Interview Questions with a Search and Rescue Dog


Sarah and Brand

Sarah and Brand

Tell us a little about yourself — your work, family, past pet history?

I grew up in the Delta of Mississippi with a family dog — a wonderful Labrador Retriever whom I will always love. She was so patient and loving with her family.  But the first dog I owned as an adult is my current dog, so I did not start out as the most experienced dog handler. In addition, my dog is a whole lot more active, frisky, mischievous, and independent than our childhood Lab was. So I have had my hands full.

I am single and also have a busy career. I work as a marketing and branding consultant for companies that prefer to outsource their marketing strategy needs rather than hire full-time directors or vice-presidents of marketing on staff. I love the variety involved in directing the marketing strategy for companies from a wide variety of industries. There’s nothing I enjoy more than helping people who have taken a lot of risk in founding their companies and have already achieved so much to grow their customer base, achieve a higher public profile and greater credibility, earn more publicity, and get the recognition for their talent and experience that they deserve.

With that kind of work life, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to care for or train a dog. But a providential encounter led me to my dog, and the rest is history.

 1. Who is your dog — name, age, breed?

My dog’s name is Brand, he’s seven years old, and he’s part Siberian Husky and part Shar-Pei. His name comes from my desire to give him a strong, one-syllable manly name [he had a bad start in life and looked like a very ugly, dying possum when I found him], and also from a saying by John Wesley.  Wesley was rescued from the second story of a burning house as a five-year-old boy when several men formed a “human ladder” to pull him from a window — and he always referred to himself as “a brand plucked from the burning.”  Since my dog Brand was a rescue also, I thought that was a good strong name for him.

 2. Does he have a job — companion, pet, therapy dog, SAR, athlete?

Brand works in K9 Search and Rescue — searching for missing people on a K9 SAR team called South Carolina Search and Rescue Dog Association. We are a team of volunteer professionals and highly trained search dogs dedicated to helping find those who are lost, from children to hikers, to Alzheimer’s patients, to drowning victims. We offer a specialized K-9 SAR service for emergency service agencies to use during missing person searches. Our team is called out by sheriff’s departments, fire departments, and other emergency services agencies when they need some additional resources in searches for missing people.

3. How did you hear about ARCC?

My rehab vet in Atlanta, Dr. Orenbuch, told me that Brand needed class IV laser treatment for his carpal ligament injury — and that I needed to find a provider closer to home here in the Upstate.  She did not want me to have to drive to Atlanta for Brand to receive that treatment, so I went on a search for a veterinary provider here.  There aren’t a whole lot of class IV laser machines here in Greenville, but I found Animal Rehab and Conditioning Center on the web.  I looked through Dr. Kennedy’s website and really liked what I saw, then communicated with her via email.  One thing I really appreciate about her is that, while she is an expert in rehabilitative veterinary care, she is also very respectful of the veterinarians who have been in charge of Brand’s care during his injury. She was able to integrate seamlessly into his care team and, while willing to offer counsel from her expertise, has not been pushy or overbearing.  She has a wealth of wisdom to offer, along with many advanced rehabilitative tools.

4. Why are you coming to ARCC? (weight loss, injury, surgical, conditioning, etc.)

Brand has received consistent laser treatment for two ligament injuries over the past year along with some maintenance treatment. Injuries are a part of a SAR dog’s life and I am very happy to have a facility here that can offer rehabilitative treatment, in conjunction with his regular veterinarian whom Brand sees regularly, Dr. Ann Malphrus of North Greenville Animal Hospital.

 5. What types of therapy have you done for this issue prior to coming to ARCC?

Brand had received traditional veterinary care — x-rays, medication, and further diagnostic help from an orthopedic specialist in order to accurately pinpoint his problem and rule out other more serious issues.  Once that was done and his injury was more finely-diagnosed, all of us realized that, while he didn’t need surgery, he did need something in order for him to recover successfully.  From that point I went on the hunt for further treatment options other than simply a long season of crate rest. At the time I did not know of ARCC or Dr. Kennedy, and ended up in Atlanta where Brand receives excellent care. It was there that I received encouragement to seek further laser treatment here in the Upstate. It’s a great relief to also have Dr. Kennedy here in the Upstate; she is a valuable resource for the area.

