Archive for February, 2009

Victims Come in All Sizes

February 20, 2009

As I was hanging out in the midst of our busy hospital treatment room during emergency hours a few of nights ago I was impressed at how much was going on all at once. On one treatment table was a pregnant Chihuahua experiencing difficulty passing her pups. On another table was a thirteen-year-old dog in a state of shock after trauma inflicted by other dogs in the neighborhood. An anesthetized kitty with a urinary tract blockage was being tended to on a third table. Things got even busier when a receptionist entered the treatment room with two stray Rottweilers in tow. The woman who dropped them off said she found them in a local shopping center parking lot. Both Rotties were gorgeous with wonderfully sweet dispositions – their little stub-tailed hind ends wiggled frantically in response to our attention. Additionally, it was apparent that both dogs were profoundly pregnant.

We hoped these two girls just happened to have busted out of their yard- perhaps a gate had been left open. We envisioned an anxious family frantic to find their pregnant dogs. Our optimism quickly dissipated as we discovered no collars, no identification microchips, and no one searching to reclaim their lost dogs in spite of our efforts to let every local shelter, pound, and veterinary hospital know about our new charges. Looking back, it seemed a bit suspicious that the woman who dropped them off happened to have a crate in the back of her truck large enough to hold two large dogs.

We turned one of our visiting rooms into a whelping pen and over the course of three hours our two strays morphed into twelve as one of the dogs delivered 10 beautiful, healthy pups. Some of them looked like “mom”, others revealed that “dad” was something other than a Rottweiler. Mama was a natural- licking and cleaning- doing everything just right, including letting complete strangers cut umbilical cords, inspect puppies, change bedding, and take her out for potty breaks while telling her what a perfect princess she was. Thus far, mama number two has not yet whelped.

I find myself longing to know the names of these two dogs (thinking they would enjoy hearing them) and wondering if they are missing their favorite humans. Clearly, both had been well socialized and cared for with sleek shiny hair coats and substantial body weights. And why were they given up? Were all of these dogs simply victims of tough economic times? Perhaps the prospects of finding homes for so many nonpurebred pups was daunting. The good news is that these mothers found their way to a “birthing center” where they and their pups would be well cared for.

While we are awaiting the arrival of litter number two, plans are in the works to place moms and pups with one or two Rottweiler rescue organizations. The big-hearted people who run such rescue organizations (some are breed-specific, others are not) are intent on making sure that needy dogs get second chances. If interested in an adult Rottweiler (who will need to be spayed) or mixed breed pup, feel free to contact me via my website – www.speakingforspot.com.

Please visit www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. SPEAKING FOR SPOT is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Wishing you and your dog good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

What Mutt Fans and Purebred Enthusiasts Have in Common

February 15, 2009

Every February, in the weeks surrounding the Westminster Dog Show, I hear plenty of biased commentary and heated discussion about mutts versus purebred dogs.  This year, the rhetoric has reached new heights- with all the speculation about who will become the Obama family’s “First Fido,” even “dogless” people feel compelled to join in the bantering and bickering. 

 

Between my own dogs and my beloved patients, I have plenty of first-hand familiarity with the virtues and vices of the purebred versus mongrel experience.  I can assure you, there are plenty of both!   This is why I shrug my shoulders when confronted with people bent on convincing me that their preference should be my preference. Would I ever try to convince someone that one is better?  No way- I’m a big believer in “live and let live” as long as no one gets hurt.  Trust me, after raising three children and working with more dog loving clients than I can count, I’ve learned to pick my battles wisely.  For example, if a client tells me their dog is a “German Shepherd”, yet I see before me an “Australian Shepherd,” I don’t try to correct my client.  I prefer to let sleeping dogs lie.  No harm done because, whether the dog is from Australia or Germany I will treat his diabetes the same! 

 

Just as in the case of mistaken shepherd identity, I choose not to participate in the battle of whether mutts or purebreds are superior. If I do manage to get suckered into such discussion, I employ a unique strategy.  I encourage the debaters to adjourn their arguments and work together towards a common goal.  You see, whether a person prefers mongrels or purebreds, what they have in common, besides their love of dogs, is the desire to eradicate puppy mills (large scale breeding operations that produce puppies for profit- often inhumanely). I suggest they use their mutual passion to teach others to never purchase a puppy online, sight (and site) unseen.  And, be extremely cautious about an impulsive pet store purchase.  They should invest their energy telling people that by buying online or from a pet shop, they may be inadvertently committing the next 10 to 15 years of their lives to taking care of an adorable, but inherently unhealthy, product of a puppy mill.  One less purchase from puppy mills, even indirectly, is one step closer to their extinction.

 

What happens when I interrupt the “great debate” with my suggestion? Sometimes I’m viewed as if I am from another planet.  Most of the time, my comments prompt some constructive and positive discussion with heads nodding in agreement, at least for a few minutes before the conversation returns to squabbling about mutts versus purebreds!

 

Please visit www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health.  SPEAKING FOR SPOT is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Wishing you and your dog good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

 

Getting More Bark for Your Buck

February 12, 2009

Today the human-animal bond is stronger than ever. Seemingly, the more tumultuous the world around us, the tighter we cling to our beloved pets. They soothe us with their predictability and unconditional love, and they consistently give in excess of what they receive. Imagine then, the heartache one feels when it’s necessary to cut back on a pet’s health care because of financial hardship.

Last week I worked with Joan and her ten-year-old Labrador, Rudy who still acts like a puppy. They are devoted to one another, and Joan has always done everything possible to care for her best buddy’s health. Rudy had been vomiting and not finishing his meals (keep in mind, most Labs would quit breathing before they quit eating). When I mentioned blood tests and X-rays, Joan began sobbing and expressed profound guilt and worry because she was unable to afford these diagnostics. Like so many others in this diseased economy Joan recently lost her job, depleted her financial reserves, and was in the midst of foreclosure. I gave Joan a big hug, told her how much I appreciated her candor, and reassured her that a diet change and medication to soothe Rudy’s stomach might be the solution. She will call me with an update next week.

If you are feeling a financial pinch (who isn’t these days), here are some things you can do to economize while still caring for your pet’s health.

-When talking with your vet, lay your financial cards on the table. Yes, this is difficult (talking “fleas” is one thing- having a candid conversation about your bank account is whole ‘nother ball game), but know that such discussion can open doors to options that make better financial sense. Rarely is there only one way to diagnose or treat a disease. You are entitled to an explanation of the risks and benefits of every single option, regardless of your financial status.

-Request a written cost estimate before services are provided. In no way does this reflect how much you love your pet; you are simply being fiscally responsible.

-Learn about all of your payment options.

-Consider investing in pet health insurance, especially if you are inclined to take the “do-everything-possible” approach.

-Don’t neglect the preventive care that could save you money in the long run. Administering heartworm preventive is less expensive for you (and safer for your dog) than treating heartworm infection.

What should one do if forced to contemplate euthanasia for a pet solely because of financial constraints? Before succumbing to such a drastic decision, I strongly encourage thoroughly investigating every other conceivable option. Consider coming up with a creative payment plan such as bartering services or goods, borrowing money from friends or relatives (borrowing from a bank might be a silly suggestion these days), contacting a dog rescue association, applying for a donation from a pet health assistance organization, or finding a new, financially capable guardian for your pet. Such exploration of options might just save a life and will do wonders for everyone’s peace of mind.

Please visit www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. SPEAKING FOR SPOT is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Wishing you and your dog good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine