Speaking for Spot Holiday Book Sale

November 23rd, 2014

Photo Credit: Kathie Meier

Since the idea for Speaking for Spot was first conceived, my mission has been to empower as many people as possible to become effective health advocates for their pets. To further promote this mission I am offering you the opportunity to purchase my two books at my cost:

Speaking for Spot                $5.65 per book

Your Dog’s Best Health       $2.33 per book

I invite you to order as many books as you like for all of the dog lovers in your life. If you are involved with a nonprofit organization, you are welcome to resell the books at their retail price for  fundraising purposes. Feel free to share this offer with other people/organizations. The more the merrier!

Simply send me an email, with the number of books you would like and the shipping address(es), and I will provide you with exact cost information (including tax and shipping) as well as payment details.

Books ordered at my cost will be shipped directly from the publisher. Please allow two weeks for delivery.

You also have the option of purchasing books that have been personally signed by me (you may specify what you would like to have me write). These are sold at the retail price that includes complimentary holiday giftwrap. If interested in this option, please click on this link and follow the instructions.

I will leave you with one of many Amazon reviews for Speaking for Spot:

As a dog trainer for many years, there are numerous books I may recommend to my clients. I call Dr. Kay’s book, Speaking for Spot, the guidebook to canine health. It covers a broad range of topics and helps dog owners navigate the complex waters of modern veterinary care. We not only need to visit our vets, we need to know the right questions to ask. Dr. Kay educates us to face that challenge with success. The outcome is better communication, better treatment, and cost saving visits. She also prepares us for the final days of our dog’s life, and how to make choices without regret. The book is highly readable, with an excellent Index and Appendix. It’s easy to find the answer to a specific question, especially if you have a query at three in the morning. Quite simply, Speaking for Spot should be on every dog owner’s bookshelf. Thank you, Dr. Kay.

Happy holiday shopping!

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.

How Did You Do? Were You Smarter Than a Vet Student?

November 16th, 2014

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Thanks to those of you who played along with my most recent edition of, “Are You Smarter Than a Vet Student”. Posted below are my preferred responses to the questions posed to you one week ago.

Responses to the Questions

A. The Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine is a “noncore vaccination,” meaning it should be given only to dogs with significant exposure to kennel cough. There’s no reason to give this vaccine to dogs without risk of exposure. Doing so subjects them to the risks of the vaccine without any benefit. The Bordetella vaccine does not provide absolute protection because Bordetella bronchispetica is only one of several infectious organisms capable of causing kennel cough (contagious tracheobronchitis). To learn more, I invite you to read, “Is the Kennel Cough Vaccine a Wise Choice For Your Dog?”.

B. The size and color of a canine skin growth do not predict whether the growth is benign or malignant. I would love to be able to know the type and behavior of a mass based strictly on its appearance. This would make things much simpler. Unfortunately, diagnostic testing is necessary for most growths that arise within a dog’s skin. To learn more about this, check out this article.

C. 2013 study showed that, amongst 7,827 dogs ranging in age from 1 to 24 years, the percentage that had significant abnormalities on routine blood testing was 31%. Of the four options you had to choose from, this was the highest percentage. Kind of surprising, huh? This result truly speaks to the benefit of wellness/preventive health care exams and blood testing. Some of you asked what breed the 24-year-old dog was. Unfortunately, this information was not presented in the study.

D. Vomiting can be caused by all of the above (gastrointestinal disease, kidney disease, Addison’s Disease). When vomiting occurs it’s always tempting to think that the problem must be within the gastrointestinal tract. It is important to remember that a whole host of non-gastrointestinal diseases can cause vomiting as the primary symptom. This is the main reason why blood testing is part of the diagnostic workup for a vomiting dog. By the way, Addison’s Disease is a hormonal imbalance that occurs when the adrenal glands are no longer capable of producing cortisol (cortisone). Most Addisonians also quit producing aldosterone, the adrenal hormone that controls sodium and potassium levels. Did you know that John F. Kennedy suffered from Addison’s Disease?

E. Dogs can transmit none the following diseases directly to people: Tick-borne diseases, pinworms, and bacterial pneumonia. People do get tick-borne diseases, but only via a bite from an infected tick. Bacterial pneumonia is not contagious from dogs to people, and vice versa. Lastly, dogs don’t get pinworms. The human pinworm, known as Enterobius vermicularis, is transmitted directly from person to person via a route that is too gross for this veterinarian to discuss. (I get a bit squeamish when it comes to some human health issues.)

