Name The Uncommon Neurologic Disease Seen In Beagles

This precious girl is Maggie, a beagle who loves chewing on everything.  Like other members of her breed, Maggie has an unquenchable zest for life.  She patrols her home looking for her next adventure.  She greets each day with a wagging tail and unending curiosity.  Beagles are a busy breed who need an active life with lots of exercise to keep them out of trouble.

Unfortunately, Beagles, Bernese mountain dogs and German shorthaired pointers sometimes get a debilitating disease characterized by fever, depression, anorexia and severe neck pain.  If not treated, the disease may worsen and cause neurologic problems including paralysis.  Give the common name for this syndrome. 


Diagnosis: Beagle Pain Syndrome

Beagle pain syndrome is a debilitating problem of young – usually less than 12 months old, Beagles.  It causes severe neck pain.  Affected dogs may have a gradual or acute onset of pain.  Also called juvenile polyarteritis or necrotizing vasculitis, the syndrome is diagnosed by clinical signs, blood work and a CSF tap.  Treatment involves reducing the inflammation with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in mild cases and steroids in more severe ones.  Unfortunately, some dogs may relapse and not respond to further therapy.  Beagles are great dogs and often serve our country as food sniffers for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  You may have seen them in action at an airport.  

Protective Aggression In Dogs

Recently, I was asked about a dog who started nipping at people who enter its home.  With a new baby in the house, the owners assumed the little watch dog is ‘protecting’ the new member of the family.  I’m afraid this is not the case.  Protective aggression is a a manifestation of fear-based aggression.  In the above scenario, the addition of a human infant has brought many, many changes to the dog’s life.  First, the normal routine of sleeping all night, eating and walking at regular times is gone.  The normally quiet household is filled with baby cries that upset the dog.  Importantly, the baby is now the center of attention instead of the dog.  Visitors whom the dog may or may not know are coming in large numbers to see the baby.  Together, these factors make the dog anxious and fearful culminating in aggression.

Successful treatment of dogs with fear-based aggression requires a carefully crafted treatment plan tailored to the individual dog.  Here are my general recommendations:

1)  Make sure the guests are safe by blocking the dog’s access to them.  Keep the dog in a separate room or crate until a treatment plant can be implemented.
2)  Identify anything that triggers anxiety in your dog.  Does the dog try to bite all visitors or is it worse with certain individuals (men vs. women, tall vs. short, uniform or suit vs. street clothes, people with pets vs. those without, etc.)?  Is it worse when they ring the doorbell or knock vs. enter with you?  Try to remember the prior situations and deconstruct them for clues.
3)  Establish a consistent routine.  I know this is tough with a baby in the house, but try to keep the dog’s routine as consistent as possible.  Establish a time each day for at least two hours when the dog is left alone in its ‘safe’ area for rest.  Also establish a play time when the dog gets attention from its people without the baby around.  Dogs are much like children, they like a consistent routine.
4)  Work on the dog’s basic obedience skills, especially sit, stay and settle.  The dog must understand and respond well to these commands before moving on to the next step.  I talked before about adopting a ‘nothing in life is free’ approach to dogs with behavior problems.  Make them work for what they want.
5)  If you and the dog have fulfilled all of the above steps, it is time to try reintroducing visitors.  Make sure you are in complete control of the dog before trying this.  I recommend putting the dog on a leash with a basket muzzle to make sure they cannot bite anyone.  Begin the reintroduction by having people enter the room with the dog on a leash outside or in another room.  Have them sit down to decrease their height and make them less threatening.  Once they are seated, bring the dog into the room and let it observe them from a distance.  Tell the dog to settle and reward it for good behavior.  When the dog is relaxed, you may move a little closer.  During the reintroduction, the people should ignore the dog and avoid eye contact.  When the dog is comfortable with that (usually this step takes a couple visits) start having the visitors toss toys or treats to the dog so the dog associates guests with good things.  When the dog is comforable with this, try it with the guests standing.  And when the pet is comfortable with that, and only then, have the people enter with treats for the dog. 
I know this sounds like a long, drawn out process but it takes a long time to change behavior whether its in a dog or a human.  With patience, expert help and perserverance, you can help your dog overcome its fears.       

Inagural Meeting of Arizona Coalition For Equines

I just received an e-mail from Kari Nienstedt, the Arizona Representative of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), announcing the inaugural public meeting of Arizona Coalition for Equines (ACE).  According to her e-mail, the goals of this organization are:

    1)  Educate owners, law enforcement and the public regarding the appropriate care and treatment of equines
    2)  Educate owners, law enforcement and the public regarding the problems of equine overpopulation, abuse,
         abandonment and neglect
    3)  Identify available resources to assist owners and law enforcement in need of assistance or in times of crisis
        a.  Implement a statewide hay bank to provide temporary hay and feed assistance in accordance with the ACE protocol.
        b.  Develop and disseminate resources to law enforcement agencies and others for use in response to complaints, natural
             disasters and other emergencies.
        c.  Create a fund to assist with veterinary care, dental services, farrier services and euthanasia.

