Holiday’s Sixty Second Midnight Rendezvous, aka Rip, is a 3-year-old Bernese mountain dog. We drove all the way to South Dakota to pick him up from one of the top breeders we could find with the best genetics in the line. Why did we drive all the way to South Dakota for this specific line you might ask? This breed of dogs is very prone to early death, either from cancer or canine bloat. The breed’s average life span is a daunting 6-8 years, and this specific breeder was getting 11-12 years from her lines! We checked back five generations in the line for the cause of deaths and lifespan in the pedigree before we chose this breeder.

Rip stole our heart immediately when we saw him! He is now a 130-pound ham who loves every living animal he comes into contact with. He is amazing with children and elderly humans. He is ever so gentle around them to ensure he doesn’t knock them down.

Rip goes everywhere we go, including baseball games, camping, nursing homes, road trips to visit family and so much more. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Duval)

Both my spouse and I have worked in veterinary medicine and animal research our entire careers. Animal research has a bigger impact on animal health than most people understand. When I speak to friends and family about my career in research, I also educate them on how research impacts their beloved pets as well. There are great animal vaccines and medications that can prolong life and most importantly prevent some animals from illnesses that once could never be treated and resulted in death.

Through astounding research and medical advancements, we made the decision to wait to neuter Rip until he was 2 years old. Our contract with the breeder prevented him from being neutered before 12 months old to decrease the chances of any bone disorders, but after talking to several veterinarians and doing our research, we decided to wait even longer. A research veterinarian sent us a new study that showed neutering giant breed males any time prior to 18 months of age is associated with a significant increase (between 23% and 25%) in at least one joint disorder, including canine bone cancer (osteosarcoma). We then contacted the breeder to discuss this new research and she agreed to let us push his neuter to 2 years of age. Thank you, animal research!!!

A few months past Rip’s neuter we started to notice a rash on his face, almost like puppy acne. We took him to the vet and treated him with some chlorhexidine wipes and an antibiotic. Still no improvement, so we tried the next step, exploring food allergies. We started Rip on a hydrolyzed protein diet and within a few weeks we saw this rash start clearing up. His paws were no longer red and itchy, and he was a happy pup. Without research on dog allergies and this food being produced, Rip would still be struggling with his allergies. Research wins again!

Rip and his owners are beyond grateful to animal research, to which we owe the utmost thanks for providing us with the advancements to give Rip the happy, healthy life he deserves! (Photo courtesy of Ashley Duval)

Rip goes everywhere we go, including baseball games, camping, nursing homes, road trips to visit family and so much more. Rip’s favorite sayings are “let’s go, bye-bye” and well, of course, “dinner time.” At night, he loves to cuddle and sometimes even jumps in a recliner with us. If you say, “Rip, I love you,” he will say it right back to you in puppy lingo. He was also last year’s contestant winner in a dog beauty pageant close to home. He is ridiculously cute, and he knows it ⁠— he even uses it to his advantage. Rip and his owners are beyond grateful to animal research, to which we owe the utmost thanks for providing us with the advancements to give Rip the happy, healthy life he deserves!

Ashley works for the University of Michigan Animal Care & Use Office. Read about Ashley’s 17-year-old overo paint gelding Louie in last month’s edition of FBR Real Pet Stories™.

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