Archive for the “Keeping Your Labrador Retriever Healthy” Category
Keeping Your Labrador Retriever Healthy – health care, internal parasites, first aid
Labrador Retrievers can, on average, live 12 to 14 years. However, to live that long and remain happy and healthy, your Lab will need your help. Aging in dogs, as in people, brings some changes and problems. You will see your dog’s vision dim, her hearing fade, and her joints stiffen. Heart and kidney disease are common in older dogs. Reflexes will not be as sharp as they once were, and your dog may be more sensitive to heat and cold. Your dog may also get grouchy, showing less tolerance to younger dogs, to children, and to things that may not be part of her normal routine.
An old dog who has lived her life with you is a special gift. Your old Lab knows your ways, your likes and dislikes, and your habits. She almost seems able to read your mind, and her greatest joy is simply to be close to you. Your old Lab may not be able to do the work she did when she was younger, but she can still be a wonderful companion.
Arthritis is common in old dogs. The joints get stiff, especially when it’s chilly. Your Lab may have trouble jumping or getting up in the morning. Give your old dog something soft to sleep on and keep her warm. Talk to your veterinarian about treatment; there are pain relievers that can help.
As your dog’s activity level slows down, she will need to consume fewer calories. However, some old dogs have a problem digesting foods, too, and this may show up in poor stools and a dull coat. A heaping tablespoon of yogurt with active cultures will aid her digestion.
Your Lab may need to have her teeth cleaned professionally, and this is something you should not put off doing. Bacteria that build up on the teeth can infect the gums, get into the bloodstream, and cause infections in other parts of the body, including the kidneys and heart.
Exercise is still important to your older Labrador Retriever. Your dog needs the stimulation of walking around and seeing and smelling the world. Tailor the exercise to your dog’s abilities and needs. If your dog can still chase a tennis ball, great! If she likes to swim, even better. However, as your dog ages, a slow walk about the neighborhood might be enough.
When It’s Time to Say Good-bye
We have the option, with our dogs, not to let them suffer when they are old, ill, and infirm. There will be a time when you will need to decide how you are going to handle putting your dog out of her pain. Some feel the time has come when the dog is no longer enjoying life, when she’s incontinent and despondent. Only you can make the decision, but spare your companion the humiliation of incontinence, convulsions, or the inability to stand up or move around.
If your Lab must be helped to her death, your veterinarian can give an injection that is an overdose of anesthetic. Your dog will go to sleep and quietly stop breathing. Be there with your dog. Let your arms hold your old friend and let your dog hear your voice saying how much you love her as she goes to sleep. There will be no fear, and the last thing your dog will remember is your love.
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If your Lab is pawing at her mouth, gagging, coughing, or drooling, she may have something caught in her mouth or throat. Open her jaws and shine a flashlight down the throat. If you can see the object, reach in and pull it out, using your fingers, tweezers, or a pair of pliers. If you cannot see anything and your dog is still choking, hit her behind the neck between the shoulders to try to dislodge the object. If this fails, use an adapted Heimlich maneuver. Grasp either side of the dog’s ribcage and squeeze. Don’t break the ribs, but try to make a sharp enough movement to cause the air in the lungs to force the object out.
– Your dog has unexplained swelling or redness
– Your dog’s appetite changes
– Your dog vomits repeatedly and can’t seem to keep food down, or drools excessively while eating. You see any changes in your dog’s urination or defecation (pain during elimination, change in regular habits, blood in urine or stool, diarrhea, foul-smelling stool)
– Your dog scoots her rear end on the floor
– Your dog’s energy level, attitude, or behavior changes for no apparent reason
– Your dog has crusty or cloudy eyes, or excessive tearing or discharge
– Your dog’s nose is dry or chapped, hot, crusty, or runny
– Your dog’s ears smell foul, have a dark discharge, or seem excessively waxy
– Your dog’s gums are inflamed or bleeding, her teeth look brown, or her breath is foul. Your dog’s skin is red, flaky, itchy, or inflamed, or she keeps chewing at certain spots
– Your dog’s coat is dull, dry, brittle, or bare in spots
– Your dog’s paws are red, swollen, tender, cracked, or the nails are split or too long
– Your dog is panting excessively, wheezing, unable to catch her breath, breathing heavily, or sounds strange when she breathes
If your dog can breathe around the object, get to the vet as soon as possible. If your dog cannot breathe around the object, you don’t have time to move the dog. Keep working on getting the object out.
