Key Kidney Knowledge

Looking after your pet’s health is probably the most important gift that you can give them. Some diseases like chronic kidney disease (CKD) and kidney failure build up over a long period of time and very often pet parents are not even aware that their pet is affected.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD): CKD is the most common kidney disease in dogs and cats. Regardless of the cause, CKD is characterised by progressive damage to kidney. It destroys small functional units of the kidney called ‘nephrons’ and reduces the filtration rate from 30 percent to 50 percent of normal.

Basically this is auto-maintained process. As there is damage to some of the nephrons and they become non-functional, other nephrons have to take burden to purify the blood. At some point of time, a stage comes when these nephrons exhaust with their capacity to purify the blood and again they become non-functional and process continues. It’s progression to end stage i.e. renal failure proceeds at relatively constant rate. If measures are not taken in due time, improvement in the kidney function is quite difficult because compensatory and adaptive changes to sustain the kidney have already occurred.

Kidney failure: Kidney failure occurs when 75 percent or more of the nephron population becomes non-functional. Kidney failure is a condition that can have many causes, but the final outcome is more or less same. Whatever may be the underlying disease, the main damage is always done to nephrons. Kidney itself has a great reserve capacity and continues to function normally until more than two thirds of its functional units i.e. nephrons are destroyed. This is a major reason why dogs and cats are often presented to veterinary surgeon quite late in disease process. That’s why external signs simply do not exist in early stages!

Kidney failure can affect dogs and cats at any age, but it is more common in middle aged or older animals. The incidence of chronic kidney failure increases with age. It is thought that cats and dogs aged seven or older are more at risk of developing the condition. According to research, around 10 percent of cats and dogs suffer from kidney failure at this age. Numbers are probably greater for animals who are still in the pre-clinical phase of disease, not showing any external signs of a problem. As the problem can progress quite slowly, signs are often ignored as they occur gradually and are easy to miss in early stages.

Tips for pet parents

Observe your pet carefully; it may go a long way in ensuring his healthy life.

  • Urination: You should track changes in volume and frequency to urination. Many a time your dog is incontinent because he is urinating in the house when in reality he is urinating more frequently (polyuria) and not allowed outdoors frequent enough.
  • Water intake: Water intake is more easily detected than urination. Water intake should not exceed 80-90 ml/kg per day and 40-45 ml/kg per day in cats, though it may vary depending on season, physical condition and diet.
  • Other signs: Some signs like weight loss, dehydration, oral ulceration, vomiting, diarrhoea and loose teeth may be observed.
  • Regular tests: If your cat or dog is aged seven or older, even if none of the external signs are present, ask your vet about specific testing for kidney problems.
  • Treatments: There are a range of possible options your vet might consider. Changing to a prescription renal diet, adding in dietary supplements and sometimes, in the later stages, using some prescription medication (with prior consultation of your vet).

(Dr Ajay Pore is product executive–Companion Animals, Vetoquinol India Animal Health Private Limited, Mumbai).

Dog Health

Dental care: a key to general well being

Plaque and calculus accumulation in pet’s teeth lead to complete tooth erosion. If we act fast, the recovery will be earlier and complete. As we delay, the complications can culminate in an irreparable damage. Here’s more on pooch dental hygiene.

In humans, the dentistry has gone in a sea change in terms of product awareness and innovations as well as availability of products in dental care, oral hygiene and cosmetic dentistry but the pet dental segment in India is still in the budding phase. The awareness about pet dental health among pet parents seems to be the most important area of present discussion. A lot of innovations have happened in the area of pet dentistry also and some basic products are already available in the markets.

Here are a few common dental problems in dogs.

Halitosis or bad breath: This is the first complaint noticed in a dental problem. This can happen due to a badDog Health stomach also. A detailed examination by your veterinarian is required to confirm the reason for bad breath. It is essential to keep our pet’s mouth clean and healthy to avoid bad odour from mouth.

Plaque and calculus: This is an outcome of the deposition of food materials or extra mineralisation of teeth. This can be rated as a first degree dental complication. The plaque can harbour some bacteria which may complicate the situation to worse levels. Calculus mostly remains as a cosmetic issue but of late can attract some complications. The treatment is removal of plaque or calculus by dental scaling which is done by a veterinarian. Tartar can be defined as a hardened plaque which cannot be removed through brushing.

