Doctors and physical therapists often recommend swimming as a low-impact exercise for people recovering from injuries or as a way for older individuals to stay active. Swimming is said to be easy on our joints, while building up endurance and muscle strength. In fact, you work almost every muscle in your body when you swim, making it a wonderful workout. But, does swimming provide similar benefits for dogs? According to Dr. Stephanie Liff, a practicing veterinarian and owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care in Brooklyn, N.Y., the answer is yes.

“Just like for people, swimming is a low-impact form of exercise that can be very useful to pets,” says Dr. Liff. “It can help with healing and rehabilitation post-orthopedic or neurological surgery, or can be used for weight loss in pets that have arthritis or other limitations that make exercise difficult.”

Almost any dog can benefit from the exercise swimming provides, but Dr. Liff says it’s especially useful for senior canines or younger pets with disabilities.


It’s important to note that if your dog is healing from an injury or illness, you should definitely check with your vet to make sure it’s safe for him to swim. “There is an appropriate time postoperatively to start swimming, which is after all wounds and incisions have healed, and the sutures or staples are removed,” Dr. Liff explains. And in some cases, swimming might not be the best option. “Many pets with a dermatologic disease should avoid public water sources, or in some cases, should not be exposed to swimming due to open sores, etc.,” she adds. “Also, dogs with ear infections should not swim while being treated.”

For dogs that get the go-ahead to swim, make sure they don’t overdo it. Some canine companions don’t know when to stop. Dr. Liff says it’s important to start slowly and watch your dog for signs of overexertion. “Just like with any exercise, it is important to consult your veterinarian before starting a new program,” she advises. “Also, since it is exercise and can lead to muscle exertion, you can see soreness after swimming, so monitor your pet and adjust the duration of the exercise as needed.”


Depending on where you live, you may have several choices when it comes to where your dog swims: creeks, lakes, the ocean, a dog swim center, or even your own backyard pool. All of these vary in depth, strength, temperature, and, of course, water quality. There’s always a chance with public bodies of water that your dog could pick up an infection, such as giardia (an intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food or water). If your dog has a compromised immune system, it might be best to avoid letting him swim in public bodies of water. “In terms of therapy, the location does not matter, but, of course, safety is maximized by a controlled environment, which the river or ocean may not provide, depending on other factors,” Dr. Liff explains.

If your dog goes swimming in a pool, make sure there is an easy way for him to get out, such as stairs, to prevent possible drowning. If there’s a risk that your pup could venture into deeper water, like in an ocean or lake, have him wear a dog life jacket.

Keep in mind that all dogs are not natural swimmers, and some really do not like water, so introduce your canine companion to swimming slowly and safely to avoid accidents. Dr. Liff cautions that no dog should swim without a human closely observing him.


From American Kennel Club

Writer:  Kristina Lotz


I might recycle myself and start writing pet obituaries…. I just seem to excel in it!

Yes, I lost another one! It’s quite ironic as a matter of fact when you know – of course you don’t – how paranoid I am with them. They eat the best food, get bottled water, and they all end up dying of cancer. Seriously? I am really starting to question what I do? Does it make any difference from fancy grain free food vs Iams to name one? And don’t get me wrong here. I hate Iams.

jackJackson just died on me. No, he did not die on me. I put him to sleep. A week ago, I was posting on my FB page that Jack was working really hard at dying from something else than cancer. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Take that cancer! My boy is a cancer survivor. I am sure that in the long run cancer would have taken over his body or at least the left side of his body, but he was doing well with his “cancer diet”, his supplements and his broccoli. He was doing fine. Then, he had that leg infection, and no I did not notice it. You see it was on his “good” front leg. Last Sunday, he went swimming and he was fine.  But I am rewinding the film right now, and Monday morning, yes I was in a rush because I was taking Maia to chemotherapy, but I snapped a few pictures of Jackson gulping down his breakfast, and when I enlarged the picture, his right front leg was a bit swollen, not like it was 4 hours later, but it was a bit swollen. and I did not notice it because I was in a rush. Would it have make a difference? I am not sure. The oncologist had given him a two week life expectancy three weeks ago, so he beat that one! Because he was my extraordinary dog. He was a lot like his Mom. Those two were all about retrieving and eating and swimming.

STA72267 Perfect labs. Jackson…. was my kid. I witnessed his birth, and I was his Mom after the first month. Lola took really good care of her kids for one month, and then I had to take the relay. She was still around, but she was like “you wanted the kids…. You take care of them NOW!” and I did. The bags under my eyes are called “my mutts”. For the first year of their lives (Lola had five kids: 3 boys and 2 girls) each time they were barking at night, I was getting up to let them go pee. My vet was telling me to ignore them, but it was easier to let them go out than hearing them bark for half an hour. So, yes, I might have spoiled them a bit, because you see, they were and they are my kids (I mean the three remaining!). I am not sure what I am going to do with the three left…. Should I put them under a bubble? Two had already died: George at 3 and half, and Jack last Monday. Each time one of my kids dies, it takes a part of my heart, and I am not sure how many times a heart can be broken.

IMG_3385I am not sure yet how to be in a “Jackless” life. You see I wake up in the morning and the first minute, I wonder why I am so sad, and then I remember. He was my boy. He was the one who was grabbing my hand with his paw when we went on car rides. He was the one who was hugging me every 3 minutes each time we went for a walk just the two of us. He was the one who made my feet his pillow, and to tell you the truth my feet are quite lonely these days.

I always said that labs are my kind of dogs – and I do love every dog – but labs have a sense of humor. Jackson had a very sophisticated one. For seven years, I blocked my fridge (because he knew how to open it), I carefully put everything away from his reach, I am conditioned now. I surprise myself putting the French baguette on the fridge (not that I eat much these days) and then I realized why? He is not there to steal it from me.

Last week, he suddenly disappeared on me in the house, and I thought “what could he have stolen?” because I am so careful around him. Guess what? He stole a cat food can and was enjoying it on my bed. That’s the place where he always took his stolen food! The metallic can was totally flattened. That was my boy! I am telling you!

