National Canine Cancer Foundation to fund a new innovative Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) Research Project

June 19th, 2014

I have some new exciting news. As you all know we are always trying to find an new edge in the battle against canine cancer. And Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is one of those cancers we would like to get a better handle on since it seems to end up being diagnosed too late to save the dog. In fact, we are so keen on finding out how to deal with HSA that we have actually initiated our own research project on HSA with G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. This is very exciting for the NCCF because this type of research on HSA has never been tried. Let me tell you how it all came about by first talking about a dog name Batman.

Batman was the first dog to undergo a breakthrough experimental treatment for brain cancer, led by doctors, G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. They developed a combination treatment plan for dogs with glioma, a very aggressive and relatively common form of brain cancer. First they removed the tumor surgically. Then, in some cases, they use local gene therapy to attract immune cells to destroy remaining tumor cells, and finally they created a personalized anti-cancer vaccine made from the dog’s own cancer cells to prevent tumor recurrence.

I personally love the thought of taking a cancer that was killing a dog and turning it into a personalized vaccine to kill the cancer!

Dr. Pluhar, a surgeon at the Veterinary Medical Center, and Dr. Ohlfest, head of the neurosurgery gene therapy program at the Masonic Cancer Center, gave Batman his initial treatment in August 2008. Batman led a normal life unaffected by his tumor until his death from cardiac failure in February 2010, there was no tumor recurrence. According to the Dean of the College, Trevor Ames, DVM, MS, “the far-reaching implications of this promising new treatment are almost difficult to fathom; not only could these treatments lead to a cure for brain and other systemic cancers in dogs, but because dogs and humans share many physiological traits, dogs could also be the missing link in the cure for brain cancer in humans.”

Then something interesting happened. Almost one year ago, Davis Hawn’s then 8-year-old yellow lab, Booster, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his nasal sinus. Booster was given three weeks to live. Hawn did not want to accept the death sentence and began searching the country for a cure. His search led him to doctors in Florida who removed Booster’s tumor and gave him chemo. An online search then led him to Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar from the University of Minnesota’s canine brain tumor clinical program. Davis asked her to help his dog, but Dr. Pluhar had never made a vaccine for this type of cancer before. But Davis was not going to take no for an answer so she did agree to try. She shipped the vaccine off and ten months later Booster is cancer free.

Then after Davis contacted the NCCF to tell us about how well the vaccine works, we contacted Dr. Pluhar to ask if she would be willing to try the same research that was successful with brain cancer and skin cancer, and use the same protocol to try dealing with splenic HSA. The NCCF’s thinking is that with all these other cancers, the similarities were that the cancer had to be removed and a vaccine needed to be created from the cancer cells. With splenic HSA, one of the more common forms of HSA, the spleen is typically removed so we felt that Dr. Pluhar’s research could possibly work. With that in mind, we asked her if she could try and apply her protocol on splenic HSA. After doing some initial research she agreed to do the study based on reaching certain goals before going on to the next level.

First, she needs to insure that we can culture the cancer cells in the lab,

Second, she needs to insure that the tumor vaccines stimulate immune cells to attack tumor cells. If she can achieve these two steps she can go on to treat the HSA cancer. We could not be happier and are guardedly optimistic over this research project.

The cost for this project will be $55,500. I hope you are all as excited as we are about this research and will help fund the project. If you want to help with funding this new innovative NCCF’s initiated project please CLICK HERE or got to this link

Thank you

Gary D. Nice
President and Founder
National Canine Cancer Foundation

Does Your Dog Need Vegetables?

January 30th, 2015

You need veggies to be healthy, but does your dog need them?

While vegetables aren’t necessary for a dog’s health, in most cases they can’t hurt, experts say.

Dogs can benefit from vegetables in their diet. Corn and potatoes give them carbohydrates for energy, plus minerals and fiber. But dogs don’t need vegetables to get these nutrients. Other foods, like rice and grains, can fill these needs too, says Jennifer Larsen, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of California, Davis, Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Dogs are omnivores like people, so they can eat a wide variety of foods, not just meat.

