Cooper – A Gift To Children

This blog post is dedicated to Cooper, a rescued dog who inspired everyone she met.  Here is her story written by the person who knew her best . . . the woman who adopted her shortly after Cooper’s rear leg was amputated.  This story reminds us of the strength of the human-animal bond and the way animals enrich our lives!  

Cooper’s Story

    I realized years ago that our dog Cooper was put on this earth for some very special reasons and that she is one very lucky dog!  When she was about 8 months old she suffered an accident and her owners at the time decided the only answer was to euthanize her.  As luck would have it one of the vet techs saw a sweet young dog that wasn’t ready to go.  A call was made to my rescue group for financial help but the money wasn’t there for emergency surgery as is often the case.  The group couldn’t do it but a compassionate volunteer agreed to personally pay for her surgery.  Her right hind leg was amputated at that time, surgery was done to repair her  intenstinal damage, a kidney was removed then several years later (during an x-ray) we found that she also and had several bridged vertebrae.

    I so vividly remember the moment I first met her; she had recently had her stitches removed and was still weak from her leg amputation and surgery but when I walked up to her kennel she smiled in greeting and wagged her entire body as her eyes asked if all was good.  Cooper came to live with us as a foster dog in April of 2002.  She was so fearful at first and was so concerned about pleasing us as we slowly introduced her to her new world.  She had gone from an ignored dog in the back yard to Queen of her castle!  We started her rehabilitation right away as she had not yet learned how to balance on the one hind leg.  Ever so slowly she gained strength and found her courage as we quickly learned that she had the biggest heart in the world.  When I got a call from the rescue Adoption Chairperson that someone was interested in interviewing her for a potential adoption my husband and I decided that NO WAY was this little girl ever leaving our home!

    In June of 2002 the White Mountains were ravaged by the Rodeo-Chediski fire and we found ourselves evacuated with our three house rabbits and one very fearful cattle dog.  At that time Cooper had barely learned to walk on a leash and we evacuated to my mom’s home in Scottsdale were we spent 12 days.  I was once again amazed with her resiliency as she still wasn’t quite housebroken and had never seen the hustle and bustle of the big city.  We came home from that experience and started working with her on basic commands and attended a few training classes.  In 2003 she passed the AKC Canine Good Citizenship class and then I was so pleased and proud of her when in January of 2004 she passed her evaluation for Therapy Dog International and became a Therapy Dog.  What an opportunity for her to give back to the community.

    During the school year Cooper visits the Step Ahead Pre-School every Friday.  There she teaches Pre-School children how to be respectful to dogs, groom them, care for them and most of all love them.  When I say “come let’s go see the kids” her eye light up and her entire body erupts in a huge wag.  Her summers are spent at the Show Low Public Library where every Friday in the Tail Wagging Tutor program kids make appointments to read to the dogs.  This program gives the kids reading confidence and Cooper lot’s of love.

So here we are almost 11 years later and truly what I find is that we are the lucky ones to have found her.  Not a day goes by that we don’t thank the amazing and loving volunteers that make our rescue group the organization that it is.  Adopt a rescue pet and you will forever be as grateful as we are!

Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Trial Championship

Over Labor day, I attended the Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Trial Championship in Heber Valley, Utah.  Wow, I had so much fun watching the Border Collies herd wild range sheep.  One by one, a dog teamed up with their handler to bring two groups of sheep down the mountain.  After steering the sheep through a series of gates, the team separated out five sheep wearing red collars from the main group and herded them into a pen.  These sheep were tough as nails and challenged the dogs by stomping their hooves.  It took a skilled team with a little luck to accomplish the test.  Despite their great skill, sometimes the sheep won over the dog and human.


Besides the sheep herding, the event had a variety of dog demonstrations.  The Salt Lake Unified Police Department showed off their canine officers with a demonstration that included both obedience and protection skills.  I have seen a lot of police dogs in action and these were among the best I’ve had the privilege to watch.  The event also feature a pool and splash dog contest.  This is a great event and below is a link where you can learn more.

You Make The Diagnosis: Dermatitis on a Dog’s Rear End

Recently, I saw a male/neutered dog who suddenly started licking his rear end.  His family noticed a lump on the left side of the anus three days before they brought him in.  Now the lump is gone but the dog is still licking.  They did not notice any other abnormal behavior.  He is eating, drinking, urinating and defecating normally.  What is wrong with this dog?  I am holding the dog’s tail up for this picture to give a good view of the his anus.  (I apologize for the fuzziness in this image.  My camera seemed to have a mind of its own for this shot.)

