Search Results for: therapy dogs


Therapy Committee

Gretchen Blackburn,
Carol Bond,
Debby Furlow,

Therapy Forms

Use these forms to report your therapy hours:

Therapy Newsletters Archive

Past issues of Licking Loneliness are archived here.

You know your Beardies and how they like to make you laugh? Imagine what they do for people who really need an emotional lift!

These dogs encourage smiles and laughter, provide help in forgetting pain, relieve boredom and offer unlimited, unconditional love and attention in hospitals, nursing homes, schools for autistic children and many more health facilities. These remarkable dogs help Alzheimer’s patients come into reality, lower blood pressure, brighten someone’s day, help with physical therapy and change lives. This is another area at which our beardies excel.

This kind of work is mentally and emotionally challenging for the dogs and their partners. The beardies must tolerate unusual noises, rolling carts, wheelchairs, rough handling, and other unexpected situations. Their partners have to have patience, a sense of humor and a deep passion for helping others.

Therapy work is rewarding and bittersweet. You get attached to the people you visit knowing that on any given day you may walk into their room and they won’t be there. We’ve seen a significant increase in beardies doing therapy work and we’re certain this trend will continue.

This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) article explains the roles of service dogs with regard to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and other topics related to service animals.

BCCA Therapy Dog Certificates

BCCA no longer offers Therapy Dog certificates, now that AKC has its own Therapy Dog Awards program. For more information about AKC’s program, look here.

Licking Loneliness, the Therapy Newsletter

The Therapy Newsletter needs your stories! If you do pet-assisted therapy work with your Beardie, please contact the Committee and send along your stories. The Newsletter also includes stories on useful topics such as the AKC Therapy Awards program, service dogs vs. therapy dogs, and so on.

The Therapy Newsletters archive is here.

Beardie Pet Therapy Yahoo Group

A chat group is available for those interested in sharing pet therapy stories, learning about how to get started in pet therapy, action photos, and more. Once you get involved in pet therapy, your life will be enriched with the heart-bursting memories of sharing your special dog with those desperately in need of a friend.

To join the group, send an email to

or search for the group from and use the Join button to request membership.

The Andrew Award

The Andrew Award is given to the Beardie/owner team who completes the most service hours in a given year.

Past Andrew Award Winners

2013 – Suzanne Buck and Traveler

2012 – Deborah Lively and Hateya Sam THD CGC – 270.5 hours

2011 – Deborah Lively and Hateya Sam THD CGC – 219.5 hours

2010 – Suzanne Easley Buck and Traveler (Gemstone My Winsome Traveler) – 177 hours

2009 – Suzanne Buck and Traveler (Gemstone My Winsome Traveler) – 207 hours

2008 – Gretchen Blackburn and Patrick (Shanaspree Aim Fora Far Post, CGC, HIC) – 105 hours

2014 – Carol K Bond & Cooper (Sweetwater’s Bethpage Black) RE THDX CGC NW2 TDIRVA

2015 – Suzanne Easley Buck & CH Aellen Be Dazzled HT PT HSAs CGC

Award for Most Hours in Pet Therapy Work

2007 – (1st award) Anne Weiss and Ch Crisch Double Deluxe HT – 82 hours

The Avery Award

The Avery Award honors the memory of 11-year-old Avery Dudasch, who showed great courage, hope, and faith in her battle with cancer. A certificate will be presented annually at the BCCA National Specialty Awards Banquet to any Bearded Collie and his/her handler, who have performed pet therapy visiting ill children (at a hospital setting) during the previous calendar year. To be eligible, the dog must be certified through a therapy organization that requires certification and carries liability insurance (e.g. Delta Society/Pet Partners, Therapy Dogs International, Therapy Dogs, Inc.) and the handler must be a BCCA member in good standing. Additional eligibility requirements can be found under Standing Rule 07/08-03. The BCCA Therapy Committee will be responsible for verifying recipients of this award each year.

Past Avery Award Winners


  • 2015 Suzanne Easley Buck & CH Aellen Be Dazzled HT PT HSAs CGC


  • Suzanne Buck and Traveler (Gemstone My Winsome Traveler)
  • Polley McClure and Calleigh Burdoch O’Pinnacles

2012 – Sandy Dubin and Nash (Am/Int CH Scott’s Ragtyme Nash Metropolitan RN HT)


  • Noel Thurner and Lammermuir’s Col Tom Parker
  • Polley McClure and Calleigh Burdoch O’Pinnacles
  • Sandy Dubin and Whiskey (CH Shadowfax’s Firewater CGC RN PT)

The Casey Award

The BCCA will recognize any physically challenged OR rescue Bearded Collie doing therapy work by issuing a Casey Award at the National Specialty Awards Banquet. This award is in memory of Casey, who overcame his early life in a puppy mill and an injury which cost him a leg, to become a much beloved therapy dog to thousands of people. To be eligible, dogs must have some sort of physical challenge (e.g. missing a limb, deaf, blind) OR be a rescue Beardie. In addition, the dog must be certified through a therapy organization that requires certification and carries liability insurance (e.g. Delta Society/Pet Partners, Therapy Dogs International, Therapy Dogs, Inc.) and the handler must be a BCCA member in good standing. This certificate will be given to the same dog only once.

Past Casey Award Winners


  • Lori Wolbach and Annie (Ha’Penny Deja Anastasia the Royal Princess)
  • Patrick Murphy and Casey

About Beardies

What is a Beardie?

A Beardie is a winsome, funny, loving, sometimes silly, sometimes pouty, adorable, curious, persistent creature, in short, close to human. As puppies, they’re much like two-year-old children. They try out their independence, test their “parents,” and are so cute they’re difficult to correct. This is the time good parents must force down the chuckle, give firm, but gentle discipline and then go in the other room to laugh ’til they cry.

Beardies aren’t for everybody. No breed is. You have to be willing to tolerate — if not enjoy — brushing long hair, wet beards in your lap, and muddy pawprints in the wrong places at the wrong time. And you HAVE to like bounce. If you don’t, please continue looking.


Philip Reinagle, A Sheep Dog. Collection of the American Kennel Club. Reproduced with permission of the American Kennel Club.

The Bearded Collie, affectionately called the Beardie, was developed in Scotland as a herding dog. Its ancestors likely included herding dogs from the European continent, such as the Poland Lowland Sheepdog (Polski Owzcarek Nizinny) and the Komondor, blended with the sheep herding dogs of the British Isles. It was developed as an independent worker, able to make decisions concerning the welfare and safety of their charges without depending on the shepherd who might be miles away. Flocks in Scotland intermingled freely, yet one Beardie never brought home a wrong sheep during his many years of work. The Beardie is still used as a shepherd’s helpmate in Scotland, and in the U.S.

G.O. Willison brought the breed to recognition by The Kennel Club of Great Britain in 1959. Since then, they’ve wended their way into hearts and homes world-wide. Following recognition by AKC in 1977, they have remained about midway in AKC registration statistics. Beardies are rarely half-way about anything, but breeders are happy the breed is middle-of-the-road when it comes to popularity. Most Beardie breeders take great care in breeding, raising and placing their puppies. Although a well-kept secret from the general population, they’re popular with those who know, with owners often loving two or three or ten!


The Bearded Collie is a medium-sized dog with long, shaggy hair. Its body is longer than tall, starting with a kissy tongue and ending with a constantly wagging tail. As an adult, Beardies may be black (from black to slate), blue (from steel blue, to silver), brown (from dark or milk chocolate to gingery red), or fawn (cinnamon to champagne), usually with white markings to a greater or lesser degree.

AKC Breed Standard for Bearded Collies

Every breed has a Standard, a word picture of the perfect dog. The Breed Standard depicts the characteristics that make this breed different from every other, in other words, the breed type. For instance, a Beardie should not be confused with the Border Collie or the Old English Sheepdog.

The Standard for the Bearded Collie covers the ideal size, coat, color, gait, temperament and structure, right down to the shape of the feet and the tail carriage! To obtain a copy, contact the AKC or the Beardie Parent Club, the Bearded Collie Club of America.


Beardies are usually active, outgoing, bouncy, affectionate creatures. Within the normal range of temperament, they range from low-key, sweet and laid back to rowdy and bold. Each owner should decide what will fit best with their lifestyle and inform the breeder prior to purchase, so the Perfect Pup can be matched with their family.

The breed interacts well with other animals, particularly if raised with them. Breeders often receive pictures of Beardies playing with tiny Chihuahuas or BIG Wolfhounds … or even enjoying a “cat” nap with a kitten. Some tend to be a mite bossy about possessions and hoard all the toys in their den. Being herding dogs, they will yield to a chase if tempted.


All dogs need grooming, training, exercise, nutritious food, access to water and shelter, veterinary care and LOVE. If you plan to skimp on any of these, please don’t get a Beardie. In fact, please don’t get a dog! To bond with your Beardie and have it become a valued member of the family, the Beardie needs to live in your home with you.

Some dogs need to have their nails trimmed weekly; others do fine with once a month clips. Beardies are long-coated dogs, and to keep their charming, winsome appearance, need regular grooming. Once the puppy vaccinations are completed, schedule an annual examination with the veterinarian. Be attuned to your Beardie’s body and behavior to note anything unusual that calls for medical treatment. Some Beardies have reactions to monthly heartworm preventative. Because of this, many breeders advise giving a daily pill. Discuss this with your dog’s veterinarian.


Why is it called a Collie? It doesn’t look like a Collie!

Collie is a Scottish word for dogs that herd sheep, hence the Border Collie, the Rough (Lassie-type) or Smooth Collie and the Bearded Collie. This may have come from the Coaley or black-faced sheep in Scotland.

Are they good family dogs?

