Puppies and Auction Fundraisers: Not a Good Mix

May 11th, 2014

Last week, I told you about Jesuit High School’s annual auction featuring a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. This fundraising idea caused such a brouhaha that the event coordinators reluctantly opted to drop the pup from the list of auctioned items.

I asked you to tell me how you feel about this issue, and what a response I received. Your comments were thoughtful, insightful, and adamantly opposed to the idea of auctioning off puppies! I couldn’t agree with you more.

Impulse buying

The notion of placing a live animal in a new home based on an impulse decision makes me squeamish to the core. When my children were younger, I was invariably the lone parent protesting at community fairs and school fundraising events where goldfish and hermit crabs were given to children as prizes. Whether or not to accept responsibility for the physical and emotional well being of an animal (be it a puppy or a goldfish or a hermit crab) should be a decision based on significant thought and consideration. When it comes to animal adoptions, impulse decisions tend to create unhappy endings.

If you’ve attended fundraising auctions you’ve no doubt witnessed plenty of impulse buying, perhaps some under the influence of alcohol (the more alcohol served, the higher the bids). How could this possibly be a reasonable way for a pup to land in a stable and permanent situation? What lessons are the adults involved role modeling for their children?

Veterinarian, Dr. Leslie Ann Jones denounced impulse buying in her comments:

We have a local organization that has done this (against my recommendations) for the past four years. “But it is our biggest draw and they expect us to do it. It makes the most money!” This year, the winning bidder took the puppy home and the puppy wasn’t wanted by the entire family. There were extensive medical bills required shortly after the puppy was “won” and the entire situation exemplifies why the bringing of a puppy into a home is a family decision and should not be undertaken during the excitement of a bidding war.

Who provides the puppy?

Like many of you, I’m left wondering where pups who wind up as auction items come from. It is difficult to imagine a responsible/reputable breeder going along with this scheme. They wouldn’t be keen on forfeiting their right to screen prospective adopters. Some of you conjectured that puppy mills are the source. I cannot confirm this, but do feel confident that the breeders involved are either clueless or are motivated more by dollar signs than the welfare of their puppies.

Reader, Jo Ann Weise concurred with these sentiments:

As a breeder of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, I am appalled that any breeder would offer one of their puppies for another organization to “raffle” off. No one places my puppies in their new homes but me. As a reputable breeder, our ultimate responsibility is to place our puppies in homes where they have the absolute best chance for a happy and healthy life. A reputable breeder would never, under any circumstances, allow their puppies to be raffled off like a “thing”.

Legalities and ethical considerations

Is it considered legal and/or ethical to auction puppies? I was unable to find a clear answer regarding the legality of this practice. Whether or not auctioning pups is ethical is subject to debate. My kids attended public schools where fundraising for basic supplies was always a necessity. I can understand why concerned parents and officials at financially strapped schools might convince themselves it is ethically sound to generate $4,000-$5,000 via the quick and easy sale of a puppy. I suspect that such folks would be amenable to some ethical realignment if approached in a respectful fashion with a differing perspective. Reader, Sharon Montville had this to say about the ethics of auctioning puppies:

 Most parent breed clubs – including the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA) have a Code of Ethics which states that breeders will not allow their pups to be auctioned. So why is this?

1.  It is not guaranteed – unless the auction is rigged – that the puppy will go to the intended home. The puppy will go to the “highest bidder.”

2.  Letting a pup go to the “highest bidder” promotes the concept that all it takes to be a responsible owner is the ability to pay the purchase price of the puppy. This is wrong.

3.  People bidding on a puppy when they have not necessarily met with the breeder, researched the health clearances of the parents, etc. promotes the concept that is okay to pay as much – or possibly more – for a less responsibly bred puppy than for a responsibly bred pup. Since it is against the BMDCA Code of Conduct to auction a pup, it is highly unlikely that this particular pup was bred by a responsible breeder.

 For the record……

Many of you were bothered by the comments made by Jesuit High School spokesperson Erika Tuenge. This portion of her statement was particularly offensive to me:

Jesuit High School has always carefully and thoughtfully considered the choice of breeds and placement of puppies in its annual auction and has provided suitable loving environments for each dog which is placed in the homes of Jesuit families.

Does Ms. Tuenge mean to imply that any Jesuit home is a good home? Give me a break! Besides, how can the auction committee ensure that the pup winds up in a Jesuit home? What’s to prevent a Jew like me, perhaps invited as a family guest, from attending the auction and placing the winning bid? Would my religious persuasion have been checked at the door? Would I have been instructed to bid on anything but the puppy? I don’t know if Ms. Tuenge’s statement accurately represents Jesuit High School’s sentiments. If so, shame on Jesuit High School. If not, I recommend a crash course for Ms. Tuenge in political correctness.

The auction at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon is not an isolated event. Fundraising with puppies happens round the country in a variety of venues. The only way to make it stop involves respectful, educational dialogue initiated by people like you and me. I encourage you to make this happen.

Are you aware of an organization in your community that includes puppies in their fundraising auctions?

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.

 

Fundraising With Puppies: A Smart or a Stupid Idea?

May 4th, 2014

A friend recently brought a story to my attention concerning Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon. The school held their annual fundraising auction earlier this month. Left to their own devices, one of their big-ticket auction items would have been a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. Auctioning puppies (last year a Labradoodle) has proven to be popular and lucrative. This year, in response to public outrage, Jesuit High School officials removed the Berner pup from the list of auction items. I suspect there were voices of protest in years past, but they likely paled in comparison to what Jesuit High School squared off with this time around. Leave it to those Bernese Mountain Dog lovers- they are one well organized, focused, and unified bunch of people.

After “throwing in the towel” on this controversial matter, Jesuit High School Communications Director Erika Tuenge stated:

Jesuit High School has always carefully and thoughtfully considered the choice of breeds and placement of puppies in its annual auction and has provided suitable loving environments for each dog which is placed in the homes of Jesuit families. Certain animal rights protesters, who apparently do not believe a suitable home for a dog can ever be found at an auction event, have criticized JHS for its plan to auction a puppy at an upcoming school auction. We adamantly disagree with the opinions of these protesters (and the means by which they chose to express these opinions), but out of concern for the Jesuit community and the privacy of the responsible dog owners and reputable breeders it has worked with in years past, the school has decided not to include a puppy in this year’s auction, an event which supports need-based financial aid and other vital programs benefiting Jesuit students and families.

Before I weigh in on this topic, I would love to hear what you have to say. Do you agree or disagree with Jesuit High School’s position (by the way, there are plenty of other organizations who auction puppies at their fundraising events)? Please fill me in on your thoughts and I will reciprocate in my next blog post.

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.

Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

April 27th, 2014

In the world of human medicine it’s estimated that 80% of the maladies that prompt physician visits would completely resolve on their own with simple “benign neglect.” In other words, time is all that is needed for a cure. Does this mean that 80% of people are jumping the gun by scheduling a doctor visit? Not at all, because the physician is the one trained to discriminate which 20 percent or so need more than “watchful waiting.”

I suspect that the percentages mentioned above may be comparable in the world of veterinary medicine. Nonetheless, many vets are intent on prescribing, and many of their clients are intent on receiving unnecessary medication for situations in which watchful waiting would suffice. There seems to be a desire to give an injection and/or send home some pills, perhaps to placate the prevailing perception that clients who leave empty-handed will feel underserved.

A classic example of this “gotta do something” philosophy is the dog or cat presented for a couple days’ worth of diarrhea. The patient is completely normal otherwise, and a stool sample check is negative for parasites. In this situation it would be absolutely appropriate to recommend a bland diet, some watchful waiting, and a followup phone call or email with a progress report in two to three days. Instead, the client is often sent home with instruction to treat the diarrhea with prescribed medication(s), more often than not an antibiotic. Please know that cases of canine or feline diarrhea caused by bacterial infection (salmonella, campylobacter, clostridium) are rare at best!

Guess what the number one side effect of most antibiotics happens to be? Diarrhea! (Can you sense that I am cringing as a type this?) Antibiotics are capable of disrupting normal bacterial populations within the intestinal tract which can then turn a simple case of self-resolving diarrhea into an ongoing nightmare. Antibiotics are not unique. Each and every drug a veterinarian can prescribe has the potential to cause adverse side effects. Giving medication when watchful waiting is all that is necessary defies logic as well as the important, universal, medical mantra that states, “First do no harm.”

If my clients absolutely, positively can’t stand the thought of doing nothing, I keep them busy doing something that has zero potential to negatively impact my patient. In the case of diarrhea, this can include preparing a homemade diet, keeping a written log of bowel movements, walking the dog six times daily to observe stool samples, or disinfecting the litter box twice daily. Heck, I’ve even had clients who measure and weigh their pet’s bowel movements- their idea, not mine!

This blog post is my way of encouraging you to be okay with watchful waiting (aka, benign neglect) when this is what the situation calls for. Understand the logic behind any medication your veterinarian prescribes, and avoid pressuring your vet to prescribe “something” for the sake of helping you feel more secure and comfortable. Time is a wonderful cure-all for many maladies.

Have you or your pet ever had a medical issue that benefited from watchful waiting?

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.

Medical Questions to Ask a Prospective Pet Sitter

April 20th, 2014

If you’re like me, the most stressful part of preparing to go out of town is feeling reassured that the animals left behind will be well cared for. I prefer to have my menagerie cared for in their own surroundings by a professional pet sitter, or at the pet sitter’s home (emphasis here on “home” rather than “kennel”).

Finding a responsible, capable, attentive, and loving pet sitter requires some research. An interview is a must, and I encourage you to use the list of questions provided by Pet Sitters International as a resource for questions regarding the individual’s work ethic, character, and experience.

It’s also important to assess the prospective pet sitter’s knowledge about pet health issues. My experience has been that many dogs and cats wait to get sick until their human family members are out of town. When this happens, the pet sitter’s medical expertise can make a big difference in the animal’s health outcome.

Here is a list of health-related questions you can ask during the interview process.

Questions

1. Does the pet sitter have experience administering medications? If so, what type? Be sure to ask specific questions that pertain to your individual pet. Having successfully administered oral medication to a dog in no way promises success giving oral medication to even the most docile of felines. Those of you with kitties know exactly what I’m talking about! What if your pet becomes sick and requires administration of subcutaneous fluids (fluids injected under the skin for purposes of hydration)? How about eye or ear medication? Is the individual adept at providing these sorts of therapies?

2. In the mind of the pet sitter, what sorts of symptoms warrant medical intervention? What symptoms constitute an emergency? Ask him or her to describe such scenarios and provide examples of medical issues that have arisen with animals under their care. Challenge your potential pet sitters with the questions I posed to you a few weeks ago in the blog post titled, “What Would You Do?”. Their answers may nix or seal the deal.

3. What would the pet sitter do if your pet becomes sick after hours? You will ideally be providing your chosen pet sitter with a list of preferred veterinary hospitals, but ask this question in advance of doing so in order to get a sense of the prospective pet sitter’s way of thinking about this situation. By the way, when leaving your animals with a pet sitter, I invite you to use the form called “Your Pet’s Emergency Contact Information”.

4. What would the pet sitter do if you cannot be reached during a medical emergency? Would he or she proceed with everything necessary or choose to wait until you can be reached? Once you do hire a pet sitter, be sure to provide them with a completed “Contingency Plan” specifying what should happen in the event that you cannot be reached during an emergency.

5. Is the pet sitter knowledgeable about the medical condition(s) your pet has? Is he or she familiar with the characteristic symptoms and how to respond to them?

6. If your pet becomes sick and requires more time and care than originally agreed upon, will the pet sitter be able to accommodate this?

Can you think of any other health-related questions to ask a prospective pet sitter? Has your pet ever become sick when you were out of town? How did things turn out?

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.

Anesthesiology Etiquette

April 13th, 2014

I’m recovering from surgery to repair a torn ligament in my thumb, sustained while building horse pasture fencing. One-handed word processing is not my forte, so this will be a much shorter blog post than the usual.

I am a veteran of surgical procedures (a wee bit accident-prone I am), and as a veterinarian, I know all too well the kinds of things that can go wrong with general anesthesia. Therefore, I’m always somewhat on edge during the three minute or so encounter I’m allowed with the anesthesiologist moments before he or she takes my life into their hands.

Imagine my reaction when the anesthesiologist assigned to my thumb surgery came waltzing into the room and cheerfully announced, “Hello. I’m Dr. Smith and I am the one who will be putting you to sleep today.” My husband, also a veterinarian, and I exchanged amused glances, and then began giggling. We tactfully explained to Dr. Smith why his choice of words affected us as they did. Truthfully, I think his statement would be off-putting to any animal lover, not just veterinarians. Wouldn’t you agree? Dr. Smith blushed profusely and apologized, stating that he wished he’d known my profession before coming into the room. He did do a bang up job with my anesthesia- I woke up comfy and nausea-free. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

This story reminds me of another one of my pre-op chats with an anesthesiologist a few years back. He asked what I did for a living. After hearing my response, he said, “That’s so cool! That’s what I always wanted to do, but I couldn’t get into vet school.” Not the reassurance I was looking for!

Have you ever had this kind of “interesting” conversation with an anesthesiologist?

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.

Eating Grass: Normal or Abnormal?

April 6th, 2014

Does your cat or dog like to eat grass? If so, you may be wondering if this is normal or abnormal behavior. Either conclusion may be accurate, depending on the individual animal.

Some dogs and cats are natural born grazers. They seemingly love the taste and texture of grass. Given the opportunity, they will eat some daily without any apparent ill effects, and it is fine to let them do so. Perhaps they were cows in a previous lifetime!

For others, foraging on vegetation (grass, leaves, twigs) is a response to an underlying gastrointestinal upset. These dogs and cats typically have other symptoms such as loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Eating grass may actually induce vomiting, which, from the animal’s perspective, may be the desired effect. If your pet who normally ignores grass is suddenly ravenous for the stuff, a visit with your veterinarian is recommended.

Some overtly healthy appearing dogs and cats vomit only when they eat grass. This suggests an underlying allergy or sensitivity to such greenery, and, for these animals, grazing should be prevented.

Grazing Do’s and Don’ts

- Grazing is fine as long as your pet is overtly healthy, and eating grass does not cause vomiting or abdominal discomfort.

- Don’t let your pet graze where pesticides may have been applied. There is a known correlation between ingestion of pesticides and the development of certain types of cancers. If in doubt, keep your pet out.

- Avoid allowing your pet to graze where fertilizer has been recently applied.

- Don’t allow grazing if foxtails are present. This grassy plant grows in abundance west of the Mississippi. The foxtail heads are barbed, and can readily become lodged within an animal’s throat.

- Consider growing “cat grass” for your strictly indoor kitties. This feline treat can be purchased at most pet stores.

Do you happen to have a grazer in your household?

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.

 

My So-Called Hairy Life

March 30th, 2014

Nellie. Photo by Susannah Kay

Red, brown and white are the predominant colors of my wardrobe these days. Trust me, this is not an intentional fashion statement. My horses’ shedding season has begun in earnest, and the colors of their hair coats (chestnut, bay and gray) dictate the hues that will adorn my clothing for the next several weeks. Try as I might to keep my horsin’ around clothes separate from my other garments, that horse hair is very sneaky. It manages to find its way into everything! By the way, here’s a tip for the uninitiated. While in the midst of a horse grooming session, the most effective way to remove horsehair from one’s mouth is via spitting. Trying to remove it with one’s fingers (bound to be laden with hair) simply replaces a couple of hairs with a dozen others. Those of you with horses know exactly what I’m talking about.

All that horsehair does have some redeeming qualities. It keeps my 1,000 pound babies nice and warm all winter, and provides awesome nest building material this time of year. What I appreciate most about my horses’ hair coats is their ability to accurately predict the weather. This past fall, their coats grew to the plushness level of a wooly mammoth, and their recent shedding spree has gotten off to a very late start. This all makes perfect sense given the severity and duration of the winter we’ve just experienced. For my money, a horse’s hair coat is just as good, if not better, than any Farmer’s Almanac.

Then there’s the matter of the dog hair. How is it that my eleven-pound Nellie sheds just as much as a 60-pound Labrador? Her hair is white and bristly and impossible to miss, particularly on my new couches. Technically speaking, Nellie is not “allowed” on this new furniture but, because we don’t patrol at night, she manages to “couch surf” most every evening (this in spite of the fact that we have more than a dozen cushy, comfy dog beds scattered around throughout our home). Quinn sheds a whole lot less than his lil’ sis, but his hair coat is of that super fine variety, and the hairs cling steadfastly to everything they contact.

Why is it that manufacturers of vacuum cleaners and lint rollers haven’t figured out how to identify and hit on fur balls like me? I should be easy to “profile” based on my online activities: shopping for pet supplies, reading horse and dog training blogs, and marathon You Tube sessions watching only cute animal videos. Someone really should tell these companies they are missing out on a lucrative opportunity!

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to wear a sweatshirt devoid of animal hair. How many times have my kids heard me say, “It’s an excellent source of protein,” after finding a pet hair on their dinner plate? Do my yoga instructors know that I’m the reason they must spend extra time sweeping after class? These are the kinds of questions that cross this animal lover’s mind.

Would I consider a life without animals in exchange for a lifestyle devoid of pet hair? Not in a million years!

Can you relate to any of this? I sure hope so because, as that old saying goes, “Misery loves company!”

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.

The Top Ten Toxins of 2013

March 23rd, 2014

My tail is between my legs. I am a week late with this blog post. It was meant to time out in conjunction with National Poison Prevention Week which happens to have just ended! Here is some belated, but hopefully interesting and useful information gleaned from the call logs of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Here is their list of the top ten pet toxins in 2013. They are ranked below based on call volume.

1. Prescription human medications: The Animal Poison Control Center received a whopping 27,673 calls regarding exposure to human medications in 2013. The three categories of drugs most commonly implicated included heart medications (including blood pressure pills), antidepressants, and pain medications (opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications). Honestly, I’m surprised that medicinal marijuana wasn’t a front-runner on this list!

2. Insecticides: More than half of the calls pertaining to insecticides involved cats. I certainly know from experience, that many people unwittingly apply “canine only” insecticides to their kitties, thinking that one size fits all. The important lesson here is to always carefully and thoroughly read the product label before applying an insecticide to any living creature.

3. Over-the-counter human medications: This group of drugs included acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and some herbal and nutraceutical products such as fish oil and joint supplements. I can’t even begin to count the number of dogs I’ve treated over the years for gastrointestinal upset and/or kidney failure caused by ibuprofen. Remember, just because it’s good for us doesn’t mean it’s good for our pets.

4. Household products: The toxins reported ranged from fire logs to cleaning products. Some of the chemicals are corrosive to the gastrointestinal tract. Other products are capable of causing an obstruction if swallowed.

5. People food: The biggees here are onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, and the sugar substitute, xylitol. These food products have the potential to cause kidney failure (grapes and raisins), gastrointestinal upset and damage to red blood cells (onions and garlic), and dangerously low blood sugar levels (xylitol).

6. Veterinary products and medications: These products are often flavored in order to make for a more palatable pilling process. The more delectable the medication, the more likely the animal is to eat as many tablets as possible when inadvertently allowed access to the entire bottle. The containers may be childproof, but they’re certainly not resistant to the gnashing and mashing of canine jowls.

7. Chocolate: I’m not sure why this was not included as a “people food”. It’s certainly one of my favorites! Methylxanthine is the substance in chocolate that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremoring, elevation in heart rate, and even seizures. The darker/purer the chocolate is, the greater the potential for toxicity. The lesson here- always be selfish with your chocolate!

8. Rodenticides: These are poisons intended to kill mice and rats. In many cases of accidental pet exposure, the people involved either had no idea how their pet could have been exposed, or they felt certain that there was no way their pet could have accessed the product where it was placed. Pets are pretty darned clever at getting to such tasty stuff. Depending on the type of poison, rodenticide toxicity can present as internal bleeding, seizures, or kidney failure. Here’s the bottom line. If you share your home with a pet, do not use a rodenticide anywhere on your premise. Let your kitties and your terriers do the mousing.

9. Plants: Lilies are the major culprits here. When ingested, they are capable of causing an abrupt onset of kidney failure. The outcome can be favorable, but only with really aggressive therapy that sometimes includes dialysis. Spare yourself this heartache- get rid of any lilies in your yard, and don’t bring any lily containing bouquets or plants into the house. Kitties just love to nibble on them.

10. Lawn and Garden Products: What dog doesn’t love what fertilizers contain- bone meal, manure from all kinds of critters, and, sometimes, even some dried blood. Dogs that eat enough of the stuff will develop some rip roaring gastrointestinal symptoms, and potentially even an obstruction.

Have you ever had to deal with a pet-related toxicity? What happened and how did everything turn out?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

What Would You Do? Part II

March 16th, 2014

A week ago I challenged you by asking, “What would you do?” pertaining to a series of pet-related symptoms. Thanks to the more than 100 of you who submitted your responses. All of your names were entered into the book drawing. And the lucky winner is…… drum roll…… Brenda Bass with Middle Tennessee Boxer Rescue. Congratulations Brenda!

Below, you will find my preferred responses to the scenarios I presented. Know that there is always room for differing opinions, particularly given your personal experience and what you know to be true for your own pets.

If ever you have doubt about how best to proceed in response to your pet’s symptoms, I strongly encourage you to solicit advice from a staff member at your family vet clinic or local emergency pet hospital. It is perfectly okay to have your pet examined on an emergency basis for something that ends up not being a true emergency. This happens all the time. Better to be safe than sorry, and your peace of mind will be well served.

Recommended courses of action

For all of the symptoms described below, the options were:

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

Now, here are the my preferred responses.

1. It’s 8:00 at night and your pet just vomited some fluid mixed with food. He seems perfectly normal otherwise, and you know of nothing unusual that he might have eaten.

For this scenario, I feel comfortable advising you to do some “watchful waiting”. This is based primarily on the other information provided (nothing toxic or unusual ingested, perfectly normal otherwise, vomited one time only). Should there be more vomiting or progression to other symptoms, veterinary attention is recommended. During the “waiting and watching” period following an episode of vomiting, it is typically a good idea to withhold food for six to eight hours while offering frequent access to small amounts of water. Left to their own devices, dogs who are feeling nauseated often “gorge” on water, prompting ongoing vomiting. When food is reintroduced, it is wise to offer small, frequent meals of bland diet (a mixture of nonfat cottage cheese and plain boiled white rice for dogs, and jarred turkey or chicken baby food for cats) for 12-24 hours. After this time period, if all is well, the normal diet can be reintroduced. Calling a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice is an option I would fully support here as well.

2. For the past few weeks you’ve been needing to fill your pet’s water bowl more frequently than normal. Your pet seems completely normal otherwise.

While this observation does not represent an emergency situation, it definitely warrants scheduling an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian. Increased thirst can be an early symptom of many disorders, some of which include: kidney disease, liver disease, urinary tract infection, and hormonal imbalances (diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, diabetes insipidus). Your vet will be pleased if, before your appointment, you’ve measured your pet’s 24 hour water intake (ideally 2-3 day’s worth). Normal water intake is less than one ounce per pound of body weight per day.

3. Your pet just had what looked like a seizure. The episode lasted approximately 30 seconds. He appeared completely normal both before and immediately following the seizure. He’s never done anything like this before, and you know of nothing unusual (toxic) he could have been exposed to.

My preferred course of action is that you take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital. It can sometimes be difficult to know if what was observed was truly a seizure or a fainting episode (usually caused by heart disease). In either case, early intervention has the greatest potential to arrive at a diagnosis and favorably influence the outcome.

4. Your normally very well house-trained dog or litterbox-trained cat has urinated two times on your bathroom rug. He seems completely normal otherwise.

Whenever an undesirable behavior such as inappropriate urination develops, I always encourage giving your pet the “medical benefit of the doubt”. By this I mean ruling out an underlying medical problem rather than just assuming this is “bad behavior”. In this case, it is very possible that the urination on the bathroom rug is a symptom of a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, a sterile inflammatory process within the bladder (cats), a structural problem within the lower urinary tract, or a disease causing increased thirst, therefore increased urine production. Based on the symptoms described, my recommendation is to schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.

5. Your pet suddenly appears more tired than usual, and his tongue seems pale. He seems completely normal otherwise.

The pale tongue is the key here. It creates concern about heart failure, respiratory tract disease, a shocky condition, and severe anemia caused by internal bleeding or an autoimmune disorder. All of these possibilities represent true emergencies and I recommend taking your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

6. For the past week your pet has been eating his normal amount of food, but is nibbling throughout the day rather than consuming the entire meal in one sitting as he normally would. He seems completely normal otherwise.

While it may be tempting to dismiss this change given that the total amount of food your pet is eating has not changed, my advice is that this symptom warrants scheduling an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian. Dogs and cats tend to be creatures of habit, and a break from their normal routine is a heads up that something is amiss. The change in food interest described here could be caused by something as simple as a painful tooth to something as serious as kidney failure.

7. For the past two days your pet has has had a mild limp. Your thorough inspection of the leg did not identify anything abnormal. He seems completely normal otherwise.

In this situation (note that I described the limp as mild) I feel very comfortable with “watchful waiting”. Just like us, our pets can experience bruises and sprains that will improve over the course of two to three days, particularly if exercise restriction is enforced. If, after a few days, the lameness is not improving or is worsening, it is time for a veterinary visit. Even if the cause of the lameness is something more sinister (a torn ligament, a bony tumor, etc.) the overall outcome will not have been negatively impacted by having delayed veterinary care by a few days. A word of warning- please do not give your pet any over-the-counter human antiinflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.) during this waiting and watching period. Such products can cause far more harm than good.

8.  Your pet growled at you when you attempted to move him from the couch to the floor. This is something he’s never done before. He seems completely normal otherwise.

In this situation I strongly encourage scheduling an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian. This will help rule out an underlying medical issue, such as a painful body part, as the cause of the growling. As described in number 4 above, your four-legged family member is deserving of your “medical benefit of the doubt”.

9.  Your normally ravenous pet showed no interest in his breakfast this morning. He seems completely normal otherwise.

Our pets tend to be such creatures of habit, particularly around mealtime. When there is a sudden change in food bowl behavior, I am always concerned. While this situation does not raise any “emergency alarm bells” for me (based on the fact that everything else appears normal), I do think scheduling an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian makes good sense, with the caveat that the appointment be scheduled for sooner rather than later. Calling a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital might be a reasonable option, but I am concerned that you may be advised to wait and watch. A sudden change in appetite has the potential to be associated with a serious underlying medical issue. Simply waiting and watching could sabotage a window of opportunity to create a good outcome.

10.  It’s bedtime and your pet is breathing heavily and doesn’t want to lie down. He seemed completely normal throughout the day.

This is a worrisome scenario particularly if such behavior is truly out of character for your pet. While fear or anxiety can produce an abrupt onset of these symptoms, they can also be caused by a number of serious medical maladies some of which include: internal bleeding, heart failure, severe respiratory tract disease, or any underlying problem causing severe pain. This is definitely a “better to be safe than sorry” situation and I recommend taking your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital..

How did you do? Do you agree with my recommendations? Are there other symptoms you would have liked me to include?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

What Would You Do?

March 9th, 2014

I recently came across a paper titled “Internet users’ perception of importance of clinical signs commonly seen in old animals with age-related diseases”. The study concluded that many people have difficulty accurately assessing the importance of their pets’ symptoms. For example, 14% of those surveyed indicated that they would not seek veterinary attention if they noticed that their pet had red/pink colored urine, a sure symptom of a significant problem within the urinary tract.

I am curious to know how you, my well informed readers, would evaluate various observations pertaining to your pets. I offer you this little challenge quiz. Share your responses with me publicly or privately, and your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a signed copy of Speaking for Spot or Your Dog’s Best Health. I will provide my preferred responses to these questions along with explanations in a followup blog post. Thanks in advance for your participation!

Observations

For each of the following observations, indicate the course of action you would choose. When I use the word “pet” I am referring to a dog or a cat.

1. It’s 8:00 at night and your pet just vomited some fluid mixed with food. He seems perfectly normal otherwise, and you know of nothing unusual that he might have eaten.

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

2. For the past few weeks you’ve been needing to fill your pet’s water bowl more frequently than normal. Your pet seems completely normal otherwise.

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

3. Your pet just had what looked like a seizure. The episode lasted approximately 30 seconds. He appeared completely normal both before and immediately following the seizure. He’s never done anything like this before, and you know of nothing unusual (toxic) he could have been exposed to.

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

4. Your normally very well house-trained dog or litterbox-trained cat has urinated two times on your bathroom rug. He seems completely normal otherwise.

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

5. Your pet suddenly appears more tired than usual, and his tongue seems pale. He seems completely normal otherwise.

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

6. For the past week your pet has been eating his normal amount of food, but is nibbling throughout the day rather than consuming the entire meal in one sitting as he normally would. He seems completely normal otherwise.

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

7. For the past two days your pet has has had a mild limp. Your thorough inspection of the leg did not identify anything abnormal. He seems completely normal otherwise.

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

8.  Your pet growled at you when you attempted to move him from the couch to the floor. This is something he’s never done before. He seems completely normal otherwise.

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

9.  Your normally ravenous pet showed no interest in his breakfast this morning. He seems completely normal otherwise.

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

10.  It’s bedtime and your pet is breathing heavily and doesn’t want to lie down. He seemed completely normal throughout the day.

  1. Do some “watchful waiting”.
  2. Call a staff member at your family veterinary clinic or local emergency hospital for advice.
  3. Schedule an appointment to have your pet examined by your family veterinarian.
  4. Take your pet immediately to your family vet clinic if they are open. Otherwise head to your local pet emergency hospital.

Be sure to look for my suggested responses to these scenarios in one week. Don’t forget to share your responses to be included in the book drawing.

Are there other pet observations you wish I had included? If so, tell me what they are and we can discuss what the appropriate response to that observation would be.

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.