Omega Fields

  • Lipid Nutrition: Part 3, Benefit of Fats - Aid for Tying Up

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Last month we discussed the potential performance-enhancing benefits of feeding fats to exercising horses. These included a lowering of the thermal load on the horse, increasing its aerobic capacity, and perhaps even increasing their anaerobic energy stores in the form of muscle glycogen. Clearly, feeding fat has many advantages for the average horse.  Fat can even be used as a nutritional management technique for horses that may suffer from repeated bouts of tying up. This month we will examine two particular types of muscle disorders which may actually benefit from the addition of fat to the diet.
    Tying up in horses is usually seen as stiffness in the back or hindquarters, reluctance to move, cramping of the muscles or muscle fasciculation’s, profuse sweating, and may be accompanied by head nodding or pawing. The horse is extremely uncomfortable and should not be forced to continue to exercise.
    Tying up syndrome may have a multitude of causes. Horses may tie up due to electrolyte imbalances from prolonged exercise or sweating, or even if they have HYPP. However, some horses may chronically tie up, usually after they have been given a period of rest. Traditionally this syndrome was referred to as Monday morning sickness or Azoturia. It was seen in work horses which would experience muscle cramping soon after beginning work following a weekend of rest. However, now we know much more about this disease, its underlying causes, and its treatment.
    Horses which tie up chronically typically fit into separate breed types. In Thoroughbreds, this is commonly seen when the horse is already fit, and may be under a period of stress. It also occurs following time off or rest. Thoroughbreds typically have a syndrome referred to as “recurrent exertional rhabdomylosis, ” or RER. This disease is also seen in Arabians and Standardbreds, but less frequently than in Thoroughbreds. The underlying cause in these horses is that the calcium channels in the muscle do not work properly.  The release of Ca results in muscle contractions following nerve stimulation. However, in these horses, the threshold of muscle contraction is due less to the abnormalities in the calcium channels.
    Another disorder which is frequently seen in stock horse breeds and draft horses is related to storage of muscle glycogen. This disease, characterized by abnormal accumulations of glycogen in the muscle, is referred to as “polysaccharide storage myopathy,” or PSSM. Owners may initially not even know their horses have this disease, as the average age of first clinical symptoms is 6 years, with a range from 1 year of age to 12 years. Horses with PSSM have increased insulin sensitivity, combined with an abnormally high rate of activity of the enzyme which produces glycogen. When presented with glucose from nonstructural carbohydrates in the diet, these horses rapidly clear glucose from their blood and store it in the muscle. Due to their abnormal metabolism, they also seem to be unable to properly mobilize their own lipid stores. Ironically it is during aerobic exercise that these horses experience clinical symptoms, usually within 20 minutes of the beginning of exercise.
    Dietary management
    Although PSSM and RER horses have different disorders which lead to their tying up, they do share similarities in their management. Confinement without exercise should be avoided in these horses. If they do need time off, turn out is a must. However, if your horse merely stands at the gate waiting to come back in, alternative strategies should be developed. This could include lunging or providing a more active buddy which will encourage your horse to move around.
    The diet of the horses should be changed, with more stringent requirements for the PSSM horse. Grass hays should be used with a low content of non-structural carbohydrates, ideally under 12% of the diet for the PSSM horse. For RER horses, a goal for the overall diet should be less than 20% of their caloric intake as non-structural carbohydrate.   Traditional horse grains should be avoided, especially those containing molasses. Rather, they should be replaced with low starch, high fat concentrates, or, even, just add vegetable oil to their grain.  Frequently the PSSM horses, which are usually easy keepers, can meet their digestible energy requirements by forage alone, but more heavily exercising horses may need fat to supply their calories. In addition, clinical signs of PSSM may not resolve unless fat is added to the diet.
    Why does fat help?
    For the horse with PSSM, adding fat to the diet gives the horse an available source of long chain fatty acids that can be metabolized during exercise. Remember that these horses do not seem to be as able to mobilize their own lipid stores due to abnormal feedback from glucose metabolism. In addition, feeding fat may help these horses adapt to using fat for fuel during aerobic exercise and help to prevent episodes of tying up. However, caution must be used with these horses to avoid obesity. While RER horses don’t have a glycogen disorder or have an inability to efficiently use fat, addition of fat to the diet of these horses also appears to be helpful. Presumably this may be due to the calming effect of fat in the diet, which may make these horses less reactive. As their tying up bouts are frequently associated with times of stress (when the horse is nervous or excited) it may just be a shift in behavior which helps prevent their tying up.
    Bottom Line
    If your horse suffers from one of these diseases, it can be managed with diet and exercise. Avoid diets high in nonstructural carbohydrates, supplement the diet with fat, and be sure to balance properly for minerals and vitamins. Do not neglect these horses in their stall – regular exercise is key! With careful management, your horse can lead a normal, pain free life.

    Next month: The benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids in the horse’s diet.

  • Disaster Preparedness for Your Family and Pets

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic
    (Please note: This article includes information from the Not Without My Dog Resourcethe Not Without My Dog Resource and Record Book by Jenny Pavlovic & Record Book. Although it was originally written for dogs, it also applies to cats and other animals in your care.)
    Disasters disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Each disaster has lasting effects on people, animals and property. In recent months, floods created havoc in the Midwest and tornados left wide paths of destruction across southern states. June 1st marks the official start of the hurricane season. Most people don’t expect disaster to strike their own homes and families, but I encourage you to make a disaster plan for your family and pets.
    If a disaster occurs in your community, local government and disaster-relief organizations will try to help you, but you need to be prepared. Local responders may not be able to reach you immediately, or they may need to focus their efforts elsewhere. You should know how to respond to severe weather or any disaster that could occur in your area—hurricanes, earthquakes, extreme cold or blizzards, tornadoes, flooding, or terrorism. Prepare to be self-sufficient for at least three days. This may mean providing your own shelter, first aid, food, water, medications, and sanitation.
    Being prepared may reduce the fear, anxiety, and losses that can accompany disasters. People should be ready to evacuate their homes, take refuge in public shelters if needed, and know how to care for their basic medical needs. People may also reduce the impact of disasters, and sometimes avoid danger completely, by taking preventive measures such as flood-proofing their homes and securing items that could shake loose in an earthquake.
    You have a responsibility to protect yourself and your family by knowing what to do before, during, and after a catastrophic event. Here are some examples:
    Before:
    • Purchase insurance to protect against financial loss. Consider including flood insurance, which is not part of your homeowner’s policy
    • Know the risks and danger signs of an impending disaster in your area
    • Develop a specific disaster response plan
    • Prepare a kit with disaster supplies
    During:
    • Put your plan into action. Be ready to evacuate before the disaster occurs
    • Keep all family members safe, including the animals in your care
    • Follow the advice and guidance of officials in charge of the event
     
    After:
    • Repair damaged property
    • Take steps to prevent or reduce future loss
    • Re-evaluate your disaster plan with your family and make recommended changes
    • Re-stock your disaster supply kit
    • Enjoy quality time with your family, and pat yourself on the back for being prepared
    Your Disaster Plan
    The following information is intended to simplify disaster preparedness. Please read it and plan ahead now.
    Obtain Information from Local Officials
    Contact your area Community Emergency Response Team (CERT, www.citizencorps.gov/cert) to find out about hazards that may threaten your community. Learn your community’s emergency plans, including how you will be warned and which evacuation routes are to be used when a disaster occurs. Your local CERT can also provide basic disaster response training specific to your community. If no CERT is available in your area, contact your local emergency response officials for information, and consider organizing a local CERT. Your family can learn basic safety and first aid skills from the local CERT or Red Cross.
     
    Create a Family Disaster Plan
    A disaster is an extremely stressful situation that can create confusion. Knowledge and preparation may save lives. The best emergency plans are simple so people can remember the important details.
     
    Discuss Possible Disasters and Know What to Do
    Discussing disasters ahead of time can reduce fear and anxiety by preparing people to respond properly. Meet with your family and discuss why you need to prepare for disasters. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and other possible disasters, and discuss what to do in each case. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team. Discuss what to do if family members are not together when a disaster occurs.
     
    Plan for Your Pets
    Plan where to take your pets in a disaster. If you must go to a public shelter, you may need to make a different plan for your pets. Pets (with the exception of service dogs) usually are not allowed in public shelters where food is served to people. Some Red Cross shelters partner with animal emergency response groups to provide emergency animal shelters nearby, but please plan ahead.
    What to Include in Your Disaster Response Plan
     
    Escape Routes from Your Home
    Make sure that all family members know how they will escape from your home, in the case of a fire or other damage to the home. Draw a floor plan, using a blank sheet of paper for each floor. Mark two escape routes from each room. Make sure children understand the drawings and know what to do without assistance (if possible). Post a copy of the drawings at eye level in each child’s room. Figure out how to assist family members who need physical help. Decide how you will evacuate companion animals. Practice or simulate exiting your home via the escape routes to make sure everyone understands and is capable of following the plan. The practice of going through the motions may make an actual emergency evacuation go more smoothly.
    Places to Re-Group
    Agree on two places to meet, one near your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire, and one outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home or are asked to leave the immediate area. An example near your home is the telephone pole next door. An example farther away is a grocery store parking lot. Make sure everyone knows the address and phone number of the meeting location, but remember that cell phones and/or landlines may not be working.
     
    Family Communication Plan
    Separation during a disaster is a real possibility during the day, when adults are at work and children are at school. Plan how you will contact one another if your family is separated when disaster strikes. Ask a relative or friend who lives outside your area to be your family contact. Complete a contact information card for each family member to keep handy in a vehicle, wallet, purse, and/or backpack. You may want to have one on file at school for each child. Make sure family members know the contact’s name, address, and phone number, and check in with the contact in an emergency. Program important numbers into cell phones, but don’t count on always having cell phones available when needed.
     
    Evacuation Plan
    Depending on the type of disaster, it may be necessary to evacuate both your home and neighborhood. Discuss what to do if authorities ask you to evacuate. Designate a family member to shut off household utilities if this can be done safely before leaving. Make sure this person knows what to do.
    Follow the advice of local officials during evacuation situations. They will know which roads may be blocked or could put you in further danger and will direct you to the safest route. Be familiar with community escape routes, and plan several escape routes in case some roads are blocked or closed.
    Learn about shelter locations or make arrangements for a place to stay with a friend or relative who lives out of town. If you need a place to stay with your pet, find a pet-friendly hotel listed on one of the following websites: petfriendlyhotel.org, petswelcome.com, and pet-friendly-hotels.net.
     
    Special Needs
    If you or someone close to you has a disability or special needs, you may need to take additional protective steps to prepare for an emergency. Special arrangements may be needed for people who don’t speak English, the hearing impaired and mobility impaired, those without vehicles, and those with special dietary needs. Elderly people living alone, single parents, and people with multiple pets and/or livestock may need assistance with emergency evacuation.
    The Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book includes a template for making a disaster preparedness plan for your family.
    LEAVE NO ANIMAL BEHIND
     
    Animals are especially dependent on people for their survival when disasters strike. That is why you, as a caregiver, need to take the time—now—to prepare to evacuate and care for your pets on short notice. Disaster planning for pets need not be an overwhelming task! By completing the following two life-saving steps, you are well on your way to protecting your pet:
    1. Plan a safe way to transport your pets
    2. Know where you’re going to take your pets
    Choose someone you trust to take care of your pets if you’re not at home when a disaster strikes. Plan with neighbors, friends, or relatives to make sure someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to get home. Share your evacuation plans with your pets’ caregiver, show them where you keep your emergency supply kit, and provide telephone numbers of emergency contacts outside of the immediate area. Leave your dog’s Not Without My Dog Book in a sealed plastic bag, to go along with your dog.
    Make sure your kennel, pet sitter, and doggy day care provider all have actionable disaster plans, in case your dog is in someone else’s care when a disaster strikes. Prepare yourself and your dog for a disaster situation by writing a Dog Disaster Plan and putting together a Dog Disaster Supply Kit (templates are included in the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book).
    Your Dog Disaster Plan should include the following information:
    How I will transport my dog(s):
    Designated emergency dog guardian(s) and contact info:
    Location of Dog Disaster Supply Kit:
    My emergency contact information (phone #s):
    Places to take my dog(s) in an emergency (addresses and phone #s):
    Hotels that welcome dogs (addresses and phone #s):
    Plan ahead by preparing a disaster supply kit for your pets. Plan to be self-sufficient for atleast the first three days when evacuating, and store enough supplies for three weeks athome. Pack your kit in a secure, easy-to-carry, water-resistant container stored in aconvenient place known to all family members. Plan to travel with your pets ridingsafely in secured crates.
     
    The above information should help your family and pets get ready for a disaster. Once you’re prepared, you can enjoy the summer without worrying about what steps to take if and when disaster strikes.
     
    This article includes information from The Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book and provided by Noah’s Wish (www.NoahsWish.info), an organization dedicated to assisting animals in disasters. Learn more at www.8StateKate.net.

