A Fight in Phoenix: The Faces of Good and Evil

September 21st, 2014

In December 2013, Phoenix city officials passed an ordinance prohibiting pet stores from selling dogs obtained from commercial breeders. The law forbids pet shops from selling dogs from sources other than non-profit rescue facilities and shelters. Phoenix is one of more than 50 cities to have passed such legislation, all aimed at undermining the health of puppy mills, large scale commercial breeding facilities that serve as the primary source of puppies trafficked by pet stores.

Frank and Vicki Mineo, the owners of a chain of pet stores called Puppies ‘N Love, have filed a federal lawsuit in response to the Phoenix ordinance (why this is being handled on a federal level is unclear to me). The Mineos, fearful of losing their livelihood, have claimed that the city of Phoenix overstepped its bounds. A judge has granted an injunction prohibiting Phoenix from enforcing the law until the case is further evaluated.

If you have followed my blog posts, you know where I stand on this issue. I’ve been a long-time advocate of driving puppy mills into extinction, and have encouraged you to make a pledge to boycott pet stores that sell puppies. I believe I stand with the “good guys”- those who place the welfare of animals ahead of financial gain.

Unfortunately, some of the “bad guys” in the puppy mill battle are heavy hitters with deep pockets. One such “bad guy” is the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). The PIJAC is one of the largest pro-puppy mill lobbying groups. Two of the movers and shakers within this organization are Ryan Boyle of the Hunte Corporation, the largest broker of puppy mill dogs in the United States, and Joe Watson of Petland, a huge pet store chain that retails puppies throughout the United States. PIJAC’s persistent support of puppy mills doesn’t surprise me one bit.

What did surprise me was learning that the American Pet Products Association (APPA) has gone to the dark side. This organization, in conjunction with PIJAC, has donated a large sum of money (talkin’ six figures here) to support the Mineos in their legal battle against Phoenix.

Exactly what does the APPA do? As stated on their website,

Founded in 1958, APPA is the leading not-for-profit trade association made up of over 1000 pet product manufacturers, their representatives, importers and livestock suppliers. Our membership consists of a diverse group representing both large corporations and growing business enterprises worldwide.

APPA’s mission is to promote, develop and advance pet ownership and the pet products industry and to provide the services necessary to help its members prosper. To accomplish these objectives and to provide APPA members with valuable benefits, the Association works hard to develop programs and services which serve our members’ unique needs.

Bob Vetere, President and CEO of the APPA, is practically an institution. For years now, he has been the voice of the APPA, announcing how much money the American pet-loving public spends on their pets every year. I wish he would stick to this script.

In relationship to the Mineo case, Mr. Vetere stated,

We all want to see puppy mills eliminated today. But America’s pet lovers have made it clear that banning the sale of dogs and cats at local pet stores in not the best way to do it. What this poll tells us is that pet owners want tougher breeder standards so that they can be confident that dogs and cats are raised humanely and in the best interests of the animal.

Attention Mr. Vetere! The poll you refer to appears to be a complete farce aimed at duping the public while protecting the best interests (make than monetary interests) of the for-profit businesses you represent. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the regulatory body in charge of promoting “tougher breeder standards” has failed miserably to improve conditions for puppy mill dogs. The USDA makes progress one millimeter at a time, when what is needed is one mile at a time. Additionally, efforts to enforce existing USDA guidelines are abysmal at best. Lastly, Mr. Vetere, what is wrong with tackling the puppy mill issue with a multi-pronged approach? Why not institute “tougher breeder standards” while, at the same time, eliminating the sale of pet store puppies?

Shame on you Bob Vetere and the organization you represent. I am deeply disappointed that you have gone to the dark side where financial gain trumps common decency. By the way, your online bio mentions that you have a Golden Retriever named Dakota. Did you purchase him from a pet store?

In honor of Puppy Mill Awareness Day (just happened on September 21st), I invite each and every one of you to take at least one small, simple step towards the goal of eradicating puppy mills. Take the pledge to boycott pet stores that sell puppies, educate people you know who want to adopt a puppy, organize a letter-writing party to send a message to your city leaders, give a talk in your child’s classroom, share this blog post with others, or better yet, write your own blog post! Go for it!

An addendum that is literally hot off the press- PIJAC has announced that Edwin J. Sayres, former president and CEO of the ASPCA, has been appointed president and CEO of PIJAC. Let’s hope this creates some positive change.

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.

 

Disaster Preparedness for Your Pets

September 14th, 2014

My recent post about National Disaster Preparedness Month (happening now) solicited many fabulous disaster preparedness suggestions from you, my wonderful readers. One such reader is Abby Harrison, a certified professional dog trainer located in Houston. She provided me with one of the most comprehensive lists of disaster preparedness tips for pets I’ve ever seen.

Abby created her list based on her own disaster preparation mistakes and oversights she made along the way. By making her plan available here, Abby hopes to help us avoid having to reinvent the disaster preparedness wheel.

Abby describes her plan as a three-layer cake:

First layer: What will be needed if the animal is lost (tags on collar, microchip, current photos).

Second layer: What will be needed if the pet gets sick (first aid, medications, emergency clinic).

Third layer: What will be needed in the midst of a big disaster (fire, hurricane, earthquake, etc.).

Thank you Abby, for giving me permission to share your disaster preparedness tips. The title of your list clearly reflects the natural disasters you and your pets  encounter living in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.

