Educational Info

Pit Bull Facts – Spay and Neuter – What to Expect from a Rescue Dog – Valley Fever in Dogs

The Pit Bull, An All-American Dog: Breed History


From their inception, these dogs have been bred for general human companionship, and since the 1900s, they have been bred for conformation showing as well. From the very beginning, pit bulls have been used as farm dogs, family dogs, military mascots, and all-purpose companions. In England, the Staffie Bull is affectionately known as “The Nanny Dog” or “The Children’s Nursemaid” because of their placid and nurturing demeanor toward children.

Throughout their history in America, pit bull dogs have been valued as beloved members of the family. Their negative media image developed only recently. (Some suggest that an absurdly sensationalistic Sports Illustrated cover started the hysteria in 1987.) In fact, pit bulls have fulfilled important roles throughout the last 160-plus years of American history. In the nineteenth century, pit bulls were family pets of settlers crossing the United States. They were trusted to watch the children while the adults worked in the fields. As the years passed, pit bulls achieved a position of reverence among Americans, and they appeared in advertising campaigns such as Buster Brown and Pup Brand. A classic children’s television show, The Little Rascals, featured Petey the Pit Bull. The pit bull is the only breed to have graced the cover of Life magazine three times.

In the early twentieth century, pit bulls were so respected for their loyalty, determination, and bravery that they were chosen to represent America in WWI posters. The first decorated canine war hero was a pit bull named Sergeant Stubby. He was, until his death, a guest of every White House administration.

Many highly respected historical figures have owned pit bulls: President Woodrow Wilson, President Theodore Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, and Thomas Edison, to name a few.


Pit Bulls and People


Perhaps the most important characteristic of pit bulls is their amazing love of people. Many people are surprised by the loving personality of these dogs the first time they meet one. Pit bulls are remarkably affectionate and truly enjoy human attention. They are wonderful cuddlers and love nothing more than a belly rub. In fact, most pit bulls think they are lap dogs!

As Dunbar (1999) writes, “Today, a properly bred pit bull is so exuberantly happy upon meeting her owner’s friends (or even friendly strangers) that new owners sometimes worry that their dog is too sweet and fun-loving to protect their home and family… A multi-talented companion, the well-trained pit bull is suited for a variety of exciting activities. He excels at obedience, agility and weight-pulling competitions, events which showcase intelligence, trainability and strength. In addition, the pit bull’s pleasant nature makes him an ideal candidate for therapy work with people.”

Traits like human aggression, severe shyness, and instability are not typically found in the APBT breed, nor are they acceptable. Dogs with these traits are not good representatives of the breed and should not be placed into adoptive homes.

What is “essential pit bullness”? It’s difficult to express the personality of any breed in words, but for pit bulls it comes down to a certain joie-de-vivre and a magnetic attraction to humans. First, pit bulls have a constant desire to be close to humans, even if that means lying by your feet as you use the computer; they are not overly independent dogs and want nothing more than to be active members of your “family.” Second, pit bulls are outgoing, eager to meet new people, and generally trusting of strangers. Finally, this innate desire for human contact and outgoing nature adds up to the ultimate “people dog”: pit bulls are truly in their element when snuggling on the couch, hopping in the bed on a cold morning, getting rubbed on the belly or scratched behind the ears, showing off a trick, going for a car ride with their family, or playing a fun game.

To date, every shred of empirical evidence we have suggests that pit bulls are the same as, if not better than, other breeds when it comes to human interaction. Each year, the American Temperament Testing Society holds evaluations across the country for dog breeds and gives a passing score for the entire breed based on the percentage of passed over failed within total number of the particular breed tested. As of 2008, pit bull breeds achieved a combined passing score of 85.5 percent. To put these figures into context, the combined passing rate of all breeds was 81.6 percent. The Collie, an icon of obedience, passed at a rate of 79.4 percent, and the beloved Golden Retriever scored at 84.2 percent. As you can see, by these measures, the pit bull breeds make fabulous family pets!

