Thursday, February 24, 2011

Leena and Elbow Dysplasia

As most of us familiar with the Labrador retriever know, there are certain genetic traits that predispose them to unfortunate medical issues.

Almost everyone has heard of hip dysplasia, but do you know about elbow dysplasia? Elbow dysplasia is complicated to explain, but is essentially a malformation of the elbow joint most likely due to genetics or stress to the joint during growth, that can cause lameness and degenerative joint disease or arthritis in dogs. In general it affects the giant and larger breed dogs, but is also diagnosed in smaller dogs as well.

Treatment for elbow dysplasia varies. Depending on how quickly the disease is diagnosed, surgery can be performed to help correct the problems of the joint. However, surgery is not as successful once permanent changes or arthritis of the joint has set in. The best candidates for surgery are young dogs between 1 - 2 years of age. Surgery is expensive, must be done by a trained specialist and requires 6 - 8 weeks of post operative recovery including extremely limited activity, cage rest and physical therapy. Surgery does not guarantee against development of arthritis of the joint in the future. Even dogs who have had surgery often require the same type of pain management and anti-inflammatory medication that non-surgical patients receive.

In older dogs where permanent damage of the joint has already occurred, surgery is not as successful. In these cases, dogs are treated with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, and low impact exercise, such as swimming or walking. Weight control is also an important component of supportive treatment as overweight dogs will put additional stress on already sensitive joints. Although different degrees of severity occur, dogs with elbow dysplasia do not have a decreased life expectancy and when properly cared for, can live a normal relatively pain free life.

Many of you know Susie. I adopted her from HOTLR in 2008. Susie was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia in both elbows, arthritis in her spine, and a luxating patella in her left knee. Since her diagnosis, Susie has hiked numerous miles in Colorado, routinely does three to six mile hikes here in Austin with some pretty serious inclines, swims like an otter and loves to "tree" squirrels in the backyard. She is somewhere around 7-8 years old and the only treatment she currently receives for her medical problems are JointMax Triple Strength Chews (an over-the-counter joint supplement containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and other joint cartilage supplements) and Adequan (a monthly injectable medication that slows further degeneration of her joints). She does not limp or seem otherwise painful. Susie is probably not going to come in first place at any foot race, but her joy of life and spirit for play make her a perfect companion for me. I haven't regretted adopting her for one second.

Leena is a dog currently in the HOTLR program that has recently been diagnosed with elbow dysplasia. Her dysplasia is mild and only concerns one elbow. She does not limp and does not seem uncomfortable currently. The only indication that she has the condition is that she stands with one of her feet pointed outwards. Leena is 3 years old now and is most likely not a good candidate for surgery. However, Leena is still able to be a wonderful companion. She will probably not be able to run a marathon or be a frisbee champ, but there is no reason why Leena will not be able to go on long rambling walks with you, swim in any lake or stream you take her, and snuggle up with you at night to watch television. She is currently on no pain medication as she is not limping nor does she seem painful, however it is probably a good idea for her to receive joint supplements that a veterinarian can prescribe and that you can usually get over-the-counter.

Typically, any older Labrador regardless of whether he/she has ever been diagnosed with elbow or hip dysplasia will require some type of supportive joint treatment as they age. They are big dogs, they are often somewhat overweight and they have usually been very active throughout their lives. So, Leena, will be just like every other Labrador out there. Yes, she should be getting her joint supplements now and maybe she'll need anti-inflammatories before some of her older Lab friends, but she will live a very happy and healthy life.

So if you are considering adopting a Labrador, consider Leena. Don't let her condition scare you. This is a very, very common condition in the Labrador retriever and even the best breeder with the best pedigreed animals cannot guarantee a puppy that will be dysplasia free. Leena is ready and waiting and like every single dog in the HOTLR program she needs a forever home filled with forever love. Do you know someone that can give Leena a second chance at a beautiful life? Don't you think she deserves it? For more information on Leena, check her out on the HOTLR website!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Doggy Diet Details

After the pet food recall scare of 2007, many pet owners have become increasingly interested in just exactly what it is that they should feed their pets. Some pets owners are feeding homemade diets and raw food diets in an effort to have total control over the food their pets eat. Many books and articles have been written on how to better feed our pets, but one of the best resources for deciding what is right for your pet can be found using the Whole Dog Journal (WDJ).

Although WDJ is a huge proponent of homemade and raw food diets, they realize that this type of feeding may not be right for all people and their pets. So not only do they consistently review books on canine nutrition and offer advice for "at home" feeders, they also review both dry and wet dog food on an annual basis.

The February 2011 issue reviews dry dog foods and outlines the types of ingredients a pet owner wants to look for on the labels of the pet food they are considering.

First, a bit about labels. According to the FDA rules, ingredients must be listed in order by weight with the heaviest ingredient at the top of the list, and then the next heaviest and so on. Additionally, these ingredients must contain at least 95% of the meat ingredient that is named. For example, if the first ingredient on a dog food label reads chicken for dogs, then, 95% of this particular ingredient must be what it says it is before water or condiments are added. When water and condiments are added as part of processing, the main ingredient (in this case chicken) must still represent 70% of the named product. The rules grow more complex and complicated as you read on. Note that animal protein may not always be at the top of the food ingredient list. For more information about dog food labels click here:

According to the Whole Dog Journal the components that you should look for on a dog food label are as follows:

1) Named animal protein - look for a specific named animal protein such as beef, chicken, duck, veal, salmon, etc. Be wary of proteins with non-specific generic names, such as "meat" or when a specific animal protein is not on the top of the ingredient list.

2) A named animal meal is essential when the primary protein source is a fresh meat. Water that occurs naturally in fresh or frozen meat can make the product heavier, thereby driving the ingredient to the top of the dog food ingredients list due to its total weight. In contrast an animal meal contains very little water. Animal meal can be used in a secondary role, increasing the total protein content when taken together with the primary ingredient. Again, this animal protein meal should be "named", such as chicken meal or beef meal and should not have a non-specific name such as "meat" meal.

3) Vegetables, fruits and grains should be incorporated into the dog food in their "whole" or natural form with minimal processing. Keeping them in their natural state keeps the vitamins and nutrients found in the ingredients intact. Remember, that these ingredients should not come before the animal protein source on the dog food label, but should be used to supplement the protein source.

4) Next, WDJ recommends staying away from foods with meat by-products, added sweetners, artificial preservatives and artificial colors.

5) Pay attention to the best buy date on your pet's food. WDJ recommends looking for foods with best buy dates as much as 10 to 11 months from the date of purchase. This is a sign that the food is very recently made. Be careful to check for artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin) which can extend the life of pet food for up to two years.

6) Finally, discuss your pet's nutritional requirements with a veterinarian. Nutrition has a huge impact on the health of your pet, so your veterinarian's input and understanding of your pet's nutrition is essential to the overall well-being of your furry friend. Certain foods or protein sources may not be the best for a pet suffering certain medical conditions such as diabetes kidney or bladder stones, irritable bowel syndrome or other chronic conditions, so make sure your vet is aware of the diet your pet is eating.

When switching to a new food, remember to do it slowly over the course of a few days to make sure that no stomach upset occurs. Also, remember that the amount you feed is important too. I've found that the amount I feed my dog varies based on the food my dog eats. I recently changed diets for my senior dog and went from feeding him 9 cups a day to 2 cups per day. No kidding!! So read the label, and use it as a guideline. Always feed for the weight your pet should be not the weight that he is (especially if he is overweight). Then, consider how much your pet exercises and his/her metabolism and adjust upward or downward in half cup increments (if you have a Lab) to find the amount that keeps your dog fit and at a lean body weight.

One of the most rewarding aspects of rescue work is watching the transformation that takes place in a dog once he or she is given proper nutrition. There is a noticeable difference in almost every physical aspect of the dog, so we can only imagine that good things are happening internally as well. It's that important.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Laugh for the Love of Labs

So most of you probably know that Heart of Texas Lab Rescue is hosting a fundraiser at Capitol City Comedy Club this Friday. And since most of you share your life in the company of at least one Labrador....I know you like to laugh. So, why not join the HOTLR gang and head on out to Cap City this Friday February 11th at 8pm? Headliner is Jimmie Roulette. Here is a little snippet of what you can expect. What else do you get? Big laughs with a friendly audience of fellow Lab lovers. Feel even better about those gut busters when you realize that $9 of your $12 ticket goes directly to HOTLR to help us pay medical expenses and kenneling costs. (Cap City does require a two item menu purchase in addition to your ticket price - this could be drinks or food).

We could really use your help now too. Shari (scroll down the Labs Needing Homes page of our website to view Shari's story), a sweet yellow girl who is a recent addition to the HOTLR family has some significant health issues to overcome. Most likely used as a one dog puppy factory, Shari has a horrible bacterial skin infection and is heartworm positive. In addition to that, she's done a lot of damage to her teeth most likely from chewing the bars of the cage she was kept in. Whether it was from boredom or the desperate desire to be free and find people to play with, we can't know. Shari also needs to be spayed. Labrador Retrievers go into heat twice yearly. At approximately 6 years of age, Shari easily could have birthed between 100 and 120 puppies. Again we cannot know. One thing is for sure. This is definitely a sweet yellow girl who has more than paid her dues and is very definitely deserving of a second chance at a healthy life with a loving family.

Shari is one of our favorite kind of Labs. Her resilient personality is remarkable given the condition of her body. She is a very rewarding case to work. She is a great candidate for a successful outcome because her spirit for life doesn't allow her to get down just because she doesn't feel well. That same "joie de vivre" will be sure to reward the family that ultimately provides her a forever home. We know that Shari will be eternally grateful - making you smile and laugh and love will be her gift to you.

So don't go to Cap City for HOTLR, or for me. Go get your laugh on for sweet Shari....She'll be full of tail-waggin' thanks and so will we. Tickets must be bought prior to the night of the event. Email us at: for more information and to purchase tickets. I have my tickets, do you have yours?