Who Have You Met Through Your Dog?

March 1st, 2015

Photo Credit: IStockphotoFor me, the most endearing thing about 101 Dalmatians is the fact that, without their dogs’ involvement, Roger and Anita would likely never have met, fallen in love, and married. Two spotted dogs named Pongo and Perdita ignited this animated romance.

Another dog-arranged marriage happened in real life for my dear friend Beth and her husband Michael. As the story goes, while hiking in the forest Beth and her adorable, goofy dog named Nimbo became separated. Given his hound-mix pedigree, it was suspected that Nimbo simply got “lost in his nose”. Beth spent hours searching and asking everyone she encountered on they trail if they’d spotted Nimbo. Just as she was about to give up the search, down the trail came a tall, handsome fella named Michael with Nimbo in tow. The rest is history!

Now, here’s one more story that I love. As reported by The Huffington Post, the love affair between Claire Johnson and Mark Gaffey began at a guide dog training course during which their own two guide dogs, Venice and Rodd, couldn’t stop playing with one another. After Gaffey and Johnson learned that they only lived a mile apart from one another, they set up some play dates for their two besotted dogs. Before long, the humans were the ones who were besotted. In fact they are now newlyweds. Referring to herself and Gaffey, Johnson stated, “Much like our two guide dogs, we really are best friends and soul mates.”

Now it’s your turn to tell your story. Who have you met through your dog? Perhaps that person has become your best dog walking buddy, a wonderful friend, or even a life partner. Please explain how you met and provide a description of the canine matchmaker. Last but not least, I invite you to share this article with those special people who are part of your life all because of your dog.

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.

Transitional Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

February 22nd, 2015

Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) is the most common cancerous condition affecting the urinary tract of dogs. Scottish Terriers top the list in terms of breed predisposition.

What is TCC?

TCC is a malignant tumor that most commonly grows within the urinary bladder. It also frequents the urethra, the tube-like structure that drains urine from the bladder to the outside world. TCC can also arise within the prostate gland (males), kidneys, and ureters (the long, narrow tubes that transport urine from the kidneys into the bladder).

TCC arises from transitional epithelial cells that line the inner surface of the urinary tract. In addition to growing inward within the lumen of the bladder and/or urethra, the cancer cells invade locally into the walls of these structures. TCC cells also have the ability to metastasize (spread) to lymph nodes and other distant organs.

This cancerous growth has a propensity for growing within the trigone region of the bladder, the anatomical area where urinary tract plumbing is most complicated. It is here that the urethra and ureters connect into the bladder. It’s no wonder that TCC commonly causes a dog to experience difficulty urinating and, sometimes, even complete urinary tract obstruction.

Causes of TCC

Genetic predisposition and environmental factors likely play a role in most cases of TCC. The genetic basis is strongly suspected because Scottish Terriers have as much as an 18-20 fold higher risk for this disease. Other predisposed breeds include, Shetland Sheepdogs, Beagles, West Highland White Terriers, and Wire Hair Fox Terriers.

Environmental factors that have been incriminated as risk factors for TCC are application of older generation pesticides and insecticides to the animal and exposure to lawn herbicides and pesticides. A study comparing 83 Scottish Terriers with TCC and 83 similarly aged, normal Scotties discovered that the group with cancer had greater exposure to lawns and gardens treated with insecticides and herbicides or herbicides alone. The effect of lawn and garden chemicals on other breeds has not yet been studied.

Smoking is the number one cause of TCC in people. It is not known if exposure to second hand smoke contributes to the occurrence of TCC in dogs.

Symptoms of TCC

The earliest symptoms caused by TCC vary from mild to severe, and often resemble those caused by a urinary tract infection. Such symptoms include:

  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Blood within the urine
  • Straining to urinate
  • Inability to urinate

Straining to have a bowel movement may be observed if the prostate gland becomes enlarged due to infiltration with TCC cells. When a dog becomes completely unable to urinate due to obstruction, systemic symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, and loss of appetite will arise within 24 hours.

Diagnosis of TCC

TCC is suspected when a mass within the bladder is detected by an imaging study such as abdominal ultrasound. Growth of TCC within the urethra is best detected via endoscopy (a fiberoptic telescope device that allows visualization within the urinary tract).

Collection of tissue samples from the mass that are then processed and examined under the microscope is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis of TCC. Such tissue samples can be collected via surgery or endoscopy, and sometimes by urinary tract catheterization.

