Friday, July 21, 2017

Hemopet is a Blood Bank That’s Saving Pets

When Robin’s organs began failing after getting dozens of bee stings while chasing a suspect, the beautiful black Monterey Park police dog required emergency medical intervention to save her life. The blood products she needed so desperately were rushed to the Inland Valley Emergency Pet Clinic by staff from Hemopet, the United States’ only nonprofit commercial canine blood bank.

Hemopet is a blood bank that's saving countless pets' lives.

Hemopet is a blood bank that’s saving countless pets’ lives. Photography courtesy Hemopet.

What is Hemopet?

Hemopet was founded by renowned researcher and veterinarian Dr. Jean Dodds. The idea of creating a blood bank program for pets — like those that already existed for humans — came to her in the early 1980s after leaving a meeting for the American Red Cross Advisory Council.

Through funding obtained from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Dr. Dodds was able to teach and promote veterinary transfusion medicine at veterinary schools across the United States before opening Hemopet in 1986. Today, Hemopet supplies an estimated — and impressive — 40 percent of commercial canine blood used for transfusions in the U.S.

“Our first commercial canine blood products were sold in 1991, initially in southern California and then nationwide and in Canada,” Dr. Dodds explained. “Canada has since developed its own blood bank for pets, and we now also service Hong Kong.”

Hemopet, which is licensed and regulated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, provides quality blood products, such as packed red blood cells, whole blood, fresh-frozen plasma and transfusion supplies, to veterinary clinics in order to make transfusion medicine safe and affordable. And Dr. Dodds was proud to note that Hemopet helped formulate the state regulations that currently apply to animal blood banks in the state of California.

Hemopet takes its dedication to rescuing dogs one step further

And while Hemopet’s blood products help save countless dogs’ lives, the origin of the blood itself is also a story of survival and rescue.

The blood is collected from specific groups of resident Greyhounds at Hemopet. The former racing dogs are rescued and undergo strict testing to see if they meet the criteria to become blood donors. The healthy, adult dogs who are free from any known blood-transmitted diseases and have the correct blood type to serve as donors do so for no more than a year, then are adopted out as companion animals to loving homes.

“We recruit only true ‘universal donor’ dogs with blood type DEA-4, as they can give their blood to any dog regardless of the patient dog’s blood type,” Dr. Dodds said. “This is important, as most people don’t know the blood type of their pet and cannot easily find it out in an emergency.”

How Hemopet collects blood for dogs in need

If the idea of a person donating blood conjures up images of a relatively quick and painless procedure followed by juice and snacks, the process for the donor Greyhounds is surprisingly similar. The dog is fully awake and stays in a sitting position in front of a staff member while the blood is collected. Dr. Dodds explained that the blood flows out of the jugular vein in the neck thanks to gravity, and after the donation is complete, the dog’s neck is bandaged to make sure the site stays clean, and he or she receives a treat.

She also noted that Hemopet collects “pediatric units of blood” (the equivalent of 250 mL) twice a month from adult Greyhound donors weighing between 55 and 95 pounds. Larger males can actually donate three times a month if necessary, but even at that, it is still not considered a large volume for them to give regularly.

Thanks to these Greyhounds and the dedication of Dr. Dodds and her team, countless dogs have access to the blood products that can save their lives. Dogs like Baxter, who had pancreatitis and would have been euthanized if his owner, as a last resort, had not contacted Dr. Dodds who advised her to try the plasma transfusion that ultimately saved his life; or Arthur the Dachshund, who was bitten by a rattlesnake and survived the deadly venom because of blood and plasma donated from Greyhound donor Blondie.

How to get involved with Hemopet

There are many ways to get involved at Hemopet, including the Greyhound Spoiler’s Club, which is as wonderful as it sounds. For more information on Hemopet, its affiliate, Save the Greys Greyhound rescue and adoption program, and all the other important work being done by Dr. Dodds in veterinary diagnostics, visit hemopet.org or look them up on Facebook.

Thumbnail: Photography Courtesy Hemopet.

