Friday, December 24, 2010

Second Annual 'Sleep in Heavenly Peace'

I mentioned that I would post a blog with new information about Lyme Disease sometime in the month of December.  Well I wrote up the article on Lyme disease for our clinic newsletter that will be out in January.  And I will post the article here too, but really, it is the day before Christmas and who wants to think about Lyme Disease.  Not me. 

Last night, I walked outside to unload some bags of cat food from my car when I noticed the mass of furry critters in the dog kennel on our porch.  We have 8 barn cats that live on our farm.  They are some what of a rag tag bunch of cats with various minor problems, but they are all neutered, vaccinated, wormed, treated with flea and heartworm prevention and VERY well fed.  We actually laugh because the group has split into two.  Three cats who really spend all their time on our front porch and the other five that spend most of their time in the barn.  For some reason this year, 2 of the "barn" cats have abandon ranks and joined the "porch" cat group.  I am used to seeing 3 cats curled up together in the dog kennel on the porch, but last night I had 5 sets of eyes staring back at me.  I think the youngest cat in the bunch is 7 or 8 years old.  So interesting to me to see older adult cats sleep like this.  I'm sure they like the warmth in the colder weather.


The cats sleeping together made me once again think about how peaceful animals look when they are sleeping.  The beagles are once again curled up beside the computer desk and they too have a look of total peacefulness.  A good thought to have because after all this is the season of Peace.  What a good time to step back and have a peaceful moment to reflect on all our blessings.  I for one feel totally blessed to have animals a part of my life.  May each and every one of us have a Merry Chritmas or a blessed holiday season in whatever way we choose to celebrate. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pictures with Santa

So you have been thinking about getting your pet's picture taken with Santa?  Or perhaps you want a picture of the dog and the kids together with Santa?  How about your 2 cats and your 4 dogs?  Well now is the time.  In the next 10 days, you have 3 chances to get pictures with Santa and support either the Ashtabula County APL or the Ashtabula County Humane Society.  Here are the three dates in order:

TONIGHT December 3, 2010 at the Geneva Lodge from 4 to 8pm.  This event sponsored by the Ashtabula County Animal Protective League

TOMORROW Saturday December 4, 2010 at the Ashtabula County Humane Society in Austinburg from 11am to 3pm.  This event is sponsored by the Ashtabula County Humane Society

NEXT SUNDAY December 12, 2010 at Country Doctor Veterinary Clinic in Jefferson from 11amm to 3pm.  This event is sponsored by the Ashtabula County Animal Protective League.

Links have been included above so you can check out the web pages for each organization to get more specific information. 

This a great way to support your local Ashtabula County animal shelters and have fun too.  Bring the whole family! 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

That dirty old ear sucking dog

I should have know my childhood fascination with my grandma's Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings albums would lead this city girl down a country road.  It wasn't until after college though when I married a farm boy that I disappeared down that road for good.  I won't go into all the long drawn out details of the journey, but here today I find myself with two huntin' beagles that keep the blanket on the floor next to my computer desk warm and furry.  It is required that they are called "huntin' beagles".  Saying "hunting" with the "g" would be too cityfied.  Besides, these dogs work for a living.  I am a big believer in dogs having an outlet for whatever their genetic make up tells them they should do.  So all year long, a couple times a week, the two huntin' beagles get to run rabbits in the creek bed behind our house.  Except during hunting season, there is no danger to the rabbits.  The two dogs work the trail SLOWLY.  I think I have even seen a rabbit stopping to nibble on a blade of grass as it lazily hops along to stay ahead of the trailing dogs. 

The two beagles at my house have very different backgrounds.  The older beagle, Gabby, I adopted from the local animal shelter.  I had absolutely no idea if she would hunt rabbits, but I wanted her as a pet first and foremost.  The fact that she loves her beagle job is just an added bonus.  The younger beagle, Buddy, I acquired earlier this year from a guy who raises beagles.  He had kept two pups from his bitch's last litter, but then was finding that he couldn't spend as much time with them as he liked.  So my husband and I agreed to have Buddy come live with us.  The two dogs bonded immediately.  Well, Buddy bonded with Gabby like glue.  I'm not sure the feeling is entirely mutual, but Gabby does not protest at the young teenage hound that follows her everywhere.

There is a ritual that is played out nearly every evening on that blanket on the floor next the computer desk.  After the evening feeding and the usual racing and chasing around the lower level of the house, the two beagles settle down on the blanket.  What happens next just amazes me.  As Gabby starts to fall into deep slumber, Buddy will start licking one of her ears.  It progresses to him taking all of Gabby's ear flap into his mouth and sucking on it.  And Gabby has big ear flaps.  Every evening I ponder why Buddy does this?  And how can he get that whole flap in his mouth?  And why doesn't Gabby seem to care?  This goes on for several minutes and then the two dogs just fall asleep side by side.  I would stop this behavior if I noticed anything bad happening, but Gabby's ear flap doesn't have any side effects except that sometimes it will kind of stick out at an odd angle if the saliva dries and makes the flap kind of stiff.  Otherwise all is well.

I took some pictures of what this all looks like.   The only reason that Gabby's eyes are open in these pictures is because of the flash from the camera. 






Which brings me back around to Johnny Cash.  While Buddy is definitely not old and he is mostly not dirty, he is an ear sucking dog.  Up from the depths of my childhood memories came the memory of a Johnny Cash song "Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog".  I remember it was from the album "Everbody Loves a Nut".  I'll bet I wore out the vinyl on the copy that my grandma had at her house.  But other than remembering that I loved this song, I had forgotten the words.  So of course I had to go and look them up.  I guess it wouldn't be very politically correct to sing about stomping a dog's head into the ground or shooting it with a rifle nowadays, probably even more so for a veterinarian.  All I know is that I remember liking this song as a kid.  It probably made me laugh.  Maybe it's like the Blake Shelton song says "we've all got a hillybilly bone down deep inside no matter where you're from you just can't hide".  Time to go feed the huntin' beagles and watch that ol' ear sucking dog for a bit.

And for those who haven't heard the Johnny Cash song that I write about, here is a version with the muppets.  Now how can you go wrong with Johnny Cash AND the muppets.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blood worms vs poop worms

Right here by popular demand: It's blood worms vs poop worms.  No it's not a WWE match.  But it is something I get asked about all the time.  And it is something that causes great confusion in the exam room.  So my office manager and vet assistants asked that I write this blog to try and clear up some myths about worms that we hear all the time when talking to pet owners.  So here are the top 5 worm myths that we hear.

Myth #1

I'm sure my pet doesn't have any worms because I don't see anything in its poop.

