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Should You Give Your Pet Chemo?

By L.J. Hodek-Creapeau, Circkles Managing Editor

Every time I turn around, someone, or some pet, is diagnosed with cancer. The more shocking side of this tragedy is how we humans just take the cancer statistics in stride like they are a normal part of living. Cancer is not normal. In fact, it is an indication of just how abnormal our living conditions are. If we and our pets are developing cancer at astonishing rates, and we are, that should tell each and every one of us that something is drastically wrong with our lifestyle; namely our food, water and air supply. However, that is a whole different article, for our Green Circles section perhaps.

So, invariably, you will have a pet at least once in your lifetime, and probably more frequently than that, that will end up with cancer. Every pet owner I have ever encountered has a very difficult time trying to decide if they should treat their pet for cancer or have them euthanized. Part of this is a personal decision and nobody can help you with that, but part of it can be approached from a logical and realistic point of view as well.

For instance, there are many factors to consider, pros and cons to weigh, that may help you make your decision whether to try chemo or end your pet’s suffering before spending thousands of dollars on treatments that only have a 40% chance of actually stopping the cancer and prolonging your pet’s life beyond just an additional couple of months.

One veterinarian sums up the conventioanl thought behind this dillemma:

“Which, in case you’re wondering, I can totally get behind. I wholly comprehend the sentiment that says, “I do not want my pet to suffer any more than he has to now that he’s been diagnosed with a terminal disease. The trouble, however, is that most pet owners who reject chemotherapy on these grounds have a mistaken notion of what it is that veterinary chemotherapy is designed to do.

I know this to be true because almost no owner is immediately prepared to euthanize their pet at the time of the cancer diagnosis. What they invariably ask for once the spectrum of treatment options have been discussed and discarded is “just something to make her feel better, Doc.” Which is exactly what veterinary chemotherapy is for.

So the goals for treatment are very, very different, I tell my clients. Chemo for pets is designed to elicit only minimal side effects, so that if patients do start to suffer uncomfortable symptoms we can terminate the treatment. In that way it’s almost exactly what our clients asked for in the beginning: “something to make her feel better.”

Now if it’s this latter rationale, then I can absolutely, unreservedly get behind it; which is why it’s too bad that my patients’ treatment options are so inextricably intertwined with their owners’ concern with what it’ll cost to make them feel better. In a perfect world, teasing out the role of physical welfare versus cost in a client’s mind shouldn’t be my first order of business when a suffering patient sits before me. And yet, it almost always is.”

While this is just one veterinarians opinion, and you should know, it was hit with much criticism from reader comments, it is the biggest decision and most stressful concern to a pet owner when they hear the dreaded words that their pet has been diagnosed with cancer.

Dog after cancer treatment
Same dog after treatment
Same cancer dog after treatment
Same cancer dog after treatment

Types of Cancer Treatments.

Surgery: Surgical removal of tumors is a very common and valuable approach for solid tissue tumors. It can be used for soft tissue as well as for bone tumors. It can sometimes be curative on its own, if the disease process is localized and detected very early.

Radiotherapy: Or “radiation” therapy is available at large veterinary institutions such as Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine (North Grafton, Massachusetts) and Angell Memorial Animal Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts). It consists of the use of a radioactive beam to damage and/or kill malignant cells in a localized area. It can offer good quality remission times for many types of tumors, but usually not cure. Animals are surprisingly tolerant of radiation therapy

Chemotherapy: Is the use of certain drugs alone, or in combination to control tumor growth. All of the drugs currently given to animals are human anti-cancer drugs. Fortunately, many of the negative consequences of their use in human medicine are not experienced in veterinary medicine. Chemotherapy and/or surgery are the two most important treatment modalities in veterinary cancer medicine. A combination of therapies may also be indicated in certain cancers. Some cancers require a specific, brief number of treatments, while others requiring ongoing treatment to maintain remission. The word “chemotherapy” usually evokes unpleasant thoughts in most peoples minds. We prefer to think of it as “therapy” for a disease, in the same way people take medications for certain illnesses. The ultimate goal of therapy would be to cure the patient of cancer. In most instances at this point in time in veterinary medicine, this goal is not realistic. The goal we do strive for is to control rapidly progressive disease, prevent spread of the tumor, restore deteriorated function, and provide a good quality of life during the time of remission. The term “remission” means a time interval during which there are no outward signs that the patient has cancer.

Most Common Forms of Pet Cancer.

Lymphoma: The average survival of lymphoma with chemotherapy is about 10-12 months.  In the case of lymphoma, if the maximum combination protocol is used, it is expected that 80% or more of patients will go into full remission. The average duration of remission is longer than 12 months. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict which animals will achieve a full remission or for how long. We do know, however, that if no therapy is used, most pets will die from their disease in a few days to a few weeks.


Behavior & Treatment:

Osteosarcoma is the most common primary bone tumor of dogs. Large and giant dog breeds are at highest risk of this malignancy. This tumor is locally destructive to normal body tissues, and has a high metastatic rate (tendency to travel to distant sites in the body). It is one of the cancers in dogs that can be painful when it is in its active stages. Bones of the limbs that are affected by osteosarcoma can be weakened to the point of a fracture (called a pathological fracture).

If no treatment is rendered, the animal usually succumbs to the disease within 1-2 months from the time of diagnosis. Surgical resection of the tumor and/or limb amputation are key to treatment of osteosarcoma. Though many owners are at first hesitant about surgery, they frequently observe that their dogs improve dramatically after this treatment. This is by and large because a source of constant pain has been removed. It is important to note, however, that surgical resection alone does little to prolong the dogs survival time.

What about chemotherapy?

Osteosarcoma is always considered to have spread microscopically in the dogs body by the time the diagnosis is made. This is the reason that surgery alone fails to control the disease. To attack the cancer cells both locally and systemically, chemotherapeutic agents can be used. The goals of therapy are to preserve a good to excellent quality of life for the dog, eliminate pain, and provide as long a remission time as is possible. Cure is not a reasonable goal at this time, and this fact must be realized by the owner prior to initiating therapy.The two most common chemotherapy agents used for osteosarcoma are Adriamycin® and platinum compounds such as Carboplatin or Cisplatin. Because Adriamycin® and Carboplatin are synergistic with respect to their anti-cancer activity, they are often alternated in treatment protocols. Treatments are done as outpatient visits, every 3-4 weeks, for a total of 4-6 treatments. The actual treatment time takes approximately 30 minutes.

As previously mentioned, a dog that is given no treatment, or treatment with surgery alone is expected to live 1-2 months from the time of diagnosis. However, for a dog that undergoes surgery plus adjunct chemotherapy, the expected 1 year survival rate is 50%, the 2 year survival rate falls to about 20%. The cancer eventually starts to grow in the lungs which leads to coughing, weight loss, and malaise.


Adriamycin is a potent anti-cancer drug used in both humans and animals for many different types of cancers. It has been shown to be beneficial in treating canine osteosarcoma, but is best used with a platinum compound. Occasionally, nausea and vomiting can occur within 2 days of administration of the drug. These episodes are infrequent and can usually be mitigated by using anti-nausea medications. The most serious side effect results from the dogs white blood cells being lowered (infection fighting cells). This usually occurs about 5-8 days after treatment. Symptoms include sudden lethargy, refusal to eat, reluctance to rise, and fever. If this happens, follow the directions you have been given and/or call the hospital ASAP. This side effect can be rapidly and successfully treated. However, ignoring these important signs can be lethal!


