They were friends with the various breeders of their dogs, and started out by helping to care for each litter...and walking away with a puppy every time. (Two, in the case of littermates Cassie and Rosie.) Deb felt that three was “enough.” But when Seamus and Rob met, an unbreakable bond was forged; and who could say no to Boom? Deb’s love of Newfies began with her uncle’s dog, Sam, who stole her heart when she was only eight. Twenty seven years later, she finally had her own Newfoundland. Named Arlo, he was the first in a total of twelve thus far. Rob, interestingly enough, brought two Cockapoos to the relationship; but he’s been sold on Newfies since Rosie and Cassie came into the couple’s lives in 2006. What’s daily life like with a houseful of giants? There’s no apparent pecking order. All the dogs get along and have a comfortable dynamic. “Wrestling” play may start indoors, but is soon encouraged to continue outside, where the dogs have two appropriately large, enclosed play areas. Anywhere near the woodstove is a coveted spot in cold weather; while central AC keeps these heavycoated dogs cool in the summer. All have indoor/outdoor access through what must be the world’s largest dog door. When asked where they all sleep, Deb’s answer comes swiftly, “Wherever they want!” Cathy White lives in Walpole with The dogs consume a LOT of food. But her husband, Jeff. They have been due to its raw nature, it’s very efficiently used, resulting in surprisingly little owned by Labradors of every color waste. There are no mealtime squabbles, for almost 30 years. Cathy is a Boston University alum, with a degree in as the dogs are all fed in separate crates. print communications. Feeding time finds them filing into their Winter 2020

Training in the Winter Time “A

tired dog is a good dog.” This age-old saying is a well-known adage for good reason. As winter approaches and daylight time decreases, many young, healthy dogs may find their outdoor time constrained. This in turn can lead to excess energy which translates into a slew of common behavior complaints such as barking, jumping and chewing. Training and exercising your dog can be a tremendous challenge when it’s bitterly cold outside. Here are some ways to maximize the time spent outdoors and make the most of the more limited opportunities to train outdoors. Firstly, if you can, emphasize cardio exercise, rather than taking long wintry strolls. For example, visit off-leash trails or beaches where your dog can run. One way to encourage this, while also practicing the highly desirable behavior of coming when called, is to train your dog to come running toward you at the sound of a magical recall word or whistle. Say the word or blow the whistle, and teach them that this wonderful new sound translates into uncommonly good treats, such as a small jar of baby food that isn’t normally available. Try this up close at first, so your dog easily learns what’s in store for them, and then gradually make attempts from slightly longer distances or more interesting distractions. Avoid calling your dog if you wouldn’t bet $500 that your dog will come (for instance, if you know your dog’s nemesis is the local Vermont squirrel and an irresistible version of this appears in your dog’s line of sight). Instead, focus on winning propositions and always reward generously. The day may come when it’s a real emergency and you want your dog to have a well-rehearsed history of success and a solid understanding of the high quality of snack-itude that awaits when they do exactly what you want, as speedily as you want! If you are doing leashed walks, use a front-clipping harness to gently deter pulling and to minimize your chances of slipping on the ice. It is also a good idea to have your dog practice automatically sitting at curbs when the light is low and there might be black ice. To do this, first train the sit indoors, then start practicing outdoors, increasing the value of the treats you are using as needed to compete with distractions outside. If needed, a rewardbased training class will help you learn how to train your dog to be immediately responsive to you, and to practice doing these common behaviors with distractions, such as other dogs, nearby. Winter 2020

Maria Karunungan - Burlington, VT Some additional quick tips for outdoor training and exercise: • If your dog loves to play with other dogs, consider trips to a dog park to see who else might happen to need a good romp; or set up a doggie play date with known friends, somewhere where there’s enough room to run. This is a great way to provide your dog with access to other dogs and keep up social skills during the wintertime. • When spending time outdoors with your dog, stay close enough to a place where you can warm up in case you find the wind bites harder than you were prepared for, or in case your dog suddenly starts to feel the chill. Avoid finding yourself trapped 10 miles up the trail away from your parked car or the nearest indoor place to shelter. • Have your dog wear a coat for warmth so he can stay out longer. • Wear thin gloves inside your mittens for handing out treats; or use a food tube (sometimes when it’s super cold, a food tube will also freeze). If there is an active storm out and there’s nothing to do but cozy up with some hot cocoa by the warm fire, you might let your dog work for his or her meal out of a fun work-to-eat toy such as a stuffed Kong, a tricky treat ball, or similar toy where your dog sleuths out every bit of food.

Two ways to train and entertain your dog indoors, while getting some physical exercise, can include games of tug, or chasing a flirtpole. Ask your dog to sit first, before releasing them to grab the tug or chase the toy at the end of the pole. Once they’ve had a good rousing round of tug or chase, allow them to have the toy to themselves for a moment, then ask them to drop it, then request a sit to resume the game. Rinse and repeat as many times as desired! This turns into a good mental workout in addition to inducing good vigorous fun, and helps your dog learn impulse control in the bargain. An additional way to keep your dog mentally on track is to take a fun group class in a warm indoor space. This comes with the added bonus that you’ll likely have some “homework” in the form of training exercises that you can practice inside your living room on those cold blustery evenings. Some examples of fun classes might be a tricks class or a course where your dog learns how to find things by smell. Even basic obedience or more advanced obedience can be fun for your dog! If you’re one of those people who needs a group class format or other similar weekly meeting to stay motivated to work with your dog, this is typically a great option to beat the wintertime blues. Lastly, you might mix it up and try different activities and routines to see what seems to keep both you and your dog happiest. Most dogs are up for anything so long as they get to do it with you. 11

Winter and Holiday Safety Tips Catherine MacLean, DVM


ith the Holiday season upon us and the cold weather arriving, here are some safety tips for you and your pet.

