Two-For-One Holiday Book Sale

Photo Credit: It is once again time for my two-for-one holiday book sale. Purchase Speaking for Spot or Your Dog’s Best Health and receive a second book for free. There’s no limit on quantity- purchase as many books as you like at this two-for-one price. The books you order will arrive all decked out in holiday wrapping paper (you can specify, Christmas or Chanukah). Oh, and did I mention that the giftwrap is complimentary with your purchase?

Heads up dog trainers and groomers! Here’s an ideal and economical holiday gift idea for your clients. If you are a dog breeder, stock up on books now so you can a copy home with every puppy you place. Do you run a rescue organization? The gift of a book is a wonderful way to thank your volunteers.

Speaking for Spot was an Amazon best seller and was featured on the NPR show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Your Dog’s Best Health is the ideal guide to finding your dog’s “Dr. Wonderful”. Here’s what two people had to say about these books:

I wanted you to know that Snickers lived the longest and most enriched life possible because I’d become such an empowered advocate for her, thanks to Speaking for Spot!

 

I could quote you many incidents, but mostly it’s a matter of just asking questions, then weighing the pros and cons of the effects/invasiveness of treatment versus benefits. When Snickers was going through her cancer treatment this came up many times, and I was a lot more confident about making the best decisions for my pet because I’d learned to ask the right questions. Snickers will be missed every minute of every day, but we take comfort in knowing she lived the very best life ever and knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was loved to the moon and back.

Dianne in Stockton, California

 

I received a phone call from a woman this morning who was referred by one of the veterinary clinics I work with. She had a list of questions about pet health insurance and I could tell she’d really done her homework. I said to her, “I applaud you for having so many great questions. How did you learn what to ask?” She replied, “My vet shared a book with me called Speaking For Spot.” This was the copy I had given them for their waiting room. The woman read the book cover to cover and wrote down all the questions from the chapter about pet insurance. All I can say is that if everyone asked such great questions and really understood what they were getting, it would sure make my job easier! By the way, she is enrolling her two dogs!

Michele Rosen, Trupanion Pet Insurance

Chanukah is right around the corner, beginning on Sunday, December 6th. Christmas begins on the evening of December 24th this year (smart aleck!). Please allow two weeks for delivery after you place your order.

This two-for-one book sale extends from now through the end of December. Please place your order by clicking on the link below.

TWO-FOR-ONE HOLIDAY BOOK SALE!!

Wishing you and your four-legged family members much good health and happiness throughout the holiday season.

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.

 

Eight Tips for Coping With Your Dog’s Age-Related Hearing Loss

Photo Credit: dustinginetz, The most common form of deafness in dogs is age-related hearing loss (ARHL). Most dogs experience some degree of ARHL, beginning sometime during their “third trimester” of life.

ARHL begins by impairing perception of middle to high frequency sounds. As the hearing loss progresses it encompasses the entire range of sound frequencies.

I suspect that most people don’t recognize their dog’s hearing loss until it is almost, if not fully, complete. They may mistakenly interpret their dog’s partial hearing loss as a behavioral issue, sometimes referred to as “selective hearing”.

Unfortunately, there are no good strategies that restore hearing in dogs with ARHL. A 2010 study reported on three Beagles with age-related deafness who received middle ear implants. The results were equivocal and, to my knowledge, further investigation of this technology has not been pursued. Canine hearing aids have been tried, but tend to be poorly tolerated.

How you can help

Observing your beloved dog become less responsive because of hearing loss can evoke a laundry list of emotions such as sadness, frustration, and discouragement. While there is no good way to restore your dog’s hearing, here are eight things you can do to make a positive difference for both you and your dog.

  1. Check in with your veterinarian. Verify that the only cause of your dog’s hearing loss is ARHL. Ear canal disease, such as a growth, foreign body, or infection, superimposed on ARHL may transition a dog from partial to complete deafness. Treatment of the ear canal disease may restore an acceptable level of hearing.
  2. Train your dog with hand signals. When your dog experiences significant hearing loss, your ability to communicate with him via hand signals will create greater safety for your dog and more support for the emotional bond you share.

