Whole Dog Journal Blog

Why These Dogs are Making Me Sad

March 16, 2017 - For the past three days, anyone who has called me has asked, "What's wrong?" I keep thinking I'm doing a fine job of covering my irritation and emotional upset, and answering the phone the way I always do, but apparently - not. For weeks, since the evacuation of my shelter, I've been fostering a young dog who was brought into the shelter a few days before the evacuation. The people who brought him to the shelter said they found him as a stray. It later developed that someone who saw him in the shelter recognized him as the dog who belonged to the people who surrendered him; they pretended he wasn't their dog when they surrendered him. That happens often enough that no one at the shelter was surprised to learn this. The dog is adorable, but he's got problems - physical and behavioral. I think he's been kept in a crate or small pen his whole life; he has the least amount of muscle tone of any dog I've ever met.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:27AM Comments (33)

Titer Tests, and Preventing Overvaccination

March 9, 2017 - Every year since I adopted Otto from my local shelter, I have sent out his blood to a lab for a "vaccine titer test." The test I ask for detects circulating antibodies that defend against two canine diseases: distemper and parvovirus. Veterinary immunologists feel that the results of this particular test offers a reliable indication of whether the dog is adequately protected against the diseases he has been vaccinated for, or whether he no longer has a detectible number of antibodies to those diseases in his body.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:29PM Comments (23)

Are Grain-Free Foods Taking Over the Premium Dry Dog Food Market?

March 2, 2017 - I was in a chain pet supply store the other day, looking for a higher-quality food for some foster dogs from my local shelter who are a little chubby. For this reason, I was looking for a product that was not too high in fat. I was a bit surprised to realize that grain-free foods have sort of taken over the shelves in the section of the store where the higher-quality foods are stocked. Many of the companies whose products appear in the "natural/holistic" or "premium" section seem to offer only grain-free foods. I had to go through several aisles before I found a product from a company that I like offering a food that contained grain and had a lower fat content.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 10:20AM Comments (59)

Why I'm Grateful for My Dogs - Again

February 22, 2017 - Yesterday, I had a long list of things that I needed to do and had committed to doing - things for myself, my job, my husband, a friend, and the shelter where I volunteer. The list was so long that just contemplating it made me feel tired. Not even on my list, but in the back of my mind, was the knowledge that the dogs haven't been out for a good long run in days and days. Nine-year-old Otto can cope with that; while he loves going out for off-leash runs, his behavior doesn't really change if he doesn't have that opportunity. But Otto's counter-point is one-year-old Woody, whose behavior gets increasingly gravity-defying with each day that goes by without a run. The carpet runners in my hall start piling up at either end, as he finds he can no longer walk through the house; he has to dash down the hall and slide into the room at either end. He starts greeting guests with airs above the ground. Wooden things (like the redwood bench on my deck) start getting chewed anew.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 05:01PM Comments (32)

Canned Dog Food Recall Gives Rise to More Questions Than Answers

February 17, 2017 - On February 3, 2017, the FDA announced that Evanger's Dog & Cat Food had recalled five lots of its canned Hunk of Beef dog food, for a "potential contaminant," pentobarbital. One dog has died after eating the food, and three others were sickened. All four dogs belong to the same family, and ate food from the same can of food. The dog that died was necropsied, and some food from the open can of food was tested. The results: both the dead dog's stomach contents and the open can contained pentobarbital, a drug commonly used to euthanize animals. Given that the Hunk of Beef food - an incomplete diet meant for supplemental or intermittent feeding - contains nothing but beef chunks, Evanger's is blaming its supplier of the beef used in the batch of contaminated food. The company has announced a voluntary recall of that batch of food, as well as four other batches of food produced the same week with beef from the same supplier. The company says it has terminated its relationship with the supplier, despite a 40-year history of doing business together.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 11:27AM Comments (34)

Oroville Dam Casestudy: How Evacuating People And Animals Early and Often Can Save Lives

