Archive for the ‘Veterinary Medicine’ Category

Were You Smarter Than A Vet Student?

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

curiousanimals.netThank you for playing along with this blogger’s shenanigans! I hope you had fun with it. The first place winner was Cheryl Bryant from Mount Vernon, Iowa, the only respondent (out of more almost 100) who had a perfect score. Many of you would have achieved the same had it not been for that doggone tricky tapeworm question! I chose the other two winners by drawing names out of a hat, and they are (drum roll, please), Shirley Struble from Ann Arbor, Michigan and Shelli Pawlu from Pierz, Minnesota. Cheryl, Shirley, and Shelli will all receive a signed copy of Speaking for Spot or Your Dog’s Best Health.

Now for the answers and explanations you’ve been waiting for. If you happened to miss the questions, check out last week’s blog post before reading the answers below.

The best way to diagnose bladder stones is an ultrasound examination of the abdomen.

The best way to diagnose bladder stones is with ultrasound, a super-safe noninvasive way to view all of the structures within the abdominal cavity. Only really large stones can be found via palpation, and, because of their mineral composition, certain types of stones go undetected by X-rays. Ultrasound is far more reliable. Yes, exploratory surgery is a sure-fire way to diagnose bladder stones, but why perform such an invasive procedure when ultrasound is available?

Once a dog or cat is an adult, core vaccinations (the vaccines recommended for every dog or cat) should be given once every three years.

If you’ve read my books or my blog, this was probably an easy one for you to answer. Disease protection provided by core vaccines (distemper, parvovirus) in adult animals lasts a minimum of three years. It simply does not make sense to administer them more frequently. All vaccines have the potential for adverse reactions. Why on earth expose your dog or cat to such risk when there is no benefit to be gained? The exception here is rabies- your local government gets to dictate the frequency of administration of this vaccine.

An alternative to revaccinating adult dogs for canine distemper and parvovirus is vaccine serology, aka “titer testing.” For more information about this I encourage you to read the chapter called, “The Vaccination Conundrum” in Speaking for Spot.

Unfortunately, not all veterinarians are on the bandwagon when it comes to current vaccination protocols. What should you do if your vet insists on annual vaccinations? Time to find yourself a more progressive veterinarian!

Tapeworms can cause itchiness around the anus.

As a child I remember hearing that tapeworms could rob the body of nutrition. In veterinary school I learned that this is simply old wives’ tales. The two major issues caused by tapeworms are an itchy anus for the animal (worm segments exit the animal’s body by migrating through the anus) and a major “gross out” experience for the unlucky individual who happens to observe this trans-anal migration. Worst-case scenario, a super large volume of tapeworms within an animal’s gut can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Food allergies can cause itchy skin, diarrhea, and ear infections.

Yup, food allergies can cause all kinds of symptoms for dogs and cats- from itchy skin to ear infections to vomiting and diarrhea. The best way to know if this is the cause of your pet’s problems is to talk with your veterinarian about a hypoallergenic food trial. Your dog or cat will be restricted to a limited-ingredient diet for 6-8 weeks while you and your vet observe whether or not the symptoms improve.

Hip dysplasia is something a dog is born with.

The normal hip joint consists of a ball (the head of the femur) that is deeply seated within a round socket (the acetabulum). Hip dysplasia refers to a defectively developed hip joint- something that the pup is born with- in which the head of the femur is not deeply seated within the acetabulum. The result is instability of the hip joint. Over time, the body reacts to this instability by remodeling the joint, the end result of which is arthritis. Hip dysplasia is the underlying abnormality, and arthritis is the secondary consequence.

Kennel cough is caused by bacterial organisms and viruses, and is the common name for infectious tracheobronchitis.

Kennel cough is an umbrella term used to describe inflammation of the respiratory tract caused by a variety of airborne, contagious, infectious microorganisms. Keep in mind that the Bordetella vaccination protects against only one microorganism capable of causing kennel cough.

A veterinary specialist is an individual who has completed advanced training and has become certified in a particular area of veterinary medicine.

From a legal point of view, the term “specialist” is reserved only for those docs who have completed advanced residency training (beyond veterinary school) in a particular field of veterinary medicine. In addition, the specialist must have authored publications and passed some insanely rigorous exams, the culmination of which is referred to as “board certification.” Many specialists do indeed have “special” personalities, but this is not a requirement.