Carboplatin is the “gold standard” in treating canine osteosarcoma. It is useful as a single agent, or in combination with Adriamycin®. Carboplatin occasionally causes dogs to act “subdued” or have a decreased appetite for 2-3 days after administration. This effect tends to be mild. Carboplatin, like Adriamycin®, has a tendency to lower the white blood cell/platelet counts. This is less common and usually less severe than with Adriamycin®. It occurs approximately 10-13 days after administration. This drug could theoretically cause damage to the kidneys over time, but this is very uncommon. Your dog will be monitored for side effects during treatment. Unfortunately, because the “platinum” compounds actually do contain platinum, they are very costly! A cost estimate of treatment will be given to you during your visit.

Dog receiving chemotherapy treatments
Dog receiving chemotherapy treatments

Quality of life?

Fortunately, most dogs who undergo treatment for osteosarcoma are lucky enough to have an excellent quality of life! They are pain free, and done with treatment after 4-6 rounds (3 week intervals). They rarely have to be hospitalized, so that they can be at home with “their people.” Dogs can continue to do virtually every activity that they are used to doing (yes, even hiking..). We hope to make your dogs remission as long and enjoyable as possible!

What is Life Like for Chemotherapy Patients?

Veterinarians who treat animals for cancer use many of the same chemotherapy agents that human oncologists use. Yet, in many ways the experience for pets seems very different. Why? For one thing, dosages of chemotherapy agents used in animals tend to be much lower than those used in people. Humans are given the highest doses possible, the consequences of which may require bone marrow transplantation, extended hospitalization, and numerous costly medications-all with good cause. However, for veterinary patients, this process would be unacceptable and cost prohibitive for most owners. The general quality of life for many veterinary cancer treatment patients can be surprisingly good and very close to normal. Most of the time they can maintain their normal activities, travel, and have fun with the families that love and care for them.

Most currently used anti-cancer agents do not specifically target cancer cells. Rather, they target and damage or kill rapidly growing cells. For the patient, this means cells lining the stomach and intestine (high turnover rate), cells of the bone marrow that make up the immune system (white blood cells, in particular), and cancer cells. It then is little surprise that the most common side effects of chemotherapy agents include mild to moderate nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased risk of infection. Hair loss, in contrast to humans, is uncommon in dogs and cats on chemotherapy. The good news is that the normal cell lines can almost always regenerate themselves, while the less well organized malignant cells suffer great damage. However, even at higher dosages, microscopic malignant cell clones remain alive, albeit dormant in the body. Eventually these give rise to drug-resistant cell lines. This is the biological basis of recurrent or metastatic cancers.

Visits and Costs.

For a cancer such as lymphoma, therapy involves a significant time commitment on the part of the owner/family. Outpatient visits are generally once weekly for 4 weeks, then every 3 weeks for up to 18 months. However, we make every effort to accommodate the owners schedule, and most visits require 20 to 30 minutes. Many clients like to leave their pet with us temporarily while they go do errands, and you are welcome to do this. You may halt therapy at any time, but we like to have the owner commit to at least 4 weeks, so you will have the benefit of seeing how well a pet can do. Due to the new OSHA hazard laws, and the fact that the animal must make no movement during the intravenous injections, we regret that it is not feasible to have the owner present during the few minutes of chemotherapy injections. Rest assured that your pet will be gently and expertly restrained by the oncology technician and the doctor. Relative to most other treatments in veterinary medicine, chemotherapy is a costly service to provide. The costs reflect the professional time and expertise required, the high costs of chemotherapy agents (the same used by humans), the special equipment and personnel protection required, and the removal of biomedical hazard waste. Realize however, that this therapy is unique in that it can successfully prolong an animals life!


Immunotherapy (sometimes called biologic therapy) is a form of cancer treatment that is still in its infancy in both humans and animals; however, great strides have been made in the last decade. The assumption is made that the growth of some cancers occurs because of a defect in the animal’s immune system. Had the patient’s immunity been normal, the tumor growth should have been suppressed very early, when only a few abnormal cells were present. For this reason, stimulation of the animal’s immune system may be attempted as a part of cancer therapy, through the use of certain drugs and antibody treatments. For some tumors, monoclonal antibodies have been made that bind to tumor-associated antigens (special proteins) on the surface of the cell, sometimes causing the destruction of the tumor cell directly. These antibodies can also be designed to guide a chemotherapy medication or a radioisotope directly to the tumor, targeting its death. Great strides are being made in immunotherapeutic treatment at cancer research institutions for humans, and it is likely that veterinary oncologists will begin to be able to take advantage of some of these developments in the next few years. Many veterinarians are quickly adopting the “an ounce of prevention” approach. Since cancer rates are so high in pets, many believe the most beneficial approach is to try and prevent a compromised immune system and possible cancer in the first place through improved diet and avoiding chemicals in foods such as preservatives, pesticides etc.

What Many Pet Owners Face:

Heated comments on forums….

“I believe, that every responsible owner, should account for reasonable veterinary expenses. In a case of cancer, the cost of treatment is extremely high, so the question might be “can I afford it” but sometimes “is it worth it”? Implying that you either must be filthy reach, or be ready for financial catastrophe to invite an animal into your home, is a complete nonsense!

Your pet treatment decision is only yours and your family’s, so don’t let anybody bully you or make you feel guilty. Talk to you friends and people that care about you to offer you advise. In such a difficult time when your beloved pet is very ill, you often lack the right perspective.”

Pet First Aid Basics

Something every pet owner should have a basic knowledge of. When you decide to have a pet, you take on the responsibility of being their caretaker, and most pet owners want to care for their pets to the best of their ability.

When you least expect it, that’s when you need it, so having some basic knowledge of pet first aid and CPR can save your pet’s life. Below are the basics for just about any pet emergency that will buy you some time until you can get your pet to the vet. If you have a puppy or a highly active dog, chances are you will need one of these tips at least once in their life.

  1. Poisoning:

    If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline (888-426-4435) immediately. Unless instructed to do so by a veterinarian, never induce vomiting. Many toxins are corrosive, and vomiting may damage the esophagus or cause choking.
    Should your veterinarian instruct you to induce vomiting, he will provide you with a recommended dose of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, based on your dog’s weight. (Do not use salt or syrup of ipecac.) Take your dog outside or cover the floor with newspaper. Measure the dose and use a plastic, not glass, eyedropper or syringe to administer the hydrogen peroxide into your dog’s mouth. If your pet does not vomit within five minutes, repeat the dose one more time. Since there are no at-home products that can be used to induce vomiting in cats, you’ll need to take your feline to a veterinary clinic for treatment. In either case, get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

  2. Cuts, Punctures or Bites:

    All cuts, punctures and bites have the potential to become infected, so they need to be examined by a veterinarian. If your pet is bleeding profusely, cover the area with sterile gauze and a clean towel, and then apply direct pressure until a clot forms. If there is an object penetrating the wound, such as a stick, do not attempt to remove it. If the wound is not bleeding, remove any debris and clean the area with sterile saline solution or clean water. (Do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, which can damage the tissue.) Apply clean gauze and wrap a bandage around it to keep the area clean and prevent your pet from licking it.

  3. Vehicle Trauma:

    Lay your pet on a flat board, and then strap him down to help prevent movement but avoid putting pressure on the chest, which can hinder breathing. If your pet has sustained a head injury, tilt the board so that your pet’s head is slightly above the body during transport. If you notice any broken bones, do your best to minimize excessive motion, but don’t attempt to splint them. This may only make the situation worse — plus, you don’t want to waste any time getting your pet to the veterinary clinic. Once inside the car, cover your pet with a blanket to help prevent shock. Even if your pet does not appear to be injured, it’s still critically important that you have a veterinarian examine him. Many pets suffer internal injuries that are not obvious, and they may be very serious if not given immediate professional attention.