Answer of course is "seeing" or in this case "not seeing" does not tell you what is happening inside a dog or cat's intestines.  Tapeworms may the one exception as most tapeworm infections in dogs and cats are diagnosed when the owner either sees the worm segments in the animal's poop or sees the worms actually crawling out their pet's butt while they are snuggling together in bed.  Nice, eh?  These segments are where the tapeworm eggs are found and that is how they reproduce and spread.  But the other major worms (roundworms, hookworms and whipworms in dogs) just tend to happily attach to the lining of the pet's intestines eating and having sex.  Then they produce eggs that are passed into the poop and worm eggs are microscopic.  Adult roundworms are large enough to see easily, but adult hookworms and whipworms are much smaller and rarely if ever seen.  Unless there are hundreds of adult worms hanging out in the intestines or they are killed with deworming medicine, there is no advantage for these adult worms just let go and pass outside the body.  So they just hang onto the inside of your pet and pass microscopic eggs into the environment.

Then there are all the single cell parasites out there like Giardia and Coccidia.  They are not worms at all, but can make pets pretty gosh darn sick.  I challenge anyone out there to be able to see a single cell organism with the naked eye.  Ain't gonna happen.

Did you know that a single female roundworm can produce 100,000 of these microscopic eggs every day? (From CDC web site)

Myth #2

My pet had a negative stool sample, but I am seeing worms.  Your stool sample test sucks.

Answer is that the test does not suck, but it does have limitations.  Worms don't always produce eggs every single day of their lives.  Some worms are more likely to produce lots of eggs (roundworms) then others that produce few eggs (whipworms).  And as I mentioned above, tapeworms like to pass segments through the stool.  The eggs are inside these segments and that is what the fecal test picks up.  So if there is no segment in the poop sample, it will be negative.  Your pet still has worms. 

We still recommend stool samples be tested though because they are a good screening tool.  They will pick up a lot of worms that we would never know a pet has just by looking at the poop.  You just have to remember that once in awhile, a "negative" is not truly a negative.  (If you look at our medical records, we actually don't write "negative" in the results box, but rather we write "no ova(eggs) seen".)

Myth #3

We tell you your dog needs to be tested for heartworms.  You say that you brought in a stool sample a couple weeks ago and it was negative for any worms.

Answer is that HEARTworms live in the HEART.  So when they reproduce and have children, they do it inside the bloodstream.  You will not find baby heartworms in a poop sample.  We need to draw blood.  Adult heartworms live in and near the heart and when they give "birth" it is to little squiggly larvae called microfilaria.  Again, these microfilaria are microscopic and just waiting for a mosquito to suck up some blood and carry them off to another dog, cat, coyote, or whatever.  There are blood worms and there are poop worms.  Heartworms are in the blood.

Myth #4

My dog can't have heartworms because it is not around any other dogs and it hardly ever goes outside.

Answer is that heartworms are spread by mosquitoes and while you may not want to admit it, mosquitoes can and do get inside our homes.  Mosquitoes can also travel a good distance when the wind blows whether they like it or not.  My best example was a little dog that came to the city clinic where I worked about 20 years ago.  It was a little toy poodle that lived in a high rise apartment and pooped and peed on a pee pad inside the apartment.  Yep, the poodle got heartworms. 

Myth #5

My dog can't have heartworms because it doesn't even act sick.

Answer is that depending on how many heartworms are in a dog's heart, they could walk around for years before they start showing symptoms (coughing, getting tired more easily).  Dogs with lots of worms will show signs right away, but some dogs will only have a few worms.  By the time that they get symptoms, they are at risk for permanent lung or heart damage.  We need to test all dogs before they are sick.

Now if you read my last blog, you read about a lovely picture of bloody diarrhea that came out of a dog and ended up on the floor of the waiting room.  This dog's diarrhea was caused by massive hookworm infection and there were a few tapeworms thrown in for good measure.  If you don't want to look, then don't scroll down.  You have been warned.




The moral of the story is listen to your vets when they speak of worms.  Worms are a fact of life in dogs and cats and trying to ignore that worms exist can lead to trouble.  Let's keep our pets and families healthy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

All things gross and beautiful

Because of James Heriott, just about every pet lover is familiar with Cecil F. Alexander's hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful".

All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
The Lord God made them all

Well my take on this hymn is "all things gross and beautiful" should be the first line.  Earlier this year, I got the chance to do a career day talk at a local school.  After my little spiel, there was a question and answer session.  The first question by one of the students was "Do you ever see gross things?".  I think the teacher was a little taken aback and she tried to redirect away from that question, but leave it to a veterinarian to jump on any opportunity to talk about all things gross.  I thought that was a GREAT question and I was more than happy to talk about having a career that has daily exposure to bodily excretions of all types.  I know the human medical field has their fair share of the gross factor, but veterinary medicine excels in this field.  There is nothing like coming home from work smelling of anal sacs, tom cat urine and infected Cocker Spaniel ears all at the same time.  God bless the families of veterinarians.  They will surely achieve sainthood for putting up with such odors making their way into their entrance ways and laundry rooms.

A couple months after career day, one of our vet techs came running into the back room all smiling and excited and in search of the camera.  Something had happened in the waiting room and she wanted to get a picture for my blog.  Awwwww, thanks for thinking of me!  I had just seen a young large and gangly dog in the exam room that came in because it was having diarrhea.  After history and physical exam and a stool test, I determined that worms were the most likely cause of this dog's diarrhea.  As the client was waiting to check out, the dog deposited of pile of liquid bloody diarrhea complete with wiggling worms onto the tile floor.  I still have this photograph and might even use it for a future blog (you have been warned!).

Then last week I had another case of a dog that had pyometra (pus in the uterus).  I've seen a lot of pyometras in my career, but I don't think I have ever seen a case that had a vaginal discharge like this dog did.  It was creamy and mucousy and if you really want an accurate description, her discharge looked like the biggest nastiest ball of snot you could imagine.  Quite fascinating actually.

OK, stop.  I now realize that all of us in the veterinary field thrive on gross.  It is not that we wish bad things on our patients.  Far from it.  I would be happy if I saw nothing by wiggling puppies and purring kittens all day long.  But diseases happen and gross diseases fascinate.  When you actually step back and think about it, isn't it amazing how much pus can come from a cat abscess or how much diarrhea a parvo puppy can produce.  I think if you are in veterinary medicine your brain is just hardwired so the first words out of your mouth when you see something particularly gross is "Wow".  You may say "ewwwww" and hold your nose second, but "wow" is always first.  That response is what sets us apart.

By the way, the dog with diarrhea and the dog that had surgery for pyometra are both doing great.  So if your pet has something really gross going on, don't hesitate to take it to your veterinarian.  It may just make our day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

First hard frost and blanket month

What the heck does the first hard frost in the fall have to do with veterinary medicine?  Well not much except that it helps explain the absence of this blogger.  Unlike my early days just out of vet school, I actually have some semblance of balance in my life which means that sometimes I actually do things that aren't associated with veterinary medicine.  The biggest chunk of time outside of medicine revolves around the farm business that my husband and I own.  Most of you already know I raise meat chickens and laying hens although that is a very small part of the farm.  Most of the farm income comes from raising vegetables.  My husband is really the force behind the farm, but there are times during the height of the picking season that I will pitch in.  I've spent more than one evening after work helping the guys pack boxes of produce.  And as a by-product of living on a vegetable and poultry farm, I am in charge of food preservation for the family.  Eating fresh, locally grown, healthy food is very important to me.  So during the months of August, September and October, many of my days off from the clinic are earmarked for preserving food for the winter.  Of course we have butchering day for our meat chickens.  Then I'll spend a day blanching and freezing sweet corn.  Green beans get a day for canning.  Apples get made into applesauce and frozen.  Pumpkin gets made into pumpkin puree and frozen.  Broccoli blanched and frozen.  Tomatoes get canned.  Each of these is done on separate days and takes up much of my free time during the late summer and early fall.  Combine that with a very hectic schedule at the clinic and something has to give and it has been my blog.  So now the first hard frost has finally killed the garden.  The chickens are all butchered.  Only some winter squash is left to put up for the winter.  I can actually do some other things on my days off and maybe leave myself a little time to blog.

