Archive for the ‘Dog care tips’ Category

Resolutions for the New Year That Will Benefit You and Your Pet

January 1, 2012

The transition to a new calendar year may inspire you to muster the resolve to make good changes in your life. How about the lives of your pets? No time like the present to make some new year’s resolutions that will benefit both of you. Here are three suggestions:

More Face Time With Your Pets

Our furry family members are more than happy to be our exercise partners, confidantes, psychotherapists, and nonelectric heating blankets. Take advantage of such pet-facilitated services as much as possible this year!

What dog doesn’t crave attention from their favorite human? Teach your best friend some new tricks. Begin working on that long overdue grooming. Get your pup out for more exercise (lose the sedentary human behavior at the dog park). Don’t let the winter weather be a deterrent. Go shopping for some canine winter apparel and gift yourself with Dr. Phil Zeltzman’s book, Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound to glean some inspiration!

What about our kitties? Well you know how it is- cats tend to like things on their terms. However, even the most curmudgeonly of cats will benefit from a feather toy tempting them to expend some energy and some affectionate scratches under the chin. The challenge is to spend more quality time with your kitties while convincing them that the activity is of their choosing.

Fewer Vaccinations

Your adult pet’s good health requires inoculation with core vaccinations no more than once every three years. The term “core” is reserved for those vaccines, such as distemper, that are recommended for every adult animal. Overvaccinating (vaccinating more than once every three years) exposes your best little buddy to needless risk (yes, there is some risk associated with every vaccination). Besides, why spend your hard earned money on something that is completely unnecessary?

If your veterinarian has remained on the “once a year bandwagon” and the thought of convincing him or her otherwise gives you a case of the willies, I encourage you to read the chapter called, “Discussion About Your Dog’s Vaccinations” in Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet. Kathie please make this a live link to the Amazon page The information found there will provide you with all the inspiration you need to broach the vaccination conversation with your vet. (For those of you who are cat fanciers, please know that my hope is to create the feline version of this book within the year. In the meantime, know that the basic principles provided in Your Dog’s Best Health apply to kitty care as well.)

Recruit a Professional to Help With Your Pet’s Behavioral Issues

Would you love to be able to leave your dog home alone for more than ten minutes without the house being destroyed? Would you be ecstatic if your precious puss quit spraying your walls with his version of graffiti? Would you relish the idea of taking your dog for a walk without having to ice your shoulder afterwards? There is no time like the present to tackle such behavioral issues. I encourage you to get the professional help you need so that you and your pet can fully enjoy cohabitating. Chronic behavior issues tend to gradually result in more and more isolation for the pet until most of their waking hours are spent within a crate, a single room of the house, or the backyard. Such isolation begets even more negative adaptive behaviors, and the end result may be relinquishment to a shelter or rescue organization; worse yet, euthanasia.

Please know that if your dog or cat has a significant behavioral issue, you are certainly not alone. Also know that the sooner the issue is dealt with, the happier the outcome will be for both you and your pet. Hiring a pro to help you work out a behavior bugaboo will be one of the best investments you make this year!

When choosing a trainer or behaviorist, check in with your veterinarian for a recommendation. Additionally, check out the websites below. You’ll find lots of information about how to choose the right person to help you with the issue at hand. These sites also have “locators” to help you find a professional in your area.

Association of Pet Dog Trainers

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants

Animal Behavior Society

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Have you made any “pet resolutions” this year? Does your pet have a behavioral issue that is affecting the quality of your life? Have you successfully dealt with a significant behavioral issue in the past? Please share what you know so that others may offer advice and/or benefit from what you have learned.

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
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
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.

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Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning

November 27, 2011

It’s natural to have concerns about general anesthesia, whether for ourselves or for our beloved pets. After all, no matter how young and healthy the patient, there is always some associated risk. For this reason, anesthesia-free dental cleaning for pets has become more and more popular. And with no anesthesia, the cost of cleaning Fido’s or Fluffy’s teeth is significantly reduced- clearly another attractive feature. Anesthesia-free dental cleaning for your pet sounds rather tempting, doesn’t it? Before you jump on this bandwagon I encourage you to consider whether or not this option truly serves your dog’s or your cat’s best health interest.