  4. Choking:

    If your pet is choking but he can still breathe, try to keep him calm — and get him to a veterinarian immediately. But if your pet’s gums or tongue are turning blue and he’s in obvious distress, place your hand over the top of his muzzle and lift it up to open the mouth (don’t cover or occlude the nostrils). For an object that is clearly visible, you can use needle-nosed pliers to remove it, but be careful not to force it farther down into the throat. Also, a pet in this situation may panic and bite, so be careful. If that doesn’t work, lay your dog on his side, and then place your hands at the very end of his rib cage. Push down and slightly forward, applying pressure in quick, firm strokes. If you are unable to dislodge the object, get to the veterinarian immediately.

  5. Seizures:

    If your pet has a seizure, try to move furniture and other objects out of the way to prevent further injury. Do not try to restrain your pet, and keep your hands away from your pet’s mouth — they will not swallow their tongues, but chances are that you will be bit. Since pets often lose bladder or fecal control during a seizure, you may want to place a towel under your pet. Talk to your pet in a calm and soothing manner while you time the seizure. Most episodes will last under five minutes. Regardless of how long the seizure lasts, your pet needs immediate veterinary attention.

  6. Stings and Insect Bites

    : Remove the stinger with tweezers or by scraping it with the edge of a credit card, then apply an ice pack to the site. Watch for any signs of an allergic reaction—hives and facial swelling are common. Some pets may go into anaphylactic shock; the most common symptoms are the sudden onset of diarrhea, vomiting, shock and seizures. If your pet is in shock, the animal’s gums will be very pale and the limbs will feel cold. If your pet shows any of these symptoms, seek immediate emergency care.

  7. Hyperthermia (heat stroke):

    Move your pet to a shaded or air-conditioned area and turn on a fan to circulate cool air. Wet the pet’s ear flaps and apply wet cloths (lukewarm, not cold!) to your pet’s neck, belly and groin. Get to the vet as soon as possible—heat stroke is often deadly and any delay in treatment can worsen your pet’s prognosis.

  8. Hypothermia (falling in freezing water, left outside in freezing temperatures:

    Move to a warm area and cover the pet with warm water bottles, blankets or towels. If using a heating pad, put several layers between your pet and the pad to avoid burns, and always set electric heat sources to low. Transport to medical care as soon as possible.

  9. Burns:

    For heat burns, apply cool water compresses with a clean, sterile cloth. Do not apply ice, butter or any other ointment unless directed by your veterinarian (who you should call right away). If the injury is the result of a chemical burn, brush away as much of the substance as possible, wash the contaminated area with large amounts of warm (not hot) flowing water and get your pet to the vet.

  10. Performing CPR on a pet:

    WikiHow has a good article with diagrams and pictures on how to administer CPR to a dog at To give mouth to mouth to a pet, Begin by sealing the dog’s lips. …Next, place your mouth over the dog’s nostrils and blow gently, watching for the chest to lift and expand. …Remove your mouth from the nose/muzzle between breaths to allow for air return. Administer one breath for every 15 compressions. Also follow the WikiHow on giving CPR

Antifreeze Poisoning in Pets

One would hope that all pet owners are aware of this household danger, but just in case there are a few people out there who aren’t, or if you suspect your pet has gotten into some antifreeze and want to know what the symptoms are, we are publishing them here.

First of all, if you even suspect your pet may have antifreeze poisoning, do not delay getting them to the vet. Time is of the essence if your pet is going to recover at all.  It only takes 5 teaspoons to kill a 10 pound dog. And just because it is soaked up by the dirt on the ground does not mean your pet won’t lick it up or eat the dirt to get at it. Antifreeze has a sweet taste, and so it is very appealing to pets and even small children.

antifreeze poisoning in petsThe initial symptoms of antifreeze poisoning are:

  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Lack of coordination
  • Weakness, nausea, tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Convulsions
  • Crystals in the urine
  • Diarrhea
  • Paralysis

These are just the first symptoms that can occur within 30 minutes of ingesting antifreeze, however, once the liver metabolizes the poison after about 12 hours, the symptoms will disappear. Once the ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in antifreeze, is changed into crystalline acid by the animal’s liver, it attacks the kidneys. Then symptoms may not be noticeable for days until irreparable damage has been done. Vomiting may still occur, as well as loss of appetite, dehydration, inability to urinate, salivation, seizures, mouth ulcers, coma and eventually death.

It is crucial that you pet is treated before the liver breaks down the antifreeze. If you know you pet has ingested antifreeze or you suspect it, veterinarians suggest inducing vomiting, which can be done by feeding your pet a teaspoon to a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide depending on the pets size,  and feeding the animal activated charcoal tablets immediately and then take them to the nearest veterinarian. Activated charcoal and hydrogen peroxide are ingredients every household with pets should keep in stock for just such an emergency.

There is now a drug that can be administered immediately after ingestion that has a pretty good success rate, but it has to be administered immediately and before the liver has broken down the chemicals. If a pet receives treatment within the crucial first 12 hours, complete recovery is possible, however, veterinarians say most pets do not survive antifreeze poisoning simply because their owners do not recognize the symptoms early enough.

Precautions to Prevent Antifreeze Poisoning in Pets.

  1. Always clean up any antifreeze spills. If the dirt has absorbed it, shovel it up and put it in a garbage bag to be thrown away.
  2. Always make sure any empty antifreeze containers are out of the reach of pets and children.
  3. There are some “Pet Safe” antifreeze products on the market now.



Best Food for Ferrets

Dr. Susan Brown DVM explains what type of food is best for ferrets and why.

“I have been an exotic animal veterinarian for the past 25 years and I have seen the damage that has been done in a number of species when we moved away from a raw, more natural diet, to processed diets. Two glaring examples are pet rabbits and pet birds. We have seen over the years that feeding a diet that is completely processed has caused innumerable ailments and premature death in both of these groups. When we returned them to foods that are more in tune with their physiology we saw a tremendous reduction in the incidence of specific diseases and we conversely have not seen any new diseases as a result of this change. There are a growing number of animal health professionals as well as pet owners that believe that processed dog and cat diets create disease as well. Changing these pets over to a balanced raw diet has shown incredible benefits.” ~ Dr. Susan Brown DVM.

To maintain optimum health, ferrets require a diet which most closely resembles that which they would get in the wild. They also require some sunlight.

Susan A. Brown, DVM writes: “Ferrets are strict carnivores, meaning they are designed to eat whole prey items, which includes all parts of the killed animal. The only non-meat items they might encounter in their diet would be in the stomach and intestinal tract of their prey, where it is partially digested. This might include small amounts of grains, fruits and vegetables.

Ferrets have a very short gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the flora (the organisms living in the GI tract) are very simple, unlike the flora of animals that eat more vegetation. It takes about 3 to 4 hours for food to go from one end to the other and thus they absorb food rather inefficiently. Ferrets tend to eat several smaller meals and carry any excess to their dens to eat later. Did you ever have a ferret that took food and tucked it away in the corner of the cage, or a piece of furniture? ”

Ferret babies eating rawmeat“A nutritious and balanced diet is the foundation of good health for all creatures including ferrets. Ferrets have been kept in captivity since 300 BC, but it is only in the last 40 years that we have changed their diet from raw foods to commercially processed foods. We have made the change primarily because we, the public, have demanded a uniformly easy to feed and hopefully nutritious food that allows us to successfully keep ferrets in our homes. I think everyone would agree that it is easier to pour little bits of food out of a bag than to go out and find whole prey items to feed. But the question is are we really providing a healthy ferret diet using processed foods?

Is it really possible to take raw food, grind it up, heat it to high temperatures, add ingredients that are not part of the normal diet, add back nutrients altered or destroyed during processing, press it into amusing shapes and have this be the equivalent of the natural diet”? I liken it to the Wonder Bread that I ate as a child. It was highly processed and stripped of many nutrients, then the nutrients were put back in chemically and it was put in an eye-catching package announcing its nutritional value. And didn’t we love that package with the little colorful balloons telling us we were buying a healthy product? And don’t we love the ferret food packages with cute pictures of ferrets everywhere? The food must be good if it has a ferret picture on it…shouldn’t that be the case?”

