Age of Neutering in Large and Giant Breed Dogs

Clara S.S. Goh, BVSc, MS, DACVS (Small Animal), ACVS Founding Fellow (Surgical Oncology) Colorado State University

In the United States, gonadectomy is routinely performed in dogs between 4 and 9 months of age.1-3 The decision to perform this procedure is often based on convention, habit, or misconception of health benefits rather than on an evidence-based assessment of each patient.


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Critical Periods in a Puppy's Development

"What the puppy learns now will shape it into the dog it will become forever more." 

- Zero to 21st day

- 21st to 28th day

- 5th to 7th week

- 8th to 12th week

- 13th to 16th week

- Dog Owner's Responsibilities

Acquiring a puppy at the right age and providing it with the proper atmosphere during the critical periods of its life (when character and personality are being formed) is the only absolute way that the man/dog relationship, character traits and trainability can be pre-determined and pre-ordained. 

Many people who acquire dogs at the age of six months, eight months, a year or even two years, are perplexed to find that their dogs just can't seem to demonstrate much of an emotional bond with their owner. Sometimes, they are shy which usually results in a characteristic known as fear biting. Or perhaps, the reverse is true; over-aggressiveness and bullish tendencies. 

Scientific studies have shown that there are FIVE critical periods in a puppy's life. That is five phases of mental development during which adverse conditions could cripple a dog emotionally for life. Conversely, positive conditions during these five phases will produce dogs of the highest caliber mentally and socially. So important were these scientific findings that the Guide Dog Foundation instituted these "positive conditions" for puppies being raised to become Guide Dogs for the Blind. These dogs received the most rigorous and exacting training of any dogs and therefore must be perfectly adjusted. 

Dr. John Paul Scott of the Animal Labratory directed a project to determine just when these critical periods are shown in one particular test - extreme though it may have been.

A puppy at 21 days old was removed from its litter and was completely isolated. Although it was carefully fed and watered, its caretaker was careful not to play with it or even speak to it. The only toys the experimental puppy had were a water bucket and a food dish. By 16 weeks of age, the puppy had not had any contact with other dogs (except for the first 21 days of its life) and no human contact - except for being fed and watered by a caretaker who barely acknowledged the pup's existence. 

At four months of age, the experimental puppy was once again placed with its littermates. It did not recognize them. The puppy's isolation during during the critical period of its life, its complete removal from the companionship of other dogs and humans had developed a character to such an extent that it would never adjust to the society either. The puppy had passed the age of being capable of adjusting socially. 

Zero to 21 days: On the 21st day, ALL of the puppy's senses begin to function. The senses were present in the puppy during the first critical period, but were dormant. The 21st day of the puppy's life is like an automatic switch that turns on. During this period, the puppy's mental capacity is nearly zero, and the puppy only reacts to its needs of warmth, food, sleep and its mother.

Tests were conducted to determine whether a puppy was capable of learning anything at all during the first critical period, and it was determined that it was not. It was, however, determined that something nearly miraculous occurs on the 21st day, and that it occurs in all dogs, regardless of breed. 

21st to 28th day: During this period the puppy needs its mother more than any other time. The brain and nervous system begin to develop. Awareness begins to take place, and, in this mental stage, a new puppy finds the world that surrounds it rather frightening. Things can happen that can be a frightening experience. A puppy removed from its mother during this second critical period will never attain the mental and emotional growth that it COULD and WOULD have, if it had been left alone. The social stress of being alive- and the awareness of it - has it's greatest impact during this second critical period in the new puppy's life; that is between the 3rd and 4th weeks. 

It may seem peculiar to some that no other time in a dog's life presents the same proneness to such emotional upsets and that such upsets could have such a traumatic and permanent effect on the puppy's social attitudes. It is during this second critical period in the new puppy's life that the characteristic of nervousness can generate shyness and other negative qualities in a puppy. Once adverse conditions have developed negative qualities in this second critical period, no amount of re-conditioning or training, later in life will alter or significantly modify the resultant negative characteristics. 

