Friday, September 12, 2014

Humane Euthanasia

I have been wanting to write a post like this for some time, but have always felt like it was the wrong time. Tomorrow it has been a year since I euthanized my horse. I've really only mentioned her once here and it was a long time ago.

Many people struggle with making the decision to euthanize their animals. Most common responses of people who are considering euthanasia:

How do I know when it's time?
This is a very personal thing. Often times people will tell you 'you'll know'. I'd like to think that is the case most of the time. You have to make the decision when YOU are ready. You are the one who has to live with it at the end of the day. It is something that you as a pet owner need to be comfortable with. This website has a quality of life check-list. I personally don't like these kinds of forms, but some people need a visual of how bad it really is. Quality of life should be the number one priority for your pet.

I don't want to play god.
Well, that's interesting. Just by feeding/sheltering/caring for your dog - you are essentially playing god! By choosing to care for your pet and make life decisions for your pet, you are in charge. This is simply a really bad excuse for someone not wanting to make a decision.

I want them to die naturally.
I think it's fair to say that we all wish for our pets, and for us, that when the time comes they fall asleep and never wake up. While that does happen on occasion, it is very rare. It can take DAYS for the body to die. They can have seizures and respiratory distress in this time, they could be starving to death. It isn't a pretty picture at all and I know for myself personally, I want my pets to go out with dignity - not gasping for air. Also, something to think about; if you want your pet to die naturally then you need to go set it in an open field, or drop it off in the woods so that it can be eaten by another animal. That is how it is done in the 'natural wild'.


What is Euthanasia?
Wikipedia says:
"Euthanasia (from Greek: εὐθανασία; "good death": εὖ, eu; "well" or "good" – θάνατος, thanatos; "death") refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.[1]"

The medications used for euthanasia are essentially an overdose of anesthetic. 

How is euthanasia performed?
I can only speak from my experiences and from experiences of where I work. Every veterinary clinic does things differently. In the case of small animals - we always give a pre-sedative that makes the animal fall asleep. There are pros and cons to giving a pre - it lowers the blood pressure which can make it hard to find a vessel for the final injection. However in my opinion it really doesn't matter because they are asleep and they aren't feeling multiple pokes, nor will they feel the final IV injection. Also, it is rare but a pet can have a reaction to the euthanasia solution being given and it can be very terrible for an owner to see. As they are in the process of dying they may cry, moan, or gasp. I doubt they are actually conscious for this process, it's much like how dogs can be if they are given anesthetic and it goes sub-q instead of IV. They are completely dysphoric and unaware. By giving a pre-sedative you don't have to worry about anything like that happening.

In horses they usually do not give any type of a pre. The horse is dead before they hit the ground. I didn't want it to be that way for my horse, so I requested to have her be fully anesthetized before the final IV injection was given.

Some places will place an IV catheter before hand. Where I work, we do not do that. Although it makes the process easier for us - we don't like taking a pet from their owner for this final visit, and IMO it's unnecessary torture. Having an IV catheter placed is not comfortable and if the pet is still very 'with it' it can be a struggle. In the grand scheme it is not worth the stress placed on the pet or their owner.

I have been through a few euthanasias with my own pets, and I have helped out in several at work. I am only going to talk about the two most recent euthanasias in my semi-adult/adult life because they were both completely my decision.

The first pet I euthanized was my dog Sofie.

Sofie was 14yrs old when I made the decision to put her to sleep. She had been battling Sinonasal Carcinoma [nose cancer] and while her cancer had gone into remission with chemo for nearly a year, her kidneys finally failed her. With kidney failure, you can give your dog sub-q fluids everyday to keep them hydrated and you can given them a pill that makes them want to eat. I treated her for about a month poking her for fluids and feeding her whatever she would eat - without the pill. Her values were not that high, I mean, they were high enough to make her ill, but I have seen much worse. I decided when we got to the point that she would need medicine to make her eat, that I wouldn't do that to her. I did not want to keep Sofie around simply because I couldn't let her go. I did not want her eating because I was giving her a medicine that forced her to be hungry. In my mind I felt that she had lived a good, full life, and that it was okay to let her go. She was still 'with it' when I chose to euthanize her, she was fully aware and normal, but she definitely felt like crap due to her kidneys failing. I do not regret making the decision, I don't think I waited too long, and I don't think I did it too early. She looked great, and that is how I wanted it to be.