I have fed my own four dogs ranging in size from 200 pounds to 5 pounds an all raw diet for the past two years and I will never go back to processed. In my own case there were several problems that were cleared up in the “pack” with diet change alone including anal gland disease, skin and allergy problems, ear problems, obesity and gastrointestinal disease. I personally know a number of people who have made the same switch with both dogs and cats and the results are truly remarkable. Most animals experience a dramatic increase in energy level and a reduction in excess body weight. Some pets have been able to stop or reduce medication intake. Of course diet is not a miracle cure for all diseases, but it makes sense that if the body is nourished properly it can cope with disease and utilize needed medications more effectively.

So what should a ferret be eating? Let’s look at ferret gastrointestinal (GI) physiology to find out. Ferrets are strict carnivores, meaning they are designed to eat whole prey items, which includes all parts of the killed animal. The only nonmeat items they might encounter in their diet would be in the stomach and intestinal tract of their prey, where it is partially digested. This might include small amounts of grains, fruits and vegetables. Ferrets have a very short GI tract and the flora (the organisms living in the GI tract) are very simple, unlike animals that eat more vegetation. It takes about 3 to 4 hours for food to go from one end to the other and thus they absorb food rather inefficiently. Ferrets tend to eat several smaller meals and carry any excess to their dens to eat later. Did you ever have a ferret that took food and tucked it away in the corner of the cage, or a chair?

Because of the short GI tract and the poor absorption of nutrients, ferrets require a diet that is highly concentrated with FAT as the main source of calories (energy) and highly digestible MEAT-BASED PROTEIN. This would match the basic composition of a prey animal not excluding the essential vitamins and minerals it also contains. Ferrets should never be fed carbohydrates (such as vegetable, fruit or grains) as the main source of energy in the diet. Ferrets cannot digest fiber, as is found in some vegetable and fruit sources. If there is a significant amount of fiber in the diet it serves to lower the nutritional value of the food.

As mentioned, ferrets need a highly digestible meat-based protein in the diet. Vegetable protein is poorly utilized. In the presence of excess vegetable protein the ferret can suffer from such diseases as bladder stones, poor coat and skin quality, eosinophilic gastroenteritis (wasting, diarrhea, ulcerations of the skin and ear tips and swollen feet) poor growth of kits and decreased reproduction. Dog food and vegetarian-type pet foods are completely inappropriate for use in ferrets because of the high level of vegetable protein and fiber. The bottom line is that ferrets use fat for energy not carbohydrates and they need a highly digestible meat-based protein not vegetable protein.”

“On an almost total diet of raw whole carcass meat being fed only in the morning and living under natural light outside away from all the pollutants and chemicals found in a house the health of my ferrets is perfect.”

In December 1995, the British Journal of Small Animal Practice published a paper contending that processed pet food (kibble and canned food) suppresses the immune system and leads to liver, kidney, heart and other diseases. Dr. Kollath, of the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, headed a study done on animals. When young animals were fed cooked and processed foods they initially appeared to be healthy. However, as the animals reached adulthood, they began to age more quickly than normal and also developed chronic degenerative disease symptoms. A control group of animals raised on raw foods aged less quickly and were free of degenerative disease. For a return to health, pets require a diet which strengthens the immune system and most closely resembles that which they would get in the wild. It’s really easy to do. Learn more about raw food for carnivores


by LJ Hodek-Creapeau, Circkles Editor

As difficult as it is to read this, it is necessary to publish it. If your are a horse owner or just a horse lover, you have no doubt heard of the Premarin (PMU) mares and farms. Premarin (an acronym for PREgnant MARe uRINe) is a drug manufactured by big drug companies like Wyeth-Ayerst Global Pharmaceuticals and marketed by BigPharm like Pfiser. Premarin is prescribed for women to counteract the unpleasant side effects of menopause. If most women knew what Premarin really was and how it is made, they would probably look for alternatives if they had a heart at all. PMU is one of the most inhumane practices there is, and the worst part of it is that it’s not necessary.

Inside a PMU barn, as many as 50 pregnant mares stand tied in narrow stalls. There are draft horses, quarter horses, a few thoroughbreds tethered by short ropes so they are unable to turn around or lie down. Their movement is limited so they do not dislodge the urine collecting apparatus.

Rubber tubing runs from a pulley suspended from the ceiling to a hard plastic funnel-like device positioned under her tail and between her rear legs. A larger tube attached to the funnel passes between her front legs to a collection jug at the front of the stall. The contraption prevents her from moving more than a step or two in any direction. The skin under the rubber tubing along her hindquarters often becomes raw from the friction of her restless movements. She is thirsty, but the automatic watering device in her stall is dry because her water intake is limited. The more concentrated her urine the better price the farmer will get for it.

A few stalls down, a large roan draft horse shifts her 2,400 pound weight from side to side, searching for a comfortable position. Now in her eighth month of pregnancy, she wants to lie down but the narrow stall prevents her from doing so. If you have ever been pregnant, you know how much you want to get off of your feet in your last trimester, but these poor animals are not offered any relief during their pregnancy whatsoever.

The mares are put “on line” in the barns in October where they will remain until mid-March. They are often subjected to water restriction in order to produce a more estrogen-concentrated urine. Most of the foals born to these mares are considered simply by-products, and are shipped to Canadian slaughter plants that supply the demand for horse meat in Europe and Japan.

premarin farmsThe PMU industry has made an effort in recent years to deflect negative publicity about the foals-to-slaughter issue by claiming that producers are upgrading their mares in order to produce better quality foals, who are then sold or “adopted” to good owners. This appears to be true to some extent, but with more than 40,000 foals reaching the market at the same time every year there are still thousands of these “byproducts” of the PMU industry meeting violent deaths on slaughterhouse kill floors.

The PMU industry has been around for decades, but only came to the attention of the public in recent years when the living conditions of mares and mistreatment of foals was exposed. For the past several years there have been rumors of the expansion of farms from Canada and North Dakota further into the U.S. This has been difficult to confirm; information on specific locations of collection barns is kept secret by the industry.

In November 2000, Friends of Animals undertook an investigation into the current state of the PMU industry. Our questions: What, if anything, has changed over the past several years in terms of treatment of the mares? Is the PMU farming industry, previously confined to operations under contract to Wyeth-Ayerst in Canada and North Dakota, starting to expand further into the U.S.? Are tens of thousands of foals still ending up being butchered for the foreign horsemeat trade?

Our conclusion is that, sadly, little if anything about the industry has changed since the negative publicity of the previous decade. Most alarming is the confirmation that the number of PMU collection farms in the United States has doubled during that time. PMU farmers and other sources consulted during the investigation confirmed that there are now collection barns in operation a number of midwestern states, including Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, and South Dakota. This expansion is due to the establishment of a new U.S. PMU processing plant, Natural Biologics LLC.

Headquartered in Albert Lea, Minnesota, Natural Biologics is owned by David and Steve Saveraid. According to press reports, the brothers’ aim is to obtain FDA approval of a generic version of Premarin. As of the date of this report, that approval is pending. The processing plant, however, is already in operation. Surveillance photos taken of the facility during the FoA investigation show a warehouse-type building in an industrial section of town. According to a Dun & Bradstreet report, the company has 36 employees and $3,600,000.00 in annual sales. Natural Biologics has now contracted with 38 farmers in seven states to produce the raw material needed for its product.