  • Lipid Nutrition: Part 2, Performance Benefits of Fat

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney
    Last month we discussed the usefulness of fat in the equine diet, as well as some examples of typical feeds which contain fats. Fats are an easily digestible source of calories which can readily supply the extra energy that performance horses may need. Fat may lower the heat load on the horse compared to traditional diets, which may aid in performance in hot climates. Finally, fat may even help calm the horse compared to when they are fed high starch diets. But is there any other reason to feed fats that may help you get to the winner’s circle?
    Fat Metabolism
    Lipid2_skeet.bmp When horses are fed fat in the diet, their body responds by increasing the number of enzymes that are involved with lipid metabolism. These include the enzymes needed to remove fat from the bloodstream and enter muscle or adipose tissue, and those that ultimately oxidize the fatty acids. Feeding fat to horses results in a lowering of plasma triglycerides which is believed to be caused by a decrease in synthesis of triglycerides in the liver. The horse becomes more efficient at utilizing dietary fats for energy, rather than needing to use carbohydrate or protein.  This adaptation has repeatedly been shown to take at least three weeks after the change in diet.  Complete adaptation may take as long as 2-3 months.  Therefore, if switching your feeding regimen, don’t expect to see instantaneous results.
    Exercise and Fuel Sources
    rice branWhen fatty acids are oxidized in the body for fuel, their final metabolic pathway involves the Tricarboxylic cycle (TCA)* or Kreb’s cycle. This cycle is dependent on oxygen (through its connection to the electron transport chain) in order for it to work.   The TCA cycle supplies the bulk of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)** for horses when they are working aerobically, or at lower intensities. Technically, aerobic work is at a low enough intensity that the requirement of ATP can be met by the slower metabolic pathway of the TCA cycle.   At low intensities of exercise, fat typically supplies up to 50-60% of the calories needed.  All dietary energy sources – fats, carbohydrates and protein – can be utilized in aerobic metabolism, provided there is sufficient intake of oxygen.   That means that the horse’s heart and lungs can keep up in the race to deliver oxygen to the tissues. However, when the horse’s muscles are contracting faster or harder than the ability of the cardiovascular system to keep pace, they then enter into anaerobic metabolism. The horse must then switch to a different supply of fuel, primarily carbohydrate metabolism. They are simply working too hard for the aerobic system to keep up with the demands of the muscles for ATP. Therefore, horses undergoing intense exercise, or sprinting type of activities, must rely on their carbohydrate stores for energy. These include blood glucose, liver and muscle glycogen, and the body’s ability to perform gluconeogenesis (make glucose from other sources).
    Can Fat Save Glucose?
    It is presumed that due to the adaptation of the horse to become more efficient at fat metabolism, they are less reliant on their carbohydrate stores (blood glucose, muscle and liver glycogen) to supply their energy needs.    This should allow the horse to work longer before turning to carbohydrate metabolism. This may be advantageous for two reasons. One is that carbohydrate stores in the body are much more limited in comparison to lipid stores, and two, usage of carbohydrate through anaerobic metabolism can result in the production of lactic acid.  This may contribute to the onset of fatigue, due to depletion of energy sources or the accumulation of lactic acid. Therefore, fat fed horses may have some advantage in their resistance to fatigue.
    Most studies of horses fed high fat diets have reported an increase in resting muscle glycogen stores. However, there have been a few reports which have shown an opposite effect of lowered muscle glycogen. In these studies, the horses were either untrained or receiving low intensity exercise. In studies which exhibit an increase in resting muscle glycogen, the horses received more intensive training, including sprinting exercise. This may be the key in seeing a response to the fat added diet. In addition, the amount of fiber and starch in the rest of the diets differed between studies, which also clouds interpretation. If horses do have higher glycogen stores at rest, it is unclear if this results in an increase in glycogen utilization during exercise. Some researchers found an increase in glycogen utilization while, again, others have found no change in glycogen metabolism during race simulations or long term sub-maximal exercise.   But would an increase in glycogen utilization improve performance? Again results are mixed. Horses fed 12% fat for four weeks improved their run time to fatigue in a high intensity exercise bout on a treadmill. Others have found increased performance in sprinting exercise and in a simulated cutting event, while some have found no clear advantage to feeding fat in improved performance.
    Is Anything Consistent?
    Lipid2_SkeetsSugarNSpice.jpgIn studies looking at blood metabolites in exercising horses fed a fat added diet, some consistent results have been seen. Feeding fat does decrease the exercise related drop in blood glucose. This is seen simultaneously with an increase in serum triglycerides and free fatty acids. Presumably these horses have indeed shifted toward a more efficient utilization of fatty acids during exercise, sparing their glucose stores. This seems to be supported by data which shows that horses on fat supplemented diets have a higher blood pH during exercise versus non-supplemented controls. The above effects are seen at lower intensities of exercise.  When the horse increases its ATP demand, they will need to draw more from anaerobic metabolism and must shift to carbohydrate usage.
    So with all of these conflicting results, what should you believe? It is clear that feeding performance horses fat rather than carbohydrates is a much healthier alternative. High carbohydrate diets carry with them the risk of laminitis, colic, ulcers and insulin resistance. As of now, no negative effects of feeding fats to horses have been found. The potential benefits are many, including a potentially calmer horse, a decrease in reliance on blood glucose (at least at lower intensities), and a possibility of increased performance in anaerobic activities. With little to lose, and benefits to gain, it is no wonder fat added diets are so popular in the equine industry.
    Next month – The usage of fat added diets in metabolic diseases.
    * TCA – Tricarboxylic cycle, also known as Citric acid Cycle, has been described as the “central metabolic hub of the cell”. A sequence of reactions taking place in mitochondria where acetyl units attached to CoA are degraded to carbon dioxide and the electrons produced transferred to the coenzymes NAD⁺ and FAD.
    **ATP – adenosine triphosphate, an adenine nucleotide used as the energy currency in metabolism. The free energy released when ATP is hydrolyzed is used to drive reactions in cells.