Holiday Plants

Mistletoe - If ingested can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiac issues Poinsettias - may cause vomiting and diarrhea Lilies - acute kidney failure in cats Holly - vomiting, diarrhea and nausea Christmas Trees - make sure they are properly anchored so it doesn’t fall over if an adventurous pet goes exploring.


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Tinsel - kitties love its magical sparkle and can’t resist chewing on it. If ingested, tinsel can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction, which can become life threatening and require surgery. Clinical signs of an obstruction can include, but are not limited to vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and dehydration. These signs warrant immediate veterinary attention. Winter 2020

Candles - curious pets can knock these over. This can lead to a fire in your home. Pets have also been known to burn themselves when overly curious about candles. Wires and Batteries - both of these things pose a risk to your pet. If a pet bites into a wire it can cause an electrical burn in their mouth. Chewing on batteries can lead to chemical burns and batteries can be very dangerous if ingested. Do not wait to take your pet to the vet if they chew a wire or chew/ingest a battery. Ornaments - pose a risk if broken or ingested. A pet may cut themselves on a broken ornament or could possibly have complications from ingesting an ornament (especially if the hook is attached).


Xylitol - avoid sugar free treats and gum and check ingredients carefully. Xylitol can cause severe low blood sugar and lead to death. If your pet ingests a product with xylitol call your veterinarian right away. People food - rich food and foods high in fat can cause your pet to have vomiting and diarrhea. These foods can also cause your pet to develop pancreatitis, which is when their pancreas becomes inflamed from the rich and fatty food and can lead to them needing to be hospitalized for supportive care. Beware of bones in food as well since they can be ingested and cause an obstruction. Don’t forget chocolate, raisins, and macadamia nuts are also toxic to your pet. Alcohol - if ingested by your pet it can cause them to become weak, ill and possibly go into a coma which can lead to death.

Winter 2020

Winter Safety Tips

Keep your pet warm. If it’s below 20 degrees and your pet has a thin hair coat, consider putting a coat on him/her. If the coat has a belly strap, make sure it is out of the way on male dogs when they urinate. Salt is mildly toxic to dogs. More importantly, it’s a skin irritant and can cause GI upset if directly ingested. Consider using pet friendly ice melting products around your home and wiping your pet’s paws off with a damp cloth when they come inside from a walk. Frostbite can occur when the temperature is below 20 degrees or if there is a significant windchill. The ears, toes and tail tip are the most vulnerable areas. Clinical signs of frostbite include redness, swelling, coldness to the touch, and sloughing of the tissue. If you notice these clinical signs, immediately bring your pet inside and start slow rewarming and contact your veterinarian.

If at any point you are concerned that your pet may have injured themselves or ingested something they shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian. Have a safe and winter season! Dr. MacLean completed her Bachelor of Science from Penn State University, her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Atlantic Veterinary College, and her pet acupuncture certification from Chi Institute. Her areas of special interest include general practice and acupuncture. She opened Sugar River Animal Hospital in 2013, and she has been practicing veterinary medicine since 2010. Dr. MacLean’s family consists of her husband Matt, her daughter Katarina, son Alexander and their three pets: Jack and Misty, two cats,and Arrow, a dog. 13


he exploding number of obese humans in the US is mirrored by the exploding number of obese pets. We want to show our pets that we love them, but sometimes we are loving them into shorter and less fulfilling lives. Before we even talk about food and treats let’s establish if our pet is fat or fluffy. We see photos of clearly overweight animals and think…my pet is not that fat! So maybe your pet is not obese…but are they overweight? Dogs and cats with longer hair make it that much harder to detect if your pet is carrying a bit too much weight. It can be a slight difference and in smaller pets it can be something as small as a pound. What should you look for?  Here is a transition of a dog or cat from underweight to overweight. If your pet is furry then I would suggest you go by feel. If you feel your pet’s mid-section softly you should be able to feel their rib cage without fat covering them. Their ribs should feel like the back of your hand. Your pet should have visible a waist (which is most easily judged from looking down over them). This can be a delicate subject. In general people do tend to over feed their pets and it is more common than not

that pets are slightly over-weight. Did you know that a pet that maintains a healthy weight averages 1.8 years longer life? The consideration of quality not just quantity of life is important too. Healthy weight will lower the risk that your dog will have pain in their joints etc., reduce risk of injury, but also research tells us they suffer lower amounts of anxiety and have more general well-being. OK, so my pet might be a little pudgy…. what next? Here are some tips to getting your baby in tip top shape: #1 - Portion Size. This is a more complex question than you might think.  Every food has general feeding instructions for a pet based on weight, but this can vary drastically based on the activity level of your pet and frankly the quality of the food. Every pet can also have a different metabolism, so one 40-pound dog may need a different portion than another 40-pound dog. The best thing to do is to start with what the current portion is and reduce it from there. If you are going to keep the same food start with a 15-20 percent reduction in portion and see if their weight changes in 1-2 weeks. If you have not seen a difference then you will want to cut their por-

Body Condition Score



UNDER IDEAL 1 Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and all bony prominences evident from a distance. No discernible body fat. Obvious loss of muscle mass.

2 Ribs, lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones easily visible. No palpable fat. Some evidence of other bony prominences. Minimal loss of muscle mass.

3 Ribs easily palpated and may be visible with no palpable fat. Tops of lumbar vertebrae visible. Pelvic bones becoming prominent. Obvious waist and abdominal tuck.

