Canine Anesthesia: Special Considerations Based on Breed, Size, and Conformation

Photo Credit: vrangtantebrun, While it’s true that Yorkshire Terriers and Great Danes are members of the same species, they are hardly alike when it comes to anesthesia. There is no one size fits all anesthetic protocol for dogs, and veterinarians must amend what they do based on their patient’s breed, size, and conformation.

Universal anesthetic strategies

While it’s important to individuate anesthetic protocols, there are some universal strategies that, with rare exception, should apply to all dogs undergoing anesthesia. They include the following:

– Performing pre-anesthetic physical examination and blood testing are important to minimize the potential for surprises after the patient is already under anesthesia. Blood test results ensure that the liver and kidneys (the organs responsible for clearing anesthetic drugs from the body) are functioning up to snuff.

– Placement of an intravenous catheter allows instant access to the bloodstream for administration of intravenous fluids as well as blood products and medications should an urgent need arise.

-Continuous monitoring of vital parameters including heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and oxygenation provides early indicators of abnormalities. This allows for prompt and early intervention should a problem arise. The person monitoring anesthesia should ideally be dedicated to this task and this task alone.

Customized anesthetic strategies

Breed, size, and conformation all influence how veterinarians choose to safely transport their canine patients through general anesthesia. Specific examples are provided below.

Brachycephalic breeds

Nothing challenges a successful anesthetic outcome quite like the conformational modifications associated with brachycephalic breeds. In Greek, “brachy” means short and “cephalic” refers to head. Over time, breeders have developed a number of “short-headed” (what I lovingly refer to as smoosh faced) breeds such as Pugs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, and several varieties of Bulldogs.

Brachycephalic dogs are genetically programmed to have narrowing of the upper airway passages including the nostrils, nasal cavities, throat, trachea (windpipe), and larynx (the opening to the trachea). Additionally, brachycephalics often come with an elongated soft palate that hangs down over the larynx, blocking airflow in and out of the trachea. These inherited respiratory tract abnormalities are generically referred to as “brachycephalic syndrome.”

The elongated soft palate and narrowed larynx and trachea can complicate placement of an endotracheal tube, the breathing tube that is placed immediately after the dog has been anesthetized and then remains in the trachea during anesthesia. This tube provides oxygen and anesthetic gas to the dog. The size of the breathing tube that actually fits may be considerably smaller than is ideally suited to the size of the dog. This can compromise delivery of anesthesia and adequate exchange of respiratory gasses.

The elongated soft palate along with the “meatier” tissue in the throat of brachycephalic breeds make these dogs far more susceptible to airway obstruction and aspiration pneumonia (inhalation of vomited or regurgitated material into the lungs) during the recovery period from anesthesia. Either one of these events can be life threatening.

When working with a brachycephalic dog, it makes good sense to:

  1. Provide at least a few minutes of preoxygenation (oxygen delivery via a mask that fits over the face) before the dog is anesthetized. This will be beneficial if it takes longer than normal to place the endotracheal tube.
  2. Have several different size endotracheal tubes in the ready. Until the dog is anesthetized and the diameter of the larynx and trachea are assessed, the size of breathing tube that will fit is anyone’s guess.
  3. Leave the endotracheal tube in place as long as possible when the dog is recovering from anesthesia in order to help prevent airway obstruction and aspiration pneumonia.
  4. Be prepared to provide oxygen via mask after the endotracheal tube has been removed.
  5. Watch the dog like a hawk until recovery from anesthesia is 100 percent complete. Only a few seconds are required for a brachycephalic breed to get into serious trouble during the anesthetic recovery period.

Greyhounds and possibly other sighthounds

Greyhounds are known to have prolonged recoveries following anesthesia with thiopental, a drug that is no longer available in the United States. The prolonged recovery is caused by a deficiency of a specific liver enzyme responsible for metabolizing this drug for removal from the body. This same liver enzyme abnormality can cause Greyhounds to experience prolonged recovery periods following anesthesia with propofol, a drug commonly used in the United States (think Michael Jackson here). It is presumed, but not necessarily proven, that other sighthounds such as Afghans, Whippets, Deerhounds, Wolfhounds, and Borzois may share this anesthetic idiosyncrasy.

Many anesthetic drugs are “lipophilic”, meaning they are attracted to fat tissues. The very lean, muscular conformation of most sighthounds may limit normal uptake of these fat-seeking anesthetic drugs. Less drug taken up by the tissues means more drug in the bloodstream, and it is the amount in the bloodstream that dictates the level of anesthesia. This may help explain why lower anesthetic drug dosages are better tolerated by many sighthounds.