The first meeting will be held at the meeting room of Maricopa Animal Care and Control on June 30th from 11am to 1pm.  Please contact the Arizona chapter of the HSUS to RSVP for this meeting or more information on ACE.  Future meetings will be held throughout the state.  I applaud Kari and HSUS for starting this initiative.  It will be of great help to our horses in the state. 

Flyball Is A Fun Sport For Dogs

For those of you looking for a fun activity to share with your dog, let me recommend the sport of flyball.  Two teams of four dogs compete against each other over a series of three hurdles.  When the starter says go, the lead dog for each team is released.  It runs and jumps over three hurdles to a box that contains a tennis ball.  When the dog hits the box, the ball pops into the air.  The dog grabs it, turns around and runs for home over the three hurdles.  When the dog clears the finish line, the next dog is released.  The height of the jumps is set for the smallest dog on the team which leads to some interesting tactics.  As you will see in the video, the team nearest the camera is made up of three big dogs and one small but fast one.  His owner is seen huddling with him close to the start line so he doesn’t have to run any further than necessary. 

Like any athlete, your dog should have a physical examination before embarking on this rigorous sport.  Enjoy!

Five Scottsdale Kittens And Mom Need A Home

I need your help.  Five beautiful kittens and their mother need homes.  There are four boys and one girl.  The poor mom was abandoned when the owners moved.  That makes me want to scream!  The foster contacted me asking for help in placing them.  The kittens were born April 21st after their mom, who was injured and been out on her own for awhile, appeared at the foster’s home.  Mom is a calico.  The kittens come with various markings as seen in the picture above.  They each have unique personalities from a total lap cat to the female who is more shy and is the smallest.  A picture of the mom, named Pumpkin, appears below.  If you can help, please send me a comment and I will put you in touch with the foster.  Please share this story with anyone in your social network.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Update – Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life

Many people have been kind enough to ask how the book is going so here is a quick update.  The process has been most gratifying.  To hear the joy the book is bringing to animal lovers is both a thrill and a relief! 

  • The first request by a reviewer came from New Zealand
  • Changing Hands Bookstore in Arizona named it a “Staff Pick”
  • My first evening with a book club was wonderfully fun and they asked great questions
  • An excellent blog on Minnesota Authors highlighted the book – check out

Every reader I’ve heard from has been so kind and gracious.  Thank you!

Just a quick reminder about bee stings.  Tonight right before the doors closed at 6:00pm, a five month old puppy was raced into the clinic in the arms of a terribly concerned owner.  The puppy suffered an allergic reaction to a bee sting.  Please talk to your veterinarian before a crisis develops to determine the appropriate amount of diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for your dog.  Bee stings can be deadly.  This puppy came close to dying but I am delighted to say, made a full recovery through the joint blessings of a great team of veterinary technicians and effective pharmaceuticals.    


Thanks To All Volunteers Working To Save Oil Spill Birds And Wildlife

As I watch the pictures of birds coated with oil flash across my television screen, my heart aches for all the living creatures who call the gulf coast home.  I feel especially bad for the pelicans who were making a comeback from brink extinction.  Working with wildlife is a bittersweet endeavor because of the high death rate.  Even though their medical issues are being treated, many will succumb to the stress associated with capture, treatment and confinement. 

During my senior year of veterinary school, I spent two weeks at an animal hospital on Anna Maria Island, Florida.  I spent hours removing oil from several cormorants that a volunteer brought in.  These diving birds suffered from hypothermia and dehydration after swimming through an oil slick at a local marina.  We administered warm fluids mixed with activated charcoal to help absorb the oil and then placed the birds in incubators. 

Once they were stable, the cleaning began.  Removing oil is a delicate and pain-staking process.  It sticks to feathers with unbelievable tenacity, like glue.  We covered the oiled feathers with soap and started to scrub from the head down to the tail.  If the bird became too stressed, we sprayed it off and returned it to the incubator to rest.  It was grueling work.

Three days later, I gave the only bird who survived a breakfast of fish before its release.  Later, I watched with a mixture of joy and sadness as the young female swim away from shore.  I was happy for her but sad for the other four that didn’t make it.

So, I dedicate this post to all the people working to save the oil-soaked animals in the Gulf of Mexico.  Thank you for your service.  Thank you for your love.  I know the work is tiring and depressing at times, but know that each animal you rescue is priceless.         

Texas Mountain Laurel Is Toxic To Animals


The Texas Mountain Laurel is a popular plant because of its purple flowers and artificial grape smell.  Unfortunately, the entire plant is toxic to animals.  The plant contains grayanotoxin, a toxin that binds to sodium channels in cell membranes and changes the permeability.  It affects the nervous system as well as skeletal and cardiac muscle.  Common symptoms of poison ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, profuse salivation,  weakness, impaired vision and a slow heart rate.  Please seek veterinary care for livestock or pets that come into contact with this plant immediately.  This plant is very toxic.  Don’t let the beautiful flowers and sweet smell fool you.   

Puschner, B. “Intoxication With cardiotoxic Plants” ACVIM 2007,