Other testing

Many dogs with TCC have a concurrent urinary tract infection, and a urine culture is performed to determine if antibiotic therapy is warranted.

Once TCC has been diagnosed, “staging tests” may be performed. Staging is the process used to determine if the tumor has spread to other sites in the body. Staging is warranted when the additional information these tests provide are important for providing ongoing care. The results of staging tests assist in:

  • Determining the prognosis.
  • Choosing the most appropriate course of treatment.
  • Establishing a baseline set of tumor measurements that will help determine if subsequent treatment is successful.
  • Anticipating which future symptoms may arise.

Staging tests for dogs with TCC may include:

  • Blood and urine testing
  • Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest cavity to look for spread to the lungs and/or lymph nodes
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen to assess changes in the kidneys caused by possible obstruction to urine flow and spread of cancer to abdominal organs and/or lymph nodes

Treatment options

There are several options for treating TCC in dogs. Complete remission (complete elimination) of this cancer is always desirable, but this outcome tends to be the exception rather than the rule. Partial remission (reduction in the overall size of the tumor) and simply arresting growth of the tumor over a prolonged period are far more likely outcomes that usually result in restoring and maintaining an excellent quality of life.

Surgery

For dogs with TCC that has not spread outside of the bladder, complete surgical removal of the mass is the ideal therapy. Unfortunately, even for a highly gifted surgeon, this outcome usually isn’t possible. This is because TCC has a predilection for growing within the trigone region (neck of the bladder) where aggressive surgery would disrupt the delicate urethral and ureteral plumbing located there. Surgical removal works well when the TCC growth is relatively small and is located well away from the trigone.

Medical therapies

The medical options described below tend to be extremely well tolerated by most dogs. These drugs may be used individually, but it is not unusual for them to be used in combination to treat dogs with TCC.

Piroxicam

Piroxicam is an oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication that substantially reduces the size of many TCC tumors. Piroxicam and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox) are referred to as cyclooxygenase (cox) inhibitors. It so happens that TCC cells often produce and use cyclooxygenase, and inhibition of this enzyme can hinder tumor growth.

Piroxicam’s ability to influence the growth of cancer cells was discovered spuriously when the drug was being used to provide pain relief for dogs with cancer. Unexpected cancer remissions were observed. This resulted in a study of 34 dogs with TCC who were treated with piroxicam. The results were as follows:

  • Complete remission (cancer fully gone): 2 dogs
  • Partial remission (cancer reduced in size): 4 dogs
  • Stable disease (no change in cancer size): 18 dogs
  • Cancer increased in size: 10 dogs
  • Average survival time: 181 days

Mitoxantrone

A chemotherapy drug called mitoxantrone has also been used to successfully treat TCC. A study of 48 dogs treated with the combination of piroxicam and mitaxantrone was performed by the Veterinary Cooperative Oncology Group. Results included:

  • Complete remission: 1 dog
  • Partial remission: 16 dogs
  • Stable disease: 22 dogs
  • Cancer increased in size: 9 dogs
  • Average survival time from start of therapy: 250-300 days

Vinblastine

A third drug for the treatment of TCC is vinblastine. This drug is typically used following failure of the other drugs mentioned above. A study using vinblastine to treat 28 dogs with TCC resulted in:

  • Partial remission: 10 dogs
  • Stable disease: 14 dogs
  • Cancer increased in size: 4 dogs
  • Average survival time from first vinblastine treatment: 147 days
  • Average survival time from the time of diagnosis: 299 days

Metronomic therapy

Metronomic chemotherapy refers to long term, low dose, frequent oral administration of a Chemotherapy drug. Metronomic therapy is given with hopes of blocking the formation of new blood vessels within the tumor, thereby inhibiting its growth. This is referred to as an “anti-angiogenic” effect.

A study of metronomic therapy for TCC was performed using a drug called chlorambucil (Leukeran). Of the 31 dogs studied, 29 had failed prior TCC treatment. The results are as follows:

  • Partial remission: 1 dog
  • Stable disease: 20 dogs
  • Progressive disease: 9 dogs
  • Lost to followup: 1 dog
  • Average survival time from start of therapy: 221 days

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is an option for control of TCC growth. Unfortunately, applied in suitable dosages, radiation therapy often produces harmful complications affecting the bladder and surrounding organs.

Have you ever cared for a Scottie or any other breed of dog with transitional cell carcinoma?

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.

Puddle Precautions

February 15th, 2015

Author’s dog Quinn bounding through a puddle. Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

There’s a lot to be said for a vigorous walk with your dog after a heavy rainstorm. The landscape appears refreshed, the air smells great, and you and your dog get to unleash some cabin fever!

As fun as it is to watch your dog splash and play in the puddles you encounter on your walk, some caution is advised. Depending on the surrounding environment, those pools of standing water can harbor some health hazards.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis organisms are bacteria that thrive in wet climates. Wild animals, particularly deer and rodents, and some domesticated animals (cows, sheep, pigs) can be leptospirosis carriers. Although infected, these mammals maintain good health while shedding leptospirosis organisms in their urine.

Dogs can contact leptospirosis by drinking from water sources contaminated with urine from an infected animal. Puddles that have formed from rain runoff certainly qualify as such a source. A study of the prevalence of canine leptospirosis in the United States and Canada revealed that disease prevalence correlates with the amount of rainfall. The more rain, the more dogs diagnosed with leptospirosis.

Not all dogs become sick when exposed to leptospirosis, but for those that do, the results can be devastating. Leptospirosis most commonly causes kidney failure. Associated symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. The liver and lungs are also targets for this disease. The diagnosis of leptospirosis is made via blood and urine testing. Successful treatment consists of antibiotics and supportive therapy such as supplemental fluids.

The leptospirosis vaccination does a good job of protecting against this disease. Talk with your veterinarian about whether or not this vaccine makes sense given where you live and the nature of your dog’s extracurricular activities.

Giardia

Giardia are microscopic, protozoan organisms that live within the intestinal tracts of a variety of domesticated and wild animals. The infectious (contagious) forms are shed within the feces and readily contaminate water sources. This is one of the main reasons it is recommended that hikers and backpackers drink only filtered water. A 2012 study documented that dogs who attend dog parks are more likely to test positive for giardia than those who do not attend dog parks.

The most common symptom caused by giardiasis in dogs is diarrhea. Vomiting and loss of appetite may also occur. The diagnosis is made via stool sample testing. A handful of medications can be used to rid the intestinal tract of giardia. Metronidazole and fenbendazole are the two most commonly used. The diagnosis of giardia in one dog may warrant treatment of the entire household herd, as giardia is highly contagious from dog to dog. It can also be transmitted to other species, including cats and humans.

Antifreeze

Consumption of only a very tiny amount of antifreeze can have devastating consequences for dogs. Ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in antifreeze, causes acute, often irreversible kidney failure. Symptoms typically include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness, and ultimately coma and/or seizures. The diagnosis is made based on history, urine and blood testing, and often a kidney biopsy. Unfortunately, even with aggressive and expensive therapy, most dogs suffering from antifreeze toxicity don’t survive.

Until relatively recently, antifreeze had a sweet taste rendering it all the more enticing to dogs and children. In 2012 antifreeze manufacturers were forced to add a bittering agent to their products. Even with the addition of a bitter taste, vigilance is required to prevent antifreeze toxicity. A small amount of antifreeze within a puddle may not be enough to deter a thirsty dog from drinking.

Antifreeze sources include open product containers and antifreeze leaks from the undercarriage of vehicles. When with your dog, be sure to avoid puddles that have formed in and around parking lots.

Take home message

My goal in telling you about the potential perils of puddles isn’t to convince you to confine your dogs indoors. Heck, my dogs hike off leash with me daily, rain or shine. Rather, my objective is to increase your awareness so that you will be mindful about where your dog drinks when out and about with you (no parking lot puddles!). I encourage you to maintain awareness of the symptoms of leptospirosis, giardiasis, and antifreeze toxicity so that, if observed, you will seek veterinary attention right away.

Does your dog have exposure to puddles?

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.

 

Homeless Hotel Hounds

February 8th, 2015

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Admittedly, I’m a bit biased when it comes to Asheville, North Carolina. After all, this is the fun, eclectic city that wooed me to move to the southeast. Imagine my delight when I recently learned about a hotel in Asheville that staffs its lobby with dogs in need of homes!

Enter the Aloft Hotel in downtown Asheville, and you will be greeted by a dog wearing a vest printed with, “Adopt Me.” Dogs in need of homes come to Aloft via a western North Carolina adoption program called Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue. The adoptable dogs cannot stay in guest rooms at night, but they can and do accompany patrons throughout the rest of the hotel, so long as they are on leash.

How do Aloft guests feel about the adoption program? The hotel director of sales, Christine Kavanagh’s feels that the dogs have a positive impact. She stated, “The guests love it. It shows up on guest reviews and consumer surveys.”

Caren Ferris and her husband adopted Ginger during their hotel stay. They were not intending to return home with a dog, but as Caren explained, “I got up to leave and told her goodbye. She sat up, looked me in the eye and kissed me on the lips.” Ferris and her husband filled out the necessary paperwork, paid the required fees, and following the approval process, took Ginger home to meet their other dogs. Charlie’s Angels requires a home visit before approving any of their adoptions. If the adopters are from another state, the rescue group asks a staff member from a shelter nearby to perform the check.

How has the adoption program been going? Since July 2014 when the Aloft Hotel and Charlie’s Angels began their partnership, 14 dogs have been placed in new homes. Jan Trantham and her husband found their new dog this way. During their travels from Atlanta, they fell in love with a little Shih Tzu named Jackson. Trantham described their feelings stating, “Every time we went somewhere, one of us would say, ‘Let’s go back to the hotel and see Jackson.’ I couldn’t stop thinking about this dog.”

Talk about a win-win situation! Guests at the Aloft Hotel are treated to a unique experience, and some of them just might return home with more than they brought with them. Best of all, homeless dogs are finding their forever homes. Kudos to Charlie’s Angels and Aloft Hotel for their creative collaboration that I hope will set an example in other communities.

How would you feel about staying in a hotel with adoptable dogs in the lobby?

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.

 

Is Zeuterin a Good Choice For Your Dog?

February 1st, 2015

I recently filled you in on my experience learning to use Zeuterin, a zinc/arginine solution used to nonsurgically neuter male dogs. Now, I’d like to enhance your understanding of the differences between surgical neutering and Zeutering.

Comparison of techniques

Surgical neutering of male dogs involves removal of both testicles (castration). A skin incision is made that is closed with stitches or staples. Unless the stitches are “buried” a follow up visit to remove staples or stitches is needed.

Zeutering involves injection of a small volume of Zeuterin into each testicle. There is no need for a follow up visit.

Sterility (inability to reproduce)

Sperm cells are manufactured within the testicles, so it makes sense that removing them results in sterility. Zeuterin induces sterility by causing formation of scar tissue that impairs the ability of sperm to leave the testicle.

Dogs are not considered to be 100% sterile until 30 days following surgical neutering and 60 days following Zeutering.

Post-procedure complications

Complications most commonly associated with surgical castration include:

  • Licking at the incision site
  • Surgery site discomfort/pain
  • Hematoma formation (blood accumulation) within the scrotum
  • Incision site inflammation/infection
  • Dehiscence of the incision (the stitches or staples loosen and the incision reopens)
  • Complications associated with general anesthesia

The more common complications associated with Zeutering include:

  • Licking at the scrotum
  • Swelling of the scrotum
  • Scrotal discomfort/pain

No studies have been performed directly comparing rates and severity of complications associated with surgical neutering versus Zeutering. Based on how both procedures are performed, it is fair to say that complications arising from general anesthesia and creation of a surgical incision are non-issues for dogs sterilized with Zeuterin.

Cost

In theory, the overhead costs for Zeutering should be significantly less than those associated with surgical neutering. Zeuterin is relatively inexpensive to purchase. Additionally, Zeutering does not require fees typically associated with surgical castration such as: placement of an intravenous catheter, anesthetic drugs, sterilization of surgical instruments, surgical mask, sterile gloves and gown, operating room maintenance costs, hospitalization, and a follow up office visit.

Keep in mind that the cost of surgical castration is deeply discounted in many veterinary clinics so as to capture the attention of price-shopping clients. In such clinics, the costs of surgical neutering and Zeutering may be comparable.

Testicular tumors

Testicular tumors are extremely common in older dogs, and 85 to 90 percent of them are completely benign. The risk for developing a testicular tumor is eliminated in dogs who are surgically castrated. The incidence of testicular tumors in Zeutered dogs is not known.

Prostate gland disease

Elimination of testosterone production via surgical castration prevents future development of benign prostate gland diseases such as prostate gland hyperplasia (age-related prostate gland enlargement that resembles what men experience as they age) and bacterial infection within the prostate gland (bacterial prostatitis). However, surgical castration is associated with an increased incidence of prostate gland cancer in dogs compared to dogs who have not been neutered.

There are no studies documenting how Zeuterin influences the incidence of the various types of prostate gland disease. What is known is that the size of the prostate gland decreases shortly after Zeutering, likely a result of decreased testosterone production.

Impact on testosterone production

Surgical neutering reduces a dog’s ability to produce testosterone by essentially 100%. Zeuterin reduces testosterone production by approximately 50%.

Elimination of testosterone production altogether via surgical castration has been the ruling dogma for several decades with the notion that doing so eliminates undesirable male behaviors and ensures better health (less benign prostate gland disease, prevention of testicular tumors, decreased trauma incidents associated with dogs who are roaming, etc.). A 1976 study evaluating 42 dogs documented that elimination of testosterone via castration reduces urine marking, roaming, mounting behavior, and dog-on-dog aggression.

More recent research documenting the effects of surgical castration has opened our eyes to some significant downsides associated with elimination of a dog’s ability to manufacture testosterone. Studies performed on Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Vizslas demonstrated increased risk of significant orthopedic issues, various cancerous conditions, and challenging behavioral issues associated with removal of the testicles, particularly before one year of age. (Many of the same negative consequences apply to spaying female dogs.) Whether or not the results of these breed-specific studies can be translated to “dogs in general” is anyone’s guess.

Also unanswered to date is whether or not Zeuterin induced “half-strength” testosterone production is protective against the recently documented negative health and behavioral issues associated with surgical castration. Additionally, how Zeuterin influences negative male behaviors (urine marking, roaming, mounting, dog-on-dog aggression) is unknown.

Research is needed to answer these questions and more pertaining to the pros and cons of different neutering practices. We have a great deal to learn! And, the more we learn, the more we will question currently accepted standards pertaining to neutering dogs.

Is Zeuterin the right choice for your dog?

Whether to surgically neuter or Zeuter your dog should be based on discussion with your veterinarian and consideration of your dog’s age, breed, and behavior.

Would you consider Zeuterin for your dog? If you have questions about Zeuterin, please ask away.

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.

 

Zeuterin: Chemical Sterilization of Male Dogs

January 25th, 2015

Photo Credit: Shirley Zindler

 

I first wrote about Zeuterin, a product used to chemically sterilize male dogs, a couple of years ago. At the time, Zeuterin was still undergoing studies for FDA approval. Ark Sciences, the manufacturer of Zeuterin, received that approval in early 2014, and, since then, the use of this product has rapidly accelerated within the United States.

I recently completed the specific training required for veterinarians to purchase and use Zeuterin. My training began with an online instructional webinar. Next, I completed a wet lab during which I Zeutered three dogs under the watchful eye of a certified trainer. I had the good fortune of doing so with certified trainer, Dr. Laureen Bartfield. She is the director of SNAP-NC (Spay Neuter Assistance Program of North Carolina), and has Zeutered hundreds if not thousands of dogs.

The Zeutering process

From start to finish, Zeutering each dog required no more than 10 to 15 minutes. Keep in mind, things would have been easily twice as quick had I not been learning the procedure for the first time. Here’s how the Zeutering worked:

Step one: Each dog received a thorough physical examination to make sure there were no problems that would interfere with a good outcome. For example, if a dog had significant skin irritation around the scrotum, he would have been disqualified from being Zeutered that day.

Step two: Each dog was sedated to very lightly anesthetized. The goal was to sedate to the point that the dog was willing to lie on his back without struggling. We used a sedation drug called dexmedetomidine, the effects of which were readily reversed by another drug immediately following the procedure.

Step three: Using calipers, the size of each testicle was measured in order to determine and draw up the exact volume of Zeuterin needed for each testicle into two separate syringes.

Step four: Using a slow, steady technique, the appropriate volume of Zeuterin was injected into the center of each testicle. Pain receptors within the testicles respond primarily to changes in pressure, so the key to keeping the dogs comfortable was injecting the Zeuterin very slowly.

Step five: A green “Z” was tattooed within the skin adjacent to the sheath (just in front of the scrotum). Given that the testicles remain, this tattoo announces to the world that the dog has indeed been neutered.

Step six: The dogs were sent home within a couple of hours of being Zeutered. They received an injection of pain medication along with a few day’s worth of oral pain medication to be given at home. This is a standard recommendation for dogs who have been Zeutered. There is no need for a follow up visit unless concerns arise. Clients were advised that their dog would have some scrotal swelling for the first few days. They were also told that their dogs would not be 100% sterile until 30 days following Zeutering.

Impressions of Zeutering

Following my first hands on experience with Zeuterin, here are my impressions:

  1. The Zeutering process is precise, but easy to learn.
  2. Zeutering is a quick process.
  3. Zeutering is a safe process.
  4. The Zeutering process appears to be pain-free.
  5. Recovery from Zeutering is rapid.
  6. Zeuterin provides a safe and effective means to neuter male dogs.

Stay tuned for Zeuterin: Part II in which I will compare Zeutering to conventional surgical neutering.

Would you consider Zeuterin for your dog?

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.

 

Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS)

January 18th, 2015

Pay close attention all of you Miniature Schnauzer lovers! The breed you fancy is prone to a heart condition called Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS). The sinus involved is not within the respiratory tract. Rather, it is a structure called the sinus node that is located within the heart.

The sinus node is responsible for electronically initiating the normal heartbeat and establishing the normal heart rate. In dogs with SSS, the sinus node has lapses in which it discharges beats much too slowly, or not at all. As a result, there are long pauses in between heartbeats. Sometimes, an electrical impulse originating from another part of the heart will come to the rescue, particularly if the heart has stopped for several seconds. Such rescue beats can be very rapid.

In most cases, the sinus node will eventually resume its job in which case there will be periods of normal heart rate (60-100 beats per minute). Other dogs with SSS have a constant bradycardia (heart rate is too slow). Even with exercise or excitement, the heart rate remains at less than 40 beats per minute.

Cause

The exact cause of the sinus node malfunction is unknown. Although any breed of dog can be affected, a genetic basis is suspect because SSS primarily affects Miniature Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, and Pugs. Middle-aged to older females are particularly predisposed. The mode of inheritance is unknown, and there is no genetic testing available. Nonetheless, the appearance of SSS in a breeding dog should strongly discourage future breeding.

Symptoms

Dog with SSS becomes symptomatic because of their subnormal heart rate. The most common symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Collapse
  • Fainting episodes (also known as syncopal episodes)

Some dogs with severe, long-standing SSS can develop symptoms of congestive heart failure including weakness, labored breathing, and coughing.

It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between a fainting episode (syncope) and a seizure. Videotaping such an event at home to then share with the examining veterinarian can be most helpful.

Diagnosis

SSS is strongly suspected based on the dog’s breed, history, and a thorough physical examination. Listening with a stethoscope often reveals a heart rate that is lower than normal and stays this way even when the dog is asked to exercise. Other testing that may be recommended include:

  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) looks for abnormalities characteristic of SSS changes.
  • Blood testing rules out an underlying metabolic problem. Abnormalities in blood calcium or potassium levels have the potential to mimic SSS changes.
  • Holter monitoring provides a 24-hour electrocardiogram (ECG) tracing. The testing equipment is housed within a vest that is worn by the dog at home. This may be necessary to determine if a dog has SSS, particularly if the heart rate is normal at the time of the physical examination.
  • An atropine response test can identify dogs with SSS. Atropine is a drug that normally causes the heart rate to escalate. When atropine is given to a dog with SSS, the very low heart rate remains unchanged.
  • Chest x-rays document evidence of heart failure.
  • Cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram) looks for changes in the appearance of the heart valves and sizes of the four chambers that can occur secondary to chronic SSS.

Treatment

For dogs with SSS, the therapeutic goal is to maintain a normal heart rate so as to restore a good quality of life. If SSS is caught quite early during an annual physical exam, and the dog is symptom-free, no treatment other than careful monitoring may be required for the time being.

For dogs who are experiencing symptoms, two forms of therapy can be considered:

Vagolytic drugs: These medications are used in an attempt to maintain a normal heart rate. While it is reasonable to try such drugs, they don’t have a very consistent track record of success. Additionally, side effects are relatively common. Examples of vagolytic drugs are theophylline, terbutaline, and propantheline bromide.

Pacemaker implantation: This is truly the treatment of choice for most dogs with symptoms caused by SSS. When properly placed and monitored, a pacemaker is capable of restoring a normal quality of life for years to come. Veterinarians who specialize in cardiology are the masters of pacemaker implantation. Just as in people, the pacemaker can be placed without a significant surgery involved. Access to pacemaker implantation may be limited depending on where one lives and their ability to pay for such a state-of-the-art procedure.

Have you ever cared for a dog with sick sinus syndrome?

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.

New Hope for Paraplegic Dogs

January 11th, 2015

Photo courtesy dodgerslist.com

There are many causes of paraplegia or hind end paralysis in dogs. Far and away, the most common cause is intervertebral disc disease (aka, slipped disc or herniated disc). Dachshunds are the “poster dogs” for this disease. Surgery to remove the disc material compressing the spinal cord can prevent paralysis in many cases. For some dogs, surgery is ineffective. Additionally, many people simply cannot afford this expensive treatment option.

A study on paralyzed dogs

A recent study performed at North Carolina State University offers some new hope for dogs with paraplegia. The researchers studied 19 dogs all of whom had paraplegia caused either by disc disease or trauma. All of the dogs had been chronically affected and were only chosen for the study if it was believed that they had maxed out on their neurological improvement.

Study design

All of the dogs in the study were treated over time with three different things:

  1. 4-Aminopyridine (4-AP): This drug affects the flow of potassium into nerve cells called axons. In some cases, this restores nerve conduction within damaged axons. This drug is currently used as a treatment for people with multiple sclerosis. Higher dosages of 4-AP have been associated with adverse side effects in dogs including elevated temperature, anxiety, and seizures.
  2. T-butyl carbamate (t-butyl): This is a derivative of 4-AP, and was developed with hopes of improved effectiveness and reduced toxicity.
  3. Placebo: This was used for purposes of creating a controlled study in which results can be objectively compared.

Throughout the testing period, those observing the dogs were “blinded” as to which one of the three things each of the dogs was receiving. During weeks one and two, all dogs received the placebo. Throughout weeks three and four, half the dogs were treated with 4-AP and half with t-butyl. The dogs received nothing during weeks five and six so as to allow the drug to washout of their system. They then received the drug they were not yet exposed to during weeks seven and eight. All dogs again received the placebo during the final two weeks.

Results

Thirteen of the 19 dogs completed the protocol. The researchers found that there was little difference in effectiveness between the two drugs. Both produced improvement in the dogs’ ability to step compared to the placebo. However, the levels of response were variable, ranging from no improvement at all to marked improvement in three dogs who were able to take steps on a treadmill without any support.

The t-butyl was extremely well tolerated by all of the dogs. Two dogs suffered side effects from the 4-AP including gastrointestinal upset and seizures.

Conclusions

The study results indicated that both 4-AP and t-butyl produce significant improvement in some dogs with paraplegia caused by intervertebral disc disease or trauma. Best of all, t-butyl seemingly does so without producing the side effects of its parent drug, 4-AP. The major question that remains is why did some dogs show dramatic improvement while others were seemingly unaffected.

Dr. Natasha Olby, one of the study researchers stated,

The question quickly went from, “Do the drugs work?” to, “Why aren’t they having similar effects across the board?” And there are many possible factors to consider- some of the dogs may not have any axons left for the drug to act on, or it may depend on how long they’ve been paralyzed or even whether or not they have a genetic predisposition to respond to this treatment. There is no doubt that either or both of these medications can have an amazing effect on the right patient, but now we have to do the work of finding out what conditions make the patient the right one. If we can do that, we may save both patients and owners a lot of unnecessary frustration.

My fingers are crossed that Dr. Olby and her colleagues are successful in their ongoing research.

Have you ever cared for a paraplegic dog?

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy 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.

 

A New Year’s Resolution to Help Eradicate Puppy Mills

January 4th, 2015

Happy new year, dear readers! I wish you and your four-legged family members much joy and good health throughout 2015.

I have a special favor to ask of you. I am hoping you will add the following to your list of New Year’s resolutions:

Before the end of 2015, I resolve to do at least one thing to help eradicate puppy mills!

Thank you in advance for letting me butt in on your list of New Year’s resolutions. Please tell me what you hope to do in 2015 to help eradicate puppy mills, and I will enter your name into a drawing for a goodie bag (contains treats for you and your pets) generously provided by the ASPCA.

Puppy Mills

The term “puppy mill” refers to large scale commercial breeding facility that produces large numbers of puppies, while neglecting the overall health and psychological well-being of their dogs. In most puppy mills, the dogs are kept in deplorable conditions.  This production formula maintains low overhead and maximizes profits. There are more than 4,000 licensed puppy mills operating within the United States, and there is no telling how many are in operation that are unlicensed.

Business is booming for puppy millers because people continue to willingly purchase puppies from pet stores. Retail pet stores sell more than 500,000 pups a year, ninety-nine percent plus of which are born in puppy mills. The other source of income for puppy millers is Internet sales. Their incredibly attractive websites entice unwitting individuals to purchase puppies site and sight unseen.

Your New Year’s Resolution

What are you willing to do to help eradicate puppy mills? Here are some ideas to consider:

  • If you purchase products from a pet store that sells puppies, immediately stop and desist! Add the icing to the cake by having a candid conversation with the store manager advising him or her exactly why you will be taking your business elsewhere.
  • Take the ASPCA’s official No Pet Store Puppies Pledge stating that you won’t spend a single dime at a pet store that sells puppies. Tweet about this pledge and post it on your Facebook page.
  • When you meet people who want to adopt a puppy, teach them how to avoid a puppy mill purchase. They should avoid a pet store purchase at all costs, and should stay away from Internet sites advertising their “livestock”. Teach them the motto, “Never purchase a puppy, site and sight unseen.” Encourage these adopters to work through shelters, rescue organizations, and/or responsible breeders.
  • Be a voice of change within your community, particularly if you live in a state where puppy mills are thriving (Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Arkansas, to name a few). Attend an organized rally (consider organizing one yourself), sign a petition, address the topic at your local schools, and write letters to your legislators.
  • Volunteer some time with an organization that provides rehabilitation, foster care, and placement of adult dogs who have been rescued from puppy mill breeding programs.
  • If you have cared for a puppy mill dog, share your story with others. Talk and write about your experiences. Share your story with the ASPCA where it will be shared with others.

Remember to let me know what you hope to do in 2015 to help eradicate puppy mills, and I will enter your name into a drawing for a goodie bag (contains treats for you and your pets) generously provided by the ASPCA.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy 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.

 

 

 

 

The Miracle of My Physiology

December 28th, 2014

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

When a health issue arises, whether for our pets or us, it is normal to focus primarily on the body part that isn’t working well. During such times, taking a moment to think about our normal physiology (all those amazing things the body is doing well) can be a wonderfully positive distraction.

I wrote the following poem when I needed some help refocusing my thought processes away from a nagging health issue. I invite you to use these words for the same purpose, if and whenever you like. This poem contains the word, “God”. If this word is not relevant to your belief system, please substitute whatever makes sense for you.

THE MIRACLE OF MY PHYSIOLOGY

Dear God,

Thank you for the miracle of my physiology.

The workings of my body astound me and, when I think about all of the pumping, churning, transmitting, digesting, absorbing, and replicating that go on each and every second within myself, I am in awe.

What an incredible invention my ears are- teeny tiny little bones cloaked just beyond my ear drums conveying and interpreting so many varieties of sound; fine ciliated tentacles in my inner ear keeping me upright rather than reeling with dizziness.

And God, I love my eyes. My retinas, each no larger than the peel of a grape yet capable of transmitting a visual feast to my brain.

My voice, unique to me, created in my vocal folds and safely enveloped by my larynx, allowing me to sing to you today.

And my immune system mystifies me! How can it possibly know that a splinter or a virus or a bacteria or a parasite warrants an army of white blood cells, yet my very own tissues are sacred and left alone?

God, thank you for my heart that rhythmically beats day in day out, round the clock, varying its speed in accordance with my whimsical demands for oxygen.

My bones. They allow me to stand upright before you today and, should one break, the pieces will magically, mystically, miraculously glue themselves back together again, good as new.Thank you God for inventing that.

And then God, there is the matter of my hormones. You must know that women’s hormones get a bad rap, but please know that I truly appreciate them. I am in awe of the fact that my hormones, microscopic conductors of the symphony of my body, tell me when to menstruate, when to lactate, when to get excited, when to digest food, when to be pregnant, when to lie down and when to rise up.

And, there is the wonder of my breasts. Imagine, my own body producing sustenance, enough to completely sustain another human being! And so impeccably efficient- milk produced at only the necessary moments in the total span of my life.

And my uterus is truly awesome! While nourishing a growing fetus, how can this muscle stretch and stretch and stretch and then stretch some more to become almost paper thin and yet, at just the right moment in time, still produce enough force to launch a brand new human being into this world. Simply magnificent!

Thank you God for my brain. No pulsing or peristalsis here, yet important enough to be protected underneath a thick bony dome. Beneath the camouflage is the control center of my being, a bevy of activity, neurotransmitters, receptors, and electrical pathways so that I can think and feel and sleep and dream. Like the sun, my brain rules in a stately fashion over the universe of my body.

Thank you God for the miracle of my physiology.

With love from,

An ordinary woman

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy 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.