Seminar on Structure

On Saturday, Kate and I attended a seminar on structure with Pat Hastings, sponsored by the Kennebec Valley Shetland Sheepdog Club.  It was a highly informative day.

Pat prefaced the day by saying that she has had no formal training in veterinary medicine or orthopedics — what she was sharing was the product of her own experience working as a handler, breeder and AKC judge, from evaluating many litters of puppies, and from working with veterinary orthopedists and, yes, structural engineers.  She also admitted that she doesn’t fully understand everything going on in dwarf breeds, so nothing was presented with a gods-gift-to-knowledge sort of attitude.

There was a LOT of information, and I’m not sure I’ve completely processed all of it yet, but one thing I got out of it was that, individual breeds and breed standards aside, there are basic laws of physics, and structure interacts with those laws of physics the same way, whether applied to a Corgi, a Collie, or a Doberman.  A straight shoulder is going to impose the same limitations, regardless of breed.  The same with a straight rear, a slipped hock, or whatnot.  Much of what was covered were things that I was unaware of, so I’m happy to have some more tools in my tool belt when it comes to evaluating puppies and adult dogs.

We ran a little overtime, so the section on nutrition was perhaps more truncated than it might have been otherwise, but it was very interesting.  One thing Pat mentioned from her years of doing litter evaluations was that with respect to nutrition and how it affects development in puppies, the only food she had seen that was 100% successful in the litter that had been reared on it was Purina Pro Plan ADULT formula.  The only food that was 100% UNsuccessful was Purina Pro Plan PUPPY formula.

Warnings about not using puppy food are not exactly new, but trust me:  the photos of nutritionally malformed puppies that accompanied this talk were extremely convincing, not to mention upsetting.  I don’t know how it goes that far without someone saying, “OMG, what the heck is the matter?!” and doing something about it.  What was astonishing were the changes that switching the diet made in as little as one week.  Pat emphasized that there was no such thing as ONE correct food; the correct food is whatever works, be it a brand of kibble, a prepared raw diet, a homemade raw diet, or what-have-you.

I’ve heard warnings to take the information that Pat presents with a grain of salt.  Honestly, that’s kind of a no-brainer.  I mean, we have critical reasoning skills for a reason — I don’t take ANYTHING at face value, especially not when it comes to dogs.  But I firmly believe that there is no such thing as too much knowledge; it’s up to each of us to sort through the information presented to us with a critical eye, and weigh it against our own experience.

I came away from the seminar with lots to think about — but I’m pretty sure I’ve learned some useful things.  And now I have even more things to look for in my own dogs.  I haven’t put them each up on the stacking box to drawn mental lines through them yet, but I did test everyone for slipped hocks and ewe-necks as soon as I came through the door.

After all, the more you know, the more paranoid you can be about your own dogs and breeding program.


Posted on March 26, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’ve done alot of research on dog food, and IMHO- if RAW is done correctly (which isn’t easy to do) then it’s probably the best. However, I’ve always stayed away from kibbles that have corn or corn products as the first ingredients. While I realize people say that they have dogs who lived to be 100 on Ol’ Roy or whatever, I akin that to an old man attributing his long life to whiskey and ciggs. While maybe not every dog will have a problem on crap food like Iams, Eukenuba, Purina, etc., it certainly doesn’t help dogs that are already prone to allergies and digestive issues. Those foods are primarily composed of cheap carbohydrate fillers and low grade meat with a large helping of excellent advertising on the part of the company.

    My dad’s dog, an English Bulldog, has something that looks a whole lot like mange. But it’s not. It’s a skin allergy and the patches occur where he’s rubbed himself raw because he’s so darn itchy. They feed him Iams and won’t switch him, because Iams is, “the best you can give your dog.” They don’t understand food allergies and are afraid that switching him will make him worse, despite my attempts at education. He smells like feet, also, which I also attribute to his allergies. From my perspective, some of the crap foods I’ve mentioned are a whole lot like feeding your dog McDonald’s every day.

    With all of that being said, RAW done incorrectly can cause severe malnutrition or uneven bone growth just as feeding the wrong kind of kibble. When raising Harper, I was terrified of getting food with an incorrect Calcium/Phosphate ratio, as well as protein levels that were too high, but eventually found an all life-stages food that I was comfortable with: Fromm’s Four Star Nutritionals. I deliberately stayed way from Innova and other uber high protein foods BECAUSE I was afraid of uneven bone growth. Now that my dog is older and insanely active, I stick with Fromm’s, but use their higher protein Surf and Turf, or their new Game Bird formula.

    But, she does get other things. I’m a HUGE fan of Raw Meaty Bones (RMB’s in our house), chicken necks and backs, turkey necks, chicken and beef livers, pork tail, ox tail, chicken heart, green cow tripe AS LONG as the animals comes from a free range facility that promotes organic feeding. All those hormones and antibiotics they put in cattle, turkey, pigs, chickens are just as bad for dogs as they are for people.

    I just don’t feel like I know enough to feed RAW exclusively. Plus, I’ve been in situations where I can’t always feed my dog the foods I feel are best. Sometimes, I’ve had trouble even feeding myself. Those foods that have meat sources first and alternate carbohydrate sources (ie, not corn or rice) are typically very expensive. But, whatever one is either able or not able to feed, it’s important to make intelligent decisions on canine nutrition to give our pals the best and longest life possible.

    Also, while this website isn’t the be all end all of dog kibble information, it might give people a place to start:

  2. I have heard that puppy food isn’t good for puppies, and I don’t think I would ever take the chance and feed it to any pups. The one time I think that it would be okay is if you are feeding it to the momma dog before she gives birth, or if you have a severely malnourished dog. It seems to be a lot higher in calories, so it might help in those situations, but puppies don’t need it. Just my opinion, and glad that Pat seems to agree with it.

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