 6. What are some things you wish you had known or done better prior to your dog’s injury/health issues?

Boy — there are a lot!  I wish I’d moved to softer surfaces for his running sooner.  I wish that I’d recognized that he was injured earlier rather than simply thinking that maybe he was just “slowing down” or had lost conditioning. And I wish I’d been more careful about the effect of impact on his carpal ligaments — for instance, I’d never let even a young dog jump off of the back of a truck bed now.  There’s just too much opportunity for wear and tear or significant sudden injury on that fragile area of a dog’s leg.

 7.  What are some things you have done right over the years with your dog?

I’m glad I started him on fish oil and Dasuquin early, well before he was injured.  I began doing that at the advice of Dr. Malphrus when I asked her early on what I could do to help Brand’s joints before he aged. I’m glad I purchased two memory foam, orthopedic beds for him when he was very young. I’m glad I had him on a grain-free, higher protein quality food. And I’m very very glad that I have exercised him and kept him in good condition and at a fit weight for his lifetime. That has only helped his recovery from injury. Fortunately I have always had the sense that from the very beginning of a dog’s life, you are preparing in a sense for that dog’s healthy, active aging. I didn’t always know what to do, but I did know that the positive things I did could only help him later on in life. I’ve always wanted Brand to have an enjoyable, productive, and hopefully long working life, and a happy, active, content retired life. We don’t always get that for our dogs — accidents or genetic weaknesses can befall any creature — but there are things we can do that will make health and mobility more likely.

 8. What are you doing differently now?

I’m a lot more proactive about possible injuries — I don’t wait nearly as long if I suspect something. I also watch him more carefully and have him stretch and do other strength building exercises. I also use ice on his carpal area after extensive work. And I have committed to a continuous maintenance plan for his activity level, which is high.

 9. Have you learned anything you will use for your next pet?

I plan to get a new dog a lot more used to being significantly “handled” — Brand has been uncomfortable with some of the deeper work that has been needed for his recovery. I will definitely get a new dog assessed thoroughly by a rehabilitative vet so that we can prepare early for any structural or other problems that may develop later. And I’ll start any dog on strength building and stretching work early on. Brand and I have always run together [at least, since he finished most of his growing], but we didn’t do enough other types of fitness work that strengthens his core and hips — areas that stabilize his body so that he won’t get injured easily.

Overall, I will start much earlier on habits that need to be built over a lifetime with a dog.

 10. Have you used integrative medicine (physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, pain management, etc.) in the past for your pet — if so, what?

I only began this kind of veterinary care with Brand’s carpal ligament injury. I would begin that much sooner if I had it to do over. And hopefully I will be a more knowledgeable dog handler should I get a second dog.

11. Have you yourself ever experienced integrative medicine — physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, pain management?

I have — and I have loved it. One of the best things I’ve done for myself is deep tissue massage[sometimes called “rolfing”]. It helps work out some of the obvious muscular imbalances and tightness that I have and helps me run more freely and easily.

Spondylosis Deformans

A drawing showing different grades of spondylosis deformans

A drawing showing different grades of spondylosis deformans

Spondylosis Deformans is a condition characterized by the presence of bony spurs (osteophytes) along the edges of the spine. These “spurs” may develop in one site or they may be in several locations. They can build a bridge between vertebras and can make your pet appear very stiff.

The most common places for spondylosis deformans can be either in the thoracic region (chest), at the junction between the last rib and the lower back, in the lumbar (lower back) region or even at the lumbosacral region (around the hips and back legs).

The exact cause of spondylosis deformans is unknown but there are theories associated with trauma, inheritance, and degenerative disease of the discs. The bone spurs are the spine trying to stabilize itself.

