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Knowledge is Power: Canine HealthCheck

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On many occasions at the veterinary hospital, a pet was brought in because the pet parent noticed very subtle changes in the pet’s behavior, health, or overall disposition. Sometimes, the changes didn’t mean much, but sometimes they provided critical information that would lead to an early diagnosis of a serious diseases or illness.

Often, these pet parents were able to significantly improve their pet’s overall health and diagnosis because they knew what to look for. As a pet parent, knowing what your dog’s breed is predisposed to, can be valuable information for their overall health.

Canine HealthCheck was created with just that in mind. Providing pet parents with useful and valuable information about their dog’s health. The creators of Canine HealthCheck were inspired to bring pet parents a more valuable alternative to knowing your dog’s breed.

What is Canine HealthCheck?

It is an at-home DNA test that screens your dog for a variety of genetic mutations that cause inherited diseases and traits.

Why is this important?

Because knowing what your dog’s breed is predisposed to is only part of the story. Your dog is an individual with their own genetic makeup. Canine HealthCheck will provide you with the insight you need to predict future health problems and prepare.

The creators of Canine HealthCheck know and believe that Knowledge is Power for every pet parent.

The results of the genetic test can help:

Prepare you for emergencies

Care for the diseases that are treatable

Predict medical problems which can save you money at the vet

and most of all,

Provide you with peace of mind

How did Canine HealthCheck get started?

Lisa Shaffer started Paw Print Genetics in 2012. Prior to starting Paw Print Genetics, she had a full career as a tenured Genetics Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, and a co-founder of the successful Signature Genomic Laboratories, which was acquired in 2010. Her passion for animals inspired her to start Paw Print Genetics, with a mission to provide high quality genetic testing for the animal community.

 Since Lisa has a background in human genetics diagnostics, she was concerned about the lack of oversight in veterinary genetic testing. She therefore decided to implement standards that are mandated in human genetic testing laboratories, and started Paw Print Genetics to provide diagnostic testing for breeders. Not only was Paw Print Genetics founded by a successful human geneticist, it is also the only laboratory that looks at each mutation region twice, with two independent methods using diagnostic grade DNA. This means that you are receiving a genetic test for your dog that is of the same quality as human genetic testing. Additionally, each test is reviewed by, and reports signed off by, a PhD geneticist and a veterinarian!

What sets Canine HealthCheck apart?

The Canine HealthCheck is an affordable genetic screen that any dog owner can use. It provides valuable information whether your dog is purebred or mixed breed dog. If your dog is found to carry one of the over 150 different mutations screened, you can order the confirmatory test from Paw Print Genetics, using the same DNA that was used for the Canine HealthCheck. You can then give that confirmatory test to your veterinarian and discuss appropriate follow up and care for your dog.

This all sounds great, but how does the test work?

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Its so easy! You can order your very own kit (here) which allows your to swab your dog’s cheek. Once you have completed your cheek swab, you mail back the sample (all needed materials and instructions to mail the sample back are in your kit). Once the lab receives your sample, you receive an email confirming the receipt of your sample.

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You then receive your results within 7-10 days. Your results will be accessible online through the dashboard where your registered your kit.

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Canine HealthCheck will email you when your results are ready. However, because this information can be overwhelming to dog parents, you have access to their on staff veterinarians if you have questions about your dog’s test results.

In my experience, Canine HealthCheck’s customer service was excellent and the system was truly easy to use.

How can Canine HealthCheck help dogs in the future?

Canine HealthCheck gives breeders the opportunity to accurately test for inherited diseases, and provides them with the information to breed away from those diseases.

A great example of this occurs within the Corgi Community.

Most Corgis are predisposed to Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). This disease causes non-inflammatory degeneration of the white matter in the spinal cord. This means that Corgis with DM start to lose functionality in the back end, which limits their mobility.

As of now, a very high percentage of Corgis test positive for DM, Rooney included. Below is a small subset of his total results.

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What does this mean for us?

Well, I need to be aware of the early signs of DM, and try to protect Rooney’s back as much as I can. Not all dogs that test positive for this disease will get the disease, but I plan to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

What does this mean for Corgi parents everywhere?

