Archive for July, 2009

Skunked

July 28, 2009

You’d think Nellie and Quinn would learn from their prior lapses in judgment.  No such luck!  My continually curious canines played with a skunk last night just before bedtime.  They came running into the house accompanied by that uniquely pungent smell that made me cringe, knowing that my sleep would be postponed by extensive bath time. 

It’s a good thing I had a recipe handy found in the latest issue of BARK Magazine (www.thebark.com).  When I asked editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska about the efficacy of this concoction, she told me she had plenty of firsthand positive experience using it on her own mischievous mutt, Lola.  By the way, if you are not familiar with BARK I strongly encourage you to take a look.  This magazine is filled with incredibly useful, sophisticated, and humorous material.  The July/August issue was no exception and it included the following: 

Getting Rid of the Skunk Funk 

You’ll Need

– A clean plastic bucket in which to mix the ingredients

– One quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (Usually sold in pint bottles, so you’ll need two; use of other strengths is not recommended.)

– 1/4 cup baking soda (Do not use washing soda, which is much stronger and will burn your dog’s skin.)

– One to two teaspoons of liquid detergent (Softsoap and Ivory liquid are preferred.) 

How to Use It

Apply to dry dog, working well into the fur.  Let stand for about five minutes, then rinse with tepid water; repeat if necessary.  Do not store this mixture, it loses its effectiveness and more importantly, it releases oxygen gas and the container could explode.  It may bleach the dog’s hair (but better that than the smell!).  And remember, the sooner you deal with the skunking, the better, as, over time, the smell sets and is harder to eliminate. 

Now, here’s wishing you and your four-legged best friend a most enjoyable and safe summer! 

Dr. Nancy Kay

Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://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. 

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

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Dog Days of Summer

July 24, 2009

Some of us take “dog days of summer” literally- we want to go everywhere accompanied by our beloved canine companions!  As tempting as this may be, keep in mind that when temperatures are soaring your dog is likely best served by staying home.  Heat has the potential to be hazardous to a dog’s health. 

Dogs are incapable of significant sweating- their only sweat glands are located on the undersides of their paws.   The major mechanism by which dogs dissipate heat is by panting, but this cooling system is easily overwhelmed when the temperatures climbs.  Panting becomes even less effective in humid conditions or for dogs with underlying respiratory tract ailments (collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, lung diseases). Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and others I lovingly refer to as “smoosh-faced” breeds readily overheat because of their unique upper respiratory tract anatomy. 

What happens when dogs get too hot?  The result can be heatstroke, a life threatening condition.  Symptoms of heatstroke tend to occur abruptly and can include increased heart rate, labored breathing, weakness, collapse, purplish gum color, and even seizures and coma. Of all the “summertime diseases,” veterinarians dread heatstroke the most because we know that, even with aggressive therapy, many heatstroke victims will succumb to organ damage and death.

 Most cases of canine heatstroke are a result of confinement in cars.  Perhaps the vehicle was parked in the shade, but the sun shifted, or a well-intentioned person thought that leaving the windows cracked or returning to the car quickly would be a safe bet.  Overactivity in the heat is another common cause of heatstroke. The desire to chase the ball trumps all else, and the person throwing it doesn’t recognize when it’s time to quit. 

If you suspect your dog has or is on the verge of heatstroke, spend just a few minutes cooling him off with water from a hose or covering him with towels soaked in cool water.  Then get to the closest veterinary hospital as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence- the earlier heatstroke is detected and treated, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome. 

Knowledge is power when it comes to preventing heatstroke.  Here are some pointers to help keep your best buddy safe during these hot summer months: 

-Never leave your dog inside the car on warm or hot days.  A panting dog in an enclosed space quickly creates a muggy greenhouse environment that can quickly cause heatstroke.  Even with the windows down, temperatures inside a car can rise to 120 degrees or more.  If you happen upon a dog confined in a car on a hot day, find the owner of the vehicle or contact a police officer- whichever will most rapidly liberate the dog from danger. 

-Exercise your dog early in the morning or during evening hours to avoid the heat of the day.  

-Allow for plenty of rest and water breaks during play activity and exercise. Your dog may not know his limits and will continue to enthusiastically chase the Frisbee even when his internal thermometer is getting ready to blow a fuse. 

-Keep your dog indoors, ideally in air conditioning, on very hot days. 

-If your dog is left outside, be sure he has plenty of shade and provide him with access to a sprinkler, wading pool, or sand pit soaked with water. 

-If flying with your dog during the summer months schedule your flight for nighttime or early morning.  Check with the airlines to find out whether or not the cargo hold is temperature controlled. 

Now, here’s wishing you and your four-legged best friend a most enjoyable and safe summer! 

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

Please visit http://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. 

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross –

Be sure to check out Spry Living www.spryliving.com where this article is published in their August issue.

The Results Are In!