Should I Add Veggies to My Dog’s Food?

In most cases, you don’t need to add them to his kibble bowl, says veterinarian Evy Alloway, who practices at Killingworth Animal Hospital in Connecticut.

If the dog food you buy has a stamp of approval from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (or AAFCO) it means it offers a balanced diet. Everything she needs is already in her food. You don’t have to worry about giving vegetables — or grains, for that matter — to your dog to make sure they get a balanced meal.

Veggies as Treats

While you don’t need to add vegetables to your dog’s diet, it doesn’t mean that you can’t. Many pet owners offer carrots, green beans, or broccoli to dogs as treats.

They’re low-calorie, so they’re good for Fido. But don’t offer too many vegetables as snacks. Treats of any kind should not make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet. Ask your vet for what that means for your dog based on his weight and activity level.

They’re Good for Overweight Dogs

Vets often recommend mixing vegetables into the kibble of an overweight dog as filler. It’ll make his meal feel more satisfying with few calories.

Just be forewarned: A sudden change from the typical fatty, processed, meaty treats to fiber-filled vegetable ones can be a little tough on your dog’s system. To ease the transition, soften raw vegetables a bit first by steaming them. You can also puree them in a blender.

“If your dog becomes constipated, your vet may recommend mixing canned pumpkin in with his food for a few days until the situation rights itself,” Alloway says.

Pureed pumpkin is also used to clear up mild diarrhea. It tends to absorb extra water that’s in the stool and harden it up, while also adding fiber.

Vegetables to Avoid

Feel free to stock up on vegetables for your dog, but whatever you do, don’t feed him onions, garlic, or chive, which can lead to anemia. Unripe tomatoes are another no-no. They can be toxic to dogs. Also, steer clear of avocado and raw potatoes, which can potentially make dogs very sick.

You can try giving your dog fruit. But never offer grapes or raisins. They can quickly lead to illness and kidney damage.

DIY Dog Food? Enlist an Expert

Some people want to make food for their dogs themselves. If you want to, vets say it’s important to have a veterinary nutritionist help you plan meals and come up with recipes. That way you can make sure your pet is getting a balanced diet and doesn’t suffer from any nutritional deficiencies, which can easily happen.

Article reposted from:
By Suz Redfearn – WebMD Pet Health Feature

How to know when it's time to put down your old dog

January 28th, 2015

Last October we put down Dylan, our almost 13-year-old chocolate Labrador Retriever (and the best brown dog in the world). About a year earlier I wrote a post about finally acknowledging that he wouldn’t be around much longer because he stopped running upstairs to the kitchen when he heard me making a meal (or doing anything with food).

Being a soft touch, I always “dropped” something I was making on the floor for him, but when he began to stay on the couch in basement instead of coming upstairs to mooch food I knew his health had started to deteriorate.

As I had never put one of my dogs down before, I was petrified that I wouldn’t know when it was time to let him go. I didn’t want to hang on to him if was suffering, but I obviously didn’t want to euthanize him while his quality of life was still good.

Most dog owners who have had to put down a dog will say that you shouldn’t worry because your dog will let you know when it’s time to let him/her go, and while that was true in Dylan’s case, it may not be true for every dog in every situation.

So what’s the best way to know when it’s time?

A few days before Dylan died, a woman who works at Metro Dog Seattle (the dog daycare where we take our dog Miguel) who knew what we were going through told us how she knew when it was time to let a dog go.

She makes a list of her dog’s favorite things to do, and when it can no longer do anything on the list, she knows it’s time.

That made perfect sense to me, and although she told us this just a day or two before he died, it helped us make the decision to put him down because it forced us to think of favorite things and realize he could no longer do any of them.

