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Bringing in the Muscle


November 24, 2014 by Julia

On Friday, November 21st, Delta and I became part of a proud Boxer tradition: We participated in a veterinary research study.

Delta the Boxer with vets from Tufts

Delta doing her best Yoda bobblehead impression with Dr. Freeman (L) and Dr. Prantil (R).

Boxer owners, on the whole, are a bit crazy about our beloved breed and it shows. To date, the American Boxer Charitable Foundation* has raised more money for the AKC’s Canine Health Foundation than any other breed club. Many (most?) Boxer fanciers are dedicated to supporting research that will help diagnose and treat Boxer-specific ailments as well as those that can effect any breed or mix.

In addition to financial contributions, many owners volunteer to participate in studies and clinical trials. Delta’s own TealCrest family has participated in a number of studies. Samples from 7 dogs were sent to the Broad Institute (home of the Dog Genome project) and her grandmother, mother, and father all made individual contributions to disease-specific studies.

When I saw the call out on Facebook for healthy Boxers to participate in a muscle mass study, I was excited that Delta might be able to carry on the family tradition. Some disease, such as heart disease, can cause muscle wasting and the resulting weakness effects quality of life. Currently there is no good, non-invasive way to check muscle mass and catch the problem early. Tufts University were studying the possibility of using ultrasound to diagnose the issue quickly and without using anesthetics.

They needed 1-5 year old, healthy dogs who were spayed/neutered to participate in the study. They wanted 10 dogs from each chosen breed (Boxer, Doberman, Dachshund, Cavalier, Chihuahua). I contacted Dr. Freeman right away, worried that they’d already have all the volunteers they’d need, and I was thrilled to find that Delta would be a welcome addition to their study.

Dr. Prantil gives Delta a brief exam. They both seem to be listening intently.

Dr. Prantil gives Delta a brief exam. They both seem to be listening intently.

As is often the case, Dr. Freeman and Dr. Prantil were instant fans. In addition to Delta’s normal charming nature, they were scientist looking for muscle and she’s a little brickhouse! Dr. Prantil said she was excited when she saw Delta in the waiting room because of her fantastic muscle. They gave Delta an “ideal” body condition rating of 4 out of 9 (the scale goes from thin to fat, so 4-5 are the best). I mentioned wishing I could get a pound or two on her and told me she was right where she should be at 49lbs. They did a brief physical exam, then took her out back to draw blood, take an x-ray, and use the ultrasound.

I was told it would take approximately 45 minutes to an hour and a half, so I was a bit startled when they came into the lobby just 20 minutes later. Dr. Freeman said “I’m sorry…” my heart sunk, thinking she wasn’t eligible or worse… “You can’t take her home, she has to stay here with us!” They usually have to wait in line for the machines out back, but had lucked out with no line for x-ray or ultrasound. Delta was an excellent patient, so they got what they needed quickly.

I’m thankful that I could participate in a study with my healthy dog to help dogs who are ailing. I’m eager to hear how their study progresses and I hope it will mean better support and management for dogs that have already been dealt a tough hand.

I encourage anyone who can to look into donating some of your dog’s time (or fluids) to canine research. Canine disease is heartbreaking and many times the research done benefits human patients as well. Be part of the solution!

*Bittersweet Side Note: The Georgia Buchla Cancer Research Fund is for one of Xena‘s Novice A Obedience classmates. Georgia has hemangiosarcoma, just like Xena, but they caught it early and are managing the disease to keep her comfortable for as long as possible.


  1. Jill Hootman says:

    Shout out to Delta for continuing in true TealCrest traditon giving back so others can lead heathy long lives !

  2. […] our adventures at Tuft’s for the muscle mass study, Delta and I popped down to Springfield, Ma. to visit my friend Jill at the Thanksgiving Cluster. […]

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