Have you ever heard someone refer to themselves as a “Dog Person?” Do you get a picture of them as a dog/human hybrid like a werewolf? Or perhaps upon first meeting someone you ask, “Are you a Cat Person?” If they say yes, do you think that they regularly dress up like Cat Woman? No. That’s because most people understand what it means to be a “Dog or Cat Person” without much explanation.
There are clearly differences between Dog and Cat People. One difference is that people who consider themselves “Cat People” are basically stuck with a standard size model. Granted, there is a certain degree of variation in body condition and build in the domestic feline, but the standard cat frame is pretty set. “Dog People” have a larger variety of shapes and sizes from which to choose. A 5-pound Toy Poodle is no less a dog than a 170-pound Mastiff.
Furthermore, there are different types of “Dog People” in the world. “Dog People” will categorize themselves as “Big Dog” or “Little Dog” People. There are plenty of folks out there who share their homes with both large and small dogs, but people seem to have tendencies toward one or the other.
Big Dog People know that their big buddies tend to cost more when they get sick. Most drugs are priced according to dosage sizes. A 150-pound Newfoundland is going to take a lot more dewormer than a 9-pound Chihuahua, for example. The same generally goes for food. A 30-pound bag of dog food lasts a lot longer for that Chihuahua. Even grooming and boarding charges are usually based on the size of the dog, in favor of the small guys.
Our colossal canine companions also come with their own medical concerns and plenty of slobber. Owners should be aware of diseases and conditions which affect giant-breed dogs. Because they grow so rapidly, they are prone to issues of growth plate formations and limb angularity problems — especially if given too much calcium as a growing puppy.
As they develop deep chests, they are also prone to a life-threatening condition commonly called “bloat” or gastric dilatation volvulus. This occurs when the stomach fills with air like a balloon and may flip or twist on itself blocking all outflow or inflow. Costly surgical correction is often the only fix — and once they’ve flipped they are likely to do so again. A dog whose abdomen looks bloated and has been retching or non-productively vomiting needs to be seen by a vet quickly. Time is of the essence!
The increased size of a larger dog means more weight on joints. Keeping your large dog slim can help reduce joint problems such as osteoarthritis. Many large breed dogs have anatomical changes and more force applied to their knees which can, over time, cause ligaments to tear just as in people. Human athletes commonly tear their anterior cruciate ligament. Dogs have a similar ligament which is susceptible to injury which is called the cranial cruciate ligament. Tears in this ligament can cause severe pain and acute lameness which can persist. Oftentimes, expensive surgical correction with a long recovery time is the best answer to this problem once it happens. About 50 percent of dogs that tear a ligament in the first knee will have the same problem in the other knee within six months.
Larger dogs usually have a shortened life span. Your average Boston Terrier will generally outlive an Irish Wolfhound. This is a sad reality of owning large dogs, but it almost makes our short time with them that much more special.
Big Dog People appreciate big blocky faces that look at them with adoration. They own mellow couch potatoes who take up the majority of the couch. Their huggable behemoths love unconditionally and make good warmers in the winter. The gentle giants are generally great with family members and children if raised properly and trained with positive reinforcement.
As a veterinarian, I have seen many big dogs in the office. They lumber in, fling slobber on the walls and are ever alert to the promise of a treat. What I always see in their owners is a big smile, an obvious love for the big lug on the other end of the leash, and a tremendous amount of patience for all things canine. Big Dog People are a breed all their own and share a love with their companions that is unlike any other — drool, bigger pills, bigger bills, pallets of food and all.
Dr. Marisa Tong, an associate at Delphos Animal Hospital, graduated from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. (Admittedly pictured with a small dog — more on this to come!)