Read more about dog health on Dogster.com:

Crystal Gibson is a Canadian expat in France. She’s written for Dogster.com and Catster.com since 2013 and has been published in Chicken Soup For the Soul. She’s got a Doxie mix, Pinch, and a needy Sphynx cat, Skinny Mini. Find Crystal on Twitter at @PinchMom.

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The 5 Most Loyal Dog Breeds

With the exception of some hounds who pride themselves on independent thinking, most dog breed representatives, when asked, insist they’re loyal dog breeds. Similarly, owners say their dogs (of any breed or mixed breed) are loyal. Perhaps it’s a matter of semantics. To whom, or what, does a dog owe his loyalty? A Siberian Husky source once told me her dogs were loyal to life more so than home. She had to bring in a German Shepherd to protect her dog kennels, for her Siberians would leave delightfully with any stranger opening the door. The Siberians were passionately loyal to adventure!

Let’s start with the supposition that dogs as a whole are loyal to mankind, certainly in comparison to other species not developed for human companionship. But some dog breeds were developed with an extra dose of loyalty to their own people.  In fact, there’s an abundance of breeds jockeying to be named the most loyal dog breed. Let’s hear from the five most vocal:

1. Bouvier des Flandres

Bouvier de Flanders courtesy Sandi Lyon

The Bouvier des Flandres is a loyal dog breed. Photography courtesy Sandi Lyon (Margaux Bouviers)/ Nancy Villwock.

I was bred to work for farmers, butchers, and cattlemen. My early names evidence my working history: Toucheur de boeuf means cattle driver; koehond means cow dog. My protective nature, steadfast allegiance, and thoughtful nature make me a good watch dog. Now let’s delve into my mindset. Humans developed me with the drive to defend; I view the world outside my family as potentially troublesome. Newcomers will receive a somber, rather skeptical eye from me until they’ve proved their friendliness. And my aloofness will linger even longer if they tease about another earlier name of mine: Vuilbaard, meaning “dirty beard.”

2. Bullmastiff

Bullmastiff courtesy Elizabeth Falk

Bullmastiffs are also known for their unfaltering loyalty. Photography courtesy Elizabeth Falk.

As our name suggests, we were bred from Bulldogs and Mastiffs in England. We assisted gamekeepers by protecting game on the estates from poachers. Our early ancestors needed to be tough enough to catch and hold thieves, yet live amicably with our family. Clearly we had to differentiate between strangers (potential thieves) and family. And while today few of us catch poachers, our loyalty remains fine-tuned. We’re self-assured, confident, and not overly reactive in general. You may, however, see our protective side emerge if our family is threatened.

3. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier1 courtesy Mary Ingersoll-Ackerman

Yorkshire Terriers make the list for most loyal dog breeds. Photography courtesy Mary Ingersoll-Ackerman.

I’m so honored to be listed. Terriers are often referred to as feisty or independent. But we Yorkies often bond intensely with family. How does our history explain our faithfulness? We were bred in England to control rat populations, and we took the job seriously. Today we’re mainly companions, but we’ve retained an intensity that we funnel into family devotion. And while in reality all I can do is bark when I sense danger, in my vivid imagination I’m tackling intruders with the same strength as German Shepherd Dogs.

4. German Shepherd 

German Shepherd courtesy Deborah Stern

German Shepherds are a no-brainer when it comes to loyal dogs. Photography courtesy Deborah Stern.

I’m proud to have the Yorkie above giving me a shout-out. I have a passion for working alongside and protecting my loved ones. Many soldiers and policeman, as well as individuals who use us for service work, will attest to our fidelity. I’m renowned for my heroism (perhaps not my humbleness). Many of my kin have given their lives to protect loved ones. I’ll demonstrate a calm politeness to newcomers, but by definition they’re outsiders. Because I was bred as a working dog with guarding and watching genes, I discriminate carefully between family (us) and strangers (them).

5. Cane Corso

Cane Corso courtesy Shutterstock

Cane Corsos are loyal dogs. Photography by Shutterstock.

We descended from ancient warrior dogs, transitioning into a versatile guardian, hunter, and all-around Italian farm dog. Whether we were hunting boars, controlling herds of cattle, or guarding flocks of sheep from wolves, we served our family with a steadfast and tireless devotion. Today we continue to take our protection role seriously. We’re self-assured and rather aloof with strangers. I save my enthusiastic greeting for family. I highly value possessive pronouns, specifically: My, mine, and ours.

