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March/April 2015

a lifestyle magazine for dog lovers




Choosing your veterinarian Recognizing household dangers The importance of dental care


Advancements in physical therapy


New hope in cancer treatment Vol.3, No. 4

f ree!

2 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

Subscribe Publisher: 2U Ventures, LLC 8323 Cleveland St. W Coopersville, MI 49404 Editor: Mary Ullmer Creative Director: Kevin Kyser Dogs Unleashed is a bi-monthly magazine especially for dog lovers. It is available free throughout West Michigan. It also can be purchased via mail-order subscription by sending a check for $24 for 1 year or $36 for 2 years to 2U Ventures LLC/Dogs Unleashed, 8323 Cleveland St. W, Coopersville, MI, 49404 To advertise in Dogs Unleashed, contact All material published in Dogs Unleashed is copyrighted © by 2U Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction of material presented in Dogs Unleashed is prohibited without written permission. Contents are for entertainment only. Publisher assumes no responsibility for the accuracy, safety or performance of information or products presented. The opinions presented are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or judgment of the publisher or advertisers. Send photos, questions or comments to: Find us online! Website: Facebook: DogsUnleashedMagazine

Printed in the U.S.A.

Today! Every other month you get: • Expert advice

from Pet Supplies Plus

• Fetch! Products • Entertaining stories • Great photography • Products, services and discounts from great advertisers!


PeRFeCt hOSt John O’Hurley on dogs, books, life and, yes, J. Peterman

3 for the show A trio of new breeds debuts at this year’s National Dog Show

Pooch Patrol

Wyoming K9s protect and serve Vol.2, No.2

Visit To subscribe contact Also available at various locations throughout West Michigan!


5 Canine Calendar 6 Fetch! 7 Paws-Ability 8 The Groom Room 10 Ask The Vet 12 Spotlight: Laughfest 14 Doctors: Vet Care 18 Issues: Doggy Dangers 20 Doctors: Physical Therapy 23 Doctors: Dentistry 26 Doctors: Oncology 30 The Tail End

on the cover

photo by Cheryl baase

Yes, we’re suckers for Jack Russell terriers. And how could we not love Stewart, the 7-year-old rescued JRT who has a knack for posing in any situation? Cheryl Baase of Express Yourself Photography in Lansing shot this issue’s cover photo of Stewart, owned by Angela Ludwig of Okemos.

March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 3


who we are

Writing: Marie Havenga (Doggy Doctors: Finding A Vet), Susan HarrisonWolffis (Doggy Doctors: Dental, The Tail End), Dr. Shannon R. Klein (Ask the Vet), David LeMieux (Doggy Doctors: Physical Therapy), Linda Odette (Fetch, LaughFest), Kristie Swan (Paws-Ability), Melissa VerPlank (The Groom Room), Jennifer Waters (Doggy Doctors: Oncology)

Mary Ullmer (Editor), is a former manager, editor, reporter and blogger who previously worked for the Grand Rapids Press, Chicago Tribune, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Springfield News-Leader and Muskegon Chronicle. Email her at

Additional photography: Cheryl Baase Cartoonist: Jonny Hawkins Copy editing: Linda Odette

West Michigan Spay & Neuter Clinic

6130 Airline Road Fruitport, MI 49415

TO SUBSCRIBE To have Dogs Unleashed delivered to your home, send a check ($24 for 1-year subscription, $36 for 2 years) payable to: 2U Ventures, LLC/Dogs Unleashed 8323 Cleveland St. W Coopersville, MI 49404

Worry-free Pet Solutions

from yard to door to couches and more. Guaranteed.

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Kevin Kyser (Creative Director), owns Kyser Design Werks, a full-service branding and marketing firm. Kevin and his wife Jody have four children, four cats and a 150-pound Lab/ Rottweiler mix named Gus. Email him at Jennifer Waters (Photographer), is a professional pet photographer at Grumpy Pups Pet Photography, (ad on p. 28) She also is a freelance writer and volunteer photographer at Harbor Humane Society. She credits her three boxers — the original “grumpy pups” — for her love of working with animals. View her work at or contact Jennifer at



Paws 2 Remember, 6 p.m., Hospice of North Ottawa, 1061 S. Beacon, Suite 100, Grand Haven. A pet loss grief support group presented by Clock Timeless Pets. Free. For information, call (231) 7223721 or (616) 844-4200. Also held April 7.


LaughFest 2015 People & Pets, noon-3 p.m., Grand Rapids Community College’s Ford Fieldhouse, 111 Lyon NE, Grand Rapids. Vendors, demonstrations, food, contests and fun as people and their pets gather to benefit Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids for this annual event. Free. For more info, go to


Toddler Tails, 10-10:45 a.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Designed for ages 2-4 and includes stories, activities, crafts and animal interactions. Cost is $5 per family. Contact Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 7918066 or Also held Feb. 10.


Baby Ready Pets, noon2 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. A workshop to help prepare your pet for the arrival of your bundle of joy. With a little training and assistance, you can make it a safe and stressfree experience for the whole family. Contact Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 7918066 or


Family Fun K-9 Expo & Dog Jog, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Orchard View Adult Education Center, 2900 E. Apple Ave., Muskegon. Vendors, educational demonstrations, face painting for kids and games are all part of this

free fundraiser for Pound Buddies. Participants must pre-register for the indoor Dog Jog, and $15 registration includes t-shirt and gourmet dog treat from Ebby’s Bakery. For information, call OV Community Education (231) 760-1350 or go to the Pound Buddies Facebook page.


Paws 2 Remember, 6 p.m., Scolnik Healing Center, 888 Terrace St., Muskegon. Pet loss grief support group presented by Clock Timeless Pets. Free. For information, call (231) 722-3721 or (616) 844-4200. Also held April 20.


West Michigan Pet Expo, Delta Plex Arena, 2500 Turner NW, Grand Rapids. Pet-related vendors, animal-related entertainment, informative seminars, adoptions area and more. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children 5-12 and free for children ages 4 and under and can be purchased at the door or in advance at the Delta Plex box office.


Paws, Claws & Corks, 6-9 p.m., Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place, 303 Monroe NW, Grand Rapids. The third annual event to benefit the Humane Society of West Michigan will feature the hottest restaurants, breweries and wineries in West Michigan. Guests enjoy fabulous cuisine, beer and wine samples and an incredible auction. Cost is $100 per person, and sponsorship and corporate tables are available. Contact Tammy Hagedorn (616) 791-8138 or thagedorn@



Companion Animal Grief Support, 6-7 p.m., Fountain Street Church, 24 Fountain NE, Grand Rapids. Group sessions offer a safe, confidential, structured

CANINE CALENDAR environment and are conducted by facilitator Ginny Mikita. Free. Street parking available (meters do not require payment after 6 p.m.). To register or for more info, contact Ginny Mikita (616) 460-0373 or


Spring Break Mini Camp, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan,, 3077 Wilson NW, Grand Rapids. Join the animals of HSWM for a fun-filled three days. Each day will feature presentations, games, crafts and snuggle time with animals. Cost is $55. Register at or contact Jen Self-Aulgur (616) 7918066 or


Furry Friday Films, 5:309:30 p.m., Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Drive NW, Grand Rapids. Kids in grades K-5 are invited to join HSWM for animal time, games, crafts and an animal movie. Pizza, pop and popcorn provided. Cost is $25 per child with a $10 sibling discount. Contact Jen SelfAulgur (616) 791-8066 or jaulgur@


Chow Hound Pet Expo, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Chow Hound Pet Supplies, 7485 Cottonwood Drive, Jenison. Activities include balloon twisting and face painting for kids, free pet food samples, information from manufacturers’ representatives and pet rescues, $5 self-serve dog washes and savings all day inside the store. Free.


Guest bartenders, 3-5 p.m., Old Boys Brewhouse, 971 West Savidge, Spring Lake. Join Diane (Ross) Schindlebeck of Clock’s Timeless Pets and Deb Rewitzer of Fur Crazy Pet Salon as they pour the drinks for this second annual event. Proceeds from drinks served during the two-hour timeframe benefit the Spring Lake Dog Park.

March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 5



SEE SPOT JUMP What it is: Affordable Agility in a Bag is a portable agility course for having fun outside with your dog. But wait, there’s more: The course is easy to set up, obstacles can be adjusted for big or small dogs, and the pieces fit into a bag so you can take it with you for summer fun. Fetch it: Affordable Agility Inc. makes the course and sells it online for $184.95 plus shipping at

A CAN CAN BE SHARP LOOKING What it is: The Classic Dog Food Storage Canister hides ugly bags of dog food in a stylish container made of recycled steel. But wait, there’s more: There are three sizes, with the large one holding 40 pounds of food, and the containers include an aluminum scoop. Treat tins for counter tops also are available. Fetch it: Prices range from $52 to $60. You’ll find similar products at

HOME COOKED TREATS What it is: Shaggy Dog Eats! is a dog treat cookbook full of healthy snack ideas. The author is Christy Bright and she includes recipes for every taste and sensitivity. But wait, there’s more: The treats are easy to make and a portion of book sales goes to animal rescue. Fetch it: The book costs $17.41 from and $2.99 from Kindle.

6 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

LET’S GO FOR A STROLL What it is: A fashionable stroller for your pet, which opens with a zipper and features a waterproof liner and fleece pad inside. But wait, there’s more: This Pet Gear Happy Trails stroller has everything from front swivel wheels to shock absorbers and rear brakes. It can hold dogs up to 30 pounds. The weather cover is sold separately. Fetch it: The stroller and cover together cost about $145 and are available online. For a look at the variety of pet strollers check out



Submission? Belly rub? Rolling over might not mean what you think One of the issues many dog trainers face is all of the erroneous, misunderstood or downright false information floating around regarding dog behavior. Fortunately, more and more scientists are studying our furry friends and helping to dispel some of the mythology. Most recently, a study was done on dogs rolling onto their backs. “Roll over!” It’s an age-old trick for dogs to plop down and roll completely over. Many dogs do it quite awkwardly, which often brings smiles or laughter from their people. There also is the idea of a dog rolling onto its back and exposing its belly. This has been labeled as an “ask” for a belly rub and very often as an act of submission during play. The latter was the subject of a recent study done in Canada and South Africa and published in Behavioural Processes. What researchers found was that a roll onto the back during play was more consistent with a combat maneuver than a show of submission. Forty play sequences were observed and four categories of roll over were determined. Missing from those categories was the idea of the “submissive” roll over. Offensive roll overs occurred during rough play when one dog was trying to gain access to the nape of the other dog’s neck. A forward lunge and grab motion preceded the roll in an attempt to gain better access to the play partner’s neck. With this same rough play sequence in mind, a dog avoiding the neck grab may twist away and roll, ending up on his back. This defensive maneuver puts the neck out of reach and allows the use of legs and paws as a block. A third category is the solicitation roll over. This often follows a play bow. The body tends to be loose and the solicitor gazes at the potential playmate. If the object of the attempt does not respond, the sequence may happen again or the dog may just stand and walk away, hoping for a more playful subject. The final use for the roll over seems to be just taking a break. This type of roll onto the back has no seeming connection to play or other dogs. The researchers felt this type of roll onto the back was not a social cue of any kind. While this research was done on dog-to-dog play, it may be helpful for humans to think about the next time a dog rolls

Remember to look at all the indicators before assuming what a dog’s position means. over in front of them. The most common reaction is “Oh, she wants a belly rub!” Remember to look at all the indicators before assuming what a dog’s position means. If the body is stiff and the whites of the eyes are showing (whale eye), this may not be a request for a belly rub. As it is in dog play, it could be a maneuver to avoid engagement or positioning for combat. Kristie Swan, a certified professional dog trainer, is head trainer and manager at Whiskers University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Contact her at (616) 575-5660 or

March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 7

the groom room

melissa verplank

New to grooming? Find the right groomer, and prepare for your first visit Skilled groomers do more than just cut hair. They have a wide variety of products, tools and equipment to make the grooming process go quickly and smoothly. Talented stylists use their skills and techniques to bring out the best in your pet. Seasoned groomers are also professional observers and can spot potential problems before they become serious and can also offer suggestions for solutions. If it is a medical condition, they will refer the client to the veterinarian. Q. How can I find a new groomer? A. Ask for referrals. Referrals can come from a variety of sources. Friends and family are a great place to start. So is your vet. If you are moving and have a great relationship with your current groomer, ask for recommendations. They often have the knowledge and resources to help you find a new pet stylist. And the bonus? Most groomers will happily transfer your pet’s trim records to the new salon. You can also check the local dog park or any small service-based business where people like to sit and chat, like a coffee shop or hair salon. Q. How you do spot a high quality salon? A. Licensing and/or training is not required of professional groomers. Unfortunately, there are

vast differences in skill levels and services being offered. Even if you have a referral, make sure to visit the salon before booking an appointment. Signs that you are in a top notch salon (most salons will not have them all, but the

8 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

more, the better): • Is the salon neat and organized? Trust your instincts. • What type of training (formal or self-directed) have they had? Do they have certificates, plaques, photos or awards on display? Are they involved in conformational dog shows? • Are they certified by voluntary organizations such as the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA), International Professional Groomers, Inc. (IPG) or International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC)? • Do the stylists present themselves in a professional manner? • Are brochures or price lists available? • Do they display photos of their work or have testimonials in the salon or on social media? • Terms such as hand scissoring, fluff drying, hand-stripping, breed profile trimming, show grooming, award-winning or individual attention indicate the salon offers knowledgeable, safe and high-quality grooming services. Q. How can I prepare my dog for his first grooming appointment? A. Start him off early! As soon

as a puppy has had all initial shots, it’s time to head to the groomer. Most grooming salons offer some type of puppy introduction. It’s important to get dogs to the grooming table before a full grooming is actually required. That way, the dog can be gradually introduced to the process in a way that is fun and enjoyable. How to accustom your pet to the grooming process: • Practice brushing. When started young, and when done gently, most dogs learn to enjoy being brushed. Plus, it’s a great bonding experience.

• Handle/hold their feet. Play with their toes. • If your pet has facial hair, gently hold the hair to steady the head while you gently comb, brush and stroke his muzzle, around the eyes, the top of the head and ears. Most young dogs will mildly object to some of the grooming process. As always, it’s important to set rules and limitations for acceptable behavior. The goal is to have a well-behaved pet that enjoys grooming. To do so, you need to win his trust and cooperation through consistent and gentle training. Q. Is there anything I should bring to the grooming appointment to make it easier for the groomer? A. No. You don’t need to bring food

or extra clothing to get your own hair styled. Neither does your pet. Nothing else is needed for a typical grooming appointment. However, it is important that your pet has had an opportunity to relieve himself or walk off excess energy prior to the appointment. When you enter the salon, your pet must be under complete control, either in a kennel or on a leash. Q. What should I do if my dog seems nervous, afraid or aggressive for his groom? A. Dogs sense energy. If you’re

apprehensive, your dog will pick up on it and display it by being nervous, afraid or aggressive at the initial meeting. Typically, once an owner leaves, their pet’s behavior improves significantly. However, some dogs just do not do well with the grooming process. There are many factors that could influence this. It could be the groomer, the salon setting, the groomer’s experience level or a previous experience. Don’t be afraid to ask your groomer how your pet did for the process. If

the dog was challenging, your groomer should be honest about the behavior. If that is the case, your groomer may offer tips for making the pet more comfortable for future visits or refer you to another facility that might be better suited to handle your pet’s grooming and behavioral needs.

