Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Angel Fund

I must say that the last almost 6 months has been a crazy time for me, but fortunately in a good way.  Although the blog postings became a little thin earlier this year, the blog abruptly stopped on July 31st.  That was because the first week of August we opened a new location, converted our computer software to a totally new software program and went to electronic medical records all in one fell swoop.  Since that time Dr. C. and I have been working both clinics, learning the new software program and learning how to input records into the computer instead of writing on paper.  It's been a fun but crazy journey, but I am thinking that we have somewhat of a routine going now.  Well, not that any day at a veterinary clinic is routine, but you get what I mean.  So in the spirit of the New Year I am going to resolve to get my blog up and running again and what better topic to start off with than helping others.

I've said it before, but I work with some of the most amazing and generous people on the planet.  Quite a few years ago, the staff here wanted to come up with a plan to help pet owners in need and they came up with an idea called "The Angel Fund".  I kind of hesitate to write about this fund in an open blog because this is not a fund that can be used by request.  It is small potatoes and would never withstand an onslaught of requests.  The best part of the fund is that it gets used in spontaneous moments when someone really needs help, but they are not asking for help.  The money in the Angel Fund comes from a couple different sources.  Sometimes a client will see the sign in the waiting room and donate.  Most of the money is raised via the generous donation of time from our awesome staff.  Every 6 weeks or so, the staff will stay late after Saturday office hours and run a toe nail trim clinic.  Clients bring in their pets for a $10 nail trim and all the money raised goes into the Angel Fund.  So this blog is mostly for the people who have donated money or for those who come to the Toe Nail Trim Clinics that support the Angel Fund.  I thought some might be curious as to how the money gets used.

Meet Shadow.  He looks a little sleepy in his photo because he is.  He was recovering from sedation.  The flash on my camera very appropriately left a shadow on Shadow.  Anyway, he is a 3 year old male cat that is owned by a nice older woman who is retired and lives on a fixed income.  He came in a couple weeks ago with a life threatening condition - a blocked urethra.  A lot of cat people are already familiar with this condition.  It happens almost exclusively in male cats and usually it is caused by sludgy gritty material that forms a plug in the urethra and makes it so the cat cannot pee.  When that happens the bladder gets filled with urine and the bladder becomes huge and very painful.  Once the bladder fills, there is nowhere else for urine to go so the kidneys shut down and the cat goes into kidney failure.  The cat quits eating, vomits and becomes very ill.  Without treatment, the cat will die a horrible excruciating death in a few days.

Shadow's owner brought him into the clinic relatively early in the course of the disease so that was good.  But still, to "fix" the obstruction requires sedation in most cases and then intensive fluid therapy to restart the kidneys that have shut down.  All of this can cost several hundred dollars minimum and more if there are any complications.  Coming up with money like that can be pretty hard when one lives on a fixed income and it is right before Christmastime too.  But with treatment, almost all cats that develop this dreaded condition will live if caught early enough.  Shadow's owner had no options.  She did not have the money for treatment and euthanasia was the only humane choice available to her.  Enter the Angel Fund.  Money from the fund was used to pay for Shadow's treatment and two days later, Shadow went home urinating on his own and is on the road to recovery.

I am so proud of the staff and clients of the Country Doctor for making the Angel Fund possible.  You can't save the whole world, but every once in awhile, you can help out in your own little corner of the world.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Outdoor dogs: Oh what that fur coat may be hiding

This is the story about a hot spot.  It's about a hot spot that started off small and grew up big and bad.  But at least this story has a happy ending because they do not all turn out that way.

"Hot Spot" is a fairly common term used mostly to describe a moist area of skin infection and most of the time we use the term when we are talking about this skin lesion on dogs.  If you haven't heard the phrase "hot spot" before, here is a nice article "Hot Spots in Dogs: What are they? How to cool them down!" that talks all about them.  Veterinarians see hot spots all year-round but they are certainly more common in the summer because the underlying causes (fleas, insect bites, scratches from thorns, allergies, etc.) are more common in summer.  But the "hot" in hot spot is not because we see them in hot weather, it is because the skin is "hot" and inflamed.  And while most hot spots are indeed a "spot" on the skin, as you will see from this next case, they can become very large and do so very quickly.

Except in some cases of working breeds of dogs (Alaskan Huskies come to mind and sheep/cattle guarding dogs as another), I never quite understand why someone would have a pet dog and leave them tied outside 24/7.   But I have seen it work well many times for both dog and owner so I am not judgemental as to say it should never be done. (There are those who would criticize me for all my outdoor barn cats too.)  However, if you have an outside dog, there are some particular hazards that you need to watch such as heat related issues in the summer and cold related issues in the winter.  And in the summertime, you need to pay particular attention to the health of your dog's coat and SKIN!  That is SKIN capitalized with an exclamation point!  Most of our dogs are very very furry and that fur can hide a lot of problems. 

This is a picture of Big Red (not his real name) the Saint Bernard.  He is sedated and lying on a treatment room table.  Red came to the clinic because his owner had been trying to clear up a skin infection for about a week and things were getting worse and getting worse quickly.  I fully believe that all of this happened in about a week because I know how fast a small hot spot can turn into a big hot spot.
Doesn't look too bad does it?  You can tell the fur is a little matted up along his back, but most of this is because the owner had been using Kopertox to try and treat the skin infection.  For those who don't know, Kopertox is a green liquid that is used to treat a condition called "Thrush" that occurs on the bottom of hooves in horses and cows.

Now here is a little side note and a heads up for all dog owners.  If you want to make your veterinarian or veterinary technician thoroughly disgusted and upset with you, go ahead and treat your dog's wounds with anything sticky or gooey.  This means BAG BALM or VASELINE or CORONA OINTMENT or KOPERTOX or the list goes on and on and on.  Gooey ointments are not meant for animals with thick fur coats and all they do is make everything worse.  They attract dirt and they keep wounds moist when wounds really need to dry out.  They gum up clipper blades when fur is needed to be shaved from a skin wound and makes the job 300% harder.  Enough said.

Now back to Big Red.  Big Red was an outside dog.  He had a hot spot start on his back.  He lived outside.  It is summertime.  Can you think of what might make this whole situation worse?  I'll give you a minute to think.  Times up.  Think flies.  Think maggots.  To give Red's owner credit, he was trying to work on this problem.  He had been hosing Red off with water every day.  He saw that every time he hosed the dog, maggots would be flushed out of the wound area.  He tried fly spray, but the hot spot had already started to spread and was like a runaway train.  Other than the Kopertox (which I think was just applied in a moment of frustration), the owner was doing everything right, but he did not know the first basic principle of treating a hot spot.  You HAVE to shave the fur off the infected area of skin.  Oh, you can sometimes get by without this step in an inside dog with a half dollar or small sized hot spot.  But if you have a big dog with a wound and it lives outside and it is summertime, you HAVE to shave the fur.  And so that is what we did and this is a picture of Red after having his hot spot shaved.


And then one more picture after his skin has been cleaned and scrubbed and he is sleeping on the big blue furry blanket in the clinic kennel area.



This looks awful and it is, but this is not a case of abuse.  This is just ignorance.  Ignorance can be cured through education.  And thus the purpose of this blog.  Red's story has a happy ending.  His owner brought him in early enough that Red walked into the clinic with a wagging tail and left with a wagging tail.  Not all maggot infested dogs are as lucky.  I've seen many that have to be carried into the clinic on a stretcher.  Some live, but some get to go home in a body bag.

And so the lesson to be learned from this little adventure is if you have a dog and especially an outdoor dog, you need to be DAILY checking your dog over for what might be hiding under that fur coat.  Your dog's life could depend on it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Paying for veterinary care

Well, well, well, it has been some time since I have blogged.  My only excuse is life being busy.  Not only is May, June and July the busiest season for veterinarians, it is also busy farming season and I have responsibilities on the farm too.  Keeps me out of trouble, but also keeps me off the computer.  Which is probably a good thing in a way. The best part is I have a few blog topics lined up ready to go.  One is a REALLY happy story that I want to share and I also have a sad and hopefully thought provoking story to share.

One of the very self indulgent parts about blogging is that along with passing on (hopefully) useful information, I get to clear my head of junk that is building up inside.  One of my staff said I was getting feisty today.  I think that is an accurate assessment.  99% of my clients are beautiful people.  I am blessed to spend my days with such wonderful people.  We laugh together, we cry together and we enjoy life with our pets together.  But there is that 1% that makes you wonder and when you get a few one percenters stacked up back to back in a few days, it can drive a person to become feisty.  Like the person who brought their VERY healthy looking overweight cat to me to be put to sleep.  When I asked why, they said the cat has a tendency to throw up and they were getting new carpeting and didn't want to deal with the mess.  Really? (I did not do the euthanasia by the way.)  Or was it the person who brought their sick dog into the clinic and when I asked them how long it had been since the dog had not been eating normally, they told me 6 months.  Really?  Or was it the guy in the exam room who was upset about the estimate I gave him and became very irate with me and said "Look here girlie"?  Really?  You are really calling me "girlie"?  Come to think of it, maybe I should have taken that as a compliment.  I was at least about as old as he was and probably older.  I feel much younger now.  Thank goodness for the ninety-nine percenters.  I love you all and you keep me sane.

And so I am going to re-start my blog with a topic that always seems to get those feisty feelings going:  Why most veterinarians will not bill clients for veterinary care, but instead ask for payment at the time of service?  And then my goal is to put a positive spin on the topic and list some suggestions for pet owners so they can be prepared financially in case of a pet health emergency.  And because I really like reading blogs that have pictures attached and because I do not have any pictures lined up for this topic, I am going to randomly insert pictures of my chickens.

Mama Chicken.  One of four hens that have been elevated to "pet" status on the farm.  She is a barred Plymouth Rock.  My oldest chicken.  I think she is around 5 or 6 years old now.


Give this some thought.  If people you barely know came up to you on a daily basis looking for a loan and told you "My family won't loan me any money.  My friends won't lend me any money.  The bank won't lend me any money.  But I really think you should lend me money because I need some."  How would you feel about that?  Would you lend them money?  Maybe you would lend money to the first few people who asked because you are kind hearted and feel bad for that person's plight.  How would you feel if at least 90% of these people never paid you back?  What if you were lending so much money to people that now you yourself were not able to pay your bills?   I guarantee that after weeks, months, years of this, you would feel taken advantage of and you would not want to lend money to strangers any more.  This is the scenario that plays out in every veterinary clinic multiple times every day.  People who we barely know are asking us for money.  I'm sorry, but if friends, family and banks won't lend you money, that is a red flag as to your reliability in repaying your loan back to the clinic.

This is Whitey.  Also a pet hen, she is a Delaware.  Whitey is my most social chicken and follows me around a lot when I am working around the barns.



So we have a dilemma.  Someone calls or shows up with a very sick pet needing medical care and they have no money to pay for treatment.  They are distraught because they love their pet and don't want it to die.  On the other side we have the veterinarian.  He or she loves animals (yes, we all do.  It is why we got into this business.)  We do not want to see animals die either.  But we have a business to run.  If we do not make money, our business ceases to exist.  We employ people who need money to live.  They have their own families to take care.  If the veterinary practice where they work ceases to exist, they lose their means of supporting their family.  This is an emotionally charged issue on both sides.

So I bring you a real life story to make a case for the veterinarian's side of this issue.  After 20+ years of being a veterinarian, I am pretty adamant about not allowing people to run up a large balance for veterinary care at the clinic where I work.  But because I do love animals, there is this soft hearted side of me that creeps into the picture about once a year.  I always seem to get burned, but that is the name of the game.  About 6 months ago, a woman who had never been to the clinic before brings in a sick dog.  The dog is VERY sick and will die without treatment.  The disease is bad and the treatment is complex and time consuming and therefore expensive, but there is a VERY good chance that with treatment the dog will live.  I start talking to the woman about how she is going to pay for the treatment.  She does have some money, but not nearly enough to cover the entire cost.  She is crying.  I feel bad.  We try to get her approved for our clinic's third party payment program.  She is declined.  She cries.  I feel bad.  I know I can save this dog's life.  I explain that I cannot let people I don't know charge for services because there is a tendency to not pay.  She looks me straight in my eyes and tells me that she is not like those other people.  She is different.  She will pay her bill.  She sounds so damn sincere.  She cries.  I feel bad.  I give in.  I get my staff to reschedule all my afternoon appointments so that I can perform emergency surgery on this woman's dog.  I am now relying on this woman's word to pay my staff for that day, pay the electric bill for that day, pay the rent for that day, pay for the drugs I used on her dog, and many many other bills that need to be paid to run a veterinary practice.

A box of day old Golden Buff laying pullets arrives at the farm.  There are few things cuter that day old baby chickens.




So what happened?  The dog is alive and doing well.  The clinic has received one very small payment since the dog went home and that was about 3-4 months ago.  Nothing since.  This one woman's bill is nearly 10% of our entire accounts receivable balance.  It's ok though.  I have used up my quota of random lending of money this year, but next year is open if you want to come see me then.

So let's take all the negativity out of this topic and let me lay out some positive steps that pet owner's can do in order to have money in a pet health care crisis.

1. If you borrow money from ANYONE, pay it back.  OK, this one might sound kind of flippant, but it really works.  You have a much better chance of borrowing money from someone you know in a crisis than from someone you don't know.  However, if you borrowed $500 from your brother 3 years ago and never paid him back, he is probably not going to want to lend you more money now.  Common sense, eh?

2. This is a corollary to #1.  Establish a relationship with a local veterinarian.  Take your pet in for regular check ups.  Even if you cannot afford to do every preventive medical recommendation your veterinarian gives you, at least do something.  And do it every year.  This is just human nature, but I am much more apt to lend money to someone I know.  Most veterinarians are the same way.  We want to know that people are at least putting some effort into caring for their pets.  And if you can't afford to spend at least $100 per pet per year on a veterinary visit, perhaps you should not have a pet.  (I think a good blog topic would be how can people who love animals, but who have very little money, still have animals as part of their lives.  I have some ideas on that one.)

3. Get a credit card.  If you do not like credit cards because you have no self control and spend beyond your means, then get one anyway.  Give it to your meanest family member and have them hold on to it and only give it to you for emergencies.

4. Start a pet health care savings account.  OK, this one takes some motivation, but it works and is probably the smartest choice financially.  Might want to enlist the help of that mean family to oversee this account too.

5. Ask your vet about third party payment programs.  Most vets use them.  Get approved ahead of time.  If you are declined, find out why and fix it.

6. Pet health insurance.  This business is in its infancy, but it may be a good option for some.  It forces you to put money aside for your pet's health care and can often cover a higher dollar amount than some people can save on their own.  Most veterinarians will give you pointers if you want to go this route.  Ask.

7.  Lots of communities have programs to help senior citizens and those on fixed incomes pay bills.  Our county senior center has set up a program with donations from the local kennel club that helps seniors pay veterinary bills in case of a treatable illness.  Ask around your community BEFORE the crisis happens to see what programs are available.

8.  Look online.  There are many organizations from veterinary associations to humane societies that have money earmarked to help people with veterinary bills. 

So there are my 8 ideas, anyone else have any good ones?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chicken feet and the call of the wild

I dedicate this blog to the big healthy portion of chicken feet pictured above and those who love to eat them.


Food and food choices absolutely fascinate me.  The science of nutrition fascinates me.  Perhaps that is why my college days (before vet school) were spent pursuing a degree in animal nutrition.  Animal nutrition was going to be my fall-back profession just in case I did not get into vet school.  Now that I am focused on medicine, my nutrition interests have become more a personal hobby, i.e. cooking for me and my husband.  Of course it helps that we live on a working vegetable farm and have an endless supply of fresh veggies all summer long.  And we raise our own chickens both for meat and eggs.  I do a lot of home grown food preservation so we can enjoy summer's bounty all year round.  I have come to truly appreciate the labor and the taste of cooking from scratch.  Not to say that I don't have some processed food items in the pantry for those weeks when late nights at the clinic use up my supply of pre-made homemade meals.  Sometimes when the body is tired from a long day at work, nutrition becomes more of a necessity rather than something to be savored and enjoyed.  Give me a microwavable dinner and let me go to bed!


Because I enjoy preparing meals so much, I get the whole homemade pet diet craze.  I don't partake it in personally, but I get it.  While I prefer sitting down to a meal with roast chicken from my farm, homemade mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli from the garden over chicken nuggets and previously frozen french fries, my dogs do not show the same type of preferences in their diet.  They are what I call "appetite driven" and not taste driven.  They show the same enthusiasm toward a bowl of dry commercial dog food kibble as they do a few morsels of my cooked chicken as they do the mouse that one of the barn cats left in the back yard three days earlier.   OK, that last one is a fairly bad example because it is quite rare that the rodent carcasses brought home by the cats last more than a few seconds if discovered by any one of the dogs.  But you get my point.  So while I do home cook for myself, I admit I take the easy way out and feed commercially prepared food to my dogs and cats and chickens for that matter.  Lots of science goes into creating balanced and nutritional diets for animals and I am more than happy to take advantage of all the hard work spent to create a balanced animal food.  Scooping feed out of a bag simplifies my life enormously and I've always had a healthy bunch of animals in my household and on my farm.


As a veterinarian, I have very little problem with most commercial diets.  I see dogs that are healthy eating every type of dog food from typical grocery store fare to exotic pet shop diets.  For that reason, I am very hesitant to recommend specific brands when having discussions about what to feed pets (unless there is a medical need).  I think the obesity problem (that means OVER feeding) has way more to do with how healthy or unhealthy our pets are than what brand of food they eat.  Genetics plays a HUGE role too.  There was an interesting study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine recently about causes of death in dogs by breed and age.  Not surprising was that as dogs grow older they are more likely to die from cancer.  Some would blame our environment or diet as the culprit, but interestingly enough was that after a certain age, the incidence of cancer started going down.  You would expect that if diet or environment were totally to blame that the cancer incidence would continue to climb all the way through the oldest individuals.  It doesn't .  Here is a nice blog that discusses this study.


But you would be living under the proverbial rock, if you did not at least know there are murmurings about how bad commercial diets for our pets.  Ah yes, the internet buzz.  I have three issues with the undeserved demonization of commercial pet diets.  The same people who have jumped on the "raw diet" and homemade diet bandwagon are the same ones who proclaim commercial pet foods are some toxic product of the animal slaughter house industry because you will find ingredients such as chicken by-product meal in pet food.  Oh the horror when it is discovered that chicken by-product meal is this: " Chicken by-product meal consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.".  Chicken feet!  Oh my, it contains chicken feet!  Well did you know that chicken feet actually do have some nutritional value?  They are considered a delicacy in many Asian cultures and can be found pre-packaged on grocery store shelves in many parts of the world.  Just because most Americans (me included) wouldn't put a chicken foot within a few feet of my mouth doesn't mean they aren't edible.  Actually one of the women who was at one of our farm's chicken butchering days last year requested cleaning and packing up some of the chicken feet because her mom makes soup stock from them.  No problem.  I was planning on throwing them out.


But yet the "raw food" crowd jumps up and down and shouts how raw diets are "natural" when all they are feeding is meat and perhaps ground up bones and veggies.  What is so wrong with the feet, necks and internal organs and perhaps a few feathers mixed in?  The coyotes that raid the farmer's chicken coop don't seem to mind eating those other parts along with the meat and bones.  I don't get the prejudice against animal parts that most AMERICANS do not tend to eat.  And what is great about chicken by-product meal is that it is cooked so that all the nasty bacteria and parasites that are found in raw food are now dead.