Did we leave your dog breed off the list? Submit your dog’s petition for Top Loyal Dog Breed in the comments below.

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How to Diagnose and Handle Food Allergies in Dogs

The most common canine allergies vets see are reactions to the saliva in flea bites or ones that develop from exposure to household items like scented candles or cleaning chemicals. Food allergies in dogs are not as common. When a dog does develop an allergy, it does not manifest as a human allergy would with sneezing or watery eyes. Instead, a dog allergy is almost always written on the dog’s body.

Symptoms of dog allergies take external forms: ear infections, skin irritations, itching or rashes. As far as allergy relief goes, a dog’s only real options are to scratch, bite, chew or rub the affected areas. If a dog does develop a food allergy, and it goes unaddressed long enough, his reaction can eventually break skin, opening him up to secondary infections and making the original issue more difficult to diagnose and treat.

Dog food bowl.

Do you really know what’s in your dog’s food? Photography by Shutterstock.

Signs of food allergies in dogs

Development is the key word here. In dogs, food allergies take time and regular exposure to a specific allergen in order to cause symptoms. While they can develop in puppies, for most dogs, allergies to foods can show up any time between 3 and 12 years of age. Since fur obscures much of their skin, it’s fortunate that the reddish or inflamed skin that signals dogs’ allergic reactions are in spots that are easy to see:

  • Armpits
  • Ears
  • Face
  • Genital area
  • Toes

If your dog suddenly focuses on any of these areas, either with repetitive licking, biting, rubbing or scratching, these could be early signs of a food allergy. Vomiting or diarrhea can be signs of food allergies in dogs, but if you’ve switched your pup to a new food, it is much more likely that these are temporary reactions as your dog’s digestive system adjusts. Allergies do not manifest immediately, but over time and with repeated consumption of an allergen.

Proteins are the usual suspects of food allergies in dogs

The most common food allergies in dogs are usually reactions to proteins in the foods they eat. Food allergies begin when a dog’s digestive system fails to fully break down or process proteins in the foods they eat and to absorb needed nutrients from them. With time, their bodies begin interpreting these indigestible proteins as diseases. Items that can cause food allergies in dogs include:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Venison
  • Lamb
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Corn
  • Flax seed
  • Rice
  • Soy
  • Wheat

Interestingly, meat is the culprit most of the time. Meat is more protein-rich than dairy, with any grain or vegetable a distant third. The staple grains in our list could be problematic if your dog’s diet consists solely of store-bought kibble. Grains like corn and rice tend to be major ingredients in most of the non-premium brands, whether for kibble integrity and cohesion or for nutritional value. 

Differences between food allergies and food intolerances

There’s a distinct difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. Something like lactose intolerance does not mean that your dog cannot digest or process milk or dairy products at all; rather, it means they can, but only to a very limited extent. Constipation or loose stools are more typical digestive reactions to food intolerances than to food allergies in dogs.

Diagnosis and treatment of food allergies in dogs

Unless you’re personally preparing each of your dog’s meals and treats, a dog’s food allergy can be difficult to isolate on your own. If you believe your dog is experiencing the beginnings of a food allergy, your veterinarian has a range of approaches at her disposal. Blood tests, skin cultures and elimination trials can be tried individually or in concert to pinpoint the allergen that is affecting your dog.

Seeing these tests through to a definitive conclusion is not something that can be resolved in an afternoon, with a single visit to the vet or even over the course of a week. Often, whittling down the list of suspects to a definitive source can be a process lasting anywhere from one to three months.

If your dog does indeed have a food allergy, there’s a bit more wiggle room in what his digestive system can process and thrive on than there is, say, for a cat. Cats depend on proteins, especially those from meat, much more exclusively than dogs do. In cooperation with your vet or a dog dietary specialist, you can create a workable, non-allergenic diet for your dog and transition him onto it.