Many salons offer discounted pricing for their weekly and bi-weekly clients. Talk with your groomer about how often you should bring your pet in for professional grooming. Remember, a capable pet stylist can bring out the best of any dog and make him look and feel fabulous.

• How easily his coat tangles. • How clean you want him to be. • Whether your dog sleeps on your bed. • How much maintenance you are willing to do between appointments. Most dogs should be groomed every 4 to 6 weeks. However, if your dog has a challenging coat, or shares your home, furniture, or even your bed, weekly or bi-weekly bathing is best.

Melissa Verplank has more than 30 years of experience in the pet industry. She has won numerous national and international awards for her mastery of grooming and is author of the award-winning books “Notes From the Grooming Table” and “Theory of Five.” She also is creator of Learn2GroomDogs. com, an online educational video library for pet grooming, and has owned multiple West Michigan pet companies, including Paragon School of Pet Grooming and Whiskers Pet Resort and Spa.

Q. How often should my dog go to the groomer? A. Most pets benefit from regular and consistent visits, but this depends on many factors:



Full Service Animal Care • Pharmacy • Surgery • Dental • Lab • Xray • Laser • Boarding • Grooming

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BAKER.EDU March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 9

ask the vet

dr. klein

The reason behind year-round heartworm prevention Q: I remember giving heartworm prevention to my dog only during warm months. Why does my vet tell me to give it all year now, and why do I have to have my dog tested yearly if I give prevention all the time? A: In order to understand this, you need to know the life cycle of the heartworm and the way prevention works. Heartworm disease

is transferred from carrier to your pet by mosquitos. The mosquito bites an infected carrier animal (coyote, fox, wolf, other dogs) and ingests blood.

When they do this, they ingest microscopic larva shed from the adult worm in the host’s heart. This larva matures to its infective phase within the mosquito. When the mosquito next feeds, infective larvae are shed in the mosquito saliva and enter the blood of the new host, where they migrate to the heart and pulmonary arteries to mature. The new adult heartworms begin shedding larva within the new carrier over the course of six to nine months. Heartworm “prevention” is not a prevention of infection by mosquito. It does not prevent a mosquito from biting, and it does not prevent the mosquito from passing larva into the pet. Heartworm prevention works to

kill any transmitted larva in the course of their migration and maturation, to prevent adult heartworms from establishing infection and shedding more larva. The prevention only has a retroactive kill time of about 30 to 45 days. It also only kills certain larval stages. If you are a couple of weeks late on your prevention, or a larva matures past a susceptible stage, the medication will not prevent adult infection. Your pet could be on prevention year-round, but if one of those larvae are missed and reach maturity, heartworm disease can still occur. Giving heartworm prevention to a pet with heartworm disease can have



616-935-7551 10 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015


ask the vet

dr. klein

Even in areas where temperatures reach low levels and mosquitoes should be hibernating for months, prevention is still needed. catastrophic results, so annual testing makes sure we find out if any of those larvae survived and confirms it is safe to stay on prevention. Even in areas where temperatures reach low levels and mosquitoes should be hibernating for months, prevention is still needed. There is enough variance in temperatures that a single warm day can get mosquitoes up and about. The presence of a wood burning stove or fireplace means that mosquitoes will warm up and become active once wood is brought indoors. Here in Michigan, where we have had sub-zero temperatures this winter, I have killed living mosquitoes in my house at least weekly, and I do not have a wood stove or fireplace.

Despite trying to educate pet owners, promote year-round heartworm prevention and having readily available prevention, cases of heartworm disease are still increasing. The cost of prevention and annual testing may seem like a lot, especially when “the test is always negative.” A negative test is a good thing! That means the medication worked, was given on time and your pet is safe. Treatment for heartworm disease, on the other hand, is extremely expensive, extremely painful and requires cage rest for your pet essentially 24/7 for three months. Another thing to consider is that heartworm disease can be transmitted accidentally to other species, such as

cats and even humans. These accidental infections are frequently fatal. Veterinarians do not recommend year-round prevention and annual testing to make money. In fact, we profit minimally from the sale of product or from the test. Our recommendations stem from wanting to protect the health and well being of your pet and your entire family. Shannon R. Klein, DVM, is an Associate Veterinarian at Rogue Valley Veterinary Hospital, specializing in internal medicine. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and previously worked in emergency and critical care medicine. She has 13 years of experience in veterinary medicine.

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• Wellness Exams • Dentistry • Diagnostics • Specialty & General Surgery • Intensive Care

• Spay & Neuter • Radiology • Physical Rehabilitation • Dog Training • Boarding • Dog Daycare You can get more expert advice in Dr. Comrie’s “Ask the Vet” column.

616-863-9390 • • 4210 14 Mile Road • Rockford March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 11

spotlight event


Need a good laugh?

Head to LaughFest’s People & Pets event PHOTOs By jennifer waters

Toby, complete with his spaghetti-and-meatballs plate, served up the winning costume at last year’s People & Pets portion of LaughFest.



eople — and dogs — are guaranteed to be laughing at the Gilda’s LaughFest 2015 People & Pets event. What? You didn’t know dogs laughed? Scientific research by none other than Charles Darwin has shown they do, but more on that later. Dogs and other pets at the LaughFest event will be able to compete in contests for best costume, best trick and pet-owner look alike. Dogs registering for events will get to strut their stuff in front of area celebrity judges. Vendor tables, giveaways, prizes, an obstacle course created by the Barry County 4-H Club and hotdogs from Yesterdog also will be part of the fun. “Lots of people are excited and proud to show off their dog,” said Jimmy Le, director of the pet event. “It’s amazing what they put into a costume.” Owners often like to dress up to

12 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

complement their dog’s costume, Le said, recalling a Dachshund dressed in a prisoner outfit roaming around with two children, also dressed in prisoner garb. For those who want to pamper their pet, there will be stations for pet massages, “peticures” and bandanna making. For a $5 donation, a photographer will take your dog’s picture to go up on a photo wall. “It’s a good time,” Le said. “It’s giving back to a charity I love because of its mission.” Gilda’s LaughFest is named for Gilda Radner, the Saturday Night Live star who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. The event benefits Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids’ High Five campaign, an effort to generate $100,000 for children living with cancer or grief, and for the organization’s in-school emotional health programs. Radner’s dog, a Yorkshire terrier named Sparkle, was at her side through her illness.

An English bulldog shows its stuff by donning Mini Mouse ears at 2014’s LaughFest People & Pets.

made in america

Left to right: Ashley, Hank and Kelsey Peterson competed in the Best Dog Costume contest at last year’s People & Pets event.