Beardies are people-oriented dogs. They NEED to be with their family. If left alone for long periods, they are liable to become frustrated and provide their own entertainment — not always one that makes the owner happy.

Beardies are vigorous, bouncy dogs, and like to jump up to look you in the eyes or kiss your nose. This fits in well with many families. Others, particularly those with toddlers, non-doggy visitors, elderly or physically challenged people, prefer to train their Beardie to sit and shake instead of jumping on people to greet them. Some Beardies have a high herding instinct and nip at ankles or eye-level bottoms, trying to bunch their “flock.” Like kids, some are more rowdy than others. When you talk to a breeder, express your wishes for activity level. Undesirable traits should be “nipped” in the bud and the baby Beardie trained from infancy, with its energies channeled into proper behavior.

Because they love people, Beardies make good therapy dogs, comforting, entertaining and snuggling up to patients and residents. Owners take pride in their dogs making a good impression by being clean, spiffy and well-behaved during therapy visits.

Are they barkers?

Although they are not yappy nor continuous barkers, certain things will set off their “alarm” system. They’re great doorbells, announcing all visitors with joy. They bark when excited: when you first rise in the morning, when family returns home, while playing. Like any dog, they may bark when bored.

Do they shed?

Groomed properly, they shed minimally. Most of the dead hair will be removed by the comb and brush. The worst shed is when they lose their puppy coat, usually between nine months and eighteen months. This lasts for approximately two to three months. During this period, they often lose their cuddly appearance and look scraggly and ragged, losing hair from the top to the bottom, or from the front to the rear.

How often do I have to groom?

Start early to introduce your Beardie to his life-time hair care. Baby Beardies can be groomed in one minute. The idea is to acclimate the pup to be still for longer periods of time until they can spend an hour quietly accepting brushing and combing.

Most owners do a thorough grooming at least once a week. (During the puppy shed, it’s wise to increase to two or three times a week.) Lay the Beardie on its side and mist with water or anti-tangle spray. Brush the hair up with a bristle or pin brush. Then brush the hair back down a few inches at a time (called line brushing). Any mats that develop can be worked out with anti-tangle spray and your fingers or a mat rake. A comb should go easily through the hair when finished. Ask the breeder for a demonstration on an adult. When mature, Beardies usually require about one-half to one hour for grooming.

Are they smart?

Yes, but Beardies were bred to be independent thinkers. Sometimes they’ll decide what THEY want is better than what you want. For instance, staying in the back yard is more interesting than coming inside. Or playing in a mud puddle is more fun than staying on dry ground. The trick in training Beardies is to convince them it’s something THEY want to do. And that takes an owner that’s smarter than they are — not always easy!

When it comes to housebreaking, they’re individuals, just like children. Some train easily; others take longer. Bladder capacity, not brains, is what determines this. If the owners are well-trained to be aware of signals and to watch the clock, the Beardie is more easily housebroken!

Are they playful?

Oh, yes! Name it, they’ll do it — jog, swim, wrestle, do tricks, join in football games, play catch or Frisbee.

Do they need a lot of exercise?

Beardies like their owners, stay physically fit with exercise. This can be accomplished by playing ball, taking brisk walks, free run in a fenced area (with interaction, not alone) or a training session. Beardies are not “hyper” dogs, but are happy to join their owners in any activity. They’re more content when they are able to run and play.

How about health problems?

Overall, Beardies are a sturdy breed that enjoys good health. The BCCA health survey has shown, however, problems do occur within the breed, although not in high percentages.. These include allergies, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, auto-immune disease and some eye problems. Our dogs can suffer the same problems most breeds — and their masters — do. Ask the breeder about health certifications. Parents should be healthy and OFA certified free of hip dysplasia.

How long do they live?

The life expectancy ranges from 12-14 years on an average. It is not unusual, however, for a Beardie to extend that lifespan. Beardies often seem to stay young until their very elder years, many still being active at the age of twelve. Longevity of lines should be one of the questions to ask breeders.

Is one color better than another?

Nope! Black is the dominant color and, thus, more Beardies are black. Browns, blues and fawns are just as attractive and boast the same Beardie personality. Noses and eyes blend with the coat. Most Beardies carry the fading factor and turn lighter as adults. During their teenage months (about 9-20 months), they usually become very light, darkening again as they mature. Judges should not prefer one color over another. Almost all Beardies have some white, usually on the muzzle, a blaze, forechest, front legs, rear feet and hocks, and tip of tail.

Although they cannot be shown, mostly white Beardies (in a Pinto pattern) are beautiful and do not have the health problems associated with some other white breeds. One of the appealing aspects of the breed is its rainbow of coats and its ever-changing colors. The personality is much more important than the color!

What is the difference between show and pet quality?

The differences are often so subtle that it takes an expert to tell. A pet might have too much white, a crooked tooth or carry its tail too high. He or she could have less than ideal angulation. Pets might lack the charisma or attitude desired of a show dog. Or it could just be that the breeder had four show puppies, with only three show homes. As long as your Beardie has a tongue to kiss with, a tail to wag and four feet to bounce on, show faults are of little consequence to the pet buyer. Like a rose is always a flower, but a flower is not always a rose… a show dog should always be a pet, but not every pet should be a show dog.

What is showing all about?

If you intend to show, buy the best you can. Make sure the pedigree boasts many Champions (Ch), particularly the parents and grandparents. A show guarantee should cover serious faults as well as health defects. Most Beardies are shown by their owners, although some people prefer to hire a professional handler. Seek advice from your puppy’s breeder.

Puppies that are classified as pets or companions can compete in obedience, herding, tracking or agility. And all Beardies and their owners reap benefits from attending training classes. Obedience can produce good house manners or be the foundation of an obedience career from Companion Dog (CD) to Obedience Trial Champion (OTCh).

Many Beardies show natural herding instinct. Others need to be introduced to stock several times before the light gleams. When the Beardie turns on, they are fascinating to watch … doing naturally what their ancestors were bred to do generations before. If an owner wishes to continue in competition, titles from HIC (the BCCA’s Herding Instinct Certified honorary title which a Beardie receives when he passes an instinct test) and HT (the AKC Herding Tested title) to H.Ch (the AKC’s Herding Champion title) can be earned.

A few owners track with their Beardies, although it can be hard on long coats since tracks might be laid through the brush. This can be more than competition from Tracking Dog (TD) to Champion Tracker (CT); it can actually save a person’s life through Search and Rescue in disasters or when people are lost.

Agility is an AKC performance event. Beardies were made for agility and easily compete for titles from Novice Agility (NA) to Master Agility Excellent (MX).

All of these start with training class. If you decide not to compete when you’ve graduated, you’ll still have enjoyed bonding with your Beardie, as well as having a trained dog.

Should I get a puppy or an adult?

Both have their advantages. All puppies are cute — and Beardies are particularly adorable. Pups can be trained in the manner owners wish. Nevertheless, adults are often housebroken, done with teething and have good house manners. If you have a demanding schedule, an adult may fit into the household more quickly than an infant puppy.

Which is better — male or female?

Rather than picking a sex (or a color), choose the personality to suit you. Males are just as affectionate as females, and bitches are just as playful as dogs. If neutered or spayed, as pets should be, neither shows the annoying hormonal surges of an intact dog.

What about spaying or neutering?

All responsible breeders require their pets to be spayed or neutered. We feel no one should breed Beardies unless they are serious students of the breed, willing to do genetic testing, and to stand behind their guarantees. They should be willing to prove the quality of the dog in the show ring under expert evaluation — because only the very best should be bred. Research has shown that an altered animal is also healthier, eliminating reproductive infections and tumors, particularly in old age.

Juvenile alteration can be performed as young as eight weeks of age. Many veterinarians, however, perform the surgery when the dog is between six and nine months of age.

Where can I get a rescue Beardie?

The BCCA was one of the first breed clubs to organize a rescue service. The National Coordinator may be contracted through the BCCA, address below. Rescues might be strays, abandoned Beardies, shelter surrenders or those rescued from neglect or abuse. Beardies are evaluated as to mental and physical soundness. BCCA Rescue takes the Beardie to a veterinarian, where the dog is thoroughly examined, spayed or neutered, and treated if necessary. BCCA Rescue is funded by the BCCA and private donations.

Almost all needy Beardies adapt to their new homes as soon as they realize love, shelter and food are theirs for the asking! Sometimes people are concerned about past history having an adverse effect on temperament. While being evaluated, individual idiosyncrasies are noted so that the Beardie can be matched to the perfect home. Not all rescues are victims of abuse. Some are the sad result of divorce, death or incapacitated owners.

Where do I find breeders?

Most Beardie breeders are responsible people who want to find good homes for them. Several are online with the Beardie list. They may also be contacted through the Bearded Collie Club of America’s Corresponding Secretary.

Dog shows are a good place to meet breeders. If exhibitors don’t have litters, they’ll be likely to put you in contact with someone who does. No responsible breeder will sell to a pet shop or a broker. A breeder will give you lifetime support and knowledgeable advice. The pet shop only wants to sell you supplies!

Good breeders are concerned about the future welfare of their puppies. Ask to see the dam (mother) of the litter. Would you take her home? If so, the puppy will probably be a good pet. Breeders extensively interview prospective buyers, asking questions about fencing, training, prior pets and more. They’ll supply a pedigree, registration application, guarantee and medical records, as well as information about the breed and their dogs. A sales contract will protect the rights of buyer(s), seller(s) and the Beardie.

What is the Number One warning about the breed?

They’re like peanuts. You can’t stop with just one.