German A, et al. Comparison of a bioimpedance monitor with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry for noninvasive estimation of percentage body fat in dogs. AJVR 2010;71:393-398. Jeusette I, et al. Effect of breed on body composition and comparison between various methods to estimate body composition in dogs. Res Vet Sci 2010;88:227-232. Kealy RD, et al. Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. JAVMA 2002;220:1315-1320. Laflamme DP. Development and validation of a body condition score system for dogs. Canine Pract 1997;22:10-15. ©2013. All rights reserved.

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5 IDEAL 4 Ribs easily palpable, with

minimal fat covering. Waist easily noted, viewed from above. Abdominal tuck evident.

5 Ribs palpable without excess fat covering. Waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above. Abdomen tucked up when viewed from side.



OVER IDEAL 6 Ribs palpable with slight excess fat covering. Waist is discernible viewed from above but is not prominent. Abdominal tuck apparent.

7 Ribs palpable with difficulty; heavy fat cover. Noticeable fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent or barely visible. Abdominal tuck may be present.

8 Ribs not palpable under very heavy fat cover, or palpable only with significant pressure. Heavy fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent. No abdominal tuck. Obvious abdominal distention may be present.

9 Massive fat deposits over thorax, spine and base of tail. Waist and abdominal tuck absent. Fat deposits on neck and limbs. Obvious abdominal distention.

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tions by another 10%, until you can find a portion that causes weight loss. When the ideal weight is reached, increase 5% at a time to determine a portion that maintains their current weight. The goal is to see a gradual reduction, not a sudden swing. A 5% change in weight in a two-week period is good progress. Premium pet foods with higher quality ingredients will tend to have smaller portions prescribed for the pet to receive balanced nutrition. A high-quality food designed for limiting fat and calorie intake is a great idea. Choose a food that uses good quality ingredients with high digestibility, so they are getting the most nutrition from their calories and stay satisfied.  

you see them in ideal physical condition you will realize what a great thing you have done for them. Let your pet be their best…. overweight pets really are not to blame for their condition, we are the hand that feeds them and exercise

them. It is worth repeating- maintaining a healthy weight will prolong their life and will reduce their likelihood of painful injury. Always review your pet’s fitness plan with their vet.

#2 - Feeding Schedule. If you are still free feeding your pet this is a great place to start. Control the amount of their daily intake at scheduled times throughout the day. Once you have identified their portion size divide that into at least 2 meals. If your schedule allows for 3 per day even better. #3 - Reduce/Discontinue Snacks. Who doesn’t want to show our pet we love them by giving them a treat… right?  Food rewards will only perpetuate their weight problem. Especially difficult to gauge the calorie consumption for their proportional size are the human foods.   You must realize a 1 oz. cube of cheese given to a 25 lb. dog is the equivalent of a human eating 2 cheeseburgers!  One single potato chip is like us eating an entire chocolate bar.  So even if you have a 25-pound dog on a strict diet of 2/3 cup twice a day, that can all be ruined with an ounce or two of cheese. If you must give an occasional human treat try a small piece of apple, banana or a bite of carrot. Remember our pets most valuable reward in the world is our attention. Reward your pet with love, hugs, kisses and snuggles. Our undivided attention and praise are just as valuable to them as food. #4 - Increase Activity. The same principles apply with pet fitness as with humans…increase the burn and reduce the intake.  Adding some exercise will make a huge difference.  Start with a short walk and increase gradually.  Maybe your schedule does not allow long walks.  Get a ball and have your pet chase the ball even if it is while you sit on the couch watching TV. Also practice obedience, the mental exercise can provide increased calorie burn. Be strong for your loved one. They may act like they are starving all the time, begging etc. Their stomach will begin to adjust to their new plan.  Once Winter 2020 15


One Local Rescue Goes to Extraordinary Lengths to Save Asian Sighthounds from a Tragic Fate Cathy White - Walpole, NH


hile most Americans find the idea of consuming dog meat repulsive, in many nations, it’s commonplace. China and Korea are the largest consumers of dog. Surprisingly, any breed, from Golden Retriever to mutt will suffice, their meat value determined solely by their weight. Canines can and do come from anywhere. Street strays are snatched, pets (despite collars and tags) are stolen, “breeders” raise dogs specifically for meat. Dogs over a certain height are even seized by the government. Greyhound racing exists in the margins of legality, particularly near Beijing; but when dogs have outlived their usefulness as racers/ breeders, they land, at best, in overfull shelters. At worst, they are jammed onto trucks with other dogs on a twelve plus hour journey to vast slaughterhouses near the Korean border. In Chinese shelters, dogs aren’t spayed or neutered. They live in large, open pens, fending for themselves. The strongest get food, the weakest don’t. Few are adopted. And they all breed. 16 4 Legs & a Tail


So what hope do these dogs have? For some fortunate dogs, that’s where Fast Friends Greyhound Rescue (FF) in Swanzey, NH comes in. FF has previously worked with international adoptions; initially importing Irish racing greyhounds and Spanish “galgos” (rabbit-hunting sighthounds closely related to greys). But rescuing greyhounds from Asia was a unique challenge. It began when Sharron Thomas, FF’s director, became aware of and reached out to a British sighthound organization, Candy Cane Rescue (CCR), who had established ties in Beijing. Bringing dogs from China to New Hampshire is no small feat. Numerous volunteer organizations need to work cohesively to make this long-distance rescue possible. Given the horrific circumstances dogs were suffering in Asia, Sharron couldn’t look the other way and began to examine what it would take to get greyhounds here. Turns out, it takes an awful lot. Winter 2020

