Archive for the ‘Family Dog’ Category

What Not to Name Your Dog

August 14, 2010

credit to multiple=

You can call me superstitious or call me crazy, but I stand firm in my belief that certain dog names should be completely avoided. Yes your new pup may be just as sweet as sugar, but call her “Sugar” and you can just about be guaranteed that she will develop sugar diabetes later in life.  Thinking of calling your dog “Lucky”?  Really? Are you kidding me?!  Every “Lucky” I’ve ever known was lucky enough to get kicked by a horse, run over by a truck, lose an eye in a dog fight, fall off a cliff, or develop every serious disease known to dog-kind. 

If you feel compelled to name your new dog after the dog you just lost, consider some serious self-introspection. When I meet Bart II, Bart III, or Bart IV (yes, I’ve met every single one of these Barts), I sense that my client never fully embraced the grieving process.

I’m a believer in freedom of speech, but name your adorable new pup “Satan”, “Killer”, or “Hitler” (yes, I’ve encountered all three) and don’t count on developing a warm and fuzzy relationship with your veterinarian.

And finally, if you happen to get two pups at the same time (generally not a good idea, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog), please avoid any of this “Bonnie and Clyde”, “Mickey and Minnie” or “Pinot and Noir” business.  Inevitably, one of your beloveds will precede the other in death and the matching name thing is only going to make the loss feel all the more painful.  It’s awfully hard for a “Batman” to stand on his own two feet (make that four feet) when “Robin” is no longer part of the dynamic duo.

Google “dog names” and you’ll come up with almost five million hits. C’mon now, no excuses!

What is your dog’s name and have you been pleased with your choice?

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.

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Keep Your Pets Safe This 4th of July

June 30, 2010

You will find some great articles and advice for keeping your pets safe over the July 4th holiday weekend.

http://vetmedicine.about.com/cs/diseasesall/a/petsfireworks.htm

http://www.marinhumanesociety.org/Press/InNews/tomfireworks2.html

http://blog.fetchthepaper.com/2007/06/4th-of-july-saf.html

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Nellie (Toto) is a Superstar!

January 1, 2010

My little Nellie has become a star of stage! For those of you who may have missed it (http://speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=537), I blogged about volunteering to train my little, bitty ragamuffin of a mutt to become a believable Toto in the Santa Rosa Junior College production of the Wizard of Oz.  Nellie and I trained tirelessly for two solid months during which time no one was allowed to call her Nellie.  We helped her “get into character” by referring to her only as Toto.  There were training treats galore (she may have gained a pound or more) and my family and neighbors grew tired of hearing my high-pitched commands of, “Nellie come!”  While all of this was going on, my husband Alan was rehearsing for his dual roles as Professor Marvel and The Wizard of Oz. 

           

The production was a stunning success!  The actors were brilliant, the costumes were breathtaking, and the sets were extraordinary.  There were flying witches and flying monkeys, and the hurricane scene was dazzling.  I may be a bit biased in my assessment, but want you to know that my husband was nothing short of spectacular in his acting debut.  And what about little Nellie?  This marvelous little canine actress captured the character of Toto in a fashion never before realized on stage or film.  She was utterly captivating as she sat demurely in her basket, listened attentively as her beloved Dorothy sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, stole a hotdog on cue from Professor Marvel, acted fearful in the arms of the flying monkeys, and successfully escaped from the witch’s castle! 

From start to finish, Nellie was a little angel and grew to love going to the theatre.  The entire cast and technical crew doted on her and she even had her own personal stage manager who made sure that she had opportunity to empty her bladder and showed up at the right places at the right times.  She received thunderous applause during the cast bows.  My little Nellie is truly a superstar.  It may be time to think about finding her an agent! 

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

Colorblind Adoptions

October 14, 2009

Whenever I meet with a patient (dog or cat) and client (their human) for the first time I always ask some version of, “How long have you two known each other?”  I love watching my client’s face light up as they recall that first moment of kitten or puppy love.  I delight in hearing the wonderful and amazing tales of how their lives managed to cross paths.   If my patient happens to be a black cat, I always provide kudos to my client for having performed an extraordinarily good deed.  You see, black kitties are notoriously more difficult to find homes for than are cats of other colors.  Perhaps this is related to black cat Halloweenish superstitions.  What I hadn’t realized, until now, is that black dogs are also more difficult to place than their colorful canine counterparts.