Three years ago, I realized that he was not with us (meaning at that time my six other dogs – 2016 is the year where the number of dogs was drastically reduced thanks to cancer! -). I went downstairs, and saw him throwing up in my living room. Sue me. I had received a medication for Maia who had a high Ph. in her urine. I did not open the box, and left it on the microwave oven. Jack took it, opened the box, broke the bottle, and swallowed 200 bitter pills (why do I know they were bitter? Because I tasted them!), and then he threw up…. He was at the emergency within half an hour, and no one had a clue what would happen because no other dogs had ever had the bad taste of  swallowing that many pills. They did find a lab who swallowed 100. He made it. Jack spent three days at the emergency, but he made it. After he got home, my main concern was how to keep him safe. I became very disciplined and stored everything at higher levels that he could not reach even though he was a big boy.

jacknewtoyBut Jack was so much more than I could ever describe. I remember the first sentences of “Love Story”. And his story could start that way: Jack loved me, he loved Frisbee (even though I sucked at throwing them, and he got so mad at me so many times for the Frisbees to land on the roof! My roof is like a Frisbee cemetery!), swimming, food, walking, my feet, swimming, my feet, and just me. He had always been very protective of me, and I just feel suddenly fragile without him. He was the one to inspect the whole backyard first thing in the morning, running around the fence, barking at anything which moved. He was the one who was kicking out anyone on the couch sitting next to me without even moving his butt. Michael Jackson mastered the moon walk, Jackson mastered the couch kick out thing.

For the last six years, the mutts have been good with the Christmas tree but last year Jackson decided to eat a glass ornament on my bed and bleed all over my mattress. He was fine…. thanks to the spinach. Spinach is the best thing you can give to your dog if he eats anything sharp. I mean, do still go to the emergency but I have my whole pantry full of spinach cans, like it’s going to be of any use now. Maybe I should put them on Craigslist….. “Spinach cans to give away.”

I loved him from the minute he was born until the second he dropped dead. I am not just sure how to handle a “Jackless life”. Not sure about that one.

But I do believe we become energy…. And I know that somewhere over the rainbow, my Jackson is having a ball. I loved you to the moon and back Jack, and I will always do until I drop dead….. IMG_4282





Ligaments are the fibrous tissues connecting bones to a joint. If your dog suffers a ligament tear or rupture, it’s likely he has a long road to recovery. Working with a good veterinary physiotherapist and keeping up with necessary therapeutic exercises is the key to successful rehabilitation. You may have to keep an energetic, rambunctious dog quiet during his recuperation – perhaps the most difficult of the tasks involved.


Common Ligament Injuries

In canines, tearing or rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) – equivalent to a human’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – is the most common type of such injury. Trauma may cause a sudden tear, but more often it results from degeneration over time. Dogs with exceptionally straight legs are at greater risk of experiencing a CCL injury due to conformational factors. In a rupture, the dog is obviously lame in the rear leg and usually experiences considerable pain.  A partial tear is more subtle. The dog won’t use his leg effectively and is generally off-and-one lame. Without treatment, the ligament will usually rupture. While smaller dogs may improve with conservative treatment – long periods of rest and inactivity – medium to large canines almost always need surgery to fully recover.

Dogs may also injure their Achilles tendons in the hind legs. These injuries also result from trauma or degeneration. Less severe injuries may only require splints or casts, but most dogs need surgical repair of the tendons. It can take up to three months of rest and rehabilitation therapy for a dog to recover, but the overwhelming majority of canines undergoing this surgery return to full function. Of course, some dogs aren’t good candidates for surgery because of age or other health issues. There’s also no getting around the fact that surgery is quite expensive.



Your vet will prescribe anti-inflammatories for pain relief. Supplements such as MSM, glucosamine, and turmeric may help but always check with your vet before giving them to your dog.


Dietary Therapy

Dietary changes aren’t the first items that come to mind when dealing with ligament injuries, but they are often an important part of a dog’s rehabilitation. Excess weight puts additional stress on a dog’s legs, so if your pooch needs to lose some pounds, your vet may recommend a reduced fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Even if your dog’s weight is normal, he does not require as much food if his activity is extremely limited. Your vet will recommend a nutritious meal plan that won’t make your dog excessively energetic at a time when he has no outlet for his vitality.


Physical Therapy

During his recuperation, your dog can’t run, jump or climb stairs. About the only non-therapeutic activity he can engage in are brief “bathroom” breaks – and they are not walks, just short forays outdoors. On the plus side, that means he should look forward to his physical therapy sessions, which consist of range of motion exercises and stretching. The veterinary physiotherapist shows you how to perform the exercises, and develops a custom treatment protocol for your dog. Expect to spend at least two hours daily, broken up into several sessions, working with your dog.

Your veterinary physiotherapist may use various modalities, including lasers and electromagnetic therapy to help your dog heal. She’ll check your pet’s progress during weekly appointments.



Hydrotherapy provides excellent benefits for dogs recovering from ligament injuries. Dogs receive exercise without pressuring their joints. It’s also a safe way for a dog to let off some of his pent-up energy without putting any weight on his legs.

Using the underwater treadmill allows the dog to build muscle and stay fit. Since surgery is so expensive, some owners may opt to use hydrotherapy as part of a conservative management regimen. Hydrotherapy may prevent dogs diagnosed with partial tears from completely rupturing, as water exercise aids in muscle development.

With patience and perseverance, you and your dog should once again take long, enjoyable walks.


In canines, OCD doesn’t usually stand for “obsessive-compulsive disorder.” OCD is the term used for osteochondritis dissecans, a cartilage condition affecting the joints. Cartilage protects the joints, and if it is damaged, there’s pain. OCD may appear in the shoulder or elbow of the front legs or the knee or hock of the rear limbs. While it requires surgical correction, there are numerous therapies that can help your dog get back to normal after his operation. Hydrotherapy is exceptionally effective for dogs with OCD.

Dogs at Risk

Although any dog might develop OCD, it’s far more common in large breeds, with males more often affected than females. Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 6 and 12 months, a rapid growth period. Vulnerable breeds include:

  • Border collie
  • English setter
  • German shepherd
  • Golden retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Labrador retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Old English sheepdog
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard.

