Monday, November 26, 2012

Gifts that keep on giving for the dogs

At the holidays, we all wish that every dog could have a belly full of food, enough water and a great big bed in a warm home.    Wouldn't that be great?
Well, we won't be able to get all of them this year, but every little bit helps to get one more.  
So, when you are shopping and full of holiday spirit, give the gifts that keep on giving. 

Here are some ways you can help;
Check our events pages and come on out to support us-  

-buy from our bake sales

-buy GSROC logoed merchandise for GSD lovers
-cook plain chicken and plain brown or sweet potatoes and drop off for the dogs. 
Plan a holiday visit to one of our special events-   

-visit our Costa Mesa boutique on 12/1

Go to our website to learn how to sponsor a dog in someone's name and get a certificate sent to that person-

-sponsor a dog in someone's name (we provide a certificate to present)

-forego gifts in favor of having people make a donation in your name....etc.
Shop through for all of your online shopping and choose Association of German Shepherd Rescuers as your charity. 


The dogs will thank you!  

Monday, November 19, 2012

A caution about holiday overeating...for your dog.

Los Angeles Animal Services Important Pet Alert
Over-eating during Thanksgiving can be serious for pets too!

Thanksgiving is the time of year when family and friends get together to enjoy each other’s company and a myriad of delicious foods. We have a tendency to include our four-legged family members in this feast, which often results in overindulgence. Even when we don’t purposely include them, the agile and creative dog or cat can capture a special treat from the kitchen counter, trash or even the dining room table!

Thanksgiving weekend is also a busy time for emergency veterinary clinics. Dogs and cats suffer very serious and sometimes fatal consequences from turkey bones, too much rich and fatty foods and just plain overeating. If your pet is not acting like himself or herself, consult your veterinarian. Your best friend could be seriously ill.

It is difficult to comprehend, but when giving pets treats you must consider the relative size of their body compared to yours. If you weigh 150 pounds and your dog weighs 25 pounds, he or she is only 1/6th of your total weight. If you visualize yourself as a whole pie, comparatively your dog is only one slice of pie. Consequently, sharing an unfinished plate that still holds a generous serving of mashed potatoes with gravy, a side of very rich dressing, a few bites of turkey and a small slice of pumpkin pie with your best friend can make him or her feel miserable.

You do want your pets to enjoy the holiday. Stop by a pet food store and purchase some new dog biscuits or cat treats; then reduce the amount of their regular meal to accommodate the treats they will be getting throughout the day. Remember, biscuits and treats are usually much higher in calories than regular pet food so having them skip dinner may be a prudent choice if they have been snacking all day.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Extraordinary Efforts to save dogs

Today is Maria Dales birthday, and there are thousands of dogs who lived to see another day because of this lady. 
There isn't much I can say about her that hasn't been said already.  She is dedicated and tireless in her quest to save dogs.   You would think someone who has seen the dregs of humanity would not have much compassion for people, but she does.   Along the way of saving the lives of countless animals, she gives and gives to people. 

Maria spends all of her free time furthering the rescue.  She is not some voice behind a desk; she comes out every weekend to hold a dog.   She goes to the hoarders and walks among the abused to save the ones we can... and some we can't but she can't bear to leave behind.   She goes to the ER vet in the middle of the night to hold the head of desperate animal who just needs a little kindness in her last moments.   Maria does the heart wrenching shelter walks.  She walks the walk.   Every now and then, I hear someone say "If I ran this rescue I would do this differently, or that"... and I say, "Yes, but you don't do it, do you.  She does." 

Happy Birthday MD.   This world is a better place because of you. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dogs and food allergies

One of the most common problems presented to all veternarians is the itchy pet. Most often the source of itch is allergies. With conventional medicine, the treatment is often suppression and in difficult cases this can mean endless rounds of antibiotics and steroids. As clients and veterinarians become frustrated, they often begin to look for alternatives. 