After months of research an FoA investigator was able to identify and obtain access to a PMU collection barn under contract to Natural Biologics. Inside the barn the investigator observed rows of mares tethered in narrow tie stalls. The stalls were clearly too small for the comfort of the animals, especially in the case of the large draft breeds. The farmer acknowledged that these larger mares could not lie down in the small enclosures without getting stuck.

The investigator noted that many of the horses showed signs of frustration, constantly pawing the ground or kicking or chewing the wooden partitions of the stalls. The investigator also observed what appeared to be sores from irritation caused by the urine collection apparatus. When the investigator made a final visit to the farm, the mares had been “on line” for almost six months.

The farmer described them as “miserable” at that point, due to the confinement and their advanced stage of pregnancy. The odor in the barn was very strong—not the pleasant horsy smell of a clean stable but the unmistakable stench of animals kept in close confinement for long periods of time.

The owners of this farm are very concerned about confidentiality and only agreed to talk to the investigator on the condition of anonymity. They stated that inspections by the company are cursory at best, and frequently consist of the “inspector” driving up to the barn and asking a few questions without even getting out of his truck. The PMU farmers interviewed also acknowledged that the company advises producers to limit their horses’ water intake. This practice has resulted in health problems among horses used in the industry—they related the tragic case of five mares on a PMU farm in a neighboring state who died as a result of complications caused by severe water deprivation.

In March, the FoA investigator traveled to a Canadian horse feedlot and slaughter plant -the final destination of thousands of PMU foals every year. The investigator observed hundreds of horses in the unsheltered feedlot awaiting their deaths on the kill floor only yards away. There were many young horses, undoubtedly unwanted PMU foals from last year’s season. Animals too weak to survive the stresses of travel, harsh weather conditions or illness are left to die; in one holding pen a small dark horse lay dead, left there among the living for days.

In spring, the mares are out of the PMU barns and the foaling season begins. The mares are impregnated again almost immediately after giving birth. In late summer and early fall, many of the foals are sold at auction and loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter plants. In October, the mares go back on the line and the cycle starts again.

Natural Substitutes for Premarin that women can take to control hormones

If women would educate themselves on their alternatives to Premarin, thousands of innocent victims (horses) could be saved.

If you are considering hormone-replacement therapy, ask your physician for a synthetic or plant-based alternative to PMU-based drugs. Alternatives include Cenestin, Estrace, Estraderm, FemPatch, Ogen, Ortho-EST, Vivelle, Estratab, Estring, Alora, Climara, Menest, Estinyl, Ortho-Prefest and Tace. An option many women are discussing with health practitioners is that of forgoing estrogen replacement therapy in favor of natural remedies and dietary and lifestyle changes.

A very good natural bio-identical progesterone cream that helps many menopausal women is called Serenity, made by a U.S company. It is the most effective for women who suffer from too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. Do your research and ask others what they have used for natural hormone replacement. Emerita is another very good brand.

What happens to the foals?

Premarin is created by collecting the urine of pregnant mares. The mares are kept in small standing stalls in order to limit their movement, so not to displace the urinary bladder bags used to collect every drop of urine. The mares are kept in this manner for a lengthy portion of their pregnancy, normally about six months. Once the mares are full term and ready to deliver, they are turned out to have their foals. The mares are able to nurse their foals until weaning age, about 4 months, at which time they are separated and the mare is bred back to repeat the whole process again. This cycle of breeding has created an overabundance of unwanted foals, most of which are sold to the slaughter industry. “PMU” farms exist all across the USA, and are also prevalent in Canada.

Horses still go to slaughter in Canada and China

Many “PMU” babies are well bred, and some are even registered purebreds. “PMU” foals can be adopted online through rescue groups, but most of the foals bred in Canada are sold directly to meat processing plants. In Canada, a “PMU” filly has a less than one in ten chance of escaping slaughter. A colt is almost certainly doomed, with a less than one in fifty chance at life. The mares suffer a much more grim outlook, as they are not sold until they are no longer able to become pregnant, and at that point many are too old and have social issues.

What you can do

Learn about natural hormone replacement therapy; just be forewarned that many doctors will try to talk you out of it because you can buy it online or in health stores and they don’t get their commission then.
If you are in the market, or have the means to adopt a PMU foal, you are saving a life. Check out the many adoption sites online that specifically rescue and adopt PMU horses.


Puppy Training 101: Part Three – Leash Training

Puppy Training 101: Part Three.

Since training our new Pet Circkles Mascot Maya from 8 weeks old, we thought this would be a good way to walk people step by step through the process, techniques and tips for successful puppyhood for dog and owner. Maya is currently an 8 week old English Mastiff, and because mastiffs are known for their stubbornness and difficulty in training, she makes a good example of the right and wrong way to train a willful pup, because mastiffs are nothing if not willful. Incidentally, the mastiff breed is not recommended for just anyone, because of their nature, they must be trained properly from the puppy stage or they can become too difficult to handle as adults.

puppy lunging on leashLeash Training.

Training a dog to walk on a leash can often be the most challenging task of training. You always see examples of owners being dragged down the street while “walking” their dog on a leash. Teaching a dog to heel is the profound wish of most any dog owner, but it is the most difficult to get a dog to understand why they need to be on a leash and cannot just roam free all the time like when they are at home.

If you are starting a puppy, get them used to the feel of a collar right away. Even if you are not taking them anywhere, let them wear a collar around the house at least once a day to get them used to the feel of it. The reason many dogs fight leash training is simply because they do not like the feel of something restricting around their neck. It is in their nature to fight to get free of anything that is restricting them physically. It’s a matter of life and death to them. Keep this in mind and you will have a better understanding and compassion when it comes to asking your companion animal to be tethered to you on occassion.

You would be surprised how much animals learn from other animals. Often a puppy will vigourously fight a leash until they see other dogs on one and how they behave. After your pup seems comfortable wearing his collar around the house withoug scratching to try and get it off, put a leash on them and walk them around the house and yard and see how they behave. Start out leash training in an environement they feel comfortable in first, to see how they will react before you get them out in public. If they pitch a fit over the leash, find a way to reward them for being on one, such as taking them outside on a leash – if they like to be outside – or for a walk, then take it off right awayas soon as they get outside. The idea is to let them know being restricted is only temporary and for their own safety, and they will have their freedom back quickly. Gradually build up how long they are on the leash.

If you can take your puppy to a dog park that requires leashes, or the vet, or some public place where dogs are allowed only on a leash, let him see how the other dogs are acting nice and calm on a leash, and your pup will quickly see that it is not something to fear but is normal practice in the dog world.

If you are trying to get your dog into a car, a building, or some other place they have never been too and are scared of and you are doing it by putting them on a leash, they will associate going some place they don’t want to with being put on a leash. You don’t want them to associate the leash with fear or being forced to do something they don’t want to or they will definitely fight it. This is why it is important to get them comfortable with a leash and collar before you ask them to do something they don’t want to . Give them many rewards and praises for doing what you ask on a leash or for just putting it on to begin with. If the only way your dog can go for a walk is on a leash because you live in the city, this part of leash trainging will be made easier for you because the dog will want to be on a leash so they can go outside. It is the second part of this article that will be your challenge.

rottweiler with leash in Getting Your Dog to Heel:

Once your pup gets comfortable with a leash, the next step is teaching them that they cannot drag you everywhere they go. This is the hardest for them to understand because you are trying to teach an animal that is used to going pretty much anywhere they want, when they want, and how fast they want, that they will have to have patience while waiting for you. Patience is not a puppy’s strong suite. In fact, it is not even in their vocabulary.