Normally, a young dog’s skeleton forms cartilage at the end of his long bones. In dogs with OCD, the bones don’t harden sufficiently and the cartilage doesn’t develop properly. Bits of cartilage – the so-called “joint mice” – break off, causing arthritic issues in young dogs. Inflammation is present, and the damaged cartilage or the joint mice rub painfully against the joint.

OCD Symptoms

At a time of life when most dogs can’t keep still, these poor pups have trouble walking. Lameness is the most obvious sign of OCD, and it may come on suddenly or gradually. Sometimes the lameness isn’t apparent until after exercise. The joint may swell, and the dog can’t bear weight on the leg. The dog will react if you touch the joint – it hurts.

If untreated, the dog’s muscles start wasting because of the constant pain and lameness.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your vet diagnoses OCD based on X-rays, along with CAT scans and/or MRIs. She’ll take a fluid sample from the joint for testing to make sure an infection isn’t causing the symptoms. While rest may do the trick in some cases, the majority of dogs require surgical removal of the damaged cartilage and the joint mice.

Post-op Therapy

After your dog’s surgery, his activities are seriously restricted for up to six weeks. While he can’t run loose in the yard or go for walks on hard surfaces, he will require therapy during this period to help him recover. He’ll benefit from visits to a veterinary physiotherapist, who will show you how to perform some basic manual joint exercises on your pet. Your vet will recommend a glucosamine supplement to help with cartilage support.


Swimming is one of the best therapies for dogs with OCD. These are young, energetic animals, and they want to move. In the pool, they aren’t restricted. Regular swimming helps build their muscles and allows them a wide range of joint movement. Since a dog doesn’t have to bear weight during his hydrotherapy sessions, he can move quite freely. The warm water reduces his joint pain and increases circulation to his soft tissues, alleviating stiffness. He’s also having a great time.

If you are in Maryland or Virginia and are considering hydrotherapy as a rehabilitation option, feel free to contact us!


Your dog’s recovery depends on various factors, including the OCD location. The Merck Veterinary Manual states, “Prognosis for recovery is excellent for the shoulders, good for the stifle [knee] joint, and fair for the elbow and tarsal joints.” Therapy plays a large part in the dog’s overall recuperation. OCD often leads to early-onset arthritis. Regular hydrotherapy sessions, along with a healthy diet and appropriate supplements, help keep these symptoms at bay.  



What you might not know about it.

I always say that I learn a lot from my dogs, but this is the one thing, I wish I never had to learn the hard way, because it just broke my heart.

yme disease sounds scary, but you know I thought that I protected my dogs the best ways possible. They had their Lyme vaccine every year, and then their heartworm test on a yearly basis as well as Frontline every month not to name it!

Three and half years ago, it was Labor Day weekend, and on Sunday, George, my 3 and half years old black lab was fine and goofing around as usual. The next morning when I woke up, his legs were so swollen, he could not walk. Sometimes you wonder how you do things that you thought you would not be able to do. I carried my 80lbs dog to my truck and we flew to the emergency.

Funny how I did not have a bad feeling about it. I thought he was going to be okay. My beautiful and sweet boy. George had always been glued to me. I could not sit anywhere without having him right away on my lap. I don’t think he ever knew he was a dog.

As soon as they drew some blood, the diagnosis came back: kidney failure due to most likely Lyme Nephritis. He tested highly positive for Lyme. I still thought that he was going to be okay. The vet knew but did not know how to tell me. Lyme Nephritis is a bitch. It’s a disease slowly destroying the kidneys without any precursor signs. It’s a little bit like the body is fighting the kidneys like it doesn’t know they are good guys. It started with a tick infected with Lyme, and for whatever reason instead of fighting Lyme, George’s body decided to go after his kidneys. He was at this emergency on Monday, then on Tuesday I took him to a Veterinary Referral Center in Leesburg.

During the ride, George decided that he did not want to be stuck in the back of the truck and jumped to come to his favorite spot: the passenger front seat. I thought it was a good sign, right? He still had his catheter and everything. When we arrived, he was not that great anymore and they had to get a stretcher. They were amazing over there. It was the Life Center in Leesburg. I went there at the recommendation of the emergency vet. If the internist I saw could do something, it was her. After talking to the internist, Dr. Miller, I left and was supposed to come back early afternoon.

When I came back that afternoon with my youngest daughter, the news were dire. His organs were shutting down, and it was a matter of hours. I could not let him die by himself, so we decided to put him to sleep. I still see him coming with all his IVs and his darn tail still wagging.

In a few minutes, my sweet boy was gone, and I was left empty handed with his collar. Three and half years later, I am still grieving my boy. He was only 3 and half years old, only 3 and half years old. How fair is that?

At that time, my vet had just retired and I had just changed to a new one. I still had George’s Mom, Lola, and his siblings: two sisters, Sophie (Sophie was attached by the hip with George, and it took her some time to recover from her loss. If anyone tells me that dogs don’t grieve, they know nothing about dogs!), Zoe, and then his two brothers, Max and Jackson as well as Maia’s, Lola’s girlfriend. Are you confused enough with my crew now?

I was grieving my boy, but I was SO angry, and I needed to understand. The first thing my new vet told me was “you must have mice where you live?”

“Excuse me?”

“Mice are the ones which infect ticks with Lyme disease?”

I always thought it was the deer. So, it was breaking news for me: deer carry ticks around like birds, squirrels, foxes, and all wild critters. They might carry more ticks than other animals, but THEY DO NOT GIVE LYME TO TICKS. For a tick to be infected with Lyme, at one stage of its life, it has to have been in contact with one of those “deer mice” or white footed mice. Did you know about it? I sure did not? When I started doing research online, then I did discover that it was true. My garage was infested with mice, my truck was infested with mice, and I did not know the threat it was for my dogs or me as a matter of fact.

I called DNR to ask them if they could mention on their website the white footed mice and the Lyme transmission. I never succeeded. I was fighting ignorance, and good luck fighting it! I went nowhere.