October was a very fun month for us at the clinic.  Everyone at work has expressed a desire to reach out to the community with various projects. (Do I not work with the greatest people on the planet!)  So October was Blanket Month.  We collected blankets to give to the Ashtabula County Animal Protective League and the Ashtabula County Humane Society and Dr. C. agreed to donate $1 for each blanket that was donated and the amount would be divided equally between our two local shelters.  The end result was so much more than I expected.  It was so fantastic.  We took in 249 blankets total. One of clients that works at one of the schools got the students involved and they brought in 182 blankets.  Now you have to understand that we have a kind of small building at the clinic.  There is no wasted space.  The doctor's office was already being taken over by bags and bags of blankets, so when Shannon dropped off 182 blankets, well, we were at a dilemma on where to store them.  My car got to be the designated storage location.


I now have an appreciation for people who hoard and their cars are full of stuff.  I drove around like this for two days before making it to the shelter to drop off my "treasures".  Unfortunately I never did make it up into town with my car looking like this.  I thought I could start some crazy rumor about why Dr. Di. has a car full of stuffed full trash bags.  Maybe my husband kicked me out of the house and I had no place to live.  It was close to Halloween, so maybe it could have been some creepy spooky rumor.  But no, just home, back to work, home, back to work and to the shelter with no chance for anyone to make up some juicy gossip.

Well we are doing a canned food drive at the clinic in November.  Maybe I'll get another chance.   

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How, when and why did corn become so evil?

Fall is the most beautiful time of year in northeastern Ohio.  As I drive to work in the morning, I pass by fields of soybeans and field corn maturing in the fall sunshine.  I love watching the fields of corn change from green to brown and the ears of corn go from upright to hanging downward as the kernels mature and dry out.  Bunches of cornstalks are showing up on front porches and mailbox posts everywhere as people decorate to match the season. My husband's last planting of sweet corn should be maturing this coming week.  There is nothing better than picking an ear of sweet corn, taking it directly to a pot of boiling water and 7 minutes later, putting it on your plate to eat.  Not to give the other veggies in the garden short shrift because everything is ripe and fresh for the picking, but this blog is about corn.  There is a lot to love about fall and well, fall just wouldn't be fall without corn.


Maybe I shouldn't be writing this blog because I love corn and you know how it goes when someone says bad things about something you love.  You want to stand up and defend your love.  Of course fresh sweet corn is the best, but grind corn into meal and you can make all sorts of yummy tortillas and muffins and breads and cakes.  If you want a snack food free of artificial this and that, what could be better than good old corn chips?  Ok so they pack a good amount of calories and salt, but in limited amounts, they can be a tasty treat.


 My first recollection of corn being portrayed as evil was with the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) controversy.  How many years later are we in this debate and there is still no proof that HFCS is the evil root of this nation's obesity epidemic.  Do I think all the sodas and sweetened foods full of HFCS that we consume are good for us?  No, but I also believe that obesity stems from consuming too many calories and these foods typically have a big caloric wallop.  You see I was majoring in nutrition before I got into vet school.  It is very hard for my scientific brain to wrap my head around the notion that the body reacts differently to a molecule of fructose or glucose in HFCS vs a molecule of fructose or glucose in table sugar.  I just can't make that make sense.  Back when I was an aspiring nutritionist, I learned the 10% rule.  It is ok to eat foods that have minimal nutritional value as long as they don't account for more than 10% of your daily calories.  That means for most people who eat in the 1800-2000 calorie per day range, no more than 180-200 calories per day in sweets and snack foods.  Hard to do in this hectic life, but if we all lived by this, I think we would all be a lot healthier (and thinner).


So that brings me to the corn in dog food controversy.  I don't even know the history of how corn in dog food became so evil.  But I see and hear it around me everyday.  I have clients who tell me they only feed dog food without corn because they read on the internet that corn is bad.  Pet food companies have jumped on the band wagon and specifically marketed foods that are "corn free".  And don't even get me started on the raw diet craze.  It seems to me that I hear one of several concerns over corn.  I'll go through the most common arguments one at a time.


One is that corn is not digestible.  Well, that would be true if whole corn kernels were in dog food, but they are not.  Once corn is ground, the inner goodness of the inside of the corn kernel is open to the digestion process.  Corn does have protein and some good amino acids and fatty acids that help make a balanced diet.


Second is that corn causes allergies.  I've heard the veterinary dermatologists and nutritionists talk about this for years and corn is WAY down on the list when food allergies are diagnosed in a patient.  Foods that are a lot higher up on the list are foods like wheat, beef, dairy products, eggs and chicken.  Not to say that an individual cannot be allergic to corn because they can.  It's just that it is not very common.


Third is that corn is added to dog food as "filler".  This is the one argument against corn that I have the hardest time understanding.  Why would a pet food manufacturer put anything in a pet food that has no nutritional purpose for being there and it costs money?  The truth is that corn has a purpose for being in pet foods.  It is part of the nutritional balancing act to make a food balanced and complete.  People seem to have no problem with feeding pet foods with rice or peas or barley or one of many other plant based carbohydrate sources that are found in pet food companies that are jumping on the corn is evil bandwagon.   When it comes down to it, the reason that corn is the most popular carbohydrate source in dog food is that we live in a country that has a climate that is perfect for growing corn.  This makes corn cheap.  It does not make it bad.  If we lived in a country that had a climate perfect for growing rice, then rice would be the most common carb in dog food.


I guess there are those who want to live complicated lives.  That is fine with me.  For myself, I try to live under the K.I.S.S. principle of life (keep it simple, stupid).  I've been a vet for over 20 years and dogs are living longer and healthier lives than ever before.  And most dogs that come to see me eat a store bought commercial dog food their entire lives with scraps of this and that thrown in for good measure.  Commercial dog food has way less of an impact on overall health than does things like obesity and poor dental health or at least that is how it seems to me.  So I am happy letting the pet food manufacturers do the research and balance my dogs' diet for me.  It saves me time and money and my dogs are just as healthy as anyone else's.  And they eat dog food with corn in it.  Keeping it simple.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Odo and the power of healing

Every once in awhile I like to do a profile of a case that is somewhat unique.  Today's story is about Odo.  Warning: a few of the pictures in this blog are quite graphic.

Odo is a very cool friendly 18 year old black cat.  One Saturday last month, Odo's owner brought him to the clinic to check out some wounds.  Seems as though Odo, who lived his life as an indoor cat, decided that he just couldn't live his whole life without seeing what the outdoors was like.  About a week earlier, he had escaped from the house and was gone for a day.  At first when he came back home everything seemed ok until the night before he came to the clinic when his owner noticed some draining wounds on his back and sides.  When I walked into the exam room, Odo's owner said that the wounds were REALLY bad.  I hear that all the time, but since I have been looking at wounded animals for 20 years, my REALLY bad and an owner's REALLY bad are usually two very different things.  Most wounds are gross, but not bad at all.  In Odo's case, his wounds were REALLY bad.  Even so, Odo was standing on the exam table and bright and alert and happy.  His "dad" even reported that Odo had wanted to eat that morning.  When an animal that is obviously in serious trouble is gosh darn happy, you just have to go along with it.  (Reminded me of a golden retriever I saw over 20 years ago.  It had disappeared for 3 days and when it came home, it had been shot with a high powered rifle through the lower part of the back leg.  The entire lower leg was just hanging on by a thread of skin and the dangling lower leg was even twirling around.  That dog was happily wagging its tail and hopping on three legs all over the clinic. Can't keep a good dog down.  geez!)

Back to Odo.  So we took Odo to the treatment area in the clinic where we can clip fur and wash infected wounds.  With no tranquilization and no fussing at all on Odo's part, he let us clip all the fur away from the sides of the chest and back area.  He just stood there and purred.  Go figure.  The wounds were large, full of pus and went 360 degrees all the way around his chest.   As best I can describe it, the holes in the skin looked like holes in Swiss cheese. There was dead and dying skin and tissue everywhere.  Odo let me trim off most of the dead skin and flush the wounds out with sterile saline.  I think the word "wow" was uttered about 137 times between myself and the staff.  I told Odo's dad that I was really worried that there may be some sort of underlying disease going on to cause the wounds to get as bad as they did.  He did not want to get into an extensive medical work-up due to Odo's age and I had no problem with that.  But since Odo was so gosh darn happy, we decided to put him on antibiotics and see what happened.

What happened next is amazing.  And it's not like I haven't seen it before, but every single time it amazes me.  The healing power of the body.  Given a little help and some tincture of time, it is amazing to watch the transformation.  Again, the first pictures are pretty graphic so you have been warned.

I really think this first picture does not do justice to how bad this was.  This was taken before all the fur was shaved off.  This was only one side.  The cat's top of his back, both right and left sides and the bottom of his chest all had the same amount of holes and pus.

Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of what this all looked like after shaving the fur, but I did take this pleasant close up shot.


One week later this is what one side of Odo's chest looked like.


And two weeks after this, here is what Odo looked like.  A little scarring as the skin regrows and contracts, but the wounds are almost healed and Odo is doing fantastic. 

Amazing.  Every single time.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Really?

Last week, my husband and I were making a produce delivery (we own a vegetable farm) and we came across this vehicle in a parking lot.  I looked.  I looked again.  My husband walks over and all I can say is "Really!?".  Probably said it 4 or 5 times in a row.  I just had to take a picture.

Now I must be way behind the times because when I got back to the clinic I was all excited to tell everyone about this SUV I saw advertising a business that would come and clean up dog poop from your yard.  A few were surprised, but several had heard of this before.  Really?  Maybe it's because I live in a township of less than 1000 people.  It is mostly farmland and dogs can roam a lot of acres.  I live on a farm too, but I like to keep the doggie droppings picked up from around my house.  I have three dogs too so they do their fare share of doo doo.  But really, it takes what? Maybe 10-15 minutes once or twice a week to do this task.

Well after I found out that this is a business that people have heard about before, I checked out the Scoop 4 U website.  They have a really nice web site.  Plus there is a link on there for a site called Pooperoni.  It is a directory of pooper scooper companies all over the U.S.  You just have to love the entrepreneurial spirit of people.  I am not belittling this at all.  In fact, I think it is great.  I just can't believe someone would pay someone else to scoop their dog's poop.  Really?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Support your LOCAL animal shelter

I'm going to do something in my blog this week that I normally avoid and that is scraping along the edge of politics. My mama always told me "if you don't have something nice to say about something, then don't say it". Good words to live by. And although I am certainly far from perfect, I really try to look at the positive side of issues. That is why I try to avoid politics like the plague. Sometimes the truth just needs to come out and be told. And the truth is that animals need our help. Specifically, the thousands and thousands of animals that end up in animal shelters in this country every year. Now all of you who know me, know that I am a HUGE adopt a pet from a shelter fan. The people who run these shelters are such good people. They work hard. They love caring for the animals. And it's a tough job because most local animal shelters struggle with funding. But for those of us who love animals, there is not a better cause than supporting your local animal shelter.

So where's the part about politics and the truth? Well, it has to do with the Humane Society of the United States. Now, if you are in favor of what this organization stands for and how they operate then by all means support them. They are a lobby group. They are strongly entrenched in the animal rights movement that would love to see the end of things like ALL livestock farming, not just the large commercial farms. All livestock farming. Period. And realize this: the Humane Society of the United States is a very wealthy political action group. They are NOT the parent organization for your local humane society or animal shelter. They give only a very small percentage of the money they raise to animal shelters. I LOVE this HumaneWatch.org advertisement that ran in some national publications some months back. I think it says so much.
I guess what bothers me the most about HSUS is they love to place pictures of forlorn puppies and kitties in their literature soliciting for donations. It makes people think they are helping the local animal shelters when the fact is the money raised is all about supporting a big political action group. It's just deceiving and that is what gets my goat. Well, if I had a goat. Of course the HSUS is probably thrilled that I don't have a goat. Check out the information at HumaneWatch.org. It may be a little eye opening for some.

Here in Ashtabula County, we have two larger organizations, the Ashtabula County Animal Protective League and the Ashtabula County Humane Society (they are not and I repeat NOT NOT NOT affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States) plus several smaller privately run animal rescues. They all need our help. So as the saying goes "Donate, Volunteer, Adopt". There are so many good people out there doing the hard work for all the homeless dogs and cats. Let's all donate locally to make sure the money gets to where it needs to go.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Adrian


Throughout our lives, there are people who touch our lives in unique ways. And throughout the life of a veterinarian, there are animals who do the same. Today's blog is about a very special dog. Adrian died two weeks ago today of a ruptured tumor on the spleen. It still doesn't seem real to me as his loss was so sudden. He was 11 years old which is a good number of years for a German Shepherd Dog, but still it seems too soon.

Adrian was a police dog and the partner of Sergeant John Koski of the Ashtabula City Police Department. I feel very privileged to be able to work with these incredible dogs and with the officers who are their handlers and their partners. As a veterinarian, I understand the human-animal bond pretty well. I understand the pain of losing a trusted friend and companion. But I really think I cannot fully understand what these canine officers mean to their human counterparts. It is not just about love and companionship. It is about life and death on the job every single day. These dogs are invaluable and repeatedly save the lives of the officers they work with. It is a level of bond that I think you need to live to fully understand.

I must admit that I truly admired Adrian for very selfish reasons. Here was a working dog that was trained to be aggressive and known as one of the hardest biting dogs on the police force. But in all my years as his veterinarian, Adrian never once displayed an ounce of aggression in the clinic. Not a growl. Not a lift of the lip. Not "the look". Nothing. Some of the police dogs we work with actually become very fear aggressive in the clinic setting. Not Adrian. He was an amazingly social and well adjusted dog. I could do a physical exam on him without fear of losing any fingers or facial features. Sergeant Koski would often tell me how good Adrian was with his own kids. I know he took Adrian to schools for presentations. That is why Adrian commanded my respect. A lot of this praise should be heaped onto Sergeant Koski as well. I still remember a conversation I had with him some years back when Adrian was in his middle years of life. We were talking about training dogs and Sergeant Koski talked about how every single day he took time to run Adrian through his paces even if it was only for a few minutes. That is what it takes to have a well trained dog. All of us with house dogs that disobey commands on a daily basis should stand up and take note. We train our dogs and then forget that reinforcing that training is a daily commitment. I am as guilty as the rest of not following through. Perhaps Adrian's legacy to me is to remember him by being a better dog owner and training my dogs like they should be trained.

And to John Koski, my heart goes out to you. In your pain, think of all the lives that were touched and made better by knowing Adrian. You were a huge part of that. Thank you sir for the job that you do. I will always think of you and Adrian together and smile.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rat discrimination

Last week, I had the opportunity to take a tumor of a little rat named Fonsworth. She is the sweetest little rat that there ever could be. I just wanted to give Fonsworth's "mom" the biggest hug for having this tumor taken off. She had actually been to another vet awhile back that said nothing could be done. And so the tumor got bigger, but it was in a pretty good location to be able to be removed. Now rats are little tumor growing factories so to speak, but a lot of the tumors they get are benign. They just get so darn big that they do gross things like break open and get infected. But if taken off early, surgery can make big difference in a little rat's life.

I must admit there were a few snickers about doing surgery on this rat, but not from me. I think it is shameful that rats are discriminated against. No one would say a thing if this were a dog or cat. So why should a rat be different? Some said why do surgery on a little critter that can be replaced for not very much money? Uh, I have yet to pay one dime for any of my cats, but I spend lots of money to feed, spay/neuter, and give flea and heartworm prevention to them. Plus treat them for their illnesses if anything goes wrong. I have only bought one dog in my life (a hunting beagle for my husband). Every other dog I have ever owned as been free. Ok, acquiring them has been free. Afterwards, not so much. Just ask me about the "free" beagle I adopted that got a stick up inside her nasal passage a few weeks after I got her. A trip to the specialty clinic and several hundred dollars later, not so free.

Maybe it is the life span issue. But again, I clean teeth and take lumps off my 13 and 14 year old dogs that may only live another year at most. So do a lot of my clients. So I am not buying that either.

I just think rats have a stigma. So rat lovers unite! Spread the word that they are not disgusting little vermin running around the barns and fields and buildings of this country. Well, ok the ones that run around barns and buildings are disgusting vermin. But no, I'm talking pet rats here. I for one think they should be treated like any of our other pets we keep in our homes. Just meet Fonsworth. She will make a believer out of you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The fair is coming to town!

I do believe I may be back and blogging. Finally. What a crazy life it is sometimes. Wish I could say that I was on vacation the whole time I was not blogging, but alas I was only vacationing about 5 days. I have some more serious stuff to blog about in the upcoming weeks, but to tell you the truth, I need to blog about something fun today. We've had a rough couple weeks at the clinic with lots of very terminally ill patients coming into the clinic and many not going home. It has not been quite as bad as a stretch I had last year (maybe some day I'll blog about that), but it does seem sometimes that the "when it rains, it pours" factor takes over from time to time. It's sometimes hard to remember all the successes we do have when we are in the midst of a rash of bad, non-fixable problems.

OK, so where is the fun part. Well the Ashtabula County Fair is coming up in just under two weeks. I absolutely LOVE the fair. You might say I am somewhat of a fair junkie. I love the whole experience. The noise, the smells, the sounds. The animals, the exhibits, the food. The entertainment, the tractor pull, oh how I love the tractor pull. I'm just smiling thinking about it. I only eat jalapeƱo poppers once a year and this is it!

Now that we don't do large animal medicine at the clinic anymore, I don't get to see the horses, cows and pigs prior to fair like I used to, but I do still get to see a handful of turkeys for pullorum testing. I really like turkeys. They have lots of personality and are just very cool birds. When the turkeys start showing up in the appointment calendar, I know the fair cannot be that far away. Their arrival at the clinic marks a very special time in summer for me. I think the rest of the clients enjoy seeing them out in the parking lot as much as I do too. Plus there is nothing cooler than seeing appointments out in the clinic lawn.

Maybe because I was raised a city kid and now live and work in the country, but I really have enjoyed learning about where our food comes from. And no, it does not come from the grocery store wrapped in a package of cellophane. It comes from the farms of rural America. And the future of our food supply is in the hands of our children. I do worry that the children of today are getting so out of touch with where food really comes from. I know as a kid, I did not understand half of what I understand today. So I'm rambling a bit, but here is the true value of our county fairs and our 4-H programs. We need to teach our kids the truth about food. The alternative is that farms will be so over-regulated by people who have no idea about the truth of food production that farms in this country will cease to exist. Then how do we feed our nation? From exported food products? Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. OK, got a little bit serious here, but I love the fair for so many reasons. Fun is one, but education is another. I guess it should be no surprise that a veterinarian is an education junkie too.

So please go support your local county fair. Take your kids and let them learn about the cows and the chickens and the pigs and the horses. Have fun eating greasy fair food (just don't do it all the time). Enjoy what local agriculture brings to the table. And when you hear those diesel engines cranking up, you can think of me sitting in the infield at the tractor pull and cheering on my farmer friends!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy summertime!

Just wanted to give a quick blog update. No I have not dropped off the face of the planet even if my blog appears to have. Just busy with covering for Dr. C. while he was on vacation. Now I am ready to hit the road for a few. I should be back and blogging soon. Hope everyone is having a good summer!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Empathy for dentists

Every once in awhile, I like to throw in a "day in the life" blog. Two days ago, my day ended with me having great empathy for my professional cousin - the dentist. I have nothing but respect for dentists. It has to be a hard job because does anyone really like to go to the dentist? But fortunately for dentists they are the most likable people. I noticed this trend in college too. The med school student parties were fun. The vet school student parties were fun and unique. But the dental school parties were the BEST! So you can see that early on, I have developed this theory about dentistry attracting the most fun loving people on the planet. I think this personality trait makes them better able to cope with the fact that all their patients hate coming to see them.

Thursday morning seemed like a normal morning at the beginning. Mostly routine annual physical exams with some itching and diarrhea thrown in for good measure. Then one after another it happened. Every single dog I examined lifted its lip and growled at me. I even had a 12 week old puppy snap at me. WHAT? Are you kidding me? That happens so rarely I can't even remember the last time it happened. There is always the occasional growling dog that comes along, but every single one? After 24 years of doing this, I'd like to think I have a pretty good vibe with my patients. The vast majority of dogs that growl or snap at me do so out of fear. Which is actually the good thing about being a woman since a lot of dogs tend to be less fearful of women than of men. They don't, however, like coming to the clinic any more than I like going to the dentist. But most dogs show some modest amount of restraint when it comes to showing their fear. Usually it's just a little shaking, a lowering of the head or tucking the tail. It certainly left me wondering what just happened. It was probably just luck of the draw as the saying goes, but I did have a cat pee down my pant leg earlier so maybe it was a reaction to my eau de cat urine parfum that I carried into the room with me. Fortunately the growling stopped in the afternoon. But unfortunately, there were three euthanasias. That always makes a day stressful for both me and the staff.

At the end of the day, I sat an pondered about how dentists deal with all their patients "growling" back at them all day long. In typical stream of consciousness thought, I remembered a conversation I had with a human surgeon. He had brought his dog into me to have neutered. During the follow up visit for booster vaccinations and suture removal, we got into a discussion of the differences between human surgery and veterinary surgery. I said that I bet he never had a patient chew their stitches out. Must have hit a funny bone with him because he just burst into hysterical laughter. He was probably having a vision of one of his patients licking their incision. I guess you might say I had that surgeon in stitches. Always good to end the day with a happy thought.

****************************************************************************
On a final note, I take back everything I said in last week's blog about not seeing many fleas yet. With the first day of summer has come fleas out the wazoo! This is REALLY early for northeastern Ohio. Usually flea season doesn't get cranked up until the end of July/beginning of August. I guess all the warm wet weather has sped up the flea life cycle compared to what is usual for this time of year. So get those dogs and cats on flea prevention now because the summer has just begun.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Some like it hot

What better thing to do on a hot summer afternoon than escape the heat outside and do a little writing. Now some may argue that northeast Ohio is never all that hot and for all but a few days of the year, I would agree. Still, upper 80's with dew points in the upper 60's is just downright uncomfortable for this northern girl. For some odd reason I decided to take a quick walk back to the blueberry patch on my farm and waited until the sun was blazing high in the sky. My beagles are lounging in the shade of the big maple in the back yard, but the Brittany decided she needed to see the blueberries too. Fortunately for her (but not for my house) she has access to the creek and a quick dip was definitely in order as we walked back to the house. She really is as dorky as she looks in the picture of her just getting out of the creek.

In honor of the heat, I thought I would list some of the big summertime mishaps I see every year at the clinic.

  • Heat stroke: most commonly seen in animals left in parked cars or dogs that run (or even just walk in some breeds) when temperatures are above 70 degrees. Remember dogs and cats do not get rid of heat from their bodies as well as people do.
  • Insect bites: deer flies, bees, wasps and many more. Be especially careful to watch for the tips of ears on dogs that spend a lot of time outside. There are insect repellents made just for the purpose of applying to dogs so ask your vet. I really hate seeing bit up ear tips.
  • Hives: little welts all over the body, swollen faces. Can be caused by insect bites, but I think more likely from plants that are ingested. Most of the time we never do find out what the trigger is.
  • Maggots: oh yes, a favorite, NOT! Maggots should not happen, but they do every summer. Heavy coated breeds such as Chow Chows and Saint Bernards are especially at risk. Senior pets that aren't as mobile and may soil themselves with feces or urine are especially prone. Check your furry and old dogs that are outside EVERYDAY!!! Don't' forget your rabbits. I see a couple maggot infested rabbits each summer. You may have to lift up the fur and check the skin to even see them. Maggots aren't just a nuisance. Maggots kill.
  • Animal bite wounds: cat fights, dogs cornering groundhogs, raccoons, possums and just about anything else with teeth. Please make sure your pets are vaccinated for Rabies.
  • Skunk spray: this one is oh so fun. From personal experience, the solution made from 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap works pretty good. Tomato juice isn't half bad either in a pinch and at least my dog enjoyed licking her fur afterwards even though I rinsed it pretty well. Just be warned that even thought the smell is reduced, your dog will probably give off a faint skunk aroma every time it gets wet for 3-6 months.
  • Poison Ivy: no, dogs and cats do not get a rash (I get asked this all the time), well, I never say never, but it's almost never. But they can pick up the oil on their fur and then share it with their human friends. Again, personal experience here.
  • Hit by car, tractor, brush hog, motorcycle, 4 wheeler, golf cart, etc.: be careful out there and don't let your dogs and cats play in the road. Be careful about senior pets that may be hard of hearing and like to lounge in the driveway.
  • Ticks: I live in an area that is not heavily populated with ticks. Thank goodness, because I really hate ticks. They carry all sorts of bad diseases and they are just gross. At least I don't freak out any more when I see them like I did as a teenager. I guess I'm so used to them now. Still, if your dog and cat picks up a lot of ticks, it is worthwhile to use a product such as Frontline or Preventic collar on them. You do not want to see what happens when an animal gets a full blown tick transmitted disease.
  • Fleas: it's June. Starting to see the first cases of flea bite dermatitis this past week. With most of the dogs and cats I am seeing, I have to search long and hard to find a flea because there just aren't a whole lot of fleas hatching. Yet. Wait 2 months. If your dog or cat is losing fur and scratching, even if you don't see any fleas, it may be flea allergy. Itchy pet = treat for fleas. And please used something that works well and is safe. I get tired of cats coming into the clinic seizuring because someone has used an over the counter flea product on the cat incorrectly (or sometimes not even incorrectly, just a sensitive cat). Ask your vet for recommendations. Many of the good flea products are being sold over the counter now. Just do the research. AND TREAT ALL THE PETS IN THE HOUSEHOLD EVEN THE CATS THAT NEVER GO OUTSIDE!!!!!!!! Did I say that loud enough? Put yourself in your pet's place. Would you like to feel things crawling over you and biting you every day, all day long?
  • Heartworms: should not ever ever ever happen except in some instances in the lower Mississippi River Valley, but that is not here. Should not ever happen in northeastern Ohio. Remember cats can get heartworms too. Ask your vet. And also, for those who say their dog never goes outside, heartworms are spread my mosquitoes and yes, I am sorry, but mosquitoes do find their way into our homes and apartments. Several years back, I had a client with a little toy poodle that lived in a high rise and did its doggy duty on pee pads. This dog never went outside. Guess what? Yep, it got heartworm. ALL DOGS SHOULD BE ON HEARTWORM PREVENTION!!!!! Did I say that loud enough?
  • Gunshot wounds: OK this is directed at the jerks that shoot other people's animals. I am not talking about dogs that kill livestock/other people's pets or aggressive dogs. I am talking dogs and cats that roam the neighborhood. Yeah, well maybe they shouldn't be roaming the neighborhood, but don't shoot them. Sorry, that is just mean and stupid. There are better solutions (and I am not talking poisoning you jerks!). Sorry if I got carried away there, but this subject just makes me mad.
  • Cuts, scrapes, impalement on sticks, etc. OK these sometimes just happen. I guess if we lived in cages they wouldn't. I chalk most of these up to the scars of life. Don't worry so much about these. Living life is a risk. Go have fun!

Guess I'll be having a busy summer as usual.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What is that lump anyway?

Seems to be a lumpy bumpy kind of week here at the clinic, but I had two of my lump removal surgeries decline a biopsy this week so I thought I would do a little discussion of lumps and bumps that are found on our pets.

First let me say that lumps on or under the skin are REALLY common in dogs. Not so much in cats, but they can get them too. But dogs love to grow lumps and bumps. Fortunately probably 90% of skin bumps in dogs are benign meaning that they don't spread into the surrounding tissue and they don't spread throughout the body. Most benign lumps are harmless, but some can grow quite large and then they can cause a problem. I once removed an 11 pound benign lipoma from the rear leg of a dog that weighed 17 pounds after surgery. The dog sure could walk better after that surgery! The most common lumps I see in dogs are sebaceous cysts (they sometimes can rupture and ooze a cottage cheese like material), sebaceous adenomas (I call these "moles" to use a common slang term and most owners tend to call these "warts") and lipomas (which are fatty tumors that form a smooth lump under the skin).

Now if 90% of lumps and bumps are benign, that would mean 10% are cancerous growths. These growths are more aggressive and have the potential to either invade into the surrounding tissue or spread throughout the entire body. I know the word "cancer" scares a lot of people (heck it does me too), but surgeons all over the world are curing patients from cancer every day. A cancerous lump grows. The lump is removed before any of it spreads. Patient is cured. Now there are aggressive cancers that don't follow this plan, but when it comes to lumps on the skin, those lumps have the best chance for cure because they can be found when they are small.

Before I go any further, I am going to answer the most common question I get in regards to lumps. What causes a lump to grow in the first place? The answer: I don't know. That is the one million dollar question now isn't it? Lots of research going on right now and the puzzle is slowly being solved. But I am the practical sort and for me, it really doesn't matter why a lump grew because I have no means to stop them from growing. What matters to me is what to do about a lump now that it is already here.

Unfortunately, it can sometimes be hard to tell a benign lump from a cancerous lump by just look and/or feel. I'm not going to go into great detail about ways to tell the difference other than to say they vary from needle biopsies to surgical biopsies with some differences in between. But if I feel strongly enough that a lump or bump be surgically removed, then 95.7582% of the time I am going to recommend that the lump be sent to the lab so the folks in the white coats can look at it under the microscope and determine if it is benign or malignant. Now I know that a biopsy is not cheap, but believe me, sending lumps off to the lab is not a big money maker for the clinic. Most of the fee covers how much the lab charges us with a little tacked on to cover the cost of the vet tech preparing the sample to be sent and the doctor interpreting and calling the owner with the results. I can't even say that I am purposely sending business to the lab. I don't even know the folks at the lab. I said they wore white coats, but I really don't even know if that is true or not. What is true is that if I recommend that a lump be sent out to be biopsied, I truly want this information in order to best care for my patient.

But I will sometimes get someone who says that they do not want to know the results because if their dog has cancer, they aren't going to treat it anyway. Fair enough. But let me give you two real life scenarios that I have personally encountered.

#1 A cute little beagle comes in to have a growth removed and it turns out to be cancer. The pathologist says that this cancer is invading into the surrounding skin and that little microscopic fingers of cancer cells are spreading outward and not all of them were removed at the time of surgery. So I go back to surgery and remove more tissue. This time the pathologist says all the cancer was removed. Three years later the dog is cancer free with no recurrence. What if we had not sent the lump out to be tested? The dog would have had its cancer return and maybe spread throughout the body. Then it might be too late to do anything.

#2 Sharpei with an ugly nasty mass on the front of one front leg. I took off the mass and the owner refused to pay for a biopsy. 3 or 4 months later, the mass grew back and she brought the dog in and asked what should be done? Hmmmm? I have no idea what to do because you didn't want the lump biopsied the first time around. So back to surgery, remove the lump again, and this time send it to the lab. Turns out the mass was a kind of deep seated infection that could have been treated with long term antibiotics instead of another surgery. The first biopsy could have saved that dog a second surgery and saved the owner a lot of money.

Now I am not so anal retentive as to say every lump that is removed should be biopsied. I don't send out sebaceous cysts most of the time and known lipomas don't need sent out either. In general though, if a lump is important enough to be surgically removed then it is important enough to find out what is that lump anyway?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Banging head against a brick wall

According to the free dictionary online, the definition of "banging head against a brick wall" is to keep asking someone to do something that they never do. Sometimes there are very valid reasons why someone doesn't listen to what you are asking them to do. You wouldn't go play out in traffic or jump of a cliff just because someone asked you to, right? Right. But most of the time when I am talking to clients in the exam room, I am not asking for anything so extreme. You see, I love my animals very much and I assume that everyone loves their pets as much as I do. I want my animals to live happy and healthy lives and I want that for my patients. So why do have I such a hard time convincing people to put their overweight pets on a diet? I know this isn't just a "me" problem because my friends who are vets have the same problem. But why is this a problem? That's what I am here to explore today.

The facts are there. We are bombarded in the news media about the health risks of obesity in people. We know that obesity speeds the aging process. Purina did a cool study in Labrador Retrievers a few years back that showed that lean dogs live almost 2 years longer than dogs that were overweight. We know fat cats get diabetes. We know that fat dogs develop arthritis much earlier than lean dogs. We know that too much fat in the body causes inflammation throughout the body.

Now I know the issues dealing with obesity in people are complex and I guess they are in dogs too, BUT. Don't you just love the "but" part. Two days ago I was talking to a client in the exam room about how we take better medical care of our pets than we do ourselves. I can totally relate to this. I will bring my own dogs into the clinic every year to get their teeth cleaned, but I won't get my own teeth looked at unless there is a problem. From my reasoning, I think I do this because I see my pets as very innocent. They need me to feed them and look after them. I can choose to have rotten teeth if I want to. They cannot choose. It is up to me to make those decisions and I choose to take care of their routine medical needs to the best of my ability. You would think obesity would be a simpler solution then regular medical/dental care. After all, health care costs money and in this economy, sometimes money is hard to come by. But we all have to feed our pets. In fact if we feed them less, that would save MONEY! But yet pet obesity is rampant.

As I started typing this blog, I found myself reaching into the box of chocolates sitting on my desk next to me. I can choose to do this. My dogs cannot choose how much they eat because I choose the amount for them. They cannot go to the grocery store, or the drive-through burger joint, or open the refrigerator or even open the locked-as-tight-as-a-drum container that holds their dog food. If they would they could, but they can't. How much they eat is my decision. I am the ruler of the household. Ok, only on this one subject, but hey, I'll take what I can get.