Dr. Kay with her dog Lexie who was solid black until 12 years of age

According to an October 9th NBC News article by Emily Friedman, just as is the case for black cats, large black dogs tend to be the last ones to be adopted from shelters.  There are a few theories as to why. Many shelters offer no natural lighting, making it hard for the face of a black dog to stand out- it is more difficult to distinguish their facial features than it would be in lighter colored dogs or those with contrasting markings.  Kim Saunders, the head of shelter outreach for the Web site Petfinder.com believes that black dogs are overlooked because they don’t photograph as well as lighter colored animals.  When people are shopping for the next love of their lives, they are looking for a face that stands out with special appeal.  Some theorize that it is human nature to be drawn to things with more vibrant color or riveting hair coat patterns.  Placing solid colored black cats and large black dogs can be so difficult that some shelters run promotions and try to create more color and appeal- necks adorned with colorful scarves, discounted adoption fees, and even superhero names. When you are ready to begin searching for the next canine or feline love of your life, I encourage you to pay special attention to those that are solid black in color. They’re in need of a special advantage when it comes to landing in the type of loving, caring home that every dog and cat deserves.

Wishing you and your four-legged family members 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. 

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 –

Preparing for the “Unthinkable”

October 9, 2009

 It’s hard to imagine that our pets might outlive us.  Worse yet is imagining our beloved pets, unsettled by the loss of their favorite human, having to adapt to a new situation, perhaps without the affection, and attention we would want for them.  As hard as this “unthinkable” situation may be to consider, I encourage you to prepare for it in a way that protects your precious four-legged family members. 

Just as you are obliged to create the paperwork that makes it undeniably clear who will inherit your possessions and assume guardianship of your children, spend some time determining who will take care of your pets.  Here are some tips for getting started: 

-Select the person you want to assume guardianship and confirm their willingness to take on this responsibility.  I encourage you to be specific about your wishes regarding the quality of care for your pet and your philosophy about medical treatment and euthanasia. 

-Prepare all of the official paperwork just as you would for any other advanced directives.  

-Set up a trust fund to care for your pet’s future needs.  Providing for the guardian will allow the guardian to provide for your pets. 

I recently happened upon a wonderful website (www.pettrustlawblog.com) that will help you with all legal matters pertaining to pets, including trusts and guardianship.  Attorney Danny Meek presents material that is thoughtful, comprehensive, and easy to understand.  (This says a lot, as I’m rarely able to comprehend attorney-speak.)  It’s also clear that this guy really loves animals.  I encourage you to pay Mr. Meek a visit. 

As my Grandma Goldie used to tell me, “People plan, and God laughs.”  My husband and I have made plans for our animals, should the “unthinkable” happen.  How about you?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members 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. 

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 –

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

September 24, 2009

It began as a simple request from my incredibly talented friend, Leira.  She is directing a production of The Wizard of Oz at our local junior college, set to run around Thanksgiving.  Knowing that I am well connected in the dog world, she asked for my assistance in finding a suitable Toto.  She told me that any breed or look would do as long as the dog was small enough to fit in a basket and was well trained.  

I reassured Leira that I would be able to readily recruit a few suitable candidates to audition for her.  I let my dog training buddies know, put out word at the dog park, and solicited all of my more than 100 dog-loving coworkers.  My notions of being a successful talent scout were quickly dispelled.   I heard the same response over and over again-  “I’d love for my dog to be Toto, but he’s not really well trained,” or  “I know a dog who would be the perfect Toto, but she’s doesn’t really obey commands.”  I should have considered things a bit more carefully before reassuring Leira that I had the role of Toto covered.  My experience tells me that the vast majority of little dogs are not well trained.  It’s not that they are not smart- in fact the opposite is usually the case.  They are so smart that it is more about them training their humans than the other way around!  

I approached Leira with my tail between my legs and let her know that I’d struck out.  I should have kept my mouth shut after saying, “I’m sorry.” Rather, the part of me that hoped to “fix” the situation blurted out, “You can use Nellie if you want.”  What in the world was I thinking! Nellie is an 11 or so pound Terrier mix who was delivered to my hospital a couple of years ago by a good Samaritan.   He’d found her wandering the streets. She was a skinny little ragamuffin- in heat, terribly underweight with horrific skin disease, and her body was peppered with BB’s.  The second I looked into her eyes, I was smitten. I took her home just to “try things out.” It took just a night to know she was ours for keeps.  She is the very first little dog we’ve ever shared our home and hearts with and yes, she is our very first dog that has not been taught all of the basic obedience commands.  She is lovely, kind, adorable, and sweet in every way, but we simply never “trained” her.  Somehow, just as for all those other “little dog people” it simply seemed that such training wasn’t really necessary, that is until now.  I have until mid-November to teach my little Nellie to play a convincing Toto.  Come by my house these days and you are likely to hear a high pitched “Dorothyesque” voice shouting, “Toto come!”  Oy Vey! What have I gotten myself into!?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members 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. 

