Archive for the ‘Veterinary Medicine’ Category

A Primer on Canine Tetanus

June 26, 2016

SFSBlog_tetanusOdds are really good that none of the dogs you’ll ever know will develop tetanus. So, why have I chosen to write about this disease? Blame it on Facebook (FB). For those of you who use FB, when I describe the vegetative trance one can enter while scrolling through a FB news feed, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This is the state I was in when I happened to scroll past a photo of a Labrador’ish-looking dog whose facial expression appeared pretty much just like the dog pictured here. This very classic photo pulled me right out of my FB trance.

The text accompanying the photo was a plea for help in the way of “Can anyone tell me what is wrong with my dog?” The FB poster indicated that her vet had already examined her dog a few times, but there was still no diagnosis. Even with baytril (an antibiotic) and pain medication on board, her dog was steadily getting worse. Her dog was still able to walk, but appeared very stiff.

I don’t usually get involved in requests for a “photo diagnosis.” A single photo can usually translate into a dozen or more diagnoses. However, this particular photo was classic- a textbook case of tetanus. And, I knew that, without appropriate treatment administered just as soon as possible, this dog would be doomed. I felt a moral obligation to respond.

I posted a comment letting the FB poster know that her dog likely had tetanus and was in need of intensive therapy. I encouraged her to seek help ASAP, ideally by way of an emergency hospital, or veterinary specialist such as an internist or criticalist. I asked if the dog had a recent wound that would have allowed the tetanus organism to gain entry.

The response arrived within seconds. Sure enough, a week or so ago the dog had been limping due to a cut on his toe. She thanked me profusely and let me know that she would get help for her dog right away. I wished her the best of luck and our FB conversation ended.

The cause of tetanus

Tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani, a soil bacterium that can enter the bloodstream via a wound, most commonly on the foot or in the mouth. Puppies can develop tetanus because they chew on sticks and other soil-contaminated goodies, and they have open wounds in their gums created by the loss of baby teeth.

The clostridial organism produces a toxin called tetanospasmin that binds to nerve cells and interferes with the function of a particular neurotransmitter (a chemical released from a nerve cell that transmits an impulse) responsible for inhibiting muscle contractions. Disabling this inhibitory neurotransmitter results in relentless muscle spasms.

Symptoms

Tetanus symptoms usually begin around the face and eyes. Dogs lose their ability to blink accompanied by changes in facial features. This classic facial appearance (the one that prompted me to respond to the FB post) is referred to as risus sardonicus.

With time, symptoms become more generalized throughout the body ultimately resulting in a spastic paralysis- the dog is unable to move at all because of muscle rigidity. Without appropriate treatment, death occurs due to paralysis of the muscles responsible for breathing.

To see a dog with tetanic symptoms, have a look at this video. Not to worry, this video has a happy ending.

Diagnosis

There is no simple test for diagnosing tetanus. Rather, the diagnosis is made based on symptoms and the history of a wound that allowed the clostridial organism to gain entry into the bloodstream.

Treatment and prognosis

Clostridium tetani is an anaerobic bacterial organism, meaning that it thrives in environments devoid of oxygen. A wound festering beneath the skin surface is an ideal incubator. For this reason, it is important to treat the wound (if one is found) where the bacteria gained entry. This involves debridement- opening the wound and removing as much infected tissue as possible.

Appropriate antibiotic therapy is imperative. Penicillin-related drugs work well against the clostridial organism and, at least initially, they are typically administered intravenously. With improvement, oral antibiotics are appropriate. (Baytril, the antibiotic the FB dog was being treated with, is ineffective against Clostridium tetani.)

Additional treatment is dictated by the severity of symptoms. Muscle relaxants are commonly administered along with medication to reduce anxiety. If the dog is unable to eat because of “lock jaw”, nutrition is provided by way of a feeding tube. And if the dog is unable to move, intensive nursing care is required.

Dogs with tetanus are usually super-sensitive to stimuli, and sights and sounds can intensify muscle contractions. For this reason, these dogs are often sedated and kept in a dark quiet room during the recovery period. Long-term treatment- up to a month or more- is often required.

The prognosis for tetanus is good, assuming the dog receives early intervention and aggressive treatment. As with most diseases, the earlier the diagnosis is made and treatment started, the better the prognosis.

Prevention

Dogs are not routinely vaccinated against tetanus because they are so much less susceptible to this disease than are other species such as horses, livestock and people. This being said, it does make sense to thoroughly clean even minor wounds, particularly those on the feet.

How the story ends

So, how did things turn out for the dog I “met” on FB? I sure wish I knew. Silly me, I failed to note the woman’s name and, because we are not FB “friends”, I am at a loss as to how to find her again. I suspect things turned out well, and I’m glad my FB conversation prompted me to teach you about tetanus!

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
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 and Your Dog’s Best Health.   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 and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

 

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It's foxtail season, again!

May 31, 2011

Photo © Margaret Birkhaeuser

 The emergency room docs I work with are  busy pulling foxtails out of eyes, ears, noses, and throats as well as from in between toes.  Such activity reminds me that it is once again time to blog about these pesky bristly plant awns that grow in abundance where I live in California.  In fact they are reported in most every state west of the Mississippi.  For more information about foxtails and the ways they wreak havoc, please read the blog I wrote right about this time last year.  

This year I’d like to tell you about a new way to prevent foxtails from finding their way into their favorite canine orifices (eyes, ears, nose, and mouth). Check out the OutFox Field Guard™ (www.outfoxfieldguard.com), the brainchild of a clever woman named Margaret Birkhaeuser. I suspect her invention was born as a result of multiple foxtail related trips to the veterinary hospital.  Have a look at Margaret’s site and you will see dogs modeling their mesh bonnets along with a video demonstrating the ease of attaching and detaching the device from a dog’s collar.  Believe it or not, dogs can drink and even carry toys in their mouths while wearing them!  A few of my clients who have purchased the product are completely sold on their investment.  

Photo © Margaret Birkhaeuser

If your dog has been a foxtail repeat offender I strongly encourage you to consider the OutFox Field Guard™.  Not only is it a great insurance policy to protect your dog’s health, think about the money you’ll save by eliminating trips to the vet clinic during foxtail season.  

Photo © Margaret Birkhaeuser

Has your dog been a repeat offender?  Please share your story.  

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.

What's in Your First Aid Kit?

December 2, 2010

My recovery from recent back surgery is going to keep me away from the computer for a bit.  During this time I’m happy to present some excellent posts with timely information written by several  veterinarians and dog-bloggers whose posts I regularly follow.  Today’s post, “What’s in Your First Aid Kit?” was written by Dr. Janet Crosby who authors the very popular and informative Veterinary Medicine content at http://vetmedicine.about.com/.  Please make her feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! . 

Best wishes, 

Dr. Nancy Kay

I have been interested in first aid since I was given my first “doctor kit” when I was 5. I bandaged up toy animals (and patient real ones) to practice my craft. Later on, I took swimming lessons in lifesaving and CPR classes in college. More recently, my colleague and I taught “wilderness first aid for pets” classes at an outdoor gear store. Will all of that, I should have a perfectly assembled, everything-in-its-place first aid kit; ready to assist whoever, whenever.

Ha. I wish. 

I have tried. I have assembled various kits over the years, the contents becoming outdated or misplaced over time. I now have a loosely assembled “dog bag” with medical stuff that will do for many situations, but it isn’t a true first aid kit. I have been trying to get myself more organized. Just in case. 

Many of the items in a pet first aid kit will work for all pets – scissors, antiseptics, bandages, tape, and so on. It is important to realize that each pet should have their own specialized part of the first aid kit as needed. For example, traveling with my Greyhound Argos has prioritized the need for probiotics (stress gut) and bandaging materials just in case. (Greyhounds have thin skin and sometimes-too-quick reflexes.) As Sophie has inched up in years, I travel with some anti-inflammatory pain relief to use as needed after long hikes. The Thundershirt, while not typical “first aid,” also travels with us when some calm is called for. 