Because your Lab will be in great pain if she has broken a bone, you should muzzle her immediately. Do not try to set the fracture, but do try to immobilize the limb, if possible, by using a piece of wood and then wrapping it with gauze or soft cloth. If there is a door or board handy, use it as a backboard or stretcher so the injured limb is stable. Transport the dog to the vet as soon as possible.
Overheating or Heatstroke
Overheating or heatstroke is characterized by rapid or difficult breathing, vomiting, and even collapse. If your dog has these symptoms, you need to act at once – this can be life threatening. Immediately place your Lab in a tub of cool water or, if a tub is not available, run water from a hose over your dog. Use a rectal thermometer to take the dog’s temperature and call your veterinarian immediately. Encourage your dog to drink some cool water. Transport the dog to the vet as soon as you can, or as soon as the vet recommends it.
Symptoms of poisoning include retching and vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, labored breathing, dilated pupils, weakness, collapse, and convulsions. Sometimes one or more symptoms will appear together, depending upon the poison. If you suspect your dog has been in contact with a poison, time is critical. Call your veterinarian right away. If your vet is not immediately available, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. The hotline and your vet can better treat your dog if you can tell them what was ingested and approximately how much.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has a staff of licensed veterinarians and board-certified toxicologists available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The number to call is (888) 426-4435. You will be charged a consultation fee of $60 per case, charged to most major credit cards. There is no charge for follow-up calls in critical cases. At your request, they will also contact your veterinarian. Specific treatment and information can be provided via fax. Put the number in large, legible print with your other emergency telephone numbers. Be prepared to give your name, address, and phone number; what your dog has gotten into (the amount and how long ago); your dog’s breed, age, sex, and weight; and what signs and symptoms the dog is showing.
Without getting bitten yourself, try to get a look at the snake, making note of colors, patterns, and markings so you or your vet can identify the snake. Keep the dog as quiet as possible to restrict the flow of venom. Do not cut X ’s above the wound. That often causes more tissue damage than the bite itself, and is not known to be effective.
If your dog is in pain or is frantic, muzzle her. Call your vet immediately so that they can get some antivenom medication ready for your dog’s arrival.
A ripped or broken toenail can be very painful. If the dog is frantic, muzzle her to protect yourself. If a piece of the nail is hanging, trim it off. Run hydrogen peroxide over the nail. If the nail is bleeding, run it over a soft bar of soap. The soap will help the nail clot. If the quick is showing or if the nail has broken off under the skin, call your veterinarian. Antibiotics might be needed to prevent an infection.
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Your Labrador Retriever cannot tell you, “I have a pain right here, and I feel like I’m going to throw up”. But you should be able to recognize signs that something is not right. When you are trying to decide what is wrong with your Lab, you will need to be observant and play detective. If you call your veterinarian, they will also ask you some questions, and you need to be able to answer those.
– What caused you to think there is a problem?
– What was your first clue there’s something wrong?
– Is your Labrador Retriever eating normally?
– What do her stools look like?
– Is the dog limping?
– When you do a hands-on exam, is the dog sore anywhere?
– Does she have a lump?
– Is anything red or swollen?
Write down all your answers before you call your veterinarian. Your vet will also ask you if your dog has a fever. You can take your dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer. Shake the thermometer down and then put some petroleum jelly on it. Using the dog’s tail as a guide, insert the thermometer into the anus about an inch. Keep holding the thermometer, don’t let go of it, and watch your clock. After three minutes (digital thermometers will be faster), withdraw the thermometer, wipe it off, and read the temperature. Normal is 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
The veterinarian will also ask if your dog has been vomiting and if so, what did the vomit look like? Was there anything unusual in it? Did the dog vomit up garbage? a plastic bag? grass? How often did the dog vomit—just once or is it ongoing?
Similar questions will be asked about the dog’s bowel movements. Did the dog have a bowel movement? If so, did it look normal? Was there mucus or blood in the stool? Did the stool have a different or peculiar smell? Did you see any foreign objects in the stool?
How to Make a Canine First-Aid Kit
If your dog hurts herself, even a minor cut, it can be very upsetting for both of you. Having a first-aid kit handy will help you to help her, calmly and efficiently. What should be in your canine first-aid kit?