All types of pets are welcome at the free event, Le said, adding that organizers are hoping someone brings a pot-bellied pig. Dogs must be kept on a leash at the event, be well-mannered and pottytrained and be up to date on vaccines. It won’t be just people laughing at this event. Charles Darwin,Jane Goodall and Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz all have studied dog laughter. Darwin first suggested dogs could indeed be chuckling in his book, The Expressions of Emotions in Man and Animals. Lorenz, the Nobel Prize winner, said the laughter comes right after you ask a dog to play, when it opens its jaw and shows its tongue. “The tilted angle of the mouth, which stretches almost from ear to ear, gives a still stronger impression of laughing,” Lorenz wrote. “This ‘laughing’ is most often seen in dogs playing with an adored master and which become so excited that they soon start panting.” That panting, Lorenz said, is laughter.

Gilda’s LaughFest People & Pets WHAT: Vendors, demonstrations, food, contests and fun as people and their pets gather to benefit the High Five Campaign from Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids as part of LaughFest 2015. WHEN: March 8, noon to 3 p.m. WHERE: Grand Rapids Community College Ford Fieldhouse COST: Free

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You’re welcome At Tun-Dra Kennels, we welcome all breeds and varieties to our clean, serene country setting. We offer: Personal service. The owners of Tun-Dra Kennels live on site and deliver hands-on care to each dog. Experience. Tun-Dra has been family owned and operated since 1964, and has cared for dogs in West Michigan for more than 50 years. A Happy, Healthy Environment: Our large indoor/outdoor kennels are designed to promote physical and mental well-being. Each dog has territory to call his own.

“Like” us on Facebook: Tun-Dra Kennels • 16438 - 96th Ave • Nunica • (616) 837-9726 March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 13

doggy doctors

vet care

Photos courtesy of Eastown Veterinary Clinic

Many veterinarians, including Lynn Happel of Eastown Veterinary Clinic (left), recommend annual visits for dogs, and twice annually for senior dogs.

Your dog’s health starts with a visit to vet By MARIE HAVENGA

They lick, they wag, they cuddle and they snuggle. But to keep your canine companion in top condition, you need to follow a course of vaccinations, regular checkups and preventative measures. New to the dog domain? Here’s a convenient canine crib sheet guide to your dog’s health and wellness. Barbara Bytwerk, veterinarian at Haven Animal Hospital in Grand Haven, said adult dogs need a doggy doctor visit annually from ages 1 to 6 for necessary vaccinations, dental cleanings and complete physicals.

14 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

But one of the easiest and earliest tips you can use to help keep your dog healthy for life is to start brushing his or her teeth as a puppy. “That is the single best defense against dental disease,” Bytwerk said. “If you start with them as a puppy, they’re usually very amenable to having it done. Dental disease is really serious.” Those tiny teeth, if unhealthy, can lead to mouth, heart, liver and kidney disease. “We work really hard on keeping mouths clean these days,” she said. As dogs age (7 is considered a senior citizen in most dogs), they need to increase vet visits and blood tests to

twice a year, Bytwerk said. “They start to age rapidly after age 7,” Bytwerk said. “They can start to develop loss of kidney function, thyroid disease, liver disorders, tumors, adrenal gland disease. ... There are all kinds of things you can pick up on in blood screening. You can intervene early to prolong life and quality of life.” Heartworm tests also are an annual must, as well as close monitoring for fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites. “You really have to be prepared in the beginning for a series of vaccines and spay and neuter,” Bytwerk said. The first year of “must-dos” will set you back $500 to $600.

“It’s a significant financial obligation, and we encourage people to buy insurance on their pet,” Bytwerk said. “If a puppy bolts and gets hit by a car or an older dog develops cancer, insurance covers 95 percent of catastrophic health care, disease and injuries, which is what most people can’t afford.” Depending on age and gender, pet insurance typically ranges from $30 to $60 a month, according to Bytwerk. “There’s nothing worse than having to make an economic decision about the life of your pet,” she said. Bytwerk operates a minimal vaccination policy at her clinic, based on the pet’s lifestyle. “We are not big on lots and lots of vaccines,” she said. “I do recommend you absolutely need to vaccinate puppies up through four months, they should be boostered at one year, then based on lifestyle.” The core vaccinations are distemper, hepatitis, adenovirus, parainfluenza, leptospirosis, rabies and, if your pup goes to places like grooming

The core vaccinations are distemper, hepatitis, adenovirus, parainfluenza, leptospirosis, rabies and, if your pup goes to places like grooming facilities or dog parks, bordetella. facilities or dog parks, bordetella. “When you give a vaccine to a dog, their body says ‘Hey, this is a threat, let’s build an army,’ ” said Dr. Lynn Happel of the Eastown Veterinary Clinic in Grand Rapids. Boosters are important because they remind the dog’s immune system the threat is still present — be on guard. Studies suggest the immune system the puppy is born with disappears around 16 weeks of age. Happel said in addition to recommended vaccines and boosters, many based on lifestyle, puppies should have physical exams every three to


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vet care

Photo courtesy Haven Animal Hospital

Dr. Barbara Bytwerk of Haven Animal Hospital in Grand Haven encourages owners to purchase pet health insurance to help cover the cost of a pet’s veterinary care.

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“The benefit is detecting disease early. Animals are very good at hiding disease. We intervene earlier to give them a longer, healthier life.” — Dr. Lynn Happel four months until they are 16 months old. For adult dogs, she recommends once a year ages 1 through 7 and after 7, Happel, like Bytwerk, likes to see her patients every six months. Happel typically performs testing for heartworms and parasites and wellness testing that includes white blood cell, red blood cell, liver and kidney values. “The benefit is detecting disease early,” Happel said. “Animals are very good at hiding disease. We intervene earlier to give them a longer, healthier life.” Once patients reach senior status — age 7 — she adds thyroid, electrolyte and pancreatic screening, along with a urinalysis.

Photo courtesy of Eastown Veterinary Clinic

Dr. Lynn Happel said puppies should visit their veterinarian every three to four months until they reach 16 months of age.



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In-Home pet hospice, geriatric pet care, and euthanasia for companion animals. • Pain Management & Assessment • Nutrition Management • Medication Administration • Hospice/End of Life care • In-Home Euthanasia • Dr. Laurie Brush, DVM, member of IAAHPC• (616) 498-1316 16 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

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doggy doctors

find a vet

Do your homework when selecting your pet’s vet By MARIE HAVENGA

You probably spent a lot of time picking your pet, so no sense rushing the route to your pet’s health-care provider. Much like a marriage, your pet’s veterinarian is likely someone you’ll be dealing with in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, ’til death do you part. Here’s how to choose wisely: Location, location, location. Make sure the vet is in a convenient spot, preferably en route to work for easy pickup and drop-off. And in case of emergency, you don’t want to have to drive an hour under frantic conditions. Personality. You’re entrusting your loved one to this person, so make sure you can communicate easily and build trust. Philosophy. Your vet wants to vaccinate heavily, and you’re more into holistic preventative measures. This relationship may not work long-term. It’s best your care philosophies align, especially when it comes to aging dogs and quality-oflife issues. Past performance. Don’t forget to check reviews to learn about other people’s experiences with your prospective provider. Clinic condition. Does the facility have an odor, or is it overly noisy? “If the place is dirty, I’d turn right around and walk out,” says veterinarian Barbara Bytwerk of Haven Animal Hospital in Grand Haven. “It should be clean.”