  • A Rat in Every Room

    Written By Barbara O'Brien
    You have all heard of celebrities or rock stars that trash their hotel rooms. They break guitars, smash TV sets and leave big messes behind. And although I do not do anything like that, I have been known to break a few rules when it comes to hotels. My work as an animal actor trainer has occasionally forced me to take drastic measures to keep the animals safe and with me at all times.
    Pet white ratWe were once hired to train some rats for a television commercial about the plague. We had to train the rats to run up and down a table on a mock pirate ship, nibble food, and well, act like rats. That part was easy. Rats like to explore new places and they like to nibble on food even more.
    Getting to the studio for the taping was no problem. We were living in South St. Paul, Minnesota at the time and the job was in Cedar Rapids Iowa, only about 250 miles away. We had talked about leaving the rats in the studio but because of a snowstorm, which slowed us down, we didn’t arrive until evening and the studio was closed. I didn’t feel too bad, as I was worried about leaving the rats there overnight anyway. What if they escaped? There would be no finding them in a massive studio with thousands of places a rat could hide.
    Our big problem was that it was now –15 degrees Fahrenheit and we knew that we could not leave them in the car overnight. We had no choice but to bring them into the hotel. Kevin, my husband, checked us in and we smuggled the rats’ carriers up the side stairs and into our room. We fed and watered the rats and then I took them out individually to continue their training. Rats are highly intelligent animals and of course, food motivated so they are easy to train. These were friendly domesticated rats with cute little pink noses and long gray tails. 
    The next morning using animal safe food dyes and vegetable oil we colored their coats to resemble brown Norway rats, the scourge of all ships at sea. I have to admit the transformation was amazing. What was once a cute little rat with a soft white coat turned into a grayish brown, somewhat fiendish looking animal that seemed fully capable of carrying diseases that could wipe out an entire population.
    Once we were done, I put the rats into the bathtub to dry. I knew they couldn’t climb the slick walls to escape.
    We went downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant to have breakfast. We had a nice young man as our server. He was cheerful in spite of the early hour and asked all the usual touristry questions.
    “So, where are you folks from?” he asked, smiling broadly as he poured our coffee.
    “We are from St. Paul.” I said, smiling back.
    “And what brings you to Cedar Rapids?” he asked.
    “We are here shooting a commercial.”
    “Wow, really, what for?” he said, intrigued.
    “It’s for a pharmaceutical company.”
    “And,” he said, nodding, “what is your part in it?”
    “Oh we are not in it.” I laughed. “We are the animal trainers, we brought the rats for it.”
    “Rats?” he gasped. He then quickly covered his mouth, as he didn’t want to draw the attention of nearby patrons.
    “Oh, yes, rats. A dozen of them,” I smiled again. “They are in the commercial.”
    I could see him taking this in and then he leaned conspiratorially over the table and whispered. “They are not in the hotel, are they?”
    I paused, thinking about the consequences of my answer. What would they do if the maid found 12 fiendish looking brown rats playing in the bathtub when she went to clean the room? Could be part of a new ad campaign, I mused, perhaps a new slogan for the hotel chain. A Rat in Every Room.
    I quickly I came to my senses and laughed heartily, “Oh, no, no, no, noooo, of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. The rats are at the studio. We would never bring them into the hotel.” The server gave visible sigh of relief and clutching his coffeepot, made his way back to the kitchen.
    Kevin looked at me curiously, as he knows I do not, as a general rule, out and out lie to people. “I guess we couldn’t tell him,” he said finally. “No, I guess not,” I agreed. I chuckled a little at the thought.
    We began to dig into our meals when Kevin asked suddenly. “You did hang the Do Not Disturb sign, didn’t you?”
    “No,” I said surprised and shocked. “I thought you did….”
     We both jumped up, leaving our breakfast behind as we raced to our room. As we tumbled out of the stair way and onto our floor I could see the maid beginning to swipe the card to our room.
    “Stop! Wait!” I called out, as I ran towards her. She pulled back, startled.
    “Excuse me, maid service,” she said, glancing at her cart. I quickly put myself between her and the door. “Maid service,” she said again. “I am here to clean the room.”
    “No, no thank you.” Kevin said calmly, trying to look cool “Please come back later.”
    “Yes.” I said too quickly. “We are very clean. We do not need our room done.”
    She gave us a look that read, “All right, have it your way” and went on to the next room.
    We couldn’t stop laughing as we watched the rats crawl around the tub, wondering what would have happened if we had been caught. We thoroughly scrubbed the bathtub, packed up the rats, and, unlike rock stars and celebrities, we hoped we left no evidence of our little rat adventure.

  • Lost Dogs: How to Prevent, How to Find

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic
    What You Can Do Now to Prevent Your Dog from Getting Lost and to Help You Find a Lost Dog

    As spring arrives, I receive more and more notices about lost dogs. These stories break my heart because I know that many of these dogs will never find their way home, and that their loss could have been prevented. I learned a lot about lost dogs from my post-Katrina animal rescue experience. Today I’m sharing this information from the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book to help keep all dogs safe.
    Nobody thinks they’re going to lose their dog, but please read this anyway. Planning ahead might help keep her safe. The panic and pain of losing your dog might be avoided completely by taking these steps now. If you do lose her, the tips below may help you find her quickly.
     
    1. Socialize your dog: Help your dog get used to different situations, including people and loud noises. A dog that isn’t terrified may be less likely to get lost, and if lost, may be less likely to hide and thus easier to find.
    2. Train your dog to wait: Teach your dog to wait while you go out the door first, and when you open the crate door. Use a release word to let the dog know when she is free to exit. This will keep your dog from bolting out the door or leaping out of the car before you can snap on the leash.
    3. Train your dog to come when called: Teach your dog to come to you when called. When she comes, reward her with praise and great treats. Never scold a dog you have called, even if she takes forever to get to you. Always make coming to you a good experience.
    4. Train your dog the drop: Teach your dog to drop to the ground on command, so that she may be stopped by your voice if running away and prevented from running into the street. Start by teaching your dog to drop at your side and gradually move away so she’ll do the drop from a distance.
    5. Collar and ID: Make sure your dog wears a secure collar with current ID tags.
    Include a phone number where you can be reached and a back-up phone number for a second person who can easily be reached by phone.
    6. Microchip: Have an identifying microchip implanted under your dog’s skin at a vet clinic or humane society (*see detailed information on microchips below). Attach a tag with the microchip number to the dog’s collar. Register the chip and make sure the microchip company has your current contact information. Keep a record of the microchip number and the company’s phone number in a safe place (like your wallet) and add it to your dog’s file at the vet clinic and the local dog licensing facility. Contact the microchip company and the licensing facility if your dog is lost. Some microchip companies will issue urgent bulletins and provide special assistance if your dog is lost.
    7. Photos: Take clear, current photos of your dog from several angles in good lighting. Digital photos are easiest to distribute quickly by e-mail. Store back-up copies with a friend or family member who can access the photos on short notice.
    8. Description: Write a description of your dog as if writing for a person who doesn’t know dog breeds. Include color, approximate weight, and unusual markings or scars. For example, my dog Bandit has a unique cowlick down the middle of his face, a black triangle marking on his tail, and a toenail that sticks out sideways from an old injury.
    9. Info packet: Keep information about your dog in your vehicle’s glove compartment. Include photos, a written description, microchip info/ID number, contact info, and a copy of recent vet records. A copy of the most recent information in your dog’s Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book could serve the purpose!
    10. Contact person: Ask a friend or family member to be a contact person – someone who could easily be reached by phone while you were out searching for your dog. The dog could be lost in an area without cell phone reception, and you wouldn’t want to be sitting at home waiting for phone calls when you could be out looking for your dog.
    11. Amber Alert for Pets: I recently learned of an online “amber alert” network for lost pets. I don’t have direct experience with this network, but you can find more information at www.FindToto.com.
    12. The Missing Pet Partnership is a good resource for people who are searching for their lost dog, with helpful pet recovery and “Lost Dog” poster information on their website: www.MissingPetPartnership.org.
    *What a Microchip Is and How to Use One
     
