Archive for May, 2010

Dogs, Chocolate, and Smart Phones

May 31, 2010

Here’s a little ditty I couldn’t resist sharing.  I’m such a sucker for upbeat stories that involve kids or animals, and this one happens to involve both. An ingenious seventh grader named Parker Stevens was featured in a recent issue of DOGliving, a wonderful magazine out of North Carolina.  This young man created an iPhone application called ChocoTox that determines whether or not the amount of chocolate ingested by a dog is toxic. The iPhone user plugs in the dog’s body weight, amount of chocolate ingested, and “strength” of the chocolate (i.e., dark chocolate contains more of the toxic principle called theobromine than milk chocolate).  The smart phone then determines if veterinary intervention is indicated (I don’t think it mentions the need for impending carpet cleaning).

 

Kudos to Parker for his clever App aptitude! I sense this kid will be accomplishing great things in the world of technogeekdom!  Keep in mind, there are a few chocolaty circumstances that definitely favor consultation with your vet rather than your iPhone:

-More than one dog was involved in the chocolate fest and it is impossible to know which dog ate how much.
-The container that contained the chocolate was also ingested and is now residing somewhere in the dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
-The ingested chocolate happened to contain other toxic substances- a leafy green substance seems to be a common ingredient in brownies baked by some of our hospital clients.

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health, 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

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.

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Those Frustrating Foxtails

May 18, 2010

My littlest dog Nellie came in the house tonight sneezing.  Any other time of year and I would be unconcerned, but in late spring and early summer an abrupt onset of sneezing after being outdoors is a “foxtail in the nose alarm bell”.  I’ll be watching Nellie like a hawk for the rest of the evening. Any crinkling of her nose, ongoing sneezing, or bloody nose and she’ll be my first patient tomorrow morning. 

If you are unfamiliar with foxtails, count your blessings! These pesky, bristly plant awns grow in abundance throughout California and are reported in most every state west of the Mississippi.  Once the plant heads dry, they become hell bent on finding their way into dogs’ noses, ears, eyes, mouths, and just about every other orifice.  They can dive deep into a dog’s nostril or ear canal (beyond sight) in the blink of an eye. And a foxtail camouflaged under a layer of hair can readily burrow through the skin (a favorite hiding place is between toes).  Foxtails can wind up virtually anywhere in the body and associated symptoms vary based on location.  For example, a foxtail within the ear canal causes head shaking, under the skin a draining tract, or within the lung labored breathing and coughing.  Not only is the dog’s body incapable of degrading or decomposing foxtails, these plant awns are barbed in such a way that they can only move in a “forward” direction.  Unless caught early, they and the bacteria they carry either become walled off to form an abscess or migrate through the body causing infection and tissue damage.  Once foxtails have moved internally, they become the proverbial needle in a haystack- notoriously difficult to find and remove. 

Take the example of Emma Louise, an undeniably adorable Brittany Spaniel mix whose family told me that her favorite pastime is running through fields with her nose to the ground. They described her as a “foxtail magnet” having accumulated several in her ears and nose over the years.  I was asked  to  help figure out the cause of Emma Louise’s hunched back and straining to urinate. With abdominal ultrasound I discovered a gigantic abscess tucked up under Emma Louise’s spine, extending into her pelvic canal.  Given this girl’s history, I just knew there had to be a foxtail in there somewhere.  The question was, would we be able to find it?  

As is my medical tradition before launching a foxtail search, I recited a prayer to the “god of foxtails.” I then turned Emma Louise over to one of my surgical colleagues for exploratory surgery. After two hours of nail biting and a barrage of expletives originating from the O.R., I heard a shout of,   “Got it!”   The foxtail had been located and removed, and sweet little Emma Louise made a rapid and complete recovery.  Not finding the foxtail would have meant a lifetime of antibiotics to treat her foxtail induced infection. 

If you suspect your dog has a foxtail related issue, contact your veterinarian right away to find out what steps can be taken (at home or in the veterinary hospital) to rid your dog of this unwanted plant material.  Whenever possible, avoidance of foxtail exposure is the best and only foolproof prevention. If your dog does have access to foxtails, carefully comb through his or her haircoat a couple of times daily- checking ears and toes, too- to remove any that are embedded and poised to wreak havoc!  Have you and your dog experienced any foxtail nightmares?  If so, please share your story.

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health, 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

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.

Speaking for Spot Gives Back

May 9, 2010

Wonderfully fun names such as “A New Leash on Life,” “Wags to Riches,” and “Fairy Dogmother Rescue,” are to be found at PetFinder.com. This is definitely the place to go in cyberspace when thinking about adopting a new pet.  Before I go one step further, rest assured I am aware that the PetFinder site likely features some puppy mills amongst their gazillions of legitimate nonprofit organizations.  I’ve no doubt that in spite of the fact that PetFinder performs their due diligence, some puppy mills likely slip through the cracks.  In my mind, this does not detract from the profoundly positive outcomes PetFinder facilitates.  Rather, it means that we need to perform our own due diligence when using this website.

At the time of this writing, PetFinder features 13,184 nonprofit adoption groups (shelters, humane societies, SPCA’s, and rescue organizations) and over 297,457 pets in need of a new home. PetFinder states that they’ve facilitated more than 13 million adoptions since 1995. Wow, that’s one heck of a lot of animals’ lives changed for the better!  I have a tremendous respect for the many thousands of people who invest their time, energy, and financial resources helping animals in need of a new lease on life.  Their generosity and desire to “give back” are inspirational.  I’ve initiated the Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program with hopes of providing a little bit of support for the amazing work they do. 

The Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program is open to all animal-centered nonprofits including service organizations and adoption and rescue groups.  Here’s how the program works.  Participating organizations appear on a pull down menu on the purchase page of my website (www.speakingforspot.com). When someone purchases Speaking for Spot they can designate which nonprofit organization will receive 20% of the book sale proceeds. The Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program is a win-win situation – not only will participating organizations raise much-needed funds, those who purchase the book will have a wonderful resource that will last a lifetime!

Please support your favorite animal-centered nonprofit organization by encouraging the folks who work there to learn more about the Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program.  They can either contact me directly (Dr.Kay@SpeakingforSpot.com) or visit http://www.speakingforspot.com/speakingforspotgivesback.html.  And when you are ready to expand your own menagerie, I hope you will begin the search at your local rescue organizations, shelters, and humane societies.  Have you already adopted from such an organization?  If so, I’d love to hear your story!

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health, 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

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.