Archive for July, 2010

Axel

July 25, 2010

Rarely do dogs show their true colors during a veterinary hospital visit.  Outgoing dogs may become timid, gentle dogs sometimes growl or nip, and normally obedient dogs frequently feign deafness (one of the reasons I rarely request anything from my patients before offering them a treat-being tolerant of me and what I’m doing with them is a trick in and of itself). This out of character behavior is why it’s always so fun for me to catch a glimpse of my patients’ genuine personalities when in their “own element.”  Never has this been truer than with Axel, a five-year-old Belgian Malinois.  Not only is Axel a beloved family member, he is also an employee of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.  He and his best buddy Sheriff Adrian Mancilla have been partners for approximately two years.  I first met Axel approximately nine months ago when he was a 50 pound dog living in what should have been a 65 pound body. Adrian reported that, although Axel’s appetite and enthusiasm seemed normal, he had been vomiting a few times weekly.  Diagnostic tests revealed that the cause of Axel’s vomiting and dramatic weight loss was inflammatory bowel disease, a syndrome in which noncancerous inflammatory cells infiltrate the lining of the intestines. 

© Susannah Kay 2010

Fortunately Axel has responded beautifully to a combination of medication and a novel protein diet.  He’s regained his missing 15 pounds and is back in full force on the force!  I recently had the thrill of witnessing this first hand while attending a competition for law enforcement dogs from all over California.  The first leg of the competition was basic obedience, followed by a rather daunting agility course including elements such as ten-foot vertical fence. Axel was a superstar and endeared himself to the spectators when, upon being released from the last agility element, he literally jumped into Adrian’s arms for a bear hug- his reward for a job well done!  

The “box search” was the third phase of the competition. Multiple closed containers resembling large trash dumpsters were scattered around a field. Only one contained a person sitting silently.  The challenge for the dog was to use his nose to identify the occupied box and then alert his partner in the shortest time possible.  Most of the dogs cruised the field checking out multiple containers before honing in on the correct one.  Not Axel- he apparently picked up the scent before Adrian released him and made a beeline (with the winning time) to the occupied box.    

© Susannah Kay 2010

The “protection phase” of the competition was the grand finale.  The dogs were required to pursue and subdue several “agitators.”  In the process, they were challenged to ignore a “dummy agitator,” jump through a screen of spraying water while in pursuit, and voluntarily release their hold on one agitator in order to subdue a second agitator (who happened to be attacking the dog’s partner).  Only a few dogs were successful with all three challenges and, you guessed it- Axel was one of them. 

© Susannah Kay 2010

Not only did Axel win the box search and protection phase of the competition, he won the entire competition’s top dog honors, known as the Maverick Award.  I feel enormously proud for Adrian and Axel. What a team- they share an indescribable bond whether on and off duty.  I felt privileged to watch them compete, and it was so thrilling to watch my patient doing exactly what his body and personality were designed to do- something I could never have fully imagined in the confines of my hospital exam room. 

p.s. Something only a veterinarian would notice- Axel was the only neutered dog in the competition, yet he was the top performer.  Hmm, food for thought…………… 

How does your dog’s behavior in a veterinary hospital setting compare to his behavior in his own surroundings?

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

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.

Dogs and Velcro- Who Knew!!

July 14, 2010

In 1941 an engineer by the name of George de Mestral and his dog ventured together on daily treks through the Swiss Alps.  It is reported that, following their hikes, Mr. de Mestral spent time grooming his faithful friend to dislodge burrs from his haircoat. This was no mindless task; rather it managed to get Mr. de Mestral’s creative juices flowing.  He examined the burrs under a microscope and took note of their teeny tiny hooks that latched onto his dog’s hair.  He copied this phenomenon with an invention named after the French words for velvet and hook (velours and crochet).  Thus the invention of Velcro!

History indicates that it took many years for Mr. de Mestral’s creation to catch on (no pun intended), but, as you know, Velcro has become a sensationally versatile and popular product.  I wish I could provide you with the name or breed of the dog who inspired this invention- of interest to me, but apparently unimportant to Velcro historians! Don’t they realize that had said dog sported long spindly legs and a coarse haircoat- the burrs might not have latched on, and we would be living Velcro-less lives! 