    A microchip is a computer chip in a capsule, about the size of a grain of rice, that’s encoded with a unique ID number. It is permanently implanted and can identify your dog if she is lost or stolen. A microchip is the only sure way for someone else to identify your dog if the collar is removed or lost, and can provide security and peace of mind.
    The microchip is painlessly injected beneath the skin of a dog, usually between the shoulder blades. The chip remains inactive until read by a handheld scanner that sends a low-frequency radio signal to the chip. The chip then transmits an ID number to the scanner. The technology used in microchips is similar to that used in human implants like  pacemakers. Since the microchip is powered by the external reader, it is off most of the time and does not require a battery. Thus, one chip is expected to function for your dog’s entire life.
    A microchip can be implanted by your veterinarian or at a local animal shelter or humane society. Animal shelters and humane societies often hold low-cost microchipping clinics. If your dog has a microchip, you need to register your contact information with the microchip company. Include an out-of-state emergency phone contact since local communication may be difficult in a disaster situation. Keep your dog’s microchip information on file with your veterinarian and update your vet and the microchip company right away when your contact information changes. The microchip can only reunite you with your dog if people know how to reach you. For peace of mind, ask your veterinarian to scan your dog’s microchip at each visit to make sure it is still detectable.
    Microchip
    Microchip Basics
    _____ Have a microchip implanted under your dog’s skin. Make sure the implanter scans and reads the chip before and after it’s implanted to verify that it’s working correctly. Record the chip ID number and company info and keep it in your dog’s Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book and/or your wallet.
    _____ Register your contact information with the microchip manufacturer right away. Include an out-of-state contact as an emergency back-up.
    _____ Enter your dog’s microchip information in the International Pet Directory at www.PetLink.net.
    _____ Make sure the microchip number and company are filed with your dog’s records at the vet clinic. Ask your vet to scan and check the chip at each visit.
    _____ Update the microchip company, your veterinarian, and www.PetLink.net  immediately when your contact information changes.
    _____ Make sure your dog wears a collar with ID, the quickest way to identify your dog, especially for those who do not have a microchip reader. The microchip is not intended to take the place of a collar with ID, but it is valuable when other identification is lost.
    _____ If your dog is lost or stolen, report the lost dog at www.PetLink.net and contact the microchip company immediately. Some companies already have networks set up and will issue an all-points bulletin to the vet clinics, impounds and animal shelters in your area.
    Now that you’ve taken steps to prevent your dog from getting lost, and to make your dog easily identifiable if separated from you, the two of you can enjoy spring and summer activities without worries.
    From the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book (Ó2010) by Jenny Pavlovic, www.8StateKate.net

  • I Must be Famous

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    I must be famous. How can I tell? Well, I have an entourage.

    My entourage is with me morning, noon, and night. They accompany me while I eat and while I work. I am never alone. I am fascinating to them. They love me, they protect me, they compete with each other for my attention. They argue amongst themselves and jockey for the coveted position nearest to me. When I stand up, they stand up. When I sit down, they sit down. If I go upstairs, they come, too. When I come down again, they come down, too. When I go in the bathroom, they come in, too.
    This isn’t my first entourage. I am the mother of four boys, after all. But now the two oldest are on their own out in the world and the younger two are teenagers with friends and activities of their own. I had to get a new entourage.
    Each member of my entourage has his or her specific role to play. Apple the Aussie cross is my personal assistant. She wakes me in the morning and lets me know when it’s time to do chores. She monitors my health and nutrition: She never fails to remind me of mealtimes.
    Liesl the German Shepherd Dog is my bodyguard. Ever vigilant, she keeps constant watch on me. And on everyone around me. When I step outside the farmhouse, she makes a sweep of the perimeter and checks for suspicious activity. Like a true fan, she is devoted only to me. My husband Kevin could fall in the well and Liesl would never say a word. But let a strange car come down the driveway or naughty horses break out of the fence, and Liesl will let me know.
    Hawkeye the Border Collie is my fan club. His role is to look adoringly at me to let me know that I am the coolest, most wonderful person on earth. No matter what I wear, or say, or do, Hawkeye gazes at me with admiration in his eyes.
    I not only have an entourage, I have groupies, too. To be honest, my groupies are only part-time groupies. They only show up when I sit down to work at my computer and then they’re out of control. They jump on my desk and walk across my keyboard. They block my computer monitor with their bodies, flick their tails across my papers, and say “We love you. We love you…a little bit.” Sometimes I have to shut my groupies outside the office door in order to get any work done.
    My entourage and my groupies are not the only proof of my fame. Outside the farmhouse door, the paparazzi lay in wait for me. I have only to step outside and they mob me, all shouting out their questions at the same time. Really, I wonder if the paparazzi have any idea how much they sound like a flock of squawking chickens? Even their camera shutters sound like the flapping of wings.
    So, I have the fame, the next step is the fortune. They go together, right?

