Friday, 28 August 2009

Pedigree Dogs Exposed extra

Just released, some bits that hit the cutting room floor. This strand is all Dave Cavill, Our Dogs proprietor who has often complained that his words didn't get included.

I'm aware that you can't see all the screen, if you'd like to see it in full click here.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Elle Macpherson and I

Well it's not every day I take on a supermodel, but it seems like I am at loggerheads with 'the body' in today's newspapers.
I have nothing at all against international supermodels usually, so it makes a change for me to be scrapping with them rather than the usual suspects.
But a journalist gave me a call yesterday and asked me what I thought about Elle Macpherson's Labradoodle getting paid £10k for a modeling contract.
At first I thought good luck to her, and then I had another think.
Things are already pretty silly with regard to people cashing in on the Labradoodle craze, charging silly money and making outrageous hypoallergenic claims. This is a type of dog that really doesn't need any more hype! And those nutters that follow celebs and buy the same clothes, dye their hair the same shade etc - do we really want them getting a matching dog, too? And will some idiots imagine that all gorgeous dogs can earn money for their owners as models?
As the owner of dog that is 'the face of Budgeon's own brand dog food' I can confirm that it hasn't changed our lives in any tangible material sense!
So, that's probably why I was so grumpy about Elle's dog's £10k modeling deal.
Here's the links...
Daily Mail
Daily Telegraph
and Evening Standard.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A total lack of dignity

Just been sent this very upsetting story....

A family is distraught after their beloved pet's body was found dumped in a field.
Border Collie Bournville was put down after it developed cancerous lumps on its head.
Its ashes were passed back to the family after cremation - but days later, owner James Brown, of Hucknall, was told the body of his pet had been found in a field and identified by its microchip.
Three other dogs were also discovered in Lower Hartshay, in Derbyshire, on August 15.
"We're really, really shocked," said Mr Brown, 29.
"We're very upset. We paid extra money to get him back and it's not him.
"He was a lovely dog and he deserved better than that."
The RSPCA were called and police are now investigating.
Two of the four dogs, including Bournville, originated from Ambivet veterinary clinic, in Heanor, which says it is very distressed by the news.
The other two dogs are not believed to have been identified yet.
Normally, dogs are cremated together and ashes are not returned, but the family paid about £120 to have Bournville cremated alone and be sent his ashes.
David Stone, business manager of Ambivet, said the dogs' bodies were sent to a Derbyshire pet crematorium after they were put down.
He said: "Our relationship with this company was severed immediately on Tuesday afternoon and alternative arrangements were made with another operator.
"We feel very distressed by the whole thing.
"We've visited both the owners concerned. It's in the hands of the local authority and we're co-operating fully with them over this."
Mr Brown said the discovery of 12-year-old's Bournville's body had been distressing for the whole family.
"We paid extra to have the dog cremated and the ashes returned a week later," he said.
"My mum and step-dad went to pick up the ashes and they got them in a bag with a card stuck in saying Bournville. So, as far as they were concerned, Bournville was back with us."
But when Bournville's body was found dumped, and identified through his microchip, the family was left 'shocked and confused'.
The family, who have two other dogs called Hamish and Elliott, wanted to go and identify their pet's body.
"We wanted to go for our own peace of mind," said Mr Brown. "It wasn't the prettiest of sights, it was quite upsetting.
"His fur was all wet and matted down, and he had maggots all over him.
"We're wanting to bury the dog ourselves now so we've got him with us.
"He just didn't deserve that, he was a member of the family."
Derbyshire Police are investigating the incident and a spokesperson from Amber Valley Borough Council said: "Amber Valley Borough Council can confirm that it was contacted by the RSPCA on August 18 regarding four bodies of dogs found in Lower Hartshay at the weekend.
"Staff from the council's environmental services directorate, along with the Environment Agency are currently looking into the matter, but cannot comment until all of the facts have been established."
The RSPCA says they have no welfare concerns about the dogs before they died.
The dogs are now being kept at Ambivet veterinary clinic while the matter is investigated.
A Derbyshire police spokeswoman said: "Police are investigating allegations of fraud after dogs that were thought to have been cremated were found dead in a field.
"Officers have received allegations that at least two of the dogs had been sent for cremation.
"The police have liaised with the RSPCA, Amber Valley Environmental Health and the Environment Agency during the investigation.
"Enquiries are continuing into the allegations. Officers can confirm that no reports of burglaries at any local pet crematoria have been received by police."
Owner of Peak Pet Cremations in Heage near Belper, Jennifer Buxton, said the company has been closed down since.
"All I know is there was a theft from our premises which obviously included some bagged scrap metal and some deceased pets were taken at the same time."
But when further questioned by the Evening Post, she said the theft was not reported to the police because at the time they did not know the animals had been taken.
She said she had been away at the time and could not explain why Mr Brown's family had been sent ashes that could not have been their pet's.

This latest shocking story means we must all be on guard when we need to cremate or bury our pets. In these tough times it must be tempting for vets to just take the cheapest quote for emptying their freezers, but they really need to be extra sure of their suppliers.
Sadly, this isn't the only story of this kind I've seen. We reported 18 years ago that a company had been selling on the pets they picked up from vets' freezers - the bodies where being sold for rendering into fat and selling their skins in Europe for clothing. I also remember another case where people had paid for coffins and a burial site. The company went bust and the land was sold on. When already upset owners went to dig up their pets they found their pets had been buried in bin liners despite being charged for expensive wooden caskets.
This case also highlights whether you can ever be really sure that the ashes you sent are indeed from your own dog?
There is a professional organisation that works to improve standards in this industry and we would urge all vets and individuals to either use companies from this list or make exhaustive checks themselves.

Click here for the APPCC website.

Here's a link to the BBC TV version of this story.

The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria have issued the following statement following the discovery of the bodies of 4 dogs in a field in Lower Hartshay, in Derbyshire:
Firstly, we would like to extend out heartfelt sympathies to the families affected by this tragedy. We would like to offer the support of the Association to the bereaved pet owners, not only in terms of pet bereavement counselling, but also in ensuring that the authorities carry out a full and thorough investigation into this matter.
In addition to the discovery of their pet’s body it is both shocking and deeply disturbing to hear that the pet owners concerned did not receive the individual cremation for their beloved dog that they had requested and paid for. We are currently involved in a similar trading standards case elsewhere in the country and this most recent incident highlights that our Association is justified in voicing our concerns about the public being wary of the cremation services offered through some veterinary practices.
The APPCC recently began a campaign to raise awareness of both pet owners and veterinary practices to the misrepresentation of cremation services. This incident is obviously an extreme case but there are a large number of pet crematoria that cut costs by poor working practices in order to obtain business from veterinary surgeries. This means that many more people are being misled over the services they are paying for.
Kevin Spurgeon, Director of the APPCC says “Incidents like this destroy the public’s confidence in the genuine after death care that our members provide. This kind of misrepresentation damages not only the pet crematorium and vet concerned but the reputation of the whole industry. Ideally we would like to see vets doing more research and using a specialist company for pet cremation or burial and a specialist waste company for their disposal work to stop this kind of incident from happening again.”
"We are lucky to have some of the best and most dedicated small specialist pet crematoria in the world in the UK and more vets should try giving their clients a choice of local crematoria and cemeteries should the owner want an individual service. People always remember the way the vet handled the death of their pet so why wouldn’t the vet want to give them the best service possible?"
Pet crematoria are controlled under the Animal By-Product Regulations and Waste Management Licensing or Environmental Permitting. The regulations are designed for waste. This allows any disposal operation to gloss up their services and call themselves by any number of tempting and appealing names. Unfortunately most vets seem to think that all pet crematoria are the same but sadly some of these firms abuse the trust placed in them by the pet owner and give us all a bad name.
The APPCC consists of properly run pet cemeteries & crematoria across the UK that operate to a Code of Practice and can guarantee pet owners a genuine service for their much loved pet. Details of the nearest APPCC member can be found at or via the nationwide helpline 01252 844478.
Kevin Spurgeon
Director, Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria (APPCC)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Hands up if your dog can do this...

If you think you've seen all this before, keep watching. Not so sure about the skydiving sequence, guess it depends how good you are catching... perhaps best not to try that one at home!

Thank you to Jemima Harrison for passing this on.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Shoot to kill - humane?

A little while ago I heard about something I couldn't quite believe. Yet when the story was investigated it was true.

Here's the exchange of emails...

Hi, a while ago I spoke to you re a story I had been told about the RSPCA shooting dogs in Wales, well at long last I have their reply. Anyway thought I would keep you up to date...

Thank you for your enquiry. Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We receive a very large volume of enquiries here and have to prioritise to deal with urgent animal welfare issues first.

There has been some misinformation posted with regard to this case. The facts are as follows:

We received a call on 23 June this year from a member of the public relating to 10 German Shepherd dogs at an address in Pontardawe, in south Wales. The caller said the dogs owner, a relative, had died and the dogs had been living on their own.

An RSPCA inspector visited the premises that day and assessed the animals. The inspector took the decision that none of the dogs were at all suitable for rehoming due to concerns about their aggressive behaviour and lack of socialisation with people. The dogs were also suffering from a severe skin condition.

We explained the next-of-kin that they should contact other rescue groups for help. The next-of-kin were made fully aware that if the RSPCA became involved, the dogs would be euthanased.

The owners next-of-kin later contacted the RSPCA again and said they had been turned down by other charities who were unwilling to take on the animals and they signed over the dogs, fully aware of what would happen.

It is the RSPCAs raison d'etre to prevent cruelty to animals, and it was decided this sad, but ultimately necessary, outcome for the dogs was the best way to prevent the animals any further suffering. The decision was not made lightly and, as always, it was made with the best interests of the animal at heart.

Thank you again for contacting the Society.

Kind regards
RSPCA HQ Advice Team

Our contact then asked if the dogs had been shot...
Thank you for your further enquiry.

Yes, they were. A decision was made following a discussion between eight RSPCA officers that the most humane form of euthanasia would be to use a captive bolt. This would minimise distress to the dogs, while also being the safest method for those people responsible for dealing with the animals. Restraining the dogs and then shaving a limb to prepare for a lethal injection would have caused these animals unnecessary suffering, due to the animals suffering from a severe skin condition.

Thank you again for contacting the Society.

Kind regards
RSPCA HQ Advice Team
I have to say I am stunned by this story. Now some people I've told this to have been less so - maybe I'm a bit of a softie...

"When people commit suicide, how do they do it? A bullet to the brain most of the time. A captive bolt is the same as that, and how we kill most farm animals. It is not an unethical way to die, provided the person knows what they are doing. I am a practiced killer, and a blow the brain does the job as quick and painlessly as possible. I do not object to a blow to the head. In fact, I think I object to dying almost any other way. "

But then again another contact said:

"Re- captive bolt, use on dogs, personally I'm against it, as dogs have large frontal sinuses and if they move their head you can miss the cranium! So in my opinion on welfare grounds the dogs should have been sedated first, in which case you could then use euthatal injection anyway. Even if you can't dart them all, you could sedate in food. The restraint needed to hold the dogs still would still have been terrifying I would think!..."

and then again...

"I think a captive bolt, properly administered, is a very immediate way to die. And they were killed on their own premises – which is arguably kinder, too. None was killed in front of any of the others."

What do you think? A very upsetting story whatever your view.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Bruce - almighty effort rewarded with appeal hearing

Copied and pasted from the BBC - latest news!

The case of a Northern Ireland dog on death row for being a banned breed is to go to the Court of Appeal.

Bruce, a Staffordshire-bull terrier cross, was seized by North Down Borough Council dog control officers in 2007.

It was ruled to be a banned pit-bull type and a magistrate has ordered its destruction, but owner Shannon Brown is appealing the ruling.

"He has never harmed anyone or ever would, if he did I would have put my hand up to it," she said.

An online petition calling for the dog, found as a puppy in Bangor, County Down, by Ms Brown, had received nearly 16,000 signatures.

She is getting legal aid to fight the case, which has cost the local council about £17,000.

The council said it was acting to meet its "statutory responsibilities" under the Dangerous Dogs (NI) Order 1991.

"This makes it illegal for anyone to have a pit-bull type dog in their possession or custody," the council said.

"Bruce has been confirmed by the courts as being a pit-bull type breed and Ms Brown has not appealed the court's ruling in this respect."

Ms Brown said that she had been offered the dog back, but only if he was neutered, walked on a leash and insured.

However, she said that she had not been able to get insurance to cover the animal because it was now classed as a banned breed.

The law in Northern Ireland is different from the law in the rest of the UK, with destruction the only statutory option for a banned breed.


In the rest of the UK owners can retain the animals if they are deemed not to pose a threat and they agree to have them neutered and comply with a number of restrictions, including getting third party insurance.

Jeanette Thompson from Parents Against Needless Dog Attacks, whose son was injured when a pet Labrador bit him, said that dogs could turn and bull-terriers had powerful jaws.

"The problem with these dogs is when they bite they tear and rip and go in deep - you would want to avoid that at all cost," she said.

Stephen Philpott from the USPCA said that the law needed to be changed because of problems with identifying banned breeds when crossed with other breeds and a lack of discretion in the law in Northern Ireland.

"Bruce is the ultimate loser in this whole protracted legal process," he said.

"I and my veterinary surgeon have very strong opinions on the incarceration of dogs.

"Locking dogs up in kennels for two years is certainly not doing that dog a favour - hopefully it will turn out all right in the end, but that animal is not institutionalised."

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said councils were responsible for enforcing the legislation, but that the minister intends to consult on new policy proposals for dog control legislation in the Autumn.

"It's a law designed to kill dogs and we think it should be sorted out," Mr Philpott said.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

More on the Rhona case

The Rhona case is so heart wrenching. (Click here to read more)
She was feeling really low this morning and my email wasn't letting her send to me for some reason - she'd just got a no from a local charity she was hoping would take the last cats when she went into hospital. Plus the dispute with the pet sitters (who had let two of her dogs fight resulting in a death) was really bringing her down. And she was feeling sick, she'd tried to eat yesterday and it made her feel worse.
She'd put all that in a text and when I phoned her back there was no reply.
I decided to make a few calls to see if I could get her some better news to cheer her up. I tried to find a local cattery - but the first one I called was full and said all the others would be, too. But they put me on to kind lady called Lynn who used to be with Cats Protection, who put me onto Alice at the RSPCA branch and at last I felt I was really reaching the right people.
I phoned Rhona again, still no reply on landline or mobile.
She's in no fit state to be going on long walks, so I was very worried.
I phoned the police and they were very happy to do a welfare check.
Minutes later I got a call from Tailwagger's secretary Carol, she'd been worried to get no reply, too. But at last she'd got through to a very groggy Rhona.
Rhona had been unconscious for a couple of hours - another hypo, they're coming thick and fast now.
Poor Rhona. Hopefully I can tell her not to worry when we talk later - Carol was phoning her straight back - Carol knew I'd called the police and I needed to stand them down.
Earlier Lynn had offered to go in a day or so a week and feed the cats. Alice from the RSPCA was going to make some calls and try to find some other local people to help, too. If we can get a rota the last six cats could stay where they are and not be disrupted.
I also used some of my nervous energy to fire off an email to the pet sitters Rhona had previously used (not Animal Aunts in case there's any confusion!) and told them how much pressure she was under just in case they didn't realise. They'd threatened to counter sue her for having such dangerous dogs! Can you believe that?
Hearing that Rhona had been lying unconscious on her kitchen floor just made me realise how completely vulnerable she is.
Wonder how many other people there are out there with pets who don't have anyone local to notice if they keel over in their kitchen?
Hopefully we'll get a network of other pet-friendly folk to keep an eye on Rhona and her brood from now on. I've spoken to some lovely people today on the phone, I'm sure they're going to be the hero's of this story!
Let's hope the pet sitter does the decent thing, too. I'm still shaking my head thinking about it!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Hello, hello, hello

Have you ever had a phone call that made your blood run cold?
Our Chloe put the caller on hold and said, "It's Camberley police for you."
As I don't have a guilty conscience (wasn't me who did the Graff heist, honest) I immediately feared bad news, an accident etc or a speeding offence I wasn't yet aware of! My parking has sometimes erred on the criminal too!
"I expect you know what this is about," said the voice on the phone.
I had no idea!
"I've had the BBC on the phone about the story on your blog about a dog-stealing crime wave in Surrey Heath."
I started to breath again.
"It's just we don't have all those cases reported to us so we can't investigate them."
I got the story off Christine who does our accounts - she's also in deep cover in the agility world. She's now on holiday so I can't ask her to reveal her sources.
If anyone knows the owner of the missing dogs can they ask them to contact me ASAP so I can pass them onto a lovely policeman who'd love to help them!
We also mentioned that someone in a red van was suspected of taking the dogs.
Stephen, the lovely police officer, told me that two completely innocent men working on the common doing important work are constantly being approached by angry pet owners accusing them of trying to steal dogs!
So if you have had your dog stolen or nearly stolen in the Surrey area (apparently Ash isn't Surrey Heath so we got that wrong!) please contact me and I'll put you in touch with lovely Stephen who will do his best to get to the bottom of all this. (
From chatting to Stephen I discovered he used to have seven Huntaways when he was sheep farmer in NZ (also a 1/4 Beardie who was useless in the snow) so he is very empathetic to how we all feel and will give this case his very best shot - if those concerned would actually report the thefts that is!
Here's my original possibly slightly inaccurate posting - perhaps the result of Internet Chinese whispers or who knows people who didn't think the police would be as interested as they obviously are! Please come forward if your dog has been stolen and let's help Stephen round up the thieves.
And please lay off the two blokes in the red van if you can! Treat all red van men with caution of course, just stop before wrestling them to the ground and searching their van please!

Dog thieves seem to be currently operating in the Surrey Heath area. We have heard that three dogs have been stolen from the Ash Vale area over the past few days – a Yorkie, a Labradoodle pup and a Labrador. There was an attempted theft of two Labradors from Lightwater Country Park over the weekend. It appears that lone female dog-walkers are being targeted; reports are that the thieves are two men driving a red van. Be extra vigilant and please report any suspicious activity to the police.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

And now for something completely different

I know it's rare in this column, but we still need some lovely foster homes for six of Rhona's cats. Wonderful people have offered to take the four dogs and two of the cats. But we're still not completely sorted. Read the story by clicking here if you're wondering what on earth I'm talking about!
Now you don't need to take all six cats, two groups of three would be ideal. Or smaller groups.
Tailwaggers tries to help all pet owners, but I am really not that experienced with cats so apologies if I use the wrong breed names etc! I'm learning fast.
Rhona has her scan tomorrow and her pre-op assessment so more will be known by the weekend. But you may have to be able to move quickly as if they decide Rhona needs surgery ASAP we must be ready to help. She is feeling very poorly, her diabetes is very unstable due to this huge growth in her stomach and we're all worried about her being alone as she does keep having hypos.

Here are the cats:
All black, 10 years old and very timid indeed. May is named after the Mildmay Hospital in Hackney where Rhona used to work as a palliative care nurse. She took in little May when her owner suffered brain damage as a side effect of Aids. May spends a lot of her time in a motorbike helmet box on top of a cupboard as it makes her feel safe. As Rhona doesn't get many visitors, May hasn't had much chance to socialise so she needs someone who probably doesn't have any other cats or dogs and will be very patient with her as she will be very timid. Rhona says it took years for May to accept her. She may just stay in her box and creep out for food at night if it is left for her - so in many ways May might not be such a difficult foster as you might not even know she is there!

He was four last Christmas and is friendly a bit on the fat side. Probably fine with other cats. Probably okay with older dogs used to cats.

22 years old, very good old lady and much like Lemmy for sociability.

There are three more young cats needing fostering who are in an outside run, but all are litter trained and friendly and may enjoy as foster in a house. However, Rhona feels she will need help catching them to put them in cat boxes as they won't want to be boxed and Rhona is not that agile because of her health problems.

He is a gorgeous grey Maine Coon. He needs a groom as the last time he was done is four weeks ago and has been hard to catch since - but once caught he is very good and enjoys being groomed. He is good natured.

She is a very small orangey female Maine Coon. She is very friendly.

He is a stunning very pale snow-spotted Bengal with beautiful blue eyes. The Maine Coons are brother and sister. The Bengal was born a day apart from them and all are approx 2-3 years old.

Rhona lives in Workington, Cumbria.

Please spread the word, we urgently need these cats fostered for two to three weeks which is what we estimate will be Rhona's stay in hospital - but obviously we can't be sure how long it will be a this stage - that's just a guess. If you can help can you email me on or leave a comment here as some people have trouble with my email!

Thank you! And please do spread this message to cat forums and rescue sites!

The latest designer crossbreed?

I thought I'd pass this on... genetic engineering being what it is how long before someone gives this one ago.... Needs a better name though if its going to take off.... how about a Pussadoodle Coneypony? Any better ideas?

And what is the dog ingredient? Are those Chihuahua front legs? Here's the press release to go with it - brave attempt to justify the hours spent in Photoshop creating this! I love PR!

Meet Max, officially Britain's perfect pet. He’s an Equicanigattus - a crossbreed like nothing ever seen before. The result of extensive research by MORE TH>N pet insurance, Max has the ears of a rabbit, face of a cat, body of a golden retriever and tail of a horse, and is what the nation’s
animal lovers would most like to have as their furry, four-legged companion.

Based on comprehensive interviews with 2,000 British pet lovers and interpreted by MORE TH>N’s team of pet experts, the study was undertaken to create a composite image of the nation’s perfect animal – the result of which was a cuddly cocktail of 49% dog, 35% cat, 9% horse and 7% rabbit!

Research also included analysis of various canine and feline personality traits, allowing MORE TH>N to create the psychological profile of the nation’s perfect pet; Max has high energy levels, loves daily walks and sleeps for an average of 9 hours, 27 minutes a day. He’s the proud owner of a loud, husky St. Bernard-style bark - ideal for warning-off unwelcome visitors - and true to the notion of ‘man’s best friend’, Max is loyal to his family, choosing only to show affection towards household members.

MORE TH>N’s Pete Markey comments: “This experiment has provided great insight into exactly what it is about their animals people love, both in terms of looks and personality, and it goes to show what a pet-obsessed nation we are. However, as much as Max looks cute and cuddly – and we’ve had great fun creating him – there’s a serious message to get across and it’s one of responsible pet ownership. Making sure you’ve got adequate insurance for your animal is a good place to start”.

For more information on pet insurance, or for a quote, call 0800 107 1905 or visit

Max hates to be alone, can he stay with you?

Been asked to give this one a mention, sep anx is ghastly - poor Max.

I just wanted to get in touch with you to see if you might be able to help us with an appeal for a GSD dog called Max that is currently in an Oldies Club foster home. Oldies Club is a registered charity that uses a network of foster homes to help find loving forever homes for older dogs that find themselves in rescue.

Poor Max is suffering from severe separation anxiety since coming in to us and cannot currently be left at all without becoming extremely panic stricken and destructive. Unfortunately his current foster home is unable to cope and we need to move Max urgently to a foster/permanent home where he will not be left at all initially and his issues can be worked on.

The current fosterer needs us to move Max urgently in the next few days but unfortunately we just don't have a suitable foster home for him to go to at the moment. His situation is complicated in that he's not 100% with other dogs so finding a fosterer who is home all day with no other pets is proving to be an extremely difficult task.

All the details of his case can be seen on our website here.......

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Please be careful

Dog thieves seem to be currently operating in the Surrey Heath area. We have heard that three dogs have been stolen from the Ash Vale area over the past few days – a Yorkie, a Labradoodle pup and a Labrador. There was an attempted theft of two Labradors from Lightwater Country Park over the weekend. It appears that lone female dog-walkers are being targeted; reports are that the thieves are two men driving a red van. Be extra vigilant and please report any suspicious activity to the police.

Something afoot?

Oscar, my Beardie, was very poorly on Saturday morning. I woke up to find him quite altered. He'd been sick several times and Tess - unusually - had not attempted to clear it up. Closer inspection revealed it was undigested dinner from the night before. I'd fed both dogs the same thing - some Naturediet from the same packet and some sliced cooked chicken that I'd bought for the kids pack lunches but not needed.
Both dogs had eaten the same food, yet Tess was fine. Both dogs had drunk from the same bowl and pond.
Oscar went out and started straining to go to the loo. No matter how hard he tried nothing much emerged, but what did was tinged with blood. He took himself to his dug-out hole under a bush and lay down. He seemed very depressed and limp. He was so still I was afraid he was dead.
I phoned our new vet and the receptionist could sense the panic in my voice. There was a smell about Oscar that reminded me of old Sally when she had parvo. The vets were lovely - come immediately they urged, even though surgery was over.
Oscar was not his usual self at the vets. He kept sinking to the floor to sleep. No paws on anyone's shoulders. A little flick of the tail if anyone talked to him, but he looked terrible.
His temperature was high, he had a lot of gas but no obvious painful blockages.
The vet gave him an injection to stop him being sick and an antibiotic jab. Plus I went home with all the rehydration tools in case he stopped drinking.
She said that while he was inoculated it was best to be cautious and consider it might be parvo and not let him mix with other dogs just in case he was contagious.
It was time to take him home, watch him closely. Ring the on-call vet if he got worse and bring him back on Monday for more tests.
Poor old Oscar, I'd never seen him so quiet.
While I was bathing him to get rid of the stink I noticed something odd about one of his paws. It was a front paw. At first I thought he'd stepped in some of the shampoo so I tried to wash it off. But no matter how much I rinsed I couldn't shift it.
When I looked closer there was a sharp edge to this patch of gooey stuff and wrapped around a bit of the hair inbetween the pads was something that looked almost glue-like.
I spent about half an hour after the bath using paper towels to scrape the stuff out of Oscar's pad. I remain completely baffled as to what it was. It had no smell but a very odd texture indeed. It made his pad suddenly shiny and smooth like it had made it waterproof.
His pad isn't sore now its gone and has returned to normal.
Yesterday at the vets his temperature was perfect and he was back to giving Beardie hugs.
Could he have absorbed some strange chemical via his pad? What was it and where on earth did he get it? Did he try to lick it off and was it that that made him sick?
Best guesses please?
It was clear and gel-like. It wasn't so sticky that it had collected gravel from the ground or stuck to Oscar's copious fluffy leg hair. But it seemed to have bonded so very strongly with Oscar's paws. It could only be removed by scraping with a fingernail.
He'd not been walked on pavements, just common land. Tess's paws are fine.
Weird! But a huge relief to have him back to his old self.
He's such a clown about taking his tablets. For such a big dog he does eat remarkably delicately. Oscar can easily detect a tiny tablet fragment in a lump of cream cheese wrapped up in a piece of ham. Tess has her placebo parcel swallowed as soon as I give it her, but Oscar is still chewing minutes later and trying to catch an ejected pill shard before Tess gets to it is an art form!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

If you don't ask...

Last night just before I went to bed I thought I'd have one last try to see if we could find some foster homes for Rhona's pets.
For those of you not used to Twitter, it's a social networking site where you are limited to 140 characters in every message to write.
I sent a message to probably the King of the Twitterers @Wossy - Jonathan Ross.
I told him to read this blog and asked for him to reTweet the message to his followers.
As he must get thousands of messages every day as I pressed send I didn't imagine anything would happen - it would be lost in the Twittersphere.
I told others on Twitter I was off to bed, then suddenly noticed a lot of people retweeting my message.
Jonathan hadn't just told his followers about Rhona he had personally donated £500 on my Tailwaggers Just Giving page next to this blog!
He also sent a message saying sadly he already had so many pets he couldn't foster the himself but hoped the donation would help.
The publicity he gave to the case has also resulted in several very promising people coming forward who may be able to foster some of the pets.
I went to bed with the biggest smile on my face. In just a few days Rhona's situation is already looking a lot less bleak.
On a sad note, last night our secretary tried to call Rhona to check she was okay. There was no reply and Carol was very worried as she didn't have an exact address at that point.
Her hunch had been correct. Rhona had been unconscious in the kitchen, her diabetes has been getting more and more unstable as this growth has got bigger.
We now have her home address and we'll be checking she's okay in case this happens again.
It's obviously urgent that Rhona gets treated.
Please read the previous blogs for the whole story.
Jonathan Ross is so kind. I can't believe he found the time to read this little blog.
Just shows, messing around on the computer when you should be putting the kids to bed does make a differnce!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Helping Rhona

Last blog I told you about a case Tailwaggers has got involved in. Things have moved on. Animal Aunts will be sending someone very special to look after Rhona's four dogs and eight cats while she gets her important scan.
The growth is growing very quickly and she is in great discomfort and her clothes are no longer fitting so we can't delay.
When she goes in for her operation it is likely to mean at least two to three weeks in hospital. Therefore dog sitters don't sound such an economic solution with there being so many pets. Although, realistically, it may be the only choice - if so Tailwaggers will need to launch an urgent appeal to help fund it. Roughly it will cost £84 a day plus the sitters food and travel - so if anyone can contribute via the Just Giving advert next to this blog I'm sure it would make a big difference.
The other alternative is short-term fostering for her assortment of mainly rescued pets.
There are two young feisty Patterdales (Ronnie and Reggie) who are not good with other pets and need to stay muzzled around them.
A gentle brother and sister Labrador cross, one of whom is blind and diabetic.
Four indoor cats including one of extreme old age. And four outdoor cats in their own run.
The Patterdales and LabXs can easily be split into two groups, in fact that may be preferable!
If anyone can foster any of these pets in the very near future can you please get in touch?
My email address is
What has been surprising is how there doesn't seem to be any other charity that Rhona can turn to. She has been told no by everyone.
They are based in Workington, Cumbria.

Please read the earlier blog for more info...

Monday, 3 August 2009

Any bright ideas?

I'm Chairman of a wonderful and ancient little charity called Tailwaggers and occasionally we hear of people who really do need some help with their pets and we try to help them out. Here's a tricky one, anyone got any bright ideas?
Carol our secretary spends hours talking to people who ask for help and this time I think she really did very well to get the full story from a very private and gentle person. Here's her report...

I have spoken to a lovely lady today and I am a bit frustrated that I can't make an impact on her problem and so I am really looking for any other ideas/contacts that might be useful.

This lady has lived in London for most of her life but moved to"the middle of nowhere" in West Cumbria four years ago to look after her parents who were both suffering from Alzheimers. She was unable to work so has not established any friendships. I get the impression that she now lives on her own apart from four dogs, four outdoor cats and four indoor cats that she has either taken from rescue homes or have adopted her.

She was a nurse specialising in palliative care when in London. About for weeks ago she noticed her own abdomen was very enlarged and she had a scan last weekend which has shown a very large mass. She now needs to go to Gateshead to have a CT scan and the doctor has advised her to do this within the next couple of weeks.

She has only once left her animals and hired a company that looks after pets in your own home. On her return she found that her instructions had not been complied with and one of the dogs had died and one was badly injured through the dogs not being muzzled.

She has no source of income and is living from the proceeds of the sale of her house when she moved to Cumbria. Even if kennelling was a financial possibility it would be very difficult for some of the animals, one of the dogs is blind and some of the cats are very elderly, one is 22.

She has called everyone she can think of, the local dog warden has no idea at all how to help and the Dogs Trust gave her our number.

I suggested Cinnamon Trust but I think they may only help senior citizens. She said she will ring them but from her nursing days she thinks they only help terminally ill patients and she doesn't know if her illness is terminal yet. I suggested that maybe local CPL might temporarily foster some of the cats and could she contact the rescue homes that a couple of the dogs have come from.

I took an instant liking to this lady, we are both diabetic and both lived in Streatham and conversation seemed to flow very easily, otherwise I don't think she would have told me so much about her situation. I know I am probably clutching at straws but it would be great if we could make a difference to this lady. I did say that we might be able to help with a donation for kennelling fees but I don't think it is a realistic option for her.
In the past I have had some really wonderful caring pet sitters and I feel sure this would be what is needed here. Tailwaggers will contribute, but if any housesitting agency could offer charity rates that would be a real help.
Do email me if anyone has any bright ideas and if anyone would like to contribute to Tailwaggers there's a Just Giving device by the side of this blog.

Update: Just come off the phone from talking to Rhona. So I'm adding some new notes.

Tailwaggers are going to book her a dog sitter for the scan, but she'll almost certainly need an operation which will mean two or three weeks in hospital. She had an ultrasound on Friday and blood tests but the growth was so large they couldn't get it on the screen. If the tumour markers are high she'll be operated on in Gateshead (a very long way away) and if low it'll be Carlisle. She has been a palliative care nurse so is realistic about her prognosis.

I've phoned Cinnamon Trust and they were lovely - but quite firm that people had to be old or terminally ill - and this lady is still awaiting her diagnosis. On this blog and on Twitter others have said they have helped people who didn't fit into those definitions - but that may be down to personal choice locally. If the local Cinnamon Trust rep were to be aware of this ladies plight she may decide to go against protocol, but I've no way of reaching them.

What we need to to find some foster homes for the operation - which will mean a two to three week stay in hospital.

There are two young Patterdales that are tricky and need to wear Baskerville muzzles around other dogs/cats. Both have allergies and are on meds. Good with people just very bad with other dogs and when unsupervised.

Two older Lab crosses - one of which is blind and diabetic so on meds. The Labs and the Patterdales could be split into two for fostering as the Patterdales aren't great with the blind Lab cross. These dogs were from Animal Concern.

There are four indoor cats (all rescues) and four cats kept outdoor in a run.

This isn't strictly speaking a Tailwaggers type problem but I can't see that there is any charity it does neatly fit!

If anyone can offer any ideas or help please do get in touch.

Best wishes

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Spot the difference

I see the Sunday Telegraph has picked up on our Dalmatian story in the August issue (Click here). Let's hope that the Kennel Club do the right thing and allow these new-improved Dalmatians to be introduced into the gene pool. After all they allowed the Boxer people to mate their dogs with Corgis to introduce the tail-less mutation and side-step the tail docking ban. The Dalmatian case seems so much more worthy and literally black and white!
And as for the British Dalmatian club wanting science... click here...

Which of these is the Pointer Backcross? Can you tell the difference? Answer at the end...

Here's our original story by Claire Horton-Bussey:

Dalmatians are unique - they stand alone from other breeds in having high levels of uric acid, predisposing them to bladder stones, a lifethreatening condition. In fact, Dalmatians are not only different to all other dog breeds - but all mammal species bar the great apes! All mammals excrete waste products in their urine, but only humans, chimps, gorillas, orangutans and Dalmatians always produce elevated levels of uric acid in their urine and blood.
So why is the Dalmatian
different from other breeds?
Well, the characteristic spots
are believed to be implicated, as
there seems to be an association
between the gene for high uric
acid and spotting. So, while
breeders over the last 200 years
or so have been perfecting the
coat pattern and selecting for
the ideal spotting, they have
inadvertently also been selecting
for high uric acid. Today, every
registered Dalmatian has high
uric acid (HUA).
Problems associated with HUA
include the production of bladder
stones and ‘sludge’, which can
block the urinary pathway so the
dog cannot urinate. This is much
more common in males than
females, due to their narrower
urinary tract.
Immediate veterinary
assistance is required when a
dog blocks, as it will ultimately
lead to death. Treatment
options include backflushing,
where a catheter is inserted to
wash the stones back into the
bladder, or surgery to remove
the obstructions and clean out
the bladder.
Once treated, the condition
can reoccur. Medical/dietary
management is possible once
the blockage has been resolved.
If this is not successful in
preventing further blocking
by sludge or stones, a vet may
decide to permanently reroute
the urinary tube so it no longer
passes through the narrow
penis, an operation called
Although all Dalmatians have
high levels of uric acid, not all
dogs will block. But many will.
In a stone survey of 2,118 dogs,
commissioned by the Dalmatian
Club of America Foundation
(DCAF), Dr Joseph Bartges
reported that 483 (22.8 per cent)
had a history of stone disease.
Dr Bartges, of the University of
Tennessee Vet Medical Center,
is recognised as the world’s
authority on Dalmatian stone
disease, and he is now working
on two further DCAF-funded
projects, including research into
urinary stones and kidney failure.
In another study, vet and
Dalmatian breeder Dr Susanne
Hughes scanned 377 Dalmatian
bladders by ultrasound and
found that 71 per cent of the
males and 25 per cent of the
females had significant ‘sludge’
in their bladder.
As for ‘blocking’ - which is
potentially life-threatening -
Dr Irvin Krekenkamp, former
Chairperson of the Dalmatian
Club of America Health and
Research Committee has done a
cross-study statistical analysis,
and believes the incidence of
blockage requiring intervention
in males is at least 10 per cent,
probably higher. Dr Krekenkamp
says, “Based on the occurrence
rate, and based on prevailing
veterinary charges, this imposes
a $35,000,000 to $50,000,000
per year expenditure to the
unknowing pet-buying public to
provide health care for these
dogs (in the US).”
The same mutations have been
found in Russian Black Terriers
and Bulldogs, but because it
isn’t found universally, breeders
can eliminate the condition by
selective breeding. This option
is not available to Dalmatian
breeders, since all Dalmatians
have HUA.
The solution, therefore,
can only be found by importing
genes from outside the breed.
Dr Bannasch says, “In recent
years, dogs that are about 99
per cent Dalmatian and one per
cent Pointer have been bred,
successfully eliminating the
elevated uric acid trait. The
result is a healthy dog that looks
like a Dalmatian, maintains the
Dalmatian breed characteristics
and is genetically almost
Sounds pretty straightforward.
But the concept of having an
outcross - even a 14th-generation
one - in a pedigree breed is
causing outrage among breed
purists both sides of the pond.
Dalmatian-Pointer breeding is
not a new concept. Back in 1973,
in America, Dr Robert Schaible, a
geneticist, respected Dalmatian
breeder, and member of the
Dalmatian Club of America,
decided to breed an AKC
pedigree Champion Pointer to a
pedigree Dalmatian dam, to try
to correct the uric acid problem
in Dallies.
In the early generations,
spotting was noticeably different.
Low uric acid (LUA) Dalmatians
often had smaller, ‘frostyedged’
spots. But by breeding
the best first-crosses back to
pedigree Dalmatians, and then
using pedigree Dalmatians
subsequently, the spotting
issue has been resolved and
the HUA and LUA dogs are now
After four generations,
and with the blessing of the
Dalmatian Club of America
board of directors, Dr Schaible
did manage to persuade the
American Kennel Club to register
two of his LUA Dalmatians back
in 1981. However, this decision
was put on hold once the news
reached club members - many of
whom were outraged. At a vote,
62 per cent were in favour of
stopping the AKC registration of
the outcross descendants, and
52 per cent were not in favour
of continuing the testing and
breeding of Dalmatian-Pointer
The backcross line continued
quietly, away from the show
scene, with Dr Schaible and other
LUA enthusiasts keeping the line
alive. Interest was renewed in
the LUA project, with the start
of Dr Bannasch’s research, and
Dalmatian breeder Denise Powell
led the revival - using one of Dr
Schaible’s bitches to start her
own LUA breeding programme.
There isn’t unanimous
acceptance of the backcross in
America, but support is growing.
In 2008, the club board held a
ballot, asking if it was time for
the Dalmatian Club of America
to discuss the possibility of AKC
registration of the descendants
of the Dalmatian-Pointer cross.
The status quo was upheld with
279 voting yes, and 324 voting
no, essentially prohibiting any
discussion of registration or a
path toward registration. This
outraged backcross supporters,
who questioned if it’s legitimate
or ethical for a club to act against
breed welfare for the sake of socalled
But interest in the LUA
breeding programme is gaining
momentum - and the word is
spreading. On a website launched
prior to the October 2008 ballot, had asked
supporters if there was video
footage of a blocked Dalmatian
trying to urinate. If anyone is
in any doubt as to how serious
a problem high uric acid can
be, they should read Dalmatian
owner Joy Benner’s response:
“I have three videos.
Unfortunately, they cannot
be shared because they are
in my mind and play over and
over again. Let me see if I can
describe them to you... I see
my sweet boy Sam, whining
and bowing and trying over
and over again to urinate. I
then see him in the vet’s office
after having had an emergency
urethrostomy, with a long bloody
incision, but he lifts his head
when he sees me and wags his
tail and tries to get up to come
home. And finally, I see him
dead on the floor of the vet
specialist’s office, euthanized
before he was nine years old,
due to development of dilated
cardiomyopathy, the result of a
restricted protein diet his entire
life. It is as real to me today as
it was when it happened.
“To those who say that the
incidence of blockage is a low
percentage, I can only answer
that if it happens to you, the
incidence is 100 per cent. Some
of you might be interested in
the cost of all Sam’s treatments,
special diet, and medication
over his lifetime. I pulled all
my receipts after he died, and
it cost close to $6,000 in total
(that includes the cost of the
euthanization). The love he gave
me... well, it was beyond price,
but then so was the anguish and
grief when he was gone. I would
not want to see one more dog or
person go through this.”
So why would anyone be against
introducing a dog into the breed
that, 14 generations ago, was
crossed to a Pointer - a breed
already conformationally very
similar to the Dally and could
well have originally featured in
the Dalmatian’s history at one
point? If it can prevent even one
dog suffering as Joy Benner’s dog
did - and as many others do, in
America, the UK and elsewhere
- why isn’t this LUA breeding
programme being embraced by
all Dally lovers?
Numerous reasons are given
- that the spots aren’t good
enough, that Pointer traits or
related health problems could
be unleashed in the Dalmatian
breed, and that the research
into the LUA dogs isn’t sufficient.
No stone unturned
These are pretty spurious
arguments, it seems. Firstly, the
spotting issue has been resolved
and there are numerous photos
on the internet of perfectly
spotted LUA Dalmatians.
Secondly, after 14 generations,
any throwback traits will surely
have presented by now. And
thirdly, there’s no reason to
be suspicious of the research
conducted. No LUA dogs to
date have formed stones and
researchers have no reason to
suspect that they will.
The real reason behind
many people’s antipathy to the
outcross project is breed purity
- when, ironically, it’s the very
thing that has inadvertently
caused the problem of HUA.
Ron Zimmerman is dedicated
to the LUA cause. With his
ex-wife, he bred and showed
Dalmatians for about 20 years,
and had 40 AKC Champions.
“During that time we had
multiple encounters with stone
disease. One particular dog,
whom I loved very much, had
to be euthanized, and as I held
him for the last time I made
a promise that I would do
something about the disease.”
Ron is suspicious of the
arguments given against LUA
dogs, saying, “Regarding the
argument that we have to
be extremely careful about
introducing alien genes into our
beloved breed, to the point that
people would sacrifice breed
health - I actually have a difficult
time believing that argument is
Ron goes on to say that
kennel club studbooks are
notorious for their “lack of
complete integrity” and that all
breeds were originally developed
from disparate sources. Indeed,
until relatively recently, it was
the norm to introduce genes
from any dog a breeder thought
might improve the breed, and,
of course, accidental matings
sometimes take place, too.
“So I just can’t quite imagine
that people really get that
worked up about the prospect of
a loss of ‘purity’ that remote,”
Ron says. “The stud book
was open until the late 40s.
Either these people really are
Eugenicists at heart, or this is a
disingenuous argument.”
And now the issue of LUA
Dalmatians has reached our
shores, with breeder Julie Evans,
of the Tyrodal affix, trying to
import a LUA puppy or adult from
Denise Powell. Julie has been in
Dalmatians for 40 years and cares
deeply for the health and wellbeing
of the breed. For her, it
makes perfect sense to introduce
a Pointer backcross, to eliminate
high uric acid in the breed.
But because the AKC hasn’t
registered the LUA dogs, the dogs
cannot automatically go on the
KC register when imported.
Stars and spots
Julie says she has approached
the Kennel Club and they have
said that if two Championship
show judges verify that the
LUA dog is a good example of
a Dalmatian, the dog can be
registered. Initially, it will have
three asterisks next to its name.
Its first registered progeny will
have two asterisks, the second
generation will have one, and
the fourth will be asterisk-free
and recognised entirely as a
purebred Dally.
Julie herself is a
Championship judge, but she
isn’t sure if she’ll find another
to stand up and be counted
- even though the dog would
be 99.98 per cent the same
as an ‘ordinary’ Dalmatian,
genetically. “And it’s not as
though other breeders have got
to use a LUA if they are accepted
over here. But those of us that
choose to breed a ‘healthier’
Dal want the right to do so!”
Julie is hoping that the
UK Dalmatian clubs will be
sympathetic to the LUA cause,
but if the American 30-year
saga is anything to go by, where
the membership still has to be
won round despite support from
many officers, she could be in
for a long wait. We’ll keep you
informed of her progress! :
ANSWER: the one at the bottom is the Pointer backcross.
Illustration by Kevin Brockbank and copyright Dogs Today.