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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 10 October 2018  

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Dr. Jim Humphries

  Two good questions
  By Dr. Jim Humphries
  Veterinarian

   Q: My last two dogs died of cancer. One was old for his breed, but my other dog was only 7 years old. Iíve had pets all my life, and I donít remember them having so much cancer. Is there more now?
   
   A: I see a lot of cancer in my end-of-life practice, much of it in older pets, but I do see bad metastatic cancer in young or middle-aged pets also. Iíve always heard the adage, ďIf you live long enough, you will get cancer,Ē and there is some truth to this comment. All of our cells must be replaced Ė- itís part of growing and aging. However, to be replaced, a cell must make a genetic copy of itself for the new cell to be like the old one. Problems occur when this copy-cell function does not go as planned and the copy is not just like the original. The copy cell begins to grow abnormally and rapidly, and this leads to tumors of various cell types growing in the body.
   
   Cancer can be of many types, depending on the original cell. It could be of blood vessel origin, or of bone origin or from lymph or white blood cells. These then turn into hemangiosarcoma (cancer of blood vessel cells) or osteosarcoma (cancer of bone cells), leukemia (cancer of the circulating cells in the blood stream) and so on.
   
   Affected cancer cells also will lose their normal control mechanisms, and the new tissues can just grow out of control. Others, while abnormal growths, do not grow or spread so fast and donít invade other tissue; many of these are called benign (like those ďfatty tumorsĒ most old dogs have).
   
   Of course, cancer is far more complex than this, but please know in most cases that if your pet develops cancer, it is nothing you did wrong. Our pets are living longer so there is simply more probability of them developing cancer.
   
   What we can do to prevent cancer is common sense things like good nutrition (I mean the more expensive foods that have better ingredients and less fillers or additives.) Fish oil is a great lifelong supplement for overall health (for people also). Spay and or neuter your pet a bit later in their life. Instead of the classic six months, letís wait and let those hormones have their protective effect for another six months. Have this procedure done after about one year of life. (For large or giant breeds of dogs, I suggest 18 months to two years.) Finally, pick a breed that is not prone to developing cancers. Flat-coated retrievers, boxers, Bernese Mountain Dogs and golden retrievers are among the breeds that have the highest percentage of cancer-related deaths.
   
   Q: Iíve been to several dog training classes but canít seem to make my dog behave. What am I doing wrong, or is my dog just ďchallengedĒ?
   
   A: All dogs will learn, some are more challenging than others. Here are some common mistakes most of us make:
  • Not starting early: Training should begin early. Puppies should begin socialization classes at 4 to 6 months old. These early months are crucial for your dog to learn to be comfortable and confident with new people and other dogs. Basic obedience classes should be started when your dog is 6 to 8 months old or immediately upon adopting an adult dog. Then donít forget, training should be done (and made fun) at home about once a week.
  • Not being regular and consistent: Dogs learn by consistency and routine. When you are inconsistent, your dog becomes confused and this can lead to problems. If you donít want your dog to beg, donít feed it from the table; and there are hundreds of examples like that. Set your house rules and be consistent.
  • Donít expect too much: Dogs learn with consistency and in small bits. Donít expect too much too early too fast. Expect learning to take time, and always make it fun.
  • Giving complicated verbal commands: Only use one or a few words for a command. Iíve taught my dog to ďgo to your bed,Ē with a treat (and a good dog bed) and he does it every time. But what he hears is Gotoyourbed: short, consistent words or phrases.
  • Getting louder or being harsh: Louder is not better. In fact, try all your commands softly and upbeat. They will listen much better, if they know a treat is coming and you are happy with them, using a soft command.
  • Forgetting to reward what you want: Small pieces of food are the best rewards; at first, you use it for all rewards. Later, spread it out to the point your dog behaves just to please you.
  • Being impatient: This one is hard for anyone looking for fast results. Good training takes time so you have to reward small steps and be patient. Success will come with time ó with short sessions, consistency, positivity and making training fun.

Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian and provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets in the Colorado Springs area. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes. www.HomeWithDignity.com
  
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