Here’s the list I came up with:

  • Trolling for food in the kitchen
  • Swimming after the tennis ball
  • Going on walks
  • Going to the dog park
  • Playing with his kickball in the backyard
  • Fetching the tennis ball
  • Go on outings (we had to start bribing him with treats to go down the 45 stairs to and from our house)
  • Sleeping in the sun on our front deck
  • Eating (he was a lab, after all)

When he first stopped eating we took him to ACCES. He stayed for several days and ate a little while he was there, but when he came home he stopped eating again. We took him back to ACCES for a couple of days but he still wouldn’t eat. Hoping they could jump start his appetite, the vets at ACCES tried force feeding him, which we continued when we brought him home, but he fought it so much we realized it was his way of telling us he wanted to go.

He punctuated his refusal to eat by going off to lie by himself in the laundry room while we watched TV in the next room, something he had NEVER done before.

That’s when we when through our mental list of his favorite things to do and realized he could no longer do any of them.

It was time to let him go. We did it the next day.

Regardless of how many times we’ve done it, deciding when to put down your dog is not an exact science. Hopefully, this exercise will help you the next time you have to make this painful decision.

Article reposted from:
By SDogSpot Author

Family brings stray dog home, learns she has cancer

January 27th, 2015

The Lockharts weren’t looking to adopt a dog, but one day they realized a dog had adopted them.

The family of six now splits their time between Mesa and Alaska, but for two months, they lived in South America.

The day after Hilary and Zack Lockhart and their four daughters arrived in the small town of San Clemente in Ecuador, a pack of stray dogs wandered over to their condo. One of the dogs was Aspin.

“She didn’t leave our doorstep since day one,” said 10-year-old McKayla Lockhart. “She slept on our doorstep every night. We would wake up to her every day. That’s when it hit all of us – wow, we have a dog.”

They brought Aspin all the way back to the United States, only to find out she has cancer.

“She means a lot to me because to make it this far and come from South America and be with us, I think she should stay with us,” McKayla said tearfully.

“She kind of chose us I think,” Zack Lockhart said. “So, I think it was difficult to see the girls upset.”

Hilary Lockhart said Aspin once chased them for two miles when they were in a pickup truck going to visit a neighboring town.

The 2-and-a-half-year-old mix already had a massive reproductive tumor, but a veterinarian gave her a clean bill of health to come to the United States. It took grandma flying down to South America with a crate and a new airline ticket allowing dogs to get Aspin home.

“We didn’t want a dog,” Hilary Lockhart said. “And every time we came up with an excuse, somebody would pipe in from the background saying, ‘Oh, no, I’ll take care of that for you.’ ”

But when they took Aspin to a veterinarian in Arizona, they realized her journey was far from over.

“They treat it with chemo,” Hilary Lockhart said. “First estimate is $2,800 … and we had friend after friend say start a fund for her.’ ”

So, the Lockharts created a GoFundMe account, which has received more than $2,200.

“It makes at least me recognize that there’s so much good out there and not even just the people that you know,” Hilary Lockhart said.

So, with a lot of love, they are not giving up on the stray dog that is now a big part of the family.

“There’s a reason she chose us, you know?” Hilary Lockhart said. “Why stop trying now? We’ve tried so hard to get her here, like, how do you just all of a sudden say, oh, enough is enough; I’m done?”

If you’d like to donate, visit

Article reposted from:
By Karen Brown

Pet owner takes dog on bucket list adventure after terminal cancer diagnosis

January 26th, 2015

Lauren Fern Watt and her mastiff, Gizelle, are the best of friends. They’ve gone through major life experiences together, and are always there to show one another support. When Gizelle was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, Lauren was determined to stay strong and go on the adventure of a lifetime with her best friend. Together the duo came up with a bucket list to complete in the last few months of Gizelle’s life, and it was epic!

“It was my mission for us to indulge and explore life’s joys,” wrote Lauren. “We’d escape the city and search for waterfalls, cook lobster, and nap in the grass. We’d jump in the ocean without towels, just to enjoy the sun drying us, and never stress about details like sand in the car.”

Lauren is sharing her and Gizelle’s story with the world. Here are photos from their amazing bucket-list adventure.

“Gizelle and I always used to watch The Little Mermaid together, and a favorite scene was the one where Ariel is chauffeured in a row boat by Prince Eric. So I was determined to get all 160 pounds of my easily spooked pup into a canoe.”

