Wounds: Healing from the Inside Out

I love wounds. My love for wound care began when I was a brand new nurse working in the ICU. Wounds are challenging to care for. Despite many innovations, wounds can be difficult to heal. I like a challenge it seemed natural for me to find wound healing fascinating. I am always amazed by the body’s capacity to heal itself. But more than the challenge of wound healing, I enjoy the always-advancing treatment options in wound medicine. Wound treatment continues to look for more effective and efficient methods for wound healing.

In human medicine, we have sophisticated options for wound treatment.  These technologies are being utilized in vet medicine as well. Dogs do seem to have an upper hand on us humans–they are better a healing. Their bodies seem well prepared to deal with wounds and more resistant to infection. However, dogs can get some nasty wounds that need intervention.

Today I want to talk about topical agents that are most commonly used in wound treatment.  By now we have all heard of honey and sugardene dressings and antibiotic dressings but how do the work? How do these treatments advance wound healing and are there any other options to help wounds heal?

First, let’s talk about wounds. There are many different types of wounds but the pathophysiology is similar in all. The first stage of wound healing is the inflammatory stage. This is when inflammatory markers are attracted to the wound through vasodilation. These cells are working to stop the bleeding and rid the body of any infections. In the second stage of wound healing, collagen fibers are forming. These fibers need oxygen and vitamins to create granulation (new) tissue. A wound must have granulation before epithelialization or the connection of epithelial cells occurs. In the final phase of wound healing, the body continues to lay down college fibers, creating a scar.

02/07/17 prior to Zinc treatments
03/03/2017 after one month of zinc treatments

One key part of wound healing is oxygenation of tissue. Generally speaking oxygenation of our tissue comes from our blood via the arterial system. The same thing occurs in wounds. The goal of wound management is to dress the wound with a material that will aid in oxygenation. That seems easy enough but there is one problem, necrotic tissue. The necrotic or dead tissue is kryptonite for wound healing–sometimes this has to be manually removed or debrided. The goal of wound care is to select a dressing to cover the wound that will prevent tissue death, keep the wound bed moist, and support healing.

Now let’s talk about antimicrobial dressings. Antimicrobial dressings generally contain iodine.  Iodine prevents infection. Sugardene is a mixture of sugar and iodine and an example of this. While these agents prevent and treat infection, they do little to aid in re-epithelialization. Antimicrobial dressings would be great for an abscess or dirty wound. This dressing aids in healing by preventing infection.

Another popular dressing that has gained a lot of attention is Manuka honey. Manuka honey is a raw honey made by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush in New Zealand. This dressing is thought to both be antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. There are some that reports that suggest wounds do heal faster with Manuka Honey than antibiotic mediums.  The use of honey as a wound dressing has been practiced for many years and considered an effective treatment. Honey is also cost effective.

The last dressing that I want to mention is Zinc. Zinc is not an antimicrobial it is a trace element found in the human body. Zinc is an antioxidant that helps with oxygenation of the wound bed. This increased oxygenation in the wound bed is thought to help with re-epithelialization, aiding in wound healing.

03/18/17 six weeks after zinc treatments

I have used all of these topicals for wounds at one time or another. I am a fan of zinc for pressure ulcers in Greyhounds. As you can see in these photos above, Zinc increased granulation tissue, allowing the wound bed to close.  Zinc was a game changer for us.

All of these dressings have their purpose. It is hard to compare them head to head as their properties are different, what might work for a large leg ulcer may not help a minor abrasion or infected wound.

Wounds are challenging. The points to remember when dealing with wounds is to keep the wound bed oxygenated by preventing/removing necrotic tissue—selecting the appropriate wound dressing is essential. When in doubt or if a wound is not healing see a soft tissue vet. I have been blown away by the knowledge of our soft tissue vet as well as their continued patience for wound healing.

In addition to using the best wound dressing for the wound at hand, ensure that your Greyhound is using an appropriate bed. If pressure ulcers are a concern make sure bony prominences cannot be felt on the underside of the bed, I am a huge fan of these beds to prevent pressure sores. Finally, ensure that your Greyhound is receiving the best nutrition possible as wounds heal from the inside out!

Here is a video of Jethro’s bandage change. I hope you all find it helpful. And yes, Jethro is a very good boy!

Broughton G 2nd, Janis JE, Attinger CE. Wound healing: an overview. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2006 Jun. 117(7 Suppl):1e-S-32e-S
Gupta, M., Mahajan, V. K., Mehta, K. S., & Chauhan, P. S. (2014). Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review. Dermatology Research and Practice, 2014, 709152. http://doi.org/10.1155/2014/709152
Sood, A., Granick, M. S., & Tomaselli, N. L. (2014). Wound Dressings and Comparative Effectiveness Data. Advances in Wound Care, 3(8), 511–529. http://doi.org/10.1089/wound.2012.0401

 

Why You Should Adopt a Greyhound

By now I hope you all have heard that April is Adopt a Greyhound Month. I have been racking my brain over what to post to best advertise for these amazing creatures. It’s hard to pick out one thing that sets the Greyhound apart from other dogs—they have so many lovely traits. But as I am sitting here typing with Darla’s head in my lap it came to me. 

Greyhounds get us. Greyhound-type dogs are one of the oldest dogs. They have lived with humans for thousands of years. Genetically speaking the Greyhound understands humans probably better than we understand our Greyhounds.

The fact that the Greyhound has been around humans for so long plays into why we are attracted to these dogs. I think that we cognitively recognize Greyhounds as the dog prototype. Due to our long years getting acquainted the physical aspects of the Greyhound they feel natural to us. Greyhounds are also good at following our cues making us feel like they truly understand. And who doesn’t desire to be understood—Darla gets me better than any human!

The ability of a Greyhound to place their head in your lap, you tussle their ears and they look up at you with innocent loving eyes speaks to our heartstrings. Couple these traits with their ability to co-exist well with other Greyhounds, easy upkeep, and temperament and you have the ultimate dog-living companion.

In addition to the Greyhound’s long history of living with humans they are also independent fearless dogs (generally speaking). I have posted on how difficult this independence can be when training but it is nice to have a dog that can entertain itself and not be constantly underfoot—unless you are making dinner, breakfast, a snack, lunch, or if the refrigerator door opens!

But don’t mistake their independence for being aloof. Greyhounds have a passion for life, their people, food, and for running. Greyhounds are passionate creatures. I love this passion. I love that I can fire up my Greyhound and he will prance like a pony, jump, and then do zoomies! There is nothing better!

Some folks think that Greyhound just lay around all day and I have to say that Greyhounds do enjoy lazy afternoon but most of all they enjoy showing off that big passionate heart. Just watch a Greyhound run in an open field; anyone can see the passion the Greyhound has for running and being in the countryside!

Video Credit: David Lowery

I wish everyone could experience how great it is to own a retired racer. These low maintenance dogs are all around amazing but when they are showing off their passion there is simply nothing sweeter on this planet!

I hope you consider adopting a Greyhound. If you are in the Atlanta area please check out Southeastern Greyhound Adoption, by clicking here.

Is my Greyhound Dumb?

Have you ever tried to get your Greyhound to pay attention to you and he simply continues with his activities as usual? I have and it is annoying.

As I have mentioned, Jethro is recovering from an epidural hematoma in his back and subsequent hemi-laminectomy. Most of the time Jethro is happy and willing to participate in his recovery; other times he is not interested and has more important things to do like lie in the sun and act like a statue.

Jethro is not stupid and Greyhounds are not stupid dogs but they are not biddable.

There is a reason why Greyhounds aren’t biddable. Let’s think about the history of the Greyhound and what our racing Greyhounds are currently trained to do. Greyhounds, by way of nature and nurture, are independent thinkers. They are able to chase after something catch it and return it. They are able to position themselves on a track and successfully outmaneuver seven other dogs. The path that the Greyhound must plan to be successful requires some thinking that is not driven by a human. There is more to our Greyhounds than just raw speed!

This skills associated with racing and coursing are somewhat learned but also bred into the Greyhound. Genetics play a huge role in the Greyhound’s ability race on an oval track or course. That is not to say that training does not impact the Greyhound’s learning, but he has to have the capacity to think independently first or use his instincts.

Greyhounds are actually rather smart dogs. However, their independence can really be frustrating and create a negative environment for training or rehabbing.

So how do we make our Greyhounds as successful in rehab or training? It starts with knowing your dog and having your head in the game, so to speak!

I am a high-strung person with a touch of OCD, so I don’t do chill very well. This can be difficult when training dogs. While rehabbing Jethro I found myself very frustrated with him at times because he was not doing what I wanted and I couldn’t check that set of exercises of the list for the day. I found myself dreading his PT sessions, and I could tell that he dreaded dealing with me. After a very unsuccessful morning of trying to do PT exercises and Jethro impersonating a Greyhound statue, I knew something had to change.

Guess what, folks?  I needed to change. In the process of not completing his exercises for the day, I was becoming very nervous thinking about the possible terrible outcomes that lack of PT could lead to. I was focused on getting him better but not on Jethro or what Jethro needed in a trainer. I was a deranged anxious lady that he wanted nothing to do with; I was not his calm collected owner.

Now I make sure he is doing something daily but that can vary from increasing the time he stands, the number of sit-stand reps, or going on a 15-minute walk with Darla and Sashi.

Knowing my dog and where he is in his recovery has been essential to his improvements. Knowing your dog and where they are from day to day is essential in any type of training not just physical therapy.

Getting to know your dog opens the door for biddability. We must understand that there is more to our Greyhounds than raw speed – that big stubborn dog also has a lot of brain power.

A Day of Lure Coursing

 

Blogging can be a challenge. I get bloggers block and have trouble coming up with interesting Greyhound topics when this happens I turn to my husband for inspiration. He suggested a chronicle of a day in the country lure coursing. I thought that he was onto something. I hope that you all enjoy this post and folks who haven’t been to the field decide to come out for a day of fun in the country.

Lure coursing is a weekend event. On Friday night I begin packing the van. I feel more organized this way. To aid me in my OCD organization I bought plastic bins that are organized with first aid supplies, leashes, blankets, and other lure coursing accouterments. I have crates for all the Greyhound set up in my car. I have learned my lesson about having loose Greyhounds in the car after Jethro locked me out of the car and jumped out through the sunroof!

I leave my house with plenty of time to get to the field. I generally pick up breakfast as oftentimes I am very busy at the trial and have a hard time bringing myself to eat.

The trial begins with inspection and check-in usually around 9AM. At large trials like the International Invitational, inspection can start before the sun is up! This is when the inspection committee watches your Greyhound’s gait and checks for lameness. They also check the bitches to make sure that they are not in season.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

After inspection, the field secretary completes the “draw” or the running order of the hounds. This is a blinded draw of the coursing hounds with a separate draw for each stake, open, field champions, and veterans.

While the draw is going on I usually walk my hounds. It is important to let your hound poop and pee prior to running—just ask Sashi – when nature calls, it calls.   I also like to stretch the hounds and warm them up, and the walk helps with this.

After the draw is posted the trial begins to get underway. I take a photo of the running order because I will forget—it is not fun to be at the line in the wrong blanket! I then head back to the van to get the hounds ready for their run. If the hounds are running on continuous loop I will wrap vetrap around the Greyhounds’ legs up to their stopper pad to prevent line burn. Also, if the ground is hard and dry I will tape their pads with elastikon to prevent a blown pad. When it is our turn I head to the line with my hounds in a slip lead and regular lead. I get in position, holding the slip lead with my right hand and place my left hand under the Greyhound’s tuck. Some people do not like to hold a Greyhound under the tuck but I find that it gives me more control of the dog. The lure starts to move and the Greyhounds lose their minds! The hounds are not released until the hunt-master says “Tally-Ho” when the lure is far enough in front of the dogs.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

I let the Greyhound go as soon as I hear “Tally-Ho.” Then I get to watch my most favorite thing: a big beautiful Greyhound doing what they are best at, chasing.

The Greyhounds are moving so fast it seems that the entire course only lasts seconds.

Once the Greyhounds are back at the line, I grab mine and hurry back to my van to remove any tape or vetrap and check them for any lameness or tenderness. Once the vetrap is removed I use a pressurized sprayer with water to rinse out their nail beds. When dogs run on turf they can get a build-up of debris in their nail beds. This can be painful and a potential cause for infection. If there is a little blood in the nail bed, that is okay and it should be cleaned with the sprayer. I do not give water at this time. After they appear to be sound I walk them until their breathing becomes more normal and they are able to close their mouths. Then give them a small amount of water.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

After all the dogs have ran in prelims the entire process is repeated, generally after lunch, which gives a nice break for the hounds. Once all dogs have run twice, the top hounds will run for best of breed. After best of breed is completed, all the breed winners are able to run for best in field.

Once all the running has been completed, awards are given out and photos of the winners are taken. Most often the placing dogs will get a toy (my hounds are very pleased with this).

After socializing with friends and some photos, we pack it up, head home, ready to repeat the following day.

 

Feature image credit: Cindy Frezon

Separation Anxiety

A lot of my blog ideas come from previous posts.  I do research on a topic and then think about my experiences.  I think that gives this blog a distinct feel and I hope you all enjoy it as well.  The other day I way touching on some of the myths people believe about racing Greyhounds and their lives on the track.  Separation anxiety popped into my mind.  In addition to hearing that skittish dogs are products of abuse, I have also heard and read that the anxieties or issues Greyhounds have in their adopted homes are products of what might have happened at racing kennels.

Today I want to dive into my dogs’ separation anxiety (SA) journey and how it correlated to mistakes I made and not problems in their kennel lives or mistreatment.

In my “Myths Busted” post I compared a racing kennel to a military school.  I think this is the most accurate way for many adopters to understand their Greyhound’s previous life if the adopter has never been to a kennel or racetrack.  Dogs are creatures of habit and, due to that tendency, Greyhounds do very well in the racing kennel environment.  Kennels have daily routines that do not differ greatly from day to day.  This is very comfortable living for most dogs. Once the decision has been made to retire a racing Greyhound and send them to an adoption kennel, their lives change but generally speaking they continue with a stable routine.  Sometimes the retired Greyhounds have a long trip to the adoption kennels but once there the Greyhounds enjoy a routine that includes exercise, interactions with humans and Greyhounds, and meals.

The big change comes to the Greyhounds’ routine when they are adopted.  One change is they are no longer around other Greyhounds (unless there are Greyhounds in their new family).  These dogs have spent their entire lives with other Greyhounds and are now alone. They may also have more free time—they can wander around in the yard or house.  They most likely are getting less exercise than previously, possibly increasing their anxiety.  Finally the biggest change and the biggest issue is the over-abundance of affection from their new owner(s).

All of these changes influence the risk of separation anxiety in these dogs, but the biggest issue is the amount of affection we give to our newly adopted Greyhounds.

When Clint and I adopted Jethro I had firm opinions that Jethro was going to be crated and sleep in our sunroom that was close to out bedroom but not in it.  Big mistake!  The first few nights Jethro howled and I went into the sunroom every time to comfort him.  This was my first mistake and biggest mistake.  It would have been better for Jethro to be crated in our room than for me to continue to check on him.  I know this is what triggered his separation anxiety. And it was not easy to undo.

Jethro had horrible SA.  He chewed through multiple metal and soft crates, escaped through the sunroof of my SUV at a field trial, escaped from a kennel run with a d-ring, he learned how to break down a metal crate and would leave the front panel off to chew up our window seal and blinds.  I felt that I had created a monster!  I had no clue how to help him.  I consulted my friend Jennifer Bachelor and her blog.  By this time it was clear that the crate was not working for Jethro.  We began baby gating Jethro in the kitchen—we could make his area smaller than a bedroom but larger than a bathroom. We continued to leave the TV on for him and a kong.  We also hired a dog walker to check on him.  And we got another Greyhound.

The process of Jethro’s SA rehab took a long time.  He is still not a fan of the crate but deals with it for car rides and field trials.  He does have the run of the house when we are away.  I do NOT feel that Darla’s arrival fixed his issues, but it did help.  I would not recommend getting another dog to fix SA, as you have to deal the dogs’ issues and training issues, getting him stable before adding to the pack—I would have lost my mind if I had two dogs like Jethro!

After my experience with Jethro, I looked at Darla’s arrival completely different.  If I was home and not playing or training Darla, she was crated.  I made the crate fun—she got raw bones, feet, and hooves that she was not allowed out of her crate.  She slept on a dog bed in my room.  I did NOT shower her with affection: she had to earn it.  Darla and I had a “working relationship” for about a year.  It seemed like she respected me for giving her stability and security and over time we developed a relationship of best friends.  I do not regret one aspect of Darla’s training and she is a very balanced Greyhound and extremely secure.  Sashi was also trained in this manner—he likes his crate so much that he will hang out in there when we are home!

You can have too much of a good thing.  We have to remember that saying when adopting our Greyhounds.  We have to focus on a routine that we set and they live by.  We must exercise and train our Greyhounds—just because they lie around does not mean they do not need stimulation!  And we have to remember that affection will come but security is much more important and what we should strive for.

 

Yes, I own a racing Greyhound and no she isn’t a rescue

Am I the only Greyhound owner who gets annoyed when asked if my Greyhound was rescued?  It really gets under my skin and it seems to happen far too often.  The other day we were buying dog food and I was asked if my Greyhound was “rescued.”  I was in a particularly rotten mood and my husband elbowed me as to say “please do not unleash your bad mood on this poor kid.”  I put my bad mood aside and replied, “No, they were not rescued and yes they are racing Greyhounds.”  The kid looked perplexed but continued to bag our goods and not ask for more clarification.

I feel continually frustrated about the misinformation that makes its way into the mainstream.  It seems like the anti-racing (AR) propaganda penetrates so deeply that it has affected many people, even people who own Greyhounds.

This past week I read two articles in two different papers in North America stating complete inaccuracies about Greyhound racing and the lives of racing Greyhounds.  By no means am I saying there are no failings in the Greyhound racing industry and that it is perfect.  However, I feel that the vast majority of people working in the Greyhound racing industry love Greyhounds and respect the breed for what it is: a functional, fast, exceptional hound.

If you are into Greyhound adoption and have not visited a track, you’re missing out.  I am lucky to be a part of a Greyhound Adoption group that arranges yearly visits to racing kennels and tracks encouraging adopters to see what life was like for their Greyhound before adoption.

It is important to be thoughtful about our opinions, and knowing the details of both sides is important to understand the entirety of a subject.   Unfortunately, it seems that most of the AR supporters cannot see past outdated reports of abuse and neglect to see the positive changes in Greyhound racing today. It oftentimes seems overwhelming to educate the general public and some Greyhound enthusiasts that racing Greyhounds are loved, well exercised, well fed and happy in their professional careers.

There are certain ideas created and propagated by the AR machine about retired racing Greyhounds that have invaded mainstream Greyhound adoption.  One idea is that skittish dogs were abused throughout their professional careers.  This idea is complete rubbish.  First off, by now we all know that negative training is not successful.  Why would someone spend thousands of dollars on a dog that could create revenue and abuse it, thus diminishing their chances of success? Complete insanity.  Furthermore, dogs have different personalities just like us.  I have raised a fair number of terrier pups and for the most part they are fearless dogs, but I have seen dogs be gun shy or timid with no external cause for them to demonstrate that behavior.  Skittish Greyhounds are most likely that way do to nature not nurture.

Another idea that makes me nuts is the raw meat myth.  Feeding raw meat is not a bad thing!  Dogs are predators and they are made to eat raw meat.  Now, let’s talk about non-human grade meat.  The labeling of meat is not just based on the quality of the product but also the facility it is made it.  Lots meat packing facilities have quality products but have not obtained certification from the USDA to mark their product as “human grade.”  Most pet foods are not made for human consumption, as the regulations and certification for this labeling would be very expensive, increasing the cost of pet food.  It’s just not a logical business move. Thus, the non-human grade meat myth should be a moot point from now on.

Opinions and facts are not the same; however, opinions create gut responses and bias.  When dredging through the misinformation about Greyhound racing it is important to push our bias aside and get at the truth.  I support Greyhound racing for many reasons and as I have seen and learned more about the industry my support grows.  I hope that this article encourages you to reinvestigate your feelings about Greyhound racing immersing yourself in facts and not opinions.

 

 

 
 

How to get a solid recall

By now you have probably noticed there are a lot of pictures of my dogs running and playing without leashes. I want to make it clear that generally speaking my Greyhounds are leashed.  However, when we are in the country we allow our Greyhounds to be off leash.  Our dogs are familiar with our property and understand their “boundaries”.

My Greyhounds did not come with off-leash manners and it took a lot of work to train off-leash manners.  So how did I go about teaching my Greyhounds to come? Recall training is not a once and done type of command.  Recall training has to occur frequently and you have to be ready to give you Greyhound a huge payload when they come to you vs. following that amazing coyote scent or chasing an armadillo. 

At first we did a lot of work in the backyard.  I would send a Greyhound out and allow them to start their sniffing.  I would watch on the deck and when I noticed they were very interested in something I would call them and give them a high value treat—think canned dog food, mac&cheese, or raw tripe in a small container.  After they had successfully completed this on a small scale I increased the distraction and the distance. 

After mastering the backyard we would begin working on recalls at our local private dog park. This was a good location because it was safe but also full of new exciting smells and distractions.   Again I would wait until they became interested in something and then call them giving them a huge payload. 

We continued with this exercise until I felt they were ready to head to our country fields. 

The boys were relatively easy to teach a recall to.  Both Sashi and Jethro are huge momma’s boys.  They are not going far from me.  I can’t put on make-up without Sashi watching!  The cord was not cut with the boys.  Training a recall took a few huge payloads in a few different locations and they were hooked. 

Darla was not that simple.  Darla is a complicated Greyhound.  She is very independent and when I first got her she could take me or leave me.  However, she did want to hang close to Jethro and she loves food.  The issues with her recall came when she wanted to do more independent activities and realized that she could wonder off from Jethro.  This caused some stress—we thought all of our Greyhounds had great recalls but Darla did not.

Darla was deemed a flight risk and leashed.  Clint and I wanted Darla to enjoy the independence of sniffing and hunting around our fields.  We began reworking her recall and giving her another chance at off leash activities. 

We took her to the fields and the first time she did well and stayed with me, I thought that she had it!  The second time was not so pleasant.  As soon as we unleashed her she was off. Fortunately she was with Sashi and he has an excellent recall.  We called him and she remembered what she was supposed to be doing.  And came running back to us for her reward.  I want to note how important it was that we were happy and rewarded her when she came back.  She did not do exactly what we wanted her to do but we want her to associated coming to us with happiness and rewards, not us being frustrated.

After this experience we knew we had more work to do. We tried her off leash again this past week in our fields.  She did much better.  I have learned that once she is off leash she is going to run like crazy. The difference this time was that when we called her she did a turn-face and came back to us, ready for her jackpot reward. 

We will continue to do more and more off leash training with Darla and we will allow her more and more off leash time.  Hoping to balance her training with her positive experiences. 

No matter if you are considering allowing you Greyhound off leash or not, training your Greyhound to a recall is one of the most important things you can do.  We have to remember that accidents do happen and the better prepared you are the better chance you have a good outcome. Good solid recalls take time.  It is important to start slow and practice often.  Sometimes regression is part of the learning process and should not be considered a failure but an opportunity for learning.  Training you Greyhound should be a fun positive process for you and your Greyhound. 

For more off-leash training tips check out Jennifer Bachelor’s Blog Never Say Never Greyhounds.  This is the premier blog for training Greyhounds!

The Fovea has it

Science really gets me excited.  What is most exciting is when something new is discovered.  This could be a new treatment, new technology, or revisiting of a previously thought notion or idea.

Eyes are one of the coolest organs in the body.  They are windows to the brain and some would say to the soul.  In humans the vital sign of the eye is visual acuity—you know, when you have to cover one eye and read the eye chart.  20/20 vision means that you see the same as a normal eye would see at 20 feet.  20/100 vision means that you see what a normal eye would see at 100 feet.  As you might imagine it’s much more difficult to test the visual acuity of a dog’s eye—they can’t tell us what they see.  Due to this, some scientists believe that the visual acuity of the dog has been underestimated.

We know that dogs see differently than humans do.  For many years we have known that dogs can see much better in low light than us; they have rapid vision that allows them to detect rapid changes in the light, and, due to the placement of their eyes in their skulls, they have wider visual fields than we do (Miller & Murphy, 1995).

All of these qualities aid the dog, a predator, in its ability to hunt.  However, the acuity at which the dog can focus was thought to be diminished, as the dog is known to lack a fovea (Miller & Murphy, 1995).  Fovea centralis (fovea) is a structure in the human eye.  The fovea is a depression within the retina that contains a large number of densely packed cones type cells that are responsible for visual acuity (Beltran et al., 2014).

For years scientists have felt that the dog’s visual streak was responsible for their visual acuity.  The visual streak is an area in the retina with increased amounts of photosensitive retinal ganglionic cells and cone cells (Miller & Murphy, 1995).  However, in 2014 things changed.

In 2014 the canine retina was evaluated with in vivo (in life) and ex vivo (in death) imaging (Beltran et al., 2014).  The researchers found an area in the retina very similar to a non-human primate fovea, which they deemed the area centralis.  This area was tiny but full of densely packed cone cells (Beltran et al., 2014).  This area was not a fovea-like depression but was very similar from a histologic standpoint to what is seen in the center of the human fovea, the foveola (Beltran et al., 2014).

You may be asking why is she so excited about this? This information is incredibly important.  This indicates that a dog’s visual acuity is actually better than previously thought.  The visual acuity of a dog was thought to be about 20/50 (Miller & Murphy, 1995).  Based on the findings in this study, the visual acuity of the dog would be between 20/24 and 20/13 (Beltran et al., 2014).  That means that dogs could be able to see at 20 feet what a normal eye would see at 13 feet!

The canine eye is an important structure for multiple reasons.  For our Greyhounds the eye is important for racing, lure coursing, coursing, hunting, fetching, running through agility obstacles, and their everyday lives.  Just imagine having better than perfect vision and then adding a wider visual field, the ability to detect rapid changes in light, and the ability to see in low light—I would be overwhelmed with that much stimuli going through my brain all the time!  Dogs are complex animals and the more we learn about them the more I amazed by all they do!

Beltran, W. A., Cideciyan, A. V., Guziewicz, K. E., Iwabe, S., Swider, M., Scott, E. M., Aguirre, G. D. (2014). Canine retina has a primate fovea-like bouquet of cone photoreceptors which is affected by inherited macular degenerations. PLoS One, 9(3), e90390. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090390
Miller, P. E., & Murphy, C. J. (1995). Vision in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 207(12), 1623-1634.

 

 

Do Greyhounds think like us?

Have you ever wondered what makes a Greyhound happy?  Or even if your Greyhound experiences any emotion like we do?

I have.  Jethro recently had a spontaneous injury to his back.  He was paralyzed from the pelvis down.  We were lucky and he was able to have surgery to fix the issue.  He is getting better but he still has a long road ahead of him.

Jethro is a high-strung Greyhound that does not like to be still; he has “extra personality.”  He has been miserable while he has been sick.  He whines and seems listless.  He is only happy when he is eating, outside, cuddled up to Clint or me, or playing nose work.  We have ben playing a lot of games and that has made this experience better for the both of us.  Jethro may be the best trained of the bunch at this moment!

This experience made me think about the emotions dogs may feel.  I wondered how Jethro’s brain was processing his condition.  This experience made me want to know more about dog cognition.

Dog cognition is an up-and-coming field.  There are several centers around the U.S.  studying dogs.  We have learned that dogs are special compared to other animals.  Dogs are able to learn our cues even better than chimps and other non-human primates.

I was shocked that a dog could understand what I want him to do more quickly than a non-human primate.  A study published in Interactions Studies in 2009 looked at New Guinea Signing Dog (NGSD), along with four breeds of dogs registered with kennel clubs—the the Siberian Huskie, the German Shepherd Dog (GSD), the Toy Poodle, and the Basenji (Wobber, Hare, Koler-Matznick, Wrangham, & Tomasello, 2009).  The researchers tested three types of cues on these dogs—they set out two bowls of food, the first cue was pointing and turning toward one bowl, the second was handling a block and then setting it in front of a bowl, and the third was covering the dogs’ eyes and sitting the block in front of one bowl (Wobber et al., 2009).  In experiments with the NGSG and the kennel club dogs both reacted to these cues (Wobber et al., 2009).  This is incredibly interesting, as wolves do not do this (Hare, Brown, Williamson, & Tomasello, 2002; Virányi et al., 2008).  Furthermore, the NGSD is a breed that has had very little human involvement in their breeding and they still picked up on these cues similarly to the pure breed kennel dogs (Wobber et al., 2009).

This does not prove that dogs experience emotions as we do, but it does show that dogs are very in tune with humans.  They are paying attention to us and respond accordingly.  For instance, when I get my camera case out, my Greyhounds know we are about to go run.  Dogs pay attention to what we do.

There continues to be a lot of research focused on the dog’s cognitive system.  Hopefully someone will eventually be able to answer our question about the emotions our Greyhounds feel or don’t feel.

For now we have to do our best to not anthropomorphize our Greyhounds.  We understand that they are in tune with us but do not necessarily feel what we perceive that they feel.  We have to remember they are dogs and sometimes what makes them happiest is a nice run in a field, a good beef neck bone, an ear rub, or a nice game of nose- work!

 

Hare, B., Brown, M., Williamson, C., & Tomasello, M. (2002). The domestication of social cognition in dogs. Science, 298(5598), 1634-1636. doi:10.1126/science.1072702
Virányi, Z., Gácsi, M., Kubinyi, E., Topál, J., Belényi, B., Ujfalussy, D., & Miklósi, A. (2008). Comprehension of human pointing gestures in young human-reared wolves (Canis lupus) and dogs (Canis familiaris). Anim Cogn, 11(3), 373-387. doi:10.1007/s10071-007-0127-y
Wobber, V., Hare, B., Koler-Matznick, J., Wrangham, R., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Breed differences in domestic dogs’(Canis familiaris) comprehension of human communicative signals (Vol. 10:2, pp. 206-224). Interaction Studies: John Benjamins Publishing Company

 

Collars: To Martingale or not to Martingale

Besides poop-bags, the other most commonly used product for the greyhound is a collar.  When you adopt your greyhound most likely they will be equipped with a muzzle and a martingale collar. 

When I got my first greyhound I read a lot about the martingale collar.  Everyone seemed to recommend this as greyhounds have skinny necks and can “back out of their collars.”  What I was not clear on was that martingale collars should only be used for training or walking.

Unfortunately I found this out the hard way.  One day Jethro and Darla were playing.  They both had on martingale collars.  Something happened and Jethro got Darla’s collar wrapped around his mouth.  He was struggling to free himself and choking Darla in the process.  Both Greyhounds were squealing and I was freaking out.  I knew I had to act quickly.  The saving grace was that Darla’s collar was too big and by a miracle I was able to pull Jethro close enough to Darla to give the collar some slack and pull it over her head.  Darla and Jethro were OK; however, this could have ended in disaster if I had not been right there.  I vowed only to use a Martingale collars while training.

Greyhounds can be flight risks and per their adoption agreement they need collars on all the time.  I was frustrated with what I was going to do. 

I first ordered leather fishtail collars.  These collars are beautiful and I love to see Greyhounds sporting these collars, as they look so regal.  Overall they are very effective but there was one drawback.  My hounds are quite rambunctious and they have been known to take a notion to jump in the pool with a collar on.  Their leather collars were quite worn at about a year.  Sashi has been banned from leather.  He chewed through one collar and did some damage to another.  There had to be a better product.

One day I was watching a Greyhound race and noticed that the Greyhounds were being walked to the starting box with plastic buckle collars. I found Gun Dog Supply online and ordered a TufFlex collar for Sashi.  These collars also included a brass nameplate that is riveted to the collar.  They gave off a plastic smell when I first opened the package, but it dissipated overnight.

I love love love these TufFlex collars.  Now all three Greyhounds wear these collars.  They are easy to clean, pick up no odor from the dogs, and fit incredibly well.  My Greyhounds cannot back out of these collars as long as they are adjusted in the correct position.  I have been using these collars for about one year and can’t say anything negative about them. 

However, for most Greyhounds the safest walking collar is a martingale.  If you are concerned that you will forget to take it on and off, I highly recommend buying a martingale with a buckle.  I have used these collars in the past and they are effective but get dirty quickly–or maybe Sashi just gets dirty quickly!

 

I hope that one of these collar options suits you and your Greyhound!