CCR works with other organizations, chief among them Plush Bear in China, which physically intercepts canine transport trucks en route to the slaughterhouses and purchases dogs on the spot. The stats are horrific: In a country with a population of 1.4 billion, 25% consume dog meat (that’s not including other Asian nations). Ten million dogs in China alone are butchered yearly for meat. Additionally, according to Plush Bear, “...there is currently not a single animal protection law that exists in China.” CCR pulls sighthounds from Plush Bear’s interceptive missions. Not all are greyhounds; lately, FF has also been rescuing Borzois. (Think “feathery” greyhounds.) The process of getting them here is a logistical marathon. Once the dogs are obtained from Plush Bear, they are then housed and cared for by CCR in Beijing. They go to a variety of global sighthound rescues from there, with CCR determining the best fits for each organization. The number of rescues, governments, customs, airlines, layovers, quarantines, facilitators and ultimately even the USDA that must necessarily be involved are mind-numbing. Without a veritable army of volunteers and devoted FF staff, none of this would be possible; even a human “air patron” is required for every five dogs exiting China. While dogs travel in a climate controlled cargo hold, that doesn’t make their journey any less grueling. Four hours are spent flying from Beijing to Taipei, where they then endure a threehour layover. Sixteen hours aloft again lands them at Chicago’s O’Hare. Their day in the air is followed by a road-trip, manned by two FF staff/volunteers who drive the dogs to Swanzey in the relative comfort of a special van. The dogs, who are anywhere from 7 months to 5 years old, have a bit of freedom in the back of their transport for this leg of the trip, but it’s still another endurance test. Upon arrival, the dogs are fed, bathed (which they don’t always appreciate), and quarantined (voluntarily by FF). They are checked over thoroughly by one of two local veterinarians, who inspect them head to toe and also perform cultures, swabs, and checks for canine influenza as part of their physicals. The dogs don’t know a word of English, only Mandarin; and they have had very little socialization with people or other dogs. But the staff at FF make it a priority to work extensively with them. Sharron says that “Our mantra here is never set them up to fail”, which means heaps of love, individual attention, snuggles, and socialization for Winter 2020


these exhausted pups. Sharron adds: “Our staff is everything. Every staff member loves every dog that comes through these doors.” Personifying that sentiment is Amy Roy, FF’s development director, who most recently shepherded their latest transport (a litter of Borzoi puppies, so neglected by their Asian “breeder” that he surrendered them to CCR) through the seemingly endless maze required to bring these Asian immigrants to their loving forever homes. She’s been to China on rescue missions five times this year!

It’s this dedication that sets FF apart. They’re now the model that other sighthound rescues countrywide look to in the hope of saving Asian dogs from the meat market. Their absolute commitment is reflected by their fantastic success rate in placing these beautiful dogs in happy homes. Keep flying, Fast Friends! Cathy White lives in Walpole with her husband Jeff and Labradors Harry and Pippa. Cathy is a Boston University alum, with a degree in Journalism. 17

How Forensic Science is Saving Wildlife Catherine Greenleaf

W ildlife trafficking is big business. According to multiple government investigations, poachers and smugglers earn $20 billion each year illegally capturing and transporting wildlife or wildlife body parts over the borders into foreign nations. Nearly every day, law enforcement officers at Miami International Airport seize and confiscate live birds, reptiles, and mammals from criminals attempting to smuggle animals into and out of the United States illegally for big profits. Wildlife body parts like the powder of rhino horns (which purportedly enhance male virility) or tigers’ whiskers (which supposedly prevent tooth aches) also offer a big cash pay-out to people willing to sneak these items over the border. The tragic irony is that 80% of all live smuggled animals die in transit. Even more disturbing are recent findings by global wildlife law enforcement that insurgent groups throughout Africa and the Middle East, including Al-Qaeda, are now turning to wildlife trafficking as a way to make big money, which is then used to buy weapons.

HOPE FOR WILDLIFE This is where wildlife forensics enters the picture. Wildlife forensics is the application of science during a criminal investigation regarding wildlife cruelty. The aim of forensics is to produce compelling evidence that links the animal in question with the suspect and the crime scene, thereby leading to a conviction and prison time. A wildlife forensic scientist is faced with quite a challenge. While a human forensic scientist must be knowledgeable about the male and female human body, the wildlife forensic scientist must know or have access to knowledge about the intricacies of thousands of species of animals. Imagine law enforcement bringing a tiny piece of bird bone to a forensic specialist and asking for identification. Thanks to improved, state-of-theart DNA analysis, identification can now be made quickly on thousands of species, speeding the prosecution of court cases. 18 4 Legs & a Tail

HISTORY OF AMERICAN WILDLIFE PROTECTION In the year 1900, the United States federal government took the first step ever to regulate ownership of wild animals by forming the Lacey Act. There had been a great deal of transport of live game between states during that era and non-indigenous animals were destroying valuable eco-systems and trampling farmers’ crops. However, hunting still went largely unregulated, resulting in the mass slaughter of wildlife. Hunters were shooting migrating hawks by the thousands as target practice every fall at Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania. Water bird populations in the Florida Everglades were decimated for their beautiful feathers to adorn ladies’ hats, and passenger pigeons were shot and killed by the millions, resulting in their extinction in 1914. And then the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1966. This was the first act formed to truly protect wildlife and had the teeth of enforcement. In 1969, the first list of Endangered Species was compiled by the Department of the Interior and released to the public. Today, the U.S. government also issues a Threatened List as well as a List of Species of Special Concern. In 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed, safeguarding whales, seals, walruses and manatees. NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN ENFORCEMENT Another big push toward stronger enforcement occurred in 1975,with the formation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. CITES maintains protection of 35,000 wild species all over the world. Over 175 countries, including the United States, are signed on to cooperate with CITES in its efforts to carefully monitor and prevent illegal poaching and smuggling. But the most promising development for wildlife protection occurred in 1989,when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory was opened in Ashland, Oregon. It is the only lab in the world completely dedicated to investigating crimes against Winter 2020

wildlife. The Ashland lab takes on 800 to 1,000 high-profile cases every year and has been instrumental in reducing the number of Pangolins being poached in southeast Asia. Thanks to the lab’s success in getting convictions, over 150 new wildlife forensic crime operations have opened in various countries around the globe in recent years, all of whom are modeling their practices on the Ashland protocols. WILDLIFE CRIME DOESN’T PAY Thanks to an anonymous phone tip and efforts by forensic experts, a Pennsylvania man just pleaded guilty to charges involving the poaching and smuggling of thousands of rare

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turtles from New Jersey marshes, which were sold to underground animal dealers in Canada. He is now facing prison time along with owing over $500,000 in fines. This case has had an astonishing chilling effect on some major black market operations, and law enforcement officials are crediting several new forensic technologies, along with enhanced DNA analysis, as instrumental in the swift apprehension and conviction of wildlife criminals. Catherine Greenleaf is the director of St. Francis Wild Bird Center in Lyme, N.H. If you find an injured bird, please call (603) 795-4850. 19

Alternatively Speaking: Grain Free Diets – Friend or Foe? Dr. Anne Carroll DVM, CVA - Chelsea, VT


he choice of what to feed dogs has always been a challenge, especially for those trying to use nutrition to promote health. The variety of pet food brands grows all the time with store shelves lined with flashy packaging, all saying they are better than the bag next to it. Even in our office, we are looking up new pet foods on a daily basis. The advent of grain-free (GF) diets has further complicated the choice especially with recent fears about nutritional links to heart disease in dogs, so it is no wonder that many shoppers feel uncertain in making food decisions for their furry family members. What is best is not an easy question to answer since the perfect ingredients or food type varies from dog to dog. We will try to tackle this universal issue in this first part of a two-part series. First, we will look at the history of dry foods for dogs, and how to read labels to know what you are buying. In the next edition, we will look at how to balance dry foods with fresh to minimize the effects of processed foods, and how to tell if what you are feeding is the ‘best’ for your dog. Let’s begin with how we got so many food choices to begin with. Years ago there were a handful of dry foods to pick from at the store. But as reliance on dry foods increased, pets ate less fresh meats and prey on the farm and inflammatory issues 20 4 Legs & a Tail

associated with processed diets started to be linked to medical issues. At first, new dry foods appeared in the veterinary office with special ingredients for allergies and digestive problems - lamb and rice! Changing ingredients helped many pets, so these foods were popular and pet food companies quickly started using similar ingredients. As a result, after a few decades, we have run out of ‘new’ proteins to use medically and vets use hydrolyzed (pre-digested) diets for patients, while stores have foods with bison and trout and just about everything imaginable. However using novel ingredients was not a cure for many pets, and the starch content in dry foods became suspect. Raw and dehydrated foods were not new but were starting to grow in popularity due to their lack of processed starches. Other small companies had a similar intent, to mimic a dog’s natural diet but wanted to keep the convenience of dry food. It is hard to make a cookie without a flour binder, but they developed an all-meat dry dog food, and ‘grain free’ (GF) dog food was born. Right or wrong, this feeding philosophy resonated with consumers and suddenly grains became taboo. Dog food makers scrambled to create their own GF diets and in some cases, bought up the original smaller companies to eliminate the competi-

tion. But to make GF food profitable in grocery aisles, they had to minimize the meat content and suddenly potatoes and all kinds of beans became a staple in dog food with the GF label. This shift in ingredients was not based on any nutritional wisdom to improve pet health, it was to preserve the bottom line. Now my goal is not to demonize the pet food industry. I do not doubt that diet formulators from the start thought we could achieve convenience and good nutritional using more profitable ingredients, just like we have done with production animals that eat corn instead of grass. Some still think that is true. But holistic opinion, supported by science and what we see in our medical offices, disagrees. Processing food alters its physical structure and nutrient content and changes how available it is to the body compared to fresh foods. Changing to atypical ingredients and processing them adds another layer of unpredictability. While Mother Nature may have things all figured out, we are still novices in understanding the intricacies of nutrition and how some foods enhance or interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients. This has never been more evident since this February when the FDA issued a warning that GF diets may be involved in some cases of heart disease in dogs. Winter 2020

We now know that the role of diet is less certain (see the links below for details) and the FDA’s most recent statement this July said this was a “complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors”. Using beans in dog food is relatively new and studies are ongoing to tell if anything in GF diets can impact heart health, it may not. But we do know that certain breeds can struggle to make or get taurine, cysteine, and methionine from their food, so it is possible that diets foreign to a dog’s natural menu may impact these nutrients and affect dogs with genetic risk for heart disease. Inflammation also plays a role in heart disease, and diet clearly impacts all of these factors. While we wait for answers, if you have a breed prone to heart disease, talk to your veterinarian about screening tests or nutritional supplementation no matter what food they are eating. So here we are back in the store, trying to pick a pet food. Many dogs do see a benefit from avoiding certain grains or meats, but you may want a diet with rice or potatoes and limited beans. So step one is to read the ingredient panel so you know what you are feeding. Remember, the bag is all advertising, and labeling rules allow them to say misleading things. For instance, you see fresh veggies, but on the list, there is more sugar than