Pit Bulls and Other Dogs


Never trust a dog not to fight. That means any dog! Dog aggression is not a breed-specific behavior. Dogs of any breed can exhibit intolerance toward other dogs.

Dogs may fight over hierarchic status, food, toys, or rawhides. External stimulus or excitement can also trigger a fight. Remember that any canine can fight, regardless of breed. If you frequent a dog park, you’ve surely seen a fight occur among a pack of dogs for reasons not discernible to humans. Owners should separate their dogs if they cannot closely supervise them

Given their historical circumstances, pit-bull-type dogs can be less tolerant of dogs than other breeds. Pit bull owners must understand that their dogs may not get along with all other dogs. There are several levels of dog tolerance. Many dogs are great with other dogs and enjoy the company of fellow canines. Some dogs do well only with dogs of the opposite sex. Some are fine with dogs they were raised with but intolerant of new dogs. Some dogs are tolerant of other dogs except for in limited circumstances, such as when greeting a new person. Some enjoy the company of other dogs, while others cannot accept any other dogs. All of this should suggest that dogs are individuals and should be treated as such. Owners need to understand their particular dog’s acceptance level of other dogs and manage their dog appropriately when around other animals. A dog’s tolerance level can change during its lifetime, and owners need to be aware of these changes so they can properly manage their dogs while in the company of other dogs. Some dogs become less tolerant as they mature from puppyhood to adult, while others become more accepting as they mature into the senior years. Some can become more tolerant with socialization and training. Regardless of breed, there are many dogs that do not like other dogs, and all dog owners need to be responsible.

Please remember that, animal aggression and human aggression are two entirely distinct behaviors and should never be confused. Pit bulls are, by nature, very good with people. They are, in fact, one of the most loving, loyal, friendly, and dedicated companions one can have.

Socializing Your Pit Bull


New pit bull owners often ask, “What is the best way to socialize my pit bull with other dogs?” There are many ways to do so! The age of your dog as well as his/her individual personality will help you determine which methods are appropriate for socializing your dog.

Pit Bulls under six months of age should be enrolled in a puppy class. Many obedience training facilities have classes specifically for puppies, and often part of the class time is devoted to off-leash play with other puppies. When seeking out a training facility, it is often helpful to observe the classes prior to attending so you can get a feel for how class will be conducted and see if it is a good match for you and your dog. Off-leash play can be an important feature of a puppy class, but it should be done properly (i.e., does the instructor factor in age, size, and play style of puppies when organizing play groups?).

To socialize adult dogs, PBRC recommends that owners first carefully introduce their pit bulls to other adult dogs. A great way to introduce adult dogs is to take a nice long walk on leash together with appropriately matched dogs of good temperament and good social skills and with known, responsible owners.

Pit Bulls and Kids


Most pit bulls are excellent with children. They have a high tolerance for pain and, in general will patiently endure the “abuse” young kids unintentionally dish out; however, like any dog, they must be supervised with kids at all times. PBRC strongly urges all readers to supervise their children’s interactions with dogs—that means any dog, regardless of breed, size, age, history, or initial appearance.

Like other medium-to-large sized dogs, pit bulls are enthusiastic and strong. They can easily knock over an unsteady toddler with their wagging tails. They can be quite rambunctious until they mature, which is generally around 2 to 4 years of age. Pit bulls should be taught to play gently, to greet visitors appropriately, not to jump on people, and to sit and wait for a signal before going through doors. Positive training methods work best.

Adding a juvenile dog of any breed to a home with toddlers or very young children may not be ideal since dogs are very energetic at that age. You may want to consider adopting a mature dog that has demonstrated compatibility with children. It is entirely possible to have a young dog with toddlers or infants, but you must be diligent with your supervision. Pit bulls are great playmates for older, respectful kids.

A Prayer of a Pit bull

Spirit in the sky, who watches over all animals: it is my prayer and request that you grant greater understanding and acceptance to humans; those who love us, and those who hate us.

That they will know how loyal we are and brave we are and how loving we are. Help them to accept us as a breed in whole and not let the few tragedies shine brighter then the many great traits that we have.

