Archive for June, 2011

Trends in Veterinary Medicine

June 26, 2011

Just as human docs are seeing more patients with diabetes, so too are veterinarians.  A first-of-its-kind study conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital (a corporation with more than 770 veterinary hospitals) documents rises in the incidence of diabetes, dental disease, flea infestations, ear infections, and intestinal parasites.  Banfield collected their data from a whopping 2.1 million dogs and 450,000 cats seen during 2010, and then released it as a document called “State of Pet Health 2011 Report.” The entirety of this report is available via the Banfield website.

 

Here are some highlights from this study:

-Dental disease was the most common medical condition reported. In fact, 78 percent of dogs and 68 percent of cats over three years of age had some form of dental disease.  The top five dog breeds most likely to develop periodontal disease included the Toy Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Pomeranian, and Shetland Sheepdog (it’s a given that small breed dogs have a higher incidence of dental disease than medium and large breed dogs).

-Otitis externa (infection or inflammation of the external ear canal) was the second most common disease, found in 15.8 percent of dogs and 7.4 percent of cats.

-There has been a 32 percent increase in canine diabetes and a 16 percent increase in feline diabetes compared to data collected in 2006.

-Obesity ranked in the top five diagnoses for dogs and in the top three diagnoses for cats.  This may, in part, explain why the prevalence of diabetes is increasing.

-The incidence of flea infestation has increased 16 percent in dogs and 12 percent in cats; rather surprising given the fact that flea control products have been steadily evolving.

-One of the top three diseases found in dogs examined in Banfield hospitals located within the Southern United States was heartworm disease (detected in 6.7 percent of dogs examined).

-Cats in 2010 more frequently test positive for roundworms, hookworms and whipworms (all intestinal parasites) compared to cats evaluated in 2006. Canine hookworms and whipworms have also increased during this same time period.

-Small breed dogs are gaining in popularity.  Chihuahuas represented a whopping 8 percent of Banfield’s patient population.  This represents a 116 percent increase when comparing data between 2000 and 2010.  Labrador Retrievers remained the most common dog breed among Banfield patients, but their numbers decreased by 20 percent between 2000 and 2010.

-The number of feline vet clinic visits is declining.  In 2006 Banfield veterinarians examined 5.3 dogs for every feline visit.  The current ratio is 6.6 dogs for every one kitty.

Dr. Jeffrey Klausner is the chief medical officer for Banfield.  He expresses concern about the rise in some of the preventable diseases mentioned above and he states, “I just can’t help but wonder if there is a correlation between the increase and prevalence of these diseases and the decreasing visits to veterinarians.”

The stated purpose of the Banfield study is to help the veterinary profession gain a better understanding of the state of pet health in the United States, especially in light of many recent reports indicating a decline in veterinary visits.  Dr. Klausner hopes that the Banfield analysis will help veterinarians develop strategies to improve patient care.  The decline in vet clinic visits may correlate with the relatively newer knowledge that core vaccinations (rabies, distemper, parvovirus) need not be given annually.  It appears that some folks view vaccines to be the primary reason for vet clinic visits and ignore the importance of an annual physical examination. Several studies are currently underway to try to understand why feline veterinary clinic visits have declined so dramatically.

Kudos to Banfield Pet Hospital for orchestrating this monumental study.  What a great way to give back to the profession.  The Banfield data underscores the importance of annual visits to the vet (whether or not vaccinations are due) and discussion of preventive health care.  When did you and your pet last visit your vet for an annual physical examination?  Did you discuss dental disease, flea control, or weight management for your pet?

Best wishes for 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, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence 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.

The Cost of Caring

June 20, 2011

The news would have us believe that the recession is over and unemployment is declining, but I’ve got to tell you, I’ve not yet seen even a glimmer of this in my professional life.  The majority of my clients remain hard pressed to pay for the diagnostic testing and care that would be ideal for their sick pets in spite of the fact that we lowered many of the fees at my hospital approximately one year ago.  Fortunately, for most of my patients, I can offer multiple medical options rather than just one.  For example, many folks these days choose the less expensive route of empirical therapy (providing treatment without certainty of what the underlying medical issue is) rather than performing diagnostic testing.  Within the limitations dictated by cost constraints, I try to do what’s best for my patient while also trying to assuage the guilt that most clients in this situation experience.  They love their pets dearly, but face the reality of having to settle for something that would not normally be their first choice.

When appropriate, I provide my client with a list of organizations that provide financial assistance for veterinary care costs.  Trust me, these wonderful organizations have been deluged by requests over the last few years.  Yet they still manage to pull through for some of my clients.  Many provide financial help for any type of veterinary care while others set specific criteria.  For example, they might provide assistance only for pets with cancer or only for service dogs.  None of them provide urgent funding- invariably there is an application process.  If you are interested in having a look at these wonderful organizations, I invite you to visit my website. Click on “Resources” found in the red horizontal main menu and then scroll down to “Financial Assistance for Veterinary Care.”  A sure sign of the times is that this is the most frequently visited page on my website!