Did you learn something new? Would you welcome more “Are You Smarter Than a Vet Student” in the future?

Lastly, I would like to send out greetings to all of you mamas out there. I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

 

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

Are You Smarter Than a Vet Student?

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Quinn and Nellie - Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

This week, I’m asking you to put your veterinary knowledge to the test. I hope you have fun participating and will learn something in the process. As always, my goal is to help you become a savvy medical advocate for those animals you love so dearly.

So, here’s how it works. Take a look at the following questions and choose the response you believe makes the most sense. I invite you to post your responses publicly from which I will choose two “winners” who will receive a signed copy of Speaking for Spot or Your Dog’s Best Health. I will provide the answers to all of the questions within my next blog post. Enjoy!

A. The best way to diagnose bladder stones is:

  1. An x-ray (radiograph) of the abdomen
  2. An ultrasound examination of the abdomen
  3. Palpation of the abdomen in order to feel the stones within the bladder
  4. Via surgery

B. Once a dog or cat is an adult, core vaccinations (the vaccines every dog or cat should receive) should be given:

  1. Once a year
  2. Once every two years
  3. Once every three years
  4. Never again once the adult has been vaccinated

C. Tapeworms can cause:

  1. Increased appetite
  2. Weight loss
  3. Itchiness around the anus
  4. All of the above

D. Food allergies can cause:

  1. Itchy skin
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Ear infections
  4. All of the above

E. Hip dysplasia is:

  1. Something a dog is born with
  2. Something a dog develops over time
  3. The same thing as arthritis in the hips
  4. Always a preventable disease

F. Kennel cough is:

  1. Caused by bacteria
  2. Caused by viruses
  3. Is the common name for infectious tracheobronchitis
  4. All of the above

G. A veterinary specialist is:

  1. An individual who has a special interest in a particular area of veterinary medicine
  2. An individual who has completed advanced training in a particular area of veterinary medicine
  3. An individual who has completed advanced training and has become certified in a particular area of veterinary medicine
  4. An individual with a special personality

Now, don’t forget to post your responses.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in Your First Aid Kit?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

My recovery from recent back surgery is going to keep me away from the computer for a bit.  During this time I’m happy to present some excellent posts with timely information written by several  veterinarians and dog-bloggers whose posts I regularly follow.  Today’s post, “What’s in Your First Aid Kit?” was written by Dr. Janet Crosby who authors the very popular and informative Veterinary Medicine content at http://vetmedicine.about.com/.  Please make her feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! . 

Best wishes, 

Dr. Nancy Kay

I have been interested in first aid since I was given my first “doctor kit” when I was 5. I bandaged up toy animals (and patient real ones) to practice my craft. Later on, I took swimming lessons in lifesaving and CPR classes in college. More recently, my colleague and I taught “wilderness first aid for pets” classes at an outdoor gear store. Will all of that, I should have a perfectly assembled, everything-in-its-place first aid kit; ready to assist whoever, whenever.

Ha. I wish. 

I have tried. I have assembled various kits over the years, the contents becoming outdated or misplaced over time. I now have a loosely assembled “dog bag” with medical stuff that will do for many situations, but it isn’t a true first aid kit. I have been trying to get myself more organized. Just in case. 

Many of the items in a pet first aid kit will work for all pets – scissors, antiseptics, bandages, tape, and so on. It is important to realize that each pet should have their own specialized part of the first aid kit as needed. For example, traveling with my Greyhound Argos has prioritized the need for probiotics (stress gut) and bandaging materials just in case. (Greyhounds have thin skin and sometimes-too-quick reflexes.) As Sophie has inched up in years, I travel with some anti-inflammatory pain relief to use as needed after long hikes. The Thundershirt, while not typical “first aid,” also travels with us when some calm is called for. 

First Aid Kits For Pets
There are many, many choices for first aid kits for pets, as seen in this Google search. What kit is the “right” kit for your pet? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Look for ones that contain most of what you are looking for and add to it. Or build your own. I always add sterile eye wash (not the contact lens cleaner and not medicated in any way), just in case of a foreign body or liquid contamination of they eye. Nail clippers are handy if dealing with a torn toenail. Your veterinarian will also be able to provide pet-specific advice if you have questions. 