Surgical procedures. Learn what happens to your dog when staff takes him to the back. Is he monitored during anesthesia and after surgery? How careful are they with your pet? “Some low-cost spay and neuter facilities are excellent,” Bytwerk says. “Some cut corners and your pet’s life is at risk.” Atmosphere. What is the waiting room like? Is there room for 50 yapping pups, or is it a smaller, more controlled environment where your Fido will feel more at home? Appointment availability. The best vet this side of Venus can’t help you if you can’t secure an appointment. Ask staff how far out the veterinarian books — and how long clients typically have to hang out in the waiting room. Accreditation. The State of Michigan doesn’t regulate vet facilities, so give yourself and your pet an extra layer of protection by seeking out a place that is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association. Visit and type in your zip code to find an accredited facility near you. Cheryl Baase photo

March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 17

Prevention, preparation key when it comes to pet emergencies By SUSAN HARRISON-WOLFFIS


you love dogs — and in this crowd, who doesn’t? — don’t leave anything to chance. Know what foods and common household items are dangerous, even fatal, for your pets. Be ever vigilant against poisons and other threats in your yard and daily life. Always have an emergency first aid kit on hand, just in case you have to take care of a wounded, ailing animal before getting it to your veterinarian’s office or an emergency practice. Keep a copy of your dog’s rabies certificate in the kit. In other words, be prepared. Don’t leave anything to chance. Have your veterinarian’s phone number programmed into your cell phone. Write down the number or

website for a pet poison control hotline — there are several — so you don’t have to find it in the midst of trauma or chaos. Keep

first aid materials in your home, at your cottage, in your boat and car. You can never be too organized.

“You never know when or if you’re going to have to administer some kind of care before you get your dog to the vet,” says Carly Luttmann, program supervisor of the Kent County Animal Shelter. On page 19, you’ll find lists of specific items needed, like a leash, blankets and gauze that doesn’t stick to the dog’s fur. But if Luttmann can offer one piece of advice to dog owners, one

thing that stands between disaster and medical care, it is this: Make sure your dog is microchipped or has an I.D. on its collar. If your dog is injured and taken to an animal shelter, Luttmann says workers cannot start medical treatment without the OK of the dog’s owner. Other valuable advice from Luttmann: If you’re taking your pet on a trip, be sure to check out where the nearest emergency veterinary clinic is — again, so in the middle of an emergency, you don’t have to try to find one. And remember, she says, if your pet is injured or ill, scared and hurt, it’s possible they might act out until the situation is under control. “We receive animals in trauma every day,” Luttmann says. “Your heart just goes out to them.”

Help us Fight Animal Neglect and Cruelty.

License Your Dog. All dogs four months of age or older must be licensed. Tags help dogs get home safely if lost. Licensing helps fund animal care, Animal Control, and more. Unlicensed dogs could result in a hefty citation. One-year and three-year tags are available in Kent County based on rabies vaccine expiration. Many local veterinary clinics* in Kent County provide vaccinations and a license in one stop. *Fees for administration of vaccinations are determined by each clinic and you must schedule an appointment. Please contact clinics directly for details.

Leash, License, Love your Dog! Call (616) 632-7300 or go to: 18 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

Dangers just outside your door • Antifreeze that contains ethylene glycol has a sweet taste that attracts animals but is deadly if consumed in even small quantities. • Chemicals used on lawns and gardens, such as fertilizer and plant food, can be easily accessible and fatal to a pet allowed in the yard unsupervised. • De-icing salts used to melt snow and ice are paw irritants that can be poisonous if licked off. Paws should be washed and dried as soon as the animal comes in from the snow. Other options include pet-friendly de-icers and doggy boots with Velcro straps to protect your dog’s feet. • Traps and poisons. Pest control companies frequently use glue traps, live traps and poisons to kill rodents. Dogs and cats can be poisoned if they eat a rodent who has been killed by poison (called secondary poisoning). Threats inside the home • Human medications, such as pain killers (including aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen), cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, anti-depressants, vitamins and diet pills can all be toxic to animals. Be vigilant about finding and disposing of any dropped pills. • Poisonous household plants, including azalea, dieffenbachia, lilies and philodendron. • String, yarn, rubber bands and even dental floss are easy to swallow and can cause intestinal blockages or strangulation. • Toys with movable parts — like squeaky toys or stuffed animals with plastic eyes — can pose a choking hazard to animals. Take the same precautions with pets as you would with a small child. • Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, cats and ferrets. • Leftovers, such as chicken bones, might shatter and choke a dog. Human foods to keep away from

pets include onions and onion powder, alcoholic beverages, yeast dough, coffee grounds and beans, salt, macadamia nuts, grapes, leaves and stems from tomatoes, potatoes and rhubarb, and anything with mold growing on it. Items for your pet’s first aid kit • Phone numbers for your veterinarian, the nearest emergency veterinary clinic (along with directions) and a poison-control center or hotline • Paperwork for your pet (in a waterproof container or bag): proof of rabies vaccination status, copies of other important medical records and a current photo of your pet (in case he gets lost) • Nylon leash • Self-cling bandage (bandage that stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur) • A soft muzzle or strips of cloth to prevent biting (don’t use this if your pet is vomiting, choking, coughing or otherwise having difficulty breathing) Basic first aid supplies • Absorbent gauze pads • Adhesive tape • Antiseptic wipes, lotion, powder or spray • Blanket (a foil emergency blanket) • Cotton balls or swabs • Gauze rolls • Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting — do this only when directed by a veterinarian or a poison-control expert) • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), if approved by a veterinarian for allergic reactions. A veterinarian must tell you the correct dosage for your pet’s size • Ice pack • Non-latex disposable gloves • Rectal thermometer (your pet’s temperature should not rise above 103°F or fall below 100°F) • Petroleum jelly (to

ISSUES/Doggy dangers lubricate the thermometer) • Scissors (with blunt ends) • Sterile non-stick gauze pads for bandages • Sterile saline solution • Tweezers • A pet carrier Other useful items • Penlight or flashlight • Plastic eyedropper or syringe • Splints and tongue depressors • Styptic powder or pencil • Temporary identification tag • Towels and blankets Signs to call for emergency care • Severe lethargy, non-responsive pet • Bleeding that does not stop after mild pressure and wrapping • Difficulty breathing • Distended abdomen • Straining to urinate or defecate without producing urine or stool • Gum color becoming blue, purple, gray or white • Large laceration • Any severe trauma such as being hit by car • Seizure activity that lasts more than 4 to 5 minutes or several seizures in a 24-hour period Informative websites • • • • • Sources: The Humane Society of the United States; American Veterinary Medical Association; Dr. James Moore of Veterinary Dental Solutions, a division of Harborfront Hospital for Animals, Spring Lake.

March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 19

doggy doctors

physical therapy

Licensed veterinary technician Michelle Kegel (left) assists veterinarian Doreen Comrie in preparing Ruckus for his water therapy session.

