When is Panting Abnormal?

"Brody" by dtburkett on Flicker. CC license.

When we observe a dog who is panting, we tend to take it for granted because this behavior is so darned normal. But, is it always normal? While most panting occurs as a means of counteracting overheating (the canine version of sweating), it can also be prompted by a whole host of other reasons.

Normal panting

Dogs rely on panting as their primary means for getting rid of excess body heat. Panting allows evaporation of water and heat across the moist surfaces of the lungs, tongue, and surfaces within the mouth. So it makes physiologic sense for a dog to pant on a warm day or following exercise. Dogs do have sweat glands on the undersides of their paws and within their ears, but these glands really have only minimal cooling capabilities.

Abnormal panting

Panting is considered abnormal when it occurs for reasons other than heat dissipation, and can be recognized by one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Appears excessive compared to the dog’s normal panting pattern
  • Occurs at inappropriate times (when the dog is not overly warm)
  • Sounds raspier, louder, or harsher than normal
  • Appears more exertional than normal

Listed below are some of the more common causes of abnormal panting:

  1. Anxiety, stress, or fear

Panting is one of the primary behaviors exhibited by anxious, stressed, or fearful dogs. This “behavioral panting” may be accompanied by other indicators of fear, stress, or anxiety such as pacing, yawning, whining, reclusive behavior, a tucked tail, hiding, clingy behavior, flattened ears, drooling, lip licking, a crouched posture, dilated pupils, trembling, food refusal, and even loss of bladder or bowel control.

  1. Pain

Excessive panting is a common symptom of discomfort or pain. In fact, dogs who are uncomfortable often exhibit panting well before more obvious indicators of pain, such as whining or limping, arise.

  1. Heart failure

When the heart is doing an inadequate job of pumping blood around the body, the tissues become deprived of oxygen. One of the best ways to correct this oxygen depletion is by increasing the respiratory rate, and this often results in panting.

  1. Lung disease

The lungs are where the transfer of oxygen to the bloodstream takes place. When lung disease prevents this from occurring, oxygen deprivation results. Just as is the case with heart failure, the natural response of the dog is to breathe faster and harder which translates into excessive and exertional panting.

  1. Anemia

Anemia is defined as a decrease in the red blood cell count. Given that red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen to the body’s tissues, it makes sense that moderate or severe anemia results in oxygen deprivation. Just as is the case with heart failure and lung disease, the dog’s natural response to this is escalated respirations and panting.

  1. Laryngeal paralysis

The larynx is the opening to the windpipe (trachea). It contains cartilage flaps that operate like saloon doors- opening wide during breathing and closing during swallowing. With laryngeal paralysis, one or both of the laryngeal cartilages fail to open normally, creating turbulent, restricted airflow and panting that is often raspy sounding and much louder than usual.

  1. Cushing’s disease

Cushing’s disease is a hormonal imbalance that occurs primarily in middle aged and older dogs. It is caused by the overproduction of cortisone (steroids) by the adrenal glands. One of the earliest and most common symptoms of this disease is excessive and inappropriate panting. Successful treatment of the Cushing’s disease typically resolves the abnormal panting.

  1. Cortisone (steroid) therapy

Treatment with prednisone, prednisolone, or other forms of cortisone mimics Cushing’s disease (see above). Many dogs receiving steroids demonstrate excessive and inappropriate panting that typically goes away within a few weeks after the medication is discontinued.

Abnormal panting deserves attention!

Observation of abnormal panting should prompt an office visit with your veterinarian, even if everything else about your dog appears to be perfectly normal. The sooner the cause of the abnormal panting is discovered, the greater the likelihood of a good outcome.

Does your dog experience abnormal panting? If so, do you know the cause?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

 

 

 

Raise Your Voice Against Puppy Mills by Saying, “No!” to Naperville

What in the world was Steve Chirico, the mayor of Naperville, Illinois thinking when he appointed Mike Isaac to serve on his city’s finance committee? Mr. Isaac may be a financial whiz kid, but his addition to city politics will surely perpetuate Naperville’s reputation as “the puppy mill outlet capital of America.”

Mike Isaac, puppy mills, and the AKC

Mr. Isaac is one of two owners of the Petland Store in Naperville, Illinois. What this means is that he operates his business in close cahoots with puppy mills.

When he’s not minding the store, Mike Isaac works at another business he owns called Canine Registrations, a company that works directly with the American Kennel Club (AKC) to assist with AKC registration development projects. He also spent a year serving as the AKC’s Director of Registration Development.

It makes sense that Mike Isaac’s professional life is so entwined with the AKC. There is much to be gained financially. The AKC generates tens of millions of dollars annually from puppy registrations. Sadly, it is estimated that more than 80% of this profit comes from puppy mill “merchandise”.