5th to 7th weeks: This must be considered as the third period in the puppy's life. The puppy will venture away from home, not very far, and do a little exploring. At the beginning of the 6th week, awareness of society will dawn. That is, the society of man and the society of dog. The puppy's nervous system and trainability are developing and by the end of this critical period, will have developed to capacity. 

During this third critical period, your puppy will learn to respond to voices and will begin to recognize people. It is during this period that a "social pecking order" will be established among the puppies in the litter. Some of the puppies will learn to fight for food, they will be the bullies. The littermates that are cowed by the aggressive tendencies of the others will become shy. 

The scientific tests at Hamilton Station have shown that it's an advantage for the puppy to remain long enough with the litter to acquire a little competitive spirit, but that too much is detrimental to the puppy's emotional growth. Puppies that remain with littermates after the 7th week will develop bullish or cowed tendencies, which remain with them into adulthood. 

The third critical period ends during the 7th week and the puppy is now considered emotionally developed and ready to learn. The training ability system within the puppy is ripe and is operating to capacity. What it learns during the fourth critical period will be retained and become part of the personality and characteristic of the overall dog. If the puppy is left with the mother, its emotional development will be crippled. It will remain dependent upon her, but in her will find very little security since she will begin to totally ignore the pup.

If the puppy remains with the litter beyond this point, and without adequate human contact, its social adjustment will be learned from its littermates. The optimum time for taking a puppy into a new household is at the end of the 7th week and the beginning of the puppy's fourth critical period. 

8th to 12th week: This fourth critical period extends to the 12th week of the puppy's life. Since the puppy's training ability, or learning facilities, it is better that he do his learning from his new owner. And learn he will. This period marks a time when the puppy will learn at a fast and furious pace. Although the "come", "sit", "stay" and "no" commands are invaluable if taught during the fourth period, perhaps the most single important response during this period is to learn to fetch. At first glance this may sound unnecessary and unimportant.

It should be pointed out however that those puppies who cannot learn to fetch are dropped from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Program.  Moreover, adult dogs being trained as Drug Detector dogs and Bomb Detector dogs must learn how to fetch. A dog that cannot learn to fetch or refuses to learn will not become a detector dog or a guide dog. The significance of fetching cannot be overemphasized. How such a game expands a puppy's mind and what such willingness to fetch reveals a puppy would require an article in itself. Learning to fetch in the fourth critical period can spell success or failure in your dog's desire and ability to work for you. 

13th to 16th week: The fifth and final critical period is from the 13th to the 16th week of the puppy's life. A highly significant thing will happen during this period and the owner should be prepared for it and ready to handle it smoothly and with confidence. The puppy will make its first attempt to establish itself as the dominant being in the "pack" (family). It is now that the puppy will learn whether it can physically turn on its owner and get away with it. 

It would be well to point out here that if the puppy is allowed to get away with it, the confidence and respect of the owner that developed during the fourth critical period will be lost. The tolerance level toward the owner will narrow. 

The puppy learns by rebelling that it can get things its own way. It is during this fifth critical period that absolute authority will be challenged. It is here that the challenge must be met, head on, by the dog's owner. Instructing people as to the best method of dealing with the problem is difficult because no two dogs are exactly alike. Disciplinary measures for one dog are not necessarily suitable for another. 

In dog training schools the question is often asked, "What shall I do if my dog bites me?" The answer usually goes something like this: "What would you do if your child hit you?" Suffice it to say that the new puppy will challenge your authority during the fifth critical period and try to establish itself as the dominant being. It should be shown swiftly and firmly that, although you love it implicitly, by all that's holy, YOU are the dominant being and there's only room at the top for one!

Formal obedience training should begin during this fifth critical period, if the full potential of the puppy's intelligence and companion ability are to be realized.

Being aware of the five critical periods during these periods and providing the correct environment during these periods, as well as instituting proper learning techniques, will allow a puppy to develop emotionally and socially to full potential. Each time you marvel at a guide dog leading its blind master through busy traffic, you can be assured that the five critical periods were the criterion for the successful performance of the dog. 

When you bring your puppy home, the critical periods which will follow will be critical periods in your life as well. The way you handle those periods will determine what kind of dog you will have in the years to come. It may, however, determine what kind of dog someone else will have. If the puppy you acquired doesn't grow up to be what you wanted it to be, if it has strange quirks in its behavior which embarrass or distress you, the dog may end up being passed from home to home. Chances are, no one else will be satisfied with its quirks either. 

Who can enjoy the dog that rolls over on its back and piddles at the approach of a stranger? Who can be satisfied with the dog who wants to bite anything that moves? And perhaps, most important of all, who can be satisfied with the dog that refuses to give of himself, his devotion, his loyalty and his love? 

The puppy you acquire can grow up to be all the things you want and desire it to be, if you acknowledge and adhere to the critical periods in its life. These are periods which shape and mold its character and personality. The puppy is in your hands. What it is to become, it will become during these critical periods - under your leadership and guidance. 

(from Dog Fancy, 1972)

Gastropexy procedures - Great Danes

I strongly recommend to my puppy people to *wait* until two years old to spay/neuter their Great Dane because their sex hormones are directly tied to the dog's epiphyseal growth plates. The Great Danes need these sex hormones to grow and mature correctly.

At the same time of a planned spay/neuter surgery, I recommend to my puppy people to have a "preventative" gastropexy surgery performed by an experienced and qualified veterinarian. 

Here are the different types of gastropexy surgery to consider:

Belt Loop: Utilizes a flap of the stomach to attach the stomach to the right abdominal wall by braiding the stomach flap to strands of the abdominal wall. An argument against this method, used only with open surgery, is that it may not help keep the stomach in place as well as some other gastropexy techniques. 

Circumcostal: Also used for open surgery. Uses a flap of the stomach wall to attach the stomach to the last rib on the right side. The argument in favor of this technique is that the rib is a more rigid and stable part of the anatomy and will likely keep th stomach in place better than the abdominal wall.

Incisional: Which involves suturing together the edges of the inside of the right side of the body wall to the outside of the antrum (bottom of the stomach). The inside muscle of the body wall is cut, as well as the outside two of the three stomach layers. The sides of the cut are then sutured between the body wall and stomach. Initially done by open abdominal surgery, this technique is now also done laparoscopically.

Laparoscopic: Surgeons get a detailed interior view of a dog's body with a laparoscope, consisting of a tube and an attached camera. Images of the abdominal cavity are projected onto a television monitor next to the operating table. Several instruments are threaded through incisions (ports), as a powerful cold light source illuminates the area under inspection. Specialized tools, including laparscopic scissors, clamps and a suction device, allow the surgeon to perform a multitude of procedures.

For further information before a planned surgery of any kind on your Great Dane, please visit the Great Dane Club of America - Surgery Guidelines for Great Danes.

Nutrition and the Immune System - Great Danes


W. Jean Dodds, DVM HEMOPET, 938 Stanford Street Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 828-4804; FAX (310) 453-5240,;

Nutrition and the Immune System Wholesome nutrition is the key to maintaining a healthy immune system and resistance to disease. Commercial foods ingested by animals on a regular basis may not be balanced in terms of major nutrients, minerals and vitamins, and some continue to add chemicals to the final product to enhance its stability and shelf-life. Nutritional deficiencies or imbalances as well as exposures to various chemicals, drugs and toxins present a continual immunological challenge which can suppress immune function, especially in those animals genetically susceptible to immune dysfunction (immune deficiency, autoimmunity, allergies).

The exciting new field of nutrigenomics is an emerging science that studies the molecular relationships between nutrition and the response of genes in promoting health. Different diets elicit different patterns of gene and protein expression as well as metabolite production; these are termed molecular dietary signatures.

Genetic differences between individuals lead to quantitative variations in dietary requirements for energy and nutrient needs, and to maintain health. Also, genetic defects may result in inborn errors of metabolism that affect one or more pathways involving nutrients or their metabolites. While minimal and maximal nutrient requirements have been established for most vitamins and trace mineral elements, optimum amounts for every individual cannot be assumed. Examples of important vitamin and mineral requirements in this regard include vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium, vitamin A, copper and vitamin B12. Similarly, a wide variation occurs in the energy needs of dogs depending on their breed, age, sex, and size.

