Wednesday, January 25, 2012

H.B. 14 January 25, 2012 update: Ohio vicious dog law

Way back last year, I wrote about Ohio House Bill 14 that would remove the word "pit bull" from Ohio's vicious dog law.  This bill NEEDS to be passed.  Ohio is the only state in the U.S. that specifically names a breed of dog in the vicious dog law.  The original wording of this bill got passed umpteen years ago and like all things in government, it is taking eons to fix this mistake. 
You can find my original blog post here.  If you are in too much of a hurry to read the entire post, I think the last paragraph sums up the gist of why H.B. 14 needs to pass:

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.
The bill is progressing through the legislative process.  It has made it through its initial committee and the Ohio House.  It has made it through the Ohio Senate committee just a couple a weeks ago.  The next step is a vote by the full senate.  It was suppose to make it to the Senate floor yesterday, but it did not.  All expectations are that it will be heard and voted on by the Senate in the next few weeks.  The next general session is next Tuesday on January 31st.

I'm asking everyone who lives in Ohio and especially dog owners to call your Ohio Senator and tell them you support Ohio H.B. 14.  A few links below to help you out.

Find your Senator here.

Link to Ohio House Bill 14

General information on efforts to stop breed specific legislation

This bill may be voted on very soon.  The time to call or email your Ohio State Senator is now.  Fingers crossed that this bill makes it through the Senate.  It is important to every one of us who owns a dog.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dogs with bad backs - Emmett's story

I've heard it said that 80% of people will experience back pain at some time in their lives.  While back problems are not as common in dogs as they are in people, they are still one of the more common conditions that a small animal veterinarian will treat.  Today's blog is about Emmett.  This cute little dog is up and walking around today thanks to his very astute owner and a wonderful surgeon.  (I have told you I like success stories, right?  *grin*)

I saw Emmett for a sudden onset of back pain one Friday last June.  I had to look up the month, but for some reason I can distinctly remember what days of the week this all happened.  Anyway, his mom brought him in on a Friday and I remember how painful Emmett was.  We took some X-rays and confirmed that he indeed had evidence of intervertebral disc disease.  (Click on the link for a very thorough explanation of disc disease in dogs.)  Just like in people with disc disease, pain is caused when a disc, which is the cushion in between the vertebrae, swells and bulges.  And just like in people, almost all dogs will heal with some anti-inflammatory drugs, rest and sometimes muscle relaxers.  Only 5% of dogs need surgery.  Emmett only had pain with his back disease and he did not have any neurologic signs such as weakness in his legs or paralysis.  And so, he got sent home on medical therapy, but I still remember how I thought Emmett seemed more painful than most dogs that I treat with this condition.

Four days later on Tuesday morning, Emmett's mom called to tell us that Emmett started have some weakness in his legs that just started that morning.  Tuesdays are my main surgery day so I was gloved up and working in sterile surgical field when all this was happening.  I remember my wonderful staff relaying messages back and forth between me and Emmett's mom.  At first Emmett's symptoms weren't too bad so it was decided to just wait a bit, but within an hour his weakness was much worse and progressing toward paralysis.  The question then was should Emmett come into the clinic for a recheck?  Well, I've seen symptoms progress this fast before and this is not the time to delay treatment.  We had Emmett's mom come and pick up his X-rays from Friday and go directly to see the veterinary surgeon.  Within hours, Emmett had surgery for a disc in his back that had gone from bulging to ruptured.

The next day, Emmett got sent home from the surgical hospital.  I remember how his mom commented how she was expecting to have to help him walk at least in the beginning as he healed from major back surgery.  When they left the hospital, Emmett walked over to a post and lifted his leg to pee on it.  Amazing.  Emmett is doing well today (although he did have a flare up of back pain a month and half ago but only needed medicine to treat).  Emmett is doing well because his owner was so incredibly on top of what was going on with her dog and also a big thanks go out to the wonderful surgeons and staff at our not-so-local referral hospital.