Diagnosis:  Anal Gland Abscess

Dogs have two scent glands located just inside the anus which are called anal glands.  These glands are actually sacs that secrete a smelly substance.  Each gland has a small opening on the edge of the anus, usually about the 4 and 8 o’clock position.  During defecation, the secretion is squeezed on to the feces.  In this dog, a plug developed at the opening to the gland which prevented the sac from emptying.  Over time, the secretions changed from a greenish, yellowish watery material to thick black sludge.  An infection developed within the gland causing the swelling described by the family.  Eventually, the gland ruptured releasing the contents and the dog licked to clean it up.  With proper treatment, most dogs who suffer from this condition will make a full recovery.  I emptied this dog’s glands, cleaned up his rear end and sent him home with 1) an e-collar to prevent licking, 2) antibiotics for the infection, 3) medication to control his pain and 4) instructions on how to care for the wound at home.    

Anal gland abscesses are fairly common in dogs.  If your dog is scooting, seems painful or is licking their rear end more than normal, please get their anal glands checked right away.  Regular emptying will prevent this condition. 


You Make The Diagnosis: Intestinal Disease of Humans and Irish Setters

Irish Setters are a wonderful breed with a zest for life.  In my experience, they live life to the fullest with an boundless sense of curiosity.  Unfortunately, this breed is known for suffering from an intestinal disease that is becoming more and more prevalent in humans.  The clinical signs for both dogs and people are diarrhea, abdominal discomfort and gas.  Name this disease. 

Diagnosis:  Gluten-sensitive Enteropathy

Grain free diets for humans started because many people suffer from celiac disease.  This is basically an allergy to gluten, a protein found in many cereals. Corn and rice are gluten free while wheat, barley, rye, oats and buckwheat contain gluten. So far, gluten-sensitive enteropathy has only been documented as a hereditary disease in Irish Setters. (Garden, O.A., et al., Inheritance of gluten-sensitive enteropathy in Irish Setters. Am. J. Vet. Res. 2000, Vol.61(4) pp.462-8.)


Grain Free Diets for Dogs

With the popularity of grain free diets for humans, the trend is now moving to veterinary medicine.  Are diets free of grain products better for dogs than diets with grain?  Well, it depends upon the individual dog.  Grain free diets are not inheritantly better just because they are grain free.  Let me explain.
Unlike cats, dogs can metabolize protein from plants as well as animals.  This is why dogs can be placed on a vegetarian diet.  Cats must consume animal protein to satisfy their nutritional needs.  Dogs with food allergies become allergic to a protein in their diet.  Whenever they consume the offending protein, it triggers a reaction which may include vomiting, diarrhea, ear infections, itching and impacted anal glands.  In my experience beef, corn and soy are the most common causes of food allergy.  Why?  Because they are common ingredients in dog food, dogs with allergic tendencies are exposed and develop allergies.  I have had several clients place their pets on lamb and rice diets to ‘prevent’ food allergies.  These dogs developed allergies just like the ones on beef and corn.  If a dog is allergic to a certain protein, whether it is animal or plant based, then it should obviously be excluded from the diet.  Since grains are such a large group, it is unlikely for one dog to be allergic to the entire group.  

Grain free diets for humans started because many people suffer from celiac disease which is basically an allergy to gluten, a protein found in many cereals.  Corn and rice are gluten free while wheat, barley, rye, oats and buckwheat contain gluten.  So far, gluten-sensitive enteropathy has only been documented as a hereditary disease in Irish Setters.  (Garden, O.A., et al., Inheritance of gluten-sensitive enteropathy in Irish Setters. Am. J. Vet. Res. 2000, Vol.61(4) pp.462-8.)

There are several problems associated with grain free diets that must be considered before use.  Many of these diets substitute potato or tapioca for grains.  Unfortunately, these two carbohydrate sources have a higher glycemic index that may cause problems in diabetic animals.  The more refined the carbohydrate, the more quickly it is absorbed into the blood stream causing a huge jump in blood glucose levels.  Most diets for diabetic dogs add fiber to slow absorption and blunt the post prandial glucose spike.  

My other concern with grain free diets is their composition.  Many substitute fat or protein for the missing carbohydrates.  Excessive energy levels in puppy food, especially large and giant breed puppies, may cause orthopedic problems from rapid growth.  Large and giant breed puppies should not be overweight.  The round, pudgy puppy might be cute but it is not good for their long term health.  Diets for dogs with kidney and liver dysfunction are also formulated with low to moderate protein levels.  Excessive dietary fat is a factor in dogs developing pancreatitis and diabetes mellitus.  In breeds prone to hyperlipidemia like miniature schnauzers, I would be very cautious about fat content.  Analyze the diet based on metabolizable energy (M.E.’s), not as feed or dry matter.  (See prior post on how to read a pet food label for further information on M.E.’s.) 

Who knew food could be so complicated?  It is why sometimes, your pet really does need a prescription diet.