Just like with people, dogs can benefit from physical rehab story By DAVID LEMIEUX photos by jennifer waters


r. Doreen Comrie sometimes has to keep a tight leash on some of her physical therapy patients at Rouge Valley Veterinary Hospital in Rockford. “To a certain extent, I believe dogs are easier to work with than people because dogs want to be up and moving,” Comrie says. “Many times our challenge is holding them back.” It’s a problem many physical therapists who treat human patients wish they had. “We have to really protect them during rehabilitation. You can’t

20 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

overstress or overexercise them until their bodies are ready,” Comrie says. “Our job is to determine where they are in the healing process and provide the right types of exercise or modalities, like neuromuscular stimulation, laser therapy and ultrasound, to get them through that part of healing so they can move on.” Other than patients who are sometimes overeager to get well (and notable differences in anatomy), there’s little to distinguish pet rehab from the human kind. Comrie uses the same tools and techniques to help her patients regain or improve their physical abilities after surgery or injury as a therapist treating

a person would. It is her application of those techniques that have made her a pet rehab pioneer. A decade ago, her clinic was one of the first in Michigan to offer aquatic therapy. “I wanted to be able to provide specific conditioning for my clients who were on the field-trial circuit and would go south in the winter,” she said. It soon became clear that all dogs could benefit from rehab, she said. “Many people live a sedentary life, so a lot of what we do is to take pet dogs and just give them a good workout in a safe manner.” In the past decade, Comrie has remained at the forefront of a rapidly

evolving field. Working with a certified physical therapist assistant, Comrie adapted techniques used to treat people to fit the unique needs of dogs. “It was very, very new back then. We were extrapolating from the human side. There were no certifications back then,” she says. “It’s become more mainstream in veterinary medicine now.” More recently Comrie became one of the first local vets to complete the University of Tennessee’s Certificate Program in Canine Physical Rehabilitation. “The No. 1 thing we do is postoperative rehabilitation for knee surgeries for cruciate ligament injuries,” Comrie says. “We also treat all sorts of orthopedic conditions ranging from hip issues to Achilles tendon ruptures to tendonitis.” Comrie’s patients run the gamut from top-notch athletes from around the country to pampered, middle-aged mixes who need to, maybe, shed a few accumulated pounds. There are only a few minor

differences between Comrie’s rehab unit and a modest-sized facility for people. For one, the aquatic treadmill is a tad bit smaller (but still large enough to accommodate both Comrie and a patient when necessary). The only other real difference is the excited barking coming from the kennels. Everything else — the ultrasound machine, regular treadmill, exercise balls, balance board, rubberized gym floor — is standard issue rehab. “I deal a lot with performance dogs — Labrador retrievers in the field trials,” Comrie said. “I see them for conditioning or sometimes right after surgery. We have a surgical specialist here, Dr. Jacqueline Mair, who can do orthopedic surgery. We take them right from surgery all the way back to returning to the field.” Simply recovering from some surgeries can take up to three months, Comrie explained. Water therapy in particular has been a great benefit for older dogs. “For geriatric dogs who can’t get

doggy doctors

physical therapy

Ruckus is a German Shepherd Dog mix who has received water therapy several times. The warm water gives him bouyancy as he walks on the treadmill.

March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 21

“Physical therapy doesn’t mean your pet has to stay here. It can be specific exercises and activities you can do at home.” — Dr. Doreen Comrie

Bailey, a Black Lab with a cartilage chip in her shoulder, receives laser therapy from Michelle Kegel (left) and Dr. Doreen Comrie.

Left, Renzo looks out the window for squirrels while Dr. Comrie supports him on the balance ball. This therapy is helping to heal a back leg injury. Right, according to Dr. Comrie, Flash, an English Pointer, is in “Fat Camp.” He runs on the treadmill to get down to his ideal weight.

Renzo, a Great Dane, was born with a congenital defect in his front legs. Walking the Cavaletti rails has helped him regain strength and agility. 22 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

up and walk, water therapy has been very good,” she said. “It’s very similar to water aerobics for people, where the heat and pressure and buoyancy of the water can help them move.” Depending on temperament and need, therapy can consist of regular visits or require a stay at the clinic. “Physical therapy doesn’t mean your pet has to stay here,” Comrie said. “It can be specific exercises and activities you can do at home.” Because the whole experience is just as new and different for the dogs as for their owners, Comrie gently eases both into the therapy regimen. Medication is sometimes needed for those who, despite Comrie’s best efforts, still find the whole experience too foreign or painful (for the dogs that is, not the owners). Indications your dog might benefit from therapy can be very subtle, Comrie said. “People think their pet will cry, but there are many other indications,” she said. “Just holding a limb up means that it hurts. They’re not just doing it out of habit.” Other symptoms that can indicate a need for treatment are shivering, chewing at a leg or other area of the body, not eating, panting or simply not being a social as usual, Comrie explained. Changes in behavior can also indicate your pet is in pain from an injury. “Not wanting to go on their usual walks or play sessions (or) not being able to get up on the couch when they loved to before are all things that should be addressed,” Comrie said. And there are few better qualified than Comrie to address them.

doggy doctors


Dr. James Moore pairs up with licensed veterinary technician Linda Raterink as they perform oral surgery on a canine patient.

Dental care for dogs is serious business story by SUSAN HARRISON-WOLFFIS photos by jennifer waters


n any given day, Dr. James Moore faces a morning-to-night schedule of root canals and abscessed teeth. He tackles bad cases of gingivitis. He installs crowns on broken teeth and puts on braces. He extracts teeth, if absolutely necessary, and preaches the gospel of brushing twice a day. But his patients aren’t who you think they are. They’re dogs. Family pets. Purebreds and mutts. Drug-sniffing dogs, searchand-rescue dogs, therapy dogs. Puppies and senior citizens: dogs with ages in double digits. Dogs with bad teeth and gum disease. Dogs desperately in need of dental care.

Moore — who owns Veterinary Dental Solutions, a division of Harborfront Hospital for Animals in Spring Lake — specializes in dentistry for dogs and cats. In his practice, he’s installed titanium crowns on police dogs. He’s put braces on a Pomeranian. He’s operated on English bulldogs with broken jaws and fixed an oronasal fistula (a hole between a dog’s nasal cavity and oral cavity) in a Dachshund. So, please. No jokes about dog breath in Moore’s presence. This is serious business. At least 85 percent of dogs and cats suffer from periodontal (gum) disease — and periodontal disease can directly affect the other organs in an animal’s body. Not sure what that means? Moore once cultured the mouth of a dog who died of liver failure and found the same

bacteria in both the mouth and the liver. Careful not to criticize, Moore suggests if the dog had received good dental care, which might have led the attending veterinarian to discover the liver disease, maybe they could have treated the dog for that before it was too late. Think it’s frivolous or indulgent to provide dental care for “just a dog?” Think dental work is one more example of people’s excessive pampering of their pets? “No way,” Moore says. “They can die without dental care.” Moore is a one-of-a-kind veterinarian in West Michigan — a practicing vet who holds an advanced practice management certificate from Michigan State University, where he also is an associate professor of oral surgery at

March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 23

doggy doctors


the university’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. He’s completed more than 800 hours of continuing education courses in basic and oral surgery techniques. He’s authored numerous articles in veterinary journals and text books. He is “this close” to receiving his certification for Diplomate Status in the American College for Veterinary Dentistry, an honor granted to only 150 veterinarians in the country. In his spare time, Moore lectures to veterinarians and veterinary technicians at dental seminars on maxillofacial surgery, oral surgery, endodontia and surgical endodontia (think root canals), surgical extraction and dental cleaning, scaling and polishing. Such language rolls off Moore’s tongue. It is what he does every day, but he admits as recently as 1998, he went to a dental seminar “and didn’t understand one word.” It was a turning point in his practice, which he’d opened a decade earlier in Spring Lake. He’d performed basic teeth cleaning on dogs as a matter of course, but after that seminar, he looked in the mirror and decided he was “either going to be a fairly well-trained general practitioner or delve into the intricacies of (animal) dentistry.” He went with dentistry. The medical need for canine

dentistry is compelling. Moore says he almost never sees an animal 7 years old or older without dental disease. Good dental care can lengthen a dog’s life by 28 percent, he says. Controlling obesity in your dog lengthens its life by 30 percent. “So it’s significant,” Moore says. Just ask Diane Murray of Spring Lake, who swears she was Moore’s second client when he opened his practice. She’s trusted the care of all of her dogs to Moore, including Daisy, an 11-year-old West Highland White

Did you know that dogs have 42 teeth, compared to humans, who have 32? Terrier (otherwise known as a Westie). Not so long ago, Murray noticed that Daisy “just wasn’t herself.” This is a dog who loves to play with her ball, but she “wasn’t playing right,” Murray says. So it was off to a visit to Moore. It turns out that one of Daisy’s teeth was cracked vertically. It hurt to play — until her tooth was fixed. “It was like magic, the difference in her,” Murray says. The challenge for dog owners is to pick up the subtle clues — like Daisy not playing — when something is wrong. Dogs will cope with the pain, Moore says. They learn to compensate. Just looking into a dog’s mouth doesn’t

Dr. James Moore positions the x-ray machine over his patient during a cleaning and oral surgery.

24 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

tell the whole story, he says; 75 percent of gum disease exists below the gum line, out of sight; only x-rays can detect the extent of it. So Moore’s first piece of advice to dog owners is to be aware of any change in their dog’s behavior. “We have so many options of things we can do now,” he says. But before we get into details: Did you know that dogs have 42 teeth, compared to humans, who have 32? As in people, most gum diseases in dogs are progressive — meaning they get worse if they are not treated. Moore recommends dogs see their vets twice a year; at minimum, once. Dogs should start having dental checkups and a good cleaning, scaling and polishing annually, starting at age 18 months. And here’s the challenge of the day: Moore suggests brushing your dog’s teeth, starting at 8 weeks old. “But I never ever yell at anyone for not brushing,” he says. “In my world, that doesn’t make sense. (Brushing) helps, but it’s not easy to do.” And there is an entire generation — or two — for whom brushing a dog’s teeth is unfamiliar territory. “Who ever had their dogs’ teeth cleaned when we were growing up?” Murray asks. But she can tell stories. She took in a little Pomeranian — who has since passed on — to have her teeth cleaned, only to discover they were so bad, Moore had to pull 17 of them. The thing is, Murray says, the dog felt better afterwards. “If we think about how we feel, it’s amazing when your mouth doesn’t hurt,” Murray says. “I’m sure that’s how a dog feels, too.” Moore reassures his human clients that their dogs will recover quickly from any pain of surgery or anesthetic used in the procedure. He tells the story of a dog who needed 29 teeth pulled, as well as major oral surgery. Within hours of the surgery, the dog was out running in the snow, playing. As Moore says, the options for treatments are endless, new research is being done every day, new techniques are learned. “Every day someone asks if I really

Five signs your dog needs to see a dentist • Red swollen gums and brownish teeth. • Bad breath. Most pets have breath that is less than fresh, but if it becomes truly repugnant, similar to the smell of a rotten egg, it’s a sign that periodontal disease has already started. • Bleeding from the mouth. Dr. James Moore specializes in pet dentistry and has many dental and oral surgery clients who are patients of other veterinarians for general practice needs.

• Frequent pawing or rubbing at the face and/or mouth.

put braces on a dog,” Moore says. “The answer is yes — but purely for function and to eliminate pain.” There is one thing Moore will never do, and that is cosmetic surgery on someone’s dog. “We do what we do to improve (a dog’s) quality of life,” Moore says.

• Reluctance to eat hard foods — for example, picking it up and then spitting it out.

“Once we fix things, I can guarantee it will make things so much better.” Again, Murray weighs in from a dog owner’s perspective, as someone who loves her dogs. “My guys are living longer because of this,” she says. “They’re healthier and happier, and that’s all I can ask for.”

Source: American Veterinary Medical Association

Four of five pets have periodontal disease.

We can fix that.

Mention this ad to receive $50 toward the cost of a complete oral evaluation, cleaning and polishing, a personalized treatment plan and an at-home oral health kit. Dr. James Moore, owner of Harborfront Hospital for Animals and Veterinary Dental Solutions, is an expert in oral health and also teaches veterinary dentistry at the Michigan State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Call 616-842-7011 to schedule. Harborfront Hospital for Animals & Veterinary Dental Solutions

807 W. Savidge, Spring Lake, MI 49456

March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 25

doggy doctors


Dr. Christine Swanson (left) performs a biopsy on Rudy, a Miniature Schnauzer, while assisted by Stacie McKinley, LVT (center), and Dana Goddard, a third-year veterinary student from Michigan State University.

New hope for canine cancer West Michigan’s only animal oncologist offers advanced treatments — and greater hope PHOTOS AND STORY BY JENNIFER WATERS

Compared to the pets we all grew up with, dogs today are healthier and living longer than ever before. Vaccines, better access to veterinary care and simply letting dogs live indoors are just some of the reasons we are graced with extra years from our canine companions. Often, those extra years can come at a high price. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cancer is a leading cause of death in dogs — because our pets 26 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

are living long enough to develop the disease. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of dogs older than 10 will develop cancer at some point. That’s not to say a diagnosis of cancer is a death sentence. The good news is, treatment options for canine cancer are rapidly improving, and more owners are willing to explore those options for their dogs. Animal Oncology Comes to West Michigan

No one can offer more treatment options than a board-certified oncologist, and that is exactly what

West Michigan has in Dr. Christine Swanson. According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, she is the area’s only veterinary oncologist and brings a new range of options to the table. For owners who are willing to invest the care and money needed to fight back against cancer, Swanson is offering new hope — while still keeping comfort and quality of life at the forefront of the conversation. Cancer treatment costs can range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars. Pet health insurance often offsets these costs. Swanson sees her animal patients at BluePearl Veterinary Partners of Michigan, located on Michigan Street in Grand Rapids. Along with a multitude of other veterinary specialists

at BluePearl, she accepts patients on a referral basis only. She works closely with the dog’s primary veterinarian to coordinate testing and treatment plans when the vets or the owners feel a more specialized approach is needed. “Cancer is all that I see,” Swanson said, “so I can do more advanced testing and offer the latest treatment options. Sometimes the family just wants to know the variety of options available.” The list of options is growing all the time. With an eye on new research and access to advanced equipment — including West Michigan’s only CT scanner dedicated to animals — Swanson is at the leading edge of veterinary oncology. Redefining Cancer Treatment

How exactly does a dog get treated for cancer? Pretty much the same as humans do. Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, immunotherapy and even alternative therapies are all available for dogs. The difference is, for dogs, treatment must be more heavily

weighted toward quality of life. “With chemotherapy, we use the same drugs, just at a lower dose so they don’t get sick,” said Swanson. “With radiation, the goal might not be to completely stop the growth (of cancer), but to slow the growth. The goal is for more time, and more quality time.” After the shock of a cancer diagnosis wears off, most owners are realistic about their hopes for treatment. Those who own Boxers — a breed heavily predisposed to cancer — realize their dogs will never live to age 19 or 20. But if treatment can give them a few more happy weeks, months or years together, many are willing to give it a try. “A lot of my patients will eventually pass on from cancer, but I can give them a bit more hope, a bit more time,” Swanson said. With this focus on comfort and quality of life, most dogs tolerate cancer treatment quite well, Swanson said. The harder work falls on the dog’s owners in the form of recurring appointments and

Dr. Swanson will send Rudy’s biopsy to the pathology lab for analysis, but she also prepares a slide of cells that she will view and discuss with the family before the pathology report comes back.