February 15, 2017 - In the winter of 1997, the town where I live now, Oroville, California, had a big flood. I didn't live here then. But that year, the Feather River, which (usually) flows tamely right through my town, was threatening to massively flood the town. There is a dirt levee that separates the river from the main streets, and it seems like an historic artifact most of the time - a thing that was built by pioneers to try to keep the Feather from flooding the town again and again. It seems quaint now, because since 1968, the town has been more significantly protected by the Oroville Dam, with a huge reservoir (Lake Oroville) behind it - the combination that meters out the Feather at a safe and sane rate, protecting the town and much of the Sacramento Valley below from flooding. But with truly historic rainfall, like in 1997, the operators of the dam can't help but let out so much water that the river swells to capacity, and suddenly our old historic levee is important once again, holding back the Feather from flooding Oroville. In 1997, with the Oroville Dam letting out maximum quantities of water, and the Feather crazily high, the levee started seeping. County officials called for an immediate evacuation of Oroville. If the levee burst, they said, the town would be covered with 12 feet of water. The local animal shelter lies about a mile and a half from the river, in the prehistoric flood plain of the Feather. Wild-eyed police officers gave the then-director of the shelter 15 minutes to get her staff and herself out of the shelter.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:57PM Comments (24)

Locked In!

February 1, 2017 - At risk of making sure that the friend who visited me last week never comes to visit me again, this week's blog post is ALSO going to be inspired by her dog. (Last week, I wrote about how she never leaves her dog in the car - ever! - a practice that I personally find admirable but impractical for me, personally.) My friend's 10-month-old dog and my 14-month-old dog, Woody, got along beautifully - if you can call it beautiful when two adolescent males are rolling around in a wrestling ball that takes them over, under, around, and through most people and obstacles in their path. They loved, loved, loved playing the same sort of tug/chase/face-biting/wrestling games, and could go for hours! But when we made plans to leave the house and visit some places where the two youngsters couldn't accompany us, we mutually decided to separate the boys so neither could get hurt or overwhelmed by the other while we were out. It was time for a play break! The question was, where would we leave my friend's dog?
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:44PM Comments (29)

Would You Leave Your Dog In the Car?

January 25, 2017 - Yesterday, I met a friend in a town about halfway between her house and my house, which are about three hours apart. We both had things to do/people to visit in that midway city, and then she - and her darling, 30-pound moppish-mixed breed dog - were going to follow me home and spend a few days visiting. We met outside a Whole Foods store/restaurant, and I proposed we go in and eat lunch before driving the rest of the way to my house. My friend said, "Can we take turns going in and selecting our food? I don't leave my dog in the car." My mind boggled. If it was hot (or even warm) or freezing out, I would immediately understand, but it was about 50 degrees - a pretty much perfect dog-in-the-car temperature, in my view. So I had to ask, what's up with that? I had a foster dog chew through the front seat belts in my car once; was it about separation anxiety, or something?
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 02:54PM Comments (159)

How Does Your Dog Act When You're Not Around?

January 18, 2017 - A few years ago, I was dog-sitting for a friend for a few weeks, while her family traveled out of the country. I had met the dog, Leila, a Papillion-mix, a number of times, but just in short visits. It was the height of our hot, dry summer during Leila's visit, and when those conditions are in effect, I often take my dogs to swim in the Feather River, which flows through my town, just a couple blocks from my home. I took some pictures one evening, and posted them on Facebook, of the dogs, including Leila, wading deeply in the water. Later that day, there was a comment from Leila's owner: "Leila went in the WATER? She NEVER touches water!" I laughed, because it seemed quite natural to me that she'd go in the water. I didn't even notice her response to the water; wading in the cold water when the temperature was over 100 degrees seemed like the only sensible thing to do. But Leila's owner couldn't get over this behavior, that she had never seen in seven years of owning the dog and taking her to other creeks, streams, rivers, and the ocean.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:31PM Comments (11)

Do You Have a Backup-Plan for Your Pet-Care Needs?