I’m a big believer in regularly brushing your pet’s teeth at home. Thoroughly removing dental tartar on an awake animal, however, is a whole nother ball game! Even with highly skilled hands and a super-cooperative animal, it is impossible to successfully and painlessly remove tartar from underneath the gum lines and along the inner surfaces of the teeth (the surfaces in closest proximity to the tongue). And, if the end result of cleaning is anything other than polished, super smooth, dental surfaces, tartar will quickly reaccumulate. Anesthesia-free dental cleaning definitely gives the outer surfaces of the teeth a cleaner look. While this may be pleasing to your eye, there is no significant benefit to your pet’s health. For all of these reasons, if and when dental cleaning is warranted for your dog or cat, I strongly encourage that it be performed with the aid of general anesthesia.

Now, there are some caveats that accompany my recommendation. For some animals, the risks associated with general anesthesia clearly outweigh the benefits, for example a dog or cat with advanced heart disease or kidney failure. Even for the healthiest animals, general anesthesia should be accompanied by careful monitoring of the patient’s status at all times. A list of important questions to ask your veterinarian about general anesthesia can be found in Speaking for Spot within the chapter called “Important Questions to Ask Your Vet…and How to Ask Them.”

The American Veterinary Dental College also advises against anesthesia-free dental cleaning. Here is an excerpt from their recently drafted position statement:

“Owners of pets naturally are concerned when anesthesia is required for their pet. However, performing nonprofessional dental scaling on an unanesthetized pet is inappropriate for the following reasons:

  1. Dental tartar is firmly adhered to the surface of the teeth. Scaling to remove tartar is accomplished using ultrasonic and sonic power scalers, plus hand instruments that must have a sharp working edge to be used effectively. Even slight head movement by the patient could result in injury to the oral tissues of the patient, and the operator may be bitten when the patient reacts.
  2. Professional dental scaling includes scaling the surfaces of the teeth both above and below the gingival margin (gum line), followed by dental polishing. The most critical part of a dental scaling procedure is scaling the tooth surfaces that are within the gingival pocket (the subgingival space between the gum and the root), where periodontal disease is active. Because the patient cooperates, dental scaling of human teeth performed by a professional trained in the procedures can be completed successfully without anesthesia. However, access to the subgingival area of every tooth is impossible in an unanesthetized canine or feline patient. Removal of dental tartar on the visible surfaces of the teeth has little effect on a pet’s health and provides a false sense of accomplishment. The effect is purely cosmetic.
  3. Inhalation anesthesia using a cuffed endotracheal tube provides three important advantages- the cooperation of the patient with a procedure it does not understand, elimination of pain resulting from examination and treatment of affected dental tissues during the procedure, and protection of the airway and lungs from accidental aspiration.
  4. A complete oral examination, which is an important part of a professional dental scaling procedure, is not possible in an unanesthetized patient. The surfaces of the teeth facing the tongue cannot be examined, and areas of disease and discomfort are likely to be missed.”

How do you feel about anesthesia-free versus anesthetized dental cleaning? Keep in mind, for some folks this is a rather heated topic. Let’s keep the conversation civilized!

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones,

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
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
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.

Pedicures: Definitely Not for Everyone

October 24, 2011

Quinn's longer nails

 

I receive oodles of emails with questions from folks who love their dogs and want what is best for their health. A popular  question topic is toenails! Should they be trimmed and if so, how often? What if they bleed? What to do if the pedicure becomes a wrestling match in which the dog is invariably the winner? Here are some general guidelines and recommendations pertaining to your tootsie’s toenails.

Nellie's nubby nails

Every dog wears down his or her nails differently. For example, consider my two doggies. The three of us walk together daily on a variety of different surfaces, from grass to cement. Whereas Nellie’s nails naturally remain at an ideal length, Quinn needs a nail trim approximately once every two months (and he’s the one who runs two miles for every mile I walk).

One technique for determining if your dog needs a pedicure is to manually extend the toes and assess the length of the nails in relation to the bottom of the foot. To do this, place your thumb on top of your dog’s foot and your other fingers on the large pad on the underside of the foot. Gently squeeze your fingers together which will cause the toes to extend outward. With the toes in this position, check to see if the tips of the toenails are level with or extend beyond the underside of the foot. Nails that are level can be left alone. Those that extend beyond the underside of the foot are in need of a trim.

