Were You Smarter Than a Vet Student?

Thanks to all who participated in last week’s game show called, “Are You Smarter Than a Vet Student.”  I have received 107 responses and at least a handful of you had all correct answers (only two people scored 100% the last go round). No matter your score, I entered your name in a drawing to receive a signed copy of Speaking for Spot or Your Dog’s Best Health (your choice). And the winners are……….

Suzanne lives with two Irish Terriers in Clayton, California located in the San Francisco Bay area.

Kathy resides in Falls Church, Virginia, and works with Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue (this organization has placed more than 800 Shelties since 1999). She lives with two of her own Shelties and one foster Sheltie.

Aleita works in La Mesa, California as a dog trainer.

Congratulations winners! Now, here are the answers you’ve all been waiting for:


1. The most common reason pets receiving heartworm preventive medication develop heartworm infection is because:

a. The heartworm medication has expired.

b. The heartworms become resistant to the preventive medication.

c. The heartworm preventive is not administered as directed.

d. The clever critter spits out the heartworm tablet when their human is not looking.

As heartworm disease has been spreading throughout all regions of the United States, there have been increasing reports of “breakthrough” heartworm infections in animals receiving heartworm preventive. While resistance of heartworms to preventive medications may play a role in some cases, the most common cause of breakthrough infections is lack of human compliance with administration of the preventive. Let this be a heads up to for all of us. Adherence to manufacturer recommendations when using heartworm preventive medications is a must. For more information about heartworm disease, pay a visit to the American Heartworm Society.


2. Increased thirst can be a symptom of:

a. A hormonal imbalance.

b. Kidney failure.

c. Liver disease.

d. All of the above.

Increased thirst (polydipsia) can be one of the earliest symptoms of a variety of diseases some of which include kidney failure, liver disease, and a variety of hormonal imbalances (diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, Cushing’s disease, and Addison’s disease). As innocuous as increased thirst may seem, particularly if your pet appears normal in every other way, I strongly encourage a trip to your vet if this symptom is observed.


3. The wetness and coolness of a dog’s nose is helpful in determining:

a. Whether or not he is feeling well.

b. Whether or not he has a fever.

c. Both a and b.

d. None of the above.

Using the temperature or moisture content of a dog’s nose to reveal a diagnosis or determine health status is simply an old wives’ tale! A dog’s nose can run hot or cold, wet or dry, independent of what the rest of the body is doing.


4. You’ve just noticed that your dog is acting strangely. He ate dinner normally, but now seems lethargic. You take his temperature and determine that he has a fever. It is 9:00 at night. What should you do?

a. Give him one adult strength aspirin and continue to monitor him through the night.

b. Give him an ice water bath and continue to monitor him through the night.

c. Head to your local emergency clinic.

d. Contact your “on call” family veterinarian or local veterinary emergency hospital for advice.

Truth be told, there is more than one correct answer here. My “first choice” advice is to contact a knowledgeable veterinary professional who will be able to ask you questions about your dog to help determine the best course of action, such as a visit to an emergency facility or “watchful waiting” until your family veterinarian is available. However, it is perfectly reasonable to forego the phone call and head directly to your local emergency clinic- as the saying goes, one can never be too careful.

Never, ever give medications intended for human use to your pets without consulting a veterinarian. Even something as seemingly innocuous as an aspirin tablet has the potential to wreak havoc for a dog. What about the ice bath? Bad idea! Not only would it be terribly uncomfortable for the dog, it would be counterproductive. The body mounts a fever as part of its way of dealing with an underlying infectious or inflammatory process. Attempts to lower temperature without reducing inflammation simply make the body have to work that much harder.


5. Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichia:

a. Occur whenever a dog is bitten by a tick that is infected with one of these diseases.

b. Are usually curable when diagnosed early and treated appropriately.

c. Can be contagious from dog to dog.

d. All of the above.

Tick-borne diseases are not contagious between dogs. The only way infection occurs is via tick transmission. Fortunately, not every bite via a disease-carrying tick results in illness for the dog. Thanks to healthy immune systems, most dogs are able to fend off infection following a tick bite, never developing any symptoms of tick-borne disease. For those who do develop symptoms, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment typically result in a cure.


6. By law, which one of the following is not required to appear on the label of your pet’s prescription medication?

a. The expiration date of the medication.

b. Your pet’s name.

c. Your pet’s date of birth.

d. Your last name.

By law, there are 12 different items that should appear on your pet’s prescription drug label.  Date of birth is not one of them.


7. Hypothyroidism (inadequate production of thyroid hormone) in dogs:

a. Can be diagnosed via blood tests in conjunction with the dog’s symptoms.

b. Can be diagnosed based on classic symptoms and physical examination findings.

c. Should be strongly suspected in any dog who is overweight.

d. All of the above.

Hypothyroidism is a relatively common disease in dogs, and it can cause a variety of symptoms, the most common of which is unexplained weight gain. Keep in mind, there is a very clear explanation for weight gain in the vast majority of overweight dogs- too many calories and/or too little activity. In other words, obesity does not equate with hypothyroidism and obese dogs should not be treated with thyroid supplementation without a confirmed diagnosis. (The diagnosis cannot be made based on symptoms alone.) The diagnosis is confirmed by way of specific blood tests that should be run when hypothyroidism is strongly suspect or there is a particular breed predisposition.


8. A pregnant woman should not clean the litter box because:

a. Cat urine contains metabolites that can be harmful to the developing fetus.

b. Tapeworm segments within the feces can be harmful to the developing fetus.

c. Toxoplasma organisms within the feces can be harmful to the developing fetus.

d. Pregnant women deserve to avoid unsavory housekeeping tasks.

While I wholeheartedly believe that pregnant women should be allowed to avoid unsavory tasks, avoidance of the litter box during pregnancy is recommended because of Toxoplasma, an infectious organism that can be carried in the feces of some cats. Infection of a pregnant woman can result in serious health consequences for the developing fetus. While the incidence of Toxoplasmosis is extremely low, no sense taking any chances. If you are pregnant, by all means enlist someone else to handle litter box responsibilities. By the way, the most common source of Toxoplasma infection is within the soil. So, if you are a pregnant gardener, be sure to wear gloves!

Please let me know if you would like to see more of, Are You Smarter Than a Vet Student? in the future.

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.


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