Sara&ZoeBlog Contributor: Sara Miller

I will never forget your tenderness and will love you always Zoe.

~Forever in our hearts~

Zoe-memorial picApril 28, 2015 is to date the worst day of my life. I lost my beloved dog, Zoe. This is the first dog I’ve lost, which means I now know first hand the torment you endure when you face this awful day. After losing Zoe I quickly realized that my vet, who I completely entrusted my dogs with, did not properly educate me about senior wellness care, blood work options for indicating potential abnormalities, and the importance of benchmark bloodwork. Zoe was not yet 10 years old (same with her sister Belle) and never once did they discuss senior wellness options with me, which had they, I would have absolutely done and they may have found issues with Zoe much sooner.

Please take time to read my letter that I wrote to this veterinary so that you never have to live with the guilt I now have to. I know it is long, but it may save your dog’s life. PLEASE be an advocate for your pet and talk to your vet about these things – be a more educated owner than I was for Zoe. If your dog is younger, talk to them about whether it’s right for you to do blood work so that you have a benchmark to work from in the future. If your dog is a senior, talk to them about regular blood work and other care options which may help indicate any potential abnormalities or early signs of issues. There are no guarantees that something may be found in these tests even if they are sick (we may never have found Zoe’s issues), but if you chose to take these steps, you’re at least doing what you can in your power and will know you’ve done what you could for your pet in the end. I found this information from the American Animal Hospital Association very informative about senior care.

I will not specifically call out this veterinary in this medium, but if you would like to know who it is, please feel free to email me and I will gladly share. I would like to thank two of UU’s vet partners, Fox River Animal Hospital (FRAH) and Appanasha. While FRAH already builds senior wellness care conversations into all of their senior clients, they discussed my story at their recent staff meeting as a reminder of why it is important to educate their clients. Since my experience, I have moved to Appanasha and the treatment and attention my dogs have received from Dr. Hurlburt and staff has been nothing short of unbelievable. I finally feel I can completely trust a vet and that he TRULY cares about my animals like they are his own, and right now that means the world.


Editors Note: Since sending this letter, I received a phone call from the owner of the veterinary who cared for ZoeHe indicated they have discussed this letter and will be making changes to ensure they are more consistently offering these senior care options to all senior clients. They have a senior wellness plan, but acknowledged this is not being consistently discussed with all clients.

Dear [name removed],

I am a client of [name removed] and hope you will take time to read about my story and truly consider what I am requesting. I have been with [name removed] since 2012, and at that time my two Chihuahuas were 7. Zoe, now at age 9, was laid to rest on April 28 very suddenly. My dogs are the only children I have and it was the absolute worst thing I’ve ever gone through. I got the diagnosis on that Monday and on Tuesday she was gone. When it goes that fast, you don’t get to properly say goodbye. Since then, I’ve since learned that there is vet care I should/could have had done that I never knew about, which may or may not have helped my Zoe, eased her pain, slowed the progression, or helped me prepare sooner. It was hard enough going through the deep pain of loss, but to know there was another step I could have taken for my dog simply kills me. I am someone who will take whatever steps I can for my dog’s health, and expected [name removed] to be my partner to help me do that for my dogs. Whether it be medication, surgery, other procedures, or simply more love at the end of their life if that’s the only option. I have always thought you were that, until my recent discoveries. Through my many experiences at [name removed] with multiple vets, [name removed] is not following the standards that many veterinaries in this area are, which is why I’m writing you.

I talked with two different individuals at [name removed] on May 1 regarding my situation after I learned about this care I was never offered. I did not catch the first person’s name, and the 2nd was Dr. [name removed], who saw Belle and Zoe for their annual visit last year. I appreciate their time to speak on behalf of Zoe, and especially Dr. [name removed] for being so candid with me. After talking to both, I confirmed [name removed] does not consistently build preventative blood work recommendations into discussions or the importance of adding it to their yearly wellness plan as seniors.