The second pet I euthanized was my horse Cairo.

A year ago tomorrow I drove Cairo to Noti Oregon to be humanely euthanized and then buried. This decision was not taken lightly. Horses are a bit different than dogs in that unless you have property you need to house them elsewhere and it can cost a lot of money. Money was not the complete deciding factor in my situation, but it did play a part.

In February of last year my horse Cairo was coming on 21yrs of age and she came up lame in her hind end. I had the vet out and we took x-rays and injected her hocks and one knee with steroids. She progressively got better in the hind end, but was off in the front. I'm not saying she was never lame a day in her life previously, because she did have issues with tender feet now and again, but this lameness I was feeling was different. She was short striding in the front end and it was very obvious to me. The vet told me it was a mechanical thing and she wasn't painful. However, watching friends ride her she looked very off to me. Throughout the spring and into the summer I took her on a few camping trips and a couple of trail rides. She came home seriously lame and limping nearly every time.

It sounds terrible but I will say it - I could not and cannot afford to have a horse that cannot be ridden. I had Cairo for 8 years, and for 8 years it was a struggle to keep her because horse ownership is SO expensive. Money aside though, my main concern was Cairo's happiness. Over the years of having her I did become complacent and did not ride as much as I did when I first got her. Cairo really needed to be ridden several times a week to stay sane. It was that last year that she had started bucking and crow-hopping because she simply was not being worked enough and was full of it. Since she was gimpy though, that made working her all the time impossible.

Cairo never saddled herself for me, but I am pretty sure she enjoyed being ridden, or at the very least just enjoyed the interaction. When I came to the barn she 'talked to me', and would meet me at the gate every time. I like to think she enjoyed my company just as much as I enjoyed hers.

There are a few things about Cairo I need to share.
  • She had terrible Thoroughbred feet. Her feet were flat and her soles were soft. She needed shoes 24/7 in order to stay sound. She also needed a farrier who knew what they were doing.
  • She was a bitch. She could not be pastured with other horses because she would beat them up over food or shelter. 
  • She was a very hard keeper in the winter time. I had to feed her high fat/high protein food to keep the weight on, and she also needed good quality hay.
Given the above statements Cairo could not just be a "pasture pet". Even on pasture she would require shoes and she would need to be alone. Most people want a "pasture pet" to keep other horses company. Cairo would have been a terrible pasture mate. Since she was hard to keep weight on, I was very concerned that even a person with the best of intentions might not feed her up properly and would let her get underweight come winter.

Before I bought Cairo she was purchased from a rescue in Canada. I found out soon after purchasing her that she was bought at an auction, by the rescue 300lbs underweight. Knowing this history I was leery of placing her with anyone for fear that she would end up on the auction lot again.

A friend suggested giving her away as a broodmare. My first thoughts on this were - she's lame at 21yrs old, she has terrible feet, AND, what do people do with broodmares when they don't need them anymore? So you can see why that option did not look good to me either.

Although it was hard and seriously heart-breaking euthanasia seemed like the best option. Typically livestock gets taken away by a rendering service. I really couldn't stand the thought of my horse's body being thrown in a landfill... or being melted down - whatever they do there. I don't own my own property and it is illegal in either the county/city/state for us to bury horses on our property anyway. Cremation costs $1k+ and you would get 40lbs of ashes - which is a lot to deal with as well. Through a facebook group I learned about Omega Farms, they are a place down in Noti, Oregon that buries horses and other livestock. They do not have grave markers but they map the property and can take you to your pet's place of burial if you want to visit. My sister hauled Cairo down there for me, and my vet was nice enough to make the long drive down there as well. They usually don't give horses a pre - but I didn't want her to be awake for the final injection. I paid a little extra but was able to have her fully anesthetized, so she was already on the ground for the last injection. It's hard to explain what it was like... it was the crappiest decision I've ever had to make. I miss her everyday and think about her all the time. I know it was the best decision for her and for our situation, but she was a HUGE part of my life, literally and figuratively.  I feel very blessed that I was able to do things the way that I did.