When working with a Greyhound or other sighthound, it makes good sense to:

  1. Administer an injectable anesthetic drug dose that is less than what would normally be used based on the dog’s body weight.
  2. Administer plenty of intravenous fluids before, during, and after anesthesia to help clear anesthetic drugs from the dog’s system.
  3. Be hyper-vigilant about monitoring anesthesia.
  4. Be prepared for prolonged anesthetic recovery times. Have appropriate staff available and schedule anesthetic procedures for earlier rather than later in the day.

Herding breeds

Many herding breed puppies such as Collies, Australian Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs, and Shetland Sheepdogs, are born with a mutation of the multidrug resistance (MDR1) gene. The MDR1 gene is responsible for effectively processing a number of drugs in the body. Mutation of this gene allows the abnormal accumulation of certain drugs within the central nervous system. The “poster child drug” that is problematic for dogs with the MDR1 mutation is ivermectin, a medication used to treat and prevent parasites. Acepromazine and butorphanol are two drugs commonly used in canine anesthetic protocols. They are reported to cause prolonged or excessive sedation in dogs with the MDR1 mutation.

When anesthetizing a herding breed dog, it makes good sense to:

  1. Find out if the dog has been tested for the MDR1 mutation. The results can help guide the anesthetic protocol.
  2. If using butorphanol and/or acepromazine, lower the dosage and proceed with caution.

Breeds susceptible to cardiomyopathy

Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Irish Wolfhounds, Cocker Spaniels, and Great Danes are some of the breeds predisposed to cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. For some dogs with cardiomyopathy, the very first evidence is an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that is so mild it causes no overt symptoms. Anesthesia can cause this mild arrhythmia to become far more significant and potentially even life threatening.

When anesthetizing a dog that is a breed susceptible to cardiomyopathy, it makes good sense to:

  1. Run an electrocardiogram (ECG) to assess the heart rhythm as part of the preanesthetic screening process.
  2. Run a continuous ECG during anesthesia as well as throughout the recovery process.
  3. Have appropriate antiarrhythmic drugs in the ready, should a problem arise.

Toy and tiny breeds

Really small dogs can be challenging to safely anesthetize for a few reasons. It can be tough to successfully place an intravenous catheter in those tiny little legs. And if those tiny little legs are attached to a wiggler or a biter, the challenge becomes even greater.

Compared to their larger counterparts, little dogs are more susceptible to hypothermia (decrease in body temperature). Dropping a degree or two during anesthesia is normal, but, given the opportunity, tiny dogs will drop five degrees or more. This level of hypothermia can cause all sorts of other problems.

Additionally, small dogs are more prone to developing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) while under anesthesia. This can result in weakness and neurological symptoms, from muscle tremors to seizures.

Lastly, when tiny patients are undergoing surgery, they are usually covered from head to toe with surgical drapes. This makes it difficult for the person who is monitoring anesthesia to gain access to their patient’s body parts to accomplish things such as adjusting monitoring probes, taking body temperature, and giving injections through the intravenous catheter.

When anesthetizing a tiny breed, it makes good sense to:

  1. Use sedation and/or local anesthesia for intravenous catheter placement.
  2. Use appropriate heating devices during anesthesia and the recovery period.
  3. Use warmed intravenous fluids rather than those that are cold or at room temperature.
  4. Consider the addition of dextrose (sugar) to the intravenous fluids.
  5. Monitor body temperature frequently.
  6. Monitor blood sugar levels before, during, and following anesthesia.
  7. Find creative ways to allow the person monitoring anesthesia to gain access to the patient under all those surgical drapes.

Giant breeds

In general, anesthetic drug dosages are calculated based on the patient’s body weight. For giant breeds such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, and Wolfhounds, a drug dose based on body weight ends up being too much. This is because the way drugs are cleared from the body has more to do with the animal’s body surface area than its body weight. Giant breeds have a smaller surface area to body weight ratio compared to smaller dogs.

Additionally, the aging process in giant breed dogs is accelerated. Whereas a seven-year-old Sheltie is middle aged, a seven-year-old Saint Bernard has already reached senior citizen status, and seniors are at greater risk with general anesthesia.

When anesthetizing a giant breed of dog it makes good sense to:

  1. Begin with lower drug dosages than would be calculated based on body weight.
  2. Ensure adequate staff to safely move and position a very heavy anesthetized dog.
  3. Carefully consider the age of the dog when calculating drug dosages.

Do you recognize any anesthesia precautions that would apply to your dog? Has your dog ever experienced a complication from anesthesia?

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.

 

 

Pets and Cigarette Smoke

Photo Credit: It is known that cigarette smokers are more likely to kick the habit if they know their smoking is endangering the health of their pets. Below you will find some new information to share with your cigarette smoking friends and loved ones. If they love animals, it may help them take the next step in nixing nicotine from their lives.