The second issue I have with raw food diets is the "raw" part.  I've gotten a little better with my own cooking, but after going through public health class in vet school and learning about all the parasites that occur naturally in the meats that we eat, I had a tendency to cook every cut of meat until it resembled a charcoal briquette.  Not because I wasn't paying attention to how long I cooked my meat.  No, it was quite purposeful as I would flip burgers on the grill and mutter "die parasites die" under my breath.  I have loosened up a bit these days in the pursuit of good flavor and juiciness of the meat I eat, but you will never catch me eating Sushi.


Raw foods can be an issue for pets too.  Remember about how my dogs love to snack on the rodents that the barn cats catch and deposit so lovingly on the front porch of the house?  Well this caused quite a bit of embarrassment for me last winter.  I used to let the dogs sleep with me in bed before I got married.  Then I married a farm boy who was raised with the "dogs don't belong in the house" philosophy.  He was quite tolerant of the dogs in the bed until one day one of the dogs ate a pile of cat poop outside and then proceeded to jump on the bed and vomit said pile of cat poop all over said bed.  That was the last day the dogs were allowed on the bed.  He has no problems with the dogs in the house (and even cuddles with them on the floor every day), but no dogs in bed.  Because I don't sleep with the dogs anymore, I may be a little slower on the uptake about things like, um, tapeworms (which dogs get from eating rodents).  Sue, our office manager, was so kind to watch my old dog Molly at her house while my husband and I went out of town on vacation.  Sue has such a kind heart and even though Molly is not allowed on the furniture at my house, Sue puts a blanket on her couch and lets Molly sleep there.  When I got back from vacation Sue informed me that she had found tapeworm segments on her couch.  Ooops!  So sorry Sue.  Guess I had better worm my rodent eating dog.   Dogs and cats DO get parasites from raw food.  They DO get salmonella and other bacteria from food.  As someone who sees firsthand the harm that parasites and bacteria can cause pets and people, I don't understand why cooking pet food is evil to the raw food believers.  I guess I can't understand everything.  I will continue to cook my food and mutter "die parasites die".  I am a cooked food believer.


Last but not least is the nutritional balancing act.  You've got your big nutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) and your little nutrients (vitamins and minerals).  All must be in balance.  Now there is some deep philosophical stuff right there.  So for those who want to make homemade diets for your pets,  I beg you PLEASE learn how to do it correctly.  It takes months and months of eating a diet with nutritional deficiencies before you might see a problem.  It makes me so sad to see a blind cat or a young dog with thin brittle broken bones all because they were eating a poorly made diet.

I am going to give you two great sources of homemade diets.  Both companies are run by veterinarians.  Both are VERY reasonably priced for their consultation services.  One is BalanceIT and the other is PetDiets.com.  Check them out so I don't have to see your pets in my office for a nutritional deficiency.  I have enough to do treating all the bone impactions and the diarrhea from people feeding raw diets to their pets. (OK sorry I couldn't resist that.)

As for me, I will be heading home to make some homemade enchiladas with rice and beans for me and my husband and scooping food out of a bag for my doggies.  Guaranteed smiles from my husband and wagging tails from the wooferdoodles (as I like to call them).

Thanks again to Flickr creative commons for some of the photos (linked back).

Monday, April 11, 2011

The 3 day GREAT IDEAS FOR GIVING LOCAL blog - Day 3

Last but definitely not least, here is the third idea for giving local and making a difference.  This one will have you coming away with a deep sense of "fullness".

Event #3

What: Spayghetti Dinner
When: Monday April 18, 2011 5-8pm
Where: Wagon Wheel Restaurant, Madison, Ohio
To Benefit: The Ashtabula County Animal Protective League

This is one is a no-brainer.  We all have to eat, right?  What better than to have a great spaghetti dinner and raise money for the local animal shelter!  I have been to a couple of these and they are VERY well attended and for good reason.  The food is great.  The homemade desserts are great.  The atmosphere is great.  The people are great.  Oh I could go on and on.  They always get a bunch of great donations for a Chinese auction and have a 50:50 raffle.

The Ashtabula County Animal Protective League is the largest shelter in our county.  When you call the dog warden to pick up a stray dog, this is where they go.  The people who work and volunteer at this shelter are saints!  Really!  They have such a hard job to do caring for all these animals and they do it with such compassion.  A truly amazing group of people.  But once again, this is an organization that relies HEAVILY on donations in order to take care of all those animals. 

I know times are tough and money is tight, but like I said in the opening paragraph, we all have to eat.  Tickets are $8 and $7 of that goes to the ACAPL.  You cannot beat that!  For more information head over to the ACAPL web site.  You can even purchase tickets online.  Can it be any easier?  Dinner, dessert, fun! 


Thanks again to flickr's creative commons for providing the pictures.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The 3 day GREAT IDEAS FOR GIVING LOCAL blog - Day 2

Here is the next idea for helping local animals and you can even help your own dog or cat out in the process!

Event # 2

What: Rabies vaccination clinic
When: Saturday April 30, 2011 from 1-4pm
Where: Ashtabula County Humane Society, Austinburg, OH
To Benefit: Ashtabula County Humane Society

This event just has all sorts of good written all over it. First and foremost is the public health aspect of vaccinating pets for rabies. If you have been paying attention, you know that after quite a few years of not having a wild animal test positive for rabies in our county, we have had 3 raccoons in the eastern part of the county test positive. This is a big deal folks. Rabies kills. It kills thousands of wild animals, hundreds of domestic animals and a few people every year in the United States. And every year, I read stories in the national news of someone's beloved pet that got in a scuffle with a rabid wild animal and had to be euthanized because the pet did not have a rabies vaccination. How sad! I cannot for the life of me fathom why someone with a dog or cat would not get it vaccinated for rabies. Seems as though when you acquire a dog or cat, you should budget in a rabies vaccination, if not for the pet, then for the health of your family. And for those of you with indoor cats, they are not exempt from this. I remember a case quite a few years back of an indoor only cat whose family did not get it a rabies shot because the cat never went outdoors. One day a bat got into the house and the cat did what cats do and caught the bat. The bat turned out to be rabid and the cat had to be put to sleep. All the family's heartache could have been prevented by simply getting their cat vaccinated. End of the vaccinate your pet sermon.