In the interest of full disclosure and responsibility, this is being written based only on my experience and I absolutely recommend that if your dog, or any other animal is experiencing any of the symptoms I mention, you need to go to a vet.   Although I am writing this article about allergies in dogs, there are many, many illnesses whose symptoms mimic food allergies and you have to first go to vet to get certain illnesses ruled out.  A blood panel can make sure your dogs organs are working properly and there are no underlying illnesses.   A skin scraping can rule out mites and/or mange which can look like a food allergy, and is much more common than you think.  So please, make sure you rule out any other more serious options before you consider a food allergy...

However, once you know your dog is basically healthy but is itchy, chewing herself, and getting hotspots... you need to immediately consider three things-
  • Am I giving my dog enough exercise or is she chewing because she is going crazy with boredom?

  • Am I feeding a high quality food in accordance with her natural diet?

  • Have I used Frontline or Advantage regularly and can I completely rule out a flea allergy?   ( This is such a no brainer I won't address it again, but if there is the possibility that your dog is dealing with fleas and flea bites, please address this immediately with a regular flea treatment)

  • Do I have any plants that could be aggravating her skin?  (There are several common plants that are considered more allergic than most for dogs.  Check your yard and your walk path.) 

Ok, so you rescued a dog who appears to have allergies.   The range of severity is huge... my first "all mine, I am grown up" shepherd Halo had allergies that caused hot spots and minor chewing.  She and I were growing up together.  She came to college with me and I wish I knew then what I know now.   I imagine the mac and cheese I fed her, and the beach romps after which neither of us bathed did not help her allergies.  I believe I have mentioned that many times I ran into the local grocery store at midnight and bought a bag of dog food so she had breakfast.  Now that I know what was in that food... the mac and cheese was probably a better choice. 

My second shepherd  with food allergies came to me almost bald, and so underweight we thought she was a coyote when we first saw her.   This is when my lessons really began.  (Sorry Halo)   After making sure she was healthy inside, I went to work learning about what was making her bald, and skinny.   I was lucky enough to learn from someone who was making one of the first accessible, limited and high quality ingredient dog foods on the local market.   He taught me how different meats, different vegetable and different grains have different vitamins, different enzymes and different digestive qualities that actually work WITH a dogs system to keep them healthy.  He taught me that the quality of meats and other "foods" in most dogs foods were sub par, and would never be approved for humans.  He also taught me that a lot of dog foods out there have so many fillers that are just not natural to a dogs system that they can cause short term and long term issues.  Corn is big ingredient in dog food, yet  dogs have never eaten corn and as far back in the genetic chain of dogs did wolves even eat any animal who ate corn.   It is just not in the digestive chain of dogs.  Neither is wheat.  

I learned through a process of trying the raw diet, cooking for my dogs, and finally settling on a mix of cooked meat and veggies and a high grade kibble that what you feed your dogs can affect their health.  I also learned that if you have a dog with allergies... it is imperative that you absolutely commit to feeding a high quality, limited ingredient food for 60 days minimum with NO EXCEPTIONS. 

Once you embark on the 60 days of only feeding a limited ingredient diet, which should include something like Dick Van Pattens Venison and Sweet Potato or Call of the Wild two ingredient food  (check the label if you try something else) you have to absolutely commit to it.  No treats that contain anything else, no slipping them table scraps that go against the diet, nothing.  It is hard.  You can still give treats, just make sure they are one of the limited ingredients you have decided are on the menu. 

It takes at least 60 days of feeding your dog an isolated protein to see if there is an improvement in the symptoms.   You can't expect a complete cure, but if you see an improvement you may be on the right track. 

You may not see an improvement.   This can be a long process of elimination.  You cannot give up.   Symptoms can range from minor itching and hot spots to huge wounds, major hair loss and major behavioral changes.  (Can you imagine being itchy all the time?)   I have met dogs who developed anxiety, aggression and neurotic behaviors that all cleared up once their allergies were addressed and they were not physically uncomfortable all the time.  

If you haven't seen an improvement, it is possible that you chose the food that has the protein your dog is allergic to, so you have to switch from Venison to Fish or vice versa.   You may know that someone in your home was cheating and giving your dog treats that are not on the approved list.   It can be a long process.   You may need to partner with your vet to get antibiotics if there are any wounds that are not healing...but stick with it.  Be diligent.   Hopefully you will be successful with the limited ingredient HIGH quality diet.  Please please please include regular exercise for your dog...not running around in the backyard but a good solid leash walk to help alleviate the nervous itchy energy.  By including regular leash walks you are insuring your dog is getting the mental stimulation she needs and isnt chewing herself like a neglected housewife chews her nails...

