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  • Poisoned! What to do when your dog is poisoned by criminals
  • Tick control
  • Rabies
  • Helping your Puppy Develop a Healthy Bone Structure
The poisoning of a family dog is probably one of the most traumatic experiences imaginable. If you are lucky enough to catch your dog in the act of consuming the poison, or find him or her shortly after, there is something you can do to increase the chances of survival.
This guide dedicated to the memory of Sumsarè Misha, who died at the hands of criminals who poisoned him on the 8th of August, 2011, at the age of 14 months.
The research I was doing for this document was tested when the same criminals returned a month later to complete a job interrupted. Thankfully, we were able to save Ludwig, the Blood Hound, without any complications.

I sincerely hope that this guide will help others save their dogs when the unthinkable happens. If you have comments or suggestions to improve on this work, or if you would like to share your story, I would love to hear from you. Contact me at

Jens Günther
September 2011

Practical emergency aid for your dog when poisoned with carbamate or organophosphate

This is not a pleasant topic, but it is something you should take seriously. A brief search on the Internet will show that at any given time, there are a number of communities in South Africa that are the target of poisoners. My intention in sharing this with you is to prepare you for the possibility and to give you the best possible chance to save your dog, should the need ever arise. Being prepared for poisoning requires some preparation: You need to gather a few items you may need, write down how to use them so you're organised when you need to be, and store everything in a safe place. This guide provides all the information you need.
The poisoning of dogs, as a precursor to further crimes such as burglary, robbery, rape, etc., is extremely common in South Africa. Yet there is very little organised information available to dog owners. Like most dog owners in this situation, I only learnt a bit about dealing with poisoning after my dogs and I became victims. Unfortunately, for us that was too little, too late!
I am focusing on criminal poisoning only. There are numerous common substances in and around the house that can be dangerous to your dog. These include chocolate, raisins, onion, all household medicines, and of course household detergents and insecticides. Prevention is always better than cure! Be informed, careful, and prepared. You should note that first aid procedures for other poisonous substances may be quite different from those proposed herein. Ask your vet before you act.
These first aid measures may not be appropriate for other animals.

Which poisons?

The most common poisons used are organophosphates and carbamate (Aldicarb, Temik, also known as Two-Step). Rat poison is another commonly used option.
Both organophosphates and carbamate are insecticides used predominantly in agricultural applications, but household applications also exist. Temik is the most commonly used poison, but it may be combined with other poisons. It is extremely toxic and as such it is a restricted substance; its distribution and use highly regulated. Unfortunately these measures are clearly ineffective. Organophosphates are relatively common insecticides, appearing in household insect sprays, rose and fruit tree sprays, etc. Interestingly, organophosphates were originally developed as biological weapons, and American soldiers are routinely issued with atropine and 2-PAM injection kits when going into areas where chemical weapons are deemed to be a risk! The rat poison that is used will probably contain anticoagulants (blood thinners), but may also contain a wide variety of other poisons. The anticoagulants often don’t work as quickly as any of the other poisons, building up in the animal’s body over a period of a few days. This does however not mean that your dog needs to consume more of it.
Most poisons, with the exception of the rat poisons, are formulated so that they have a bad taste as a means of discouraging ingestion. Unfortunately, when these formulations are considered, the manufacturers have humans in mind. Anyone who has spent some time observing animals will know that a sufficiently motivated animal will ignore a bad taste.

Identification and presentation

Temik is easily identified. It is in the form of tiny black or bluish/grey granules, similar to gunpowder. Most rat poisons appear in pelleted or caked form. Other poisons are more difficult to identify as there is a greater variety. All poisons are presented to the dogs with food. Common presentations include polony, meat, fish, maize meal, or bread: all rolled in, or stuffed with the poison. I have also come across bones covered in a fatty substance.
Do not be complacent. If you notice unfamiliar objects, whether food or not, that might seem interesting to your dogs, investigate and clear them away. This becomes all the more important if you notice or are aware of suspicious activities in your area.

Signs and symptoms

These poisons are extremely fast acting (excepting some of the anticoagulants) and deadly, even if your dog only ingested a small amount. Even if you catch your dog in the act of ingesting the poison, there is no time to waste. Don’t wait for your dog to display symptoms. Take action immediately.
The following symptoms may appear, listed in no particular order:
  • Profuse twitching of the skin
  • Disorientation
  • Bruising in the case of anticoagulants
  • Vomiting, which may include blood in case of anticoagulant poisoning
  • Confusion
  • Excessive salivation
  • Excessive bronchial secretion, i.e. coughing up slime
  • Excessively runny nose
  • Hyperventilation
  • Restlessness
  • Weakness
  • Somnolence
  • Lethargy
  • Dyspnoea, i.e. difficulty breathing
  • Anxiety
  • nervousness
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Posture abnormalities, i.e. body contorted into abnormal positions
  • Diarrhoea: may be mucous; may be black or “tarry” in the case of anticoagulant poisoning
  • Abnormal pupils – either pinpoint or dilated (Organophosphate poisoning is characterised by pinpoint pupils that are unresponsive to light, however you should remember that it may not be the only poison at work, and that this on its own cannot be the basis of a diagnosis.)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tremors and muscle twitching
  • Temporary or partial paralysis, partial loss of movement
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Bleeding, can be severe, from ears, nose, eyes, gums, wounds in the case of anticoagulants
  • Acute blindness in the case of anticoagulants
  • Pallor
  • Blood, can be severe, in the urine and faeces in the case of anticoagulants

First Aid

The faster you act, the better your dog’s chances. Nonetheless, you should know that there are no guarantees.


  1. Make sure you have your vet’s number saved on your cell and in a prominent place in your home. Since most poisonings happen at night, make sure your vet is available 24/7/365. If not, find an alternative vet who is available at any time for emergencies and establish a relationship with the practice. In any event it is a good idea to have a back-up vet on your list of contacts.
  2. The section below describes the emergency supplies you will need. Dosages are detailed in the procedure that follows.
    1. Large syringes (60ml)
    2. At least one of the following: high foam washing powder, Hydrogen Peroxide 3% solution (available from your pharmacy), Apomorphine Hydrochloride (either powder or injection plus syringe and needle for administration (the latter two are schedule 4 medicines, don’t worry if you can’t get them—use one of the others)
    3. Activated Charcoal in granular, powder, or tablet form (available from your pharmacy or health shop), or a veterinary preparation.
    4. Castor Oil to help move the activated charcoal through the intestines.
    5. Atropine plus syringe and needle for administration (This is a schedule 4 medicine, don’t worry if you can’t get it, you vet will administer it. I personally believe it should be available for emergency first aid kits, not only for this purpose.)
    6. The above will need to be administered in specific dosages. Work out the dosage for each based on your dog’s average weight and write it down clearly. Put the paper in a clear plastic bag to prevent details from being smudged in an emergency. Put this booklet in there too for reference.
    7. If you wish, you can measure and pre-package the dry items for each dog.
    8. Put everything together in an emergency kit bag and place it in an easily accessible, yet protected place.
    9. Review the contents of the bag regularly to ensure that medicines with expiry dates are replaced when necessary and your calculated dosages keep up with your dog’s changes in bodyweight.