30 Tips on How to Prepare Your Pet for a Weather/Hurricane Disaster

  1. Microchip your pet and then file the paperwork. This is probably one of the single best ways to make sure your pet can be returned to you. But it does not do any good if the paperwork is not on file. Things to consider: be sure that your registry service is a national company within the United States and that it is up to date after each move. There is a different chip for international travel. This isn’t like Lojack where the pet can be pinpointed but the good news is that almost all shelters and rescue organizations have the scan guns to detect the chip. Tags on a collar are also good but they can be removed.
  2. Take pictures but not just any pictures. You want a headshot and profiles shots of both sides. Why: Because the left may be different than the right. Now weigh your pet. It’s actually best if you do this every month. Try linking it to something you are already doing once a month like giving heartworm medication or flea goop. Now, develop the film every so often, back it off the camera and off the computer. The film may be bad or the camera may be stolen or the computer may crash. You want this back up if the pet is missing or you evacuate. Sure you may have pictures you don’t need today. But what if you needed them tomorrow?
  3. Keep these current back up pictures someplace special. One suggestion: Keep the copy in the glove box of your car and/or a special file. Sometimes a fun shot of you with your pet can help verify ownership or show some amount of size of the pet relative to a chair. Big, little, and medium mean nothing without something to compare it against.
  4. Weigh your pet frequently. When you have it, it becomes easy to incorporate it as part of the description. Approximate weights as hopefully remembered can be wildly inaccurate.
  5. Teach your pet to be calm within a crate by offering special treats and food when inside it. Even cats can be taught to be inside a crate. Even if you don’t plan to need to put the pet in a crate, having the pet already crate trained if needed means you will not have to teach this while you are stressed and under pressure.
  6. Make an extra tag for your pet’s collar. The blue bone shape at the make a tag machine can fit 4 lines which directs someone to take the pet to your local veterinarian’s office, their address, phone number and comment that the pet can wait for you there. Why not direct someone to take your pet to the one place where they already know you, your pet and your pet’s medical needs? I don’t put my pet’s name on the tag, just phone numbers. I don’t want to make it easy for someone to keep my pet.
  7. Take your last vet bill (where they list the due dates for the next shots) and place it in the glove box of the car. After every visit, replace the older bill with the newer one. You will probably evacuate in the car. Any new vet or kennel (short or longer term) will need this information or will require you to pay for it again as you cannot prove that the pet is current on shots. One less thing to remember to grab.
  8. Transporting your pet: Do you have enough carriers for all the pets? Is the pet contained in a crate or seat belted in? If it’s loose, please restrain it for the same reasons we secure babies. A study was done with crash test dummy dogs loose in the back seat at 30 mph. The 13-pound dog clipped the human dummy in the head before hitting the windshield in 187 milliseconds. Impact weight of the dog was 396 pounds. The 70-pound dog hit the back of the front seat before going over it. It hit the windshield in 387 milliseconds and had an impact of 2100 pounds. Both dogs would not have survived. A millisecond is one 1000th of a second. Besides, a loose dog might try to protect you from the EMTs if you were in an accident.
  9. Have on hand an animal first aid kit. It’s similar to a human first aid kit but has some additional items like a couple of slip leashes (like at the vet’s), some spray bandage liquid and disposable latex gloves (a pair fits in a film canister). A first aid book for animals is good. Animal first aid classes are offered through the Red Cross and by individuals certified to teach this. And there are books too. Being prepared can help your pet in any emergency.
  10. Locate your nearest emergency clinic near where you live and then where you will be if you evacuate. Your pet may be dehydrated or need other medical assistance if traveling. Having that information already means you not lose critical time when your pet is sick.
  11. Always have at least 3 weeks of pet food and 4 weeks of medicines (heartworm, flea and any others your pet takes) on hand before a storm approaches. You don’t know how long you will be without being able to refill those supplies. Although we are often suggested to have 3 days to a week of supplies for ourselves, why not have more on hand so if the situation takes longer than anticipated so your pet does not suffer?
  12. When you purchase your water, did you also count on how much your pet will need? Without air conditioning, you and your pet will need more than usual. And what is usual for your pet? Find out now by measuring how much you put out and how much is left when you replace it with new water.
  13. Planning to evacuate: Write out a plan with leaving in 5 minutes, 20 minutes and 45 minutes. List not only what you would take but also where it is located. We aren’t always given much notification so if we have already planned our list, we are not under additional stress of making any decisions at that time. And, with the stress, you really can forget where something is (Zompolis, Operation Pet Rescue). The Zompolis book really kick-started me to think about the idea of disaster planning for animals. It is about the 1991 Oakland fire.  The author was part of a group that was still reuniting animals back with their owners almost two years after the fire (basically pre-chip and cell phone living made contact difficult). Good stories about happy returns.
  14. Planning to evacuate: Gather the animals first. Block off each room as you search the house for the pet. Otherwise animals, like cats, have a way of quietly wandering into previously checked rooms when your back is turned. It does help if you know already where the common hiding places are.
  15. Planning to evacuate: Test packing the car. Be sure to plan for enough ventilation for pets in plastic crates by placing them in first and then pack up to but not covering the vents. Be sure to orientate the crate door opening towards the car door (not towards the center of the car). Those crates will heat up quickly so perhaps purchase a battery-operated fan to attach to crate door. The good ones have a slot for an ice cube that sends cool mist to the animal. And don’t forget the batteries. Do you have a way of giving the animal water while it is in the crate? Try freezing water in a plastic or freezer proof dish. It will thaw slowly.
  16. Planning to evacuate: Know where you are going – family, friends or hotel. Be sure that wherever it is, that they are aware of just how many pets you plan to arrive with. With the stresses and strains for this travel, you don’t want to show up and be asked to move on because of the pets.
  17. Planning to evacuate: Plan where you are going to stay. Where ever it is, tape a new local phone number on the pet’s collar or tags in case it escapes. Your home answering machine may not have power to take that message that the pet has been found. Cell phones are good but they can have their dead zones. Make it easy (read not long distance) for them to contact you.
  18. Planning to evacuate: Pack a few toys that your pet loves.
  19. Planning to evacuate: Bring the pet bed. Think of it as being similar to wanting your own pillow you are used to. There will already be much disruption to the pet’s life and this can allow some familiar comfort in strange surroundings.
  20. Planning to evacuate: Bring treats that are long lasting with you in the car. What is normally a one-hour trip may take hours and having something to distract during an evacuation isn’t a bad idea.
  21. Planning to evacuate: Prepare now if your pet gets carsick. Get the meds if your vet has prescribed them. One owner lines the crate with a potty pad to make clean up easy. Bring something to cut the smell (like an enzyme cleaner), paper towels to wipe down the crate and zip style bags to contain the smelly trash. It is said that a couple of ginger snap cookies can be helpful for dogs. See if this works for your dog so you still have time to get medicine if it doesn’t.
  22. Planning to stay: Place your pets in their crates during the storm so that they are contained in a safe place. Yes – especially cats. Place this crate in a safe place, preferably in a room without windows or where heavy objects could fall on it. You don’t have to worry about broken glass cutting the pet or a bookcase crushing the crate.
  23. Planning to stay: Place harnesses on all cats. Attach a leash to the harness. If the cat is very small, try one of the companion animal ones at a pet store (safety pin it in case the Velcro pulls apart). Cat collars can slip off or break away and this is the one time you do not want this to potentially happen.
  24. Planning to stay or evacuate: For puppies, kittens or other small animals only who do not wear collars yet: please write a good contact phone number for you and a contact number for a family or friend who does not live in the area affected by the impending disaster on your pet’s belly with a permanent black marker. Generally this is a 2-person operation – 1 who writes and the other to gently keep the pet in a position so this can be done. Use treats, move slowly and be careful. Don’t ever use force on any animal to do this. If the animal is uncooperative – STOP. Don’t do this, as it’s just not worth the risk of being hurt.
  25. Planning for after the disaster: Put down vinyl flannel-backed fabric (cheap table cloths or from a fabric store) or heavy plastic shower curtains so that you have a clean space for your pets and their crates. This should be sturdy enough to usually withstand even dog nails. As you will not know what the floor surfaces may have been exposed to, you will need a clean area for the pets to stay while you clean up.
  26. Planning for after the disaster: Walk your perimeters of the property to see what has changed. The fence may no longer be secure or new animals may have moved in unexpectedly. And, recheck it several times a day because tree limbs don’t fall only during a storm.
  27. Planning for after the disaster: Bleach – not scented, not color safe or special additives – just plain old cheap household bleach. As a disinfectant: 9 parts water to 1 part bleach. As a water purifier: 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water. You will need: bleach, a cup for measuring, a dropper, paper towels and trash bags.
  28. Planning for after the disaster: Poop happens. So, do you have enough litter, shavings, potty pads and plastic trash bags? This may be hardest for the dogs. If your dog is familiar with potty pads, just buy more. For the potty outside dogs, you may not be able to take the dog safely outside for an extended period so you might want to make or buy a sod box. Fill a plastic container with dirt and cover it with grass. For the advanced owner: train your dog to potty on command.
  29. Dealing without electricity – how well would you do? Do you have enough batteries (flashlights, fans, pet fans and phone chargers)? Do you have a manual can opener? All the canned food in the world won’t do you any good if you can’t open it.
  30. Understand that this is stressful for you. Understand that the animals may pick up on your stress. Trying to keep to the existing routines before this all happened can be helpful for everyone.