Gingivitis: This can be considered as a second level dental complication where the gums are also getting involved. The supra-gingival plaque harbours micro-organisms causing tissue damage. If properly managed, gingivitis can be restricted at its level rather than progressing to advanced stages. The objective of treatment at this stage would be in restoring inflamed gingiva clinically back to healthy stage. Plaque control remains on high priority during management of gingivitis.

Periodontitis: It can be described as a third level of dental complication which has gone deep root into the dental structure. The pet parent may notice bleeding gums and teeth. He may also find a loose tooth or sometimes a lost tooth. A veterinarian will diagnose this stage of dental complication before confirming it as a ‘periodontal disease’. The prognosis is not good but an expert veterinarian’s objective would be to stop the progression of tissue destruction and to prevent lesions to other sites.

These complications can definitely impart a bad response in dogs like – malnutrition, loss of alertness, other health problems, even affecting internal organs, etc. It must be also worth mentioning that artificial set of teeth after tooth eruption is not (widely) practiced in our country. Hence loss of tooth may be considered as a permanent lose.

Preventing dental problems

It is prudent to discuss how we can prevent dental problems. The first lessons start at home.

Brushing: There is no alternative to brushing in keeping good dental hygiene. It is very important to use a good quality paste and brush exclusively designed for pets. Brushing not only helps to remove plaque and reduces accumulation of calculus but also help the pet parent to have a close watch of the pet’s mouth and act immediately on finding any complications. Brushing needs a lot of co-operation from your pet as well as a good level of motivation from pet parent. It is always advisable to inculcate the habit of brushing from a young age as it may be very difficult later.

There are oral rinses as well as plaque removing swabs in foreign markets which may be available in our country in the coming days.

Dental chews: Chews are the easiest way to clean the teeth. There are specially designed vegetarian chews available which can clean the teeth physically as well as enzymatically.

This proves to be an easier way for dental hygiene. Regular use of dental hygiene chews will remarkably reduce the plaque accumulation on teeth and simultaneously reduce the further progression of complications. It is very important to select the right chew for your dog based on her weight as there are different sizes of chews available. It must be considered that chews will help to prevent oral problems but is not a perfect alternative to brushing. Chews also reserve the advantage that it can be started at any age and need not require any handling to offer. It is highly recommended to have an expert consultation for selecting the right chews for your pet because some chews may potentially damage the teeth as well as the general health.

Professional dental management in pets include supra and sub-gingival scaling and polishing, root planing, crown polishing, extraction, periodontal surgery, etc. It is very essential to follow the rigorous dental hygiene recommendations by a professional after dental management to reduce chances of recurrence.

Commercial dental diets are also recommended to provide right nutrition to pets recovering from dental complications after professional management. They not only reduce the accumulation of plaque and calculus but also provide right nutrition to your pets.

Regular home care and periodic dental examination by a veterinarian is essential to control the complications affecting the teeth and related parts. It is always told that a good mouth is required for good nutrition and thereby good health. So, let’s start from the mouth to have a healthier and a happier pet wagging around you.

(Dr R Renjith Nair is product manager – companion animals at Virbac Animal Health India Ltd).


Antioxidants: key to a healthy immune system

At birth, the puppy’s immune system is not fully developed. Rather, it matures during the first few months of life. The immune system is important for protecting puppies from disease and infection. A mature immune system is necessary for an effective response to vaccination. The immune system can be divided into two major components:

Cell-mediated Immunity: Cells (T- and B-lymphocytes and macrophages) that recognise foreign agents (antigens) and initiate a rapid defense.

Humoral Immunity: Antibodies that circulate throughout the body binding to and thereby neutralising—toxins and microorganisms.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are important, naturally occurring nutrients that help maintain health by slowing the destructive aging process of cellular molecules. They can also be important in improving immune responses and vaccine recognition in dogs and cats. They can reverse decreases in immune-cell function for senior dogs and cats. A blend of several antioxidants in moderate amounts may be more effective than high levels of one antioxidant. Antioxidants are nutrients found naturally in the body and in plants such as fruits and vegetables.

Why do puppies need antioxidants?nutrition

Antioxidants, such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lutein, have been shown to boost both cell-mediated and humoral immune function in dogs. Lutein and beta-carotene have also been shown to optimise vaccine antigen recognition, an effect that is very important for puppies undergoing their initial vaccination series.