It is also a good idea to check into pet first aid classes. Having a spiffy new first aid kit is no good if you don’t know how to use it. Check your local veterinary clinics, Red Cross, or retailers such as Petco, now offering online pet first aid classes. You can even learn first aid tips and techniques on your phone

A Good Thing To Have In The Car
An all-purpose first aid kit is good to have in the car in case you find an injured animal on the road or witness an accident. A muzzle is a necessary kit item (or make one) when dealing with injured and frightened animals. 

Do You Have A Pet First Aid Kit?
Did you purchase or make your kit? Please share your tips for making and using a pet first aid kit

Photo: First Aid Kit by marvinxsteadfast on Flickr 

Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM never planned to be a writer. She wanted to be a veterinarian from the moment she learned such a job existed – sometime during the first grade, when she accompanied her mom to the vet with a sick cat. Janet “adopted” all the neighborhood cats, and at age 11 she started training her first dog, a newly adopted rescue Collie. At age 12, she joined a dog obedience 4-H club and was active through high school as a member and as a junior leader.

Read more: http://blog.k9cuisine.com/vet-med/whats-in-your-first-aid-kit/#ixzz16y058SIi

_____________________________________________________

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
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. 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 is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free Christmas or Chanukah guft wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Finding the Cure for Drug Delivery Ills

Monday, November 29th, 2010

While I’m busy recovering from some back surgery, you have the good fortune of reading posts from some of my favorite doggie bloggers!  Today’s post comes from Dr. Patty Khuly whose writes the Fully Vetted blog at www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted.  Please make her feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! 

Best wishes,

Dr. Nancy Kay

Getting pets to pop their pills is a huge issue. So huge, in fact, that a drug’s delivery method often informs veterinary decision making, sometimes more than the drug’s other properties. Side effects, for example, matter far less when the alternative is no treatment at all.

 

The “drug delivery” issue is getting more play recently, what with the growing list of drugs we’re now prescribing for our patients. This, coupled with issues of accessibility, availability and price fuels a sizable niche industry created specifically to meet the needs of pets who won’t — or can’t — tolerate drugs and supplements designed to treat and/or prevent their ills. After all, pets can be picky about what we put in their mouths or mix into their meals. And you would be too if you didn’t understand why you needed to take that multivitamin, glucosamine, or fatty acid gelcap on a daily basis.

This is why compounding pharmacies exist. For the modern veterinarian, being able to access our favorite compounding pharmacy’s expertise in the formulation of new versions of the same-old drugs that line our shelves is a boon to our profession. But few veterinary clients fully understand what it is our compounding pharmacies do for us. To help unmuddy the waters, here’s a brief list of how these places help us bring better care to our patients:

1. Delivery, delivery, delivery

As for the real estate and location truism, so too does the veterinary drug industry rely on the “D” word.

As a pet owner, you know how it is. We try everything to get meds into our pets. Some of us hide our pets’ pills in foodstuffs or treats: cream cheese, peanut butter (chunky works best, IMO), ham, chicken breast, pill pockets, filet mignon …

As veterinarians, we also do whatever it takes to get the meds into our patients. And, yes, sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error.

More than anything else, what we all want is a cure that requires no daily discomfort, wriggling, stressing, in-the-towel-burrito-ing or the potential for biting, scratching or generalized inter-species strife. This is where the compounding pharmacy comes in with their ability to turn…

a.    chalky to chewy
b.    bitter to tasty
c.    oral to topical

Yes, topical. So it is that sometimes compounding pharmacies can manage the seemingly impossible.

2. Availability

Is your drug on back-order? Discontinued? Supply chain hassles? Never fear. You don’t have to compromise your pet’s care if you can find a compounding pharmacy willing to make it for you. That’s what lots of veterinarians are doing now with drugs like ophthalmic cyclosporine. When the supply goes dry, compounding pharmacies’ production ramps up.

3. Safety

I’m not big on doing chemotherapy in-house. I’d always rather send my patients to the specialists where the required drugs are more safely housed. Yet I have plenty of clients who prefer that I administer these drugs personally, citing their pets’ greater comfort in a place they already know well.