What we already know

We’ve known for some time that, compared to cats who live in smoke-free environments, cats who live in households with cigarette smokers are more than twice as likely to develop lymphoma , a life ending form of cancer. The risk increases by threefold for cats who live with smokers and are five years of age or older.

We also know that cigarette smoke is associated with an increased incidence of canine nasal cancer, particularly in long-nosed breeds of dogs such as Collies, Greyhounds, and German Shepherds. While such cancers are treatable, only rarely are they curable.

Dogs who are exposed to cigarette smoke are more likely to develop atopic dermatitis compared to dogs living in smoke-free environments. Atopic dermatitis is allergic skin disease, a common cause of itching, scratching, and secondary skin infections in dogs.

What we are learning

Researchers at the University of Glasgow are learning more about the deleterious effects of smoking on pets. Their study has not yet been published, but they have released some of their findings.

The researchers have learned that, compared to humans, pets are at significantly greater risk from second and third hand smoke. Second hand smoke is defined as that which is exhaled by the smoker and inhaled by others. Third hand smoke refers to the smoke residue that remains on surfaces such as skin, fur, clothing, furniture, and carpeting.

Why are pets at greater risk than humans? Clare Knottenbelt, researcher and Professor of Small Animal Medicine and Oncology at the University of Glasgow explains it as follows:

Pets are often in close proximity to their owners more so than many children who can be away at school all day and more so than other adults in the house. Furthermore as pets self-groom they will ingest the smoke particles from their fur. This is a big problem for cats as they are very fastidious and thorough about their self-grooming.

Dr. Knottenbelt and her colleagues examined the testicles of male dogs after they were neutered and found within them a gene that is a marker of cell damage and is associated with development of some canine cancers. The incidence of this gene was higher in dogs living in smoking homes compared to those from smoke free environments.

Interestingly, the researchers have also discovered that dogs from smoking homes who were neutered were more likely to become obese compared to those from smoke free homes who were neutered. The explanation for this is not clear.

The researchers have learned that when pet owners chose to smoke outside, the effect on their pets was reduced but not eradicated. When owners reduced the total numbers of tobacco products smoked in the home to less than 10 per day, the nicotine levels in their pets’ hair dropped significantly but were still higher than those in animals from nonsmoking homes.

Once Dr. Knottenbelt’s study has been published, I will fill you in on the details. I must admit, I cringe every time I examine an animal who literally reeks of cigarette smoke. Not only does their fur smell like cigarettes, it has a sticky feeling residue that I’m sure represents third hand smoke. Interestingly, these are usually cats or small dogs, and I picture them in a fog of cigarette smoke while sitting on the laps of the humans they adore.

Now that marijuana is becoming legalized, I’m wondering about the impact of its smoke on pets. States that have legalized marijuana are certainly seeing a rise in the number of toxicity cases in pets as a result of eating a marijuana containing product. And, now that vaping (inhalation of nicotine through a vaporizer) has become so popular, perhaps this will be studied as well.

Do you know a smoker you might be able to influence with this article?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members a very happy new  year,

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.

 

Eight Health Benefits Provided by Dogs

Photo Credit: Icstefanescu,, Sharing our homes and hearts with dogs enriches our lives with so much enjoyment and love. Frankly, I can’t imagine my life without them. But, did you know that interaction with our dogs also provides us with some well-documented health benefits?

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is better health, some canine companionship may be just the ticket! Here are some of the ways dogs can impact our wellbeing.

  1. Increased physical activity in adults and the elderly

The nudge from the nose of a restless dog provides great incentive for playtime and getting outside for a walk, regardless of the weather. According to a study by researchers at the University of Victoria (where it gets really cold!) people with dogs were more likely to participate in physical activity. They walked an average of 300 minutes per week, compared to those without dogs, who walked an average of 168 minutes per week.

University of Missouri research documented that elderly people with dogs were more consistent about regular exercise and showed greater improvement in fitness than those who walked with a human companion. Additionally, those partnered with dogs demonstrated increased walking confidence and improved balance.

  1. Increased physical activity in children

Dogs have a way of dragging little people away from their computer screens and smart phones. According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, children living with dogs spent more time engaged in physical activity than children without dogs. Additionally, those with dogs tended to engage more vigorous activities.

  1. Stress busters

Dogs are fabulous role models for us, particularly when it comes to living in the moment. They’re not stewing about what happened yesterday or worrying about what may happen tomorrow. They are busy enjoying life in the here and now, and experiencing less stress than their faithful human companions.

Forty-eight stockbrokers with high blood pressure were studied to determine the effects of pet companionship on mental stress. The group was divided into those receiving blood pressure medication alone and those receiving medication along with an adopted a dog or cat. While both groups experienced a general decrease in blood pressure, those with pets experienced lower blood pressure measurements in response to their work-related stress.

In another study, work place stress levels were compared between employees who brought their dogs to work with them (dog group) and those who did not (nondog group). The researchers found that, throughout the workday, stress levels declined for those in the dog group and increased for workers within the nondog group. Additionally, stress levels for workers within the dog group increased on days when their dogs were absent, mirroring the pattern of workers in the nondog group.

The results of these studies certainly make sense. As with any pleasurable activity, enjoying the company of a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that reduce stress, uplift mood, and provide a sense of well being.

  1. Emotional development in children

Children develop psychologically by experiencing the love, attachment, comfort, and responsibility associated with pet companionship. A Kansas State University study determined that children who were bonded with a household pet expressed a higher level of empathy compared to those without a close bond with an animal. This makes sense in that empathy requires the ability to read nonverbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. The human-animal bond naturally hones these skills.

  1. Allergies and eczema in children

We’ve been conditioned to believe that dogs are a common cause of allergies in children. In fact, kids who are exposed to dogs from a very young age have significantly less risk for developing allergies. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology concluded that exposure to dogs during infancy can influence the child’s immune system development and lessen the likelihood of allergies in at-risk children (those with allergic parents). Newborns who had a dog in the home were much less likely to have allergic skin disease and asthma by their third birthday compared to children from dog-free households.

A University of Cincinnati study of 636 children predisposed to dog allergies (allergic parents) were less likely to develop eczema by four years of age if there was a dog in the home during their first year of life. Children predisposed to allergies who did not live with a dog were four times more likely to develop eczema. Interestingly, the opposite was true for children with cat exposure before their first birthday. Cat-exposed kids were 13 times more likely to develop eczema by age four.

  1. Happiness and wellbeing

What we humans all have in common is the desire for emotional connection with other living beings. In fact this feeling of connection is a key component of happiness and healthy aging. Dogs certainly provide opportunity for connectivity, not only with the animal, but with other people as well. Spend some time at a busy dog park and you will discover a whole world of camaraderie and socialization. In fact, there is often more human than canine interaction going on!

A study published in the British Journal of Psychology demonstrated that being accompanied by a dog during normal daily activities outside of the home dramatically increased (by 21 times) the frequency of social interactions, particularly with strangers. The study concluded that the company of a dog is truly a social catalyst.

A series of studies summarized in a paper titled, “Friends with Benefits: on the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership” investigated whether or not animals can fulfill social support needs. The studies yielded several conclusions. People with pets experienced:

  • Greater self esteem
  • Increased exercise
  • Greater conscientiousness
  • Increased wellbeing
  • Less negativity caused by social rejection

Additionally, the research showed that the support provided by pets complemented rather than competed with support from human sources.

  1. Heart health

A National Institute of Health study evaluated 421 men who suffered heart attacks. One year following the heart attacks, individuals who lived with dogs were more likely to be alive compared to those without dogs. This held true regardless of the severity of the heart attack.

Another study evaluated 240 married couples, some with pets and some without. Those in the pet group were documented to have lower heart rates and blood pressure, both at rest or when undergoing stress tests. Additionally, they experienced milder responses and quicker recoveries from stress when they were with their pets, more so than when they were with a spouse or friend.

Lastly, a study of over 5,000 people in Australia showed that those with pets had lower blood pressure and triglyceride and cholesterol levels, a result that could not be explained by other factors such as body weight, cigarette smoking, or socio-economic status.

  1. Improved quality of life for the elderly

The responsibility of caring for a pet often gives an aged individual a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. Feeding and walking schedules provide structure to their day, and the relationship with an animal can offer a meaningful emotional connection to another living being. Additionally, as they care for their pet, seniors are reminded to take care of themselves as well.

Other documented pet-related benefits for senior citizens include the following:

  • Elderly people who walked their dogs had more conversations focused on the present rather than the past compared to their peers who walked without dogs.
  • Recently widowed women with pets experienced significantly fewer physical and psychological symptoms of disease and reported less use of medication than those women without pets.
  • Bereaved elderly people with few social connections were less prone to depression if they had a strong attachment with an animal.
  • Alzheimer’s patients living with pets demonstrated fewer mood disorders and episodes of aggression or anxiety compared to those without the company of an animal.
  • Elderly people with dogs had fewer doctor visits per year than seniors without dogs.

How has life with a dog enhanced your health and sense of wellbeing?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members a very happy new  year,

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.

 

Veterinarian’s Oath

Photo Credit: Shirley Zindler

I recently reread the Veterinarian’s Oath. It’s been modified only slightly since I first pledged to honor it when I graduated from veterinary school in 1982.

Given that you, my readers, interact with veterinarians on a regular basis, I thought you might be interested in reading the Veterinarian’s Oath. Here it is.

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

If I had a magic wand, I would add something about caring for the emotional well being of the client (the person holding the leash or cat carrier). How do you feel about this oath? If you held the magic wand, what would you change?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members a very happy new  year,

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.

Dogs Who Eat Feces

Photo Credit: Coprophagy and coprophagia are interchangeable technical terms used to describe the consumption of feces (eating poop). Yes, I know that this is a rather unsavory topic, but if ever you’ve cared for a dog with this habit, you know that understanding it and figuring out how to deal with it is imperative.

Understanding the behavior

Why would dogs do such a thing? The most innocuous version of “normal coprophagy” occurs after a dog has a litter of puppies. As a normal part of caring for and cleaning her offspring, the female ingests the feces that they produce.

It is known that dogs acquired from pet stores are more likely to exhibit coprophagy. The fact that the vast majority of these animals are raised in puppy mills likely provides the explanation for this.

Starvation caused by a lack of food and malnutrition resulting from an underlying disease process can also cause coprophagia.

Diseases such as diabetes mellitus and Cushing’s disease cause affected dogs to experience massive hunger, and coprophagy may be one of the earliest symptoms.

If you and your dog live with a cat, you likely know that eating “Kitty Roca” from the litter box is a favorite canine pastime. The high fat content in cat food, therefore cat feces, renders it highly palatable to most dogs.

In addition to the causes mentioned above, coprophagy in dogs can be associated with the following:

  • Attention-seeking behavior
  • Boredom/lack of stimulation or enrichment in the environment
  • Learned behavior from other dogs in the household
  • Stress/anxiety

Is it really necessary to prevent coprophagia?

Beyond the “disgust factor” (who would want kisses from a dog with this habit), coprophagia can result in medical issues. Ingestion of another animal’s feces can cause intestinal parasites, gastrointestinal upset, transmission of infectious diseases, and exposure to medications that are eliminated in the feces.

Treatment Measures

The first step in putting an end to coprophagy is a veterinary visit. In addition to a thorough physical exam, blood testing and a stool sample examination to screen for intestinal parasites will be part of the evaluation.

For the dog who receives a clean bill of health, the veterinarian will likely discuss the following prevention:

  1. Behavior modification

Response substitution involves teaching the dog an alternative behavior such as sitting down or making eye contact when he discovers feces. The alternative behavior results in a high-value reward such as a yummy treat or a game of “tug”.

A dog who is bored is more likely to exhibit coprophagia. Enrichment of the environment and involvement in more activities such as obedience training, play, and walks may provide benefit.

Truth be told, it is behavior modification of the human(s) involved in the dog’s life that usually reaps the greatest reward. Increasing interaction time with the dog and eliminating opportunities for coprophagia to occur (keeping your dog on leash when walking, avoiding the dog park, being vigilant about picking up feces in the yard) is often associated with a positive outcome.

Success with any of these options is likely to be enhanced by working with a veterinarian or trainer who specializes in canine behavior.

  1. Taste aversion options

Specific products mixed in with the dog’s food are used to render a terrible taste to the feces. In order to be effective the product must be added to the food that every dog in the household eats. Over many years, I’ve found limited success with this approach. There are a number of taste aversion products on the market. Ask your veterinarian for his or her recommendations.

Have you had to manage this problem in one of your own dogs? If so, what did you try and what worked the best?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health and happiness throughout the holiday season,

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.

 

Does Arthritis Cause Mood Changes in Dogs?

Photo Credit: If you live with osteoarthritis (OA), you’re probably all too familiar with the impact that joint pain can have on your mood. In fact, it is known that arthritis in people has a definite link to mood disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis, and many of them also suffer from depression.

Dogs with arthritis

Some researchers at the University of Bristol in England want to determine if the same holds true for dogs. They are in the process of recruiting dogs to participate in a study, the goal of which will be to determine if dogs with chronic arthritis pain experience mood changes.

Study design

Here’s how the study will work. Two groups will be evaluated. The first will consist of dogs over six years of age and 12 kilograms of body weight who are showing signs of OA (stiffness after walks, difficulty climbing stairs and jumping). The second group will contain similarly aged and sized dogs who do not have any evidence or symptoms of OA.

All dogs in the study will be monitored in their home environments where they will be asked to perform simple behavioral tasks they’ve been trained to do. An example will be flipping a cardboard lid covering a bowl in order to find a hidden treat.  The dogs’ motivation will be gauged based on how willing they are to perform the task (interpreted to be a reflection of mood).

Additionally, each dog will be evaluated by a veterinarian who will perform a complete physical exam and use specialized pressure sensors to measure joint sensitivity (reflective of the dog’s level of pain).

Lauren Harris, a Veterinary School PhD student and one of the lead researchers overseeing this study stated:

Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis seen in dogs and is a very common cause of chronic pain, particularly in older dogs. Dogs with the condition can show reduced mobility, behavioural changes and altered activity leading to a decrease in quality of life. Our theory is that dogs with OA are more pessimistic than healthy dogs and we hope our research will find out the emotional impact of OA on dogs.

Do you think your arthritic dog experiences depression?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health and happiness throughout the holiday season,

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.

 

Epilepsy Task Force

Photo Credit: MKRiedel, Far and away, epilepsy is the most common neurological disease affecting dogs and cats. Within the United States, it is estimated that approximately 780,000 dogs are diagnosed with this disorder every year (sorry, no numbers available for cats).

In spite of the prevalence of epilepsy in small animals, relatively little is understood about its cause and treatment. That’s why it’s a great thing that a recently created task force aspires to improve care for epileptic dogs and cats. The task force is comprised of very smart people from around the world and includes veterinary and human neurologists, neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, and neuropathologists. Task force member Dr. Karen Munana was quoted as follows:

Lack of consistency among epilepsy researchers concerning classifications, definitions, and therapeutic outcome measures makes it difficult to draw comparisons and significantly limits the scientific impact of the studies. This affects the development of effective professional guidelines which, in turn, hinders clinicians when they are diagnosing the disease and advising owners on treatment options for the pet’s condition.”

Members of the task force have worked to identify a “chain of care” for animals with epilepsy including the animal’s breeder, caregiver, family veterinarian, veterinary neurology specialist, and neuroscientist. Thus far, the task force has released seven consensus statements (information and recommendations agreed upon by the task force members).

Epilepsy consensus statements

Listed below are the seven consensus statements along with their web site locations so you can access any of the articles that are of interest to you. Be forewarned- they contain a good amount of medical jargon. Don’t hesitate to contact me (dr.kay@speakingforspot.com) if you need some help with interpreting what you are reading.

  1. Consensus report on epilepsy definition, classification, and terminology in companion animals – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/182

Over the years there have been many epilepsy classification schemes used in veterinary medicine. Unfortunately, a term one veterinarian uses to describe a type of seizure might mean something altogether different to another veterinarian. The goal of this consensus statement is to provide a common language that is widely accepted within the profession.

  1. Proposal for a diagnostic approach to epilepsy in dogs – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/148

A multitude of issues besides epilepsy can cause seizures. When an animal has seizures, the primary diagnostic goal is to identify the underlying cause. Differentiating true epileptic seizures from those caused by other things can be quite challenging. The goal of this consensus proposal is to improve consistency in accurately diagnosing epilepsy in dogs.

  1. Current understanding of epilepsy of genetic or suspected genetic origin in purebred dogs – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/175

This is a review of epilepsy in predisposed dog breeds. It highlights breed-specific clinical features (age of onset, type of seizure, gender predisposition), response to treatment, prevalence rate, and mode of inheritance.

The breeds discussed include Australian Shepherd, Belgian Shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog, Border Collie, Border Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Collie, Dalmatian, English Springer Spaniel, Finnish Spitz, Golden Retriever, Hungarian Vizsla, Irish Wolfhound, Italian Spinone, Labrador Retriever, Lagotto Romagnolo, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen (PBGV), Shetland Sheepdog, Standard Poodle, German Shepherd, Beagle, Dachshund, Keeshond, and nine Dutch breeds.

  1. Consensus on the medical treatment of canine epilepsy in Europe – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/176

The goal of this consensus protocol is to provide consistency in the management of canine epilepsy using antiepileptic drugs. Recommendations are based on current evidence-based research and experience of the authors. While this specifically considers the legal ramifications associated with prescribing necessary medications in Europe, the recommended treatment protocols can be applied universally.

  1. Outcome of therapeutic interventions in epilepsy in dogs and cats – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/177

This consensus proposal provides a common language and understanding when describing an animal’s response to antiepileptic drugs. For example, standardization of what constitutes an adequate response will guide veterinarians in the diagnosis of drug resistance as a basis for altering therapy. Not only will this benefit individual patients, it will create a common language when interpreting results of research on dogs and cats being treated for epilepsy.

  1. Recommendations for a veterinary epilepsy-specific MRI scan protocol – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/194

Use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans plays a key role in arriving at the diagnosis of epilepsy, primarily by ruling out other causes of seizures. There are oodles of different types of images (referred to as sequences) a state of the art MRI scanner is capable of creating. This consensus paper provides a standardized epilepsy-specific MRI protocol.

  1. Recommendations for systematic sampling and processing of brains from epileptic dogs and cats – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/216

One of the most important ways to learn more about epileptic seizures is by harvesting and examining brain tissue after the epileptic animal has passed away. This consensus protocol provides guidelines for processing the brain tissue.

I’m so pleased that this task force was created. I believe that the information it generates will be wonderfully positive next step in guiding our abilities to diagnose and treat dogs and cats with epilepsy.

Have you ever cared for an animal with epilepsy? If so, I’d love for you to share your experience.

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health and happiness throughout the holiday season,

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.

 

 

 

Matters of the Heart

Photo Credit: Just like us, our dogs and cats can develop heart disease. What may surprise you is that they don’t experience heart attacks (myocardial infarctions), the most common human heart health issue. This is likely because dogs and cats don’t live for multiple decades, the time needed for substantial amounts of plaque to accumulate within the coronary arteries. (They don’t smoke cigarettes either!)

Causes of heart disease in our pets

Dogs and cats can develop a variety of heart diseases. Some occur more commonly in particular sizes and breeds. Others, such as heartworm disease, affect dogs and cats of all shapes, sizes, and breeds.

The most common cardiac problems in dogs and cats include:

  • Congenital (birth) defects: This category includes faulty heart valves, wall defects between chambers of the heart, and blood vessels that are abnormally configured. These abnormalities alter normal blood flow in and around the heart.
  • Heartworm disease: In the infected dog or cat, long spaghetti-like worms set up housekeeping within the heart and arteries that supply the lungs. Left untreated, heartworms can cause both heart and lung disease.
  • Valve disease: Valves control normal blood flow in and out of the four chambers of the heart. Age-related heart valve degeneration occurs commonly, particularly in small breed dogs. The resulting “valvular insufficiency” leads to heart failure in some, but not all cases. A relatively uncommon disease that can disrupt valve function is endocarditis, a bacterial infection that develops on one or more of the heart valves.
  • Cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle): The heart muscle can become too thin and flabby (dilated cardiomyopathy) or too thick and stiff (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). Both conditions impair the normal pumping action of the heart.
  • Arrhythmias (alteration of the normal rhythm of heart beats): An abnormal heartbeat here and there causes no problem, but multiple abnormal beats can produce significant symptoms.

Warning signs of heart disease

The heart is a muscular pump responsible for circulating oxygen rich blood throughout the body. When the pump fails, not only can abnormal fluid accumulations occur within the body, the animal develops symptoms caused by decreased oxygen supply.

Early warning signs of heart disease can include:

  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Cough
  • Lethargy
  • Restlessness during sleep
  • Decreased stamina
  • Vomiting (occurs in cats)

More advanced heart disease may cause:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Labored breathing
  • Distention of the abdomen with fluid
  • Blue/purple tinged tongue and gums
  • Collapse
  • Fainting
  • Sudden death
  • Sudden paralysis of the hind legs caused by a blood clot within the aorta (occurs in cats)

Diagnosis of heart disease

Tests used to confirm the diagnosis of heart disease commonly include:

  • A thorough physical examination that includes auscultation (listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope)
  • Blood tests including screening for heartworm disease
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) to evaluate the rhythm of the heartbeats
  • Chest x-rays to evaluate the size of the heart and identify abnormal fluid in or around the lungs
  • An echocardiogram (an ultrasound evaluation that provides a look inside the heart) to evaluate valve function, chamber size, and the strength of heart contractions

Treatment of heart disease

While many canine and feline heart diseases are not curable, they are often very treatable. Medications are the mainstay of treatment for most types of heart disease. They are used to mobilize excess fluid accumulating in the chest, lungs, and/or abdomen. Drugs are also used to decrease the workload on the heart, enhance the strength of heart contractions, and prevent blood clots. If a heart rhythm abnormality is detected, an antiarrhythmic drug may be prescribed.

Some types of heart disease are best treated with surgery or a specialized procedure. They may involve installation of a pacemaker, repair of a defective heart valve, or correction of a birth defect.

Prevention

Prevention can reap wonderful benefits when it comes to heart disease. An example is the use of medication to prevent heartworm disease in dogs and cats. A thorough physical examination performed by a veterinarian once a year (twice yearly for senior dogs and cats) is another excellent preventive measure. These exams provide a golden opportunity  for early disease detection. In many cases, the earlier heart disease is detected, the better the long-term outcome.

Questions for your veterinarian

If your four-legged best friend has heart disease, here are some key questions to ask your veterinarian.

  • What type of heart disease does my pet have?
  • How is it best treated?
  • How will I know if treatment is working?
  • What symptoms should I be watching for?
  • When should my pet be rechecked?
  • Can you refer me to a specialist? Whenever a serious disease is suspected or diagnosed, a second opinion is a good idea. Additionally, an echocardiogram and other advanced cardiac procedures require specialized equipment and skills. They are best performed by a veterinarian with extra training in cardiology, internal medicine, or radiology.

Have you ever cared for a dog or cat with heart disease? If so, what type and what was the outcome?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members good health and happiness throughout the holiday season,

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.

Gratitude

Photo Credit: Altopower - This is the perfect time of year to express a long overdue thanks to those of you who spend some time reading what I have to say. Be it my books or my blog posts, your readership means a great deal to me. Your blog comments, emails with questions and suggestions, and photos of your pets provide me with wonderful incentive to keep on writing!

I began writing for public consumption in 2008. After the release of my first book I never dreamed I would still be putting pen to paper (fingers to laptop) as we approach 2016! Now, it’s hard for me to imagine a day without writing.

Thank you all for your support. I wish you and your loved ones a joyous and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday. And, for any four-legged loved ones celebrating with you, be sure to remove the turkey skin before feeding and no gravy allowed!

With gratitude,

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.

Fake Service Dogs

Photo Credit: Canine Companions for Independence

First things first, I wish to issue forth a disclaimer. As the mother of a child who relies on a wheelchair to get from point A to point B, I recognize that I am likely more sensitive about the topic of service dog fraud than the average Joe (or Josephine).

Take your dog anywhere!

The Google ad reads, “Take Your Dog Anywhere!” and it connects to OfficialServiceDogRegistry.com. Here it states,

We expect and hope that you will use this registry as intended and in a responsible and respectful manner. Registration is conducted under the honor system and we are not required to verify any disability or review any documentation to verify any disability.

Faking it is easy

Registering a service dog on OfficialServiceDogRegistry.com is super fast and easy. All one must do is complete a very simple online form. There is no verification process, and registration is immediate. The registration setup fee is $39, dog and human ID cards are $54 each ($35 without photos), and a service dog vest costs $54-$76, depending on size.

I suspect that business at OfficialServiceDogRegistry.com is booming. I also suspect that those in charge of this business are well aware that their honor system isn’t being used honorably. Is it any wonder that the number of fake service dogs is growing exponentially?

On a recent flight from North Carolina to New York I counted five dogs sporting service vests seated beside or at the feet of their human companions. Same thing in Home Depot last week- an adorable Pomeranian, a German Shepherd pup, and a bouncy mutt all “in-vested” and, in theory, providing assistance during hardware, paint, and lumber shopping.

Why are people faking it?

Why would folks put service vests on their non-service dogs? It’s simple. They want their dogs to be able to go wherever they go, be it shopping, eating in restaurants, or flying on airplanes. Believe me, I understand the temptation, but there oodles of temptations that I say “no” to because they are illegal and/or unethical. Committing service dog fraud isn’t illegal (except in Florida- see below), but it sure as heck is unethical.

Untrained fake service dogs can be disruptive in public venues. When a business limits the number of service dogs allowed, such as on an airplane, the pretenders may prevent legitimate service dogs from gaining access. The bottom line is, faking a disability in order to gain privileges is never okay, and is profoundly disrespectful to people with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

I am a huge fan of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was enacted by the United States Congress in 1990, and opened so many doors for people with disabilities. As well intended as the ADA is, its rules pertaining to service dogs are so loosey goosey that they almost invite fakers to abuse the system.

The ADA stipulates that businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service dogs into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to any and all public businesses.

When it comes to investigating whether or not a dog dressed in a vest is a legitimate service dog, business employees’ hands are relatively tied. Even if the dog is unruly and disruptive, employees are allowed to ask only the following two questions of the person accompanying the animal:

  1. Is this a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What tasks has the animal been trained to do?

Asking questions about the individual’s disability and requesting identification card verification (although such cards are easy to obtain) are taboo as is requesting that the dog demonstrate what it is trained to do.

Putting a kabosh on fakers

I’m aware of only a couple of efforts to curb service dog fraud. A relatively new law in Florida classifies misrepresenting a dog as a service animal as a second degree misdemeanor. Individuals who are caught face a $500 fine and up to 60 days of jail time. Here’s the rub. Given ADA regulations (see above) it is extremely difficult to catch a faker. Florida attorney Jason Quick explains, “Probably the way this would come up is if the animal were to destroy property, attack someone or cause some type of incident, and it would be investigated.” In other words, something pretty extreme must transpire in order to make the case.

Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a longstanding service dog organization based in Santa Rosa, California, has a goal of collecting 50,000 signatures from people who pledge to stop service dog fraud. The hope is that these signatures will urge federal regulators to block the online sale of fake service dog certificates, vests, leashes, and other products from official-looking websites. I have taken the pledge and hope you will as well.

Lastly, please know that I did not write this article with the intent that you will begin to view people and their service dogs with skepticism. Rather, my hope is that, in addition to taking the CCI pledge, you will speak up loudly and clearly if someone you know “brags” about how they bucked the system in order gain public access for their dog.

Keep in mind that, eventually each and every one of us will become disabled in some capacity. Faking a disability before that time comes is unconscionable.

How do you weigh in on this topic?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members much good health and happiness throughout the holiday season.

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.