It means that we need to make sure Corgi breeders (and other breeders) are breeding away from these diseases. Just because the instance of DM is high now, doesn’t mean that it needs to be high in the future.

I challenge pet parents to urge breeders to use the Canine HealthCheck, and improve the lives our dogs.

Do you believe that the Knowledge provided by Canine HealthCheck can empower pet parents?

Disclaimer: We were given the opportunity to try Canine HealthCheck in exchange for our honest opinion. My Kid Has Paws only discusses products and services that we believe will provide value to pet parents.

5 Core Strengthening Exercises for Corgis

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Just over a year ago, Rooney slipped a disc in his back.

This is something I was prepared for because Corgis are extremely prone to back problems.

As a Corgi owner, it is so important to be aware of the symptoms associated with a slipped disc. For us, I knew something was up because Rooney didn’t want to walk or move, not even for treats (that was the real indicator).

Although Corgis are known for their back problems, there are things we as pet parents can do to help our Corgis protect their backs.

Similar to our anatomy, strengthening their core, will help protect their back. Therefore, I have put together a list of 5 core strengthening exercises you can do with your Corgi that will help protect their back and improve their stability.

1) Nose to Butt: Several different sites recommended this stretch. Paw Print Genetics recommends having your dog sit and then using a treat, get them to turn their head toward their back end on each side. When moving from side to side bring the treat out in front of their nose, while they face you, to stretch their neck slightly up and forward. The idea behind this exercise is to get your dog to strengthen their muscles that are equivalent to our obliques, while also stretching their neck and back. Over time, you can gradually increase the time that your dog holds the strengthening position. Corgi backs are sensitive, so please work your way up to a full stretch slowly! Just like humans, dogs can get injured if you try to overdo an exercise or stretch too soon!

2) Balance on 3 legs: This is a stretch I have seen veterinarians recommend quite frequently. The important thing to remember when doing this stretch is to have your dog start out on a stable surface. If you have hardwood or tile floors in your home, I highly recommend doing this exercise on a yoga mat. Start by having your dog stand squarely on all 4 legs. Then, gently hold up one of your dog’s legs and have them balance on their other 3 legs for 20-30 seconds. You can then repeat the same exercise with the other 3 legs. Over time, you can increase the length of time in which your dog holds the stretch and the number of repetitions (Veterinary Integrative Performance Services).

3) Use a Balance Ball: Getting your dog to stand on a balancing ball or balance pad is a great way to engage their core and strengthen their muscles. When using these balancing tools, you want to make sure the ball or pad is stabilized to prevent injury. Additionally, you want to make sure that your Corgi’s long body can fit comfortably on the device. Start by having your dog stand on the balance ball or pad with all 4 legs. You can gradually work up to doing sit-stand exercises (see below) while on the balance ball.

A FitPAWS Balancing Pad is recommended as a beginning balancing tool and provides a beginner level challenge for balance.

A FitPAWS Balance Disc is recommended as a step up from the balance pad.

If you purchase either of these items through Tripawds, you will be supporting an amazing organization that provides support for pet parents who are facing a cancer diagnosis with their pets. To learn more about Tripawds, please click here. To purchase these items through Tripawds, please click here.

4) Sit-Stand Exercises: Start by having your dog sit square and then stand up, and then sit again, repeat about 3-4 times. This exercise will help strengthen the muscles in their hindquarters. As your dog improves, feel free to increase the number of repetitions.

5) Nose Stretch:  SlimDoggy is an excellent doggy fitness resource, and they recommended the nose stretch as a core strengthening exercise. Start by having your dog stand with something in front of their back feet, and then get them to lean forward for a treat. You want their back feet to remain behind the item (like a 2 x 4 piece of wood), as they reach forward. The goal is to get them to hold this position for 10-15 seconds, for 4-5 repetitions.

Please consult with your veterinarian about your Corgi’s fitness level before starting these exercises.

I would love to hear from other Corgi owners! Have you tried any of these exercises? What kind of improvement have you seen?

Medical Monday: Degenerative Myelopathy

Hello Everyone!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend! I thought that I would start a new segment called Medical Mondays on my blog. As many of you know, my goal with this blog is to help educate pet parents, and sometimes that means talking about products, current events, or rescues, but sometimes this means talking about medical issues that our pets may face in the future.

Today’s topic was inspired by Rooney’s recent back injury (in case you missed that story, you can read here). Rooney’s back injury came about as a result of his genetic disposition. There is nothing we could have done to prevent it, and there is nothing we can do in the future to prevent similar injuries. Many Corgi owners are fully aware that Corgis are prone to such injuries, much of these are grouped together as “disc disease”, which is just a fancier way of saying that Corgis will slip or rupture discs in their back.

However, Corgi parents also need to be aware that Corgis are prone to Degenerative Myelopathy as well.

What is Degenerative Myelopathy?

According to PetMD, degenerative myelopathy can be defined as a non-inflammatory degeneration of the white matter in the spinal cord. The cause of this disease is unknown, but genetics are considered to be the primary suspect of this disease.

Are Corgis the only breed prone to Degenerative Myelopathy?

No. According to PetMD, this disease is commonly seen in German Shepherds as well.

What should I watch for?

The early signs of Degererative Myelopathy are actually similar to the symptoms that Rooney recently displayed. Initially, they show weakness in their hind end and the inability to tell where their limbs are in space.

PetMD describes early stages of DM as including these signs:

progressive weakness in the hind limbs

worn nails

difficulty rising

stumbling

knuckling of the toes (see below video)

scuffing, or dragging, hind feet

wearing of the inner digits of the rear paws

loss of muscle in rear legs

tremors in rear legs

Below is a video from Bright Eyes & Bushy Tails Emergency Veterinary Service of Iowa City. This video shows the test your veterinarian will perform to see if your pet is aware of their limbs in space. Notice how when the vet flips this dogs foot backward, he doesn’t immediately flip its foot back over. What this means is that the nervous system is unaware of the foot positioning in his hind legs.

How do we know that my dog is experiencing Degenerative Myelopathy and not a different spinal issue?

Firstly, this disease is typically seen in dogs over the age of 5 years old. Typically, an MRI will be performed to determine that this is indeed Degenerative Myelopathy and not something else in the spinal cord (PetMD).

What are treatment options?

Unfortunately, with this type of disease, there is no documentation of a treatment that has improved conditions, pet parents can only try to maintain quality of life. Physical therapy, such as water treadmills, acupunture, and mobility carts are often used by pet parents to improve and extend their quality of life.

Below is a video of a Corgi in a water treadmill, although this Corgi is recovering from spinal surgery and doesn’t have DM that I am aware of, this video shows a physical therapy option.

Rocky, who I called My Doodle, was a German Shepherd/Lab mix who we lost back in August 2012. Rocky suffered from what we believe was DM. Ultimately we got him a mobility cart to help him get around so that he could visit the park every day, and it really made a difference in his quality of life. He first started to shows signs of weakness in December 2010, and we were fortunate that his disease progressed slowly and we were able to spend another 20 months with him. According to PetMD, pets can maintain quality of life anywhere from 6 to 36 months after prognosis.

Acupuncture is always a great option, although it is not a treatment specific to DM. At Pleasanton Veterinary Hospital, where I relief tech, Dr. Summer Godfrey performs acupuncture on a variety of different patients, and I have personally seen many pets improve their mobility in their senior years.

My biggest fear is that Rooney will receive a DM prognosis one day and until then, I let him run as long and as free as he can (of course not right now because he is recovering).

In the mean time, I keep him insured through Trupanion Pet Insurance, so that we don’t have to make tough financial decisions when Rooney is hurt or sick. For a free quote from Trupanion, please click below.

I encourage all pet parents to be educated about the types of diseases your pet may be genetically predisposed to, knowledge is power, and being aware can help you be a better pet parent.

If you felt that Medical Monday was educational, and you would like to read more, please say so in the comments below. Also, feel free to ask questions and leave topic suggestions as well.

Have a great day!

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