Support For Responsible Breeding

Photo Credit: Flicker CC license, m-gen, BulldogThe American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Animal Welfare Committee has proposed a policy pertaining to breeding of dogs, cats, and other companion animals. The policy titled, “Inherited Disorders in Responsible Breeding of Companion Animals” is up for approval when members of the AVMA House of Delegates meet later this month.

The policy reads as follows:

The AVMA supports the responsible breeding of companion animals such that only animals without deleterious inherited disorders are selected for breeding. Companion animals exhibiting inherited characteristics that negatively affect the animal’s health and welfare should not be bred, as those characteristics and related problems are likely to be passed on to their progeny. This would include inherited conditions such as brachycephalic syndrome, some joint diseases, bone deformation (e.g., radial hypoplasia “twisty cats”, munchkin), heart and eye conditions, or poor temperament (e.g., Springer rage syndrome). The AVMA encourages veterinarians to educate breeders, pet owners and the public on the responsibilities involved with breeding and selecting pets to ensure that they are not contributing to poor welfare issues.

The potential impact of the policy

Assuming the AVMA will adopt this policy in January (they darned well better!), how will this policy statement be put to use? It’s not as though the AVMA has any direct control over the actions of people who want to breed their animals.

It sounds like the intent of this policy is to give veterinarians a kick in the pants to have more intentional conversation with their clients about breeding their pets (or not breeding them). Every veterinarian has exposure to irresponsible breeding yet, goodness knows, most of us have been far too silent on this topic. Guaranteed, there’s not a veterinarian whose been in practice for more than a few years who hasn’t been in the exam room with a sobbing client while euthanizing a beloved pet because of an inherited defect. And we’ve all examined animals with faddish extremes of conformation that we know will ultimately result in pain and suffering. How many of us have performed artificial insemination and cesarean sections on dogs who are unable to breed and whelp normally on their own?

Without question the majority of veterinarians could be doing a much better job advocating for responsible breeding practices. Perhaps this AVMA policy will help us step closer to this goal.

It’s about time!

While I’m certainly pleased to see that the AVMA is considering this policy, part of me wants to ask, “Where have you been all my life?” To my way of thinking, not only is this policy a “no brainer” now, it would have been so when my career began some 30 plus years ago. Call me impatient, but I can’t help but wonder why good things take so friggin’ long to come to fruition within large organizations. The bottom line is, whether now or then, anything that favors responsible breeders and removes others from the gene pool makes really good sense.

How do you feel about this policy? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Happy new year,

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.

 

 

Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs

Photo Credit: Trustypics on Flicker, CC licenseFor some folks, the start of a new year is a catalyst to lose weight and this may mean switching from plain old sugar to lower calorie sweeteners. Xylitol is one such sugar substitute that is safe for human consumption, but is toxic for dogs. In fact, it can be deadly.

What exactly is xylitol?

Discovered by German chemist Emil Fisher in 1891, xylitol is found in fruit and vegetable fibers. The xylitol we consume is manufactured by beginning with a product called xylan found in hardwood trees and corncobs.

Xylitol was first put to use as a sweetener in Finland during World War II when sucrose was unavailable. The growth in xylitol popularity is attributed to its many beneficial properties. To begin with, xylitol is as sweet as sucrose, but with far fewer calories. Additionally, compared to sugar, it causes very little insulin release in people and insulin is not required for it to be put to use as an energy source for the body. Lastly, xylitol has been shown to prevent mouth bacteria from producing acids that damage the surfaces of the teeth. For this reason, xylitol is commonly included in toothpastes, sugar-free gum, and other oral care products.

Species- specific effects

The effect of xylitol on insulin release varies dramatically between species. In people, rats, horses, and rhesus monkeys, xylitol causes little to no increase in insulin release or change in blood sugar levels. This is altogether different in dogs, cows, goats, rabbits, and baboons. In these species xylitol causes a marked increase in insulin release and drop in blood sugar and is the basis for xylitol toxicity.

Toxicity in dogs

After a dog consumes a significant amount of xylitol, there is a massive release of insulin from the pancreas. This, in turn, results in a dangerously low blood sugar level and symptoms such as weakness, trembling, seizures, collapse, and even death.

At higher dosages, xylitol can cause massive liver destruction (known as necrosis) in which large numbers of livers cells die abruptly. This produces an acute health crisis and, in many cases, death.

Vomiting is often the first symptom of xylitol toxicity. Other symptoms related to the low blood sugar level develop within 30 minutes to 12 hours following consumption. When xylitol-induced liver damage occurs, blood liver enzyme values typically begin increasing within 12 to 24 hours.

The dose of xylitol considered to be toxic for dogs is 0.1 gram or more of xylitol per kg of the dog’s body weight.

Treatment of xylitol toxicity

Emergency treatment is warranted after a dog consumes xylitol. If vomiting can be successfully induced within the first 30 minutes or so (before the xylitol leaves the stomach), the problem may be solved. Once xylitol leaves the stomach and triggers the pancreas to produce insulin, intensive treatment is warranted in order to try to counteract the effects of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and liver damage. Treatment includes hospitalization with round-the-clock care, blood monitoring, and administration of intravenous glucose and liver-protective agents. In some cases, blood transfusions are needed to counteract the effects of blood clotting abnormalities caused by liver failure.

The prognosis for xylitol toxicity varies and depends on how promptly the dog receives treatment as well as the amount of xylitol that was consumed.

Read labels carefully

Many foods and dental products contain xylitol. It is found in chewing gum, candy, peanut butter, cereals, and toothpaste, to name a few. Believe it or not, some products advertised specifically for dogs, such as toothpaste, contain small amounts of xylitol! What are these manufacturers thinking?!

Not all product labels clearly state if they contain xylitol. If a label states only, “artificially sweetened,” presume that it contains xylitol. If you opt to use xylitol-containing products in your household, be sure to keep them completely out of your clever dog’s reach.

What to do if your dog eats xylitol

If you believe that your dog has just eaten (as in you just watched it happen) something containing xylitol, contact a veterinary hospital staff member right away. You might be advised to induce your dog to vomit at home. This is accomplished by forcing your dog to swallow hydrogen peroxide.

If you’re not really sure when the xylitol was consumed (you’ve just returned home from work and the remains of sugar-free gum wrappers are decorating the couch), transport your dog to a nearby veterinary clinic or 24-hour emergency hospital right away. Be sure to take the label of the consumed product with you. Time is always of the essence when treating xylitol toxicity.

Look around your house and see if you have any xylitol-containing products. What did you find?

Happy new year,

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.

New Years Resolutions for a Healthier Dog: A Month-By-Month Guide

Photo Credit: Flicker CC, DaPugletWith the New Year rapidly approaching, now is the perfect time to begin thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. This year, how about getting your dogs in on the act? Resolve to make their lives happier and healthier with assistance from the month-by-month guide below. Have a look and feel free to revise according to what best suits you and your pups.

January: Schedule a veterinary visit, even if your dog isn’t due for any vaccinations. An annual visit includes a thorough physical examination- important because, the sooner a problem is discovered the greater the likelihood for a good outcome. An annual veterinary visit also provides the opportunity to discuss your dog’s nutrition, parasite control, behavior, and any other topics that are on your mind.

February: Take some whole body photos of your dog. It’s fun to share them on Instagram and Facebook, and, if the unthinkable ever happens and your pup goes missing, you’ll be able to post current images to facilitate a safe return.

March: With the weather starting to warm up a bit, now is a great time to begin a dog-walking regimen. Get out at least once or twice daily and gradually build up your distance. This will be fantastic for your dog’s health and for yours as well.

April: This is National Heartworm Prevention month. Make sure your dog has been tested for heartworm disease (a simple blood test that is recommended annually) and that you are giving heartworm preventive medication exactly as prescribed.

May: This is “Chip Your Pet Month.” If your dog hasn’t been microchipped, make this a priority. If your pup is already microchipped, double-check that your current contact information is updated with the microchip registry.

June: Did you know that there is an actual “Take Your Dog To Work Day?” It happens this month! What a great way to spend quality time with your best bud and enjoy interacting with your coworkers in a new and different way.

July: Assemble a list of emergency contact information that is in or near your phone at all times. Include numbers for the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline, your family veterinary clinic, a local 24-hour emergency hospital, and people who can, spur of the moment, responsibly care for your dog.

August: Make a habit of grooming your dog or at least running your hands over every square inch of fur on a regular basis. Not only will this provide some bonding time, it will also enable early detection of fleas, ticks, skin diseases, and any newly forming lumps and bumps.

September: Commit to brushing your dog’s teeth on a regular basis (at least three times a week) and then stick with this game plan. Don’t know how? Get some help from your veterinarian.

October: Be prepared for National Pet Obesity Awareness Day. Is your dog too lean, too heavy, or just right? Do you know your dog’s body condition score? Check in with your veterinarian to help assess if your dog is at a healthy weight. If needed, get some advice on creating a healthy weight loss program.

November: Set up a pet trust. No fun to think about, but should you become incapacitated or pass away, a trust will ensure that your dog will be well cared for.

December: Prepare emergency evacuation supplies for your dog. Be sure to include a two-week supply of food and water (include a can opener if needed), food and water dishes, your dog’s favorite treats, a collar or harness with ID tags, a leash, a carrier (particularly if your dog is small), a favorite blanket or bed, a copy of your dog’s medical records, a month supply of any medications, a first-aid kit, and recent photos of your dog.

What resolutions have you made for your pets for the new year?

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy new year,

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.

My Dog Ate My Wallet!

Here’s something that may surprise you as much as it surprised me. It just so happens that, should your dog eat your money- paper money that is- the United States government will replace it. Yep, you read that correctly. That’s the part that’s the really good news. The not so good news is that, if your dog actually swallows those bills, you will have to retrieve the mutilated end product and clean it up a bit before sending it off to Uncle Sam for reimbursement.

Mutilated currency

Every year the United States Treasury Department reimburses more than 30 million dollars in response to approximately 30,000 mutilated currency claims. In order to qualify as “mutilated,” a bill must be less than one half of its original size and/or require special examination to determine its value.

In addition to damage caused by pets, the most common causes of mutilated currency include flooding, fire, insects, chemicals, and explosions. By the way, paper money is quite harmless to dogs when it is eaten, and it isn’t fully digested within the intestinal tract. In other words, it comes out resembling how it appeared when it was swallowed.

How to receive reimbursement

So, if your dog snatches your wallet and eats his grocery money, here are the steps to follow:

  • Retrieve the remains of your money from your dog’s “bank deposit.”
  • Clean up these remains to the best of your ability.
  • Package this cleaned up end product and mail it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington DC.
  • Include a letter stating the estimated value of the currency and an explanation of how the currency became mutilated- “My dog at my wallet!”

Voila! Just like that, problem solved. Way to go United States Government! Wow, how refreshing is it to be able to say that!

What’s the craziest thing your dog ever ate?

Best wishes for the holidays,

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.

 

Why is My Dog Vomiting?

Photo Credit: Jake Kay

Photo Credit: Jake Kay

While it can be normal for dogs to vomit once or twice a year, vomiting on a more frequent basis is cause for concern. And, while it’s tempting to think that vomiting means that the problem is in the stomach, know that vomiting is a truly nonspecific symptom. There are literally dozens of different diseases, many unrelated to the stomach, that can cause vomiting. Figuring out which one is the culprit requires help from a veterinarian.

The most common causes of vomiting are described below:

Eating something inappropriate: Dogs, particularly youngsters, are the kings and queens of eating things they shouldn’t. Whether it be raiding the garbage pail or getting into something nasty out in the yard, irritation of the stomach and intestines caused by eating such “yuck” can cause vomiting. Much like a case of food poisoning, this sort of vomiting typically resolves on its own after 12 to 24 hours.

Gastrointestinal foreign bodies: Bones, rocks, children’s toys, socks, underwear, corn cobs- you name it and dogs have clogged up their bowels with it. Some foreign bodies ultimately pass through on their own, but others become lodged and cause persistent vomiting. Treatment requires removal of the foreign body, and this is best accomplished via surgery or a nonsurgical procedure called endoscopy. What are the most unusual foreign bodies I’ve encountered? The two that stand out the most were a troll doll (imagine me viewing this with the endoscope that markedly magnifies everything) and a woman’s diaphragm (yuck!!).

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Some dogs develop inflammation within the lining of their bowel, and if the stomach or upper small intestine are involved, vomiting is a common symptom. Allergies may play a role, but truth be told, the cause(s) of IBD remain unclear. The most common IBD symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. Treatment typically involves diet modification and the use of antiinflammatory medications.

Toxicities: Vomiting can be caused by a variety toxins that some dogs will eat if given access. Examples are poisonous plants (including mushrooms), rotten meat or carcasses, human medications such as Tylenol or ibuprofen, antifreeze, and snail bait. Treatment varies depending on the specific toxin ingested.

Food allergies: Check out the label on a typical bag or can of dog food and you will find dozens of ingredients. Just as is the case for us, some dogs develop allergies to certain food products or additives. For some dogs with food allergies, puritus (itchy skin) is the major symptom. Other dogs with food allergies develop vomiting. Elimination diets (those with fewer ingredients) may provide relief for dogs with food allergies.

Pancreatitis: The pancreas is located right adjacent to the stomach and upper small intestine. So, it makes sense that vomiting occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed and irritated. In addition to persistent vomiting, pancreatitis tends to cause lethargy and abdominal pain. Hospitalization is usually required for administration of medications and intravenous fluids. The cause of pancreatitis isn’t always clear, but in some cases arises on the heels of eating something that is fat-laden such as the skin off the Thanksgiving day turkey.

Liver disease: Vomiting is a common symptom associated with most every flavor of canine liver disease. Successful treatment of the liver disease (if possible) results in resolution of the vomiting.

Renal failure: Kidney failure causes a number of symptoms, and one of the most common is vomiting. The mainstay of therapy for kidney failure is supplemental fluids. Additional treatments are dictated by the underlying cause of the kidney failure.

Gastrointestinal tumors: Tumors that arise within the stomach and/or intestines can be benign or malignant. Whatever the type of tumor, vomiting tends to be a common symptom, particularly if it is located in the stomach or upper small intestine or if it is growing in a ways that causes a blockage (obstruction). Treatment varies depending on the location and type of cancer present.

Pyometra: Pyometra literally means pus within the uterus. This disease occurs in unspayed female dogs, most commonly a few weeks following estrus (being in heat). Vomiting is a common symptom associated with pyometra. Treatment most commonly requires spaying with surgical removal of the uterus.

Addison’s Disease: The official name for this disease is “hypoadrenocorticism” which reflects a state of having too little cortisone. The adrenal glands are responsible for producing cortisone as well as the hormone aldosterone which controls sodium and potassium levels within the bloodstream. Addison’s Disease occurs when the adrenal glands quit producing cortisone and/or aldosterone. Vomiting is one of several symptoms caused by this disease. Treatment of Addison’s Disease requires hormone replacement therapy and, depending on the severity of symptoms, a period of hospitalization may be required.

Eating grass: Do dogs vomit because they eat grass or do they eat grass because they feel the need to vomit? This is the classic “chicken versus egg” conundrum. Some dogs are simply grazers. They enjoy munching on greenery and do so without vomiting. On the other hand, consensus amongst veterinarians is that a feeling of nausea or intestinal discomfort induces many dogs to develop a yen for eating grass, leaves, twigs, dirt, and whatever else Mother Nature is serving. While it’s tempting to blame the foliage for the vomiting, it is important to dig deeper to figure out why the dog felt the need to graze in the first place.

Diagnosing the cause of vomiting

Before any diagnostic testing is performed on the vomiting dog, ideally a veterinarian begins by collecting a thorough history including details about the vomiting such as frequency, time of day, material found in the vomit, anything unusual that might have been ingested, normal diet, and any other symptoms observed.

Next comes a thorough physical examination. This may be followed by blood and urine testing (to evaluate liver, kidneys, pancreas, etc.) and/or imaging studies such as X-rays and/or ultrasound of the abdomen. In some cases, biopsies from the gastrointestinal tract are needed to confirm a diagnosis. Biopsies can be obtained surgically or via endoscopy. It may be wise to consult with a veterinarian who specializes in internal medicine, particularly if preliminary testing doesn’t yield a clearcut answer.

If diagnostic testing is not feasible, empirical therapy (treatment without a clearcut diagnosis) such as changes in diet and/or medications are prescribed. A tentative diagnosis is then made based on the dog’s response to therapy.

If your dog is vomiting more than a few times a year, scheduling a visit with your veterinarian is a really good idea. As with most medical issues, the sooner the problem is addressed, the better the outcome is likely to be.

Questions for your veterinarian

  • What is the most likely causes of my dog’s vomiting?
  • What diagnostic testing is warranted?
  • What is the prognosis?
  • Should my dog see a veterinarian who specializes in internal medicine?

Do you have a vomiting dog on your hands? If so, has the cause of the vomiting been determined?

Best wishes for the holidays,

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.

A Reality Check Concerning Christmas Puppies

sfsblog_dogsasxmaspresentsThinking about surprising the kids with a puppy for Christmas or showing up with a rescue dog on the eighth night of Chanukah? Giving the gift of a canine buddy is ever so tempting this time of year- the excitement is almost unparalleled. What fun it is to think about all that cuddly cuteness, particularly when gathered around the tree on Christmas morning.

If you are contemplating adopting a dog for yourself or a loved one this holiday season, be sure to prevent your excitement from clouding your better judgment. There’s a whole lot to consider before making the commitment to care for a new canine family member.

Eight questions to ask yourself

Take some time to think about and answer the following questions. Your responses will help you sort out whether or not you or the recipient of your holiday gift are ready to tackle the responsibilities associated with caring for a dog.

  1. Is there enough time to care for a dog?

Most people have a long list of commitments, and it’s super important that caring for a new dog land at the very top of this list. Dogs thrive on human companionship. Without a significant amount of it on a daily basis, they suffer profound emotional consequences and often develop negative behaviors that are sure to be bothersome to their humans.

Whoever adopts a puppy must be prepared for a full time job. There will be puppy kindergarten classes, playtime, multiple veterinary visits, playtime, housetraining, playtime, multiple short walks throughout the day, playtime, obedience training, playtime, and lots of socialization with other animals, people, and new situations. Oh, and did I mention playtime?

  1. Are there adequate financial resources?

Responsibly caring for a dog requires a significant financial commitment. Quality dog food is pricey and there are other expenses to consider such as routine medical care (heartworm prevention, annual veterinary visits, vaccinations), unanticipated medical care (a health insurance policy may make good financial sense), microchipping, grooming, collars, leashes, harnesses, identification tags, dog beds, toys, treats, and dog care when the caregiver is out of town or working long hours. Do the math and figure out if the household budget can stretch to include the “doggie budget” before making the financial commitment to care for a dog for the next 12 to 15 years.

  1. Will there be a commitment to training?

Behavioral issues are the most common cause of the demise of a new relationship with a dog. Barking, biting, fence jumping, soiling in the house, landscaping (doggie style), aggression, and destroying furniture, shoes and other valued objects can all be deal breakers. Bear in mind that, without appropriate training, a well-behaved dog is the exception rather than the rule. Canine good citizens (at least the type we humans prefer) are made rather than born that way.

Training a puppy or an adult dog requires motivation and time, and the training should begin on day one. Enlisting help from a professional trainer is usually required to accomplish training goals.

  1. Is the living situation suitable?

If you or the person receiving your gift is a renter, double check with the landlord that a dog is allowed. If so, the landlord may impose breed or size restrictions.

While a fenced yard is not an absolute must, it certainly makes life a whole lot easier and ensures the dog’s safety when outdoors unsupervised. Be sure to consider the design of the fence. Is it tall enough for the size of the dog (or the size the puppy will become)? Might the dog be able to squeeze through or under the fence? Might the fence design inadvertently snag the dog’s collar?

If the living situation is such that the dog must live strictly outdoors, I strongly encourage you to nix the notion of getting a dog. Most dogs truly prefer to be indoors, whether or not their humans are at home. Those left isolated in the yard are far more likely to experience emotional distress and develop behavior issues.

Some folks assume they cannot get a dog because their living quarters are too small or the yard isn’t big enough. Keep in mind that, when not stimulated or interacting with their humans, most adult dogs spend the majority of the day sleeping. And, a sleeping dog does not require much space. If one is committed to giving a dog adequate exercise and attention, the size of the yard and living space should not be a significant concern.

  1. Is there buy in from everyone in the household?

In an ideal world every dog would be adopted into a “forever home”. Bringing a new dog into a household in which there isn’t buy in from everyone living there is a recipe for significant discord and has the potential to turn a “forever home” into a temporary “foster home”.

  1. Are there children in the household?

If young children (under the age of ten to twelve) are in the household, I encourage adoption of an adult dog rather than a puppy. Youngsters aren’t capable of providing the consistent training and reinforcement that a puppy needs. And, it’s really hard for puppies to resist jumping up, biting, and behaving like little maniacs in response to the natural movements and sounds of a young child. Additionally, children are more likely to cause injury by accidentally dropping or landing on a puppy during play.

In advance of introducing an adult dog into a household with children, ask someone with expertise to perform temperament testing. Some dogs who interact wonderfully well with adults demonstrate aggression in the presence of children. Even dogs who have passed temperament testing with flying colors should be carefully supervised when interacting with young children.

Lastly, resist the temptation to bring home a puppy this holiday season simply because your children want one. Inevitably, the responsibility of properly caring for the youngster will fall squarely on your shoulders. Adopting a dog when you don’t really want one is a setup for an unhappy outcome.

  1. Are other pets involved?

It can be difficult to predict how a new dog will fit in with already established pets. Whenever possible, arrange for a meet and greet between dogs on neutral territory, away from the house. If there will be a cat or two (or three or four) involved it is wise to make sure that the dog has already had a successful test drive with cats.

If adopting a puppy, it is important to protect the youngster from any aggression on the part of the other household animals. Don’t forget about the large animals such as cows and horses and be sure to trim all kitty daggers (toenails).

  1. Will there be a move in the near future?

If relocation is in the forecast because of work or other life circumstances, is there certainty that the new situation will allow for dogs? If not, it might be best to postpone adoption until the living situation is more permanent.

If, after reading all of this, you feel certain that adopting a dog this holiday season makes good sense, here is one final piece of advice (in truth, it is an adamant plea). Please don’t adopt a puppy from a pet store or online from a location you will not be able to visit in person. This is the best strategy to avoid A Reality Check Concerning Christmas Puppies http://www.aspca.org/doing business with a puppy mill.

Have you ever given or received a dog as holiday gift? If so, how did things turn out?

Wishing you and your loved ones  happy and healthy holidays,

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.

Fuzzy: A Brand New Concept in Healthcare for Pets

sfsblog_fuzzyThere’s a brand new player in the world of pet health insurance. Fuzzy is the brainchild of a couple of millenials who were motivated to create something better after their own disillusioning experiences with insurance for their pets.

How is Fuzzy different?

Fuzzy’s primary focus is on preventive care. For a monthly subscription fee, dogs and cats enrolled with Fuzzy receive all of their wellness/preventive care. This includes:

  • Up to two veterinary visits per year (thorough physical exam as well as counseling on nutrition, exercise, behavior, parasite prevention, and whatever else comes up during the discussion)
  • Multiple visits for puppies during their initial vaccination series
  • All vaccinations with protocols tailored to meet the needs of the individual animal
  • Annual heartworm testing and screening for intestinal parasites
  • Microchip placement and registration
  • All preventive medications (heartworm, intestinal parasites, fleas, ticks)
  • Electronic record keeping
  • Digital access to Fuzzy veterinarians (seven days a week)
  • Digital health and medication reminders
  • Access to an online library of pet health information

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting. Fuzzy veterinarians visit all of their patients in the owner’s home or office. The animals love this because they are in the comfort of familiar surroundings. Additionally, Fuzzy subscribers don’t have to interrupt their daily schedules as visits can be scheduled for evening hours or on weekends. More and more companies are encouraging employees to bring their pets to work, and Fuzzy veterinarians readily come to the workplace for an “office visit”.

The Fuzzy app

Fuzzy has created a fabulous app that stores a pet’s complete medical records and provides a nifty reminder system (“Have you brushed Rambo’s teeth this week?” and “Did you remember to give Molly her heartworm prevention this month?”). Members can schedule appointments via the app and can also contact Fuzzy veterinarians with questions or concerns. And, the app provides access to a wealth of pet-related health information and educational content.

The app features a Pet Health Care Quiz. After answering the questions you will receive your pet’s “health score” and better health recommendations. You don’t have to be a Fuzzy member to download the app, and it’s free. I encourage you to check it out.

Fuzzy in the future

Fuzzy is currently providing wellness care for dogs and cats in and around the San Francisco Bay Area and is gearing up to expand to other locations within the United States. Fuzzy also plans to roll out full pet health coverage insurance in 2017. This product is unique in that it will provide true cost certainty, complete transparency, and future inclusion of coverage for preexisting conditions.

Why I like Fuzzy

Okay, true disclosure time. Since its inception, I have served as Fuzzy’s Chief Medical Advisor. I chose to do this because I so believe in what Fuzzy has to offer, namely a fresh and innovative way of delivering pet preventive care and health insurance. I love the fact that Fuzzy members receive price certainty- no hidden fees, deductibles, or exclusions. I also love the mindset of Eric Palm and Zubin Bhettay, the two fellas who teamed up to create Fuzzy. Their goal is to help people enable their pets to live happier, healthier, longer lives. What could be better than this?

Do you have questions or comments about Fuzzy? Please, fire away!

Wishing you and your loved ones  happy and healthy holidays,

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.

A Gift for You

sfsblog_thanksgivingI am sitting at the keyboard, thinking about Thanksgiving and the many things for which I am grateful. It just so happens that our relationship (yep, the one between you and me) is on my gratitude list! Your ongoing readership feeds my love of writing, and, for this, I am truly appreciative.

My gift to you

As a way of thanking you, I want to give you the opportunity to buy my books at the prices below. These are the same prices I pay when I purchase them directly from the publisher.

Speaking for Spot: $5.65/book (retail price is $19.95)

Your Dog’s Best Health: $2.33/book (retail price is $10.99)

Please purchase as many copies as you like, and I promise I won’t think you are being the least bit greedy! You see, the more people who access what I have to say in my books, the happier I will be!

I encourage you to share this offer with any other dog lovers you know. Both books make terrific holiday gifts for friends, coworkers, dog park comrades, veterinarians, groomers, dog walkers, pet sitters, and the list goes on and on.  You can’t go wrong with this stocking stuffer, assuming you have a pretty good-sized stocking!

How to get your books

Send an email to me at  and include the following information:

  1. Your name
  2. Your shipping address
  3. The number of books you would like

I will then provide you with exact cost information, including tax and shipping. Be advised that shipping outside of the United States is ridiculously expensive. Better off purchasing books from a local source. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Be sure to hug all of your four-legged fuzzies this Thanksgiving and don’t forget to share a little bit of turkey, skin removed of course! Given the joy animals bring to our lives, it’s a must that they share in our holiday celebrations.

Will you be spending Thanksgiving with your pets this year?

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy Thanksgiving,

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.

The Nancy Silverman Rescue Ride

sfsblog_nancysilvermanGiven that my maiden name is Silverman, you can imagine my surprise when I spotted the van pictured here while driving just outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Not to worry, I didn’t multitask behind the wheel. My husband snapped the photo from our moving car after we both performed a double take to the tune of, “What the heck?” (It’s quite possible that we used a word closely related to “heck”.)

The Nancy Silverman Rescue Ride Program

As soon as I got the chance I did some Internet sleuthing about the Nancy Silverman Rescue Ride (NSRR) Program. Here’s what I learned. Run under the auspices of the ASPCA, NSRR relocates dogs from overcrowded high kill shelters in the Southeastern United States (where I live) to locations in the Northeast where there are greater adoption opportunities.

How many dogs?

NSRR was launched in January 2015. Thus far the program has made more than 145 trips to source shelters in the southeast. Just last month a Chihuahua-mix named AnnaMay became the 5,000th dog transported by NSRR. She was retrieved from McMinn Regional Humane Society in Athens, Tennessee and was transferred to Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands, New York. Within 48 hours of her arrival, Thomas Wright of Waterford, New York and his 10-year-old daughter Abby adopted AnnaMay.

Who is Nancy Silverman?

So, who is this other Nancy Silverman? Thus far, I’ve not been able to learn much. It’s a pretty safe bet that she is a philanthropist with a soft spot for animals. I transitioned from the name “Silverman” some 35 years ago. It’s lovely to know that another dog-loving Nancy belongs to this name.

Were you aware that shelter dogs are being moved cross country as a means of enhancing adoptions?

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.

 

New Help for Dogs With Megaesophagus

Bailey Chair

There’s some exciting, hot-off-the-press news for dogs with megaesophagus. Researchers at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine have new insights about this frustrating and often devastating disease.

What is megaesophagus?

The term megaesophagus refers to weakness, dilation, and decreased motility of the esophagus, the muscular tube that normally propels food, water, and saliva efficiently from the throat down into the stomach. For dogs with megaesophagus, these swallowed materials either remain within the dilated esophagus or are regurgitated back up. Regurgitation resembles vomiting, but unlike vomiting, regurgitation tends to occur without warning. There’s no retching, grazing on grass, or assuming a particular body posture. Regurgitation takes everyone by surprise, including the dog.

As a result of this “surprise factor” the major life-threatening complication for dogs with megaesophagus is aspiration pneumonia. Food material can be readily and inadvertently inhaled into the lungs during a bout of regurgitation. Malnutrition can also be a significant issue for dogs with megaesophagus.

Causes of Megaesophagus

Megaesophagus tends to affect middle aged and older dogs, and there is no breed predilection. Most of the time, an underlying cause can’t be found, and the disease is referred to as, “idiopathic megaesophagus.” Diseases that can cause megaesophagus include:

  • Myasthenia gravis: a neuromuscular disease
  • Addison’s Disease: a hormonal disorder
  • Esophagitis: inflammation of the lining of the esophagus
  • Esophageal tumors
  • Esophageal foreign bodies
  • Esophageal trauma

Standard treatment

Treatment of idiopathic megaesophagus revolves around maintaining the dog in an upright position following mealtime so as to allow gravity to help move swallowed food, water, and saliva down into the stomach. The usual recommendation is to maintain the dog in an upright position for approximately 20 minutes following meals. Bailey Chairs (see photo) have been specifically designed for dogs with megaesophagus. They comfortably keep the dog upright and eliminate the need for direct human supervision throughout the process.

A new diagnostic test

New diagnostic testing and treatment described by folks at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine focus on an anatomical structure called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This sphincter acts like a valve between the end of the esophagus and the stomach, opening when food and water are swallowed and then closing so that food is not refluxed from the stomach back into the esophagus.

It turns out that some dogs with megaesophagus have LES dysfunction- their sphincters remain closed, even during the swallowing process. The researchers have been very clever in figuring this out. Using fluoroscopy (a type of video x-ray) they observe the “flight pattern” of swallowed food material as it travels down the esophagus. Such fluoroscopic swallowing studies have been around for a long time, but what’s new about the Missouri technique is how the dogs are restrained. Traditionally, dogs are held on their sides for these swallowing studies, a far cry from how dogs normally position themselves for swallowing. This new research has employed a nifty holding chamber developed to allow the dogs to eat and be restrained for the fluoroscopy in a normal upright position. This technique is providing much more accurate information about esophageal and LES function.

A new treatment

The Mizzou team has fashioned their treatment protocol for dogs with LES dysfunction after what is being done in human medicine. Using endoscopy, in which a long video telescope device is inserted into the esophagus, the LES is manually expanded via a technique called balloon dilation. Next, Botox is injected into the LES. This chemical paralyzes the sphincter muscles, allowing the LES to remain open. Thus far, some of the treated dogs have shown marked improvement. As Dr. James Schachtel, a member of the research team has stated,

This approach gives these dogs a chance, whereas a lot of them didn’t have much of one. At this time, it is early in the evaluation process, but it’s a novel approach that shows promise. This subpopulation can receive a really significant benefit from our direct ability to detect their malady. It can give them a really good quality of life. This is a revolutionary diagnostic technique for a disorder identified with a pathological outcome. It offers us the opportunity to use therapies that have been successful in people, so we’re optimistic we can experience similar success with canines.

While not all dogs with megaesophagus are candidates for this therapy, it is wonderfully refreshing to finally have a new strategy to treat this frustrating disease.

Do you have a dog with megaesophagus? If so, what has your experience been like? The University of Missouri team encourages veterinarians, pet owners and breeders to contact them about their megaesophagus testing and treatment protocol. You can do so by calling the Small Animal Hospital at 573-882-7821.

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.