© Chris Walkowicz



Nicole Conner

Vice President
Sharon Prassa

Recording Secretary
Rosie Schroeder

Corresponding Secretary
Meg Naylor

Richard Bihl

Past President
Michele Ritter

AKC Delegate (Term 2016–2018)
Kathy Coxwell

Board Members

Class of 2018

Laura Colombo

Jill Floberg

Debby Furlow

Class of 2019

Sonja Blanchard

Andrea Hobe

Brian Wistrom

Full list of Committee Chairs

as of July 2017

Agility Cheri Omnus
AKC Gazette Columnist Alice Bixler Clark
AKC Delegate Kathy Coxwell
Awards Michele Ritter
Bagpipes Editor Michele Ritter
Banner Custodian Joanne Williamson
Beardie Bulletin Editor Lillian Esposito
Beardie Camp Rosemary Schroeder
Business Advisor Don Means
Club Trophies Joanne Williamson
Conformation Cindy Alspaugh
Database and Labels Rosemary Schroeder
Meet The Breeds Janet Atkins
Charles Namey
Executive Committee Nicole Conner
Rosie Schroeder
Rich Bihl
Health Debby Furlow
Andrea Hobe
Herding Elsa Sell
Judges’ Education Cathy Perry
Junior Showmanship Debbie Smith
Legislative Liaison Maria Jozwiak
Membership Joanne Williamson
Membership Communications Robin Deily
Memorial Rescue Fund Carol Bond
National Specialty Advisors Jill Floberg
Billy Carter
Joanne Williamson
Obedience, Rally, & Tracking Kathy Thomas
Publications Sharon Prassa
Rescue Patty Halverson
Kay Sakowski
Sunshine Linn McChancy
Therapy Carol Bond
Versatility Joanne Williamson
Webmaster Karen Norteman

You’ll Never Know Till You Try

We’d spent a pleasant afternoon cruising on Lake Ontario in a sailboat owned by a couple who had two Beardies of my breeding. The Beardies, Maadi and Sky, were well accustomed to sailing and thoroughly enjoyed an outing on the bay. Attired in their canine life jackets, they cavorted on the deck like sure-footed old salts. After docking at the marina, we wandered over to a children’s play area where an intriguing pyramid of logs invited climbing. It was too irresistible. “Let’s go, Maadi!” I called out to the older Beardie and together we raced to it and scrambled up to the top. Her owner watched in amazement. “I never thought she could do something like that!” she exclaimed. “Have you ever tried?” I replied.

While some owners consider it a minor miracle if their dogs come when called or sit to have their leads attached, other folks have tried to learn just how much their dogs can actually accomplish. And often they’ve been pleasantly surprised. Sometimes amazed. “My dog will never be able to do that!” It’s a familiar lament every obedience instructor has heard in the beginners’ class. Usually it’s not long before the dog has mastered the ‘impossible’ exercise and more. You never know until you give it a try.

Okay, so how many words does your dog know? His name (we hope), come, sit, treat, dinner, walk, off, go for a ride and perhaps leave it (aka no-no-bad-dog). Any more? How about something over a thousand words? That’s the vocabulary of a Border Collie named Chaser. He was taught by Dr. John Pilley, a retired psychology professor who wanted to know his canine’s capabilities. It’s apparent Chaser is intelligent but it’s also obvious Dr. Pilley spent untold hours teaching his pal to put names to hundreds of toys and articles. There’s the catch. Your dog may be capable of all sorts of things but you’ll have to introduce him to the activity and then be teacher, coach and cheering section.

A short while ago, I enrolled my four-month-old Beardie pup in a nosework class. He’s a bright boy but I didn’t expect much due to his youth. What a delightful surprise when he quickly caught on to what was wanted. He was positively exuberant about tracking the scent and alerting to it. The youngest dog there emerged as the star pupil of the class. But I never would have known he could do it if we didn’t give it a try.

In bygone days, if you wanted to engage in an activity with your dog, you had the choice of conformation and/or obedience, plus -–depending on the breed– hunting, herding or coursing. Today, dog owners have a veritable feast of endeavours awaiting them. There’s a buffet offering such delights as agility, rally, heelwork to music (otherwise known as dancing with your dog), barn hunts, dock diving, nosework, earthdog trials, sled dog racing, skijoring, frisbee, tracking, herding, retriever trials, water rescue work, carting and weight pulls. On a more serious side, there’s search and rescue, therapy work, drug detection, and assistance work just for starters. When coursing, once the domain of sighthounds, was open to all breeds, a whole melange of unlikely breeds took up the challenge and charged in pursuit of ‘Bags’ Bunny. Bassets, Dachshunds, Rotties, Briards, Bulldogs, Bostons, Boxers, Poodles and even spirited little Podencos have added coursing titles after their names and had a ball doing it.

So if some activity sounds like fun, but you don’t know if your dog would do it, just remember, you’ll never know until you give it a try.

— alice bixler, Bearded Colllie Club of America,

Award Certificates

Since we realize not everyone cannot make it to the National Specialty or even the Awards Dinner, we have now made it easier for you to receive your dog’s award certificates. Shortly after each National Specialty, all the award certificates will now be available online at this location.

If you need a correction made to an award certificate, contact Michele Ritter.

The following PDF file contains all of the certificates earned in 2015 and awarded in 2016. Note that these certificates show only the titles your dog earned up to the end of the previous year. If your dog earned a higher level title in 2015, that title will appear on the certificate awarded at the 2016 Specialty.

Page down to find and print your certificate(s).

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Helpful Hints

  • To get a better look at your certificate, click on the Zoom Out icon in the top right corner. The Zoom Out screen shows multiple certificates at once. You can select and print your certificates from there.
  • Make sure you are printing just the certificate you want. Check the Print dialog to make sure you’re not printing all of the certificates.
  • To download the entire PDF document to your computer, click the Download link. You might need to do this if you are unable to see or print your certificate directly from this page.

Here’s a quick index to help you find where your certificates might be located.

Agility Awards: Pages 1-32
Conformation Awards: 33-58
Herding Awards: 59-82
Obedience Awards: 83-96
Rally Awards: 97-112
Therapy Awards: 113-114

Canine Oldies But Goodies

© Chris Walkowicz

One of my favorite campfire songs when I was a kid was “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.” If dogs are our best friends, old dogs have to be 24K gold.
All during their entire lives, our dogs give us adoration. We say, “Wanna go for a walk, Panda?” Panda’s at the door, tail wagging in anticipation. Max springs to attention when he hears “Get the paper.” And April guards the kids, ready to lay down her life if that tough looking squirrel threatens them. Kids fall down, and Tootsie licks away their tears. Your daughter’s friends are outside playing, but she’s stuck inside with the chicken pox. Bingo keeps her company. You lose your job, but Barnum still thinks you’re the greatest thing on earth. Your pets are always there whenever you need them.

When it needs to be “No, you can’t go along, Jedi,” he may look as though his heart is broken. But he stays quietly at home, and greets you forgivingly when you walk through the door.

As our dogs slow down and become canine senior citizens, sometimes it’s easier to leave them behind, rather than slow our steps or bundle them up against the cold. Although it is sometimes necessary to leave them at home, we can repay their years of devotion by arranging time in our busy schedules to include our old, dear friends. Many times, if we think through plans, our dog can be included in our activities, whether it’s a ride in the car on a nice day or visiting Grandma for the weekend. It might be too hot for Corky to sit in the car during a two-hour grocery run, but he’ll be just as happy tagging along while you do your drive-up banking. Boating with a life jacket, hiking in a park, or contentedly mouthing his own ball while watching your tennis game from the shade of a tree are all possible for a calm, well-behaved furry friend. Domino might not be able to leap sky high for a Frisbee, but she can still toddle after one on the ground. Bobby might not be able to run a marathon any more, but he’d love to take a walk around the block with you. An old show dog sparks at the opportunity to once again strut his stuff. And people love to see these living pedigrees. The next time a show offers veteran’s classes, spruce up your oldie and enter him.

Our Brandy loved to show. Some of our most precious memories are of her in veteran’s classes, in both the breed ring and obedience. Her national specialty trophies may be tarnished, but the memories aren’t. And we still chuckle at the time we put her in Veteran Obedience. She did everything until the first turn on the off-lead heeling. Then she stopped and stood waiting patiently for my husband to return. Heck, she knew the routine, and she knew Ed. No question. He’d come back. He did the rest of the exercise solo and, sure enough, when he came back to the spot where she stood, she rejoined him for the last few feet. Pretty smart old gal. Why waste the energy? But they don’t have to show. Just going along for the ride and the camaraderie is a treat. They can join the group gabfest at the motel and the picnic following the show. Everyone would love to see Champ again. And think how special he’d feel. Because he’s so well-trained, he can be out among the crowd instead of in an ex-pen like the pesty pups.

Dog owners tend to be like parents in that we take more pictures of babies than we do later. Dig out the camera, brush up your oldster and snap a few photos or, better yet, videotape. Too soon, we wish we would have. Then our opportunity is past. My favorite picture of Brandy is next to my computer where I can look at it and can almost feel her velvety coat and warm breath.

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Although activities might have to change as our pets age, we can alter them a bit or find new ones they can enjoy with us. The dogs don’t care what they do, as long as they’re with their people.

The AKC Canine Good Citizen test is good for dogs of any age. Dogs as old as fifteen have passed. Just think how good Maggie will do compared to those flighty young pups. And she’ll love the outing.

Many a retired show dog lights up the life of a junior showman. Experienced dogs know the routine well and are much easier to handle than an airheaded youngster. Here she is, running around with her best bud. What a great retirement!

If there are no children in the family, but you’d still like to take Magnum to shows, it’s not too late to try for an obedience title. Many dogs achieve the Companion Dog title at age ten-plus. Just think how great it’ll be to have a dual-titled dog. And if there’s a hitch in his giddeup or something that prevents him from competing, simply working him will satisfy his greatest need, doing something with the person he loves.