And those who would kill me, let them know, I forgive them even though I don’t understand their hatred. And those who will beat me; let them know I still love them, even though it is not the honorable way. Thank you for the strong traits that you have given to me and my breed. Help those to know that I stand for courage, strength, loyalty and bravery, And as my master already knows, let those who would come against my family know that I would surely die defending them.

And just one thing that I would ask: Let my master know, that if you should call me away, that I will wait patiently at those pearly gates until the one who chose me comes home.

Myths and Facts About Spaying and Neutering


MYTH: But my pet is a purebred.
FACT: So is at least one out of every four pets brought to animal shelters around the country. There are just too many dogs and cats—mixed breed and purebred. About half of all animals entering shelters (that are not no-kill) are euthanized.
MYTH: I don’t want my male dog or cat to feel like less of a male.
FACT: Pets don’t have any concept of sexual identity or ego. Neutering will not change a pet’s basic personality. He doesn’t suffer any kind of emotional reaction or identity crisis when neutered.
MYTH: My pet will get fat and lazy.
FACT: The truth is that most pets get fat and lazy because their owners feed them too much and don’t give them enough exercise.
MYTH: But my dog (or cat) is so special, I want a puppy (or kitten) just like her.
FACT: Your pet’s puppies or kittens have an unlikely chance of being a carbon copy of your pet. Even professional breeders cannot make this guarantee. There are shelter pets waiting for homes who are just as cute, smart, sweet, and loving as your own
MYTH: It’s expensive to have my pet spayed or neutered.
FACT: Many low-cost options exist for spay/neuter services. Most regions of the U.S. have at least one spay/neuter clinic within driving distance that charge $100 or less for the procedure, and many veterinary clinics provide discounts through subsidized voucher programs. Low-cost spay/neuter is more and more widely available all the time.
MYTH: I’ll find good homes for all the puppies and kittens.
FACT: You may find homes for your pet’s puppies and kittens. But you can only control what decisions you make with your own pet, not the decisions other people make with theirs. Your pet’s puppies and kittens, or their puppies or kittens, could end up in an animal shelter, as one of the many homeless pets in every community competing for a home. Will they be one of the lucky ones?

What to Expect from a Rescue Dog


Your new dog may have been abandoned, abused or surrendered by a previous family. The dog had to adjust to life in a kennel or at a rescue foster home and is now going home to a new, unfamiliar place with strangers. Kind of scary if you think about it! Being gentle, considerate, kind and patient will help ease your new dog into it’s new family. Some may be very friendly while others may be reserved. No dog is going to be “perfect” and due to their past history rescued dogs require special consideration. Rescue dogs have a higher chance of being very submissive due to their past history.
Don’t feed the pets in the same room together until they are showing no aggression or jealousy at mealtime. A dog that has been starved, or forced to give up food to other dogs in the past, may be very protective of the food you give it.
Your dog might be afraid and unsure of his new surroundings. If he appears to be scared, keep him in a quiet area to start, and take it slow. Don’t allow children to bother the dog if he is afraid; fear can result in unwanted behavior. Instead, give your dog plenty of time to adjust to his new surroundings, taking it one step at a time. Don’t give up! Don’t leave your other pets or children unsupervised with the new dog.
Even a potty trained dog can make mistakes in a new home.He doesn’t know which door to go to or how to ask his new family what he wants. Keep a very watchful eye on your new friend and confine him when you can’t watch him. The worst thing you can do is to physically reprimand it. This teaches it that
he must go someplace you can’t see him to eliminate. A firm “no” when you catch him in the act and placing him outside or on papers will teach him where it is appropriate to go. The main thing is to reward good behavior and use firm verbal cues for bad behavior. It is not advised that you let the new member of your household free reign of the house when you are away for long periods of time.
Your new dog had a whole different set of rules in his previous home. He may have been allowed to sleep in bed or beg at the table. It’s up to you to teach him your rules. Teaching proper behavior takes time and patience.
Allow your new dog several weeks to adapt to his new surroundings and up to four months to fully adjust (older dogs may take longer than young ones). Adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment. We assume that you will make a patient and concerted effort to achieve a successful placement. Sometimes rescued dogs may exhibit behavioral problems that could include house soiling, destructive behavior, mild aggression toward other pets, submissive urination,
clinging behavior, licking behavior, and hiding or cowering in bed. All rescued dogs will exhibit some behavior when entering a new home. Most of the time, bad behavior is of very short duration as the animal becomes used to its new surroundings. The foster parent will advise you regarding any behaviors that have been observed while the animal was in foster care.

