Archive for December, 2010

Looking back on 2010

December 30, 2010

Dr. V. at Pawcurious has initiated a “blog hop” recruiting her fellow pet bloggers to compile their lists of the best of 2010.  This Dr. V. is so darned nice, adorable, and funny, that I would be hard-pressed to ever decline her invitation.  So, I’ve chosen for you what I consider to be my favorite blogs from 2010.  If you think I left one out that should have made the top ten, by all means let me know.  Now, here’s a look back at 2010!

A Rottweiler Reunion

This was such a sweet story originating with two wonderfully sweet and very pregnant Rottweilers who were abandoned at my hospital.  This is a story with a wonderfully happy ending.

What is a Veterinary Specialist?

I’m always surprised by how many people don’t know that veterinary specialists exist.  This is my way of getting the word out.

Speaking for Spot Gives Back

The Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program has been wonderfully successful allowing animal-centered nonprofit organizations to benefit from sales of Speaking for Spot.  I couldn’t be more pleased.

Gastric Torsion: A Horribly Unhealthy Kind of Twist

I’ve always loved explaining this strange disease to my clients, so why not explain it to my blog audience as well!

What Not to Name Your Dog

This was a fun blog to write and based on my readers’ responses, a good reminder to me to not be so darned serious all the time!

Reasonable Expectations

My main soapbox is medical advocacy which translates into trying to convince people about what they are entitled to when it comes to medical care.  My series on “Reasonable Expectations” does exactly that.  So far there are 7 blog posts within this series and there will certainly be a few more.  The very last one (will likely show up in February) may surprise you!

A Dozen Simple Ways to Be Certain You Are Working With a Reputable Breeder

How can the “average Joe” feel confident they are purchasing a healthy purebred puppy and not supporting puppy mills in the process?  The purpose of this blog post was to teach exactly that! 

Puppy Mills: People and Their Puppies Pay the Ultimate Price

Here I am on my anti-puppy mill soapbox!  

My Puppy Mill Education

And more on my anti-puppy mill soapbox!  When will this insanity against animals ever end?

Vaccinations for Your Dog: A Complex Issue

It’s critical to be your best friend’s medical advocate when it comes to vaccinations.  This blog is my attempt to teach people how.

Best wishes for a happy new year.   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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
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, and your favorite online book seller.

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Walk with Your Dog

December 29, 2010

My esteemed fellow blogger, Jana Rade (Dawg Business: It’s Your Dog’s Health!)  has written an excellent piece that is ideal for any dog lover as we think about transitioning into a new year.  I think you will enjoy what Jana has written as much as I have.

Best wishes,

Dr. Nancy Kay

 

Time of resolutions is here. Personally, I prefer to avoid falling into this trap, I think that the only thing New Year’s resolutions are good for is to give you something to feel bad about later.

But if you are the New Year’s resolution type, and sometimes you even succeed in keeping them, here is a New Year’s resolution suggestion for you. Walk with your dog.I know it sounds obvious. But how often do you take your dog for a walk?

Walking with your dog is as good as putting money in the bank. It will keep both you and your dog healthier and happier, and it will strengthen your bond with your dog.

I’m sure you have heard the saying: ” A tired dog is a good dog”. People run into behavioral problems with their dogs all the time. Many of these could be easily avoided by providing their dog with enough exercise, mental stimulation and quality time with their owner.

A lot of people believe that you shouldn’t have a dog (particularly larger breeds) unless you own a house with a big yard. If you live in an apartment, no dogs for you. What I am seeing though is, if anything, it is the other way around.

I think that dogs living in an apartment are often happier than the ‘house with a big yard’ dogs. Here is why. If you live in an apartment, you have no choice. You have to at least take your dog around the block to go potty. More often than not, for dogs with big yards, the yard is it. They get put into the yard to go potty and to entertain and exercise themselves. This might work if there is more than one dog—they will play together and have a good time. But what is a single dog to do? Your dog doesn’t want to be alone in the yard, he wants to go somewhere and do something. With you.

Walks mean the world to dogs. We often spend a day at a friend’s farm. Our dogs are with us all day, having a great space to roam and investigate. But even then, they still cannot wait for their walk. We take them at the beginning and at the end of the day. And even though they have been outside all day, the walks are still exciting and important to them. It is just different from just hanging out and playing.

Even the  friend’s dog, who lives there and gets to use the property all the time, gets so excited to tag along. It is special time for him. It’s a ‘pack thing’.

Walking with your dog might help your dog to keep out of trouble, and it will make your bond stronger. Jasmine taught me this very early on. We walk our dogs every day, no matter what. Our dogs don’t get themselves into trouble, because they are content. They calmly hang around the house, awaiting their next walk time.

May you and your dog have the very best year ever!

Jana

Dawg Business: It’s Your Dog’s Health!

A graphic designer by profession, Jana became a dog mama by design. Her first puppy, Jasmine, changed her life completely, and now everything she does revolves around her. Jasmine’s health issues led Jana to focus her blogging efforts on dog health.

_____________________________________________________

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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
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, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free Christmas or Chanukah gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Reasonable Expectations VII: Discussion and Open-Mindedness About Your Dog’s Vaccinations

December 27, 2010

This is the seventh part of an ongoing series describing how people are developing new expectations when it comes to veterinary care for their pets. Parts one through six can be found at www.speakingforspot.com/blog

As invaluable as vaccinations are for protecting canine health, determining which vaccines are appropriate and how frequently they should be administered are no longer simple decisions. Gone are the days of behaving like  “Stepford wives” simply because you’ve received a vaccine reminder postcard or email. Vaccinations are no different than any other medical procedure.  They should not be administered without individualized discussion with your veterinarian and consideration of the potential risks and benefits. Please know that having such a discussion with your veterinarian is a perfectly reasonable expectation, and your input is an invaluable part of the vaccine decision-making process.

Consider the following:

• There are currently more than a dozen canine vaccinations to choose from! Back in the days when I was just a pup there were only five, and decision-making regarding vaccine selection for an individual dog was far less complicated.
• Over the past decade we’ve learned that, for some vaccines, the duration of protection is far longer than previously recognized.  In the past we vaccinated against distemper, parvovirus, and rabies annually.  We now know that these vaccinations, when given to adult dogs, provide protection for a minimum of three years and, in some cases protection is life-long.
• The duration and degree of immune protection triggered by a vaccine is variable, not only based on vaccine manufacturer, but from dog to dog as well.
• Other than for rabies (state mandated), vaccination protocols are anything but standardized. There are no set rules veterinarians must follow when determining which vaccines to give and how often they are administered. Unfortunately, some vets continue to vaccinate for distemper and parvovirus annually even though we know that these adult vaccines provide protection for a minimum of three years.  Some vets give multiple inoculations at once, others administer just one at a time.
• Increasingly clear-cut documentation shows that vaccines have the potential to cause many side effects.  While vaccine reactions/complications are still considered to be infrequent, they can be life threatening.

What you can do:

As your dog’s savvy medical advocate, what can you do to be sure that he or she is neither under or overvaccinated? Here are some guidelines for making wise vaccine choices for your best buddy:

1.  Educate yourself about available canine vaccinations and the diseases they are capable of preventing (in some cases treating the disease, should it arise, might be preferable to the risks and expense associated with vaccination). Learn about duration of vaccine protection and potential side effects.  Read the chapter called “The Vaccination Conundrum” in Speaking for Spot. It provides detailed discussion about all aspects of canine vaccinations including the diseases they prevent, adverse vaccination reactions, and the topic of vaccine serology (blood testing that helps determine if your dog is truly in need of vaccine booster). The American Animal Hospital Association’s “Canine Vaccine Guidelines” is also an excellent source of information (http://secure.aahanet.org/eweb/dynamicpage.aspx?site=resources&webcode=CanineVaccineGuidelines).
2.  Talk with your veterinarian to figure out which diseases your dog has potential exposure to.  A miniature poodle who rarely leaves his Manhattan penthouse likely has no exposure to Lyme disease (spread by ticks); however a Lab that goes camping and duck hunting may have significant exposure.
3.  Alert your veterinarian to any symptoms or medical issues your dog is experiencing.  It is almost always best to avoid vaccinating a sick dog — better to let his immune system concentrate on getting rid of a current illness rather than creating a vaccine “distraction.” If your dog has a history of autoimmune (immune-mediated) disease, it may be advisable to alter his vaccine protocol or even forego ongoing vaccinations — be sure to discuss this with your vet.
4.  Let your vet know if your dog has had vaccine side effects in the past. If the reaction was quite serious, she may recommend that you forego future vaccinations, necessitating an official letter to your local government agency excusing your pup from rabies• related requirements.
5.  Talk to your veterinarian about vaccine serology.  This involves testing a blood sample from your dog to determine if adequate vaccine protection still exists (remember, vaccine protection for the core diseases lasts a minimum of three years).  While such testing isn’t perfect, in general if the blood test indicates active and adequate protection, there is currently no need for a vaccine booster. Serology may make more sense than simply vaccinating at set intervals.
6.  Talk to your veterinarian about the potential side effects of proposed vaccinations, what you should be watching for, and whether or not there are any restrictions for your dog in the days immediately following vaccination.

What happens if your veterinarian declines vaccine discussion and simply wants to vaccinate based on what he or she thinks is appropriate?  Time to find yourself a new veterinarian who is progressive enough to have a working relationship with people who choose to be a stellar medical advocates for their dogs!  Is your vet willing to have open-minded discussion with you about your dog’s vaccinations?

Best wishes for a happy new year.   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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
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, and your favorite online book seller.

My Puppy Mill Education

December 19, 2010

After the November election, I learned that Missouri voters passed legislation known as the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act (Proposition B).  As I began surfing the Internet to learn more, I anticipated reading about strict new regulations that would dramatically limit the number of dogs per “breeding factory” along with regulations that would enhance the physical and emotional well being of dogs unfortunate enough to wind up in puppy mills.  Here is what I read.  Proposition B stipulates that breeders may have up to 50 breeding dogs at any given time (no, the number 50 is not a typo). Additionally, this new legislation requires that dogs be provided with:

-Sufficient food that is provided at least once daily
-Access to water that is not frozen and is free of debris, feces, algae, and other contaminants
-Necessary veterinary care (an examination at least once yearly by a licensed veterinarian)
-Sufficient housing including protection from the elements
-Sufficient space to turn and stretch freely and fully extend limbs
-Adequate rest between breeding cycles (no more than two litters during an 18 month time period)

Fifty dogs at a time? Daily food and clean water required? Enough space to allow dogs to stand up and stretch their legs?  Was this really the best that puppy mill reform legislation could provide- nothing more than the bare basics to sustain a modicum of physical comfort for puppy mill “livestock”? How could this be? I addressed my surprise and disappointment by contacting and asking questions of Jennifer Fearing, the California senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States who was in Missouri prior to the election canvassing for votes for Proposition B. Her responses were informative and heartfelt, and she was so genuinely patient in responding to my lack of awareness.  Jennifer has graciously allowed me to share her comments with you:

“Under the old Missouri law, dogs can be kept in wire-floored cages just six inches longer than their bodies.  The cages can be stacked on top of each other.  A veterinarian must make an annual walk-through of a facility but there is no requirement that the dogs get actual exams or even treatment for any existing conditions or injuries.  Dogs are bred on every single heat cycle, leading to dogs so bred-out that we routinely see young dogs (three to four years old) whose teeth have all fallen out because their systems are so overtaxed and malnourished, and whose teats are dragging on the ground.  The old law does have a provision regarding extreme temperatures, but it says that dogs couldn’t face extreme temperatures for more than three consecutive hours, making enforcement impossible because no inspector is going to stand around with his thermometer in the air for three hours.  There is a vague requirement for an exercise plan, but that too is unenforceable and as a result we see dogs who have clearly lived their entire lives on wire floors and never set foot on solid ground.
 
The new law, which goes into effect one year from passage:  Every dog must have a solid-floored enclosure that allows constant, unfettered access to a larger outdoor area.  Larger enclosure sizes are required with specific sizing requirements based on the size of the dog.  Each dog must receive an annual exam and any dog who is sick or suffering must receive veterinary treatment.  No dog may have more than 2 litters in any 18 month period, which essentially means every 3rd cycle is rested, giving them a chance to recuperate from the exhausting cycle of carrying and nursing pups.  The time limit mentioned above is removed so that dogs cannot be kept in temperatures below 45 degrees or above 85 degrees, period.
 
Just as importantly, these new requirements are simple and easy to enforce.  Currently in Missouri, if law enforcement gets a complaint call they must call in the experts from the Department of Agriculture to help interpret 30+ pages of vague, confusing and outdated regulations.  Because of backlogs and understaffing, it can take six months or longer for an Ag inspector to even show up.  But any Sheriff’s deputy can interpret these new requirements – anyone can see if a floor is solid or wire; if cages are stacked; if the dogs have access to an outdoor area; if there are more than 50 dogs; etc.  So instead of leaving the dogs to suffer for another six months, law enforcement can file criminal charges on the spot.
 
And the penalties may seem modest but any violation of the new Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act is a criminal offense, which leads to license forfeiture. And if conditions rise to the level of animal cruelty, the offender can be charged instead under the existing state animal cruelty law.
 
Missouri is only the fifth state to cap the number of dogs a commercial breeder can keep.  Since 2008, Oregon, Washington and Virginia have set the number at 50, and Virginia includes a provision allowing the state to allow more than 50 if certain conditions are met.  Louisiana has a cap of 75.  It’s important to remember that these bills are not intended to ban commercial breeding, they are simply designed to eliminate the worst abuses at puppy mills and create more humane living conditions for the dogs who live there.  And the data (from state and federal inspection reports) are clear that the largest facilities accumulate the most frequent and most severe violations.
 
I should mention too that the new law is in addition to, and not in lieu of, the existing regulations.  Those regulations still exist, this law is simply an overlay to correct the weak and vague areas of the regulations that allowed dogs to suffer.
 
Finally, the significance of this law passing in the epicenter of the puppy mill industry cannot be overemphasized.  It will lead to similar restrictions in other states and to vast improvement in the living conditions of dogs kept for the commercial pet trade.”

Jennifer’s explanations certainly changed my perspective about the benefits provided by Proposition B.  While this legislation will not create an existence for a puppy mill victim that in any way resembles my notion of what every dog deserves, no doubt its enforcement will make a positive difference in the current dismal quality of many lives.  I must admit that after reading Jennifer’s response my overriding feeling was, “Shame on me!” As a veterinarian I’m embarrassed by my naïveté about puppy mills.  To some degree, I think I’ve been floating along that river in Egypt (De Nial)- far more pleasant to be “out of touch” rather than “in touch” with the true horrors of what goes on in puppy mills. Sure, via my blog and in Speaking for Spot I’ve advocated against supporting puppy mills by avoiding purchasing puppies from pet stores or on line (sight and site unseen). I simply don’t think my efforts have been adequate.  While I’m certain that I need to do more to create puppy mill reform, I’m not yet sure what that “more” looks like yet. Stay tuned- I will keep you posted as I figure it out. Have you taken a stance against puppy mills?  If so what has been your strategy?

By the way, I debated whether or not to release a blog on such a serious topic while my readers are in the midst of the holiday hustle.  My hope is that the thoughts expressed will provide some inspiration- always a good thing during the holiday season.

Best wishes for a lovely holiday season.   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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
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, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free holiday gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Price Shopping: To Be Avoided at All Costs

December 13, 2010

I recently exchanged emails with a woman who was feeling frustrated while searching for a new veterinarian.  Her search included some “fee shopping” and she was disgruntled to find that some vets had the nerve to mark up lab fees more than others.  She wrote to me to find out how she might gain access to the fees charged by commercial veterinary laboratories so she could figure out how much mark up each veterinarian applied. She mentioned that she’d found one vet she really liked, but she was “out of the running” because her office charged double the lab fees (exact same test) as two others she’d investigated.

Here’s how I responded.  I encouraged my email buddy to consider reasons why fees are not uniform from hospital to hospital. In some cases, laboratory testing is run “in house” requiring on site technician time and costs involved in maintaining equipment.  Certainly charges to the client for this should be higher. The expertise a veterinary specialist brings to interpreting laboratory test results may be greater than that of a general practitioner.  Shouldn’t a client pay more for this? Additionally, every clinic must pay its overhead to continue to provide good service, and the more “bells and whistles” the hospital has, the higher that overhead will be.  For example, if the hospital employs sophisticated equipment to monitor anesthesia, that’s a really good thing, right?  Chances are, the fees for surgery there will be higher in order to cover the costs of this advanced level of care.

I went on to explain that I truly discourage people from price shopping when it comes to veterinary care unless it is an absolutely necessity.  A sweet six-month-old Labrador is currently being treated at my hospital because she sustained a horrific thermal burn all along her back from a faulty heating pad used during her surgery at a low cost spay/neuter clinic. This has necessitated major reconstructive surgery over her back- a tremendous price to pay both in terms of money and what this poor dog is going through. By the end of our email thread my correspondent seemed convinced- she told me that she’d decided to use the vet she really liked in spite of more expensive lab tests. Hurray!

Now, I’m not completely naïve when it comes to how our current economy is influencing delivery of veterinary health care.  I realize that for many folks, price shopping has become a financial necessity.  When this is the case, I encourage the following:

-Do your best to avoid sacrificing quality of medical care.  The old cliché, “You get what you pay for,” is often true.  Be thorough in your investigation: don’t make up your mind based on brief over-the-telephone price quotes.  Visit the clinic, tour the facility, and meet the staff to feel confident this is a place you and your pet will feel comfortable.

-Watch for “hidden” fees.  Some clinics may offer an extremely reasonable quote for a surgical procedure, but then charge additional fees for the initial office visit or for post-surgical necessities like removing stitches.

-Keep in mind the potential for complications.  If a significant complication occurs due to substandard care (such as occurred with the Labrador mentioned above) you will end up spending a great deal more money treating it, not to mention associated emotional energy, than you would have spent at the better more expensive clinic to begin with.

When you chose your veterinarian, how did fees enter into your decision-making?  If so, how did things turn out? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Now here’s wishing you and your loved ones (including those who are furry or feathered) for a peaceful and healthy holiday season.   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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
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, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free holiday gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Reasonable Expectations VI: The Ability to Discuss Your Internet Research With Your Vet

December 7, 2010

This is the sixth part of an ongoing series describing how people are developing new expectations when it comes to veterinary care for their pets. Parts one through five can be found at http://www.speakingforspot.com/blog.  Please take your time with this one- I realize it is a lengthy post, but there is a great deal to say about this worthwhile topic!

When your beloved pet develops a medical issue, chances are you’ll be inclined to do some Internet research and then talk with your vet about what you’ve learned.  Know that having this discussion with your vet is a perfectly reasonable expectation as long as you are careful to avoid using valuable office visit time discussing “whackadoodle” notions gleaned from cyberspace.  Here are some pointers to help you find instructive, accurate, worthwhile Internet information while avoiding “online junk food”. By the way, although I’m a veterinarian teaching people how to better care for their furry and feathered family members, please know that this information also applies to your own health care.

So, let’s begin.  How can you determine whether or not a website is dishing out information that is worthy of your time? Here are some general guidelines:

1.  Ask your veterinarian for her website recommendations.  She might wish to refer you to a specific site that will supplement or reinforce the information she has provided.

2.  Veterinary college websites invariably provide reliable information.  Search for them by entering “veterinary college” or “veterinary school” after the name of the disease or symptom you are researching.

3.  Web addresses ending in “.org,” “.edu,” and “.gov,” represent nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and governmental agencies, respectively.  They will likely be sources of objective and accurate information.

4.  If your dog has a breed-specific disease, pay a visit to the site hosted by that specific breed’s national organization.

5.  Avoid business-sponsored websites that stand to make money when you believe and act on what they profess (especially if it involves purchasing something).

6.  Be ever so wary of anecdotal information.  It’s perfectly okay to indulge yourself with remarkable tales (how Max’s skin disease was miraculously cured by a single session of aromatherapy), but view what you are reading as fiction rather than fact. 

7.  I really love disease-specific online forums.  Check out those sponsored by Yahoo (http://groups.yahoo.com).  Not only do many of them provide a wealth of educational information, members can be a wonderful source of emotional support- always a good thing for those of us who share our homes and hearts with an animal.  If you are considering joining an online forum, I encourage you to look for a group that focuses on a specific disease (kidney failure, diabetes, etc), has lots of members, and has been around for several years.  For example, an excellent Yahoo group AddisonsDogs has 3,391 members and has been up and running for eight years.  A large group such as this typically has multiple moderators who screen participants, screen comments to keep things on topic, present more than one point of view (always a good thing), and provide greater round-the-clock availability for advice and support.  Look for presentation of cited references (clinical research that supports what is being recommended). Such groups should have a homepage that explains the focus of the group and provides the number of members and posts per month (the more the better).  They may have public archives of previous posts that can provide a wealth of information.

I happen to enjoy hearing about what my clients are learning online.  I sometimes come away with valuable new information, and I’m invariably amused by some of the extraordinary things they tell me- who knew that hip dysplasia is caused by global warming!  Surf to your heart’s content, but be forewarned, not all veterinarians feel as I do.  Some have a hard time not “rolling their eyes” or quickly interrupting the moment the conversation turns to Internet research.  What can you do to realize the expectation of discussing your online research in a way that is neither irritating to your vet nor intimidating for you?  Listed below are some secrets for success:

-I may be preaching to the choir, but I cannot overemphasize the importance of working with a vet who is happy and willing to participate in two-way, collaborative dialogue with you (please reference my earlier blog about relationship centered care- http://speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=1174). Your opinions, feelings, and questions are held in high regard and enough time is allowed during the office visit to hear them. A veterinarian who practices this “relationship centered” style of communication is far more likely to want to hear about your online research than the veterinarian who practices “paternalistic care” (far more interested in telling you what to do than hearing about your thoughts, questions, or concerns).  Remember, when it comes to veterinarian/client communication styles, you have a choice. It’s up to you to make the right choice!

-Let your vet know that you appreciate her willingness and patience in helping you understand how best to utilize what you’ve learned online.

-Wait for the appropriate time during the office visit to discuss what you’ve learned on line.  Allow your veterinarian to ask questions of you and examine your precious poopsie rather than “tackling” her with questions and discussion about your Internet research questions the moment she sets foot in the exam room.

-Be brief and “to the point” with your questions.  Remember, most office visits are scheduled for 15 to 20 minutes, max.

-Let your veterinarian know that you’ve learned how to be a discriminating surfer!  You know how to differentiate between valuable online resources and “cyber-fluff”. You ignore anecdotal vignettes and websites trying to sell their products in favor of credible information provided by veterinary college sites and forums that are hosted by well-educated moderators who provide cited research references that support their recommendations.

-When you begin conversation about your Internet research, I encourage you to choose your wording wisely. Communicate in a respectful fashion that invites conversation as opposed to “telling” your vet what you want to do.

In the Internet, we have an extraordinary tool at our fingertips. I encourage you to be selective when choosing which websites you intend to take seriously and which ones you wish to visit for a good chuckle.  Approach conversations with your vet about your Internet research thoughtfully and tactfully.  These strategies are bound to facilitate constructive conversation and create a win-win-win situation- for you, your veterinarian and your beloved best buddy! 

Have you had conversation with your vet about your Internet research?  If so, how did it go?

Now here’s wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.  

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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
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, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free holiday gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Canine arthritis: Symptoms and treatment options for arthritis in dogs

December 6, 2010

While I’m busy recovering from some back surgery, you have the good fortune of reading posts from some of my favorite doggie bloggers!  Today’s post comes from Dr. Lorie Huston who blogs regularly at Examiner.com.   Please make her feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! 

Best wishes,

Dr. Nancy Kay

Canine arthritis: Symptoms and treatment of arthritis in dogs
Canine arthritis is a common and painful disease for affected dogs.

Canine arthritis is also commonly referred to as degenerative joint disease. Arthritis in dogs can have many causes. It may be:

  • caused by a congenital deformity in the affected joint, as in hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia
  • caused by a previous injury
  • caused by aging and the resultant “wear and tear” on the affected joint
  • caused by infectious agents, such as Lyme disease
  • caused by autoimmune disorders

Symptoms of canine arthritis

Whatever the cause of arthritis, degenerative joint disease in dogs causes pain in the affected joint. Arthritis may affect any joint in the body, including hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, and spines. Arthritis may involve many joints or may affect only one joint.

Symptoms commonly seen with arthritis are related to pain in the affected joint and may include:

  • an abnormal gait (i.e. limping or carrying the painful leg)
  • stiffness
  • difficulty going up and down stairs or climbing into cars, onto furniture, etc.
  • difficulty finding a comfortable way to rest or lie
  • difficulty rising from a sleeping or seated position
  • lack of appetite
  • irritability

Treatment of arthritis in dogs

Treatment of arthritis in dogs may involve many different tactics. The immediate objective in treating arthritis is to decrease the pain associated with arthritis, which is often done through the use of pain relief medications. However, there are many other things which may also be recommended to improve the joint health of dogs suffering from arthritis.

Weight control is important for arthritic dogs

For those arthritic dogs which are overweight or obese, weight control should be a top priority. Besides adding additional weight to diseased joints leading to increased pain, fat as a tissue is increasingly being recognized as a secretory organ which produces substances which may in themselves contribute to causing pain. By reducing the weight of an arthritic dog, if appropriate, joint-related pain may become easier to manage.

Pain control for arthritic dogs

There are numerous pain control medications available for dogs with arthritis, including numerous NSAIDS (such as Rimadyl, Etogesic, Deramaxx, Metacam, Previcox and others) as well as medications such as tramadol, gabapentin and amantadine.

Cortisone or steroid products, such as prednisone, prednisolone or dexamethasone, are sometimes used to control the pain associated with arthritis under certain circumstances as well. These medications do have side effects and should be used as directed by the veterinarian. NSAIDs are contra-indicated when these products are being administered.

Nutraceuticals and other medications which may improve joint health

Various dietary supplements have been identified which may help to improve the health of affected joints, thereby easing the symptoms of arthritis. These supplements, also known as nutriceuticals, include:

  • glucosamine
  • chondroitin
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • Methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM)

Pet owners should use caution in choosing nutriceuticals for their pets, however and should deal only with reputable drug manufacturers. Nutriceuticals are not regulated as most other pharmaceutical medications are in the United States and there have been many instances of labelling discrepancies with some of these medications.

Adequan is another medication which is often used to help improve the health of an arthritic joint. Adequan is an injectable medication which contains a protective cartilage component known as polysulfated glycosaminoglycan. Adequan has been used with success in relieving pain for some dogs with arthritis and other forms of degenerative joint disease.

Alternative medicine options for relief of arthritis pain in dogs

Acupuncture is being used more commonly to relieve the pain associated with arthritis in dogs and may an alternative in some communities where the services are readily available.

Physical rehabilitation is also becoming more widely used to control chronic pain such as that seen with arthritis as well. Physical therapy may range from modalities such as laser therapy or hydrotherapy to range-of-motion exercises which loosen and strengthen injured muscles, tendons and joints.

Adult stem cell therapy in treating canine arthritis

Stem cell therapy is another treatment option which is showing promise in the treatment of canine arthritis. Adult stem cell therapy has been used for several years as a treatment for muscle, joint and tendon injuries in horses and has more recently become available as a treatment option for dogs with similar injuries or diseases.

Multi-modal treatment approach to treating canine arthritis

In most cases of joint pain and arthritis in dogs, a multi-modal approach which incorporates one or more of the available treatment modalities is advisable. Weight loss for those dogs which are overweight is essential and may in itself provide some pain relief. Nutriceuticals may be used to help improve joint health and provide long-term pain relief. In the shorter term, pain medications or other options, such as acupuncture, may provide more immediate relief from pain. Physical therapy may also be indicated to help keep otherwise unsued muscles strong and healthy.

Dr. Lorie Huston

http://www.examiner.com/pet-health-in-national/canine-arthritis-symptoms-and-treatment-options-for-arthritis-dogs

Lorie Huston currently works as a small animal veterinarian in Providence, dealing primarily with dogs and cats. She has been practicing veterinary medicine since 1986. Lorie is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association and the Veterinary Information Network. She also does a large amount of work for the Volunteer Services for Animals, a non-profit local group dedicated to helping pet owners and their pets. Lorie has been writing online since 2001. She has published numerous articles to various E-zines and newsletters, as well as providing news material to PRWeb. Currently, she is also writing for Ehow.com and Suite101.com.

_____________________________________________________

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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
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, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free Christmas or Chanukah gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Home for the Holidays: let’s make some magic!

December 4, 2010

While I’m busy recovering from some back surgery, you have the good fortune of reading posts from some of my favorite doggie bloggers!  Today’s post comes from Dr. Jessica Vogelsang (“Dr. V”) who blogs regularly at www.pawcurious.com.   Please make her feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! 

Best wishes,

Dr. Nancy Kay

Note:  Dr. V’s article appeared on her blog in early November at the start of her one week campaign to generate food donations for shelters through The Iams Pets In Need program.  Her one week campaig generated 45,700 meals!  You can check out the results at http://www.pawcurious.com/2010/11/happy-surprises-part-one/ .  While her campaign is completed you can still earn food donations for shelters through the links provided.

——————–

I despise the week between Christmas and New Years.

Why? Because without fail, I see piles upon piles of new holiday pets. Pets from pet stores, whose owners overpaid for them and can then not afford to treat them for the parasites, distemper, or congenital disease they all too often wind up with. It happens every year.

In 1999, Mike Arms at The Helen Woodward Animal Center decided to change that. With 14 local shelters, they launched the “Home for the Holidays” campaign to encourage people to adopt a pet instead of buying one.

To say that it was a success is a bit of an understatement. Since its modest beginnings in 1999, Home 4 the Holidays has seen the placement of 4.6 million pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, reptiles, and birds. It has grown from 14 Southern California shelters to over 3,500 animal organizations in over 21 countries.

Helen Woodward has partnered with Iams to make this program a worldwide movement. This year’s goal is to adopt 1.5 million animals and donate 5 million bowls of food to shelters in need. You can help make this a reality! Here’s how:
1. Adopt a pet in need and/or encourage others to do so.

Even if you aren’t ready to adopt a pet yourself, I bet you know someone who is. Someone who has mentioned they are looking for a dog/cat/ferret/whatever. You’d be surprised how many people are still not aware that the shelters and rescues are overflowing with puppies, kittens, purebreds, and whatever it is they think they won’t find there.

Petfinder is one of my favorite sites in the whole world and I still meet people every day who had no idea it exists.

2. Leave a comment here. (You can still donate to the Feed Pets in Need program by visiting  http://www.iams.com/RescuePet/FeedPetsInNeed.aspx)

Seriously. It’s that simple. Comment on this post and Iams will donate 25 meals to a shelter in need. Any comment counts. Tell your friends, tell your Facebook buddies- we have ONE WEEK to drive this as high as we can. My goal between now and November 8th is 400 comments. Can I do it? Can we do it? I need your help!!

3. Post a picture on my Facebook page to generate FIFTY meals. (You can still donate to the Feed Pets in Need program by visiting  http://www.iams.com/RescuePet/FeedPetsInNeed.aspx)

•“Like” Iams on Facebook.
•Go to the pawcurious Facebook fan page.
•Upload a picture of your pet with a caption that says what your pet is most curious about. Get it? curious?
•Make sure the picture is tagged with @Iams to select their page. That tag is what will generate the 50 meal donation.
•To sweeten the pot I will pick one picture from this group to receive a prize. Don’t ask me what since I don’t know what it will be yet, but it will be a prize and it will be delightful.
Easy, right? Can I count on you guys to help me get 400 comments this week?

Dr. V – Pawcurious

Dr. V is a small animal veterinarian.  After a brief and feverish attempt to throw 8 years of college out the window and become something else entirely, the dogs won her over. They always do. She decided to start a blog about her pets and the veterinary field after I realized just how many people are interested in the odd little vignettes that make up her day, both in and out of the vet clinic.

You can still donate to the Feed Pets in Need program by visiting  http://www.iams.com/RescuePet/FeedPetsInNeed.aspx

Dr. V’s promotion through her website was a 1 week campaign in early November. 

_____________________________________________________

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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
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, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free Christmas or Chanukah gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Home for the Holidays: let's make some magic!

December 4, 2010

While I’m busy recovering from some back surgery, you have the good fortune of reading posts from some of my favorite doggie bloggers!  Today’s post comes from Dr. Jessica Vogelsang (“Dr. V”) who blogs regularly at www.pawcurious.com.   Please make her feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! 

Best wishes,

Dr. Nancy Kay

Note:  Dr. V’s article appeared on her blog in early November at the start of her one week campaign to generate food donations for shelters through The Iams Pets In Need program.  Her one week campaig generated 45,700 meals!  You can check out the results at http://www.pawcurious.com/2010/11/happy-surprises-part-one/ .  While her campaign is completed you can still earn food donations for shelters through the links provided.

——————–

I despise the week between Christmas and New Years.

Why? Because without fail, I see piles upon piles of new holiday pets. Pets from pet stores, whose owners overpaid for them and can then not afford to treat them for the parasites, distemper, or congenital disease they all too often wind up with. It happens every year.

In 1999, Mike Arms at The Helen Woodward Animal Center decided to change that. With 14 local shelters, they launched the “Home for the Holidays” campaign to encourage people to adopt a pet instead of buying one.

To say that it was a success is a bit of an understatement. Since its modest beginnings in 1999, Home 4 the Holidays has seen the placement of 4.6 million pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, reptiles, and birds. It has grown from 14 Southern California shelters to over 3,500 animal organizations in over 21 countries.

Helen Woodward has partnered with Iams to make this program a worldwide movement. This year’s goal is to adopt 1.5 million animals and donate 5 million bowls of food to shelters in need. You can help make this a reality! Here’s how:
1. Adopt a pet in need and/or encourage others to do so.

Even if you aren’t ready to adopt a pet yourself, I bet you know someone who is. Someone who has mentioned they are looking for a dog/cat/ferret/whatever. You’d be surprised how many people are still not aware that the shelters and rescues are overflowing with puppies, kittens, purebreds, and whatever it is they think they won’t find there.

Petfinder is one of my favorite sites in the whole world and I still meet people every day who had no idea it exists.

2. Leave a comment here. (You can still donate to the Feed Pets in Need program by visiting  http://www.iams.com/RescuePet/FeedPetsInNeed.aspx)

Seriously. It’s that simple. Comment on this post and Iams will donate 25 meals to a shelter in need. Any comment counts. Tell your friends, tell your Facebook buddies- we have ONE WEEK to drive this as high as we can. My goal between now and November 8th is 400 comments. Can I do it? Can we do it? I need your help!!

3. Post a picture on my Facebook page to generate FIFTY meals. (You can still donate to the Feed Pets in Need program by visiting  http://www.iams.com/RescuePet/FeedPetsInNeed.aspx)

•“Like” Iams on Facebook.
•Go to the pawcurious Facebook fan page.
•Upload a picture of your pet with a caption that says what your pet is most curious about. Get it? curious?
•Make sure the picture is tagged with @Iams to select their page. That tag is what will generate the 50 meal donation.
•To sweeten the pot I will pick one picture from this group to receive a prize. Don’t ask me what since I don’t know what it will be yet, but it will be a prize and it will be delightful.
Easy, right? Can I count on you guys to help me get 400 comments this week?

Dr. V – Pawcurious

Dr. V is a small animal veterinarian.  After a brief and feverish attempt to throw 8 years of college out the window and become something else entirely, the dogs won her over. They always do. She decided to start a blog about her pets and the veterinary field after I realized just how many people are interested in the odd little vignettes that make up her day, both in and out of the vet clinic.

You can still donate to the Feed Pets in Need program by visiting  http://www.iams.com/RescuePet/FeedPetsInNeed.aspx

Dr. V’s promotion through her website was a 1 week campaign in early November. 

_____________________________________________________

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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
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, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free Christmas or Chanukah gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

What’s in Your First Aid Kit?

December 2, 2010

My recovery from recent back surgery is going to keep me away from the computer for a bit.  During this time I’m happy to present some excellent posts with timely information written by several  veterinarians and dog-bloggers whose posts I regularly follow.  Today’s post, “What’s in Your First Aid Kit?” was written by Dr. Janet Crosby who authors the very popular and informative Veterinary Medicine content at http://vetmedicine.about.com/.  Please make her feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! . 

Best wishes, 

Dr. Nancy Kay

I have been interested in first aid since I was given my first “doctor kit” when I was 5. I bandaged up toy animals (and patient real ones) to practice my craft. Later on, I took swimming lessons in lifesaving and CPR classes in college. More recently, my colleague and I taught “wilderness first aid for pets” classes at an outdoor gear store. Will all of that, I should have a perfectly assembled, everything-in-its-place first aid kit; ready to assist whoever, whenever.

Ha. I wish. 

I have tried. I have assembled various kits over the years, the contents becoming outdated or misplaced over time. I now have a loosely assembled “dog bag” with medical stuff that will do for many situations, but it isn’t a true first aid kit. I have been trying to get myself more organized. Just in case. 

Many of the items in a pet first aid kit will work for all pets – scissors, antiseptics, bandages, tape, and so on. It is important to realize that each pet should have their own specialized part of the first aid kit as needed. For example, traveling with my Greyhound Argos has prioritized the need for probiotics (stress gut) and bandaging materials just in case. (Greyhounds have thin skin and sometimes-too-quick reflexes.) As Sophie has inched up in years, I travel with some anti-inflammatory pain relief to use as needed after long hikes. The Thundershirt, while not typical “first aid,” also travels with us when some calm is called for. 

First Aid Kits For Pets
There are many, many choices for first aid kits for pets, as seen in this Google search. What kit is the “right” kit for your pet? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Look for ones that contain most of what you are looking for and add to it. Or build your own. I always add sterile eye wash (not the contact lens cleaner and not medicated in any way), just in case of a foreign body or liquid contamination of they eye. Nail clippers are handy if dealing with a torn toenail. Your veterinarian will also be able to provide pet-specific advice if you have questions. 

It is also a good idea to check into pet first aid classes. Having a spiffy new first aid kit is no good if you don’t know how to use it. Check your local veterinary clinics, Red Cross, or retailers such as Petco, now offering online pet first aid classes. You can even learn first aid tips and techniques on your phone

A Good Thing To Have In The Car
An all-purpose first aid kit is good to have in the car in case you find an injured animal on the road or witness an accident. A muzzle is a necessary kit item (or make one) when dealing with injured and frightened animals. 

Do You Have A Pet First Aid Kit?
Did you purchase or make your kit? Please share your tips for making and using a pet first aid kit

Photo: First Aid Kit by marvinxsteadfast on Flickr 

Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM never planned to be a writer. She wanted to be a veterinarian from the moment she learned such a job existed – sometime during the first grade, when she accompanied her mom to the vet with a sick cat. Janet “adopted” all the neighborhood cats, and at age 11 she started training her first dog, a newly adopted rescue Collie. At age 12, she joined a dog obedience 4-H club and was active through high school as a member and as a junior leader.

Read more: http://blog.k9cuisine.com/vet-med/whats-in-your-first-aid-kit/#ixzz16y058SIi

_____________________________________________________

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
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
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, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free Christmas or Chanukah guft wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).