Goin’ to Carolina

November 5, 2011

While you are reading this, my husband and I are in the process of driving cross-country with our animals in tow. We’ve decided to follow our hearts on a new adventure and are leaving the warm slopes of northern California for the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. The decision to move 3,000 miles certainly wasn’t made on the fly. My husband and I are big thinkers and planners, carefully weighing in on all the pros and cons over and over again. But, boy oh boy, this is a biggee and I vacillate between feeling super excited and scared to death!

Our friends, relatives, and colleagues (particularly those who have never been to western North Carolina) have all asked, “Why are you doing this?” The answer is really quite simple- our response is “Because we can.” Our three little chicks have left the nest and are doing their thing out in the world (Wyoming, Ohio and Germany). My hubby and I like to think of this major life change as our attempt to make our “third trimester” all that we want it to be. We are both avid horseback riders and we’ve longed to live on property abutting an extensive trail system. This means saddling and up and riding out with no horse trailering involved! Our new property abuts Dupont State Forest, a veritable mecca for horseback riding.

After figuring out where we wanted to live I checked out job prospects. The closest specialty hospital is Upstate Veterinary Specialists.  Now this part is too good to be true- not only did this hospital win the 2011 American Animal Hospital Association Specialty Hospital of the Year Award, the hospital owners want me to work with them! I will begin my new job in early December.

You won’t hear from me for another week or two. Not to worry, once settled I will resume my regular blogging habits, although you may begin to detect a bit of a southern accent!

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.

More on Colorblind Adoptions

October 30, 2011

"Tessa" Photo Credit: Jackie Maples

Wow! What a terrific response I received following my recent blog post about colorblind adoptions. I discussed the fact that black colored dogs and cats tend to languish in shelter and rescue situations because they are less likely to be adopted. Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond with your terrific comments. Some of your stories about your own animals brought me to tears.

Jackie Jurasek, supervisor of City of Rosenberg Animal Control in Texas, pointed out that the darker the animal’s coloring, the more difficult it is to capture their facial expression in a photograph. Such marketing photos are key for creating the “Awww!” factor amongst potential adopters. Jackie has recruited professional photographers to take photos of her shelter animals. The photos they take result in higher numbers of adoptions, and as Jackie so eloquently states, “We see a lot of the bad and the ugly in my profession, so adoptions are the ‘balm for our souls’… it is what helps us keep on doing what we have to do.”

The photos in this blog come from Jackie Maples, one of the three professional photographers who volunteer their time snapping photos at City of Rosenberg Animal Control. Jennifer Marie,  a second photographer, has graciously provided us with some tips for capturing the funny, adorable, and endearing expressions on the faces of our dark colored dogs and cats. Thank you Jennifer!

Tips on Photographing Black Pets By Jennifer Marie Photography

Are you tired of your cute pet looking like a black blob with red eyes in your photos? The color black absorbs light thus making it difficult to see texture and shadows on fur. And then if you have used your flash aimed at them, often times you see the red-eye effect and a funny blue-cast on the body.  Ugh! We need to see those cute personalities shine through!

"Elvira" Photo Credit: Jackie Maples

So here are some tips to help:

  • Go outside and turn off the flash! Take your pet outside in the early hours, around dawn or later at dusk when the light is warm, and have the sun at an angle to your back. If you have to go out during the bright daylight, seek shade from a big tree or the shaded side of a building. If those are not options, have a friend hold a big piece of cardboard or a sheet stretched out over the pet to prevent harsh light. Turn off your flash! If you can change your ISO setting (equivalent to film speed) to 800+, do so. This increases the light sensitivity of your exposure but keeps the shutter speed fast enough to capture some small movement.
  •  Turn your flash to the side! If you have to take the photo inside, turn your flash to the side and bounce the light off of a wall close to the pet. This will light your black pet from the side and give some nice shadows and visible texture on the fur as well as reducing red-eye effects. If your flash is built in, try using a piece of white paper just to the side or under the flash to direct the light to the wall or ceiling. Best yet, if you have a large window, place your pet beside and close to the window and turn off the flash. Use the window light from the side as the lighting source instead of the flash.
  •  Be aware of the background! Keep an eye on what is behind your pet, but still visible in the frame of picture. Try to use a background that is not busy or cluttered, that way the attention goes to the pet. Importantly, use a significantly lighter background behind a black pet to create contrast. Vice versa for a white pet. And focus your shot on the eyes of the pet.
  •  Don’t forget treats, squeaky toys, and your high-pitched funny voices to get your pet’s attention for that one second, and then snap away!

Now go have fun with Fido’s photo session!

Tell us about your successes( and your foibles) while taking photographs of your dark colored four-legged family members! Please feel free to share your favorite photos on my Facebook page.

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.

Pedicures: Definitely Not for Everyone

October 24, 2011

Quinn's longer nails

 

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

Nellie's nubby nails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

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

 

 

 

The Time of Year to Think About Colorblind Adoptions

October 16, 2011

I see pumpkins everywhere in my neighborhood reminding me that Halloween is right around the corner. This might be a good time to repost the following blog that I wrote a couple years back. Enjoy!

Dr. Nancy Kay with her dog Lexie (all black before her muzzle turned grey)

Whenever I meet with a patient (the pet) 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.

According to an 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.

Have you ever adopted a dog or cat with a solid black hair coat? I would love to hear 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.

 

 

 

 

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

October 10, 2011

Nellie and Quinn on a walk Photo: Susannah Kay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

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

 

 

 

 

Criticism Welcome Here

October 2, 2011

Photo Credit: Kathie Meier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

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

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

September 26, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

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

AHVMA 2011 Pearls

September 18, 2011

I recently had the pleasure of lecturing on veterinarian/client communication skills at the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) annual conference. Dr. Doug Knueven, a holistic veterinarian (combines Eastern and Western medicine) in Beaver, Pennsylvania was the conference coordinator.  Much to my delight, Dr. Knueven has graciously offered to provide you with some pearls from the conference (thank you Doug!).  Take it away Dr. Knueven!

Before I give you the goods, I’d like to start with a little background. The AHVMA was founded in 1982 by a hand full of veterinarians who were interested in complementary medicine. It has grown to an organization that is almost 1,000 members strong. AHVMA members practice diverse therapies including acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathy, natural nutrition, massage therapy, energy medicine and much more. Most of us continue to practice Western medicine as well (we haven’t thrown the baby out with the bath water) using an integrative model of health care.

The AHVMA 2011 conference provided 122 hours of continuing education for veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Lectures spanned the range of therapies mentioned above as well as client communication (thanks Dr. Nancy!), integrative oncology, nervous system issues, emergency preparedness, and electromagnetic biophysics (Yikes!!). Most lectures applied to pets but we also had a stampede of information for vets who work on horses, cows, and goats.

Approximately 400 professionals attended. Most were AHVMA members but a fair number were conventional practitioners who were interested in learning more about some of our fascinating topics. Attendees came from as far away as Europe, Japan and Australia. Our lecturers had varying backgrounds and areas of expertise. We had several veterinary speakers who are board certified specialists.

So here are some pearls of wisdom from the AHVMA conference:

Dr. Greg Ogilvie, who specializes in both internal medicine and oncology, spoke about how diet influences cancer:

Cancer cells have a “sweet tooth.” Pets with cancer should be fed a low-starch diet.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid can help prevent cancer, fight cancer, increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy, and decrease the side effects of chemotherapy. The best source of DHA (highest concentration of active ingredient) is from oils that come from algae.

Do not give your pet high doses of anti-oxidant vitamins A, C, and E concurrently with chemotherapy as they can interfere with the action of the drugs.

Dr. Mona Rosenberg is a conventional oncologist who works with holistic veterinarians to provide an integrative approach to treating cancer.

She turned me on to a great website for the Society for Integrative Oncology (www.integrativeonc.org). Although this group is meant for human patients, most of the basic concepts are equally true for pets.

Dr. Barbara Royal addressed pet diets.

She uses integrative therapies with zoo animals and found lessons for pets from problems encountered while working with wild animals kept in captivity. The bottom line is that zoo animals encountered health problems when their diets varied from what they would get in the wild. Mother Nature is not easily fooled. Many pets benefit by being fed diets with little to no heat processing since this is what they evolved eating.

Dr. Lea Strogdale, an internal medicine specialist discussed diseases common to cats.

It turns out that slow motion video reveals that cats are inefficient at drinking water. This is why some cats like to drink from faucets or fountains. This makes sense since cats evolved from desert creatures where puddles are scarce. Because they do not drink efficiently, cats are prone to chronic dehydration. The bottom line is that many of the chronic diseases we see in cats, such as urinary crystals, chronic kidney disease, and constipation, may be due to the dehydrating effects of dry cat foods.

Do not feed your cat dry food. Many cats benefit from high-moisture canned or raw diets.

To entice your cat to drink more water, keep the bowl topped off or use a very broad bowl so she does not bump her sensitive whiskers against the sides.

I hope you have found these holistic pearls helpful. One final note, if you would like to find a holistic veterinarian in your area, check out www.ahvma.org and click on the “find a holistic veterinarian” button.

Dr. Doug Knueven

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Now, Dr. Knueven will be happy to entertain your questions!

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.

Puppy Mill Awareness Day – September 17, 2011

September 10, 2011

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Heads up everyone! This Saturday, September 17th is Puppy Mill Awareness Day.  I’ve spent plenty of time on my soapbox in an uproar about puppy mills  and I will continue to do so until I no longer have to witness the physical maladies, behavioral nightmares, and broken hearts created by those who profit from the mass production of puppies.

Puppy Mill Awareness Day is all about educating as many people as possible about the inhumanity and insanity of puppy mills.  Might you know someone who is thinking about adopting a puppy?  If so please counsel them on the importance of avoiding an impulsive pet store purchase (guaranteed the “livestock” there were born at puppy mills).  Also, teach them that purchasing a pup online, sight (and site) unseen just about guarantees they will be providing income to a puppy mill. Rather, encourage them to adopt from a rescue organization, shelter, or reputable breeder.

About the only thing that keeps me sane when it comes to puppy millers are those wonderful souls who reside at the opposite end of the human spectrum- namely those who work in shelters and rescue organizations because they are passionate about giving animals a second chance.  As a way of honoring these folks and “celebrating” Puppy Mill Awareness Day, I hope you’ll help me out with the following plan.  Please tell me about your favorite rescue or humane organization and why you believe it is special.  Provide me with the group’s email address and contact information. From the list of responses I receive I will choose 10 organizations to receive a free copy of Speaking for Spot  and when I mail the book to them, I will let them know it was a gift from you (so be sure to include your full name).  Thanks ever so much.

Now get out there and spread some puppy mill awareness!

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.

 

Murphy and Ruska

September 5, 2011

I refer to my last week at work as the “Murphy and Ruska Show” in honor of two delightful patients who arrived at my doorstep one day apart, each with a life-threatening disorder called pneumothorax. “Pneumo” means air and “thorax” refers to the chest cavity, so “pneumothorax” is air within the chest cavity.  If you’re scratching your head wondering, “Isn’t there supposed to be air in the chest cavity?” here’s what you need to know.  While the lungs are air-filled, the space surrounding the lungs, known as the pleural space, is normally devoid of air.  Pneumothorax refers to the accumulation of air with the pleural space. In order to understand how a pneumothorax causes difficulty breathing, it helps to think of the chest cavity as an empty barrel into which the lung lobes expand as they inflate (like balloons filling with air).  The lungs readily inflate with minimal effort because negative pressure (a vacuum effect) normally exists within the pleural space.  Fill the pleural space with air and the negative pressure is disrupted resulting in more effort required for lung expansion.  Make sense?

Murphy and Ruska were both observed by their families to experience an abrupt onset of labored breathing. Murphy also became subdued, a marked deviation from his normal wiggly-waggly Labrador self and he was unwilling to lie down.  Clever Murphy figured out that lying down makes labored breathing even more of a struggle.  In addition to working extra hard to breathe the normally ravenous Ruska refused her breakfast, a sure sign that this sweet Shepherd was off her game.

Normal Chest

The two most common causes of pneumothorax are penetrating chest cavity wounds that allow external air to enter the pleural space and leakage of air from the surface of a diseased or injured lung lobe.  Pneumothorax is readily diagnosed with a chest x-ray.  Have a look at the accompanying normal and abnormal x-ray images. In both views, the dogs are lying on their sides with their head end to the left and their tail end to the right.  You can see the spines at the top of the images.  Note the heart, the whitish round structure in the middle of the chest cavity. Air shows up black on an x-ray. Now notice how much more black (air) there is surrounding the heart in the pneumothorax image compared to the normal chest. Makes you want to become a radiologist, eh!

Pneumothorax

Murphy and Ruska were referred to me to figure out why they had leaky lung lobes.  The most common cause of pneumothorax is a blunt blow to the chest cavity (hit-by-car trauma is classic) forceful enough to tear a lung lobe and allow leakage of air into the pleural space. Ruska and Murphy were both closely supervised with no known trauma history.  Computed tomography (CT scanning) is my test of choice for solving the mystery of the leaky lung lobe. Murphy’s scan revealed multiple small blisters (aka, blebs or bullae) on his lung lobe surfaces.  Just as in people with this abnormality the blisters are thin-walled and capable of spontaneous rupture allowing air to leak into the pleural space. Fortunately, as was the case with Murphy, most lung blisters are self-sealing within a few days. Worse case scenario, a stubborn leaker can be surgically sealed. Murphy’s family has been forewarned that his multiple blebs will likely mean multiple penumothorax episodes.  They know what to be watching for and will return with Murphy any time, day or night, should his labored breathing recur. Murphy is now home, happy as can be with instructions to be a couch potato for the next two weeks with hopes of avoiding disruption of the body’s “bandaid” on his leaky lung blister.

Ruska’s CT scan documented a small walled off abscess on the surface of one lung lobe.  Given the time of year and where Ruska lives and plays, I’d be willing to bet my first born child that a foxtail plant awn is living within that abscess.  Fortunately, Ruska’s lung lobe leak resolved itself, and the pros and cons of surgically exploring the site versus long-term antibiotic therapy (foxtails shuttle bacteria wherever they migrate) were discussed and are still being considered.  I should be hearing back from Ruska’s mom sometime this week.  For now, this big girl is back home and, like her friend Murphy, she is doing her best to be a cooperative couch potato (easier for a Shepherd than a Lab!).

Our emergency room vets are used to seeing pneumothorax patients because hit-by-car trauma is so prevalent.  As a small animal internist I rarely see them, yet here were two within one week! (I suspect the third is on its way.)  Have you or a loved one (human or canine) experienced a pneumothorax?  Please do tell.

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.