By the way, Suzanne Brown from Louisville, Kentucky was the lucky winner of the book drawing live link to first disaster preparedness blog post from two weeks ago. Thanks to everyone who participated by sending your disaster preparedness tips to me.

Have you and your pets ever been involved in a disaster? If so, did you find that you were adequately prepared?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Nutritional Management of Canine Epilepsy

September 8th, 2014

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Epilepsy is far and away the most common cause of seizures in dogs. While it is an inherited disease in some breeds, it can occur in dogs of all breeds, shapes, and sizes. Dogs with epilepsy typically experience their first seizure between one and six years of age. Epilepsy is a “rule-out diagnosis”, meaning there is no specific test to define that a dog has it. Rather, the diagnosis is made after ruling out other known causes of seizures.

The mainstay therapy for canine epilepsy consists of anti-seizure medications, using an individual drug or a combination of them. The impact of nutrition on seizure control was discussed in a recent article  appearing in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Here are the article highlights.

Ketogenic diets

Diets that cause the body to produce an abundance of ketones (an acetone-like product made when fat is used as the primary energy source) have been used to treat epilepsy in people. These ketogenic diets are very high in fat, low in carbohydrates, and are calorie restricted. Typically, the ratio of fat to combined carbohydrates and protein is 4:1 or 3:1.

It is uncertain exactly how ketogenic diets provide benefit for some people with epilepsy. It is known that, in a state of starvation, ketones are the primary source of energy for the brain. An increased concentration of ketones on a regular basis appears to diminish seizure activity. Additionally, higher levels of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids may subdue seizures by decreasing the excitability of nervous tissue and altering levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Approximately two thirds of humans with epilepsy who consume a ketogenic diet experience a reduction in their seizures. These diets do have their drawbacks. Not only are they highly restrictive, creating issues with patient compliance, they can be associated with adverse side effects. For these reasons, ketogenic diets tend to be recommended for people with severe epilepsy who fail to respond to traditional therapy.

Whether or not ketogenic diets benefit dogs with epilepsy has not been adequately studied. Moreso than people, dogs are somewhat resistant to developing ketosis (high blood levels of ketones). Potential complications associated with feeding ketogenic diets to dogs include dietary deficiencies, nutritional imbalances, and issues caused by a high fat diet, such as pancreatitis, gastrointestinal disease, and obesity.

Phenobarbital, a drug commonly used to treat canine epilepsy, notoriously causes increased blood levels of a form of fat called triglycerides. Add to this equation a diet that consists of 80-90% fat, and one may be creating a recipe for disaster.

Effect of body composition

Although not studied in dogs, the authors of this paper suggest that the normal metabolism of anti-seizure medications (how long a drug dose lasts in the body after it is administered) may be altered in dogs who are significantly overweight or underweight. This can result in loss of seizure control because of medication levels in the bloodstream that are too low. Conversely, medication levels in the bloodstream that are too high can cause drug overdose symptoms.

The authors of this article emphasized that maintenance of an ideal and stable body weight is important for dogs with epilepsy. This can be a challenging proposition given that increased appetite is one of the most common side effects for many anti-seizure medications.

Effect of diet and urine pH

The rate at which anti-seizure medications are eliminated via the kidneys can be impacted by the pH of the urine. (The pH defines how acidic or alkaline a substance is.) One study documented that dogs whose urine was alkalinized (pH increased) experienced a more rapid elimination of phenobarbital compared to dogs with more acidic urine.

Dietary components influence the urine pH. Prescription diets used to prevent bladder stones and/or urine crystal formation in dogs do so by significantly altering the pH of the urine. Such diets should be used extremely cautiously in dogs receiving anti-seizure medications. The combination of treatments has the potential to cause loss of seizure control at one extreme and symptoms of drug toxicity at the other.

Dietary considerations with bromide therapy

Potassium bromide is a medication commonly used to treat canine epilepsy. The bromide component is interchangeable with naturally occurring chloride in the body. The key here is that the body maintains a constant sum of bromide and chloride. So, increasing one will cause a decrease in the other. For example, a sudden transition to a high-chloride diet would hasten the elimination of bromide from the body, resulting in lower levels of bromide in the blood stream and potential reduction in seizure control. Conversely, toxic levels of bromide in the bloodstream can occur if chloride intake is significantly reduced.

Sodium chloride- aka salt- is the major source of dietary chloride. Consistency in what is fed, including treats, is of paramount importance for dogs receiving potassium bromide.

Dietary supplements

In recent years there has been much interest in health benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA, in particular, has been found to play an important role in brain development. In epileptic rats, DHA and EPA have a protective effect on neurologic tissues, perhaps because of their anti-inflammatory properties. It has been suggested, but not documented, that long-term administration of omega-3 fatty acids may have a similar effect on dogs with epilepsy. Additionally, these fatty acids are known to reduce high blood triglyceride levels, a common side effect of phenobarbital therapy.

Taurine is an amino acid (a component of protein) that has been shown to have possible anti-seizure properties. A study using taurine in a limited number of epileptic cats documented improved seizure control. No such studies have been performed in dogs.

Take home messages

Clearly there is a great deal more to be learned about how nutrition can influence the management of canine epilepsy, including possible effects of raw versus homemade versus processed diets. The limited knowledge available at this supports the following recommendations:

  • Talk with your veterinarian about the role diet may play in managing your dog’s seizures.
  • Strongly consider dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids for your epileptic dog, particularly if phenobarbital is part of the therapy.
  • If your dog is receiving anti-seizure medication(s), do not alter his or her diet before discussing the intended change with your veterinarian.
  • Avoid high-salt treats if your dog receives potassium bromide for seizure control.
  • Do not alter the dosage of your dog’s anti-seizure medication(s) without first consulting with your veterinarian.
  • Do your best to help your dog maintain a healthy body weight.

Have you ever cared for a dog with epilepsy? If so, did you alter his or her diet as part of the treatment plan?

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.

National Disaster Preparedness Month: Send Me Your Good Ideas in Exchange for a Chance to Win a Book!

August 31st, 2014

Today marks the beginning of National Preparedness Month. Whether you live in the land of earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes here is your reminder to reassess just how prepared you will be should a disaster strike. And, such preparedness must extend beyond the humans in the household to all the critters under your care, from the cats to the cows and the hamsters to the horses.

I invite you to provide me with your best disaster preparedness tip(s) live link “provide me with your best tip(s)” to public post site related to caring for your animals. Also, please describe the type of natural catastrophe most likely to occur in your neck of the woods.

In exchange for your disaster preparedness tip, I will enter your name in a drawing to receive a free copy of Speaking for Spot or Your Dog’s Best Health (the choice will be yours). If you are not the winner, do not despair. I will be glad to provide you with the book of your choice at a deeply discounted price.

Here’s an example of what I’m looking for:

When I lived in northern California, the natural disasters most likely to occur were earthquakes (any time of year) and fires (particularly this time of year). As part of my disaster preparation I made sure that my horse trailer was always hooked up to my truck and turned in the appropriate direction so as to make a quick departure with my horses should the need arise. Part of my personal preparedness plan was moving to western North Carolina where the most common natural disasters (lightning strikes and falling trees) create a bit less angst for me.

Send your live links to the public comments for this post, and send as many ideas to me as you like. Together let’s assemble a comprehensive list of preparedness tips.

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.

Bladder Infections: Is Treatment Always Necessary?

August 25th, 2014

My recent blog posts have focused on canine bladder infections including their causes, associated symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. The question arises, is it always necessary to treat a bladder infection, particularly if the patient has no symptoms?

Women who have bladder infections, but with no symptoms commonly go untreated, and they have good long-term outcomes. Until now, there really has been no outcome research for dogs with asymptomatic bladder infections who are left untreated with antibiotics.

A study of symptom-free bladder infections

A recent study reported in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported on 101 overtly healthy (symptom-free) female dogs screened for bladder infections. Nine of the 101 dogs (8.9%) had positive urine cultures. Age did not appear to be a predisposing factor: six of the nine dogs with infection were young to middle-aged, and three were older dogs.

The nine dogs with infection were simply monitored for symptoms- no antibiotics administered- over a three-month time period. At the end of the three months, eight of the dogs were reexamined. One dog was lost to follow-up. At this three-month visit four of the dogs had negative urine cultures. Bladder infections persisted in the remaining four dogs and involved the same bacterial species originally cultured. None of the eight dogs developed any symptoms during the three-month observation period.

Conclusions

While I find this study interesting, I am reluctant to draw any hard and fast conclusions based on the small number of dogs evaluated and the relatively short period of time over which they were followed. The results certainly lend support to the notion that, when it comes to dogs with bladder infections and no symptoms, leaving the antibiotics on the shelf is worthy of consideration.

My own clinical experience is consistent with the results cited in this study. I often test urine as part of routine health screening, particularly in older dogs. When I discover a bladder infection in an asymptomatic patient, before I determine whether or not to treat with antibiotics I consider several factors including: the individual’s history, overall health, and the species and behavior of the bacteria found in the urine. Here are some examples of how my decision-making would be swayed.

  • If my patient has a history of bladder stones I will want to clear the infection with antibiotics, regardless of whether or not symptoms are present. This is because bacteria predispose to the formation of bladder stones.
  • I am more inclined to forego antibiotic therapy if the urine culture grows Enteroccocus bacteria. While these bugs often cause no symptoms, they are unusually adept at developing resistance to wide assortment of antibiotics. No fun! It’s often best to let this sleeping dog lie.

Simply monitoring rather than treating dogs with asymptomatic bladder infections is certainly worthy of consideration. Such a decision warrants significant discussion between veterinarian and client. If antibiotics are withheld, careful monitoring for symptoms and urine testing are vital components of effective ongoing care.

Would you feel comfortable withholding antibiotics to treat your dog’s bladder infection if there were no symptoms?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

Canine Bladder Infections: Part III

August 17th, 2014

Photo Credit: Susannah Kay

Part I of this series provided you with information about causes and symptoms of bladder infections. Part II addressed how to diagnose this common canine malady. This segment will discuss management of this disease. Those of you who have dogs with recurrent bladder infections will want to pay particularly close attention.

Management of first time offenders

For dogs experiencing their first bladder infection, the treatment of choice is a 7 to 14 day course of an antibiotic. Performing a urinalysis and urine culture is ideal, but antibiotic sensitivity testing really isn’t necessary with first timers as it is unlikely that the bacteria will have developed any antibiotic resistance.

The antibiotic chosen should be one that is known to be effective against bacteria that most commonly infect the urinary tract. Successful treatment is based on the resolution of symptoms along with normal urinalysis results and a negative urine culture performed two to three weeks following completion of antibiotic therapy.

Management of repeat offenders

For some dogs with bladder infections, the minute the course of antibiotics is completed, the symptoms begin all over again. With these guys it’s really important to do some diagnostic digging to hopefully hone in on and eliminate the underlying cause of their recurrent infections. In addition to the urine testing described above, this investigation begins with an extremely thorough physical examination (including a rectal examination) looking for any abnormality that might predispose to bladder infections. In males, such abnormalities might be an enlarged or painful prostate gland or an infection within the sheath (pouch surrounding the penis). In females, one should check for an infection in the skin fold partially covering the vulva.

If the physical exam and urine testing are not revealing, the next step is blood work (complete blood cell count and chemistry profile) looking for any clues. Specific testing to rule out Cushing’s Disease (a hormonal imbalance commonly associated with recurrent bladder infections) may be recommended.

Abdominal ultrasound comes next. This test allows inspection of the kidneys, the prostate gland, and the urinary bladder in search of stones, tumors, polyps, and anatomical defects. Unless they are significantly diseased, ultrasound does not do a good job imaging the “three U’s”: the uterus, the urethra, and the ureters (the ureters are the structures that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Ultrasound creates no discomfort for the dog so sedation is usually not needed. Clipping the hair over the belly is necessary for good visualization (something the dog could care less about, but the human at the other end of the leash may object to). Buyer beware: the information gleaned from ultrasound is extremely user-dependent. This skill has a steep learning curve, and the more experience the ultrasonographer has, the greater the likelihood the results will be meaningful.

If all of the above testing does not reveal the underlying cause of recurrent infections, the final diagnostic steps are contrast studies (urethrogram, pyelogram) in which dye is used to visualize portions of the urinary tract not seen with ultrasound. These studies are performed using x-rays or computed tomography (CT scan).