First Aid Kits For Pets
There are many, many choices for first aid kits for pets, as seen in this Google search. What kit is the “right” kit for your pet? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Look for ones that contain most of what you are looking for and add to it. Or build your own. I always add sterile eye wash (not the contact lens cleaner and not medicated in any way), just in case of a foreign body or liquid contamination of they eye. Nail clippers are handy if dealing with a torn toenail. Your veterinarian will also be able to provide pet-specific advice if you have questions. 

It is also a good idea to check into pet first aid classes. Having a spiffy new first aid kit is no good if you don’t know how to use it. Check your local veterinary clinics, Red Cross, or retailers such as Petco, now offering online pet first aid classes. You can even learn first aid tips and techniques on your phone

A Good Thing To Have In The Car
An all-purpose first aid kit is good to have in the car in case you find an injured animal on the road or witness an accident. A muzzle is a necessary kit item (or make one) when dealing with injured and frightened animals. 

Do You Have A Pet First Aid Kit?
Did you purchase or make your kit? Please share your tips for making and using a pet first aid kit

Photo: First Aid Kit by marvinxsteadfast on Flickr 

Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM never planned to be a writer. She wanted to be a veterinarian from the moment she learned such a job existed – sometime during the first grade, when she accompanied her mom to the vet with a sick cat. Janet “adopted” all the neighborhood cats, and at age 11 she started training her first dog, a newly adopted rescue Collie. At age 12, she joined a dog obedience 4-H club and was active through high school as a member and as a junior leader.

Read more: http://blog.k9cuisine.com/vet-med/whats-in-your-first-aid-kit/#ixzz16y058SIi

_____________________________________________________

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 guft wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

What’s in Your First Aid Kit?

December 2, 2010

My recovery from recent back surgery is going to keep me away from the computer for a bit.  During this time I’m happy to present some excellent posts with timely information written by several  veterinarians and dog-bloggers whose posts I regularly follow.  Today’s post, “What’s in Your First Aid Kit?” was written by Dr. Janet Crosby who authors the very popular and informative Veterinary Medicine content at http://vetmedicine.about.com/.  Please make her feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! . 

Best wishes, 

Dr. Nancy Kay

I have been interested in first aid since I was given my first “doctor kit” when I was 5. I bandaged up toy animals (and patient real ones) to practice my craft. Later on, I took swimming lessons in lifesaving and CPR classes in college. More recently, my colleague and I taught “wilderness first aid for pets” classes at an outdoor gear store. Will all of that, I should have a perfectly assembled, everything-in-its-place first aid kit; ready to assist whoever, whenever.

Ha. I wish. 

I have tried. I have assembled various kits over the years, the contents becoming outdated or misplaced over time. I now have a loosely assembled “dog bag” with medical stuff that will do for many situations, but it isn’t a true first aid kit. I have been trying to get myself more organized. Just in case. 

Many of the items in a pet first aid kit will work for all pets – scissors, antiseptics, bandages, tape, and so on. It is important to realize that each pet should have their own specialized part of the first aid kit as needed. For example, traveling with my Greyhound Argos has prioritized the need for probiotics (stress gut) and bandaging materials just in case. (Greyhounds have thin skin and sometimes-too-quick reflexes.) As Sophie has inched up in years, I travel with some anti-inflammatory pain relief to use as needed after long hikes. The Thundershirt, while not typical “first aid,” also travels with us when some calm is called for. 

First Aid Kits For Pets
There are many, many choices for first aid kits for pets, as seen in this Google search. What kit is the “right” kit for your pet? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Look for ones that contain most of what you are looking for and add to it. Or build your own. I always add sterile eye wash (not the contact lens cleaner and not medicated in any way), just in case of a foreign body or liquid contamination of they eye. Nail clippers are handy if dealing with a torn toenail. Your veterinarian will also be able to provide pet-specific advice if you have questions. 

It is also a good idea to check into pet first aid classes. Having a spiffy new first aid kit is no good if you don’t know how to use it. Check your local veterinary clinics, Red Cross, or retailers such as Petco, now offering online pet first aid classes. You can even learn first aid tips and techniques on your phone

A Good Thing To Have In The Car
An all-purpose first aid kit is good to have in the car in case you find an injured animal on the road or witness an accident. A muzzle is a necessary kit item (or make one) when dealing with injured and frightened animals. 

Do You Have A Pet First Aid Kit?
Did you purchase or make your kit? Please share your tips for making and using a pet first aid kit

Photo: First Aid Kit by marvinxsteadfast on Flickr 

Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM never planned to be a writer. She wanted to be a veterinarian from the moment she learned such a job existed – sometime during the first grade, when she accompanied her mom to the vet with a sick cat. Janet “adopted” all the neighborhood cats, and at age 11 she started training her first dog, a newly adopted rescue Collie. At age 12, she joined a dog obedience 4-H club and was active through high school as a member and as a junior leader.

Read more: http://blog.k9cuisine.com/vet-med/whats-in-your-first-aid-kit/#ixzz16y058SIi

_____________________________________________________

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 guft wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Finding the Cure for Drug Delivery Ills

November 29, 2010

While I’m busy recovering from some back surgery, you have the good fortune of reading posts from some of my favorite doggie bloggers!  Today’s post comes from Dr. Patty Khuly whose writes the Fully Vetted blog at www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted.  Please make her feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! 

Best wishes,

Dr. Nancy Kay

Getting pets to pop their pills is a huge issue. So huge, in fact, that a drug’s delivery method often informs veterinary decision making, sometimes more than the drug’s other properties. Side effects, for example, matter far less when the alternative is no treatment at all.

 

The “drug delivery” issue is getting more play recently, what with the growing list of drugs we’re now prescribing for our patients. This, coupled with issues of accessibility, availability and price fuels a sizable niche industry created specifically to meet the needs of pets who won’t — or can’t — tolerate drugs and supplements designed to treat and/or prevent their ills. After all, pets can be picky about what we put in their mouths or mix into their meals. And you would be too if you didn’t understand why you needed to take that multivitamin, glucosamine, or fatty acid gelcap on a daily basis.

This is why compounding pharmacies exist. For the modern veterinarian, being able to access our favorite compounding pharmacy’s expertise in the formulation of new versions of the same-old drugs that line our shelves is a boon to our profession. But few veterinary clients fully understand what it is our compounding pharmacies do for us. To help unmuddy the waters, here’s a brief list of how these places help us bring better care to our patients:

1. Delivery, delivery, delivery

As for the real estate and location truism, so too does the veterinary drug industry rely on the “D” word.

As a pet owner, you know how it is. We try everything to get meds into our pets. Some of us hide our pets’ pills in foodstuffs or treats: cream cheese, peanut butter (chunky works best, IMO), ham, chicken breast, pill pockets, filet mignon …

As veterinarians, we also do whatever it takes to get the meds into our patients. And, yes, sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error.

More than anything else, what we all want is a cure that requires no daily discomfort, wriggling, stressing, in-the-towel-burrito-ing or the potential for biting, scratching or generalized inter-species strife. This is where the compounding pharmacy comes in with their ability to turn…

a.    chalky to chewy
b.    bitter to tasty
c.    oral to topical

Yes, topical. So it is that sometimes compounding pharmacies can manage the seemingly impossible.

2. Availability

Is your drug on back-order? Discontinued? Supply chain hassles? Never fear. You don’t have to compromise your pet’s care if you can find a compounding pharmacy willing to make it for you. That’s what lots of veterinarians are doing now with drugs like ophthalmic cyclosporine. When the supply goes dry, compounding pharmacies’ production ramps up.

3. Safety

I’m not big on doing chemotherapy in-house. I’d always rather send my patients to the specialists where the required drugs are more safely housed. Yet I have plenty of clients who prefer that I administer these drugs personally, citing their pets’ greater comfort in a place they already know well.

This is where compounding pharmacies come in. They’ll ship pre-measured doses to me, already in their syringes and ready to inject. Safer for me, my staff, and my patients.

4. Convenience

Want your meds shipped directly to you? Your vet can arrange for that. Pharmacies will ship monthly, on cue, if that’s what you need.

It’s hard to quantify, but we suspect that non-compliance resulting from an inability to administer meds is among the biggest drivers of poor clinical outcomes in veterinary medicine (if not the biggest). Then there’s the issue of antibiotic resistance to deal with when antibiotics are started. The pill is found under the sofa … started again … spit out again … repeat …

Given this setup, is it any wonder that compounding pharmacies are finding veterinary medicine a lucrative place to invest their time and money?

But the take-home message here is not about building new businesses with our pet-dedicated dollars; it’s more about the willingness to meet our pets’ needs by making medications work through any means necessary.

Trouble is, clients don’t always inform us when the meds aren’t going down the gullet. Not every pet owner is educated enough about drug choices to know they can ask us for alternatives. And, truth be told, we don’t always pointedly ask whether an unhappy outcome might be the result of poor drug compliance. (It just seems kind of rude to ask, you know?)

However, now that you’ve read this, you know what you need to do. When you come across a tidy stack of tablets your dog has hidden under the bed, or your cat drools for hours after taking her pill, consider asking for another method. No one needs to suffer when so many other options are available.

Dr. Patty Khuly

www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted

Patty Khuly VMD, MBA is a small animal veterinarian in Miami, Florida, where she practices medicine at Sunset Animal Clinic and serves on the board of the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association. She is a graduate of Wellesley College, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, and The Wharton School of Business.

_____________________________________________________

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 guft wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

The Real Reason there are More and More Women Veterinarians

November 26, 2010

While I’m busy recovering from some back surgery, you have the good fortune of reading posts from some of my favorite doggie bloggers!  Today’s post comes from Dr. Larry McDaniel who blogs regularly at www.scratchingsandsniffings.com and on the PurinaCare™ Blog.   Please make him feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! 

Best wishes,

Dr. Nancy Kay

In 1960 the Veterinary profession was 98% male. Today, it’s about 50/50 and in the future it will be mostly female. Since 1984 more women have been admitted to Veterinary School and more have been graduating since 1988. Right now about 80% of the current vet students are women.

Why?

Dr-Larry-and-puppy

There are standard explanations, often supplied by male Deans of Veterinary Colleges or male heads of professional associations. These sage pronunciations are routinely repeated by an incurious popular press. One of the more common explanations is that men are seeking higher paying professions and women in the profession have their husband’s salaries to fall back on. That’s also one of the more patronizing explanations and, according to Dr Anne Lincoln, a sociologist from SMU, it’s simply not true.

DrAnneLincoln-SMU

It is true that Law and Medicine have higher average salaries than Veterinary Medicine, but in her  recently published paper; The Shifting Supply of Men and Women to Occupations: Feminization of Veterinary Medicine, that is not the primary driver of change. It turns out that decisions about cost of tuition and eventual compensation affect women and men equally. In fact, Veterinary Medicine is simply ahead of the feminization curve and the Medical and Legal professions are heading in the same direction.

Instead, Dr Lincoln cites these three primary reasons for the gender shift in Veterinary Medicine. 

First, there was landmark anti-discrimination legislation passed in 1972. Elements of Title 9 made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender for application to graduate programs. The percentage of female applicants and graduates in the 28 Veterinary Colleges around the country has been on the rise ever since.

Secondly, there are simply more women with the qualifications to be admitted to Veterinary School than men. More women are graduating from college than men. More women are applying to college, too, by the way. My wife sees this as proof of her long held tenet that women are simply smarter than men.

The final reason is the most interesting. Simply stated, men seem to prefer the company of men. That seems contrary to logic and personal experience to me. What man wouldn’t prefer to spend his time surrounded by women? Apparently most of us, according to Dr Lincoln. She states that, “The feminization of Veterinary Medicine is really the demasculinization of Veterinary Medicine, driven by men’s lower rate of college graduation and their aversion to the presence of women.

Dr-Larrys-new-ride

Why the aversion to the presence of women? I have my own theory on that. We men secretly realize that we have a hard time measuring up. Let’s face it. Women work harder, are better team members and possess higher emotional intelligence than men. At some level most of us men realize that we should just get out of the way if anything positive is going to happen. No wonder an aspiring male veterinary student freaks out when he visits an actual Veterinary School. Does he really want to be confronted with his basic inadequacy on a daily basis for four years?  No way.

Don’t get me wrong. I have lots of male friends. I love hanging out with them and I spend a good deal of time riding bikes with my pals. Unfortunately, these cycling interactions only seem to reinforce my conclusions. Our rides aren’t really social events where we discuss our feelings or seek emotional support or enlightenment. These “rides” most often degenerate into Darwinian bouts of survival where the goal is to punish the weak and assert one’s physical dominance. I really get into it, by the way.

These skills are very useful, of course, especially for a hunter gatherer on the Serengeti 250,000 years ago. Not so useful in the boardroom or the classroom, sad to say. In the good old days we could survive and get our props by simply being the best at chasing it and killing it. That was pretty much it though, because after that we gave it to the women and they did everything else. I guess you could say nothing really ever changes.

Dr. Larry McDaniel

http://www.scratchingsandsniffings.com/2010/11/the-real-reason-there-are-more-and-more-women-veterinarians-.html#more

Dr. Larry McDaniel has had a life long love affair with animals.  Dr. McDaniel graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and entered private practice in Northern Idaho. There weren’t any jobs available with wildlife agencies so Larry worked in a mixed animal practice working on both ranch animals and dogs and cats. Turns out this type of work suited Larry just fine and he opened his own practice in Western Montana. It was here that Dr. McDaniel developed and interest in animal nutrition.

Larry was elected the President of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition in 1994 and continues to consult with major pet food manufacturers on therapeutic small animal nutrition. He is excited about participating in the blog and hopes to be able to offer some useful information on all issues related to the care of our family pets.

_____________________________________________________

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).

Dogs That Fly

September 19, 2010

The United States Department of Transportation recently released breed-related information about dogs that have died while traveling in the cargo compartments of airplanes since May 2005. Of the 122 dogs that died, 108 were purebred. Brachycephalic breeds (ones I affectionately refer to as “smoosh faced”) such as Pugs, English Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs represented approximately half of the purebred dogs that took their last breath while in the plane.    

Credit: Dallasnews.com, Dallas Pooch Parade

You’d have a tough time finding a veterinarian who would be surprised by these results. For us, it’s a given that the vast majority of these adorable, snub-nosed dogs have some degree of upper airway obstruction because of nostrils that are too small, a windpipe that is too narrow, and/or excessive fleshy tissue in the region of the larynx (the anatomical entryway into the windpipe). When brachycephalic dogs breathe harder and faster in response to heat or stress (both may certainly be factors in the cargo compartment of an airplane) it makes sense that they are much more susceptible to heatstroke and/or respiratory compromise.    

What’s the take home point here?  One should always think long and hard about the potential pitfalls of transporting your dog to and fro via airplane. But if your heart belongs to a smoosh-faced dog, please strongly consider other options such as transport via car, renting a private jet (yeah, right!), or leaving your little sweetie at home. If flying is a must, ask your veterinarian to thoroughly assess your dog’s baseline level of respiratory compromise before you purchase your tickets and discuss ways to potentially make the flight less stressful.    

Have you ever flown with your dog? If so, please share your experiential wisdom.  

Now here’s wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant 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 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.   

You can support your favorite rescue group.  The Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program shares a portion of the sales proceeds with approved non-profit organizations when you purchase a book via the Speaking for Spot website and designate the organization at the time of purchase.

