This morning, I opened the website for the local news and my eyebrows furrowed in a worried upside down V. “Why” you ask? Thanks to the recent dramatic volumes of rain–which we needed– there has been a reported flourishing of cases of Leptospirosis in pets of the SF bay area — which we don’t!
Leptospirosis is a type of spirochete (SPY-ro-keet). This is a spiral-shape bacterium, often with a curly-cue conformation. For you musically-inclined folks, it sometimes likes to take the shape of a base clef.
Dogs infected with this bacterium quickly become gravely ill with annoyingly non-specific signs: fever, joint pain, malaise, decreased appetite, lethargy, excessive thirst a week after an episode of unexplained fever. They can also have blood clotting issues (dots of red on the gums, defecating blood). The suffering dog can quickly become dehydrated, end up with kidney or liver failure depending on the location of the spirochetes, and die.
How do they get it, you ask? –Bite wounds or open wounds exposed to infected urine/contaminated water, placental transfer, ingestion of infected tissue, or consumption of water or urine carrying the bacterium (hence the rising incidence when we have puddles around, from which dogs like to drink). It is also associated with alkaline soil in rural and suburban areas. Furthermore, indirect contact with contaminated water, soil, bedding or food can also lead to infection.
The natural carriers of this bacterium can often live with it quite well, and shed the organism without clinical signs (opossum, rat, raccoon, armadillo, bobcat, fox, hedgehog, mouse, muskrat, shrew, squirrel, weasel, raccoon, skunk, vole, civet, deer, sea lion)… but it is the non-natural host that is infected that become gravely ill (e.g. humans, dogs).
There are over 200 serovars (sub types of the bacterium, if you will), and there is a vaccine, but it does not cover all the possible serovars to which a dog may get exposed.
There are various blood tests with ultrasound imaging techniques that can be used to confirm diagnosis. Unfortunately, many dogs could pass away while awaiting the blood test results, so it is best to treat dogs with high risk of exposure and clinical signs for this “just in case” while awaiting confirmation.
Treatment involves isolation due to the risk of spread to people, and hospitalization for antibiotics, IV fluids, and other supportive care.
Sadly, Fido might not make it without diagnosis and appropriate treatment this disease. Fortunately, the prognosis is good (80% survival) if treated in time.
If your dog is ill, don’t wait-bring him or her in for an appointment today, and be sure to let your vet know if he’s been drinking from puddles, eating dead rodents, had unexplained fever, or changes in thirst. The chances are good that your dog doesn’t have Lepto, but as they say, it’s good to remember zebras, not just horses, when you hear hooves in the distance.
So…its legal now. California is about to become a happier state. (Ha).
We expect to be fielding a LOT of questions about marijuana use and benefits in pets from now on. We also expect to see a LOT more toxicity cases. In some states that have legalized marijuana for recreation, veterinarians have seen a 4 fold increase in THC toxicity cases.
REGARDLESS of what you read on the internet, the basics are this:
- THC is toxic to pets. Translation: do not feed your dog or cat or bird or rabbit your pot brownies, cookies, ‘bud butter’… do not blow smoke in your pet’s face. READ: PLEASE HIDE YOUR STASH APPROPRIATELY!! Most toxicity cases are due to the pet (usually your typical lab or beagle) finding the stash under the bed or getting into the plate of special brownies on the counter (and a Tupperware container is NOT secure).
- Even if legalized – it is legal only for people at this time. IT IS ILLEGAL for veterinarians to prescribe it under federal AND state law.
- Universal vet “rule” – we don’t care where they got it, or who’s it is. We have no interest in reporting you or getting anyone in trouble – we just want to treat your pet appropriately so they get better.
So let’s flesh some of these comments out a little.
THC toxicity is not a joke – in dogs and cats we can see multiple neurologic symptoms including mental dullness, wobbliness, hypersensitive response to stimulation, incontinence, heart arrhythmias and seizures or if the concentration is too high, even death (as seen most commonly with the butter products). If noted, please bring your pet in for an oral treatment of to decrease absorption if early or IV fluids or intralipid therapy to clear their system safely. THC is very lipophilic (attracted to fat!), so the intralipid therapy removes the THC more effectively than traditional supportive care, although every little bit helps.
If caught early enough (less than 30 minutes), you can induce vomiting at home to remove as much as possible before it absorbs, but once symptoms have started, the anti-nausea properties of marijuana kick in and this becomes difficult. If you did manage to get your pet to vomit and the pet is sedated, then you risk causing aspiration pneumonia if the vomit is inadvertently inhaled.
