Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Sleep in heavenly peace....."

What is it about a sleeping pet or a sleeping child that is so entirely beautiful and peaceful? As hectic as the day can get, I quite often can be sitting at my desk, turn around and see peace. There can be dogs barking in the clinic kennel, but the office is peaceful. There can be stacks of charts piling up in my callback pile, but the office is peaceful. The appointment calendar can be double booked, but the office is peaceful. Ok, maybe not when the computer is acting up or the software program has logged it's twentieth error message of the morning. But all it takes is a moment to stop and smell the roses or in this case, stop and watch the sleeping dogs.

The Christmas season is a great time to step back and take a moment to look for the peace. When the shopping, baking, decorating, wrapping, traveling, socializing, eating and drinking are done and the night is quiet and silent, then everything comes back into a calm balance. All it takes is a moment to watch a sleeping dog or cat and you can just feel the calm. The innocence of the moment. The Peace.

Please enjoy some pictures taken in my office and a couple from home. Not all are my critters, but most of them have been heard snoring in the office at one time or another. Take time to watch your pets sleeping. I almost guarantee you will feel better.

May you and your family have a joyful and peaceful holiday season!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Getting ready for Christmas

Christmas time is fast approaching and I suppose like most people I have been very busy. Probably not a very good excuse for not blogging, but it's the best one I have. I've also been taking off a few days here and there. Good for rejuvinating the body and mind, but not so good for getting things done at the office. The furry ones and their people come first when I am at work. My writing is secondary.

I am going to "cheat" a little with this blog. Some of you may have seen this video since it has been around awhile, but it is new to me. I thought it was very cleverly done. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I have to say that Thanksgiving is absolutely my favorite holiday. Perhaps it was because I was born on Thanksgiving Day so growing up, the Thanksgiving "season" always had some special meaning. But as a grown-up, I think I love Thanksgiving because it is a celebration without strings attached. It is simplistic and that is refreshing when life can be so hectic and complicated. Thanksgiving is about getting together with family and friends and enjoying really good home cooking. No gifts, no fancy decorations, no fireworks, no baskets of candy. Just family, friends and food.

So for those reasons, I am going to indulge myself in this blog and stray away from veterinary medicine for just a bit. I encourage everyone to take the time over this Thanksgiving season to make your own list. Everyone has bad parts in their lives. Let's take a moment to push those aside and only think of the positives. I'll bet you can come up with more than you'd think.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. There are so many things in my life to be thankful for that when I truly think about it, I am overwhelmed. In no particular order....... I guess I'll start with family. I am so blessed that neither my family or my husband's family has any real drama surrounding them. We are just ordinary people going through life and livin' and lovin' every moment. I have a job that I truly love and I work with some of the most talented, brightest and caring people on the planet. I get to spend every single day working with animals. The community where I live is full of wonderful people. I am blessed to live on a farm with woods and fields out my backdoor that I can enjoy at any time. Except for minor glitches, my health is good as is the health of my family. I have food on the table and running water and electricity. Music is a big part of my life and that brings me great joy. I am blessed to be living in the United States of America and while we are not perfect, this is the best nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all and all that jazz (or in my case all that country music). *grin*

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Take time to cherish everyone and everything that you love.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The "O" word: the final word

This is a good day for me to make the final blog on obesity series. This morning I saw Chloe the Boxer for her annual physical exam. Last year, Chloe weighed in at a chubby 67 lbs. I gave the standard diet recommendation and this year Chloe is a trim 58 lbs.. You do not know how happy I get when I see that! What a good job by Chloe's "mom"! Chloe's mom commented on much more active Chloe is now that she shed 9 lbs. That is a LOT for a dog. Equivalent to a woman losing around 20 lbs. Happy owner. Happy dog. Happy vet. Happy!

Now darn me I didn't bring my camera to work today so I don't have a picture of Chloe. What I do have is a picture of Harley. Harley is a slim and trim 7 year old Labrador Retriever. Some days I wonder if a normal weight lab exist, so Harley is a welcome change from the steady parade of obese retrievers that come through the door. Here are a couple of pictures of Harley. Notice in the view from above that he indeed has a waist. So cool!

So how to get your pet down to a happy weight? There are 2 basic options for cats and 3 for dogs. They all have their pluses and minuses so I will go over them one at a time.

Option 1. Standard diet and exercise. First you need to figure out how many calories your pet should be eating. I have a great chart at the clinic that works for 99% of the pets I see. It's too long to post here, but feel free to call or email me and I'll get the information to you. You can also get a smaller version of the chart at the web page. After you get the number of calories needed per day, you get to count calories for your pet. You have to count calories from ALL food sources including treats. Yes, you can still give treats (lets be real. we all give our dogs at least a few treats every day), but you have to count the calories. Again call or email me if you have questions about how to figure out how many calories are in different foods or treats. I don't mention as much about exercise as I should, but we all need exercise. Good excuse to take the dog for a walk. Cats are a little harder, but laser lights and toys that dispense bits of food as the cat plays with it (instead of eating it out of a dish) work well.

The advantages of option 1. No diet change needed. The most inexpensive method.
The disadvantages of option 1. Studies show only about a 6% success rate. A slight possibility of pets not getting the right amount of nutrients if fed reduced amount of a standard diet for a long period of time (although I have not seen this happen, ever.)

Option 2. Prescription reducing diet. These are special veterinary formula diets that you can only get through a veterinarian. They tend to have low amounts of calories per cup or ounce of food. Again, you have to count calories; but because you have to get the diet through our clinic, there is a tendency for closer monitoring. This makes these diets more successful than using standard diets.

The advantages of option 2. Reducing diets provide more nutrients and satisfy that hungry feeling better than using a standard diet. There tends to be closer monitoring of weight and adjusting of diet if needed. Higher success rate than reducing the amount of a standard diet.
The disadvantages of option 2. More expensive than a regular diet (but remember, pets are not on this for life. Think of it as medicine to treat a medical condition which is what obesity is.) Have to order through a veterinarian.

Option 3. Slentrol weight loss drug. This is only an option for dogs. This option works very well for the dogs that are so appetite driven that when you cut calories they start doing bad things like getting into the garbage or breaking into the cupboards to get to food. The drug is a liquid that you give by mouth. It is basically an appetite suppressant and it does work very well when used properly.

The advantages of option 3. Controls appetite so the dogs are more comfortable during the weight loss phase. Works well for most dogs. Does not necessarily need a diet change (although you still need to change the way you feed your dog to keep the weight from coming back after discontinuing the drug).
The disadvantages of option 3. Requires veterinary monitoring and is a prescription drug. More expensive than option 1. The safety has only been tested for 1 year of continuous use so some very obese dogs may have to go with another option if weight loss takes longer than a year. Not to be used with some chronic medical conditions such as liver disease.

As a final note, I just have to show you a picture of Tuff the Golden Retriever. I saw Tuff last year for his annual exam and he weighed 106.3 lbs.. Unfortunately I don't have a before picture., but there is no Golden Retriever that I have ever seen that should weigh this much. So we discussed diet and exercise. Fast forward to this year when Tuff showed up for his annual exam sporting a new 85.7 lb weight. Oh boy did he ever look good. That is over 20 lbs of weight loss on a dog! How cool is that! Congratulations to Tuff's family for doing such a good job. The rewards will be a happier and healthier dog. You couldn't ask for better than that.

I'm sure I'll be posting more pictures from time to time of happy dogs that have lost weight so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The "O" word: part 2

How does one week become two? It's called Dr. C. going on vacation and Dr. Di holding down the fort. Makes for little blogging time. So sorry. *grin*

Part one was an introduction to pet obesity. The biggest challenge that I face as a veterinarian talking about obesity is to convince people that being a chubby pet is not just cosmetic. It is a life threatening medical condition. It makes pets feel miserable. I know this because I see the difference between thin pets and fat pets. But to someone who has a chubby pet that is happy and wagging his tail, how do I convince someone that their chubby ball of fur would be even happier and live even longer? It's a tough challenge to be sure.

First, how does one know what is "normal" body weight? Start with looking at a body condition scoring chart. This is a chart that veterinarians use on medical records to show if a pet is normal, underweight or overweight. There are a lot of these charts out and about on the web. Purina has a great 9 point chart that I like to use, but the 5 point charts are probably simpler. Ohio State University has a good 5 point chart on their web site. Now I do have one pet peeve about most of these charts. Almost all will say something like "ribs palpable". Is palpable a word in common usage that most people know the meaning? I know what the word means, but do you (if you are not in a medical profession)? Why can't the charts just say "ribs can be felt". Simple and easy to understand.

Another hurdle to overcome in normal vs overweight debate is that more of our dogs and cats are overweight than are normal weight. I absolutely believe this is true. Pet owners are losing sight of what normal should look like because their neighbors, friends and relatives commonly have overweight pets. Overweight has become the "norm". But this is NOT healthy.

The third challenge is convincing owners that a dog or cat with a strong drive for food is starving if they beg, steal or "wolf" down their food. Food drive or appetite is an interesting phenomenon. Certainly having a strong drive to eat serves our wild carnivores well. If a wolf pack takes down an elk or a deer, it is the strongest and most aggressive wolf that gets the most from this feast. They have no way of knowing when their next meal will come. It could be a week or two at least. Our domestic pets have some of this instinct built in. We feed the dog at 8am and it chows down its food. The dog doesn't know that its next meal will be later in the day. It needs to eat its meal all and eat it right now. There might be no later. This is good for the wolf. Not good for the dog that snoozes on the sofa all day and gets daily food and treats.

Last but not least is realizing just how many calories there are in most dry foods. Although there are exceptions, a lot of dry dog and cat food has 400 or more calories per cup of food. If the average sized cat needs around 180-200 calories per day, this means a cat should be eating about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of food per day. How many cats will eat this little if food is left out all the time? Hey, leaving a bowl of dry food out all day for the cat to nibble on as it likes is how I was always taught to feed the cat. Sorry, but this feeding practice leads to a lot of chubby cats. We all need to learn new ways to feed our pets now that they sleep on the bed and bask in the sunshine streaming through the window.

Well, I said I would show you Tuff's picture in this blog, but it will have to wait as this blog is getting too long. Next blog: what can you as a pet owner do if you find out your pet is chubby and needs to lose weight. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The "O" word: part 1

Yes, that's right. The dreaded "O" word. This week's blog I'm going to talk about obesity. (Stayed tuned for the happy story of Tuff the Golden Retriever in the next part.) Since I was on track to get a degree in nutrition before switching my major to Animal Science and getting into vet school, I find all subjects related to nutrition very fascinating. There is so much cool information that is coming out of the research camps in the past few years on not just obesity, but how what we eat affects how our bodies function overall. Cool cool stuff!

But back on track to the obesity topic. I think it is pretty well agreed on by the medical community that obesity is indeed a disease and not just a cosmetic problem. Having a high percentage of body fat does really strange things to metabolism and actually causes inflamation in the body. There have been many studies that have shown how deadly obesity is not only in people, but in dogs too. One of the best known studies was Purina's life span study that was published in 2002. You can find some of the study information at Purina's web site and click on the link to the life span study. This is such an oversimplification of the findings, but basically, the thin dogs in the study lived 1.8 years longer on average. I don't know about you, but I would certainly like my dogs to live longer. Their lifespans are too short as it is.

Cats have kind of received the short end of the stick in the past, but obesity surely effects them too and also in deadly ways. Not to worry though, there are some research projects ongoing and we should all know a lot more in the next few years. Some of the questions I hope will be answered are how a dry food diet affects cats. There has been some speculation that carbohydrate based diets (i.e. dry food diets) lead to obesity in cats. Is it because cats metabolize carbohydrates differently than dogs? Or is it that dry food diets are more calorie dense than wet food diets so cats just plain eat more calories than if they ate canned food? The story is unfolding.

Some of the diseases that we see much more often in our overweight and obese patients include:

  • osteoarthritis
  • diabetes (cats)
  • ruptured cruciate ligaments (dogs)
  • breathing difficulty
  • skin infections

For more reading, there is a very good web site at In next week's blog, I'll show you a picture of Tuff and tell you his weight loss story. I'll talk about how you can tell if your dog or cat is overweight or not. And best of all, what we as pet owners can do to either prevent or treat obesity.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009 Boo Wow Walk

Wow! What a fun time we had this past weekend at the Boo Wow Walk! Well, the weather could have been better, but it also could have been worse. Persistant rain showers and cold threatened to spoil everyone's fun. The cold didn't go away, but at least the rain showers did. Great job to everyone who showed up to support the Ashtabula County Animal Protective League!

The Country Doctor Veterinary Clinic was proud to be able to be a sponsor and also set up a booth at the event to raise money for the APL. The staff really has a good time supporting this great cause. The work begins in late August or early September. First up is soliciting donations from our veterinary suppliers so we have goodies to put in our treat bags and the gift bags that we raffle. This year's goodies came from MWI Veterinary Supply (kudos to them for being the biggest supporter!), Merial, Pfizer, Penn Veterinary Supply, and Bayer. Dr. Charles Curie donated all the Furminator supplies and dog toys. Our Vet Tech Katelyn baked more than 500 homemade dog cookies for the treat bags. Thanks to everyone! It takes all the donations to make this all happen.

Once all the donations are assemled, the staff stuffs the 500 or so treat bags that we give out at the event. The gift baskets are assembled. Ashley did a great job dressing up our event sign with fall colors. This year our office manager Sue, her son Charlie and I were the set-up crew. Thanks Charlie for helping us out! The three of us sold raffle tickets until the walk officially started at 1pm. Then Ashley, Katelyn and Leanne came to finish the event and tear down. Katelyn even got to walk "Charlie", one of the APL dogs that was up for adoption at the event. Good news is that "Charlie" did get adopted that day! A BIG thank you to everyone who attended the event. The weather was really cold and gray. Definitely took strong northeastern Ohio people to show up.

All the work is definitely worth it though. As you can probably gather from my previous blog posts, I am firm believer in supporting local animal shelters wherever you may live. This event is just so much fun it deserves a blog post all its own. If you want to see all the pictures I took from that day, feel free to visit our Facebook page. Raffle winners and more news from the Boo Wow Walk can be found on the Country Doctor Veterinary Clinic Web Page.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lucky, the clinic cat

I snapped this photo of Lucky the clinic cat last week as he slept on a blanket behind me while I was at my desk. Yesterday, Lucky had to be put to sleep due to progression of his kidney disease. He actually did well considering he was already in Stage 4 of 4 when he was diagnosed back in July. I never had said it out loud when he was first diagnosed, but he had some changes in his bloodwork and urinalysis that were very bad as far as a long term prognosis. I really didn't think he would live a month. The staff did an excellent job managing his medications and Lucky maintained his body weight up until just this past week or so. But there are some things we cannot change or manage.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thank you Alaska

Late last week, I put to sleep a dog named Alaska. It may sound kind of weird to say this, but every euthanasia is unique. Some are very emotional and some are calm. Some are done with a split second decision after a horrible accident and some are done after much thought at the end of a long peaceful life. There are no two exactly alike. That's a pretty amazing thought considering I've been doing this for over 20 years now. Alaska's euthanasia was as peaceful as they come. The day was a beautiful sunny fall day with just a hint of crispness in the air. Alaska, Alaska's "dad", my vet tech and I all sat out in the grass behind the parking lot. Everything was peaceful. Alaska laid his head in his dad's lap and when I gave the injection, he did not move at all. He just went to "sleep". He was ready. Even now when I am typing this, tears are in my eyes. I am glad that we don't have to let our pets suffer when they reach the end of their lives. It is still sad though.

I received the most special of all letters in the mail the other day. It made me want to cry and smile at the same time. The letter brightened the day of the staff members even though the reason for the letter is very sad to those of us left behind. Please note the return address on the envelope. I'm going to add an image of the letter because I think it adds so much to the letter to read it in hand or should I say "paw"-written form. I'll write the text of the letter below because it is hard to read off the photo and then after that will be my response.

Hey Doc Curie and Doc Veal and all your really cool staff. My trip here was real peaceful and guess what? I don't hurt no more - just lazin round with all the other cool cats and pooches. Plenty of time I got now to remember all the fun I had over 13 years & good care and lovin from my family and you guys. Remember that long walk I took one day and was found "dog tired" on the highway? or the time I took off and was gone for a hole week dragging my 10 foot chain with me? Ah, those were the days. I'm gonna really miss the snow, people food and sharing dad's beers (don't tell anybody that one). Well, so long, and thanks a bunch for all you did for me and my family. Your science really did touch my soul. Alaska.

Dear Alaska, Thank you so much for your letter. I am happy that your trip across the Rainbow Bridge (that's what I call it) was uneventful and that you are now safe and sound. I am going to miss seeing you even though I know you never really liked coming to the clinic. Does anyone really like going to the doctor anyway? I think not. Romping in the woods is much more fun. I'll still get to see your family though and we will remember you and all the fun you had. I'll tell your dad not to worry about the beer thing because (don't tell anybody) but I sometimes let my dogs drink the last sip of beer out of my bottle too. Maybe in the winter, we can try to send some of the snow your way. I don't think anyone here will mind. Have a good time in Doggie Heaven. Maybe if we are lucky, we willl be able to see each other again someday. Dr. Veale

Thursday, October 1, 2009

World Rabies Day

With World Rabies Day being observed earlier this week (Monday September 28th), I thought this would be a good reminder of the importance of vaccinating pets for rabies. September is also the month that the state, county and local health departments in Ashtabula County put out oral rabies vaccine bait aimed at providing the raccoon population with some immunity toward this deadly disease that affects wildlife, pets and people. Here are some interesting facts about rabies:

  • 55,000 people worldwide die from rabies every year

  • widespread rabies vaccination in the United States has reduced the human deaths in this country to just a few every year.

  • Even so, thousands of wild animals test positive for rabies in the US every year and rabies cases in dogs and cats number in the hundreds. (6,841 wild and domestic animals tested positive in 2008)

  • Cats are the number one domestic animal testing positive for rabies. (294 cases of rabies in cats reported in 2008)

  • Rabies is always fatal once symptoms appear.

  • In 2008, a 55 year old man from Missouri died of rabies. He had been bitten on the ear by a bat 30 days before the symptoms began and did not seek treatment until after the symptoms started.

  • In Ohio in 2008, there were 64 reported rabies cases. 5 raccoons, 55 bats, 3 skunks and 1 coyote.

  • In Pennsylvania in 2008, there were 431 reported rabies cases. 60 in domestic animals including 53 cats, 3 cattle, 3 dogs, 1 sheep or goat. 371 in wild animals including 228 raccoons, 43 bats, 71 skunks, 25 fox, 2 bobcats, 2 groundhogs.

Rabies in nearly 100% preventable. Vaccinate your pets (dogs, cats, ferrets and horses) against rabies. If you or anyone in your family is bitten or scratched by a wild animal or unknown pet, contact your doctor. If your pet is bitten or scratched by a wild animal or stray animal, call your veterinarian.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Support your local animal shelter

I'll admit up front that I've been kind of busy and very deficient in the blog department. Part of my being busy leads right into today's blog topic. I am fortunate to be able to spend one or two days a month at the Ashtabula County Animal Protective League spaying and neutering dogs and cats that are being adopted. My schedule worked out this month that I did two weeks back to back. So two Mondays ago with the help of Ashley from Country Doctor and Jeremy from the APL, we spayed or neutered 22 animals. Then last Monday with the help of Katelyn from Country Doctor and Jammie from the APL, we spayed or neutered 19 animals. Most of these animals had already been adopted and are now in their new homes. That is a good feeling. I am so blessed to have such talented people working with me. These past two surgery days went so smoothly and it is all due to Ashley, Katelyn, Jammie and Jeremy. Thanks to all!

Since the APL is on my mind, the timing is right to encourage everyone to support their local animal shelter wherever that may be. There is a lot of work to do. Adopt an animal. Donate money. Donate supplies. Donate time. We can all help out in some way or another.

This fall, the Ad Council and the Humane Society of the United States are gearing up for an advertising campaign to encourage adoption of pets from local shelters. I am very excited about this and looking forward to see where the ads turn up. I believe this link takes you to where the campaign starts: There is a cool little video about the filming of the TV ads.

The Ashtabula County APL is also gearing up for lots of fun events this fall. They will be at the Grape Jamboree this coming weekend (Sept 26 and 27, 2009) and the Covered Bridge Festival (Oct 10 and 11). The big event of course is the annual Boo Wow Walk on October 17th. Country Doctor will be there again this year because we had so much fun last year!!!!! You might also get to meet Gabby the beagle I adopted from the APL two years ago. Also on tap this fall is a book signing at Ashtabula Towne Square on Oct 24th, Reverse trick or treat at the shelter on Oct 29th and one of MY favorites, the Spayghetti dinner on November 2nd. Visit the APL web site for more details:

One more picture of Gabby doing what beagles do. Caught in mid "bow woooooooo" on the trail of a rabbit.
There are so many animals in need of homes. If you are considering getting a dog or cat, I'd encourage everyone to look no further than their local animal shelter. There are so many beautiful animals that just want a home of their own.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Uh ................ speaking of pyometra

I think this may be a record for me. 8 days ago, I wrote in my blog about a disease called pyometra that is seen in older female dogs. Yesterday I did surgery on an 8 year old female dog with perhaps the largest uterus I have ever personally taken out of a dog. The dog's presurgery weight was 55 lbs and the uterus weighed 8.2 lbs.. Wow! Quite impressive! Remember, "pyo" means "pus" so this was a uterus filled with 8 lbs of pus. I just have to share the photo with everyone so if you don't like surgery pictures don't look below.
I'm going to re-post the picture taken of a normal 70 lb dog's uterus first. The second picture will be the 8.2 lb uterus from yesterday's surgery.
Oh and the dog that had pyometra surgery yesterday is doing very well and went home today.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lucky the clinic cat 9/8/09 update

Just thought I would give everyone an update on how Lucky the clinic cat is doing. If you don't remember, Lucky was diagnosed with kidney disease back in mid July. For the full blog on cats and kidney disease visit the July 2009 blog archive or click on this link.

There is some good and some bad in this update. Unfortunately Lucky has chronic kidney disease that is mostly stable, but in an advanced stage. He is hovering around Stage III to IV of four stages under the International Renal Interest Society (IRIS) classification. His current treatment is Hill's feline k/d diet, subcutaneous fluids given Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Azodyl, Epakitin and benazepril. By the way, all these treatments including giving the fluids can be done at home by any cat owner. We have been able to improve some of his blood values, but not all. I guess the best part is that he is eating good and his weight is stable. Maintaining body weight is one of the best ways to monitor how a cat is feeling. Eating good = feeling good. Cats with kidney disease that eat some and lose weight may appear to be ok, but the weight loss speaks for itself. So I am thrilled that for right now Lucky is maintaining body weight. That's the best we can ask for right now.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

To spay or not to spay ...........

This is the sad part of veterinary medicine. This is the part where a dog dies from a nearly 100% preventable disease. This is where I (or another veterinarian) have counselled someone how to prevent this death and it happens anyway. It always leaves me asking why. Did the dog's owner even hear what I said? Was money an issue? (when isn't it in veterinary medicine?) Did I state the facts, but fail to stress the importance? To me, this shows how communication is the key to much of what I do on a day to day basis. I have learned a lot about communication in my 23 years as a veterinarian, but I am still learning every day. Times like this make me think "how could I have communicated better?". Life makes you realize that there is always something new to learn.

The disease I am talking about is pyometra or literally translated "pus in uterus". This disease of female dogs will occur in nearly every older unspayed female dog if it doesn't die from something else first. Since spaying involves removing the ovaries and uterus, a spayed dog cannot get pyometra. I say it is nearly 100% preventable because I will occasionally see a pyometra in a young breeding bitch, but this is the exception. And because the whole disease process starts with hormonal changes to the uterus that occur over time, pyometra almost always occurs in older female dogs. Female dogs do not go through menopause like humans do and will continue to come into heat throughout their lifetime. If bacteria gets into the uterus, this can set the stage for a severe and possibly life threatening infection that is pyometra. The treatment for pyometra in nearly every case is to do surgery and spay the dog. Of course, now we are talking about doing a spay surgery on a sick dog with a greatly enlarged uterus. This is not the ideal time to do surgery. Many dogs will live through surgery and do well. A few will die.

"They" say a picture is worth a thousand words. So now through the magic of our digital world, I can show you all what I am talking about. The following pictures were taking during spay surgery from two different female dogs. Both dogs weighed about 70 pounds. Female dog #1 was young (about 10 months old) and healthy. She will never have to live through the horror of what pyometra can be. Female dog #2 was older and sick with pyometra. She died about 14 hours after surgery.

Female dog #1 uterus during spay surgery

Female dog #2 uterus during pyometra surgery

BIG difference eh? This is why I recommend having female dogs spayed. Female dogs can be spayed early if the owner does not want a litter of puppies or later if a bitch is to be used for breeding. I see the consequences of what can happen when older female dogs are not spayed. I do not recommend surgery lightly. I am the pet advocate. Whatever is in the pet's best interest is what I am going to recommend. Dog #1 is alive and happy. Dog #2 is dead. Sad isn't it?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Veterinary Medicine: It's a people business Part 2

Today I want to talk about another group of people who make coming to work fun every single day of the week. That would be the staff of The Country Doctor. I have worked at three different veterinary clinics over my 23 year career in veterinary medicine and 14 of those years have been at Country Doctor. I have worked with many excellent people over the years, but I can honestly say that the group of people I work with right now are the best! Dr. Curie has assembled what I commonly refer to as the "dream team". From the receptionists to the veterinary assistants/technicians to the office manager, every single person here is caring, dedicated and hard working. I have so much respect for every person and the job they do. It is very cool to have so many intelligent, smart women all working together. I love how everyone wants to learn more. That is a great personality trait for anyone. I love coming to work knowing that I have highly skilled veterinary assistants and techicians to help me care for my patients. Because I have worked at other clinics, I know the high quality of care that patients receive at Country Doctor. It just knocks my socks off.

Recently we got to enjoy each other's company away from the office at a cookout at Dr. Curie's farm. Have you ever seen a better looking group of people? We enjoyed fried perch and homegrown chicken and about 10 different side dishes. Then there was bocce ball and cornhole and a walk to Dr. C's lake. Ok, that last part ended in getting soaked by a little rain shower, but it was still fun! What a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. A big thank you to my "other" family for making my life better! (left to right: Leanne, Kate, Carly, Ashley, Amber, Christine, Amy, Dr.V. / In front: Sue)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Veterinary Medicine: It's a people business Part 1

Hope everyone had a great week last week. As you can see, I took a week off blogging and instead spent time hanging out at the Ashtabula County Fair. I love fair week. I love checking out all the 4-H animals and talking with all the people I know. Of course there is the manditory visit to the DairyBooth for ice cream and spending the entire day on Sunday at the tractor and truck pull. Although I didn't buy a ticket, Keith Anderson sounded great Saturday night and by the sounds of all the girls screaming, he must have put on a heck of a show.

Now back to the happenings at Country Doctor. I want to steer away from medical topics for a bit and take some time to thank some very special people who make working at Country Doctor an awesome job. This will be part 1 so stayed tuned for more.

About a week or two ago, I was hanging out in the X-ray room when Doc Curie came walking in. He stopped and said "You know, we have the best clients in the world". Well, he is absolutely right on. Country Doctor does have the best clients. I talk about this all the time with people I know. There is a misconception out there that veterinary medicine is an animal business. Surely animals are part of the job, but I've never known one animal that came walking through the front door without a human attached to it. Students who aspire to work with animals because they love the animals, but don't like working with people are bound to be extremely disappointed if they choose veterinary medicine as a career. But for someone who loves animals AND loves people, veterinary medicine is perfect.

The people who walk through our front door are not just any people. They are special. They are animal lovers. They care. I don't care if it's the owner of a dog or cat that sleeps in bed with them or the farmer that raises livestock or the hunter that owns a working dog to help chase that coon or that rabbit or retrieve a duck. Every single one of these people has a deep seated respect for life and it shows in the way they care for their animals. Being able to come to work every day and meet people who really care about their animals is a true blessing.

So thank you to all the clients that come to Country Doctor. You make coming to work fun!

Thanks to everyone who sends me pictures of their pets. Here's a couple I particularily thought were classic dog. Timex, a normally very shiny black dog, comes home after a day out mud wrestling. Then a picture of Timex all cleaned up and taking a snooze. I love it!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Puppy Love!

Lookie what I got to play with at work the past 2 days............

I love my job!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Deadly summer bugs

August may be the month for graphic photos in my blog so beware as you read this post. (Could this be a warning about a future blog too????) What better way to get a point across than show it in a picture, eh?

Some of you (me included) are really starting to wonder if summer is really here in northeastern Ohio. Well, we may not have had hot weather yet, but the creepy crawly critters that we don't have to deal with in the dead of winter are surely out and about anyway. Today I would like to send out a warning about fly strike.

Fly strike or myiasis is when fly larvae or maggots infest tissue. In my small animal practice, I most often see this in heavy coated breeds of dogs and in rabbits although any animal can be affected. (Do you remember "Pumpkin" the cat found with the arrow through is front leg? His wound was packed full of maggots.) All it takes to get started is a wound or moist infected area of skin to get started. Flies are attracted to the wound area and lay their eggs near the wound. Then the eggs hatch to maggots and the maggots start feeding on the wound. Most of the fly strike I have seen occurs on top of the rump or around the anal or genital area probably because the pet is less likely to notice flies buzzing around its backend vs buzzing around the head area. In heavy coated animals, the maggots will burrow under the hair coat to the skin. It takes several days of maggots feasting on an animal's skin before the pet starts to show signs of being sick. By this time, the damage can be extensive and the consequences deadly.

This picture is of a rabbit I treated for fly strike last month. We had shaved all the fur off the top
of the rabbit's back and had removed the maggots. The pink areas are exposed muscle where the maggots had eaten all the skin away. For a point of reference, I am holding the rabbit's tail. This rabbit had even more extensive maggot created holes in the skin on the underside. Unfortunately this rabbit died as many of them do.

So how do you prevent this? If you have a heavy coated dog, consider shaving the fur short for the summer especially if the dog is housed outside. Make sure the backend is kept free and clean from pieces of poop that might get stuck back there. We all know that poop attracts flies. Well at least, I hope we all know this. Keep dogs and cats on good quality flea control. Fleas can cause scratching. Scratching can cause a moist skin infection called a "hot spot". And hot spots are the perfect starting ground for maggot invasion. If rabbits are housed outdoors (or even in a garage), you really need to pick them up every day in the summer and check around their back end. Be especially aware of any strange rotting type odor that you all of a sudden notice on your dog or rabbit. If you notice fly eggs on your pet's fur (they look like small white or yellow-white clusters on the fur), now is the time to take action. Comb them out with a fine tooth comb like a flea comb. If the skin is already infested with maggots, please get your pet to the vet as soon as possible.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Senior cats and the silent killer

As most of you know, The Country Doctor has been home to Lucky the cat since he arrived at the clinic 9 years ago as a tiny 0.7 lb kitten. We like to tease him because as cats go, well, he doesn't have much of a personality. He really is kind of a cool cat to live at a clinic though. When he came to us, he had a badly deformed rear leg. His bad leg has always prevented him from jumping up on counters and the like. Also he has a cataract in one eye and I'm sure this messes up his depth perception so that he doesn't like to attempt to jump up on things. This is a really good thing for a cat that lives at a veterinary clinic since there is lots of "stuff" on the counters that should not be messed with by a cat. Unfortunately, this past week, Lucky was diagnosed with kidney disease. We are very early into the treatment and diagnosis so his prognosis is really unknown at this point. Kidney disease is never good, but if a cat has the chronic form of the disease, they usually do better than those with the acute form. It will be at least a week or maybe a few weeks until we can determine what form Lucky has. I'll keep you posted on Lucky's progress as time goes by.

Since the staff and I are personally involved with a cat with kidney disease, I thought this would be a good blog topic. Kidney disease in middle aged and older cats is probably the second most common disease we see (dental disease being #1). Unlike dental disease though, kidney disease is a true silent killer. Cats will have kidney disease for months or possibly a year or more before any symptoms are seen. In fact around 65% of the kidneys have to quit functioning before the very first symptom is visible and that would be a slight increase in thirst and an increase in the amount of urine produced. Not many owners will pick up the disease at this stage. In fact, I probably wouldn't pick it up in my own cats because it is so subtle. Next, when 75% of the kidneys quit functioning, the cat will finally have abnormal blood test results. Even at this stage, most cats will seem normal although some cats will start to show a little weight loss. As the disease gets worse, the cat will lose more weight, have a gradual loss of appetite and may start vomiting. All this time, most cats will still urinate more than normal. The poorly functioning kidneys in their failing attempt to get rid of waste products in the bloodstream will let more and more water escape from the kidneys and out of the body. Unable to keep up just by drinking more water, these cats are very slowly dehydrating themselves to death.

Like I said before, kidney disease is never good, but if caught early, this is one disease where a SIGNIFICANT impact can be made to the cat's quality and quantity of life. And I'm not talking heroic measures here (although kidney transplants are being regularly performed in cats in this country). I'm talking some VERY simple changes in the cat's life. But first, we must catch this disease in the early stages before the cat starts acting sick. Folks, this is why we stress the importance of yearly blood work in our older cat patients. In a moment I'll tell you why, if we catch this disease early, what a difference can be made. You will be stunned!!!!!!!!

When a cat is diagnosed with kidney disease, it will fall into one of four stages. Stage 1 is the earliest stage when the blood work is normal. We do not catch cats in this stage very often. Stage 2 are the cats with abnormal blood work, but are still feeling good. This is where we can do the most good. Stage 3 and 4 cats have a worse long term prognosis because their disease is further along, but we can often help most of these cats at least somewhat. Also cats that have lots of protein in their urine have a worse prognosis. Cats whose kidney blood tests get worse in the first few weeks have a worse prognosis. This points to the need to recheck blood work every month or so at the very beginning.

So here is where several different scientific studies of cats with kidney disease have had similar findings. If I diagnose a cat with chronic kidney disease and do nothing, the average amount of time until that cat will die is about 6 months. If the owner can get the cat to eat a veterinary prescription diet (which believe it or not is possible in 90% of cats and if an owner is persistent enough), the average amount of time until that cat will die is about 18 months and some studies have average survival times of over 2 years! That is extending life span by 3 times just by changing the diet. BUT we have to catch the disease early!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One thing to note though is that there is really no benefit to changing to a veterinary kidney diet in a cat that does not have kidney disease. Diet is an important treatment for kidney disease, but it does not prevent the disease from starting in the first place. In addition to diet, there are other treatments available that have a major impact in both quality and quantity of life in a cat with kidney disease. You may read about subcutaneous fluids, blood pressure medicines, B vitamins, potassium supplements, hormonal treatments, phosphorus binders and stomach protectants to name a few. Not every medicine is appropriate for every patient, but if needed, they can make a big difference to an individual cat.

So meet Snow. Snow is a cat owned by our very own veterinary assistant Ashley. Snow was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease 4 years ago. He was started on Hills Prescription Feline k/d diet and a hormonal treatment calcitriol. Unfortunately, he developed side effects from the calcitriol so we just kept him on the kidney diet and monitored his blood work periodically. This year he started experiencing some occasional vomiting, but he has responded well to periodic administration of a small amount of Pepcid. Four years is longer than average, but it just goes to show how just a change of diet and then the later addition of just one medicine has made all the difference to Snow's life.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is a puppy's life worth $24?

In this day and age, it is almost inconceivable to me that an 8 month old puppy could show up at the clinic with parvo, but it happened two days ago. And this is not a rare occurrence. Sometimes the owner is not aware of what parvo virus is, but more often than not, they tell stories of a relative's puppy or a friend's puppy or even a puppy they owned years ago that died of parvo.

So what is parvo virus? Well, it's a virus that showed up in the late 1970's and causes primarily severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea although the heart can be affected too mostly in young puppies. Sometimes owners will just find their puppy dead with little or no symptoms. Up to 90% of unvaccinated puppies and dogs will die if left untreated. Even with treatment, some dogs will die. Treatment can be expensive depending on how severely the disease attacks the puppy. I've seen treatment cost over $1000. This is a nasty virus! I have seen puppies die from this disease and it is horrible.

Enter the vaccine. Although no vaccine is 100% protective of a disease, I can honestly say that in my 23 years as a veterinarian, I have never seen a properly vaccinated dog get parvo. Oh I've heard about cases, but never actually had one myself. I have seen puppies that have received 1 or 2 vaccinations (but are not done with their entire series of vaccinations) get parvo virus. That is something that does happen sometimes and of no fault to either the owner of the puppy or the vaccine (there is a good scientific explanation why this happens, email me if you really want to know). So in a nutshell, there is a good vaccine and it needs to be used PROPERLY!

So this 8 month old puppy that had parvo had its "puppy shot". Hmmmmm? It had one shot before it was 4 months old. Not good enough. It bugs the heck out of me when a breeder sells an 8 week old puppy and tells the buyer that the puppy has had "all of its puppy shots". Well, yeah, it may have gotten a vaccination at 6 weeks old and that's all the shots it needs, uh, until it is 9-10 weeks old and then it needs another AND then another after that AND another after that. So I guess technically the breeder is correct in that the puppy has had all the shots it needs at that moment in time. They neglect to educate puppy buyers about the need for a complete series. Now, before the breeders out there get on my case, most breeders are very good about telling buyers about needed follow up shots, but you would be surprised how often this part is neglected.

About now, some of you may be asking, what about the $24? I'll get to that in a moment. I think everyone knows it costs more than $24 to take a puppy to the vet for 3 to 4 visits and get the proper vaccinations. I also hope that most people know there is way more value to the veterinary visit than just getting "shots". Oh let me count the ways...............
  • the physical exam (the most important part)
  • making sure the puppy gets vaccinated with the correct vaccine, the right number of times and the correct number of weeks apart. (all VERY important)
  • discussing what us veterinarians call "non-core" vaccinations, for example, Lyme Disease vaccination and Kennel Cough vaccination. Is it right for YOUR puppy or not?
  • counselling on keeping human family members safe from diseases that they can get from their puppy (zoonotic diseases, a favorite discussion of mine. more on this in a future blog)
  • counselling on behavioral issues (training, play biting, chewing, housebreaking, this list is nearly endless)
  • counselling on nutrition (obesity now affects between 40-60% of our pet population)
  • preventative health care for heartworms, fleas, roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms, etc.
  • why microchipping is a good idea
  • information on pet health insurance (this is the future of veterinary health care as owners want more sophisticated diagnostics and treatments which all cost money)
  • spay/neuter counselling
  • care of the teeth (85% of pets will develop dental disease in their lifetime)

See there really is some value. Never ever be afraid to ask us questions. We don't have all the answers, but if we don't know, we usually know where to find the answers.

By now, you are all saying "would you PLEASE get to the part about the $24!". Ok, I will. You see, a parvo vaccine costs around $6 at the local feed mills. A 6 week old puppy will need a total of 4 vaccinations given once a month over the span of 4 months. $24. So if you want your puppy vaccinated in the most correct and safest way possible and have access to a professional that can answer a billion and one questions on pet health care, please have it vaccinated by a veterinarian. There is value there. But if you REALLY can't afford vet visits, spend the $6 a month for 4 months and then I won't see your 8 month old puppy showing up at my clinic with parvo. It just should not happen. End of sermon.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In memory of Harlee

Harlee and his family have been coming to the clinic since 1997. Last month, Harlee died. On Thursday July 9th, I received a very special gift from a very special young lady. She drew this picture of her dog Harlee under the Rainbow Bridge. It touches my heart when children show such thoughtfulness and grace. The human-animal bond is indeed strong.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food and water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing: they miss someone very special to them; who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.
The bright eyes are intent; the eager body quivers.
Suddenly he begins to break away from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
YOU have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Welcome to my blog

Hi everyone! Well, let's just get started. I am a small animal veterinarian in a small town in the far northeastern corner of Ohio. Yep, right up by Lake Erie in the land of "lake effect" snow. But I guess it's July and well, we won't have worry about that for another 3-4 months.

So why blog? As a primary care / family doctor for your furry "kids", my job involves a lot of preventitive heath care and education. If you ask me, reading articles on health care topics can get pretty darn boring at times. Enter the age of myspace, facebook, texting, twitter and of course blogging, Much more casual, fun and interactive than reading a piece of paper! And I get to write grammatically incorrect sentences too!

Which brings me to the goals here:

  • Give glimpses into the life of a small town veterinarian
  • Education on health care topics for your pet
  • Have fun!

Most of my inspiration for topics will come out of my day to day life, but if anyone has a topic of particular interest that they would like to know about, feel free to email me. Funny stories and comments are more than welcome.

Blog on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!