Posts Tagged ‘dog health’

A Recap of 2011

January 8, 2012

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

It’s hard to imagine that five years or so ago, I had no idea what a blog was. In fact, my current spell check doesn’t recognize “blog” as a word.  Does yours? When I first learned about blogging, it took me awhile to buy into the notion that people would actually take the time to read another person’s musings. Well, I’m sure as heck glad and grateful that you are interested in mine! Many thanks for taking the time to post your thoughtful and insightful comments.

Out of the fifty or so blogs I posted last year, I’ve selected the ten best that I thought might be worthy of showcasing, particularly if you did not get a chance to read them the first time around. Now, here’s a look back at 2011!

The Elephant in the Middle of the Exam Room

The so-called “elephant” in the exam room that I discussed was money. I addressed the following questions: Are veterinarians only in it for the bucks? Are clients being charged too much? How are vets to make a living with soaring overhead costs and monumental school loans? Are “fixable” animals being euthanized because the price of making them well is too high?

Dog Auctions

I shared some of the gruesome details about dog auctions, a venue where puppy millers buy and sell their “livestock”. I also told you about a woman named Mary O’Connor-Shaver, a leader of the peaceful protests at Ohio dog auctions. Mary just informed me that she and a crew of other hard-working volunteers are just inches away from having enough signatures to create a 2012 ballot initiative which would ban dog auctions in Ohio. Way to go Mary! I hope the ballot initiative passes and the work she and her volunteers have done will set an example for other states.

The Time of Year to Think About Colorblind Adoptions

As it turns out, dark coated dogs and cats are often the hardest animals to rehome. This blog addressed the reasons why and was timed to coincide with Halloween, a time when many adoption agencies restrict adoption of black-coated animals.

Criticism Welcome Here

This blog was generated from some negative feedback I received from a reader about my support of the American Kennel Club Health Foundation.

A Primer on Leptospirosis

Your comments in response to this blog let me know that the information I provided about Leptospirosis helped you make better-informed choices about whether or not to vaccinate your own dogs against this disease.

Pedicures: Definitely Not for Everyone

Some dogs turn pedicures into wrestling matches! Many trainers provided comments containing excellent advice about how to desensitize dogs to having their feet and nails handled.

Who Was Dr. Leo Bustad?

I was the incredibly fortunate recipient of the 2011 Leo Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award (presented by the American Veterinary Medical Association). I did some research to learn more about the man behind the award and then shared that information with you.

Anesthesia Free Dental Cleaning

Cleaning teeth on awake animals has been steadily becoming more popular. I present the positive and not-so-positive results of doing so.

Can You Take Your Dog By Surprise When It’s Time For a Walk?

This is a blog post about how adept our animals are at reading our minds!

Age is Just a Number

When making medical decisions for their pets, many people factor in the animal’s age. I discuss the importance of considering the animal’s functional age rather than their chronological age.

As I begin a new year of blogging, I invite your ideas. What would you like to read about in 2012?

Best wishes for a happy new year,

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.

Resolutions for the New Year That Will Benefit You and Your Pet

January 1, 2012

The transition to a new calendar year may inspire you to muster the resolve to make good changes in your life. How about the lives of your pets? No time like the present to make some new year’s resolutions that will benefit both of you. Here are three suggestions:

More Face Time With Your Pets

Our furry family members are more than happy to be our exercise partners, confidantes, psychotherapists, and nonelectric heating blankets. Take advantage of such pet-facilitated services as much as possible this year!

What dog doesn’t crave attention from their favorite human? Teach your best friend some new tricks. Begin working on that long overdue grooming. Get your pup out for more exercise (lose the sedentary human behavior at the dog park). Don’t let the winter weather be a deterrent. Go shopping for some canine winter apparel and gift yourself with Dr. Phil Zeltzman’s book, Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound to glean some inspiration!

What about our kitties? Well you know how it is- cats tend to like things on their terms. However, even the most curmudgeonly of cats will benefit from a feather toy tempting them to expend some energy and some affectionate scratches under the chin. The challenge is to spend more quality time with your kitties while convincing them that the activity is of their choosing.

Fewer Vaccinations

Your adult pet’s good health requires inoculation with core vaccinations no more than once every three years. The term “core” is reserved for those vaccines, such as distemper, that are recommended for every adult animal. Overvaccinating (vaccinating more than once every three years) exposes your best little buddy to needless risk (yes, there is some risk associated with every vaccination). Besides, why spend your hard earned money on something that is completely unnecessary?

If your veterinarian has remained on the “once a year bandwagon” and the thought of convincing him or her otherwise gives you a case of the willies, I encourage you to read the chapter called, “Discussion About Your Dog’s Vaccinations” in Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet. Kathie please make this a live link to the Amazon page The information found there will provide you with all the inspiration you need to broach the vaccination conversation with your vet. (For those of you who are cat fanciers, please know that my hope is to create the feline version of this book within the year. In the meantime, know that the basic principles provided in Your Dog’s Best Health apply to kitty care as well.)

Recruit a Professional to Help With Your Pet’s Behavioral Issues

Would you love to be able to leave your dog home alone for more than ten minutes without the house being destroyed? Would you be ecstatic if your precious puss quit spraying your walls with his version of graffiti? Would you relish the idea of taking your dog for a walk without having to ice your shoulder afterwards? There is no time like the present to tackle such behavioral issues. I encourage you to get the professional help you need so that you and your pet can fully enjoy cohabitating. Chronic behavior issues tend to gradually result in more and more isolation for the pet until most of their waking hours are spent within a crate, a single room of the house, or the backyard. Such isolation begets even more negative adaptive behaviors, and the end result may be relinquishment to a shelter or rescue organization; worse yet, euthanasia.

Please know that if your dog or cat has a significant behavioral issue, you are certainly not alone. Also know that the sooner the issue is dealt with, the happier the outcome will be for both you and your pet. Hiring a pro to help you work out a behavior bugaboo will be one of the best investments you make this year!

When choosing a trainer or behaviorist, check in with your veterinarian for a recommendation. Additionally, check out the websites below. You’ll find lots of information about how to choose the right person to help you with the issue at hand. These sites also have “locators” to help you find a professional in your area.

Association of Pet Dog Trainers

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants

Animal Behavior Society

American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Have you made any “pet resolutions” this year? Does your pet have a behavioral issue that is affecting the quality of your life? Have you successfully dealt with a significant behavioral issue in the past? Please share what you know so that others may offer advice and/or benefit from what you have learned.

Best wishes for a happy new year,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

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

December 4, 2011

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

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

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

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

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning

November 27, 2011

It’s natural to have concerns about general anesthesia, whether for ourselves or for our beloved pets. After all, no matter how young and healthy the patient, there is always some associated risk. For this reason, anesthesia-free dental cleaning for pets has become more and more popular. And with no anesthesia, the cost of cleaning Fido’s or Fluffy’s teeth is significantly reduced- clearly another attractive feature. Anesthesia-free dental cleaning for your pet sounds rather tempting, doesn’t it? Before you jump on this bandwagon I encourage you to consider whether or not this option truly serves your dog’s or your cat’s best health interest.

I’m a big believer in regularly brushing your pet’s teeth at home. Thoroughly removing dental tartar on an awake animal, however, is a whole nother ball game! Even with highly skilled hands and a super-cooperative animal, it is impossible to successfully and painlessly remove tartar from underneath the gum lines and along the inner surfaces of the teeth (the surfaces in closest proximity to the tongue). And, if the end result of cleaning is anything other than polished, super smooth, dental surfaces, tartar will quickly reaccumulate. Anesthesia-free dental cleaning definitely gives the outer surfaces of the teeth a cleaner look. While this may be pleasing to your eye, there is no significant benefit to your pet’s health. For all of these reasons, if and when dental cleaning is warranted for your dog or cat, I strongly encourage that it be performed with the aid of general anesthesia.

Now, there are some caveats that accompany my recommendation. For some animals, the risks associated with general anesthesia clearly outweigh the benefits, for example a dog or cat with advanced heart disease or kidney failure. Even for the healthiest animals, general anesthesia should be accompanied by careful monitoring of the patient’s status at all times. A list of important questions to ask your veterinarian about general anesthesia can be found in Speaking for Spot within the chapter called “Important Questions to Ask Your Vet…and How to Ask Them.”

The American Veterinary Dental College also advises against anesthesia-free dental cleaning. Here is an excerpt from their recently drafted position statement:

“Owners of pets naturally are concerned when anesthesia is required for their pet. However, performing nonprofessional dental scaling on an unanesthetized pet is inappropriate for the following reasons:

  1. Dental tartar is firmly adhered to the surface of the teeth. Scaling to remove tartar is accomplished using ultrasonic and sonic power scalers, plus hand instruments that must have a sharp working edge to be used effectively. Even slight head movement by the patient could result in injury to the oral tissues of the patient, and the operator may be bitten when the patient reacts.
  2. Professional dental scaling includes scaling the surfaces of the teeth both above and below the gingival margin (gum line), followed by dental polishing. The most critical part of a dental scaling procedure is scaling the tooth surfaces that are within the gingival pocket (the subgingival space between the gum and the root), where periodontal disease is active. Because the patient cooperates, dental scaling of human teeth performed by a professional trained in the procedures can be completed successfully without anesthesia. However, access to the subgingival area of every tooth is impossible in an unanesthetized canine or feline patient. Removal of dental tartar on the visible surfaces of the teeth has little effect on a pet’s health and provides a false sense of accomplishment. The effect is purely cosmetic.
  3. Inhalation anesthesia using a cuffed endotracheal tube provides three important advantages- the cooperation of the patient with a procedure it does not understand, elimination of pain resulting from examination and treatment of affected dental tissues during the procedure, and protection of the airway and lungs from accidental aspiration.
  4. A complete oral examination, which is an important part of a professional dental scaling procedure, is not possible in an unanesthetized patient. The surfaces of the teeth facing the tongue cannot be examined, and areas of disease and discomfort are likely to be missed.”

How do you feel about anesthesia-free versus anesthetized dental cleaning? Keep in mind, for some folks this is a rather heated topic. Let’s keep the conversation civilized!

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

We Made It!

November 20, 2011

Quinn and yours truly in travel mode

I’m pleased to report that our menagerie (my hubby and I included) have arrived, safe and sound in North Carolina! Thankfully, our trip was mostly uneventful. We had only one hiccup along the way and that occurred in our very own driveway in California. We had packed the bed of the pickup truck with oodles of stuff including a wooden table. With the very first turn out of our driveway, the gooseneck of the horse trailer pushed the corner of that table right through the rear window of our pick up truck. The result was an explosive noise and flying glass. Fortunately, no one was injured, but I’ve never witnessed two dogs fly from the back seat of a vehicle into the front so quickly! We cleaned up the shattered glass, used cardboard and “gorilla tape” to replace the missing window, took a really deep breath, and headed east. The remainder of the trip was smooth sailing.

Our overnights were spent in Bakersfield, California (where our younger dog Quinn was rescued from a “kill shelter”), Flagstaff, Arizona (a gorgeous place), Tucumcari, New Mexico (I love the way the name of this town rolls off my tongue, but never have our dog’s feet encountered such nasty stickers), Cromwell, Oklahoma (this year a tornado, an earthquake, and a severe drought have ravaged the area), and Jackson, Tennessee where we truly felt like we were in the “east” for the first time.

Part of the gang right after arriving in North Carolina

We encountered fabulous people at every overnight stop along the way. All had fascinating stories to share about their lives and why they ended up where they have. The common thread for all of our hosts was a profound love for animals as evidenced by properties filled with horses, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys. Michelle, our host in Cromwell, Oklahoma has several adorable rescue dogs desperately in need of homes. If you live anywhere near Cromwell and are ready to add a new member to your own menagerie, please let me know and I will put you in touch with Michelle. By the way, she also has a rescue horse she is hoping to rehome.

We arrived at our North Carolina home in lovely 70-degree weather and some remaining fall color. Some of the leaves are such brilliant shades of red and orange, that trees appear as if they are on fire. After six days on the road, we all thoroughly enjoyed stretching our legs. My husband’s horse galloped around his new pasture (I am currently horseless, but hopefully not for too much longer), our kitty enjoyed inspecting her new surroundings, and my husband, the dogs, and I took a long hike through a six inch carpet of crisp leaves. The dogs must have run a good five miles on our one-mile hike. It feels great for all of us to be in our new home and we are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving here.

Have you ever moved cross-country with animals in tow? If so, would you ever consider doing it again?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones,

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

Mushers in Scotland

August 29, 2011

Having just returned from lecturing at this year’s American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Conference while in the midst of preparing to move from my home of 16 years in less than a week (no worries, this is by my choosing).  I’ve simply not managed to put fingers to keyboard and produce a blog that I would consider meaningful. Rather than skip a week, I’ve opted to provide you with something for your viewing rather than your reading pleasure.

I love this piece titled, “The Boys and the Kids” because it so deftly portrays the human animal connection.  I think I’d love it even if the creator of this piece weren’t my daughter Susannah, a photojournalism student at Ohio University.  Part of her curriculum takes place in Scotland (my, my what lucky students) which is where this video was created.  Enjoy.

Video: Susannah Kay

Mushers in Scotland? Who knew!

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 Dog Days of Summer Camp

August 15, 2011

Nothing quite tickles my heart like stories conveying the human animal connection.  Sometimes such stories put a big goofy grin on my face, and sometimes they cause my eyes and nose to become uncontrolled leaky faucets.  Needless to say, I prefer the former to the latter!

The following human-animal bond story was written by my dear friend Kathie Meier and was published in Marin Pets, a blog moderated by the Marin Humane Society.  Between Kathie’s descriptions and her fabulous photos, this story succeeded in putting a big goofy grin on my face!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

 

Even though I am many moons past my own summer camp days I look forward each year to volunteering with my animal companions at the Marin Humane Society’s summer camp for children entering first through sixth grades.

For nine weeks on Friday afternoons the Pavilion is filled with the laughter and chatter of excited campers, and the tail wags and kisses of ten fabulous SHARE dogs.  In no time the kids have their eager buddies doing sits, downs, and puppy push-ups and traversing beginning agility equipment.

The real fun begins when the kids “teach” their companion a trick and then perform it.  To the absolute delight of all we’ve watched Mooki, Duncan and Winston zip through legs, Sophie sit upright and wave her paws, Woody shake, Chudleigh play dead, Charlotte play the toy piano with her nose, Tigger, MJ, and Angus run an agility course, Katie dance, Autumn, Kuri and Frisco jump through hoops, Chloe and Mitzi roll over, and Lance balance a treat on his nose and catch it.
This is my 11th year coming to summer camp with my dogs. While the kids have grown and changed over the years, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the magic of the bond of having animals in our lives.  The camp provides the children a wonderful opportunity to spend the week learning about animals of all shapes and sizes and to work 1-on-1 with some very special dogs.

The Marin Humane Society SHARE Program dogs participate in a wide variety of animal-assisted therapy programs including visits to seniors, reading with children through SHARE a Book, and classroom humane education programs throughout Marin.  I know my pup Charlotte would say that paws down the summer camp dog training is her favorite!  No surprise that each year it’s also the favorite activity of the children.

Kathie Meier- www.brrnese.com

_____________________________________________________

Have you and one of your pets participated in an animal-assisted therapy program?  If so, I would love to hear all about it.

Best wishes for good health,

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

Talking Teeth

August 8, 2011

Is your dog’s bad breath sabotaging your cuddle time? Is your kitty drooling while nibbling her kibble? If so, your four-legged family member likely has dental disease. A recent study of Banfield Pet Hospital’s 770-hospital network identified dental disease as the most common malady among pets, affecting 68 percent of cats and 78 percent of dogs over three years of age.

Most dental diseases, including halitosis (bad breath) and gingivitis (gum disease) are caused by tartar accumulation. All cats and dogs can develop dental tartar, but small breed dogs are particularly predisposed. Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Pomeranians and Shetland Sheepdogs are at greatest risk, according to the Banfield study.

Be sure to inspect your pet’s teeth and gums on a regular basis just as you would his or her skin and haircoat. Here’s the key to getting a good look- don’t try to pry your pet’s jaws open lest you desire to engage in a wrestling match.  Rather, with the mouth remaining closed, simply pull those flabby lips up, down, and then back (as if he is smiling) to get a good view of the gums and teeth. Look for tartar accumulation (brown colored material that’s adhered to the teeth) redness or swelling of the gums, and broken or loose teeth.

If your pet does develop significant tartar and gingivitis, he’ll need a thorough dental cleaning. Dental X-rays may be recommended to detect abscesses or bone loss. Should such significant abnormalities be found, your vet will discuss antibiotic therapy and the pros and cons of removing the affected teeth versus a root canal procedure.

The best way to prevent tartar buildup is to brush your pet’s teeth (including those way in the back) at least two to three times a week. Ask your vet or members of the clinic staff to share their secrets for success when it comes to brushing.  Have them observe and provide critique as you demonstrate how you brush those canines (in cats they should be called “felines”), incisors, and molars.

What can you do besides brushing?  Dental chews, additives to your pet’s water, products applied to the teeth and gums, and specially formulated dry foods that have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance can help prevent tartar buildup.  However, nothing beats regular brushing (sorry!).

Part of your pet’s annual physical examination performed by your veterinarian should include careful inspection of the teeth and gums.  Early identification and treatment of dental disease goes a long way in preventing serious consequences.

Now it’s your turn to talk about teeth.  What have you experienced with your dogs and cats?

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 Elephant in the Middle of the Exam Room

August 1, 2011

My dual career as an author and a practicing veterinarian provides me with a unique vantage point. Not only am I privy to the issues my veterinary colleagues are stewing about, I also receive a plethora of emails from my readers candidly venting about their experiences as consumers of veterinary medicine.  It’s rare that those on both sides of the exam room table are growling about the same issue, but these days this is certainly the case.

See if you can identify the elephant in the exam room based on the following data that has appeared in current veterinary news feeds along with quotes from recent correspondences with my readers:

– The number of pet visits to veterinary hospitals is dramatically decreasing (DVM Newsmagazine, June 2011), and a special session was held at this year’s conference of the American Veterinary Medical Association to explore ways to increase public awareness about the importance of annual checkups for pets.

– “In my opinion, most of the decline in veterinary visits is primarily due to the bad economy. If you are barely scraping by, you are certainly not going to the vet for a very pricey annual exam, especially if your pet seems fine.”

– While pet spending is up, the market isn’t growing fast enough to support the number of new veterinarians entering the veterinary profession. (DVM Newsmagazine, June 2011) Veterinarian supply is growing faster than pet owner demand. (The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study 2011)

– “Sadly there are some veterinarians who see hospitalization fees as a revenue stream and do not inform clients that no one will be supervising the pet they recommend be hospitalized. While one tends to like to think of their vet as a kind, caring person and many are, some are more business than heart.”

– Eighty-nine percent of current veterinary school graduates have student debt.  The average student loan debt of students graduating in 2010 from veterinary school was $133,873 (15% have debt in excess of $200,000) and the average starting salary was $48,674. (Veterinary Information Network News Service, January 4, 2011)

– “My question is why most vets feel the need to worry about money instead of worrying about taking care of the pets.”

– Although the number of households in the United States with cats is increasing, the number of feline visits to veterinary hospitals is decreasing. (Banfield Pet Hospital® State of Pet Health 2011 Report)

– “I’d love to take each of my cats in for dental cleaning on a regular basis and I have two cats that desperately need attention now. For me, it’s a matter of costs. Vets continue to increase their charges and there’s no break for multiple pets. Dental disease is a precursor for renal failure in cats and yet it’s so expensive for cleaning – yet alone extracting any teeth. Then blood work is usually advisable to be on the safe side. It’s a small fortune when you leave the vet’s office for ONE pet. Next you’ve got the cost associated with monthly flea control. You have to draw the line somewhere and hope for the best.”

– Fifty-four percent of cat owners and 47% of dog owners report that they would take their pet to the veterinary hospital more often if each visit were less expensive. (The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study 2011)

– “I am not saying veterinarians can’t charge a reasonable fee for their services, but most people can’t afford $300+ bills every time they step into a clinic, per pet, per year, and that is for the healthy ones who are coming in for regular yearly checkups and not for other medical concerns that require medications, further diagnostics, overnight stays, dental cleaning, blood work etc.”

– Fifty three percent of clients believe that veterinary clinic costs are usually much higher than expected. (The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study 2011)

– “I am sick and tired of the way veterinarians financially take advantage of people who are emotionally upset about their pets.”

– Twenty-four percent of pet owners believe that routine checkups are unnecessary and 36% believe that vaccinations are the main reason to take their overtly healthy pet in for an office visit. (The Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study 2011)

– “We have a lot of price gouging going on here at local vets. A dental cleaning has gone from $75 to $300 and up at many places. A lot of the clinics are buying high tech equipment and passing overhead costs on us so they really shouldn’t complain when clients come for less visits.”

Have you identified the common thread amongst these comments and statistics?  No doubt in my mind that the “gripe du jour” is the “M word.”  Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the real issue is too little money.

This blog is not intended to create or perpetuate harsh judgments. Please hear me when I say that I know that not every veterinarian or every person who brings their pet to see the vet is thinking primarily about money.  Clearly, however, money matters are on the minds of many, in fact more so than I’ve witnessed throughout my thirty year career.   Never before have I observed colleagues declare bankruptcy.  Never before have I spent so much time in the exam room trying to help folks figure out how to do more with less.

My goal in presenting this information is to create some understanding about what’s going on in the minds of individuals on both sides of the exam room table.  Blame this money mess state of mind on the diseased economy, veterinary competition, or the expense of going to veterinary school.  Whatever the causes, there is an awful lot of emotion tangled up in the financial aspects of providing and receiving veterinary health care these days.

What are your thoughts? Let’s talk about it and in doing so we will be able to kick that big ole’ elephant out of the middle of the exam room!

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.