Diskospondylitis in Dogs

Photo Credit: Diskospondylitis refers to an infection within the back, specifically located within the disk and adjacent back bones (vertebrae). The disks are the cushiony structures located between adjacent vertebrae. When bacterial or fungal organisms manage to set up housekeeping within a disk and the vertebrae on either side of it, the diagnosis is diskopondylitis.

This disease can occur in any dog, but large-breed, male dogs are most commonly affected. While any disk within the spine can become infected, those in the lower back (lumbosacral region) are the more common target location.

Cause

Bacterial infection is documented in the vast majority of cases. On rare occasion, fungal infection is identified. In many cases of diskospondylitis, the cause or source of the infection cannot be determined. In some dogs, infection within another part of the body such as the prostate gland or urinary bladder is discovered and thought to be the source of spread to the disk.

Symptoms

The symptom most dogs with diskospondylitis exhibit is substantial pain originating from the portion of the spine that is infected. If the infection is widespread, the spinal cord may be impacted, and neurological symptoms varying from mild incoordination all the way to paralysis may be present. Other commonly observed symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Fever

Diagnosis

Diskospondylitis can sometimes be diagnosed with x-rays of the spine. In many cases, a CT or MRI scan is necessary to make the diagnosis and determine the true extent of the disease.

Other diagnostics are geared towards looking for the original source of infection along with identifying the infectious organism that is causing the problem. This diagnostic testing, particularly advanced imaging of the spine, is usually best accomplished under the care of a veterinarian who specializes in surgery, neurology, internal medicine, or radiology.

Diagnostic tests commonly included in a workup for diskospondylitis include:

  • CBC (complete blood cell count)
  • Blood chemistry profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Urine culture
  • Blood culture
  • Blood screening for fungal serology
  • Chest x-rays
  • Ultrasound evaluation of the heart
  • Ultrasound evaluation of the abdomen
  • Spinal fluid analysis and culture
  • Screening for Brucellosis (a bacterial infection that is sexually transmitted)

Treatment

The mainstay of treatment for diskospondylitis is administration of long-term antibiotics or anti-fungal therapy, depending on the infectious organism identified. The antibiotic choice is ideally based on the results of bacterial identification and laboratory determination of the antibiotic sensitivity pattern.

When a bacterial infection is identified, antibiotics are administered for a minimum of eight weeks. Relapses are common if they are discontinued sooner. Antibiotics may initially be administered intravenously to rapidly achieve blood levels. Afterwards, the patient receives oral treatment at home.

Depending on the severity of symptoms, other treatments may be warranted including:

  • Pain medication (narcotics and/or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications)
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Close monitoring of heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature
  • Nursing care to prevent bed sores if the dog is unable to get up
  • Rehabilitation therapy to restore normal strength and gait

In addition to monitoring how well the patient seems to feel, follow-up examinations may include repeating imaging studies, blood tests, and bacterial cultures.

Prognosis

The outcome for diskospondylitis is variable and depends on the following factors:

  • The severity of the infection
  • The organism involved (fungal infections are more difficult to treat than bacterial infections)
  • How debilitated the patient is at the onset of treatment
  • The ability of the caretaker to successfully support and treat their dog at home over the long haul

Questions for your veterinarian

  • Could my dog’s chronic back pain be caused by diskospondylitis?
  • Do we know with certainty that my dog has diskospondylitis?
  • Has an underlying source of infection been discovered?
  • Do we know which infectious organism is present?
  • What is the best course of treatment for my dog?
  • How frequently should I bring my dog in to be reevaluated?
  • Can you refer me to a specialist for a second opinion?

Have you had any experience with diskospondylitis?

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.

 

Snakes and Spiders and Bears, Oh My!

My husband and I have purposefully chosen to live in the country. There are no other houses within eyeshot, we can run outside naked if we like, and there is no need for worry that our barking dogs are bothering the neighbors. The countryside we’ve chosen is in western North Carolina where we live atop a mountain, surrounded by magical forests and majestic waterfalls.

When we moved from California to North Carolina almost four years ago, my husband and I were dazzled by the newness of our surroundings- so many plant and animal species that we’d never seen before. We were those proverbial “kids in the candy shop” and have remained so, but………… there have been a few exceptions.

The bear outside my bedroom window

The bears

A pretty darned gorgeous black bear has been an all too frequent visitor at our house. He likely originally decided on a prolonged visit because of our bird feeders, all of which have now been dutifully removed. I suspect that the veggies ripening in our garden keep this big bruin coming back. There will be no corn for us Homo sapiens this year. My neighbor told me this morning that a bear is visiting their compost pile. Seems this big fella is getting around the neighborhood.

