Catahoula Leopard Dog

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Your Catahoula Leopard Dog

Caring for Your Faithful Companion

Catahoula Leopard Dogs: What a Unique Breed!

Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Catahoula Hog Dogs and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:

  • Highly active and eager to have a purpose
  • Good watchdog with a loud bark
  • Excellent hunting dog
  • Good with children
  • Affectionate, easygoing, and lovable
  • Devoted, loyal, and protective

However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:

  • Can be rambunctious and rowdy, especially as a younger dog
  • Requires vigorous, frequent exercise and space to run
  • Has a tendency to herd, including small children
  • Territorial with larger dogs, especially of the same sex
  • Can be possessive of toys and food, tending to show dominance
  • Needs frequent attention from her family

Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She is an even-tempered and affectionate dog with an enthusiastic playfulness. With ample exercise and a confident leader, she is a wonderful family companion.

The Catahoula Leopard Dog is an American breed named after Catahoula Parish in Louisiana, and they are the official state dog of Louisiana. Catahoulas are believed to be the first dog breed developed in North America, created from a mix of Native American dogs and various breeds brought by Spanish explorers and settlers. The Catahoula Leopard dog is also commonly called the Catahoula Cur, Catahoula Hog Dog, and the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. The Catahoula was originally used to drive and round up feral hogs and cattle. They are outstanding working dogs that hunt intensely and thrive in a farm or ranch setting. Catahoula Leopard Dogs are assertive by nature but not an aggressive breed. Because they are highly intelligent, energetic, and protective, they need to be given activities to keep them from becoming bored and destructive.

Your Catahoula Leopard Dog’s Health

We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Catahoula. By knowing about health concerns specific to Catahoula Leopard Dogs, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.

Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in Catahoula Leopard Dogs to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.

This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Catahoula Leopard Dogs. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Catahoula Hog Dog looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.

Brushing your dog’s teeth daily will prevent periodontal disease.

Brushing your dog’s teeth daily will prevent periodontal disease.

General Health Information for your Catahoula Leopard Dog

Dental Disease

Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Catahoula Leopard Dog is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Catahoula Leopard Dog’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.

Infections

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.

Obesity

Obesity can be a significant health problem in Catahoula Leopard Dogs. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!

Roundworm egg as seen under the microscope.

Roundworm egg as seen under the microscope.

Parasites

All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Catahoula Hog Dog’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.

Spay or Neuter

One of the best things you can do for your Catahoula is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.

Genetic Predispositions for Catahoula Leopard Dogs

Bone and Joint Problems

A number of different musculoskeletal problems have been reported in the Catahoula Leopard Dog. While it may seem overwhelming, each condition can be diagnosed and treated to prevent undue pain and suffering. With diligent observation at home and knowledge about the diseases that may affect your friend’s bones, joints, or muscles you will be able to take great care of him throughout his life.

Normal hip x-rays

Normal hip x-rays

X-rays taken of a dog with hip dysplasia.

X-rays taken of a dog with hip dysplasia.

You’ve probably heard of hip dysplasia , an inherited disease that causes the hip joints to form improperly and leads to arthritis: it is common in Catahoula Leopard Dogs. You may notice that he has lameness in his hind legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis — the sooner the better — to avoid discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s joints to identify the disease as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes considered in severe and life-limiting cases of hip dysplasia. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering.

Growing Catahoulas can suffer from a painful inflammation of the long bones in the legs, a condition called eosinophilic panosteitis, pano or eo-pan. It usually starts at around six to ten months of age and shifts from leg to leg. We’ll look for this condition upon examination; if your pal exhibits pain when the area is squeezed or palpated, we’ll take X-rays to diagnose the problem. Panosteitis usually causes no permanent damage, but requires pain medication. If your dog has the condition and has developed an abnormal gait to compensate for the sore leg(s), rehabilitation exercises may be required.

X-ray of a dog with Craniomandibular Osteopathy

X-ray of a dog with Craniomandibular Osteopathy

Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO) is a bizarre and temporary overgrowth of bone that develops in the jawbone or head, beginning in puppyhood. Often the abnormal thickening of bone resolves on its own by 12 months of age, but affected Catahoulas may have difficulty chewing or swallowing and may feel pain when opening the mouth. Pain medication, a soft food diet and sometimes a feeding tube may be required to help him through this growth phase. If your pal is still young, we will exam him for this condition during his puppy visits.