Gastric Torsion: A Horribly Unhealthy Kind of Twist

July 1, 2010
Torsion, gastric torsion, gastric dilatation-volvulus, GDV; these are terms you never want to hear applied to your dog.  They all mean the exact same thing- your dog’s stomach is distended with gas and has twisted on itself, and emergency surgery offers the only hope for saving his life.  Here’s a visual aid to help you understand what happens when a dog develops gastric torsion.  Picture a fanny pack in your mind.   The pouch of the fanny pack represents your dog’s stomach.  One strap of the fanny pack is the esophagus that transports food from your dog’s mouth down into his stomach.  The other strap is the upper small intestine (duodenum) that transports food out of the stomach.  Now hold one strap of the fanny pack in each hand and twirl the pouch until it twists on itself causing the straps to crimp.  This is what happens when gastric torsion occurs- the stomach twists on itself, cutting off normal blood flow to the stomach and surrounding structures.  Additionally, gas and fluid continue to accumulate within the stomach and cannot flow out via the crimped esophagus or duodenum, so the stomach progressively distends. A dog in this situation quickly lapses into a state of shock and surgical “decompression” or untwisting of the stomach is the only way out of this nightmare.  Time is of the essence- the longer the stomach remains twisted, the greater the likelihood of irreversible devitalization (death) of the stomach tissue.

Image Credit: HoundFancy, 2001

 

Initial symptoms of gastric torsion include a bloated appearance through the midsection (the ribs look like they are expanding outward), drooling, nonproductive retching/vomiting, restlessness, weakness, shallow breathing, rapid heart rate (if it can be felt through the chest wall), and pale gum color.  If you observe such symptoms, quickly make some phone calls to find the closest veterinary hospital capable of performing immediate surgery on your best friend.  The sooner surgery can be performed the greater the likelihood of a successful outcome.  Irreparable damage to the stomach tissue is often the deal breaker if the torsion is not corrected quickly.  At the time of surgery, not only is the stomach derotated, it is tacked (attached with stitches) to the inside of the abdominal wall to prevent a repeat spinning performance.  Additionally if the spleen or portions of the stomach wall appear devitalized (deprived of normal blood flow for too long) they will be removed.  If surgery is successful, the dog typically has a minimum two to three day post-operative stay in the hospital for round the clock monitoring for post-operative complications.   

Truth be told, we really don’t know much about what causes gastric torsion.  Clearly, there is a breed/conformation association- large deep-chested breeds such as Great Danes, Irish Setters, Standard Poodles, Irish Wolfhounds, Boxers, Dobermans, Weimaraners, and Rottweilers are particularly predisposed.  Affected males definitely outnumber females. One study documented that elevating the food bowl actually predisposes to gastric torsion.  Other studies have indicated that the following factors may also be part of the recipe that results in gastric dilatation-volvulus: eating only one meal per day, eating rapidly, eating dry foods that list oils or fats among the first four label ingredients, exercising in close association to mealtime, being underweight, and being of an “anxious” rather than “happy” personality type.  The only known way to prevent gastric torsion from occurring is by performing a prophylactic (preventive) gastropexy procedure (sutures are used to tack the stomach wall to the inside lining of the abdominal cavity).  This does not prevent the bloating (stomach distending with gas), but does prevent the life threatening twisting part of this miserable disease process.   

Would you like to participate in a study to learn more about why dogs develop gastric torsion?  If your dog has ever bloated (distention of the stomach without rotation) or has experienced gastric torsion, I encourage you to take this survey http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WS2VKFP.  It is being conducted by Dr. Cynthia Otto from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in collaboration with researcher, author and lecturer, Dr. Carmen Battaglia. A summary of the results and findings will be posted at www.breedingbetterdogs.com in November, 2010.  If you and your dog did have direct experience with a gastric torsion, I sure as heck hope yours was a happy ending.   

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.

Stop That Scratching!

April 22, 2010

If the sounds of a canine or feline “scratchfest” is interrupting your slumber, or you’re snarling, “Stop scratching!” several times a day, chances are you have an allergic pet on your hands. Just as with human hay fever, most dog and cat allergies are the result of an exaggerated immune system response to allergens in the environment such as plant pollens, tree pollens, and mold spores.  The scientific name for this inherited allergic condition is atopy or atopic dermatitis. Terriers of any type are notorious atopy sufferers along with Dalmatians, Lhasa Apsos, Shar-peis, Bulldogs, and Labrador Retrievers. 

Whereas people are prone to runny nose and eyes, dogs and cats with atopy develop itchy skin, often accompanied by skin and ear infections. Symptoms are initially mild and seasonal, but tend to progress year by year in terms of severity and duration.  Fortunately, there are many options for treating atopy including medicated shampoos, antihistamines, fatty acid supplements, and drugs that alter the immune system’s overzealous behavior (cyclosporine, cortisone).  Just as for people, desensitization injections can be administered after specific testing is done to determine which allergens are provoking the immune response. Elimination of exposure to the allergens may also be an option (a good excuse to move to Hawaii!). 

Some dogs and cats develop allergies to their food.  This can result in year round itchy skin, ear infections, and/or gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, gassiness).  If a food allergy is suspected, your veterinarian will recommend an “elimination food trial.”  This requires strict adherence (including elimination of your pet’s favorite treats) to feeding a novel protein diet for six to eight weeks. There are many such diets to choose from these days that contain duck, rabbit, venison, salmon, and even kangaroo! If the chronic symptoms disappear in response to the diet change, voila, the diagnosis of food allergy has been made. One must then hope that, over time, the animal doesn’t develop an allergy to the new diet! 

Lastly, some dogs and cats develop an allergy to fleas, more specifically, to the flea’s saliva.  Whereas many fleas are required to cause most animals to scratch like crazy, for those with a flea allergy, just one bite is all it takes to set off an intensely itchy reaction that can last for days. The best treatment for this allergy is stringent flea control, or relocation to Colorado; fleas don’t survive in high altitude locations! 

‘Tis the season for fleas and seasonal atopy.  Do you have an itchy dog or cat on your hands?  If so, what will your strategy be to soothe your pet’s itch and preserve your sanity? 

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for 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.

Stop That Scratching!

April 22, 2010

If the sounds of a canine or feline “scratchfest” is interrupting your slumber, or you’re snarling, “Stop scratching!” several times a day, chances are you have an allergic pet on your hands. Just as with human hay fever, most dog and cat allergies are the result of an exaggerated immune system response to allergens in the environment such as plant pollens, tree pollens, and mold spores.  The scientific name for this inherited allergic condition is atopy or atopic dermatitis. Terriers of any type are notorious atopy sufferers along with Dalmatians, Lhasa Apsos, Shar-peis, Bulldogs, and Labrador Retrievers. 

Whereas people are prone to runny nose and eyes, dogs and cats with atopy develop itchy skin, often accompanied by skin and ear infections. Symptoms are initially mild and seasonal, but tend to progress year by year in terms of severity and duration.  Fortunately, there are many options for treating atopy including medicated shampoos, antihistamines, fatty acid supplements, and drugs that alter the immune system’s overzealous behavior (cyclosporine, cortisone).  Just as for people, desensitization injections can be administered after specific testing is done to determine which allergens are provoking the immune response. Elimination of exposure to the allergens may also be an option (a good excuse to move to Hawaii!). 

Some dogs and cats develop allergies to their food.  This can result in year round itchy skin, ear infections, and/or gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, gassiness).  If a food allergy is suspected, your veterinarian will recommend an “elimination food trial.”  This requires strict adherence (including elimination of your pet’s favorite treats) to feeding a novel protein diet for six to eight weeks. There are many such diets to choose from these days that contain duck, rabbit, venison, salmon, and even kangaroo! If the chronic symptoms disappear in response to the diet change, voila, the diagnosis of food allergy has been made. One must then hope that, over time, the animal doesn’t develop an allergy to the new diet! 

Lastly, some dogs and cats develop an allergy to fleas, more specifically, to the flea’s saliva.  Whereas many fleas are required to cause most animals to scratch like crazy, for those with a flea allergy, just one bite is all it takes to set off an intensely itchy reaction that can last for days. The best treatment for this allergy is stringent flea control, or relocation to Colorado; fleas don’t survive in high altitude locations! 

‘Tis the season for fleas and seasonal atopy.  Do you have an itchy dog or cat on your hands?  If so, what will your strategy be to soothe your pet’s itch and preserve your sanity? 

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for 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.