Emergency Procedure:-

Steps 1 to 4 are vital initial procedures you should undertake immediately. Proceed with step 5 and further based on the time it will take you to get your dog to a vet and the severity of the symptoms. The longer it will take and/or the more severe the symptoms, the more important the follow-on steps become. If you are uncomfortable with any of the procedures, rather leave them to the vet or perform them under guidance of your vet over the phone.
  1. As soon as you suspect that your dog has been poisoned, have someone phone the vet to let them know that you are on your way. If you are alone, phone the vet between the following actions. Remain calm and focus on what you need to do.
  2. Remember that poisonings seldom happen for their own sake: they are a preparatory step for a further crime. Alert your security company and the police immediately.
  3. Immediately remove your dog and any other animals and children from the source of the poison. If it means confining your dog in the house, do so. If you can, use a room or courtyard that has little furniture or objects on which your dog could injure itself. If you have to go indoors choose a place with a tiled floor if you can.
  4. If your dog is conscious, not having seizures, is not bleeding and is not having difficulty breathing, you should induce vomiting. If at any point during the process your dog develops any of these symptoms, stop immediately and rush your dog to the vet. Make sure you maintain a clear airway on your way to the vet.If you have tried inducing vomiting without success for at the most ten minutes without success, stop and rush your dog to the vet. Make sure that the dog does not re-ingest the vomit. If you can, inspect the vomit visually for signs of the poison – it may be helpful if you can describe it firstly to your vet, and later to the police. The following methods are most effective:
    1. Force a ball of high foam washing powder down its throat. Prepare the ball with washing powder and a little water. The amount should be in relation to the size of the dog. Be sure that the dog swallows and that the soap does not go into the airway.
    2. Prepare a 50/50 mixture of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide and water. Measure 5ml per 5kg body mass and force this down the dog’s throat. A large syringe is useful for this. Walk your dog to ensure the mixture mixes with the stomach content. Repeat the process no more than twice if the dog doesn’t vomit within a few minutes.
    3. If you have access to it, an injection of Apomorphine Hydrochloride 0,05mg per kg bodyweight, or pull down the lower eyelid of one eye and apply Apomorphine Powder.
  5. Only if your dog has vomited, and if you have access to it, administer 1ml Atropine per 10kg body mass subcutaneously or intramuscularly. Atropine inhibits vomiting and may thus cause more harm than good if administered prematurely. In the case of rat poison, do not administer Atropine, proceed directly to the vet.
  6. Once you are sure that the dog’s stomach is empty, get your dog to swallow Activated Charcoal. The dosage is 0.5g/kg body weight (a 10kg dog would require 5g). Add between 5 and 25ml Castor Oil to the mix—about 5ml per 10kg or part thereof. The best way to get this done is using a granular or powdered charcoal product mixed into a slurry with a little water, fill into a large syringe, add Castor Oil and then squirt the mixture into the back of the dog’s mouth.
  7. Get your dog into the car and rush to the vet. If your dog is having convulsions, or is lethargic, somnolent, or unconscious, use a blanket or something similar as a stretcher. Be careful carrying a dog with convulsions as you might get bitten accidentally.
  8. Tell the vet what you have done from discovering the poisoning up to the point of entering the practice. Also try to remember when the poisoning was discovered, what symptoms presented and when, as well as your subjective judgement of how much of the poison your dog ingested, based on what you saw of the stomach content.

What to expect:-

If your dog survives the initial crisis and your vet got it through the first 12 hours, you may see:
  1. A quick recovery, if you are lucky. Your dog may continue to cough for a few days, be teary-eyed, and may be a bit weak, and will need to eat bland food (i.e. rice and boiled, unseasoned chicken) for a few days to give the liver a chance to recover fully. You may observe some long term impact which may, or may not, improve with time, depending on which systems were damaged by the poison. Your dog may thus require ongoing supportive treatment.
  2. Persistence of some of the symptoms, specifically hyper salivation, slow heart rate, diarrhoea (often mucous due to glandular over-secretion), vomiting, contraction of the pupils, central nervous system stimulation with hyperactivity, mania, anxiety or depression, seizures, difficulty breathing, increased bronchial secretions. These are referred to as the Muscarinic effect of the poison. While treatment for this effect is available, the effectiveness thereof depends on timeous administration and the severity of the poisoning.
  3. Your dog may also experience muscle twitching under the skin, but this may progress to muscle weakness and partial inability to move and respiratory paralysis. These symptoms may initially be masked by anxiety and stress associated with the Muscarinic effect. They often only manifest clearly after 36 to 72 hours and are referred to as the Nicotinic effect of the poison. This is one of the most dangerous parts of the poison process’s progression and many dogs die of paralysis of respiratory system.
  4. Throughout the dog’s treatment, even though you may observe apparent improvement, there is the risk of organ damage or failure, which may lead to the dog’s death.


The Aftermath

Prepare yourself for the worst. If your dog recovers, you can count yourself and your dog lucky. Even if your response time was excellent, there is no guarantee that your dog will survive.
  1. You need to report the poisoning to the police. All police stations in South Africa have been instructed on poisonings, but you may still meet resistance when attempting to open a case. Even if you feel that it is pointless, just go ahead an open a case in any event. Yours just might be the one they decide to prosecute. Here are specific charges you may lay:
      1. Contravention of Section 2(1)(n), alternatively Section 2(1)(d) of the Animal Protection Act, Act 71 of 1962, as amended: Administer poisonous substance to an animal,
      2. AND In the case of Carbamate (Aldicarb – Temik/Sanacarb/two-step)
      3. Contravention of the Fertilisers, Farm Feeds, Agriculture Remedies and Stock Remedies Act, Act 36 of 1947, as amended: Possession of an illegal substance,
      4. AND
      5. Hazardous Substances Act, Act 15 of 1973, as amended: Possession of an illegal substance

    In order to make these charges stick, you need to make sure the police get a sample of the poison. Carefully collect any leftover poison from the garden or, if there is nothing there, collect a sample from the vomit (preferably with visible samples of the poisoned substance) and keep it in the fridge until you can hand it over.You can also give a copy of the vet’s bill, which will be quite substantial, to the police. It will help to substantiate the damage caused in monetary terms. This is of course wholly inadequate as a measure of the real damage, but it’s something concrete one can use in court.
  2. You need to clean up. This will be one of the most difficult tasks you’ll ever have to undertake. Not only could it be a messy job, it is an emotional one! Here is what you need to do. The measures may appear extreme, but it is better to be safe than sorry:
  3. Protect yourself from the poison: It is just as poisonous to you as it is to your dog. Wear rubber gloves, wear protective clothing, wear decent shoes. Remember: the poison can be ingested, inhaled, and absorbed trough the skin. Do not smoke, eat or drink, rub your eyes, or handle any uncontaminated household articles before changing clothes and thoroughly washing your hands, face and other exposed skin.
  4. Restrict access to all contaminated areas, regardless whether it is vomit, saliva, or any other fluid or substance. This means no children, no visitors, and no other pets; only the person who is going to clean up should be allowed in.
  5. Collect all remaining poison from the place where the dog was poisoned. Seal it in decent plastic containers. Sprinkle Slaked Lime over the area and water down the entire area extremely well. Also water down any run-off very well. You want to remove all remnants of the poison from the surface.
  6. Collect all the solid waste as well as severely soiled articles and seal all in plastic containers.
  7. Wash everything that was in contact with the poison, including any excretions from your dog. A 10% solution of Sodium Carbonate is recommended. Brush the solution well into the entire area and leave for at least 8 hours. Wash off and absorb the water into an absorbent material. Wood-based cat litter pellets work really well — a little absorbs a lot of water and it’s easy to collect afterwards. Do not dispose of in the drain; dispose of as described below. Wash again with a strong household detergent and dry with an absorbent material. Do not dispose of washing water in the drain or garden! Remember to wash window sills, walls, doors and door frames, legs of furniture, etc.
  8. All washable rugs, table cloths, cushions, etc. should be washed thoroughly by machine – remember to remove and collect all solid waste before washing. Use a strong oxidising detergent such as “Vanish”.

    If at any time during the clean-up process, you or a family member feels ill, don’t hesitate: go see a medical professional. There is a real possibility that you may have been exposed to too much of the poison and may be experiencing symptoms of poisoning yourself.
  9. Dispose of the waste:
    1. If you are in a municipal area, your municipality should be able to handle toxic waste. Contact them in connection with the collected waste. Alternatively contact a reputable toxic waste disposal company for assistance.
    2. If you are in a rural area:
      1. Do Not dispose of anything into the septic tank since you’ll poison everything downstream of the French drain.
      2. Aldicarb/Temik: bury the contaminated material at least 45cm deep (make sure no animal will be able to dig the stuff up again), in excess of 50m away from wells, French drains, trenches and water runs. Mix an equal mass of Soda Ash (Sodium Carbonate) or Slaked Lime (Calcium Hydroxide) into the material. Soak well with water. Backfill.
      3. Organophosphates: Burn all collected materials and absorbent material used in washing in a place where no ground or water contamination by smoke or ash can take place. Collect the ash, mix with equal mass Soda Ash, and bury as above. Only burn if you are sure that no Aldicarb/Temik was used, otherwise bury everything as above.
      4. Rat Poison: it is difficult to recommend a disposal method without knowing what is in it.
    3. If in any doubt, contact your nearest Poison Information Centre.


It is really difficult to find decent, and specifically complete, information on poisoning for the layperson. Here are a few sources I found useful. If you know of a source that provides decent information, please let me know. First Aid:

INCHEM Chemical Safety Information from Intergovernmental Organizations:

INCHEM Organophosphates:

Organophosphate and carbamate toxicities:;file=article&sid=964


Wikipedia: has an excellent article on poisonings. A variety of poisons, including household items, and treatments is discussed. Go to . If you don’t get to the page directly, search for it using the search term “Poisoned!” under the “Articles” heading; it’s worth the effort.


I am not a veterinarian, medical professional, or an expert on poisons. The information presented herein was gathered from product information documentation, information on the internet I deem trustworthy (some of the references are reflected above), and interviews with a few knowledgeable individuals whom have been trough the ordeal themselves. I have taken every care to ensure the accuracy of the information presented herein. This is a living document; as such it may be updated from time to time.

The intent is to help give the reader a better chance at successfully saving their dog in the event of a poisoning with the poisons specified herein. I do not give any guarantees, even though I wish I could.

I cannot accept any responsibility whatsoever for the effect of the application of the first aid measures suggested herein since the application thereof will be beyond my control and subject to the judgement of the person applying the said measures.

The first aid measures suggested herein are not appropriate for all kinds of poisoning and they only apply to dogs. I cannot accept any responsibility whatsoever for the inappropriate application of the measures suggested.
©2011-2014 J Gunther. The content hereof may be freely reproduced and distributed, provided that it is done in its entirety, without alteration, and the author is acknowledged. Exceptions by the author’s express written permission only.
As a courtesy, kindly let the author know if you are using this article.

It's Tick Season!

Don't be complacent: take precautions

After last summer's good rains and warm weather, and the current hot weather, we are in for a very active tick season. In some areas it is always tick season.

Haemaphysalis leachiFor your dog this this means a very high risk for contracting Biliary and/or Ehrlichiosis. Biliary fever is the acute and fast progressing infection of the dog's red blood cells by a protozoa (Babesia canis, a single-celled parasite) that destroys the cells and causes severe anemia. If not treated in time, it is deadly. Biliary is among the most prevalent causes of death of dogs in South Africa. Symptoms include listlessness, poor appetite, pale to white gums and mucous membranes of the eyes, laboured and fast breath, and fast heartbeat, together with a high temperature.
Babesiacanis f91beBabesia canis. This is what the vet is looking for in a dog's blood sample. Source: University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial (Ehlichia canis) infection that may have a short acute phase, some flare-ups, but is generally chronic in nature and leads to the dog's slow demise over a number of years. It may be relatively difficult to diagnose without laboratory tests, and since the dog seldom presents as acutely ill, the disease is often left to progress. There is a single known antibiotic that is effective against this disease and the treatment can be protracted.
Ehrlichia canisEhrlichia canis. Source: Studyblue.


Obtain a tick (and flea) remedy from your local vet. There have been cases where certain remedies do not work in certain areas. Your local vet is best equipped to advise you. Apply the remedy as prescribed and do not skip a month or even a week.

Do not apply the remedy and forget about it. You will need to inspect your dog for ticks regularly to ensure that the remedy is working as expected. If you find ticks on your dog in spite of the remedy, it is time to ask your vet for an alternative.

Remember: It only takes one bite - don't let it be your dog
As the incidence of Rabies in Gauteng appears to be on the increase, our awareness of this deadly disease should increase. We should take the risk seriously.

Figure 1 illustrates the reported cases between 1993 and 2005. Much has changed since and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Department of Health, the South African Veterinary Association, and the NSPCA have all embarked on awareness and vaccination campaigns in response to various outbreaks. The majority of infections in Gauteng are reported in the far southern parts of the province. While many are in rural and semi-rural areas, cases have also been recorded in urban areas.
rabies vectors
Figure 1: Rabies Vectors 1993 - 2005

The the common vectors of the disease in various regions in South Africa are clearly visible and vary from region to region. The major vector responsible for Rabies infections in Gauteng is the Yellow Mongoose, followed by domestic dogs. People living in peri-urban areas, such as Manderston's neighbourhood, where mongoose are still prolific, are at particular risk. In addition, areas with highly mobile populations, such as squatter communities, have elevated risk due to potentially infected animals travelling to and from outlying areas.

The disease is mostly transferred in the saliva of an infected animal. The most common mode of transmission is a bite, but nicks and scratches may be enough for the virus to enter the body. The majority of human victims ayellowmo 33a88re children. The incubation period is between 2 and 10 weeks. The disease is generally transmitted by animals that already show signs of illness, but apparently healthy animals have been shown to shed the virus in laboratory experiments. Once signs of disease are present, there is no cure.

The following are the most important preventive measures:
  • Vaccinate all domestic pets against Rabies twice in the first year and then every three years.
  • Never approach wildlife. Wild animals have an innate fear of humans. If they do not display this fear, they should be treated with extreme caution. Incidents involving such animals should be reported to the nearest vet or SPCA.
  • Never approach strange dogs, particularly if they appear to be sick or in poor condition. Rather report the dog to the nearest SPCA or other animal welfare organisation.
  • Children should be instructed never to approach strange animals.
  • If bitten, the victim should wash the wound immediately with water and a disinfectant or soap. There after seek medical treatment immediately.
  • All bites should be reported to the state veterinarian or SAPS, who will take steps to find the animal and destroy it if necessary, making sure it is tested for rabies.
Here are links to some informative documents.

When you collected your pedigree puppy from the breeder, you were most likely not advised about the risk of bone disease and what you can do to prevent it. One of the realities of modern breeds is that many years of consistent selection and inbreeding to create the "perfect specimen" has brought with it the risk of bone conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia. These are painful and debilitating conditions, which in severe cases may necessitate corrective surgery or even euthanasia. In the article below, you will see some of the common conditions associated with, or developed during, your puppy's first year of growth.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Bilateral hip dysplasia
The image on the left shows a typical picture of hip dysplasia. You can clearly see how the ball of the femur bone doesn't have a decent socket to move in. Instead there is a practically flat surface along which the femur can slip back and forth placing severe strain on the connective tissue (ligaments). This also causes a lot of friction, which erodes the cartilage which covers the joint surfaces in short order and leads to painful arthritis.

Normal canine hipsIn contrast, the x-ray on the right of a normal hip shows what the hip joint should look like.

Similarly, various forms elbow dysplasia are malformation of the elbow joint, resulting in lameness and are extremely painful.


Conditions that are mostly preventable involve posture. Have a look at the image of the Boerboel puppy's front paws. See how it is walking on its pasterns and the toes are way in front, not bearing any weight? The hind leg is also in an unnatural position, probably in an effort to balance its enormous tummy.puppy pasterns

This Boxer puppy displays a correct posture, where it clearly stands on its toes. Note also its correct weight. The transition from chest to loin is clearly visible.puppy toes

The parallel position of the legs on the left is correct. The image on the right depicts clear cow-hocks. Cow-hocks can be an indication of congenital hip dysplasia, which may either be alleviated or aggravated by the pup's nutrition, exercise, and environment. Puppies may go through phases where they display slight cow-hocked legs during growth spurts. This is due to uneven growth in different parts of the body. This is normal and will correct itself as the rest of the body catches up. cow hock

What causes puppies to maintain a bad posture for extended periods of time? There are three major causes:
  1. Existing conditions - if your puppy has an already existing condition, such as congenital hip - or elbow dysplasia, it may cause, or contribute to bad posture. In such cases it is important to ensure that the condition is not aggravated by the factors mentioned below.
  2. Tiled floors or other slippery surfaces - Dogs' feet are not made for slippery surfaces. When confronted with tiled floors, puppies quickly learn that turning their paws outward and dropping onto their pasterns (thereby increasing the contact surface) helps them stay on their feet. Maintaining this posture over prolonged periods can have lasting effects, just as bad posture can have lasting effect on us humans.
  3. Food - A body that's too heavy for the soft, growing legs to carry will have exactly the same effect as a slippery floor. Now it's not a slippery floor, but a body that's threatening to fall over at any minute... The weight of the body may be enough to bend the legs at the growth plates and damage joints and ligaments. This is specifically the case in large breed dogs that grow at extremely fast rates during the first few months of their lives.

Bone Development

To understand these conditions, we need to have a look at how a puppy's bones develop. The following illustration from will serve to explain briefly.Bone growth

The left-most image represents embryonic bone, consisting entirely of cartilage. The image on the far right represents teenage bone, where only the Epiphyseal plate (growth plate) and the joint surface consist of cartilage. The images in-between represent the various stages of growing up. What is important to note for our purposes, is:

  1. that the bone grows from the inside out, gradually replacing the cartilage (grey), and
  2. that the bone structure on the ends of the bone is soft and spongy

Why is this important? Let us look at cartilage: Because cartilage is soft and pliable, it adapts to the shocks and pressures it is exposed to. That is a good thing, because it prevents the puppy from getting hurt in its daily rough and tumble activities.

It has however also a down side. If for some reason, it maintains an unhealthy body posture for extended periods of time, bone will start growing in that unnatural/unhealthy posture as it replaces the cartilage. This can lead to badly fitting joints, i.e. dysplasia, malformed bones, badly developed (stretched or shortened) connective tissues (ligaments), and a number of other muscular and skeletal conditions. Too exuberant jumping and shocks to its bones can injure the spongy bone in the joints, again potentially leading to malformed joints.

Preventive Measures

The things you can do to dramatically reduce the risk of developing the above problems are surprisingly simple:

  1. When you have a tiled floor, lay down some rugs or carpet strips along the direct routes between points your puppy visits, such as the bedroom, kitchen, dining room and lounge.
  2. With large breed dogs it is important to carefully manage the intake of high-protein food from about four to five months. High-protein puppy food can contain as much as 30% protein and a high fat content, which may contribute to accelerated growth. To regulate growth in order to reduce pressure on the legs, reduce the protein intake to between 20 and 23%. At lower protein content the growth rate is slowed down to the point where the growth rate of the bones can keep up with the body weight, thus significantly reducing the risk of causing bone damage. At this stage a puppy should be fed two meals per day and correct bodyweight relative to the puppy's size should be carefully monitored. The transition from the last rib to the loin should be obvious, but the ribs shouldn't be visible. Another method to check, which is effective for dogs with thick fur, would be to check that the spine is felt when your hand is run along the puppy's back, but it shouldn't be visible.
  3. You can supplement with fruit, grated carrots, finely chopped leafy veggies, whole raw eggs (the shells are good source of calcium), chicken fat, heads and feet, and raw bone. All in moderation, of course. Bone should always be given raw as raw bone does not splinter and is easily digested. It is best to give best to give joints which have soft bone, in portions that cannot be swallowed whole. Do not give your puppy (or grown dog) your braai bones, cooked chicken or turkey bones, and mutton bones. Mutton bones are generally extremely hard and thus not suitable for your dog. Cooking bone changes the chemical structure of the bone, making the bone splinter rather than crumble, as is the case with raw bone. Fruit and vegetables to be avoided are grapes, onions and garlic, potatoes, veggie of the cabbage family, and all types of beans.
  4. Don’t over exercise. Let the puppy do what its capable of, don’t run it for 1okm because you can.
  5. Don’t pick up its front legs and walk it on its back legs
  6. Always support the back legs when you pick up your puppy
  7. Playing outside with your puppy is very good as exercise combined with sunlight creates good bone density.
  8. Don’t let your puppy play for long periods of time on slippery floors. This puts a lot of stress on the hip and shoulder joints and may cause dysplasia and deformity.
  9. Don’t allow your puppy to become overweight. In saying that don’t allow it to be to thin either. You need to see the shape of the rib cage but you must not be able to see the individual ribs and hips.
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