The study: A group of 40, six-week-old puppies were randomly allotted into two subgroups. For 120 days, puppies were fed either a control puppy diet or the same diet formulated with added vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lutein. During the study, all the puppies received their normal vaccinations. At the end of the 120-day feeding period, all the puppies were vaccinated against distemper and parvovirus, and antibody responses were measured. Following that, all the puppies received an injection of a novel antigen and the antibody responses were measured.

Findings: Compared with puppies fed the control diet, puppies fed the diet with the antioxidant combination had enhanced responses to vaccination (see chart below). There were more antibodies present following injection with a novel antigen, indicating that the immune systems of puppies fed antioxidants may be better able to respond to challenges from infectious agents. There was greater cell-mediated immune response, indicating that feeding antioxidants to puppies increases both T- and B-cell activity.

How antioxidants work?

As cells function normally in the body, they produce damaged molecules—called free radicals. These free radicals are highly unstable and steal components from other cellular molecules, such as fat, protein, or DNA, thereby spreading the damage. This damage continues in a chain reaction, and entire cells soon become damaged and die. This process is called peroxidation.

Peroxidation is useful because it helps the body destroy cells that have outlived their usefulness and kills germs and parasites. However, peroxidation, when left unchecked, also destroys or damages healthy cells. Antioxidants help prevent widespread cellular destruction by willingly donating components to stabilise free radicals. More importantly, antioxidants return to the surface of the cell to stabilise rather than damage other cellular components. When there are not enough antioxidants to hold peroxidation in check, free radicals begin damaging healthy cells, which, in turn, can lead to problems. For example, free radical damage to immune cells can lead to an increased risk of infections.

Because antioxidants play a key role in minimizing damage to cells, their addition to high-quality puppy diet can help maintain good health and protect against viruses, bacteria and parasites.

Antioxidants and aging

Recent research also examined the effect of aging on immune responses. The findings indicate that as dogs and cats age, immune cell responses may decline. Including antioxidants in the diet can reverse the age related decrease in immune cell function.

The solution

All Eukanuba and IAMS dog and cat foods and Eukanuba Veterinary Diets contain added antioxidants to help support a healthy immune system.

dog health

Pooch vaccination Key to good health

The age-old adage goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure.’ Periodic vaccinations in dogs help them create immunity against a range of infectious diseases. Let’s be aware of the various vaccines available for our pooches

What is vaccination?

Vaccination is the process of preventing diseases by creating immunity in the animal. It also reduces the dog healthamount of pharmaceutical treatments (such as antibiotics) used to control established diseases and, in many instances, has prevented long-term suffering and death.

What are vaccines?

Vaccines are the health products that trigger protective immune responses (defence cells in the body) in pets and prepare them to fight future infections from disease causing agents, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.

What are the types of vaccines?

Modified Live Vaccines (MLV): Modified live vaccines contain a weakened strain of the disease causing agent. Weakening of the agent is typically accomplished by chemical means or by genetic engineering. These vaccines replicate within the host, thus increasing the amount of material available for provoking an immune response without inducing clinical illness. This provocation primes the immune system to mount a vigorous response, if the disease-causing agent is ever introduced to the animal. Further, the immunity provided by a modified-live vaccine develops rather swiftly and since they mimic infection with the actual disease agent, it provides the best immune response.

Inactivated Vaccines (Killed): Inactivated vaccines contain killed disease causing agents. Since the agent is killed, it is much more stable and has a longer shelf life, there is no possibility that they will revert to a virulent form, and they never spread from the vaccinated host to other animals. They are also safe for use in pregnant animals (a developing fetus may be susceptible to damage by some of the disease agents, even though attenuated, present in modified live vaccines (MLV)). Although more than a single dose of vaccine is always required and the duration of immunity is generally shorter.

Why is vaccination important?

Vaccination is the most effective method of preventing infectious diseases, in particular viral infections which can lead to serious illness and even death. Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against a number of diseases so that the dog or cat is protected from various organisms in the environment. Even though some diseases have become uncommon, vaccination is still highly recommended because serious disease-causing agents continue to be present in the environment. By vaccinating, we are not only protecting our pets’ health but also our family’s health as well. Today, no one should ever overlook the potential of zoonotic diseases (that is, those diseases transmissible from animals to humans) such as rabies. So, pets should be vaccinated to protect them from many highly contagious and deadly diseases.

What is the age of vaccination?

Puppies receive antibodies and important nutrients from their mothers’ milk when they are still nursing. They ingest the maternal antibodies contained in the mothers’ milk as early as during the first few hours of birth. The antibodies help protect them from infectious diseases until they are able to produce their own antibodies or their own immune system is more mature. This means that once they are weaned, this passive form of protection is lost. And it is at this point in their life that a vaccination programme should be started. Puppies and kittens require a series of vaccinations during their first four months of life. At approximately six (6) to eight (8) weeks of age, puppies need to receive their first vaccination. Approximately four weeks later, that is, at ten (10) weeks to three months old, a second vaccination should be given. These first two vaccinations will provide protection for a while (short term) from many life threatening diseases that your pet may come into contact with. They are therefore referred to as temporary vaccinations. A third and final vaccination, which lasts longer (a year), is given at fourteen (14) weeks to four months of age. In most cases, a vaccination protocol of three inoculations will suffice, but a vaccination schedule of four inoculations, starting at 6 weeks and ending at 16 weeks, does work better. Vaccination for rabies is administered from three months when maternal immunity has disappeared completely. Annual re-vaccinations (boosters) are then recommended to keep your pet healthy.

Vaccination Schedule
Disease agent
Puppy doses < 16 weeks
Adult doses > 16 weeks
1 dose at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks & 12-14 weeks of age
1 dose
1 dose at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks & 12-14 weeks of age
2 doses 3-4 weeks apart
1 dose at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks & 12-14 weeks of age
1 dose if MLV 2 doses 2-4 weeks apart if KV (Killed Vaccine)
1 dose at 6-8 weeks, 9-11 weeks & 12-14 weeks of age
1 dose
1 dose as early as 3 months of age
1 dose
1-3 years or as required by your state law
Leptospira (Not recommended in small dogs)
1 dose at 12 weeks & second dose at 14-16 weeks of age
2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart
Annually as needed
Bordetella Bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough)
1 dose at 6-8 weeks & 10-12 weeks *Also can give 1 dose intranasal at 3 weeks of age
2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart
Annually as needed
1 dose at 6 weeks of age, then every 2-4 weeks until 12 weeks of age
1 dose if MLV 2 doses, 2 weeks apart if KV or use only if needed
Annually as needed

Which are the diseases for which vaccination is recommended?

  1. DHLPPi/C: This is a combo vaccination that covers numerous diseases with one injection.D-Distemper: An airborne viral disease of the lungs, intestines and brain. Distemper is a nasty virus that is highly contagious, occurs worldwide, and at one time was the leading cause of death in puppies. Young puppies are more susceptible to the virus than adult dogs. You may see signs of an upper respiratory infection with high fever, the dog may also have neurological signs. This disease is often fatal.H-Hepatitis or Adenovirus-A viral disease of the liver, which is spread by contact with the urine and faeces of infected animals. The virus causes liver and kidney damage, animals who survive may have chronic illness. Symptoms include but are not limited to: fever, lethargy, anorexia, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhoea.L-Leptospirosis: A bacterial disease of the urinary tract. This disease affects the liver and kidneys and is deadly. Animals with this disease are contagious to other animals and humans. A positive dog should be isolated and the caregiver should wear protective clothing and gloves. The disease is spread through contact with urine of infected animals. Dogs with leptospirosis may show signs of lethargy, dehydration, jaundice, and fever.P-Parvovirus: A viral disease of the intestines. This virus attacks the intestinal tract and causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea. Parvo is highly contagious, dogs contract the virus through contact with infected animals stool. Without treatment, dogs become dehydrated and weak and often die. This virus is very common and puppies who are not properly vaccinated are often afflicted. Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers seem to be at greater risk from parvo.

    Pi-Parainfluenza: It is a viral infectious bronchitis. This is a virus that causes an upper respiratory infection. Dogs usually contract the disease through contact with nasal secretions of infected dogs.

    C-Corona virus: a viral disease of the intestines. This virus attacks the intestinal system similar to parvovirus. Infected dogs suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea and dehydration. Keep your pet vaccinated and your yard clean to protect your pet from this viral disease.

  2. Rabies: A viral disease fatal to humans and other animals. Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system. There is no known cure for rabies, to confirm a case the brain tissue must be examined. Symptoms generally include behaviour change, difficulty swallowing, hypersalivation, depression – stupor, and hind limb paralysis. The disease is spread through the saliva of infected animals and can be transmitted through a bite or an open wound. Vaccinated pets who are exposed to rabies should be re-vaccinated and observed for 90 days; un-vaccinated pets exposed to rabies should be given post bite vaccination course and kept isolated for six months.
  3. Bordetella: This is an upper respiratory infection also known as kennel cough. This infection is usually not fatal but is a pain to get rid of. The infection can spread quickly through boarding and grooming facilities and any place dogs congregate. The vaccination can be in the form of a nasal spray or injection. The injection form will need a booster in one month. Your veterinarian can help you decide if this vaccination is necessary for your dog.
  4. Lyme Disease: This is a tick borne illness. If you live in a wooded area and have a large number of positive Lyme disease cases in your area, you should consider this vaccine for your dogs. Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and loss of appetite. The deer tick must stay attached to your dog for one to two days in order to transmit the illness, so checking your dog daily for ticks will help prevent Lyme disease. Also use a good tick preventative like Tick Collars, sprays, tick bath and anthelmintic shampoos.
  5. Giardia: Giardia is a parasite that lives in the intestines and can be passed into the environment through the stools of infected animals. Dogs become infected with giardia by drinking contaminated water. Humans can also be infected. At risk dogs would be those who live primarily outdoors, hunting dogs, or dogs who may come in contact with ponds or creeks. This vaccine needs to be boosted three weeks after the initial dose and then given annually.

If you are a responsible pet parent, do get your pet vaccinated at required intervals.

(Dr. S.S. Patil is Ph.D. Scholar at Centre of Advanced Studies in Animal Nutrition, K.B. Korel is a Ph.D. Scholar at Division of Animal Nutrition while P.P. Mirajkar is M.V.Sc Scholar at Division of LES at Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar)

Don’ts of vaccination

  • Don’t vaccinate when your pooch is under stress as corticosteriods that release during stress inhibit lymphocyte metabolism and cell growth.
  • Don’t vaccinate your pooch within 2 weeks of surgery as anesthetics are immunosuppressive.
  • Don’t vaccinate your pup before 6 weeks of age. MLV vaccine can cause encephalitis in pups less than 4 weeks.
  • Don’t administer multiple virus vaccines to dogs in multiple animal households. Virus shedding can create increased virus particles in the environment.
  • Don’t vaccinate sick animals or those who have been exposed to disease.
  • Don’t vaccinate if your pooch is undergoing glucocorticoid therapy.
  • Don’t administer drugs, flea preventive, heartworm preventive or wormers.
  • Don’t give any vaccines to a female dog who is “in season”, pregnant or lactating.
  • Don’t vaccinate if your dog is suffering from tumors, heart or kidney disease.

(Dr. S.S. Patil is Ph.D. Scholar at Centre of Advanced Studies in Animal Nutrition, K.B. Korel is a Ph.D. Scholar at Division of Animal Nutrition while P.P. Mirajkar is M.V.Sc Scholar at Division of LES at Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar)

Dog Training

Visual cues are key to training a deaf dog

How sad you feel when you realise that your pooch doesn’t respond to your commands, ignores the doorbell…not because he doesn’t want to obey but because his hearing is impaired! Here’s how to communicate with your lil one.

Why hearing loss occurs?

Hearing loss in dogs is relatively common and can have variety of causes, including old age, infectious diseaseDog training or reactions to medications. Some dogs are born deaf, having inherited a gene that predisposes them to the condition. This gene is often found in white dogs or those with a mottled coat. Dalmatians and white Great Danes are among such breeds.

Making life meaningful with communication

  • First and foremost, remember that he’s a dog and even though he can’t hear, he will have the same instincts as any other dog.
  • It’s important to treat the dog as normally as possible.
  • Don’t baby him, or shy away from all the regular things you would do with a normal dog.
  • Most deaf dogs compensate for their loss of hearing by making heightened use of their other senses, including sight, smell and touch.
  • They can be more responsive than average to non auditory cues, an important factor that helps make the training process easier.
  • And some older dogs will respond to a very loud hand clap or stomping on the floor as they may pick the vibrations in the floor.
  • Learn the fact that you and your dog have to rely on visual cues and commands as the vocal commands like “come”, “stay” or “sit” don’t apply.
  • Socialization is critical. You might think that because your dog can’t hear, he needs to be kept close by your side at all times. On the contrary, a deaf dog can easily learn to interact positively with other people and dogs.
  • Be vigilant when your dog is around other canines. They can always see when a dog is snarling at them.
  • When people are greeting your dog, tell them to smile and avoid direct eye contact and offer him a palm to sniff.
  • In a market place, there is a device called pager collar which gives vibrating signals to your dog.
  • If you are taking them to a new place, be careful and never keep your dog off leash.
  • Make sure that you don’t startle your deaf dog by “sneaking up on him”, especially while he’s asleep.
  • To wake a deaf dog, place your hand near his nose so he’ll smell you, or scratch the floor or pillow near him so he’ll feel that. Since he may be startled, you can make waking up or sudden touch more pleasantly by immediately offering him a treat.
  • You can actually condition your dog to find being startled to be pleasant — just associate something he likes (such as a food treat) with a startle.
  • Watch strangers (especially children) and don’t let them touch him unless he’s recognied that they’re there.
  • Never get angry, jerk, hit or push your pet for unwanted behaviour. Instead, ignore it and focus on rewarding the behaviour you do want.

Tips for training a deaf dog

  • Dogs who can’t hear have to rely on vision to keep tabs on what’s going around them and more likely to be influenced by visual distractions.
  • Use clicker training using a flashlight. For this, you will need an instant on-off light with a button rather than a sliding switch. Do not use a laser light though.
  • When using sign language, it’s important to keep the signs consistent, so that the dog learns to recognise specific gestures as commands.
  • Train with you back to a wall or even in a corner so that your dog is able to focus more exclusively on you.
  • Be in his line of sight and never approach him from behind.
  • Smile, so that he can see your expression and will come to regard the training as a happy experience.
  • Last but not the least, reward the dog for good behaviour.

Teaching various commands Teaching ‘Come’

  • Flash a light or wait until your pet notices you.
  • Show a treat when the dog looks at you and give the hand signal for come by extending your hand straight up and then reward your dog when he comes to you.
  • Keep on practising with the treat and then slowly cut down on treats concentrating on commands.
  • Make sure you use the correct facial expressions.

Teaching ‘Yes’ or ‘Good Dog’

  • To teach the sign ‘Yes’ or ‘Good Gog’ is to use thumbs up. Repeat it several times. Teaching ‘No’
  • The best way to use the command ‘No’ or ‘Stop’ is to flash your palm in a very firm way.

Teaching ‘Sit’

  • Start making you own signs. For example, to teach a dog to sit, put a treat over his nose and then move it slowly backwards until he sits. Then, add a sign to it.

Training a dog with hearing loss involves some extra challenges but it can be a rewarding experience. You are learning along with your dog. Common sense and ability to think outside the box! Don’t be limited by a lack of imagination. Find a way to make it work.

(Niharika Virmani is a graduate in Animal Behaviour and Pet Grooming from Nash Academy of Animal Arts, Kentucky, USA in the year 2007. She has her own day care and mobile grooming called Happy Tails in Mumbai.)

Choosing the right breeder: a key to bring home the perfect pooch

While the decision of adopting a dog and pledging responsibility of his wellbeing for the rest of his life is quite a testing matter; what can be equally challenging is the entire process of fi guring out just where to adopt one from. During the course of adopting a puppy from a breeder, one must not, in any way, encourage or give support to a cruel, illegal and inhuman breeding system which treats dogs as nothing more than mere money making products and produce them by the dozens for maximum profi t. Not only does the physical health of dogs suffer severely in these ‘puppy mills’, but also their psychological health in addition gets bruised and dented.

So, if you’ve decided its time to bring home a pooch and welcome a new member into your family, here are 10 guidelines to help you head toward the right place for adoption:

Know a puppy-mill when you see one

Puppy-mills are places where female dogs are bred repeatedly without any concern for their pups’ health and overall wellbeing. The dogs and pups in these areas look neglected and unhealthy and will commonly carry a lazy, depressed and tired physical demeanor.

Count on recommendations

Do your homework beforehand, when you take recommendations of a reliable veterinarian, a pet shop of repute or a kennel club.

Always ask to see the mother

An ethical and caring breeder will happily and readily have you meet the mother of the puppies. According to veterinary experts, a mother dog should be at least 18 – 20 months old before she is made to deliver her fi rst litter. It is therefore important to ask the breeder the age of the mother before deciding to take one of her cute little pups. If the mother is old enough to be bred, check to see if she looks healthy, happy and active. If you doubt whether the dog shown to you is in fact the mother and not some random healthy dog that is made to pose as the mother, observing the interaction between the pups and the dog should help you out.

Take a tour of the breeding facility

At visiting a dog kennel or individual breeder, always ask to see the breeding area and facility and check for hygienic surroundings, proper housing, adequate food and clean water as well as suffi cient free space for the dogs and pups to play and move about. Unless you are satisfi ed with the conditions in which the dogs and pups are kept and bred, do not adopt from that breeder.

Check for signs of physical health

At your own level, you can check that the dogs and pups have clear skin, a tidy coat and clear eyes and ears. Additionally, make sure that they are out-going and playful, since a dejected, lazy, unhappy and worn-out conduct can be signs of various forms of physical illnesses. Reputed and caring breeders in fact will usually have the pups duly vaccinated and de-wormed before their sale and will readily present their medical records before you. A good breeder if asked will also tell you of the veterinarian doctor looking into these pups’ medical check-ups and will readily give you his or her contact information for further cross-examination.

Check for signs of mental health

Try to gauge the behavioral traits and temperament of the dogs as well as the pups housed in a breeding centre. While some of them might be lively and energetic, others might be reserved or shy. But in general, all of them will show clear signs of a distinct personality trait which will help you to judge their mental soundness and emotional stability. If in case the dogs show signs of being extra aggressive or abnormally timid, there is reason for you to doubt the quality of care being given to them. This, since in the absence of basic social, emotional and health needs being fulfi lled, dogs tend to demonstrate abnormal behavioural traits and a disturbed psyche.

Ask the breeder a lot of questions

A good breeder will be able to aptly answer all your questions regarding the breed, its healthcare needs as well as its social and emotional needs. Reactions and responses to such questions would help you distinguish between a cold hearted businessman and a genuine dog lover. A good breeder would also, in addition, be willing to openly discuss with you details of the breeding facility run by him or her. Amongst the questions you must ask breeders, the more important ones include: How many different breeds of dogs do they breed? How many litters of each breed do they have each year? And at what age do they breed their dogs?

Trust a questioning and probing breeder

If you come across a breeder who is hesitant in giving away a pup to you for adoption and shows signs of doubting your abilities as a responsible pet owner; you can be confident about being at the right place. A genuine breeder will always be sure about the parenting skills of a prospective owner and will throw at you question after question about your general lifestyle, previously owned pets, members in the family, your knowledge of pet care as well as your opinions on pet adoption. Such breeders would hang on to the litter for as long as they cannot fi nd a loving and caring home for the puppies. So, don’t be surprised even if the breeder tries to talk you out of taking one of the pups.

Consider the age of the pup before adopting one

Ideally, a pup should not be adopted before he is 7 to 8 weeks old. There are in fact some states in the world where it is illegal to sell pups before they are at least 8 weeks old. It is during this time that the pup goes through one of his most important stages of socialization, wherein he learns a lot about behaviour and communication from his parents and siblings. A good breeder therefore will never separate a pup from his family before he is at least 7 weeks old.

Observe the breeder’s relationship with his dogs

The way a breeder interacts with his dogs and similarly, the manner in which the dogs respond to their owner, can speak volumes about the genuineness of the breeder. If a breeder is in fact emotionally attached to the animals and concerned about their well being, it will come across well through his or her interaction with the mothers and the pups while he or she introduces them to you. In the same way, dogs will openly show their affection and fondness when approached by the breeder by ways of wagging their tails, playing or licking the breeder’s hands. All these signs only point out to a healthy relationship between the breeder and his dogs, wherein all the basic needs of the dogs are being taken good care of by the breeder.

If however on the other hand, the dogs look unusually scared and try to avoid contact or interaction with humans, there is all the reason for you to be suspicious about the breeder’s actions towards the dogs as well as the care taking facilities of the breeding centre. On the whole, a responsible and genuine dog breeder will take upon himself: (a) the provision of quality health care to the dogs and their pups, (b) the moral obligation of not breeding dogs too often, and (c) the search of a loving home for all of their pups. And it is these values and qualities that you must go out looking for in a breeder. And when during your course of adoption you do come across those careless, insensitive and money-minded breeders who are more concerned about their profi t than the well being of their dogs, as a responsible animal welfare supporter, make sure to report such unhealthy and sloppy breeding centers to the local SPCA (Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals) or to a reliable animal welfare NGO.

– by Manta Sidhu