Thursday, April 19, 2012

What's With All These Tests?

I've heard many pet owners lament at various tests their veterinarian wants to run, especially when their pet isn't visibly ill.  I think owners shrink from asking too many questions on what each test is for and why, and they leave feeling uninformed and feeling a little like "they are just trying to get more money".  I can't blame them for feeling that way, if a doctor doesn't explain the 'whys' and/or the owner doesn't ask them.

I promise you, your veterinarian and their staff aren't trying to suck more money out of you.  Everyone entered this field due to love for animals.  If your doctor senses you are open to "more" tests, it's because you seem super committed to your pet's health and they'll recommend everything that *they* would do.  There are no 'secret tests' held to the side for owners willing to spend more money.  

There are a lot of tests out there (thankfully), but there are some basic tests your DVM will want to run when your animal is in good health.  There are key reasons to agree to these tests:
  1. Animals can't talk.  They can't tell us when they are sick.  Plus, they hide it well, especially cats.
  2. Establish a good base line.  If you only test organ function in your animal when they are sick, where were they a year ago?  For example: how progressive is this illness, and how will the doctor know that without history?
  3. Be proactive.  Don't wait for them to become sick, monitor their bodies yearly.
  4. Animals age differently than us.  Remember, your 4 year old dog isn't "4".  If it's a large breed, they are sometimes considered seniors at age 5, while most dogs are at age 7.
  5.  Prevention is cheaper and smarter. If you think a $100-$200 bucks once a year is expensive, wait until they are truly sick. 
Pretty much all clinics offer "packages" to help reduce the overall cost and run more tests.  If your animal is older, typically your doc wants to run a "senior profile".  While I have seen varying tests included in the various packages, here are some basics:

  1.  CBC.  This stands for Complete Blood Cell Count.  Within this test, your animals blood is being evaluated.  Primarily they are looking at red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.  This is absolutely essential to look at prior to any procedures.  This will (to name a few) rule out anemia, infections, and clotting disorders.
  2. Heartworm.  This test is a separate test, and it naturally rules out if your animal has heartworm.  Never be quick to assume your pet doesn't need one because you don't see mosquitoes.  Perhaps their mom was positive when she was pregnant!
  3. Chemistry panel.  This is where we are looking at the enzymes in your dog's blood.  Organs like the kidney and liver produce enzymes, which are found in the blood stream in certain levels.  Changes in those levels can indicate the health of vital organs in the body.  Included in this test is blood glucose levels which rules out diabetes.  If your pet is on medication, this is key to ensure the liver and kidneys are handling the stress certain drugs can place on them.
  4. Thyroid.  This test is extremely important in cats and in older dogs especially.  Older dogs are at risk of developing hypothyroidism, which is a very treatable condition but extremely important to rule out, especially in older dogs with weight gain and changes in their hair coat quality.
  5. UA.  Urine analysis.  I think people don't realize how much you can learn from examining your pets urine!  While this can rule out things like crystal formation in the urine, it also speaks novels to kidney function, and we can learn more about that function than just by enzyme levels alone.
  6. Fecal.  While most owners feel confident their dogs don't have "worms" because they visibly inspect their dogs output, there are critters you can't see.  Giardia, a protozoa, cannot be seen with the naked eye and many animals can be asymptomatic.  
Never be too shy to ask why.  These are very basic tests, and sadly yes, they are all separate tests.  I merely touched on very basic, simplified things these tests can reveal, in the hope that owners can better understand why they are all important.  Your veterinarian will walk you through when they think these tests are necessary, based on the age and health of your pet.  Your doctor understands how all these tests together reveal how your animal's body is working in concert.

When your doctor says "I'd like to run..." I know your purse will flinch at those words, but listen to them.  Prevention is the goal, and prevention is cheaper than waiting for our beloved animals to become sick.  I sense a lot of owners are already stressed a little bit even being there, and even the exam costs can seem like a lot.  When you're already feeling overwhelmed, it's quick to shut your mind off and say no.  Ask your veterinarian what each test is for, and if you're so inclined, as them to review the results with you in greater detail.  You'll walk away feeling like the "Owner of the year" when you realize what a great thing you are doing for them by being proactive.

-Shannon Murphy

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Need Fosters for Potcakes!

What's a Potcake You Ask?
Well for one they are coming to Colorado all the way from the Bahamas!

"Potcake" is the Bahamian term for the thick, leftover food that remains in the bottom of a pot of peas 'n rice after several reheatings. Traditionally, Bahamians fed potcake to the outdoor, indigenous dogs that freely populated the Bahamas. Hence the dogs have come to be known as Potcakes. They are also referred to as the "Island Dogs."

Although officially considered mixed breed dogs, the Royal Bahamian Potcake is now a recognized breed in The Bahamas. They have distinct characteristics of size and temperament. This is because, until very recently, all island dogs shared the same isolated gene pool. This makes the Potcake an extremely unique species of canine.

Depending on what genes are available on any Bahamian island, Potcakes strongly resemble each other. Some islands’ Potcakes look more like the typical "pariah dog" found in locales such as India and North Africa. Elsewhere, their lines hint at hound, mastiff, spaniel, terrier or retriever ancestors. 

Some believe the original Potcakes came to the Bahamas with the Arawak Indians from Central or South America. If so, Potcakes are as close to nature's perfect genotype dog as possible. More recently, in the days of Tall Ships, The Bahamas played a major role in maritime commerce. Early terrier breeds, carried aboard ship to keep provisions safe from rats and mice, probably ended up as shore dogs in places such as Eleuthera, New Providence and Abaco. Add to this genetic soup the distinctive (and still existent) Carolina dog, who came -- primarily to Abaco -- with Loyalist Tories who settled during the Revolutionary War, and you have the basic ingredients of a modern-day Potcake.

Potcakes are make wonderful companions, they are extremely loyal, highly intelligent and relatively easy to housebreak. The average Potcake grows to 46 to 60 lbs. 

If you are interested in fostering Christie or any of the other Potcakes who will be here Friday, please contact Jennifer at

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Join Team PYRfect Paws for the DDFL's 19th Annual Furry Scurry!

We want to invite you to join Team PYRfect Paws in participating in the Denver Dumb Friend's League 19th Annual Furry Scurry!  Last year PYRfect Paws raised over $1500!!  The Furry Scurry is 2 mile walk/event for animals in Wash Park at 9am on Saturday May 5th!  The event benefits the Denver Dumb Friends League who helps care for as many as 25,000 homeless pets every year--including some of our precious Pyrs who we got from them (maybe even yours!)!  You can see more about the event on their website:  

The entry fee per walker is $50.  
Click here for pictures of our team from last year!  We had a fabulous time and hope you will join us this year!

If you would like to join team PYRfect Paws:
  1. Go to the website
  2. Click on "Join a Team"
  3. In the search box type "PYRfect Paws", click search
  4. Our team will pop up--click the "join" link
  5. The rest is pretty self explanatory, but if you have questions just let us know and we will help the best we can! :]
We would LOVE to see as many of our big, white, fluffy babies there as possible, but please bring your other dogs even if they aren't Pyrs and invite you friends to join our team even if they don't have Pyrs--we just want to rally together for a good cause!

We have set our fundraising goal at $1000 and at least 15 participants, but of course we would love to go above and beyond!! :]

Once you register, as the team captain, I will be in contact with you about specifics, such as a meeting place, pictures, etc.  We hope to see you and your furbabies there!!  And please let me know if you have any questions at all!

"PYRfect Paws" Team Captain

P.S.  We have created a team T-shirt with our logo if anyone is interested in purchasing one!  They are $25 (printed on front and back), with 20% of proceeds going to helping Pyrs in need!  Click on the link below to access our CafePress Shop to purchase a shirt!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Success Story - Tess

Adopted February 28, 2009 by Sara Q.

Tess has been such an amazing addition our household!  I had two cats before Tess adopted me and she has fit in with them beautifully!  One of the kitties was six years old when I adopted her and she was afraid of her own shadow even after living with me for a few years.  Incredibly she loves Tess and is not afraid of her at all!  She loves to rub up against Tess’s snout and Tess patiently lets her.  

Tess has enamored my aunt and a friend who watch her when I travel.  They both claim Tess as part of their family as well.  She has an ability to make people fall in love with her without even trying.  

Tess is now almost 11 years old and has some of the common health challenges of a Pyr her age.  Her back hips are weak so she goes to physical therapy every Saturday and it has made a world of difference in her strength. Of course, she still loves her daily walks and patiently stops for all the people who want to love on the “polar bear”.  Of course, like many Pyrs she likes to think of herself as the boss and we often have to discuss who gets to sit in the big chair!  Tess and I both owe so much to Dawn and CGPR for bringing us together!

Sweet Senior Girl, Abbie, Needs a Retirement Home

Abbie Needs a New Home

Abbie's current family's house is being foreclosed on and as a result they are having to move into very small housing that does not allow dogs.  They are moving next week, so Abbie needs a new home AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

This sweet girl has been with her current family for 7 years and they are heartbroken to have to give her up, but they don't feel like they have any other options.

Abbie does okay with other dogs, but can get a little cranky if they are constantly pestering her, so maybe a home with a laid back dog.  She LOVES kids (and everyone for that matter) and is about the sweetest dog ever.  She also likes kitties quite a bit!  
Abby likes to talk (bark), so she will need someone who can either work with her on this or someone who can tolerate her vocalness. 

She is spayed, UTD on all shots, but has hypothyroidism and needs to take a cheap daily medication to help control it.

Abbie is just looking for a retirement home where she can rest her sweet little head and get lots and lots of LOVE.  Won't you consider adding this love bug to your family?