Often a pup will be more willing to stick close to you in a strange environment they are not used to. This is when taking them to a public place that allows dogs on a leash may come in handy. A new place, with new smells and sounds can be a bit intimidating to a puppy ( or not, it depends on the pup), and if they are acting more cautious and sticking to your side, this is a good opportunity to take advantage of and teach then to heel while you are walking around this strange place with them on a leash. If they cling to your leg, even better. Walk them around slowly, get them to focus on you, tell them to heel and when they do it naturally, praise and reward them. Keep doing this until it wears off and the pup is no longer intimidated by his surroundings. Then try it again very soon after this experience in another strange place. The goal here is that he pup will associate security (being close to you) and safety while being on a leash.

Chock chains are now a big pet No-NO! Veterinarians claim they can cause neck damage and damage to the throat. If a dog pulls hard on them, they can choke themselves, hence the name, so now many conscientious pet owners use a harness. Harnesses are very comfortable and safe but do nothing to help train a dog to heel. They actually give them more leverage to pull and struggle against. So….you have to find a more creative way to get your dog to stick by your side and heel. Pulling them back constantly and saying “heel” is not the answer; a dog can do that all day long and you will end up with a very sore arm and shoulder.

To teach a dog to heel, you first will have to teach then to sit on command. Once they have the sit command down, put them on a leash, walk a couple steps with a treat in your hand holding it just out of reach in front of their face to keep their attention on you and so your hand positioned in front of them keeps them from bolting off. They can only go as fast as you go with your hand in front of their face.

Go a few steps, tell them to sit, give them a reward. Walk a few more steps, tell them to sit, give them a reward and repeat this process until they start to sit every time you slow down and face them with the treat. Do not bend over while doing this, but try to stay in an upright walking position and just bend at the knees to reach them with the treat so they know you are not just stopping but plan to continue forward movement. You don’t want to confuse them with every other time you make them stop to do something, the goal is to keep them walking but right by your side. They will pick up on your body language before anything that you say to them.

Next, go a few steps, act like you are going to slow down and give them the treat and tell them to heel. Keep them walking slowly at your side while giving them word-association by telling them to heel. When it looks like they are automatically slowing down every time you do, keep saying heel and eventually they will get it. Don’t expect a dog to heel forever though. Walks should be fun and if you ask your dog to heel all the time, they will not want to do it. So…get them to stay within shouting distance, call them back when they get too far ahead of you then make them heel, but set them free again as soon as possible. If you are walking on a road with traffic, this is a good beginning to getting them to come to you and heel whenever a car is passing you. Eventually they will associate the sound of a car coming down the road to running to your side; which is what you want.

Puppy Training 101: Part Two

Puppy Training 101: Part Two.

Since training our new Pet Circkles Mascot Maya from 8 weeks old, we thought this would be a good way to walk people step by step through the process, techniques and tips for successful puppyhood for dog and owner. Maya is currently an 8 week old English Mastiff, and because mastiffs are known for their stubbornness and difficulty in training, she makes a good example of the right and wrong way to train a willful pup, because mastiffs are nothing if not willful. Incidentally, the mastiff breed is not recommended for just anyone, because of their nature, they must be trained properly from the puppy stage or they can become too difficult to handle as adults.

Stopping Bad Habits Like Biting, Aggressive Play Etc.

Many pups will bite at your legs, heels, hands to entice you to play. However, once those little puppy teeth start coming in they are like Parana teeth and can be quite painful when they catch the skin. Puppies don’t know this though, because they are used to sparring and biting and wrestling with their litter mates who have much toucher skin then humans and fur. So when you start to complain or yell when they get too rough, some pups see this as a challenge to play even harder. They don’t know they are doing real damage so easily to our fragile, furless skin.

The ultimate goal is to train your puppy to stop mouthing and biting people altogether. However, the first and most important objective is to teach him that people have very sensitive skin, so he must be very gentle when using his mouth. Every now and then, a pup will bite his playmate too hard. The victim of the painful bite yelps and usually stops playing. The offender is often taken aback by the yelp and also stops playing for a moment. However, pretty soon, both playmates are back in the game. Through this kind of interaction, puppies learn to control the intensity of their bites so that no one gets hurt and the play can continue without interruption. Puppies can learn how to be gentle from each other and their mother, we have to teach them the rules with people-play because they don’t know them yet.

puppy grabbing shirtAs long as a puppy is mouthing you gently, act relaxed, but usually this won’t last once they get bigger and play for them becomes more intense. Whenever they bite too hard, give out a yelp (or yell OW!) very loudly and suddenly to startle them so they stop immediately. Tell them “No biting” and once they calm down, you can resume play. They will forget however, and will bite too hard again. Keep being persistent about not allowing them to bite too hard and if yelling does not do it, stop playing with them immediately, get up and walk away but stay within their eyesight. Tell them in a stern voice, “no biting.” Make sure they are looking at you, watching your reaction and unwillingness to play with them while you reprimand them. This is how they will make the association that if they bite you too hard, you will quit playing – which is the last thing a puppy wants- and he will learn that if he wants to keep playing with you, he will have to modify his behavior. Once he calms down, and especially if he sits, play can continue in a more relaxed, calm manner. Repeat as needed, which will probably be often because pups engaged in play are usually too excited to really pay attention and remember what you just told them 2 minutes ago. As they get older, if you continue to discipline them this way, they will eventually grow up and understand it as their attention span gets better and they get to know what you consider acceptable behavior and what you don’t. They have to learn everything about how to interact within a human world and you have to be their teacher.

NEVER, punch, slap or hit a puppy for biting too hard. This does not register in their minds as a reprimand and with some breeds, this can make them even more aggressive; like a mastiff. They see hitting as biting and a signal to ramp up their aggressive game, which is the last thing you want. It is best to remain calm, alpha dogs (or lead dogs) are always calm educators and discipliners which is how they earn the respect of the rest of the pack. Never lose your cool with your dog or they will lose respect for you. Be firm, talk in a controlled but stern, distinct voice with short commands and be consistent. It may take a few times, but your furry playmate should catch on quickly and as they mature.

A Great Way to Memorialize Your Pet

A Great Way to Memorialize Your Pet.

When our beloved mascot Elsie recently passed away, we were fortunate that her last day on earth was a muddy one and she left us a perfect paw print in the mud that we turned into a plaster cast to forever memorialize her. It’s a constant memento that she did indeed walk freely on this earth and feel the mud and grass beneath her feet after spending the first 4 years of her life a prisoner in a 6×9 puppy mill cage. Never able to roll in the grass, squish her toes in the mud and be free to roam, her lasting imprint on this world will forever remind us that we were able to give her a better life in which she was free to live and be happy.

To make your own plaster casting, please don’t wait until your pet passes away, the conditions may not be right. We got lucky with Elsie. Whenever you see a perfect, deep paw print of your pet in your yard, gently, and very carefully dig it up when the dirt is firm either because it is somewhat dry or frozen is even better. Wrap it in aluminum foil or put it in a container to protect it and then put it in the freezer.

Once your paw print is frozen, mix and pour a liquid plaster casting material that you can find in most hobby stores into the frozen dirt print. Make sure to get a plaster that sets up quickly, in a matter of 30 minutes or so, because once your dirt paw print starts to thaw, it may not hold it’s shape well enough to use as a mold for the plaster.

When the plaster has set and is thoroughly dry (you can tell when you touch the plaster if it feels cool and damp, it is not dry yet) only then can you begin to clean the dirt away with a small paint brush and toothpicks to the desired cleanliness you want. We elected to keep some of the dirt on our Elsie paw cast to always remind us that we gave her the opportunity and life she always longed for and felt the dirt under her paws in the end.

The Truth About Micro (Tea Cup) Pigs

This Little Piggy…May Not Be so Little After All.

The Truth About Micro (Tea Cup) Pigs.


Those cute little micro pot-bellied pigs (tea cup pigs) that you see may grow up to not be so little after all. There have been recent concerns and complaints from pig owners that they have purchased what they thought was a miniature pot-belly pig only to find out in a few months that it grew to be a full-sized pig. Imagine trying to fit that into your house when you only planned to make accommodations for a micro pig about the size of a Jack Russell Terrier.