Some dogs have clear nails in which case you can readily see how far the tip of the nail extends beyond the “quick,” the pink to red colored blood filled cavity that runs down the center of the toenail. If the nail extends well beyond the quick, it’s time for a pedicure. This trick doesn’t always work because some dogs with chronically overgrown nails also develop lengthy quicks. And then there are those dogs with black toenails, making it impossible to observe the quick at all. To be certain about whether or not your dog’s nails are too long, consult with your veterinarian, vet tech, or groomer.

If you have never before trimmed a dog’s toenails, my advice is this. Ask a pro (veterinary technician, groomer, breeder) to teach you how. Pedicures can be tricky business! If your dog has clear nails (quicks readily visible) and happens to be an angel about having his or her feet handled, you are good to go. Black nails or dogs who are moving targets make the job far more difficult. It is easy to hit the quick, and that can be painful for your dog. And nicking the quick results in bleeding, not in an amount that is harmful to your dog, but it sure as heck might be harmful to your carpeting! If bleeding occurs, your best bet is to drag the tip of the toenail through a softish bar of soap with hopes that the soap will form a plug that stops the bleeding. A safer bet to stop the bleeding is to have some silver nitrate sticks or powder on hand.

Some dogs (even the most well behaved dogs) absolutely, positively hate

having their nails trimmed. They will fight tooth and nail (pun intended) before allowing a pedicure. If your dog resembles this description, know that you are not alone. Trimming just one or two nails at a time may be the ticket for success. For others, the use of a dremel tool rather than nail clippers may restore sanity to the situation. Certainly routine handling of your dog’s feet and lots of praise can be of benefit in preparation for pedicures.

There are those dogs who, no matter what, struggle to the point that four people are needed to accomplish the nail trim- three to restrain the writhing, wriggling beast, and one to trim the nails (and these are dogs who are often perfectly well behaved in every other situation). In such cases one has to question whether or not it is really worth it. If your dog becomes a professional wrestler in response to a pedicure, I encourage you to talk with your vet about how to make the nail trim less stressful and more successful. She might be able to recommend a more effective restraint technique, behavior modification strategies, and/or the use of Rescue Remedy or chemical sedation.

Performing pedicures on black toenails and/or wiggly dogs is not for the feint of heart. Don’t hesitate to request help from a seasoned veteran. It will be a relief for you and your dog! Have you ever attempted to trim your dog’s toenails? If so, how did it go? If you happen to be a dog trainer or behaviorist, your advice is always most welcome here.

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.

 

 

 

Can you take your dog by surprise when it’s time for a walk?

October 10, 2011

Nellie and Quinn on a walk Photo: Susannah Kay

Are you able to prepare to take your dog for a walk without him or her knowing what you are up to?  Is your dog ever surprised when you show up with leash in hand?  Why do I ask such seemingly silly questions?  I ask because both of my dogs seem to possess some sort of canine walk-related mental telepathy.  No matter how sly I am- I can distract them with their favorite chew toys, I can grab the leashes while they are barking at the UPS truck, and I can be moving clothes from the washing machine to the dryer.  It doesn’t matter.  They always know when the mere thought of taking them for a walk has crossed my mind. Spell rather than say the word “walk”?  Forget it, my dogs could win spelling bees. Don my sneakers while pretending to go to the bathroom or hide their leashes in the garbage can?  Not a chance! They know exactly what I’m up to!  Do such crazy things go in your household?

Here’s a typical “prewalk” scenario with my two little mutts, Nellie and Quinn.  I’m at the computer, fingers flying with a mug of coffee close at hand and my two adorable pupsters sound asleep at my feet. I take a quick peek out the window, sense it’s getting hot, and silently ponder, “Hmmm, perhaps I should get the dogs out sooner rather than later.” Within a millisecond, Quinn’s chin is resting on my knee. How does he know?  Could he feel the flutter of my eyelashes as I looked out the window? Did he sense that my coffee and/or my ability to write had turned cold? Does my body produce some sort of yet-to-be-discovered “dog walking pheromone”?