F. Excessive panting in dogs can be caused by anxiety, pain, and a common hormonal imbalance called Cushing’s Disease (production of excessive cortisol by the adrenal glands). Some other causes of increased panting include respiratory tract diseases, fever, and overheating. This symptom is also a side effect of some medications.

G. Bladder stones in dogs can be caused by liver disease. Bladder stones don’t occur in association with the majority of liver diseases, but they do commonly accompany portosystemic shunts, a disorder in which blood that normally flows through the liver is shunted around the liver. While an x-ray is a useful way to diagnose some bladder stones, based on their mineral composition, not all types of stones will show up this way. Abdominal ultrasound trumps an x-ray because this technology identifies all types of stones. Not all bladder stones need to be removed surgically. Some will dissolve with use of a special diet. Lithotripsy, a procedure that dissolves bladder stones, is available at some veterinary teaching hospitals. Lastly, stones that are small in size can sometimes be nonsurgically flushed out of the bladder.

H. Marijuana toxicity in dogs can cause a variety of symptoms including urine leakage, dilated pupils, and heart rhythm abnormalities. The most common symptom is lethargy. Depending on the dose of marijuana ingested, the affected dog may appear somnolent to comatose. A small percentage of affected dogs exhibit agitation and excitation. Following legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, veterinarians practicing there have seen a sharp rise in the number of toxicity cases. I will never forget Layla, a patient of mine who presented to me with classic symptoms of marijuana toxicity, much to the chagrin of my clients. Her story is documented in a piece I wrote called, “Busted”. Good reading if you are looking for a laugh!

Congratulations to Judy Wolff of Acton, Massachusetts. Out of more than 100 entries, she was the lucky winner of the book drawing. For those of you who weren’t so lucky, look for my special holiday book offer. It will be posted in one week.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

Are You Smarter Than a Vet Student?: Honoring Pet Health Awareness Month

November 9th, 2014

In honor of November’s Pet Health Awareness Month, I bring you another episode of “Are You Smarter Than a Vet Student?” For those of you who are new to this assessment of your animal aptitude, here’s the way it works:

  1. Read through the questions.
  2. Post your responses (one correct response for each question).
  3. Once your responses are received I will enter your name into a drawing for a free copy of Speaking for Spot or Your Dog’s Best Health. The choice will be yours if you are the lucky winner.
  4. Look for the correct answers to these questions in my next blog post.

Questions

A. The Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine:

  1. Is a “core vaccination,” meaning it should be given to all dogs.
  2. Is a “noncore vaccination,” meaning it should be given only to dogs with significant exposure to kennel cough.
  3. Is a sure way to prevent kennel cough.
  4. Answers b and c are correct.

B. The size and color of a canine skin growth:

  1. Predict whether the growth is benign or malignant.
  2. Do not predict whether the growth is benign or malignant.
  3. Determine what action should be taken by the veterinarian.
  4. Answers a and c are correct.

C. A 2013 study showed that, amongst 7,827 dogs ranging in age from 1 to 24 years, the percentage that had significant abnormalities on routine blood testing was:

  1. 7%
  2. 16%
  3. 22%
  4. 31%

D. Vomiting can be caused by:

  1. Gastrointestinal disease
  2. Kidney disease
  3. Addison’s disease (a hormonal imbalance)
  4. All of the above

E. Dogs can transmit the following diseases directly to people:

  1. Tick-borne diseases
  2. Pinworms
  3. Bacterial pneumonia
  4. None of the above

F. Excessive panting in dogs can be caused by:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Pain
  3. Cushing’s Disease (a hormonal imbalance)
  4. All of the above

G. Bladder stones in dogs:

  1. Are most reliably diagnosed via an x-ray.
  2. Can be treated successfully only with surgical removal.
  3. Can be caused by liver disease.
  4. None of the above are true.

H. Marijuana toxicity in dogs can cause:

  1. Urine leakage
  2. Dilated pupils
  3. Heart rhythm abnormalities
  4. All of the above

I look forward to your responses. In one week, I will provide my preferred answers to these questions along with the name of the winner of the book drawing.

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.

 

Caring for Our Pets and Ourselves at the End of Their Lives

November 3rd, 2014

Photo credit: Blair O’Neil

If ever you’ve lost a beloved pet, or you are close to losing one, I think this piece will resonate with you. My friend, Susan Shannon, who lives and works in California, is the author. She is an animal minister and chaplain who truly understands relationships between people and their pets. She has given me permission to share the following article with you. If you are moved by what Susan has written, please voice your comments. I know she will appreciate them.

Helping Your Pet Let Go

Chances are, your beloved furry soul mate pet knew before you did that the time to say goodbye was approaching. That doesn’t make it any easier of course. Our pets absorb our thoughts, feelings and emotions in ways we as humans are just beginning to understand. It is quite possible that your thoughts about your pet’s old age, sickness, injury, etc are getting in the way of them being able to let go.

Our pets often tune into our sadness, conflicted grief, worry and concern and internalize it as if they are the cause of your sadness. True, they are, but not because they are “bad.” It is important for us to “send” them the thought-images that whatever the cause of their impairment is, that it is not their fault. They are reaching the end of their life in this body, but they need to be assured that the joy they have given you continues and WILL continue even after their spirit is released. Talk to them outwardly and inwardly to let them know that this is a natural process and that leaving their body does not mean their spirit will be abandoned by you.

This asks a lot of us humans-and this is a good skill that we, as chaplains and ministers, will have a lot of opportunities to practice. When we are involved in care-giving our pet animals OR humans, it is helpful to bring an altruistic awareness to everything we do for them. When we are administering medication, think, “May this elixir transform all elements of suffering and pain into the pure ground of being” or something in that realm of thinking. Compare the energy behind this positive affirmation to the energy of “I am so full of sadness and sorrow that I have to force you to take this.” or, “Here goes another $5.00 pill.” or something like that. Your pet feels the emotional charge in everything you do or feel.

Keep this altruistic line of thought when you are cleaning their excrement, too. Animals have pride-often, when incontinence strikes, they are ashamed and might even expect to be punished. This can be a real challenge to the humans, but you can let them know that this is part of the bond you made when you took them under your stewardship. This is a sign that their bodies are getting ready to let go, and that soon their spirits will be set free from this kind of substance. Be gentle with them when you clean them, tell them it is ok, and try to practice equanimity.

The Journey Ahead: Theirs and Yours

It is wise to have more than one “conversation” with your pet about the journey ahead. Let them know that they will be released from their body into a realm of light and love. Let them know that when that happens their home in your heart will become the most constant place of connection-that you and them will always be together then, that there will no longer be separation. Let them know that once they are released from this body, this body which has served them well and given both of you much enjoyment, that they will experience a freedom that you will celebrate. During these conversations it is helpful to let the animal know how and when you will remember them, such as visits to places you loved, other dog friends, rides in the car, cuddling on the couch, etc.

Our animals want to know that we will be cared for too. Let them know how you will fill your time once they are gone. Show them, through your thought-pictures, what you will do: working in the garden, walking, jogging, biking, playing music, whatever it is that feeds you, let them know that you will continue to engage in these activities. Help them understand that you will be healthy, that you will be engaged, that yes, you will be sad for a little while but that when you are sad at their loss you will talk to them and keep their spirits warm in the present tense of your grief and loss.

Be Ready, Be Aware: Complicated Grief and Exploring Your Own Theology

If you have recently lost someone dear to you, if you were raised with the idea that “boys don’t cry” or “the funeral is over so get over it” or “euthanasia is murder” or any similar code of thought, you might have a very difficult time with initiating your pet’s transition. Be aware that all of this is normal, and utilize whatever resources (see above for some sources) to find your solid ground here.

Your own personal theology about death, or your lack of personal theology around death will factor into your feelings. This is a good time to explore whatever that is or isn’t in the current context of letting your pet go.

Compassionate Release

You can let your pet know that “compassionate release” or euthanasia is an act of love and the highest intention of commitment as a human being in your decision to free them from the suffering of their body. If you plan on ritualizing the passage, you can also let them know what each stage of the ritual means to you and to them. Focus on the release from form to the formless, and give formless an introduction as a place we all come from, go back to, and to some degree, live in on a daily basis. As their spirit transitions, you might feel them hovering around the space you shared with them. If so, acknowledge them, but let them know that they have your full permission to soar the heights of the spirit realm in true joy and freedom, and that you will still be joined with them, even more so, when they are beyond time and space into the formless realms. Your love, your light, your joy, will always be with them-and theirs with you!

Plan Ahead

As you contemplate the time to let your pet go, offer yourself deep discernment around what is best for you. Do you want to keep your pet at home for this transition? If so, get referrals for vets who do home visits. Many vets will offer a deep, respectful compassionate presence as they release your pet in your own home. You might want to keep the body for a while afterwards for your own prayers or for closure with respect to other family members who might need to see the pet before burial or cremation.

If you are doing the euthanasia at home, it is important to make arrangements to either bury your pet, bring the body to a pet crematorium, or have the vet take the body or come back to pick up the body after you have closure. Think ahead. Get all your ducks in a row before choosing the date and time so that when the moment comes, you can be totally present with all that is on the day.

When The Hour Has Come

When the time has come for your pet’s final vet appointment, do what you can to be at peace. Some people make a special bed for their beloved. Some give them their favorite foods if they can still eat. If you have personal deities or teachers who you feel would be good spirit guides for your pet’s transition, you can make a little altar near the bed. It is good to keep in mind though that these things are more for your own peace. For your pet, YOU are their guide, their deity, their protector. Their needs are very few at this point.

Some people have soft, gentle music playing. Again, that is fine, but know that this is more for you. As your animal’s consciousness goes from being tranquilized to finally leaving its body, sometimes it is best to have silence. As the vet administers the sedative before the terminal injection, if possible, allow your palm to gently hover above your pet’s forehead, drawing the attention and focus of the life force there, in the third eye area, then moving and holding your hand above the animal’s crown chakra area before the second injection. You don’t need to touch the animal-the energy from your palm is enough. You can silently pray to the God/Goddesses you find strength in to guide your pet home, visualizing them around your beloved. In this way you can assist the consciousness leaving the body through the highest energy center.

Honor What YOU Need

Everyone has their own style and needs when dealing with grief and loss. Be true to what YOU need. Some people benefit by cleaning up all of their pet’s toys, leash, bed, bowls, litter boxes, even vacuuming the whole house before the body is taken away. After the body is gone from your house, it might be good to leave the house for a night, or at least the day. Ritualize what you do next, with the focus on self-care. This is what your pet would want. Let the honest tears fall, and allow them to continue as much as they want, but take care of yourself. Do something physical, do something distracting, sit in meditation, take a bath, just do what nurtures YOU.

For others, keeping the remembrances of their pets in the home can help with closure, in which case they might WANT to keep their pet’s toys etc. around. There is no right or wrong with what you need.

Afterwards

Yes, there will be tears. Yes, there will be sadness, loss, grief, perhaps even remorse or guilt. Losing a beloved pet can be even more traumatic than losing beloved humans. After all, they loved you unconditionally. Don’t let anyone minimize your grief. This is really important. “Get over it, it was just an animal.” is one of the most misinformed lines ever. Use care with whomever you turn to for companionship during this time. If you have a friend who has gone through this process, he/she might be a good start. If you need to talk about your grief further, it is helpful to find some local pet-grief/loss groups. If that is not available, there are a number of “rainbow bridge” pet loss on-line forums.

In conclusion, helping you and your pet travel this journey of the soul is a blessing for sure, but is also a painful realization of the impermanence of all our relationships. You can help their spirit release from their body by letting them know that you will never be separate in your heart, and by showing them that you will take good care of yourselves after they are gone. This is a lifelong practice that will serve you well in the transitions of all your relationships, human or animal. Remember to be gentle, hold your intention of love and thanks gently but firmly, and fully recognize the teachings our beloved four-leggeds have to give us by opening your heart more to the many ways the Divine works. In this way you are embracing the true gifts of Animal Ministry.

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.

Following Our Dog’s Lead, and Not Just on Halloween

October 26th, 2014

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Our dogs are such accommodating creatures. They tolerate our erratic hours, cross-country moves, late meals, skipped walks, and unpredictable moods. And if all this weren’t enough, sometimes we ask them to do things that conflict with their inherent nature. For example, we take our introverted dogs to the dog park so that we can socialize, or we force our water-phobic dogs into the pool because we love to swim. When do we cross the line, asking too much of these wonderfully adaptive and forgiving creatures?

Dogs tell all

Some recent observations prompted this blog. The first was a day spent at a combined all breed and Pharaoh Hound Specialty dog show where I was the invited speaker. As I watched the dogs compete, it was abundantly clear that some dogs downright loved the show process. They pranced around the ring, wagged furiously, showed excitement as the judge approached, and clearly enjoyed being with their handlers. Watching these dogs made my heart swell a bit. I appreciated their jubilant and showy canine energy and the judges clearly felt the same- invariably, these were the dogs in the ribbons.

I also observed dogs in the show ring who were reluctant participants. Tails that should have been flagging were tucked between hind legs and I saw resigned expressions on these canine faces. They wilted a bit when the judge approached, and the only thing these competitors seemed to enjoy were the intermittent treats served up by their handlers. My heart sank a bit watching them. I suspect that, for these dogs, their above average conformation was a curse rather than a blessing.

Another observation that provided blog fodder came in the form of a photo I happened upon while sorting through my computer files. The photo features my own two dogs, Nellie and Quinn sitting in a helicopter. I purposefully positioned the pose, leaving the two of them with a double dose of, “Stay!” The expressions on their faces tell exactly how they are feeling about the experience. Yuck! When I rediscovered this photo, I asked myself, “What in the world was I thinking?”

What is reasonable?

Dogs tolerate so much based on the needs of their humans. Apart from sleeping, most get to participate in their favorite activities likely no more than an hour or so every day, if that. How then, can we turn around and ask them to do something they really don’t enjoy?

My dogs have, for the most part, taught me well. They don’t enjoy the dog park, so we don’t go there. They love hiking, and we do this together almost every day. Quinn is a canine Mikhail Baryshnikov, yet he told me, “No thank you” when I introduced him to agility. Nellie would rather be re-neutered than wear a Halloween costume.

Costuming dogs for Halloween

Speaking of Halloween…… before costuming your best buddy, I hope you will consider his or her degree of affinity or aversion to dressing for the occasion. Perhaps you’ve created the greatest canine costume ever- a slam-dunk contest winner. And the Facebook posting of your dog in costume will undoubtedly score lots of “likes”. Or, maybe, just maybe, you will look back on the photos a year from now, note your dog’s expression and body language, and wonder to yourself, “What in the world was I thinking?”

What activity have you given up for your dog’s sake?

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.

 

Dogs and Ebola Virus

October 14th, 2014

Nina Pham with Bentley Courtesy of Pham family

As I write this, Teresa Romero Ramos, a nurse assistant in Spain, is battling for her life against Ebola virus disease. Despite local protests and objections voiced via a global social media campaign, a court order mandated that Teresa’s elderly, but overtly healthy dog named Excalibur be euthanized. His remains were “put into a sealed biosecurity device and transferred for incineration to an authorized disposal facility.”

And now, a nurse in Texas named Nina Pham has tested positive for the virus, the result of helping care for the first Ebola victim in the United States. Nina also has a dog, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Bentley who has been moved to an undisclosed location and is under the care of Dallas Animal Services. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins stated,

When I met with her parents, they said, “This dog is important to her, judge. Don’t let anything happen to the dog.” If that dog has to be The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, we’re going to take good care of that dog.

Here are two vastly different approaches to two similar situations. Which approach best serves public safety and peace of mind? I certainly don’t have a well-informed answer to this question. I’m not sure there is anyone who does.

What we know

I was able to come up with only one study pertaining to Ebola virus infections in dogs. Published in 2005 in Emerging Infectious Diseases, the authors examined 439 dogs, some of which were living in the midst of an Ebola outbreak in Gabon, a country on the west coast of Africa.

Blood samples from the dogs were evaluated for antibodies to Ebola virus. (Antibodies are the foot soldiers of the immune system that are manufactured in response to the presence of an infectious organism.) Of the dogs from villages with both infected animal carcasses and human cases of Ebola, 31.8% tested positive for antibodies to the virus. None of them showed any symptoms of disease.

This study clarifies that dogs can be infected with Ebola virus, and they experience no infection-associated symptoms.

What we don’t know

There remains a great deal to learn about canine Ebola virus infections. Given the evolution of Ebola and growing public awareness and concern, we are in critical need of answers to the following questions:

  • How do dogs become infected with Ebola virus?
  • Do infected dogs shed the virus in their bodily fluids? If so, which bodily fluids and for how long?
  • Is canine Ebola contagious to other animals, including humans?
  • Do dogs serve as fomites for Ebola? A fomite is defined as an object (animate or inanimate) that is capable of carrying and transferring an infectious organism from one individual to another. Classic examples of fomites include used tissues, drinking glasses, and articles of clothing. We know that the Ebola virus survives for days if not weeks after being shed into the environment.
  • How long do antibodies remain in a dog’s bloodstream following infection?
  • Why don’t infected dogs become sick? The answer to this might shed some light on ways to mitigate illness in people infected with Ebola.

Information from the Centers for Disease Control

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently working with the American Veterinary Medical Association to provide information for veterinarians pertaining to pets and Ebola virus. The CDC has a new page on their website devoted to “Questions and Answers about Ebola and Pets.” Have a look, but be forewarned- you may come away with more questions than answers.

What’s next?

I really don’t know how the concerns about pets and Ebola virus will play out. My hopes are that panic will not prevail and that research efforts to understand more about Ebola virus in pets will become an immediate priority.

Veterinarians, myself included, are pondering what we will do if asked to care for a pet that has been exposed to Ebola virus. Given how little evidence-based information is available, I think our skittishness is justified.

I will keep you posted on any new developments in our understanding of how Ebola virus impacts our pets. In the meantime, let’s all keep our fingers crossed for Teresa Romero Ramos, Nina Pham, and Bentley.

How do you feel about the recent decisions made concerning Excalibur and Bentley?

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.

Revised Recommendations for Annual Heartworm Testing

October 12th, 2014

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Testing dogs annually for heartworm disease is not a new recommendation. What is new is the type of testing being recommended. Until recently, performing a simple blood test to screen for the presence of heartworm antigen was the test of choice. We now know that antigen testing produces ever-increasing numbers of false negative results (the test result is negative even though the dog has heartworm disease). A study in the March, 2014 edition of Veterinary Parasitology documented that, amongst a population of shelter dogs in the southeastern United States, 7.1 percent had false negative heartworm antigen test results.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) and the American Heartworm Society (AHS) recently revised their recommendations regarding annual heartworm testing. They now recommend that microfilaria testing along with antigen testing be performed. Combined, these two tests reduce the possibility of missing a heartworm-positive dog.

Antigen testing

Heartworm antigen testing detects protein particles within the reproductive tract of adult female heartworms. Here are some reasons why a dog with heartworm disease could have a negative antigen test:

  • The dog is infected with male worms only.
  • The dog has a very low worm burden- too few for the protein secreted by the adult females to be detected.
  • The dog was infected less than 5-6 months prior to testing, and not enough time has lapsed for the immature stages of the parasite transmitted by the mosquito to mature into adult worms.
  • Antigen detection can be suppressed in dogs that have been receiving treatment with certain heartworm preventive medications, particularly when administered at the higher dosages needed to treat rather than simply prevent heartworm infection.

Treating heartworm disease with heartworm preventive medication is referred to as the “slow kill” method. Doing so became popular when melarsomine, the preferred drug for treatment of heartworm infection, was in short supply. The slow kill method has remained popular because it is less expensive than the melarsomine protocol.

Parasitologists believe that dogs treated via the slow kill method may form immune complexes in which antibodies (the body’s immune system foot soldiers) bind with the antigens, thereby preventing them from being detected by heartworm antigen testing.

In addition to sometimes producing false negative antigen results, the slow kill use of heartworm preventives may also be contributing to the development of resistant heartworms- those that laugh in the face of exposure to heartworm preventive medications. For these reasons, both the AHS and CAPC recommend against use of the slow kill method for the treatment of heartworm disease.

Microfilaria testing

Microfilariae are immature (baby) heartworms that circulate within the bloodstream. Mosquitoes consume them during a blood meal, so microfilariae are considered to be the “contagious stage” of heartworm disease. Microfilariae are also the developmental stage that has the ability to develop resistance to commonly used heartworm prevention medications.

Like the heartworm antigen test, microfilaria testing can also produce false negative results. Reasons include:

  • A low worm burden (few adult heartworms present).
  • The presence of a “single-sex” infection- even in the world of parasites it takes two to tango.
  • The dog was infected less than 6-7 months prior to testing, and not enough time has passed for baby worms to be produced.
  • Heartworm preventive medications have the potential to reduce or eliminate the population of circulating microfilaria.

Current recommendations

While neither the heartworm antigen nor microfilaria tests are perfect, using the two in combination is currently thought to be the most reliable way to screen dogs for heartworm disease. Both are simple to perform, and all that is required is a small blood sample.

Annual heartworm screening is recommended for all dogs, even those receiving preventive medication. Lapses in administering the medication as scheduled and the existence of resistant heartworms are the basis for this recommendation.

Is your dog tested annually for heartworm disease? If so, do you know if your veterinarian is using the antigen test, the microfilaria test, or both?

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.

 

Dr. Sophia Yin: A Champion for Animals

October 1st, 2014

I felt shock and profound sadness upon learning that Dr. Sophia Yin passed away on the 29th of September. Hearing about the loss of a professional colleague is not all that unusual, and Dr. Yin was not a school classmate or personal friend. So, why did I experience such strong emotions in response to her death? The answer is simple. Dr. Sophia Yin was a true icon in the veterinary profession.

Photo credit: sophiayin.com

As a specialist in the American College of Animal Behaviorists, Dr. Yin made it her mission to enlighten as many people as possible about humane ways to bring out the best in an animal’s behavior. Watch any of her many You Tube videos and you will see a master at work. Always with patience, calmness, and a smile on her face, watch Dr. Yin as she positively changes her subject’s behavior using training techniques that are fully accessible to her viewers.

Dr. Yin was a leader at the forefront of the revolution against the deeply entrenched dominance-based approach to dog training. Thankfully, nowadays, the majority of dog trainers utilize the positive reinforcement methods taught by Dr. Yin and others.

Dr. Yin was a prolific speaker and author. One of her most popular books, Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats: Techniques for Developing Patients Who Love Their Visits, has instructed thousands, if not millions, of veterinary staff members the art of reducing their patients’ fear and anxiety in the hospital setting. What a gift!

Something I appreciated about Dr. Yin was her approachability. None of my emails or phone calls to her ever went unanswered. She was always very much present and helpful with me. When I invited her to speak about low stress handling techniques in my veterinary community, she readily scheduled a time and date.

Whether you realize it or not, through your veterinarian, dog trainer, groomer, or pet sitter your life with your pet has likely been positively impacted in some way by this wonderful veterinarian with a huge and generous heart.

Rest in peace, Dr. Sophia. You have made the world a better place.

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.

Time Magazine and Designer Dogs

September 28th, 2014

Quinn and Nellie courtesy of Susannah Kay

My last blog post included a bit of ranting about puppy mills and the importance of purchasing puppies responsibly. While it’s unusual for me to rant two weeks in a row I simply can’t resist given what I just viewed in the September 8-15 edition of Time magazine.

The Time cover states, “The Answers Issue: Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know.” When I initially glanced at the centerfold’s jazzy appearing infographic titled, “Where Do Designer Dogs Come From?” I winced and my heart raced a bit. Uh oh, would this feature enhance public interest in the “designer hybrids”? Or maybe, just maybe (my hope knows no bounds), the piece would point a disapproving finger at breeders who have jumped on the designer dog bandwagon hoping to cash in on this misguided fad.

My hopes were quickly dashed. The Time piece was seemingly all about enticing the puppy-purchasing public to shell out $2,000 plus for intentionally bred mutts. There’s abundant appeal in the 45 whimsical designer names presented in the article, such as Sharmation (Shar Pei/Dalmatian mix), Schnoodle (Schnauzer/Poodle mix), and Pugalier (Pug/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix). A list of popular celebrities and their chosen designer dogs was included. Additionally, the infographic suggested that designer dogs sustain better health than their purebred parents. Good luck finding a veterinarian who agrees with this sentiment.

If I were in charge

How I wish I’d been sitting around the editorial table at Time magazine when the designer dog feature was conceived. I would have encouraged running the piece, but with a whole different bent. Readers would have learned that mixed breed dogs (aka, designer dogs) do make wonderful pets, and that they are readily available for adoption from animal shelters, humane societies, and rescue organizations. Getting a puppy from these sources not only saves a life, the adopter will spend a fraction of the amount required to purchase a designer dog from from a private breeder or puppy mill proprietor.

While the exact “design” of a pup adopted from a shelter or rescue organization may not be known, the not knowing always makes for some great conversation. For those with a need to know, simple and relatively inexpensive DNA testing will shed some light on a mutt’s pedigree.

My Time piece on designer dogs would talk about the mindset of reputable/responsible breeders. They do not produce mixed breed dogs. Rather, they focus their time and energy perpetuating the best traits and eliminating the undesirable ones of the breed they love so dearly. Such breeders believe that “designer hybrids” detract from, rather than enhance the breed they fancy.

Time magazine readers would learn that Wally Conron, the original “inventor” of the designer dog, regrets the day he created his first Labradoodle back in the 1980’s. He did so with hopes of accommodating the needs of a married couple. The Lab portion of the mix was intended to assist the wife who had vision problems, while the Poodle portion would deter the husband’s allergies. Mr. Camron has since stated,

I’ve done a lot of damage. I’ve created a lot of problems. Instead of breeding out the problems, they’re breeding them in. For every perfect one, you’re going to find a lot of crazy ones. You can’t walk down the street without seeing a Poodle cross of some sort. I just heard about someone who wanted to cross a Poodle with a Rottweiler. How could anyone do that? Not in my wildest dream did I imagine all of this would happen.

In my article I would share photos of my own designer dogs (how cool would that be in Time magazine!), Nellie  might just be a Cairnrussell (Cairn Terrier/Jack Russell Terrier mix), and Quinn could be a Borderpap (Border Collie/Papillon mix). Ask me next week and I will have changed my mind about who their parents may have been!

Lastly, I would encourage Time readers to recognize the difference between purchasing an inanimate designer item such as a purse versus a living, breathing creature. The less expensive, fully functional non-designer handbag that wasn’t purchased was not in dire need of a home. Not the case for the less expensive, adorable, shelter or rescue puppy that was not adopted.

How do you feel about purposefully bred designer dogs?

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.

 

A Fight in Phoenix: The Faces of Good and Evil

September 21st, 2014

In December 2013, Phoenix city officials passed an ordinance prohibiting pet stores from selling dogs obtained from commercial breeders. The law forbids pet shops from selling dogs from sources other than non-profit rescue facilities and shelters. Phoenix is one of more than 50 cities to have passed such legislation, all aimed at undermining the health of puppy mills, large scale commercial breeding facilities that serve as the primary source of puppies trafficked by pet stores.

Frank and Vicki Mineo, the owners of a chain of pet stores called Puppies ‘N Love, have filed a federal lawsuit in response to the Phoenix ordinance (why this is being handled on a federal level is unclear to me). The Mineos, fearful of losing their livelihood, have claimed that the city of Phoenix overstepped its bounds. A judge has granted an injunction prohibiting Phoenix from enforcing the law until the case is further evaluated.

If you have followed my blog posts, you know where I stand on this issue. I’ve been a long-time advocate of driving puppy mills into extinction, and have encouraged you to make a pledge to boycott pet stores that sell puppies. I believe I stand with the “good guys”- those who place the welfare of animals ahead of financial gain.

Unfortunately, some of the “bad guys” in the puppy mill battle are heavy hitters with deep pockets. One such “bad guy” is the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). The PIJAC is one of the largest pro-puppy mill lobbying groups. Two of the movers and shakers within this organization are Ryan Boyle of the Hunte Corporation, the largest broker of puppy mill dogs in the United States, and Joe Watson of Petland, a huge pet store chain that retails puppies throughout the United States. PIJAC’s persistent support of puppy mills doesn’t surprise me one bit.

What did surprise me was learning that the American Pet Products Association (APPA) has gone to the dark side. This organization, in conjunction with PIJAC, has donated a large sum of money (talkin’ six figures here) to support the Mineos in their legal battle against Phoenix.

Exactly what does the APPA do? As stated on their website,

Founded in 1958, APPA is the leading not-for-profit trade association made up of over 1000 pet product manufacturers, their representatives, importers and livestock suppliers. Our membership consists of a diverse group representing both large corporations and growing business enterprises worldwide.

APPA’s mission is to promote, develop and advance pet ownership and the pet products industry and to provide the services necessary to help its members prosper. To accomplish these objectives and to provide APPA members with valuable benefits, the Association works hard to develop programs and services which serve our members’ unique needs.

Bob Vetere, President and CEO of the APPA, is practically an institution. For years now, he has been the voice of the APPA, announcing how much money the American pet-loving public spends on their pets every year. I wish he would stick to this script.

In relationship to the Mineo case, Mr. Vetere stated,

We all want to see puppy mills eliminated today. But America’s pet lovers have made it clear that banning the sale of dogs and cats at local pet stores in not the best way to do it. What this poll tells us is that pet owners want tougher breeder standards so that they can be confident that dogs and cats are raised humanely and in the best interests of the animal.

Attention Mr. Vetere! The poll you refer to appears to be a complete farce aimed at duping the public while protecting the best interests (make than monetary interests) of the for-profit businesses you represent. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the regulatory body in charge of promoting “tougher breeder standards” has failed miserably to improve conditions for puppy mill dogs. The USDA makes progress one millimeter at a time, when what is needed is one mile at a time. Additionally, efforts to enforce existing USDA guidelines are abysmal at best. Lastly, Mr. Vetere, what is wrong with tackling the puppy mill issue with a multi-pronged approach? Why not institute “tougher breeder standards” while, at the same time, eliminating the sale of pet store puppies?

Shame on you Bob Vetere and the organization you represent. I am deeply disappointed that you have gone to the dark side where financial gain trumps common decency. By the way, your online bio mentions that you have a Golden Retriever named Dakota. Did you purchase him from a pet store?

In honor of Puppy Mill Awareness Day (just happened on September 21st), I invite each and every one of you to take at least one small, simple step towards the goal of eradicating puppy mills. Take the pledge to boycott pet stores that sell puppies, educate people you know who want to adopt a puppy, organize a letter-writing party to send a message to your city leaders, give a talk in your child’s classroom, share this blog post with others, or better yet, write your own blog post! Go for it!

An addendum that is literally hot off the press- PIJAC has announced that Edwin J. Sayres, former president and CEO of the ASPCA, has been appointed president and CEO of PIJAC. Let’s hope this creates some positive change.

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.