I wanted to share my own personal stories and experience with euthanasia because I know it can be a hard decision to make. When I have had to make 'the decision' it has not been easy, but I have always tried to place my pets before myself.

I hope this information helps put into perspective the decision making process and also helps explain how euthanasia works. I also hope for any friends who were wondering about Cairo that this fully explains why I made the decision I did. I can't believe a year has gone by already. I'll end this entry with pictures of my beautiful mare.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

LiLo & IPO

Last week I took LiLo to training with Seppel. I figured she's getting older and I just wanted to see if she could do it.

LiLo has prey drive - she's killed and eaten at least three squirrels on her own, she loves the flirt pole and she will also chase the ball. I consider her to have a decent amount of prey drive and just drive in general to follow through with something.

When I took her to training last week, she barked at Ryan but did not want to engage him with the tug. She was too "worried" about him to want to play.

I brought her out again yesterday, she was willing to play with the tug with me, and also willing to grab the bite sleeve a few times. However, she lost interest a couple of times and also wasn't fully committed to getting the bite sleeve.

It really put into perspective for me how lucky I got with Seppel. You really can't just take any dog and hope they work out for the sport. While I thought LiLo had the drive to do it, I was very wrong. I also thought that her being a bit weird/sketchy would make her a good candidate, but she is just a big fat weener!

I think the main difference between her and Seppel is that he is more confident - especially when it comes to getting the things he wants, and he wants to grab anything that moves. I think that is why he took to the bite sleeve so quickly - because he likes to chase and grab things. Granted, LiLo is that way with the flirt pole but I think the drive to 'chase and grab' is a lot lower in her than it is in Seppel.

I really count my blessing everyday that I have a dog I can play IPO with.

Apparently LiLo is happy just being a great buddy dog :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

This week I was invited by my friend Lauren - blogger at Zoephee
to take part in the 'Writing Process Blog Tour'.

The rules are pretty simple:
If you're tagged, all you have to do is link back to your tagger and say a little about them, answer the three questions, and invite three other people to join and talk a little about why you enjoy their blogs. Invitees are encouraged to get their posts out within a week or two of their Inviter's post.

I met Lauren through work, she was hired as a dog groomer at the vet clinic I work at. We have a lot in common in that we love dogs, we love talking about them, and we love training them. Her blog Zoephee is primarily about her dogs and training them using positive reinforcement. She has some very informative posts and is worth checking out.

The Questions:

1. What Am I Working On?
Honestly, not a whole heck of a lot. I am very new to blogging and don't expect to hit epic internet fame. If we're talking about what I am working on currently as far as content, I think I will be hitting a touchy subject in my next post which will not be ready until September. It's something I have wanted to write about for a while but didn't want to be all doom and gloom. Given the time of year, I think it's high time I speak up.

2. Why do I write what I do?
In the beginning I wanted to tell the world about my experience becoming a new Pit Bull owner. People do not take owning a powerful breed seriously. I myself had no idea what I was up against. Of course as time passed by blog focused mostly on Seppel's recovery from FHO surgery.
However, now that he has been recovered from his surgery I'd say the focus on my blog has mostly been him and his IPO/Schutzhund training. I like sharing our story. I think it's important for people to see how we started, what we have been through, and where we are going. I think it's good breed PR and if it changes someone's mind about the breed, or helps someone out looking for medical info on surgery then we've done our job.

3. How does my writing process work?
I don't really have a process. If a good subject to write about comes to me - then I'll write about it. Sometimes I will cruise other blogs looking for inspiration and I participate a lot in the blog hops because sometimes I just don't have any ideas.

Here are the blogs I am nominating:

So Fly
A fellow Oregonian who does Flyball with her two dogs Koira and Pallo. She takes some neat pictures and does a lot with her two dogs. I enjoy seeing what adventures they are up to next and I love reading about the sport of flyball.

Exercise Finished
I started following this blog after I read this entry. I like the writing style and the way of thinking. She recently got an Aussie pup but also has a Mal and does obedience and agility among other things.

The REAL apbt
I don't even remember how I found this blog but this gal is very much in support of the traditional apbt. She does occasionally post old articles from fights, and posts various keep routines from famous dogmen. The blog isn't exactly for the faint of heart, but I feel the information is valid because it IS the history of the breed. She also quotes several famous people within the breed. I think anyone interested in learning about the traditional apbt could learn quite a bit from the entries in this blog.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hip Dysplasia

LiLo was my very first "puppy". I think I got her when she was about 16 weeks old. Not knowing what I know now I wanted her spayed as soon as possible because I didn't want to worry about her going into heat. At the time we also thought she would be much larger than she turned out to be and if she was going to have bad hips my vet was going to perform a JPS surgery. We took PennHip xrays and my vet who is very orthopedically educated looked at them and said that her hips were fine. I didn't send the xrays in and we went ahead with spaying her. A few years post spay she was dysplastic. Her DI numbers for pennhip were .63 and .61 putting her in the high risk category. At the time we xrayed she had no djd or any obvious flaws that we could see. While spaying her early did not cause her hip dysplasia, it is a concern.

In this study:

"Specifically, early neutering was associated with an increase in the occurrence of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear and lymphosarcoma in males and of cranial cruciate ligament tear in females. Late neutering was associated with the subsequent occurrence of mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma in females.

In most areas, the findings of this study were consistent with earlier studies, suggesting similar increases in disease risks. The new study, however, was the first to specifically report an increased risk of late neutering for mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma.

Furthermore, the new study showed a surprising 100 percent increase, or doubling, of the incidence of hip dysplasia among early-neutered males."

Another study:

" For example, if the femur has achieved its genetically determined normal length at 8 months when a dog gets spayed or neutered, but the tibia, which normally stops growing at 12 to 14 months of age continues to grow, then an abnormal angle may develop at the stifle. In addition, with the extra growth, the lower leg below the stifle becomes heavier (because it is longer), causing increased stresses on the cranial cruciate ligament. These structural alterations may be the reason why at least one recent study has shown that spayed and neutered dogs have a higher incidence of CCL rupture.(3) Another recent study showed that dogs spayed or neutered before 5 1/2 months had a significantly higher incidence of hip dysplasia than those spayed or neutered after 5 1/2 months of age."


It was fun to send LiLo's xrays in and it doesn't change anything. I expected that she was dysplastic and we just missed it. To the naked eye her xrays did look very clean, of course she was too young/they weren't bad enough to have arthritis or signs of DJD at that point. I still think it's important to let your dog grow before spaying and neutering. I doubt it would have changed anything for LiLo - but I am sure it didn't help things either.

I would also like to take a moment to plug pennhip. I always thought that OFA was better because your dog has to be 2yrs old to have xrays taken [you can take early preliminaries but the permanent ones are after 24mos]. However, reading the pennhip website I think it is a far more accurate testing method and it doesn't matter what age you take the xrays, you can take them as young as 16weeks and the outcome will be the same. Here is some "fast facts" directly from their website:

1.   The Distraction Index (DI) as determined by the PennHIP method is the most reliable indicator of future hip osteoarthritis.

In a study comparing factors such as age, breed, weight, gender, distraction index and Norberg angle (another method of measuring hip laxity based on the conventional OFA-type x-ray), it was found that the distraction index was the most significantly correlated with future development of osteoarthritis irrespective of age at the time of PennHIP evaluation.
Smith GK, Popovitch CA, Gregor TP. Evaluation of risk factors for degenerative joint disease associated with dysplasia in dogs, J Am Vet Med Assoc, 1995; 206: 642-647.

