Quarterly eNews for Breeders | Fall 2014

Keeping It Spic ’n Span
Good sanitation is critical to canine health
By Patricia Trotter

The word kennel is believed to have originated in France to describe a pack of hounds and their housing. Today, it describes the most important environment in any breeder’s home.

Once primitive man hooked up with dogs in a permanent ongoing relationship, the two learned to live together. Over the centuries, man began to construct special quarters for his animals, and often the kennels reflected the status of the masters.

Today, most small breeding programs are not kennels in the usual sense of the word, as they often lack rows and rows of runs and a separate kennel building. Dogs are sometimes housed in smaller quarters and moved in and out on a rotating basis to make the best use of the exercise areas. No matter the size of the facility, sanitation is of vital importance.

Sanitation, of course, means keeping poop picked up on a frequent basis and sanitizing the areas accordingly. But this is not just necessary for the aesthetic and cleanliness factor— it is essential for maintaining the good health of your animals. It is far better to prevent parasite infestation and re-infestation by keeping all dog areas feces-free than it is to deal with problems caused by exposure to various destructive organisms. When you consider that millions of germs can be passed in a single bowel movement, the importance of absolute cleanliness becomes obvious. Some of these organisms can live for months outside the body, so even a miniscule amount of feces missed in a cleanup is dangerous.

Probably the three most invasive non-worm parasites for dogs are coccidia, spirochetes, and giardia. Dogs can harbor these creatures in their digestive tracts and develop some immunity to them, giving little indication they are in fact diseased. However, once the dog is stressed out by travel or other physically demanding experiences, diarrhea can be
the result.

Know your worms. From left to right: Roundworm The most common intestinal worm in dogs. Tapeworm Only with heavy infestations do dogs drop weight and eat more. Hookworm Rare, but can be deadly.

The Nasties
Coccidia are especially dangerous to puppies who pick it up from their dam or littermates. It can be fatal if left untreated and, at best, it severely compromises the health of pup- pies. Taking a stool specimen to the veterinarian should be routine anytime puppies have problems so that proper medication can be administered.

Spirochetes can be found in both the intestinal tract and the blood. They are responsible for such dreaded diseases as syphilis and Lyme disease, as well as disruption to the gut.

Giardia are among the most wide- spread of all protozoa and are found throughout the United States. Unseen by the human eye, these little devil germs are everywhere. They are found in soil, food, and water, and live in the intestines of humans as well as dogs.

A person can become infected by swallowing swimming-pool water, lake water, and river water—or even by touching bathroom surfaces and not properly washing hands. Needless to say, it’s a lot easier for dogs to come in contact with giardia than it is for people.

Worms can also be reduced by proper sanitation. Almost all dogs will be exposed to worms at some point in their life. Roundworms are often present in puppies at birth due to their mothers being infected during embryonic development. Newborns can get worms from nursing an infected dam. Eggs from the soil can be ingested, and a dog killing an infected mouse or other rodent carrying worms can also cause infection.

Sanitation and pest control go together in the proper animal husbandry all good breeders should practice. Keeping your dogs rid of fleas helps avoid the tapeworm problem. Tapeworms attach themselves to the interior of the dog and can be quite debilitating. Sometimes pieces of the tapeworm (which can be up to six inches in length) will break off and pass out in feces. The segment resembles a grain of rice.

Hookworms are a serious threat to both puppies and dogs, as they suck the blood out of their internal environment within the host. Blood loss, diarrhea, weight loss, and even death can result if left untreated. Again, keeping the dogs’ environment clean and sanitary is the best prevention. The whipworm is another bloodsucker and lives in the large intestine. These four worms are the most common digestive-tract worm infestations known to dogs, and a large part of controlling them is sanitation.

Sanitation and Pregnancy
One more area (that perhaps merits a future column) is the role inadequate sanitation can play in problem pregnancies, pyometra, and general compromised health. Prevention of all disorders is a far better option than treatment—and prevention can only be obtained through proper sanitation and disinfecting. When the parvovirus reared its ugly head in the late 1970s, veterinarians advised using bleach to kill the bug. Bleach is still used as a good disinfectant, but care must be taken to hose thoroughly before returning the dogs to the disinfected area.

There are many products out there that you can research to find what best meets your needs. Rotating them from time to time is a good way to see what works. I’ve found that concrete is the easiest surface to disinfect, and grass or dirt yards are the most difficult.

Raising dogs is hard work, and it is never-ending. But the harder you work at sanitation, the better your chances for having healthier, fitter animals.

It is not the most luxurious kennel with the widest assortment of equipment, most dogs, or most elaborate window dressing that makes the quality kennel.

It is the quality of the dogs and their keeping in a safe, sanitary, and clean facility. Sanitation is one area in which there can be no shortcuts!

Patricia Trotter was the 2003 AKC Hound Group Breeder of the Year and is approved to judge more than 80 breeds.

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AKC Breeder articles are selected for their general interest and entertainment values. Authors' views do not necessarily represent the policies of The American Kennel Club, nor does their publication constitute an endorsement by the AKC.

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