Read more about dogs and allergies on Dogster.com: 

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Handcrafted Modern Dog Beds from Bricker & Bark

Handcrafted Modern Dog Beds from Bricker & Bark

Owner and lead designer Josh Cox of Bricker & Beam wants to create furniture that marries “modern, clean-lined design with heirloom-quality craftsmanship,” and luckily dogs are included in that creative vision — in fact, it led to the creation of Bricker & Beam’s sister company, Bricker & Bark. Bricker & Bark’s Winston and Frye dog beds — featuring solid, handcrafted construction and removable, washable covers — prove that pet furniture can be both beautiful and functional. Each piece is handcrafted to order from sustainably sourced local hardwood in B&B’s Columbia, South Carolina, shop. Check out Bricker & Bark’s full collection (which includes beautiful accessorieshere.


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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Why Do Dogs Howl?

In the forests and fields of untamed nature, howling is an important means of communication for dogs, as it was for their wolf ancestors before them. While modern domestic dogs have few of the anxieties that made howling necessary in the wild, the instincts remain as strong as ever. The vast majority of our four-legged companions don’t have to hunt prey or defend their families from predators, so why do dogs howl — still?

A dog howling in a fenced-in yard.

There are several reasons why dogs howl. Photography by Shutterstock.

Dogs howl to find other dogs

Wild dogs and wolves live in packs, and members of these canine communities may have to wander far afield to find food. During these hunts, someone has to stay behind, whether to protect their dens, their young, or both. One practical reason wild dogs howl is to ensure that scouting parties can find their way back, like a vocal homing beacon. In more domestic settings, we are our dogs’ packs. When we’re out of the house for long stretches, our dogs howl, hoping we’ll hear their cries and head for home!

Dogs howl to raise an alarm

The very idea of a feral dog making monthly payments for a home security system is absurd when a fearsome vocal warning is free. Whether the entire pack is present or only a few remain to stand guard, a howling chorus alerts any strange dogs nearby that the territory is claimed. As you well know, your state-of-the-art video monitoring makes no difference to your dog. Even the most pampered pup is ready to raise the alarm at the scent of the mail carrier. Howling is just one way dogs try to protect their favorite humans.

Dogs howl to signal an interesting discovery

Some dogs howl instinctively when they make surprising discoveries. Hunting breeds, hounds especially, have a reputation for the volume and length of their vocalizations when they locate game. Of course, most dog owners don’t depend on their pets to retrieve dinner and can find late-night howling more annoying than triumphant. My own dog, Baby, is a Bluetick Coonhound mix and quite a howler in her own right. I’ve had to accept that, occasionally, she will not stop until I’ve personally congratulated her on the terrified squirrel or confused opossum she’s cornered.

Dogs howl because they have separation anxiety

Dogs are social creatures of habit; this can present problems for ones who live in single-dog households. If you fail to return at your regular time, howling is a typical outlet for dogs to express loneliness or separation anxiety. Short of getting another dog, we need to give the ones we have plenty of toys and distractions. These can keep dogs busy during the hours we’re not there to give them the ear scratches they’ve come to expect.

Dogs howl for attention

Dogs can use howls to show how well they’ve got us trained. It doesn’t take a dog long to learn that you pop your head in when he starts baying. Like me, perhaps you dash across the house to see what Baby has found this time, only to see her roll over, waiting for a belly rub. Go through this routine enough times, and your dog, too, will learn that howling is an easy way to bring you running.

Maybe they just miss it!

The closest most of our dogs have ever been to an actual pack was huddling among their littermates as puppies. Why, then, would dogs who live in cities howl at the sound of approaching sirens? How do they know to do it when you start making howling noises yourself? Maybe, in these sounds, they hear the song of their people and feel the need to respond in kind!

Thumbnail: Photography by Africa Studio/Shutterstock.

Read more about dog sounds on Dogster.com:

Melvin Peña is a writer, editor, social media manager and SEO specialist who spends most of his time in Durham, North Carolina. His interests include his dog, Baby (of course!), art, hiking, urban farming and karaoke.

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Why You Should Use Lean Meats in Fresh Food Dog Diets

“Mucus.” This was my least favorite word when I began formulating fresh food dog diets several years ago. Whenever I spotted a client email with the word “mucus” in the subject line, I’d cringe. While many factors can cause a dog to have mucus in the stool, a pattern quickly emerged, with a common culprit leaping out at me: fat. I never formulated “fatty” diets, but I learned quickly that many dogs have a problem digesting even moderate amounts of fat.