2.   The distraction index does not change significantly over time.  

A study of large breed dogs showed that the distraction index stayed the same over time (within acceptable statistical limits) and was much more reliable over time than other methods such as the Norberg angle and the OFA scoring method.
Smith GK, Gregor TP, Rhodes WH and Biery D. Coxofemoral joint laxity from distraction radiography and its contemporaneous and prospective correlation with laxity, subjective score and evidence of degenerative joint disease from conventional hip-extended radiography, Am J Vet Res, 1993; 54: 1021-1042.

3.   Keeping your dog at a lean weight throughout life delays the onset of hip osteoarthritis related to hip dysplasia.

Restricted feeding to maintain a lean body condition delayed or prevented development of radiographic (x-ray) signs of hip joint osteoarthritis in a group of 48 Labrador Retrievers followed throughout life. Lifetime maintenance of 25% diet restriction delayed onset and reduced severity of hip joint osteoarthritis, thus favorably affecting both length and quality of life. This study also showed that hip osteoarthritis can develop at anytime throughout a dog’s life.
Smith GK, Paster ER, Powers MY, Lawler DF, Biery DN, Shofer FS, McKelvie PJ, Kealy RD. Lifelong diet restriction and radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis in the hip joints of dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2006 Sep 1; 229 (5); 690-3.

4.   The PennHIP method can be reliably performed on a dog as young as 16 weeks old. 

PennHIP has studied the efficacy of this method from eight weeks up to three years of age. For the present, it is recommended that dogs should not be evaluated before 16 weeks of age and that follow-up radiography at 6 months or 1 year of age is encouraged. However, the decision to have the method performed again is always that of the owner.
Smith GK , Gregor TP, Rhodes WH and Biery DN. Coxofemoral joint laxity from distraction radiography and its contemporaneous and prospective correlation with laxity, subjective score and evidence of degenerative joint disease from conventional hip-extended radiography, Am J Vet Res, 1993;54:1021-1042.
Smith GK , Hill C, Gregor TP, Olsson K. Reliability of the hip distraction index in two-month-old German Shepherd dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 1998;212:1560-1563.

5.   80% of dogs evaluated as “normal” by the OFA were found to have hip laxity by PennHIP testing that predisposed them to developing hip osteoarthritis in the future.

Dogs judged as normal by the OFA harbored clinically important passive hip joint laxity as determined via the PennHIP distraction index. Results suggested that OFA scoring radiographs (x-rays) underestimated susceptibility to osteoarthritis in dogs. The presence of these “normal” dogs in the breeding pool may slow the progress of decreasing hip dysplasia prevalence.
Powers MY, Karbe GT, Gregor TP, McKelvie PJ, Culp WT, Fordyce HH, Smith GK. Evaluation of the relationship between Orthopedic Foundation for Animals’ hip joint scores and PennHIP distraction index values in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2010; 237: 532-541.

6.   PennHIP Biomechanics

Biomechanical testing determined the optimal patient position for measuring hip laxity. Hip laxity was found to be maximal in the non weight-bearing position used in the PennHIP method and is actually masked in the conventional hip-extended position. 
Smith GK , Biery DN and Gregor TP. New concepts of coxofemoral joint stability and development of a clinical stress-radiographic method for quantitating hip joint laxity in the dog, J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1990;196:59-70.
Heyman J, Smith GK and Cofone MA. A biomechanical study of the effect of coxofemoral positioning on passive hip joint laxity in the dog. Am J Vet Res, 1993;54:210-215.

7.   PennHIP continues to research inherent differences among breeds.

The breeds with the tightest hips as measured by DI have the lowest susceptibility to showing hip osteoarthritis. Within each of the 8 breeds (American bulldog, Bernese Mountain Dog, German Shepherd dog, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland, Rottweiler, and Standard Poodle) studied thus far, the looser the hips, the greater the likelihood of showing hip osteoarthritis. 
Runge JJ, Kelly SP, Gregor TP, Kotwal S, Smith GK.  Distraction index as a risk factor for osteoarthritis associated with hip dysplasia in four large dog breeds.  Journal of Small Animal Practice 2010;51:264-269.
Smith GK , Mayhew PD, Kapatkin AS, Shofer FS, Gregor TP. Evaluation of risk factors for degenerative joint disease associated with canine hip dysplasia in German Shepherd dogs, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and Rottweilers. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 2001;219:1719-1724.