carrots. Or the name says “turkey and sweet potato” but the ingredient list has chicken, beef, and fish too. Remember to read the whole list! Companies know that if the first ingredients are meat, they can often get away with less desirable things lower on the list. In GF diets, look for multiple beans like chickpeas, lentils, or peas, which when added up could mean the bag is half beans. Ideally, limit one bean and potato in the top 8 ingredients, and look for multiples such as pea fiber, peameal, peas, and dried peas. Each of those will be lower down on the list but together make peas a top ingredient. As for the panel that shows the percent of protein, fats, etc. these values tend to stay within set standards, and only a special medical diet would be dramatically different. We used to gauge the meat vs carbohydrate content of foods by adding up the fat, protein and moisture on the label – the remainder is carbs. But with GF foods, beans have protein too so they may be replacing meat content more than a grain would. Lastly, and more important for canned and raw foods, make sure the label says the diet is complete and meets AAFCO standards, and that it is appropriate for the breed and age of dog you are feeding. If you still need help deciding what is best for your dog, talking to your vet-

erinarian is a good place to start. In our practice, dietary goals are based on your dog’s constitution, which dictates what foods may be most helpful to keep him or her healthy. We will always try to include some fresh feeding, but dry foods are here to stay and are a good match for many dogs as part of their meal plan. Unfortunately we can’t help with the number of bags of food you will have to choose from, but armed with a little information hopefully you can now tell that you are getting what you intended to, and will have more time to go outside and play with your pup rather than be paralyzed in the pet food aisle! Dr. Anne Carroll is the owner of the Chelsea Animal Hospital where she and her associates practice conventional medicine and surgery as well as several alternative modalities including traditional Chinese acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. For more information on alternative veterinary medicine visit their website at .

*We will not sell or give your information to a third party R419

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February is National Pet Dental Health Month Erin Forbes, DVM - Mountain View Animal Hospital


he Vermont Veterinary Medical Association would like to remind all pet owners that February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), National Pet Dental Health Month message reminds pet owners that dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health. Your pet’s teeth and gums should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian to check for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy. Veterinary dentistry includes the scaling, polishing, extraction, or repair of your pet’s teeth and all other aspects of oral health care. These procedures must be performed by a veterinarian and begins with an oral exam of your pet’s mouth. If there is dental disease present, dental work will be recommended. Most dental

disease occurs below the gumline, where you can’t see it, so dental work is all performed under anesthesia in order to be safe and effective. Signs of dental disease include bad breath, broken or loose teeth, abnormal chewing or drooling. One may also notice bleeding from the mouth, reduced appetite, and swelling around the mouth. If you notice any of these signs, schedule an exam for your pet. Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats, in fact by the time your pet is 3 years old there is an estimated 70 percent chance they will have periodontal disease. The earlier it is detected, the faster treatment can be recommended, which is important as advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet. Periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition of the

gum and bone support (periodontal tissues) surrounding the teeth. It starts with plaque that hardens into calculus. Calculus above the gumline can often easily be seen and removed, but below the gumline it is damaging and can cause infections and damage to the tissues or bone. This can cause loose teeth, bone loss, pain around the tooth, and fractured teeth. Prevention of periodontal disease in pets consists of frequent removal of the dental calculus that forms on teeth that are not kept clean. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy between dental cleanings and may reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Daily brushing is best, but it’s not always possible and brushing several times a week can be effective. Most dogs accept brushing, but cats can be a bit more resistant – patience and training are important. There are many pet products marketed with claims that they improve dental health, but not all of them are effective. Look for a seal of approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) and make sure to discuss any dental products/diets you are considering with your veterinarian. If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s dental health, please contact your veterinarian. The Vermont Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA), founded in 1898, is a professional organization of 370 veterinarians dedicated to compassionate animal care and quality medicine.

22 4 Legs & a Tail

Winter 2020

Feline Tooth Resorption Farrell Campbell


t might surprise some readers of this article that cats don’t brush their teeth. Although our feline companions are stereotypically fastidiously clean creatures, they seem to have not picked up the importance of dental hygiene. As a result, the majority of cats seen in veterinary practices suffer from a variety of dental ailments. All sarcasm aside, dental disease is consistently one of the top 5 medical problems Veterinarians diagnose in our feline patients. Some clinicians may even argue that dental disease is the number one ailment of cats. Of the many dental diseases that affect cats, tooth resorption is the most common condition. Tooth resorption is so common that greater than half of all cats older than three years old will have at least one tooth affected by resorption. The exact cause of tooth resorption is

Key Points of Feline Tooth Resorption: 4 The diagnosis is best

established with probing and radiographs.

4 The cause has not been

Lesions can be seen where the tooth meets the gum.

unknown, but theories supporting an autoimmune response, calicivirus and metabolic imbalances relating to calcium regulation have been proposed. Tooth resorption lesions typically begin on the outside of the tooth where the gum meets the dental surface and the resorption may extend into the root, the crown or in both directions. There are five recognized stages of tooth resorption. Initially in stage 1 only an enamel defect is noted. The lesion is usually minimally sensitive because it has not entered the dentin. In stage 2, the lesion penetrates enamel and dentin. When resorption progresses into the pulp chamber (nerve) stage 3 has occurred. In stage 4, large amounts of the tooth’s hard structure have been destroyed. By the time stage 5 has occurred, most of the tooth has been resorbed, leaving only a bump covered by gum tissue.  An oral exam by your veterinarian is key to identifying this common ailment. Physical examination may show localized or generalized gingivitis (gum inflammation) which can be suggestive