This is where compounding pharmacies come in. They’ll ship pre-measured doses to me, already in their syringes and ready to inject. Safer for me, my staff, and my patients.

4. Convenience

Want your meds shipped directly to you? Your vet can arrange for that. Pharmacies will ship monthly, on cue, if that’s what you need.

It’s hard to quantify, but we suspect that non-compliance resulting from an inability to administer meds is among the biggest drivers of poor clinical outcomes in veterinary medicine (if not the biggest). Then there’s the issue of antibiotic resistance to deal with when antibiotics are started. The pill is found under the sofa … started again … spit out again … repeat …

Given this setup, is it any wonder that compounding pharmacies are finding veterinary medicine a lucrative place to invest their time and money?

But the take-home message here is not about building new businesses with our pet-dedicated dollars; it’s more about the willingness to meet our pets’ needs by making medications work through any means necessary.

Trouble is, clients don’t always inform us when the meds aren’t going down the gullet. Not every pet owner is educated enough about drug choices to know they can ask us for alternatives. And, truth be told, we don’t always pointedly ask whether an unhappy outcome might be the result of poor drug compliance. (It just seems kind of rude to ask, you know?)

However, now that you’ve read this, you know what you need to do. When you come across a tidy stack of tablets your dog has hidden under the bed, or your cat drools for hours after taking her pill, consider asking for another method. No one needs to suffer when so many other options are available.

Dr. Patty Khuly

www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted

Patty Khuly VMD, MBA is a small animal veterinarian in Miami, Florida, where she practices medicine at Sunset Animal Clinic and serves on the board of the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association. She is a graduate of Wellesley College, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, and The Wharton School of Business.

_____________________________________________________

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
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. 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 is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free Christmas or Chanukah guft wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

The Real Reason there are More and More Women Veterinarians

Friday, November 26th, 2010

While I’m busy recovering from some back surgery, you have the good fortune of reading posts from some of my favorite doggie bloggers!  Today’s post comes from Dr. Larry McDaniel who blogs regularly at www.scratchingsandsniffings.com and on the PurinaCare™ Blog.   Please make him feel welcome by posting your wonderful comments.  Be back soon! 

Best wishes,

Dr. Nancy Kay

In 1960 the Veterinary profession was 98% male. Today, it’s about 50/50 and in the future it will be mostly female. Since 1984 more women have been admitted to Veterinary School and more have been graduating since 1988. Right now about 80% of the current vet students are women.

Why?

Dr-Larry-and-puppy

There are standard explanations, often supplied by male Deans of Veterinary Colleges or male heads of professional associations. These sage pronunciations are routinely repeated by an incurious popular press. One of the more common explanations is that men are seeking higher paying professions and women in the profession have their husband’s salaries to fall back on. That’s also one of the more patronizing explanations and, according to Dr Anne Lincoln, a sociologist from SMU, it’s simply not true.

DrAnneLincoln-SMU

It is true that Law and Medicine have higher average salaries than Veterinary Medicine, but in her  recently published paper; The Shifting Supply of Men and Women to Occupations: Feminization of Veterinary Medicine, that is not the primary driver of change. It turns out that decisions about cost of tuition and eventual compensation affect women and men equally. In fact, Veterinary Medicine is simply ahead of the feminization curve and the Medical and Legal professions are heading in the same direction.

Instead, Dr Lincoln cites these three primary reasons for the gender shift in Veterinary Medicine. 

First, there was landmark anti-discrimination legislation passed in 1972. Elements of Title 9 made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender for application to graduate programs. The percentage of female applicants and graduates in the 28 Veterinary Colleges around the country has been on the rise ever since.

Secondly, there are simply more women with the qualifications to be admitted to Veterinary School than men. More women are graduating from college than men. More women are applying to college, too, by the way. My wife sees this as proof of her long held tenet that women are simply smarter than men.

The final reason is the most interesting. Simply stated, men seem to prefer the company of men. That seems contrary to logic and personal experience to me. What man wouldn’t prefer to spend his time surrounded by women? Apparently most of us, according to Dr Lincoln. She states that, “The feminization of Veterinary Medicine is really the demasculinization of Veterinary Medicine, driven by men’s lower rate of college graduation and their aversion to the presence of women.

Dr-Larrys-new-ride

Why the aversion to the presence of women? I have my own theory on that. We men secretly realize that we have a hard time measuring up. Let’s face it. Women work harder, are better team members and possess higher emotional intelligence than men. At some level most of us men realize that we should just get out of the way if anything positive is going to happen. No wonder an aspiring male veterinary student freaks out when he visits an actual Veterinary School. Does he really want to be confronted with his basic inadequacy on a daily basis for four years?  No way.

Don’t get me wrong. I have lots of male friends. I love hanging out with them and I spend a good deal of time riding bikes with my pals. Unfortunately, these cycling interactions only seem to reinforce my conclusions. Our rides aren’t really social events where we discuss our feelings or seek emotional support or enlightenment. These “rides” most often degenerate into Darwinian bouts of survival where the goal is to punish the weak and assert one’s physical dominance. I really get into it, by the way.

These skills are very useful, of course, especially for a hunter gatherer on the Serengeti 250,000 years ago. Not so useful in the boardroom or the classroom, sad to say. In the good old days we could survive and get our props by simply being the best at chasing it and killing it. That was pretty much it though, because after that we gave it to the women and they did everything else. I guess you could say nothing really ever changes.

Dr. Larry McDaniel

http://www.scratchingsandsniffings.com/2010/11/the-real-reason-there-are-more-and-more-women-veterinarians-.html#more

Dr. Larry McDaniel has had a life long love affair with animals.  Dr. McDaniel graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and entered private practice in Northern Idaho. There weren’t any jobs available with wildlife agencies so Larry worked in a mixed animal practice working on both ranch animals and dogs and cats. Turns out this type of work suited Larry just fine and he opened his own practice in Western Montana. It was here that Dr. McDaniel developed and interest in animal nutrition.

Larry was elected the President of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition in 1994 and continues to consult with major pet food manufacturers on therapeutic small animal nutrition. He is excited about participating in the blog and hopes to be able to offer some useful information on all issues related to the care of our family pets.

_____________________________________________________

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
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. 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 is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller. 

Free Christmas or Chanukah gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).

Dogs That Fly

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

The United States Department of Transportation recently released breed-related information about dogs that have died while traveling in the cargo compartments of airplanes since May 2005. Of the 122 dogs that died, 108 were purebred. Brachycephalic breeds (ones I affectionately refer to as “smoosh faced”) such as Pugs, English Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs represented approximately half of the purebred dogs that took their last breath while in the plane.    

Credit: Dallasnews.com, Dallas Pooch Parade

You’d have a tough time finding a veterinarian who would be surprised by these results. For us, it’s a given that the vast majority of these adorable, snub-nosed dogs have some degree of upper airway obstruction because of nostrils that are too small, a windpipe that is too narrow, and/or excessive fleshy tissue in the region of the larynx (the anatomical entryway into the windpipe). When brachycephalic dogs breathe harder and faster in response to heat or stress (both may certainly be factors in the cargo compartment of an airplane) it makes sense that they are much more susceptible to heatstroke and/or respiratory compromise.    

What’s the take home point here?  One should always think long and hard about the potential pitfalls of transporting your dog to and fro via airplane. But if your heart belongs to a smoosh-faced dog, please strongly consider other options such as transport via car, renting a private jet (yeah, right!), or leaving your little sweetie at home. If flying is a must, ask your veterinarian to thoroughly assess your dog’s baseline level of respiratory compromise before you purchase your tickets and discuss ways to potentially make the flight less stressful.    

Have you ever flown with your dog? If so, please share your experiential wisdom.  

Now here’s wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health. 

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
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook   

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. 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 is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.   

You can support your favorite rescue group.  The Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program shares a portion of the sales proceeds with approved non-profit organizations when you purchase a book via the Speaking for Spot website and designate the organization at the time of purchase.

Gastric Torsion: A Horribly Unhealthy Kind of Twist

Thursday, July 1st, 2010
Torsion, gastric torsion, gastric dilatation-volvulus, GDV; these are terms you never want to hear applied to your dog.  They all mean the exact same thing- your dog’s stomach is distended with gas and has twisted on itself, and emergency surgery offers the only hope for saving his life.  Here’s a visual aid to help you understand what happens when a dog develops gastric torsion.  Picture a fanny pack in your mind.   The pouch of the fanny pack represents your dog’s stomach.  One strap of the fanny pack is the esophagus that transports food from your dog’s mouth down into his stomach.  The other strap is the upper small intestine (duodenum) that transports food out of the stomach.  Now hold one strap of the fanny pack in each hand and twirl the pouch until it twists on itself causing the straps to crimp.  This is what happens when gastric torsion occurs- the stomach twists on itself, cutting off normal blood flow to the stomach and surrounding structures.  Additionally, gas and fluid continue to accumulate within the stomach and cannot flow out via the crimped esophagus or duodenum, so the stomach progressively distends. A dog in this situation quickly lapses into a state of shock and surgical “decompression” or untwisting of the stomach is the only way out of this nightmare.  Time is of the essence- the longer the stomach remains twisted, the greater the likelihood of irreversible devitalization (death) of the stomach tissue.

Image Credit: HoundFancy, 2001

 

Initial symptoms of gastric torsion include a bloated appearance through the midsection (the ribs look like they are expanding outward), drooling, nonproductive retching/vomiting, restlessness, weakness, shallow breathing, rapid heart rate (if it can be felt through the chest wall), and pale gum color.  If you observe such symptoms, quickly make some phone calls to find the closest veterinary hospital capable of performing immediate surgery on your best friend.  The sooner surgery can be performed the greater the likelihood of a successful outcome.  Irreparable damage to the stomach tissue is often the deal breaker if the torsion is not corrected quickly.  At the time of surgery, not only is the stomach derotated, it is tacked (attached with stitches) to the inside of the abdominal wall to prevent a repeat spinning performance.  Additionally if the spleen or portions of the stomach wall appear devitalized (deprived of normal blood flow for too long) they will be removed.  If surgery is successful, the dog typically has a minimum two to three day post-operative stay in the hospital for round the clock monitoring for post-operative complications.   

Truth be told, we really don’t know much about what causes gastric torsion.  Clearly, there is a breed/conformation association- large deep-chested breeds such as Great Danes, Irish Setters, Standard Poodles, Irish Wolfhounds, Boxers, Dobermans, Weimaraners, and Rottweilers are particularly predisposed.  Affected males definitely outnumber females. One study documented that elevating the food bowl actually predisposes to gastric torsion.  Other studies have indicated that the following factors may also be part of the recipe that results in gastric dilatation-volvulus: eating only one meal per day, eating rapidly, eating dry foods that list oils or fats among the first four label ingredients, exercising in close association to mealtime, being underweight, and being of an “anxious” rather than “happy” personality type.  The only known way to prevent gastric torsion from occurring is by performing a prophylactic (preventive) gastropexy procedure (sutures are used to tack the stomach wall to the inside lining of the abdominal cavity).  This does not prevent the bloating (stomach distending with gas), but does prevent the life threatening twisting part of this miserable disease process.   

Would you like to participate in a study to learn more about why dogs develop gastric torsion?  If your dog has ever bloated (distention of the stomach without rotation) or has experienced gastric torsion, I encourage you to take this survey http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WS2VKFP.  It is being conducted by Dr. Cynthia Otto from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in collaboration with researcher, author and lecturer, Dr. Carmen Battaglia. A summary of the results and findings will be posted at www.breedingbetterdogs.com in November, 2010.  If you and your dog did have direct experience with a gastric torsion, I sure as heck hope yours was a happy ending.   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook    

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. 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 is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Stop That Scratching!

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

If the sounds of a canine or feline “scratchfest” is interrupting your slumber, or you’re snarling, “Stop scratching!” several times a day, chances are you have an allergic pet on your hands. Just as with human hay fever, most dog and cat allergies are the result of an exaggerated immune system response to allergens in the environment such as plant pollens, tree pollens, and mold spores.  The scientific name for this inherited allergic condition is atopy or atopic dermatitis. Terriers of any type are notorious atopy sufferers along with Dalmatians, Lhasa Apsos, Shar-peis, Bulldogs, and Labrador Retrievers. 

Whereas people are prone to runny nose and eyes, dogs and cats with atopy develop itchy skin, often accompanied by skin and ear infections. Symptoms are initially mild and seasonal, but tend to progress year by year in terms of severity and duration.  Fortunately, there are many options for treating atopy including medicated shampoos, antihistamines, fatty acid supplements, and drugs that alter the immune system’s overzealous behavior (cyclosporine, cortisone).  Just as for people, desensitization injections can be administered after specific testing is done to determine which allergens are provoking the immune response. Elimination of exposure to the allergens may also be an option (a good excuse to move to Hawaii!). 

Some dogs and cats develop allergies to their food.  This can result in year round itchy skin, ear infections, and/or gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, gassiness).  If a food allergy is suspected, your veterinarian will recommend an “elimination food trial.”  This requires strict adherence (including elimination of your pet’s favorite treats) to feeding a novel protein diet for six to eight weeks. There are many such diets to choose from these days that contain duck, rabbit, venison, salmon, and even kangaroo! If the chronic symptoms disappear in response to the diet change, voila, the diagnosis of food allergy has been made. One must then hope that, over time, the animal doesn’t develop an allergy to the new diet! 

Lastly, some dogs and cats develop an allergy to fleas, more specifically, to the flea’s saliva.  Whereas many fleas are required to cause most animals to scratch like crazy, for those with a flea allergy, just one bite is all it takes to set off an intensely itchy reaction that can last for days. The best treatment for this allergy is stringent flea control, or relocation to Colorado; fleas don’t survive in high altitude locations! 

‘Tis the season for fleas and seasonal atopy.  Do you have an itchy dog or cat on your hands?  If so, what will your strategy be to soothe your pet’s itch and preserve your sanity? 

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health,   

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook   

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. 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 is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Morris Animal Foundation 2010 K9 Cancer Walk

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

I am gearing up for Morris Animal Foundation’s 2nd annual K9 Cancer Walk to be held in Elk Grove, California (www.curecaninecancer.org/) on Saturday, April 24th.  Just as was the case last year, I will be a speaker at this fabulous event along with Dr. Michael Kent, a staff oncologist at the UC Davis veterinary school.  The actual walk will begin at 10:00 am and the speakers program will be at 11:30 am.

Care to join me there?  If you cannot participate in person, I hope you will consider joining my virtual Speaking for Spot Team (http://maf.convio.net/site/TR/Events/CCC?team_id=1260&pg=team&fr_id=1040).   And if you are able to attend, please come introduce yourself to me.  I would love to meet you!

Here is the blog I posted one year ago after the very first K9 Cancer Walk.

Walking to Cure Canine Cancer

This past Saturday, I saw four three-legged dogs- each one having lost a limb as part of their treatment for bone cancer.  I met another sweetie pie with a shaved patch over one side of his chest.  His mom told me this was the site where her pup’s chest cavity was drained of fluid produced by a cancer growing at the base of his heart.  Yet another dog I encountered had an orange-sized tumor on the bridge of his nose. 

Believe it or not, I met none of these dogs in a veterinary hospital setting; rather, we were all gathered in Elk Grove, California, the site of the very first Morris Animal Foundation Walk to Cure Canine Cancer. Morris Animal Foundation has launched an unprecedented $30 million fundraising effort with the following goals in mind:

1.  Provide new treatments for dogs currently suffering from cancer
2.  Establish a high-quality tumor sample bank that can be used by cancer researchers
3.  Develop prevention strategies so that cancer might one day be eliminated or, at the very least, drastically reduced in incidence and severity
4.  Train new researchers who will work towards discovering preventions, treatments and cures

An important part of the fundraising effort will be in the form of “Walks to Cure Canine Cancer.”  The Elk Grove Walk raised $17,945!  I had the honor of speaking at this fabulous first-of-its-kind event-what a thrill to be part of it all!  More than 300 dogs and their humans gathered together in the fight against canine cancer.

As unfathomable as it sounds, cancer will be the cause of death in one out of every four of our beloved canine companions.  There’s so much we don’t yet know about what causes canine cancer and how best to treat it.  I’m thrilled with the Morris Animal Foundation plans.  They are an incredibly ethical and effective organization, and I am expecting great things. To learn more about the Morris Animal Canine Cancer Campaign, please visit www.curecaninecancer.org/. I encourage you to participate in any way you can.

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health, 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. 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 is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.

Medicinal Herbs: Not to Be Taken (or Given) Lightly

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

As a small animal internist, the majority of my patients are referred by their family veterinarians.  By the time I first examine them, they are usually receiving a laundry list of conventional medications (antibiotics, nonsteroidal antiinflammatories, etc.) and/or complementary medications (herbs, homeopathic remedies).   I’ve always scrutinized the conventional medications on the list because their potential side effects and the ways they might impact my diagnostic and therapeutic planning.  I’ve tended to pay far less attention to the complementary medications because of my impression that these medicinals are unlikely to cause significant harm or interact unfavorably with other things I might prescribe. Well, there will be no more of this “ignorant bliss” for me! Not after reading, “A Review of the Potential Forensic Significance of Traditional Herbal Medicines” from the Journal of Forensic Science (January, 2010).  The author, Roger Byard, M.D. undertook a review of herbal medicines based on their increasing popularity (there has been a steady 10% increase in spending on botanical remedies in the United States) and the fact that access to such products is largely unrestricted- they can be purchased without prescription. Keep in mind that herbs are manufactured and sold without any FDA approval process.

Here are some of Dr. Byard’s comments and findings:

-An analysis of 251 Asian herbal products from stores in California identified arsenic in 36, mercury in 35, and lead in 24. There have been reports of lead poisoning and mercury poisoning in people caused by such contamination.
-Less expensive herbs are sometimes intentionally used to replace those that are more costly. A case is referenced in which an herb designed to promote weight loss was replaced with another. The unfortunate result for the patient was kidney failure.
-Accidental substitution can occur if plants are incorrectly identified or if the name is misinterpreted. Apparently, some traditional herbal preparations have multiple names. To make matters even more confusing, some herbal preparations that are different from one another go by the same name.
- Failure to process fresh herbs correctly can have serious consequences. Processing is designed to clean and preserve the desired material while removing or reducing any unwanted toxic components. The example provided was aconite root, a plant that must be soaked in water and boiled to reduce toxicity. Failure to do this can result in heart rhythm abnormalities and/or heart failure.
-Some herb manufacturers purposefully adulterate their products with drugs presumably to increase their efficacy. Yet no mention of this is made on the packaging. Examples of hidden products found in herbal preparations have included conventional medications to treat pain, inflammation, seizures, heart failure, and asthma.
-Herbal medicines can interact with conventional drugs and other herbs to cause undesirable side effects. For example, St. John’s Wort can decrease the blood level of some medications by impacting how they are metabolized within the liver.
-The American Society of Anesthesiologists has recommended discontinuation of herbal medicines at least two weeks prior to surgery because of their potential for causing complications. Although only eight herbs were identified as being potentially dangerous, they accounted for 50% of all single herb preparations of those sold within the United States. For example, Ginkgo has the potential to increase the risk of hemorrhage and Valerian can exacerbate the sedative effects of anesthetic agents.

Although Dr. Byard’s review is based on findings in human medicine, I have to believe that the general points he makes likely apply to veterinary medicine as well. His review has certainly served as a wake up call for me. If you use herbs, for your pets or yourself, perhaps this information will prompt you to think about things a bit differently as well. What is a practical approach for avoiding the potential pitfalls associated with herbal medications? I encourage you to consider doing the following:

  1. If you are giving herbs to your pet based on your own initiative, schedule an appointment with your vet to discuss and verify that what you are doing is reasonable and safe.
  2. Have a look at the blog I posted in July, 2009 (http://speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=407) called, “The Lowdown on Nutritional Supplements.” It will teach you how to use the ACCLAIM system to evaluate the quality of herbal products.
  3. Pick up a copy of the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) for Nonprescription Drugs, Dietary Supplements, and Herbs. It provides information about the indications, contraindications, and warnings for all commonly used herbs. This PDR is readily available via major online book vendors. I will certainly be using my own copy a whole lot more than ever before!

I hope I have not created fear or anxiety by presenting this information. Rather, my goal is to help you become the very best medical advocate possible. Now, like me, you know that herbal medications should not be taken (or given) lightly. If you provide herbs to your pet(s), I would love to hear from you. Please let me know which one(s) you are giving and whether you or your veterinarian initiated this treatment.

Best wishes to you and your four-legged family members for abundant good health.

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life

Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. 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 is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller.