Ahhh, man loves obedience. He loves it in his wife (remember those wedding vows?), he loves it in the laws, and most of all, he loves it in his dog.

An obedience trained dog does not grow on trees, however. It is amazing for me to listen to people complain about their dogs behavior when they allow him or her into the house after leaving them outside alone all day! To be a part of your family your dog must SPEND TIME with the family!

An endorsement for the value of obedience training was once graphically enacted out in my waiting room. I watched one afternoon while an elegantly dressed woman, complete in velvet jumpsuit and heavy diamonds, was positively muddied by her large collie as it alternately jumped on her, strained away from her, caught it’s chain around her ankle – by the time she reached the exam room the woman was disheveled, exhausted and quite frankly didn’t give a darn about her pet’s health. She hated that dog.

There’s a lot to be said for the value of signing your dog up for an obedience course. Yes, you can probably teach your dog to sit on command very easily – especially in the kitchen with a treat. But a good obedience class takes you both so much further. It will teach you how to communicate with your dog and train you in leash etiquette and social manners so that your dog will listen and behave even with the distraction of other dogs around. This is invaluable – your pet will be under control on walks, at no risk of running away or being hit by a car. You will both be confident of your bond and can enjoy trips, camping, travels to beaches and picnics – your dog will be welcome everywhere as “family”. That is the magic which obedience lessons confer upon you.

I must insert a small disclaimer here, a bit of “fine print” that not every dog is a cookie cutter success in obedience work. Each breed has strengths to build from, each pet will introduce their own personality into the mix. Sometimes even veterinarians who have trained and shown their dogs in obedience trials (me) can encounter challenges. Years ago we had taken in two puppies simultaneously, very different breeds : a Bouvier des Flanders and an Irish Wolfhound. Now Bouviers are often used in police work, and are widely recognized for their intelligence and agility. Irish Wolfhounds are a “giant” breed, with a great history and “backstory” – hunting down wolves and all that – but the modern dog is docile and frankly, are snooze hounds. 180 pound snoozers, that is. The afternoon their basic training commenced I had my older son, Stan, assisting. I demonstrated the basics of initiating “heel” and “sit”, then turned the Bouvier over to him and was pleased to see immediate results. Eager to please and loving the attention, the Bouvier managed about 20 sits in 5 minutes. I turned my attention to the Irish Wolfhound. It was a warm afternoon. We started off with a slow walk, and then I asked for a “sit”. My dog stared at me. Confidently, I corrected him while gently pushing down over his hindquarters. Nothing moved. His tongue lolled out as he began to pant and looked longingly back at the house. I pulled up on his leash harder and pushed down on his back, repeating my command ( Rule #1 : Never repeat yourself or the dog won’t learn to respond the first time you give a command. Every rule has its exception, right?). Again, those big brown eyes searched my face wonderingly. I placed both hands firmly on his hindquarters and pushed with all my might, yelling “Sit!”. Ever so slowly, he lowered his elegant backside to the ground. Phew! Elated with this progress, I circled back to position ( the dog is supposed to do that, but never mind), took up the slack in the leash and firmly commanded, “Heel”, stepping forward. I was jerked back because the dog never moved. I turned to face him and there, plain as day, his face reproved me for not being able to make up my mind! First I wanted him to sit and now that he was sitting I wanted him to get up, well, wasn’t that the silliest thing ever.

We stared at each other for several moments. He refused to move until I turned his head towards the house and said fine, let’s call it a day. Eventually that Bouvier learned to heel and spin on a dime off leash……but the Irish Wolfhound only learned how to swing himself on the back porch.

I always recommend obedience training to my clients. What you and your dog get out of the classes may not result in military precision obedience maneuvers but you’ll definitely bond over the experience. If you are truly interested in trialing your dog at obedience shows there are some breeds you are unlikely to consider. But if you’re looking for a great lap dog for a football team, have I got the dog for you!

Christine McFadden, DVM
Valley Animal Hospital, Merced



We call ‘em “alligators”, the little feisty dogs that try to snap off the tips of your fingers. Since most veterinarians have something scheduled the rest of their day, we resist these efforts at dismemberment as skillfully as possible. With a smile on our face. But Tucker was pretty charming, despite his snapping teeth. Weighing in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces, I had known this little Pomeranian since he was a puppy and they don’t come any more beautiful. Half his weight was surely hair, luxuriant deep black with gold highlights. He and his red-headed Pomeranian sisters looked like real stuffed toys and we loved to see them come in. I didn’t hold it against Tucker that he didn’t like needles. It happens.


So when the little guy showed up and didn’t make an effort to protest my ministrations I was worried. He didn’t look good. Most obviously, his coat was dull, with big round patches falling out over both shoulders. His weight hadn’t changed any and my exam didn’t reveal anything particularly wrong, except his balding. So I ordered a batch of blood tests and we waited for the results.


And it was easy! Have you guessed? A thyroid disorder! Classic, text book case of low functioning hypo-thyroidism. Now the thyroid is a gland in the body that regulates “metabolism” – energy levels, if you feel warm or cold, hair growth, even some effects on the way your heart beats. In dogs, the most obvious outward sign is symmetrical hair loss on the body and lethargy – and Tucker was all that to a “T”! Just reading the lab report I glowed. It was good news for my patient, because the thyroid replacement hormone treatment that Tucker needed was as easy as a pill, and very affordable. Just give twice a day and Presto! magic hair regrowth! I called his owners with the good news and we began treatment right away. Bonus: I had recently joined my clinic in on-line Blogs, and thought this would be the perfect case to follow on-line.


That was in April of last year. I followed up with Tucker in May and was disappointed not to see much improvement. By June he was still bald, but his blood test was low, indicating lack of response to the medication. I conferred with my colleagues. We increased his doseage, but saw no response judging by his baldness; however the blood test read normal T4 levels by now. As the months passed I consulted an endocrinologist (hormone disease specialist) and tried a different form of thyroid replacement. Tucker remained apathetic during his exams, and worse, began to lose even more hair. It just kinda fell out – he never scratched and his skin was smooth underneath. Through all of this his owners were patient and kind to me, which only made me more frantic. This was my EASY case, the “give him a pill and I can make miracles happen” case. Please note the word “I” in there. Forgotten was the idea to showcase him in my blog.


By October it was clear that he was losing a lot more hair. I decided maybe he liked me after all, he was so passive on exam. Desperate, I consulted yet another endocrinologist. This good doctor suggested the possibility of “Alopecia X” (alopecia is fancy doctor speak for “bald”), a poorly understood disease that mimics other hormonal disorders but responds to neutering, and after rambling on about this or that faint possibility, suggested we neuter Tucker. Many dogs with Alopecia X respond to this “treatment” – but no guarantees.


So we did. Now, several weeks post-operatively, Tucker has regrown hair over 75% of his body. His glorious mane has yet to return, but by golly, his spirit has certainly perked up! The little guy growled at me through his whole exam today and I must say that I am most grateful!


Christine McFadden, DVM

Valley Animal Hospital, Merced




I have followed with some interest the newspaper stories on the invasive fungus, coccidiodomycosis, that causes Valley Fever in people here, up and down the Central Valley. Coming from Arizona years ago, another dry, warm climate where the Fungal infection is extremely common, I learned a lot about Valley Fever, if for no other reason than you won’t pass the Arizona State Boards to practice there if you don’t. It’s just that common in Arizona, the fungal spores picked up in the dry winds blowing off the mountains and desert, settling in the lungs and bodies of two especially susceptible species : Man and his best friend, the dog.

This is not your everyday little athlete’s foot fungus or swimmers ear kind of yeast that creates mildly aggravating rashes and inspires odd TV commercials. While most fungi like a moist environment, they have trouble getting past the body’s great defense : skin. Coccidiodomycosis (we’re going to shorten that to “VF” for Valley Fever pretty quick here) is a “systemic” fungi, meaning the fungal spores invade deep inside the bodies’ systems and organs. I know of 3 different systemic fungi common to the United States, each found primarily in its own region of the country. For us in the Central Valley desert and arid parts of the West, we have to deal with Valley Fever.

It was July of 2011 when Mr. Cardwell brought his dog in. Named “Tick”, she was a hound of mixed pedigree (a bit of a mystery, but every girl needs that) going into her 11th year of age. “Tick” had been coughing for a couple days, just a little tickle in her throat but rather persistent. The common stuff we were looking for ran the gamut from Kennel Cough to Heartworm disease to Congestive Heart Failure to Cancer and then some. Every veterinarian’s mind has a ticker tape running through a list of disease possibilities that rivals any Wall Street machine.

We noted she had a high fever. Her weight was good, even plump. We took a set of chest x-rays, and there on the images that captured the outlines of her heart and lungs we could see a fuzzy white shadow lurking low in the right lung. Hmmm. Unfortunately, indistinct shadows are not enough to make a diagnosis (choices, always other possibilities!) and Tick didn’t seem so very sick to Mr. Cardwell. Reasonably enough he asked to treat her for something like Kennel Cough ( a story on that disease complex later, please), so we complied with a course of antibiotics and cough suppressants.

Which was all well and fine, but no one consulted Tick, and she wasn’t having any of this medicine stuff. No way, no how. After a couple of trips back to our hospital  to discuss new ways to get a pill into her, we weren’t sure if her failure to improve was because she wasn’t getting her meds or if it was time to go further in our diagnostic tests. Ten days after we’d first examined her, Tick’s fever was down, but so was her weight. She’d lost 4 pounds (she started at 28) and her lungs sounded dry and crackly. The coughing was persistent, though still more of a wheeze. Mr. Cardwell gave the ok for a battery of general blood and urine tests, which revealed that she did not have heartworm and that most of her organs were functioning well but she had a terrible infection driving her white cell count up over 36,000 (normal’s probably around 8,000).  I liken the white cells of the body to Soldiers marching off to battle disease and infection : 36,000 soldiers is a huge army. What WAS that white stuff in her lungs? We sent out a blood test checking for Valley Fever. Tick’s tests were positive on 2 out of 3 run for coccidiodomycosis. Bingo! Definitive diagnosis!

With this information, and knowing that her other tests and body organs were normal, we could recommend a treatment plan, one where she would take a powerful anti-fungal pill for a minimum of 6 months (such a long time!), and knowing that some dogs immune systems never can quite fight it off and either require medication the rest of their life or, worse, may not tolerate the strong pill necessary to save them.

Tick started her pills the next day. They had to be hidden in home cooked chicken smushed in a cheese ball. We didn’t mind. Five days later she had lost another 1 ½ pounds and was sleeping a lot, but her owner reported the cough had slowed considerably. Within 2 weeks she was jumping onto the bed at home ( it’s the little things you don’t notice fading away sometimes), had no cough, and was firmly addicted to Velveeta cheese.

Listening to her lungs through my stethoscope wasn’t quite as great an experience – that raspiness was to remain for a long time – but over the ensuing months Tick’s blood counts slowly normalized and she regained her weight. One year later she was finished with medication and deemed fully recovered, as do approximately 80% of treated dog cases. ( You may find more information at The Valley Fever Center For Excellence at the University of Arizona). Only her daily Velveeta cheese serves as a reminder of Ticks’ terrible near death experience with Valley Fever.

Christine McFadden, DVM

Valley Animal Hospital



She didn’t look like much. A tiny puppy weighing in under 6 pounds, all black with just a white tip to her nose, she seemed exhausted. She had been dumped off with her brothers a few days earlier and had the good luck to be rescued by a kind hearted man. After only 72 hours in her new-found home she was clearly very sick and about to test the generosity of her benefactor.

Today little “Callie” wasn’t playing, wasn’t eating, and had passed some pinkish tan diarrhea. We were all worried about Parvo. Sometimes I think Merced could be re-named “Parvo Land”. The Parvo virus was first recognized in the early 80’s, attacking mostly young puppies by settling in their stomach and intestines and sometimes literally causing the lining of their innards to slough out. Affected pups vomit, pass bloody diarrhea, become very dehydrated and often die. The virus drops their white cell count, the body’s blood cells that fight off infection, so the body’s natural soldiers to disarm the enemy virus are out of commission! Pills, antibiotics and such, don’t work against viruses. Once a puppy has contracted the disease, intensive support of their body systems and time are the only things that will help them live through it. No guarantees.

Parvo can be prevented by vaccinating young puppies, starting at 6 weeks of age. They need a series of shots, just like little kids, before their immune system has developed enough to fully protect them. Most puppies should have received 3 to 4 Parvo vaccinations (properly spaced) by the time they’re 4 months old- then they’re protected!

We didn’t know anything about Callie’s past, but guessed that whoever abandoned her probably hadn’t vaccinated her at all. We waited for her Parvo test to run, a simple fecal swab that can be run in-office in minutes. Her brothers were still playing in the backyard at home. The Parvo virus is highly contagious to other, unvaccinated dogs. We all knew that she might have been exposed to the virus by another dog directly, or indirectly by something as simple as a fly. The bloody diarrhea passed by affected dogs attracts flies, which then serve as “mechanical vectors” (they get right down and walk in it, spreading it around their little fly feet) and do what flies do – buzz around the neighborhood, spreading a little parvo with them sometimes. (Note to self : keep yard clean with frequent poop patrol and clean up. Fewer flies!).

Callie’s test was positive for Parvo. We felt defeated: she was so young, so terribly thin, not enough time in her new home to respond to regular meals and a warm bed. The chances that her brand new owner would spring for the intensive care she required to pull through was unlikely – even the most generous hearted rescue groups have been fazed by the unpredictable response to treatment by this disease and may put their hard earned dollars elsewhere into a more “sure thing”. There are no guarantees with Parvo.

Callie was fortunate – we had permission to proceed with hospitalization. Everyone dove in. She had a blood test to check her white cell count (a little low, it was under 8,000). Her little arm was shaved and an IV catheter placed in her vein. Her blood sugar was monitored, and a regimen of fluids to rehydrate and support her through the IV began. She received injections into her blood stream to stop her nausea, calm the pain of cramping, counteract against possible sepsis (secondary bacterial infections that take advantage when the white cell count drops and can cause death). The first 24 hours were neither good nor bad. Because she wasn’t given anything by mouth to eat or drink, her vomiting stopped, but the trickling diarrhea continued. She stayed cocooned in her little blankets in isolation. By Day 2 her white cell count was dropping – not a good sign. We fought on. On Day 3 her white cell count dropped under 1,000 and we predicted death and gave her owner the option to end treatment. Her owner allowed us to proceed against all odds. Callie hovered another 24 hours, my staff shaking their heads, miserable that we couldn’t just MAKE her better. And then the blood test showed her white cell count was up. We knew she had turned the corner, and just as quickly as she got sick little Callie began to rally. She ate a little food later that day. She came off her IV’s the next and just that fast, began to yip at us and gripe about being confined to a cage bed.

Callie’s brothers contracted Parvo, also, and survived. With  more time and a whole lot of Tender Loving Care (thank you, Jim) they grew into cute Border Collies. If we share the word of Callie’s story and get our puppies vaccinated there will be much less disease around Merced to spread to other puppies – and wouldn’t that be a lovely ending to the story?

So I’ll tell you how it all happened. This morning started with frozen water in my chickens’ feeder. I’m in a hurry (always), so I punch through the ice with my tippy fingers so Goldy and pals can have a drink and then hurry out to the car. My fingers are cold and hurt. The workday starts at the Applegate Zoo. We’re working in the deer pen today, a beautiful crisp, clear – and frigid – day. The new baby fawn is a dark chocolate color and in good health. But what with one thing and another I am running late. And my fingers are still very cold. So I suggest to my assistant, Tim, that we stop at the local Starbucks for a hot chocolate. What I’m late for back at the Clinic is mostly elective surgeries, so at worse I work through my lunch hour – no pets health is adversely affected. And I’m going to be chastised for being late regardless of whether I’m 15 minutes late or 25 minutes late. AND I’m very cold – did I mention that?

So I track down the local Starbucks. Find a parking spot RIGHT IN FRONT of the store! Lucky! Uhh-oh – no money. But handily I have Tim with me, and I beg for a loan (my treat, of course!).  Tim kindly agrees to cover me and in we go. Where I have to explain to the over-worked young man behind the counter that I don’t drink coffee (or frequent Starbucks) but I need something hot to warm up and do they have a hot chocolate with a hint of coffee flavor – decaf! – please? He authoritatively recommends and orders something for me, continuing on to explain and detail some drivel about taking a customer satisfaction survey after our order, with a bonus (!) coupon for some future visit. It involves computers. Fat chance. I’m not returning any time soon.

Tim places his order. That will be eight dollars and thirty cents. Tim hands over his card. Which doesn’t work. Twice. Uhh-oh. I mumble something about credit card payment over the phone? (I can call the Clinic, have someone go through my purse, call them back with my card number…). Nah, they’ve heard that scam before. I duck my head down and start to step out of line. But the nice young man behind the counter waves us down the aisle to pick up our order. What? He tells us the drinks are on him. WHAAAAT?

I assure him we will return to pay – he assures me that’s not necessary.

Our warm drinks, handmade (!) are delivered into our waiting hands. My fingers are instantly grateful. Ahhhh, warmth! With profuse thank-you’s, we slink out (thief!)… casually exiting the store to walk over to our, uh… Jag… and drive off.

Back at work, I fish a $20 bill out of my purse. This guy was extraordinary! I send Tim right back with the money and I jump into work. Tim returns. Apparently when he walked into the store to give our offering, the young man tried to refuse it. Tim insisted that he accept, saying he couldn’t return to work otherwise. He handed over the bill – and as he turned to leave, ran smack into a display shelf, knocking it over and sending a hundred items flying (Non-breakable! Luckily!). The portable shelf disintegrated into bits of pegs and plastic. Tim began to try to gather everything up. They asked him to please leave. Apparently we’d done enough for one day.

Thank you, Adrian of Starbucks! I was going to try to find that customer satisfaction form… but that requires a receipt… which you don’t get when you don’t pay for your drink. Instead, may I wish you a Merry Christmas! From my warmed fingers to your warm heart!

Dr Mc Blog

So back in 2003 I started to date this guy that had been an attorney, and was now doing the family law judging in town. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I had happily stereotyped lawyers a long time ago, and though I even knew a few I’d call friend and neighbor, still… you know what I mean? But this man was genuinely nice, we’d been introduced through mutual friends, and on this particular evening he had invited me to a very nice Italian restaurant north of town. We muddled through a few topics during the appetizer, and just as the soup and salad course arrived it became difficult to overlook an overly affectionate couple at the next table. I shook my head and looked away. My date re-focused my attention on him, saying with enthusiasm “we need to discuss that!” I shook my head again, dismayed. “Discuss what?”

“PDA’s”, he said.

I stared, riveted in place. My jaw literally dropped. Patent Ductus Arteriosus?!? He had my full attention while I marveled at the RANGE of this man. In seconds I was reliving my first case in vet school, which involved a mother goat and her kid. The youngster was born with a heart defect, Patent Ductus Arterioisus or PDA. The condition is not that uncommon in newborns of any species: an embryonic blood vessel that bypasses the lungs while circulating blood through the heart in the unborn fetus (no air to breathe inside the womb!), it is supposed to close up just before birth. If this particular blood vessel or duct doesn’t close completely, you can hear a swooshy abnormal heart sound, or murmur, in the newborn and most importantly, if the retained embryonic vessel is very large, it will continue to bypass the lungs and the baby may not receive enough oxygenated blood! This can be a life- threatening condition. Happily, most will close on their own within 2 weeks of birth. I still encounter this condition occasionally in young puppies and kittens, and have even had to refer tiny patients to cardiac surgeons for life saving surgery.

It is an intense situation when encountered- and here was my date, delving deep into such an intense subject on a first date!

“Wow,” I said, leaning forward, now fully engaged in this conversation, “What did you want to talk about, when have you encountered this?”

“Well,” he gestured, “on dates.”

“Dates? Your dates have had heart problems?”


We were both now staring at each other- (remember, this is early days, when you still give the benefit of the doubt to each other- you know, he seems like he can walk and chew gum at the same time; she appears to be able to navigate a room without falling off her heels – you are charitable). But?!?

I waded in again. “Aren’t you talking about Patent Ductus Arteriosus? A heart murmur in newborns?”

The man who would become my husband glared back, “No, I’m talking about Public Displays of Affection!”

Silence again as we contemplated each other.

“Oh. I’ve never heard of that before.” I mumbled, ” What kind of public displays of affection did you have in mind?”

Never mind. The zest for the topic was gone, and we segued into other, safer conversation.

Christine McFadden, DVM
Valley Animal Hospital, Merced

So all the plans for blogs, journaling and the excitement of a new web page were swept away – drowned, actually – in the wake of disturbance created by our new computer program! Indeed, summer seemed to get swept away. I have yet to find that computers are great time savers, though there is no denying that for retrieval of history they are awesome. As long as you input the data to begin with, that is. Oh. So having wrestled the new software into submission (we submitted, actually), we are now back at it. Hello, Blog!

And right there with us have been the chickens. So I conceived a wonderful idea (note light bulb over my head on your next visit): let’s get chickens! I have a small fruit tree orchard at home and am opposed to spraying pesticides and have noted over the years the slow but steady increase of insect varieties amongst my trees. Nothing terribly serious (until the cherry fruit fly moved in) but the trend was disturbing – I’m willing to share my fruit, but the bugs appeared to have their own agenda. And I’m not an entomologist! I’m saving my love for the pets! Hence nature’s little natural bug factory: chickens! Bonus: eggs!

Did you know they mail order day old chicks? They arrived at the post office safely, little peepers! A mixed variety of unusual breeds, all girly chicks because we only wanted “baking eggs” like you buy at the grocery store. No danger of cracking into the kind that might hatch… no need to traumatize children or ME. So we set up the little sweethearts and watched them GROW every DAY. It was amazing!

They got their own little coop and an exercise yard and fresh greens every day and… and… the incidental expenses can be overwhelming! But we really enjoyed our chicks in the Summer of the Computer and found their feathered baby antics quite soothing. It was a family affair – we took deck chairs out back to watch them. So I am now heartily recommending adding a few chickens to your yard – and once those eggs start coming, let me know if you’d like a few “baking eggs” – they’re a special kind that every family needs.

Christine McFadden, DVM

Just a short note today. Had a bird in last week with nails curling back into his feet. We see the same problem in dogs, and to a lesser extent in some cats (cat nails grow differently- instead of continuous growth, they grow and shed the tips intact, with tiny new tips or sheaths underneath). So there’s always the question of HOW to trim nails, and sometimes WHY they over-grow.
For many dogs and birds, their nail tips may be lightly clipped with a “human” nail trimmer. If the nail itself is white, you may be able to see the pink vein inside and avoid cutting into it, or  “quicking” the nail and making it bleed. BUY yourself some “QuickStop” at the pet supply store, so if a nail does bleed you can stop it by simply pressing a dab of quick stop powder hard into the end. The bleeding itself isn’t a big deal – your dog or bird will not die! It may be more uncomfortable, and I think the styptic powder stings a tad, but sometimes it’s necessary to cut a nail back hard to get things under control.
If a birds nails curl, the bird may be unable to perch! I have also seen dogs that are nearly crippled by curled nails that turn their toes sideways and splay their foot apart! A proper pedicure (sans nail polish) is important to a pets health!
Older dogs with arthritis are especially prone to foot problems and benefit from regular nail trims and shaping. Dogs can develop fungal infections of the nail and weeping infections in the nail bed and tissue that surrounds the toe. Overgrown nails are prone to cracks, splitting, and fractures- which can be so painful that I recommend a mild anesthetic when we repair them (think about digging out a deep splinter!).
One myth I find aggravating on the pets behalf is that cutting a nail back slowly (in stages over a few days) into the quick, causes the vein to recede. The idea is that multiple trims will eventually get the nail to the desired short length without significant bleeding. Let’s walk through this idea (flip flops are fine, hiking boots not required). If you get a paper cut on your finger, it bleeds. The miracle of clotting platelets occurs. You stop bleeding. Within a matter of hours, even if you irritate the same site, it won’t bleed again because the little vessels have naturally retracted! Same with nails! Instead of torturing your pet with every-other-day trims, get it over with once, then maintain regularly!
Regular pedicures vary from pet to pet. Some may need monthly attention, others quarterly . Stay tuned for our soon-to-be-released YouTube how-to video on this subject! Guaranteed seriously good info and hilarious delivery!

National Veterinary Technician Week

As a veterinarian I have been called upon to explore deeply into the human psyche. They never told me about this in vet school. My instructors cautioned against saying “oops” in the exam room, and pulling the ears too tightly on a pug-nosed bulging-eye breed of toy dog lest the eyeballs pop out (and yes, do you know it’s true? But I won’t tell about that one.). No, my teachers fell short in preparing me for the Late-Night-Emergency-Phone-Caller.

How would you respond to this call at quarter to eleven in the P.M., deep into REM sleep?

Veterinarian, “Hello?”

“Hello, Doctor? Meow, meow, meow. That’s what my kitty is saying. Meow, meow, meow…” (OK, I stopped counting. It went on for some time.) The voice on the telephone drew breath finally (one can only imagine her capacity under water), then queried, “Do you know what it is, Doctor?” I confess that I was at a diagnostic loss.

Then there was the time that an owner telephoned and wanted me to tell them if their pet was dead. The difficulty was that I had never seen their dog, and it was laying in their living room at home. Quoting a story from the “National Enquirer”, they were convinced that the pet was catatonic and might be buried alive. Convinced as they were, the question was surprisingly difficult to field. I’m ashamed to say that I finally told them to place the dog in a box and if it still hadn’t moved the next day or so I felt it would be okay to bury. Catatonic dogs were something else they didn’t discuss in vet school. It’s a subject I plan to take up with the dean.

Christine McFadden, DVM
Valley Animal Hospital, Merced

So you think your dog is cute and your friends wish they had one just like yours? Or you think it would be good for your children to witness a live birth? Or you paid money for a dog “with papers” and now it’s time to recoup the investment? You can breed it yourself and make a fortune (no fortune, of course, if the bitch requires a C-Section to deliver, or if you have the puppies examined and vaccinated, or heaven forbid they don’t sell quickly and you have to start feeding them). Yes, mutt or purebred, you have talked yourself into breeding your pet.

Wait a minute. Please. Just because your pet is cute doesn’t mean its progeny will be equally attractive in looks or temperament (do you follow Hollywood?). And those friends who were just WAITING to get a dog often find it inconvenient when the time comes and decide to “wait till the next litter”. And why is it that you want your kids to experience the birth, but you fail to include them in the rest of the story – the ultimate Reality Show where you find out that half of the litter is not expected to stay in its original home? Should you tell your children to choose their favorite, then “kiss the rest goodbye”? Do you know that 25 % of the dogs turned in to Animal Shelters are purebred? That you can spay or neuter your dog for less than it costs to raise a litter of puppies? That HUNDREDS of dogs are euthanized every month, not just here in Merced County, but every city and county in the United States, because we would be over-run with stray and unwanted pets if we didn’t?

Start with one female dog and let’s do the math (courtesy of the Arizona Humane Society):
In her first year she produces 4 pups, 2 of them females (4 total)
Second year production of first and second generation females is 12 pups, 6 female (12)
Third year production of 3 generations of females is 36 pups, 18 females (36)
Fourth year production of four generations of females is 108 pups, 54 females (108)
Fifth year production of five generations of females is 324 pups, 162 females (324)
Sixth year production of 6 generations of females is 972 pups, 486 females (972)
Seventh year production is 2, 916 puppies…..

If you think there is a population problem in the world, it does not even compare to the population explosion in the pet world!

Christine McFadden, DVM


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