January 11, 2017 - I woke up this morning with a blinding migraine headache. It hurt to open my eyes, it hurt to sit up, and getting dressed made tears start running down my face. This doesn't happen very often, and I have medication that I can take that will bring relief in an hour or so. But lying in bed was not an option, because I'm currently fostering another litter of puppies, and they don't care whether my head hurts or not: they are hungry, and their pen needs cleaning. That's a responsibility I took on, and so, weepy or not, I got up and dressed, took my migraine med, and got rolling. My adult dogs can handle a delayed breakfast, and thanks to the recent installation of a dog door - one of those inserts that fits into a sliding glass door frame - they can and will take themselves out to potty if need be. But foster puppies in a pen are a different matter. By the time I got them out of the dirty pen to potty outdoors, fed them, cleaned the pen and changed the water, and put them back in the pen with some fresh toys, the throbbing in my head was abating a bit.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:01PM Comments (22)

Resolutions . . . for your dog?

January 4, 2017 - Looking for an idea for a blog post, I just looked through my oldest posts, wondering just how long I have been doing this. The answer stunned me: since mid-2010. I got lost for a bit, reading through musings from years past. I came across one written at precisely this time of year in 2011, about making new year's resolutions for our dogs.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 03:28PM Comments (14)

Mixed-Breed Puppies Are Like a Box of Chocolates

December 28, 2016 - Last summer I fostered a really disparate-looking litter of puppies for my local shelter. Most of the time, whether they are brought in as purportedly "found" puppies or their owners admit that they were accidental and unwanted, the litters of puppies that come to the shelter are fairly uniform, like the litter of 11 Great Dane pups I fostered immediately after the dissimilar group (there were 10 black and white pups, and one fawn-colored one, who nevertheless was the exact same shape and size as his siblings). But this one litter looked like they were from three different families! As a side note, I should mention a fact that surprised many of my friends and family members, but isn't news to experienced dog owners: puppies from the same litter can have different fathers. Each of the mother's egg cells need to be fertilized by individual sperm cells, and if the mother has been bred by a number of males, the eggs can be fertilized by sperm of different males. When the owners of intact females fail to keep them safely separated or sequestered, and they escape and run loose, or loose, intact males are drawn from all over the neighborhood to them, anything can happen!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 12:13PM Comments (11)

Thankful for Dog Vaccines

December 21, 2016 - My husband and I were talking about childhood dogs for some reason, and he said, "We got a dog when I was little and it died of distemper, and my parents said, 'That's it, no more dogs.'" When he said that, I suddenly remembered that my family, too, had lost a young dog to distemper when I was a child. I have a solid memory of my mother wiping up vomit, and the adolescent pup lying limply nearby, and my mother telling me, "I don't think she's going to make it." I was probably about four or five years old, but I knew that this phrase meant the dog was probably going to die.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 04:30PM Comments (10)

What is it About Doorbells and Dogs?

December 15, 2016 - Before you jump all over me, I totally understand why MY dogs jump and bark and run in circles when MY doorbell rings; the sound is a reliable predictor of visitors, both strange and wonderful. Most of the time when my doorbell rings, my husband or I get up and things start to happen. But how do you explain that the majority of dogs not only respond to the sound that their own doorbell makes, but also to the sound of doorbells that are CLEARLY not in their home, as when a doorbell rings on TV? You can't tell me they don't know the difference; most dogs can tell the difference between the cellophane on a new sponge versus the new bag of treats - from the middle of a sound sleep!
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 09:08AM Comments (20)

How Would Your Dog Rate You?

December 8, 2016 - I recently saw a video on Facebook that was titled, "How Moms Think of Themselves Versus How Their Kids Think of Them." It was a tad treacly, but bear with me for a moment. In the video, mothers were being interviewed one at a time, and asked, "How would you describe yourself as a mom?" All of them gave themselves fairly harsh assessments.
Posted by Nancy Kerns at 05:20AM Comments (13)