  • LYME VACCINE: there is no real way to say that this vaccine is working. If you think about it, if the vaccine was effective for the dogs, don’t you think we would have one for us, humans? Breaking news: we don’t. It covers some strains of the Lyme disease but just a few. I stopped giving that vaccine to my crew after doing a lot of research online.
  • HEARTWORM TEST: even when it’s positive, many vets don’t do anything about it if the dog is not sick because it just meant that at one point, the dog had to fight the disease but if there is no sign, some vets won’t do a thing because so many dogs test positive.
  • FRONTLINE: If you read – the little notice on Frontline, it says that it can take up to 24 hours to be effective. Breaking news: a tick can infect a dog within 12 hours. There are now better products that Frontline. Not sure why so many vets still recommend the darn thing. It has been around forever. It’s comfortable I guess.  


  • LYME VACCINE: out of the picture. My dogs don’t get that shot anymore.
  • HEARTWORM TEST: I still do it but I do not rely on it. Instead what I do is a urine test every six months. If there is any protein in the urine, then Houston we have a problem.
  • TICKS AND FLEAS REPELLENT: I now use K9 Advantix II which kills ticks within an hour or less. I use it EVERY MONTH no matter what the temperature is, because breaking news again: Ticks did not read the notice saying they have to die when it’s below freezing. You can find ticks these days any month of the year.
  • They have those new medications which are not as messy since your dog can swallow a pill instead of you having to apply it below his neck. They are not as effective, and furthermore, but it might just be me but that stuff is a pesticide. Do I want my dogs to swallow a pesticide? Nope!

 Last, unfortunately, Lyme Nephritis attacks mostly young dogs, and the two favorite breeds are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. No clue why. It just happens. So, if you do have a young retriever, just be careful, be aware that there might not be signs, and when they show, it could be too late. I am not saying that what I do is 100% effective, BUT the urine test every six months if you live in a tick infested area, is really the best thing you can do to be sure the kidneys are in good shape, and  with a great tick repellent, that’s probably the best you can do to protect your dog. And last, if you have mice where you live, GET RID OF THEM, and I mean it. Not with ultra sounds but with good all traps. I cannot see a mouse now without thinking of my boy.

georgenAs you know, I am not a vet, but I learned the hard way that vets don’t really share their knowledge (they don’t have time!) and you have to learn by yourself a lot of stuff. I just wish I did not have to do it the hard way by losing my 3 and half year old rambunctious boy, my George. If that blog can spare ONE life, I would be happy.


reikiA few years ago, I was telling my ex vet (one of the reasons, he became my ex vet) that I was taking Zeus to Reiki every week, and he asked me: “Reiki Who?” I can’t get over that one!

As always, I only talk about my experience! When Zeus got older, and started to have arthritis in his joints, I tried to help with anything which could come into my mind. It was so painful just to see him walk. Hey, it was my boy, Zeus, the one who could run away from me with the Thanksgiving turkey, the one who could not resist a chipmunk or who loved to retrieve, but always needed two bumpers at the same time to retrieve. He was not going for only one! He had standards!

Besides the medications for his joints and some anti-inflammatory pain meds, what else could I do to help him? We did acupuncture, and he was totally relaxed after the sessions. So relaxed that he did not even want to climb back to my truck despite of its ramp, and I had to carry his 100lbs. to the truck!

I found a swimming pool for dogs with jets in Virginia and decided to give it a try. It was so sad for me to suddenly realize that Zeus, who loved so much the water, did not enjoy these swimming and retrieving sessions. He was just too tired for them.

At the same place, there was an advertisement for Reiki sessions, and I decided to give it a try!


Reiki is a Japanese healing art for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. The meaning of Reiki in Japanese is “Universal Life Force”, and was synthetized in the late 1800’s by Mikao Usui.

In Reiki, the practitioner is seeking to transmit Universal Life Energy to the patient. The goal is to create relaxation, to help speed healing, reduce pain. It is administered by “laying on hands”. In the Reiki philosophy, the “life force energy” flows through us and is the reason we are alive. If one’s “Life force Energy” is low, we are more susceptible to get sick, and if it’s high we should be more able to be happy and healthy. Reiki can also be practiced “long distance” as a form or prayer.

REIKI and animals: When they are ill: Reiki helps the healing process.

– When they are young or old: You can use Reiki on an animal of any age or situation.

When they have been through a trauma: Animals can use loving energy after they’ve experienced any type of abuse, loss, or move, or if they seem to exhibit depression or other behavioral disorder.

For the last three years of his life, he had a Reiki session with Ingrid on Thursdays at 10:00 am. I swear he knew when it was Thursday! Every time, he was waiting for me by the door. We both loved those Thursdays!

Of course, Zeus being Zeus, he was playing me so well. To go to the Reiki room, we had to go through a pet store with all the possible yummy treats near his nose. So of course, he was stopping every two feet and looking at me like “hey, you want me to walk more? I need a cookie!” We played the game, each time. I was always taking a cookie with me and was putting it in front of him to make him walk to the Reiki room, and most of the time it worked.

Once there, he was going straight to the sheep rug, crashed on it, and allowed Ingrid to do the magic with her hands. He was enjoying those 45 minutes, every minute of them, enjoying the touch, my presence, and the peaceful ambiance of the room.

What was amazing was to see Zeus after the Reiki session. He was coming as an old guy, and leaving as a mature but quite alert pup! He would have probably needed Reiki every day, and sometimes I do regret not to have thought at that time of studying Reiki to give it to him on a daily basis.

Even now, more than four years after his passing, I can still picture him by the front door waiting for me on “Ingrid’s Day”.

Two years after Zeus died, our Golden retriever was diagnosed with Lymphocytic Leukemia. Pouch was the first dog who allowed us to have a long, very long goodbye. We fought that disease. He got chemotherapy, and I remember how the first time I had to give him these little red pills, I started crying like a baby, because I knew that they will change my boy forever as well as weaken his immune system.

I also decided to try Reiki for him. He would need as much comfort as he could get. Reiki gives energy to those lacking it, and here we went again on a Thursday and it was at “Zeus time” which was kind of eerie.

The difference between Zeus and Pouch is that Zeus loved to be in my truck when Pouch was a bit claustrophobic and never enjoyed car rides. After the first session, Ingrid suggested “long distance Reiki”. I was not familiar with it at all, and yes, for me, it sounded a bit sketchy, but hey, anything which could help my boy was worth a try.

