Category: Dog Training

21 Sep

Melanoma in Dogs: A Potentially Malignant Form of Canine Cancer

Canine melanoma is a form of cancer. These cancers are termed melanomas because the tumors are derived from melanocytes, a specific type of cell. Unlike melanomas seen in people, those seen in dogs are not related to increased exposure to sunlight.

Locations of Melanomas in Dogs

Canine melanomas can occur in many different locations. The most commonly seen are in the mouth, on the skin, on the digits (feet) and in the eyes of the dog.

  • Oral melanomas (those within the mouth) can occur on the lips, the gums or the tongue. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer in the mouth of the dog.
  • Ocular melanomas (those within the eye) are the most common type of tumor to affect the eye of the dog.
  • Some skin melanomas are raised and do not deeply invade the tissue, while other invade the underlying tissue to a much greater extent.
  • Melanomas can mimic many other types of cancer and a biopsy is necessary to accurately diagnose a melanoma.

Malignant Melanoma Versus Benign Melanoma in the Dog

There are many factors that affect the behavior of a melanoma in a dog. These factors are used to determine if the tumor is likely to behave in a benign or a malignant fashion.

  • The location of the tumor plays a role in determining whether the melanoma is likely to be benign or malignant. Melanomas of the skin that are in a haired region are often, but not always, benign. Melanomas in the mouth are likely to be malignant. Melanomas of the digit are more likely to be malignant as well.
  • Canine melanomas are graded based on size and spread to local lymph nodes. A stage I melanoma is less than 2 cm and does not invade the local lymph nodes. A stage II melanoma is between 2-4 cm and does not invade the local lymph nodes. A stage III melanoma is between 2-4 cm and does invade local lymph nodes. A stage IV melanoma is any size tumor that has spread to other parts of the body. Stage I melanomas are more likely to have a curative effect with surgical excision whereas melanomas of stage II and higher are more likely to act in an aggressive manner.
  • Histological (microscopic) characteristics of the tumor are also often predictive of the behavior of the cancer. Histologic characteristics that help determine whether the melanoma is likely to act in a malignant and/or aggressive fashion include the mitotic index, the degree of invasiveness and the amount of differentiation in the cells within the tumor.

Diagnosis of Canine Melanoma

Initially, fine needle aspirates (FNA) are often used to determine whether a suspect mass may be a melanoma or another form of cancer. Fine needle aspirates involve using a small needle to retrieve cells from a mass and examining the cells under a microscope.

If a fine needle aspirate indicates the potential for a melanoma, surgical removal of the mass is usually planned, if possible. A biopsy allows examination of the entire mass under a microscope and is necessary to accurately diagnose the tumor type. Fine needle aspirates are a good screening test but do not remove the need for a biopsy.

Local lymph nodes should be sampled at the time of surgical removal of the mass in order to stage the cancer. In some cases, radiographs (x-rays) of the lungs may be recommended to check for metastasis as well.

Treatment of Canine Melanoma

Treatment of a melanoma in a dog will depend on the location, the stage of the tumor and the ability to surgically remove the entire growth with wide margins that are free of tumor cells.

Surgical removal is always the initial recommended treatment, if possible. It is important for the veterinarian to plan to allow a wide surgical margin. If the tumor can be removed entirely with a wide margin that is free of tumor cells, no additional treatment may be necessary, assuming that the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes or other areas.

If the tumor cannot be removed or is removed with “dirty margins” (the area surrounding the tumor still has tumor cells that extend to or near the edge of the surgical incision), then further treatment is required and may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy or immunotherapy.

  • Radiation therapy and immunotherapy have shown greater promise than chemotherapy.
  • Immunotherapy includes a melanoma vaccine that may be effective in controlling some cases of melanoma.

Canine melanoma is a form of cancer seen in dogs. Some cases of melanoma can be extremely malignant and factors such as location, grading and histological characteristics of the tumor need to be considered to determine the severity of a given melanoma.

21 Sep

Low Blood Sugar in Puppies

Puppy Care in Transient Juvenile Hypoglycemia

Transient juvenile hypoglycemia may be suspected when puppies, especially toy breeds such as Chihuahuas or Yorkshire Terriers, show signs of weakness, lethargy, listlessness, vomiting, or diarrhea. Puppies less than 3 or 4 months of age require strong blood sugar levels while their immature systems sometimes lack the ability to regulate glucose.

Triggers for a Hypoglycemic Attack

  • Cold temperatures
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Overactivity
  • Infrequent, inadequate, or poor quality nutrition
  • Digestive upsets that prevent absorption of nutrients
  • Illness diminishing appetite
  • Moving into a new home
  • Anything that puts a strain on energy reserves

An untreated puppy with low blood sugar may appear weak and show a lack of coordination. In severe cases, the puppy will froth at the mouth, fall into a coma, have a seizure, and die. When the sugar level falls, it must be treated as an emergency or the puppy’s condition will deteriorate rapidly. The puppy’s body must have sugar as quickly as possible.