The AKC has a lengthy and consistent track record for speaking out against puppy mill reform legislation. This makes sense- eradication of puppy mills might just catapult the AKC into a state of financial ruin. I believe that Mike Isaac shares the AKC’s vested interest in the survival of puppy mills. I also believe that he has no place in public office anywhere within the United States.

The Naperville Petland Store

I visited the Naperville Petland Store website and found the following quote:

Our breeders are the foundation of our business. We work with both USDA licensed commercial breeders or hobby breeders who have 5 or fewer breeding mothers, and whom we have personally screened for reputable breeding practices. Most of our breeders are found right here in the Midwest, where a temperate climate is best for both the dogs and puppies.

Next, I clicked on the website’s “available puppies” icon.  Ain’t no way the 70 puppies listed at the time of this writing (includes 37 different breeds along with some designer hybrids) come from the type of breeders described above. I’d bet the family farm (and my first born child) that Naperville’s “livestock” is sourced from puppy mills, same as for all the other Petland stores.

By the way Mr. Isaac, a temperate climate is one that is moderate, neither extremely hot nor cold. How in the world does this apply to the Midwest, the heartland of America’s puppy mills?

What we can do

Approval of Mike Isaac’s appointment to the Naperville Finance Committee is slated for August 11th. That means there is plenty of time for us to persuade Mayor Chirico and other city officials that Mr. Isaac’s appointment would be a mistake. You certainly don’t have to live in Naperville, or in Illinois for that matter, to speak out on this issue. The impact of puppy mills can be felt everywhere.

Here is contact information for Naperville city officials including Mayor Chirico:

Ask these folks to vote against Mike Isaac’s appointment. And, while you’re at it, encourage them to follow Chicago’s lead by banning the sale of commercially bred puppies in pet stores.

Make your voice heard and win a book

Contact me after you’ve made your voice heard in Naperville, and I will enter your name into a drawing for a signed copy of Speaking for Spot or Your Dog’s Best Health (your choice). Thanks for “speaking” for Spot’s in puppy mills everywhere.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

Long-Term Use of Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Medication for Treatment of Canine Arthritis

Photo Credit: Just like people, many dogs develop age-related arthritis. Symptoms are far more common in larger breeds. Not only are the big dogs more predisposed to arthritis, their joint pain is intensified because of the extra weight they carry.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

As their name implies, NSAIDs are non-cortisone containing drugs. They have both anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain fighting) properties that produce greater ease of movement resulting in muscle strengthening and decreased strain on affected joints.

Back in the 80’s when I was just a pup, the only NSAID available for dogs with arthritis was aspirin. While this drug did do a pretty good job alleviating arthritis pain, it also caused plenty of gastrointestinal side effects.

Fast-forward to 2015 and several big-name pharmaceutical companies have their own NSAID brand approved for the treatment of canine arthritis. Within the United States there’s Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox, and Metacam, all of which are quite effective and associated with far fewer side effects than aspirin.

Just as in people, the specific NSAID brand that most effectively treats arthritis pain in dogs varies from individual to individual. Most veterinarians have their first choice recommendation, but certainly try other NSAIDs should the first choice fail to create significant improvement.

Potential side effects

As is true for most any drug, negative side effects can occur with NSAID use in dogs. While the actual incidence of side effects is not known, it is thought to be low. When dosed appropriately, the vast majority of dogs tolerate NSAID therapy very well.

There tends to be an unsubstantiated fear that the longer NSAIDs are used, the greater the risk of associated problems. Dr. B. Duncan Lascelles, a professor of surgery and pain management at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine dispels this notion in a paper titled, “Risk-Benefit Decision Making in the Long-Term Use of NSAIDs for Canine Osteoarthritis.” Lascelles states,

We found that this was not true, there was no association between the longer you give a non-steroidal and the risk of side effects. As far as we can tell, we don’t find any relationship between those two things- length of non-steroidal use and incidence of side effects. Often, the clinical approach to a young or middle-aged dog with osteoarthritis associated pain is to avoid the use of NSAIDs. The rationale often quoted for this approach is that the practitioner wants to leave the use of NSAIDs for later, and not have a dog on NSAIDs for the whole of its life. This is a flawed and rather naïve approach.

Lascelles goes on to say that, when NSAID side effects do occur, they are most likely to appear within the first two to four weeks after beginning therapy. Furthermore, when side effects do occur, they vary from dog to dog.

Gastrointestinal upset, gastrointestinal ulcers, liver toxicity, and kidney toxicity are all possible NSAID associated problems. Symptoms may include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • increased thirst

Proper screening of the dog by a veterinarian prior to starting NSAID therapy as well as appropriate follow up after medication has started lessens the potential for adverse reactions. For example, an older arthritic dog discovered to have kidney failure would be ruled out as a good candidate for NSAID therapy. Observation of any side effects warrants immediate discontinuation of the NSAID and discussion with the prescribing veterinarian.

NSAIDs: One of several treatment options

While NSAIDs work well in many dogs, they are not the end-all and be-all treatment for arthritis. As a stand-alone therapy, they are inadequate for some dogs with chronic arthritis pain. Such animals are more likely to benefit from multimodal therapy in which an NSAID is combined with one or more of the following:

  • Weight management
  • Exercise modification
  • Physical rehabilitation

– passive stretching

– range of motion exercises

– swimming

– under water treadmill therapy

  • Supplements/nutraceuticals

– omega-3 fatty acids

– glucosamine

– hyaluronic acid

– chondroitin sulfate

– polysulfated glycosaminoglycans

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Stem cell therapy
  • Surgery, such as a total hip replacement
  • Pain medications

– tramadol

– gabapentin

– narcotics

  • Steroids

Don’t skimp on therapy

Arthritis pain robs dogs of their ability to do many of the things they most love in life such as going for walks, wrestling with their favorite dog park buddy, going hunting, or playing a good game of fetch. Think about the exuberant Labrador who loves nothing more than chasing tennis balls and eating. Add arthritis to the mix and the game of chase must be curtailed. This means fewer calories burned which translates into fewer treats and smaller meals. What a drag for everyone involved!

In order to prevent arthritis from negatively impacting a dog’s quality of life, it is important to treat this disease aggressively. This means treating daily rather than just on the day after a vigorous hike or when severe symptoms become apparent. Treatment should be started well before indicators of advanced arthritis pain such as limping or whining are observed.

Dr. Jennifer Johnson, owner of Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital in Morton, Pennsylvania states,

From a pain-management perspective, I believe that my patients that are on chronic, daily NSAID use fare much better than the patients whose owners try to chase pain by giving NSAIDs as needed, or on tough days. It’s difficult for clients to judge definitively how much pain their pet is in, which makes it impossible to accurately dose the pain with an NSAID as needed.

In summary, maximizing the benefit of long-term NSAID use for treatment of canine arthritis requires the following:

  1. Early treatment: use NSAIDs early on in the disease process. Once arthritis pain is “ramped up” it becomes much more difficult to control.
  2. Multimodal therapy: use NSAIDs in combination with other therapies
  3. Long-term therapy: use NSAIDs consistently for a period of time rather than on an as needed basis.

Questions for your veterinarian

  • Are my dog’s symptoms caused by arthritis?
  • Is my dog a suitable candidate for NSAID therapy?
  • What other treatments for arthritis should we be considering?
  • When should my dog be reevaluated?

Do you have a pain prevention strategy for your pets?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Important Things to Know About Feline Heartworm Disease

Photo Credit: "Monster Cat" by murchik_dasananda on Flicker CC.

If you think dogs are the only ones who get heartworm disease, I invite you to reconsider. Although dogs are the more natural host for this disease, cats are also susceptible to heartworm infection. It is estimated that, in any given community, the incidence of heartworm infection in cats is approximately 5% to 15% percent that of dogs who are not on preventive medication.

While the canine and feline versions of heartworm disease share some similarities, there are some striking differences.

I discuss these differences below, within the five feline facts pertaining to heartworm disease.

  1. The disease targets the lungs

Most dogs with heartworm disease involve many worms and the heart is the prime target for damage. In contrast, only one or two worms are typically present in an affected cat, and the disease takes its primary toll on the lungs. The cat’s immune system when it goes into overdrive in response to immature heartworms located within the lungs and/or fragments of dying adult heartworms that enter blood vessels feeding into the lungs. The result of this immune system activity is a whole lot of inflammation that can wreak havoc within the lungs. The acronym HARD (heartworm associated respiratory distress) is used to describe feline lung disease caused by heartworms.

  1. Common symptoms

Common symptoms of heartworm disease include coughing, rapid breathing, labored breathing, decreased appetite, lethargy, and weight loss. In rare cases, more severe symptoms and even sudden death can occur. One of the most surprising symptoms that occurs in cats with heartworm disease, but not in dogs, is intermittent vomiting that is unrelated to eating.

Not all cats with heartworm disease show symptoms. For those cats who test positive for the disease on routine screening but are free of symptoms, careful monitoring over the course of two to three years (the lifespan of the adult worms) is recommended.

  1. Diagnosing heartworm disease

The most reliable screening test for heartworm infection in dogs is called an antigen test. Performed on a blood sample, it detects microscopic particles (antigen) produced by adult female heartworms. In cats, it’s not unusual to have a male only population, given that often only one to two worms are present. Additionally, many cats develop symptoms and are therefore tested when the worms are immature. For these reasons, cats with active heartworm disease often have negative antigen test results. However, if the antigen test is positive, this is proof of heartworm disease

The more useful diagnostic tool for cats is blood antibody testing. The presence of antibodies means that the cat’s immune system has been exposed to heartworm disease. A negative antibody test is good evidence that a cat has not been infected. On the other hand, a positive antibody test can mean that either there is an active infection, or the cat experienced heartworm infection in the past. Antibody levels can remain elevated long after the heartworms have died.