By the way, I’ve referred to this bear as a “Mr.” because I suspect that most of the females have cubs in tow right about now. I had an up close encounter with a mama bear and her cubs a few weeks ago while riding my horse on a trail close to home. Mama popped out of the woods and crossed the path 100 feet or so in front of us. A few seconds later, out dashed a cub. Moments after that out burst a second cub. And, then the grand finale- the woods spit out cub number three. It seemed as if the forest was a bear cub factory! Such fabulous entertainment, and, man oh man, that’s got to be one busy mama bear!

Wolfie

The spiders

I willingly admit that I am a veterinarian who is afraid of spiders. Look up the definition of arachnophobia and you will find, “Dr. Nancy Kay.” Now, if someone tells me in advance exactly where I will see a spider, I can handle things reasonably well. It’s when a spider takes me by surprise that I tend to become a squealer (after 35 years, my husband readily recognizes my spider squeal). If hubby happens to be home and hears the squeal, he rolls his eyes, chuckles, and then rescues me. Mind you, the rescue does not involve killing the spider. I don’t want the spider dead (the thought of squishing a spider sends chills up and down my spine). I simply want it relocated a good mile or so away from my personal space. What happens if hubby isn’t home? I find a large Tupperware container, muster up every ounce of courage humanly possible, and place (toss) the container over the spider so that hubby can deal with it when he comes home.

Earlier this summer I reached into one of our mudroom drawers and pulled out a stuff sack. I felt something somewhat weighty on my hand, and when I looked down I saw a large wolf spider that must have been attached to the stuff sack. I almost fainted. This big honkin, meaty spider was touching me! I let loose an unparalleled spider squeal and the spider fell to the floor. Hubby scooped up the arachnid and dispatched it into the forest. If I allow myself to think about it, I can still feel the weight of that spider on the back of my hand. This is gonna require years of therapy!

A black snake climbing the exterior of our house

The snakes

We live in snake country- nonvenomous and venomous alike. I welcome the many black snakes we see on our property. They manage the rodent population and are harmless to humans, dogs, and cats. In fact, I allowed our little terrier, Nellie to get close enough to a black snake she was barking at to sustain a painful bite. My hope was that she would safely learn that snakes are not to be messed with.

We also have our share of copperheads and rattlesnakes. The copperheads are the more devious because, unlike the rattlers, they give no warning before they bite. My husband learned this first hand yesterday as he was working in our vegetable garden. He managed to get nailed by a copperhead on the back of his foot. Did I mention that he was barefoot? We spent the good portion of yesterday at our local emergency room. Fortunately the envenomation was mild enough that no antivenin was needed. He’s home on crutches, antibiotics, and pain medication. There’ll be no more barefoot gardening for this country loving couple!

Have you had any wild and woolly wildlife encounters?

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.

Ten Tips for Managing Your Senior Pet’s Medications

Photo Credit:  Jeffreyw,

Has your tabby transitioned into his teens? Is the hair on your retriever’s muzzle now a lovely shade of gray? If so, it’s likely that some medical issues have accompanied your pet’s aging process. Examples include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Allergies
  • Digestive issues
  • Kidney failure
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Cushing’s disease- an overproduction of cortisone that occurs primarily in dogs
  • Hypothyroidism- an underproduction of thyroid hormone that occurs in dogs
  • Hyperthyroidism- an overproduction of thyroid hormone that occurs in cats
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Urinary incontinence- urine leakage that occurs primarily in dogs

Fortunately, many of these maladies can be successfully managed with long term if not life long medication. Here are ten tips to ensure that, as a conscientious caregiver, you are doing the best job possible with your pet’s medications:

1. Learn as much as possible

When a new medication is prescribed for your cat or dog, talk with your veterinarian to gather answers to the following questions:

  • What is the medication supposed to do?
  • What signs of improvement should I be looking for?
  • Is this medication compatible with other drugs and supplements my pet is receiving, and can they all be given at the same time?
  • What are the potential side effects and what should I do if I observe them?
  • Does the timing of administration need to be exact?
  • Do I need to take special precautions when handling the medication?
  • What happens if a dosage is accidentally skipped?
  • Should I give the medication if my pet is having an “off day”- lethargic or not eating well?
  • How long should the medication be administered? Just because the pill vial is empty, doesn’t necessarily mean that your veterinarian wants it discontinued.

2. Read the label

The prescription label often contains useful information intended to ensure that the medication works well. Read the label carefully to find instructions such as:

  • Keep refrigerated
  • Shake well before using
  • Administer on an empty stomach
  • Discard after a particular date

3. Get the help you need to achieve compliance

Some dogs and cats are real stinkers when it comes to sitting still for eye drops or swallowing a bitter tasting pill. Rely on your veterinary staff members to provide you with their tricks of the trade. Often, a simple suggestion can dramatically reduce the amount of “medication stress” for you and your pet.

4. Play by the rules

It is in your pet’s best interest to give medications exactly as prescribed. If doing so isn’t feasible because of your schedule or simply doesn’t feel like the right thing to do, rather than skipping dosages or discontinuing treatment, have a frank discussion with your veterinarian. Almost always there will be other options to consider.

5. Refills

Keep in mind that, in addition to authorizing refills for your pet’s medications, your veterinarian is juggling a whole host of other job responsibilities. For this reason, don’t wait until you are down to the last pill to request a refill. Provide at least two to three days notice.

6. Double check refills

Accurately filling a prescription requires several steps: selecting the correct medication off the shelf, selecting the correct dosage, dispensing the correct amount, and typing accurate information on the label. With so many steps, it’s easy to understand how prescribing errors occur. Whenever you pick up a refill of your pet’s medication, double check that everything is accurate. Any change in what you are used to, such as the size or color of the tablet, warrants a call to your veterinarian.

7. Set up a system

If you are giving multiple medications to your senior dog or cat, it makes good sense to create a system that prevents missed doses or double dosing. Such goofs are easy to make, particularly when more than one person in the household is responsible for administering medications. Use of a chart that can be checked off when medications are given or a pill organizer (the plastic box with individual compartments) can cut down on dosing errors.

8. Online pharmacies

Purchasing prescription drugs on line comes with its plusses (cost and convenience) and minuses (incorrect formulation, improper storage, dosage inconsistencies). If you are interested in purchasing your pet’s medications on line, talk about this with your veterinarian and ask for a recommendation for a reputable company.

9. Air travel

If you and your pet travel by plane, be sure to keep his medications with your personal belongings in the cabin rather than in the baggage compartment. Otherwise, a lost suitcase can translate into a huge hassle trying to refill medications on the fly.

10. Biannual exams

Any dog or cat who has achieved the rank of “senior citizen” is well served by a veterinary exam at least twice a year. This is particularly true for those who receiving medications. The office visit provides an opportunity to discuss how the drugs are working and how well they are being tolerated. Blood testing can gauge the effectiveness of some medications as well as screen for harmful side effects. Lastly, a significant change in your pet’s body weight may warrant a dosage change in his medication.

Have you encountered any medication issues with your senior pets?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

 

Canine Crash Studies Evaluate Crate and Carrier Safety

You’ve no doubt seen those dreadful car crash test videos, the ones that feature slow motion footage of what happens to human crash dummies during a head on collision. With financial support from Subaru of America, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) has taken crash test studies to a whole new level. CPS has just released data on what they call their 2015 Carrier Crashworthiness Studies. This research was performed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of various pet crates and carriers in the event of a car crash.

Who is the Center for Pet Safety?

CPS is a non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to companion animal and consumer safety. The organization uses scientific methods to assess a variety of pet products and establish safety criteria and test protocols. One of CPS’s goals is to measure whether or not products designed for pet safety actually provide protection consistent with manufacturers’ claims. By the way, CPS is not affiliated with the pet product industry.

Harness research
Canine crashworthiness studies are not unprecedented. In 2013, CPS conducted a Harness Crashworthiness Study in conjunction with Subaru of America and MGA Research Corporation, an independent national highway traffic safety administration contracted testing laboratory. Pet harnesses are the equivalent of seatbelts for people. Major differences in popular harness restraints were discovered. Several of the harnesses failed catastrophically in a way that could cause serious injury to both the pet and passengers within the vehicle.

2015 research goals

During a car accident, not only is an unrestrained pet at risk for injury, the animal can become a projectile capable of striking and injuring a human passenger. The same holds true for a carrier or crate that doesn’t remain fully secured at its connection points within the vehicle during a crash.

Many crate and carrier manufacturers report that their products are “tested,” “crash tested,” “offer crash protection,” or are designed “for use in a vehicle.” To date, there are no standardized test protocols in the United States that substantiate these claims.

The stated purposes of the 2015 crashworthiness studies included:

  • Independently evaluate the crate and carrier products that are associated with claims of “tested”, “crash-tested” or “crash protection.”
  • Examine the safety, structural integrity and crashworthiness of crates and carriers.
  • Examine carrier and crate connection options to help educate pet owners.
  • Collect performance data necessary to support a formal test protocol and ratings guidelines for pet travel crates.
  • Determine top performing crate and carrier brands.

Michael McHale, Subaru’s director of corporate communications described the purpose of his company’s research as follows:

We at Subaru recognize the importance of keeping the entire family safe on the road, including our beloved pets. Alongside Center for Pet Safety, we are proud to help lead the charge in identifying the best crates and carriers for pet lovers everywhere, while, more importantly, making pet parents aware of the safety measures they can take and the dangers that can occur if they don’t. We recommend that owners choose the right sized crate for their dog, which is generally six inches longer than the body of the dog. We are also pleased that our crossover vehicles, which are award winners themselves for safety, accept most crate and carrier sizes.

Study design

Subaru and CPS conducted their 2015 Crate and Carrier Crashworthiness Study using crash test dogs that were designed to approximate the weight and size of real dogs. They were placed in the crates and carriers during rigorous crash testing. Within this study, crates were defined as rigid, non-plastic structures, and carriers were rigid plastic structures and soft collapsible structures.

A successful outcome was defined by the following:

  • The carrier or crate must fully contain the test dog before, during and after the crash test
  • The carrier or crate and all device connection points must remain wholly connected to the test bench for the entirety of the test.

Research results

Most of the crates and carriers failed to meet the successful outcome criteria described above. In some cases the dog was expelled from the crate or carrier. In other cases the impact caused the crate or carrier to be released from its points of connection. There were three standout products:

    • The top performing crate was the Gunner Kennels G1 Intermediate with 8’ Tie Down Straps. This crate withstood the most significant forces with a combination of structural support and integrity. This crate is unique in that it has a dual locking feature on the door that provides significant structural support in case of an accident. Additionally, the crate’s rubber feet provided better grip than other crates tested.
    • The Pet Ego Forma Frame Jet Set Carrier was a top performing carrier. This carrier uses an ISOFIX-Latch that is designed to latch firmly into place, just like a child seat. This latch held securely and contained the test dog throughout the crash.
    • The Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed with PPRS Handilock was also named a 2015  top performing carrier.  The simulants were fully contained and the carriers remained wholly connected to the test bench for the duration of the test.

Full reports of the carrier and crate testing, including photos of the outcomes can be found at the Center for Pet Safety website.

Regarding the study results, Lindsey Wolko, Founder and CEO of Center for Pet Safety stated, “In partnership with Subaru, the 2015 studies were truly eye-opening and will once again help bring pet safety awareness to millions of pet parents around the globe.”

Kudos to CPS for performing these studies and hats off to Subaru of America for financing them.  By the way, darned good marketing, Subaru!

Do you confine your dog when you travel by car?  If so, how?

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.

 

When is Panting Abnormal?

"Brody" by dtburkett on Flicker. CC license.

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

Normal panting

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

Abnormal panting

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

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

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

  1. Anxiety, stress, or fear

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

  1. Pain

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

  1. Heart failure

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

  1. Lung disease

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

  1. Anemia

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

  1. Laryngeal paralysis

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

  1. Cushing’s disease

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

  1. Cortisone (steroid) therapy

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

Abnormal panting deserves attention!

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

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

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

Mike Isaac, puppy mills, and the AKC

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

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

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

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

The Naperville Petland Store

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

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

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

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

What we can do

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

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

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

Make your voice heard and win a book

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

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

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

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

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

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

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

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

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

Potential side effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NSAIDs: One of several treatment options

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

  • Weight management
  • Exercise modification
  • Physical rehabilitation

– passive stretching

– range of motion exercises

– swimming

– under water treadmill therapy

  • Supplements/nutraceuticals

– omega-3 fatty acids

– glucosamine

– hyaluronic acid

– chondroitin sulfate

– polysulfated glycosaminoglycans

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

– tramadol

– gabapentin

– narcotics

  • Steroids

Don’t skimp on therapy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for your veterinarian

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

Do you have a pain prevention strategy for your pets?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Important Things to Know About Feline Heartworm Disease

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

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

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

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

  1. The disease targets the lungs

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

  1. Common symptoms

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

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

  1. Diagnosing heartworm disease

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

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

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

  1. No treatment for feline heartworms

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

  1. Prevention

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

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

Do you have a heartworm prevention strategy for your cat?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hollywood’s Impact on Dog Breed Popularity

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

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

Scientific evidence

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

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

Concerns within the Belgian Malinois community

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

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

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

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

Max and me

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

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

Impulse adoptions

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

Were You Smarter Than a Vet Student About Canine Heatstroke?

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

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

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

Answers

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

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

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

B. Dogs cannot dissipate (release) heat through:

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

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

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

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

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

D. Which of the following statements is true?

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

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

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

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

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

F. Which answer is true?

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

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

G. Which disease predisposes a dog to heatstroke?

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

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

H. On a hot day it is best to

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

No explanation needed!

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

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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