– Antibiotic ointment
– Antiseptic and antibacterial cleansing wipes
– Cotton-tipped applicators
– Disposable razor
– Elastic wrap bandages
Extra leash and collar
– First-aid tape of various widths
– Gauze bandage roll
– Gauze pads of different sizes, including eye pads
– Hydrogen peroxide
– Instant cold compress
– Kaopectate tablets or liquid
– Latex gloves
– Lubricating jelly
– Nail clippers
– Pen, pencil, and paper for notes and directions
– Round-ended scissors and pointy scissors
– Safety pins
– Sterile saline eyewash
– Thermometer (rectal)
Be prepared to answer all these questions, and if you are nervous or scared, write them down.
It is often difficult for dog owners to decide when to call the veterinarian and when they can handle a problem at home. Listed in this section are some commonly seen problems and some basic advice on how to handle them. You’ll also find advice on when to call the vet in the box on pages 94–95. However, the cost of a telephone call is small compared to your dog’s life. When in doubt – call!
Muzzle your dog if she is in pain. Using a pair of panty hose or a long piece of gauze, wrap it around the dog’s muzzle, crossing under the jaw, then pulling it around her head, tying it in the back.
Trim the hair from around the wound and liberally pour plain water over it to flush it out. Use antibacterial wipes to clean it. A handheld pressure bandage can help stop the bleeding. Stitches may be necessary if the bite is a rip or tear, so call your vet. They may also recommend putting the dog on antibiotics.
Many dogs are allergic to bee stings and will immediately start to swell. Call your vet immediately. They may recommend you give the dog an antihistamine such as Benadryl and will instruct you on the dosage. With the introduction of African bees, many bees today are more aggressive, and the chance of your dog being stung multiple times is increased. The stingers are hard to see in the Lab’s coat, so use your fingers to feel for them or the swollen lumps left behind.
Muzzle your dog if she is in pain. Place a gauze pad or, if that is not available, a clean cloth over the wound and apply pressure. If the wound will require stitches or if the bleeding doesn’t stop, call your vet.
When to Call the Veterinarian
Go to the vet right away or take your dog to an emergency veterinary clinic if:
– Your dog is choking
– Your dog is having trouble breathing
Your dog has been injured and you cannot stop the bleeding within a few minutes
– Your dog has been stung or bitten by an insect and the site is swelling
– Your dog has been bitten by a snake
– Your dog has been bitten by another animal (including a dog) and shows any swelling or bleeding
– Your dog has touched, licked, or in any way been exposed to a poison
– Your dog has been burned by either heat or caustic chemicals
– Your dog has been hit by a car
– Your dog has any obvious broken bones or cannot put any weight on one of her limbs
– Your dog has a seizure
Make an appointment to see the vet as soon as possible if:
– Your dog has been bitten by a cat, another dog, or a wild animal
– Your dog has been injured and is still limping an hour later.
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Internal parasites live inside, and you may not see any signs of an infestation until it has progressed.
These long white worms are the most commonly found internal parasites, especially in puppies, although they occasionally infest adult dogs and people. The adult female roundworm can lay up to 200,000 eggs a day, which are passed in the dog’s feces. Roundworms can be transmitted only via the feces. Because of this, stools should be picked up daily, and your dog should be prevented from investigating other dogs’ feces.
If treated early, roundworms are not serious. However, a heavy infestation can severely affect a dog’s health. Puppies with roundworms will not thrive and will appear thin, with a dull coat and potbelly. In people, roundworms can be more serious. Therefore, early treatment, regular fecal checks, and good sanitation are important, both for your Labrador Retrievers continued good health and yours.
Hookworms live their adult lives in the small intestines of dogs and other animals. They attach to the intestinal wall and suck blood. When they detach and move to a new location, the old wound continues to bleed because of the anticoagulant the worm injects when it bites. Because of this, bloody diarrhea is usually the first sign of a problem.
Hookworm eggs are passed through the feces. Either they are picked up from the stools, as with roundworms, or, if conditions are right, they hatch in the soil and attach themselves to the feet of their new hosts, where they can burrow through the skin. They then migrate to the intestinal tract, where the cycle starts all over again.
People can pick up hookworms by walking barefoot in infected soil. In the Sunbelt states, children often pick up hookworm eggs when playing outside in the dirt or in a sandbox. Treatment, for both dogs and people, may have to be repeated.