“Like most New Yorkers, Gizelle and I were a little repulsed by Times Square. That said, it’s still a famous New York City landmark, so I decided we would go at 6:45 a.m. before the life-size cartoon characters and tourists could clog the sidewalks.”

“Gizelle loved the car, so I rented one and Gizelle, my best friend Rebecca, and I took off for a four-day girls-only road trip through New England, with no particular destination in mind. We’d take turns sticking our heads out the window, and didn’t worry about work, deadlines, or boys.”

“For an entire day, Gizelle and I sat in Washington Square Park in downtown N.Y.C. and people watched.”

“Gizelle had always been my wing girl for picking up guys in the East Village; now it was her turn. When I found out a friend was having a party with 19 adorable single dogs on the invite list, I knew this was Gizelle’s chance to meet someone special.”

“After I discovered she was dying, dog hair on my once-forbidden bed and slobber on my face didn’t seem to matter as much as spending time cuddling with Gizelle. She helped teach me that love is the most wonderful gift I can receive, and it is the best thing I have to give.”

“I was told Gizelle wouldn’t make it until Christmas, but in January we sat by the ocean in Maine as it snowed the day before she died. Part of me wondered if this was her plan all along, to take me on an adventure, knowing we’d end up on a deserted beach alone … I knew she would live on through my experiences, and that I gave her the best life I could. And that to me was infinitely healing.”

Story reposted from:
Image source: Lauren Fern Watt/LifeWithDogs
By Anna Vallery

Healthy dog food will never have these 5 ingredients

January 24th, 2015

Dog food manufacturers are expected to meet certain quality and labeling standards and the Association of American Feed Control Officials assists with this. However, many of the cheaper brands only meet the minimum standard of healthy dog food and may actually contain unhealthy ingredients. While they will keep a dog alive, they will not necessarily help the dog thrive.

While a dog will eat just about anything, owners should take the time to read pet food labels, be able to recognize quality ingredients versus unhealthy additives, and choose the healthier dog food options. Initially the greater price of higher quality dog foods may mean an added expense. However, the investment can result in a healthier dog with greater longevity, less trips to the veterinarian, and less waste management time due to the greater digestibility of ingredients.

Many veterinarians and dog advocates agree that healthy dog food will never have these five ingredients:


Butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxysanisole are preservatives that are very common in cheaper dog food brands. Dog Food Advisor states, “According to the National Institute of Health, BHA in the diet has been found to consistently produce certain types of tumors in laboratory animals.” Although these chemical preservatives are “generally recognized as safe” in low doses, dog food containing them that is fed every day increases the health risks of these chemicals.

2. Artificial colors

Dogs could not care less what color their food is and the addition of chemical colorants is simply a marketing scheme to please the human eye. However, artificial colors such as Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 have no health value and many studies have shown that in large amounts they can present health risks.

3. Ethoxyquin

This dog food additive is an antioxidant that has been used in dog foods for decades to preserve the nutritional value of fats. However, according to Vet Info, there may be a link between ethoxyquin and the following health problems in dogs:

  • allergic reactions
  • behavior problems
  • cancer
  • deformed puppies
  • infertility
  • organ failure
  • skin problems

One issue is that ethoxyquin may be added to ingredients before they are added to the dog food and thus it may not be listed on the label. Dog food labeled “organic” is less likely to contain the additive.

4. By-products

After the good meat is cut off of animals for the human industry, what is left over are the by-products and these are rendered into pet food. PetMD describes this rendering as, “an industrial process of extraction by melting that converts waste animal tissue into usable materials.” These by-products may also be labeled as meal, or digest, and include brain, bone, intestines, hoof, manure, animal fat, beaks, organs, and bones. Rendered by-products are not fit for human consumption but meet the minimum standard set for dogs.