of the presence of tooth resorption. Tooth resorption lesions may not be visible due to presence of calculus (tartar) or may be located subgingivally (under the gums). Tooth resorption may be diagnosed by visualization or exploring with a dental explorer. Chattering of the jaw, due to discomfort, may sometimes occur when a resorptive lesion is probed, but this can occur whenever dentin is exposed. Therefore, a definitive diagnosis of tooth resorption is best established with both probing and dental radiographs (X-rays) which allows the clinician to evaluate the root structure of suspicious teeth.  Besides knowing that tooth resorption is extremely common in cats, it’s also important to realize that this disease is painful. Cats are very careful not to demonstrate pain. Signs of pain can be very subtle in cats with this condition. You might notice more calculus in specific areas of the mouth, gingival inflammation (possibly the only sign), increased salivation or changes in food preferences. Owners typically fail to realize their cat is in pain until after they experience behavioral changes (happier and more playful cats) subsequent to treatment for these resorbing teeth.  The best treatment for tooth resorption is dental extraction. Unfortunately, this is easier stated, than performed. These teeth are fragile and usually fracture during extraction. Dental radiographs are essential for extracting these teeth because they help the Veterinarian find fractured root fragments. The entire tooth should be removed to avoid infection or other problems.

proven, so extraction is the best treatment.

4 The condition is painful

and should not be ignored.

4 Cats that have one

affected tooth will most likely have more in the future and need dental radiographs periodically throughout life.

Winter 2020 23

H elen K eller’s Dogs Kate Kelly

The family looked for solutions, consulting doctors and other advisors. For Helen, they hired an aide to be with her at all times. Helen encountered much frustration and vented her emotions by having tantrums. By necessity, she and her companion devised a personal form of sign language so that Helen could make her basic wants known, but she was young, and the process was imperfect. Her calmest, happiest moments were with the family dogs.


elen Keller’s life was filled with dogs. Though she was born before dogs were being trained as guide dogs for the blind, Keller knew what dog lovers around the world know—dogs are great companions. “A dog never let me down,” she once wrote. Helen Keller’s Childhood Helen Keller was born to a well-to-do family in Tuscumbia, Alabama. When she was just 19 months, she became ill with what was probably scarlet fever. When she recovered from the illness, she was deaf and blind. 24 4 Legs & a Tail

Anne Sullivan Arrives Helen was almost 7 when the family connected with Anne Sullivan who was recommended by the staff of the Perkins School for the Blind. Sullivan could identify with some of what Helen experienced as she had low vision, even after several surgeries on her own eyes. Sullivan’s early work with Helen required patience. Helen was accustomed to getting what she wanted, and she fought and kicked if she was not satisfied. Sullivan asked that she and Helen be permitted to live alone in a small cottage elsewhere on the property so that Helen would learn to trust and rely on her. Sullivan knew that if there was a way to build more advanced communication between the two of them, then she needed to teach Helen sign language. Because Helen could not see the signing, Anne would teach by making the signs in the palm of Helen’s hand. Winter 2020

The Breakthrough As they worked together, Sullivan signed various words in Helen’s palm over and over again. Helen learned to mimic some of the spellings but did not understand the purpose of what she was doing. As correctly depicted in The Miracle Worker, it was Sullivan’s spelling of the word “water” followed by putting Helen’s hand under cold running water that opened the world to Helen. Once Helen understood that the hand movements provided information on specific objects, she was hungry for knowledge. She eagerly went from object to object for Sullivan to provide her with the name. Within a matter of days, Helen learned more than a hundred words. Family Dogs Numerous photographs of Helen Keller depict her with various dogs. When Helen was a girl, her dog Belle was a particular favorite. She writes that she tried to teach Belle sign language, but Belle was utterly bored by the process and napped instead. The family also had a dog named Jumbo that may have been a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and there was a bull mastiff named Lioness. Teaching Continues The Kellers managed to work out a plan where Anne Sullivan remained with their daughter for the rest of her schooling and beyond. Sullivan accompanied her to boarding school, and Helen fulfilled her dream of being accepted to attend Radcliffe. During this time, Sullivan married a fellow named John Macy who also became a part of Helen’s life.

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Dog at Radcliffe By the time, Helen Keller entered Radcliffe, newspaper reporters often took note of her whereabouts and her activities. One story that became syndicated concerned a visit Helen and classmates made to a dog kennel in nearby Newton, Massachusetts: “Last October the group visited the Newton Kennels. One of the keepers released the dog, Sir Thomas. Though the dog was said to be averse to strangers, he deliberately looked over the group of girls and walked over to Miss Keller and laid his head on her knee. Efforts to entice him away were in vain. “Since that time, the blind girl [sic] often expressed a wish to own Sir Thomas [identified as a Boston terrier], but without any expectation of doing so. Her college friends took up a collection and purchased the dog to present to her.” Helen was thrilled when she received the little dog as a gift. At some point, Sir Thomas Belvedere became known as “Phiz.” Phiz was with Helen on campus at all times, patiently sleeping through college lectures.

Helen to take care of her financial needs for the rest of her life. She continued to travel and speak on their behalf until she suffered a stroke in 1961 and had to curtain her work.

