Archive for the ‘Euthanasia’ Category

Introducing Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet

December 4, 2011

A few months ago, as I sat nestled with my laptop crafting a new blog post, my husband queried if I thought I might ever run out of words. Yes, he was joking, but this is the sort of thing authors worry about from time to time as they ponder if the day will come when they will have run out of worthwhile ideas and the right words to convey them.

I sense that I have the reserves to write with a purpose for many years to come. In large part, this is thanks to the inspiration I continually glean from you, my readers. Every time I hear that something I wrote guided someone through a difficult medical decision, provided moral support during the euthanasia process, or helped a person hold their ground with their veterinarian, I am inspired to write that next sentence. Thank you for this!

Speaking of writing new material, with no further adieu, I would like to introduce you to my new “baby” titled, Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet. It is sizzling hot off the press and is available via Amazon, other online retailers, and soon, your neighborhood bookstores. I invite you to give it a read, and if you happen to be looking for a unique holiday gift for your dog loving friends and relatives, search no further!

With Speaking for Spot my goal was to teach you why we need to be medical advocates for our pets and how to fulfill this important role. Now, with Your Dog’s Best Health my intent is to take you to the next level by spelling out what is reasonable to expect from your vet. Included are some expectations that may just surprise you. For example, did you know that it’s reasonable to expect email communication with your vet, discussion about your Internet research, and explanations of all options for your pet, regardless of cost? In the spirit of saving the best for last, I reserved the final chapter of Your Dog’s Best Health for clarifying what is reasonable for your veterinarian to expect from you! Needless to say, visits to the vet will never be the same!

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.

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A Naked Lady

August 22, 2010

It’s natural to assume that the grief associated with pet loss is a purely post-mortem event.  Not true.  For many, the grieving process begins the minute they receive a serious or scary diagnosis, even if the animal has the potential to live for another year or two.  This is why I established and continue to facilitate a Client Support Group within my community.  Not only are people who have lost their pets welcome, so too are those struggling emotionally while caring for a sick four-legged family member.  The way participants support one another is fabulous- there’s typically a healthy mixture of smiles and tears as they talk about their beloved animals. 

From time to time, someone recounts an event (I like to refer to them as little taps on the shoulder) that let them know that they’ve been “paid a visit” by their deceased pet.  Last week Stephanie told just such a story.  A few weeks after relocating from Seattle to northern California, her beloved Bear, a huge and gentle Labrador mix, became profoundly ill with symptoms referable to cancer within the pelvic canal.  With a heavy heart, Stephanie opted for euthanasia after which she fled back to Seattle to receive the emotional support she needed from family and friends.  Upon returning to her new California home a week later, a delightful surprise awaited her.  Right at the spot where Bear urinated first thing every morning appeared a two-foot tall, solitary, pink flower on a thick sturdy stalk- one we affectionately refer to in these parts as a “Naked Lady” (Amaryllis belladonna).  With a smile on her face and tears streaming down her cheeks, Stephanie described her encounter with this crazy looking pink plant, the likes of which she’d never seen before.  She knew, in her heart of hearts, that it was a sign from her beloved Bear that he was okay.  And I believe her!

Have you ever been “paid a visit” or received a “gentle nudge” from a beloved pet that has passed away?  Please, do tell.

Now, here’s wishing you and your four-legged best friend abundant good health!

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

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

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Puppy Mills: Part II

January 16, 2010

I received an abundance of feedback in response to my recent blog about puppy mills.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your feelings concerning this emotional topic.  Virtually all of the comments expressed agreement that puppy mills are despicable and we wish they would cease to exist.  They also included important ideas that prompted me to think, “Wow, I wish I’d included that in my blog!”  Needless to say, I can’t resist sharing these wonderful comments and stories. 

Many of you reminded me that puppy mills spawn significant behavioral issues in their “merchandise” that can be just as devastating, if not more so, than the health issues that arise: 

Debbie wrote, “The physical abnormalities in puppy mill dogs are often accompanied by behavioral problems as well, fear being a major issue for many of these dogs who receive inappropriate or inadequate socialization. Like many medical issues the damage done due to inappropriate socialization may also be irreparable.” 

Diane commented, “I wanted to point out that for me, behavioral issues are also a major concern in addition to the health problems.  Don’t get me wrong, I get my business from people who buy these puppies, but honestly, I would rather just have a class full of wonderful healthy puppies and find some other way to make money.” 

Viviane wrote, “The health problems associated with puppy mills are truly heartbreaking and your post about this brought me to tears.  As a dog trainer and dog behavior consultant, I also see the behavioral results of this sort of breeding operation all too often, and that too is heartbreaking for unsuspecting souls who fall for a sweet face only to discover profound shyness and/or reactivity.  The dog that should have given a lifetime of joy and companionship and of course received the same, now is a beloved but seriously flawed family member who requires management and training to varying degrees for a life time.” 

Vanna stated, “I think it is really important to also point out that these puppy mill dogs aren’t properly socialized early on and therefore there are often serious issues by the time they bring the dog home.  Of course there is also an issue since they aren’t breeding for temperament.” 

Some thought I was tough enough on the puppy mills, but far too soft on the people who patronize puppy mills.  

Kerri commented, “It angers me because people who are educated about these horrible operations still buy from them. You say in your post, “Puppy mills stay in business by preying on people who are willing to buy a puppy without doing their research.” When I read that, I thought it was letting the buyers off way too easy. By the late 1990s when I rescued my first Doxie and wrote an investigative piece, Disposable Pets (http://www.writeforyou.biz/Disposable-Pets.htm) it was becoming known, but I think the general public could still be excused for ignorance. Today, the puppy mill buying public would have to literally live in a bubble not to know the problem of puppy mills and the terrible conditions from which these dogs come.” 

I couldn’t resist sharing Diane’s inspirational comment with you:  “Here! Here! I go one-step further…… I do not buy ANYTHING from pet stores that sell puppies!” 

A few people reminded me that, as states are cracking down on puppy mills, the innocent victims wind up in shelters and breed rescue organizations.  The people who care for them will require extra help for these emotionally fragile dogs.  There is an instructional DVD addressing this unique situation (check out www.missiondog.com). 

Lastly, before I share Jeff’s poignant puppy mill story, please be reminded:  The purebred dog of your dreams may be awaiting you at your local shelter (yes, many purebred dogs do land there) or breed rescue association.  Please don’t forget to consider these options when you are thinking about “expanding the family.” 

Now, here is Jeff’s story:  

“Nancy: As you may perhaps recall, you sent a couple of very kind emails last year when our little Yorkie, Shelly, died suddenly after having three vaccinations in one day.  Soon after we were lucky enough to adopt two Yorkies who were saved from a raided puppy mill near New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Forty-six Yorkies were found in an abandoned house in the winter with no heat or water.  They were living in birdcages.  The Bucks County SPCA is the hero of this story.  Their director, Ann Irwin and her people responded to the police in the middle of the night.  She mobilized her whole staff and descended on the house at two in the morning and snatched up the poor little dogs.  I visited the SPCA a day later when they were giving the little tykes baths.  Most were so matted and filthy that they just shaved masses of fur rather than try to wash them.  We adopted a very small female, Molly, who they estimate is 5-6 years old.  She has numerous cesarean scars on her tummy from her various births.  When we got to the house, I took her outside to pee, but she was shocked at standing on grass; a first time experience.  After a day or so I was concerned that she wasn’t drinking water.  Then it struck me that she probably was not used to drinking from a bowl.  I bought her a tube type water dispenser like you would give to a hamster in a cage.  She practically emptied it.  I don’t think Molly will ever be completely house broken.  The extraordinary thing is how affectionate she is.  Having gone through what she did one would think she would fear humans.  She is the most loving little dog I have ever owned. The second dog is a puppy from one of the pregnant mothers who they let go to term.  We originally called her Lucy, but I renamed her Lucifer because she is so bad!  These dogs are a great joy, but I have no illusions about Molly.  I don’t think she will become an old dog due to her difficult years living in birdcages in unheated basements with poor nutrition.” 

Molly at the SPCA after being shaved and bathed

Molly at the SPCA after being shaved and bathed

Molly in her new home

Molly in her new home

Molly and Lucifer

Molly and Lucifer

Thanks to everyone who shared their opinions and stories.  Let’s hope for ongoing progress in the fight against puppy mills.  Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

 

Please share this blog with your dog-loving family and friends:

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Puppy Mills: People and Their Puppies Pay the Ultimate Price

January 10, 2010

Twice during the last month, I’ve experienced feelings of anger while in the midst of euthanizing one of my patients.  Normally I feel mostly sadness, often combined with an element of relief knowing that suffering is gently and humanely coming to an end.  Anger is an unusual visitor, but this emotion is sure to surface whenever I euthanize the innocent victim of a puppy mill (puppy mills are large scale breeding operations that produce puppies for profit with little or no attention paid to breed related inherited diseases).  I feel angered when confronted with a sweet little life, cut way too short and clients left confused, bereft, and devastated by the untimely loss of their beloved puppy. Such was the case with Max and Chloe and the people who cared for them. 

Max, was an insanely sweet and adorable Boston Terrier.  Once an effervescent, bubbly Boston, this nine-month-old pup had become listless- fatigued by the exertion of breathing.  You see, Max was born with an abnormally narrowed windpipe (imagine you or me trying to breathe through a straw).  My client Ed recalled thinking that his new pup’s breathing seemed abnormally noisy when he picked him up from the airport. He was shipped to California at 10 weeks of age from a breeder in Missouri.  Ed had been looking for a Boston Terrier and fell in love with Max the moment he saw his photo online.  He did not feel the need to visit the kennel where Max was born because he was so reassured by the emails and telephone conversations he and the breeder had exchanged.  She seemed to provide all the right answers to Ed’s questions.  Max’s health was guaranteed- any problems and Max could be returned, no questions asked. 

Other than the extra noise associated with Max’s breathing (not uncommon in a smoosh-faced breed such as a Boston Terrier), Ed thought he had a normal puppy on his hands.  It was only as Max’s body grew in relation to his small windpipe that he developed labored breathing, eventually needing to utilize almost every ounce of energy struggling simply to breathe. Ed was devastated by the news that we had no way to fix this problem.  With his own heart breaking, he held his sweet little Max tightly as I injected the euthanasia solution.  

Chloe, an eleven-month-old Cocker Spaniel, was born with defective kidneys.  Joe and Cindy first laid eyes on Chloe when they happened to pass through a shopping center pet store on their way to the movie theatre.  They never made it to the movies that afternoon- they bought a puppy instead! They simply couldn’t resist the charms of the little blonde puppy with the big brown eyes.  Joe and Cindy noticed that Chloe drank lots of water, and she could never be fully housetrained. A few months later, when she began vomiting and refusing her food, kidney failure was diagnosed.  Ultrasound revealed that both of Chloe’s kidneys were small and malformed- clearly a birth defect.  The once vigorous playful puppy gradually had become profoundly weak and lethargic.  Unfortunately, we had no reasonable way of creating long-term improvement for Chloe.  Heartbroken, Joe and Cindy gently stroked and loved their little girl as I ended her life. 

Puppy mills stay in business by preying on people who are willing to buy a puppy without doing their research.  These puppy purchasers simply don’t know better or allow their emotions to override their sensibilities.  They are vulnerable to the precious face in the online photo or the adorable puppy in the pet store window (pet stores are notorious for purchasing from puppy mills).  Puppy mill breeders often “seal the deal” by guaranteeing their puppies’ health, knowing full well how emotionally traumatic and near impossible it is for most people to “return a pup” once deep attachment occurs (deep attachment typically requires less than five minutes!).   

My new year’s wish is that my veterinary colleagues and I will see far fewer victims of puppy mills in 2010.  You can help my spreading word to people you know who are interested in purchasing a purebred or “designer hybrid” pup.  Educate them about the dangers of purchasing a puppy online, sight (and site) unseen.  Encourage them to avoid the impulsive pet store purchase.  By buying online or from a pet shop, they may be risking losing their beloved new family member at much too young an age, or inadvertently committing the next 10-15 years of their lives to taking care of an inherently unhealthy product of a puppy mill.  One less purchase from puppy mills, even indirectly is one step closer to their eradication.  Please stay tuned.  In my next blog, I will teach you how to recognize the telltale signs of a conscientious breeder. 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Please share this blog with your dog-loving family and friends:

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Back By Popular Demand- Dr. Nancy Kay on Fresh Air with Terry Gross!

August 30, 2009

“A Veterinarian Advises How to Speak for Spot”

Monday, August 31, 2009

This week will be “Animal Week” on the popular NPR show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross.  The lead interview will feature Dr. Nancy Kay and her book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life.  This interview originally aired in March and earned the #1 spot on NPR’s “most recommended” list.

Dr. Kay’s interview will be broadcast on August 31st by your local NPR station and streamed via the NPR website (http://freshair.npr.org).  In the future you can readily access the interview as a Fresh Air archived podcast and via ITunes. 

Visit http://www.npr.org/audiohelp/progstream.html to access links for each of these options. 

Please feel free to share this information with friends and relatives along with any organizations devoted to the well being of animals.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Join our email list – http://speakingforspot.com/joinemaillist.html

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Traveling with Spot

May 23, 2009

Speaking for Spot has taken me on quite a journey!  My book has opened doors to many fabulous invitations and opportunities. Here are a couple of examples.  Three weeks ago I was honored to give the keynote address at the Bergin University of Canine Studies commencement ceremony.  Located in Santa Rosa, California, this organization’s stated mission is advancement of the human-canine partnership through research and education.  Bergin University is the home of the Assistance Dog Institute in which dogs are trained for a variety of service jobs.  At the graduation ceremony I attended, three dogs began a lifetime of assistance work and companionship for three individuals with physical disabilities.  A fourth dog joined a family to assist with the needs of an autistic child.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!  In the course of my speech I discussed how my work and the work of Assistance Dog Institute both advance the human animal bond- we simply approach it from different angles.  While they train dogs to become advocates for their humans, I train humans to become advocates for their dogs. 

This past weekend, I paid a visit to the Argus Institute in Fort Collins, Colorado.  This organization recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.  The mission of the Argus Institute is to strengthen veterinarian-client-patient communication and support relationships between people and their companion animals.  Not only do they provide a tremendous support system for people experiencing grief about the loss or illness of a beloved pet, they also provide a comprehensive curriculum on client communication for Colorado State University veterinary students.  Believe it or not, most vet schools provide no formal training in client communication.  I was tremendously impressed by what I saw and learned at the Argus Institute and was privileged to provide a lecture while there on the topic of “How Veterinary Clients’ Expectations Are Changing.” 

I invite you to learn more about these two wonderful organizations by visiting www.assistancedog.org and www.argusinstitute.colostate.edu

Dr. Nancy Kay – Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. SPEAKING FOR SPOT is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Nancy-Kay/105415179814?ref=share 

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?story

Getting More Bark for Your Buck

February 12, 2009

Today the human-animal bond is stronger than ever. Seemingly, the more tumultuous the world around us, the tighter we cling to our beloved pets. They soothe us with their predictability and unconditional love, and they consistently give in excess of what they receive. Imagine then, the heartache one feels when it’s necessary to cut back on a pet’s health care because of financial hardship.