A dog’s greatest talent is his sense of smell. Take advantage of that by playing sniff-and-find games. Start with a treat hidden under a towel on the floor, progress to a box, then two or three fake boxes with the treasure under one. Make the track more difficult by secreting the prize under a sofa pillow or in another room. And if your senior has a weight problem, it doesn’t have to be a treat. It can be his favorite toy.

If you’re really ambitious, start a second career for your dog by aiming for a tracking title. While writing the book, Old Friends, Old Dogs, my co-author, Bonnie Wilcox, DVM, and I heard from owners of ten to fourteen-year-old dogs who earned their TD, or even TDX. Agility, performance and field tests are all possibilities for owners and dogs who just want to increase their time together.

Call local schools and theaters, telling them you have a trained dog and would like to have him audition if a part would come up for him. Toto from “The Wizard of Oz” Toto, Nana of “Peter Pan” fame and “Annie’s” Sandy are classics that have used the talents of Cairns, Border Terriers, Beardies, Sheepdogs and All-Americans. Why not a Komondor?

If your dog is used to running with you and the veterinarian gives a thumbs up signal, then there’s no need to stop because of chronological age. Be sure to start each session with a warm up walk and end with one also. Be aware of her at all times. If she starts to lag or limp, stop immediately. In the summer, plan outings for early morning or evening when temperatures are not extreme.

Swimming is excellent therapy for people and dogs. Just keep an eye on him so that he doesn’t become over-tired. Rinse him if he’s been in salt or chlorinated water, so he won’t suffer from dry skin. Towel him dry thoroughly to prevent chilling or slipping on tile.

Many people have discovered the joys of therapy work with their pets. Older dogs are likely to have better manners than young ones and less likely to jump up injuring someone with their exuberance. Kids always love dogs and what better diversion when they’re hospitalized? People who live in retirement villages or nursing homes can relate to grizzled muzzles and stiff joints. Costume your canine clown or brush up the hand signals. Such visits can be the highlight of a patient’s long day. Even mistakes are greeted with laughter and cheers. Actually, it’s not necessary for your dog to do anything but sit and allow gnarled hands to stroke gray heads. One owner always ends the visit by telling the people what age her oldest dog is in “human years.”

Idle minds grow dull, and bodies that do nothing but warm a couch become flabby. Keep Bubbles occupied by teaching her a new trick or put old talents to use in a new way. Whoops! You dropped your keys. Try her old “take it” and “give” commands. Ask Frosty, “Do you like heavy metal?” and teach her to shake her head — or nod if you’d rather. When Dude begs, substitute a carrot, broccoli floweret, piece of apple or popcorn for a dog treat or piece of meat. Keep his senses alert by tossing them in the air for him to catch.


In this day of modern medicine, preventative inoculations and high tech, we’re fortunate to enjoy our dogs even longer than before. Proper nutrition, exercise, shelter and veterinary care add years to their lives. Good care means your dog isn’t likely to be crushed by a car years before his time. Life expectancy is increased. Before undertaking a new activity, have your dog checked by your veterinarian. Seniors should have an annual checkup, and at that time, you can discuss options or alternative activities with the vet.

Be sure to curtail the activity before it becomes stressful for the old guy or gal. They want to please us and might keep going longer than is good for them. Even a dog with health problems can enjoy lying beside the garden while you plant flowers on a sunny day. A blind or deaf dog should be kept on leash or in a familiar fenced yard. But they can take a safe, leisurely stroll with their favorite person.

A short-coated dog might be more comfortable with a sweater or jacket. Boots are even available for outings. Heavy-coated dogs can be trimmed or even shaved in a perky Schnauzer cut for summer or simply for ease in grooming. If your senior is in good health, you might want to consider adding a pup to the family. Oftentimes, it puts a spring in the oldster’s step. Besides, the pup’s so rotten, it makes you really appreciate all the elder dog’s sense. Baillie already knows not to beg, nor to jump on company. He barks when he has to go out and even takes the young twerp with him to show the pup how and where it’s done. Old dogs are great. No more chewing everything in sight. He doesn’t even touch your great-smelling shoes. He knows your routine and accepts it. Pills are swallowed with resignation, or if you’ve hidden them in his favorite taste treat, with joy. He doesn’t bother you when you’re reading. One of the nicest things about dogs, is that no matter how old they are, however often they’re petted, they never wear out.

No wonder we call them Golden Oldies.

This article first appeared in the May/June ‘96 issue of Good Dog! Magazine

Recognizing and Treating an ACL Tear

THE COMEBACK KID… another BlueBerry Story
… Recognizing and Treating an ACL Tear…

Submitted by: Barbara Claxton and BlueBerry (Headlines Rhapsody in Blue)

It’s November 2005 and life is good. BlueBerry has been in full remission from her SLO (an immune disease that attacks the nail beds) for 9 months. We are doing herding and agility again going to classes and going to Trials and having fun. My “flying machine” is up and running again.

Then I notice that the day after an agility class she seems to strain a little when she gets up but she’s running jumping and healthy so I don’t think it’s a big deal. It seems to disappear or maybe it hasn’t and maybe I’m just looking for trouble.

Blueberry herding before her ACL injury

Blueberry herding before her ACL injury

Hmmmmmm did it look like one of her back legs gave out when she made that turn while herding? No…it was probably just slippery ground. She seems fine today, but then again did I see her straining to get up?

I started to watch her more closely and it seemed that on days after agility practice she had a harder time getting up but as the day wore on it seemed better — maybe she’s just getting older? Why am I always looking for trouble!

Or am I looking for trouble or just not wanting to see something that doesn’t look right? Does she not want to jump into the van because she doesn’t want to go? Or, is it a problem jumping up? Finally one day after herding practice she comes off the field holding up her right back leg… I help her up into the van.

First we go to our regular Vet who says any time a dog holds its leg up the way Blue is doing its usually an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear BUT her back seems a bit tender so maybe it’s that. The suggestion is that she be given a pain medication and rested for a week, then back into action to see what happens.

What happens shortly after the week of rest is that she continues to not want to jump into the van and seems to be lifting her leg going up stairs rather then walking up as she would normally do.

Luckily we have one of the best Orthopedic Surgeons in the San Francisco Area just 10 minutes away so off we go to see Dr. Andrew Sams at his Clinic in Mill Valley, CA. After a full set of x-rays he suspects a small ACL tear. (The cruciate ligament is a large, strong ligament located within the knee joint.) He suggests another 3 weeks of rest with only slow on leash walks. At the end of 3 weeks, start to bring her back and let’s see what happens.

After 3 weeks she seems pretty good. We go off to a herding trial. Though the following part of the story may seem off topic it is integral to Blue’s ACL story…really.

BlueBerry is walking and running and moving great and is entered in AKC Advanced at a trial site that uses Belgian Sheepdogs to set the sheep.

I sent BlueBerry just as the Belgian Sheepdog left the arena… HOWEVER… just as Blue took off the Belgian decided to move back in amongst the set out sheep. BlueBerry does a beautiful outrun and lifts the sheep and is about to bring them to me when she realizes the Black Sheep is really a Belgian Sheepdog!

She was so mad… I’ve never seen her so angry. Never at a loss to express her opinion to me she left the sheep and came running to me jumping up in my face and barking and twirling (as only a Beardie can do) and jumping and jumping and jumping. She let me know in no uncertain Beardie terms that she did not think finding that Belgian in with HER sheep was the least bit funny. I’ve never seen her so furious. I called the run and walked off with her trailing my steps still jumping and barking in my face.

Later that night, it was very evident that the jumping had caused a problem as she again had difficulty getting up, but she was not limping. We went back the next day and she was working nicely, but I was so preoccupied and worried about her that I called the run even though we were qualifying when I thought I saw her favoring that leg.

After that she would not jump up into the van. Home we went and back to the Orthopedic Surgeon for another review. Now he was sure… the small suspected tear was now a full ACL tear.

BlueBerry’s experience may not be typical in that in the beginning she seemed to have a problem and then didn’t. In talking with Dan Landiss of St. Louis, Missouri about his Beardie, Misha, who also had an ACL tear, he said what he first noticed was limping and Misha being reluctant to climb into the back of the car.

Shortly after the experience at the Herding Trial we went back to see Dr. Sams. The diagnosis was early right partial cruciate tear. Dr. Sams explained that the consensus is that larger dogs do better with TPLO (tibeal plateau leveling osteotomy) surgery rather then the traditional surgery, which involves placing either heavy gauge suture material or orthopedic wire from the back of the femur, across the joint, and to the front of the tibia. This will tighten up the joint and stabilize it. Over time, scar tissue will lay down around the suture or wire to form a structure which mimics the function of the normal cranial cruciate ligament*. The majority of animals will regain normal or near normal use of their leg after the surgery and after a period of rehabilitation. (*N.B. The term anterior cruciate ligament is actually referring to human anatomy, and cranial cruciate ligament is the correct dog term, however, ACL tear or rupture is the term most commonly applied to this problem.)

But for large and especially active dogs TPLO surgery is recommended. TPLO surgery actually changes the slope of the knee and eliminates the need for the ligaments altogether by changing the angle of the knee and stabilizing it with special bone plates — this surgery is preferred for canine athletes. So, we schedule surgery for BlueBerry.

BlueBerry had successful TPLO surgery on March 1, 2005. She came home the next day with pain medications and a request to call if she seemed uncomfortable along with clear instructions for her Postoperative care… part of which was that she was to be crated at all times that I did not have her with me on a leash.

This was really a concern for me as BlueBerry had never been crate trained and was not fond of them. But, and why I should be surprised about this I don’t know, she accepted this change and every change along the way as though she completely understood what was necessary. Starting with the first 2 weeks where she was only allowed to walk to the yard on leash to potty…no vigorous activity!

After 1 week we were back to the Vet to have her bandages removed. The following week we went back to have the staples removed.

Starting with week 3 to week 6 she was allowed 3 – 5 minute walks 3 times a day. She moved slowly and limped from time to time but gradually less and less. All other times she had to be by me on leash or crated. Keeping sisters Sadie and Allie out of the way and at a distance was not easy. Sadie especially had a very hard time with the separation and was very sad. Usually the walk time is increased quicker than this but in Blue’s case Dr. Sams felt she needed to take it slower due to her compromised immune system as well as the conformation of her stifle.

Weeks 7 and 8 her exercise was moved up to 2-3 ten minute walks a day. By this time she was quite enjoying them, having trained neighbors to come out and say “Hi” as she passed or offer a cookie. I could see that as much as she disliked this idea in the beginning she would be bugging me for neighborhood walks from now on.

At week 8 we went back for x-rays and evaluation of progress and I was excited about the possibility of her starting physical therapy but instead DEVASTATION! The x-rays showed she was not healing. It could be 1 of 2 things or possibly both — the medication she was taking for her SLO, which was still at a high dose, might be interfering or she might have an infection.

We decided to do 2 things at once as getting that healing started was crucial and trying one thing and if that didn’t work having to take the time to try another did not seem wise. So I dropped Blue’s SLO medications down to a minimum maintenance dose. My idea was that if she had a flare up it would be painful but I could always get her SLO back into remission once the bone was healed. We also put her on antibiotics for the infection, and scheduled another x-ray in about 2 weeks.

Two weeks later the x-rays showed she had started to heal… I could breathe again.

A few weeks later we started physical therapy.

BlueBerry’s progress to this stage was very slow and I am sure that could be attributed in a great part to the SLO.

On the other hand Beardie Misha’s surgery and recovery went “by the book” according to Dan: “For a couple of months stair climbing was limited to the 3 steps required to reach our yard. We walked, first only in our own yard, later increasing length and distance. By 10-12 weeks post-op he could do the carpeted stairs to our second floor and walk about a mile. As of about 8 months post-op he can run, chase squirrels, and we walk about 3 miles a day.”

Also according to Dan, Misha (who was 6 at the time of the surgery) tends to sit with the “bionic leg” toed out at a strange angle, but his surgeon says it is a normal reaction and he is just seeking the most comfortable position.

Dan also says that “I credit Misha’s success to his excellent Surgeon. She was very clear in her explanations of what was going to happen and what must be done post-op to ensure recovery. I cannot emphasize too much the importance of the surgeon and the pet owner working as partners to plan and implement the dog’s recovery.”

Since I had hoped that Blue would get back to working with her sheep again I decided to go the physical therapy route since the facility was almost at my front door.

During those early days of recovery the first exercise and the very best is swimming and the facility has a great swim tank. For BlueBerry, however, by the time she was ready to exercise she was passed this period and ready for weight bearing exercises so that’s where we started.

The minute we walked in and BlueBerry saw what looked like fun agility equipment to her she brightened up and you could see how happy she was to be back getting treats for “performing”. It was obvious that the work was hard for her and though she was happy to be there she did not have her old pizzazz back.

We started out with balance work on large balls that made her incorporate the surgery leg into keeping on balance. We did turns around cones and the treadmill and worked our way up to all different kinds of balance equipment. She was eventually allowed to do low jumps on agility equipment and running and sprinting on the treadmill. We then worked our way up to doing fast weaves through regular weave polls. Since she’d been in agility this was natural and fun for her. This happened over a series of several months.

Introducing Blueberry to the treadmill

Introducing Blueberry to the treadmill

About 2 months into doing the physical therapy, as we were walking in for a session I noticed that old “Beardie Bounce” I hadn’t seen for a while and it was clear that my BlueBerry was back and ready to go…it was very obvious that she had made the shift from recovering to recovered!

I think that because of the extensive physical therapy that we did, Blue does not sit with her ACL leg out, but tucks it under her almost the same as her normal leg. I have to think what leg it is that had the surgery.

We were finished with physical therapy and Blue was given the OK to do whatever she wanted…including back to working sheep…so now it was up to BlueBerry to decide if she wanted to go back to working her sheep or not.

Blue had made no indication that she had any interest. Had not pulled to the gate, had not watched the sheep and had not made the AHHHHHOOOOOEEEEEEEEE sound that was so sad when I took Allie off to practice. In the past I’d hear that long and loud if I took one of the other girls and not her.

I decided to try her out in a beginning area with very quiet sheep and though Blue followed commands it was obvious she was very concerned and very, very unhappy to be there so I cut it short. Obviously she had lost interest or was not ready. The Vet had said that since the leg would “feel” different some dogs are always conscious of it and don’t like to push off of it. Blue had no confidence that she could cover the sheep. Without confidence she couldn’t work. I decided to use Blue’s enthusiasm for agility to re-train her brain to accept this new “feeling” in her leg as the new normal and see if that would help.

I set out 2 agility jumps side by side and had her go over one turn and back over the other. In the beginning her enthusiasm kept her from thinking about her leg but initially after 2 or 3 jumps I could see she was beginning to catch on so we’d go on to something else then come back to it. Eventually she was as happy doing these U turns as everything else and no longer thought about it.

About this time she also started “flying” again…pushing off at the end of the hallway over the heads of Sadie and Allie onto the bed (a good 6 feet away) and around and back again. When it came to playtime she was totally the old BlueBerry. She was obviously very happy so I was as well.

Then one day when we went to herding practice and I took Allie out to work I heard

There it was that terribly baleful sound that told me she was ready to go back to work. We started out slowly just moving sheep around and are taking baby steps to get back to where we were. Whether BlueBerry will get back to trialing in Advanced again or not is up to her…I know that she will clearly let me know what her plans are.

For me… I’ve reached my goal… my Happy Flying Machine is back.

Blueberry herding after ACL repair and rehabilitation

Blueberry herding after ACL repair and rehabilitation

As Dan Landiss mentioned picking the right Surgeon can make all the difference. BlueBerry and I could not have asked for anyone better then Dr. Andrew Sams who was always just a phone call away along with the support of his Physical Therapist and Staff.

So, BlueBerry “The Comeback Kid” is up and running yet again!

Canine Hemangiosarcoma — the Road from Despair to Hope

Written by: Jaime F. Modiano, VMD, PhD, Michelle G. Ritt, DVM, DACVIM, Matthew Breen, PhD, CBiol, MIBiol, and Tessa Breen, BSc (Hons), Dip GD, CMM University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN (JFM & MGR), and North Carolina State University (MB, TB)

In following article, we describe the current state of knowledge for canine hemangiosarcoma, including what it is, why it may happen, and how it can be managed. In addition, we present recent findings from our programs that promise to help us improve our ability to diagnose, treat, and prevent this disease.

The Natural History of Canine Hemangiosarcoma

Canine hemangiosarcoma is among the most challenging and mysterious diseases encountered in veterinary practice. It is an incurable tumor of cells that line blood vessels, called vascular endothelial cells. Hemangiosarcoma is relatively common in dogs; it is estimated that this type of cancer accounts for 5-7% of all tumors seen in dogs. Considering the lifetime risk of cancer for dogs is between 1 in 2 and 1 in 3, we can calculate that 1.5 to 2.5 million of the ~72 million pet dogs in the United States today will get hemangiosarcoma and succumb from it. Although dogs of any age and breed are susceptible to hemangiosarcoma, it occurs more commonly in dogs beyond middle age (older than 6 years), and in breeds such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Portuguese Water Dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Flat Coated Retrievers, Boxers and Skye Terriers, among others. According to the Golden Retriever Health Study published in 2000, the estimated lifetime risk of hemangiosarcoma in this breed is 1 in 5, illustrating the magnitude of this problem.

Unlike other cancers, hemangiosarcoma is almost an exclusive disease of dogs. In people, a similar type of tumor (angiosarcoma) occurs only rarely in association with workplace exposure to vinyl chloride and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), such as is found in rubber and tire plants. An even smaller fraction of women who receive high dose radiation therapy for cancer (usually breast cancer) can develop angiosarcoma of the skin. Yet, angiosarcomas account for much less than 1% of all tumors seen in people. Certain mutations are known to predispose laboratory mice to hemangiosarcoma, but whether these mutations contribute to the disease in dogs is not known. Benign tumors of vascular endothelial cells, called hemangiomas, arise in the skin of people and dogs that have extended exposure to sunlight. These tumors are distinct from hemangiosarcomas and angiosarcomas, and they are not life threatening.

In dogs, the common primary sites for hemangiosarcoma are the spleen, the right atrium of the heart, and the subcutis, which is the tissue beneath the skin. The pattern of growth for these tumors involves infiltration into normal tissues surrounding the tumor as well as distant spread (metastasis). The disease is indolent; in other words, it does not cause pain and the rate of growth in the early stages is relatively slow. Dogs harboring even large hemangiosarcomas may show no clinical signs or evidence that they have a life threatening disease. Generally, the tumor cells retain some normal aspects of behavior, so they try to make blood vessels. But these vessels are tortuous and malformed, and blood cells tend to pool in them and clot. The clots then prevent blood and nutrients from reaching tumor cells, in turn causing them to die. This creates small ruptures in the tumor through which blood may escape into the abdomen, heart sac, chest, or subcutaneous space. Depending on the amount of blood lost, affected dogs may show non-specific (constitutional) signs such as lethargy and weakness, but these are transient and resolve as dogs reabsorb the blood components and make new blood cells. The clinical signs are recurrent, but they also are subtle enough to go unnoticed for some time. Since hemangiosarcoma tends to metastasize aggressively to lungs, liver, intestines, and mesentery (the membranous connective tissue that supports the intestines), distant spread (either microscopic or macroscopic) has inevitably occurred once the disease is finally diagnosed. The eventual outcome for patients with this disease often follows the rupture of a large or rapidly growing tumor, which results in acute, severe hemorrhage, collapse, shock, and death.

What Causes Hemangiosarcoma

We do not precisely know what causes canine hemangiosarcoma. The observations that the disease occurs more commonly in dogs than in other animals, and that some breeds are at higher risk than others tell us that heritable factors must contribute to risk. Ultimately, the interactions of these heritable risk factors with the environment probably lead to the spectrum of mutations that give rise to the tumor. As a matter of brief review, it is important to understand that “cancer is a genetic disease, although it is not always heritable.” Tumors arise when cells accumulate mutations that eliminate normal constraints of growth and genetic integrity. These mutations provide cells a selective growth advantage within their environment, essentially the same evolutionary phenomenon that we call natural selection, albeit on a microscopic scale. Most mutations arise because the enzymes that control cell division are not foolproof. About 1 mutation occurs for each one to ten million bases that are replicated when time a cell divides (genomic DNA in dogs consists of about 2.5 billion base pairs; in other words, when a cell divides, it must copy 2.5 billion bases and the inherent error rate of the DNA replication machinery will introduce between ~250 and 2,500 errors, or mutations, to the DNA of each daughter cell). Since some cells in the body divide continuously to replace others that die or are damaged (for example, blood cells, skin cells, and gut cells), mutations are pretty much introduced constantly into cells in the body. For this reason, we say the greatest risk factor for cancer is “being alive”. As mentioned above in the example of humans that are at risk to develop angiosarcoma, mutations also can occur from exposure to environmental toxicants. Fortunately, most of these mutations are silent (they neither help nor hurt the cell or the organism), and the body has mechanisms to eliminate most cells that acquire deleterious mutations. A relatively new concept about how cancer happens invokes the theory that only “stem cells” can give rise to tumors, making the acquisition of mutations in somatic cells (any cell that is not a sperm or an egg) a lesser concern. This will be discussed in detail later in the article. For now, it is important to understand that simply carrying a mutation does not necessarily mean an individual will get cancer — it only means that his or her risk is elevated. The practical implication of this statement is that we will probably never eliminate cancer completely from our population (human or canine), but we can achieve a significant reduction in the number of cases as we learn more about how the disease happens and we work to diminish risk factors or detect the disease early enough to treat it before it becomes a life-threatening condition.

The news is not all bad. We have identified some of the fundamental properties of canine hemangiosarcoma, and it is possible one or more of these may prove to be an “Achilles heel” for the tumor. For example, most of these tumors make growth factors that they need to survive, or they “coerce” cells in their environment to do this for them. One of these growth factors is vascular endothelial growth factor-A or VEGF, which acts by binding specific receptors on the hemangiosarcoma cells. New drugs under development by various pharmaceutical companies are designed specifically to interfere with the signals transmitted by these receptors. The reliance of hemangiosarcoma cells on VEGF signals to survive should make them more sensitive than normal cells to these drugs. Several groups are working to bring these drugs into the clinic, but the process is slow because testing must be done in a careful, deliberate way to ensure the compounds are safe and effective. The rules for participation in clinical trials are stringent, but if you have a dog that is diagnosed with terminal hemangiosarcoma, your veterinarian may have information about trials for which he or she may be eligible. As we will detail below, our work and that of others continues to illuminate new avenues that we may be able to use to more effectively prevent, control, and treat this disease.

Treatment for Canine Hemangiosarcoma

Regrettably, the standard-of-care for this disease has not seen significant advancement over the past 20 or 30 years. There is presently no readily available, effective test for early diagnosis of hemangiosarcoma. Careful analysis of blood samples by experienced pathologists may hint at the presence of chronic hemorrhage and blood vessel abnormalities that are suggestive of hemangiosarcoma. However, this method is neither sensitive nor specific to confirm the diagnosis. Non-invasive imaging methods are useful aids to diagnose the disease. In particular, ultrasound is moderately specific, but it is not sensitive, and the tumor must be large enough to be grossly visible. In addition, biopsies are required for confirmation of imaging results. Repeated biopsies of tissues where the tumors may arise (without other evidence for the presence of a tumor) are of little use to provide early diagnosis, and considering the fact that there is some risk to these procedures, such an approach is practically and ethically unacceptable.

The options for therapy of canine hemangiosarcoma are limited, largely because the disease is not diagnosed until the late stages. The standard consists of surgery to shrink or remove the primary tumor, when possible, followed by intensive chemotherapy. In some cases, surgery is not feasible, or it can be impractical or inappropriate (for example, if there is evidence of extensive metastatic spread to sites beyond the primary tumor). Median survival for dogs treated with surgery alone is approximately 90 days, and that is extended to approximately 180 days by the addition of chemotherapy using one of several protocols available. Because the goal for chemotherapy in pet dogs is to extend life with good quality, toxicity is generally not a major issue of concern, and when it occurs it is most often managed without much difficulty.

There is no other therapy that has been proven to be effective to manage or control hemangiosarcoma. As we will mention below, the cells that give rise to this disease originate in the bone marrow. We do not yet know when (or why) they localize to the organ where the disease will arise, but this means that prophylactic splenectomy (removing the spleen to prevent the development of the disease) is unlikely to have any benefit, since in the absence of a spleen, the transformed cell (or cells) can simply go to another organ. Also, the spleen is not simply a “window dressing” organ, and even though dogs can function without a spleen, they will have reduced ability to adapt or respond to a variety of conditions.

Several alternative and complementary approaches (diet, herbs, mystical energy, etc.) have recently become popular as people try to find treatments for canine hemangiosarcoma. This usually follows extensive publicity (such as from Internet chat groups) after a dog receives these treatments and survives longer than anticipated, leading proponents to advertise this as success and evidence that their approach is curative for hemangiosarcoma. The danger of attributing curative power to treatment approaches after an anecdotal response cannot be overstated. There is no reported case where one of these therapies has been consistently successful (or even as good as the standard of care) after it has been tested without bias to try to replicate the anecdotal response. In fact, sometimes such treatments can actually interfere with — or increase the toxicity of chemotherapy drugs. We know that when some tumors are caught early enough, surgery alone, surgery plus chemotherapy, and in some cases no treatment at all can lead to extended survival. In rare instances, the behavior of the tumor itself is such that disease progression is extremely slow and dogs can survive for an extended period regardless of the therapy used. This means that a small proportion of dogs diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma will live 2, 3, 4 years and longer even without aggressive management. Therefore, it is essential for families who have dogs that are diagnosed with cancer to recognize two things. One is that veterinarians would not willingly hold back effective therapies for any disease. Our job and our responsibility are to improve the health and well being of dogs and their families, and all of us would welcome an effective and non-toxic cure for this disease. The other is that there is no shortage of predators on the Internet and elsewhere who benefit from the desperation people feel when they know a beloved family member will probably die from a serious, incurable disease (please visit if you want to read more about “miracle cures” for cancer advertised in the lay press and on the Internet).

Hope for the Future

The unwavering support of the dog-loving community has already made a difference in our understanding of canine hemangiosarcoma. To end this article, we will highlight new information that makes us optimistic about our chances to win the battle against this disease. Here, we wish to note our gratitude for the support that our group and our collaborators have collectively received from dog clubs and owners alike, both financial and by making samples available for ongoing studies.

Development of a Test for Early Detection. As we mentioned above, one way to improve our success treating hemangiosarcoma is by detecting the disease early. Previous work from our group showed there are unique patterns of protein expression that can help distinguish hemangiosarcoma cells from normal blood vessel lining cells, even within the tumor. We also knew that most tumors shed some cells into the circulation. We reasoned, then, that we could take advantage of this to develop a test to look for tumor cells in the circulation, providing a minimally invasive, accurate diagnostic test for hemangiosarcoma. In many ways, this is similar to the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack. The tumor cells are so infrequent that they cannot be detected in routine blood tests, nor are they easy to enrich. To accomplish our goal, we needed to use a robust technology called flow cytometry. For this, cells are “tagged” with fluorescent molecules that identify their lineage of origin and then cells are run through an instrument (the flow cytometer) that combines sophisticated optics, fluidics and software that make it capable of analyzing tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of cells in a matter of minutes. With financial support from the Portuguese Water Dog Foundation, Inc., the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, and Idexx Laboratories, we were able to show proof of principle for this test. The work was published in the July 2006 issue of the journal Experimental Hematology. Idexx Laboratories has licensed the technology from the University of Colorado. As of the writing of this article, the test is in the final stages of optimization and transfer to Idexx for final testing. Several questions remain to be answered before the test can be offered commercially, not the least of which are cost analysis and market research to ensure that the final product is not only diagnostically useful, but also affordable for veterinarians and pet owners.

A planned future use for this test is its application to detect the presence of hemangiosarcoma in dogs at risk before the tumor poses a clinical hazard. As is true for other tumors, early detection is likely to offer the highest probability of successful treatment outcomes. There is, however, an important caveat. The presence of hemangiosarcoma cells in the circulation does not tell us where in the body the tumor is likely to develop, as tumors in the spleen, liver, heart, and skin all produce positive results in this test. Therefore, we have initiated several studies with support from the AKC Canine Health Foundation, the National Canine Cancer Foundation, and others, to develop novel treatment strategies for hemangiosarcoma that are independent of the site of origin (these are still in the earliest stages of laboratory development). Only then will we be able to ethically and judiciously use early detection to improve outcomes for dogs affected with this disease.

Is Hemangiosarcoma a Disease of Stem Cells? A lot of attention has been focused recently on stem cells and their potential use to cure a wide variety of diseases. The “dark side” of stem cells is that these may be the only cells that can give rise to tumors. It is very important to note here that this is not a reason to avoid or abandon research on the therapeutic promise of stem cells, as there is no practical, documented evidence that the possibility to develop cancer is any higher in laboratory animals or patients that receive stem cell transplants.

Until recently, the dominant theory for the origin of cancer assumed that all cells possess an equal capacity for self-renewal; that is, the capacity to make a new identical cell that retains all the properties of the mother cell, and that proliferation of cancer cells was a random process driven entirely by selection of mutations that increased the fitness of a cell in a particular environment. A competing theory now exists whose main concept is that self-renewal is limited to a small population of “cancer stem cells.” These cells possess the two features that define “stemness”: (1) self-renewal and (2) multipotency (the capacity to make new cells that can differentiate into more than one type or lineage). In other words, a very small number of self-renewing cells in a tumor generate large numbers of progeny that make up the bulk of the tumor (or tumors). The existence of “cancer stem cells” is now well documented; they have unique properties of gene and protein expression, and the initial transformation seems to involve a relatively small number of mutations. The accumulation of additional mutations determines the extent to which the progeny from these cells will differentiate, variably resulting in distinct clinical entities such as high-grade, aggressive tumors and low-grade, indolent tumors.

This model of cancer explains why multicellular animals like a dog, with trillions of cells in their bodies, can survive to reproductive age without developing cancer, as the capacity for tumor formation is limited to perhaps a few hundred “stem cells”, dramatically reducing the probability that any cell with cancer-causing potential will accumulate the set of mutations needed to develop the disease. Still, the high incidence of cancer among older individuals reinforces the notion that even with a limited number of susceptible stem cells, the probability to develop cancer over a long life is quite high. With regard to canine hemangiosarcoma, recent data from our lab support the idea that this is a disease of stem cells, the first such evidence for a canine tumor. Current work is focused on characterizing these stem cells, as their unique properties may provide opportunities to develop highly targeted, non-toxic therapies to effectively treat this disease.

What Are the Breed-Specific Risk Factors for Canine Hemangiosarcoma? We mentioned previously that hemangiosarcoma is a rather common cancer in certain breeds, including Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, and Portuguese Water Dogs. This tells us that heritability contributes to risk, and so it may be possible to reduce the incidence by eliminating the highest risk alleles from the population. Moreover, if risk factors responsible for the disease are unique among breeds, we might have to consider the possibility that various new therapy approaches will have to be developed to effectively treat this disease in different breeds of dogs. To date, we have taken several approaches to identify how heritable factors influence hemangiosarcoma risk. One approach, developed largely in collaboration with Dr. Elaine Ostrander at the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, seeks to map risk alleles in Portuguese Water Dogs, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds using resources made available by the recent completion of the Canine Genome Project. We continue to collect samples for these projects, and we would be extremely grateful to owners who wished to participate by contributing blood and pedigree information from healthy (aged) dogs and from affected dogs. Information for participation is available at A second approach, developed largely in collaboration with Dr. Matthew Breen, seeks to determine breed specific abnormalities that are detectable in tumors obtained from dogs of different breeds. We have made significant progress on this project, and have new data showing that, indeed, tumors from dogs of one specific breed are functionally and genetically more similar to each other than they are to tumors from dogs of other breeds. We are extremely excited about this information, as it will, for the first time, provide tangible evidence that heritable risk factors are a contributor to the development of canine cancer. More importantly, these results are the first step in our long-term goal to develop strategies for prevention and treatment that address specific causes underlying the biology of canine hemangiosarcoma.

In conclusion, hemangiosarcoma remains a devastating, untreatable disease of dogs. However, ongoing work in our laboratories and elsewhere is rapidly increasing our understanding of this disease, providing hope that we will achieve our goals to reduce its incidence and control its impact on dogs and their human families within our lifetime.

SLO Story: Out of the Blue

(A Story about a Bearded Collie’s SLO Journey)
Headlines Rhapsody in Blue, NAJ, OA, HTD-1, HT, PT, HSAs, HIAs) aka BlueBerry

In September of 2003 BlueBerry was 7 years old. Around this time she became what I thought at the time was very independent about taking directions in herding. She only wanted to go to the right and not to the left. I thought this was just another way of her pointing out that she had the generations of herding genes not me but also at the time thought it was strange.

We went with a group of Beardie people to a herding clinic for a weekend and she worked great except for this tendency to try to work all the sheep from the right only. Again I attributed this to her independent thinking.

Shortly after our return as she was jumping out of the van for our morning walk I immediately noticed that her left front paw was all bloody as she reached the ground. In looking I could see she had pulled out a nail and immediately headed to the Vets. Our usual Vet was not in but another Vet cleaned it and bandaged it and we both thought she must have pulled it on something.


But… something was nagging in the back of my mind about something I had read recently about Beardie Nail disease, but it was a one time only event so I didn’t worry about it.

After 10 days of recouping from the nail incident she seemed to be walking fine so we went on with our training. We went to Southern California to practice for a Herding Trial and I thought I could see a bit of a limp but couldn’t be sure.

We returned home and the following week we drove the 2-1/2 hour trip to our herding practice. When I opened the back of the van there was blood everywhere and her rear paw was soaked in blood. I couldn’t imagine what could have happened with all the blood and on examining her paw I could see it was not cut but the bleeding was from the nails.

I immediately called my Vet and drove the 2-1/2 hours back directly to his office. On the way I kept trying to think what I had read about Beardie nail disease and where I had read it… then it came to me… on the Beardie Health page ( they had just done a survey of nail disease in Beardies and that’s where I had read about a disease called SLO.

We limped into the Vet’s office and I told Dr. Joe what I suspected. He examined her nails and got out his medical book that described SLO along with photos of affected nails. We were both convinced 99% that Blue had SLO. He had not seen a case in 12 years.

SLO is Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy a disease which can cause severe claw problems in otherwise apparently healthy dogs. It is probably autoimmune in nature. It is characterized by the loss of claws from more then one paw — eventually all claws may be lost. Other symptoms are receding quicks, secondary infections, claw splitting, pain, distorted/twisted claws and lameness. BlueBerry would eventually have all of these symptoms.

The good news we found out was that it was treatable and there was a good chance that it would go into remission and she would be normal and out of pain … BUT… and it was a BIG BUT… it would take time. We started her on the recommended medications… Tetracycline, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and high doses of EFAs (essential fatty acids). A biopsy is usually suggested to determine if it really is SLO but the side effects of the biopsy can be so painful my Vet suggested we just try the medications and if she responded we’d know that’s what it is… so we did that. (The biopsy requires removing the last bone in the digit and submitting it for pathology. For this reason few owners choose to submit their dog to biopsy, and diagnosis is presumptive based on response to therapy.)

Now looking back I was able to understand that she wasn’t being stubborn by not going to the left but that going in that direction caused her pain…so those first signs in early September became very apparent at the time of diagnosis which was the beginning of December.

If I had not found the SLO support list on the internet I do not know how I could have gotten through those next months. Even though we started all the medications things got much worse. The people on the SLO List assured me that that’s the way the disease works… by the time you diagnose it the disease is well on its way and will get worse before the medications take hold and start the healing process. I found that SLO can occur anywhere in the world, and if there can be a plus to all this I made some new friends through our shared experience.

In mid-December so many nails were cracked with bleeding quicks that my Vet suggested we cut them all back at once so she would not constantly be in pain waiting for each one to fall off. We went ahead and did this but the bleeding was so bad we had to bandage her front paws. By this time she was totally lame. I carried her from room to room and outside for potty. She was depressed and too sick to play.

Here is Tøsen owned by Pernille Rutkowski from Denmark.  He too is celebrating a successful recovery from SLO

Here is Tøsen owned by Pernille Rutkowski from Denmark. He too is celebrating a successful recovery from SLO

She walked a little better when the bandages were removed but I still had to lift her in and out of the van.

We followed up with a Dermatologist at the University Hospital who agreed with what we were doing, but put Blue on a second antibiotic to treat a secondary infection.

She lost lots of weight because she did not want to eat. There was no agility and there was no herding. She loves to herd her sheep with a passion and it broke my heart when we would drive to practice for my other Beardie and Blue was too sick to even want to get out of the van.

In the evening I would bath her paws in a special solution to relieve the pain. We would sit on the kitchen floor while I held a paw in the solution and cried and she would lick my tears — quite a sight we were.

Then slowly one day she wanted to get out of the van when we were at herding practice and go to look at the sheep. And then slowly one day she took off after my other Beardie and wanted to play, and one day she went outside and on her own jumped over an agility jump then came back to me for a treat while telling me she was feeling better and wanted us to get busy.

BlueBerry was back… so from those first signs in early September 2003 to those healthy nails and a happy Beardie in mid-April 2004 we took a journey together we will never forget. It has brought us closer and Blue is more loving to me then she has ever been.

BlueBerry coming back from 6 months off because of the SLO to get her Intermediate Herding Title & 5th Place at the National in Fort Collins

BlueBerry coming back from 6 months off because of the SLO to get her Intermediate Herding Title & 5th Place at the National in Fort Collins

At our NCBCF Specialty in April 2004 she was well enough to participate in the Herding Trial though we didn’t qualify due to lack of practice and her feeling “too good” and being “full of herself” and too bossy with the sheep. We got to participate in agility and she got her Open Standard Title with a First Place.

She went on that year to get her Herding Intermediate Title with placement at two of those trials a 3rd Place and then a 5th Place at the Bearded Collie Club of America Herding Trial in Ft. Collins in October 2004. Also in 2004 she finished #4 Intermediate Herding Bearded Collie.

As I said in the beginning BlueBerry is my teacher — thru SLO she taught me courage and patience and determination and that when the pain is gone forget about it and go play.

Submitted by her loving Mom, Barbara Claxton

P.S. [At the time of this writing] BlueBerry is currently recovering from a cruciate ligament surgery on her knee and even through the surgery the SLO has stayed in remission.

Immune Deficiency Diseases

Genetically Based Immune Disorders
W. Jean Dodds, DVM
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843
(714) 891-2022

We are very lucky to have Jean Dodds as a guest author for this month’s health article. While Beardies are not generally prone to immune deficiency diseases their immune systems should be of major concern to us all. I have therefore asked our web-master to post another article by Jean on the BCCA website on the health pages. This article includes an overview of the immune system, examines autoimmune diseases, the role of the thyroid, the effect of vaccines, cancer and nutrition on the immune system. Enjoy. Linda Aronson, DVM

Immunologic diseases result from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors that cause or “trigger” clinical expression of the disease. Immune deficiency diseases are a group of disorders where normal host defenses against disease are impaired. This includes disruption of the mechanical barriers to invasion by pathogenic organisms or foreign antigens (e.g. normal bacterial flora, the eye and skin, immotile cilia syndrome), defects in nonspecific host defenses (e.g., complement deficiency and functional white blood cell disorders), and defects in specific host defenses (e.g., immunosuppression caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites, combined immunodeficiency, deficiency). Examples of each of these categories are discussed below.

Immune Defects in Mechanical Barriers


Primary ciliary dyskinesia (Immotile Cilia Syndrome, Kartagener’s Syndrome) has autosomal recessive inheritance in humans, dogs, and mice and is characterized clinically by chronic respiratory tract disease, male sterility, and middle ear infections. About half of affected humans also have situs inversus and dextrocardia where the location of the internal organs and heart is reversed. This anatomical reversal combined with chronic respiratory tract disease is called Kartagener’s Syndrome (KS). The KS form of the disorder has been reported in Doberman pinschers and a border collie. Other dog breeds known to have immotile cilia and chronic respiratory disease include: Old English sheepdog, English springer spaniel, rottweiler, golden retriever, English pointer, Gordon setter, English setter, and bichon frise. Autosomal recessive inheritance has been suggested for the Doberman pinscher, English springer spaniel, and bichon frise breeds.

Chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, and bronchopneumonia result from an underlying structural defect of the cilia (visualized by electron microscopy, cinebronchoscopy, or radioisotopic mucociliary clearance) which makes them rigid and poorly functional. Mucus builds up in the upper and lower respiratory tract because it is not cleared properly from the airways. Cilia are microscopic, hair-like structures attached to several types of specialized body cells, e.g. cells lining the respiratory tract, the ends of the oviducts, sperm, and the Eustachian tube of the ear. Other clinical signs associated with the ciliary abnormality are ster­ility in males, partial sterility in fe­males, and loss of hearing. There can also be hydrocephalus, kidney disease, and abnormal sternum, ribs, or vertebrae. Partial expression of the disease occurs in affected families so that mild cases may be difficult to diagnose. Affected animals and their parents should not be used for breeding. With respect to bichon frise, the relatively small gene pool of the breed and its current popularity have increased the risk of transmitting the ciliary defect which could have a serious impact on the future vigor and health of the breed. Any bichon frise puppy with chronic respiratory problems that mimic distemper and progress to recurrent bronchopneumonia should be considered suspect.

Primary ciliary dyskinesia is not curable but can be managed with regular medical monitoring and treatment of episodes of pneumonia. Tracheal washes and/or bronchial biopsies with bacterial cultures and antibiotic sensitivity testing may be required to identify the infectious organisms seeding the lungs, and to implement an appropriate therapeutic regimen.

Defects in NonSpecific Host Defenses


This congenital disorder of gray Collies was originally called “cyclic neutropenia” but it is now known that all bone marrow elements are affected. A similar condition occurs in humans. Cyclical decreases in each of the blood cell elements occur at different times within the same affected individual although the periodicity of each cycle remains the same. The defect lies within the bone marrow itself as transplantation of affected dog marrow to histocompatible normal dogs produces the disease in the normal marrow and the reverse procedure corrects the defect of abnormal dogs.

Affected Collies have a silver-gray coat color and chronic recurrent severe bacterial infections especially of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. Hemorrhage from thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts) also occurs and affected pups often die as neonates; they rarely live beyond 3 years of age. Therapy requires careful management to monitor and treat animals for infections as soon as they arise and to maintain a clean environment. Use of lithium carbonate in affected humans and dogs works well to prevent infection and maintain production of hematopoietic cells, but it must be given continuously.


Chediak-Higashi (CH) Syndrome is an inherited autosomal recessive condition of humans, Blue Persian cats, and Hereford cattle. Affected individuals characteristically have giant, red-colored lysosomal granules within numerous tissues including white blood cells. The hair and eye color is diluted because enlarged melanin (pigment) granules are found in the hair shaft and eyes. Congenital cataracts, photophobia (aversion to light), and retinal changes are frequent, and there is an associated platelet dysfunction and bleeding tendency. Affected cats have an increased susceptibility to bacterial infections as their neutrophil chemotactic function is impaired.


Canine Granulocytopathy Syndrome was reported in a family of Irish Setters with abnormal leukocyte function. The defect is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. Another unrelated Irish Setter mother and son were found to have a leukocyte adhesion defect. Affected dogs have life- threatening bacterial infections and a short life span. Neutrophil counts can be very high (2OO,OOO/mm3) and recurring pyoderma and osteomyelitis are common.


This is a benign condition of humans and animals not associated with a known clinical problem. It is transmitted as an autosomal dominant trait. Foxhounds, other dog breeds, and cats have been described as having incomplete segmentation of the nucleus of neutrophils and eosinophils. Affected nuclei look round or bean- shaped. In Foxhounds, live litter size at weaning appears to be smaller in affected litters.


Deficiency of the third component of complement (C3) is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait in humans, Brittany Spaniels, and an inbred strain of guinea pigs. Affected dogs suffer from increased bacterial infections and septicemias especially those involving gram-negative bacteria and Clostridia spp. Heterozygotes have about 50% of normal levels of C3 and are clinically unaffected.

Defects in Specific Host Defenses

COMBINED Immunodeficiency

The classic combined immunodeficiency (CID) condition occurs in humans and Arabian horses. The horse defect has a frequency of greater than2% and is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait.
Combined immunodeficiency is occasionally reported in dogs. The first report involved a family of long- haired Dachshunds in Australia. Affected dogs developed fatal Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia between 9 and 12 months of age. More recently a family of basset hounds has been de scribed with a form of CID of sex- linked inheritance. Affected dogs are prone to infections especially of Mycobacterium (tuberculosis) and other bacterial and viral diseases. These dogs produce only IgM immunoglobulins, have low lymphocyte counts, and die at a young age.


Selective IgA deficiency was reported in a large breeding kennel of Beagles and is also commonly seen in the Chinese shar pei and German shepherd breeds. The beagles had chronic recurrent respiratory tract infections with Bordetella, parainfluenza virus, and parvovirus despite proper vaccination for these diseases. Chronic ear infections and dermatitis were also present, and occasionally animals developed seizures. Each of these clinical manifestations occurs with human IgA deficiency. Serum levels of IgA are undetectable or very low whereas other immunoglobulins and T-cell function are normal. Respiratory infections in these dogs are attributed to inadequate secretory IgA levels at mucosal surfaces.

As many as 80% of all Chinese shar peis have IgA deficiency. A survey of 278 dogs of 32 common breeds with suspected immunodeficiency found 56% of them to have selective IgA deficiency. Clinical signs were similar to those of the Beagles studied. These dogs also had recurrent staphylococcal dermatitis, demodectic mange, thyroid disease, otitis externa, flea allergy, cystitis, food intolerance, bronchitis, and atopy.


This condition was described in a colony of inbred Weimaraners with congenital growth hormone deficiency, a small thymus, and depletion of T- lymphocytes. Affected dogs are irnmunodeficient dwarfs that exhibit a wasting disease, unthriftiness, recurrent infections, and retarded growth. A parallel syndrome is recognized in immunodeficient dwarf mice. When treated with bovine growth hormone or a thymus gland extract (thymosin), affected pups responded dramatically by growing and developing normal T- cell lymphocyte responses.


An autosomal recessive condition of English bull terriers, acrodermatitis results from impaired absorption and metabolism of zinc. Affected pups are lighter in color at birth and develop diarrhea and recurrent respiratory tract and skin infections. The foot- pads become crusty and crack, nails are incompletely formed, and purulent dermatitis affects the feet and body orifices. Skin biopsies show characteristic changes of zinc deficiency. Impaired T-cell function occurs and serum zinc levels are usually low. Zinc supplementation does not appear to help and affected animals usually die by 15 months of age.


  • Halliwell REW, and Gorman NT: Vet Clin Immunology. Philadelphia, WB Saunders. 1989. Campbell KL. Immunoglobulin A deficiency in the dog: a retrospective study of 155 cases. Canine Pract.16(4):7-11, 1991.
  • Vaden SL, Breitschwerdt E B, Henrikson CK, et al: Primary ciliary dyskinesia in bichon frise littermates. JAAHA 27:633-640, 1991.
  • Dodds WJ, Complementary and alternative veterinary medicine: the immune system: Clin. Tech. Sm. An. Pract, 17(1); 58-63, 2002.

* excerpted from Dodds, WJ. Vet Pract STAFF 4(5): 19-21,1992.