  • Lipid Nutrition: Part 1, Feeding Fat to Horses

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we begin a series looking at the value of incorporating fat into the diets of our horses. We will discuss how fat is digested and handled in the equine, the types of fats fed to horses, and the many beneficial effects that can be realized through the addition of fat to the diet of our horses.
    Fat digestion
    Feeding fat to horses became more popular in the 1980’s and has continued to see an increase in the share of the feed market. Most feed stores now offer a selection of fat added feeds, or specific fat supplements. While one may not think of horses as a species that routinely consumes fats, horses can handle fats quite well in their digestive system. Lipid digestion occurs primarily in the small intestine, via the production and release of digestive enzymes and bile salts. As the horse does not possess a gall bladder, bile salts are continually released into the intestine. Fats that are added to the diet in the form of oils or fat are very well digested, typically up to 90%. Comparatively, naturally occurring fats in the diet (muchsmaller percentages of fat are actually present in forages and cereal grains) are less well digested, between 40-50% for forages and 50-75% for grains. Addition of fat to the diet does not alter digestibility of other components of the diet, unless the amount of lipid exceeds 22% of the total diet. However, typically this is not a concern, as acceptability and practicality of such diets make them improbable. There are some published studies which do report a lowered fiber digestibility in horses fed soy oil, however, these horses were also rapidly introduced to the fat in the diet. Ideally horses should be gradually transitioned onto a higher fat diet in order to adapt and increase the necessary fat digesting enzymes in their system. This should take place over one to two weeks, depending on how much fat is being added to the diet.
    Acceptability
    Palatability of fat added feeds is quite good, especially if supplied by vegetable oils. Typical vegetable oils include corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil and linseed oil. Horses will consume animal fats and fish oil, but typically not as readily as vegetable sources. The acceptability of fats in the diet is good up to about 15% of the diet. After that consumption rates do drop off.   There are commercially available feeds which have a higher percentage of fat, but these are typically extruded feeds which are more acceptable. Again, these are fed at a smaller percentage of the diet, such that 15% of the total diet is never exceeded. When feeding fat added feeds, it is important to realize that they do have a shorter shelf life than non-fat added feeds. This is due to the peroxidation that takes place, especially in polyunsaturated fats. These feeds then develop an off taste and flavor. If your feed smells rancid, it is best to avoid feeding it. Storing feeds in a cool, dry area will help to preserve their shelf life as well. These feeds often have anti-oxidants added to them to aid in protection against oxidation. Some products, such as Omega Horseshine, specialize in stabilized fats with a prolonged shelf life, up to 12 months.
    Benefits to feeding fat
    The most readily realized benefit to adding fat to the diet is in order to help meet the animals’ caloric needs. Fat is very readily digestible as already stated, and is much more energy dense than other components of the horse’s diet. Compared to proteins and non-structural carbohydrates which contain 4 Mcal/kg, fat is 2.25 times more energy dense at 9 Mcal/kg. Thus inclusion of fat allows a horse to gain weight much more readily or conversely, need to consume less feed to obtain the same amount of calories. Lowering the total amount of feed may be advantageous to horses working in hotter climates as it lowers the total heat production associated with digestion. Furthermore, fat itself is a relatively cool feed, as there is no fermentation and thus heat production associated with its digestion. Replacing high energy cereal grains with fats is an additional benefit, as less digestive risk is associated with feeding fats. Horses fed large amounts of cereal grains over time are at greater risk for ulcer formation, potential development of  stereotypies such as cribbing, laminitis and insulin resistance. This does not mean that starch needs to be eliminated from normal equine diet (the exception are horses with metabolic disorders which render them more sensitive to starch in the diet), but fat can make a very useful substitution. Another benefit to replacing starch in the diet with fats appears to be a calming effect on the horse. Horses fed fat added diets compared to typical sweet feeds have been found to be  less reactive to novel stimuli. Therefore, there is a second reason that fat is a cool feed, not only does it produce less heat during digestion, but it appears to “cool” the hot minded horses. Now obviously it is not a substitute for proper training and exercise!
    Essential fat and fatty acids
     Horses must also consume some amount of fat for normal body functio. Lipids are used in the synthesis of steroid hormones, and  all of the fat soluble vitamins (ADEK) are contained within the fat portion of the feed.  However, the exact amount of fat necessary in the diet of the equine has not been determined. Additionally, the horse, like all other animals, must consume its essential fatty acids, linoleic (18:2 omega 6) and linolenic acid, (18:3, omega 3) from the diet. They lack the enzymes necessary to produce these particular fatty acids within the body. Important sources of these fatty acids include pasture grasses, canola oil and linseed oil or flax seed.
    Practical guidelines for feeding fat to horses.
    As stated previously, most fats in horse feed actually come from vegetable oils. The oils can either be extracted and purified, or the actual oil seed can be fed. Examples of common oilseeds include cottonseeds, soybeans, canola and flaxseeds. If these seeds are referred to as meal, such as cottonseed meal, the fat has already been extracted and then they are being fed typically for their high protein content, not for additional fat. Thus, feeding linseed meal provides a much diferent percentage of fat compared to feeding flax, despite it being the product of the same plant! Pure vegetable oils can also be fed to horses as a top dressing to their feed. One cup of vegetable oil provides as many calories as 1.5 lbs of oats or 1 lb of corn, allowing you to decrease the amount of cereal grains fed.   If feeding a fat added feed, typically these feeds will allow you to feed less concentrate for a similar work class of horse, due to the increased caloric density of the feed. The benefit of feeding a fat added feed, rather than top dressing, may be in its simplicity, as well as the fact that these rations are rebalanced with the knowledge that the horse may consume total less feed. However, if you are just top dressing fat to existing feeds, and thereby decreasing the total amount of feed, be sure that the total diet still meets the horse’s other nutritional requirements.
    In the next part, we will discuss the potential for performance enhancing effects of feeding fat beyond merely an easy way to supply calories.

  • Developmental Orthopedic Diseases: Part 2, Can They be Prevented?

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Now that we are aware of the potential problems of the skeletal system of the foal, we will address some management techniques that may aid in preventing their occurrence. These include dietary management of the mare and foal, exercise needs, controlling growth rate and even selection of appropriate breeding stock.

    Size and growth rate

    One of the commonalties amongst all developmental orthopedic diseases (DOD) includes the size and growth rate of the foal. Obviously the larger the foal, the more stress which will be placed on the limbs simply due to weight. Bigger and more rapidly growing foals have been repeatedly shown to be at more risk for DODs. Body size is inherently a genetic issue, while growth rate can be modulated by the owner. If you are breeding for larger foals, more caution should be taken with their diet to ensure a more moderate rate of growth. This includes avoiding sudden changes in rate of growth. One way to limit changes in growth rate is to avoid ad libitum feeding or to avoid stress placed on the foal. Stresses may include environmental (weather dependent) or social stress, such as weaning. One method to manage stress of weaning in foals is to creep feed foals prior to weaning to accustom them to consuming concentrates. Also, the manner in which the foal is weaned can reduce their stress. Babies weaned in isolation exhibit more stress behaviors than foals weaned with a pasture-mate. Try to keep their environment as close as possible to what they experienced prior to weaning.

    Exercise

    The amount of exercise the foal receives can also influence the development of DOD. Excessive trauma to the joint through overwork can influence development of osteochondrosis (OC) as well as restriction of exercise. So what exercise program is correct for a foal? Foals in adequate pasture size typically spend their time sleeping, nursing, following their dam, and playing in short bursts of activity with other foals. Foals without peers may spend less time playing. Similarly if they are confined to too small of a space they exhibit less play behavior. In addition, if their environment is too small with no novel objects or activities, foals tend to be less active. At the furthest extreme would be foals and young horses confined to stalls without access to voluntary exercise. The best advice for proper bone development in the young foal is to provide adequate pasture space to allow them to run and play on their own. How do you know your pasture is big enough? Simple observation will tell you if your foals are playing. If the foals just stand around, or if you have a single foal with no playmates, they may not have the stimulus to run and play.

    Diet

    Many nutritional causes of DOD have been proposed with very few providing direct causative relationships in a research setting. However, that may be due to a lack of combining the correct causative factors in this multifactorial disease. Perhaps the foals used in the studies need to have a genetic predisposition for DOD, and then must be exposed to the right management conditions to initiate the disease process. However, the most commonly proposed theories include excess energy, mineral imbalances, and inadequate protein. One of the proposed theories in the development of DOD is feeding of excessive non-structural carbohydrates to growing horses. These feedstuffs (think traditional cereal grains like corn) cause a more rapid increase in blood glucose post feeding versus feeds containing more fiber. Higher levels of blood glucose increase insulin levels in the young horse, which may have a cascade of metabolic consequences down to the level of cartilage maturation. While it has been shown repeatedly that feeding high concentrate diets alters the glucose/insulin response and reduces insulin sensitivity, the direct causative relationship to DODs has not been established. The most important guideline appears to be to avoid unregulated feeding of concentrates. High protein diets have also fallen under the radar of causing DOD, but this has not been able to be shown in a research setting.

    Mineral nutrition has probably seen the greatest attention related to DODs. To begin with the simplest, imbalances of deficiencies of calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) can clearly lead to abnormalities of bone development. (Please see the articles about calcium and phosphorous in my series, Minerals for Horses, for more details.) However, just because foals are fed adequate amounts of Ca and P in the correct ratios does not guarantee they will be free from abnormalities.

    Another mineral which has received much attention is copper. One of the original studies which pointed to deficiencies of Cu causing OC in foals unfortunately also allowed deficient levels of Ca and P to be fed to the foals, thus making it difficult to point to only one cause. Later studies found highly contradictive results and have not offered any protective benefits to feeding supplemental copper. Taken all together, the most promising results of supplementing copper have been seen when providing copper to the dam in late gestation, or in supplementing copper to promote the repair of OC lesions.

    Trauma

    Included in the list of “just bad luck”, trauma may also result in a DOD. Young horses have a great propensity to get themselves into trouble. They can get kicked by a pasture mate, run into a stationary object (believe me I’ve seen it), or even tumble head over heels for no great reason other than they are still learning their balance. While not much prevention can occur here, at least try to ensure that no overly aggressive horses are housed with young stock, and that dangerous obstacles are not in the pasture. For example, I’ve seen weanlings during a running fit run headlong into an automatic waterer, somersault over the top, and, luckily, continue on their way. If you raise foals, always expect some sort of trauma to arise. Just try to ensure their environment is as safe as possible.

    Genetics

    Unfortunately, the genetics of your foal may be the single largest contributing factor to DOD. Many recent studies have found numerous markers across a number of chromosomes that have been linked to OC. While this sheds some interesting new light on the problem, it is also difficult to select against. Compared to a single point mutation like HYPP, horses cannot be identified as simple carriers of the gene for the disease. Screening for potential carriers of OC would be costly and ineffective. However, that does not mean the breeder has little recourse. If your mare has consistently produced foals with OC, one of two things may be true: one, your management program may be inadequate or, two, she may have a genetic likelihood to produce these types of foals. You can often hear rumblings in the horse community about certain stallions which also tend to throw a lot of foals with OC. Perhaps these are individuals we should select against. However, the amount of research currently being conducted on the genetic link to OC does provide some promise that we may be able to limit this disorder in the future.

    Taken all together, the best plan for avoiding DOD may be, first, to select genetically healthy individuals to breed, and, second, foals should be managed with attention to diet and exercise until they are two years of age. Many causes of DOD may be unavoidable, but hopefully with proper care and management, one can produce a healthy normal adult.

    Next month we begin talking about the usage of fat in the equine diet, and how it may be able to improve the health or performance of your horse.

     

  • Getting a Dog: How Much Is That Puppy in the Window?

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic
    Bandit, Chase, and Cayenne Say: We’re dogs, not people in fur coats. As pack animals, we’re very tuned in to you and know a lot about you. Please pay attention to us and learn what we need to thrive and be happy. We love you and have a lot to give and teach you.
    With spring on the way, you may be thinking about getting a new dog. Here’s some information from the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book to help you make good decisions regarding your new family member.
    When getting a dog, think about your lifestyle and the amount of time, money and energy you have to spend. Research dog breeds and think about what kind of dog is the best fit for you. Be realistic about whether you’re able to make a long-term commitment to a dog. Remember that a puppy is like an infant or toddler in many ways and has a lot to learn from you. An adult dog will also need to learn how to live well in your household. Commit to training, exercising, and spending time with your dog.
    Please consider adopting a homeless dog. Millions of dogs and cats are killed in the United States every year while waiting for their own homes. Animal shelters and rescue organizations have all kinds of wonderful purebred and mixed breed dogs, from puppies to seniors, in need of good homes. Rescue organizations that house their dogs in foster homes may be able to give you the most accurate information about the rescued dog. One dog rescue organization that I highly recommend is Braveheart Rescue, Inc. in Hastings, Minnesota (https://braveheartrescueinc.com/Home_Page.html). At Braveheart, dogs are given the veterinary care they need, are socialized with other dogs, and are truly rehabilitated before being adopted out. When you adopt a dog, you also support the organization’s work and make room for them to give a second chance to another dog.
    Do not buy from pet stores, ads in the paper that advertise many breeds, day sales, or other outlets for puppy mills (factory farms for dogs). Puppy mills produce puppies in quantity for profit, with little regard for their health or well-being. Puppies are often taken from their mothers at only 4-6 weeks of age, and are not vaccinated before being transported. When you “rescue” a puppy mill puppy, you’re creating a market that keeps the parents imprisoned in deplorable living conditions for the sole purpose of producing more puppies. Some of these dogs rarely leave a stacked tiny wire cage, have never been outside, and are not even able to walk. Learn more at http://www.animalfolksmn.org/ (where you’ll find information about a puppy/kitten mill bill currently being introduced in the Minnesota legislature), http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/puppy-mills, http://www.mainlinerescue.org/ and http://www.mainlinerescue.org/puppy-mills/puppys_parents. Mainline Rescue is the Pennsylvania group featured on the well-known puppy mill episode of the Oprah Show.
    If you want a purebred dog from a breeder (for example, if you need a dog that was bred specifically to herd your cattle), please do your homework. Read Finding a Good Dog Breeder at http://www.dogtime.com/finding-a-good-breeder.html. Look for a breeder who actively participates with their dogs in the activities the dog was originally bred for. Learn as much as you can about the breed, the breeder, and the puppy’s lineage. Ask to meet the puppy’s parents and see where the pups were born and raised. Make sure the breeder tests their dogs for the health problems that are common to the breed. Be wary of a breeder who breeds for one color or trait, like “miniature” to the detriment of temperament or health. Check out the breeder’s references, and be wary of a contract that requires a co-ownership or requires you to breed your dog instead of spaying or neutering. Make sure you get what you pay for.
    With a new dog in the house, you’ll need to find a good veterinarian. In fact, you might even want your veterinarian to examine the new dog before you make the final commitment and take the dog home.
    Choosing a Veterinarian
    When looking for a veterinarian, ask your friends and neighbors for advice. Ask veterinarians about their education, training, experience, and credentials. Check their references. Make sure you’re comfortable with the vet, the way the clinic is run, and the way they handle your dog.
    Today, many veterinarians are using Eastern medicine techniques and therapies, including acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic, homeopathy, and massage therapy to complement the traditional Western medicine protocols they learned in veterinary school. Here’s a list of veterinary and other organizations*, with links to more information:
    The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): www.avma.org
    A not-for-profit association representing more than 80,000 veterinarians
    The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA):
    AHVMA Member Referral Search: www.holisticvetlist.com
    Explores and supports alternative and complementary approaches to veterinary healthcare, and is dedicated to integrating all aspects of animal wellness in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.
    The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA):
    Certifying agency for doctors who have undergone postgraduate animal chiropractic training
     
    The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH): www.theavh.org
    Veterinarians who share the desire to restore health to their patients through the use of homeopathic treatment. Members are dedicated to understanding and preserving the principles of classical homeopathy and advancing veterinary homeopathy through education and research.
     