I realize that even if we found anything, I may not have been able to do anything for Zoe (but we do not know that because the option was never given to us). During all my time as a client there, I was never once told I should do regular blood panels for my seniors regardless of dentals and why. I was also never told by any vet at [name removed] that I should do benchmark blood work during an annual exam to look for early indications of abnormalities. [name removed], you should have been educating me on the proper senior care, and baseline care that I should be giving my dogs, separate from dentals and why. Even in the dental conversation, I was only told blood work was required for a dental at their age, not why. In that aspect, you failed me and my dogs, and I’m asking you to never do that to another person. I challenge you to change and be a better vet to the dogs who walk through your door.

[name removed] should be looking at how they can be providing the best vet care out there, so I ask that you speak to every client about why benchmark blood work is important, when it should be done at their pet’s age (not just seniors), why it should be done regularly for seniors, and what the implications are if you do or don’t do these. Clearly explain how that may look for their particular pet and how it may change for different health reasons. It is fine if dental should be paired with it, but make it explicitly clear why both are individually important and what that may tell an owner about the health of their pet. It doesn’t matter if most people won’t do this; it is your job to give every one of them the option to provide this care for their animal. It should be your goal to change one life through this. Because for someone like me, that may make all the difference in the world for their pet. I would have done this.

What is most heartbreaking is when I brought Zoe in on April 11 after we found blood in her stool, and I had to ask numerous times if it should be more closely looked at when it was written off initially. All I was offered was a blood count at that time, even though she hadn’t had a blood panel done since 2012. Either the vet hadn’t taken the time to review her charts to determine it was something I should consider or didn’t care enough to offer me a thorough review of Zoe’s situation. Had I known then what I know now about blood work, I would have required it be done. But I expect as a vet that you should be educating me on my options, and not leaving me to tell you what should be done. Had [name removed] offered that, at least it would have given me a few weeks to prepare for Zoe’s loss and provide her everything she deserved at the end of her life. I want my vet to care for my dogs as their own, it’s what my dogs and I deserve. That is not what [name removed] did for Zoe, or my Belle (who is the same age as Zoe). I’m not sure I can ever trust one of my dogs in the hands of [name removed] again, because you failed Zoe in the care she deserved. I will be bringing my dogs to another vet until I feel changes are in place. Again, I realize the outcome may not have ultimately been different, but that does not matter. Dogs like Zoe deserve that chance. The only reason any one of my dogs has had blood work done there was because they had a dental and one of my Chihuahuas came in with an injury. Additionally, my other two dogs, Ava and Naomi were just in for their yearly and benchmark blood work was never discussed. Again, knowing what I know now, [name removed] should be suggesting I have that done at this point, especially if you look at the history of these two rescue dogs.

According to AAHA, “senior preventive care is directed at making recommendations prior to the onset of disease in order to prevent or temper the effects of disease or adverse health conditions. This task force recommends that “senior” wellness tests begin for pets at middle age, to establish baseline values and to insure that there are no clinically silent health abnormalities. During middle age, retesting is recommended at least once a year (equivalent of 4 to 5 human years). Routine health care visits, including a minimum laboratory database, are recommended for senior animals (i.e., those in the last 25% of their predicted life span) every 6 months (equivalent of every 2 to 3 human years).” If you are personally already following this standard, that’s great, but I’ve seen multiple vets there and have not had this experience. I ask that you push for this to be a standard across all vets at [name removed].

I now lose sleep over what I missed for Zoe, mainly because I did not receive proper vet guidance. Because Zoe may have died before she needed to since [name removed] is not consistently offering comprehensive wellness care options. I’m telling you this in hopes you want to prevent clients from feeling this way. This is also not to mention I was not asked to do a urinalysis or fecal at any of my recent yearly exams for any of my dogs, including my seniors. I suggest you read this article by the AAHA regarding senior care.

Of course I want change in honor of Zoe, because she didn’t get all she deserved. But I simply want you to care enough too so that no other owner has to be left with any more ‘what if’s’ during their impossible end of life decisions. I am open to helping however I can bring change for [name removed], and would appreciate a response and update on changes via phone or email. Thank you for your time.