5. Propylene glycol

This chemical is the main ingredient found in antifreeze and it is added to dog foods to regulate moisture and bacteria. This potentially toxic chemical has been banned in cat food by the FDA but is still allowed in dog food. However, this ingredient will never be found in healthy dog food. According to Pet Poison Helpline, “When ingested by pets, propylene glycol can result in severe sedation, walking drunk, seizures, tremors, panting, anemia, and lethargy.”

Article reposted from:
By Alana Marie Burke

On Losing a Dog

January 22nd, 2015

In his grief over the loss of a dog, a little boy stands for the first time on tiptoe, peering into the rueful morrow of manhood. After this most inconsolable of sorrows there is nothing life can do to him that he will not be able somehow to bear. - James Thurber

In July of 2004, my brother James held Dutch, his German Shorthaired Pointer, for the first time. On November 20, 2014 James held Dutch for the last time. After 10 incredible years Dutch succumbed to the ravaging effects of hemangiosarcoma, a deadly and unfortunately common cancer in dogs.

Ten years, that’s the deal. The lucky get more time, far too many get less. But we all must inevitably face the end. That end – the only end – is heartbreak. When Dutch died I held James and we cried. I wasted no breath on neat and impotent words. James howled an ancient pain.

Some admonish, “While epidemics rage, wars destroy and poverty runs rampant, your sorrow is for a dog?” Some miss the point.

I had given orders which brought death to thousands. Yet here I was stirred, profoundly stirred, stirred to tears. And by what? By the grief of one dog. - Napoleon Bonaparte

The point is this – each and every one of us is alone. Profoundly, inexorably and inescapably alone. We have family and friends with whom we share parts of our journey and parts of who we are, but it is impossible to ever truly understand the experience of being anyone else. We are each stuck inside ourselves with no one but ourselves. Scary, I know.

There we are, stumbling through the darkness, finding our way when we see a wagging tail and we’re made a simple but profound offer. “I’ll come with you!” says a dog. A dog has no journey of their own, no thoughts of past or future, so they give themselves fully to us in a way no person ever could.

James accepted Dutch’s uncompromising offer and for 10 years Dutch followed James from Boston to Washington, D.C., to New Jersey and finally to Chicago. Cities and circumstance changed but Dutch never did. No matter what and no matter where, James would come home and find Dutch wagging his tail furiously with a bone hanging out of the side of his mouth like a cigar. To be greeted at the door by a dog like Dutch is to know, if only for a moment, what it feels to be completely accepted and unequivocally loved. And oh what a feeling that is.

In Washington, D.C. James was a police officer in the narcotics division. He became all too familiar with poverty, addiction, crime and violence. You can never let go of all the things that weigh on you, but you can always count on a dog to help carry that weight. I remember one night when James came home after responding to a particularly harrowing shooting. James didn’t say much and Dutch didn’t need him to. With a deep sigh James settled into the couch, Dutch jumped into his lap, and the two held each other in silent comfort.

I have a Scottie. In him I find consolation and diversion… he is the “one person” to whom I can talk without the conversation coming back to war.Dwight D. Eisenhower

That’s what we do – we hold them close. We hold our dogs so close that parts of ourselves overflow and fall directly onto their furry heads. So when we look at our dogs we see our worst sorrows, our greatest joys and the deepest part of ourselves for which there is no name. The story of our dogs is the story of us.

Like our own story, a dog’s story ends. Just much, much too soon. We know that, yet we repeatedly subject ourselves to this wrenching pain. Why? I suspect there’s no shared answer, but there is a shared lesson. We must measure life not in loss but in experience. Through our relationship with dogs we experience not just man’s best friend. We also experience man’s best quality — unconditional, selfless love.

When Dutch died, so did the some of the best parts of James. But before Dutch died, he gave all of the best parts of himself to James. It’s a painful trade but it’s one James, I and you never regret.

There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love [to dogs] while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price.Dean Koontz

As I’ve said before, a dog can’t change the world but they can change your world. And if each of us can pass along even a fraction of the unmitigated, world changing love we receive from our dogs? Maybe we can see about that whole changing the world thing.

Today we cry and howl. Tomorrow we wake up and change the world the same way Dutch did — one small act of selfless love at a time.