No certain breed of dog is found to be more prevalent but it does seem to be more common in large breed dogs, usually middle-aged to older and can be found in cats also.

Clinical signs of this condition can include stiffness, lameness, pain, neurologic signs or your pet may be asymptomatic.

Diagnosis is usually found through physical exam, history, and radiographs. Other diseases such as cancer, Diskospondylitis, fracture or luxation can also cause bone spurs or deformities. Myelograms (dye placed in the spinal canal), CT or MRI may be recommended to be sure of the diagnosis.

Treatment usually depends upon the pet – are they painful, are they symptomatic, do they have any lameness? If your pet is asymptomatic, then keeping him flexible and strong is the best medicine and this is usually done through different types of physical therapy and exercise.

If your pet is painful, then NSAIDs are usually the first treatment of choice and once the pain has been addressed then again, physical therapy and exercise are recommended.

Therapeutic laser has been very helpful for these pets in my opinion. We have relieved the pain and allowed the pet to function as a normal pet for longer periods of time. If your pet should have spinal cord compression due to spondylosis deformans then surgery is recommended.

Spondylosis deformans can limit your pet’s movement but with weight control, pain management and exercise your pet can live an active life.

Caudal Cervical Spondylomyelopathy — Wobblers

Sam is a Great Dane but he does not have Wobblers -- just being a great model for me!

Sam is a Great Dane but he does not have Wobblers — just being a great model for me!

Caudal Cervical Spondylomyelopathy or Wobblers is a compression of the spinal cord due to malformation of bony or ligamentous structures typically at C5-C6 or C6-C7 at the base of the neck.  Wobbler is usually found in large breeds such as Great Danes and Dobermans.

Wobblers in Great Danes usually affects the young while in Dobermans it is more of a middle age disease.  The malformation causes an abnormal gait in the rear legs.

Other signs of Wobblers can include:  pain, neurologic deficits, ataxia (staggering), worn nails, muscle atrophy, and even paresis or paralysis.

Wobblers can usually be diagnosed by lateral radiographs but myelograms or even MRIs may be needed for complete diagnosis.  If Wobblers is the diagnosis, then surgery is the recommended treatment.

NSAIDs must be decreased prior to surgery to help combat the possibility of bleeding.  There are two main types of surgery:

  1. Ventral slot – in which the surgeon makes the entrance to the spinal cord through the neck and removes the bony structure that is causing the compression.
  2. Ventral slot with distraction and fusion – the surgeon makes the entrance to the spinal cord through the neck, removes the bony structure causing the compression but he also places a scaffold between the vertebrae and fuses the space closed.

Post-op care must be very consistent and conscientious.  You must watch for pressure sores especially on bony points.  Passive and active range of motion exercises must be performed at least daily but would be better if performed at least three to four times a day.  Another post-op consideration must be for bladder catheterization.  Bladder catheterization is easily performed once you have been successfully taught by the surgeon or rehabilitation personnel.

Rehabilitation facilities are available for help with the care of your pet during the post-op period.  They have the resources and ability to help your pet regain his quality of life and be functional.

Melting Down — Hyperthermia in our Pets

I felt this way this week!

I felt this way this week!

I thought this would be an appropriate topic for this week since I felt like I was melting the day Simpsonville was without power. I also had firsthand observation on the day that I locked Rocket and I out of the clinic — it has been a hard couple of weeks.

I know that quite a few of my clients and friends work, compete or just enjoy their pets outside in the summer but we all need to know some basic information on how our pets can overheat and what to do in that situation. This information should help you recognize the signs of heat distress.

Hyperthermia is increased temperature in our pets. Our pets are unable to dissipate heat well so they pant to help with that problem. We also know that they will “sweat” a little through their feet but not enough to help. If your pet’s temperature is too high for too long it can cause severe organ injury and failure. Working and competing pets can have temperatures up to 108 degrees but it should return to normal quickly.