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Blog Contributor: Gloria Boyce gloria

March 10, 2014

bobbarkerWho doesn’t know this face?! He was the face Americans saw 5 times a week for 35 years. He was the person who gave prizes and made people’s dreams come true. Not many of us have the ability to make the dream of a lifetime come true day in and day out like that. Oh wait.. we do!

I am Bob Barker. YOU are Bob Barker! No, you may not be able to give someone a brand new car (if you do have that ability, I’d like to meet you!) or $1k for spinning a big wheel just right… but you’re still able to make the dream of a lifetime come true.

How? By LISTENING to Bob Barker. Who doesn’t remember the infamous “And remember! Help control the pet population, have your pets spayed or neutered!” It’s not just a line! By spaying and neutering, you are helping move this nation one step closer to being the no-kill nation so many of us dream of. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized. The first step in getting us to be a no kill nation is to help control the pet population via spaying and neutering.

What’s that? You say you might want your dog, who is the best and prettiest/handsome-est dog in the world to produce beautiful and wonderful offspring someday? Interesting. I deeply wish we were on the same page about getting to be a no-kill nation. But, since we’re not, here are some statistics I hope you remember: Sterilization helps increase the healthy years of a pets life; a dog’s healthy lifespan increases an avg of 1 – 3 years because of sterilization (spayUSA.org) by reducing the risk of cancer and other illnesses related to remaining unaltered. Sterilization also helps reduce the risk of roaming away from their house/yard, which reduces the risk of permanent loss of your pet via getting hit by a car or getting so lost they are never found.

So, my friends, my plea to you is this – listen to Bob Barker… if not for the reason of helping control the pet population, then for the reason of giving them a longer and healthier life.

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December 27, 2013

People are going to rehome their pet from time to time unfortunately, it’s a fact of life. We try to educate them on ways to help keep them, but the fact is, some people just have to or will rehome.

Before you rehome your pet ask yourself these questions: Can you keep the pet? What would it take for you to be able to keep the pet… Allergy shots? Finding a pet-friendly apartment? A loan to cover spaying, neutering and shots? There are often options out there if you just take the time to look, which your loved one deserves. When you took your pet into your home, you became responsible for him/her for the rest of its life.

But if they just can’t keep it, we’ve found educating them on how to best approach rehoming, especially on Craigslist, is key. And frankly, we appreciate when people try to rehome their pet themselves instead of making it a shelter’s or rescue’s problem since they are too often overflowing as it is. It keeps one animal out of the shelter so another can enter it to hopefully live. It’s just critical to be smart about it.

free-to-good-home-craigslist-abuse-victimAt UU, we try to get dogs off Craigslist as fast as possible due to the issues that can come from Craigslist rehoming. It’s a great tool to sell your ‘things’, but when it comes to living beings, take caution. When people choose to rehome via Craigslist (I would try every option first before this method like sharing on Facebook, talking to your network, putting up flyers, etc.), here are some tips to avoid the dog ending up in the wrong hands by someone wanting the dog for something other than a family pet:

  • Meet in person with potential new owners.
  • Do a reference check to see if the person is employed and may have a pet in their home. Also, PLEASE do a background check (simply search on http://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl),  and landlord check (if applicable).
  • Visit your pet’s new home to see what type of environment it will be and to see if the whole family is on board with the pet adoption. Check to see if the new home is safe? Will your dog have a yard or someplace to walk? What is the family interaction like?
  • If the person has a pet, talk with their veterinarian to see what type of care they provide or provided for their pet.
  • Ask for a rehoming fee to put value on your pet and to see if this person can afford a pet and is willing to do what it takes to own a pet. Good to a free home may sound great to get your pet in a new place fast, but it can bring in the unwanted dangers below or those who aren’t considering the long-term commitment of the pet or the cost of owning one.
  • Have a plan in case things don’t work out. Many private rehoming agreements result in a pet being returned or rehomed again. If you don’t want to see your pet back on Craigslist in six months, make sure you’re prepared to potentially take it back and find another new home.

The reasons Craigslist is so dangerous to rehome are severe, as pets can often fall into the wrong hands (these reasons are much more often found on Craigslist than most other methods largely due to the ability to be rather anonymous) :

  • They may be used as bait animals for dog fighting.
  • People who torture and kill animals like to search Craigslist listings for new victims.
  • Other people that source animals for research facilities all use these ads to find pets.
  • A newer phenomena is pet flipping – searching free adds for pets to sell for a profit elsewhere (they often end up in one of the above categories).

Think this won’t really happen to your dog? Puppy Doe was a solid example of how it really can.

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Blog Contributor: Katie Nechodom Katie Bio Picture

December 13, 2013

Why Dogs Chew The Furniture And How To Stop ThemAs a dog trainer, the most common thing I hear from dog owners is: My dog was so good when we first brought him/her home! Now, they are destroying everything and are not listening!

Typically this happens unexpectedly to dog owners. When you bring your new dog home, they’re cute, playful, and new. Because of that, many dog owners set aside training for a later date and accidentally reinforce unwanted behaviors (chewing, biting, jumping, barking, etc).

So the question remains: How do you fix the problem behaviors?

Answer: No Free Lunch Policy

The “No Free Lunch Policy” (also been called nothing in life is free or the “learn-to-earn program” helps dog owners develop the communication skills needed while training dogs using positive reinforcement.

Become a leader your dog can trust: Setting guidelines and communicating the rules by consistently rewarding desired behavior while removing rewards for unwanted behavior until the desired behaviors are a habit, then the owners are seen as a leader to whom they can trust.

Master and her obedient (rhodesian ridgeback) dogPut away the food bowl: For the fastest training, dogs should earn their meal throughout the day while you’re home. This means carrying their food around in a bait bag, in your pockets, or having it easily accessible on countertops. Throughout the day, you will reward appropriate behavior. Your dog will get 100 rewards for desired behavior instead of a free meal.

Require the dog to say please by sitting: is important to help teach your dog patience. Whereas snatching things from the counter and jumping for attention worked before, now the only thing that works is to automatically say please by sitting.

Use all motivators to your advantage: If on top of that, you require her/him to sit for all other resources (such as petting, attention, and play) when she/he wants these things, you’ll increase your toolbox of rewards.

Keep your dog attached to you: Tethering the dog to you teaches your dog that when he/she doesn’t want to pay attention to you, she can’t just walk away and then get rewarded by something else. Ultimately, tethering helps prevent rewarding unwanted behavior.

Walk with a loose leash: When your dog is attached to you on leash, she/he should sit and remain seated when you are stationary and walk by your side when you move place to place.

Katie Nechodom owns Second Chance K9 Training and is an Animal Behavior Certified dog trainer. She provides private and in-home training, and focuses on positive reinforcement based training, along with behaviors including but not limited to basic obedience, anxiety, aggression and problem solving. Read more about the services she offers on her website or to book a session!

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December 4, 2013

Recently I had an opportunity to provide some education around dog food choices. It brought me back to the MANY years I had no idea how important it was to do research and pick the right food for your dog. Thought I’d share some info on this recent research adventure of mine.

218011_213363258676989_4570948_nOne site I LOVE is Dog Food Advisor. In the ideal world you’d want to choose a 4 or 5 star food as indicated on this website, because they include ingredients that are best for your dog, but financially I get that’s not always possible so there are lower ratings that still can work. Generally, I suggest being in a category of 3 or above.

I took a look at Purina Dog Chow since this is one of the foods that is found everywhere. I knew nothing about it (other than I knew it wasn’t going to be highly rated), so dug into the details and found this a 1 star food. What does this mean? Well, for starters, there are several top ingredients in this food that are ‘controversial’ or bad for a dog. There are the top ingredients:

  • whole grain corn
  • meat and bone meal
  • corn gluten meal
  • animal fat preserved with mixed tocopherols
  • soybean meal
  • poultry by-product meal
  • egg and chicken flavor
  • whole grain wheat
  • animal digest
  • salt