Last week I worked with Joan and her ten-year-old Labrador, Rudy who still acts like a puppy. They are devoted to one another, and Joan has always done everything possible to care for her best buddy’s health. Rudy had been vomiting and not finishing his meals (keep in mind, most Labs would quit breathing before they quit eating). When I mentioned blood tests and X-rays, Joan began sobbing and expressed profound guilt and worry because she was unable to afford these diagnostics. Like so many others in this diseased economy Joan recently lost her job, depleted her financial reserves, and was in the midst of foreclosure. I gave Joan a big hug, told her how much I appreciated her candor, and reassured her that a diet change and medication to soothe Rudy’s stomach might be the solution. She will call me with an update next week.

If you are feeling a financial pinch (who isn’t these days), here are some things you can do to economize while still caring for your pet’s health.

-When talking with your vet, lay your financial cards on the table. Yes, this is difficult (talking “fleas” is one thing- having a candid conversation about your bank account is whole ‘nother ball game), but know that such discussion can open doors to options that make better financial sense. Rarely is there only one way to diagnose or treat a disease. You are entitled to an explanation of the risks and benefits of every single option, regardless of your financial status.

-Request a written cost estimate before services are provided. In no way does this reflect how much you love your pet; you are simply being fiscally responsible.

-Learn about all of your payment options.

-Consider investing in pet health insurance, especially if you are inclined to take the “do-everything-possible” approach.

-Don’t neglect the preventive care that could save you money in the long run. Administering heartworm preventive is less expensive for you (and safer for your dog) than treating heartworm infection.

What should one do if forced to contemplate euthanasia for a pet solely because of financial constraints? Before succumbing to such a drastic decision, I strongly encourage thoroughly investigating every other conceivable option. Consider coming up with a creative payment plan such as bartering services or goods, borrowing money from friends or relatives (borrowing from a bank might be a silly suggestion these days), contacting a dog rescue association, applying for a donation from a pet health assistance organization, or finding a new, financially capable guardian for your pet. Such exploration of options might just save a life and will do wonders for everyone’s peace of mind.

Please visit www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. SPEAKING FOR SPOT is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Wishing you and your dog good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Zack

January 24, 2009

When I first met my Boxer buddy Zack and his devoted mom Jan, they were a rather intimidating pair. Both were distrustful, angry, and poised to bite – Zack with his teeth and Jan with her words. Zack wasn’t used to strange people getting into his “personal space.” I was able to approach this big beefy boy only when he was securely muzzled. I viewed Jan’s anger to be a normal stage of the grief process- not surprising given that she’d just received some awful news about her four-legged best friend. Zack had lymphoma, a cancer involving his lymph nodes, spleen and liver. Jan and I spent a few hours over the course of those first few days discussing the potential risks and benefits of treating Zack’s lymphoma with chemotherapy. That was just over one year ago.

Since the diagnosis, Zack and Jan were frequent visitors to my office. With time Zack transformed from a “Boxer bully” into a trusting, gentle boy- as if he somehow knew that all of our attention was helping him continue to feel good. He seemed to eagerly anticipate his quota of dog cookies, lots of attention from the nursing and reception staff, and the full body massages (physical examinations in disguise). Jan was able to let go of her anger, replacing it with tremendous appreciation. Lymphoma therapy provided a year of wonderful quality time for Zack and Jan. They recreated together by way of mountain climbing and Jan showed me pictures of Zack “smiling” while relishing the great outdoors. The stories I heard suggested they were profoundly enjoying each other’s company.

Yesterday, I said goodbye to this special and unforgettable patient of mine. With Jan by Zack’s side, I administered the euthanasia solution and he experienced a quick and peaceful passing. His ashes will be spread along the mountain trail where he and his mom enjoyed so much time together this past year. I feel incredibly privileged to have been along on the journey.

Dr. Nancy Kay
http://www.speakingforspot.com