Zoe Davies from the National Pig Association had this to say about this recent dilemma: “Some individuals have been selling commercial weaners or rare breed mixes as micros. There are also throwbacks in any breeding program. Meaning, a micro pig’s great grandparents may have been average-sized pigs, and so there’s no guarantee that a supposed micro pig won’t grow to normal size.”

Full-sized pigs can be quite destructive and difficult to handle. While pigs are very smart, and can be litter box trained and some say trained easier than a dog or cat, this very keenness of the pig also can make them quite a challenging handful. Now imagine that little handful becoming a 200-800 pound porker.

Also commonly called “tea cup pigs” when they first became popular because people saw photos advertising that these pigs could actually fit in a tea cup, these little porkers can break down the entire dining room table if they become regular farm sized pigs.

Pigs are very social, highly intelligent, and for these very reasons, make  good, trainable household pets just as a dog or cat – with a few distinct differences. Over the years, various breeders have tried to create pigs that retain all of the adorable qualities of a piglet without reaching the potential half ton mass of a full grown adult hog. Among the most popular “miniature” is the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, a delightfully spry porcine that tops the scales at a manageable 300 pounds. When legitimate breeders talk about miniature pigs, they’re talking about this 300-lb variety. Pot-bellied pigs are surprisingly diverse, and, although extremely rare, adults have been reported as small as 20 pounds (most pig breeders would say an adult pig that size is extremely malnourished). This huge size range prompted many breeders to attempt to create even smaller pig breeds, selecting from only the smallest stock. Enter the teacup pig.
A teacup pig (or a micro pig, nano pig, or any of a half dozen variations of “small”) is supposedly a tiny pig breed. Some breeders claim that their pigs only reach up to 30 pounds in weight. Combined with the intelligence and sociability that pigs possess, it would seem that teacup pigs should make a perfect pet. There is only one problem: there’s no such thing as a teacup pig as a breed.
To be clear, there are pigs that are unusually small and it is possible to selectively breed smaller and smaller pigs. There can be adult pigs that are truly tiny. Even so there is no currently recognized breed of teacup pigs. The “teacup” classification refers to size, not to a particular breed. Because there is no established “pure” teacup breed, the size of the parent is not a good predictor of the size of the offspring. That size rage of 20 to 300 pounds is a pretty unpredictable range.

There is now quite a lot of discussion, confusion and concern putting the micro or pot-belly pig industry in an uproar. There are many people questioning the very proof of miniature pigs stating that they do not really exist. We tried to get to the bottom of this confusion and went right to the most authoritative sources we could find on the matter and asked: ” Is there such a thing as a miniature pot-bellied pig?” The answer below is directly from the North American Potbellied Pig Association and offers the best explanation as to the confusion regarding this increasingly popular exotic pet.

micro pigs in a hat

MICRO, MICRO-MINI, TEACUP, POCKET PIG, DESIGNER, APARTMENT PIG… These are all marketing terms people use to describe pigs. And that is ALL they are. There are several breeds of pigs which will be discussed in greater detail, but micro mini teacup pigs do NOT exist. All pigs grow, all pigs grow at different rates, so some will grow faster than others. Scientists haven’t been able to produce pigs smaller than 60lbs in extremely restricted conditions, a breeder won’t be able to do any better than that with any consistency. There are smaller pigs out there and we realize that, however, they are the exception, not the rule. (Not to mention, their overall health and well-being is a matter of debate amongst the pig community) Please don’t be fooled by a fancy name, most pigs you see in homes are derived from a potbellied pig. Their lineage has evolved into other claimed breeds, but even that doesn’t make it a real breed. A registry doesn’t make a breed. Someone from the scientific community must do independent research and establish a breeding stock to qualify a new breed and until that is done, an actual breed will NOT be recognized by NAPPA as anything other than a cross-breed. Much like the pigs we see today, most are a crossbreed of pigs,  because most people do not have the ancestry of their specific pig to link them to the original potbellies imported to the US. And that’s okay. We just wanted to make it a point to discuss smaller pigs and how people who have those type of pigs glamorize them and others run out to get a pig only to be disappointed that their pig reaches weights in excess of 100lbs. We do not want to see anymore pigs needing to be re-homed because someone told them the pig would be 20lbs fully grown. This is NOT going to happen 98% of the time.

But how about those who do have smaller pigs? There is no one that can produce healthy pigs under 60lbs with consistency that we are aware of. There are piglets or baby pigs that others may be pass off as older pigs. That is despicable practices and blatant lies. There may be smaller pigs, but are they healthy? We do not know. Because it is so uncommon, we have our doubts, but since we are not privy to their medical history or their overall well-being/health, we can only hope they are. Having a pig that stays on the smaller side doesn’t make your pig better. These smaller pigs typically have health issues and do not live to be 15-20 years old like healthy pigs do. Obesity is the other side of the equation and can produce an equally unhealthy pig. There is a HUGE grey area in between though. Starving a pig will NOT make it the size of a chihuahua, and if you starve enough to stunt the growth, you will not be graced with your pigs presence for the normal lifespan of a pig. That we DO know. If you overfeed and do not balance activity with appropriate feed portions, your pig will also lead a miserably obese and unhealthy life with the arthritis that is sure to plaque your pig with achy joints and even poorer eyesight. Don’t do either of these things to your pig. Have a happy, healthy pig. We can help you do that here at NAPPA.
These are just a few of the examples of “MINI” pigs circulating through the internet. Dedicate some time to really research what having a pig is like if you are considering adding a pig to your family. Because that is what they are…family. If you can’t treat them as such, do not get a pig. ~ NORTH AMERICAN POTBELLIED PIG ASSOCIATION.

Although commercial pigs are known for their fast growth and good feed conversion ratio, they don’t reach full adult size until six years. Most production pigs are slaughtered long before then (the best size for a barbecue pig is about 100-lbs), so people rarely see just how big a pig can get. Pot-bellied pigs can become sexually mature after 3 months. At this point, they are relatively small. A new pig enthusiast, attracted to pet pigs from images of teacup pigs frolicking around a living room, could be fooled if they thought the size of the parents was a decent predictor of the size of their new pet. The most unscrupulous breeders mislead their customers further by advising them to underfeed their pigs, stunting their growth and leaving them permanently malnourished.

full grown micro pigThese pets can and do get big. Take a look at the growth of Paris Hilton’s teacup pig, Princess Pigelette in less than a year. What started as probably a few week old piglet for her is still years away from being fully grown, and is clearly a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. I’d hate to see the teacup that little hog fits in.

So what happens to a teacup pig once it reaches full size? Most owners are expecting a pet roughly equivalent to a small dog, not a highly-intelligent, very social, 300 pound pig. The cost of care is often prohibitive, finding vets can be challenging, and many properties are not zoned for livestock, which still includes specialty pig breeds. Responsible, misguided owners return them to the breeder, but many pet pigs end up abandoned or dumped at local animal shelters, spawning several teacup pig rescue programs to emerge in the last few years to deal with the abandoned teacup pig problem.

” As the director of a 100-acre pig preserve (sanctuary) we have a number of “miniature” pigs here who started life as a teacup pig pet. The vast majority of these so-called teacup pigs are now adults and range anywhere from 120 to well over 300 pounds. Compared to our fully mature farm pigs, who range from 600 to over 1200 pounds, they are truly “miniature: pigs. But potential buyers should not confuse the term “miniature pig” with a small pig. The term “miniature” is relative and is normally used to contrast a smaller breed of pig with a typical commercial pig.
Pig sanctuaries across the US are being inundated with these “teacup pigs” as they quickly outgrow the weight advertised by the unscrupulous breeders. We also are seeing a huge increase in the number and types of birth defects and genetic abnormalities in adult miniature pigs as breeders turn to in-breeding these pigs in an attempt to breed the perfect teacup or micro pig. Sadly, many of these inbred tiny pigs die well before reaching maturity…either from chronic malnutrition from trying to keep them “tiny” to inherited birth defects from inbreeding.” ~The Pig Preserve.