This is another day that I will never forget. It was a Monday, and Pouch was supposed to have his first “Long distance Reiki” in the afternoon. I was in my office at my computer, and he was lying in a bed near me. Suddenly I heard him having a huge sigh which make me turn around to look at him, and he was still in the “sigh process” while at the same time stretching his legs. And the phone rang. It was Ingrid who told me she just finished the Reiki session with Pouch and that he needed a lot of energy in his back. After that day, I never had a second thought about it. Pouch got Reiki until he died a year later.

You know, with furry kids, when they are sick or getting older with pains, you can’t explain anything to them, so I am always on the lookout for anything which could make them as comfortable as possible, and Reiki has been a huge part of their wellbeing.

Now, when I look at my pack, I know that in some years, I am going to have 6 senior dogs with pains and aches. I can barely think about it without tearing up, and I need to be ready for them. So, not long ago, I started to learn how to practice Reiki and I am going to go all the way, and one day, when my pack is old and gray, I will be there with Reiki and unconditional love for my furever furry kids.

A few years ago, after our Golden retriever, Pouch – don’t ask about the name please! – was diagnosed with Lymphocytic Leukemia, I looked back, and saw in the background the remaining of my gang: 7 Labrador retrievers and my little terrier (little only in size!) and thought: “Gosh, five of them are the same age, being siblings, if they get sick at the same time, how am I going to be able to do the best for each of them?”

The worst nightmare if you have a furry kid – besides the fact that they don’t live long enough – would be not to be able to afford the best care in time of sickness. I talked to my ex vet, and he suggested I contact VPI. It was 3 years ago.

One day, I decided it was the day, and I called VPI. You know before you talk to these sales representatives, there is always a message saying that “the call is recorded for training purposes”. I swear, next time, I get that message, I will warn the rep that I am going to record the conversation as well for “accuracy purposes”! Really wonder how they are going to take it! Anyway, a guy, really nice – hey, remember he is a sales guy! He gets a commission for every sale he makes – so, yes he can be nice!

The sales rep got me right away. I was not interested in being covered for the annual exam and shots, but for accidents and illnesses. He suggested the $ 1,000 deductible since I had 8 dogs to cover, the premium would be less expensive while I could afford the deductible. I remember asking him if everything was covered after the deductible, and he told me yes, up to $ 14,000 per year. Cancer was not excluded, and if one of my mutts gets cancer, he will still be covered the following year. I am telling you: I was relieved! I suddenly became grown-up! I had health insurance for my pack! It was around $300.00 a month, and now I could sleep at night. My mutts were protected and will be safe. I was a happy camper!

They deducted the money right away from my bank account, and within a month I received policies for everyone. Did I read them? No. The sales rep explained to me whatever needed to be known. I felt confident, and neatly put every policy in the mutt’s folders.

A year ago, George, one of my beautiful pups, got sick on Labor Day weekend. He woke up with swollen limbs. One day he was his old self, the next day, he could barely walk. I took him to the emergency clinic where he was diagnosed with Lyme nephritis. I did not realize right away how bad it was, or I did not want to realize it. I kept saying that I had health insurance, that whatever was needed, they could do it, right? At one point, a vet tech came in and tried to make me understand that George was lost, he was not going to make it, and cost wise, it would make more sense to put him to sleep right away. I remembered looking at her like an alien, when they must have thought I was the alien. How could I have ever agreed to put to sleep my handsome 3 year old black lab? For God sake, he looked healthy the day before? I just could not even think about putting him to sleep. It was George, for God sake. I was the one to cut his umbilical cord. He was my special pup!

To make a long story short, I refused to put him to sleep, and decided to try to save him. George stayed at the emergency for 24 hours, and then, the day after was just a regular day, so I had to take him to a hospital where he was going to be seen by an internist while being taken care of in ICU.

His condition went from bad to worst within a few hours, and yes there was a possible treatment, but the internist, who was by the way, one of the most amazing ones I have met, and I have met a few, told me he was not going to make it. No amount of money will make him survive! At that point, after a full day at that hospital, I decided to put him to sleep. I could not bear the idea of him dying alone and we put him to sleep at that time, and let him rest in peace.

I paid the bills, and more bills. I just added them up recently to see exactly how much I had spent, not that it mattered. I would have sold the house I did not own to save him! The total amount was $7,795.69.

The days following George’s death, still in a daze, I started faxing every single bill to VPI, right? When I went online to check the claim, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw that they would be reimbursing me a bit less than $ 1000.00 including the euthanasia. All the anger I had from losing George was now aimed at VPI. I called them, and they explained very nicely to me that they do not reimburse the real expenses but they have a chart for each illness and they gave me the details:

Lyme for instance was $ 335.00, and then they were covering some blood tests. At that time, they gave me the link to the chart in question, and I realized that most illnesses or treatments were reimbursed for less than $ 1,000! Yes there were a few exceptions: chemotherapy was $2,000.00, Knee surgery was 2,620.00, but most of them were under $1,000.00. So, basically, no matter what, I was screwed since my deductible was $ 1,000.00 and my nice sales rep. blatantly lied to me like he must have been lying to thousands of people to make a buck.

Yes, I should have read the whole brochure I received for each mutt, the whole thing since the part which really matters is in the last few pages. That part is also on their website, but it’s not really visible. You have to know where it is in order to access it. They don’t talk about it, because you know, it’s just about how much you love your animal and want to protect him or her, right?

Here is the magic link.

Even if it’s written “sample” it was the chart of how much they reimbursed me at that time. Do you really think that, if I had seen that chart when enrolling, I would have enrolled? Nope!

At the end of the day, it was my fault, and only my fault! I did not read the brochure I received after the enrollment. If I had read it, I would have cancelled it right away because it was just major BS. How could anyone of their sales rep recommend a $ 1,000 deductible when most illnesses and accidents are under the $ 1,000.00 limit?

When I talked to my ex vet about it, she said that they do reimburse fast. True, but how much? She also mentioned at that time that each time she sees a patient for a specific problem; she makes sure that whatever problem it is, she writes in the chart, that it was solved. She learned that from experience. One of her patients, a German shepherd, was brought to her at one point for diarrhea. Obviously, the dog got back to normal, but she never wrote it in his chart. Two years later, he had a twisted stomach, and needed surgery. VPI denied the claim because the previous “stomach problem” was never cured according to the chart.

