California Takes Us One Step Closer to Eradicating Puppy Mills

California has been making lots of history as of late some of which has been wonderful and some really terrible. Last week I reported on the terrible- the horrific firestorms in Northern California. This week it’s all about the wonderful.

Approximately one week ago, California Governor Jerry Brown signed off on Assembly Bill 485. This new law stipulates that, beginning in 2019, all dogs, cats and rabbits sold in pet stores within the state of California must be obtained from shelters, rescue organizations or animal control agencies. The law also demands greater transparency from pet store proprietors who will be required to keep clear records on how each animal was obtained and post this information on each animal’s cage. While several cities and jurisdictions have already passed such legislation, California is the first state to do so.

Puppy mills and pet stores

As it stands now, puppy mills supply the vast majority (as in 99%) of puppies sold in pet stores. Every puppy sold puts cash in the pockets of a ”puppy miller” perpetuating the heinous practice of breeding dogs and raising puppies under horrifically inhumane conditions. In helping to write AB 485, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell is hoping to suppress the puppy mill industry as well as decrease the number of animals in California shelters. He stated, “This is a big win for our four-legged friends, of course. But also for California taxpayers who spend more than $250 million annually to house and euthanize animals in our shelters.”

For and against

The usual parties are voicing their opinions for and against this newly passed California legislation. The ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States believe the new law will help break the supply chain of animals coming into pet stores from puppy mills and irresponsible breeders. According to Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA, “By prohibiting the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores, California will cut off the supply of inhumanely bred puppies into communities across the state, and prevent consumers from unwittingly supporting this cruel industry.”

Predictably, on the other side of aisle is the American Kennel Club. Sheila Goffe, AKC Vice President of Government Relations, stated that the new legislation “blocks all of California’s pet lovers from having access to professional, licensed and ethical commercial breeders.” Why oh why does the AKC continue to insist that puppies sold in pet stores come from ethical breeders? I’m hard pressed to come up with a reason other than the obvious direct correlation between numbers of puppy mill dogs and the revenue stream that flows into the AKC when they become registered.

How do I feel about California AB 485? The only way I could be more pleased is if other states jump on this bandwagon. Yes, I think it’s possible that a small percentage of ethical breeders could be negatively impacted by this new legislation. I also believe this is a small but necessary price to pay on the road to eradicating puppy mills.

Way to go California! Now, let’s hope other states follow your lead.

How do you weigh in on this new legislation?

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 http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

Firestorms in California

Facebook photo of kitty rescued from Northern California fire

September and October are blissful months for me now that I live in the mountains of western North Carolina. I am treated to a feast of color and the quality of the light and crispness of the air create a deep sense of relaxation and a feeling of, “Ahhhhhh….”

I can’t help but compare this to the way I felt during Northern California Septembers and Octobers. There, the autumnal changes in the light and air signaled a need to be on guard for fear of firestorms, the likes of which are currently raging. It was never a matter of if there would be fires, but rather where they would occur. The need for hypervigilance resolved only when the rains arrived sometime in late October or early November.

I’ve been glued to the news watching the progress of the current Northern California infernos. My heart is filled with sadness and my mind with disbelief. Every person I’ve communicated with who lives in my old stomping grounds has been significantly impacted by the fires, be it by the intense smoke, sleep deprivation from maintaining a rooftop vigil with hose in hand, or the loss of homes, animals, places of business, community landmarks, houses of worship, and complete neighborhoods.

Veterinary hospitals have burned to the ground. The hospital where I worked is bursting at the seams with burn victims and patients transferred from evacuated hospitals, and staff members tell me that, depending on the changing winds, evacuation may be imminent.

Facebook is filled with images of animals displaced by the fires. Some of the photos are of cats and dogs with singed whiskers and hair coats who somehow managed to survive the inferno. Other images are of healthy appearing dogs and cats, posted by people who are hoping beyond hope to be reunited with a beloved pet who was unintentionally left behind.

Two Facebook pages have already been established to reunite pets with their people. Check out Napa/Santa Rosa Fires: Lost Animals and Napa/Santa Rosa Animal Evacuations Info.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported an amazing and uplifting survival story about Safari West, an exotic animal habitat located in the hills surrounding Santa Rosa. As the article stated:

Peter Lang had a heart-wrenching choice — save his house in the fire-ravaged hills above Santa Rosa or protect the more than 1,000 animals trapped at his wildlife preserve, Safari West. The 77-year-old owner of the 400-acre facility on Porter Creek Road didn’t give it much thought.