Risks for heat injury can include such things as rapid changes in air temperature (cool one day then hot the next), high temperatures, high humidity, rough terrain, conditioning of the pet and handler, weight of the pet, structure of the pet, medical issues of the pet and the type of work the pet does. Structural and medical issues include such things as a short nose/face, hypothyroidism, and obesity to name a few.

Your pet will give some warning signs that he is overheating but you must be aware and watching for them. These signs can include such things as: excessive panting that can become harsh or noisy, flattening and curling of the tongue (tongue can look “spade” like), looking for shade, being calmer than normal, wanting to sit or lie down, weakness and collapse or death.

There is talk about doing “heat acclimation” in pets and this can be achieved somewhat by exposing the pet gradually to the increasing temperatures. Acclimation will not work well if the pet is just exposed to the heat but they must be “worked” in it also. The recommendation is that it takes at least 2 weeks to acclimatize them to the temperatures but we must also keep them in top physical condition for it to work the best.

Prevention is the best cure so watch your pet carefully and if any signs are noted try the following suggestions:

  • Maintain hydration — water is the best but you may need to carry water because taste may vary by location and if your pet won’t drink it, it can’t help them
  • Lots of rest in shaded areas, good ventilation, away from the activity and interaction of others
  • If your pet wears a muzzle — remove it whenever possible
  • Cooling mats and vests appear to be helpful but as a cooling technique after working

If your pet should overheat, you need to cool them down to 103 as quickly as possible so apply water to their body. If not able to get them totally wet try cooling the head, neck and abdomen at the very least. Once you have them wet try fanning them while getting them to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. Make sure that your veterinarian does blood work because the effects of hyperthermia can last for days. Your pet’s temperature may not regulate properly for a few days so closely monitor it yourself.

Hyperthermia is a very scary situation and we all need to keep a close eye on not only our pets but ourselves. Have a great summer and be safe!


Shoulder Injuries – Part Two

Canine Anatomy Bones with NamesThere are a variety of problems that can predispose your pet to shoulder injuries. These can include such things as poor core strength, straight shoulder conformation, poor conditioning, rear leg injuries and other things.

Shoulder conformation is also known as “layback”. The front leg consists of the shoulder, elbow, carpus (wrist) and toes. The layback is the shoulder angle and it can be determined in the following way. (See photos below)

  1. Put your pet in a stacked position and make him stand symmetrically.
  2. Find the highest point on the shoulder blade.
  3. Find where the shoulder blade meets the humerus (upper arm).
  4. Lay a ruler between these points.
  5. The angle between this line and vertical is the layback.

The layback demonstrates the reach your pet has and how it can affect performance. Now jumping dogs can extend this reach slightly by using their mid back so a dog with too straight of an angle can eventually cause injuries along the spine or in the rear by compensating.

Now some breeds are very straight in the front and that doesn’t mean they can’t compete but it does mean that we need to have a very strong core to save their backs and you need to have a routine of stretching, strengthening and management so they can compete without injury.

The problem with a straight front is that you can get a minor injury which may not be seen or disappears quickly and a slight weakness sets in; this injury continues each time being slight with minute changes in the range of motion and flexibility. This leads to pain, decreased strength and endurance.

The way to treat this is with NSAIDs, cryotherapy (icing the area) for 10-15 minutes, laser therapy works well, and then we must increase the strength, stabilization, range of motion and flexibility.

Simple exercises such as flexion and extension help to increase the range of motion over a period of time – take this slow because we don’t want to hurt the pet and they refuse to let you do it again. Another great way to strengthen your pet’s shoulders is by using the FitPAWS equipment to help with balance and weight shifting.

Your rehabilitation veterinarian has more options for exercise so if your pet seems to be having an issue please see your veterinarian and then the rehab specialist.

Lily demonstrating the "layback". We are going from the top of the shoulder to the shoulder joint.

Lily demonstrating the “layback”. We are going from the top of the shoulder to the shoulder joint.

This is the line from the shoulder joint to the elbow.

This is the line from the shoulder joint to the elbow.