Nutritional factors that play an important role in immune function include zinc, selenium and vitamin E, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and linoleic acid. Deficiency of these compounds impairs both humoral as well as cell-mediated immunity. The requirement for essential nutrients increases during periods of rapid growth or reproduction and also may increase in geriatric individuals, because immune function and the bioavailability of these nutrients generally wanes with aging. As with any nutrient, however, excessive supplementation can lead to significant clinical problems, many of which are similar to the respective deficiency states of these ingredients. Supplementation with vitamins and minerals should not be viewed as a substitute for feeding premium quality fresh and/or commercial pet foods.

Synthetic antioxidants like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxy-toluene (BHT) have been used as preservatives in human and animal foods for more than 30 years. More recently pet food manufacturers preferred to use ethoxyquin, because of its excellent antioxidant qualities, high stability and reputed safety. But, significant controversy arose about the safety of ethoxyquin when chronically fed at permitted amounts in dog and cat foods. Toy breed dogs were particularly at risk because they ingest proportionately more food and preservative for their size in order to sustain their metabolic needs. Naturally occurring antioxidants (vitamins E and C, citric acid) are used almost exclusively today, in response to consumer and professional queries about the chronic effects of feeding synthetic chemical antioxidants to pets.

Nutrition and Thyroid Metabolism

Nutritional influences can have a profound effect on thyroid metabolism. The classical example is the iodine deficiency that occurs in individuals eating cereal grain crops grown on iodinedeficient soil. This will impair thyroid metabolism because iodine is essential for formation of thyroid hormones. However, too much iodine can be as harmful to thyroid function as too little. Today’s commercial kibbles contain plenty of iodine, so caution is advised when adding extra supplements that include kelp and seaweed. Moderation is the general rule with supplements.

While commercial pet food manufacturers compensate for variations in basal ingredients by adding vitamin and mineral supplements, it is difficult to determine optimum levels for so many different breeds of animals having varying genetic backgrounds and metabolic needs.

Another link has recently been shown between selenium deficiency and hypothyroidism. Cereal grain crops grown on selenium-deficient soil will contain relatively low levels of selenium. The selenium-thyroid connection has significant clinical relevance, because blood, but not tissue, levels of thyroid hormones rise in selenium deficiency. Thus, selenium-deficient individuals showing clinical signs of hypothyroidism could be overlooked on the basis that blood levels of thyroid hormones appear normal. The selenium issue is further complicated because the synthetic antioxidants still used in some foods to protect fats from rancidity can impair the bioavailability of vitamin A, vitamin E and selenium, and alter cellular membrane function, metabolism and detoxification.

Iron and zinc also are important minerals in regulating thyroid metabolism. Vitamin D (as vitamin D3) is now called a co-hormone of thyroid function as it needs to be present at sufficient levels in all cells in order for the thyroid hormone to function at the cellular level. Be cautious about supplements as over- supplementation with vitamin D3 can lead to hypercalcemia.

Copper plays an important role in thyroid metabolism, especially in hormone production and absorption. Copper stimulates the production of thyroxine (T4), and helps control the body’s calcium levels. Like any supplement , however, excessive supplementation with copper can lead to copper storage disease and eventually to liver failure.

Because animals with autoimmune thyroid disease have generalized metabolic imbalance and often have associated immunological dysfunction, it is advisable to minimize their exposures to unnecessary drugs, chemicals and toxins, and to optimize their nutritional status with healthy balanced diets. Families of dogs susceptible to thyroid and other autoimmune diseases show generalized improvement in health when fed premium cereal-based diets preserved naturally with vitamins E and C rather than with the synthetic chemical antioxidants mentioned above. Fresh vegetables cooked with Italian herbs and garlic, dairy products such as yogurt or low fat cottage cheese, or a variety of meats and whitefish can be added.

