Every Pet Deserves A Good Home…

Elwood, Crowned World’s Ugliest Dog in 2007, Has Died

world's ugliest dog diesElwood, the New Jersey canine that was crowned the world’s ugliest dog in 2007 and later became the topic of a children’s book preaching acceptance died. unexpectedly Thanksgiving morning at age.

His owner, Karen Quigley, said the Chinese crested and Chihuahua mix died after having some heath issues in recent months but recently appeared to be doing well.

Elwood was dark colored and hairless, saving for a puff of white fur resembling a Mohawk on his head. He was often referred to by fans as Yoda, or E.T., for his resemblance to those famous science-fiction characters.

Elwood won his crown at the annual ugly dog contest at the Sonoma-Marin County Fair in Petaluma, California a year after he had finished second.

Quigley had rescued Elwood in 2005, when he was about nine months old.

"The breeder was going to euthanize him because she thought he was too ugly to sell," Quigley has said.

After garnering the ‘ugly dog title’, Elwood became an online darling and developed a worldwide fan base. During his life, he appeared at more than 200 events that helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for animal rescue groups and nonprofit animal organizations.

Inspired by Elwood, Quigley wrote Everyone Loves Elwood: A True Story, a popular children’s book that promoted a message that it’s OK to be different. Quigley said the book shares lessons of love, compassion and perseverance and encourages readers to be kind to animals.

"He made people smile, he made them laugh and feel good. It was wonderful," Quigley said Saturday. "He will truly be missed."



Book: World’s Ugliest Dogs

December 2, 2013 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Chihuahua, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, Unusual Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gentle Giant George, Tallest Dog, Dies

The world has lost a gentle giant.

Giant George, verified as the world’s tallest dog by Guinness World Records, died last Thursday, one month before his eighth birthday.  The official verification changed both his life and the life of his owners overnight.  George held the official record for tallest dog from 2010 – 2012.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce Giant George died on Thursday, October 17, 2013,” his owners, David and Christine Nasser, posted on GiantGeorge.com. “George passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones … We appreciate the love and support you have given Giant George over the last several years.”

NC giant george nt 131024 16x9 608 Giant George   The Worlds Tallest Dog Has Died

(Photo Credit: Zuma/Newscom)

Giant George, 3 feet, 7 inches from paw to his shoulder; almost seven feet long, and weighed approximately 245 pounds.  He was known for his appearance on shows like “Live with Regis & Kelly” and “Good Morning America.”

The Great Dane, owned by Dave and Christie Nasser, was actually the runt of the litter, according to the website.

“Eager to play … this big Great Dane was scared of water, scared of dogs a fraction of his size (including Chihuahuas) and most of all, was scared of being alone”, the site said.

The owners donated a percentage of Giant George merchandise to animal charities and in 2011, donated more than $500 to a Japanese animal shelter after the country was hit hard by both an earthquake and tsunami.

Family, friends and fans have all posted to George’s Facebook page with their condolences.

“Thanks to the Nasser family for sharing him with the world. He will be missed,” one fan wrote.

Also see: Imagine taking him for walkies! George the Great Dane is 7ft long, weighs 18stones and is the world’s biggest dog… but he’s terrified of Chihuahuas; lots of photos.

Giant George’s Owner Thanks Fans For Support, Not Ready For Another Dog


World’s Oldest Dog Dies At Age 26….Requiescat in pace… although like with all records, there are now 27 and 28 year old Dachshunds and a 32 year old Chihuahua.

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Life in a Dog Pack: Old Age

How Long Will Your Dog Be with You? It Depends Heavily on This…

A Dog’s Life… Can Be Longer Than You Think…

Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Help Your Dying Pet End Life in a Kind and Gentle Way

‘Until One Has Loved an Animal, Part of Their Sour Remains Unawakened’

Rainbow Bridge…

Heaven and Pets


Giant George

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Human-Animal Bond (Kindle)

Help Your Dog Fight Cancer: What Every Caretaker Should Know About Canine Cancer, Featuring Bullet’s Survival Story, 2nd Edition

October 27, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Chihuahua, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


Video:  The Lottie June Show- WORLD’S OLDEST CHIHUAHUA & One of the Oldest living Dogs


How Long Will Your Dog Be with You? It Depends Heavily on This… 

A Dog’s Life… Can Be Longer Than You Think…

Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

World’s Oldest Dog Dies At Age 26….Requiescat in pace

Video: Kitty Kat my Chihuahua begging for food while her Chihuahua family looks on

August 1, 2013 Posted by | Animal and Pet Photos, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Chihuahua, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets | , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

How Long Will Your Dog Be with You? It Depends Heavily on This…

Story at-a-glance
  • When it comes to species of mammals, generally speaking, bigger animals live longer than smaller ones. But within species, this isn’t always true – for example, in the case of mice, horses, and especially dogs — the bigger the body, the shorter the lifespan.
  • According to a new study, big dogs die younger than smaller breeds mainly because they age quickly. The average lifespan of a Great Dane is about 7 years; a Yorkshire Terrier, from 13 to 16 years.
  • The study concludes that large breeds seem to age at faster rates than smaller breeds, and the speed at which the risk of death increases with age is also greater with big dogs. Bigger dogs more often get cancer, which makes sense since cancer is the result of abnormal cell growth.
  • There are many things breeders and owners of big dogs can do to help these pets live better and longer — including proper nutrition; regular maintenance of the musculoskeletal system and organs; fostering a strong, balanced immune system; and following responsible, health-focused breeding practices.

By Dr. Becker:

When you evaluate species of mammals, it quickly becomes obvious that as a general rule, the bigger the creature, the longer it lives. Elephants in the wild can live well into their 60’s, whereas squirrels only live about six years.

But when you look closer at individual species, this general rule doesn’t always hold true, and dogs are a good example. As any canine enthusiast knows, big dogs have much shorter lifespans than small dogs. The same holds true for mice, horses, and possibly even humans.

Large Breeds Age Quickly and Die Younger

According to a study published in the April issue of the journal American Naturalist1, big dogs die younger primarily because they age quickly. Study authors believe these new findings can help scientists understand the biological links between growth and mortality.

Dogs seem to be a perfect subject for the study, because humans have bred them throughout history to be wildly variable in size. According to LiveScience, the heaviest dog on record was probably an English Mastiff that weighed 343 pounds, while the smallest was a terrier weighing in at under a quarter-pound. There is no other species of mammal with such tremendous size disparity.

Giant breeds live the most abbreviated lives of all dogs. For example the Great Dane has an average life span of about seven years, while a Yorkie can be expected to live 13 to 16 years.

A Big Dog’s Life ‘Unwinds in Fast Motion’

The American Naturalist study took a look at ages of death in 74 breeds and over 56,000 dogs that visited veterinary teaching hospitals.

Researchers learned that large breeds seem to age at faster rates than smaller breeds, and the speed at which the risk of death increases with age is also greater with big dogs. According to study authors, “… large dogs age at an accelerated pace, suggesting that their adult life unwinds in fast motion.” For a dog, every 4.4 pounds of body mass takes about a month off his life.

The researchers next want to look at the growth and health histories of dogs to narrow down the leading causes of death for large breeds. For example, bigger dogs more often acquire cancer, which makes sense when you consider they grow more than small dogs, and cancer is the result of abnormal cell growth. It’s possible that humans have inadvertently selected for characteristics – like rapid growth – that predispose large dogs to cancer.

Other large animals like elephants that have many more cells than smaller creatures, and should therefore also be at greater risk for cancer, have undoubtedly evolved special defense mechanisms against disease. These mechanisms probably developed through natural selection over a very long period of time, whereas most dog breeds have evolved through selection by humans, and over a much shorter period of time.