When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always’ - Rudyard Kipling

Article reposted from:
By Will Kearney

Working toward nonsurgical pet sterilization

January 21st, 2015

Harvard bioengineer David Mooney spends lots of time thinking about novel ways to fight cancer. An implantable device he developed that activates the immune system to shrink tumors is now being tested at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in patients with melanoma.

Which is why it might seem surprising, at first, to hear Mooney talk about his latest project: creating a swift, simple vaccine that will help save the lives of stray cats and dogs, not cancer patients. Mooney recently received a three-year, $700,000 grant to fund the development of a contraceptive vaccine that could avoid the need for surgery and help decrease the number of animals killed in shelters each year.

“I’ve had dogs that need to be neutered,” said Mooney, who currently owns two Labradoodles, Casper and Ruger. “Even for house pets, it’s a pretty major surgery; there’s a lot of pain and issues with that, and I thought it would be great if we could do something to help dogs and cats avoid going through the surgery.”

The work is funded by the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Michelson Found Animals Foundation, which also offers a $25 million prize for the first team to come up with an effective nonsurgical sterilization technique.

Now, the procedure is cumbersome and invasive for stray animals.

“Someone goes out and traps them and transports them to the clinic,” Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Michelson Found Animals, said. “It would be so much easier if instead of driving to the clinic and having to [perform] surgery you could do a quick injection right in the trap and let it go.”

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, only 10 percent of the 7.6 million pets that enter shelters each year are spayed or neutered, and many animals in shelters are euthanized.

But what could that issue possibly have in common with Mooney’s main thread of research — immunotherapies that trigger the immune system to attack cancer?

Mooney, a core faculty member at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, had seen the foundation’s call for research proposals but knew little about reproductive biology.

He began to read the literature and made a connection: The same technique he was using to help the body’s immune cells recognize and kill cancer cells might be repurposed to effectively sterilize cats and dogs. To create a contraceptive vaccine, Mooney would simply need to find a way to get the immune system to attack the hormone that controls reproduction in male and female cats and dogs.

Robert Langer, a bioengineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology not involved in the research, said the new application was a good idea. Solving the contraceptive problem in pets might also provide insights that could help in developing the technology to treat human diseases.

“You always learn things and some of it is translatable,” Langer said. “Certainly you learn a lot about safety and certain things about efficacy and a lot of practical things, like manufacturing and stability.”

Mooney is far from a successful vaccine now but says that it should be possible to adapt his cancer-fighting strategy for veterinary medicine.

In treating cancer, a chip surgically implanted in the patient attracts immune cells and then activates those cells and teaches them to recognize a particular antigen protein found on the surface of tumor cells.

Once educated, those immune cells go back to the lymph nodes and pass on the message to other immune cells capable of killing those cancer cells. For dog and cat contraception, the same general principle would apply — but the animal’s immune cells would be taught to attack the reproductive hormone instead of a tumor.

Mooney would like to design a one-time injection for animals, instead of an implant. That requires some new bioengineering tricks, and he is considering a range of options. One approach being considered is a “shape memory polymer” that can deform enough to be injected with a needle but in the body, it can pop back into its original shape.

Mooney hopes that what he learns in the process of designing the vaccine might help as he develops the approach for use in a variety of diseases.

“We’re taking a target in the body and we’re saying, ‘Can we generate a potent and long-lasting immune response against this particular molecule?’ ” Mooney said. “If we can do it here, you can probably do it against many other molecules you might target for other reasons.”

Article reposted from:
Carolyn Y. Johnson

Dog Obesity and Fat Dogs - A Growing Health Problem

January 19th, 2015

Dog obesity is one of the fastest growing health problems for dogs today. In this article we’ll discuss the ideal weight for your dog, how to prevent dog obesity through diet and exercise, and what to do if all else fails.

The Dog Obesity Issue

According to the CDC approximately one-third of adults in the United States are obese and the trend towards obesity appears to be worsening. Veterinarians are noticing a corresponding increase in the prevalence of dog obesity. Just as in people, obesity in dogs is associated with various health problems such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis, cardiopulmonary disease, hypertension and various types of neoplasia such as mammary cancer and transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder. These dog health conditions associated with dog obesity negatively impact the quality of life and longevity for our overweight canine companions and dramatically increase the cost of their veterinary care.

How to Assess Your Dog’s Ideal Weight

BCS stands for Body Condition Score and is a simple non-invasive way of assessing your dog’s weight and should be part of your dog’s regular physical. The most common BCS system is a nine point system where 4/9 to 5/9 are normal, 6/9 to 7/9 are overweight and 8/9 to 9/9 is obese with the dog weighing more than 30% over the ideal weight. You can get an idea of your dog’s BCS by feeling his ribs and looking down to visually assess his waist or lack of. When a dog is at their ideal weight one can feel the ribs along the side of the chest easily since there is no excessive fat covering them and when looking down from above at the dog’s back one can observe a slight hourglass shaped waist after the ribs. When dogs are obese the waist disappears and is either flat or rounded out.

Studies have shown that people tend to underestimate their dog’s BCS so your veterinarian is the best source for a reliable BCS. Get into a habit of asking “What’s my dog’s BCS?” whenever you go in to see your vet. Armed with the knowledge of your dog’s BCS you have a better idea of what his ideal weight should be and what steps you can take to help your dog achieve a healthier weight.

An Ideal Diet for Your Dog

The first step towards helping your dog reach their ideal weight is to know what the ideal energy intake needed to achieve maintenance. This is the level of caloric intake that will not cause your dog to gain or lose weight. A useful formula to estimate the necessary caloric intake to maintain weight is the metabolic energy requirement (MER).

MER(kcal) = 132 x (body weight in kilograms)0.75

So using the MER formula, an average 30 pound adult dog would require approximately 937 kcal per day to maintain their body weight. Keep in mind that the MER is simply an estimate because each dog has their own unique metabolism. Another thing to keep in mind is that the MER formula is a conservative formula that tends to overestimate a dog’s actual caloric need to maintain a certain weight. Your dog’s life stage and activity levels need to be factored in as well, puppies, working dogs and pregnant dogs need 2x or more their MER. Older sedentary dogs in contrast need only approximately 0.8 times their MER to maintain weight. Ask your veterinarian to help you calculate your dog’s MER if there is any confusion. In any case one should now have an idea of what ballpark your dog’s caloric needs are.

With this information it is a simple matter to determine how many cups of food is needed per day. Good quality dog foods will have their caloric level per cup written on the bag and there are numerous online sites to help consumers determine how many calories are in their dog’s brand of food if the label is lacking in information. With this information, one now knows approximately how much food they need to feed their dog to maintain their weight. Remember to factor in treats as well and decrease how much regular food you give accordingly. Ideally treats should not compose more than 3-4% of daily caloric intake.

To determine what adjustments, if any one needs to make in how much they feed is to consider the dog’s BCS. If the BCS is high then healthy weight loss can be achieved by feeding 80% of the current intake to achieve a gradual weight loss of 1-2% of body weight per week. Special weight loss diets are available that are lower in calories than regular brands of dog foods but are packed with essential nutrients so that your dog doesn’t miss out on anything vital. There is a risk that feeding maintenance diets during the weight loss phase will not provide all the nutrition that your dog needs so check with your veterinarian with any questions about the best diet to feed.

How to Prevent Dog Obesity through Exercise

Reducing an overweight’s dog’s caloric intake can be a little complicated and involves some trial and error but increasing energy expenditure is a breeze. It’s fun too! Simply incorporating some regular exercise into his normal daily regimen will make the weight loss program much more effective. A walk around the block, socializing at the local dog park, tossing a ball or Frisbee around in the backyard and swimming if your dog likes water are all good ideas to help get your dog moving. It also reinforces the human-companion bond and can even help you achieve your own weight loss goals. Get moving, your dog will thank you!