Nutritional Management (Commercial, Home-Made and Raw Food Diets)

Many veterinarians treating animals suffering from immunological diseases appreciate that alternative nutritional management is an important step in minimizing their patient's environmental challenges. The results of this approach have been remarkable. The replacement food must be of good quality and preferably of relatively low protein content (20- 22%). Increasing carbohydrate and reducing protein content, while maintaining high quality 3 protein, has been shown to be beneficial for many affected animals and is also believed to have a positive effect on behavior. Diet and behavior appear to be linked because certain highly nutritious foods may aggravate the condition of dogs with behavioral problems (dominant aggression, hyperactivity, and fear).

For allergic animals, elimination diets with restricted or novel antigen source are given for 6-12 weeks to evaluate their benefit to the patient. Homemade diets can also be used provided that the formula is properly balanced. All other food supplements, including treats, are withdrawn. Example ingredients that have been used successfully, include whitefish, rabbit, venison, duck, ostrich, emu, buffalo, and turkey mixed with potato, sweet potato and other vegetables (except onions and cruciferous vegetables). Grains are often avoided, at least initially, although novel grains like quinoa, sorghum, barley or flax usually have been well tolerated.

For animals with liver disease, the author’s liver “cleansing diet” includes:

White potato + sweet potato (50/50) and white fish -- 2/3 potato mix and 1/3 fish. Season with garlic, mixed Italian herbs or parsley, salt and pepper. Later, can add chopped carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, spinach, and scrambled eggs, if these are tolerated. An infant liquid multivitamin or product like Missing Link should be added, if feeding the diet for long term.

Raw food diets have been gaining in popularity as well. A key feature of these diets is the variety they provide. One of the prototype diets [BARF (bones and raw food)] of Dr. Ian Billinghurst recommends feeding a dog 60% raw meaty bones (chicken backs,wings and necks), with the rest of the diet composed of ground vegetables mixed with ground meat, and supplements such as kelp, vitamin E and vitamin C. Nutritional analyses on some commercially available raw diets suggest that the raw meaty bones commonly used provide 40-70% protein, and the meat/vegetable mixtures range from 20-50% protein. The question has arisen about the potential for such high protein diets to affect renal function when fed continuously, as high protein diets are reported to induce renal hypertrophy, and increase renal blood flow and glomerular filtration rate. While this concern may not pertain to healthy dogs, it could play a role in dogs with previously compromised renal function.

Maintaining the appropriate ratio of trace minerals, vitamins, fatty acids and other nutritive elements is especially important for patients with acute and chronic diseases, as their metabolic demands have increased to sustain cell turnover and tissue repair. Typical supplements include: vitamin-mineral mix, antioxidants (vitamins A,C, D, and E and selenium), digestive enzymes, brewer’s yeast, kelp, honey, coat additives, apple cider vinegar, hydrochloric acid (used sparingly), yoghurt, Willard Water, liver, eggs, garlic, and plenty of fresh water. Vitamin A and E have been shown to enhance immune function in small animals, as the former can beneficially influence T-helper responses, and the latter is known to improve both cellular and humoral immunity. Dietary carotenoids, especially lutein and beta-carotene, have been reported to modulate both cell-mediated and humoral immunity in dogs but not in cats.

Raw Food Diet Study

In collaboration with Drs. Susan Wynn and Joe Bartges, we investigated the basic clinical laboratory parameters of 256 healthy adult dogs of varying ages and breed types being fed raw food diets for at least 9 months. The same laboratory (Antech Diagnostics) analyzed the samples from 227 of the dogs. From this group, there were 87 dogs fed the classical BARF diet of Dr. Ian Billinghurst, 46 dogs were fed the Volhard diet of Wendy Volhard, and the remaining 94 dogs were fed other types of custom raw diets.

There were 69 dog breeds represented, including 233 purebreds, 16 crossbreds, 1 mixed breed and 6 of unknown breed type. The predominant breeds represented included: 28 Labrador Retreivers, 21 Golden Retrievers and 21 German Shepherd Dogs, 10 Whippets, 8 Shetland Sheepdogs and 8 Bernese Mountain Dogs, 6 Rottweilers, 6 Border Collies, 6 Doberman Pinschers, and 6 German Pinschers, and 5 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, 5 Australian Shepherds, 5 Borzoi, and 5 Great Danes. Most of the dogs were neutered males (73) or spayed females (85), whereas there were 31 intact males and 32 intact females. Another 6 dogs were of unknown sex. The mean age of the group was 5.67 ± 3.52 years (mean ± SD); and the mean length of time fed a raw food diet was 2.84 ± 2.54 years. The data from this group of dogs were compared to the same laboratory parameters measured at Antech Diagnostics from 75 healthy adult dogs fed a commercial cereal-based kibbled diet. Preliminary statistical comparisons of results for the raw and cereal-based diets found them to be essentially the same with the following notable exceptions:

• Higher packed cell volume (hematocrit) in all raw diet fed groups (range of 51.0 ± 6.6 – 53.5 ± 5.6 %) versus cereal-based kibble (47.6 ± 6.1 %).

• Higher blood urea nitrogen (BUN) in all raw diet fed groups (range of 18.8 ± 6.9 – 22.0 ± 8.7 mg/dL) versus cereal-based kibble (15.5 ± 4.7 mg/dL).

• Higher serum creatinine in the Volhard raw diet group only (1.20 ± 0.34 mg/dL) versus cereal-based kibble (1.07 ± 0.28 mg/dL)

Results from this initial analysis indicated that dogs fed raw meats (natural carnivores) have higher red blood cell and blood urea nitrogen levels than dogs fed cereal-based food (obligate omnivores). A recently completed detailed analysis of the other parameters showed that statistically different parameters also included higher hemoglobin, MCH, MCV, MCHC, total protein, albumin, BUN/creatinine ratio, calcium, sodium, osmolality, and magnesium. Statistically lower values were seen for total leukocyte, neutrophil, and lymphocyte counts, phosphorus and glucose. Thus, the normal reference values for dogs fed raw food diets should be revised.

The intake of proportionately large amounts of raw meat protein and the significantly higher BUN and other concentrations found here raise the possibility of spillover into the urine of measurable amounts of urea nitrogen and/or albumin. If so, are there potential short and long term clinical consequences?

Accordingly, the presence of microlbuminuria [an indicator of early renal disease] was assessed in dogs fed exclusively on raw foods for at least 12 months in dogs using the Heska ERD – HealthScreen ® test kit. The urine of 37 dogs was evaluated and results indicated that feeding a diet of raw ingredients does not appear to cause leakage of albumin into the urine in most of the dogs tested. In five dogs, there was a low-grade positive reaction in the test, but two of them were found to have urinary tract infections. The other three dogs were lost to follow up.

New Diagnostics for Food Sensitivity or Intolerance

The latest development in animal diagnostics addresses the optimal foods for an individual’s genetic makeup and food sensitivities or intolerances. At the simplest level of diagnostic screening, cheek swabs are taken by the pet owner and submitted to a veterinary diagnostic lab for testing. Diet is a long recognized cause of hypersensitivity-like skin reactions in dogs, cats, & people. Immediate hypersensitivity occurs within minutes to hours of eating an offending food, whereas delayed sensitivities occur 2-72 hrs after eating; so they can be more difficult to connect symptoms with the foods eaten. There is a high correlation of delayed sensitivity with the amount and frequency of food eaten.

The primary food allergens are : corn, wheat, soy, beef, eggs, milk.

Secondary food allergens are: lamb, rabbit, venison, buffalo, chicken, turkey, barley, millet, oatmeal, salmon, white fish, rice, quinoa, potatoes, and peanuts.

Food intolerance is the third most common immunologically reactive condition after flea bite sensitivity and atopy (inhalant allergy); it makes up 1-10% of all allergic skin disease. It has no age, breed, or sex predilection, and most affected animals have been eating offending foods for more than 2 years.

The major complaint of food intolerance is pruritis (itching). The itching and scratching is bilateral, and there is often inflammation of the external ear canals (otitis externa). Secondary skin disease such as seborrhea (both dry or oily) and pyoderma is common.

Management and therapy involves diet elimination trials, each for 3-6 weeks; but, there is often poor compliance. Thus, diets need to be individualized, using the principles of nutrigenomics. Additives and supplements should be avoided for these animals, as should switching often from diet to diet. About 1-15% of cases have concurrent gastrointestinal tract issues, and some cases have swollen lymph nodes, especially in cats. Affected pets have tension-fatigue, malaise, and dullness. These sensitivities are non-seasonal and poorly responsive to steroids. 

Previous testing for food sensitivity was typically based on IgE and IgG testing on serum from healthy and affected pet animals. However, these serum tests correlate poorly with clinical experience from food elimination trials based on test results.

Newer testing for food sensitivity use simple ELISA-based tests of saliva rather than serum. IgA or IgM antibodies to foods are measured in saliva; these antibodies to foods appear in saliva months before a diagnosis of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) or the “leaky gut syndrome” is made. Saliva testing can thus reveal the latent or pre-clinical form of food sensitivity.

Future testing of saliva envisions a saliva screening kit, point-of-service (POS) owner/ vet clinic testing. Tests for salivary IgA and IgM reactions are performed in healthy pets and those with known or suspected food intolerances. The pet owners obtain a test kit [from their veterinarian or pet supply store], follows directions, adds saliva, seals the kit, and sends it to the diagnostic laboratory. Saliva testing is performed several times a year


● Bauer, J E. Evaluation of nutraceuticals, dietary supplements, and functional food ingredients for companion animals. J Am Vet Med Assoc 218:1755-1760, 2001.

● Berry M J, Larsen P R. The role of selenium in thyroid hormone action. End Rev, 13(2): 207- 219, 1992.

● Burkholder W J, Swecker W S Jr. Nutritional influences on immunity. Sem Vet Med Surg (Sm An), 5(3): 154-156, 1990.

● Der Marderosian QA. The Review of Natural Products. Facts and Comparisons, St. Louis, MO, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2001, pp 389-390, 508-509.

● Dodds W J. Complementary and alternative medicine: the immune system. Clin Tech Sm An Pract, 17(10: 58-63, 2002.

● Dodds W J, Donoghue S. Interactions of clinical nutrition with genetics, Chapter 8. In: The Waltham Book of Clinical Nutrition of the Dog and Cat. Pergamon Press Ltd., Oxford, 1994, p.105-117. 6

● Dodds W J. Pet food preservatives and other additives, Chapter 5. In: Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine. Mosby, St. Louis, 1997; pp 73-79.

● Dodds, WJ. Nutrigenomics as it relates to the skin. Proc Am Hol Vet Med Assoc 2009, Fitchburg, MA.

● Fekete, SG, Brown, DL. Veterinary aspects and perspectives of nutrigenomics: a critical review. Acta Vet Hungarica 55 (2): 229–239, 2007.

● Roudebush P. Ingredients associated with adverse food reactions in dogs and cats. Adv Sm An Med Surg, 15(9): 1-3, 2002.

● Swanson, K S, Schook, L B. Canine nutritional model: influence of age, diet, and genetics on health and well-being. Current Nutr Food Sci 2 (2), May 2006 , pp. 115-126.

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● Vojdani A. Detection of IgE, IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies against raw and processed food antigens. Nutr & Metabol 6:22-37, 2009.

● Volhard W, Brown K L. The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog. Howell Book House, New York, 1995, 294 pp.

● Wynn S G, Bartges J, Dodds W J. Raw meaty bones-based diets may cause prerenal azotemia in normal dogs. AAVN Nutrition Research Symposium, June 2003 (abstr.).

BLOAT, the mother of all emergencies in veterinary medicine and in Great Danes

BLOAT, also known as gastric dilatation volvulus, is known as the mother of all emergencies. It comes on quickly within a matter of minutes, and you should race your Great Dane to the vet immediately. I suggest to my puppy people to always keep Gas-X (simethicone) gel caps in the house at all times.  You can pop a couple of Gas-X caplets in their mouth; this will buy you a little bit of time to get your Great Dane to the vet.

I've dealt with BLOAT first-hand with two of my Great Danes.

SUNDAY bloated (never torsioned) three times in 7 weeks, after having had a gastropexy surgery (stomach tacking) on the second BLOAT. When I changed up her food, started adding real food (meats, vegetables and yogurt) with the kibble to the bowl and adding a good probiotic (Nature's Farmacy Probiotic Max), she stopped bloating altogether. 

