Do's & Don'ts

Cyndi Cunico copyright ŠAussieLads Lethal White Aussie Rescue 2000 - 2005 www.aussielads.com  All contents of this website is the property of aussielads.com. 

During her time with AussieLads, Lorraine had gotten many emails about Lethal Whites and most are answered on the Questions & Answers page.  However, Lorraine's response to a recent email (while still a partner with AussieLads) received covers various subjects and guidelines that we would like to share.  We created this new page in hopes of addressing the many areas of providing a safe and healthy life for each and every Lethal.

Here is the email received and Lorraine's response follows:

Hi,  We are a no-kill animal shelter located in northern Illinois.  We just recently took in 2 "lethal white" puppies.  One appears to be blind--it has the eye deformity.  The other one appears to be deaf, but we think she is vision impaired too because her pupils are not perfectly round like they should be.  The puppies are 10 weeks old.  We have never had blind or deaf puppies before so we are looking for some information/direction on what to do.  I know that potential adopters need to be screened differently than we would for hearing/seeing dogs.  Is there anything else we need to be aware of?  Is there anything we should be doing now with them?  My shelter director wants to adopt them out together only.  Is this a good idea?  Any information you could provide us with would be greatly appreciated.  We just want to do what is in the best interests of these puppies.  Thanks,  Tamara Pets In Need 815 728-1462 4509 S. Ridgeway Ringwood, Il  60072
Hi Tamara!  Thank you for rescuing these wonderful puppies!!!   What you should do is treat them as normally as possible.   Let them find their way around in a safe environment, and please do not crate them constantly, as that will cause some behavior problems.   Also, are these babies in a foster home?   If not, they should be, as with these disabilities, they do not do well in kennel situations. A regular home environment will allow them to become normal well adjusted puppies.
You can adopt the pups out together if they get along well, or there is a major dependency by one on the other.   Depending on the family and current pets (we always make them bring the whole family and the dog, or at least the alpha dog to meet our fosters BEFORE finalizing the adoption), they can do very well with another friendly doggy or more.   It will depend on the puppy's personality, as to the home best suited for the pup.  I find many lethals do not like to be an only dog, BUT we have one pup who is an only girl (tho the daughter's dog visits) and mom works from home.   Works out wonderfully.  They're all different, so you'll have to watch as the personalities develop.
Of course both pups have had vet check-ups but you should have them checked out by a certified  Ophthalmologist!  They will be able to give you an idea of any vision they may have, and any problems so if medications are needed you can start right away. 
I've put together a lot of information in the categories below.  It is a bit lengthy, but that's because I tried to cover everything I think will help you (also, I'm probably too wordy!)  
In the future, be  sure to check their eyes once and a while, and if they ever turn green, get them to the eye vet immediately, as that is a sign of Uveitis!   The sooner they are treated, the less chance they has of their eye(s) being permanently damaged.   This will also give your vet a baseline to work with for any potential future problems.  Here is a link to our eye clinic site.   http://www.eyecareforanimals.com  You can read about Uveitis and other problems by clicking on the "eye conditions" bar.  Uveitis can happen to any dog, not just lethals. I am also attaching part of an article by C.A. Sharp (Aussie geneticist) that describes some of the problems that can occur in lethals (homozygous merles is the "politically correct" term) and a definition of the terms used.  For others who want this information, this article can be found, along with additional vital information, in our Lethal White Packet page.
Direct sunlight in their eyes is BAD!   Please make sure the pups are indoors and not outside for extended periods in bright sunlight.   Do not walk the pups with the sun directly in their eyes, and do not let them ride in the car where they have to stare into direct sunlight.   This is one of the causes of Uveitis.
We also recommend starting the pups on Lutein when they are 3 months old.   The dosage is 20 mg capsule once a day.  This is for the health of the eyes.  You can find Lutein in any health food store.   It is simply a vitamin, and won't hurt them in any way.   The changes we have noticed with our pups eyes are :  pupils expand more (allowing for more vision) and starburst eyes appear to be more stable (not so starburst, so to speak).   It will take several months to tell if this is helping or not, but even with no change noted, we still recommend you keep them on the vitamin for life, as it will help in the "health" of the eye.   These eyes are VERY delicate and can change.....yes even to vision loss depending on the genetic problems of the eyes......every pup will be different, some will be have more problems (cataracts, detached retinas, etc) than others.  For pups younger than 3 months, we have started on cod liver oil, but this is hard to do, as too much causes diarrhea, and the dose must be adjusted.   Some pups may never adjust, so it must be discontinued.
Another thing to remember is these pups are very sensitive to heat.   Their skin under all that white fur is a lot lighter colored than the white area on a normal dog.   They would quickly overheat outside in the sun, and you may find they get hot lots faster than your other pups, which is the reason I recommend open wire crates.   Please do not let them look, walk or ride in the car into the bright sunlight, as that can cause a problem for the eyes also.  If the nose is pink, use the 50 SPF Baby sunblock on it when the pups will be outside in the summer sun.  I don't have a particular brand I recommend, just something for kids that will stay on more than a minute!
We have found that many of these pups have sensitive internal systems and cannot handle a high protein food, such as Eukanuba.   This has given many little ones diarrhea.   We recommend Max Nutro Puppy or Science Diet Puppy, as we have had good results with both these foods.
Although we have no scientific research and results to back it up, we believe, in some lethal pups, their systems are more vulnerable, so they always must be kept up to date on vaccinations, and kept out of situations with constant exposure to diseases.   Not all lethal pups appear to have this problem, but my motto is "better safe than sorry".
We recommend at least a CBC (blood panel) on these pups BEFORE spaying and neutering.   In most cases, we find they are slightly anemic, so they are put on supplements (one of our vets uses Pet Tinic) for several weeks, and then tested again before we schedule for the surgeries.
You will have to use touch signals with the little ones, and when they are this young is a great time to start!   Depending on how well the one pup sees, you can use sign language also.   Even the pup who is blind may see light and dark, or maybe shadows.   Always have a light on at night, especially when the pups have to go out to potty, make sure porch light is on.   Leave some lights on in a dark hallway.....if there is some vision, that will help them navigate.  I am listing some that I use with Toes and Marco, but you can add more and make up your own.  What is important is that you are consistent with the signals.   You'll find they'll learn very quickly!
Touch to right or left shoulder......means pay attention, turn this way (depending on what shoulder you touch)
One finger rub forward under chin............means come forward
Rub right (or left ear)...................means good girl/boy
Touch to rear end........................means sit
Touch between shoulder blades.....means lie down
Hand flat on top of head.................means get down (if jumping on you or counter when older!)
One finger tap across top of nose (2 times).............means quit doing that
Hand flat on chest...........................means stay.
It is very important that you touch the pups a lot.  They need to know they are cared for and loved, and by touching you are telling them this.   Of course lots of hugs and kisses help too!   Always wake them up from sleep with a gentle touch to the body.  I usually touch the shoulder, but if I am reaching in the kennel and the hip is closer, I touch that first........depends how far you want to crawl in the kennel!  And speaking of kennels, I recommend the open wire ones, as not only to they allow for air flow (these kids get hot quickly), they allow for the senses to be used.  Those plastic airline crates are not good for them, will make them feel boxed in.....and they also get hot in them quickly.
You can use your hand to gently guide the pup in the direction you want them to go when they are walking.  They will get the idea after a while.  I use this to help the pups to the door and get them to where it will open....just kind of "steer" them with your hand.  I also use this to "guide" them to the food bowl, but the sense of smell helps lots here!!  If you have big chow hounds, you'll find they'll be very easy to teach....anything for that food! 
Treat them as much like regular pups as possible and let them find her way around by themselves as they will "map" out things in your house and yard.  Of course keep them from any danger, or running into something too hard.  Most of the time it will just be a "bump" off this and that.  I think you will be surprised at how quickly they learns to get around.
Puppy potty breaking works the same way.  Out as much and as often as needed and lots of hugs and kisses for pottying outside.   You know with a regular pup, you pretty well have to run and scoop up and take outside.....works the same way with these special needs kids!!  Just remember after they play they'll ALWAYS have to pee, even if the pups just went 5 or 10 minutes ago!    It seems to stimulate the system, so you'll have to be taking them out quite often.   On a regular basis at their age, about every 1 to 2 hours or so.   Also remember since they were dumped, I doubt anyone worked with them or paid any attention to them, so you are the very first person to love them and give them direction.
As far as the puppy biting, I just do what you would with a regular puppy....put something they should be chewing on in their mouth!  If it keeps up, I hold the bottom jaw until they want it released more then they want to bite you.   I have been told pressing the thumb down on the tongue and holding it will make them quit biting, but it sure hasn't worked for me.....but worth a try.   I also roll the bottom lip over the bottom teeth, so when they bite down, they feel the pressure on their lip.   This has worked well for me with some pups, but not with others.  Of course with continuous biting, you just stop play with them.   Try to give the pups a little leeway with the gentle mouthing, as being blind and deaf, they use their mouth for taste and feel.   I allow much more of this with blind and deaf pups then I would with a hearing and/or seeing one.
You might want to try to keep the pups inside one of those baby exercise pens when you can't keep an eye on them.....not the ones with the bottom, the ones that are like dog  X-pens.   Of course if you already have a doggy X-pen, all the better!  That will give them some more room than a crate and a safe play place.   You can move it to wherever you like so you can keep an eye on the pups   You can have blankets and plenty of toys for her inside it also.   One caution, you must consider puppy safety when it comes to your other dogs!   VERY IMPORTANT when deciding how and where to confine the pups.   Some dogs are just not tolerant of disabled pups.  Of course you must make sure there is no trouble they can get into.....altho they tend to find some anyway.....and of course two heads are better than one!
 If you are seeing any circling, like constant tight circles, you need to stop the behavior immediately!   It is an obsessive/compulsive behavior that will worsen if not stopped when they are young.  Just walk right up and touch the pup on the face or head....they should stop at that point.  Otherwise, just stop them and hold on to the collar and make them walk with you.  You need to give them something else fun to do....redirect attention to a toy or something, or have them come with you so they  know you are near.   This behavior feeds on itself, and done consistently over time, we believe it can cause brain damage.   It will also become worse and worse, and much harder to stop the habit (obsession??) as they grow older.  You will find if you stop it EVERY TIME, the behavior will decrease until it only appears in times of stress (and you still need to stop it then too), and when the pups are young you should be able to eliminate it completely.  
The circling is an obsessive/compulsive type behavior that seems to develop when the pups are caged and separated from their siblings with minimum human/animal contact.   It does not happen just because they are blind and deaf....(for example, neither Lyla nor Marco...both deaf and blind...have ever done this).   Because of the active personality of Aussies, putting a blind and deaf Aussie in a cage with minimum care and contact (and all that energy) is the worst thing you can do.   It's like wild animals in a zoo, but worse because they cannot see or hear.  For related stories, please read our October issue Lethal Whites Across the USA newsletter at /#October     There are several behavioral articles in there, including the one about my Toes.
A few books you might want to try are "Living with a Deaf Dog" by Susan Cope Becker, "Hear, Hear A Guide to Training a Deaf Puppy"  by Barry Eaton, and "Living with Blind Dogs" by Caroline D. Levin, R.N. 
I think you'll find that they'll surprise you.   Just make sure to keep them safe with your other dogs and  you'll do just fine!
WHEW!!   I hope I have answered some questions for you.

Lorraine & the Ayres Gang  Aussielads Lethal White Aussie Rescue

Thanks Lorraine, for a job well done!

Check out our training video demos available online.  The videos cover working with various impairments as well as "how to" administer eye meds.

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