There are some basic, general guidelines to look for when dealing with allergies...  There are often differences in the history or in the pattern of itch that is suggestive of one cause of disease or another.  For example, inhalant allergies in dogs (allergies caused by pollens, trees, molds or grasses) tend to be seasonal and often include itchy feet and ear infections as part of the history.  Flea allergies tend to concentrate around the tail base and stomach in dogs and often cats as well. Finally, with food allergies, you see year round problems which may show signs predominantly around the mouth, ears and anus.

Commit 100% to this.   It is like having chicken pox for your dog... it is uncomfortable and can be life threatening.   Take care of it.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I need to turn my dog in, but it isnt me...

I almost titled this blog... "I know EVERYTHING there is to know about dogs", because I talked to two people today who did...they know everything about dogs, but still are dealing with issues that are so severe, they are literally costing these dogs their homes, and potentially their lives.  
My 12+ years of experience rescuing, re-homing and keeping dogs in their homes was of no importance to either of these women...individually they have had 4-6 dogs and "always been able to train them".   How is that working out for you Ms. Smarty Pants?  (that is me screaming in my head)

So, I had four issues on the table today that will keep me awake tonight worrying about these two dogs.   One is a black shepherd who was adopted out to a fellow "rescuer" (I use the term loosely because no rescuer would return a dog.  PERIOD)  who has two issues.  The adopter has had this dog for 9 months and this little gal has started trying to get out of the yard and running the neighborhood.  From the endless chatter of Ms. Dog Owner of the Year (I couldn't bring myself to say Dog Mom as she is returning her dog), I gathered that she is outside in the yard for 8+ hours a day, and once the escapes began, she spent "thousands" of dollars reinforcing the fence by lining the perimeter with cinder block   As you can imagine, she did not hear me when I told her she just added a nice step for her dog to jump... a platform really... but what do I know?   I also mentioned that perhaps she is leaving because she is BORED and needs some walks and even an obedience class just for fun, it fell on deaf ears.  I know, beyond a shadow of doubt that if this dog went to an obedience class and got walked daily... this behavior would stop.  I know it.  If you don't try a daily walk and basic obedience class at the first sign of ANY trouble... you are missing the easy fix.  This is tried and true advice, over hundreds of dogs... over a decade of trying.  (I am kind of screaming again in my head)

In addition Ms. Dog Owner of the Year mentions, our little gal is attacking her old dog.   This is a completely new behavior and of course, it is unacceptable for one dog in a home to attack another.   However, if you ever find yourself in this horrible situation, check your dogs over.  Look (and smell) for ear infections, teeth, a wound somewhere, a broken toenail...consider arthritis or anything that would make you cranky.  If there isn't something obvious, I would take the dogs in for blood work and a vet check.   I know it is expensive, so if you have to pick one, pick the dog who is getting picked on.   It is an inherent pack trait to kill off the weak or sick dogs.  It is almost an act of mercy really.   So listen to your dogs.  

Also, please remember, every single dog is different.  Even if you have always been able to train your dogs before, you may need a different approach, a different tactic... chances are, you are the one that needs to change your behavior so your dog can thrive.   Can you set aside your ego and help your dog?    It may not be about sit, stay, heel... it may be about helping your baby find her confidence so she can be all she is.  Make the time. 

Here are some MUST DO things you absolutely MUST DO when you are having behavioral issues-  ( an unstimulated dog is a bad dog)

  1. walk your dog, on a leash for mental and physical stimulation. 
  2. walk your dog, on a leash.  Yes, it is important enough to get the top 2.
  3. go to an obedience class.  
  4. go to an obedience class.  Yes... that important. 
  5. Feed a high quality dog food. 
  6. Make sure your dog doesn't have any ailments. 
If you cannot make the time to do these extremely basic things, think again, and make the time.   You committed to this animal, so make the time. 