July 17, 2009

Thanks to everyone who provided their guesses about the breed composition of my puppy, Quinn.  I was chastised a bit for not providing enough information about his height (his back comes to just below my knee), his weight (he’s 18 pounds soaking wet), and his behavior (he’s wonderfully animated and super quick and agile).  Here were the breed guesses provided: 

-Papillon

-Corgi

-Sheltie

-Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

-Rat Terrier

-Collie

-Spaniel

-Australian Shepherd

-Basenji

-Chihuahua

-Border Collie

-Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

-Shiba Inu

-Rhodesian Ridgeback

-Golden Retriever

-German Shepherd 

My favorite guesses came from Cassandra and Pam.  Cassandra thinks that Quinn might be a Canardly (canardly tell), and Pam suggested I refer to my pup as a Yurgess (yurgess is a good as mine).  Many of you agreed that Quinn looks more like a fox than anything else!  I will certainly let you know if ever I do decide to learn more about Quinn’s DNA.  Thanks again for your wonderfully entertaining feedback!

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health, 

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

Please visit http://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. 

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

The Wisdom of Knowing…… or Not

July 15, 2009

Our puppy Quinn came to us via a local rescue organization.  Apparently, he was next in line for the needle at an overcrowded shelter in Bakersfield.  Although he has been part of our family for six months now, I remain clueless about his breed ancestry.  This is unusual for me- I’m like one of those people who guesses people’s weights at the circus.  Only, what I’m good at guessing is which breeds have gone into the making of a mutt.  I can watch the dog for a minute or two, then accurately size up his lineage. Quinn, on the other hand, has me completely bamboozled.  Sometimes I think he’s a Chihuahua-Border Collie mix.  At other times there’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Papillon, or Sheltie looking at me.  And, every once in awhile, he’s got Basenji written all over his sweet face.  I’ve included some Quinn photos so you can have a look for yourself.

I’ve been toying with the idea of obtaining a DNA determination of Quinn’s genetic makeup. I have first hand experience with a DNA testing company called Wisdom Panel™.  Some of my clients have used their service, and I recently gave a Wisdom Panel™ screening to one of my nurses as a gift to use on her adorable mutt named Izzy.  All that’s needed is a small blood sample. DNA is extracted from the blood cells and screened for 157 American Kennel Club breeds. While the testing is far from perfect, it does seem to provide some useful information, especially when one of the parents happens to be a purebred.

So, what’s the downside to running the DNA test?  Yes, there is some cost involved, but the truth of the matter is, finally having an answer would eliminate all the fun of conjecturing about who Quinn’s parents are!   His appearance inspires curiosity.  When Quinn and I are out and about, guaranteed most passersby will ask, “What kind of dog is that?”  My response is usually, “He’s a bona fide mutt from Bakersfield,” or “I haven’t a clue!”  If I’m in an impish mood I might even make up a ridiculous answer such as, “He’s a fox!” or “Why this is a Romanian Burrowing Ferret Hound.”

Any response I choose invariably ignites more conversation. The person who asked the question and I conjecture about “what” Quinn is based on his appearance and temperament.  We then transition to conversation about their dogs’ pedigrees and personalities, both past and present.  By the time the discussion ends, Quinn and I feel as though we’ve made a new friend.  What would happen if Quinn’s breed origin was known and I answered their inquiry with, “He’s a Spaniel Chihuahua mix”?  I doubt that the ensuing conversation would be nearly as lively and entertaining.

I will continue to carefully observe Quinn’s conformation and behavior as he transitions into adulthood.  Whether or not I ever learn more about his pedigree, I do know with certainty is that my little Quinn is 100 percent cute!  And that just may be all I need to know.

Feel free to send me your best guess about Quinn’s pedigree (http://speakingforspot.com/contact.html).  If ever I do decide to run the Wisdom Panel™ I’ll let you know if you were close!

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health,

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

Please visit http://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.

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross –

Dogs, the Opiate of the Masses

July 13, 2009

 I facilitate a Client Support Group at my veterinary hospital.  We meet regularly to provide support for those struggling emotionally with the illness or loss of a beloved four-legged family member.  The last session had most of us in tears.  Some in attendance just listened; others bared their souls, talking about feelings of heartache, guilt, emptiness, and loneliness.  The mood was somber and supportive. 

Two darling dogs, Hannah and Coco had accompanied their moms to this particular session.  Throughout the evening, these mischievous girls let us know in no uncertain terms that they were interested in meeting each other. At the end of our meeting we turned Hannah and Coco loose and watched them run, spin, pounce, posture and play.  It was unadulterated exuberance and delightful mayhem!  During this brief doggie romp, I looked around the room and was tickled to see huge grins on the faces of everyone in the room. It was as though everyone had received a drug that transformed expressions of pain and sadness into undeniable joy.  The change in the room was stunning and profound, and provided, for me a unique feeling I shall never forget.  While in the midst of this magical moment, the thought that swirled through my mind is the title of this blog, “Dogs, the opiate of the masses.” 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health, 

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

Please visit http://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. 

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Gut Feelings and Second Opinions

July 10, 2009

I am a “regular” at the local corner coffee stop, so much so that my drink is often ready for me before I’ve had a chance to order it.  Amongst the eclectic group of shmoozers gathered most mornings are the schmoozers’ dogs.  This morning while waiting for my coffee, Molly, a massive Rottweiler mix, greeted me.  As usual, her voice and body language told me in no uncertain terms that she expected me to toss her a cookie (a bin full of dog biscuits resides beneath the shelf holding Half-n-Half, sugar, and other coffee accoutrements). Today, I noticed that Molly’s demands were less vigorous than usual.  My veterinary antennae began to quiver and I paused for closer inspection.  I was aghast to see one of Molly’s eyes almost closed and filled with pus; the other had a completely cloudy cornea.  Jill observed my startled expression and explained that she had taken her darling Molly to see the vet three times in the past couple of weeks.  In spite of treatment with various ointments, her eye problems were clearly worsening. 

I bit my tongue for approximately one millisecond before my concern for Molly forced me to question, “Have you considered getting a second opinion?”  Jill responded that the thought had crossed her mind, but she’d not acted on this impulse- she didn’t want to hurt her veterinarian’s feelings.  After some serious coaching-  “A second opinion results in a new diagnosis as often as 30 percent of the time.” “Veterinarians are used to people desiring second opinions.”  “What’s more important, Molly’s health or your vet’s feelings?”- Jill agreed that it was time to contact our local board certified ophthalmologist. 

Is Jill’s story unusual? No, but I wish it were. When it comes to our own health issues or those of a beloved four-legged family member it’s not uncommon that, even when our gut tells us it’s time to consider a second opinion, we ignore the feeling.  I believe that this gut feeling, sixth sense, intuition, or experiential wisdom- whatever one chooses to call it- is a true gift.  In fact it is one of the few things that actually seem to improve as we age. All we need to do is pay attention to this gift rather than ignore it.  Second opinions are invaluable for our health and our peace of mind.  

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Molly and her eyes will be sparkling and bright the next time I see her.   

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health, 

Dr. Nancy Kay

Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://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. 

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross –

Keep Your Pets Safe This 4th of July

July 6, 2009

You will find some great articles and advice for keeping your pets safe over the July 4th holiday weekend.

http://vetmedicine.about.com/cs/diseasesall/a/petsfireworks.htm

http://www.marinhumanesociety.org/Press/InNews/tomfireworks2.html

http://blog.fetchthepaper.com/2007/06/4th-of-july-saf.html

Now, here’s wishing you and your four-legged best friend a most enjoyable and safe summer!

Dr. Nancy Kay

Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Please visit http://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.

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross –

The Lowdown on Nutritional Supplements

July 6, 2009

The nutritional supplement industry has become big business as people are looking for more natural ways to care for the health of their pets.  For example, a person might be inclined to try glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate for their dog’s arthritis pain rather than a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (the equivalent of doggie Advil).

The number of nutritional supplement manufacturers has grown exponentially.  Unfortunately, the quality of products hitting the market is somewhat hit or miss.  There is no FDA approval process for nutritional supplements, and incidents of contamination with heavy metals, pesticides, or other unsavory ingredients have been reported.  Additionally manufacturers are not required to comply with specific formulations for their products- the strength or concentration of the active ingredient may be inadequate, too much of a good thing, or just right.

Knowing this, how in the world can the average consumer purchase a product that is safe and effective?  Certainly query your vet for his or her recommendations.  We veterinarians are taught to use the ACCLAIM system (described below) to assess nutritional supplements.   You too can use this system to make educated choices about these products for yourself and your four-legged loved ones.

A = A name you recognize.  Choose an established company that provides educational materials for veterinarians and other consumers.  Is it a company that is well established?

C = Clinical experience.  Companies that support clinical research and have their products used in clinical trials that are published in peer-reviewed journals to which veterinarians have access are more likely to have a quality product.

C = Contents.  All ingredients should be clearly indicated on the product label.

L = Label claims.  Label claims that sound too good to be true likely are.  Choose products with realistic label claims.

A = Administration recommendations.  Dosing instructions should be accurate and easy to follow.  It should be easy to calculate the amount of active ingredient administered per dose per day.

I = Identification of lot.  A lot identification number indicates that a surveillance system exists to ensure product quality.

M = Manufacturer information.  Basic company information should be clearly stated on the label including a website (that is up and running) or some other means of contacting customer support.

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health,

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

Please visit http://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.

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross –

Way to Go, Alabama

July 3, 2009

Alabama is the last state in the union with a law requiring annual rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats.  I was delighted to learn that this is about to change – plans are in the works for the state to amend its requirements from once a year to once every three years.  Why am I so pleased about this?  If you’ve read Speaking for Spot you know that I am a proponent of vaccinations, but I am adamantly opposed to overvaccinating (giving unnecessary vaccinations and giving necessary vaccinations more frequently than necessary).  Giving a rabies vaccination once a year is definitely too much of a good thing. 

Vaccines are not without potential adverse side effects.  As with any other medical procedure, all of the risks and benefits of a particular vaccine should be weighed before a pet is inoculated.  A once a year rabies vaccination offers all the risks with no benefits (protective immunity lasts a minimum of three years).  Kudos to the Alabama state legislature for waking up from their “vaccine slumber.”  I’m delighted they’ve chosen to do what is in the best interest of our pets.

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health, 

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

Please visit http://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. 

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross –