Shirley Zindler: Animal Control Officer, Author, and Photographer Extraordinaire

March 22nd, 2015

Photo Credit: Shirley Zindler

I’ve met some truly extraordinary people in my life, and Shirley Zindler happens to be one of them. I know her from my California days, and have described her as a saint disguised as an animal control officer. Only recently did I learn that Shirley is also a gifted author and photographer.

Shirley’s book, The Secret Life of a Dog Catcher is an eye-opening, highly entertaining, and endearing read. Readers are treated to a wonderful variety of animal-related experiences, all told through the eyes of an animal control officer (ACO). Shirley’s descriptions of her day-to-day adventures remind me of James Herriot’s writing style in All Creatures Great and Small. Every story is captivating and, regardless of outcome, there’s little doubt that Shirley’s involvement has a profoundly positive impact on the lives of the animals she encounters.

Shirley and her own tribe of dogs (those who are permanent fixtures and others who are being fostered) are a Monday institution at Dillon Beach in northern California. The beach is an off-leash venue where Shirley captures some incredibly vibrant photos of dogs running, playing, surfing, chasing, and cavorting. If ever you need a psychological “pick-me-up,” I encourage you to pay a visit to Shirley’s Facebook page. Guaranteed, the photos you find there will put a smile on your face! Better yet, if it’s a Monday morning and you happen to live north of San Francisco, treat you and your dog to a Dillon Beach field trip. Just about guaranteed Shirley and her dogs will be there.

Shirley’s primary vocation is serving her community as an ACO. Here’s what I know about this profession. The work is exceptionally challenging, both physically and psychologically. Dealing with an injured deer requires a lot of muscle. Dealing with an animal neglect case requires abundant emotional strength and intelligence. An ACO is asked to endure exposure to animal suffering, emotionally charged people, middle-of-the-night calls to tend to animal-related emergencies, and, of course, a never ending stream of euthanasia procedures. This is exceptionally tough stuff, particularly for one who truly loves animals. It’s no wonder that many ACO’s burn out, leave the profession, or simply become numb to their work. Not true for Shirley Zindler. She somehow manages to remain incredibly connected, optimistic, empathic, and enthusiastic. What a gift! How does she do it? Here’s Shirley’s explanation:

Some people say that the longer they work in animal control or animal sheltering, the more they hate people. I’ve found the opposite to be true. In 25 years of shelter and ACO work, I’ve found that for every person doing terrible, unthinkable things, there are a hundred, or even a thousand people trying to make up for it. I picked up this beautiful Belgian Malinois recently as a stray. He had a chip going back to an original owner in Georgia who placed the dog with a bomb detection trainer three years ago. These high-energy working dogs are often happier with a job and the owner was truly trying to do what was best for the dog. Anyway, somehow, the dog ended up here as a stray. The original owner is willing to take him back and give him a great home but is also open to placing him in a fabulous home in California if there is a good match. The cost to fly the dog back to Georgia is around $500, which would be a challenge for the owner to come up with on short notice. I posted about the situation and have had so many people willing to help pay some of the costs, to give the dog a home, to drive him to the airport etc. One person even anonymously offered to cover the entire cost. The Malinois community, and people in general have been amazing! And that is why I love people. It also shows the beauty of microchips!

I encourage you to read The Secret Life of a Dog Catcher. Word has it that another Shirley Zindler book is in the works. I can’t wait to read it.

In your opinion, what is the most important role an animal control officer plays in his or her community? Post your response and your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a signed copy of The Secret Life of a Dog Catcher.

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.

Pollakiuria: Why is My Pet Urinating More Often Than Normal?

March 15th, 2015

Pollakiuria is a fun word to pronounce, but it’s certainly not a fun symptom to deal with. Pollakiuria means increased frequency of urination. Dogs with this symptom ask to go outside more frequently than normal, often round the clock. The well house trained dog may begin leaving puddles in the house and cats with pollakiuria are in and out of the litter box with increased frequency. Some kitties abandon the box altogether choosing other places to urinate.

Pollakiuria caused by lower urinary tract disease

Pollakiuria is most commonly caused by abnormalities within the lower urinary tract, consisting of the bladder and urethra. The urethra is the narrow tube that transports urine from the bladder to the outside world.

Lower urinary tract disease may cause a dog or cat to sense the need to urinate well before their bladder is full, and the puddles produced are quite small. If ever you’ve experienced a bladder infection, no doubt you can relate to this sensation.

Common lower urinary tract maladies that cause pollakiuria include:

  1. Bacterial infection within the bladder, aka bacterial cystitis: common in dogs, relatively uncommon in cats
  2. Stones within the bladder or urethra: common in dogs and cats
  3. Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC)- an inflammatory condition of unknown cause affecting the bladder and/or urethra: purely cats
  4. Tumors or polyps within the bladder or urethra: relatively common in dogs, less common in cats

Pollakiuria caused by increased thirst

Some diseases causing pollakiuria are associated with increased thirst (polydipsia). Excess water intake and excess urine production (polyuria) go hand in hand. The animal drinks more, therefore the bladder fills more rapidly and frequently, and the puddles produced are quite large. Causes of increased thirst and urine production in dogs and cats include:

1. Hormonal imbalances

  • Diabetes mellitus: dogs and cats
  • Diabetes insipidus: primarily dogs
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease): primarily dogs
  • Hyperthyroidism: primarily cats

2. Kidney disease

  • Kidney failure: dogs and cats
  • Pyelonephritis (kidney infection): dogs and cats

3. Liver disease: dogs and cats

4. Pyometra: primarily dogs

5. Medications

  • Cortisone containing products: primarily dogs
  • Anti-seizure medications: dogs and cats
  • Diuretics: dogs and cats

Recognizing pollakiuria

Some pollakiuric pets show overt symptoms (the kitty who urinates in the bathroom sink or the dog who leaves a bedside puddle for you to step in first thing in the morning). Other pets show more subtle symptoms. Be on the lookout for:

  • Increased frequency of urination on walks
  • Increased number of puddles in the litter box
  • A litter box that needs to be changed more frequently
  • Interrupted sleep because your pet is asking to go outside
  • The need to fill the water bowl more frequently than usual

If such symptoms arise, I encourage you to schedule a visit with your veterinarian. Do your best to arrive with a full bladder (your pet’s that is) because testing a urine sample will be an important first step in arriving at a diagnosis. This is best accomplished by taking your kitty’s litter box away a few hours prior to the office visit. Likewise, avoid walking your dog before the visit, and get into the waiting room quickly so as to avoid those many tempting places to urinate just outside the clinic.

Has your pet ever experienced pollakiuria? If so, what was the cause determined to be?

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.

 

Therapy Dogs Help People with Cancer

March 8th, 2015

Photo Credit: Kathie Meier

Animal-assisted visits in cancer treatment centers are gaining in popularity. Patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy can opt for some doggie face time during their treatments. But does this truly influence the patient’s well-being? Until recently, scientific documentation of the benefits of pet-facilitated therapy for cancer patients has been lacking. A study published in the January Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology provides just such evidence.

The study titled, “Beneficial effects of animal-assisted visits on quality of life during multimodal radiation-chemotherapy regimens” evaluated 37 people undergoing a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for treatment of head and neck cancer. Throughout their treatments, these patients received daily 15-20 minute animal-assisted visits. A questionnaire called the FACT-G (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy- General) was administered three times during the seven-week course of treatment. The responses of the patients demonstrated a significant increase in their sense of social and emotional well-being despite declines in their physical and functional well-being.

Principal researcher, Dr. Steward Fleishman called this study, “the first such definitive study in cancer.” He goes on to say,

Having an animal-assisted visit significantly improved quality of life and humanized a high-tech treatment. Patients said they would have stopped their treatments before completion except for the presence of the certified Good Dog Foundation therapy dog and volunteer handler.

This fabulous study was funded by Zoetis Animal Health and The Good Dog Foundation. Dr. Michael McFarland, director of Companion Animal Veterinary Operations at Zoetis stated,

There is mounting evidence in human and veterinary medicine that the emotional bond between people and companion animals can have a positive impact on emotional and physical health. These new results help advance our understanding of the value of animal-assisted therapy in cancer treatment and point to the ways the oncology and animal health communities can work together in supporting cancer patients to achieve the best possible outcome.

Hats off to Zoetis Animal Health, Good Dog Foundation, and the researchers who performed this study. My hope is that these results will promote the interest and funding necessary to make animal-assisted therapy in medical settings an integral part of patient care.

What is your experience with animal-assisted therapy?

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.

 

 

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.