Monday, April 26, 2010

More trialing

Well we had our first northeast trial this weekend. I was pleased with Fina. I'm realizing she and I have a long ways to go but she worked well for me, stayed forward, gave me the flanks I needed. I wanted to qualify her for the nationals, but realistically I expect we won't really be competitive till late summer. She is brilliant in many ways, but has some big holes in her abilities. Song... well she certainly is forward and certainly has an opinion. I need to work her in more areas with strong pressure as she feels that pressure more than she feels my directions. She's tough to handle, quick, fast flanks, not easy to settle a line with. We are working on settling her, but she'll always be that way to some degree so I need to learn to handle it better. I do enjoy running her but it seems I'm not very good at it yet.

No placements in Open so I'm still pointless. It is looking like this will be a mileage year for me. Both these young girls have nice pieces, but we're not where we need to be competitively.

Levi won both his nursery classes, beating the scores the two girls got on Saturday on the same course. So Levi is qualified for the nursery finals. He had a leg from the Long Shot trial in MD already so the extra win was gravy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I have a dog with neospora. How do I know? She produced a pup with neospora that was clinically affected. My bitch has never shown any illness. She is vibrant, energetic, and easily whelped and raised 8 apparently healthy pups. The pups went off to their new homes, then one became ill at 10-11 weeks old. That pup is now partially paralyzed behind. The owners called me as soon as it was clear that this was not a minor illness. The vets at the specialty hospital treating her suspected neospora or toxoplasma, both of which can be gotten from the bitch in utero. I had Song tested and she was negative for toxoplasma, positive for neospora. During this time I was in urgent communications with the owners of the other pups, in case another became affected. This disease is treatable with antibiotics, but it is important to get the dog on medications immediately before permanent damage is done. The problem is the early symptoms (diarrhea, perhaps a bit lame) do not indicate the severity of the problem and the need to react quickly. I needed the pup owners to watch their pups like a hawk and get them on meds at the slightest symptom. Fortunately no other pups became sick.

Learning that neospora is most often transmitted from bitch to pups in utero, I realized that littermates to my bitch might have the disease as well. I did not have a great deal of knowledge yet, but I contacted the owners of female littermates to my dog in case they were planning an upcoming breeding so they could test their dogs. Two of those have been tested, one positive, one negative. That means their mother almost certainly transmitted it to them.

Never heard of neospora? I certainly had not until that call from the pup owners. It has been tough finding information on this. My vet has never seen it, and in fact most vets I’ve talked to have not dealt with it. Neospora caninum is a coccidian parasite, similar to Toxoplasma gondii. Dogs are the definitive host. If a bitch contracts it during pregnancy, she may abort or have troubles with the pregnancy. Once a dog has neospora, they always have it. It encysts in the body. Even after an active infection (which is often asymptomatic) a bitch can transmit it to one or more of the pups in the litter. This is presumed to be in utero, though there is some question as to whether it is passed in the mother’s milk as well. The pups may or may not get neospora from an infected mother, and if they do they may or may not be symptomatic. Neospora can be transmitted repeatedly through successive litters, not showing clinical disease. Like coccidia it is opportunistic, looking for a chink in the immune response to flourish, producing the symptoms of disease. The most common early symptoms in a pup (lameness, diarrhea) can move rapidly to ascending paralysis of the hind legs. It is important to identify the disease and get treatment started before irreversible damage is done. Most pups who contracted it in utero show symptoms between 3-9 weeks of age. The other route for dogs to get neospora is eating raw meat. Cooking and freezing both kill the encysted bradyzoites (a life stage of the parasite). You need to freeze quite cold for several days. Beef is the most likely meat to be affected, but lamb and venison are also possible and there is even some thought now that poultry might be another meat that could be affected. For those of us using dogs on the farm, placentas from cattle or sheep that are affected are another source of infection for our dogs. Affected cattle or sheep may not show any outward signs of infection, and can carry and raise apparently healthy offspring. There is no evidence that people can get neospora.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Red Pigs

Three little Tamworth piglets came home with me today. They are a very nice looking lot. I must say I'm partial to red pigs. For the moment they are stuck in a small pen with a calf hutch for shelter. I'll move them to a section of pasture in a couple weeks once I'm sure they've mastered the feeder and learned to recognize electric fence. Being hopelessly irreverent, I'm calling them the "better dead than red" pigs. Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev. While picking them up I took a look at the next litter, Tamworth/Berkshire crosses. Most of them are white with black spots. I'll be getting 3 of those as well when they are weaned. I was tempted to name one McCarthy, but do not want to memorialize that regrettable chapter in US history any further.

Why keep pigs? I don't like the way most pigs are kept both for the stress levels on the pigs, and the quality of meat for me. My pigs live in portions of the sheep pastures, always with fresh green grass to dig up and eat, and enough room to run and buck and play. Yes, pigs play. On cool summer evenings they can really kick up their heels. During acorn season I move them if needed to get all the acorns that fall. They LOVE acorns. They don't live fancy lives, but certainly they enjoy pleasant ones. I only buy my piglets from small local farmers who keep their sows well, with room to relax.