Tag Archives: dog first aid kit

Outcrossing Does Not Equal Gene Pool Diversity

In previous articles we’ve talked about the shrinking population of the purebred dog and specifically about how much smaller the Gordon Setter population is today – over 70% fewer Gordons than twenty years ago. The current bottleneck in the number of Gordon Setters available for breeding calls for us, as responsible breeders, to evaluate each mating more carefully to determine if it will accomplish our own goals while also considering the impact our mating will have on the breed gene pool. As breeders in today’s world we are not only charged with improving the breed, we are also called upon to ensure that our breeding activity has a positive impact on the preservation of the breed gene pool.  The good news my friends, is that all of this can be less painful to accomplish than you might have thought.

For topics like this I call on experts for advice, and I am grateful to Jerold S. Bell DVM, Clinical Associate Professor of Genetics, Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine for the guidance he’s offering. Jerry’s article Small Population Breeds & Issues of Genetic Diversity is the resource used for this article and is quoted here, and reprinted entirely elsewhere on the blog with his permission. (Click the title above to link to that article.)

Has the Gordon Setter population reached a level where we should consider it a “small population breed”? Perhaps not, yet..who’s to say? The point here is that the population of the Gordon Setter has shrunk dramatically (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!) and as it is now substantially smaller, breeders must be aware of how important our breeding choices become when viewed in terms of the health of our breed gene pool. Just as there are fewer Gordon Setters, so too are there far fewer breeders bearing the responsibility for their preservation. With fewer breeders we find that many of the older lines are harder if not impossible to find today.

Jerold S. Bell DVM –  *Issues of genetic diversity are a concern to dog breeders, and this can be especially so for breeds with small populations. The concern is whether there is enough genetic variation within a breed’s gene pool to maintain health and vitality. Breeders should be concerned about genetic diversity, because there are examples where damage has been done to a breed due to breeding practices. Restriction of genetic diversity can also occur in large population breeds.

Putting a lesson in genetics aside for another time, let’s talk today about genetic diversity in our breed gene pool.  Quoting Jerold S. Bell DVM  * There are two factors that must be considered when evaluating genetic diversity and health issues in a breed; the average level of inbreeding, and detrimental recessive genes. With a small population, there is a tendency to find higher average inbreeding coefficients due to the relatedness between dogs from common ancestors. There is, however, no specific level or percentage of inbreeding that causes impaired health or vigor. The problems that inbreeding depression cause in purebred populations stem from the effects of deleterious recessive genes. If the founding population of a breed produces a high frequency of a deleterious recessive gene, then the breed will have issues with that disorder. This can be seen as smaller litter size, increased neonatal death, high frequency genetic disease, or impaired immunity. If these issues are present then the breed needs to seriously consider limited genetic diversity. 

In this statement then, as a group of dedicated breeders, we find a key to issues or symptoms, whose frequency of expression within the breed need monitoring. An increase or spike in these symptoms throughout the breed population, that goes beyond normal expectations, should be a cue that breeders need to seriously consider if we are experiencing limited genetic diversity in our breed gene pool. As a group we must be willing to share our breeding experiences with a wide audience of our peers. Additionally, we must understand that GSCA Health and Genetics committee surveys are also a vital indicator of the breed health, especially as it pertains to breed gene pool diversity.

As we talk about gene pool diversity, we may find some breeders who discourage linebreeding and promote outcrossing (outbreeding) as the way to protect genetic diversity in the breed. While this does sound like an easy, and maybe even an obvious answer, outbreeding would not provide the complete solution.

Jerold S. Bell DVM – *It is not the type of matings utilized (linebreeding or outbreeding) that causes the loss of genes from a breed gene pool. Rather, loss of genes occurs through selection: the use and non-use of offspring. If a breed starts limiting their focus to breeding stock from a limited number of lines, then a loss of genetic diversity will occur.

The process of maintaining healthy lines, with many breeders crossing between lines and breeding back as they see fit, maintains diversity in the gene pool. If some breeders outbreed, and some linebreed to certain dogs that they favor while others linebreed to other dogs that they favor, then breedwide genetic diversity is maintained. It is the varied opinion of breeders as to what constitutes the ideal dog, and their selection of breeeding stock based on their opinions, that maintains breed diversity.

The most important factor for diminished genetic diversity in dog breeds is the popular sire syndrome. The overuse of a popular sire beyond a reasonable contribution through frequent breedings significantly skews the gene pool in this direction, and reduces the diversity of the gene pool. Any genes that he possesses – whether positive or negative – will increase in frequency. Through this founder’s effect, breed related genetic disease can occur. Another insidious effect of the popular sire syndrome is the loss of genetic contribution from quality, unrelated males who are not used for breeding. There is a finite number of quality bitches bred each year. If one male is used in an inordinate amount of matings, there will be fewer females left for these quality males that should be contributing to the gene pool. The popular sire syndrome is a significant factor in both populous breeds and breeds with small populations.