The second part of this is that the rabies vaccination clinic serves to raise a little bit of money for the Ashtabula County Humane Society. They are not as big or as well known throughout the county as the APL is, but they are equally important. They serve a very different function too. The APL is an animal shelter that houses our county's stray and unwanted dogs and cats. The Ashtabula County Humane Society are the folks who investigate cases of abuse and neglect toward animals. They have a shelter too where they house dogs and cats and adopt out animals to new homes. And these are the folks that get to see the worst of the worst of animal abuse/neglect. I've seen some bad stuff in my time, but nothing compared to what the humane agents get to see. And remember, local Humane Societies are just that LOCAL. If you think giving to a big national organization like The Humane Society of the United States helps your local humane society in any way, then think again. The two have no affiliation with each other. HSUS is a multi-million dollar lobbying group that gives less than 1% of its budget to help animals in shelters. I will blog more on this in the coming weeks, but just remember if you want to help abused animals, keep your donation dollars local.

So if you have a dog or cat or ferret that needs a rabies vaccination, come out to the AC Humane Society on Saturday April 30th and get your pet vaccinated and help out your local humane society at the same time. For more information click on this link: ACHS Annual Rabies Vaccination Clinic.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The 3 day GREAT IDEAS FOR GIVING LOCAL blog - Day 1

Normally I like to put up blog postings that have some lasting value: something that can be referred back to from time to time. But I am going to stray from that for the next three days.  My usual M.O. is to put upcoming event postings up on the Country Doctor Facebook Page or my Twitter feed instead of in my blog.  But there are 3 events in the next couple months that deserve some special mention and give Ashtabula County residents a great chance to help animals and keep donation dollars local.  So I will highlight 1 event per day for the next three days.  All 3 events benefit local Ashtabula County animals that really need our help.  Each event helps a different group so you have a chance to go to 1, 2 or all 3 events and do multiple good deeds.  And everyone of us (me included) need a little prodding and a little cheerleading to get motivated to do something for a good cause so let the cheerleading begin...........

Event #1
What: Family Fun Dog Show
When: Sunday May 22nd starting at 1pm

Where: Ashtabula County Fairgrounds Sheriff Station
To Benefit:  local police and sheriff working canine units

I cannot say enough good about our county's K-9 units.  Trained police dogs are such an invaluable part of our local law enforcement.  Because of them and the officers who train and work with them, we are a much better off community.  From drug detection to apprehension to search and rescue, these dogs are amazing.  The K-9 unit departments do have quite the challenge though when it comes to budget.  It takes quite a bit of money to keep these units up and running and we all know how bad the budget situation is in our county.  So being the best staff on the planet, the women who work at the Country Doctor decided they wanted to come up with a fund raiser to help out the K-9 units.  The dog show is 100% their idea and I think it is great!  Giving back to the community is what this life is all about.  Making a difference.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am blessed to be working with such generous and caring people.

Now on to the dog show details...............

In case you think that your dog can't enter a dog show because it is not a show dog, not in this case.  This is a fun show!  You can find the complete flyer and the dog show registration form over at the County Doctor web site by clicking on the hot links.  Here is a list of classes that you and your dog can enter:


Best Tail Wagging

Best Under bite

Crazy hair do's

Pet and owner look alike

Cutest eyes


Best pet trick in 60 seconds









You can enter for only $5 per class.  There is something for every dog.  There will be guest judges (including me and if you really want to know, my weakness is chocolate frosted brownies *wink,wink*)  Several of the K-9 units will be at the event so you can meet them.  We are going to have a bake sale too so if you can't find a dog to enter, you can at least come over and eat.

Since this our first Family Fun Dog Show, we need folks to sign up by early May so we can plan.  If you need more info you can visit the Country Doctor web site at http://www.countrydrvet.com/  and look for the show flyer in the "Patient Center" tab and then go to "events".  OR you can email us at info@countrydrvet.com.  We would love to see everyone there and help us raise money for the dogs who do so much to make our communities a safer place to live.

And thanks to Flickr's creative commons for helping me fill in a few pictures.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The spring treasure hunt

The birth of this blog topic took place in the grocery store this past Sunday.  I don't even know how we got on this topic, but I said hello to one of the employees who I see in the store all the time and before you know it we were discussing the fine art of spring yard clean up and what that means to a dog owner.  What amazed me the most about the conversation was how we both were waiting for the exact same moment to begin our yearly clean up task.  There was some incredible bond between us.  A bond between two dog owners that knew exactly what the other was thinking and feeling.  And here I thought I was the only one who was eagerly awaiting a perfectly crisp sunny March morning to begin the job that awaits.

The yard looks so pretty and white covered in snow.  This is how my yard looked two weeks ago.  Actually, this is how my yard looked from the first week of December until about three weeks ago.  Then it rained about 2 inches, melted all the snow and then it snowed again.  That is why my yard looked like this two weeks ago.  Then it rained about 1 inch, melted all the snow and then it snowed again.  My yard looked like this last week too.  But I have three dogs.  There are hidden treasures waiting for me under the snow.

I have had a glimpse at the vast glory of all those gems scattered around the yard twice in the last two weeks.  Most years we will experience at least one thaw in mid winter so that I can split my yard treasure hunt into two parts.  Not this winter.  The snow has been unrelenting in its coverage of the yard.  Those waiting treasures have multiplied to astronomical proportions over the course of three straight months of snow.  So the wait begins.  You see collecting all the yard treasures requires the perfect weather conditions that have to coincide perfectly with my work schedule.  Obviously the snow has to be gone for the hunt to begin.  It can't be raining.  In fact it can't even be above freezing or else the awaiting prizes turn into piles of mush.  It can't be too far below freezing either because the valuables become one with the ground and are impossible to remove without digging up the yard.  No, the perfect conditions are a sunny morning with temps in the upper 20's and expected high temps to rise into the 30's or 40's.  On mornings such as this, there is a glorious hour or two when collecting the treasure is at its best.  The gems hold their shape, but yet lift easily from the ground.  Heaven.

And so the grocery store employee and I had this great conversation about waiting for those perfect conditions.  And we will wait a little longer.  Yesterday the sun came out and melted most of the snow, but of course it was dark and above freezing when I got home from work.  Today will be more rain and lots of it.  Then followed by more snow.  Waiting.  Waiting.  I will take care of my own yard all by myself, but I can't help but think that this company that I made fun of last summer is going to be mighty busy this spring.


Happy poop scooping to all my northern friends and neighbors!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Does this tooth hurt? You betcha!

I get asked all the time by pet owners if I think their dog or cat is in pain.  The simple answer is that if it is something that would cause pain to a person, it will cause pain in a dog or cat.  What is different is how dogs and cats in pain behave compared to people.  The signs can sometimes be very very subtle.  Of course most of us would not miss a dog that just had its foot stepped on and is delivering an ear piercing cry that can be heard halfway down the block.  Puppies are particularly good at this and if anyone has a husky or a beagle, then you KNOW how loud they can be when they are hurt.  But this is a case of sudden onset of pain.  What about chronic pain?  How about an example.

Very early in my veterinary career, I treated a beautiful Golden Retriever whose name escapes me.  I'll call him Max.  Max lived on a farm and like a lot of farm dogs, he would occasionally go exploring in the woods.  One day Max went missing and didn't come home for 3 days.  When he finally showed up at the farm house, he was badly injured and his owner brought him into the clinic for me to examine.  Max's left rear leg had been shot with a high powered rifle.  The tibia leg bone below the knee had been shattered.  No, more like evaporated into nothingness.  Most of the skin and muscle was gone too.  There was a 1" wide strip of skin still there and that was all that was holding Max's lower leg and paw to the upper part of the leg.  So I walk in the examine room and here is this beautiful, happy, tail wagging, bouncing around on three legs, Golden Retriever.  He was so excited to see me and as he was bouncing around the exam room, the lower part of his left leg that was dangling by a strip of skin was twirling around every which way.  He never cried out.  He never slowed down.  Was he in pain?  I guarantee he was.  What happened was that he had just spent the last 3 days out in the woods adjusting to living with his pain.  Life goes onward in a dog's mind.  The end of the story was that I amputated Max's leg and he went on to live his happy Golden Retriever life.

The point of that story is two fold.  First, dogs and cats have nerve endings that send pain signals to the brain.  I am 110% absolutely positively you can't convince me otherwise sure that our pets feel pain.  Second, you cannot always tell if an animal is in pain by its behavior alone.  Sometimes you can, but sometimes you can't.  If there is something that you can see or feel that looks like it should be painful, then it is painful.

On to a tooth story.  Yesterday a regular client brought in her dog for me to check a tooth.  She had heard a story on the radio about dental health in pets and decided to look at her dog's teeth and a back tooth didn't look quite right.  Here is a picture of the tooth:


Do you see that pink spot on the tooth?  That is where the outer enamel has broken off the tooth and is exposing the pulp cavity of the tooth and yes, exposing the nerve.  Does that not make you cringe seeing that raw tissue exposed?  It makes me cringe.  I just wanted to rush over and give this client a big hug for being so observant and knowing when something didn't look right.  But I did restrain myself because, well, you know, it's probably not proper exam room etiquette to rush into someone's personal space and give them a big bear hug.  *grin*  I do just love it though when pet owners are really in tune with their animals.  Now this dog was not showing a bit of behavior that would make you think it was in pain.  I can guarantee this tooth was painful.  There are two choices for treating a broken tooth: extraction or root canal with a crown needed in some cases. In this case, the owner chose extraction which we did today.  This dog will go home with oral pain medicine for 4 or 5 days and then should be on her way to a painfree mouth.

Now I don't think that all pain needs treated in all animals (although we probably should be treating pain more often then we do).  If I bang my knee and it turns all black and blue and sore, I don't go reaching for the bottle of Advil right off the bat.  But I do think that animals hurt the same way you and I hurt.  I think different individuals have different pain tolerances too just like in people.  So while not 100% of pain needs treated, just know that even if they an animal is not acting painful, if you see something or feel something on your pet that looks like it should hurt, well, then it does hurt.  If you have any doubts, ask your veterinarian.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cats, kidney disease, and making a difference.

Last week was kind of a rough week at the clinic.  We had several patients die or get diagnosed with advanced cancer or other equally horrible diseases.  These kind of weeks happen in the medical profession.   And not to say that one individual loss of life doesn't have any effect on us, but when multiples occur in a very short period of time, the stress level certainly rises above the norm.  During times like this, a person needs to have a coping mechanism in place or they won't last very long in this very emotional environment.  When I am faced with great sadness at work, I grab on to the successes for the successes are why we do what we do.  Last week I said goodbye to a patient of mine named Sabrina when she was brought into the clinic for euthanasia.  It was time to say goodbye, but Sabrina's life has special meaning because of her story and Sabrina's owners graciously said "yes" when I asked if I could tell her story in my blog.


When I decided to do this blog, I asked Sabrina's people if they could send me a few pictures to add to the blog which they very kindly did along with a note about how and when she first made her way into their lives.  I am going to include that note word for word because I was touched by a feeling of love that came across to me in those 2 short paragraphs about Sabrina's life.

Sabrina was just a tiny kitten when found at the McDonald's dumpster in Conneaut in the winter of 1992. Efforts were made to find the owner to no avail, so the people that found her kept her at their home in Conneaut. When it was not possible to care for Sabrina anymore, they asked a mutual friend of ours if we would mind taking care of "Ashley" (Sabrina's name at that time). Since we already had one cat--a seven-year-old male "Bailey", we took in "Ashley" on a trial basis in October 1993. Everything worked out well--we renamed "Ashley" to Sabrina.


Sabrina adapted well and became the "Queen Bee". She adapted well to travel to and from Florida (sometimes twice a year) and various trips to Connecticut. In 2002, "Bailey" died, but she was not alone for long. "Buster", a male cat about two years old, was adopted from a shelter in West Virginia in November 2002, so she had another male cat to boss around. In 2007 she was diagnosed with a kidney disease that would be fatal. She was on medication for that until she died in February 2011. She was at least 19 years old.
I first met Sabrina in 2002 when she was 10 years old.  Over the next few years all her visits and bloodwork were for routine check ups or to get her teeth cleaned.  In the summer of 2006, Sabrina came in for her regular check up.  She had been doing well, but had lost a little weight.  This year her bloodwork showed that she was in the beginning stages of chronic kidney disease.  We changed her diet to a commercial feline kidney management diet and started her on Calcitriol, a drug that helps with some of the changes in parathyroid hormone that occurs in kidney disease.  Over the course of the following years, there were a few minor bumps in the road and Sabrina needed a treatment for a urinary tract infection once and was treated with an antacid stomach medication a few times.  Through out all of this, Sabrina's owners were very diligent about giving her medicine and bringing her in for regular appointments and bloodwork.  This is what made all the difference.


The point of Sabrina's story is that this is what early diagnosis and treatment can accomplish.  Chronic kidney disease is one of the most if not the most common disease veterinarians see in our senior cat population.  There have been several studies that have shown on average, a cat that has been diagnosed with early stage chronic kidney disease will live about 1 year with no treatment.  With treatment, cats will live an average of 2 years.  Sorry this is not a scientific paper so there are no footnotes.  If you want me to dig out my notes about these studies feel free to shoot me an email and I will find them.  In Sabrina's case, she lived 5 years.  Not every cat will do as well as Sabrina did, but many will.  BUT the kidney disease needs to diagnosed early.  Not when the cat has shriveled down to a skeleton, quit eating and is vomiting bile all over the place.  Sabrina's 5 extra years of life is why we veterinarians harp about bringing your cat in every year for a check up.  It's why we tell you that your senior cat needs routine bloodwork every year.  We are the ones who see what can be possible.  We can't work miracles, but with a little help and perhaps a touch of good luck, we can make a difference.  The successes.  It is why we do what we do.