With nothing more than Quinn’s chin on my knee, I remain in complete control of the situation.  I can either continue my work by completely avoiding eye contact with my little doe-eyed darling (and I will feel like an inhumane lout for the remainder of the day) or I can meet Quinn’s gaze.  At this point, going eyeball to eyeball with Quinn is an act tantamount to Barbara Woodhouse yodeling “Walkies!!” (She and Julia Child must have been related, don’t you think?).

Quinn begins scrambling to and from the door while Nellie barks orders at me.  Her terrier-speak can be interpreted as,  “Get your shoes on for crying out loud!” “Forget the poop bags!” and “The laundry can wait!” I can slow down all of this hustle bustle with a firm command of “Wait”, but their tremoring muscles and joyous expressions would give one the impression that my two little darlings were about to be turned loose into a field of sedated gophers.  In their happy little worlds, life simply does not get any better!

Admittedly, this anticipatory joy tickles me- otherwise I would do more to “tame the beasts”.  And their uncanny knack for reading my mind truly intrigues me.  What are your thoughts and theories about this? What goes on in your household when your dogs are in their “pre-walk mode?”

Speaking of dog walking, I want you to know about a terrific book that just hit the market.  It is called Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound: How You and Your Dog Can Lose Weight, Stay Fit, and Have Fun Together (New Directions in the Human-Animal Bond Series).  Author, Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board certified veterinary surgeon and a friend and colleague (we veterinarians who like to write have a definite affinity for one another!).  He and coauthor Rebecca Johnson, a human nurse and expert in the field of human weight loss (and she happens to be one heck of a nice person), clearly recognize that many canine health issues are exacerbated by obesity.  Their book successfully inspires better health for dogs and the people who love them.  Their recommendations result in loss of body fat, improved fitness, and enhancement of what we all cherish- the human animal bond.  Dr. Zeltzman says that writing a book on canine weight management was a natural response to his frustration of dealing with so many patients who probably would not have needed his services had they been at an ideal body weight.

Let me hear what you think about Walk a Hound Lose a Pound and I can’t wait to hear if and how you manage to surprise your dog with a walk.

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.

 

 

 

 

Criticism Welcome Here

October 2, 2011

Photo Credit: Kathie Meier

While I’ve never bought into the notion of “making everybody happy” I do believe that everyone is deserving of an explanation.  My kids never heard, “Because I said so!” (though I sure did feel like screaming it at them from time to time).  No matter how long my client’s list of questions, I address each and every one.  And as an author, I do my best to respond to all of my readers’ comments, be they good, bad, or ugly.  It simply feels like the respectful thing to do.

Critical comments from my readers invariably prompt introspection. Case in point, I recently received a comment criticizing my facebook post of an American Kennel Club (AKC) Health Foundation podcast featuring an interview with Dr. Gary Stamp, Executive Director of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society. Here is what my facebook friend had to say.

“Nancy, it would be critical and wise that you look into the AKC’s possible affiliations with puppy mills, before you promote anything which AKC may sponsor. I need to delete you from my facebook if you are at all promoting the AKC.”

These comments certainly got me thinking.  In fact, I have been concerned and annoyed that the AKC has not been vocal enough about the puppy mill issue.  Given my public stance against puppy mills am I being hypocritical in promoting something positive that the AKC has to offer? Here’s where my logic took me and how I responded to the facebook comments.

“Thanks for your feedback.  Please know that I share your concern about the AKC.  They are in a position to have a huge impact on eradicating puppy mills, yet they choose not to do so and that is truly discouraging for me.  I am not 100% clear about their motivation, be it financial or something else.  That being said, I do respect the AKC Health Foundation and their stated mission which is ‘to advance the health of all dogs and their owners by funding sound scientific research and supporting the dissemination of health information to prevent, treat, and cure canine disease.’  Note that their goal is to serve all dogs, not just purebred dogs. Their podcasts consistently provide timely, accurate, and educational information, the kind of information that truly helps people become more effective medical advocates for their pets.  And if you’ve read much of what I’ve written, you know that I am passionate about medical advocacy!  For purposes of full disclosure, you should know that I have participated as an interviewee in an AKC Health Foundation podcast and, no, I was not paid to do so.

While I disapprove of the AKC’s lack of action regarding eradication of puppy mills, the AKC Health Foundation serves a definitively positive purpose. This is a classic case of not wanting to throw the baby out with the bath water.