If you or someone you know can give Abbie a home, please email us at!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dispelling the Myths of Fostering Dogs

I am not an active dog foster, so perhaps it is hypocritical for me to speak to fostering, and to encourage many to address the myths and learn how powerful you can be in the world of saving dogs' lives.  In fact, I know how and why I failed as a foster, and I hope to return to fostering in the future when the time is right.  I failed because I *wanted* dogs.  There was an open and available role in my permanent life to add a friend or two, and entering into fostering knowing you have a permanent void makes it hard to give a great dog to someone else.  Now with a full house, I do not have the room to care for more lives. It's never fair to pile animals on top of one another!  I also have cats..  and I have to respect their needs as far as finding places to get time away from dogs.  When some things change for me, I intend to initiate being a foster again.  My interest is in senior and special needs dogs.

When it comes to saving dogs, the thing over and over again that really makes the difference is having *somewhere to put them*.  People can give money, volunteer time at events, but it really all boils down to having a physical place.  Amazing people spend countless hours of selfless devotion to physically removing dogs from shelters and bad homes.  Not that money is in surplus, but money doesn't seem to be the reason more cannot be saved.  There is simply NOWHERE TO PUT THEM.

With Colorado being such a huge dog state, we must communicate the need for fosters everywhere possible.  I think more people are able to foster than they themselves realize.  Let's address some myths, that tend to discourage people from taking on this noble, life-saving endeavor:

  1. I can't afford it.  Most rescues will help absorb the cost to foster.  Vet bills, food, you name it.  No rescue is looking for someone to lavish expensive toys and grooming on their fosters.   If you can provide love and attention and some direction if they need training, likely your rescue will take care of the rest.
  2. I don't think my other pets would like it.  This rolls of the tongue very easily, yet have we really thought about it?  Some people truly have dogs that are not great with other dogs, but more often than not, most dogs would happily welcome a temporary play mate.  If you have cats, address the territory needs of your cats and you  may do just fine introducing a temporary buddy.
  3. I don't have the time.  When people say this, I think it's based on an assumption that fostering will require them to work with the rescue more than they have the time to do.  Most rescues will do that leg work:  they'll post the dog's story, talk him up, and get him exposure.  Fosters aren't expected to spend every weekend at events.  And honestly, most rescues have a good application process which screens out bad owners and leaves you with "meet and greets" that are quality and don't take up all your personal time.
  4. It will be too hard to let them go.  Don't be so sure.  Not that you won't love them deeply, but when you find the right match for them, letting them go will be so easy and rewarding.  You anticipate that "next" foster with such excitement.  If it feels wrong to give them up, it's likely because you don't support the family match presented.  This is a good thing.  When the match is right, you may miss them, but you know there is another life waiting around the corner.
  5. I don't want to be scrutinized.  A lot of people dread that process.. home visits, reference checks.  As a private person, I can understand why this is daunting.  With nothing to hide, it can be hard to put your life on display and feel like you need to be "approved".  The good news is, is that organizations do this one time.  They don't come to your house looking for reasons to say 'no'.  They want to be sure you are not a hoarder, don't have a dangerous back yard, and want to be sure your current pets are well cared for and like your potential new foster.  Don't sweat it.
  6. I can't trust a strange dog.  I get it, you don't know them.  You don't want to come home to destruction or a dog fight.  Like adopting any dog.. puppy or adult.. there are ways to ensure they acclimate to your home and your family.  You crate them while gone, and spend good quality time with them otherwise.  An unknown dog isn't like renting your room to someone who just got out of prison.  They are dogs, and they understand limits and leadership.
  7. I don't want to get stuck with a dog I don't trust/like.  You won't.  Rescues aren't in the business of making bad foster matches.  If you meet a potential foster and aren't "feeling it", say no.  Tell them you would like to consider another foster instead.  The rescue isn't going to judge you for that.. they are so grateful to have you.  Don't feel like if you go down the road of fostering that you'll be obligated to foster whatever dog they 'throw at you'.  It doesn't work that way. 
  8. I'll feel bad if I have to give the foster back.  Fostering is a commitment that you will provide optimal care and guidance while you have them. If it is not working, for any reason, talk to the rescue.  People want reliable fosters, but not at the expense of it not being the right fit.  If your other pets are just not loving it, or the dog is not a match for your family, the rescue shouldn't hold that against you.  Perhaps there is a better fit.  And never, ever, let one foster match that wasn't great put you off from fostering.  I fostered a dog for 3 months.  She was not a permanent match for my life due to her prey drive with my cats.  I asked Dawn to switch me out with another dog who may need me more (a sick dog, etc). 
  9. Fostering should be fun.  Okay, I tricked you.. that is NOT a myth.  Some dogs will need training, encouragement, love.. no dog comes "batteries included" unless you are very lucky.  It should be fun.  You should invite a dog into your home, see them blossom, and encourage great behavior.  You help them find a forever home, and you are ready to help save the next life.
So what next?  You are interested.  You are nervous, and aren't sold on the whole fostering thing.  Give your local rescue a call.  Having a conversation with their coordinator doesn't cost anything.  It doesn't obligate you.  You can ask all your questions and get all your answers.

Never foster a dog breed you are not educated about, or you will set yourself up for failure.  A little bit of research goes a long way.  Think about something great you can do this year.  Think about how proud you will feel to make a real difference.  Again, donating money is fantastic.. but there are homes out there with room to spare.  Encourage your friends to consider this great way to save a life.

-Shannon Murphy