A few ingredients that are considered inferior are: corn (a terrible first ingredient – dogs can’t tolerate grains well), meat/bone meal (meat source is not identified), poultry meal, animal fat, ‘by products’, animal digest, grains, and many cheap fillers. And if I can get passed all the ingredients I can’t even pronounce, I don’t even see vegetables in there, not to mention one specific meat type (like chicken). 8 of the 10 top ingredients are ‘controversial’, scary. So then I dug into what some of these mean, so glad it wasn’t dinner time…

Animal fat. According to dogfoodadvisor.com, The problem with generic animal fat is that it can come from almost anywhere — anonymous, unidentified sources such as…

  • Dead, dying, diseased, or disabled farm animals
  • Slaughterhouse waste
  • Dead zoo animals
  • Meat by-products
  • Road kill
  • There’s also disturbing evidence rendered fats could even be sourced from euthanized cats and dogs.

By Product. Basically, animal by-products are what’s left of a slaughtered animal after the edible parts have been removed. They include the waste of meat processing not intended for human consumption. For example…

  • Feet
  • Backs
  • Livers
  • Lungs
  • Heads
  • Brains
  • Spleen Frames
  • Kidneys
  • Stomachs
  • Intestines
  • Undeveloped egg

Animal Digest. This is material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and un-decomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed.”

So in a nutshell, this food is not good. A reasonably priced brand that we use in rescue is Purina Pro Plan. It is a slightly higher star rating – 2.5. The first ingredient is real chicken so that’s good. There are less ‘controversial’ ingredients here but still a number of them.

Dog_eating-good-dog-foodSo what to do if you feed your dog a brand that isn’t looking so hot? Well, I always first look to Grain Free foods if possible as those are the best for dogs – the best ratios for food are 50% meat, 50% vegetables, grain-free, wheat-free, and no cheap fillers. But again, I definitely get there is a budget, dog food can be EXPENSIVE. I personally feed my dogs Taste of the Wild,  which has a good source of protein, real vegetables and meat (or in my case, fish), no cheap fillers or grains, to name a few. I feed my two little ones Fromm Gold, which is pretty similar to Horizon but has grains in it that can be undesirable. There are many great options there, and I suggest you utilize Dog Food Advisor’s website in the 3, 4 or 5 start star categories to determine what food you want to look at. View our comparison chart>>

According to dogster.com, some things to consider for buying or making are:

  • Look for natural and/or organic ingredients. A dog food package with “Natural” stamped on it means nothing – there are no regulations in place to define this. So sifting through the ingredients is vital.
  • Avoid corn, cornmeal, soy and wheat. These are difficult for dogs to digest and can cause allergies.
  • Instead, choose your grains from barley, rolled oats, millet, quinoa, and brown rice.
  • Depending on your dog’s ability to digest, check the digestibility of the protein source. For instance, fish is more digestible than muscle and organ meats.
  • Check digestibility of the carbohydrate source. Rice is at the top, followed by, in part, oats and yeast.
  • Avoid animal-by-products which may contain heads, feet, and other animal parts.
  • Avoid preservatives and additives – they have been shown to cause health problems in dogs.
  • Look for Vitamin E and C; they are natural, healthful preservatives.
  • Look for Omega-3; it is good for your dog’s coat.
  • Some dog owners prefer to look for “human-grade” food in their dog food. This simply means the food is purchased from human-grade food facilities.

I went almost 8 years before I realized how important it was to consider what I was feeding my dogs. And that I couldn’t just trust that the dog food I buy was ok for them, in fact I’ve realized most AREN’T good. Downright deadly sometimes (Beneful is one). So now I pay so much closer attention because I don’t want the food I give my dogs to affect their overall or long term health.

This post in no way addresses individual dog needs and could go into much deeper analysis of ingredients. Every dog is different and can react different ways to foods, and many dogs have numerous types of allergies that can be affected by the food they eat. The important thing is to do your research for your own individual situation and keep trying to find the best food for your dog.

So you want to reconsider what you feed your dog? Check out Dog Food Advisor’s best dry dog foods page and best grain free dog foods page for a quick way to narrow down your options to research. And remember, if you do switch your dog’s food, be sure to do it gradually by mixing the old and new food together (start 75/25 and move up from there) so the dog can tolerate the change ok.

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