If you’ve consistently read my blog posts you know that I am rabidly opposed to puppy mills, and it sounds like you are as well.  Hopefully this common ground will allow us to respectfully agree to disagree.  Thank you for sharing your opinion with me. If you choose to ‘unfriend’ me (or whatever the heck such a facebook action is called) I understand.  Thanks for hearing me out.”

Introspection is always a good thing.  Feel free to keep those critical comments coming, though not too many all at once!

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.

Lick granulomas: An annoying little problem that is difficult to solve

September 26, 2011

If you’ve no idea what a lick granuloma is, count your blessings! What a nuisance they can be.  The official name for this disease is acral lick dermatitis.  “Acral” refers to an extremity (leg) and “dermatitis” means inflammation of the skin. The “lick” is thrown in because incessant licking behavior is what causes the problem.

Acral lick granulomas are skin sores that typically occur in large breed dogs (Doberman Pinchers and Labradors are notorious) and more males than females.  For reasons we truly don’t understand, affected dogs pick a spot towards the foot on one or more of their legs and begin licking…… and licking, and licking and licking.  The effect on the skin is no different than if you picked a spot on your arm and scratched at it round the clock.  The chronic self-inflicted irritation can result in thickening of the skin, increased pigmentation (skin appears darker than normal), an ulcerated surface with bleeding, and infection complete with pus, redness, and tenderness.  The average lick granuloma varies from dime-sized up to the size of a silver dollar.

Acral lick granulomas may be initiated by something that traumatizes or irritates the skin such as infection, allergy, or an embedded foreign body such as a thorn or splinter.  The dog overreacts lingually (no tongue in cheek here) and, over time, a lick granuloma appears.  It’s theorized that incessant licking may represent a self-soothing behavior (like thumb-sucking) associated with release of endorphins.  This theory is supported by the fact that, if one is savvy enough to interrupt the licking cycle at one site, many clever dogs redirect their attention to a new site on a different leg. Another possibility is that arthritis is present in the joint underlying the affected skin surface.  Licking is tantamount to a person massaging a sore joint.  Yet another theory is that boredom is the culprit. Truth be told, there are likely many different causes for lick granulomas.

The diagnosis of acral lick dermatitis is officially made via skin biopsy.  Your veterinarian may also recommend a skin scraping (material is scraped from the skin surface for evaluation under the microscope to rule out mange mites) and collection of samples for bacterial and fungal cultures.  Some veterinarians feel comfortable making the call based purely on history and visual inspection of the affected skin site.

Making the diagnosis is the easy part.  Stopping the licking is notoriously difficult.  In fact it can be a nightmare because many affected dogs simply will not be deterred from this obsessive behavior.  And even when one thinks the problem is licked (pun intended), a year or two down the road, the self-trauma cycle may begin all over again.

The ideal therapy for lick granulomas is identification and treatment of the underlying cause (foreign body, allergy, infection). If the cause cannot be determined (true for most dogs with lick granulomas) and eliminated, here are some therapeutic options.  Keep in mind, what works well for one dog may not work for another.

– Keep the site covered with a bandage.  You can use standard bandaging material or one of your own socks might be suitable.  Simply cut off the foot part and pull the tube section up over the affected area.  Secure in place with some tape.  If the lick granuloma is low enough on the leg, you can slip the dog’s foot into the toe of the sock.  A product called DogLeggs  may be worth a try as well.  If you are really, really, really lucky, your dog who is obsessed with applying his mouth parts to the spot you’ve covered will leave the bandage in place.  Warning!  It is extremely easy to put a bandage on that is too tight (a recipe for disaster).  Practice bandaging with a member of your veterinary team watching before trying it yourself at home.  Second warning!  Your dog may go one step beyond removing the bandage- he or she may eat the darned thing.  Close supervision is a must for the first day or two after accessorizing your dog with a bandage.  The last thing anyone wants is for a lick granuloma issue to morph into a gastrointestinal foreign body issue.

– Taste deterrents work for some dogs and there are a variety of products on the market (Bitter Apple is the classic).  If this is to stand a chance of breaking the cycle, application must be frequent and consistent.  Most dogs are so determined to lick that they will persevere in spite of the adverse taste reaction, and in all honesty, the looks on their faces after licking the nasty stuff time after time suggests that this “solution” may be less than humane.

– Elizabethan collars work well for some dogs.  Don’t forget to rearrange your house in advance so that nothing valuable is damaged as your dog learns to navigate his surroundings with a satellite dish around his neck.  (No, your television reception will not be enhanced.)

– Medications can be applied to the site that are antinflammatory in nature and/or help rebuild healthy tissue.  These typically must be accompanied by a method for keeping tongue away from skin so the medication has a fighting chance.

– Acupuncture and/or chiropractic treatments are thought to work for some dogs.

– Laser therapy at the site is successful with some lick granulomas.

– See if keeping your dog super-busy for a week or two breaks the cycle.  The hope is to alleviate boredom and/or create a dog that is too tired to lick.  Try increased play/exercise, a large Kong toy filled with peanut butter, doggie day care while you are away from home, or adoption of a playmate (careful here- sometimes the stress of a new animal in the household amplifies licking behavior).

– Behavior modification medications work for some incessant lickers, but should be tried when other efforts have failed.  Categories of medications that can be tried include tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin-inhibiting drugs, and endorphin blockers.

It’s a given that the more treatment options there are for a particular disease, the less we know about how best to treat it!  Lick granulomas are a classic example.  If your dog is afflicted, I strongly encourage you to enlist help from your veterinarian.  If, together you try two or three things without success, please consider consultation with a board certified dermatologist.  To find one in your neighborhood visit the American College of Veterinary Dermatology website.

Although a lick granuloma looks like a small problem, it can be downright difficult to cure.  If your dog’s lick granuloma remains small and clear of infection, and if the sound of licking is not keeping you awake at night, simply living with the problem is a reasonable choice to consider.

Has your dog had a lick granuloma?  If so, please tell us what you tried, what worked well, and what didn’t.

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.

Talking Teeth

August 8, 2011

Is your dog’s bad breath sabotaging your cuddle time? Is your kitty drooling while nibbling her kibble? If so, your four-legged family member likely has dental disease. A recent study of Banfield Pet Hospital’s 770-hospital network identified dental disease as the most common malady among pets, affecting 68 percent of cats and 78 percent of dogs over three years of age.

Most dental diseases, including halitosis (bad breath) and gingivitis (gum disease) are caused by tartar accumulation. All cats and dogs can develop dental tartar, but small breed dogs are particularly predisposed. Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Pomeranians and Shetland Sheepdogs are at greatest risk, according to the Banfield study.

Be sure to inspect your pet’s teeth and gums on a regular basis just as you would his or her skin and haircoat. Here’s the key to getting a good look- don’t try to pry your pet’s jaws open lest you desire to engage in a wrestling match.  Rather, with the mouth remaining closed, simply pull those flabby lips up, down, and then back (as if he is smiling) to get a good view of the gums and teeth. Look for tartar accumulation (brown colored material that’s adhered to the teeth) redness or swelling of the gums, and broken or loose teeth.

If your pet does develop significant tartar and gingivitis, he’ll need a thorough dental cleaning. Dental X-rays may be recommended to detect abscesses or bone loss. Should such significant abnormalities be found, your vet will discuss antibiotic therapy and the pros and cons of removing the affected teeth versus a root canal procedure.

The best way to prevent tartar buildup is to brush your pet’s teeth (including those way in the back) at least two to three times a week. Ask your vet or members of the clinic staff to share their secrets for success when it comes to brushing.  Have them observe and provide critique as you demonstrate how you brush those canines (in cats they should be called “felines”), incisors, and molars.

What can you do besides brushing?  Dental chews, additives to your pet’s water, products applied to the teeth and gums, and specially formulated dry foods that have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance can help prevent tartar buildup.  However, nothing beats regular brushing (sorry!).

Part of your pet’s annual physical examination performed by your veterinarian should include careful inspection of the teeth and gums.  Early identification and treatment of dental disease goes a long way in preventing serious consequences.

Now it’s your turn to talk about teeth.  What have you experienced with your dogs and cats?

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.