Catahoula Leopard Dogs are more likely than other canines to be born with spinal deformities (a condition called hemivertebrae), which may lead to spinal cord damage, instability, or disability. We’ll take X-rays when he is young to ensure that we identify problems early because symptoms can worsen with age, weight, and sometimes activity. During his life, if he develops symptoms of any back problems, we’ll rule out any other causes, such as a slipped spinal disc or arthritis and may prescribe medication, acupuncture, or rehabilitation.

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a fairly common disease in dogs. Any breed can be affected, but Catahoula Hog Dogs have an above average incidence. Dogs with diabetes are unable to regulate the metabolism of sugars and require daily insulin injections. It is a serious condition and one that is important to diagnose and treat as early as possible. Symptoms include increased eating, drinking, and urination, along with weight loss. If he shows signs, we will conduct lab tests to determine if he has this condition and discuss treatment options with you. Treatment requires a serious commitment of time and resources. Well regulated diabetic dogs today have the same life expectancy as other canines.

Deafness

Heritable deafness has been noted in some Catahoula Hog Dog bloodlines, so if his ears are healthy and he’s still ignoring you, a more thorough hearing workup may be needed, including brainwave analysis, if indicated. If you suspect he may not be hearing as well as he should, schedule an appointment with us right away as the problem could also be caused by a severe ear infection.

The thyroid glands rest on both sides of the neck alongside the windpipe.

The thyroid glands rest on both sides of the neck alongside the windpipe.

Thyroid Problems

Catahoulas are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes. We’ll conduct a blood screening test annually to screen for the disease. Treatment is usually simple: replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.

Eye Problems

Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of his eyes. Unfortunately, Catahoula Leopard Dogs can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful! We will evaluate his eyes at every examination to look for any signs of concern.

Cancer

Cancer is a leading cause of death in older dogs. Your Catahoula Hog Dog will likely live longer than many other breeds and therefore is more prone to get cancer in his golden years. Many cancers are cured by surgically removing them, and some types are treatable with chemotherapy. Early detection is critical! We’ll perform periodic diagnostic tests and look for lumps and bumps when we examine your pet.

Underbite

Underbite (prognathism) affects Catahoula Leopard Dogs more than other breeds. In this condition, the lower jaw sticks out further than the upper jaw. Most cases do not require treatment, but if the abnormally positioned teeth are digging into his mouth, chronic pain may result. Extractions or orthodontic work may be needed.

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Taking Care of Your Catahoula Leopard Dog at Home

Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Catahoulas. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.

Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise

Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Catahoula Hog Dog live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.

  • Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
  • She has low grooming needs. Brush her coat as needed, at least weekly.
  • Catahoula Leopard Dogs generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
  • Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
  • She’s a smart dog with lots of energy, so keep her mind and body active, or she’ll get bored. That’s when the naughty stuff starts.
  • She is an athletic dog that excels at dog sports like agility, obedience and rally.
  • She has a strong chase instinct, so she needs to be leash walked and a fenced yard is a must.
  • Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
  • Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
  • Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.

What to Watch For

Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Catahoula Leopard Dog needs help.

Office calls

Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:

  • Change in appetite or water consumption
  • Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
  • Itchy skin (scratching, chewing or licking), hair loss
  • Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
  • Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes

Emergencies

Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:

  • Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
  • Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
  • Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
  • Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping”
  • Increased hunger and thirst, weight loss
  • Easily startled, no reaction to unseen sounds
  • Dull coat, hair loss, sluggish, weight gain
  • Pain when opening the mouth or chewing

Partners in Health Care

DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.

Your Catahoula counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.

References:

  • Ackerman L. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs. Second edition. AAHA Press; 2011.
  • Catahoula Information. Catahoula Issues. Genetic Anomalies [Internet]. Abney Catahoulas. c1998-2013 [cited 2013 Apr 2]. [cited 2013 Apr 2]. Available from: http:/www.abneycatahoulas.com/issue_anomalies.php
  • Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog Information and Pictures [Internet]. Dog Breed Info Center. c1998-2013 [cited 2013 Apr 2]. [cited 2013 Apr 2]. Available from: http:/www.dogbreedinfo.com/catahoula.htm
  • COBRA Resources [Internet]. Catahoula Owners, Breeders & Research Association. c2003-2013 [cited 2013 Apr 2]. [cited 2013 Apr 2]. Available from: http:/www.cobradog.com/resources.php
  • Catahoula Cur [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 2013 Apr 22- [cited 2013 Apr 2]. [cited 2013 Apr 2]. Available from: http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catahoula_Cur

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