Category Archives: Dog

Slobbery Kisses from ‘Man’s Best Friend’ Aid Cancer Research

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Fido’s wet licks might hold more than love. They could provide the DNA keys to findings new treatments for rare cancers and other diseases in both dogs and human patients.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) have created the Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium, a program designed to study naturally occurring cancers in dogs to better understand why both pets and people get sick.

“Rare diseases in humans also show up in dogs. By studying the DNA of canines, we expect to more quickly discover the genomic causes of disease and more quickly find ways to better treat dogs, and people,” said Dr. Mark Neff, director of the new TGen-VARI Program for Canine Health and Performance.

Using voluntarily donated saliva, blood and tumor samples from many breeds of privately owned dogs, researchers hope that by studying canine cancers they can pinpoint the causes of human cancers. The goal is to translate that knowledge into therapeutics useful to both veterinarians and clinical oncologists.

No dogs will be harmed and many should be helped. Nearly half of all dogs 10 years and older die from cancer. Dogs will be treated as patients at veterinary clinics nationwide. The research is endorsed by the American Kennel Club and by the Morris Animal Foundation. Samples will be gathered with the consent of owners and veterinarians.

In addition to cancer, TGen and VARI eventually will study neurological and behavioral disorders as well as hearing loss and other debilitative conditions in dogs that could relate to people.

The cancer research will be supported by the recent approval of a 2-year, $4.3 million federal stimulus grant to the Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium, which includes TGen and VARI in partnership with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the University of Pennsylvania, Michigan State University, dog breeders and veterinarians.

The public-private program also is funded by $1 million in grants from businesses involved in pet care — $500,000 from PetSmart, and $500,000 from Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

“We’re proud to be part of such an innovative approach that fully supports our mission of providing total lifetime care for pets, and one that will offer hope to people and dogs who are suffering from these illnesses,” said Phil Francis, Executive Chairman of PetSmart.

Neil Thompson, President and CEO of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, said support of cancer research in dogs “goes hand-in-hand with the company’s mission of enriching and lengthening the special relationships between people and their pets. Maintaining the health of dogs goes beyond good nutrition. We support this research and the hope it provides, which will ultimately benefit dogs and dog lovers everywhere.”

Through the federal grant, researchers also will draw on experts at the National Cancer Institute’s Pediatric and Genetics Branches and Comparative Oncology program, including Dr. Paul Meltzer, Chief of NCI’s Genetics Branch. Dr. Meltzer and his colleagues will use gene expression profiling to identify genes involved in osteosarcoma to determine if the same genetic markers, alterations, and targets found are also found in human osteosarcoma, and in dogs. Comparing data between humans and dogs has the potential to significantly advance understanding of this cancer.

Dr. Meltzer indicated he is hopeful the study will pinpoint the genetic causes of osteosarcoma, as well as identify individualized treatment options.

The program’s “bark-to-bedside” approach represents an unprecedented alliance of veterinarians, basic scientists and private practice clinicians, non-profit research institutes, universities, industry and government. The project also will involve TGen Drug Development Services (TD2), a subsidiary of TGen, which will seek partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

Why study dogs?

Dr. Jeffrey Trent, President and Research Director for TGen and VARI, said that it is difficult to study rare cancers in people, because there is insufficient data. But by studying similar types of cancers more prevalent in dogs, researchers should be better able to help those who currently have little hope.

“There’s no question that you are doubly-cursed if you get a rare cancer. You may have a very difficult disease course, and you have very little information about how to guide the physician, and what treatment would be best. For some of these rare cancers, we don’t even have consensus on what the best treatments might be,” Dr. Trent said.

For example, children with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, still often results in the loss of limbs.

“Many rare human cancers are very common in dogs. We’re excited about the idea that we may be able to identify areas that could be mutually beneficial — that could help the canine patient and can help the human patient with these various cancers,” Dr. Trent said. “The unique and exciting aspect of this is that it’s a rare occasion where industry, academia, government and the private sector are joined together in a common goal of obtaining information to advance both pet and human health.”

Study will investigate many diseases

The study is focused on sarcomas, those cancers that originate in the connective tissues such as bone, cartilage and fat.