Pet Nutrition Follow-up

February 10, 2011

If you could see me now dear readers, you would know that I am giving you a standing ovation! I anticipated my recent blog post about what to feed our pets might generate some heated discussion and bullying behavior. I thought I might have to be a cyberspace referee! I needn’t have worried- your comments, which can be viewed at http://www.speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=2048 were all so darned civilized! You reported how you feed your pets and what you’ve learned through your own experiences. No one was even remotely pushy! Better yet everyone agreed, as do I, that there is no single type of diet that is suitable for every dog or every cat. Hats off to you! I’m deeply appreciative.

Now, as promised, I will fill you in on my current philosophy about feeding our pets. I emphasize current philosophy because I am absolutely willing to change what I recommend pending the results of future research. While there is plenty of data telling us which nutrients and how much of them dogs and cats need to grow and maintain good health, there is a paucity of legitimate research comparing how those nutrients are delivered, particularly pertaining to raw versus processed foods.

Keep in mind I am not a primary care doctor (aka, family veterinarian). As a board certified small animal internist, the clients and patients I see are referred to me to address internal medicine issues. Invariably, my clients have already made diet decisions based on discussion with their family vets. My job is to determine if and when I should “rock the boat.” After raising three children and working with gazillions of devoted dog and cat lovers, I’ve learned that it is wise to choose my battles wisely. If a client is clearly devoted to a particular diet for his or her dog or cat, and I am convinced that their choice is causing no harm, I don’t go there. Here are some situations that will prompt me to recommend a diet change.

1. My patient is eating a diet that is not nutritionally balanced. Although this can happen with prepared foods, it most commonly occurs with homemade diets and well-meaning clients who don’t know that diets balanced for human consumption are not balanced for canine or feline consumption. If these clients wish to stick with home preparation, I recommend consultation with a board certified veterinary nutritionist and/or reliable references that provide recipes for balanced homemade diets.
2. My patient is eating a raw or processed food diet of dubious origin. If I am unfamiliar with the brand of food I encourage my client to share the package label with the family vet or me so we can provide a better sense of whether or not the food is of good quality and nutritionally balanced. For example, I am not keen on pet foods produced by the neighborhood health food store. How can such a business possibly have the financial resources and knowhow needed to create a quality pet food product that is nutritionally balanced?
3. My patient is eating a raw diet while receiving medication or fighting a disease that causes immune system dysfunction (i.e., their immune system is on the fritz). In this situation I recommend discontinuation of the raw diet. While there is no data (yet) comparing the incidence of raw diet-induced infections in healthy versus immunocompromised patients, there is data that clearly documents increased numbers of disease-causing types of bacteria in the feces of animals fed raw animal protein. Until proven otherwise, I am concerned that my immunocompromised patients are at higher risk for developing raw protein-induced infections. And this simply isn’t a chance I want to take. Please know that some veterinarians feel differently about this, and in fact, believe ingestion of raw meat will help bolster the immune system.
4. My patient has a medical issue that would best be served by a change in diet. For example, I will encourage diet transition for the patient with kidney failure who is eating a high protein diet, the diabetic kitty who is eating dry food only, or the obese patient with arthritis who is eating a high fat diet.

I firmly believe that most of our dogs and cats can thrive on a variety of different foods/diets as long as they contain high quality ingredients and are nutritionally balanced based on life stage (puppies/kittens, adults, and seniors all have different requirements). Whether you choose to feed a homemade diet or prepared raw or processed food is a personal choice; just as shopping for yourself at Whole Foods versus Safeway (the main grocery store chain in northern California) is a personal choice. Whichever style of diet you choose for your pets, your goal is to ensure you are feeding a high quality, balanced product. Here are some suggestions to help you hone in on some good choices amongst the literally hundreds of products at the pet food grocery store!

• Shop at your local independent pet food store. Yes, the prices may be higher (quality pet food is expensive), but the sales people you encounter are far more likely to be knowledgeable than those working at the big box stores. Additionally, pet store shelf space is limited so the brands of food stocked there will be those the staff truly believes in.
• Learn what to be looking for when you read the food label. The best resource I’ve found for teaching this is The Whole Dog Journal. Your dog and I strongly encourage you to get a subscription as soon as possible (http://www.whole-dog-journal.com) ! Editor, Nancy Kerns provides her readers with plenty of practical wisdom about canine nutrition. In fact the February 2011 issue contains a fabulous article called, “Choices, Choices- On What Criteria Do you Base Your Dog’s Food Selection?” Be forewarned, there is some nepotism going on at WDJ- you will find at least one picture of Nancy’s dog Otto in every single issue! Now, if only Nancy would begin working on The Whole Cat Journal!
• The American Animal Hospital Association Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats can be found at http://www.aahanet.org/resources/NutritionalGuidelines.aspx. There is a lot of valuable information here. By the way, at the top of the page you will see that a major pet food manufacturer provided some funding for these guidelines to be made available in French, Japanese, and Spanish. Please don’t let this deter your learning.
• Talk to your veterinarian, let him or her know what you’ve learned, and discuss your pet food preferences.

As always, I welcome your comments!

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.

Reasonable Expectations IX: Discussion With Your Vet About What Your Dog or Cat Should Be Eating

January 28, 2011

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

 

I’ll be straight with you- I’ve been procrastinating writing this blog for a long time. Every time I think about it, I get a queasy feeling in my stomach.  It’s not because I don’t think it’s reasonable for you to discuss your pet’s nutrition with your veterinarian.  It’s super easy for your vet to advise you when to transition from puppy/kitten formulas to adult foods, and if your pet is too fat or too thin and what to do about it. It’s the question of what to feed your beloved four-legged family member that has prevented me from getting excited about sinking my teeth into this blog (pun intended).  For many veterinarians, myself included, this has become a complicated issue and, in some cases, a no-win situation. Consider the following factors and you’ll understand my “dis-ease” with this topic.  When it comes to pet nutrition many people, veterinarians included, hold tenaciously to one or more of the following convictions:

• Processed pet foods (kibble and canned foods) are the best way to ensure balanced nutrition.
• Processed pet foods are the devil incarnate.
• Home-cooked diets are the best way to feed a pet.
• Home-cooked diets are not nutritionally balanced.
• Raw diets promote the best health.
• Raw diets have the potential to transmit serious infectious diseases not only to the pet, but also to the human handling the food and the feces.
• Dogs and cats should eat the same foods every day.
• Dogs and cats should eat a variety of foods.

Now here’s the icing on the cake.  Most veterinarians, myself included, are not nutritionists.  Yes, we understand the benefits of altering diet content to treat disease (a low protein diet is best for kidney failure, novel protein diets may benefit animals with food allergies, avoid salty foods for patients with heart failure), but show us the label from a can of Aunt Hattie’s Healthy Hound Hash (I hope and pray there really is no such product!) that has miraculously enhanced your dog’s vim and vigor, and we won’t be able to tell you with 100% certainty that Aunt Hattie is making a good product. An AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) seal of approval on the label is reassuring, but not all manufacturers of well balanced diets have gone through the AAFCO approval process.  And there are those who believe that AAFCO labeling is meaningless in terms of assuring good quality. We can enlist help from a board certified veterinary nutritionist to review the label, but this can be an expensive and cumbersome process. To make matters more complicated there is a constant and steady stream of new pet food manufacturers all vying for your pet’s grocery money.

Now can you understand why even thinking about this blog gives me a headache?  Truth be told, I believe I’ve seen examples of the good and the bad that can accompany every genre of pet food.  Dogs and cats have been eating processed foods for decades, yet we all recall the 2007 melamine pet food recall. Do you remember how shocked we were to learn that so many different brands of processed foods were manufactured in the same location?  I’ve seen damage caused by raw diets- infectious diseases and gastrointestinal bone foreign bodies.  I’ve also observed profound improvement in patients’ symptoms in response to the introduction of raw food (when I certainly couldn’t figure out how to make the symptoms disappear by other means).  I’ve seen pathologic bone fractures because of unbalanced homemade diets.  Likewise, I’ve met animals who appeared overtly healthy in spite of eating nothing but an unbalanced homemade diet for years.

So, what’s the answer here? What is a veterinarian supposed to say when their clients ask, “What should I be feeding my dog?” and “What should I be feeding my cat?” As tends to be my style, this blog has gone on a bit too long (you supposedly lose your ability to concentrate after 400-500 words).  So let’s do this- let me know how you think a veterinarian should answer the question of what to feed your pet and I will post a follow-up blog letting you know how I work with this complicated question.  I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

Best wishes, 

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.

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).