Puppy Training 101: Part One – Housebreaking

Puppy Training 101: Part One.

Since training our new Pet Circkles Mascot Maya from 8 weeks old, we thought this would be a good way to walk people step by step through the process, techniques and tips for successful puppyhood for dog and owner. Maya is currently an 8 week old English Mastiff, and because mastiffs are known for their stubbornness, she makes a good example of the right and wrong way to train a willful pup, because mastiffs are nothing if not willful. Incidentally, the mastiff breed is not for just anyone because of their nature, they must be trained properly from the puppy stage or they can become too difficult to handle as adults.

Housebreaking a Puppy: Tips and Techniques.

When a pet owner brings home that furry, cuddly, cute bundle of paws, the first task at hand is usually potty training and housebreaking their new pup. Most puppies are a bit shy and insecure for the first couple of weeks in a new home and with strange people, but after a few brief weeks, they will quickly overcome this to become little Tasmanian devils around the house – chewing, destroying, biting and out of control little balls of fur.

Potty Training is the first task to tackle, and let’s just say, not all pups catch onto it the same way or in the same time frame. Some pups will get it after just one accident on the floor, others will take weeks or months to finally grow up enough to mentally get it, and what may work for one pup may not necessarily work for another. How quickly they catch on to going potty outdoors also has a great deal to do with how they were brought into this world and housed before you got them. A pup from a pet store will be the most difficult to potty train. This is because they have been taught to relieve themselves where they sleep and eat because they are kept in small cages and pet store windows before they are purchased and they have no choice but to potty where they sleep and eat. Most dogs do not like to soil their living quarters, but since pet store dogs have no choice, it becomes a very difficult habit to break them off right from the start.

The most important thing to keep in mind when housebreaking a pup is that an 8 week old puppy is still growing and its organs are still developing and thus they just don’t have the bladder control an adult dog has. An 8 week old pup will have to urinate about every two hours, so cut them some leeway because accidents are bound to happen until they get a little older and more developed. Sometimes, they just plain forget to go outside to go. Everybody would love a pup that only takes one or two tries to be housebroken, but when you get a puppy, you take on the responsibility that this may not be the case. Set yourself up for the worst-case scenario and you may be pleasantly surprised when they catch on quicker than you thought they would. This sets up a more pleasant puppy experience for everyone.

Another important thing to keep in mind to be successful at potty training is to understand that it is in a dog’s nature to not want to soil their living area, or at least the area where they sleep and eat. Keeping this in mind, and using this one fundamental understanding of canine behavior to your advantage will spare you a great deal of time and effort in housebreaking.
Let’s start with this basic understanding of canines. I’ve had two dogs that were housebroken in one day, a couple dogs that took 3 or 4 tries, and one dog, a Jack Russell which is a breed that is suppose to be smart, that just didn’t get it and it took months to housebreak. I got her from a woman who bought her from a pet store then realized she didn’t have time to train a puppy because she had just started her own business. I had to literally make the Jack Russell an outdoor dog until she got old enough to hold her urine for several hours, which was until she was about 6 months old. Luckily I got her in the summer and already had a big fenced back yard she could live in until that happened. When she was first introduced to the house, all the usually potty training tricks had absolutely no affect on her. When she had to go, she went right where she was, because that was what living in a pet store had taught her.
The two dogs that were potty trained in one day came from breeders whose mother had free access to go outside whenever she wanted. Puppies learn how to behave from their mothers, so if momma is able to go potty outside, the pups quickly learn that that is the place to go.
Maya, our example puppy mascot, is somewhere in-between. Her breeder raised her in a specially built wooden box in her barn that she used for litters. It was about 5×5 feet in one corner of the barn and had a sand floor – like a big sandbox; which made it convenient for the breeder as far as cleaning up after litters of puppies, but did not help to teach the pups to relieve themselves outside of their living area. I suspected I was going to have to potty train Maya the same way I had trained pet store pups because basically her environment up to that point was quite similar. She had never seen the outdoors until I purchased her, so it took about a good solid persistent week to get her housebroke, and there were a couple accidents along the way when she got so involved in discovering something new or playing that having to go pee took her by surprise and her little bladder didn’t quite make it to the door to go outside before she had to go.

potty training a puppy has accidentsQuickest way to housebreak a puppy: If your new pup is going potty in the house, it is because they have not yet recognized your house as their house. They need to realize that the whole house is now their living area and belongs to them. Once they feel like su casa is their casa, they will not want to soil it and will want to please you by not dirtying the communal living space.
How do you get them to call your home their home? Many people will crate pups while they are at work for their own safety and to stop them from going on the floor, but this only reinforces the cage-mentality that it’s okay to relieve themselves in a confined space because they have no choice. Many pet owner get frustrated that the crate technique does not work the way trainers recommended it should.

For a very young puppy (8-10 weeks old) keep them confined to the smallest room in your house first, like a laundry or bath room. Puppy proof it by removing anything they can chew on, get into, get hurt on or destroy as much as possible. Some people say to put newspaper on the floor in this space, but many pups will just play with the paper because they don’t know it’s for going potty on. You can try it if it makes you feel better, just don’t get disappointed if the pup doesn’t automatically know what to do with it.
Put a blanket or dog bed in one corner, their food dishes in another and a few of their toys so they get the idea that this new room is their home. Makes sure you can take them outside every couple of hours, especially right after they wake up and about an hour after they eat. Always take them out the same door, on a leash if you need to, so they learn the way to the outdoor potty area so they can tell you when they need to go later on. Give them a treat and positive praise and say something like, “Good boy go potty outside” while you pat them and praise them. Then they will know they are doing the desired behavior for you and will start to associate it with the words, “do you need to go potty?” for the future.
If you work for a living and this potty-training schedule does not work for you, the best thing to do is set up an area outside for your pup while you are away so they are not forced to relieve themselves in the house just because you are gone for long hours. Then work on the housebreaking method above on the weekends or the days that you don’t have to work. If it is too cold to leave them outside for many hours, you may have to sacrifice your garage, but it is still separate enough from the house that most pups will understand it is still not going potty in the house. Truly, if you don’t have time to train a puppy, it is best to pay someone else to do it for you rather than doing it half-hazardly which will only frustrate you and make you hate your new pup instead of enjoying them.

Once your pup starts to catch on to the route and routine for leaving their small living space to go potty outside on a scheduled and regular basis (you will know when this happens because they should start automatically heading for the door you have been taking them out of without you leading them much), then you can graduate them to a little bit bigger room of their own in the house, and then gradually to maybe half of the house that they have access to, and eventually the whole house. Place their food dishes in one room, their bed in another, play with them and their toys throughout the house, and continue to take them for scheduled potty breaks outside through the same door every time. Eventually they will tell you when they need to go outside by sitting or standing in front of the same door until you open it and let them out. Take them on a leash in and out of the house the first few times until you can trust that they will come back to the house when they are done doing their business outside. Give them a treat to encourage and reinforce that they are doing the right thing by going potty outside, and tell them “good girl or boy for going potty outside” so they start to associate “going potty outside” as words so later, when they get more mature, you can ask them, “Do you need to potty” and they will know what that means and either tell you yes by standing by the same door they’ve been going in and out of, or by wagging their tail or jumping up and down, some expression that that is what they want. Then….you are well on your way to having a happy, housebroken pup and companion animal life.