Back to the banging head part. Case #1 Just this month I saw a little dog owned by a woman who lives by herself. She came to me because her dog couldn't walk and wanted to put it to sleep. I could tell how attached she was to this dog. She thought the dog couldn't walk because it was getting old and had some disease. Well, the dog did have bad arthritis, but 90% of the reason this dog couldn't walk was because it was obese. I put it on medicine for the arthritis and talked long and hard about weight loss. But how does this happen? How can someone feed their dog so much that it gains weight until it can't walk? And how can they not know this is happening? Someone please explain this to me.

Case #2 I'm in the exam room seeing a dog for its annual physical exam and notice that every year it has gained weight and every year we have counselled the owner on feeding and weight loss. So the conversation goes like this. Client: "But doc, I only feed Muffy 1/2 cup of food twice a day like you told me last year." Me: "It doesn't matter what I told you last year. If that is what she is eating and she is still gaining weight, then she needs to eat less.". Client: "But if I feed her any less, she will starve to death.". Ok, tell me how this makes the slightest bit of sense?

Case #3 Seen by Dr. C. this month. A couple with an obese Chihuahua. The dog can hardly breath and has heart problems. They go on and on about how much they love this little dog and what this dog means to them. Really? They are slowing KILLING their dog. Why is reality so hard to grasp?

All this head banging though will go on. I will continue because there are successes. In fact I wrote about a couple of them in a November 2009 blog on obesity. I also know that what works well for one person doesn't work so well for another. The one thing I will not do though is shut up about this. This is too important. Pets' lives are at stake. I am their advocate. Their voice. I want them to live long healthy lives. That is what I want for my own animals. I expect no less for all animals that I see at the clinic.

If anyone has an overweight pet and would like help, I am an email away. Or you can wander over to Dr. Ernie Ward's web site on pet obesity prevention. LOTS of good information over there. Maybe you have your own story of what works and what doesn't for you and your pets. And if you have any suggestions on how to motivate people to get their pets to lose weight, I am all ears.

ps I wrote this blog last week and just yesterday I saw a patient that had lost 8 pound from last year. Looked great! So yes, there are successes. That was a very nice part of my day.

Friday, May 28, 2010

In honor of those who have served and have fallen

As we start what some call the first weekend of summer, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day - to remember and honor those who have served and who have fallen. At the same time, I would just like to say thank you to all the fine men and women in our military that are out there working hard and fighting for our freedom. It makes me proud to be an American when I think about all the sacrifices that both our soldiers and their families make to keep us safe. I have a nephew who is in the Air Force and currently serving overseas. How I have enjoyed watching him grow and turn into such a fine young man.

So as we all enjoy our weekend festivities full of cookouts and softball and family fun, please remember why we are able to enjoy all our freedoms.

This rendition of our national anthem was video taped at a memorial service overseas. Most of us are used to hearing it played at a ball game or other festive event with a lot of cheering and clapping. The silence in this video gave me chills. Thank you thank you thank you to all who have served.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Commitment and dedication

I've said it before and I'll say it again, one of my absolute favorite parts of veterinary medicine is spending time in the exam room chatting with clients. What better way to spend one's day than hanging out with people who love animals as much as I do. A lot of my blog topics are born in the exam room during those conversations. Unfortunately my love for gab can get me in trouble sometimes and when I leave the exam room, my techs will give me the "look" and whisper "Code Red". This means the waiting room is filling up with people and I better quit talking about people's kids and where they are going on vacation this year and how their garden is growing. Ooooops. I can get off track sometimes.

A couple weeks back I was seeing Meike, a friendly high spirited German Shepherd Dog, for her annual physical exam. Meike is a special dog because she really would not be alive today if it weren't for the dedication of her owner. As soon as Meike started on solid food at around 6 weeks old, it became obvious that something was wrong. She regurgitated food often and wasn't growing as fast as her littermates.

Here is a picture of Meike's chest x-ray after giving a barium slurry. She was just a small puppy at the time of this radiograph.

As you can see, there is a big blob of barium balled up in the esophagus in the front part of the chest. Turns out Meike was born with something called a persistent right aortic arch. This is a birth defect where a ring of tissue circles around the outside of the esophagus and makes it difficult for food to pass through on the way to the stomach. The danger is that food collects in a pouch in the esophagus and gets regurgitated from time to time. If a little food or fluid leaks down into the lungs, it can cause pneumonia.

Meike went and had surgery done by a surgery specialist. The surgery got rid of the tissue causing the stricture so that food could better pass through to the stomach. The first part of her esophagus still does not function properly though and so Meike has to eat a liquefied diet. The esophagus not returning to normal is quite common in puppies with this condition and is called megaesophagus.

Now Meike is four years old. She is still smaller than her littermates, but her coat is shiny and she is very playful and happy. Every once in awhile, I have to treat her for a bout of pneumonia, but she really has done quite well. I give all the credit to Meike's owner. As I was doing Meike's exam earlier this month, Meike's owner mentioned that every day for four years she has soaked dog food in water and ground it up into a liquid slurry to feed. She said this so casually like this is just something she does and it's not a big deal. Holy cow! This is a huge deal! All I can think about is coming home dog-tired after a long day and whining in my head about having to feed the animals when I really just want to sit down and put my feet up. And all I have to do is scoop some food out of a bag and into a bowl. I will never whine again. Or at least until I'm really really tired and I forget that I wrote this.

So kudos to Meike's owner. I am in awe of her love and commitment to her dog. Meike would truly not be alive today and grace all of our lives if it were not for this devotion. See, what a great way to spend a day talking to people who love animals. I am truly blessed to be able to spend my days this way.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Animals can get in the strangest trouble

One of the things that makes working at a veterinary hospital a great job is that it is never boring. I'm sure it's kind of like working in a hospital emergency room. The news is filled with stories like the guy that shot himself in head with a nail gun and didn't even know it until his head was x-rayed or the woman that had a toilet seat stuck to her back end. I once had someone bring in a stray cat that they found walking around with its head stuck in a clear glass jar. That was pretty cool. He kind of looked like one of those cartoon astronauts. I had to sedate him to safely break the glass and get the jar off his head. I'm sure he was happy to get that off his head.

Well a month or two ago, this cute little dog Princess was running around her backyard playing with her dog friend when her owner heard Princess cry out and come running up to the back door. At first she couldn't see anything, but then noticed that Princess had a piece of a stick coming out her skin on the lower part of her neck. So she brought her into the clinic.



I sedated Princess to get a better look at what was going on. Here is the what it looked like after we sedated her and shaved all the fur off her neck.

And when I opened the wound and pulled the stick out, this is what I found.

That was one big ol' hunk of wood that Miss Princess impaled herself on. It took a lot of time to clean out all the hair and debris that the chunk of wood carried deep into her neck. When all was cleaned up, everyone in the surgical room got a good look at Princess's jugular vein. That was quite impressive and quite the lucky dog for the stick to miss this. (I just had to make this picture a little bigger so you all could get a good luck at that big old vein.)

Princess went home with a drain tube in place. You can tell in this picture taken after the wood was removed that she was sore and didn't want to bend her neck.


Princess is all healed up now and doing well. Let's hope in her young dog exuberance, she doesn't impale herself on any more objects.