The American Heartworm Society recommends that initial screening for feline heartworm disease includes both antigen and antibody testing. If results support the possibility or probability of heartworm disease, ultrasound of the heart and X-rays of the chest to evaluate the lungs are recommended to confirm or deny the diagnosis.

  1. No treatment for feline heartworms

Unlike the canine version of this disease, feline heartworm infection is not specifically treatable. Melarsomine, the drug of choice to kill adult heartworms in dogs, is toxic for cats. For this reason, feline heartworm disease is considered to be manageable rather than treatable. Corticosteroids such as prednisone or prednisolone are commonly used for their potent anti-inflammatory effects. Treatment often continues until the adult worms have died and are cleared from the lungs (a two to three year process).

  1. Prevention

Disease prevention is the best strategy, particularly in areas where mosquitoes proliferate. The American Heartworm Society recommends orally administered, once a month preventive medication, beginning at eight weeks of age for all cats in heartworm-endemic areas. Depending on the weather in a particular region, preventive medication may be recommended seasonally or year-round.

An indoor feline lifestyle is not a guarantee against heartworm infection. In fact, one in four cases of heartworm disease occur in cats that live exclusively indoors.

Do you have a heartworm prevention strategy for your cat?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hollywood’s Impact on Dog Breed Popularity

Photo Credit: Annie McManus on Flicker under CC - A Belgian Malinois named Jagger plays the title role in the recently released movie, Max. As the story goes, the canine character Max has served in Afghanistan, and is returned to the United States after his Marine handler/partner is killed in action. Max, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, becomes part of a coming of age story for the killed Marine’s younger brother.

Max is pegged to be a summer blockbuster, although the reviews I’ve read have been mixed. Regardless of its popularity Max will undoubtedly create an, “I must have a Belgian Malinois phenomenon.” Any time Hollywood unleashes a new dog movie, a “breed du jour” is created. This phenomenon appears to be an ingrained cultural dynamic, no different than other fads gleaned from the movies such as clothing fashions, hairstyles and even baby names.

Scientific evidence

Three researchers from the University of Bristol, the City University of New York, and Western Carolina University recently conducted a study titled, “Dog Movie Stars and Dog Breed Popularity: A Case Study in Media Influence on Choice.” They looked at 87 movies released between 1927 and 2004, all of which featured dogs. By evaluating American Kennel Club (AKC) registration trends, the researchers confirmed that movies do indeed have a lasting impact on breed popularity, in some cases, for up to ten years.

The duration and intensity of the rise in breed popularity was shown to correlate with the movie’s success, particularly during its opening weekend. The researchers found that the top ten movies were associated with changes in AKC registration trends such that approximately 800,000 more dogs were registered in the ten years after movie release than would have been expected from pre-release trends. Lassie Come Home was associated with a 40 percent increase in Collie registrations during the two years following its release in 1943. The Shaggy Dog, released in 1959, produced a 100-fold increase in Old English Sheepdog registrations.

Concerns within the Belgian Malinois community

In response to the release of Max, Judy Hagen, President of the American Belgian Malinois Club (ABMC) stated, “We are very concerned that the public will see this movie and recognize the intelligence, athleticism and beauty of the Belgian Malinois, but not realize that the dogs currently being featured in movies and television are the result of years of intense training. Living with a Malinois requires a commitment to daily training and exercise. Without this they will find their own activities that will make your life a nightmare of dangerous and destructive behaviors.”

Another ABMC member, Melinda Wichmann stated, “Dedicated Malinois owners joke that Malinois are not just a dog, they’re a lifestyle. Unless you are ready to be a firm leader 24/7/365, Malinois will assume that you are an idiot and that they are in charge.”

The Belgian Malinois rescue community is already bracing for the predicted influx of dogs. Taylor Updike Haywood, Midwest Coordinator for American Belgian Malinois Rescue, reported, “It’s already starting here. People are calling and asking to adopt the Air Jordan of dogs.” It so happens that a movie trailer for Max uses the phrase “Air Jordan of dogs” to describe the breed.

The likely increase in the number of Malinois relinquished to rescue organizations is a valid concern. An impulse purchase of a Malinois without consideration of the breed’s temperament and all that is necessary to successfully train and care for one is bound to produce an unhappy ending. Additionally, unethical breeders taking advantage of the movie-generated demand for Malinois will produce pups without consideration paid to creating good health and temperaments. Yet one more ingredient in a recipe for disaster.