Pets Agree.

Serving Muskegon and Ottawa counties Helping Pet Parents Understand Pet Cremation & Burial Plans Also offering

Pet Loss Grief Support

Jodi M. Clock, owner/president 1469 Peck Street • Muskegon, MI 49441 (231) 722-3721

Pet-Agree is more than just dog walking and pet sitting Your Pets’ Personal Assistant! Call 616-633-9902 March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 27

Dr. Swanson comforts Otter, a 9-year-old Black Lab, as he is positioned for an abdominal ultrasound. Dana Goddard (left) and Stacie McKinley (right) will hold Otter still throughout the procedure.

keeping a close watch for side effects or worsening conditions. The small doses of chemotherapy must be injected at the vet’s office — either by Swanson or the dog’s regular vet. Radiation is given in lots of little doses over a period of time, and requires anesthesia so the beam can be precisely controlled. Immunotherapy, which is only being used for breast cancer and a few other specific types, is given as a needle-less injection every few weeks for four treatments. And surgery, which can be done not only to remove the bulk of the cancer but also to provide pain control, can require weeks of assistance and keeping the dog calm. If the family and the dog are up for more, Swanson even offers acupuncture and herbal remedies. “There’s such drive from people looking for something else,” Swanson said. “It gives peace of mind to families. And acupuncture doesn’t cause reactions to chemo,” said Swanson.

28 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

Usually, it doesn’t even cause a reaction in the dogs. Swanson said most dogs (unlike cats) don’t even notice the tiny needles used in acupuncture. Knowing What to Look For

Even with all the treatment options available, the best strategy is to identify cancer early. While there are some steps that help prevent cancer — spaying your dog greatly reduces the chances of mammary cancer and good oral care can help decrease mouth and tongue cancer — the best chance of beating cancer is to recognize the symptoms and report them to your vet. There are more than 100 recognized cancer types, and not all of them show symptoms. But in general, if your dog is displaying any of the following, it may be time to call the vet. • Lumps (which are not always cancerous, but should always be examined by a vet) • Swelling

• Persistent sores • Abnormal discharge from any part of the body • Bad breath • Listlessness/lethargy • Rapid, often unexplained weight loss • Sudden lameness • Black, tarry stools (a symptom of ulcers, which can be caused by mast cell tumors) • Decreased or loss of appetite • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating Some dog breeds are more susceptible to cancer than others, so owners should be knowledgeable about their breed’s common health issues. Swanson sees a lot of Boxers, Labrador retrievers and Golden retrievers. Breeds such as Boston terriers, Bernese Mountain dogs and Great Danes are also well known for their likelihood of developing cancer. Golden retrievers are so prone to cancer that researchers created the

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, which is following 3,000 Golden Retrievers from birth to death, looking at cancer and other conditions. The information gathered will identify which cancers are most common in the breed and whether or not there are genetic, environmental or dietary factors that affect their risks. Other research options exist. If your pet already has been diagnosed with cancer, the National Veterinary Cancer Registry can help match you with an appropriate clinical trial. In many cases, researchers are taking advantage of cancer treatment research being done in humans and finding that it can lead to advances in canine cancer treatment — and possibly preventative vaccines — as well. In many ways, cancer care for dogs is truly in its infancy. But the progress that has been made in just the past 20 years should give dog lovers hope that future generations of companion animals will live even longer and healthier than before.

Stacey McKinley helps comfort Otter as Dr. Swanson monitors the ultrasound.

March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 29

the tail end


Thanks to kindness of strangers, Gizmo’s story has happy ending Sometimes it takes a village. You know that saying; that wonderful African proverb that reminds us — in so many words — that we’re all in this together; that we can’t possibly do it alone; that we have to step up, not look the other way, be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. In its original form, the saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child, but you know what? I’m going to extend that sentiment to include the animals of the world, because the story I’m about to tell you is about a little dog — and the community of strangers who saved his life. It starts on a wintry day in December on the streets of downtown Muskegon. Two young women — Abigail Arends and Anna Burnett — were driving on Muskegon Avenue when they saw, of all things, a little dog lying injured, victim of a hit-and-run accident, huddled in a pothole. They are the first residents of this village created out of need, responding to an emergency. Arends and Burnett stopped their car; the only ones who did. They scooped up the dog, who was shaking and cold, bruised and cut and bloody. It wasn’t their dog; theoretically, not their problem. But they had to do something, so they drove a couple of miles to Lakeshore Animal Hospital. They weren’t clients there, but they were afraid the dog was going to die, and so they asked for help. Dr. Carin Forberg took one look at the little guy and sprang into action. Besides his injuries, the dog was in shock. Forberg immediately started him on IV fluids, pain medications, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. She tucked warm water bottles around

30 Dogs Unleashed March/April 2015

him. She scanned him for a microchip, hoping against hope that she could locate his owner; no such luck. He didn’t have an I.D. collar, either. She and the others at the animal hospital called the local rescue organizations — just in case — and then, because this is the world of social media, she posted his picture on Facebook. Forberg called him Gizmo. It seemed the perfect name for the little terrier mix with a punk hairdo and quirky looks. The next day, there were two surprises in store: Gizmo was up and barking, wagging his tail. And a reporter from Fox 17 News in Grand Rapids called, asking for an interview. Well, that did it. Between the TV coverage and the social media storm, Gizmo was a star, getting lots of attention from would-be adopters. He stayed with Forberg a couple of more days, then was transferred to The Noah Project, a no-kill shelter in Muskegon. Again, the intent was to wait for his owner to claim him, but if no one did, he’d then be put up for adoption. Gizmo’s village was growing bigger by the day. Noah Project director Tammy Tobaison says people “rallied” around Gizmo: a very good thing, but there is a reminder here. The shelters and rescue

sites are filled with dogs available for adoption every day. Gizmo was one of 25 or 30 dogs at The Noah Project, all in need of homes. What was it about Gizmo? His story, of course. That’s what tugged at the hearts of Michael and Kay Tull of Twin Lake, who were looking for a second dog as a companion to a Shih Tzu they’d adopted from The Noah Project. When they first met him, Gizmo snuggled up to Kay Tull, but he was terrified of Mike. The next time, they brought treats. After a half-dozen visits, the deal was sealed. The Tulls and Gizmo were right for each other. Only one problem. They’d already given their Shih Tzu the name Gizmo. Really, what are the odds? But then, this is a story of beating the odds. So Gizmo — the terrier — became Winston. “He’s a good little dog,” Mike Tull says. He’s needed additional medical care from the Tulls’ veterinarian, Dr. Amy Kidder, at Whitehall Pet Practice in Whitehall. And there are some behavioral issues, but like Mike Tull says: “We don’t know his past. It takes time and a lot of patience to have a dog.” Then he said something else, something that reaches everyone who’s heard about this dog, once injured and abandoned. The Tulls could have adopted any number of dogs, but they chose this one because “we’d rather get a dog who needs help ... who we can give a little extra attention.” You know, sometimes it takes a village — and a really loving family — to find a dog his home.

courtesy photos

Susan Harrison-Wolffis is an award-winning journalist, retired from newspaper work after more than 40 years. Contact her at

Gizmo before (left) and after (right) he was saved by good Samaritans and brought to Lakeshore Animal Hospital in Muskegon.

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March/April 2015 Dogs Unleashed 31

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Dogs Unleashed - March-April 2015  

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