“But Dr. Nesset – the internet says that marijuana can help my dog’s arthritis!”
There MAY be some medical benefit to the use of the higher cannabinoids (CBD) / low THC producing part of the plant (the ‘hemp’ side of marijuana), however there are no good studies to actually demonstrate a true medical benefit to pets thus far, but giving the THC containing components (flower / seeds) is simply not smart.
Even with the “safe” CBD products, there is going to be some differences as to the level of cannabinoids present – so not all products are created equal. There are NO standards on collection, purification, testing… this means that a product marketed for pet use may not actually contain the stated ingredients…or may contain too much of the unsafe portion of the plant.
There are some companies like Canna Companion – started by 2 veterinarians- who have worked to develop product specific for pets that they claim would be safe and effective. There are also companies who are simply going to take advantage of a new law and a veterinarian’s impotence in assisting with any use in pets.
Last year, Nevada tried to introduce a bill that would allow veterinarians to prescribe the use in pets, but it was treated as a joke and died quickly. This is a topic that will not go away, and should be discussed. Whether the use of cannabinoids in a pet is appropriate for their needs or not may not be certain but that shouldn’t negate a discussion with your veterinarian before attempting to take the advice of someone who has no medical training – much less veterinary training.
Evaluation of trends in marijuana toxicosis in dogs and cats living in a state with legalized medical marijuana: 125 dogs (2005-2010). S Meola et al. JVECCS 12/2012.
What’s in my Pet’s Food?
Ah…marketing. It’s what makes our capitalistic society function. We all fall prey to it. The prettier the packaging, the larger or descriptive the wording, the more times we see a commercial…it’s the way our brains tell us which products are better, right?
It works even when we know that flashier doesn’t always mean better. It is especially effective with pet food products. We try to eat healthier ourselves, so we gravitate toward those marketing trends that funnel us toward the more ‘natural’ products. And that is not (usually) a bad thing! But lets make sure we’re comparing apples to apples.
What do you look at when choosing a pet food? Lets look together, using our ‘marketing-proof’ glasses. (this is a VERY brief snap shot of this topic, so please feel free to explore the links below for further marketing tactics and definitions).
Guaranteed analysis: This is quick and easy. Ignore this entire segment entirely. I have no idea why it even exists on a bag of pet food. Look closely. 25% Protein….10% Fat….…good right? Look again….that is the MINIMUM of protein and fat. What’s the maximum? Or why not just give me an actual analysis? The guaranteed analysis tells us absolutely nothing helpful and provides no value when choosing something.
AAFCO statement. This will be found in tiny little print somewhere on the bag. You may have to hunt to find it. There will be (hopefully) one of two phrases.
- “Brand X Cat Food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AAFCO for maintenance of adult cats”
- This translates to: we have used the nutritional guidelines as outlined by AAFCO to meet at least the minimum standards when formulating our recipes.
- “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Brand Y Dog Food provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs”
This translates to: we have formulated according to AAFCO recommendations AND fed our food exclusively to animals for at least 6 months, during which time, we monitor weight, general health, blood work as well as nutritional absorption in each animal.
Obviously, the preferred statement is the second. Its nice to follow a recipe, but if some of the grand failures in my kitchen are any indication of how badly that can turn out, I would much rather rely on a diet that has been fed to pets for an extended period and know that that recipe is consistent and actually does what it claims and is safe and truly balanced. However, feeding trials are expensive and time consuming. Not every pet food company can do that. It is something you have to decide for yourself how important that extra step is.
If you can’t find an AAFCO statement….run away.
“Made in the USA”. This one can also be misleading. This can be put on any label as long as a company buys its ingredients from a supplier based in the US. But it does not guarantee where the supplier gets their ingredients or where the ingredient originates. So beware this stamp. May or may not be completely helpful. You can absolutely call a company to ask where their suppliers get their ingredients. If a company doesn’t know, then that should be a red flag.
Now the fun part: Name that ingredient!! Some of us shy away from ingredients if we can’t pronounce it or it doesn’t sound natural. But ingredient lists aren’t made for consumers….they are made for nutritionists…or sadistic organic chemists. So just what exactly are some of these ingredients?
The “chemical” Translation into ‘normal english’ Purpose
Pantothenic acid a Vitamin B complex helps nutrient absorbtion / intestinal health
Calcium iodate iodine source an essential ingredient for thyroid function
Carageenan seaweed component used to thicken some canned foods
By-product organ meat (liver, spleen…) PROTEIN!! (does not include intestines, bone)
Corn gluten meal plant based protein protein- actually digested similar to meat
Ferrous Sulfate Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen – ESSENTIAL
Folic Acid A B vitamin helps process proteins, strengthens cells
Glycerin A component of fat Used to soften some foods
Ground yellow corn source of linoleic acid essential fatty acid – helps skin, coat, energy…
L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate source of vitamin C helps support immune system
L-lysine monohydrochloride lysine (amino acid) helps muscle development / immune system
Manganese Sulfate an essential mineral Necessary for proper glucose utilization
Menadione sodium bisulfite a source of Vitamin K Necessary for proper clotting
Niacin vitamin B3 Necessary for metabolism of carbs, protein and fats
Pyridoxine Vitamin B6 helps with protein metabolism
Sodium selenite Selenium Essential mineral. Cell membrane health
Taurine Amino acid Essential for heart health in cats
Tocopherols Vitamin E Excellent for skin / coat, antioxidant, preservative
Ascorbic Acid Vitamin C Excellent for immune health
Propylene glycol NOT ethylene glycol (antifreeze) preservative, solvent for coloring / taste (also used
in ice cream, salad dressing, beer….)
For more in-depth and SUPERFUN food label information, see the following sites:
AAFCO label definitions: http://petfood.aafco.org/Labeling-Labeling-Requirements#standards
FDA requirements for pet food labeling: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/ucm047113.htm
previous (more in depth) blogs about pet food labels:
Sawyer is a pet that we love to see on our schedule. He comes in, sweet and confident, tail wagging, and has no hesitation in sticking his nose in your hands to have his ears scratched. To him, the world was just a large park to explore, populated with people whose sole purpose was to pet him.
He was adopted from a local shelter over 10 years ago with the purpose to positively distract the owner’s husband who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. It worked like a charm. Sawyer would sit with his head on her husband’s shoulder after his chemotherapy treatment and then force him to get up and take a walk in the fresh air. When he passed, Sawyer moved to rescuing the owner from depression herself with his daily happy greetings and smile.
A month ago, his owner took him across the street to an empty elementary school playground to walk around and enjoy the evening air. The relaxing night took a turn for the worse when another owner also brought his two dogs on to the playground. They were off leash. They caught sight of Sawyer and pack mentality took over and poor Sawyer was attacked. Despite his large size, Sawyer was unable to defend against two equally sized dogs and his owner screamed helplessly as she watched her dog savaged around the neck and head. They managed to get the dogs off of him and as she saw him lying there unmoving, she was certain he was dead.
Luck was on their side, however. A veterinary technician named Ken who lived locally just happened to be jogging by and saw the attack. He ran up, and found a pulse. He helped Sawyer’s owner lift him into her car and held the wounds closed on the way to the emergency clinic. Dr. Jade Huynh at United Veterinary Specialty & Emergency coordinated a triage, treating for shock and pain while evaluating the severity of the wounds, at the same time updating the frantic owner on his status and care.
Extensive surgery was performed to repair the wounds that tore through not just the skin, but several muscle layers, damaged the larynx (his bark will likely be forever hoarse) but just missed his carotid and jugular veins. He was sent home the next day bandaged and battered and on several medications, but alive.
His recovery from his physical wounds was slow and steady and by the book. Some of the damaged skin will slough off leaving a large scar on his neck, but when he came in for a recheck exam today, my heart smiled a little as I saw that tail start to wag again when he saw me, and although his confidence hasn’t fully recovered, his nose found his way quietly into my waiting hand. I happily obliged. The owner says that he is ready to walk around the neighborhood again, but still refuses to go to the playground.
Both his owner and I are forever grateful that Sawyer pulled through with his soul intact – because such a sweet dog deserves a long happy life. I also firmly believe that Sawyer, in a way, was the sacrifice needed to make sure the attacking dogs didn’t do worse to a smaller dog or even worse, a child later.
And that’s why Sawyer is our Pet of the Month!
Morals of the Story:
Please keep your dogs on leash when walking. Even if you have the friendliest dog who is great at recall – not every other dog you encounter will be.