Antibiotic therapy

The ideal way to manage recurrent bladder infections is to define and remove the underlying cause. In some cases, this underlying problem is not definable and/or treatable. When this happens, the judicious use of antibiotic therapy is key to keeping the dog comfortable and preventing issues that can arise secondary to chronic infection (bladder stones, spread of infection to the kidneys or bloodstream).

Choosing the most appropriate antibiotic regimen relies on multiple urine culture results including bacterial identification and antibiotic sensitivity testing. Just as in human medicine, some urinary tract bugs manage to develop a resistance pattern to multiple if not all antibiotics. Patients with such resistant infections are tricky to manage. They may need big gun antibiotics (many of which have significant potential side effects) or, if feasible, some “time off” from any antibiotic exposure with hopes that the bacteria will revert back to a more normal pattern of antibiotic sensitivity. If your dog has recurrent bladder infections, anticipate multiple urine cultures over time. Without these results a veterinarian is treating “in the dark”, and this is definitely not in the best interest of the patient.

For dogs with recurrent bladder infections, there are a two ways antibiotic therapy is typically managed:

Long-term, low-dose therapy

An antibiotic is selected based on urine culture results and the dog is treated at the standard dosage for 14 days. After 14 days, the total daily antibiotic dosage is reduced by 50 to 75 percent and is administered once daily at bedtime. This time of day is chosen because it precedes the longest stretch of urine retention (assuming the dog does not work the graveyard shift). This regimen will continue for months or even years, following a strict schedule of recheck urine cultures to verify the absence of bacteria. Long-term, low-dose antibiotic therapy is a safe and often effective means to manage recurrent bladder infections (in dogs and in people).

Pulse therapy

An antibiotic is selected based on urine culture results and the dog is treated at the standard dosage for 14 days. Just as with the protocol described above, a urine culture is repeated 7 to 10 days after treatment begins to make sure that the antibiotic has successfully eliminated the bacteria. If not, a different antibiotic is chosen and the process begins again. After 14 days, therapy is discontinued for three weeks after which pulse therapy is begun. This involves treating the dog with the antibiotic (at the standard dosage) for one week each month. There should be three-week, treatment-free intervals between treatment weeks. Pulse therapy may be continued for months to even years. Periodic urine culture results determine if a change in game plan is needed.

Additional therapies

Cranberry extracts may help prevent recurrence of some bladder infections. Cranberries contain compounds called proanthocyanidins (PAC’s) that prevent bacteria from adhering to the inner lining of the bladder wall. If the bugs can’t adhere to the bladder wall they are incapable of colonizing, multiplying, and causing infection. This PAC effect works only against E. coli, the bacteria most commonly cultured from canine bladder infections. Be aware that not just any cranberry formulation will do. Essential for success is the presence and bioactivity of PAC’s within the product. If interested in using cranberry extract, be sure to check with your veterinarian for his or her product and dosage recommendation. By the way, the notion that cranberries prevent infection by acidifying the urine is nothing more than an old wives’ tale.

Probiotics may help prevent recurrent bladder infections. This is based on the notion that altering bacterial populations in the gut will alter bacterial populations in the feces. Given that fecal microorganisms that linger on the hair coat may be the source for some bladder infections, probiotics may (emphasis on “may”) have a beneficial effect. If you decide to try a probiotic get the most bugs for your buck by purchasing a product with the highest concentration of microorganisms.

Methenamine is a drug that may help prevent bladder infections. It is converted to a dilute formaldehyde product within the bladder where it acts as an antiseptic. Methenamine is effective only in a very acidic environment (the urine pH must be low). For this reason, it is often administered with a urinary tract acidifier.

Cleansing the skin area surrounding the vulva two to three times daily provides benefit for some female dogs with recurrent bladder infections. I recommend using baby wipes for this purpose. The hope is that the concentration of normal bacteria hanging out on the skin surface will be lessened, thereby lessening the likelihood of bacterial migration up into the urinary bladder.

If your dog continues to experience recurrent bladder infections despite your family veterinarian’s best efforts, I encourage scheduling a consultation with a veterinarian who specializes in internal medicine. Visit the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine on line to find such a specialist in your neck of the woods.

Okay, time to lay it on me! If you are struggling (or have struggled) with a dog with recurrent bladder infections I want to hear from you. What have you tried? What has worked well and what has not?

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.

 

 

Check the Chip Day

August 10th, 2014
Scanning lost pet for microchip

Scanning lost pet for microchip

Please note on your calendar that Friday, August 15th is “Check the Chip Day”. The “chip” refers to your pet’s microchip, and checking it means verifying that the contact information you have on file with the microchip registry is current.

In honor of “Check the Chip Day” here are three ways to ensure a happy ending should you and your pet be separated:

  • If your pet has a microchip, contact the microchip registry to verify that all of your contact information there is current and accurate.
  • If your pet has a microchip that was never registered, get the paperwork squared away right away.
  • If your pet doesn’t have a microchip, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian or local humane society or animal shelter to have one placed just as soon as possible.

There are many databases that allow you to register your pet’s microchip, but the one that is most important – the one that animal shelters and veterinarians will search – is the database maintained by the manufacturer of your pet’s microchip. The American Animal Hospital Association’s Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool is an Internet-based application that is linked to the registries of the majority of microchip manufacturers. You can use it to quickly access your pet’s microchip data.

In honor of “Check the Chip Day” I am rerunning a blog post from a couple years back.

Will Your Pet’s Microchip Bring Him Home?

