Archive for the ‘Pet Loss’ Category

Dogs and Mushrooms: A Potentially Lethal Mix

April 1, 2011

Donato © Diana Gerba

     

I remember the sad sinking feeling I experienced last August as I read an email from my friend Diana Gerba.  Seeing her email in my inbox initially prompted excitement- oh goodie, more photos and stories about Donato,  Diana’s adorable Bernese Mountain Dog. My excitement quickly morphed into utter disbelief as Diana described the death of her barely six-month-old pup caused by ingestion of a poisonous mushroom.      

Diana’s heart was broken.  As she wrote in her email,     

A special boy, Donato was a silver tipped puppy, a rarity in our breed. With his tail always wagging, he had boundless enthusiasm for life.  He was a happy little chap and was my joy.  He loved me and I him. We were a team ordained by the stars.      

      

Diana and Donato © Peter Nystrom

Every region of the country is different in terms of mushroom flora. Where I live in northern California, Amanita phalloides (aka Death Cap) is the most common poisonous species and grows year round particularly in soil surrounding oak trees.  Ingestion of a Death Cap mushroom causes liver failure (in people and in dogs)- makes sense given the liver’s function as the “garbage disposal” of the body. Symptoms typically include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, delayed blood clotting, and neurological abnormalities.  Every year at my busy hospital, we see at least a handful of dogs with liver failure clearly caused by mushroom ingestion.  In spite our very best efforts, the individuals who survive mushroom poisoning are few and far between. Affected people can receive a liver transplant; no such technology available (yet) for dogs.      

     

To learn more about poisonous mushrooms visit the North American Mycological Association and Bay Area Mycological Society websites.  If you suspect your dog has ingested a mushroom get to your veterinary clinic or the closest emergency care facility immediately (choose whichever is most quickly accessible).  If possible, take along a sample of the mushroom so it can be professionally identified if need be.     

      

Fortunately, my friend Diana has managed to put a positive spin on the loss of her beloved Donato.  Not only does she have Tesoro, a new little Berner boy in her life, she has made it her personal mission to warn people about the potential hazards of mushroom toxicity in dogs.  She created the attached flyer (see above).  Feel free to download and post it wherever dog loving people congregate.  Diana sent a blast email out just a few days ago after finding a Death Cap mushroom in her yard.   Coincidentally, today I discovered several mushrooms on my property while beginning the task of weeding my garden. They’re gone now, but given our current weather pattern, I’m quite sure there will be more tomorrow.     

What can you do to prevent your dog from ingesting a poisonous mushroom?  Clear any mushrooms from your dog’s immediate surroundings, and be super vigilant on your walks, particularly if you have a pup (youngsters love to put anything and everything in their mouths) or an adult dog who is a known indiscriminate eater.  Learn more about which poisonous mushrooms grow in your area and what they look like.  And please remember, if you see your dog ingest a mushroom- get yourselves to a veterinary hospital as quickly as possible (even if it is after hours). Ingestion of even a nibble of a toxic mushroom is life threatening, and the sooner treatment is started the greater the likelihood of saving your best buddy.     

Are you aware of poisonous mushrooms in your neck of the woods?  If so, please share where you live (city and state) and the name of the mushroom if you happen to know it.     

Best wishes for good health,       

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

Veterinary Care Links and Resources for You and Your Four-Legged Family Members

August 15, 2009

Some new educational links and resources have just been added to my website! I invite you to visit www.speakingforspot.com and take advantage of all that is there. In addition to the “Advocacy Aids” (free downloadable health care forms for your dog or cat), you will now find resources and links about all of the following:

1. Behavior & Training
2. Canine Disease Registries
3. Deciding Whether Veterinary Pet Insurance is Right for You
4. Disaster Preparedness
5. Disease-Specific Information
6. Paying for Veterinary Care
7. Pet Loss and Grief
8. Symptom-Specific Information
9. Veterinary References
10. Veterinary Specialty Organizations
11. What to Do When the Diagnosis is Cancer

All of this new material can be found on our “For Dog Lovers” pages. It has been designed to supplement the tools and information found in Speaking for Spot, and will be updated on a regular basis to keep you informed about advances in veterinary medicine. I hope you will find it useful and welcome your feedback. Please let me know what you think and advise me of any additions or changes that would make you happy.