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 –

Differing Perspectives on the Same Observations

September 13, 2009

I’ve received many wonderful emails in response to my interviews on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The stories I’ve heard about peoples’ pets run the gamut from delightful to heart wrenching. Many listeners described crying while driving- I certainly hope Terry and I were not responsible for creating any collisions!

I’ve also received emails from a handful of folks who were put off by the Fresh Air interviews. The content of Anne’s comments (printed below with her permission) is representative of what these disgruntled listeners had to say:

“I’m annoyed at how dogs have become soooo important over the past 10 years or so. They’re just pets! Just animals. Clearly all this elevation of dogs is a by-product of a society in trouble. Never would I have imagined that dogs would be referred to as ‘family members’ or ‘surrogate children.’ NEVER!! Back in the day, the dog was just the ‘family dog’, not ‘the dog family member.’ It was like, ‘Yeah, there’s the dog, so what?’ No thought was given to brushing its teeth, worrying about dog cancer, or feeling guilty if we went on vacation and left the dog at home with a neighbor to look after it. I recently read a book about an African village, and the hard life they have, and the poverty. I found it so shameful that they live like that, while America’s dogs are often dressed in designer clothes, waited on hand and foot, given the best medical care, the best food, cooed over, etc. What the hell has happened to Americans? We’ve gone nutty! Dogs are just dogs, driven by selfish instinct to look after its own interests.”

As easy as it would be to ignore such “fan mail,” I truly believe that Anne’s comments are worthy of consideration. Given what I do for a living, I have certainly grappled with what I believe Anne is questioning. Is it reasonable to invest so much, emotionally and financially, in our pets when there is so much human suffering in the world? After all, the amount of money spent on one of our four-legged family members during the course of a year would represent a fortune to someone who is impoverished. Wouldn’t “shut in” senior citizens relish the affection and attention we lavish upon our pets?

While I agree with Anne’s observations- yes, many people consider their pets to be “family members” and yes, there is a great deal of human suffering in the world- I disagree with her notion that doting on our pets detracts from our willingness and ability to give of ourselves to others. I contend that the opposite is true. Many studies have documented that the human-animal bond positively impacts peoples’ psychological well-being. People whose “emotional bellies” are full rather than empty are more inspired and capable of giving their time, energy, and financial resources to others in need. One need not be a scientist to know that pets bestow a unique brand of sweetness and joy upon our lives; they keep us grounded even when insanity abounds. As I state in the introduction of Speaking for Spot, “Today the human-animal bond is stronger than ever. Perhaps, 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.”

Loving our pets does not make them more important than humans, nor does it “replace” our ability to tend to the needy. Rather, opening our homes and our hearts to animals makes our own humanity more accessible. Temple Grandin got it just right when she titled her newest book, “Animals Make Us Human.” Our love of animals doesn’t fill up our hearts- it makes our hearts grow bigger.

Wishing you and your four-legged family members 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.

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 –

Givin’ it Up For Spot

August 9, 2009

A recent issue of the journal called Tobacco Control reported that approximately 28 percent of cigarette smokers would try to quit if they knew that secondhand smoke might endanger their pets.  Among the authors of this article is the late Ronald Davis, MD, who championed the One Health Initiative when he was president of the American Medical Association. (One Health Initiative is a movement to forge co-equal, all-inclusive collaborations between physicians, veterinarians, and other scientific-health related disciplines.)

The researchers conducted an online survey of 3,293 adults who lived with pets.  Approximately 21 percent were smokers and 27 percent lived with a smoker.  When informed of the dangers of secondhand smoke to their pets, a percentage of respondents indicated that, not only would they try to quit, they would try to convince other smokers in the household to quit smoking indoors or quit smoking altogether. The researchers concluded that educational campaigns about the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure to pets would convince some people to quit smoking, or at least make their homes smoke free. 

This is great news, from both the human-health and the pet-health perspectives. We know that cigarette smoke can cause bronchitis in dogs and asthma in cats.  Additionally, just as in people, cigarette smoke can cause cancer.  Whenever I examine a cat or dog with symptoms referable to asthma or bronchitis, I always ask if anyone in the household is a smoker.  Sometimes I don’t even have to ask the question because my patient’s hair coat reeks of cigarette smoke!

Do any of your friends or relatives smoke around their four-legged family members?  If so, talk to them about the dangers of second hand smoke.  The data from Tobacco Control suggests that approximately 28 percent of them will change their habits based on your conversation!  Please let me hear from you after you’ve had a chance to conduct your own research.

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

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. 

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