Max and me

I confess to having mixed feelings about seeing Max. I would love to watch it because three of the scenes in this movie were filmed in my very own backyard, DuPont State Recreational Forest. As tempting as this is, there will be no Max for me. I will resist for the following reasons:

  • I’m a major wimp when it comes to seeing animals or young children suffer, even when I know there will be a happy ending.
  • I get tweaked when animal-related things such as their behaviors are inaccurately portrayed in the movies. And, this seems inevitable in Hollywood productions. Don’t even get me started about how veterinarians or scenes of veterinary care are cinematically depicted.
  • Most importantly, I don’t want to contribute to the box office success of Max. The fewer tickets sold, hopefully the fewer impulse purchases of Belgian Malinois.

Impulse adoptions

Purchasing a particular breed of dog based on a reaction to a movie is ill advised. Such an impulse adoption foregoes the important research and preparation necessary to ensure that the dog breed will be a good fit. Think about it, how likely will a Belgian Malinois, the canine king of police and military work, be a suitable pet for the average family?

I encourage you to share this article with the Max moviegoers you know. Together, we can discourage as many of them as possible from thinking they need a Belgian Malinois of their very own.

Of all of the dog movies you’ve seen, which one is your favorite?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

Were You Smarter Than a Vet Student About Canine Heatstroke?

Photo Credit: Thanks to all of you who tested your knowledge about heatstroke in dogs. Below you will find the answers you’ve been waiting for!

Kathleen, one of my regular readers, told me that four San Quentin inmates who participate in the prison’s Pen Pal Program took this quiz and are eagerly awaiting the answers. The Pen Pal Program, sponsored by the Marin Humane Society, pairs shelter dogs in need of training with San Quentin inmates. Sandy, the dog on the cover of Speaking for Spot was a Pen Pal Program graduate.

Congratulations to Susan Isaacs, a dog trainer in southern California. She is the lucky winner of the book drawing. She told me that she already has both of my books and asked me to donate a book to a rescue organization or shelter. I shall do exactly that.

Answers

A. If you suspect that your dog has heatstroke the best thing to do is:

  1. Give your dog one adult strength aspirin and then proceed immediately to the closest veterinary hospital.
  2. Spend a few minutes cooling your dog down with cold water and then proceed immediately to the closest veterinary hospital.
  3. Transport your dog immediately to the closest veterinary hospital.
  4. Quickly call the veterinary hospital to find out whether or not the symptoms you are observing warrant treatment.

The ideal thing to do is spend a few minutes thoroughly wetting your dog down so as to lower his body temperature a bit before the car ride to the veterinary hospital. Doing so will enhance his chances for recovery. Cool, but not icy cold water should be used in order to avoid too rapid a reduction in body temperature. Use of a garden hose is ideal to quickly accomplish the wetting process. Cool wet towels and/or ice packs along with the car’s air conditioner can be used during transport. Remember to spend no more than a few minutes with this as delaying veterinary care might decrease the possibility of recovery. If you suspect heatstroke, your dog should be evaluated by a veterinarian just as soon as possible. No sense spending time on the phone. Hop in the car and get going.

B. Dogs cannot dissipate (release) heat through:

  1. Their mouth.
  2. The sweat glands on the undersides of their paws.
  3. The sweat glands in their ears.
  4. The sweat glands on the underside of their abdomen.

The primary way dogs dissipate heat is via panting. There are sweat glands in the ears and on the undersides of the paws (none on the underside of the abdomen), but they have only a limited capacity to cool a dog down.

C. Which one of the following is not a common symptom of heatstroke?

  1. Collapse
  2. Heavy panting
  3. Vomiting
  4. Coughing

Symptoms of heatstroke can include heavy panting, weakness, uncoordinated gait, collapse, darker than normal appearing tongue and gums, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of consciousness, and seizures. Coughing is not an anticipated heatstroke symptom.

D. Which of the following statements is true?

  1. Most dogs will regulate their activity level so as to prevent heatstroke.
  2. Adequate water intake will prevent heatstroke.
  3. Most dogs fully recover from heatstroke if they receive aggressive veterinary care.
  4. Heatstroke can occur on a cool day.

Believe it or not, with excess exertion, heatstroke can occur even on a cool day. Think of the tennis ball-addicted dog who keeps on fetching as long as someone keeps on throwing. Drinking lots of water helps, but won’t prevent heatstroke for dogs who work too hard in the heat. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that, even with aggressive veterinary care, many dogs with heatstroke fail to recover. Death is associated with blood clotting abnormalities, neurological damage, and/or organ failure.

E. Which of the following characteristics will not impact a dog’s predisposition to heatstroke?

  1. The shape of the dog’s face
  2. The length of the dog’s ears
  3. The dog’s body condition score (indicates whether a dog is too thin, too fat, or just right)
  4. The dog’s age

Smoosh-faced dogs such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers are super-challenged in the heat. These brachycephalic (short-headed) breeds cannot move air effectively enough through their tiny airways to adequately dissipate body heat. Additionally, the exertion necessary for them to breathe heavily, even in normal conditions, can elevate their body temperature. Overweight dogs and older dogs are more prone to heatstroke. There is no known correlation between ear length and susceptibility to heatstroke.

F. Which answer is true?

  1. It is okay to leave your dog in your car on a hot day as long as the windows are rolled down all the way.
  2. It is okay to leave your dog in your car on a hot day as longs as he has access to plenty of water.
  3. It is okay to leave your dog in a car on a hot day as long as the time does not exceed ten minutes.
  4. It is never okay to leave your dog in a car on a hot day.

Every year, some folks convince themselves that it’s okay to leave the dog in the car on a hot day because, “I’m only going to pop into the store for just a few minutes,” or, “I’ll park in the shade.” Nope! Plainly and simply put, it is never okay to leave a dog (or any other living creature) in the car on a hot day. Some people want to get around this by leaving their dog in the car with the engine and air conditioning running. If you ask me, this is risky business.

G. Which disease predisposes a dog to heatstroke?

  1. Laryngeal paralysis (dysfunction of the opening to the windpipe)
  2. Heartworm disease
  3. Kidney failure
  4. All of the above

A dog’s ability to get rid of excess body heat relies on normal blood circulation. Dogs with kidney failure often operate in a mildly dehydrated state that dampens normal blood circulation. Heartworm disease poses a double whammy. Secondary heart changes can reduce blood circulation, and, if the lungs are affected, the dog’s ability to dissipate heat via panting may be reduced. Laryngeal paralysis refers to immobilization of the cartilage structures that control airflow from the mouth and nose into the windpipe. This disease interferes with the normal panting process.

H. On a hot day it is best to

  1. Exercise your dog early in the morning or during evening hours.
  2. Leave your dog in your air conditioned home rather than taking him with you in your car to run errands.
  3. Go swimming and eat lots of ice cream.
  4. All of the above!

No explanation needed!

Thanks for playing along! How did you do? What is your strategy if you see a dog locked in a car on a hot day?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Smarter Than a Vet Student About Canine Heatstroke?

CC Photo Credit: "Wet Sam" on Flicker by LChurch

Time once again for the ageless classic, “Are You Smarter Than A Vet Student?” Given the summer season, I’m providing you with the opportunity to test your knowledge about heatstroke.

You know what to do. Read the questions and choose the best responses. Then, sit on pins and needles for a week while awaiting the answers to these compelling questions. If you provide me with your answers , I will enter your name into a drawing for a signed edition of Speaking for Spot or Your Dog’s Best Health (your choice).

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!

A. If you suspect that your dog has heat stroke the best thing to do is:

  1. Give your dog one adult strength aspirin and then proceed immediately to the closest veterinary hospital.
  2. Spend a few minutes cooling your dog down with cold water and then proceed immediately to the closest veterinary hospital.
  3. Transport your dog immediately to the closest veterinary hospital.
  4. Quickly call the veterinary hospital to find out whether or not the symptoms you are observing warrant treatment.

B. Dogs cannot dissipate (release) heat through:

  1. Their mouth.
  2. The sweat glands on the undersides of their paws.
  3. The sweat glands in their ears.
  4. The sweat glands on the underside of their abdomen.

C. Which one of the following is not a common symptom of heatstroke?

  1. Collapse
  2. Heavy panting
  3. Vomiting
  4. Coughing

D. Which of the following statements is true?

  1. Most dogs will regulate their activity level so as to prevent heatstroke.
  2. Adequate water intake will prevent heatstroke.
  3. Most dogs fully recover from heatstroke if they receive aggressive veterinary care.
  4. Heatstroke can occur on a cool day.

E. Which of the following characteristics will not impact a dog’s predisposition to heatstroke?

  1. The shape of the dog’s face
  2. The length of the dog’s ears
  3. The dog’s body condition score (indicates whether a dog is too thin, too fat, or just right)
  4. The dog’s age

F. Which answer is true?

  1. It is okay to leave your dog in your car on a hot day as long as the windows are rolled down all the way.
  2. It is okay to leave your dog in your car on a hot day as longs as he has access to plenty of water.
  3. It is okay to leave your dog in a car on a hot day as long as the time does not exceed ten minutes.
  4. It is never okay to leave your dog in a car on a hot day.

G. Which disease predisposes a dog to heatstroke?

  1. Laryngeal paralysis (dysfunction of the opening to the windpipe)
  2. Heartworm disease
  3. Kidney failure
  4. All of the above

H. On a hot day it is best to

  1. Exercise your dog early in the morning or during evening hours.
  2. Leave your dog in your air conditioned home rather than taking him with you in your car to run errands.
  3. Go swimming and eat lots of ice cream.
  4. All of the above!

Don’t forget- in order to be eligible to win a free book, be sure to submit your answers to me!

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

 

 

 

Service Dog Goes Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Figo being transported from the accident scene. Photo Credit: www.reshareworthy.com

An eight-year-old Golden Retriever named Figo (pronounced “FEE-go”) is my new hero. Figo is a devoted service dog and he recently demonstrated his devotion by putting his life on the line for his human companion Audrey Stone who is legally blind.

On June 8th Audrey and Figo went out for their daily walk in Brewster, New York. While crossing a street they were approached by a mini school bus. The bus driver failed to see the twosome, but Figo clearly saw the mini bus moving towards them. Witnesses at the scene describe Figo leaping to action by moving from his companion’s right side to her left, literally putting himself between Audrey and the bus. In spite of his efforts, Audrey and Figo were both seriously injured.

Audrey Stone is in stable condition at Danbury Hospital, recovering from a fractured elbow and ankle, three broken ribs, and a cut to her head. Fifteen miles away from where Audrey is recovering, Figo is also in stable condition at Middlebranch Veterinary, located in Carmel New York. Figo’s right front leg went under the bus resulting a mild break in the bone as well as severe trauma to the skin and deeper tissues.

Surgery was performed on Figo’s leg, and he is receiving antibiotics and pain medication. Multiple bandage changes will be required throughout his recovery. Dr. Angela O’Donnell, the attending veterinarian reports that Figo is on the mend. “He won’t have to wear the cone of shame. He’s a good boy and he’s leaving his bandage alone. That points to the strides he’s making. If it was bothering him more, he probably would be chewing at it.” O’Donnell also reported that an anonymous benefactor has offered to pay for Figo’s veterinary care.

While lying in her hospital bed, Audrey Stone talked about Figo, her third service dog. When she met Figo, “We hit it off immediately. He protects me, he loves me, and vice versa. We just have a strong connection.” Stone said that she doesn’t remember much about the accident, but she clearly recalls the image of a wounded Figo crawling to be by her side. Witnesses concur reporting that, following the trauma, Figo remained intent on staying by his Audrey’s side. He didn’t stop struggling until she was taken away by ambulance. Audrey was quoted as saying, “He needs the Purple Heart from the president.” I couldn’t agree with her more!

Here’s hoping for smooth and speedy recoveries for Audrey and Figo, and may they be reunited very soon.

Has your dog ever gone above and beyond the call of duty for you or a member of your family?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

Five Reasons to Consider Fish Oil Supplementation for Your Dog

“Fish” by Malias on Flicker - CCFish oil is certainly a popular supplement these days for health conscious people. There are many proven benefits, and we now know that many of these same benefits also apply to our canine companions.

What is fish oil?

As the name implies, fish oil is derived from marine animals and is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Animals cannot manufacture these fatty acids on their own; they must be consumed in the diet. For this reason they are often referred to as “essential fatty acids.”

Mackerel, tuna, salmon, sturgeon, mullet, bluefish, anchovies, sardines, herring, trout, and menhaden are all loaded to the gills (pun intended) with omega-3’s, and they are common sources of fish oil supplements. The fatty acids with the greatest health benefits are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Both are ingredients found on the labels of fish oil supplements.

Five known benefits of fish oil supplementation for dogs

Based on the documented benefits of fish oil, veterinarians recommend its use as a nutraceutical (a food that provides medicinal benefit) for the following common canine maladies.

  1. Arthritis

The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids are responsible for their therapeutic benefit for dogs with arthritis. In a study of 127 dogs with arthritis, those fed a diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids showed significant improvement in their abilities to rise from a resting position, play, and walk. Prescription diets made specifically for dogs with arthritis are heavily supplemented with fish oil.

  1. Inflammatory skin disease

Allergic skin disease and other inflammatory skin conditions have the potential to benefit from the anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil. A study was performed on 16 dogs with itchy skin. Compared to the placebo group, those receiving fish oil demonstrated significant improvement (less itching, less self-trauma, and improved haircoat).

Another study performed on dogs with varying stages of skin allergies demonstrated that fish oil was more effective for dogs who were in the earliest stages of their skin problems compared to those with more advanced disease.

  1. Treatment of canine cognitive dysfunction

Canine cognitive dysfunction is a well-recognized syndrome of older dogs that, in many ways, resembles human dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, has been shown to improve cognitive dysfunction in affected dogs. Interestingly, DHA appears to slow the progression of human dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A study was performed on 142 older dogs with a variety of behavioral abnormalities (disorientation, disrupted sleep patterns, altered interactions with family members, altered activity levels, and loss of house training). During the 60-day period, dogs fed a DHA-supplemented food showed significant improvement in every one of these behavior categories.

  1. Treatment of heart disease

Profound weight loss is a common symptom in dogs with chronic heart failure, and is associated with decreased survival times. A study was performed on dogs with heart failure, some of whom were fed fish oil. The dogs receiving the fish oil supplementation experienced longer survival times and less weight loss compared to those on a fish oil-free diet.