Evolutionarily speaking, dogs have evolved in the blink of an eye, and protective mechanisms against cancer and other diseases haven’t had time to catch up.

Extending the Lives of Large and Giant Breed Dogs

If you own a large or giant breed dog or are thinking about getting one of the big guys, I hope you’ll watch my interview with Dr. Jeff Bergin.

Dr. Bergin and his partner, Christine, raise and breed Newfoundlands, and in my opinion, they do things the right way. In fact, it’s not unusual for their giant breed dogs to live into their late teens. In the world of Newfies, a 17-year lifespan is almost unheard of.

Some of the wonderful practices Dr. Bergin follows with his Newfies include:

  • Feeding exclusively raw diets.
  • Breeding for health, first and foremost. Dr. Bergin breeds his dogs only once or twice during the course of their lives, with at least six years between litters. He does not breed dogs with congenital defects, and so far only one of his dogs has had a genetic health issue, a heart problem. (Heart problems, osteosarcoma and hip dysplasia are the most common health challenges for this breed.)
  • Performing regular chiropractic adjustments. With large and giant breed dogs, it’s very important to take care of the frame. Dr. Bergin happens to be both a licensed animal chiropractor as well as a human chiropractor. He performs regular manual orthopedic manipulation on all his dogs, from the moment they first stand on their own through the remainder of their lives. This practice is one of the keys to keeping a big dog’s musculoskeletal system from degenerating with age. Dr. Bergin’s dogs are typically fully mobile even at the end of their lives.
  • Limiting vaccines and other assaults on the immune system. Dr. Bergin only vaccinates his dogs against rabies, because the law requires it. By strictly limiting the number of vaccines they receive, he helps keep his dogs’ immune systems strong and resilient.
  • Insuring Newfie litters go to the right families. Dr. Bergin and Christine perform a mandatory home visit to families interested in their dogs. They won’t release a dog without seeing the new home. They conduct in-depth interviews with prospective owners to insure the puppy will be well taken care of. They also insist on a commitment from prospective owners to feed raw.

For most pet owners, it’s the quality of their dog’s life that is most important. You may have your precious pup with you for eight years or twice that long. By focusing on the three pillars of health – nutrition, maintenance of the frame, and a strong, resilient immune system — you can insure you’re providing her with everything she needs for an excellent quality of life, however long her life may be.

Calculation of Pet Age

Most people think that calculating the age of dogs and cats in "human years" is quite simple: multiply their age by seven. For example, a 4-year-old dog or cat would actually be 28 years old in human years. But when you really begin weighing out the arithmetic, this method doesn’t add up. Say a 1-year-old dog is the equivalent of a 7-year-old human — get out of here! How many 7-year-old humans are sexually active and capable of reproducing? Dogs and cats are much more likely to have babies at 1 year old or even at 10 years old, than any person who is 7 or 70.

Many veterinarians now agree that a pretty good guess on the age of pets can be made using the following formulas for dogs and cats.

Aging is much faster during a dog’s first two years but varies among breeds. Large breeds, while they mature quicker, tend to live shorter lives. By the time they reach 5 they are considered "senior" dogs. Medium-sized breeds take around seven years to reach the senior stage, while small and toy breeds do not become seniors until around 10 or older.

But with all the vitamins, probiotics, stomach enzymes, better food (raw or home-cooked) or at least natural and organic pet foods that pets are now eating plus the fact that many live inside out of the elements and are pampered, pet age is increasing. So while many veterinarians agree that a pretty good guess on the age of pets can be made using the following formulas for dogs (and cats), the average is changing daily.

So, A Dog’s Life Can be Longer Than You Think…

Although still simple, it is much more accurate than the seven-year method. (Use these as a guestimate and guide. More and more pampered dogs are living an additional 3 to 5 years over the top averages, or even longer)

Assume that a 1-year-old dog is equal to a 12-year-old human and a 2-year-old dog is equal to a 24-year old human. Then add four years for every year after that. (Example: A 4-year-old dog would be 32 in human years.) Since this method takes into consideration the maturity rate at the beginning of a dog’s life and also the slowing of the aging process in his later years, Martha Smith, director of veterinary services at Boston’s Animal Rescue League, feels that this is the more accurate calculation formula.

Here is a chart, for easy reference:


A dog’s ‘average’ lifespan, factoring in all breeds and sizes, is around 12 or 13 years, but again, this varies widely by breed. The larger your dog is, the less time it will live. Female dogs tend to live a little longer. (Great Danes only live between 7 and 12 years.)

Wikipedia: List of Oldest (Known) Dogs  -  The oldest dogs on record were in their upper 20’s with Max, a terrier, (still) living at 29 years and 245 days old and a Labrador mix at 29 years and 193 days at the top of the (known) list.

Now let’s take a glimpse at a simple formula for calculating feline age in human years. Assume that a 1-year-old cat is equal to a 15-year-old human and a 2-year-old cat is equal to a 24-year-old human. Then add four years for every year after that. (Example: A 4-year-old cat would be 32 in human years.)

The following chart shows this formula of calculation:


Check out this and more great stuff from PetsAdviser.com and WebVet.com


Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

If I Should Die Before My Dog…

A Dog’s Life… Can Be Longer Than You Think…

A Natural Herb That Fights Cancer, or Chemotherapy for Your Sick Pet… Which Would You Choose?

Do Vaccinations Affect the Health of our Pets? 

The Nutrient Your Pet Needs More of As They Age: Protein

DNA Study Unlocks Mystery To Diverse Traits In Dogs

May 7, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets | , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

8 Out of 10 Pet Owners Didn’t Recognize These Signs of Illness – Will You?

Story at-a-glance
  • In a study of senior dogs and their owners, it was discovered that parents of older dogs often don’t recognize the signs of age-related illness, or don’t consider them to be serious. Eighty percent of owners involved in the study were unaware of at least one significant health concern with their pet. The dogs in the study averaged about eight health issues each.
  • Most traditional veterinarians wait for their patients to become ill before they intervene. This is very likely the reason owners of aging pets fear visiting the vet, and as a result, many older companion animals don’t get regular check-ups.
  • Proactive wellness-oriented veterinarians like Dr. Becker take an entirely different approach. Their goal is to see pets for wellness exams on a regular basis so they can maintain their patients in good health, and catch developing diseases before they become full-blown.
  • Ideally pet owners can team up with a local veterinarian who takes a proactive approach to the health of animals. When your pet’s health is carefully monitored throughout his or her life, it makes vet exams much less daunting as your furry companion gets up in years.
  • There are also many things you can do at home to help your aging pet remain comfortable and in good health.

Aging Pet

By Dr. Becker

Many veterinarians rely entirely on the owners of senior pets to report signs of age-related illness. (I’m not one of them, because my approach is proactive rather than reactive, and my focus is on preventing illness — not waiting until it occurs.) Unfortunately, many pet parents don’t recognize the signs, or consider changes in their dog’s or cat’s health normal if the symptoms seem related to the animal’s advancing age.

In fact, in a study published recently in the Journal of Small Animal Practice1, it was revealed that the vast majority (80 percent) of owners of dogs older than nine years of age were not aware of at least one significant health problem with their pet.

Study Suggests Most Older Dogs Have Unaddressed Health Problems

The study involved veterinary consultations with the owners of 45 senior dogs. The vet sessions consisted of taking a history of the dog’s health and lifestyle, a full physical examination, and urinalysis.

The history taking was standardized so that the owners were asked the same questions about changes they had noticed as their pet aged. A prompted history taking was also completed using open questions, followed by appropriate closed questions. The physical exam evaluated all organ systems, and the urinalysis included a dipstick urine test and specific gravity.

The 45 dogs in the study were discovered to have an average of about eight health issues each, including ear infections, respiratory distress, arthritis, abdominal masses, heart murmurs or arrhythmias, and lung cancer. According to study authors, the dogs’ owners frequently did not recognize or report serious signs of disease, however, they did report symptoms like increased sleeping, hearing or vision loss, stiffness or lameness, “slowing down,” increased cloudiness of the lens of the eye, increased thirst and urination, pain, signs of osteoarthritis, and dental disease.

As a result of the screenings, 29 further diagnostic procedures were ordered including 10 dental procedures, seven medical treatments, two surgeries, and sadly, the euthanasia of two dogs.

How to Conquer Your Fear of Vet Exams for Your Aging Pet

I think it’s normal for owners of beloved older pets to grow more fearful of vet appointments as their dog, cat, or other animal companion ages. The more years on the pet, the more likely a serious health problem will be diagnosed during a veterinary exam. But I think this view is much more prevalent in clients of traditional vet practices, because the conventional veterinary community is trained to wait for full-blown illness before intervening in an animal’s health.

In my proactive wellness-oriented practice and others like it, long-term clients are less fearful when they bring their elderly companions in for checkups because we (the pet parent and I) have worked as a team throughout the animal’s life to address potential health issues as soon as they arise.

My most vibrant, longest-lived patients are those whose owners not only provide a healthy lifestyle for their pets, but also bring them to my clinic for regular wellness exams – especially as they get up in years or if we are managing current medical issues. The frequency and regularity of their visits allows us to get to work on a developing disorder early in its progression, when there is the best chance for an excellent outcome.

We also review the animal’s nutritional, supplement and medication protocols at each visit and make adjustments as necessary. This allows us to, for example, know when the time is right to begin specific supplementation to prevent or slow the progress of age-related changes like loss of vision, osteoarthritis, and mental decline.

No matter your companion animal’s age, I strongly encourage you to find a wellness-oriented holistic or integrative veterinarian in your area (or at least within driving distance) – a DVM who practices a proactive approach to caring for your pet’s health. The two of you, as a team, can then set about taking steps to keep your furry friend healthy, rather than simply waiting in fear for a dreadful diagnosis.

Tips for Helping Your Pet Age Well

No matter your pet’s age, certainly the foundation for good health and vitality is a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet. The food your dog eats either builds up or tears down his health. His body needs an ideal energy source to promote the processes of metabolism, growth and healing. That perfect fuel is a healthy variety of fresh, living food suitable for your carnivorous canine. And pets’ nutritional needs change as they age.

To help with failing eyesight:

  • Bilberries are a rich source of flavonoids with antioxidant properties. When taken in capsule form combined with Vitamin E, they protect the eye tissue of humans and halt lens clouding in 97 percent of people with early-stage cataracts. This herb is safe for dogs, so it’s certainly something that might help and won’t harm your pet.
  • Leave a radio, television or other background noise on when your pet will be home alone. This will give her a reference point, and should also help mute noises that may startle her.
  • Avoid moving furniture around, keep household ‘travel lanes’ clear, and minimize clutter. The easier it is for your pet to navigate through the house, the less likely it is she’ll become disoriented or injure herself. Cover up slippery floors so your pet will feel secure walking on them.
  • Use natural scents like aromatherapy products (I use lavender oil) to ‘mark’ special spots in the house, for example your pet’s water dish.
  • Don’t move your pet’s feeding station around, and if your companion is a cat, don’t move the litter box from place to place. A familiar environment and daily routine are especially important to elderly pets with diminished faculties.

For arthritic pets:

  • Maintaining your dog at a healthy weight and insuring he’s physically active throughout his life will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease in his later years.
  • Cover slick floors (most tile, linoleum, hard wood) with non-skid rugs or runners to prevent dogs from slipping.
  • Chiropractic adjustments, massage, stretching, aquatic therapy, laser therapy and acupuncture are therapies that can make a world of difference in the mobility of your pet as he ages. Talk with your holistic/integrative vet about supplements you can add to your dog’s diet to help maintain healthy tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage. Some of these might include:
    • Glucosamine sulfate with MSM and eggshell membrane
    • Omega-3 fats (krill oil)
    • Ubiquinol
    • Supergreen foods like spirulina and astaxanthin
    • Natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs, proteolytic enzymes and nutraceuticals)
    • Adequan injections, which can stimulate joint fluid very rapidly in pets with arthritis

To keep your dog mentally sharp:

  • Enrich your dog’s environment with regular exercise, mental stimulation and socialization with other pets and people. In a two-year study of senior beagles, researchers found dogs that engaged in regular physical exercise, playtime with other pups and stimulating toys, did better on cognitive tests and learning new tasks than their less active counterparts.
  • Give your dog a SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) supplement. SAMe is a safe and very effective way to stall or improve mental decline. In one recent study, dogs with age-related cognitive decline given a SAMe supplement for eight weeks showed a 50 percent reduction in mental impairment. Consult your pet’s veterinarian for the right dose size for your dog.
  • Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have been shown to improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that results in brain lesions in older dogs. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for basic MCT support.
  • Other supplements to consider are resveratrol (Japanese Knotweed), which protects against free radical damage and beta-amyloid deposits, ginkgo biloba, and phosphatidylserine – a nutritional supplement that can inhibit age-related cognitive deficits. Again, I recommend you consult a holistic veterinarian for dosing guidance.

Give your pets a head start for a healthier, happier and longer life with StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

Book: Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs


Acupuncture for Dogs (Pets)

Alternative Dog Arthritis Treatment Series Part 1 – An Introduction

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Natural Pet Remedies For Everyday Problems

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Struggling families can now apply for nonprofit’s Pet Food Stamps

Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Pet Food Red Flags You Want to Avoid

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Part 3 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: Fixing America’s Broken Animal Shelter System

Pet Age

The Nutrient Your Pet Needs More of As They Age: Protein

March 1, 2013 Posted by | Adopt Just One More Pet, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Part 3 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: Fixing America’s Broken Animal Shelter System

Story at-a-glance
  • Today, in the final segment of a three-part interview with best-selling author Ted Kerasote about his latest book, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, Dr. Becker and Ted discuss the problem of homeless pets in North America and the need for shelters to transform themselves into no-kill facilities.
  • Ted also discusses three-and-a-half-year-old Pukka’s life as a healthy, athletic, free-roaming dog, and the benefits and risks of the lifestyle Ted has chosen for him.
  • Finally, Ted discusses two fascinating new projects – one he has just put the finishing touches to, and another he’s currently working on.

By Dr. Becker

I’m back with bestselling author Ted Kerasote for the final installment of our three-part interview. You can see part one here and part two here. We’re discussing Ted’s wonderful new book just out in bookstores, called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs.

The problem of homeless pets.

One of the huge, complex topics Ted takes on in Pukka’s Promise is the “crisis” situation in North American animal shelters. I worked in a shelter as a teenager, and Ted’s treatment of the subject in his new book has caused me to view the situation in a very different light.

I asked Ted to talk about his research into how unwanted pets are handled in other parts of the world vs. in the U.S.

Ted said he’d first like to address the use of the word “crisis” to describe our homeless pet situation. While it’s true about 1.5 million animals are killed in shelters each year in the U.S., 40 years ago we were killing 20 million per year.

The point is, progress has been made, and Ted believes credit is due the organizations that have worked so hard to bring that number down so dramatically.

How dogs are cared for in Western Europe vs. North America.

As to the question of differences between how North America treats homeless animals vs. other areas of the world, Ted explained that he traveled extensively in Europe to see how the situation was handled over there. He says you don’t see stray dogs roaming all over Western Europe, as happens in some parts of the U.S.

And the assumption is that because Western Europe is so highly urbanized, it can’t have free-roaming dogs. Everyone by necessity must control his or her dog, which is why there’s no so-called pet “overpopulation” problem. But Ted says that actually, there ARE free-roaming dogs … in Hyde Park … at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris … the Villa Borghese in Rome … and the Englischer Garden in Munich. In all these places there are free-roaming, off-leash dogs running about, under the voice-control of their people, and they’re not spayed or neutered, either.

To the casual observer, this seems risky at best. After all, everyone knows how quickly a male dog can mate with a female dog, right? So, why aren’t countless unwanted puppies being killed in shelters? The answer is that in Europe, people sequester their female dogs when they’re in heat. It’s just what they do, because it’s their tradition.

The Europeans carefully manage their female dogs when they’re in season. The dogs stay at home – in the barn or the kennel. They are walked only on a leash. There’s no way you don’t know when your female dog is being mounted by a male dog, if she’s at the end of a four foot leash and you’re holding the other end.

Ted explained that like most Americans, prior to his fact-finding trip to Europe, he didn’t really comprehend that there’s a way to have intact dogs and not have litter after litter of puppies.

Ted further explained that according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. is number 27 out of 31 countries with respect to overall poverty and the amount of social justice its citizens enjoy. In Scandinavia, for example, there are no dogs killed in animal shelters. They have a very secure social services network that takes care of citizens “from cradle to grave.” Of course, taxes are high, but everyone’s taken care of, including pets.

By contrast, in the U.S., most dogs are killed in counties with low median incomes. It’s absolutely true that you can’t determine the number of dogs killed in a shelter by the amount of money per capita that is spent in that shelter. Some shelters spend $6 per capita and kill a lot of dogs. Others spend $1.50 per capita and don’t kill that many dogs. But it’s also true that for the most part, poor communities kill more dogs in their shelters.

No-kill solutions every shelter can (and should) embrace.

So the question becomes, how can we help the shelter system work better? Better social services across the board might help. Eliminating poverty might help. Those are long-term goals. Ted says that in the meantime, there are many people working on helping shelters operate better. There’s the No Kill Advocacy Center, whose solution involves hiring compassionate shelter directors who are committed to implementing ideas that have worked all over the country to reduce the number of shelter deaths.

Some of those ideas include keeping shelters open at least one day on the weekend. Keep them open in the evening – employed people aren’t available to come see adoptable animals during the workday. Implement a foster care program to reduce the number of kittens and puppies who are killed. Send the little ones out to foster families so they can grow up to be adoptable pets.

Other ideas include partnering with local pet stores to stop selling purebred dogs from breeders and instead feature shelter pets ready for adoption. The stores make money, a percentage goes to the shelters, and the animals find homes. It’s a win for everyone.

Another idea is to do outreach programs where the shelter takes adoptable pets to places like PetSmart and Petco for adoption events. The shelters that have implemented these techniques have low kill rates. But according to Ted’s research, many, many more shelters need to adopt these ideas.

Ted also mentioned Maddie’s Fund, which helps shelters and animal welfare organizations that are trying to reduce the kill rate. Maddie’s Fund sponsors a massive ad campaign, The Shelter Pet Project, to convince prospective pet owners to adopt a shelter animal. In addition, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, told Ted that ”a no-kill nation must be one of the greatest aspirations of this organization.” But according to Nathan Winograd, the head of the No Kill Advocacy Center, out of 3,500 shelters across the country, only about 200 have become no-kill, meaning 90 percent of the dogs and cats who come into the shelter are adopted, fostered, or find other suitable living arrangements.

Ted believes that ever so slowly, we are working on the problem of homeless pets. In my opinion, it boils down to how committed and passionate each shelter is to becoming a no-kill facility.

Pukka’s life as a young, athletic, free-roaming dog.

Next I wanted Ted to talk about the role of genetics in helping dogs live healthier lives, and specifically, how he has applied the principles of his research to his own dog, Pukka, who is now almost four.

I asked Ted if he has encountered any challenges with Pukka’s health he wasn’t expecting. Ted said that overall, Pukka is a vibrant, thriving dog, who according Ted, just happens to beat himself up a lot – he’s hard on his body. He’ll jump off something, and the next day he won’t be quite as fast when he runs. He’s like many young athletes in that he doesn’t know his own limits.

Ted went on to explain that when Pukka was two, he almost died from a self-inflicted wound. He was running with a stick in his mouth, and he jammed it into the ground going full tilt. The stick broke and its jagged end pierced his tongue, severing his sublingual artery. Pukka came into the house gushing arterial blood.

Ted got the dog in his car and drove about a hundred miles an hour to the animal hospital in Jackson, Wyoming. He had stuffed a dishtowel in Pukka’s mouth, but he was still spraying blood all over the car. At the animal hospital, the vet staff clamped off the artery, but they had some initial difficulty finding the injury because there was just so much blood.

So Pukka is a healthy, athletic youngster who injures himself from time to time. Other than that, what worries Ted most is Pukka’s potential exposure to chemicals in the area where they live. Grand Teton National Park and Teton County are sprayed with chemicals every spring to control spotted knapweed. During those times, Pukka is confined to the house and walked under Ted’s supervision, even though all the literature on those sprays claims they are non-toxic.

Ted believes that Pukka, like most dogs, was exposed to many potentially harmful toxins as a puppy, for example, by chewing on dog toys. And he’s exposed to environmental pollutants just as we all are. Ted explained that he’s tried to create a non-toxic house, but Pukka also roams around the village where they live, so it’s impossible to say what he might be exposed to.

People say to Ted, “You should fence Pukka. You should lock him up.” But for Ted, that’s not an option. He’s willing to assume certain risks so that Pukka can live as a free-roaming dog.

Fortunately, Ted has a very unique situation in that he lives in a small village that provides an almost picture-perfect environment for dogs to live independently and free and to make their own choices. Of course, not all of us are fortunate enough to have such an amazing living arrangement.

Ted explained that there are nonetheless risks associated with living where he does, and they are unusual, for instance, grizzly bears … mountain lions … and wolves, the wolves posing the greatest threat to dogs in northwestern Wyoming since wolves will kill domestic dogs. They consider them interlopers in their territory. When Ted and Pukka are hiking during the summer months, or mountain bike riding, Pukka is often a half-mile ahead, doing his thing. If he runs into a pack of wolves, it could be the end of him. But Ted explained that he’s willing to take those risks so Pukka can have his freedom.

What Ted is doing now.

Ted has put the last five years of his life, heart and soul into researching and writing Pukka’s Promise. Now that it’s out in bookstores, I asked Ted what’s next. He responded that he breathed about a five-minute sigh of relief after he finished the book, and then he went back to one he started years ago, before he met Merle, about a young jaguar named Jorge, who lives in Central America. He’s just putting the finishing touches on it now. The title is The Jaguar Who Ran.

As Ted’s story goes, Jorge the jaguar doesn’t like where he was born, because he can’t run in the jungle. He’s always running into trees and slipping in the mud. His mother tells him, “Listen, jaguars slink and crouch and hide. They don’t run.” Jorge responds, “But dad ran when he went up to the land of the Still Star,” which is what the jaguars call northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. Jorge wants to run. So he goes to the land of the Still Star and gets into loads of trouble, but manages to persevere. It’s a story for all of us who dream of living a life different from that of our families and cultures.

Ted said he’s also working on a book about street dog management in developing areas of the world, where extermination has traditionally been used to reduce the incidence of rabies transmitted to people. This has not worked. Nor can adoption work since people in such places don’t have enough money to adopt and care for a dog. Since the 1990s a different approach has been tried. It was pioneered in India. Street dogs are captured, sterilized, vaccinated, and then released in the exact location where they were captured. This strategy has been very successful and has reduced both the number of street dogs without harming them, while also reducing the incidence of rabies transmitted to people.

Ted explained that he has met some very interesting veterinarians doing this kind of work all over the world. He thought their story would make a good book and might be applicable to some extent here in the U.S. because we also have a large stray dog problem in some areas. Depending on whose numbers you believe, there are 5,000 to 50,000 stray dogs in Detroit. There are stray dogs in Watts, in Baltimore, St. Louis, and on Indian reservations. The Navajo reservation is home to a couple hundred thousand stray dogs.

What typically happens is we capture these dogs, put them in shelters, and kill the majority of them. Ted wonders if it might not be a better idea to capture them, sterilize and vaccinate them, and turn them loose again – especially if they’re healthy.

My sincere thanks to Ted!

I want to thank Ted Kerasote for joining me for this three-part interview.

I’m very excited about the release of his new book, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, and I’m so thankful I was able to get an advance copy to read. I’ve really enjoyed it, and I know our listeners and readers here today will as well.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry … you’ll be informed and inspired by Pukka’s Promise.


Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

Pukka: The Pup After Merle

StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

If I Should Die Before My Dog…

February 18, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Part 2 of Dr. Becker’s Interview with Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote: The Seven Factors that Determine How Long Your Dog Will Live

Story at-a-glance
  • This is part two of Dr. Becker’s captivating three-part video interview with bestselling author Ted Kerasote, author of a brand new book just released last week called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs.
  • Today, Dr. Becker and Ted discuss the seven variables that he and other experts believe most influence a dog’s health and longevity. These factors include breeding, nutrition, vaccinations, environmental pollutants, spaying and neutering, the animal shelter system, and the amount of freedom dogs enjoy.
  • In his discussion with Dr. Becker, Ted also touches on such wide-ranging topics as the importance of exercise for dogs, why veterinary schools seem stuck in a time warp, how he discovered most dog toys contain toxins … and his pet peeve when it comes to the health care of dogs.

By Dr. Becker

I’m back with bestselling author Ted Kerasote for part two of our three-part interview series. You can see part one here. We’re discussing Ted’s latest wonderful book, which hit bookstores last week, called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs..

Many of you will remember Ted’s amazing book, Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog. The new book is about the dog Ted has now, Pukka. Interestingly, the book didn’t start out titled Pukka’s Promise, so I asked Ted to share with us how and why the name changed.

Ted explained the original title for the book was Why Dogs Die Young, and What We Can Do About It. He came up with the name because, as we discussed last week in part one and in our discussion last year, after Merle’s Door was released, he received many inquiries from readers asking, “Why do our dogs die so young?” So it seemed natural to Ted to title the book in response to those questions, and in fact, Why Dogs Die Young was the working title for four years.

But when Ted’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt held a meeting last year with sales reps for the new book, they all stated that they loved the content, but hated the title. They called the title “a downer and a bummer.” So over the course of the Thanksgiving weekend, Ted came up with the new title, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs..

The #1 contributor to early death in dogs: poor breeding.

In Pukka’s Promise, Ted outlines seven key variables that he and other experts agree contribute to the longevity of pet dogs. These variables include breeding, nutrition, vaccinations, environmental pollutants, spaying/neutering, the animal shelter system in North America, and the amount of freedom dogs enjoy.

Ted feels that breeding is at the top of the list of contributors to how long a dog lives. He gives the example of short-faced dogs (brachycephalic breeds), who typically suffer breathing difficulties. Those dogs may not live as long as dogs with longer muzzles.

Another example are dogs bred with abnormally long spines and therefore, inherent back problems. Those dogs, as well, are probably not going to live as long as dogs whose bodies are in better proportion.

Ted makes the point that dogs who are highly inbred and have just a few common ancestors are also at risk of early death. He cites the example of Golden Retrievers bred in North America, 61 percent of whom die of cancer. Why? One reason is that they have very few common ancestors and consequently lots of recessive genes — the kind that can lead to genetically transmitted diseases. With these genes now spread far and wide throughout the Golden Retriever population, they frequently meet, causing health problems and shortening the lives of these dogs.

Ted says he knows of only one breeder who, over a long career, has selected her breeding stock for longevity as well as for how her dogs look or work. Health is not at the top of the list for most dog breeders.

Next on the list: nutrition, vaccinations, and environmental pollutants.

The next most important variable according to Ted is nutrition, and of course I certainly agree.

As Ted pointed out in part one of our discussion last week, it’s expensive to feed our dogs well. But there are ways to do it, including cooking meals at home – or buying a high quality kibble instead of raw food.

Third on Ted’s list is actually vaccinations AND environmental pollutants, because they are similar in terms of their potential toxic effect on pets. In both cases, we’re exposing our dogs to unnatural substances, and while vaccinations are useful for protecting our own pets and others from parvo, distemper and rabies, dogs certainly don’t need the number of vaccinations currently recommended by many veterinarians.

Dogs, like children, have smaller bodies than adults, so environmental pollutants and substances injected into them have a greater effect. And our dogs are low to the ground — their feet and noses are right down in those chemicals in many cases. As Ted points out, environmental toxins are one of the easier things to help our dogs avoid. We don’t have to use lawn chemicals. We can remove formaldehyde-filled carpets from our homes. It’s not necessary to expose our dogs to some of these very common but dangerous chemicals.

Skiing the mountains of Wisconsin … or, the importance of exercise for dogs.

Ted also puts exercise at the top of the list for its value in giving dogs healthier lives. Most dogs just don’t get enough exercise.

Ted, of course, has a slightly different definition of exercise than most of us do –especially city dwellers. Ted lives in a very small village in Wyoming at the edge of Grand Teton National Park, and a regular workout for him is skiing uphill for an hour or so in an afternoon and much longer workouts on the weekend. Meanwhile, I have to get on a treadmill because I live in the Chicago area!

Ted tells the funny story that when he was driving on Interstate 90 from O’Hare airport for our interview, he saw a billboard that said, “Ski the mountains of Wisconsin,” under a picture of what looked like the Jackson Hole, Wyoming ski area. He says he almost drove off the road thinking, “Mountains of Wisconsin?” (There are hills in Wisconsin – no mountains!)

Ted realizes most people don’t live in the Rockies. But dogs are still dogs, whether they live in the Rockies or in an apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City. They still need exercise, and so do their owners. And a little stroll outside isn’t really sufficient to get a dog’s heart pounding – it’s not aerobic exercise.

Ted thinks off-leash dog parks can be a good substitute. At least the dog, if not the owner, is getting some physical activity. In an off-leash, fenced-in dog park, dogs can really be dogs. They can sniff, smell, and move at “dog speed,” as Ted discusses in Pukka’s Promise.

Of course, there are also plenty of city dwellers that are lean, and so are their dogs, because unlike many suburbanites they don’t drive everywhere they go. They walk to the grocery store. They walk to do errands. And they bring their dogs along.

So the idea is to get creative regardless of your living situation, as Ted discusses in his book.

Why are DVMs in the U.S. and Canada trained ONLY to spay or neuter, when alternative sterilization methods are "Quick, easy, and effective?"

I next asked Ted to talk about his interviews with veterinarians while he was doing research for Pukka’s Promise. Being a veterinarian, I’m certainly aware that the profession has some blind spots.

Ted thinks that this is a result of the way veterinarians are trained. There are about 30 veterinary schools in the U.S. and another four or so in Canada. These are old institutions and, like many institutions, they suffer from inertia. They do things the way they’ve always done them, until something really shakes things up.

Ted says one of the best examples of this concerns spaying and neutering. He and I have discussed the fact that tubal ligations and vasectomies are another means of achieving sterility in dogs. He didn’t entirely believe me at first, so he did his own research and found over a dozen citations, dating back to the mid-1970’s, that describe these less-invasive procedures as “Quick, easy, and effective. Complications, rare.”

So he called every vet school in the U.S. and asked if tubal ligations and vasectomies were taught there. Not one school said they were. So Ted naturally wants to know why there’s such a disconnect between what the veterinary literature says and what is being taught in veterinary schools. He says it’s obvious either they’re not reading their own peer-reviewed literature, or there is a mindset against teaching alternative sterilization procedures.

Ted thinks what has happened is the veterinary profession and the animal shelter community joined forces in the 1970s to try to solve what has been called the “pet overpopulation problem” in the U.S. And, at the time, the quickest, cheapest, most effective means they hit on was spaying and neutering, which have now become a mantra in this country – we need to spay or neuter every dog, even though there are alternative procedures that prevent pregnancy.

I absolutely agree with this, and these alternative methods of sterilization are also actually faster, less risky, and maybe less costly.

But to Ted’s point, they’re not being taught to veterinary students. And when he has asked fourth-year students about it, their response has been, “Oh, we can’t do that. We didn’t learn that.” When he talked with Dr. Robert McCarthy, a veterinary surgeon at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. McCarthy just laughed ruefully and said, “The reason they’re not being taught is habit. Spaying and neutering were taught a hundred years ago, and so we continue to do it that way today.”

Ted poses the question, “What will it take to make the veterinary profession change?” The answer is veterinary clients, and veterinary students. Dog owners need to speak up and say, “Hey, we’d like better dog food,” and “No, we don’t want a vaccination every year. I’ve read on Dr. Karen Becker’s website that we don’t need vaccinations every year. And you know, maybe my dog would be better off with a vasectomy so he can keep his testicles and the hormones they produce.”

Tainted tennis balls and other toxic toys.

According to Ted, another area where public pressure and consumer demand could change things for the better is with dog toys.

Ted includes an interesting little section in Pukka’s Promise about toxic dog toys. I asked him to share how he came to learn about the problem, because I honestly wasn’t expecting to see anything about it in his book.

Ted explained that when he brought Pukka home, everyone he knew sent him gifts. Tons of gifts. They all went in a huge wicker basket, and Ted would look over and see Pukka ripping apart the toys, chewing on the polyester and spitting it out. And he started to wonder, “Hmm … is that good for him to have in his mouth?”

Ted knew children’s toys had been vetted and we now have legislation that stipulates what cannot go into kids’ toys. Since children are about the size of dogs, he wondered if Pukka should be mouthing all that stuff – ripping and tearing at it. And Pukka, like many dogs, destroyed tennis balls. In a matter of minutes he would be gnawing on the guts of the ball. So Ted wondered also about whether tennis balls were safe.

And guess what? He couldn’t find anyone who could tell him about the safety of dog toys. Not a soul. The manufacturers, of course, wouldn’t tell him. They’d respond to Ted’s inquiries with, “Oh, that’s proprietary information. We can’t divulge that.”

So since Ted’s goal was to make his book rigorously researched and thorough, he began sending dog toys to an environmental testing laboratory that tests children’s toys. And he learned that lo and behold, the polyester in one of Pukka’s stuffed toys contained antimony, a suspected carcinogen, and the amount in the toys was 10,000 times the maximum level recommend for drinking water by the World Health Organization.

Pukka’s retriever dummies, as it turns out, contained a phthalate that is prohibited in children’s toys. And tennis balls have an accelerant in the rubber that is poisonous. Whether this toxin is bioavailable from the tennis ball no one could say – not even the best toxicology minds in the country could say.

As tennis ball manufacturers told Ted, “We don’t make tennis balls for dogs, but for people playing the game of tennis.” So for Ted there was an easy solution – no more tennis balls for Pukka. Instead, he got non-toxic balls that are designed for dogs. They’re made by Planet Dog, and Ted knows they’re non-toxic because he had them tested as well!

I’m pretty sure that Ted is one of the very few people who has sent dog toys to a lab for testing, and I love that he included the information in Pukka’s Promise. He was able to find only one other test of dog toys, done in Germany.

Ted’s pet peeve: treating dogs as "just dogs."

Ted explains that one of his pet peeves is how we treat dogs with less respect than they deserve, excusing our behavior by saying that they’re “just dogs.” He says that we’d never take this approach with people, and especially children. We’d never practice human medicine the way we practice veterinary medicine, with such little oversight and allowing M.D’s to dispense drugs (other than samples) out of a cabinet in a back office, as veterinarians do. Human patients have to go to a pharmacy to fill their prescriptions, so the doctor isn’t making money (presumably) off the sale of drugs.

But veterinarians are allowed to sell drugs for their animal patients out of their offices, which perhaps makes it more appealing to write too many prescriptions. Ted’s point is that there is far less rigor when it comes to the health care of our pets than we would tolerate in human health care.

Stay tuned next week for the final installment of my 3-part interview with Ted Kerasote. We’ll talk in-depth about what his research reveals about what has been called the "pet overpopulation problem" and the operation of animal shelters in the U.S. We’ll also talk more about Pukka, and what future surprises Ted has in store for us.


Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

Pukka: The Pup After Merle

StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

If I Should Die Before My Dog…

February 14, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , , | 16 Comments

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, by Bestselling Author Ted Kerasote – Available in Bookstores This Week!

Story at-a-glance
  • This is part one of a brand new, three-part interview Dr. Becker conducted with bestselling author Ted Kerasote, whose most well known work is Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog.
  • In this new interview series, Dr. Becker and Ted discuss his latest book, which goes on sale this week, called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs (Pukka was introduced to readers in Ted’s 2010 book, Pukka: The Pup After Merle.)
  • Today’s fascinating conversation covers the origins of Pukka’s Promise and the vast amount of worldwide research Ted conducted for the book.
  • Ted and Dr. Becker also discuss in some detail his chapter on animal shelters and how it came to be included in the book, as well as the challenges of researching and writing about the very touchy topic of canine nutrition. Ted discusses Pukka’s diet and how it differs from what he fed Merle.
  • They also talk about how Ted eventually moved on after Merle’s death to find Pukka … the ways in which the two dogs are different … and how Ted achieved his goal of creating a freethinking, self-actualized dog in Pukka.

Video: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs – Part 1

By Dr. Becker:

Today I have a very special interview guest. He’s Ted Kerasote, the bestselling author of a wonderful book I know many of you have read or heard about called Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog.

In addition to Merle’s Door, Ted has written several other books including Bloodties, Heart of Home, Out There, and Pukka: The Pup After Merle.

Ted’s latest book, which went on sale yesterday and is sure to be another bestseller, is called Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs.

I was able to get an early copy of Pukka’s Promise, and this is a really fascinating book. I encourage all of you who are watching, listening or reading here today to pick up a copy.

The origin of Pukka’s Promise.

I was aware of Ted’s latest book endeavor because we spoke about it during our discussion last year.

I asked Ted to talk about how he came to the decision to write Pukka’s Promise. He explained he was on a book tour for Merle’s Door, sitting in his hotel room in Monroe, Louisiana on a rainy afternoon. As he read through emails from readers, he realized he was receiving hundreds of notes from people asking questions about why their dogs died so young. “Why did my dog die of cancer at three … four …. five years of age?” “Why did four out of my five Golden Retrievers die of cancer?”

And Ted began to wonder, “Well, why DO dogs die so young? Why did Merle die of cancer? And Brower? And Pearly?” (These were some of Merle’s old friends.) So he started doing some of his first research for the book sitting in that hotel room. Pretty soon, it became clear to him there are really just a handful of reasons – seven, to be exact – to explain why dogs die young.

One reason is they’re related to wolves, and wolves are a short-lived species of animal. He explains this in more detail in his new book.

Another reason is we breed dogs not for longevity, but for how they look. In addition, many dogs are inbred, which increases the incidence of genetically transmitted diseases.

And then there’s nutrition, which I talk about extensively here at Mercola Healthy Pets.

Environmental pollution is another factor that negatively affects dogs even more than people, because dogs have smaller bodies.

Vaccinations are another influence. Dogs get many, many more vaccinations than humans do.

As he compiled the list in his head, Ted realized, “Gosh, I think there’s a book here.” He began to jot down some notes, and suddenly experienced a sort of flash that Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov talked about – an author sees the entirety of his book in a nanosecond, in a supernova flash of inspiration.

Ted realized it was time to get another dog, and the new dog would be a central character in the new book. And he would need to raise this new dog according to the healthier principles he was learning through his research.

Five years later, he finished the book we’re talking about today, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs.

The writing of Pukka’s Promise takes Ted all over the world.

Next I asked Ted to talk about the incredible amount of information gathering he did for the book. He flew around the world meeting and talking with a very diverse group of fascinating people.

Ted responded that one of the key people he met was Dr. Bruce Fogle, a veterinarian in London who is also the author of many books on dogs. Fogle graciously introduced Ted to others in the dog world, including veterinarian Dr. Åke Hedhammar of the Swedish University at Uppsala. Åke works with the Swedish Kennel Club and has been instrumental in helping them put more rigorous certifications in place in that country.

Åke Hedhammar’s work led Ted to Wayne Cavanaugh, the head of the United Kennel Club in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Cavanaugh is in the process of revising breed standards to place more emphasis on the health of dogs.

Ted also mentioned Dr. Greg Ogilvie of Carlsbad, California, a canine oncologist who has some very interesting ideas about nutrition and cancer prevention. And he was also kind enough to say that I, too, have been instrumental in helping his research for the book. Over the years, Ted and I have discussed a wide range of topics about canine health, including the implications of spaying and neutering, diet and nutrition, and natural ways to raise our dogs.

I also introduced Ted to Dr. Jack Oliver at the University of Tennessee, who sadly passed away in 2011. Dr. Oliver was one of my mentors, and instrumental in connecting the dots between spaying/neutering and its effect on the endocrine system.

Chapter 19 of Pukka’s Promise: “Shelters to Sanctuaries”

One of my favorite chapters in Pukka’s Promise is titled “Shelters to Sanctuaries.” I asked Ted why he decided to include the subject of shelters in his book.

He explained that a couple years into writing the book, it occurred to him that in order to fully discuss why dogs die young in the U.S., he needed to address a key factor – killing healthy dogs in animal shelters. We kill 1.5 million dogs in this country every year. As Ted puts it, “If you’re a dog and you end up in the shelter system, your chances of dying young are high.” So he knew he couldn’t write a book about canine mortality without including the shameful number of healthy animals killed in shelters every day in this country.

In fact, according to Ted this was one of the reasons the book was not released in October 2010, as originally scheduled. He needed extra time to research the shelter chapters, which took him not only across the U.S., but also to Europe, Russia and India to see how other cultures deal with homeless dogs – or how they resolved the problem, as countries in Europe have.

Ted made some really interesting discoveries through his shelter research. I have a background in the traditional shelter system, and many people – including veterinarians – don’t realize we could turn the horrific situation in this country around like other countries have. But it takes insight, planning, and forethought of the kind Ted discusses in Pukka’s Promise. So I’m very excited about that particular chapter in his book.

Ted explained that the hardest chapter to write – and the hardest day he spent during the writing of the book – was the day he spent at a shelter in Los Angeles. He watched so many dogs being killed and could do nothing about it. He did bring one dog out of the shelter, Chance.

Many people who work in shelters face the same thing every day, and our hearts go out to them. Ted expressed that he could never do that job. I explained that I actually did that job. I became a certified euthanasia technician at the age of 17. Ultimately I had to give it up, because in order to be involved in animal welfare the rest of my life, which was my plan, I had to get out of that role while I still had some emotional energy – before I completely burned out. It’s an overwhelmingly difficult job to do.

The hardest chapters to write? The ones on canine nutrition …

Ted explained the hardest chapter to write by far was the chapter on nutrition. In fact, it is now four chapters!

There were many challenges Ted faced as he talked with well-meaning people on all sides of the pet diet debate. There were those who said, “This is what you have to believe. Dogs can eat kibble. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

And then there were people like me saying, “That’s nonsense. Dogs were not designed to eat corn. They need raw food and vegetables.”

Ted was faced with trying to sort all that out without a single scientific study having ever been done comparing genetically similar dogs, one on a grain-free diet and one on a kibble diet.

There are no studies to turn to and say, “Ah, this question has been answered!” So he had to look at lots of peripheral evidence to reach his own conclusions about the best way to feed dogs. He visited food renderers and dog food manufacturing facilities; he talked to people like me and people in the pet food industry. Ted believes he came to an eventual conclusion that will help people make better decisions about how they can feed their dogs.

Unfortunately, one of the great difficulties is that many people would love to feed their dogs better food, but they simply can’t afford to and there’s no way around that. If you want to feed your dog – especially a large dog – frozen raw food that’s organic and from free-range animals, it’s hugely expensive.

Ted says that through his vast research on the subject, he has found kibbles that are convenient, made without grain or preservatives that cost about $500 a year to feed a 70-pound dog. He says that’s not too bad – only a little over twice the amount most U.S. households spend to feed their dogs.

Creating a diet for Pukka.

Next I asked Ted to talk about how he fed Merle vs. how he feeds Pukka. He explained that through his research, he learned he would need to feed his new dog differently. He was not happy with how he’d fed Merle, and he goes into detail in the book.

When he brought Merle home from Utah, he fed him a corn-based kibble. And Merle started itching. He experimented with changing his diet, and the itching finally disappeared when he transitioned Merle to a primarily meat-based diet.

Throughout Merle’s life, Ted supplemented his regular diet with elk, antelope, duck, salmon and grouse. As he points out, Merle was too big to be fed an exclusive diet of wild game – hunters can’t legally kill that much meat. As he discusses in the new book, it would take nine elk to feed Pukka for a year, since he eats about 1,300 pounds of meat and bones in a 12-month period.

So Ted had to come up with a different plan. He went to a frozen raw diet containing mostly organic ingredients, free-range livestock, organ meats and veggies. That’s Pukka’s main source of nutrition, along with dried elk chips (a commercial brand) and a high quality commercial kibble that contains whole meats and no grains. He doesn’t eat that very often – just as needed — like when Ted takes Pukka backpacking. Pukka carries his own food, and when they are days into a backpacking trip, it’s nice to have dried elk chips and some kibble. That way, Pukka can carry enough food to feed himself on the trip.

Ted also supplements Pukka’s diet with elk, bison, antelope and fresh vegetables. In fact, one of Pukka’s favorite meals is ground elk, including the heart, liver and lungs, cauliflower, broccoli and kale (all finely chopped), a raw egg, and an elk rib laid on top!

Does that not sound like most dogs’ perfect fantasy meal right there?

Backtracking a bit … how Ted moved on after Merle’s death to find Pukka.

Deciding the right time to get another pet after one has passed is an intensely personal decision. In my case, I waited almost a year and a half, even though I’m sure it seemed odd to many of my veterinary clients that I didn’t have a dog during that period. I was moving through my own mourning process. My dog had been so incredibly special to me that I couldn’t imagine ever loving another dog so much.

In Ted’s case, five years passed between Merle’s death and Pukka’s arrival in his life. As he explains it, after Merle died, Ted felt he still had a dog for years – it was Merle in spirit form. He could still see Merle sitting beside him as he wrote … still see him with that look on his face that said, “Hey, isn’t it time to go for a ski?” … he could still see Merle’s head right next to his own while driving his car.

(I actually think Ted has another book about Merle in him – one that tells the story of his enduring spirit.)

Ted says many of his friends asked him why he wasn’t getting a new dog. They told him he’d be over his mourning if he got a new dog. And he answered them with, “I don’t want to be over my mourning.”

Ted was writing Merle’s biography and wanted him here so he could “render him in every loving detail.” Since his goal was to write Merle’s memoir, he didn’t want another dog diluting his memories of Merle. “I wanted to mourn and grieve him appropriately for being, at that point, the great love in my life – the great canine love,” Ted said.

When he was at last ready to begin looking for a new dog, many people said, “Oh, just go down to the shelter and get a dog.” But to Ted, 10 or 15 years seemed like a long time to spend with a companion you’re not really passionate about. He said he finds it fascinating that for many people, almost any dog will do.

And God bless them! I think that’s awesome!

Ted agreed, but at the same time, he gets many letters from people who don’t put much thought into a companion animal and then wind up disappointed. And to those people he’d like to say, “Well, maybe you should have spent a little more time looking.” And he didn’t want to find himself in that situation.

Ted’s search for Pukka.

Ted checked literally dozens of shelters for his new dog. Finally he conceded that he wasn’t going to find a dog at a shelter that met his needs, which were quite specific. He wanted a dog who could do the things Merle had done with him. He didn’t want a dog he had to leave home. Ted spends a lot of time outdoors and he wanted a dog who could ski, swim rivers and was comfortable in rugged terrain.

He also wanted a dog who could hunt with him. Ted explained that hunting is a way for him to get some of his food from the land on which he lives – for him, it’s a spiritual connection to the land. And he wanted a dog who could happily participate in those adventures. So there were size constraints. One can’t take a very small dog into snow that’s four feet deep, for example.

So eventually, Ted wound up with breeders. And by that time, he knew he also wanted an intact dog. That was another reason a shelter dog wouldn’t work – in most cases, and for very good reason, those dogs must be sterilized before they go home with their new families. Ted wanted to be able to describe in his new book, and perhaps subsequent books, the experience of life with an intact male dog – especially since very few people have the opportunity to live with an intact dog anymore.

This makes sense for Ted and his dog, but of course, not for everyone. Since Ted is documenting his life with Pukka and wants to give him a lifestyle conducive to longevity, leaving the dog intact reduces the health risks linked to neutering. (There are no intact female dogs in the tiny community where Ted lives, so Pukka has no opportunity to mate and reproduce.)

In Pukka’s Promise, Ted discusses in detail his journey to find the right breeder.

How Pukka is different from Merle.

I asked Ted what differences he has noticed between Merle and Pukka. He responded that the big difference is Pukka is growing up with a “silver bowl” in front of him — he has the best of everything.

Merle, on the other hand, had a hardscrabble life before he found Ted. And these two very different lifestyles created two different personalities. As Ted explained, Merle was the ultimate survivor dog, but he was always somewhat wary.

Pukka, who is growing up with lots of care and love, didn’t experience the same school of hard knocks Merle survived.

Pukka doesn’t like to roam as much as Merle did, even though he has the same access to a dog door. He’s very happy to stay home and wait till Ted invites him to go do something.

Ted also says Merle sang, and he thinks it’s because the dog grew up with coyotes. Pukka very rarely howls or sings.

Pukka is far more affectionate and cuddly than Merle was. Merle seemed to be saying, “Hey, man, I don’t have time for this!” He liked hanging out with Ted, but not ON Ted, whereas Pukka wants to sleep in Ted’s bed, preferably in his arms!

Pukka likes the warmth and comfort of home when it’s 20 degrees outside, but Merle would be out there anyway, exploring.

Pukka has no fear of guns. Merle didn’t like them; he had been shot in his life before Ted. Pukka loves hunting birds. Merle only liked hunting elk.

And Merle was neutered; Pukka is not. In Pukka’s Promise, Ted discusses some of the normal behaviors of an intact dog that most of us are not accustomed to seeing or dealing with.

Raising a freethinking self-actualized dog.

I asked Ted if he thinks he’s accomplished his goal of creating a freethinking self-actualized dog in Pukka. Ted thinks he has, as much as possible without subjecting Pukka to the things Merle endured before he came to live with Ted. He says Pukka makes a lot of his own decisions and is able to entertain himself extremely well. If Ted doesn’t have time to play with him, Pukka will find a ball and throw it against the wall, or find a stick and throw it up in the air. Ted helped Pukka learn how to amuse himself when he was a puppy.

Ted worked with Pukka a lot as a puppy to help him grow into a balanced, stable, confident dog. He spent a lot of time very intentionally creating the fabulous dog Pukka is today.

Ted noted that one of the things that really struck him about both Merle and Pukka is how long it takes dogs to learn certain things. He believes dog owners who haven’t spent that time and energy don’t realize what it takes. He thinks we tend to expect miracles from our dogs, when it actually often takes countless repetitions to get a dog to the point of understanding what you want from him. We are, after all, speaking two different languages, both verbally and conceptually.

In addition, a human’s view of the world is very different from a dog’s. Just helping a dog understand the words we use takes time – lots of time – on a daily basis. And, of course, they forget, so you get up the next day and do it all over again until eventually, much or most of it “sticks.”

Ted says if he could give one piece of advice to dog owners, it would be to exercise more patience with their pets. Cut your dog more slack. He’s desperately trying to please you – he just doesn’t always understand exactly what you want from him. And as Ted points out, timing is crucial. We often unintentionally give our dogs a cue we didn’t mean to send.

That’s why Ted believes in clicker training. He uses a clicker with Pukka, because it gives the dog the cue at the precise instant and dramatically reduces opportunities for miscommunication between man and dog. Ted gives kudos to Karen Pryor and her clicker training.

Stay tuned next week for part 2 of my 3-part

Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs

Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

Pukka: The Pup After Merle

StemPets and StemEquine – Stem Cell Enhancers for Pets

If I Should Die Before My Dog…

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Dogs, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pet Nutrition, Pets, responsible pet ownership | , , , | 10 Comments

World’s Oldest Dog Dies At Age 26….Requiescat in pace

Posted on December 6, 2011by Ad rem

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ~ Anatole France

A male cross-breed dog, Pusuke, is seen in this file photo from Dec. 24, 2010.

(ABCNews)…Pusuke, listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest-living dog, died in Japan on Monday. He was 26 years old — or somewhere between 117 and 185 in “human years,” according to various calculations. There is no official method for converting dog years to human years.

The dog’s owner, Yumiko Shinohara, said the male cross-breed died at Sakura in the Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Pusuke was reportedly eating well and staying active until Monday, when he lost his appetite and had difficulty breathing. Pusuke died peacefully, minutes after his owner returned home from a walk.

“I think (Pusuke) waited for me to come home,” she said, according to Kyodo.

Born in April of 1985, Pusuke was recognized last December as the world’s oldest-living dog.

The oldest-known dog on record, according to Guinness, was an Australian cattle dog named Bluey, who lived to the ripe old age of 29 years and five months before it was put down in November 1939.

Source:  The Last Refuge  – h/t to Tolline Enger


The Oldest Dog in the World… Unofficially Anyway

December 7, 2011 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pet Health, Pets | , , , , , , | 11 Comments