For those of you with  young healthy animals (devoid of any preexisting medical conditions) I encourage you to consider purchasing a pet health insurance policy.  For an annual premium cost of $300-$400 you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you will be reimbursed approximately 80% of future out of pocket veterinary expenses.  The key is in choosing your insurance provider wisely.  Some reimburse exactly as you would hope while others come up with all kinds of crazy loopholes.  Visit my website for a list of questions to ask insurance providers that will help you separate the good guys from the bad.  Click on “Resources” found in the red horizontal main menu and scroll down to “Pet Health Insurance.”  My book Speaking for Spot provides a comprehensive resource for learning all you need to know about pet health insurance.

Have these tough economic times influenced how you provide medical care for your pets?  If you feel comfortable sharing your story, I welcome hearing it.  If you know of any organizations (not already on my list) that provide assistance for veterinary care, please give me a shout out.  I would love to include them.

Best wishes for 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, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence 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.

When Microchipping Matters Most

June 13, 2011

I just read a story about a dog named Hanah who was displaced from her family during the recent tornado that terrorized Joplin, Missouri. There have been a couple of post-tornado Hanah sightings, but to date, she’s yet to be reunited with her anxious and devastated family.   The Good Samaritan photos taken of Hanah show this adorable looking dog without a collar, and her owners report that she has not been microchipped.   My heart sank when I read this.  As far as I’m concerned, a microchip would have increased the likelihood of a happy ending to this story more than anything else.

Let this be a wake-up call to all of us about the importance of microchipping our pets.  Far and away a microchip is the best insurance policy possible for reuniting lost pets with their families.  Bear in mind that implanting the microchip is the easy part. The more difficult part is making sure that you and the professional who places the microchip get it registered properly.  What good is the microchip if its number is not associated with accurate owner contact information?  And when you move or change telephone numbers, remember to update the microchip registry.  As I reported in a previous blog, the microchip failure rate has everything to do with inadequate updating of registry information.

I hope you will read Hanah’s story and share it with all the dog lovers you know with hopes that she will be returned to the people who love her.   If I receive any Hanah updates I will certainly let you know.  If your pets are not microchipped, please call your veterinarian or local shelter right away to set up an appointment to do so. If your pet is microchipped, contact the registry to ensure that your contact information is up to date.  One never knows what life has in store for us and our pets!

Do you know of a story where a microchip saved the day?  If so, I’d love to hear it.

Best wishes for 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, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence 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.

 

The challenges of combining Eastern and Western medicine for your pets

June 6, 2011

Choosing a veterinarian who practices Western medicine (conventional medicine/allopathy) or one who practices Eastern medicine (alternative/complementary medicine) is fairly straightforward.  Successfully combining the best of both medical worlds however can be challenging.  Speaking for Spot fan, Carolyn recently sent me an email based on her experiences:

Hello Dr. Nancy! My question has to do with both holistic and conventional medicine for our dogs. I try to do everything as “green and natural” as possible for my dog: home-made food & treats, non-toxic cleaning products, natural materials in beds and toys … you get the idea. I think supplements and holistic treatments have their place and often are very valuable in maintaining health and even in treating illness. That said, I believe conventional veterinary medicine is valuable too. My conventional vet is great … but she does roll her eyes when I discuss a holistic approach. So how does one balance both therapy options for their dog? Are there any vets who practice both holistic and conventional veterinary medicine, that have a more diverse toolbox so to speak? I sort of feel that I have a foot in both camps and I’m not sure my dog is well served by one approach over the other.

Here’s how I responded to Carolyn. By the way Maggie, the insanely adorable cotton ball flying over the hedge in the accompanying photo is Carolyn’s lucky companion.

Hi Carolyn. How nice to hear from you. Please give Maggie a treat from me! You are correct.  It can be difficult to find a veterinarian who practices Western medicine and supports referral for complementary medicine, and vice versa.  Truthfully, it is difficult for a veterinarian to be extremely well versed in both disciplines (hard enough staying truly proficient in just one of them).  There are a few veterinarians who do a great job with both, but they are few and far between.  Western medicine is the discipline predominantly taught in veterinary schools throughout the United States.  Proficiency in complementary modalities including Chinese herbs, homeopathy, and acupuncture requires additional training and certification.

What can you do to avoid having your veterinarian roll his or her eyes at you? As you know, I am a big believer in picking and choosing your veterinarians wisely. Certainly, open-mindedness is an important trait in any doctor, whether providing service for us or for our beloved pets.  The “ideal vet” is happy to have you work with other veterinarians so that your pets receive the care that is best for your peace of mind.  Just as most of us have a number of doctors for our health needs, it’s perfectly acceptable for your pets to have different doctors for their different health care needs.  Here is an example. The surgical specialists I work with frequently treat dogs suffering from severe arthritis pain.  In addition to prescribing a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medication and joint care supplements the surgeon may refer their patient to a rehabilitation therapy specialist for workouts on the underwater treadmill.  Clients are also offered the option of consulting with a veterinarian who specializes in acupuncture. The key to success is that all three specialists are open-minded, communicate with one another, and share a common goal- namely what is best for the patient. Can such a winning combination be found in every community? No, unfortunately not, but you won’t know until you look.  What should you do if your veterinarian feigns hurt feelings or rolls her eyes?  Stay true to your goals.  You know what is best for your pet.  Besides, which is more important, your vet’s feelings or your pet’s health?

Have you been successful at combining Eastern and Western medical approaches for your pets?  Do tell!

Best wishes for 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, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence 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.