Other than hanging identification tags on collars, I’ve always advised my clients that microchipping their dogs and cats is the best way to ensure that they will be reunited should circumstances cause their separation. As it turns out, microchipping isn’t nearly as foolproof as I’d once believed- not because the chips are defective, rather because of human error. Have a look at the following excerpt from an article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association:

In the study titled, “Characterization of animals with microchips entering animal shelters,” shelters contacted microchip registries regarding 1,943 animals but found registrations for only 58.1 percent. The registries were unable to find any information on the owner or the person who implanted the microchip for 9.8 percent of the animals. Among other recommendations, the study’s authors suggested that veterinarians and shelter personnel should not only register pet microchips at the time of implantation, but also remind the pets’ owners to update information in the registry.

Here’s the bottom line in terms of achieving the intended purpose of your pet’s microchip. At the time your dog or cat is microchipped, be sure to complete the registration materials and have them processed with the appropriate microchip registry. Ask your veterinarian, or whoever implants the microchip, to do the same. Additionally, update your microchip registry data (telephone number, email address, street address) whenever it changes. I moved to western North Carolina just over a year ago. This prompted me to change my contact information for all of my pets’ registry information, so we are in good shape. How about you and yours? If the unthinkable happens and your dog or cat goes missing, will his microchip enable him to find his way back home? If you know your contact information is not current, or you are unsure, pick up the phone or go online today. It could make all the difference.

If you have a microchip story that brought a four-legged family member home, I would love to hear it.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

Canine Bladder Infections: Part II

August 3rd, 2014

In the first article of this series you were introduced to the causes of canine bladder infections and their associated symptoms. This article will help you understand how canine bladder infections are accurately diagnosed. The process always begins with testing a urine sample.

Collection of urine samples for testing

If a bladder infection is suspected, testing the urine will be one of the first steps your veterinarian takes. There are a few different ways to collect urine from a dog.

A “free catch” sample involves catching some urine in a container as the dog urinates. The presence of bacteria in a free catch sample is nonspecific, meaning the bacteria might have originated anywhere en route to the collection container, including the bladder, urethra, vulva, prostate gland, and even the hair around the opening of the penis or vulva. In other words, bacteria found in a free catch sample may not be all that meaningful. Other possible downsides to collecting free catch urine samples are a wet hand and suspicious looks from the neighbors.

Urine can also be collected via catheterization. A plastic or rubber catheter is inserted into the end of the urethra and advanced forward into the urinary bladder. Once in the bladder, urine is withdrawn through the catheter. There are a few drawbacks to this sampling method. Most dogs experience some discomfort with the process. Additionally, it is tricky business finding the opening to the urethra in female dogs. And because the catheter comes in contact with the urethra and reproductive structures (vagina, penis, prostate gland) before reaching the bladder, one cannot be certain as to the origin of bacteria found in the urine sample.

The preferred method of urine collection is a technique called cystocentesis. This involves introducing a small needle directly into the urinary bladder. Urine is collected into a syringe attached to the needle. Other than the stress associated with restraint, there is typically no more discomfort for the dog than would be associated with a vaccination. The beauty of a cystocentesis sample is that, if bacteria are detected, one can be certain they were living in the bladder.

Diagnosis of infection

A bladder infection is definitively diagnosed when bacteria are identified within a urine sample that has been collected via cystocentesis. Supporting evidence of infection includes the presence of red blood cells and excessive white blood cells and/or protein within the urine. Keep in mind, these ancillary abnormalities can occur with a variety of urinary tract diseases other than infection.

Bacteria in the urine can be documented by two tests: urinalysis and urine culture. The combination of the two is always ideal. A urinalysis measures urine concentration and pH, screens for red blood cells, white blood cells and protein, and involves viewing the urine sample under the microscope. While this test is relatively reliable, it can produce false negative results particularly if the urine sample sits for several hours prior to testing (certainly the case when samples are sent to a commercial laboratory rather than tested in house). Over time, the bacteria have a way of disappearing from view. Additionally, if the urine sample is dilute (more water than sludge), small numbers of bacteria can readily be missed during the microscopic evaluation.

The gold standard method for documentation of bacterial infection is a urine culture. Urine is inoculated onto agar and incubated for 48 to 72 hours. This way, the growth of bacteria can be documented, and identification and sensitivity testing can be performed. These tests clarify the species of bacteria growing as well as which antibiotics the bugs are sensitive to. This is super important information, particularly when treating dogs with recurrent bladder infections.

Part III of this series will discuss the treatment of bladder infections with special attention given to those dogs who are “repeat offenders”. Please stay tuned!

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

 

Canine Bladder Infections: Part I

July 27th, 2014

“Rocky” – Photo Credit: Shirley Zindler

If you’ve lived your life with dogs, chances are you’ve cared for one with a bladder infection. The normal urinary bladder is sterile, meaning devoid of bacteria. Infection occurs when bacteria find their way into the bladder and set up housekeeping. Bacterial cystitis (medical-speak for a bladder infection) is a super common diagnosis in the canine world. The term urinary tract infection (UTI) is often used synonymously with bacterial cystitis. Technically speaking, a UTI can mean infection anywhere within the urinary tract, and is not specific to the bladder.

Bacterial cystitis occurs most commonly in female dogs. This is attributed to the fact that compared to males, female dogs have a shorter urethra, the conduit through which urine flows from the bladder to the outside world. With only a short distance to travel in female dogs, bacteria have an easier time migrating from the skin surface up into the urinary bladder. There is no breed predisposition for bladder infections. However, small breed dogs are more susceptible to some of the underlying causes of infection described below.

