Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trail Running with Your Dog - Part II

You may remember that Rio and I decided to sign up for Trail Running with Your Dog. So, last Sunday was the first meeting that Rio and I attended. Looks like the workshop will be held once a month during Austin's "cool weather" months. We arrived at the Hill Country Running Company on South Lamar and were led through the store to an outdoor area in the back. Sheri Elkins, Lead Trainer of the Lee Mannix Center for Canine Behavior led our class. There were around 7 or 8 other dogs there of all shapes and sizes. Shari explained that we'd be doing our trail work over on Town Lake trail about one half block from the store.

Before starting an exercise program like this with your dog, a visit to your veterinarian is a good idea. Discuss with him/her your plans and make sure your dog is up to starting an exercise program. Decide with your vet, the duration of time your first exercise session will be and how many times per week he/she recommends for the exercise sessions. After you and your dog become comfortable with your starting point, Sheri recommends increasing the length of time you exercise by 10% each week.

Sheri first explained the equipment we would need for trail running. She prefers using a Martingale collar, a 4-6 foot leash and your dogs favorite treats. She also explained that feeding your dog a big meal prior to running was not advisable. Also, not a good idea is allowing your dog to drink a great deal prior to your run. (Imagine how you might feel running immediately after finishing Thanksgiving Dinner or after drinking a Route 44 cherry limeade from Sonic). Shari also told us, that dogs that are running regularly and doing long distances may need to have their diets changed or increased based on their metabolism and the increased calories they are burning during exercise. She recommended a product called Zuke's Power Bones for dogs doing long distance. These treats can be given periodically throughout the course of a long run. They are organic "power bars" made by a company called Zukes based in Durango, CO. Corn and wheat free, they are made up of simple and complex carbs easily broken down by doggy athletes. They are also excellent for dogs doing any type of high endurance exercise such as agility, hunting, hiking, swimming, etc. You can read more about them at .

She also stressed the need for proper hydration for your dog as well as yourself. If you run on a warmer day, she recommended allowing your dog a dip in the pool or lake prior to a run, so that his body is cool when you start . Additionally, allow him to stop along the way for another dip to remain cool. She talked about how to tell if your dog is getting overheated by checking the shape of their tongue when they are panting. Dogs who are getting overheated will have tongues that widen at the end as opposed to tongues that are the same width from top to bottom. Finally, as one might expect, poop bags are in order as the dogs body functions become stimulated during exercise. She recommended a short walk prior to beginning the run to encourage the dog to void prior to the run.

With that information we started on our way. We went to a place on the trail that wasn't as heavily used as the main trail and did a few exercises. These included how to loose leash run with your dog. Should your dog want to stop to sniff or investigate during a run, Sheri recommended gently pulling on the leash downwards and forwards at the same time so as to minimize pressure on the dog's neck. She also recommended utilizing a key phrase such as "Let's go", "Come on", or "Leave it" so that the dog recognizes this phrase to mean "run now, sniff later". Should your dog begin to pull on the leash, Sheri recommended immediately reversing direction. This shows the dog that you are in charge and that the dog is going where you want to go instead of vice versa.

Finally, we were running. Just a short distance up the trail and back so the dogs and owners could familiarize themselves with a pace that would be comfortable for them both. Sheri coached us to run with our dogs on our right sides. This is so the dog is always on the outside of the trail, thereby placing the human runner in between other dogs or people coming the opposite direction on the trail. This was a challenge at first for Rio and me, because I usually walk her on my left side as I walk against traffic in my neighborhood and this keeps Rio on the outside of the road. After a few tries, Rio quickly picked up running on my other side and seemed to really be enjoying the exercise.

It was a warm humid day though, and soon I looked around and realized what Sheri meant about the width of a dog's tongue changing when a dog became overheated. The tongues of several of the larger, more heavy dogs definitely had become wider near the end of the tongue then they were near the base. I had never noticed that before. As,we gave the dogs a water break, Sheri explained to us how to pass others on the trail. It was a little awkward and something that Rio and I will have to work on. Basically, you encourage the dog to pass behind you to move to your other side, in order to keep yourself between your dog and the person you are passing on the trail. You encourage the dog with a treat, by first showing the dog the treat and allowing the dog to sniff it. You do not release the treat to the dog until he passes onto your other side, encouraged by and following the hand holding the treat. Easier said the done. Once again, you employ a key phrase, such as "Pass" or "Other side" so the dog recognizes this as the time to move to your other side. Rio and I will definitely have to practice this trick.

Finally, nearing the end of class time, we gathered in the grass under a tree. This is my favorite part of a run-the cool down phase. Sheri shared with us tips on canine massage. She demonstrated a few different areas to massage on your dog post run and had us practice with our dogs. She also recommended a wonderful book, Getting in T-Touch with Your Dog: an Easy Gentle Way to Better Health and Behavior by Linda Tellington-Jones. Check it out on Amazon

As the class broke up, Sheri reminded us that the class would meet again next month and she also handed us a flier on an upcoming multi-distance running/walking event that benefits the Schrodi Memorial Training Fund on December 5th. For more info, check it out:

Hmmm, maybe Rio and I will sign up. At the end of the day, the class was well worth the $20 spent. The joy of interacting with my dog on a gorgeous November Sunday in one of the coolest cities in the country.....priceless.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Can I Get H1N1 From My Dog?

So you could have knocked me over with a feather last week when I heard a news report on a cat from Iowa that was diagnosed with H1N1. As I sat with my face inches away from my Lab leaning in for a quick kiss on the nose, I stopped in mid-smack. If a cat could get H1N1, could my cuddley, kissable, sometimes sneezes on my food pooch come down with the disease and give it to me?

Lucky for me, I work for a veterinarian. He also doubles as a columnist for our neighborhood newspaper, the Four Points News. His article this week, "Can My Dog Catch the Flu?" is reprinted below in its entirety, with Dr. Ray Bouloy's permission, of course.

Can My Dog Catch the Flu?

H1N1 is making its way across Central Texas and the United States. Several of my clients have asked, “is it possible for my dog contract the flu?” The answer is “no” and “yes”.

Thus far, H1N1 or the “swine flu” has not been reported in dogs. Last week, however, H1N1 was confirmed in a cat in Iowa. The cat contracted H1N1 from a person in the household with H1N1. The cat survived with medical care. Two ferrets have been reported to have contracted H1N1 from a positive individual in a home and both ferrets died.

Dogs can get a different strain of influenza called H3N8. This strain is not contagious to humans and is only rarely reported at this time. The virus first appeared in 2004 in racing greyhounds in Florida and a number of dogs died in this outbreak. There have been isolated outbreaks across the country, but the canine influenza doesn’t appear to be a threat at this time.

Veterinarians see many cases of flu like symptoms in dogs and cats almost every day. Most of these cases are the common forms of “kennel cough” in dogs and feline upper respiratory complex in cats. Most of these animals have been exposed to viruses or bacteria in shelters, boarding kennels, dog parks or other places animal congregate. “Kennel cough” is very common and is caused by a bacteria called Bordetella bronchoseptica. This bacteria often partners with a virus called parainfluenza to cause a “hacking” cough. The cough often sounds like your dog has a “chicken bone caught in his throat”. The dog is usually eating and not running a fever unless the bacteria moves into the lungs and causes pneumonia. Young puppies are usually most severely affected with this bacterial upper respiratory infection.

There is an effective vaccine for “kennel cough” that can be given as a spray in the nose or as an injection. I would recommend giving this vaccine prior to boarding and prior to a dog event such as a dog show or if you like to take your dog to dog parks or day care. Some vaccines are approved for once a year and some are only approved for 6 months. See your veterinarian for recommendations. If your dog contracts “kennel cough”, antibiotics may be prescribed along with medication to decrease the intensity of the cough. This bacteria is highly contagious and often other dogs that come into contact with the infected dog will contract the infection. Cats can also contract bordetella but this is not commonly diagnosed. People are not susceptible to this form of bordetella.

The canine influenza virus, or H3N8, may become more of a threat to dogs. It is reported to have a 5-8 % mortality rate. At this time, most veterinarians don’t recognize an immediate threat to our canine patients because outbreaks have been very isolated. There is a newly released vaccine for this strain of influenza for dogs and your veterinarian will be able to discuss the value of this vaccine. The vaccine is not considered a “cure” vaccine. I would consider giving to dogs traveling to large dog shows or any event with large numbers of participating dogs. Recommendations may change if the virus does start to effect larger number of dogs. There are several laboratories in the United States where samples can be sent to identify if a suspect patient has H3N8 virus.

If your dog or cat develops symptoms such as coughing, sneezing or discharge from the eyes and nose, see your veterinarian. If a fever is present or if your dog or cat is not eating, a thorough medical work-up is in order. Let’s get through this cold and flu season and say “good riddance” once and for all to H1N1.

Raymond P. Bouloy, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (canine / feline)

Hiway 620 Animal Hospital

Thanks to Dr. Bouloy for sharing his article and remember, should you suspect that your dog is sick, please seek medical attention from your family veterinarian.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Trail Run with your Dog!!

So, I think I'm going to try it...I'm going to try trail running with my Lab. I tried running with one of my dogs once before. Often I pictured myself and Cayman, running the streets of my neighborhood, everyone admiring my athletic fitness and that of my dog. So one day, I laced up my running shoes and strapped on Cayman's halter and leash and we were off.

Unfortunately, I forgot that part of the joy of walking for a dog is stopping.....frequently..... Oh the smells that await a young Labrador's nose, oh the aromas. And, of course, there is the grass and the fact they are hunting dogs. A trail must be left behind to mark where they've been and warn others that this is their new territory claimed by squatter's rights. I spent the first 10 minutes looking as if I was hooked up to a bungee cord - me at one end, Cayman on the other, ping-ponging from roadside to grass and back again.

Did I mention that Cayman suffers from chronic colitis? That means he's been on a high fiber low fat diet all of his life. You know what that kind of diet does for a dog? It keeps his colon happy....and clean. So after a good liquid dousing of every bush and plant along the roadside, Cayman found just the right spot and he proceeded to unload right on the side of the road. He's a 90lb dog. I assume no pictures are necessary. There was no hiding that mound or pretending a "wild animal" had dropped it. So far, the only sweat I'd broken was from lifting the plastic bag containing the remains of Cayman's previous night's dinner. This was not going well.

But I'm ready to try it again. This time with Rio (pictured above practicing her trail running skills. Cayman has since retired from running due to two ACL repairs. He has taken up swimming instead.) Rio, on the other hand is the perfect size. She is a svelte 64lbs and a little easier to manage. She has healthy knees. She isn't on a high fiber diet and genuinely seems more interested in the act of movement (rather than that of investigation) when on a walk.

So a friend of mine sent me a flier - How to Run with Your Dog (and not be dragged down the trail by you pup) sponsored by Texas Iron Events* and led by Shari Elkins. She is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant. Sounds like the perfect class for Rio and me.

The class is Sunday, November 15th at 2pm and will last for 1.5 hours. The cost is $20. The class meets at Hill Country Running Company located at 215 South Lamar Blvd., Suite E, Austin, TX 78704. Look for the Bridges Condo building, across from Scholtsky's Deli. HCRC is located on the first floor. There is free parking in the first floor garage next to LIFT cafe. Wanna join us?

Here's the info: Once you've entered the link, scroll down to see the Trail Running class info.

Hope to see you there!!!!

*Texas Iron's mission is to provide quality training and coaching in a safe and positive environment. Our coaches are hands on, and are considered the top in their field. We strive to make fitness and health a priority in one's life thru fun and exciting training programs and we like to add in a variety of options for athletes. We believe that training and competing should be viewed as a happy addition to one's hobbies!