Tapeworms attach to the intestinal wall to absorb nutrients. They grow by creating new segments, and usually the first sign of an infestation is the ricelike segments found in the stools or on the dog’s coat near the rectum. Tapeworms are acquired when a dog chews a flea bite and swallows a flea, the intermediate host. Therefore, a good flea control program is the best way to prevent a tapeworm infestation.
Adult whipworms live in the large intestines, where they feed on blood. The eggs are passed in the stool and can live in the soil for many years. If your dog eats the fresh spring grass or buries her bone in the yard, she can pick up eggs from the infected soil. If you garden, you could pick up eggs under your fingernails, infecting yourself if you touch your face.
Heavy infestations cause diarrhea, often watery or bloody. The dog may appear thin and anemic, with a poor coat. Severe bowel problems may result. Unfortunately, whipworms can be difficult to detect, as the worms do not continually shed eggs. Therefore, a stool sample may be clear one day and the next day show eggs.
Giardia is common in wild animals in many areas, so if you take your Lab hiking, camping, or herding and drink out of the local spring or stream, she can pick up giardia, just as you can. Diarrhea is one of the first symptoms. If your dog has diarrhea and you and your dog have been out camping, make sure you tell your veterinarian.
Adult heartworms live in the upper heart and greater pulmonary arteries, where they damage the vessel walls. Poor circulation results, which causes damage to other bodily functions. Eventually, death from heart failure results.
The adult worms produce thousands of tiny larvae called microfilaria. These circulate throughout the bloodstream until they are sucked up by an intermediate host, a mosquito. The microfilaria go through the larval stages in the mosquito, then are transferred back to another dog when the mosquito bites again.
Dogs infected with heartworms can be treated if caught early. Unfortunately, the treatment itself can be risky and has killed some dogs. However, preventive medications are available that kill the larvae. Heartworm can be diagnosed by a blood test, and a negative result is required before starting the preventive
Why Spay and Neuter?
Breeding dogs is a serious undertaking that should only be part of a well-planned breeding program. Why? Because dogs pass on their physical and behavioral problems to their offspring. Even healthy well-behaved dogs can pass on problems in their genes.
Is your dog so sweet that you’d like to have a litter of puppies just like her? If you breed her to another dog, the pups will not have the same genetic heritage she has. Breeding her parents again will increase the odds of a similar pup, but even then, the puppies in the second litter could inherit different genes. In fact, there is no way to breed a dog to be just like another dog.
Meanwhile, thousands and thousands of dogs are killed in animal shelters every year simply because they have no homes. Casual breeding is a big contributor to this problem.
If you don’t plan to breed your dog, is it still a good idea to spay her or neuter him? Yes!
When you spay your female:
– You avoid her heat cycles, during which she discharges blood and scent.
– It greatly reduces the risk of mammary cancer and eliminates the risk of pyometra (an often fatal infection of the uterus) and uterine cancer.
– It prevents unwanted pregnancies.
– It reduces dominance behaviors and aggression.
When you neuter your male:
– It curbs the desire to roam and to fight with other males.
– It greatly reduces the risk of prostate cancer and eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.
– It helps reduce leg lifting and mounting behavior.
– It reduces dominance behaviors and aggression
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The thyroid gland produces hormones that govern or affect a number of bodily functions. A dog with hypothyroid is producing fewer hormones than she should. She may show symptoms ranging from infertility to dry, dull coat, flaky skin, runny eyes, or even difficulty walking. Thyroid problems can be diagnosed with a blood test, and medication can usually relieve the symptoms fairly rapidly. In most cases, the dog will have to remain on the medication for life.
A lick granuloma is an injury the dog does to herself. She begins to lick at a spot on one of her legs – usually a front leg around the ankle, but it may also be a rear leg right above the paw—and she continues licking, producing a wet, weepy sore that often becomes infected. This compulsive behavior has been associated with boredom and separation anxiety. Curing the problem often requires the help of a veterinarian and a behaviorist.
This disorder is caused by a lack of peristaltic function in the esophagus. In other words, the muscular contractions of the esophagus that move food down into the stomach are not happening as they should. Food then builds up in the esophagus, causing it to stretch, until the food empties into the stomach by sheer pressure, or the dog vomits the food back up.
Experts feel this is an inherited problem, and dogs with the condition should be spayed or neutered. Treatment includes feeding the dog several small meals throughout the day from a raised (shoulder-height) platform.
This disorder usually appears in puppies between 3 and 6 months of age. The puppies will be less inclined to play and will be sore when touched. The muscles gradually waste away until the dog looks lean and lanky instead of stocky. Heat and cold both seem to cause more discomfort, as does strenuous exercise.
This is an inherited disorder. Dogs developing it should be spayed or neutered, as should the parents of the dog who developed it. There is no cure or treatment.
A dog who weighs more than she should can develop diabetes, hypothyroidism, and back, shoulder, and other skeletal problems. Although the breed does tend to gain weight easily, obesity is caused by too many calories and not enough exercise.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)
OCD occurs most often in young, fast-growing puppies of larger breeds, including Labs. The bone underlying the cartilage in joints breaks down, causing the puppy pain. It can happen in the elbow, shoulder, or ankle. Contributing factors include obesity, repetitive motions (such as running long distances), or jumping off high places or jumping over high jumps.
This disease causes lameness and pain in young, rapidly growing puppies, usually between the ages of 6 and 14 months, although it is occasionally seen up to 18 months of age. The lameness usually affects one leg at a time and can sporadically move from one leg to another. Some veterinarians prescribe aspirin to relieve the pain, and most suggest the dog be kept quiet. Often, this problem clears up on its own.
Many experts feel the tendency to develop this disorder is inherited, but it can also be made worse by feeding a diet that is not balanced—perhaps too high in carbohydrates or too much protein without enough carbohydrates. The debate continues, so talk to your dog’s breeder or veterinarian about diet and panosteitis.
PRA and Other Eye Disorders
Labs are, unfortunately, at risk for several eye disorders, including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, and retinal dysplasia. With PRA there is a progressive deterioration of the retina. Gradually the dog becomes blind. This is thought to be inherited, and all dogs who develop symptoms should be removed from a breeding program. Unfortunately, this problem usually shows up between 4 to 6 years of age, so some affected dogs may have already been used for breeding.
Cataracts cause cloudiness in the lens of the eye, and severe cataracts can cause blindness. Cataracts that develop early in the dog’s life are almost always inherited, while those that appear in dogs who are 10 years of age or older are usually due to old age. Some cataracts can be removed, so talk to your veterinarian when signs of cloudiness first appear.
Retinal dysplasia is an abnormal development of the retina. In mild cases the vision is only slightly affected, but in more severe cases the dog is blind. This disease is often associated with Labs who carry the genes for dwarfism.
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Unfortunately, there are several health problems that affect many Labrador Retrievers. That doesn’t mean every Lab has these problems, but they do have a tendency to show up in the breed. It’s very important that when you choose your new dog, you discuss these health problems with the breeder. Ideally, they have tested all of their breeding animals before breeding. Your veterinarian should also be aware of these disorders, not just so they can be diagnosed, but also so they can keep up on the newest treatments.
Bloat, or gastric torsion, is the acute dilation of the stomach, caused when the stomach fills with gas and air and, as a result, swells. This swelling prevents the dog from vomiting or passing gas. Consequently, the pressure builds, cutting off blood from the heart and to other parts of the body. This causes shock or heart failure, either of which can cause death. Bloat can also cause torsion, where the stomach turns on its long axis, again causing death.
The first symptoms of bloat are obvious. The dog will be pacing or panting, showing signs of distress. The dog’s sides will begin to distend. To be successful, treatment should begin at once – there is no time to waste. If the pressure is not immediately relieved, death can follow within an hour. Get your dog to the nearest veterinary emergency clinic.
To prevent bloat, do not allow your Lab to drink large quantities of water after exercising or after eating. Feed two smaller meals each day instead of one large meal, and limit exercise after eating until a couple of hours have passed. Feed a good-quality food, preferably one that does not expand significantly when wet and does not produce large quantities of gas.
To see how much your dog’s food expands, or to see how much gas the food produces, take a handful of the kibble and drop it in a bowl of warm water. After fifteen minutes, look at the food. Some foods will be wet but will not enlarge. This is good. Other foods will triple their size when wet. This can be dangerous if it happens in your dog’s stomach. Some foods will be producing gas bubbles, almost as if they were carbonated. Again, this can be bad news in your dog’s stomach.
Unfortunately some Lab bloodlines seem to be prone to cancer. Cancer in dogs, just as in people, is not one disease but a variety of diseases. Although research is continuing, it is unknown how or why some cells go on a rampage and become cancerous.
When you examine your Lab each day, be aware of any lumps or bumps you might feel, especially as your dog is growing older. Your veterinarian can biopsy any suspicious lump, and if it is cancer, many times it can be removed. Early removal offers the best chance of success. Unfortunately, cancer is often fatal.
Cold Water Tail
It has been reported that after a day or two of heavy hunting, with the obvious excitement resulting in strong tail wagging by the dog, along with repeated exposure to cold water, the muscles at the base of the tail swell. This strange-sounding disorder really isn’t that uncommon, especially in the hunting Lab community. Experts are still looking at the condition to see if the muscles alone are involved or whether the swelling of the muscles presses on nerves.
In any case, when it occurs, the tail hangs limp and the dog appears to be in discomfort. With rest and anti-inflammatory medications, the dog recovers.
There are two types of dwarfism seen in Labs. The first is associated with retinal dysplasia (see page 86). In this form of dwarfism, the dog may have vision problems or blindness from the retinal dysplasia and have skeletal problems as well.
The dog’s head is usually larger than normal and the legs are short and bowed outwards. The dog will have a Bulldog-type appearance.
The second type of dwarfism is thought to be caused by a decrease in growth hormones produced by the pituitary gland. As a result, the dog does not grow correctly. These dogs appear to be in proportion with no skeletal deformities, but just remain very small. In addition, the coat may be softer than it should be and woolly, and the dog may develop hair loss.
Any dogs showing any symptoms of dwarfism should be spayed or neutered, and the breeder needs to be informed so they can take another look at their breeding program.
Elbow dysplasia is thought to be due to the incorrect development of the three bones that make up the elbow. The affected elbow can be painful, inhibit movement, and can develop arthritis.
Epilepsy (a seizure disorder) can occur in Labrador Retrievers. Idiopathic epilepsy (the form of epilepsy that is not caused by a brain tumor, injury, or other obvious cause) tends to be inherited and usually appears between the ages of 1 and 3 years, although it may first appear up to about 7 years of age. The intensity of the seizures can vary, from mild twitches and a dazed look in the eyes to full convulsions. Managing epilepsy will require a close partnership with your veterinarian.
This disorder usually appears in dogs between the ages of 7 months and 2 years. The dog can usually play just fine, but after about five to twenty minutes of heavy exercise or hard training (as with field training), she begins to appear stiff. The rear legs become weak and often collapse. In some cases, the forelegs also become weak and unable to support the dog’s weight. The dog may appear to be disoriented. Some dogs die.
This disorder is still being studied. Because littermates may all show signs of the disorder, it is currently thought to be inherited. Treatments vary, as do the dog’s ability to recover. If a Lab shows signs of this disorder during strenuous exercise, all exercise should stop immediately, and the dog should be taken to the veterinarian.
Hip dysplasia is a failure of the head of the femur (thighbone) to fit into the acetabulum (hip socket). Hip dysplasia is not just caused by poorly formed or malpositioned bones; many researchers believe the muscles and tendons in the leg and hip may also play a part.
Hip dysplasia is considered a polygenic inherited disorder, which means many different genes may lead to the disease. Also, environmental factors may contribute to the development of hip dysplasia, including nutrition and exercise, although the part environmental factors play in the disease is highly debated among experts.
Hip dysplasia can cause a wide range of problems, from mild lameness to movement irregularities to crippling pain. Dogs with hip dysplasia must often limit their activities, may need corrective surgery, or may even need to be euthanized because of the pain.
Contrary to popular belief, hip dysplasia cannot be diagnosed by watching a dog run or by the way she lies down. It can only be diagnosed accurately by special X-ray. Once the X-ray is taken, it can be sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP), which reads, grades, and certifies the X-rays of dogs over the age of 2 years. Sound hips are rated excellent, good, or fair, and the dog’s owner receives a certificate with the rating. A dysplastic dog will be rated as mild, moderate, or severe. Any dog who is found to be dysplastic should be removed from any breeding program and spayed or neutered.
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The easiest way to make sure your dog is well cared for is to set up a routine, then follow this routine each and every day without fail. Without a routine, it’s too easy to say to yourself, “I had a tough day at work today, I’ll do that tomor¬row.” Eventually, if you procrastinate enough, you’ll forget what you were going to do. Your dog is the one who will suffer.
The Daily Inspection
Once a day, you need to run your hands over your Labrador Retriever – not just over the coat as you would do when you pet your dog, but run your fingers through and under the coat so you can feel the dog’s skin. As you do this, you will get to know the feel of your dog. Then if a tick latches on and buries its head in your dog’s skin, you will feel it with your fingers. If your dog cuts herself, or has a lump or bruise or a skin rash, you will feel it. By checking the dog like this everyday, you will find these things before they turn into bigger problems.
After you finish brushing your dog, put the brushes down, and starting at the dog’s head again, run your hands over your dog’s head, around the muzzle, over the skull, feeling around the base of the ears, through the thick neck hair, mak¬ing sure you touch every square inch of skin. Take your time as you do this. Think of it as giving your dog a gentle massage. Your dog may go to sleep as you massage, but make sure you don’t. Stay alert and look for problems.
As you massage and examine your Lab, become familiar with every part of her body. Let your hands and fingers learn what your dog feels like. Run your hands over the shoulders, down the front legs, over the ribcage, and down the back to the hips. Run your hands down each leg, handling each toe on each paw, checking for burrs and foxtails, cuts and scratches. Don’t forget to run your hands down the tail, too, checking for lumps, bumps, and burrs.
A side benefit of this daily exam will show up when you need to take your Lab to the veterinarian. Your dog will be used to intimate handling and will not be as stressed by it as a dog who is not handled in this manner.
Check the Ears, Teeth, and Skin
Skin allergies are not uncommon in this breed. Skin allergies can show up as red skin, a rash, hives, or a weeping, oozing sore. If during your daily exam you see a skin problem developing, get your Lab in to your veterinarian right away. It’s much easier to treat a skin problem when it’s first starting than it is later when the problem has spread and the dog is tormented by the itching. Your vet¬erinarian might also be able to help you identify the cause of the sensitivity.
During your daily exam, check also for cuts, scrapes, bruises, and sores. If you find any minor cuts and scrapes, you can wash them with soap and water and apply a mild antibiotic ointment. However, if a cut is gaping or looks red and inflamed, call your veterinarian
What vaccines dogs need and how often they need them has been a subject of controversy for several years. Researchers, healthcare professionals, vaccine manufacturers, and dog own¬ers do not always agree on which vaccines each dog needs or how often booster shots must be given.
In 2006, the American Animal Hospital Association issued a set of vaccination guidelines and recommendations intended to help dog owners and veterinarians sort through much of the controversy and conflicting information. The guidelines desig¬nate four vaccines as core, or essential, for every dog, because of the serious nature of the diseases and their widespread dis¬tribution. These are canine distemper virus (using a modified live virus or recombinant modified live virus vaccine), canine parvovirus (using a modified live virus vaccine), canine aden-ovirus-2 (using a modified live virus vaccine), and rabies (using a killed virus). The general recommendations for their adminis¬tration (except rabies, for which you must follow local laws) are:
– Vaccinate puppies at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks, and 12-14 weeks.
– Give an initial “adult” vaccination when the dog is older than 16 weeks; two doses, three to four weeks apart, are advised, but one dose is considered protective and acceptable.
– Give a booster shot when the dog is 1 year old.
– Give a subsequent booster shot every three years, unless there are risk factors that make it necessary to vaccinate more or less often.
Noncore vaccines should only be considered for those dogs who risk exposure to a particular disease because of geographic area, lifestyle, frequency of travel, or other issues. They include vaccines against distemper-measles virus, canine parainfluenza virus, leptospirosis, Bordetella bronchiseptica, and Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease).
Vaccines that are not generally recommended because the disease poses little risk to dogs or is easily treatable, or the vaccine has not been proven to be effective, are those against giardia, canine coronavirus, and canine adenovirus-1.
Often, combination injections are given to puppies, with one shot containing several core and noncore vaccines. Your veteri¬narian may be reluctant to use separate shots that do not include the noncore vaccines, because they must be specially ordered. If you are concerned about these noncore vaccines, talk to your vet.
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