Life Continues After receiving her college degree, Helen Keller lived with Anne Sullivan Macy and her husband John Macy, who was now part of Helen’s support team. During this time, Keller devoted herself to writing and campaigning for what she believed. She stood up for worker rights, women’s suffrage, and became involved in the newly-formed American Civil Liberties Union. However, her primary focus was campaigning for funds to help the blind. She became the official representative of the American Foundation for the Blind and traveled the world for the cause. During the Depression, administrators with the AFB established a trust for

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People and Dogs in Her Life Anne Sullivan Macy’s devotion to Helen was life-long. Though she and John Macy eventually divorced, Helen continued to live with Anne, and John remained part of their support system. Later when Anne Sullivan Macy suffered health problems, Helen and Anne added an assistant to their team. Polly Thompson became an important figure in the household and traveled frequently with the women. As an adult, Helen always kept dogs with her. One dog was named Stubby, and a French bull terrier was called Kaiser. Helen described Sieglinde, a Great Dane, as the most beautiful and intelligent of her dogs. (More on Sieglinde in a moment.) First To Bring Akita to U.S. In the late 1930s, Helen Keller visited Japan on behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind. She was enor- 25

mously popular with the Japanese, and she loved her experiences there. During her trip, she heard the story of Hachiko, a loyal Akita (a medium-sized Japanese breed). Hachiko lived with his owner near Shibuya (the business center of Tokyo). One day the man left on a business trip for Hong Kong, leaving the dog with others. The fellow died during his travels, but for the rest of his life, Hachiko met the train that should have brought his owner home. At the Shibuya train station, there is a bronze statue honoring Hachiko. Keller loved meeting other Akita dogs while there, and the story of Hachiko’s devotion truly touched her. She asked if she could have an Akita to take back to the United States. A few months later, a well-known Japanese Akita breeder sent a staff member to the United States by ship with a gift for Keller… an Akita named Kamikaze-Go. New Akita Arrives Only months after the dog’s arrival to live with his new mistress, he died of distemper. (There was no commercially available vaccine for the disease until 1950.) When the breeder heard what happened, he sent KenzanGo, a younger brother of Kamikaze as a replacement. Kenzan lived many years with Keller. She referred to the breed as “angels in fur—gentle, companionable, and trusty.” Kenzan-Go, however, must have been a bit of a wanderer. There are two separate mentions in Connecticut newspapers (Keller and Sullivan Macy lived in Easton, Connecticut for a time) noting that the police received a call about the fact that “Helen Keller’s Japanese dog” was missing. The dog was always found, but the household members must have been very worried. “If I Could Choose but Two Items…” In late 1929, Helen Keller was in Paterson, New Jersey, where her purebred Great Dane, Sieglinde, was to be shown in a dog show. While there, she visited a school, and a local columnist named Arthur Dean reported on her visit with the children: She told them: “Were my Maker to grant me but a single glance through these sightless eyes, and I could choose but two objects to behold, I would without question pray that my eyes portray of all things beautiful, first a child and then a dog.”

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And More About Sieglinde Sieglinde, the Great Dane, was to make headlines later for learning to talk. In 1926, a reporter named Virginia Swain visited the Keller household to learn more about this amazing feat. The sub-headline to her resulting story read: “Virginia Swain Hears Canine, Taught Like Blind Girl, Say Mama.” The article is priceless on many levels, but from the beginning, Swain realizes this is no ordinary pet. She is let in by a houseman and Swain writes: ”A great tawny animal catapulted against me and I staggered.” “Sieglinde won’t hurt you,” the houseman reassured her about the animal Swain describes as “the color of honey and “smaller than a pony.” Winter 2020

Swain is then joined by Helen Keller’s assistant, Miss Polly Thompson. Thompson enters the room andspeaks to the dog. Swain: “Sieglinde ceased her gyrations and climbed upon the davenport.” As Thompson talks of the dog, she explained to Swain that Sieglinde never gets out of anyone’s way—except for Helen’s. “If we stumble over her, she considers it our own affair.” But when Helen enters the room, Sieglinde steps aside and watches her master until she is settled. Once Miss Keller sits down, Sieglinde runs to her puts her head in her lap to be petted. Teaching the Dog to Talk Sieglinde lived in the household for a few years, and the women were impressed by her intelligence. One day Mrs. Macy announced that she thought the dog could be taught to talk. She used cakes for training and started with the word “mama.” Though Helen learned to voice sound by feeling the vibrations in Sullivan’s throat, the women felt Sieglinde could be taught to imitate sound by hearing it. Work with the dog became a pleasant entertainment for the women, but when nothing happened, Helen asked them to stop. She felt Sieglinde was unsettled by not being able to learn what was being taught. “Mama” Then Thompson explained: “A couple of months later we were all in the study when Sieglinde suddenly sat up and said “Mama!" “We all startled at the noise.” Over time, Mrs. Macy worked with her further to refine the sound, and now Sieglinde very clearly says “Mama!” Swain verified that the dog really did say the word. She concluded the article with: “The dog now knows that’s her trump card." “We are quite accustomed, when the meat platter passes, to hear a pathetic voice calling ‘mama from Sieglinde’s side of the table,” says Miss Thompson. “If anybody questions the story, we are always ready to prove it.” Thompson noted that they had not shared this story before was “because we should have to carry Sieglinde around country with us to prove the story. And she is too heavy to travel with.” One presumes Sieglinde got to travel a little more than before. The Love of a Dog “Nobody, who is not blind, as much as they may love their pet, can know what a dog’s love really means,” Helen Keller once told an interviewer. Even without sight or hearing, she could feel the inquisitive nudge of a dog’s wet nose and sense the love from a canine as he rested his head in her lap. While any lover of dogs will feel that they, too, understand the importance of the love of a pet, no one will disagree with the fact that Helen Keller set a stellar example of human spirit and potential. If she achieved what she did with a dog by her side, so much the better for her and for the world. Winter 2020

This article first appeared on the website, America Comes Alive publishes more stories about American dogs and other animals. Visit the website and sign up for “American Dogs” to receive the stories in your In Box. Or email Kate Kelly at 27

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