  1. Treatment of kidney disease

Fish oil supplementation has proven benefit in dogs with glomerular disease, a kidney disorder resulting in excessive protein loss in the urine. Glomerular disease is often associated with kidney failure.

In a study of dogs with glomerular disease, dietary supplementation with fish oil was shown to significantly slow the progression of the kidney damage. Additionally, fish oil has been shown to have a protective effect against acute injury to the kidneys. For this reason, fish oil supplementation is reasonable to consider for any dog with compromised kidney function.

Fish Oil Precautions

Let the buyer beware. Not all over the counter fish oil supplements are created equal. In a study of 51 best-selling fish oil products in the United States, 21 of them varied in their DHA and EPA concentrations by more than 10 percent compared to their label claims.

Careful attention to the dose of fish oil for a dog is important. Too much fish oil can produce adverse side effects such as diarrhea, blood clotting abnormalities, delayed wound healing, vitamin E deficiency, weight gain, and altered immune system function. Lastly, fish oil has the potential to produce problematic interactions with some other medications, particularly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

Questions for your veterinarian

Thinking of getting your dog started on a fish oil supplement? Before you do, I encourage you to discuss this idea with your veterinarian. Here are some questions to be sure to ask.

  • Does my dog have a disorder that might benefit from fish oil supplementation?
  • What dosage should I give?
  • What brand of fish oil do you recommend?
  • Is fish oil supplementation compatible with the other medications I am giving my dog?

Do you give a fish oil supplement to your dog?  If so, what is the reason?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

Quinn playing with Tupi

Five Things Veterinarians Love About Poop Samples

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Wouldn’t it be grand if our pets didn’t have to poop? There would be no litter boxes to clean, no carrying plastic bags laden with feces when walking the dog, and no inadvertently stepping in a fresh pile of poo when walking across the lawn. Alas, poop production is simply a normal part of life. What goes in must come out.

So, how do veterinarians put a positive spin on pet poop? No problem! Those of us in the profession deal with fecal matter day in and day out- either testing it or cleaning it up. If we didn’t figure out ways to get along well with pet poop, we might just go crazy! Here are five examples of how veterinarians manage to have some fun with their patients’ poop:

1. Egg hunts

This is an Easter egg hunt done veterinary medicine style. Screening a pet for intestinal worms involves mixing a poop sample with a special liquid, spinning it in a centrifuge, and then looking at the concoction under the microscope. One peers through the lens, adjusts the focus, scans around, and then, bingo! One might just find some parasite eggs! Finding eggs is always exciting, and when there’s more than one type of egg present, it’s like winning the fecal lottery!

2. Getting the stool sample without it getting you

Clients come up with some pretty creative containers in which to deliver their pets’ poop samples. Imagine a plastic grocery bag, or one of those long plastic bags that your newspaper is packaged in on a rainy day. Now imagine a soft, mushy stool sample or some “Kitty Roca” at the very bottom of one of those bags. How are you gonna get to the poop without fecalizing your forearm? Trust me when I tell you that it’s a challenge. I would tell you how, but it’s a trade secret.

3. Poop interrogations

When a client tells me that their pet has diarrhea, my exam room morphs into an interrogation room and I ask questions as if I’m a police detective investigating a crime.

-Any blood?

-Any mucous?

-Any straining?

-Any urgency?

-How large are they?

-How many bowel movements per day?

The answers to these questions help pinpoint if the cause of the diarrhea is within the small intestine, the large intestine, or both. This is critical information in my world, and when my client knows the answers to all of my questions, it makes my day!

4. Retrieval of valuable objects

Imagine this scenario. “Bad dog” ate his human’s diamond engagement ring. X-rays tell me that the ring has made it all the way down to “bad dog’s” colon (the very end of the intestinal tract). We keep “bad dog” in the hospital and watch him like a hawk. The minute he produces a poop sample we attack it with a tongue depressor hoping to strike gold (and diamonds). After 12 hours in the hospital, the third turd is the charm. The ring is found, thoroughly washed, and delivered back to his human. “Bad dog” goes home with hopes that he will become a “good dog” and that his human will find a more secure system to safeguard her jewelry.

5. Responding to poopy emails

When I receive an email from a client containing a photo attachment of their pet’s poop, I enjoy the mental exercise of crafting a response. I allow myself a few moments of unadulterated enjoyment, fantasizing about what I would say if I were lacking inhibitory neurons. I then move on to crafting an email response that is both tactful and appreciative of my client’s good intentions. I gently explain that a photo can’t possibly take the place of viewing the poop (and the animal) up close and personal. How do I respond to client emails with logs (pun intended) of poop data such as turd weight and diameter? I advise these folks to do whatever makes them happy, but no need to include me in the process.

How often does your veterinarian examine your pet’s stool sample?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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