Shoulder Injuries

The shoulder of your pet

The shoulder of your pet

It has been a while since this was posted so I thought I would re-post it so when I gave the second part later this week you would be able to find them together.

Shoulder injuries are so difficult to diagnose and they can be extremely hard to rehabilitate. The shoulder blade in your pet is not attached by bone to the body but by a large mass of muscles and this fact makes it hard to see anything on radiographs.

Each front leg supports about 30% of your dog’s weight in normal movement but that weight can increase 3-5 times depending on which activity they are doing — the force can be enormous.

As your dog runs and dodges he also places a large amount of force on the abductors and adductors of the shoulder complex — these are the muscles that allow him to change directions. I am a huge baseball fan — think about all the crazy pictures you have seen of pitchers with their arms back ready to release the ball. I don’t know about you but I have tried to get my arms in those crazy positions and it just ain’t happening.

The typical scenario of shoulder injury is that the pet hurts themselves and limps a couple of days then get better. A few weeks later they are lame again and it may be very subtle — as a friend says, “only a limp a mother would note”. A head bob can also be an indication that there is something wrong on the front end.

Your veterinarian will do a thorough examination and may recommend radiographs to rule out things such as arthritis, elbow dysplasia, and fractures. Radiographs will not show a soft tissue injury so be prepared in case they don’t find a bony problem. If it is a soft tissue injury further diagnostics such as diagnostic ultrasound or MRI may be needed.

This type of injury can be very innocent such as slipping on the floor or from some type of sporting injury such as tripping, hard turns, or jumping. Some signs noted in competition pets are avoiding jumps, decreased stride length, warmth to the shoulder and head bobs. There are, of course, numerous other signs but these are some of the prominent ones.

One of the best ways to prevent shoulder issues is by correctly warming up your pet and doing some basic stretching (you knew it was coming down to this). This can be as simple as having your pet stand up against you or by doing the play bows. Next week we will discuss how to look at your dog’s conformation to see if he runs the risk of shoulder injury.

Have a great week!

Feeling Unnoticed

Thank You!

I have blogged about pets and rehabilitation for over a year. Each week I would send out a blog post about something to do with training, rehab, physical attributes and just life in general but I would only see a couple of people who would pay attention; this was disheartening. I felt like — why bother.

I have not blogged for a few weeks and even left the blog with a continuation that needed to be completed but once again, I did not hear anything so it felt like it didn’t matter. I started trying to put more on facebook — more pictures, more video and even though my blogs were also on facebook they did not generate much talk.

I recently asked a friend who works on facebook for another business about how they do things and generate so much attention with their blog — she laughed and said very few people actually pay attention to the blog but they keep on plugging for the one or two who need it. I expressed how discouraged I was and that no one read my blog — self pity, I know — imagine my surprise when a couple of people at the table said they always read it.

It turns out that I was not accounting for where they read it and my statistics weren’t being generated correctly. Now that is not to say that a “ton” of people read the blog but at least I know a few who are truly interested so I guess I will get back to the grindstone.

Thank you for making me work more for the business and for supporting me.


Sweet Poison — Xylitol

The chemical formula of xylitol -- a toxic sweetner for our pets

The chemical formula of xylitol — a toxic sweetener for our pets

If you are not a chemist, this may not make sense to you but it can be deadly for your pet.  Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that is found normally in fruits and vegetables but in very small amounts. The problem is that xylitol is found lots of food stuff that we don’t think about along with a lot of medications. Xylitol is sold in bulk for baking and can be a huge issue in that respect.

Xylitol can cause a drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and can cause liver necrosis in pets.

Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute in gum, mints, toothpaste and even nontoxic amounts can be found in pet dental products. The Pet Poison Helpline notes that the cases of dogs becoming severely intoxicated after eating homemade breads, cookies and cakes that are sweetened with xylitol.

Xylitol is considered a “proprietary ingredient” which means that companies do not have to list it on the label so if your pet appears to have any symptoms of poisoning please call the Pet Poison Helpline and they can tell you if the product has xylitol. The Pet Poison Helpline number is 800-213-6680.

Products that contain xylitol include over the counter medications, prescription medications, vitamins and supplements along with ice cream products, candy, puddings, syrups and jams. A good rule to follow is do not give your pet any “human” foods or medications.

Xylitol poisoning is dose dependent — small amounts can cause hypoglycemia while large amounts can affect the liver. As little as one piece of gum can cause hypoglycemia in a 10 pound dog.

Signs of xylitol poisoning include:

  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • incoordination
  • coma
  • seizures
  • death

These signs can develop within 15-30 minutes of consumption so you need to act quickly. There is no known antidote but IV fluids, supplementation, blood work, and hospitalization. Prognosis is good if your pet is treated before the signs are seen but prognosis is poor if liver signs develop.

Like we have all heard in the past — “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Let’s keep our pets safe!

Have a safe day and get your pets indoors!

Growing Strong!

Sam starting February off right!

Sam starting February off right!

The month of January is over and it has flown for me! I was thinking about how last year I was sitting here in the office, cleaning and putting things away, hoping for someone to call — it was a worrisome time. I spent a lot of time thinking and worrying.

We do the same things with our pets – are we doing the right thing, did we miss something, what else can I do? Some people spend so much time gathering info from everyone that they basically do nothing.

I have a ton of ideas on what I should do everyday and I try to write most, not all, of them down. This allows me to take time out to sit and think about them when I am not so rushed. My favorite thinking time is actually while driving and I must admit it is easier to talk about it as I drive. I usually record my thoughts on my phone and then I can replay them.

Try to find a time of day that allows you to have some alone time, time to plan and think, time to assess what you are doing — it is good to gather information but you don’t overload yourself. Find a few people who are really informed and who you can connect with easily – use these people as your mentors and coaches.

Try to keep warm, dry and most of all worry free. Thanks for the first year!


Biceps Tenosynovitis

Biceps Tenosynovitis

Biceps Tenosynovitis

A common injury seen in humans and canines are muscle strains or tears. The canine shoulder has 25 muscles to help with movement. Because of the density of muscles and the way our canine athletes compete, Biceps Tenosynovitis (Biceps Tendonitis) has become a common problem especially in agility dogs.

The biceps tendon attaches on the shoulder blade, goes through the shoulder joint, widens into the belly of the muscle and attaches onto the lower leg at the radius and ulna bones.

Biceps tenosynovitis is inflammation of the biceps brachii muscle tendon. This inflammation can be caused by repeated strain injury, quick turns, trauma and even chronic osteochondritis dissecans of the shoulder joint. Tendons have poor blood supply and that makes them even more susceptible to injury.

Muscle contraction strength is greatly affected by even minor strain injury and since the blood supply is so poor, healing of the lesion can be problematic. Scar tissue in the muscle predisposes it to contracture and reinjury.

Biceps tenosynovitis is seen more commonly in medium to large breed dogs that are mature. There can be intermittent lameness that may become worse with exercise. Loss of muscle on the affected leg can be seen and it may be painful upon palpation of the tendon.

Radiographs are not very specific for this problem and MRI or ultrasound may be used to identify the condition. Arthroscopy can be used as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool.

If surgery is recommended then the options include a tenodesis (reattaching the tendon at a new location) or a tendon release by arthroscopy. Medical management of biceps tenosynovitis includes pain management, exercise restriction, and rehabilitation therapy.

Rehabilitation is the main ingredient in recovery whether you choose medical or surgical management of the problem. Treatments will include pain management with NSAIDs, laser therapy, ultrasound therapy, passive range of motion movements, and possibly acupuncture. Exercises will be prescribed for your pet and slowly increased over time.

Strengthening exercises will be incorporated later in the rehabilitation program but the important component is controlled activity. Full recovery may take 4 to 6 months so try not to be too impatient and push your canine athlete too quickly; slow and steady will win the race.

Whether you wish to pursue medical or surgical options, ARCC – Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center is here to help you with your canine athlete during his recovery.