I was naïve, very naïve. How could I have trusted someone just because he said so? I guess because I still believed at that time that they could not misrepresent their services the way they did. But, you know, if I think for one minute about it: those health insurances for pets are there TO MAKE MONEY, nothing else. Why would they be better than health insurance companies for humans?

After George’s death, I was still trying to believe that somewhere there had to be a good health insurance for my furry kids. I was feeling so vulnerable without insurance. Oooopppsss, I forgot to mention that I cancelled VPI after I realized what they were about.

I tried two other health insurances for pets where they said “they reimburse the real cost of the treatments.” This time, it was easy! I asked them to evaluate George’s file, and to tell me what they would have reimbursed. Both of them declined. It would have been easy. I had his whole file until he died, but no, they just refused to do it. But when you read between the lines, they have the right to ask for you to bring your sick pet for other evaluations, therefore, your pet might be dead before he gets approved for whatever treatment is needed. I passed on them, and I passed on the idea of health insurance for my pets.

When I see reviews on pet insurances like not long ago on Angie’s list, someone saying: “I am so relieved now that I have VPI for my dog. They will reimburse me up to $ 14,000 a year for his medical expenses. This is great.” I become sad.

I understand the concept of making money of course, but making money by not saying the truth, the whole truth, is just a masquerade. No, they do not care, the only thing health insurance companies for pets have in their minds is the dollar sign, hey this is the country of opportunities. Everyone knows that pet parents spend more and more money every year on their pets. They just want a part of it.

So, what am I doing now? After George’s passing, I opened a bank account for the mutts. Every month I make a $300.00 deposit like a “premium”. In just a year, I have $ 3,600.00 there for them. This money is for my furry kids, and it grows fast. I know it’s there, and I know that when the time comes, because at one point, it will come, I will be able to give them the best care I can afford, which is much better that what I could have got from any health insurance companies.

Again, this is my experience. Maybe you are happy with yours! Share your stories, because the really only thing which matters here is keeping our furry pets safe.

georgeExactly one year ago, at 4:15 pm, we put you to sleep. Labor Day weekend will always be associated with you, no matter what. Here goes one less holiday to celebrate! I hope you are in peace, free of pain, my beautiful boy.

I am not going to lie to you. This weekend was tough. I was reliving almost hour by hour our last two days together. I still look at the last picture I took from you on that Sunday when you were so vibrant of life.

It was so hard to let you go. I stopped calling your name in the yard which was a way to believe that you were still around. Not because I thought the neighbors would think I am crazy, but because it was upsetting too much your sister, and partner in crime, Sophie. Each time I say your name, she goes by the glass door to wait for you. I just couldn’t do that to her.

A few weeks after you crossed the rainbow bridge, our neighbor, the one with the pool, came all the way to the house to see if you were OK. His wife told him that she did not hear me screaming your name anymore in the yard. My free spirited dog! Even the last night before horror slapped me in the face, I remembered how exasperated I was around 10:00 pm because you were still playing in the yard. But you came, my wild boy, with that grin which got me since the day you were born.

The first few weeks after you left us were tough. I am not going to deny it, and you must have known it. First, there was Sophie who refused to eat for several days and was standing by the door, waiting for you. If my heart had not been already broken, she would have broken it a bit more. My ex vet used to say that animals don’t mourn. This is crap, you know, because Sophie was in mourning for a very long time.

Sophie never replaced you. It would have been easy for her to hang out with one of your siblings, Max or Jackson, but no, since that September 4th, she is a loner. Don’t get me wrong, she does enjoy life, food, walks, and her bumper, but no one replaced you. You were like attached by the hip to her, and now she just stands by herself.

I wish you could have seen us – me and her – when she came home one morning with a dead squirrel in her mouth. She was so proud of herself! And I was so freaking out! Since that morning, you know Sophie, my wild child, and she decided since the squirrel episode, that she can’t have breakfast before killing a stuffed toy! So, while I am fixing their meals, she is running around like a nut with a toy in her mouth, shaking it, until she is sure the darn thing is dead, and then she comes for breakfast.

I talk about you a lot, I think about you a lot, and if I could resume you with one word, it would have been: HAPPY! I never saw a dog as happy as you were. Ever. And the last picture of you, when you were coming from the intensive care unit with all your IVs and catheter, and God knows what else; you were still wagging that tail! My happy boy!

After you left me, I found your spot in the yard where you had buried all your treasures: your candy cane toy, and carrots, lots of rotten carrots! George, you were never starved! Why on earth did you have to bury these carrots like you were anticipating bad days coming?

I have that memory of you when I was coming home, and I was seeing you coming from the back of the house at full speed towards me. You never figured out how to slow down. Always bumping into me at full speed with that big grin! Gosh, I miss your grin!

I don’t know how long it took me until I stopped expecting your 80lbs of full happiness on my lap each time I was sitting down! You were my lapdog! From the minute you were born, you were so glued to me. The first rides in the car, you had to be on my lap! I know that the girls said that our bond was because I cut your umbilical cord, but I don’t know anymore. I just know that my lap is meaningless now that you are gone.

The first Christmas without you around for breakfast was eerie. The year before, you were so proud when you jumped on that chair to be at the table with us.

Rewinding your life, I feel like you were living yours at 100 miles like if you knew that you would not go past 3 years, 5 months and 14 days.

Today, I wanted to tell you George that we are going to celebrate you with a roasted chicken. Remember how you almost took my fingers away one day when you stole a chicken, and I got it back from you, kind of. These were the good days….

I am missing you like every single day since you left us, and I wanted to tell you that I would give anything to have you back just for one minute, just for one minute. RIP my beautiful boy! We had so many great moments together, not just enough years.


Note: George died from Lyme Nephritis. He had no symptoms until the last days. He was “normal George” until September 3rd when he woke up with swollen limbs and was diagnosed with kidney failure. He had his Lyme shot as well as Front line. It was not enough. The vets did everything they could to save him, but it was too little too late. If you have a young lab or golden retriever, be sure to check them for Lyme often no matter what. That specific condition doesn’t happen that often, maybe a dog in thousands, but it really doesn’t matter when it’s yours.

jetI love dogs, cats, anything with four legs, a tail, and furry coat! I had many dogs, but one day, unexpectedly, I just fell in love with one breed: the Labrador retriever.