Please feel free to link to our website and share the information with your animal-loving friends and relatives.

Now, here’s wishing you and your four-legged family members much good health!

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

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Dogs, the Opiate of the Masses

July 13, 2009

 I facilitate a Client Support Group at my veterinary hospital.  We meet regularly to provide support for those struggling emotionally with the illness or loss of a beloved four-legged family member.  The last session had most of us in tears.  Some in attendance just listened; others bared their souls, talking about feelings of heartache, guilt, emptiness, and loneliness.  The mood was somber and supportive. 

Two darling dogs, Hannah and Coco had accompanied their moms to this particular session.  Throughout the evening, these mischievous girls let us know in no uncertain terms that they were interested in meeting each other. At the end of our meeting we turned Hannah and Coco loose and watched them run, spin, pounce, posture and play.  It was unadulterated exuberance and delightful mayhem!  During this brief doggie romp, I looked around the room and was tickled to see huge grins on the faces of everyone in the room. It was as though everyone had received a drug that transformed expressions of pain and sadness into undeniable joy.  The change in the room was stunning and profound, and provided, for me a unique feeling I shall never forget.  While in the midst of this magical moment, the thought that swirled through my mind is the title of this blog, “Dogs, the opiate of the masses.” 

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. 

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

A Gift From Alice!

June 16, 2009

A woman named Alice recently sent an email via my website asking me for guidance.  Her veterinarian had recommended dental cleaning for her seven-year-old Shiba Inu (an adorable breed) named Posey.  While Alice was in agreement that the dental cleaning was truly warranted, she was terribly worried about Posey undergoing general anesthesia.  Posey had no significant risks for anesthesia, but Alice was influenced by the painful loss of her last dog who died unexpectedly under anesthesia.  Her email was sent to solicit my advice on how to proceed.

I certainly understood Alice’s concerns- who wouldn’t feel the same way?  I responded to her email by encouraging her to read the chapter in Speaking for Spot called “Important Questions to Ask Your Vet….and How to Ask Them.”  Specifically I referred her to the list of nine questions she would find within the chapter pertaining to general anesthesia such as:

-How can we be certain my dog is a good candidate for anesthesia?

-Will an intravenous (IV) catheter be placed prior to anesthesia?

-What anesthetic monitoring equipment will be used?

Alice responded a few days later.  The tone of her email had changed entirely- she sounded profoundly upbeat.  She had asked her veterinarian all nine questions from the book.  As a result, she felt empowered and had tremendous confidence moving forward with Posey’s dental work.  Two weeks later I heard from Alice again.  Posey’s dental work was completed and everything proceeded without a hitch (and Posey’s breath was vastly improved).  What a fabulous gift such feedback is for me! It makes all that effort that went into Speaking for Spot feel incredibly worthwhile.  Thank you Alice!

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

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

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot
Become a Speaking for Spot Fan on Facebook

A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com

Please Joe, Say it Isn’t So

June 9, 2009

My heart aches today for Joe Camp.  Although you may not recognize his name, chances are you’ve heard of Benji, the adorable dog of movie fame.  Benji was Joe’s creation.  Joe recently wrote a wonderful book called Soul of a Horse.  I’ve corresponded a bit with Joe, author to author, and have followed his blog posts.  I’ve loved hearing about his gorgeous buckskin mustang mare Noelle, and her incredibly adorable three-month-old foal Malachi.  Joe’s descriptions of Malachi’s antics have been priceless. 

When I opened my email today, my heart sank.  The title of Joe’s email was “Malachi is gone.”  As much as I didn’t want to read the email I forced myself.  I learned that Malachi passed away on June 3rd, the result of a freak accident- the kind no one can possibly predict when it comes to unpredictable horse behavior.  I have no doubt that Joe and his wife are devastated as are every single one of Joe’s fans, myself included.  Poor Noelle is without her baby.  It all feels so nonsensical.  

If you have a moment, I encourage you to reach out to Joe.  You’ll find him at Joe@TheSoulofaHorse.com.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you are fond of horses.  If you understand the human animal bond, Joe will feel your support. 

Wishing you and your dog good health,

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

Look for us on Twitter – http://twitter.com/speakingforspot
Become a Speaking for Spot Fan on Facebook

A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com