Invariably, lowering the fat level led to happier email reports of “well-formed stools.”

The most obvious and impactful way to cut the fat in your dog’s diet is to opt for lean meats. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “lean” beef contains less than 10 percent fat and “extra-lean” beef contains less than 5 percent fat.

Let’s explore the benefits of lean meats in dog diets.

Labrador eating out of a metal food bowl.

Lean meats are great for your dog’s diet. Photography by Shutterstock.

Lean meats are easier for dogs to digest

As I mentioned, many modern companion dogs don’t digest fatty meats well. This makes sense because dogs did not evolve eating lots of fat. In the wild, prey animals are naturally leaner and more muscular. They are not “fattened up” like today’s factory-farmed animals.

Lean meats are packed with protein

High-quality animal protein provides an abundance of essential amino acids dogs need to thrive. When the fat content in a given amount of meat increases, the protein level decreases.

Let’s compare the amount of protein and fat supplied by 1,000 calories’ worth of raw ground beef containing 30 percent fat, 20 percent fat and 10 percent fat:  Note that the 10 percent fat ground beef supplies more than one and a half times as much protein as the 20 percent fat ground beef and more than two and a half times as much protein as the 30 percent fat ground beef! Diets dominated by fatty meats may lead to amino acid deficiencies, especially for growing puppies, who require more than double the protein as their adult counterparts.

Chart of how much lean meats to add to your dog's diet.

Adding lean meats to your dog’s diet? Take a look at this chart of ground beef protein vs. fat.

Lean meats are easier on the waistline. Do you notice anything else revealing in our ground beef chart? To get the same amount of calories, a dog consuming 10 percent fat ground beef can eat virtually double the amount of meat (by weight) as a dog eating 30 percent fat ground beef.

Fat contains more than twice the calories per gram as protein and carbohydrates. So, the more fat dense a food, the more calorically dense — and this means Buddy gets to chow down on a lot less food. Bonus: Lean meats help overweight dogs shed pounds while still feeling satiated.

Lean meats won’t trigger pancreatitis. Fatty foods can trigger pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar levels, and it secretes enzymes to digest protein, fat and carbohydrates. When the pancreas functions properly, the digestive enzymes it produces remain inactive until they reach the small intestine. However, during pancreatitis, these enzymes activate much faster and leak into the pancreas, causing it to digest itself. Cut down on fat to decrease your dog’s chances of suffering from this painful and potentially life-threatening condition.

Calculating lean meats for dogs by weight

Lean meat commercial raw diets are more likely to be balanced, but do your research. To meet profit margins, some raw food companies opt for less-expensive, fattier cuts of meat over expensive leaner cuts. In addition, most raw pet food companies report nutrient values based on the food’s weight (nutrient levels per kg dry matter [DM]) rather than calories (nutrient levels per 1,000 kcal).  Formulating high-fat raw diets based on weight (DM) without adjusting the nutrient levels to account for the food’s higher energy density results in inaccurate reporting.

Let’s refer back to our ground beef chart. Again, a dog eating 30 percent fat ground beef will consume almost half the amount as a dog eating 10 percent fat ground beef. The “30 percent dog” will also get about half as much of every other nutrient, unless these nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, have been proportionally increased to compensate for the decreased amount being consumed. As a result, commercial raw foods that appear to meet AAFCO standards for “complete and balanced” when calculated by weight may in fact be deficient in one or more nutrients when calculated by calories (kcal).

Lean meats to incorporate into healthy dog diets

  • Ground meat (beef, bison, chicken, turkey) labeled 90 percent lean or leaner
  • Cuts of beef or pork with “loin” or “round” in the name (top sirloin, top loin, top round, bottom round steak, pork tenderloin)
  • Shank half of leg of lamb (lean part only)
  • Lamb, cubed for stew or kabob, from leg or shoulder (lean part only)
  • Chicken breast (skinless)
  • Chicken, white meat (skinless)
  • Chicken, thigh meat (skinless)
  • Chicken, dark meat (skinless)
  • Turkey breast (skinless)
  • Turkey, light meat (skinless)
  • Turkey, dark meat (skinless)
  • Turkey thigh (skinless)
  • Goat
  • Rabbit
  • Quail (skinless)

Thumbnail: Photography by CynoClub/Thinkstock.