Two dogs – even if big babies at home, can react differently when in the world. Don’t just know your dog – know what your dog is capable of and act accordingly.
Finally – NEVER step in the middle of a dog fight. Clap. Distract. Pull on leashes. Try to separate with a large stick…. but if you get bit, you won’t be able to help your pet when they need it most, and you can be permanently injured or have to undergo Rabies prophylaxis if the other dog is not current with vaccines
His name is Bast. But he also answers to “Big Boy” and “Professor Chubbynecks”. He is a grumpy old cat who other than his weight and the horrible associated arthritis, is in perfect health (he has blood work checked every year). So when I lecture you about your pet’s weight….I really “get it”. It isn’t easy.
I have been trying to get him to lose weight for years. I have tried over the counter “low fat” diets, “prescription” / truly restricted calorie diets, reduced intake / no treats, canned diets with extra water (which he detests!), I have tried increasing activity (which translates to him just looking at me as I bounce around the room like a ribbon-waving idiot). The best I have managed is to have him not gain any more weight. Sigh.
So…I went to a conference last year. One of the new products being touted in the product hall was Hill’s Metabolic diet. “88% of pets lose weight!” “Little to no effort or change in lifestyle” “They love the taste!” Uh huh. Yep. Sure. And I’m sure it’s made with pixie dust and unicorn horn. I may have mentioned before that I am a skeptic at heart and really need to see proof before I start making recommendations to my clients and using their pets as guinea pigs (even my guinea pig patients).
So I called the Hill’s rep when I got home and said “I heard this diet is a wonder-diet…have I got a test patient for you!” I decided to use my own “fluffy” finicky cat as a test dummy, and started him on a bag of their miracle food. Surprisingly…he liked it. Like… really liked it…. Like stuck his head in the bag liked it. Ok….palatability….check.
I weighed him on day 1. Then re-weighed him every week thereafter.
Week 2: he was down ½ a pound. Hmmm. So….let’s just reserve judgment until we get a month out…
Week 4: he had lost a full pound. A FULL pound. This may not seem like much…but on a cat, its huge – it was 5% of his body weight! His fur waddle was getting looser and if I squinted, I could almost see the beginning of a waist on him.
Week 6: stagnant. Still the same weight. Ha! At this point I figured I had proven something. But then I caught him eating the dog’s food the next day…so I squashed that.
Week 8: He has lost 1.5 pounds. I’m ecstatic. And I’m not stopping the diet now….we’re on a roll! He has more energy, is more affectionate (presumably, his arthritis is less painful) and just seems…happier. Geez…I sound like a sappy commercial….but he’s my (now less) big boy!
Granted my little research project has all of 1 cat involved, which translates to this really being an anecdote, but I will say that I am convinced. Pixie dust and rainbow wishes apparently can really work!
I have never written an endorsement of a product, but I am so thoroughly impressed with my cat’s response on this diet, given the years of trial and failure I have had with him, that I will heartily recommend this product to the owner of any overweight pet that needs a little help.
The weight loss is real, and it is not too fast, but nice and steady. As for how it works….it seems to be proprietary wizardry, but I have been assured that there are no illegal ingredients.
It has the expected reduced calories and fiber which allows for better digestion of fats and serves as a prebiotic to keep the normal bacteria happy. What makes it “work”, however, is that the formulation has been developed using the newer theory of ‘nutrogenomics’.
Nutrogenomics is a newer movement in nutrition that studies the effects that food can have on genes and how they are expressed. In Metabolic’s case, this theory uses natural foods and supplements (such as flax and tomato) to “reactiviate” the genes that have been “turned off” in some pets that control how they process calories. Simply put, it has been formulated to increase a pet’s metabolism naturally so they burn fat faster on their own.
Now…where do I sign up for the human trials?
While October may be the favorite month of many people who excitedly plan costumes and carve pumpkins in anticipation of Halloween, cat (black cats in particular) have little cause for celebration.
The black cat has become almost synonymous with Halloween. Even though the cat’s arched silhouette has become an integral part of the holiday, most people don’t know how cats first became associated with the the spookiest day of the year.
The cat’s history is one of the most mystical and contradictory. They have been both loved and feared throughout history, although why cats were revered in some places and condemned in others is not fully clear.
For instance, the Chinese, Japanese and Egyptians believed cats were sacred creatures. However, in India, Europe and America, cats (particularly black cats), have long been associated with evil, witchcraft and inauspicious tidings. This reputation seems to originate in Europe in the 13th century when Pope Gregory stated that cats were creatures from Satan himself…which laid the groundwork for their association with witchcraft and evil onward.
Cats are nocturnal animals and this preference for prowling at night certainly didn’t hurt their chances for becoming a fixture for a nighttime holiday. Throw in a black cat whose coloring allows it to become one of the shadows, separated only occasionally from the darkness by two glowing eyes – they were all but guaranteed a position among the icons of Halloween alongside ghosts, tombstones and bats.
Depending on the culture (and century), black cats can indicate good luck as well as bad. In the United States, a black cat crossing your path or even entering your property is considered a bad omen, but in the United Kingdom and Austrailia simply owning or even touching a black cat is thought to bring good luck. In the sea-faring days, having a black cat in your home meant your sailor would return safely, or if the cat lived on the boat – even better luck (as long as you didn’t mention its name).
We recommend that you keep all cats indoors during the month of October, regardless of their color, but especially our shadow-colored companions. There are more people about, more traffic on the road, and occasionally more ‘crazy’ in the air than can be safe for our indoor / outdoor pets.
Halloween should be a fun time for children as well as adults, and it should be a stress free and safe time for our pets. Be aware of the dangers and take precautions to keep your cat safe over the weekend!
Written by Elena Bauske-Khalar (one of our amazing receptionists)
There is a moment at the end of some feline exams that everyone involved hates….the part where I tell you (the owner) that Fluffy (the cat) is going to need medication. I can see you deflate a little at the prospect of the inevitable daily struggle, and Fluffy is glaring at me, her tail swishing back in forth as if daring me to try to pill her. I don’t envy you.
As the caretaker (I don’t dare imply any ownership) of two felines, I have been in your position many times. I’ve gotten pretty good at pilling a cat, frankly, but have a lot of experience doing it and didn’t develop that skill without shedding some blood in the process. In the early days, it usually ended with myself and my cat heaving in exhaustion, growling from one of us (never sure which), and a goopy, saliva-dripping tablet in my hand.
There are numerous excellent videos and step-by-step instructions on the internet on how to give your cat a pill, feel free to look them up….today, I am going to share some tricks with you on medicating.
The take away lesson is this: you have to be smarter than the cat. Regardless of the medication, there is a compromise in there somewhere. Cats, because they are cats, have forced us as veterinarians to come up with some creative ways to dose them.
- Try the pill in a treat. A little spray cheese, piece of chicken, a little tuna juice. There are commercial products like Pill Pockets (a treat with a hole in it to hide the pill) that are also available. Tip: don’t just put it in with all of her food or water – the dose is what is important, and if we cannot be assured she got the full dose, we cannot be assured that it will do her any good….or she can just eat around it. Therefore, if you hide it in food, make it a small amount first.
- If it is an ointment / gel form, try putting it on the front paws – they may not like it, but they will be ultimately be unable to resist the necessity of grooming it away.
- Pill-shooter devices: these stick-like devices allow you to place the pill on one side, stick it in the back of the mouth (the point of no return where they can’t spit it out), and tap a plunger to send it down the gullet. It can be done quickly, with minimal fuss, and no blood drawn!
- Alternative formulations / Compounded medications: almost any medication is available in or can be compounded into any one of several forms – flavored chewy treats, transdermal gels, liquid, long-lasting injectable….having a medication compounded is a little more expensive, but very do-able ….and often well worth it to regain that happy relationship you used to have before you kept shoving things down her throat. Note, every medication is different and has pros and cons to different formulations…but don’t be afraid to ask if something is available!
Cats are wonderful animals, but they can also be among the most uncooperative of patients. I look at my own furry-whiskered faces at home and remind them periodically that “It’s a good thing that I love you…”. Then they flop over, a deep rumble in their chest, and remind me why I keep doing what I do. We love them…that’s why we go through the struggles….but life can be so much easier if you find some middle ground.
Below is a popular forward / email that was circulating in the past that has never lost its resonance:
HOW TO PILL A CAT
- Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby. Position right forefinger and thumb on each side of cat’s mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth. Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.
- Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa. Cradle cat gently in left arm and repeat process.
- Retrieve cat from bedroom, pick up and throw soggy pill away.
- Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm, holding rear paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for count of ten.
- Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse in from garden.
- Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into cat’s mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat’s throat vigorously.
- Retrieve cat from curtain rail, get another pill out of foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep up shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set on one side for gluing later.
- Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit. Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with a pencil and blow into drinking straw.
- Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink glass of water to take taste away. Apply Band-Aid to spouse’s forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.
- Retrieve cat from neighbor’s shed. Get another pill. Place cat in cupboard and close door just enough so that head is showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with plastic band.
- Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Throw t-shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.
- Call fire department to retrieve cat from tree across road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat. Take last pill from foil wrap.
- Tie cat’s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table. Find heavy duty pruning gloves from shed. Push pill into mouth followed by a large piece of fillet steak. Hold head vertically and pour 2 pints of water down throat to wash pill down.
- Get spouse to drive you to emergency room. Sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearms and removes pill from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home and order new dining table.
- Arrange for ASPCA to collect cat and contact local pet shop to see if they have any hamsters.
How To Pill a Dog
- Wrap it in bacon.
I find that I have developed a habit of lying to strangers about what I do for a living when making small talk…say on an airplane or when chatting with someone I have just been introduced to and will likely never see again.
Now, I consider myself a very honest person. My husband would say sometimes painfully so. I LOVE my job. I frequently tell clients and friends that I have the best and worst job in the world. “Best” because I am rarely bored, love my patients and have wonderful clients. I get to go into work every day and become an investigator, a teacher, a researcher, pharmacist, comforter and of course, a healer. Worst, because my patients can’t (or won’t, as I am prone to believe with some of my suspiciously cognizant feline patients) tell me where they hurt, what they ate, or how long they’ve been ill.
So why do I lie to such nice people that I should have nothing against? It is certainly nothing personal. But divulging that my chosen career is an animal doctor inevitably invites one of several responses:
“Oh! My dog / cat/ bird / rat has diarrhea / vomiting / a rash / a lump…what do you think it is?”
“My pet’s last vet visit cost soooo much money”
“So, you’re not a real doctor, right?”
“Can I have you look at my rash / lump / indescribable lesion on my (insert inappropriate body part of your choice here)”
Now, don’t misunderstand. Should I run into a client at the supermarket and they have a quick question about ‘Fluffy’, I am happy to do my best to answer if possible. If family or friends ask my advice, I will be happy to offer it, to the best of my ability without access to diagnostics, medications, or even, often, ability to examine, although my advice usually ends with “you should see your normal vet and get that checked out to be sure.” I am not legally allowed to give advice on human medicine, as your human doctor cannot legally give advice to you about your pet. And yes, I am a ‘real’ doctor. Even went to school for 8 years, took many of the same courses and rotations (with a slightly furry twist), and can perform surgery, prescribe medications and everything!
No, the reason I lie is that I have one of those rare careers that nearly everyone can identify with on some level – they wanted to be a vet at some point in childhood, they have a dog / cat / bird / rat that they love and find that they are in front of another declared animal lover that they can share stories with. All true…and I do love a good animal story. But I see and work with animals everyday. There is a whole wide world of topics, events, interesting facts that I have yet to learn about and I very simply want to explore them as well. There seems to be no reason for me to dominate an entire conversation when there is so much else to discuss!
I’ve found that “I’m a librarian / proctologist / factory doodad inspector” results in a lot fewer questions, allowing (sometimes) more interesting conversation topics to develop.
We love hearing stories about our patients. Every once in a while, a pet’s story is so inspiring that we can’t help but want to share it. We met Prince Charming about a year ago when he was adopted by one of our clients from a rescue where he was being treated for abuse that necessitated amputation of one of his rear limbs. As kismet would have it, he adopted one our clients on their visit and due to his “handicap” (although he would never acknowledge it as that) and his indominable spirit, he has gone on to touch lives ever since. I asked the owner if he would write a little about Prince Charming’s story for us, and he graciously agreed. So without further ado – meet Prince Charming:
Prince Charming came into our hearts on a visit to the Nine Lives Rescue in Redwood City. Prince Charming was an abused kitten and when he came up to my wife Diane, he was missing his right rear leg and had a 2” by 1” severe burn on his back. The sutures were still present from the recent surgery as the fur was still missing exposing clean shaven skin.