Causes of infection

While not always easy or even possible to diagnose the cause of infection, there are several underlying issues that make it easier for bacteria to colonize and thrive within the urinary bladder. Anything that disrupts the normal architecture of the urinary tract or reproductive tract (the two are anatomically connected) predisposes to infection. Examples include:

  • Stones within the urinary tract
  • Tumors or polyps within the urinary or reproductive tracts
  • Foreign body within the urinary or reproductive tracts
  • Anatomical birth defects within the urinary or reproductive tracts
  • Prostate gland or testicular disease
  • Vaginal, vulvar, or uterine disease

Urine that is less concentrated (more dilute) than normal creates an environment that is bacteria-friendly. So, it‘s not unusual for bacterial cystitis to accompany diseases associated with increased thirst and increased urine volume, such as kidney failure, liver disease, some hormonal imbalances. Bladder infections occur commonly in dogs with diabetes mellitus, a hormonal imbalance that creates dilute urine. The sugar in the urine of diabetic dogs creates an ideal growth media in which bacterial organisms thrive.

Suppression of the immune system caused by disease or medication promotes bladder infections. Prednisone, a commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, causes urine dilution along with immunosuppression. Not surprisingly, approximately one third of female dogs receiving prednisone develop spontaneous bladder infections.

Symptoms of infection

If ever you’ve experienced a bladder infection you know just how miserable the symptoms can be. Dogs vary a great deal in terms of how dramatically they show evidence of a bladder infection. Some exhibit every symptom in the book while others demonstrate none whatsoever. Additionally, symptoms can arise abruptly or gradually. Every dog reads the textbook a little bit differently!

Symptoms most commonly observed in association with canine bladder infections include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Urination in inappropriate places
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Blood within the urine
  • An unusual odor to the urine
  • Urine leakage
  • Increased thirst
  • Excessive licking at the penis or vulva

It is unusual for plain and simple bladder infections to cause lethargy, loss of appetite, or fever. Such “systemic” symptoms, in conjunction with documentation of bacteria within the urinary bladder, create suspicion for infection elsewhere within the urinary or reproductive tracts (kidneys, prostate gland, uterus).

It’s important to remember that dogs are creatures of habit, and any change in habit is a big red flag beckoning you to take notice. Filling the water bowl more than usual? Is your girl squatting more frequently than normal on her morning walks? Is she waking you up in the middle of the night to to go outside to urinate? Has your well house-trained dog begun urinating in the house? All such symptoms are worthy of medical attention. For your dog’s sake, please don’t blame urinary issues on negative behavior before first ruling out an underlying medical issue.

Stay tuned for Canine Bladder Infections: Parts II and III. These articles will discuss diagnostic testing and treatment.

Has your dog ever had a bladder infection? If so, what symptoms did you observe?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

Puppy Socialization Addendum

July 20th, 2014

My recent article about the pros and cons of early puppyhood socialization solicited some wonderful comments, many of which were from trainers and breeders. Thanks to all of you who responded. Here are some take home messages from our conversation:

–         We are all in agreement that socialization for puppies less than four months of age is a “must-do”.

–         Greta and two Laura’s voiced their belief that inadequate socialization is far more likely than infectious diseases to result in canine unhappy endings (rehoming, relinquishment to shelters, euthanasia). I believe this is often, but not always the case. Infectious disease prevalence varies depending on the level of canine health education within a community. As Susan suggested in her comments, find out what the risk for disease is in your neighborhood (check in on this with your veterinarian) before determining how best to socialize your pup.

–         Several readers made a good case for the argument that the “sensible socialization” I recommended was not enough for puppies to become adult dogs with calm demeanors and good manners. Kat suggested exposing youngsters to the sights, sounds, and smells of the big wide world. Greta and Gail recommended baby strollers, puppy packs, baby slings, and/or shopping carts as ways of transporting puppies out and about for socialization without ever letting their feet touch the ground. I think that this makes great sense as long as one realizes this is not a foolproof means of disease prevention.

–         We are all in agreement that public venues frequented by dogs of unknown vaccination status, such as dog parks and pet stores are to be avoided.

–         Laura directed me to a position statement on puppy socialization crafted by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. The statement reads as follows: “In general, puppies can start puppy socialization classes as early as 7-8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a minimum of one set of vaccines at least 7 days prior to the first class and a first deworming. They should be kept up-to-date on vaccines throughout the class.”

–         A 2013 study in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association reported on almost 300 puppies attending puppy socialization classes before 16 weeks of age. The data was collected from four different cities. Results demonstrated that vaccinated pups attending early socialization classes (before four months of age) had no greater risk of developing canine parvovirus infection than vaccinated pups who did not attend those classes. Thank you Greta and Dr. Melissa Bain, one of the coauthors of this study, for bringing this information to my attention.

–         Certified dog behavior consultant, Caryl Wolff turned me onto her recently published book, Puppy Socialization: An Insider’s Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness. She is in advocate of puppy socialization classes and provides her readers with tools to find just the right one.

–         All of this information has nudged me retract my earlier comments advising against socialization classes for pups under four months of age. While I can now encourage them, I cannot overemphasize the importance of performing due diligence to learn how conscientiously the trainer is screening the pups allowed into the class and disinfecting the environment. I encourage you to read the description of dog trainer Jill Kessler Miller’s puppy socialization class as it appeared in the Spring, 2014 edition of the IACP Safe Hands Journal.

Thanks to all of you who contributed your comments. You’ve re-proven the theory that, indeed, you can teach an old dog (vet) new tricks!

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.