Read more about dog food and dog diets on Dogster.com:

Diana Laverdure- Dunetz, MS, is a canine nutritionist and co-author, with W. Jean Dodds, D.V.M., of two books, including Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health. Their online course, Complete Canine Nutrition, can be found at myhealthy dog.dog.

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Think You Know Dog Drool? Meet These 5 Deliciously Drooly Breeds

My mixed breed dog, Qual, rarely drooled. But he revved up his salivating engine full throttle when meeting a white pet rat. Some dogs seldom drool, except when they smell favorite foods, or when (more seriously) they are indicating a medical condition. Other breeds, however, normally, happily and healthily slobber up a storm. Read on to discover five such breeds that take dog drool to new heights:

Drooly Dog Breed #1: Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard dogs. Photography Courtesy Jann Hayes.

Saint Bernard dogs. Photography Courtesy Jann Hayes.

Let’s start with the saintly significance of saliva. Saliva serves important purposes, such as moisturizing the mucous membranes in our mouths. What you all call dog drool is simply the result of the shape of my mouth, which allows saliva to pool and then spill. With my loose facial skin, how am I supposed to hold the drool in my mouth? Now let’s talk about my courageous history. We may not actually have carried brandy casks to weary trekkers, but the image lends to the drama, doesn’t it? We’re famous for accompanying monks on snowy searches and rescuing travelers. Of course, we’re also renowned for swinging our spittle up to the ceiling when we shake our heads!

Drooly Dog Breed #2: Bassett Hound

A Basset Hound.

A Basset Hound. Photography Courtesy Jennie Hibbert.

Everyone appreciates our delightful facial folds and saggy skin, but we were bred to excel in hunting and tracking. Our adorability is simply frosting on the cake. The same loose facial skin that helps us trap scent particles when we track contributes to saliva falling out of our mouths. Although we make a normal amount of saliva, our big heads, droopy cheeks and loose lips let that dog drool fly. After all, we can’t spit in specific directions like people. Instead, we tend to fling our saliva here and there. May I suggest a drool rag?

Drooly Dog Breed #3: Dogue de Bordeaux

As depicted in the popular movie Turner and Hooch, yes, we drool. But I hear they supplemented Hooch’s drool with egg whites on the set. My drool may waterfall down my face, fly out in ropey strands or pool up on the floor. Some of my owners resort to a bib, but I simply advise wiping my muzzle after I eat or drink, and keeping your sense of humor. As for us, we were bred thousands of years ago in France. We were developed as a multi-purpose dog: hunting boar, protecting homes and herding cattle. There’s nothing tidy about living with a drooly breed like us, but our companionship and protective nature more than compensate for the slobber.

Drooly Dog Breed #4: Mastiff

Mastiff dogs.

Mastiff dogs. Photography Courtesy Giselle Nevada.

Friendly and calm, I’m an ancient breed connected to Babylonians, Marco Polo and Hannibal. Bred to guard and fight beside soldiers, we were developed for strength and an imposing presence. Does drool add to the image? Perhaps not, but drool is part and parcel to our big heads and loose lips. We’re generally relaxed companions these days, ready for a picnic or the adventure of your choice. Keep drool napkins nearby if your adventure is indoors; we can leave unprecedented strings of slobber.

Drooly Dog Breed #5: Bloodhound

A Bloodhound.

A Bloodhound. Photography Courtesy Deborah Thompson.

Our origins are blue-blooded, so let’s not over focus on our extra spittle. Our stellar sense of smell made us a favorite with European noble huntsman. We were subsequently employed by gentry to track poachers. In the United States, law enforcement officials asked for our assistance with tracking. But yes, you should always keep dribble scraps handy for cleanup. I myself drool slightly more when I’m nervous. Some say we males drool more than the females due to our extra-large lips. I suggest we forget about my dog drool and pay attention to my gentle, wise and noble expression.

Read more about dog breeds on Dogster.com:

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