I really did not know much about labs. Mostly the picture I had in my mind was a big fat thing snoring around. Sorry guys. I know this is so so wrong, but hey it was how I was picturing a lab until I met Jet. Jet was my boyfriend’s lab, and I suspect, no I know, that I stayed with him for his dog. I fell in love with that black thing immediately. Jet was a working dog, and loved to go hunting with his Dad. But, as he was getting older, it became more and more difficult for him to get up early and go freeze his butt in a field. He still liked the idea, but his joints were too stiff in the morning to really go for it.

At that time, I already had Douchka, a German shepherd, and Pouch, our Golden retriever. Both of them accepted Jet pretty fast. Douchka being Douchka started by showing him who was the boss, but she would have died to protect him or Pouch or her humans. Pouch was Pouch, our gentledog, and started to hang out a lot with Jet, sharing bones, and playing tug war.

Every day, I was taking the three of them to walk in a big field, leash free. They minded me….. Most of the time. We had a few adventures that way. The field which was a Pepco facility field was surrounded by houses on both sides. One day, a Sunday, I was walking them around lunch time, and the three of them started running around. They disappeared for ten seconds, and then came back like accomplices licking their lips. I did not have a second to wonder what mischief they had got into that I heard a guy screaming at his wife: “Honey where did you put the hot dogs?”, and a female voice replying “They are on the patio table.” “No, they are not! The dish is empty. Where are the $#$@##$$ hotdogs?” Needless to say and yes, with some shame, I have to acknowledge that the four of us ran away from the screaming house as fast as we could. I never walked them again around lunch time on weekends there.

That field was not flat. At one point there was a big hill, and Jet got me there one time…. He started to rush to climb that hill, and I did not mind. I mean, I did not know him that well at that time. At one point, at the top of the hill, he turned back his face towards me, and then disappeared. I started running with my two other buddies following me. I arrived at the top of the hill, and Jet was nowhere to be seen. I totally panicked, and started running around and screaming his names: nothing. I ran back to my truck with the dogs, and started to drive around the neighborhood. Thank God, it was a very quiet neighborhood but nothing. It was like he had vanished from the field. Not knowing what else to do, I went back to the field, and there, on the sidewalk, sitting quietly, was Jet waiting for me. It did make sense. It was where we parked, and once he finished exploring whatever he was doing (I learned later that he was visiting a Dalmatian girl who lived close by) he went back waiting for me, his human, who had left him alone in the wild world! A few times, he tried to play that trick again on me, but as soon as I was seeing him going faster to climb that hill, I was right behind him!

Jet was the first dog that had a great sense of humor! We communicated well. He came with me everywhere: from work to errands. Everyone knew him. If I were going to make a deposit at a bank, there was always a cookie ready for him.

The front passenger seat was his, and he was anticipating my driving. So many times, when he was seeing a stop sign coming, he was putting one of his front paws on the dashboard to keep his balance. What did he think? I was not going to send him through the windshield.

We went to Florida two summers in a row with him, and he loved it. He loved the swimming pool where he could retrieve his favorite ball in warm and clear water. He loved our walks on the beach, jumping into the Gulf waters. Jet loved water. He must have been a fish in another life. The first summer in Florida was so much fun for him. The second summer was not as fun. He was slowing down and was still enjoying the swimming pool but he left the Gulf alone that time. During our walks, sometimes he was looking at me with tired eyes, wanted to go back home, and I was just following him, whatever his body was telling him to do. He was my sweet boy.

His face got frosted so fast. He was black, and there is nothing more beautiful than a black face frosted with white hair.

My office was in the basement, and like many of my other labs, his idea of relaxing was to be under my desk on my feet. The issue started to be the stairway, and if he were upstairs while I was at my desk, he was going to the top of the stairs, and calling me to help him. He had so many different barks:

  • I want to come
  • I want a treat
  • I need to pee
  • Let’s go for a walk

He certainly communicated far more with me that my supposed boyfriend! LOL!

One time, it was before 9/11, and I was supposed to pick up the boyfriend from the airport. So, we went together, Jet and I, and were waiting for him in the terminal, sitting on a bench. A guy came to sit next to me and started a conversation. Jet was there with his big face on my lap, looking at the guy. Suddenly an awful reeking odor of spoiled rotten eggs with maybe a touch of musk surrounded us. The guy looked at me with disgust and ran away! I swear my darn dog was smiling like “That will teach him!”

The last Fall we had together, Jet started to get really fat, you know like the idea of I had of labs before knowing one. Something wrong with him. Xrays were done, and the vet wanted to do an exploratory surgery, and we went for it.

I still remember that morning. Jet was not too happy since he had no food, but we went together in my truck like old buddies, like always. He went to the vet office with a wagging tail. He always liked the place. I gave him a huge hug and there he went.

I was so antsy that day. Waiting for a call to give me an update on his condition, I decided to go to a local pet store to buy him a new bed. He would need to be very comfy after the surgery. I was on my way there when I received THE call. The vet told me that he had liver cancer with bleeding tumors, and nothing could be done. The only thing was to put him to sleep while he was still under the anesthesia. I remember the connection was not good, and right then in a minute, I had to let him go. Why the sky was still blue, the trees with glorious colors when my boy had just left this earth and crossed over the rainbow bridge?

That day, I went to see him before he became ashes. I caressed his beautiful face, his velvet ears, and I left, empty handed.

Later on, when I split with the boyfriend, he let me have his ashes for my kitchen furniture, a real small price to pay to keep my boy home. Jet is always the first one to move to a new home! He was my first lab, and he made me fall in love forever with that breed: the amazing, smart, loving, beautiful Labrador Retriever.

Some years ago, Zeus had a TPLO surgery on one of his back knee (rupture of the cruciate ligament) and my pup had a plaque with six screws. He would never have passed anymore the security check at any airport! I had a great surgeon. But he “forgot” to tell me was that most likely the second knee will give up at one point too, most likely within a year from the first surgery.