“The sad reality of sarcoma, because it is such a rare human disease, is that very few scientists take the time to do any research on it because it is not possible to get the number of samples you need for those kinds of studies,” said Dr. Nick Duesbery, co-director of VARI’s Center for Comparative Biology and Genetics.

The project began with the study of hemangiosarcoma — angiosarcoma in humans — a cancer for which there are currently no effective treatments. These tumors start in the lining of blood vessels and in the spleen. They are highly malignant and can be found most anywhere in the body.

Although rare in humans, these tumors are relatively common in certain breeds of dogs, such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Clumber Spaniels. After as many as 150 years of breeding, there are few genetic variations in these dogs, making it easier to identify the few genetic differences that can affect cancer susceptibility and response to drugs.

Study initiated by VARI

With the support of the American Kennel Club and the Clumber Spaniel Health Foundation, VARI in February 2008 began to study hemangiosarcoma in Clumber Spaniels. Researchers are using new genetic technologies developed at VARI to create genetic screens, diagnostic tests and treatments for hereditary canine cancers. VARI is analyzing the DNA and RNA of Clumber Spaniels, looking for genetic patterns that eventually could indicate if a particular dog is a carrier of a

defective gene that could cause cancer.

With the addition of TGen and federal and private funding, the program is expanding to study four other cancers among as many as 20 breeds of dogs.

In the first two years, the project also will study osteosarcoma, oral melanoma, malignant histiocytosis, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Information from these studies will be used to develop diagnostic DNA tests for larger groups of dogs, enabling researchers to look for genes that influence cancer.

“We’ve got an incredible advantage here with the dogs, because these diseases are much more common in dogs than they are in humans. We can get some insight into the biology. Our strongest hope and desire is that we can translate that into therapies we can use for people,” Dr. Duesbery said.

Do you have an interesting animal fact you would like to share with other pet lovers? Why not create your own website with Living Years Pets; an easy to create, affordable and highly engaging website to celebrate your beloved pets. It will allow family, friends and colleagues, from around the world, to communicate and frequently relive precious memories forever.


All Good Dogs Go To Heaven

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If “all good dogs go to heaven” and all dogs are good; then heaven is overflowing with dogs…and cats…and a plethora of other animal companions. Good for us, I say. I, for one, look forward to being reunited with my animal companions.

Our beloved corgi; Buddynwolf Rowan Crowfeather, most affectionately known as Buddy, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on Mother’s Day. We had shared (almost) 15 years together. His passing was unexpected. We were not ready. But then again, when is anyone ever ready to be left behind? Buddy fought the good fight and survived his bout with cancer last year, gracing and blessing us with an additional 14 months of pure joy, delight and unconditional love. Buddy truly lived every moment he was alive!

Buddy was a great teacher. I vow to uphold and share the lessons he has taught us, (and I do believe he will continue to teach us from a distance)… He taught us how to love without judgment and without conditions. One of his closet sidekicks and trusted confidantes was Toka, a cat. Buddy showed us how to find joy and happiness in every moment. He would delight in rolling in the snow and never ever became dismayed because it was raining. He loved to share his life and his possessions and never complained when his (new) canine companion Charlotte ‘stole’ his favorite treat… sure he grumbled for a moment, but he let go and moved on.

He taught us how to forgive and how to be happy, despite whatever obstacles we were faced with. Having short legs (he didn’t know he wasn’t a wolf) he would be confronted with challenges while ‘out and about’ on a trail, however, he simply chose another route, another way around things. And he taught us to find the answers deep within our hearts and souls. He chose love.

Those of you who have had to let go of a dearly beloved animal companion, are more than likely remembering your life with that great animal as you read my words. You feel my pain and grief in your heart and there is knowingness that we are not alone.

Animal companions have presented themselves during readings so I know heaven is full of our friends and I find comfort in that knowing.

Diane Marie Ford, CHHC, AADP, Nourishment Counselor & Spirit Medium is the founder of Whole Soul Nutrition™.

For more information or to 
talk with Diane call 508.947.5348
Please visit her web site;

Alaska dog honored for leading troopers to fire

Photo and story courtesy AP.

In the US state of Alaska, Buddy the German shepherd was hailed Friday as a hero for guiding State Troopers through winding back roads to a fire at his owners’ workshop.

“Buddy is an untrained dog who for some reason recognized the severity of the situation and acted valiantly in getting help for his family,” Col. Audie Holloway, head of the troopers, said Friday at a ceremony for the 5-year-old dog, who stood quietly before an adoring crowd.

Buddy, whose good deed was caught on a patrol car’s dashcam video, received a stainless steel dog bowl engraved with words of appreciation from troopers for his “diligence and assistance.”

Buddy also received a big rawhide bone, and his human family got a framed letter documenting his efforts.

“He’s my hero,” owner Ben Heinrichs said, his voice breaking. “If it wasn’t for him, we would have lost our house.”

The dashcam video shows Buddy meeting the trooper’s vehicle, then dashing to their property about 55 miles north of Anchorage on April 4.

Heinrichs said he was working on parts for his truck when a spark hit some gasoline and ignited, lighting his clothes blaze. The 23-year-old man ran outside to stomp out the flames by rolling in the snow, closing the door to keep the blaze from spreading.

Heinrichs then realized Buddy was still inside the burning building and let the dog out. Heinrichs suffered minor burns on his face and second-degree burns on his left hand, which was still heavily bandaged Friday.

Buddy was not injured.

“I just took off running,” Heinrichs said. “I said we need to get help, and he just took off.”

Buddy ran into the nearby woods and onto Caswell Loop Road, where the dog encountered the trooper, Terrence Shanigan, whose global positioning device had failed while responding to a call about the fire. He was working with dispatchers to find the property in an area with about 75 miles of back roads.

Shanigan was about to make a wrong turn when he saw a shadow up the road. His vehicle lights caught Buddy at an intersection, and the dog eyed the trooper and began running down a side road.

“He wasn’t running from me, but was leading me,” he said. “I just felt like I was being led … it’s just one of those things that we’re thinking on the same page for that brief moment.”

The video shows Buddy occasionally looking back at the patrol car as he raced ahead, galloping around three turns before arriving in front of the blaze, which was very close to the Heinrichs’ home.

From there, the trooper guided firefighters to the scene.

The workshop was destroyed and a shed was heavily damaged, but only some window trim on the house was scorched.

The Heinrich family said they knew Buddy was smart ever since they got him six weeks after he was born to a canine-officer mother and that he was brave, twice chasing bears away while Ben Heinrichs was fishing.

But saving their home beat them all.

“Downright amazing, I would say,” said Tom Heinrichs, Ben’s father. “Maybe there was some divine intervention.”

How to brush your dog

Brushing your pet should be a fun process for you and your dog. Your dog should not be frightened of the brush. Short grooming sessions to begin with are always best. Always rewarding your dog with praises and a treat or letting him chew on a toy while you groom away. Don’t let your dog bite and play with your grooming tools, as it can become a play toy and this is not fun when you are trying to groom your dog and he is trying to eat the brush at the same time. Use a rubber non slip matt for smaller dogs if you need to brush your pet on a bench, always remember never to leave your pet unattended when up high. For the larger breeds a nice brush out on the back lawn would be like heaven for your dog. Not only is he receiving a grooming but in his mind you are paying attention to him in his domain. You no doubt will receive loads of licks for this! And then it becomes a fun and happy event each time you groom your dog.

“The grooming tool depends on the breed of the dog.”

Pick your brush or grooming tool, based on your dog’s breed type and coat. Long haired dogs you can use slicker brush, comb and a pin brush that will painlessly get rid of loose hairs and also get all the way down to the skin. Use a stiff natural-bristle brush for short haired dogs, then a soft-bristle brush to distribute natural oils to the hair. A grooming mitt and furminator for shorter coated breeds is recommended to remove dead hair.

  • Brush down and out, away from the dog’s skin. Always brush in the direction the coat grows; dogs don’t always like to be brushed backwards.
  • Be gentle or you may damage your dog’s coat by pulling and stretching hairs until they tangle and break. Take the time to untangle any snarls just as you would if your comb got stuck in your child’s hair.
  • Choose one side and brush your dog from his head back to his tail. Work with small sections and brush the hair with the direction of growth. Make sure to part the hair down to the skin to prevent matting. Repeat the process on the other side.
  • For curly coated breeds like the poodle and Bichon, you may gently brush up the legs and body to achieve a fluffier look, but always with care and caution
  • A good way to test your brushes, including slicker brushes, is run the brush down your arm, this will give you an indication of the pressure you should be applying to your pet, as slicker brushes come in soft, medium and hard. Each brush has a purpose for each breed.
  • Make sure to brush and comb every area of your dog’s coat every day and mats will not appear again. If you live in damp climates the hair is likely to mat more often than those pets living in drier climates. Also areas such as arm pits, behind ears, rear end feathers and chests are more likely to mat as they receive more friction from petting, scratching. Always be carefull around the eyes, ears, anus and armpit areas and private areas, as a sharp brush can cause a brush rash if used too heavily.
  • If you encounter mats, apply a coat conditioner or mat spray and leave it on for several minutes. Then use a wide-toothed comb or a mat-splitting tool to get through the tangle. Mats can get close to a dog’s skin and removing them can be painful, so proceed carefully. We don’t recommend you cut out mats with scissors, be careful you don’t end up at the vet’s for stitches; it happens more often than you’d think. If you just can’t get a mat out, take your dog to a groomer, who will probably clip the area.

Do you have a special way of caring for your pets that you would like to share with other pet lovers? Why not create your own website with Living Years Pets; an easy to create, affordable and highly engaging website to celebrate your beloved pets. It will allow family, friends and colleagues, from around the world, to communicate and frequently relive precious memories forever.

From Service Dog to Surfing Dog

Judy Fridono sees the positive side in many situations. Diagnosed with a degenerative disease, Judy doesn’t focus on her constant pain; instead, she turns her energies toward training service dogs. Ricochet, her 2-year old Golden Retriever, was slated to become a service dog, but didn’t make the cut. Ricochet now works as a surfice dog.

Judy with Ricochet, her Surfice dog.

From almost the moment she was born, Judy worked with Ricochet. She was so proud of the progress Ricochet was making.  She learned how to fetch, how to turn on and off light switches, how to zip a jacket, and other tasks taught to service dogs.

Ricochet also loved chasing birds. “She would be in a field, and as soon as she saw a bird, she would run after it,” says Judy. “I was disheartened. She was doing so well with her training, but you can’t have a service dog that chases birds.”

Making the Cut

Any number of factors can disqualify a dog from becoming an assistant to a person with disabilities. Judy is well aware that all dogs don’t make the cut. It was eight years ago that she started Puppy Prodigies, a neo-natal and early learning nonprofit program that trains puppies for service work. “Most of us would agree that it is difficult to predict the adult personality of a puppy,” says Judy. “Since that’s not possible, Puppy Prodigies focuses on the puppies’ early weeks which are crucial to their later success in training, and in life. We specialize in early learning and development from birth to 7-12 weeks of age. This gets the puppy ready for the next phase of their training by learning to learn.”

Ricochet came close, and Judy didn’t want to give up on her. “I was frustrated and knew that she wouldn’t be able to assist someone who was blind or deaf, or had some other disability,” says Judy. “Then I thought about her surfing abilities.”

Ricochet loves the waves.

As part of her training, Judy would place Ricochet (and the other service dogs she trained) in a kiddie pool with a wooden plank. She put Ricochet on top of the plank, and she would balance. “Not all dogs like the motion of an unsteady surface,” says Judy. “It’s a good idea to get service dogs to feel comfortable in all sorts of situations. Not all grounds are steady, and if a blind person is walking with a service dog on a wobbly sidewalk or even an escalator, the dog should feel confident guiding the person who can’t see.”

Surfing Dog

It turns out that Ricochet has incredible balance, and a love for the water. Judy would take Ricochet to the beach near their home in San Diego. She entered Ricochet in a local surfing contest, and she won.  Since then, Ricochet has entered several contests, and won most of them.  She just loves surfing.

Judy turned this love into a way to raise money for people with disabilities. “Ricochet became a surfice dog,” she says. “And I started Surfin’ for Paws-abilities,” a nonprofit assistance dog program.

People make tax-deductible donations to specific charities, and Judy searches for sponsors. Ricochet’s first fundraiser was to help 15-year old Patrick Ivison, a quadriplegic surfer. Ricochet would ride tandem with Patrick. When he fell off his surf board, Ricochet pulled him back on.

Judy was able to raise $10,000 for Patrick’s therapy, and her sponsor, the Rose Foundation awarded a grant to cover three years of Patrick’s physical therapy. In addition, the donation covered enough for Patrick to get a service dog of his own.

Judy and Ricochet continue to raise funds. As of this date, they raised a total of $20,000 thanks to a video Judy made about Ricochet and his surfing abilities.

Judy, who is a certified dog trainer, trains other service dogs. She is looking into training shelter dogs for her program. “We don’t need to breed more dogs,” she says. “The shelters are filled, and I’m sure that there are many dogs that would greatly benefit from this program.”

Lessons Learned

“When I stopped focusing on what she couldn’t do, and focused on what she could do, everything fell into place,” she says. “By listening to Ricochet, and letting her do what she does best—not what I wanted her to do—she accomplished amazing things.”

She is still winning the hearts of all who meet her, and working hard to raise awareness and funds for people in need.

Do you have a pet who’s amazing tricks you would like to share with other pet lovers? Why not create your own website with Living Years Pets; an easy to create, affordable and highly engaging website to celebrate your beloved pets. It will allow family, friends and colleagues, from around the world, to communicate and frequently relive precious memories forever.

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Scratch Scratch

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Scratch Scratch. Bite Bite. Gnaw Gnaw. Lick Lick.

How many of you watch your beloved dog chronically scratch, bite, gnaw and lick all day? It’s heart breaking. How many take our beloved to the vet for cortisone shots, tablet, antibiotics or all of the above, only to find it is a temporary fix and the problem is getting worse?

Deep down we know the use of cortisone and antibiotics is not a great idea for our pets, but most feel there isn’t any other option. Luckily there are many other options and they don’t require expensive allergy tests or allergies shots.

Firstly we need to understand the allergy. Allergies can be air borne or food related. What many don’t realize is it can also be what your pets sleep, play or walk on. I have seen every type of allergy come through my clinic. Finding out which is the problem is the trick. What happens when you do find the offending allergen and your dog keeps itching? Is there another allergy? Have we discovered the correct allergen? Was an allergen the problem in the first place? Is stress involved?

Treating an itchy dog isn’t an easy task as no two dogs are the same. When a dog has suffered with allergy symptoms for a long period of time and has had multiple courses of antibiotics and cortisone, other complications can begin to arise.

The first step to treating a dog with itchy skin is to have a close look at their diet. I very rarely have dogs on natural diets come in with skin problems. 99% of my itchy patients are on processed dog food. A natural diet does not consist of packaged food with the word natural or holistic on it. This includes Supercoats “natural” food, Nature’s Gift and Eagle Pack amongst a few. If it doesn’t look like real food, than it isn’t.

A true natural diet consists of real “raw” meat and “blended” raw or semi cooked fruit and vegetables. Always avoid beef and lamb as these meats can cause further irritation. Meats I recommend are kangaroo, chicken, pork (must be frozen for 2 weeks before eating) and turkey. Vegetables: Beans, silver beet, carrots, snow peas, cauliflower, celery, broccoli, cucumber, asparagus, pumpkin, eggplant, zucchini, bean sprouts, capsicum, spinach and sweet potato *All green vegetables *No tomato, onion, leeks, white potatoes. Fruit: Banana, apple, pear and seasonal fruits *No citrus

AND NO RICE OR PASTA! Dogs require only 5% carbohydrate in their diets. They obtain their energy requirements from animal fat (which should be raw). Rice, pasta and processed dog foods are too high in carbohydrates. These foods not only cause obesity and metabolic disorders but contribute to skin diseases.

For a natural diet to be successful, it is important to add the correct nutrients. Omega 3, 6, & 9 is of extreme importance. Most will say I’ve tried fish oil capsules and flax oil but it didn’t work. Omega oils must be fed for 4 weeks before it begins to absorb in the body at full capacity. Animals with any form of illness must take Omega Oil in therapeutic doses. This means larger than the standard dose advised on the packaging. Most over the counter Omega oils have very low potencies and some even at large doses may not be enough. We must choose the correct Omega Oil blend for our dogs and feed the correct doses. I will prescribe approximately 1 tablespoon per 10 kilo’s of body weight of Natural Animal Solutions Omega 3, 6 & 9 for Dogs.

I then recommend adding a complete multivitamin and multi-mineral. I use DigestaVite Plus.

My final recommendation is to add a high potency Vitamin C with antioxidants. A good vitamin C works as a natural antihistamine. Dogs suffering with allergies will benefit significantly from Vitamin C as it will reduce their excessive histamine levels, reducing their itching.

From experience most itchy dogs and cats will significantly improve on a natural diet and the correct supplementation. More serious cases will need further assistance and guidance from an animal naturopath that is able to prescribe naturopathic medications.

Do you have a special method for keeping your dog in great shape that you would like to share with other pet lovers? Why not create your own website with Living Years Pets; an easy to create, affordable and highly engaging website to celebrate your beloved pets. It will allow family, friends and colleagues, from around the world, to communicate and frequently relive precious memories forever.

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Is camping with a dog a good idea?

Anywhere that you go outdoors is completely appropriate for your dog as well, right? While many pet owners believe that as long as they are not going onto someone else’s property or indoors where pets are not welcome, that it is completely appropriate to bring their dog along. While this is not always true, taking your dog camping with you is a great idea for many reasons.

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Physical Exercise

Dogs need to stay active just as much as humans do. Right now we are facing an obesity epidemic, not just with the human population but with the domesticated dog population as well. More and more pets are becoming overweight and struggling with many of the same health problems that humans face as a result of carrying too much excess fat stores on their body. The best way to combat this and ensure your dog isn’t one the unlucky who suffer from obesity is to get them outdoors and moving around on a consistent basis.

Camping trips are excellent sources of physical activity because you are outdoors and have access to a wide variety of recreations. You can take your dog on hikes in the nearby woods or for strolls around the camping site. You may also be able to find them a grassy area to just run around or play fetch and Frisbee. If there is a stream or creek on the campgrounds, your dog may enjoy swimming or splashing around on a hot day as well.

Bonding Time

When you get out in the wilderness with your dog, you will bond with them in ways that just can’t happen at home sitting on the couch. Camping offers a lot of uninterrupted time to pet and love on your dog as well as some time to sit and enjoy looking around at the beautiful scenery together.

Of course, all of those physical activities are great for bonding and enjoying one another as well!


Your dog can also offer an extra source of protection for you and your family. Sleeping outdoors in an area you aren’t completely familiar with and around people who you don’t really know can present some dangers, though you should look into the safety ahead of time. Dogs can alert you to others walking onto your campsite and provide a real sense of protection when it comes time to sack up for the night.

Training Opportunities

If you have a smaller puppy or a dog that is still being trained on skills such as socializing with others, camping is a great opportunity to challenge their new skills and see how much progress they are making. For instance, a dog that is being trained to stay by your side and not chase after birds, squirrels, and other passing creatures and objects will have tons of opportunity to master this skill in an active campground environment!

There are tons of benefits for your dog if you take them along for a camping adventure! They will enjoy just being outdoors and getting some fresh air, but they will cherish the time with you even more. Dogs live for attention and the positive feedback they get from their owners when they do something right. Taking them on a camping trip rather than leaving them behind will do a world of good for your relationship with them, as long as you select a dog-friendly campsite.

Do you have a special memory of being on holiday with your pooch that you would like to share with other pet lovers? Why not create your own website with Living Years Pets; an easy to create, affordable and highly engaging website to celebrate your beloved pets. It will allow family, friends and colleagues, from around the world, to communicate and frequently relive precious memories forever.

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