PC, for short, is just the most amazing little fellow. Whilst we were talking to the staff I caught his attention and he hopped upon the counter and started nuzzling my wife and later myself. He quickly became a member of our family. We soon noticed that he was very different from most cats, he has no fear; this was discovered during the annual blessing of the animals at our church. PC was perfectly fine being on a leash with all of the other dogs present, that’s right a cat on a leash. In fact he was visited by one big dog and one little dog and he never hissed or fuzzed up. He allowed the dogs to sniff him and walk on – all in a Princely Manner.
My counselor at the VA was so taken by this story that I was asked to bring PC to visit some Veteran Amputees. Well you guessed it, he was the perfect Ambassador for the job. Some of the Vets are pretty depressed and that little fellow jumped into their laps and into their hearts. He has inspired so many people that when I told my Knights of Columbus group about him they adopted him as their mascot, it seems they never had a mascot before and this fellow seemed worthy of such an honor.
PC loves visiting new places and is indeed not afraid of anything that we have encountered. PC can pay a visit to anybody not well and always makes them feel better.
Now that he is full grown PC will soon be fitted with a blue service animal vest and a Doctor letter authorizing him to legally attend to others special needs as a service animal.
Thank You Prince Charming for wanting to become a part of our Lives and my Family.
Summer is here! What is more fun than taking your pet around the neighborhood or exploring your favorite trail? What a great bonding experience, and good for everyone’s soul. However, not all dogs are created equal, and dogs in general have exercise tolerances different than people that you may not think of before lacing up your sneakers. Here are some things to think about before choosing an appropriate activity.
- Short legs.
Little pups (think Maltese, Chihuahuas, Cavaliers) or short legged dogs (think Corgies, Dachsunds, Bassets) have to take 3-4 times as many steps as you when going for a walk. So these dogs are not built for jogging around the neighborhood, but can do very well for long walks – just pay attention to the cues they give you – when they slow down or are taking more side detours to sniff around, they are telling you they are tired. Time to head home! And don’t walk so fast!
- Brachycephalic breeds
These are the short nosed breeds – bulldogs, pugs, French bulldogs – anatomically, their airways are most definitely not able to handle excessive exercise or hot weather. For instance, the soft palate is the same length as a German shepherd, but is pushed back and now dangles into the back of their throat (hence that snorting and snoring). Throw in a super small trachea and this anatomy makes getting oxygen where it needs to go even harder for these guys. Slow sedate walks, short activities and yard play are about the extent of what they should do. And never in the heat!
- Heavy coats
Heavy coated ‘northern’ breeds (akitas, huskies, some shepherd breeds) LOVE activity and do very well with long distance running, high energy activity and play. The problem with some of these ‘high drive’ breeds is they don’t know when to stop and will run until they collapse. We don’t want that. Know your dog, when that tongue is hanging out more than it is in, then it’s time for a break. This goes for the dark coated breeds too (that dark coat absorbs the sun)!…and the labs….definitely labs….they really have no off switch.
- Heat exchange
Regardless of the breed, dogs do not expend heat as well as we do – they don’t sweat and they have a fur coat to insulate them. The only way to get rid of the heat they build up (whether from the sun or from activity) is by panting or the few sweat glands they have on their paws. So even though you may feel fine after a couple miles on a run, your dog may be struggling to bring down his core body temp. (We have had some dogs come in collapsed from heat exhaustion and die because their core temp climbs above 106 in the summer months). Keep those activities in the early morning or late evening and out of the heat of the day!!
Dogs don’t wear shoes (usually). If your daytime activity (whether running, walking or just meandering at a public event), be aware of the surface of the ground. Take your shoe / sandal off and put your foot on the ground – if it is too hot to hold there for 30 seconds, then it is too hot for your dog to be walking on! Yes their pads are tough, but we still frequently see tender pads from being burned in the summer time. Studies show that concrete can be 30 degrees warmer than the air temperature and asphalt up to 50 degrees hotter!
If you are at a car show / art festival / park in the heat of the day this summer, try to stick to the grass, dirt areas for your dog’s sake.
Yes they make doggy sunblock! (it’s zinc-free in case they lick it). Consider it if your dog is white or has thin fur – these guys are more prone to sunburn – focus on the belly and ears! They’ll thank you later.
So enjoy your summer and definitely find ways to enjoy your pet this summer! But know your pet! Keep water on hand for them, keep them cool and safe and never EVER leave them in a car unattended – even with the windows down if it is above 70 degrees. See our previous blog to see how to manage a heat-stressed dog until you can get them in to us: http://www.westvalleypetclinic.com/blog/2012/06/baby-its-hot-outside/