    International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS): www.ivas.org
    The IVAS mission is to provide, promote, and support veterinary acupuncture and related treatment modalities through quality basic, advanced, and continuing education; internationally recognized certification for veterinarians; and responsible research.
    Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute*: www.animalacupressure.com
    Acupressure is used to restore, replenish, and maintain the natural harmony and balance needed to create optimal health and well-being. A small animal acupressure course will be taught in Minnesota in July of 2011 (more info at http://tinyurl.com/6x8mru7).
    I hope this information will start you and your new dog on the road to a happy and healthy life together. Enjoy the spring and summer with your new friend!
    This information originally appeared in The Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book, Ó2010 (more info at http://www.8StateKate.net)
    The Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book is a Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Awards Finalist in the “Pets” category! More info here: http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2302

  • Dogs Know

    Written By Barbara O'Brien
    Dogs know more than we think.
    Kylie is a good dog. She is a tri-colored Australian Shepherd and is owned by my good friend Kathy. Kylie is an obedience and breed champion with a room full of ribbons and trophies to show for it. This is a dog that would never dream of being naughty and not doing what is asked of her.
    I have had the honor of hiring her many times for print ads and commercials. Kylie always did a great job for me. She followed my commands and was always cheerful with a joyful expression on her face. She loved to work and she loved being the center of attention. In the show ring and on the set Kylie was a star.
    Then Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember crying with her when she told me and I hoped and prayed for a quick recovery. Kathy is a fighter and underwent aggressive chemo treatments and then surgery to fight her disease.
    Months passed as Kathy went through her treatment, fighting fatigue nausea and tolerating the loss of her hair as her body struggled to beat the cancer that had taken hold. Her friends continue to pray and care for her. Kylie the Aussie never left her side.
    We were all overjoyed when Kathy eventually was declared cancer free. I knew Kathy enjoyed having Kylie perform for the camera so I waited for her to tell me when she was well enough to begin bringing Kylie the Aussie to photo shoots again.
    After I was sure that Kathy felt well enough to give it a try I booked Kylie for a shoot for a major retailer. Kylie was to pose with a human model who would brush her with a special grooming tool to remove fur.
    When Kathy came in with Kylie, I hugged Kathy and asked how she was feeling. Kylie the Aussie had always pulled on her leash when she saw me and wriggled her whole body in anticipation. This time when I greeted her and her owner, Kylie the Aussie was oddly restrained in her manner towards me.
    It is my usual practice to leave the owner in the waiting room and take the dog from the owner to work them on the set myself as most dogs work better when not distracted by their owner. Kylie was no exception to that rule. Although Kathy is an excellent trainer, in the past Kylie seemed to focus better when I worked her on the set without her owner in the room.
    I started to escort Kylie away from her owner and towards the set but she sat down and refused to leave Kathy’s side. “Come on, girl,” I said, slightly surprised. This was not normal behavior for Kylie the Aussie at all. Where was the dog that practically dragged me to the set and was so happy to show off her skills and tricks?
    “Go on,” said Kathy to her dog. “Go with Barbara. You’ll be fine,” she said.
    Kylie the Aussie was obviously reluctant to obey. She slowly got up and went with me, but looked over her shoulder at her owner.
    “Come on, girl,” I said in my cheeriest voice. “I’ve got cheese,” I said. Usually, the word cheese is the magic word to focus Kylie’s razor sharp attention. This time I said the magic word, she glanced my way for a moment, then looked back to the door of the room in which Kathy her owner was waiting.
    Why was Kylie the Aussie acting so strangely? This was not like her at all. This dog loved me and usually pranced and danced on camera happily sitting and cocking her head for the camera.
    The human model came in and I put Kylie the Aussie in position. I stepped back and began to cue her, looking for the sweet expression and happy ears that she always offered me.
    Kylie did her best to be obedient. She is a good dog and knows that Stay means Stay, but there’s a big difference between a dog who is focused on the work and a dog who is just going through the motions. Kylie was just not with me. I told her Stay and she would Stay but only for a moment or two and then she would break her Stay. This is unusual for such a well-trained dog and experienced animal model.
    “Oh, no! What did you do?” I said (my traditional speech when a dog breaks a Stay). I tried again. I gave her the hand signal and said “Kylie, Stay!” She paused for only a moment this time before breaking her Stay again. I was shocked. This is an obedient dog. She always listened to my commands and performed them cheerfully and happily for the cheese reward. What could possibly be wrong? I watched Kylie the Aussie as her gaze continued to go to the door. And then I understood. Kylie the Aussie’s mind was with her owner Kathy in the waiting room. I apologized to the photographer for the delay and took Kylie off the set. “Okay!” I said to Kylie. She bolted out the door and down towards the hall to be with Kathy. I could hear Kathy laughing as I headed towards them. “What is it, girl?” Kathy asked as Kylie stood on her hind legs and washed Kathy’s face with her tongue.
    “She can’t leave your side right now,” I said. She knows that you haven’t been well and that her place is with you.”
    Kathy held Kylie’s head in her hands. “Is that true, Kylie?” She said “Don’t you know that I am okay now?” Kylie looked back at her with the intelligent brown eyes of an Australian Shepherd, one of the smartest of all dog breeds. I think Kylie the Aussie felt the need to protect her owner Kathy and be with her. Kathy had beaten the breast cancer, but perhaps her dog still thought she still needed special care and attention. Although Kylie the Aussie shows every sign of enjoying being an acting dog, perhaps she thought she had a more important job right then: Being with Kathy.
    “Please come to the set with us?” said Kathy to me, and we went back. I said to Kathy: “You work with her. She usually works better with me, but she needs you this time.” Kathy put Kylie in position, thehuman model readied the grooming tool, and the photographer began to shoot. It was like a different dog was there. Kylie posed and perked her ears. She put her paw up and then down on command and she spun around in a circle when asked. She even kissed the model’s face on cue. Here was the Kylie I knew.
    The rest of the shoot went perfectly and the client was happy with the results.
    Another six months went by before I needed to use Kylie on a shoot. I had been in touch with Kathy and knew that she was getting stronger and feeling better every day. This time when she came to the studio Kylie was overjoyed to see me, almost leaping into my arms as I said hello. And when I took her leash to lead her to the set she went with me without a backward glance.
    On set she was once again a pro, offering all of her endearing behaviors like tilting her head and grinning for the camera. When we finished and I returned her to Kathy in the waiting room, I marveled at how different Kylie the Aussie was from the last time I worked her.
    It’s amazing to me how dogs sometimes just know. Apparently, even though Kathy thought she was back to her old self, Kylie the dog did not agree and thought she needed to stay by Kathy’s side. Now that Kathy was fully recovered and cancer free, Kylie the Aussie also was back to her old self and ready to perform.
    ©2011 Barbara O’Brien -White Robin Farm -N616 130th Street -Stockholm WI 54769 -(612) 812-8788

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