A Last Resort to Treating Dog Obesity

If increasing exercise and decreasing caloric intake are not working there are medications available that can aid weight loss. Dirlotapide also known as Slentrol is available by prescription from veterinarians and works by suppressing the appetite and hindering fat absorption. Pharmacologic intervention should only be considered as a last option and only as a part of an overall weight loss program because all too often people rely on the drug to do all the work and do not make the necessary lifestyle modifications of eating less and moving more. This can result in excess weight returning when the drug is discontinued. This pattern of weight cycling does more harm than good.

Obesity is very treatable and the benefits are tremendous in terms of quality of life and longevity (and reduced vet bills!) so step back and take an honest look at your dog and how much he is eating and how much exercise he gets. Make adjustments as needed so your dog can live his life to the fullest.

Article reposted from:
By Dr. Kristy Conn

Mammary Cancer: Mia's Story

January 18th, 2015

Mia is an 8.5 years old Irish Wolfhound. When she was about 7.5, her mom found a small, pea-sized nodule on her belly. Senior dogs do get the odd lump or bump. It was small so she wasn’t overly worried. Particularly because the nodule wasn’t growing or changing.

Irish Wolfhounds are magnificent creatures: gentle giants of the dog world. Sadly, like many large breeds of dogs, they have a relatively short life span, with many of the breed reaching the end of their lives by seven to ten years of age. Mia is eight and a half years old, which makes her the equivalent of a fourteen year old terrier-type.

Almost a year ago, she developed a small, pea sized nodule on her underside. Miriam checked it out carefully, and was not too worried. She knew that older dogs develop occasional lumps and bumps, and as long as it remained at that tiny size, she didn’t feel that there was a need to do anything about it. For the following nine months, the small nodule remained unchanged.

When Mia came into season in early January, the lump suddenly began to grow. Within a few weeks, it had reached the size of a small plum, and Miriam knew that action had to be taken. She brought Mia in to see me. When I checked her, I found that there was more going on than just the plum sized lump: there were several new pea sized bumps close by. Mia was a classic example of the most common tumor to affect female dogs: mammary cancer, the equivalent of human breast cancer. The surge in female hormones during her season had stimulated the rapid growth of the cancer.

Dog have ten mammary glands: a strip of five on each side, running from the level of their forelegs right back to their groin. The normal mammary tissue should be soft and spongy: a hard, frozen-pea-like nodule in this area is often the first sign of mammary cancer. Many vets feel that any such lumps should be removed as soon as possible, just in case they’re the first sign of a problem that can go on to become very serious. Of course, not every case is a clear-cut, simple decision. In an older dog, where a small lump is static and unchanging, it can be tempting to take a more passive approach.

Around half of mammary tumors are benign, remaining remain static and harmless for years. The other half of mammary tumors are malignant, carrying the risk of growing in size, spreading locally, and even spreading to elsewhere in the body, including the liver and lungs. The challenge is to determine which small lumps are benign, and which are malignant. It’s impossible to tell without taking a biopsy, although when a lump changes its behavior, growing rapidly, there’s a strong likelihood of malignancy. In Mia’s case, a biopsy was not needed: it was obvious from the sudden increase in size of the lump that it could not be left alone any longer.

Mammary cancer is strongly linked to the presence of female hormones: if a bitch is spayed before her first season, the risk is removed almost completely. This is one of the reasons why it’s now strongly recommended that all pet dogs should be spayed while they’re young.

In Mia’s case, urgent, radical action was needed. She was admitted at once for removal of not just the larger lump, but also the smaller, pea sized nodules. X-rays were taken to confirm that the cancer had not spread to her lungs, and she’s now making good progress.

She’s already an older dog in the Wolfhound world, but she’s fit and strong in every other way. Here’s hoping she’ll continue for several more years, lump-free and contented.


  1. Mammary cancer is the most common malignancy to affect older female dogs
  2. It can be prevented almost completely by spaying a bitch while she’s young
  3. Any lumps in the mammary area need to be taken seriously, with early removal if possible

Story reposted from:
By Pete Wedderburn