The next time you’re painstakingly removing burrs from your dog’s haircoat or a thunderstorm causes your dog to “stick to you like Velcro,” do not despair.  Rather, remind yourself about George de Mestral and the amazing invention inspired by the awesome combination of nature and a dog. 

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

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.

Gastric Torsion: A Horribly Unhealthy Kind of Twist

July 1, 2010
Torsion, gastric torsion, gastric dilatation-volvulus, GDV; these are terms you never want to hear applied to your dog.  They all mean the exact same thing- your dog’s stomach is distended with gas and has twisted on itself, and emergency surgery offers the only hope for saving his life.  Here’s a visual aid to help you understand what happens when a dog develops gastric torsion.  Picture a fanny pack in your mind.   The pouch of the fanny pack represents your dog’s stomach.  One strap of the fanny pack is the esophagus that transports food from your dog’s mouth down into his stomach.  The other strap is the upper small intestine (duodenum) that transports food out of the stomach.  Now hold one strap of the fanny pack in each hand and twirl the pouch until it twists on itself causing the straps to crimp.  This is what happens when gastric torsion occurs- the stomach twists on itself, cutting off normal blood flow to the stomach and surrounding structures.  Additionally, gas and fluid continue to accumulate within the stomach and cannot flow out via the crimped esophagus or duodenum, so the stomach progressively distends. A dog in this situation quickly lapses into a state of shock and surgical “decompression” or untwisting of the stomach is the only way out of this nightmare.  Time is of the essence- the longer the stomach remains twisted, the greater the likelihood of irreversible devitalization (death) of the stomach tissue.

Image Credit: HoundFancy, 2001

 

Initial symptoms of gastric torsion include a bloated appearance through the midsection (the ribs look like they are expanding outward), drooling, nonproductive retching/vomiting, restlessness, weakness, shallow breathing, rapid heart rate (if it can be felt through the chest wall), and pale gum color.  If you observe such symptoms, quickly make some phone calls to find the closest veterinary hospital capable of performing immediate surgery on your best friend.  The sooner surgery can be performed the greater the likelihood of a successful outcome.  Irreparable damage to the stomach tissue is often the deal breaker if the torsion is not corrected quickly.  At the time of surgery, not only is the stomach derotated, it is tacked (attached with stitches) to the inside of the abdominal wall to prevent a repeat spinning performance.  Additionally if the spleen or portions of the stomach wall appear devitalized (deprived of normal blood flow for too long) they will be removed.  If surgery is successful, the dog typically has a minimum two to three day post-operative stay in the hospital for round the clock monitoring for post-operative complications.   

Truth be told, we really don’t know much about what causes gastric torsion.  Clearly, there is a breed/conformation association- large deep-chested breeds such as Great Danes, Irish Setters, Standard Poodles, Irish Wolfhounds, Boxers, Dobermans, Weimaraners, and Rottweilers are particularly predisposed.  Affected males definitely outnumber females. One study documented that elevating the food bowl actually predisposes to gastric torsion.  Other studies have indicated that the following factors may also be part of the recipe that results in gastric dilatation-volvulus: eating only one meal per day, eating rapidly, eating dry foods that list oils or fats among the first four label ingredients, exercising in close association to mealtime, being underweight, and being of an “anxious” rather than “happy” personality type.  The only known way to prevent gastric torsion from occurring is by performing a prophylactic (preventive) gastropexy procedure (sutures are used to tack the stomach wall to the inside lining of the abdominal cavity).  This does not prevent the bloating (stomach distending with gas), but does prevent the life threatening twisting part of this miserable disease process.   

Would you like to participate in a study to learn more about why dogs develop gastric torsion?  If your dog has ever bloated (distention of the stomach without rotation) or has experienced gastric torsion, I encourage you to take this survey http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WS2VKFP.  It is being conducted by Dr. Cynthia Otto from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in collaboration with researcher, author and lecturer, Dr. Carmen Battaglia. A summary of the results and findings will be posted at www.breedingbetterdogs.com in November, 2010.  If you and your dog did have direct experience with a gastric torsion, I sure as heck hope yours was a happy ending.   

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.