Running my own rescue I hear a lot of things from other people about rescue dogs. Here's just a few:
"Rescue dogs always come with behavioral issues."
"You never know a rescue dogs history."
"Dogs end up in shelters because they didn't make good pets."
"The type of dog I want can't be found in a shelter."
"Dogs from shelters are always sickly"
All of these statements are common misconceptions of rescue or shelter dogs.
Misconception #1 and in my opinion the BIGGEST misconception: Dogs from abusive backgrounds never make good family pets.
Most animals coming from an abusive past will make a full recovery with just a little TLC. In fact, they are likely to be a bit more devoted and loving when compared to dogs who came from non-abusive backgrounds.
Dogs are extremely forgiving, we could learn a thing or two from them. Just take a look at the dogs below, they were all part of Micheal Vick's dog fighting ring and they all went on to have lives full of love and snuggles. Some are even registered therapy dogs, or have received good citizenship awards.
*Look for a future post on my feelings regarding the phrase, "it's all in how you raise them." It's not and these dogs are a prime example.
*Photos and bio's taken from www.barkpost.com/vicktory-dogs/
Misconception #2 : All rescue dogs come with behavioral issues.
While it's true that some dogs do have their share of behavioral problems, that's true of any dog regardless of whether they are a rescue or not. For example: our Lab, Milo, came from a breeder and has more medical and behavioral issues than any of our rescues. When he was just 8 weeks old he started displaying signs of extreme anxiety. He'd projectile poop all over his crate when left alone and would spend hours crying and whining himself into a tizzy. While its true that many behavioral issues can stem from lack of training or pack leadership, some dogs are wired wrong and will have issues regardless of their up bringing or training.
One of the many benefits of adopting a dog from a rescue is the use of foster homes. While waiting for their forever family to find them, dogs spend time in a foster home where the foster parents have a chance to assess and get to know the dogs personality and needs. The foster family will know if a dog is crate trained or has separation anxiety. They'll know and likely begin to work with the dog on any behavioral issues, prior to their adoption.
Misconception #3 : Dogs from shelters or rescues are always sickly
While it's true that some dogs do pick up Kennel cough or upper respiratory infections while being in a shelter, you are much more likely to get an honest report on a dogs health from a shelter or rescue than you are a breeder. A breeder is out to make money and once you walk away with your prized new family member, their hands are clean of any responsibility to that animals health (unless they guarantee health in their contract which normally is not the case). Plus, Kennel Cough or an upper respiratory infection is cured with simple antibiotics or even just a few days of rest and TLC, most times antibiotics are included in the adoption fee if a dog has the sniffles come adoption day.
It's always possible to get a dog from a shelter and find out down the line it has medical issues, but this is true of any dog. Take our lab, Milo, for instance. My husband was adamant that his first dog be from a breeder (sigh..he knows better now) so along came Milo...along with seizures, EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency), chronic ear infections and bad anxiety. He was purchased from a legitimate breeder. We met both his parents, he had all his vaccines, he was supposed to be a happy and healthy pure black lab. On Average his medical expenses exceed $200 a month and that does not include food or other basic care items.
Misconception #4 : Shelter or rescue dogs obviously are not good pets, or their original owner's wouldn't have gotten rid of them.
This couldn't be farther from the truth. There are a lot of reasons why dogs could end up in a shelter or rescue.
Misconception #5: The breed I want isn't in shelters or rescues.
This, I have to say, is one of the biggest misconceptions out there. Some people think shelters or rescues are full of only pitbulls (which I adore) or mutts, this isn't true. Twenty five percent of shelter intakes are purebreds. It might take a little elbow grease to find the perfect furry addition, but they're out there, waiting for their forever homes too!
As my husband has experienced through the adoption of his first rescue dog, Winnie, the love from a rescue dog is different from the love of a purchased puppy. There's just an appreciation they have that other dogs don't. Plus, when you chose to adopt you save two lives, the one you adopted and the one that will fill the kennel that's now empty.
It's not a pleasant topic, but it's an important one and one that all dog owners should be aware of and on the look out for; WORMS!
When my brother moved to Pittsburgh for school he felt a bit lonely in his apartment so he adopted Nikki, a Beagle/Chihuahua mix and Katrina survivor. She spent several months bumming it around Pittsburgh with my brother, sleeping in hubcaps when we was at the garage with his buddies and peeing on his pillow when he stayed out too late. Eventually she made her way back to my parents house where she ended up bunking permanently. I'll never forget that first night.
My friends and family have often referred to me as the "dog whisperer" so it was no surprise that Nikki choose my bed to sleep in that first night. No biggy, not like I didn't welcome the furry snuggles. Little did I know I would get a lot more than just some snuggles.
"Bri, it's time to get up."
Mom opens the shades and I hear a small, but audible gasp.
"Bri, go in the shower right now. Don't touch your hair or look in the mirror, just get in the shower and make sure you wash your hair really, really well."
"Mom, what are you talking about?"
"Just go, Bri. Into the shower, now!"
I stumbled my way to the bathroom and closed the door, reached for the shower and then pass a glance into the mirror.
"What the hell?! What's in my hair? It looks like rice..."
I didn't know at the time, but what was in my hair were tapeworms. Nikki had been given a dewormer at some point before coming to my parents house and the little buggers vacated her rump and crawled out to die on my pillow and in my hair!
*Insert gagging noises*
Now, for the different types of worms
Tapeworms are one of the most common worms to be found hiding out inside your dogs intestinal tract. Tapeworm larva or eggs can be ingested by your dog when they snack on the carcass of deceased animals or rodents. Tapeworms can also be contracted by ingesting fleas or flea eggs. Chances are, if your dog has had fleas, they likely have Tapeworms.
Tapeworms are composed of up to 90 segments (see the picture at the beginning of this article for a better visual) and the last segment is what breaks off and can be seen in stool or hanging around the underside of the tail. They can grow to be 4 to 6 inches long and require a prescription from your veterinarian to kill off a infestation, over the counter dewormers will not work on tapeworms.
Roundworm are small worms that most puppies and kittens are born with. The worms are introduced in moms uterus, but they can also be transferred through moms milk. They can grow up to 5 inches in length and take root in the intestines. Eggs or larva are present in stool so if fecal matter is consumed by another animal, they too will contract Roundworm.
Female Roundworm can produce as many as 200,000 eggs per day! Roundworm eggs are protected by a hard outer shell making it possible for them to survive for years in soil.
Roundworm will need to be treated by a veterinary as the over the counter dewormers will only kill adults, not eggs. If left untreated Roundworm can cause death as blockages can form.
Whipworms are most commonly found in adult dogs and resemble a piece of thread with a single engorged end. They are seldom seen in stool samples and for that reason can be hard to diagnose. They thrive in the cecum or first compartment of the large intestine and shed few eggs making diagnosis even more difficult.
Whipworms are most commonly ingested through contaminated food, water or soil, but can also be found in the flesh of dead animals or feces. Whipworm larva can live for months or even years in the right environment.
Dogs who have contracted Whipworms are likely to have chronic weight loss issues and often present with bowel movements covered in mucus, especially the end of a fecal deposit. They can also present with symptoms of dehydration or anemia, but can be asymptomatic as well. Treatment is often administered based on circumstantial evidence and consist of medication to kill both adult worms and larva.
Hookworm larvae hatch from eggs and can remain active for weeks or months given the right conditions. They are very small parasites with fang like teeth who take up residency in the small intestine and suck blood.
Puppies most commonly contract Hookworm from their mothers during feeding, but adult dogs contract the parasite through inadvertently swallowing larvae when sniffing contaminated feces or soil or when grooming their feet after having walked through polluted ground. Hookworm can also be contracted through the consumption of contaminated water.
Symptoms of Hookworm infestation are; diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, weakness or lack of stamina. The lining of the nostrils, ears and lips could also be pale in color and if larvae have enter the lungs a cough could be present. Stool samples from Hookworm infested dogs are often dark and tarry, or the dog may present with symptoms of constipation.
If not diagnosed and treated accordingly, Hookworms can be fatal, especially in puppies or dogs with compromised immune systems such as the elderly.
Unfortunately, if your dog goes outside (I certainly hope they do!) or has contact with other animals, there isn't a 100% fool proof way to prevent worms, but there are a few things you can do to decrease the likelihood of an infestation.
1. Picking up moon pies regularly is super important. Worms like the moist, dark environment not to mention an abundance of poop in the yard can be smelly and pose other health risks to your dog.
2. Wash your dogs blankets and other bedding regularly. Washing will remove debris and help to prevent fleas or other parasites/pest from nesting or breeding in or on your dogs bed or blankets.
3. Steer clear of moon pies left by other animals while walking your dog. Dogs like to walk with their noses to the ground, taking in the sights and smells of other furry critters that came before them. Sadly, this means they are often smelling the feces and urine of other animals, other animals that may have a worm infestation.
4. Keep your dog up-to-date on flea treatment and Heartworm preventative (if you are not familiar with Heartworms please read my previous blog post here). Depending on which Heartworm preventative you are using, many of them also protect against certain intestinal parasites, as well.
5. Have your dogs fecal sample checked frequently and talk with your veterinary about the best ways to keep your dog, based on yours and their lifestyles, free from worms.
Please keep in mind, the above (4) worm types are not the only types of worms a dog can contract. There are several others such as Lungworm and Heartworms, these are just the most common.
So remember, if a family member brings home a new fur kid and that fur kid decides to sleep with you, don't be surprised if you wake up with rice on your pillow!
Most dog owners know the common foods that dogs shouldn't have like grapes or chocolate, but there are many others that are just as dangerous.
Below is a list of "human" foods that should never be given to dogs.
Alcohol - Alcohol has the same effect on dogs as humans only it takes 1/10 the amount to cause serious, life altering symptoms which include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma, abnormal blood flow and death.
Chocolate/ Caffeine/ Coffee - They all contain Methylxanthines that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and death.
If your dog steals a chocolate chip cookie or your kids slips Fido a piece of chocolate under the table, relax, it takes a lot more chocolate than that to cause an issue. It would take a pound of chocolate to be considered poisonous for a 20 pound dog, and the average chocolate bar contains 2 to 3 ounces of chocolate, so it would take 2 to 3 candy bars to poison a 10 pound dog. Of course, the type of chocolate consumed will play a big part in determining treatment; dark chocolate is the most dangerous and white chocolate, the least.
Grapes / Raisins - No ones sure of the exact reason why grapes and raisins have the effect they do on dogs but research shows dogs who consume even small amounts develop kidney failure and quite rapidly.
Garlic / Onions - There's a common misconception that garlic can be fed in small doses to ward off fleas or ticks and to treat some skin alignments in dogs. Garlic, in fact, is very toxic even in small doses. Garlic damages red blood cells and will lead to anemia. small doses are equivalent to poisoning your dog slowly over time.
While onions are less toxic they can have the same effect.
Raw Eggs - Raw eggs use to be thought to give dogs a shiny coat, that is not the case. The enzymes in raw eggs can interfere with the absorption of Vitamin B which can lead to skin irritations and even a dull, flat coat. Not to mention the potential for Salmonella or E.Coli.
Macadamia Nuts - As few as 6 raw or roasted Macadamia nuts are enough to cause muscle tremors, weakness or even paralysis, vomiting, depression and hypothermia.
Xylitol - which is found in some bake goods, candy, gum, some pops and other sweets can lead to an increase in insulin levels which can result in a drop in blood sugar levels and cause seizures or death. If your dogs gets a hold of a pack of gum and ingest it, you have a major problem.
If your dog ingest any of these things, call your veterinary doctor right away. Inducing vomiting using Hydrogen Peroxide (1 teaspoon per 10lbs) may be the best course of action, but depending on when you found the culprit and their snack, it may no longer be an option.
Dogs are sneaky and are almost always on the prowl for something to munch on so be sure to keep food up and off counters, and out of reach of talented paws or long noses that may know how to open cupboards or refrigerators!
With over 10 years of experience through ownership and rescue work, I hope to share my knowledge and insight to happier, healthier fur kids. Have a question, feel free to ask!