This is definitely a story of a bad disease where everything went right.  I am always amazed when I have an owner bring in a paralyzed dog and when I ask how long the dog has been this way, they tell me a day, or two, or three, or sometimes more.  Really?  Your dog goes suddenly paralyzed and you wait days to bring it to the veterinarian?  Bulging discs with mild to moderate pain and no weakness of the legs can wait until morning.  Ruptured discs that cause paralysis cannot.  This is definitely a disease where HOURS count.  Not days.  HOURS.  If it happens at night, you don't wait until morning to see your regular veterinarian.  Certainly there are many diseases where a "wait and see" approach is totally acceptable.  This is not one of those.  Even with quick action, not every dog will recover, but most will if treatment is not delayed.  Thanks to Emmett and his "mom" for letting me share his story.  He is a remarkable little dog to be sure.

Friday, January 13, 2012

If I never declaw another cat ......

If I never declaw another cat, I would be a happy veterinarian.  OK, I am a happy veterinarian, but the older I get, the more I dislike doing declaws.  So now I am on a mission to educate cat owners about alternatives to declawing their cats.  We might was well get used to practicing the alternatives now because this is the way the world is going.  There are a whole slew of countries around the world that already make declawing illegal or severely limit the procedure.  I don't see this happening in the United States anytime soon, but the winds of change are swirling around and that is a good thing for cats.

As I was doing some research for this blog topic, I did a little surfing around the web and the array of opinions on both sides is quite interesting.  Everything from declawing is perfectly acceptable to declawing should be criminal.  I wanted to link to some good solid info on alternatives to declawing (scratching post training, nail trimming, Soft Paws, etc) and it took me a good half hour to find a link that didn't start off with a page or two of "you are evil if you have your cat declawed" or "if you are a veterinarian who declaws cats, you are evil".  It's kind of a turn off when you are trying to change someone's opinion, to tell them they are scum of the earth right off the bat.  Kind of human nature to dislike being called a horrible person and I am not so much against declawing to make it a mortal sin.   Finally though, I was successful in finding some "just the facts m'am" information on cat scratching behavior and minimizing damage to the house that I will link to further down the page.

Like most people who get older, I find myself contemplating all sorts of things in life.  I used to give very little thought to declawing cats.  I grew up in a dog household so the fact that cats like to scratch things meant little to me.  When I went to veterinary school twenty-cough-some years ago, we were taught to declaw cats.  There was no discussion.  It was just another procedure that we would need to learn in order to be proficient small animal veterinarians.  I acquired my first cat during my first year practicing veterinary medicine.  She was a sweet little stray calico that a good samaritan had found and brought to the clinic where I worked.  She had a horribly mangled leg that needed amputated.  Since she was such a sweet little cat and seeing as how I didn't have a cat, I volunteered to amputate her mangled leg and take her home.  She would be an indoor cat and as I was dutifully taught, indoor cats sometimes scratch furniture and woodwork and if that was not acceptable, the cat should be declawed.  I don't remember her having any problems with the declaw surgery at all and she lived happily inside my house as a declawed cat until she got intestinal cancer and had to be put to sleep many years later.  At this point, my opinion of declawing cats had not changed much.

It was sometime during my second job as a veterinarian that I started to contemplate things.  Back then, I worked for a veterinarian who did ear crops for clients who owned show dogs.  Fortunately I never had to perform one of those horrible procedures, but I did often have to take stitches out.  Ear flaps are very tender and delicate body parts and while most times, we could just hold puppies to remove sutures, I was surprised at how often we would have to sedate puppies to remove stitches because the ears after surgery were so tender and painful to touch.  I vowed I would never perform an ear crop on a dog.  And this is when I started changing my feelings toward performing painful procedures on animals.  If it is for the animal's benefit that is one thing.  If it is totally cosmetic (like ear crops), that just doesn't sit well with me.

Declawing falls somewhere just shy of cosmetic surgery for me.  On one hand, there is absolutely zero benefit to the cat to get declawed.  On the other hand, I have done a lot of work in animal shelters over my career and know of all the cats that are out there desparately seeking homes or facing death.  I also know there are people who will open their home to a cat or two or three, but only if they are declawed.  That is just the way it is.  There are anti-declawing advocates that will say that I am copping out by performing a surgery that I don't really agree with and to that I say rubbish!  I am for cats being able to live plain and simple.  If declawing gives a cat a life, I can live with myself.  But my hope for the future is to educate, educate, educate and inform cat owners that declawing is a painful procedure and there are alternatives.  I know that my own opinion about declawing has changed overtime.  I have come to recognize declawing for what it is: a painful surgical procedure with not one health benefit to the cat.  So if I can change my own stubborn opinion, I know with a little education I can hopefully persuade others to rethink declawing their cats.
So let the education begin.  First I have to make sure all who want to get their cat declawed understand what the surgery is all about.  The claws cannot be removed without also removing the last bone in every toe that is being declawed.  Declawing is AMPUTATION of the end of the toes X 10 toes in the case of front claws being permanently removed.  Just cannot sugar coat that any which way.

For some, just knowing that fact is enough to turn away from declawing.  But the biggest hurdle is what to do with a cat that wants to use it claws to scratch furniture/woodwork/ carpet, etc and cats DO want to use their claws to varying degrees.  Scratching is a normal behavior.  You cannot get rid of a normal behavior.  You have to redirect it.  You have to do a little work.  Yes, work.  Never did understand why dog owners will go through all sorts of effort to housebreak dogs and teach dogs to do this and that, but cat owners will not teach their cats appropriate scratching behavior.  It is no different.  It does take some effort.  

There are lots of web sites out there that give training tips.  This is one of my favorites because it is complete with pictures and I LOVE pictures.  

How to stop a cat from clawing furniture

If you don't want the hassle of training a cat when and where it can scratch and taking care of things like keeping claws trimmed, perhaps you shouldn't own a cat.  It is simple logic.

If you don't want to listen to loud cock-a-doodle-dooing early in the morning, don't have a rooster.
If you don't want a house full of hair, don't own a dog that sheds.
If you don't want an animal that has claws and might use them on occasion, don't own a cat.
Just think about it.  That is all I ask.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Positively Perfect Poodles

I like success stories.  I like stories that allow us all to see what is possible.  So this blog is about two positively perfect poodles.  Ok, perhaps they have a fault or two somewhere, but if they do, I don't know about it.  What I do know is that they are gracefully living life through their senior years.  One of these poodles is 16 years old and one is well over 17 years old.  What they have in common is being senior poodles with no bad breath, no mouth pain, both have nearly a complete set of teeth and good health. If you haven't been reading the news lately, good dental health often translates to good overall health. 

You may ask how is this possible.  After all, teeth are one of the genetic weaknesses of almost all small breed dogs.  There is some confusion about soft diets causing bad teeth and I think this is because often small breed dogs are fed canned or table food.  But food plays a very minor part in determining if a dog's teeth are healthy or diseased.  Genetics plays a much more dominant role.  Poodles can have some of the worse diseased teeth I have ever seen.  Perhaps until you see a little toy poodle screaming in its owners arms because rotting neglected teeth have eaten through the jawbone and caused the jaw bone to break in two, perhaps then you can appreciate what pain can be caused by rotten teeth.  This is the extreme, but all rotting teeth cause pain.  Unless the pain is extreme though, dogs seldom complain.  Maybe they will sleep a little more.  Maybe they will be a little more cranky.  Maybe they will drool or chew funny.  Maybe.  Often times they just deal with their chronic pain and live their lives.  But their pain is real.  Believe it.  And this is a story about how we can make a difference in our pets' lives by providing them with regular dental care if they need it.

So let me introduce you to the two positively perfect poodles.

Buffy age 16

Frodo age 17 

And as a special treat I have a picture of Frodo's teeth during his teeth cleaning at age 17.  Is this not the prettiest set of 17 year old poodle teeth you have ever seen?  Excuse the little bit of blood on his upper lip as Frodo did have one small tooth that needed to be pulled, but that was it.  I think of the 42 teeth that Frodo started his life with, he is only missing one or two.

Buffy is missing a few more teeth than Frodo, but not many and her teeth look just as lovely.

Buffy and Frodo have been blessed with owners who realize the importance of dental health and these two dogs have come in to get their teeth cleaned under anesthesia every single year starting when they were much younger poodles.  They don't have heart disease secondary to bad teeth.  They don't have kidney failure secondary to bad teeth.  They don't have liver disease secondary to bad teeth.  They don't have bad breath or mouth pain.  They are positively perfect poodles.