8.   Hormonal effects on hip dysplasia

Contrary to popular belief, estrus (being in heat) is of no consequence to hip scoring; the study performed showed definitively that estrus does not adversely affect the distraction index or any other hip scoring method. The hormone relaxin, however, remains present up to 8 weeks post whelping (although it varies by breed). We know of no study describing whether relaxin has any effect on DI or any other hip scoring method but to be on the safe side, we advise waiting 8 weeks post-lactation or 16 weeks post-whelping. 
Hassinger KA, Smith GK, Conzemius HM, Hill CM and Gregor TP. Effect of estrus cycle on coxofemoral joint laxity, Vet Comp Ortho Traum, 1997;10:69-74.

9.   Within and Between Examiner Repeatability

Studies have shown that the PennHIP method has a very high degree of reproducibility between examiners. In other words, your dog should have similar distraction scores no matter which PennHIP certified veterinarian performs the radiographs. This high degree of consistency is attributable to the inherent biomechanics of the canine hip joint and to the quality-assurance training that all PennHIP network veterinarians must successfully complete.
Smith GK , LaFond E, Heyman SJ, Cofone MA and Gregor TP. Biomechanical characterization of passive laxity of the canine coxofemoral joint, Am J Vet Res, 1997;58:1078-1082.
Smith GK , LaFond E and Gregor TP. Within-and between-examiner repeatability of distraction indices of the hip joints in dogs, Am J Vet Res, 1997;58:1076-1077.

10.               Cats and Hip Dysplasia

Did you know cats can get hip dysplasia? As in dogs, the distraction index is correlated with osteoarthritis; the greater the distraction index, the more likely a cat will develop osteoarthritis. However, further studies need be conducted to determine how well cats tolerate laxity. As of June 2011, 131 cats are listed in the PennHIP database.
Langenbach A,Giger U, Green P, Rhodes H, Gregor T, LaFond E, and Smith G. Relationship of degenerative joint disease and laxity in the coxofemoral joint by use of distraction index and Norberg angle measuement in a group of cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998;213:1439-1443.
Murphy TP, Biery DN, Fordyce HH, Gregor TP, Shofer FS, and Smith GK. Radiographic prevalence of hip dysplasia in 121 Maine Coon Cats, Proc 27th An Conf Vet Ortho Soc, Val dIsere, France, 2000:p. 53. 


I've mentioned this in the past I think but I manage LiLo's hip dysplasia and arthritis with monthly adequan injections - all three of my dogs get adequan and they also get flax & fish oil. I keep LiLo active and she can bike 4miles and keep up with the boys, but she does have her sore days. If she is sore I will give her an NSAID or some tramadol. I also keep her at a lean weight as to not add more stress to her compromised joints.

Just as a side note, LiLo has lost most of the muscle mass on her hindquarters, as well as along her spine. She also has pretty severe muscle wasting in her skull. I saw a rottweiler last week with the same pattern of muscle loss and I can only think it's related to her crappy hips. Although she can still jump around and do some running she obviously compensates a lot with her front end.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Christine's Seppel Puppy URO1

Seppel earned his URO1 title today! I am so proud of him!

The course today was very difficult and even the more experienced folks that were there got lost on the course. I'm lucky we only had trouble with sign 9 [come front finish right] because I could have easily gotten lost. Seppel does not have a command for finishing right - outside of the ring he was doing fine just following the leash, but I just did not set him up very well in the ring. It isn't his fault, it was all mine. This run wasn't as good as yesterdays but I will take it. I am so excited for Sepp to earn his very first title. He is also unbeaten for 4th place :p