I believe as a whole, that Gordon Setter stud dog owners have worked hard to manage stud dogs properly to avoid the “popular sire syndrome”. This is not an easy task to manage as so many variables, including emotions come into play. Hats off to all who have kept a diligent and watchful eye on our breed through proper stud dog management.

As I look back at what Dr. Bell has written, I realize that our breed is fortunate to have had many breeders, both past and present, who have contributed much to preserve the Gordon Setter; sometimes they contributed matings that improved specific aspects of the breed and sometimes they contributed by using breeding practices that preserved genetic diversity. Moving forward, our breed needs us to continue to attract and mentor a diverse group of breeders who also possess an understanding of the principles of gene pool diversity. As we have seen, there is simply not one step or one action to preserve diversity, instead there is a collection of various actions, that when understood and followed by the individual breeder, with each breeder working alongside the many other breeders – it is when we work as a collective group that we accomplish that one common goal – preservation of the purebred Gordon Setter…oh, and don’t forget there is still improvement of the breed to consider!

Jerold S. Bell DVM writes:  *The best methods for ensuring the health and diversity of a breed’s gene pool are to:

  1. Avoid the popular sire syndrome.
  2. Utilize quality dogs from the breadth of your population to expand the gene pool. (as new genes cannot be added to a closed registry this refers to preserving genes that might otherwise be lost by selection of only a few sires out of the many available)
  3. Monitor genetic health issues through regular health surveys.
  4. Do genetic testing for breed-related disorders.
  5. Participate in open health registries, such as CHIC (www.caninehealthinfo.org) to manage genetic disorders.

Small Population Breeds & Issues of Genetic Diversity by Jerold S. Bell DVM

Photograph by Susan Roy Nelson shared for your viewing pleasure, is not intended to illustrate any point in the article.





Canine First Aid Kit – Are You Prepared for an Emergency?

Please welcome today’s Guest Blogger – Pat Boldt. She wrote this great article for us on preparing a first aid kit,  a must have in the event of a pet emergency. Many thanks to you Pat!

Are You Prepared For An Emergency?

“Be sure to consult with your veterinarian as to the application/use of medications and supplies referenced in this article.”

First Aid-what is it? Canine first aid is emergency medical treatment administered to your dog before professional medical care is available. How many of us are really prepared in case of such an emergency? If the injury occurs at a dog show you are probably in pretty good shape as there is always a vet on-site or close by. What about elsewhere? Do you have a first aid kit in your home, car or both?

I was at an Irish Setter specialty where a puppy was injured by another dog. There were some minor cuts and a bite-the dog needed some minor first aid and only 2 people out of almost 100 had first aid kits in their vehicles! My home medical supply area is pretty extensive and I expect most of us have a cabinet, drawer or actual kit somewhere handy! If you don’t, here is a starting point for a home or travel first aid kit.

Photo by Pat Boldt
Photo by Pat Boldt

Select an appropriate container that will keep all the items clean and dry. It should be easy to transport and if you are putting it in your car the likely storage place will be under a seat so measure for size. Tackle boxes and small utility boxes work very well and are usually water-resistant. Don’t put a lock on the box – in an emergency you need quick and easy access. On the other hand, make certain that your dogs can’t get into it and get into trouble. If you don’t want to start from scratch go to your local Sam’s Club or Costco and buy their first aid kit and modify it. I actually found this to be the least expensive way and I customized it to meet my dog’s needs. There is no harm in being prepared for you and your dog. You just need to make certain you understand what items CAN’T be used in the kit for your dog. Many human medications may be harmful or toxic to your dog. This can include many of the NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and an over the counter anti-diarrhea. Some Pepto antacids have had a change in their formulas to contain aspirin-like products – an alternative might be Pepcid AC or Zantac. However, please consult a veterinarian on what they feel is safe for your animals prior to using any human medications. Many of the items can be purchased from your local drugstore, a horse tack shop,  or online sources such as KV Supply or EntirelyPets.

Here are some basic items you will need (Customize the kit as you desire):

  • 2 rolls of 3-inch gauze bandage
  • Gauze sponges (several)
  • Adhesive tape (preferably non-stick)/Elastikon tape
  • Bacitracin/ neosporin/ polysporin type triple ointment
  • A clean bath towel or blanket to aid in transportation and warmth
  • Hydrogen peroxide (used as a cleanser and it can also be used to induce vomiting)
  • Betadine / xenodyne
  • Alcohol
  • Tweezers
  • Nail trimmers
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Scissors (preferably blunt tip)
  • Surgical glue
  • Plastic wrap (to seal wounds)
  • Bubble wrap (splint)
  • Honey/ Karo syrup (shock)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Duct tape
  • Kelly Forceps
  • Baby safe Q-tips for ear cleaning (has wide bulb tip-safer than regular Q-tips)
  • Nylon muzzle /gauze can also be used
  • Betagen spray (Antibiotic/Corticosteroid spray may be used for minor abrasions & hot spots)
  • Two empty 2 liter soda plastic bottles that you can fill with warm water in an emergency to keep your dog from getting chilled on your way to the vet are useful.
  • Vet wrap (The wrap is very useful to cover leg cuts-you can clean the wound, cover with a bandage, and then use the vet wrap to keep the bandage in place until you get to the vet’s office.) Used improperly this product can very dangerously cut off circulation-use cautiously.
  • Benadryl (for allergic reactions)
  • Pepcid AC (for upset stomach)
  • Activated charcoal (to absorb some toxins)
  • Epsom salts (for soaking feet, i.e., foxtail embedded)
  • Metronidazole or Flagyl (anti-diarrhea)
  • Saline solution or lubricating eye drops (can use contact solution, an eye wash or eye drops)
  • Ice-separate from kit, of course, but I try to keep ice available for ice pack if needed
  • Pedialyte (unflavored) especially during hot summer months.
  • Sterile disposable veterinary stapler
  • Disposable enema bag (for heat stroke to cool the dogs internal organs)
  • Arnica Montana/ homeopathy (for sprains, muscle soreness)
  • Thuja occidentalis/homeopathy (vaccine reaction)
  • Apis melliifca-homeopathy for bee stings
  • Nux vomica-homeopathy upset stomach

A copy of important phone numbers (place in the first aid kit). Make certain you include your own contact information! Include the name, address and phone number of your local vet. Include the vet’s daytime number, a reserve number, two-night time or emergency vet numbers, any local poison hotline numbers and the National Animal Poison Control Center (1-900-680-0000).

Also consider what would happen to your dog(s) if you were involved in a car accident while traveling with your pets and had to be taken to a hospital. On your contact information sheet, include detailed instructions as to who in your family or circle of friends should be contacted so that arrangements can be made to either transport the dogs safely home (if traveling with you), or arrangements can be made to care for your animals in your absence. If the dogs are with you and can’t be transported home, at least the emergency personnel can relay information to your contacts to provide temporary shelter for your animals while you are being cared for.

Some of you may be nurses or vet techs by trade and have access to additional items for your kits. Others of you may include a few holistic or homeopathic remedies. Customizing the kit is purely up the individual. I always add Arnica Montana (for bruises or minor aches and pain), Thuja occidentalis (vaccine reaction), pulsatilla (for false pregnancy symptoms), and Apis mellifica for beestings to name a few. If you discuss that you are putting together a kit with your vet, your vet will likely have additional ideas and be very helpful in assisting you. My vet suggested putting a Gentocin topical spray, an anti-diarrhea medicine, and a 3-4 day supply of any meds the dogs are taking regularly in the kit. All good ideas!

Once you have put your first aid kit together, make certain you know how to use everything. This is critical! Take a first aid class, read a book or ask your vet for information on how and when to use items in the kit.  Make certain that any medications are in dry containers and clearly marked with names, dosage and expiration dates.

I go through all my kits at least once a year to throw out expired medications and replace them.

What to do in case of an emergency?

Stay calm. Use common sense. Focus on your dog. If you are unable to deal with the crisis calmly, then delegate the responsibility to someone else.

  1. You can’t help your dog by having an anxiety attack! Time is critical.
  2. Assess the situation. Is it mild, moderate or severe? Is the dog getting better, worse or is it stable?
  3. Call your vet ASAP. Let your vet know you are on the way and the nature of the emergency.
  4. Keep your dog quiet and warm.
  5. Note any and all symptoms.
  6. If you suspect poisoning and cannot reach your vet contact the National Animal Poison Control Center for assistance.

Recommended reading:

K9 Medic How to Save Your Dog’s life During an Emergency by Eric “Odie” Roth

Maggie in t shirt attire
Pat Boldt photograper. Using tee-shirt to cover incision after surgery.

This photo illustrates using a tee-shirt in place of a cone on a bitch who had undergone a spay operation. Hind legs through armhole, tail out the neck, pin to size using dog collar to anchor it in place. Thanks to Maggie for modeling!