As the flames approached, Lang ushered his wife, employees and 30 overnight guests off the hill, grabbed a garden hose and began dousing hot spots threatening his collection of primarily African species, including cheetahs, giraffes and rhinoceroses.

When dawn broke, they were all alive but Lang’s home was destroyed.

“I did not lose a single animal,” he said Tuesday as he walked the grounds, dense smoke still shrouding pens and other outbuildings. “It is amazing.”

As hot embers landed in the animals’ enclosures, Lang ran between them, putting out small fires and coaxing hyenas and other animals from one enclosure to another in a hopscotch manner to protect them. Small patches of ground burned but no animals were hurt, he said.

“I have a thousand souls I’m responsible for,” he said as he walked the grounds, dense smoke still shrouding pens and other outbuildings. “It wasn’t even a decision. This is what I had to do.”

I invite you to consider making a donation to an organization involved in rescuing/fostering animals who have been displaced by the fires. Here are some to consider. No doubt, there are plenty of other organizations pitching in who would welcome your donation.

Wine Country Animal Lovers

Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch

Sonoma County Animal Services

Dogwood Animal Rescue

Sonoma Humane Society

Hopalong and Second Chance Animal Rescue

Marin Humane Society

The firestorms are ravaging places where I lived, worked, and played for more than three decades. Having left the bay area just shy of six years ago, no doubt, “survivor’s guilt” plays a role in all that I am feeling. Thank you for letting me indulge in wearing my heart on my sleeve.

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 http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Telemedicine: Gaining Steam Within the Veterinary Profession

Photo Credit: Flicker CC license, littlebiglens, goldensAlthough the practice of telemedicine has been around for quite some time, only recently has this technology been embraced by the veterinary profession. In July of this year, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) provided a game changer by providing unanimous endorsement for the practice of telemedicine.

What exactly is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is a form of “remote consultation,” meaning the doctor and patient are not in the same location. Telemedicine is a means of providing evaluation and treatment recommendations via either telephone (verbal or text messaging) or electronic means (email, Skype). Here are a few examples of how telemedicine might work.

Your dog has torn a toenail and is limping. You describe the situation to your veterinarian via email and include a photo of the torn nail. Your vet advises you on cleaning the site, restricting your dog’s activity, and watching for things such as an infected appearance or persistent limping that would warrant an office visit.

You send a text message to your veterinarian letting her know that you switched brands of cat food a week ago and your kitty has vomited once daily for the past three days. She seems completely normal otherwise. Your veterinarian responds requesting that you discontinue the new food and resume feeding the previous brand. If the vomiting doesn’t disappear within a couple of days or any other symptoms develop, bring your kitty in for an exam.

Your dog has just returned home from a foray in the neighborhood and has a gash on his head. You’re wondering whether or not stitches are necessary. You snap a photo of the wound and text it to your veterinary hospital with the question, “Are stitches needed?” The response is, “Yes, please bring your dog in for stitches and don’t feed anything between now and then in case anesthesia is needed.”

Veterinarian-client-patient relationship

A critical component of telemedicine within the veterinary profession is prior establishment of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). What this means is that the veterinarian providing the telemedicine service (or another veterinarian within the practice) has already met the animal in person, performed an examination, and established a medical record.

The only situations in which telemedicine is condoned without prior establishment of a VCPR are poison control centers calls. In such cases, advice is rendered without any prior hands-on evaluation of the animal.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Telemedicine exchanges between veterinarians have been happening for years. For example, a general practitioner might email x-rays or an electrocardiogram tracing to a specialist for interpretation. Telemedicine exchanges between veterinarians or veterinary staff members and their clients offer several potential advantages some of which include:

  • Convenience of timing: an email or text message exchange doesn’t rely on both parties being available at the same time
  • Avoidance of unnecessary office visits (thereby avoiding unnecessary expense for client and stress for patient)
  • Easy exchange of educational materials
  • Potential to readily assuage client’s worries and concerns
  • A convenient way to deliver a progress report on how a patient is doing

Telemedicine is also fraught with disadvantages including:

  • Potential to miss something of significance because of lack of “hands on” evaluation
  • Mistakes can be made because of lack of a “hands on” evaluation
  • Potential challenges in record keeping (transcribing emails and texts into medical records)
  • Inability to adequately perceive and address client’s emotional needs
  • Clients hoping to avoid office visits may abuse the system

If you are interested in learning more about veterinary telemedicine, take a look at the Final Report on Telemedicine authored by the AVMA Practice Advisory Panel. Be forewarned, it is not light reading- you may want to have a cup of coffee in hand!

Is telemedicine available through your veterinary practice?

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 http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

Real Versus Fake Assistance, Service, Therapy, and Emotional Support Animals

Photo Credit: © Kathie Meier

Are the Labrador Retriever guiding a blind person and the miniature pony providing emotional support considered to be the “same animal” in terms of the assistance they are providing, their legal description, and where they are allowed access? Is it possible to know which ones are legitimate and which ones are fraudulently being represented as assistance animals in order to achieve public access or avoid pet-related fees?

Given the increasing numbers of animals used for support, service, therapy, and assistance in public places, answering these questions has become rather complicated. And, even the following legal definitions pertaining to these animal helpers leave a great deal open to interpretation.

Assistance Animal (as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development)

An animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms of effects of a person’s disability. Individuals with a disability may be entitled to keep an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation in housing facilities that otherwise impose restrictions or prohibitions on animals. In order to qualify for such an accommodation, the assistance animal must be necessary to afford the individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling or to participate in the housing service or program.

Service Animal: as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for purposes of this definition.  Miniature horses have been added as a specific provision to the ADA. The miniature horse must be housebroken, under the handler’s control, can be accommodated for by the facility, and will not compromise safety regulations.

Service Animal: as defined by the Air Carrier Access Act

Any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a qualified person with a disability; or any animal shown by documentation to be necessary for the emotional well-being of a passenger.

Emotional Support Animal, aka ESA: as defined by the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act

An emotional support animal may be an animal of any species, the use of which is supported by a qualified physician, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional on the basis of a disability-related need. An ESA does not have to be trained to perform any particular task. Emotional support animals do no qualify as service animals under the ADA, but they may be permitted as reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act. The Air Carrier Access Act provides specific allowances for emotional support animals traveling on airlines, though documentation may need to be provided. Emotional support animals are not recognized as service animals.

Therapy Animal: as defined by Air Carrier Access Act the AVMA policy, “Animal Assisted Interventions: Definitions”

A therapy animal is a type of animal-assisted intervention in which there is a goal directed intervention in which an animal meeting specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. Animal-assisted therapy is provided in a variety of settings, and may be group or individual in nature.

American Veterinary Medical Association Perspective

Earlier this year, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released a report titled, “Assistance Animals: Rights of Access and the Problem of Fraud.” Its intended purpose is to guide veterinarians in providing support for their clients with legitimate service or emotional support animals while discouraging other clients from fraudulently representing their pets as service animals.

The document states that fake service dogs are an ever-increasing problem, in large part thanks to the multiple online sources for paperwork and supplies that provide service animal “proof”. As a result, disabled people using legally compliant assistance animals are reporting that they’re now subject to more reluctance and suspicion when entering public places.

According to the AVMA report, “Part of the problem is that the lack of centralized or standardized form of proof that can be used to ascertain an assistance animal’s status makes fraudulent animals difficult to identify. The ADA does not require any standardized training or certification program for service animals, nor does it require the handler to provide any form of documentation stating the necessity for a service animal. Such documentation is considered a barrier or unreasonable burden that could limit access to a service animal. Conversely, people who use ESAs may need to provide documentation stating the need for an ESA, but that documentation can easily be counterfeited.”

What are potential solutions for supporting valid use of assistance animals while deterring the frauds? Some suggestions include cracking down on the availability of materials that provide fraudulent proof of assistance animal status, increasing access for companion animals in housing and public spaces, and reconciling conflicts in federal and state laws.

What assistance animal observations have you made as of late? What solutions do you recommend to weed out the fakers?

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 http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

Were You Smarter Than a Vet Student About Ear Infections?

Thanks to everyone who took this ear infection quiz. Congratulations to Arlene Millman of Huntington, New York, winner of the book drawing. She’ll be receiving a copy of Speaking for Spot!

Below are the correct responses to the quiz questions along with explanations. I hope you learn something new!

  1. Ear infections can be caused by:
  2. Allergies
  3. Water in the ear canals
  4. Hormonal imbalances
  5. All of the above

Most ear infections have an underlying predisposing cause that alters the health of the ear canal thereby setting the stage for yeast or bacteria to set up housekeeping. A moist environment within the ear canal is one such predisposing cause. Hormonal imbalances and allergies can cause inflammation within the lining of the ear canals which can result in secondary infection.

  1. Which of the following is not a cause of ear infections?
  2. Yeast
  3. Foreign bodies
  4. Viruses
  5. Tumors

Anything that disrupts the normal architecture of the ear canal, such as a tumor or foreign body, can result in secondary infections. Those of you who live west of the Mississippi are likely familiar with foxtails, far and away the most common foreign body to land in a dog’s ear canal. Yeast organisms thrive in warm moist environments, and are a common cause of canine ear infections. Viruses are not a cause of ear infections.

  1. Ear mites are common in
  2. Adult dogs
  3. Adult cats
  4. Kittens and puppies
  5. Feral cats

Ear mites are readily contagious with close contact, so it makes sense that they are common within feral cat colonies. While ear mites do occur in dogs and cats of all ages, these creepy crawlies are a relatively uncommon cause of ear infections.

  1. The cause of an ear infection can be reliably determined by
  2. The appearance of the discharge
  3. The odor of the discharge
  4. An otoscopic exam (looking in the ear canal with an otoscope)
  5. None of the above

Microscopic examination of discharge from the ear canal is the very best way to diagnose whether an infection is caused by yeast, bacteria, or mites. This determination cannot be made simply by smell or visual inspection.

  1. Infection-associated tears in the eardrum (tympanic membrane)
  2. Are very uncommon
  3. Dictate a change in treatment strategy
  4. Cause deafness
  5. Are typically very slow to heal

Infection-associated tears in the eardrum are relatively common. When this is the case, it’s presumed that there is also infection within the middle and inner compartments of the ear, a condition referred to as otitis media interna. These tears tend to heal rather quickly. The tear itself does not typically cause deafness, but chronic inner ear infections certainly can. Finding a tear within the tympanic membrane definitely changes treatment strategy compared to finding infection only within the external ear canal. For example, systemic rather than just topical antibiotics might be used and ear cleaning is avoided for fear of flushing debris deeper into the middle and inner ear compartments.

  1. Patients with recurrent or chronic ear infections are sometimes referred to:
  2. A veterinarian who specializes in dermatology
  3. A veterinarian who specializes in neurology
  4. A veterinarian who specializes in surgery
  5. Any of the above

Referral to a veterinary specialist makes really good sense when ear infections recur frequently, cannot be resolved, and/or lead to other abnormalities. Given that the lining of the ear canal is an extension of the skin, referral to a dermatologist (skin doc) is a logical choice. If the ear infection affects the inner ear and neurological symptoms such as a head tilt or dizziness develop, help from a neurologist may be recruited. A veterinarian who specializes in surgery may be called upon to either open up or entirely remove the external ear canal. These are last resort treatments, used when the ear canal has become profoundly scarred and narrowed as a result of chronic inflammation.

  1. Which of the following is not a potential strategy for preventing ear infections?
  2. Regular ear cleaning
  3. Regular swimming to help flush out the ear canals
  4. Ear canal surgery
  5. Feeding a special diet

Food allergies can create ear canal inflammation that sets the stage for infection, hence the need for a special diet. Regular ear cleaning works well to manage some dogs and cats with recurrent ear infections. As mentioned in question 6, surgery is used to treat some animals with severe ear canal changes caused by chronic inflammation. Water deposited in the ear canals as a result of swimming can be a cause of recurrent ear infections for some dogs. It is never considered a preventive strategy.

  1. Which one of the following statements is true?
  2. The treatment for ear infections is typically the same regardless of cause.
  3. Most ear infections are contagious from one ear to the other.
  4. Most ear infections arise because of some other underlying issue.
  5. Ear infections invariably cause scratching at the ears and/or head shaking.

The treatment strategy for ear infections varies from patient to patient depending on the type of infection present as well as its underlying cause. Other than ear mites that trundle over the top of the head from one ear to the other, ear infections are not considered to be contagious from ear to ear. Because both ear canals are typically impacted by the same underlying issue (water in ear canals, allergies, hormonal imbalances, etc.) that sets the stage for infection, it makes sense that both ears are often affected. Lastly, while head shaking and ear scratching are common indicators of an ear infection, not all dogs and cats demonstrate these symptoms.

Have these answers surprised you? Have you learned anything new?

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 http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

Are You Smarter Than a Vet Student About Ear Infections?

Ear infections are so darn common, particularly amongst dogs, and can be the cause of multiple veterinary hospital visits. If you care for a dog or cat with recurrent or chronic ear infections, it behooves you to become as informed about this issue as possible. Here’s an opportunity to test your knowledge about this common malady.

Submit your responses and your name will be entered into a drawing for a copy of Speaking for Spot  or Your Dog’s Best Health (winner’s choice). The correct responses will appear in my next post. Good luck!

  1. Ear infections can be caused by:
    1. Allergies
    2. Water in the ear canals
    3. Hormonal imbalances
    4. All of the above
  1. Which of the following is not a cause of ear infections?
    1. Yeast
    2. Foreign bodies
    3. Viruses
    4. Tumors
  1. Ear mites are common in
    1. Adult dogs
    2. Adult cats
    3. Kittens and puppies
    4. Feral cats
  1. The cause of an ear infection can be reliably determined by
    1. The appearance of the discharge
    2. The odor of the discharge
    3. An otoscopic exam (looking in the ear canal with an otoscope)
    4. None of the above
  1. Infection-associated tears in the eardrum (tympanic membrane)
    1. Are very uncommon
    2. Dictate a change in treatment strategy
    3. Cause deafness
    4. Are typically very slow to heal
  1. Patients with recurrent or chronic ear infections are sometimes referred to:
    1. A veterinarian who specializes in dermatology
    2. A veterinarian who specializes in neurology
    3. A veterinarian who specializes in surgery
    4. Any of the above
  1. Which of the following is not a potential strategy for preventing ear infections?
    1. Regular ear cleaning
    2. Regular swimming to help flush out the ear canals
    3. Ear canal surgery
    4. Feeding a special diet
  1. Which one of the following statements is true?
    1. The treatment for ear infections is typically the same regardless of cause.
    2. Most ear infections are contagious from one ear to the other.
    3. Most ear infections arise because of some other underlying issue.
    4. Ear infections invariably cause scratching at the ears and/or head shaking.

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 http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

How Will Our Animals Respond to the Eclipse?

I’m mighty lucky in that a short hike to a clearing in the woods adjoining my property will place me in the zone of totality (I simply love this expression) for the upcoming eclipse. And the best part is, I suspect that, other than my husband and me, only deer, birds, bears, coyotes, turkeys, bobcats, and other wildlife know about this clearing.

True confession- I’m really not a big fan of astronomy. Nonetheless, the experience of delving into darkness at 2:30 in the afternoon sounds pretty darned exciting. I just read an Annie Dillard essay called “Total Eclipse” in which she treats the reader to this fabulous line- “Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.” Her essay, and this metaphor in particular, has amped up my eclipse excitement exponentially!

And then there is the anticipation of what I will see immediately following the eclipse. Will nocturnal animals be out and about, lured from their nests, dens and burrows by the midday darkness? Perhaps on our return hike from the woods we’ll be treated to the sight of a skunk, or raccoon, or owl. How cool would that be!

I’ve heard some people express concern about how their pets and livestock will fare during the eclipse. I’ve received questions such as, “Should I keep the dogs and cats inside?” and “Should I put a fly mask on my horse?” In terms of eye protection, I’ve been providing reassurance that there is no need to worry. Just as is true for any other day, there’s nothing about the eclipse that will compel our animals to look directly at the sun. Dogs, cats, pigs, horses, goats, chickens, etc. simply don’t stargaze, moon gaze or sun gaze.

What I don’t know for sure is if the eclipse will elicit any behavioral changes in our critters. Might they experience anxiety, curiosity, fear, or confusion? I suspect some will, particularly those who reside at the anxious end of the behavioral spectrum (I live with one of these). I predict that, for the vast majority of our furry and feathered family members, the eclipse will be nothing more than a “yawn” moment.

If eclipse-related animal behavior has piqued your curiosity, I encourage you to check out the iNaturalist app. The California Academy of Sciences invites you and other citizen scientists to use this app to record and submit what your animal does during the eclipse. Your data will become part of a project called Life Responds.

I hope you manage to enjoy the eclipse wherever you are and please tell me about any interesting animal responses you observe!

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 http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

Fear Free Approach is Thriving

Representatives from the Fear Free Certification Program recently announced that approximately 5,500 veterinary professionals have achieved certification status and 14,000 more are in the midst of doing so. These are some monumental statistics given that the Fear Free approach was conceptualized just a few short years ago by Dr. Marty Becker, a wonderfully innovative and caring veterinarian. When he first told me about this new idea percolating in his brain, he was over-the-top excited. His mantra, “Take the ‘pet’ out of ‘petrified,” has caught on big time and his Fear Free Program has provided a win-win-win situation for veterinary professionals, their clients, and, most importantly, their patients.

In developing Fear Free, Dr. Becker recruited a 160-member advisory panel including practicing veterinarians, technicians, hospital and animal shelter designers, board certified veterinary anesthesiologists, and specialists in animal behavior.

Fear Free objectives

The objectives of the practice of fear free veterinary medicine include:

  • Reduction or removal of anxiety triggers that can cause pets to become fearful at home during house call visits or en route to and within the veterinary hospital
  • Enhancement of the quality of medicine
  • Increased compliance with treatment recommendations
  • Improved safety for the veterinary team

“The success of this program is owed to three main factors,” says Dr. Becker. “First, Fear Free is the right thing to do; nobody gets involved with veterinary medicine to make life worse for animals. Second, Fear Free allows veterinary professionals to practice a higher quality of medicine while elevating care for their patients. Finally, pet owners are actively searching for individuals with certification to take care of their pets, so practitioners are flocking to certification because of market demand.”

In order to achieve Fear Free Certification status, students immerse themselves in learning about a variety of topics examples of which include canine and feline behavior and body language, ways to minimize stress in the waiting room, gentle handling techniques, the use of treats and pheromones, and the use of complementary therapies and medications that can help reduce fear, anxiety, and stress.

Dr. Thomas Meyer, current president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, expressed his feelings about Fear Free by stating, “Fear Free has added an amazing fresh perspective in our professional interactions with our patients and clients. Our entire veterinary team has bonded to make sure each pet’s visit is a positive and enjoyable experience. Our clients see how we embrace the human-animal bond by our commitment to a Fear Free visit. This is a game changer and must for every pet.”

What Fear Free things happen at your veterinary hospital?

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 http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

 

 

Things Your Vet Might Recommend for Your Pet’s Diarrhea

SFSBlog_diarrhea_madartichoke_together_FlickerCCDiarrhea becomes a fact of life for most of our pets at some point or another. If the diarrhea persists for more than a few days or is recurrent, it’s a good idea to check in with your veterinarian even if your dog or cat seems to be feeling just fine otherwise.

Beyond performing a thorough physical examination, there are a number of things your veterinarian may recommend. Below is the rationale behind these recommendations.

Diagnostic testing

Whenever possible, having a diagnosis in hand (ugh, given the topic, this sounds kinda gross) is the very best path for getting the problem resolved. A variety of diagnostic tests are readily available to determine the cause of your pet’s diarrhea. The usual starting point is a fecal exam to look for intestinal parasites. Next come blood and urine testing to rule out underlying issues such as hyperthyroidism (kitties), liver or kidney disease. Specialized blood testing looking for issues such as inadequate production of digestive enzymes, decreased levels of folate or cobalamin (both are B vitamins necessary for normal gut health), or hormonal imbalances that can cause diarrhea may be indicated. If results from these tests fail to provide a diagnosis, imaging , typically x-rays and/or abdominal ultrasound, is the usual next step. Lastly, your veterinarian may recommend getting an up close and personal look at the bowel and collection of biopsies by way of either surgery or endoscopy.

Empirical therapy

Empirical therapy refers to administration of treatment without knowledge of the underlying diagnosis. Such therapy will likely be recommended for your pet’s diarrhea should you and/or your veterinarian determine that the testing needed to establish a diagnosis isn’t feasible. Listed below are empirical treatments commonly recommended for dogs and cats with diarrhea.

Fenbendazole

Intestinal parasites are a common cause of diarrhea in dogs and cats. Depending on the life cycle of the worms, sometimes they and/or their eggs simply don’t show up on fecal screening. For this reason, your veterinarian may recommend empirical deworming with fenbendazole, a highly effective broad spectrum executioner of most intestinal parasites.

Food trial

Your veterinarian may recommend a novel protein diet to help rule out a food-responsive enteropathy, in essence, a food allergy that can cause diarrhea. Back in the day when I was just a pup, we would prescribe lamb for such food trials. Lamb has become such a common ingredient in commercially prepared foods, that, by the time they arrive at adulthood, most dogs have already been exposed to it. Nowadays, novel protein sources such as kangaroo, ostrich, rabbit, quail, alligator, and duck are commonly recommended. Some veterinarians prefer hydrolyzed protein diets in which the protein has been broken down into molecules that are so small they escape detection by the immune system, thus avoiding an allergic reaction.

When fat is not properly absorbed within the gut, diarrhea is a predictable outcome. For this reason, your veterinarian may recommend a diet with reduced fat content.

The addition of fiber to the diet can be of benefit for diarrhea. Canned pumpkin is a commonly recommended source of fiber- good luck getting your kitty to eat this!

Food trials are typically prescribed for a four to six week time period, although improvement is often observed within the first couple of weeks.

Antibiotics

Just like us our pets have different types of “normal” bacteria that reside within their gastrointestinal tracts. When there is shifting of bacterial populations such that there is overpopulation of some and crowding out of others, a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, can develop. This condition is referred to as antibiotic responsive enteropathy (formerly known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO). Your veterinarian may recommend empirical treatment with a particular type of antibiotic along with a probiotic. The hope is that this combination will restore a healthier balance of bacterial flora within the gut.

I want to emphasize that bacterial infections within the bowel are as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth. Any antibiotic you give for diarrhea should be aimed at treating antibiotic responsive enteropathy rather than infection. The exception to this is the diarrhea called granulomatous colitis, also known as histiocytic ulcerative colitis. Sometimes referred to as “Boxer colitis” because it occurs almost exclusively in Boxer dogs, this disease is caused by bacteria and responds dramatically to treatment with the antibiotic enrofloxacin (Baytril).

Other medications

Should the above steps fail to remedy your pet’s diarrhea, your veterinarian may prescribe any one of a number of empirical medications. They run the gamut from gut motility modifiers to intestinal coating agents to anti-inflammatory medications. Corticosteroids such as prednisone or prednisolone are recommended as empirical treatment for diarrhea. Steroids have the potential for lots of side effects, so thorough discussion with your veterinarian should precede their use.

Bear in mind that none of these empirical therapies are an ideal substitute for obtaining a diagnosis. If your pet’s diarrhea fails to resolve in response to any of the treatments recommended, revisiting the option of further diagnostic testing is warranted.

In general, veterinarians who specialize in internal medicine have the most expertise diagnosing and treating chronic or recurrent diarrhea. Your time and resources, and, most importantly, your pet may be best served by working with such a specialist.

Has your pet had chronic diarrhea? If so what was the cause? What treatment fixed or failed to fix the problem?

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 http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Dear Dr. Kay……

As a change of pace I thought it might be fun to share a few questions I’ve received from readers like you. I hope that they, along with my responses, are of interest and who knows, you may just learn something new.

Patient restraint

From Alice:

When vet technicians are asked by the veterinarian to hold a dog for examination, vaccination, drawing a blood sample, etc., they often do their best to completely immobilize the dog by getting it in a lock-hold and clamping down hard. I try to train my dogs to cooperate with minor veterinary procedures, with good success. Yet it is often difficult to persuade a vet/vet tech to give the dog a chance to be a willing participant. Can you offer some guidance about when it’s reasonable for me to make this request and what would be the most effective way to convince the vet/vet tech to give it a try? Also, when is it appropriate for the client to hold/restrain the dog? I realize vet techs have training that the owner does not, but I hate handing my dogs off to the vet tech to hold when I’m right there in the room with the vet. By far, the most stressful part of the vet-client relationship for me is being forced to hand off the dog to vet techs. Gah, I’m getting stressed out just writing this! Your thoughts?

My response:

Hi Alice. Those of us who have worked with plenty of animals in a veterinary hospital setting know that flexibility is the key to great restraint- comfortable for the pet and safe for everyone who is working with that animal. Some animals do best when restrained on their sides, some while sitting, some while standing, and others while lying down sternally. Some do best with a humane muzzle or something covering their eyes so they can’t see what’s going on. Others react strongly to a muzzle or blindfold. Some animals need to be held firmly while, for others, less is more. So application of a “one restraint fits all” approach doesn’t make good sense. We should attempt to be successful with each and every patient we see.

Some owners want to be involved with restraint of their pets. I know plenty of vets who are dead set against this for fear of liability should the owner become injured, and I can’t say as I blame them. I do encourage owners to be present, but I generally discourage them from performing restraint unless they are clearly experienced and I get a good strong sense that their pet will be okay with this.  A special finesse is often required to effectively restrain a pet in a veterinary hospital setting.  And, it feels lousy if an owner gets hurt in the process.  Simply having the owner in the room and visible is usually adequate in terms of providing a “calming presence”.

I find that recruiting the owner to help restrain is consistently useful and practical when I’m working with law enforcement dogs (and these dogs are typically muzzled for whatever we do per their handler’s recommendation).

So, how can you ask your veterinarian to be more receptive to doing things differently? I encourage a respectful conversation about this. Schedule a meeting time. Let the doctor know what your observations have been and how others (like me) feel about this topic. The late great Dr. Sophia Yin has written a wonderful book about in-hospital restraint techniques. The title is Low Stress Handling, Restraint, and Behavior Modification. Consider purchasing a copy for your veterinarian. Best of luck!

Urinary accidents- behavioral versus medical

From Debra:

Hi Doctor. My question is about dogs marking inside. I just rescued a 2.5 yr old neutered Pug. I have 2 spayed female mutts at home, one is 16 yrs, the other is 3 yrs. All 3 dogs are non-alpha type dogs. My females are both shy and not aggressive or domineering in anyway. Day 3 after I brought the new Pug home, I caught him marking twice and redirected him outside, and I saw evidence 3 other times. He is successfully using a doggy door. I got some bellybands and kept them on him for a week or so and the markings stopped. But now it’s started up again 4 weeks later, mostly when he is left alone for more than 2-3 hours and always in the same place near the back door on the tile floor of kitchen and bathrooms. I went back to the bellybands, and also moved his food bowl right to the place where he was marking as it was pretty nearby anyway. I’m firm with him about listening to me, sitting before eating and staying off the furniture. I have no other issues with him. Is there ANYTHING else I can do? I read somewhere that I should start feeding him first before the other two dogs so that he would feel dominant and the marking would stop. Any truth to this? I do feed him last, within seconds of the other dogs, but he is last. Oh, and his foster and previous owner said he did NOT mark in their homes. And I am thoroughly cleaning markings after I find them. Thanks!!

My response:

Hi Debra. First and foremost, congratulations and kudos to you for rescuing your new dog. I encourage you to set up an appointment for the new guy with your veterinarian for a thorough physical examination and urine testing. An underlying medical issue such as bladder stones or a urinary tract infection could be the cause of what you are describing. If he gets a clean bill of health, I recommend moving on to a savvy dog trainer or behaviorist for help. Back to basics crate training may be in order. Feeding this new guy earlier than the established two is certainly an easy thing to try. And then when the other two are eating, you can be outside with the new guy praising the living daylights out of him every time he urinates in the appropriate spot. I hope this helps get you started. Let me know what you figure out.

Cost concerns

From Deanna:

Hello Dr. Kay, and thank you for answering my question! I have two senior dogs who have visited a holistic vet regularly throughout their lives (and at great expense: titers instead of vaccines, regular check ups, visits at every hint of a problem, etc.). I recently suspected one of my two dogs had a bladder infection. After urinalysis, it was confirmed and she suggested a course of antibiotics and a follow up test to make sure the infection was gone. I was shocked when the vet charged me again for that follow up test — a total of nearly $175 including drugs. Now it looks like he’s developing another infection, and there is no way I can visit this vet every 3 months at that price! Is it customary to charge this much for treating a chronic ailment? What is the best way to express my feelings about this as a regular customer, or do I need to look for another vet? We’ve gone to her for 11 plus years but I just can’t afford her care at this rate, which is a shame.

My response:

Hi Deanna. I always encourage people to lay their financial cards on the table, and I recognize that this can be difficult to do. Remember, what you and your veterinarian have in common is a desire to preserve your dog’s health and comfort for as long as possible. Rarely is there only one option for successfully managing a patient. It behooves you to learn what other less expensive options exist. Additionally, if affordable, consider investigating why your dog is having recurrent bladder infections. If they can be prevented, you will likely save a good deal of money.

Sooner rather than later

From Al:

I’ve told all the dog people I know that Speaking for Spot is one of those great books where you say, “Geez, I wish I had this when we were going through all the stuff we went through with our dogs” and they need to get it. And that there’s a lotta stuff in there that it’s taken most of us 10-15 years or more of not always so pleasant experience and several dogs to learn, or that we didn’t learn even with all that experience. Somebody can save themselves a whole lotta time and grief by just getting it, reading it now, and being way ahead of the game.

My response: Thank you Al for this wonderful feedback. I wrote Speaking for Spot because I am passionate about people becoming savvy and effective medical advocates for their pets. This is not the first time I’ve heard, “I wish I’d had your book back then…..” Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm with the dog people you know.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask me? If so, please post it here.

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 http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.