These are some of the situations you may possibly run in to with your rescued
dog. For the majority of adopters, however, after an initial few days of
adjustment they find that they have adopted a truly wonderful little dog that wants nothing more than the touch of your hand, the sound of your voice, and the love of your heart. You may find it hard to believe that someone in the past, treated your new friend with cruelty and malice. It is difficult for us also but because of you that will never happen again.

Most animals coming from abusive homes will typically make a full emotional recovery – with proper care and attention. In fact, many of them are so grateful to be rescued from their previous situation, they end up being
more devoted and loyal than animals coming from other backgrounds.
Edited and used with permission from AZ Chihuahua Rescue

Valley Fever In Dogs


Yes, dogs get Valley Fever! Like people, dogs are very susceptible to Valley Fever. Dogs primarily contract Valley Fever in the low desert regions of Arizona, New Mexico and southwestern Texas and the central deserts of California. Dogs accompanying people traveling through these areas or wintering in these warm climates have about the same chance as their owners of being infected.

Valley Fever is caused by a fungus that lives in the desert soil in the areas described above. As part of its life cycle, the fungus grows in the soil (saprophytic cycle) and matures, drying into fragile strands of cells. The strands are very delicate, and when the soil is disturbed – by digging, walking, construction, high winds – the strands break apart into tiny individual spores called arthroconidia or arthrospores. Dogs and people acquire Valley Fever by inhaling these fungal spores in the dust raised by the disturbance. The dog may inhale only a few spores or many hundreds.

Once inhaled, the spores grow into spherules (parasitic cycle) which continue to enlarge until they burst, releasing hundreds of endospores. Each endospore can grow into a new spherule, spreading the infection in the lungs until the dog’s immune system surrounds and destroys it. The sickness Valley Fever occurs when the immune system does not kill the spherules and endospores quickly and they continue to spread in the lungs and sometimes throughout the animal’s body.

About 70% of dogs who inhale Valley Fever spores control the infection and do not become sick. These dogs are asymptomatic. The remainder develop disease, which can range from very mild to severe and occasionally fatal.
The most common early symptoms of primary pulmonary Valley Fever in dogs are:
-weight loss
-lack of appetite
-lack of energy
Some or all of these symptoms may be present as a result of infection in the lungs. As the infection progresses, dogs can develop pneumonia that is visible on x-rays. Sometimes the coughing is caused by pressure of swollen lymph nodes near the heart pressing on the dog’s windpipe and irritating it. These dogs often have a dry, hacking or honking kind of cough and the swollen lymph nodes can be seen on x-rays.

When the infection spreads outside the lungs, it causes disseminated disease. The most common symptom of disseminated disease in dogs is lameness; the fungus has a predilection for infecting bones of the legs in dogs. However, Valley Fever can occur in almost any organ of dogs. Signs of disseminated Valley Fever can include:
-lameness or swelling of limbs
-back or neck pain, with or without weakness/paralysis
-seizures and other manifestations of brain swelling
-soft abscess-like swelling under the skin
-swollen lymph nodes under the chin, in front of the shoulder blades, or behind the stifles
-non-healing skin ulcerations or draining tracts that ooze fluid
-eye inflammation with pain or cloudiness
-unexpected heart failure in a young dog
-swollen testicles

Sometimes a dog will not have any signs of a primary infection in the lungs, such as coughing, but will only develop symptoms of disseminated disease, e.g., lameness, seizures. Very few of the signs of Valley Fever are specific to this disease alone and your veterinarian will do tests to determine that your dog’s illness is Valley Fever and to rule out other causes.

Valley Fever is considered a noncontagious disease. Even if multiple animals or humans are affected in a household, each infection was acquired by inhaling spores from the soil.

Coughing cannot spread it between animals or people. In the case of draining lesions, the form of the organism in the fluid is not considered to be infectious to people or animals. Nevertheless, such lesions are best handled by bandaging. Bandages should be changed daily or every other day and discarded in outside waste containers to minimize risk of should be changed daily or every other day and discarded in outside waste containers to minimize risk of contaminating the environment.

For immunocompromised persons living in a household with a pet that has a draining lesion, it is best to consult your physician regarding this issue

Diagnosis of Valley Fever

Diagnosis of Valley Fever requires suspicion of the disease from the dog’s history, its symptoms, and the results of examinations and tests performed by your veterinarian. If your dog has recently visited an area where the fungus can be acquired, telling your veterinarian about your dog’s travel history can be very helpful in deriving the diagnosis.

In addition to examining your dog, your veterinarian is very likely to order diagnostic tests to help identify the Valley Fever infection. Common tests include:
-general blood tests and blood cell counts
-chest x-rays
-bone and joint x-rays
-Valley Fever blood test (also called cocci test, cocci serology, or cocci titer)
Sometimes tests are negative early in the infection, especially the Valley Fever blood test, and they may need to be repeated in 3-4 weeks to establish the diagnosis.

In difficult cases, the routine tests are not very helpful in the diagnosis. Your veterinarian may recommend other tests to find out what is making your dog sick. These tests are often more definitive:
-Culture of fluid or tissue samples from your dog to isolate and identify the fungus; this is highly specific
-Biopsies or aspirates with microscopic examination of cell, fluid, or tissue samples to visualize fungal organisms and inflammation in your dog

If your dog is having seizures or other signs of neurological disease, your vet may urge you to get a CT or MRI scan of the brain or spinal cord

Usually Valley Fever is easily confirmed with basic diagnostic tests, but some cases are difficult to diagnose. In those cases, persistence and advanced diagnostics will be required to rule out other diseases and confirm Valley Fever

In most cases, a dog ill enough from Valley Fever to be seen by a veterinarian will require treatment with antifungal medication. Courses of medication are usually extensive, averaging 6-12 months. Dogs with disseminated disease in bones, skin, or internal organs usually require longer courses of medication. Central nervous system (brain or spinal cord) involvement frequently requires lifetime treatment with medication to keep symptoms from recurring.

The good news is that most dogs, with adequate antifungal therapy, do recover from this disease, especially with early diagnosis and intervention. Dogs with infection only in the lungs have the best prognosis for recovery and usually respond the quickest to treatment. However, dogs can have extensive lung disease that is so severe and progressive that they require hospitalization, or surgery to remove diseased lung, or may die.

Dogs with disseminated infection almost always have a more guarded prognosis than dogs with uncomplicated lung disease. As with lung infections, it seems that the majority respond well to medication and lead normal lives, though they often require prolonged drug treatment (12-18 months). A small proportion of animals must take medication for life, and another small number, unfortunately, die of Valley Fever in spite of drug treatment.

Dogs with Valley Fever in the brain (seizures, etc) also carry a guarded prognosis. Among those that respond to medication, about 80%, most will remain well with fluconazole (Diflucan), but treatment may be required for life.

For dogs that are seriously ill, requiring hospitalization and supportive therapy, the prognosis can be grave. With aggressive treatment, possibly including intravenous antifungal medication, some dogs will get well.

In animals with severe bone infections and the pain that goes with them, pain relief will often provide the support needed to allow the Valley Fever medication time to take effect. Treatment of high fevers with anti-inflammatories is helpful, also, as fever reduction can improve the appetite and energy level of the dog. Pain medicine and anti-inflammatories can be prescribed by your veterinarian.

Some dogs do not recover in spite of everyone’s best efforts, either due to the severity of illness at the time of diagnosis or because of long-standing, poorly responsive disease. Fortunately, these animals represent a minority of dogs with Valley Fever.

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