GSROC is taking this dog back, and we will do better by her this next time.  I personally will offer her my apologies.  She deserved better.  

So, I will write about the other dog another day...again, some very basic issues that can so easily be addressed.   Allergies and Boredom... stay tuned. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rainy days and dogs


When it starts raining at our house, we have a drill-

  • run up and grab 5-6 rugs and 3-4 towels
  • put the rugs out underneath the dog doors incoming and outgoing
  • go throw two door mats on the part of the grass that gets the muddiest
  • bring in another water bowl so as to cut down the in/out traffic

We keep the towels right by the dog door to dry off the dogs when they come tearing back in from the rain.   I go on high alert for the clicking of the dog door as it falls behind the dogs when they run in so I can get to them before they shake off the water.  

It also becomes a strategic puzzle as to how I can fit in a walk when the rain stops... and sometimes it is a small window.   And there are the days when we miss a walk and my big boy follows me around... bored and waiting.   I often wonder what he would do if I wasn't here to follow around. 
Pets need stimulation just like people.  They need entertainment, so when a pet is cut off from mental and physical stimulation he can develop bad or destructive habits, such as chewing or barking.  (no, not shepherds!  :)  )  

As we hit the rainy season, consider picking up a few new toys for your dog that you can leave him with for his lonely rainy days.   The kong type toys are fun to find new treats you can put into and can give them hours of "play".   Make sure you get the right size kong for your dog so there are no choking issues. 

Good luck with the rain, and remember....


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Strangles, the puppy disease

One of the things about being a rescue volunteer that would have to go both in the pro and con column is that you learn about a lot of doggie diseases and disorders.  Surprisingly, after over a decade, I am still learning new diseases. 
This week, we brought in a puppy from a shelter who has a disease called Strangles, or Juvenile Cellulitis.  
Strangles is a condition that usually affects puppies younger than four months of age. Vets don't fully understand what causes puppy strangles, but they believe that it may be at least partly hereditary in origin. Learn more about this mysterious illness, its symptoms and its treatment.

Risk Factors for Puppy Strangles

Strangles occurs in dogs younger than four months old. It causes inflammation, crusting and pustules of the skin. Vets believe that strangles may have a genetic component in dogs. It occurs most often in Golden Retrievers, Dachshunds and mixes of those breeds.


  • Acutely (sudden and severe) swollen face – especially the eyelids, lips, and muzzle
  • Salivary gland lymphadenopathy: a disease process affecting a lymph node or multiple lymph nodes
  • Marked pustular and oozing skin disease, which frequently fistulates (develops into a hollow passage); develops within 24–48 hours
  • Pustular ear infection
  • Lesions often become crusted
  • Affected skin is usually tender
  • Lethargy in 50 percent of cases
  • Loss of appetite, fever, and presence of sterile suppurative arthritis in 25 percent of cases (acute inflammation of membranes, with leaking into a joint, due to bacterial infection)

  • Diagnosing and Treating Strangles in Puppies

    Your vet will need to perform a complete physical exam, and will need your dog's medical history. Skin scrapings will be necessary to confirm a diagnosis of strangles. Skin biopsies are also taken. The symptoms of strangles are often similar to those of demodectic mange and allergies.
    Treatment for puppy strangles usually involves administering a combination of antibiotics and steroid drugs. These medications will need to be administered several times daily. Steroids are used to treat the inflammation associated with the disease, and promote the healing of lesions. Antibiotics help to prevent or treat secondary infections, which can lead to increased scarring and serious complications.
    You will need to follow your vet's instructions carefully when administering your puppy's medication. When properly treated, puppy strangles usually doesn't come back. However, relapse can occur if medication isn't administered properly.
    Scarring is a very common complication of puppy strangles. Scars can be extensive and severe. Prevent severe scarring by seeking veterinary care for your puppy right away. Follow your vet's home care instructions carefully, and avoid any aggressive cleaning or topical treatment of your puppy's lesions.
    While there is no way to prevent puppy strangles, it usually clears up with proper treatment. In most cases, puppy strangles does not come back.