One day, I was walking Zeus, and he suddenly collapsed, and did not want to move anymore. Of course, I was at least a mile away from my truck and the C& O Canal was desert that morning. Amazing what you can do when you have no choice. I carried my boy all the way to the truck. You know it’s always when you need help that you can’t get any. My cell had no connection. Anyway, we made it to my vet who was not there but his colleague was. As soon as he took an X-ray, he came back with the appropriate expression on his face, telling me: Sorry, Dominique, Zeus has bone cancer!” And that was it. Adding “that there was not much to do” and wishing me good luck! Immediately, I got an appointment from another vet for a second opinion. Zeus was the gentlest dog I had ever had. As soon as the vet came to the exam room, Zeus started growling. Zeus never growled in his life! The vet told me that he would have to put a muzzle on him. I stood up, and told him that was not going to be necessary, that my dog knew something about him that I was not aware of, and I left.

As a matter of fact, Zeus did not have cancer, but just had the other cruciate ligament torn, and had the second TPLO surgery.

My point in telling you this story: trust your animal first!


If you are not happy with your veterinarian, or if you just move to a new area, one of the best ways to find a good veterinarian is to go to emergency hospitals – locally owned – not the ones owned by big chains! They know the local vets, and they would tell you where to go.

You can also ask friends, groomers, dog walkers, but I would go first with the emergency places.

I am not really keen of reviews online since the vets can remove the reviews they don’t like. I once wrote a review about a local vet saying that I would not even let him take care of a mouse! The review was gone in no time.

You have now a list of veterinarians to choose from, and now – exactly like when you chose a boarding place for your pet – go and meet with them!

They cannot refuse to give you a tour of their facilities. Here are a few tips on what to look for:

  • Is the facility clean? Well managed?
  • How many veterinarians do they have?
  • Can they take your pet the same day in case of an emergency?
  • How is the staff? If animals are around, look how they are handled, how professional are caring the staff is.
  • Ask what kind of equipment they have? (XRays, EKG, ultrasound? Blood work? Etc..)
  • Do they do some “in house” tests or do they send everything out?
  • Do they give any discount for multiple pets (Look who is talking! LOL)
  • If it’s a one vet practice, ask what happens during vacation time and where he refers his clients.
  • How do they deal with pain management.
  • Do they offer monitored overnights stays, in case of illnesses or where to they refer you to.

Once, you did that, you might still have more than one veterinarian that you like. The next step would be to make an appointment to introduce your furry kid, and see how he or she interacts with your animal. Trust your animal too, especially if he or she is as easy going as Zeus was.

Veterinarians are just human beings. They are no Gods there, and they just don’t know every thing. That’s why specialists are there. I always make sure that my vet understands that I do not expect him to know everything, but I do expect him to tell me when he doesn’t know, and then I go to an internist or a specialist. This is really important. You are putting your pet in the hands of someone you need to trust and trust their ability to make you take the right decisions.


As a pet owner, you have the responsibility to take your pet for their annual checkup, not only when they are sick.

If you have an emergency during business hours, always call to make sure you can bring your pet. Do not take it for granted. If they can’t see you, ask them to refer you to an emergency place.

When you are at the vet, make sure you keep your cat crated and your dog on a leash. There is nothing more annoying than dogs having too much space in the waiting room and being too nosy around other pets waiting too.

Keep copies of all their records. If you ever need to take your pet to an emergency on a weekend, you will have their history with you, because our furry kids sure don’t read the memo saying “no emergencies at night or on weekends.”

Always watch out for any change in their behavior, or gain of weight or any sudden change.

Do not expect your vet to give you a diagnosis over the phone. And if you have an emergency, go to an emergency or to your vet, but do not start posting on the net: “My dog face is swollen, what should I do?” I just saw that one recently on a board.


This is such a hard decision to take since your vet is the memory of your pet’s life. It’s never fun to start all over again. Believe me on that one. I had to do it more than once.

If you are not satisfied about a specific issue or billing, communication is a must. Try to resolve it instead of just leaving.

If it’s something which interferes with the well-being of your animal, then go! And just go back to the top of my post!


Do not be afraid to ask questions to your vet, and if you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to say it!

No matter who your vet is, when there is a big issue, I will always go for a second opinion.

When your pet is diagnosed with a specific illness, do some research on the net. No vet will ever have time to educate you on a specific disease in a few minutes. The more you know about it, the better your chances are to fight the disease that illness, and to be able to understand what is happening to your pet.

Learn about “stuff” that your vet won’t have time to educate you about. That’s when the internet and Zeus Corner come!

Research specific topics like illnesses common in our area: Lyme to name one. Learn the history of Lyme, how it happens, why. This is a touchy subject for me since I lost one of my dogs to Lyme Nephritis last year. I did not do my homework; I thought my dog was protected, when, as a matter of fact, he was not.

Food is a big issue too, and it will be another topic for my blog soon. Do not expect too much from your vet in the 15 minutes that he will spend with your pet.

Keep yourself informed of the new drugs, the new discoveries in veterinary medicine, the new treatments, and read my blog! Read our vet, Leslie’s blog, and stay aware of your pet behavior. They cannot talk but they have a way to show when something is wrong. 


I know it’s silly but it took me several years to realize for instance that “Heartguard” needs to be chewed. You can forget about it when you have labs! They swallow; chewing is not in their vocabulary, so I have to crush it in order to be effective.

Not long ago, I was ready a notice for a tick and flea repellent, and most people, including me, would have believed that the repellent lasts for a month, but for that specific one, if you read the small letters, it says that it keeps fleas away for a month, but ticks away for only two weeks.

Always ask your vet for a specific med that you have to administer to your pet if it’s needs to be chewed. For instance, when they have a stomach ache, so many times I gave them a Pepcid. But if the Pepcid you have are chewable tablets, it will not help at all if your pet swallows it without crushing it.

Our furry kids entrust us with their lives, and the least we can do is to give us the best shot at a healthy life. My little one, Sammie, might not see it that way as I type this, since he just had surgery, and has to wear an E-Collar. But yes, buddy, this is the best I can do for you right now!