Along with some pictures of Sabrina all by herself (and one with her "brother" Buster), I was also sent one picture that made me cry and smile all at the same time.  You understand I am sure.  It is the sadness that comes at the time a pet's life ends and we have to say goodbye.  It is the smile that comes from knowing how blessed we were to have met and how much that pet's life meant to our own.  Dear Sabrina, I hope you have a good job supervising computer work on someone's lap over the rainbow bridge.  It was a blessing to have known you.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Socialization biscuits and delivery people


Last week I got to see Molly, my 14 year old Brittany, interact with our fuel oil delivery guy. I'd like to invent an award for most favorite delivery person because if there were such an award, he would win it hands down. The morning of the ice storm last week, the clinic where I work was put on a 2 hour delay in opening so that none of the staff had to drive to work during the early morning when the roads were the most treacherous. So instead of going out to start my car and clear ice off the windshield at 8am, I was doing this chore at 10am. Molly followed me outside and as we walked toward the driveway, the fuel oil delivery truck pulled up. From all the years I have lived on the farm, I know the driver's name is Jessie. I said hi to him as he was getting out of the truck and I continued on over to where I had parked my car in the driveway. Now I know Molly is a good social sort of dog, but I am rarely home when the fuel oil gets delivered so I don't really know how she behaves around delivery guys. I've just never had a complaint and I almost always follow the "no news is good news" way of thinking. Molly has lived on the farm since a year and a half old and is trained to stay in the yard so most days when no one is at home, she is outside keeping the yard safe from, well, really not safe from much of anything. Mostly she sleeps with the cats on the front porch. So when delivery people come to the house, she is free to greet them or chase them or whatever. Last week was a rare opportunity for me to watch Molly and Jessie interact.


Jessie got out of the truck, stopped for a minute, reached for something inside the truck and closed the truck door. Molly saw him and trotted over to him. Jessie reached down and patted her head and gave her a dog biscuit. Molly was wiggly and wagging. Another dog cookie was fed before Jessie unrolled the hose and started filling our fuel oil tank. Molly followed him. As he was waiting for the tank to fill, he knelt down and was scratching Molly behind the ears and talking to her. I couldn't hear what was being said if much of anything. Dog cookies 3 and 4 were fed during this time. Molly loves Jessie.


I feel for delivery people and having to deal with all sorts of dogs. I live in the country. I am a big bike rider. I have been chased by my share of farm dogs both mean and friendly. I know what delivery people have to put up with. But it does my heart good, to know that their are delivery people out there who are smart enough to realize making a life long friend is a good goal to accomplish if possible.


I had a similar experience with a Fed Ex driver. It was probably 5 or 6 years ago, but I was headed home in the middle of the day and as I drove down my road toward my house, I saw a Fed Ex truck pull into my driveway. Again, I was wondering how Molly was going to act toward the Fed Ex guy so I purposefully slowed down so I could watch what happened from a distance. The Fed Ex driver got out and as he started walking up the sidewalk to the front porch, Molly came trotting off of the porch to greet him. He promptly tossed a couple dog biscuits her direction which she happily ate while he put the package on the porch. Another delivery, another positive experience for the dog. It's no wonder she likes delivery people so much. Good thing we don't get more deliveries or I would be wondering why my dog was getting fatter.


For years, I've been passing out a handout called "Socialization Biscuits" that was given to me by Dr. Wayne Hunthausen. Dr. Hunthausen is a veterinarian who does a lot of behavior consultations to help owners with their pet's behavior problems and he writes and co-writes a lot of behavior handouts and articles. His hospital's web page can be found here. But I love the Socialization Biscuit handout. Getting puppies started off on the right foot, or perhaps I should say paw, is so important to good behaviour later in life. But even as dogs get older, I think we tend to forget that they need positive encounters all the time to keep them happy and well balanced. I am blessed that my dog Molly has had so many good encounters with some very savvy delivery people. I know this is not always the case and that's where trouble can start.


I am glad I can trust Molly around strangers. That is a blessing in and of itself. But it's also nice to know there are plenty of people out there who know that you can catch more flies with honey. Being positive and friendly gets you into a lot more places than being scared and/or grumpy. I need to go invent my favorite delivery person award now.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pit bills and Ohio's vicious dog law

Meet Rommel.  Sweetest pit bull on 4 legs.  I absolutely love this dog.  He has a pit bull "sister" Val who is equally as sweet, but don't tell Val that Rommel is a bit of a favorite of mine.  I think there is a certain amount of charisma that goes along with old age and Rommel is certainly showing his age. Maybe I just have a great deal of empathy since I have my own geriatric dog at home that is developing her share of old age doggie quirks. A few people good naturedly chuckled at the picture of me holding on to Rommel in my office. They said it looked like I had a wrestling hold on him.  Truth be told, he was hanging out in the office with me after having anesthesia to remove an abscessed tooth.  He is a bit unsteady on his feet to begin with and with just a touch of left over anesthesia in his body, well, he was kind of doing the weeble wobble (without falling down).  But the weebling was making it really hard to get a good picture so I was just giving him a little physical support.  Kind of like the boy scout helping the old lady across the road.  Sweet ol' Rommel.

The point of introducing Rommel is that pit bulls are one of my favorite breeds to work on as a veterinarian.  I meet very few who are truly vicious.  If they are vicious, they are not sneaky about it.  I like knowing where I stand with a dog when my face is in their face doing an exam.  But like I said, very few are aggressive in the vet's office and that is just the plain and honest truth.  I could give you a list of about a half dozen other breeds that can make me cringe a bit inside when I see one of them appear on the appointment calendar.  But even on my own personal list of breeds that could just go away and never be seen or heard from again (and all vets have this list whether they admit to it or not), there are good individual dogs and bad individual dogs.  For some reason I prefer breeds where 80% are happy and friendly in the strange exam room setting as opposed to breeds where 20% are happy and friendly in that same setting. Call me crazy.

Which brings to my reason for writing about pit bulls today.  The state of Ohio's dangerous dog law specifically names the "pit bull" as a vicious breed.  I'm not quite sure the history of how this type of dog and no other became part of the law, but it is there and the law needs changed. Notice I said "type" and not breed because "pit bull" is not even a recognized breed.  There are actually several different breeds that fall into the pit bull "type", but none of this is spelled out in the law.  All this does is to make the law ambiguous and that is a big problem.