Good Sources of Sugar for a Quick Boost

  • Karo syrup
  • Honey
  • Sugar water
  • Nutrical

Even if the puppy is too lethargic to swallow, these products can be absorbed into the tissues if smeared on the gums and in the roof of the mouth. Puppies in seizure should not be fed food or water because it can cause choking, but smearing these sugary substances in the mouth may save his life. Nutrical is a paste-like supplement that comes in a tube and supplies vitamins as well as sugar.

Hypoglycemic Puppies Require Vigilant Care

If the puppy does not recover within a few minutes it must be rushed to a veterinarian immediately. When the crisis is over, frequent feedings of a high quality soft food will keep sugar levels up for a longer period of time. If the puppy is not eating on his own, he must be fed frequent, tiny diluted amounts with a syringe.

A puppy with hypoglycemia may need to be fed four or five times a day or as frequently as every hour or so until his system is mature enough to keep glucose levels stable. It’s very important to make sure he is actually consuming the food and water that is offered. If not, he may have to be fed with a syringe. It is also important to keep the puppy warm and discourage too much activity which can lead to exhaustion and depletion of energy reserves.

Sometimes simply having an immature system is the cause and many puppies will outgrow hypoglycemia. However, sometimes bacterial infections or liver problems can contribute to the condition and these cases can be more serious. Prolonged or recurring hypoglycemic attacks can lead to permanent brain damage. A puppy exhibiting signs or experiencing repeated episodes of low blood sugar should see a veterinarian.

8 Sep

Dog Obedience Training

True, there are some basic commands all dogs should know. The universal Sit/Stay/Lay Down can actually make the difference between unruly animals and loveable household companions. We took this quite a step further for our dogs, ever since the oldest was a puppy and we made a list of all the commands we could possibly think of to teach him! We found a much-needed outlet for all of that magnificent intelligence and energy that dogs are known for.

Creating a smart, well-mannered dog is not as hard as you might think and it doesn’t require any special expertise in obedience training. All you need is a strong desire to see an improvement in your dog and the willingness to apply some time, patience, and a little common sense to their learning–you won’t ever regret it!

Knowing the commands is just the first step. When a stranger sees the list of things our dogs can do they feel a bit overwhelmed… Some typical responses include:

“Oh wow, look at that!”

“How can they possibly know so much?”

or

“My dog(s) can never behave like this!”

But handing that list over to a petsitter or a newly introduced person is like a golden ticket to fun, excitement, awe, and enthusiasm. They begin to play with the animals, interact more fully, and truly enjoy the experience. It is like being handed a remote control (with instructions) for our three loveable pooches.

Here are the commands they follow:

Our dogs will usually respond to the following commands no matter who delivers them, so long as they are focused on the person and the commands are delivered in a firm, direct manner. No begging or pleading here, think about the leader or person in a position of authority, when they tell you to sit, they expect you to sit–so there is no pleading or repeating over and over again what you already heard.

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Lay down
  • Paw (for a handshake or to wipe muddy, wet feet)
  • Other Paw (they hand over the opposite one)
  • Paws up
  • Get off
  • Get up (dogs stand up from a seated or lying position)
  • Go over there (point any direction and they follow finger, useful for vacuuming or other navigation!)
  • Go to the door (they run to any door you point to and sit)
  • Go to bed (same idea, point to the doggie bed and they’ll go lay down there)
  • Get back (for reverse motion, walking backwards/backing up)
  • Speak
  • Howl
  • Crawl
  • Settle down
  • Get out of… [blank] (could be whatever room they’re in such as bathroom, kitchen or bedroom but could also be anything they’re into like trash, dirt, toilet, etc.
  • And of course… the classic: NO! SHH! HEY! NUH UNH! (any sharp phrase or utterance that gets their attention back on you and your loving leadership, keeping them out of trouble)

That should be an excellent start for any companion animal but keep in mind this is just a start. From all of the extremely well trained rescue and service animals to the performance and show animals that we have all seen over the years, dogs are obviously capable of much more but from here on out it just gets more complicated and involves holding their attention longer and stringing together many of the basic commands.

If you take another look at the list you’ll see that the commands aren’t any different from what I would say to a child or another person whom I wanted to see do the same thing… now thats common sense! Why would I make it any harder to remember what the word is to get my dog into the car when I can just speak far more naturally to them as though they are my friend. Many commands also include a hand signal which is a very natural part of human expression. In many cases dogs are more aware of our gestures and body language than the actual words that we apply to something, so be natural and communicate the way you would to anyone else who didn’t speak your language and you’ll do fine!

I feel that this is the key to great relationships with your animals… keep it natural feeling and fun for both of you. Thanks for reading this article, be sure to check out my other ones and good luck with your pet(s)!