VENUS bloated and torsioned and had a splenomegaly/splenectomy. One minute everything was fine and the next minute VENUS was trying to vomit producing nothing but foam. We put her in the car and raced to the vet, a 45 minute drive from our house at that time. By the time we reached the vet, VENUS collapsed and was rushed into surgery. The vet said 50/50 chance that she would survive. We were lucky, VENUS survived this horrendous ordeal.

We do not exercise our Great Danes 2 hours before and 2 hours after being fed. We do what we can to be careful to avoid BLOAT. But there are many different reasons/pathways that can cause BLOAT and the researchers haven't solved the puzzle behind Gastric Dilatation Volvulus. 

Here's a link that describes in detail about BLOAT:

We recommend a preventative gastropexy surgery when you spay/neuter your Great Dane at the appropriate age, at least two years old.  

Spay/Neuter Great Danes

This is something I've been wanting to write because everyone has a different opinion on the subject of spay/neuter, especially many veterinarians.

There is clear evidence in the veterinary research community that the risks outweigh the benefits of early spay/neuter in dogs, especially in giant breed dogs, like the Great Dane.

An article (2007) from Laura J. Sanborn outlining Long-term Risks and Benefits Associated with Spay/Neuter in the Dog -

From the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) from 2013 -- Study Shines Spotlight on Neutering -

From the American Kennel Club (AKC) 2013 - Health Implications in Early Spay Neuter in Dogs -

Another interesting article written by the researchers at University of Pennsylvania (UPENN) entitled: Non-Reproductive Effects of Spaying and Neutering on Behavior in Dogs -

A PLOS One article - Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers -

There are no breed specific research studies in the Great Dane on early/spay neuter as of this writing. 

We do know that the growth plates in the Great Dane do not close until 18 to 24 months of age. It is my belief that puppies and adolescent dogs (just like human children) need these sex hormones to grow and mature properly into adulthood.

In the female dog, timing is critical when planning a spay surgery. Spay surgery should be performed 3 months AFTER the last heat cycle (not during the heat cycle). 

For further information on Surgery Guidelines in the Great Dane, please visit the Great Dane Club of America (GDCA):

I ask that all of our puppy owners *WAIT* until at least 2 years old before they spay/neuter their Great Dane puppy. 

You are what you eat ... that goes for Great Danes too!

Over the course of time, I've learned (and continue learning) about canine nutrition, thanks to the guidance of one of my mentors, Victoria Pearson at Victory Great Danes.

When I took my first Great Dane STYLE, I was told by the Rescue to feed her a low-quality, low-protein kibble, so that she wouldn't grow too fast. As time went on, I learned that Great Danes do quite well by feeding more than just kibble alone.

I started doing feed trials with my own Great Danes. I cooked vegetables and mixed them in the bowl. I tried feeding ground raw chicken and ground raw beef, which the dogs loved. 

I then started looking at probiotics and began using First Choice Naturals Probiotic powder, and I saw results.

From SUNDAY who was always having "gassy" episodes to VOCE having a red rash all over her belly and loin, I used the probiotic powder and in both instances SUNDAY stopped having gassy episodes and VOCE's rash disappeared within one week. Amazing!

We currently feed kibble mixed with cooked meat, yogurt, (sometimes cooked veggies), and probiotics. I also use bovine colostrum powder on the puppies. I am currently using Nature's Farmacy Bovine Colostrum and Nature's Farmacy Dogzyme's Probiotic Max as supplements for my Great Danes. 

I also give raw meaty bones as treats to the Danes. It's not only good for them healthwise, but it also helps keep their teeth sparkly clean. We also supplement with Fish Oil capsules and feed canned fish (tuna, mackerel and sardines) to the Danes.

Now imagine for a moment ... if you fed your human child only McDonald's, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Do you think your child would look and perform well with this diet? I don't think so. The same is true with the dogs. If you feed low-quality food, your dog will not look great and will not perform at optimal condition. 

Our motto is: You are what you eat ... feed your Great Dane quality, nutritional food.