What it comes down to is that dog bites are a serious issue.  The physical and emotional damage caused by a dog bite can be enormous.  And on occasion, dog attacks can be fatal.  The laws need to be harsh toward those who choose to keep dogs that are aggressive.  The law does not need to punish people who keep dogs that are well mannered and even tempered just because that dog belongs to a specific breed.  Dangerous dogs need to be treated as individuals.  Period.  Breed specific laws are just plain wrong.

Fortunately Ohio House Representative Barbara Sears has sponsored a bill to remove "pit bull" from the vicious dog law.  The bill (which was actually floating around last year too) is now known has House Bill 14.  The bill is in committee right now and has been assigned to the Criminal Justice committee.  There was actually a committee meeting earlier this morning to hear testimony on this bill.   If you would like to help get H.B. 14 passed, please feel free to contact members of the committee and voice your opinions.  Follow the links below for contact and other information.

Ohio House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee

Lynn Slaby Criminal Justice Committee Chair

Barbara Spears H.B. 14 Sponsor

Ohio H.B. 14 details and links to status

I'll try to keep this blog up to date with details on how this bill is progressing.  This is an important issue to all dog owners.  If the pit bull is specifically named in the law now, what will keep Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Akitas etc from being added.  All of us as dog owners have a stake in this.  Treat dangerous dogs harshly, but treat them as individuals.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The sky is falling and other good tales of doom

The past week has been a gold mine for pet lovers who blog. (I will put my thoughts from a veterinarian's perspective on all this hoopla at the end of this blog.)  Last week the media picked up the story of a CDC (Center for Disease Control) study that talks about the risks of sharing your bed with your pets.  All sorts of scary diseases from the plague to methicillin resistant staph aureus that can be passed from pet to person were mentioned in the study.  And not only did the news media pick up this story, they ran with it.  If I search "sleeping with pets" on Google news search, I get 202 results.  And that is not a very detailed or complete search by any means.  The news articles range from the informative to the overly sensationalized to the humorous.  Here are just a few that I have stumbled across.

FoxNews reports "Study Claims Sleeping with Pets May Be Dangerous".  I was a little disappointed by this headline.  I go to FoxNews whenever I want to look for really cool headlines like these I found on January 26 "Woman Allegedly Mowed Down After Facebook Feud"  or "Man Seeks Police Protection from Sex Crazed Wife".  Really, how can you not click on those stories to read them.  Then there is the story headline "Fire on Hudson River Ferry Over; no injuries reported".   What a great story to link to off of their front page on their web site.  There was a fire.  It was brought under control.  No one was hurt.  I love FoxNews.  They make me smile.  So you can see that I was totally disappointed when I read the story that pets sleeping in bed with you "may" be dangerous.  Such ambiguity is just not like them.

This was especially disappointing after AOL news linked to a news article which headline reads "Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie In Your Bed Can Kill You".   No ambiguity here.  It's not that pets in bed "may" be dangerous or "may" make you sick.  No, those furry carnivores in our homes can KILL you.  See, I knew it was much worse than I first thought.

But beyond the regular news stories, there are the bloggers.  I actually enjoy these the most because they take life much less serious.  I like that.  Living in a cold northern climate, I can really related to this blogger from USA today who writes "Final Word: Ban on pets in bed is giving folks cold feet".  In my younger and single days having a dog or two or three in bed with me was quite an advantage in lowering my heating bills.  Nowadays I have a husband and a pre-menopausal body that provide me with more than enough heat during my sleeping hours, but pets can provide a very practical source of heat at night.

Then there is the blogger from The Tallahassee.com web site that informs us "Alarmist nonsense implicates dogs at the foot of the bed".  He goes on to talk about how the hand washing industry is probably behind all of this nonsense.  He certainly is on to the fact that we are become a nation of germaphobes.  I still remember working for a mixed animal veterinary practice years ago.  At lunchtime we would gather around the employee lounge to eat and hang out.  One of the small animal veterinarians who worked in the clinic all day was totally obsessed with personal cleanliness.  I still remember that he would wash and sanitize the top of his can of soda before opening it and taking a drink.  The rest of us would come into the clinic fresh from large animal farm calls with bits of manure on our clothing, wash our hands, dry them on our clothes and eat lunch.  The small animal veterinarian was always sick with colds and flu (nothing serious) and the rest of always stayed healthy.  I have no scientific basis for this, but I have always had the contention that some low level exposure to germs is actually better for your immune system.  It just makes sense.  Oh and before you panic about my cleanliness in treating my patients, I have had "cleanliness is next to Godliness" drilled into my head from the beginning of time.  Or you can just look at my shrivelled up dried out hand like body parts that are a result of my 457 hand washings I do every day at the clinic.  In the hospital, sanitary conditions are not optional.  In my personal life, I prefer a little dirt under my nails.  Life is more fun that way.

One of my husband's favorite sayings is "If it weren't for house fires, I wouldn't leave the house at all".  He always says that in response to the latest news article about the dangers in our life.  Remember the dihydrogen monoxide scare from a few years back?  Just check out the facts at DHMO.org FAQ if you want to read about all the dangers of this deadly chemical that we are exposed to every day of our lives.  Heck just this winter I saw a news article that sled riding is dangerous and can cause injuries.  Really?  Before I was born, my mom actually tore some ligaments in her knee in a sled riding accident.  You would have thought that mom would have banned us kids from such a dangerous activity, but no, she actually took us sled riding and we had fun.  Oh the horror of it all.  (And don't you just love the label on this bottle of water I got at a convention years ago? (picture below)  I LOVE people/companies with a sense of humor!  Maybe they should have put the dihydrogen monoxide warnings on this label though.)


So where does all this doom and gloom news about pets sleeping in our beds leave a veterinarian who lives, loves and breathes all the beauty of the human-animal bond?  Well, it leaves me with being informed about what is out there, minimizing the risks and then going ahead and loving the life I lead with all the animals that surround me at work and at home.  Would you sleep with your spouse if he/she didn't take a shower for months on end, never brushed their teeth and had lice crawling all over them?  If you want to sleep with your pet, make sure you bathe them regularly, keep up with their dental hygiene and for gosh sakes keep them free from fleas, mites, intestinal worms and many other various parasites that can plague our pets.  If you don't know what it takes to make sure your pet is healthy, see your veterinarian.  Don't forget to exercise extra caution if you or whoever is sleeping with the family pet does not have a healthy fully functional immune system.  End of the be careful sermon.  Now go love your pet and live your life.