Dogs quite naturally communicate via body language, so they tend to quickly learn the meaning of hand gestures. Ideally, training with hand signals in conjunction with verbal cues should begin in puppy kindergarten class. Someday, your youngster will become a senior with hearing loss, and those hand signals that were learned will be super handy (pun intended).

By the way, the popular adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is a bunch of bunk. If your older dog hasn’t been taught to respond to hand signals, begin the training process as soon as possible. Most senior dogs are very capable of learning these new cues.

  1. Use nontraditional signals. In addition to hand signals, find other ways to get your dog’s attention. Examples include actions that create vibrations (clapping hands, stomping on the floor, knocking cans together), use of a flashlight, release of an appealing scent (appealing to the dog, that is), and use of a storm or disaster whistle. Figure out what works best with your dog. Provide a positive reward (favorite snack, belly rub, game of tug of war) when you begin training your best buddy to respond to these new cues.
  2. Avoid startling your dog. Approach and/or touch your dog when you are within his field of vision. If you need to wake him from sleep, touch him gently in the same place (the shoulder area is ideal). You can also put your hand in front of his nose as your smell may rouse him, particularly if it resembles the odor of a favorite treat. Remind visitors to avoid touching your best buddy when he is sleeping. All of these tactics tend to prevent startle reactions.
  3. Increase your vigilance. This applies to the home front as well as out in the world. A fenced in yard becomes a must. Be sure your dog is on leash or confined when cars pull in and out at your home. Every veterinarian can tell you stories of older, hearing-impaired dogs who were run over in their own driveways.

Leashes are mandatory when your dog has exposure to cars, joggers, bikers, skateboarders, and other potential hazards. Make sure that every member of your dog’s support team (veterinary staff, pet sitter, groomer, dog walker, doggie day care provider) knows about his hearing loss. Admittedly, even when I know that my patient is deaf, I still tend to talk to him in my usual fashion. Force of habit, I guess. Given our close contact, I like to think that my patient feels more secure sensing vibrations coming from my body.

  1. Enrich your dog’s “smelling life.” Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell. I recently heard dog trainer, Turid Rugaas  explain that, when a dogs enters a new situation, their eyes create the first impression, but it’s the nose that fill in the details. Olfactory stimulation is known to impact canine behavior. By providing a richer smelling life for your dog, you may help fill in some of the sensory gaps caused by his hearing loss.
  2. Attach an, “I am deaf” tag to your dog’s collar. This way, if your dog becomes lost and then found, the good Samaritan involved will understand why your dog is not normally responsive.
  3. Give yourself a pep talk. Patience is a virtue when interacting with your aging dog (just as it is when interacting with an elderly person). Yes, it’s easy to feel frustration, sadness, and impatience, but keep in mind, your older dog is still capable of picking up on your emotions. Take a few deep breaths and give yourself a pep talk to help restore a sense of patience and compassion.

There are some silver linings to consider. As your level of care for your hearing-impaired older dog increases, your relationship may become closer than it has ever been. Additionally all of that quaking, quivering, and anxiety caused by loud noises (thunder, gunshot noises, firecrackers) will likely become a thing of the past. Lastly, remind yourself that, with your loving care, your hearing-impaired dog remains very capable of enjoying an excellent quality of life.

What has worked well for you when interacting with your hearing-impaired dog?

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.

Fear Free Veterinary Visits

Photo Credit: Daanfranken on Flicker, Dr. Marty Becker is one of the most enthusiastic veterinarians I know, and he is an amazing advocate for the veterinary profession. Not only does he run a small animal practice in Idaho, he is a nationally recognized speaker, columnist, and television and radio spokesperson.

Most recently, Dr. Becker has been busy promoting his concept of “Fear Free veterinary visits” by encouraging his colleagues to focus on their patients’ minds as well as their bodies. After all, the calmer the animal, the more successful the visit is apt to be. Dr. Becker writes, “Just as pediatric dentists had to change to comfort and coddle patients as well as do preventive and therapeutic dental care, so must we change to provide emotional care and compassion for pets to go along with great medicine.”

Dr. Becker’s Ten Fear Free strategies

Here are the ten steps Dr. Becker recommends to achieve Fear Free veterinary visits:

  1. Arrive with a calm pet. Arriving with an animal that is relaxed sets the tone for a calm visit. This might involve the use of pheromones, sedatives prescribed by the veterinarian, cat carrier covers, and playing special calming music. I’ll throw in my two cents here by saying that, the calmness of my client (the human in the exam room) usually influences the calmness of my patient. Playing some special calming music for both species might be just the ticket!
  1. Withhold food. Dr. Becker recommends no food after 6:00 PM the night before the office visit (unless the animal’s medical condition dictates otherwise). This way, the dog or cat is more likely to respond to food rewards offered by the veterinary staff.
  1. Minimize the use of the waiting room. Waiting in a private exam room or even in the family car may create less anxiety than spending time in a busy waiting area.
  1. Have species-specific exam rooms. Dr. Becker recommends species-specific places to examine the animal, pheromones, calming music, wall coverings, and even adjusted temperatures. I would add that direct exposure to the smell of “Eau de Dog” might just tip a skittish kitty over the edge.
  1. Promote a sense of calm in the exam room. Actions such as using a lower voice, avoiding direct eye contact, providing treats, allowing the animal to check the veterinarian out first rather than vice versa, and wearing pheromones can have significant calming effects.
  1. Offer a choice of where to examine the patient. Some animals feel far more comfortable on the floor than up on a metal exam table. (I find this to be particularly true for larger dogs.) Dr. Becker recommends exploring alternate places including the inside of the cat carrier (with the top taken off), on a yoga mat or towel on the floor, or on the pet owner’s lap. I agree wholeheartedly and would add that for some dogs, performing my exam outside on the lawn, inside the car (the animal’s home away from home), or in the back of the family pick up truck can help create calm.
  1. Determine one best method of positional compliance. What this means is working with each animal to determine which method of restraint has the most calming impact. Once the method is determined, it is wise to make note of it within the medical record along with the pet’s preferred place to be examined and favorite treats. My own experience has taught me that many animals do best with a “less is more” method of restraint.
  1. Make vaccinations less pain/more gain. This means using smaller needles, distraction techniques when the needle prick occurs, and administering vaccinations via less stressful measures. For example, a kennel cough vaccination can be administered orally rather than into the nose.
  1. Use sedation early and often. If an animal appears anxious, Dr. Becker recommends administration of sedation and then waiting for it to take effect. When sedation is warranted, I encourage selecting a drug that is a true anxiolytic (reduces anxiety) rather than one that simply produces a sleepy dog or cat.
  1. Cradle every pet’s physical and emotional well-being. Lastly, Dr. Becker encourages beginning the office visit with the animal’s emotional well-being. Only after a calm attitude is achieved should assessment of the animal’s physical well-being begin.

As a “p.s.” to Dr. Becker’s recommendations, I will add my belief that some dogs and cats are less fearful about being taken beyond the exam room and into the bowels of the hospital when their favorite calm human is allowed to accompany them. Keep in mind, this applies to some but not all animals. I encourage you to discuss access to the “back of the hospital” with your veterinarian.

Lastly, I want to let you know that I am a huge fan of the book, Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats: Techniques for Developing Patients Who Love Their Visits. The late Dr. Sophia Yin (every animal’s true best friend) wrote this fabulous book. If you are “interviewing” veterinary hospitals, finding a copy of this on the bookshelf is an excellent selling point!

What Fear Free methods would you add to Dr. Becker’s list? Which Fear Free methods do the staff members at your family veterinary hospital utilize?

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 Benefits of Canned Pumpkin for Your Pet

Photo Credit: jillwatson on Flicker, Jack-o-lanterns, Halloween decorations, Thanksgiving, and pumpkin pie! This is certainly the pumpkin season. But, do you know that pumpkins can be important year-round for some pets? Canned pumpkin is a commonly prescribed dietary additive for some gastrointestinal maladies. From diarrhea to constipation, pumpkin can be a dog’s (or cat’s) best friend.

What is canned pumpkin?

Canned pumpkin recommended by veterinarians is nothing more than pumpkin that has been pureed. It is a source of fiber that is low in fat and cholesterol. When purchasing canned pumpkin at the grocery store it is important to read the label carefully. Pie filling canned pumpkin has added ingredients such as sugar, fat, and various seasonings. It is the pure pumpkin product that veterinarians recommend.

How can pumpkin help?

Canned pumpkin can provide a number of health benefits based primarily on its fiber content. Be forewarned that canned pumpkin is mostly water, to the tune of approximately 90%. This means that the content of fiber is fairly low (not nearly as much as is found in Metamucil).

Pumpkin isn’t a be-all and end-all remedy for cats and dogs with gastrointestinal issues, but it is a reasonably harmless thing to try. If this has you thinking, “Hmm, maybe I’ll give canned pumpkin a try,” I urge you to consult with your veterinarian before doing so. In some cases, added fiber could cause more harm than good. All this being said, canned pumpkin does seem to make a significant difference for some animals in the following ways:

  • Diarrhea: Fiber can act as a sponge that absorbs excess water within the gastrointestinal tract. Diarrhea has a myriad of causes, and added dietary fiber can benefit some of them.
  • Constipation: When there isn’t excess water in the gastrointestinal tract, fiber can help draw in water and ease stool passage. Fiber can also create bulk within the colon that helps alleviate constipation for some animals.
  • Weight loss: Pumpkin provides a relatively low calorie way to give an animal the sense of a full stomach. This can make the reduction of overall food quantity more tolerable for the dieting animal.
  • Hairballs: Canned pumpkin can benefit some cats who suffer from hairballs. The fiber content helps move things along within the gastrointestinal tract. Be reminded that, only rarely are hairballs the true cause of vomiting in kitties.

How much pumpkin should you feed?

The amount of canned pumpkin needed to provide benefit will vary from pet to pet. For example, a Chihuahua may require only a teaspoon per meal whereas a half cup may be required for a Great Dane. As with any dietary additive, it’s best to start small and then work your way up to the appropriate amount. Some animals, particularly those of the feline persuasion, don’t much care for this different tasting orange substance in their food bowl- another reason to begin with only a small amount that is more readily disguised.

If you are feeding your pet only a small amount of pumpkin daily, you may not use an entire can before it spoils. Consider placing the pumpkin in ice cube trays and freezing. Blocks can then be thawed as needed.

Questions for your veterinarian

  • Might my pet benefit from the addition of canned pumpkin?
  • How much canned pumpkin should I feed and how frequently?
  • What should I be watching for once the pumpkin is started?

Do you feed your pets canned pumpkin and have you found it to be beneficial?

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.

Them Bones: Orthopedic Issues in Young, Large and Giant Breed Dogs

Maintaining the company of a “Clifford” creates a unique feeling of companionship. Walking beside a giant dog, one feels almost regal. And, not having to bend over to stroke your best buddy’s head is a nice perk.

If you adopt a large or giant breed pup such as a German Shepherd, Great Dane, Wolfhound, or Newfoundland, to name a few, be aware that your youngster’s rapidly growing (lengthening) legs are prone to orthopedic issues. Some of these “growing pains” are mild and transient, but others require intervention.

The critical time period during which these issues arise is during the first 12 to 18 months of life when the bones are lengthening most rapidly. By the one year mark, growth plates begin to close and bone development slows down considerably.

The most common orthopedic issues in young large and breed dogs are osteochondrosis (osteochondritis dissecans), panosteitis, and hypertrophic osteodystrophy. All three like to affect more than one limb, resulting in a “shifting leg lameness”- the pup favors the leg that happens to hurt the most on any given day.

Osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis, also known as osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), disrupts the development of normal cartilage. Normal joints develop a smooth layer of cartilage that protects the underlying bone. In dogs with osteochondrosis, the cartilage fails to develop normally. The unhealthy cartilage can develop cracks or flaps resulting in inflammation within the joint. (It is at this point that osteochondrosis officially becomes osteochondritis dissecans.) In some cases, the flap detaches from the cartilage surface and becomes a free floating “joint mouse”. The end result is a painful joint causing lameness.

Shoulder joints are most commonly affected, but osteochondrosis can also occur in elbows, knees (stifles), hips, and ankles (hocks). An X-ray is usually all that is needed to diagnose osteochondrosis.Some dogs respond to rest, diet modification (see below) and antiinflammatory medications. For others, surgery is needed to remove the “mouse” along with any remaining defective cartilage.

Panosteitis

The thin layer of cells along the outer surface of the legs’ long bones is called periosteum. Panosteitis refers to inflammation of this tissue. It is suspected when a large or giant breed youngster develops lameness and reacts painfully when the affected bone is squeezed a bit. In severe cases, panosteitis causes a fever and lethargy.

The diagnosis may be confirmed with X-rays. Most dogs respond favorably to rest, diet modification (see below), and antiinflammatory medications. Episodes can last for two to three weeks, or can continue for months at a time.

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD)

Growth plates are the sites from which bones elongate. Once the growth plates close, bone lengthening ends. Inflammation within open growth plates is referred to as HOD, and it causes swelling and pain in multiple joints. HOD may be associated with a fever and loss of appetite. The diagnosis is confirmed with X-rays.

Treatment consists of rest, diet modification (see below), and antiinflammatory medications. Just as with panosteitis, most dogs with HOD improve over time with no permanent damage. Severe damage to the growth plate is rare, but can result in abnormal bone growth and a deformed appearance of the affected legs (angular limb deformity).

The role of nutrition

There is clear evidence that nutrition plays a role in the development of developmental orthopedic diseases in large and giant breed dogs. High energy diets (puppy or performance formulations) and excess calcium intake have been implicated. These nutritional factors, in conjunction with rapid growth, set the stage for developmental bony abnormalities.

While it’s tempting to grow a large or giant-breed of dog as big as possible as fast as possible, it is important to allow them to achieve their final height naturally and gradually. Pushing the process with overnutrition or oversupplementation does more harm than good.

The dietary changes typically recommended for pups with orthopedic issues include:

  • Downgrade from a “high octane diet” to one that promotes slower growth. This usually involves transitioning from a puppy food to an adult formulation.
  • Feed a premium diet that is specifically formulated for large-breed pups. These are designed to avoid excess calories while providing appropriate levels of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D.
  • Avoid a pudgy puppy. Make sure the youngster maintains a lean body weight.
  • Modify or eliminate vitamin/mineral supplementation. A high quality diet provides all of the vitamins and minerals needed for normal growth and development.
  • If feeding a homemade diet, work with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure the food is balanced for normal orthopedic development.
  • Joint health supplements such as glucosamine have no proven benefit in terms of preventing or treating these orthopedic diseases. Much like the proverbial chicken soup, however, “It couldn’t hurt.”

The role of genetics

The high occurrence of these developmental diseases within certain breeds and bloodlines certainly speaks to a probable underlying genetic cause. The fact that male dogs are more commonly affected also raises suspicion.

Before adopting a large or giant breed pup, ask the breeder about the incidence of osteochondrosis, panosteitis, and OCD within the pup’s dam, sire, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Ideally, dogs who have experienced osteochondrosis, panosteitis, and/or HOD should not be used for breeding.

Has your dog experienced one of these diseases? If so, how did you manage 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.

 

 

Five Predictors of Canine Obesity

Photo Credit: MrTGT, Obese Dog on Flicker - CC license.

Did you know that October 7th is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day? I wonder why Hallmark hasn’t caught on to this official “pet problem awareness” date. Just imagine the creative and comical cards they could create!

You likely already know about the many problems associated with canine obesity. From arthritis to diabetes to heart disease, those extra pounds predispose dogs to a litany of health issues.

What you may not know is that, besides the basics of overfeeding and under-exercising, there are other almost certain predictors of canine obesity. Knowledge of them helps lower the likelihood of chubby Chows and portly Pugs. Here are five predictors of canine obesity that may be new to you:

  1. Choose your dog breed wisely.

While any type of dog can become obese, certain breeds are particularly predisposed. Perhaps it’s an inherited slower metabolism, love of eating, or undeniable cuteness (the cuter the dog, the more treats offered) that renders them more susceptible.

Labrador Retrievers are at the top of the list, both in popularity (consistently the most popular breed in the United States) and the likelihood of obesity. Most Labs love to eat, yet they tend to require surprisingly few calories to maintain a healthy body weight. Do your research before you adopt your next four-legged family member. If you know from past experience that you love to feed more than you love to exercise, choose a “skinnier” breed.

  1. Ignore recommendations on dog food labels.

If you feed commercially prepared foods do not, I repeat- DO NOT rely on the product label when determining how much to feed your dog. Doing so is just about guaranteed to result in a porky puppy. I suspect that manufacturer’s recommendations are what they are, in part, because the more you feed the more product they will sell. Additionally, dogs who are a bit on the heavy side are better walking commercials for a particular brand of food than those who are nice and lean.

Ask your veterinarian or another trusted dog person for advice on how much to feed. Keep in mind, this amount is just a starting point and should be adjusted up or down based on fluctuations in your dog’s appearance. Predicting how much a dog needs to eat isn’t an exact science- just because two dogs come from the same litter doesn’t mean they will require the same number of calories.

I commonly receive the question, “How much should I feed my dog?” For starters, I begin with a mathematical formula that provides the number of calories based on the dog’s size. This is just a starting point, however. I adjust my recommendation based on several other factors including the animal’s age, breed, activity level, and current size (too fat, too thin, or just right).

  1. Divide and conquer.

Dogs come in all different sizes, yet dog treats tend to come in just three- small, medium and large. Just because a dog treat comes in a particular size doesn’t mean you have to feed the whole darned thing all at once. Feeding “small size” cookies may work well for a Sheltie, but may be disastrous for the Chihuahua for whom two or three of the treats may provide an entire day’s worth of calories.

So, divvy up those snacks. Trust me, your dog won’t mind. As he wolfs down his tasty treat in a nanosecond, the difference between a half and a whole will go unnoticed.

  1. Ignore what others may say.

Truth be told, most people are not used to looking at dogs who are truly fit. So, when they see a dog without a thick waist and a layer of fat covering the ribcage, they think the dog is too thin. And, out of concern for the animal, they may voice their opinion, loud and clear.

I encourage you to rely on the opinions of experts when it comes to your dog’s body condition, and dismiss those well-intentioned comments from neighborhood dog walkers or dog park buddies. They may not be used to looking at dogs who are lean, mean working machines.

  1. Seniors may need extra coaching.

In general, elderly people who are less active and more housebound tend to overfeed their dogs. Perhaps because they are together round-the-clock, seniors are more apt to apply the, “one for me, one for you” rule. Providing treats can become the language of love shared with their best buddy.

If you know someone like this, or you recognize yourself to be this someone, I recommend the following:

  • Give smaller treats (see number 3 above).
  • Feed goodies that are less fattening. Fill the treat container with small chunks of diced carrots or apples rather than dog cookies.
  • Decrease the amount fed at mealtime.
  • Transition the dog to a less fattening diet.
  • Enlist the help of a dog-walker.
  • Recruit a veterinarian to help. Sometimes, advice from a professional packs more of a wallop.

Is your dog too fat, too thin, or just right?

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.

Animals Eat the Craziest Things!

Golf balls retrieved from Zeus’s stomach

Every year Veterinary Practice News (VPN) holds its, “They Ate What?” Contest. Here’s how it works. Veterinarians submit X-rays of patients who have eaten highly inappropriate things along with photos of the foreign matter once it’s been removed. The VPN editorial staff judges the submissions for originality. The prizes- $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place, and $500 for third place- are sponsored by Trupanion pet insurance.

This year’s grand prizewinner was Dr. Gordon Schumucker of Lisbon Veterinary Clinic in Lisbon, Ohio. His patient Zeus, a one-year-old Doberman Pinscher, was examined because of vomiting. An X-ray revealed 20 round, foreign objects within the dog’s stomach. During surgery 20 golf balls were retrieved. Zeus was reported to have access to a driving range.

Second place went to Dr. Mike Jones of Woodland West Animal Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He removed the end of a fishing pole from the esophagus and stomach of a ten-week-old puppy. Yikes!

The third place winner was Dr. Theresa Taylor of Cherryville Animal Hospital in Cherryville, North Carolina. She examined a six-month-old Labrador Retriever because of vomiting and lethargy. Her X-rays revealed a metallic foreign body within the dog’s bowel. At the time of surgery, she discovered that this youngster had eaten a door hinge. After surgery, it’s reported that the mouthy puppy attempted to eat the wrap securing his intravenous catheter along with the plastic line connected to his intravenous fluids. Why do I think this puppy is in store for a lifetime of surgeries?

Some of the other reported foreign bodies included an animal’s collar, a studded belt, coins, a rock, a spoon, and a large bunch of hair ties. All of the stories had happy endings with one exception. After a python was “away from the house” for a week or so its owner requested an X-ray to determine what his pet ingested while MIA. The X-ray revealed a bejeweled collar within the snake’s intestinal tract. It turns out that a neighbor’s Siamese kitty disappeared right around that same time. It was reported that the snake owner fessed up and purchased another cat for his neighbor.

If you’d like to view photos of all of the X-rays, take a look at the VPN article. VPN is hosting a People’s Choice X-ray contest. If you‘d like to vote do so by the end of this month. The winning veterinarian will receive $500.

What’s the craziest thing your pet ever ate?

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 World of Pet Health Insurance

Photo Credit: Jenny Fitzgerald

Veterinary health insurance has been around for a good long time, but only recently has it been gaining in popularity. Growth within the industry was initially stymied by inadequate, “slow-pay” and “no-pay” reimbursement policies.

Pet health insurance companies have come a long way, and are now attracting the attention of more and more pet lovers, particularly those who want to take advantage of high-end diagnostic and therapeutic options that might otherwise be unaffordable.

Perhaps you’ve thought about pet insurance, but haven’t committed one way or another because the policies are confusing, or you truly don’t know whether or not purchasing insurance makes good financial sense. Know that you are not alone in your uncertainty. To help with your understanding, I encourage you to read, “The Changing Landscape of Pet Health Insurance.”

Is pet insurance right for you?

Deciding whether or not to purchase a medical insurance policy for your pet requires serious consideration. And, if you decide to go ahead, figuring out which insurance company is the best fit can be daunting. Although it is considered to be far less necessary than human medical insurance, should your pet develop a chronic disease or suffer some sort of catastrophe, such as being hit by a car, pet insurance might be your best, if not your only way of financing his or her care.

Without question, quality veterinary care is expensive, and as the cost of living continues to increase, so too will the cost of doing business with your veterinarian.

When making your decision about pet health insurance, I encourage you to consider your answers to the following three questions:

What are your current financial resources?

If your pet suffered a serious accident or sudden significant illness, would you be able to finance his or her recovery? Think about the types of procedures and associated expenses you might encounter: surgery, ultrasound examination, hospitalization with or without intensive care, consultation with specialists, rehabilitation therapy, and the list goes on. Could you absorb such costs should the need arise tomorrow? How do these numbers compare to the amount needed to purchase a year’s worth of medical insurance for your dog or cat?

Your six-month-old Golden Retriever may be the picture of health now, but how about several years down the road when he becomes a “golden oldie?” Purchasing and maintaining pet insurance when your dog is young may make good sense. This way, you can rest assured there will be no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and you may have the option of locking in a lower premium rate.

Are you inclined to take the “do everything possible approach” when it comes to taking care of your pet?

The price tag for aggressive veterinary care is considerably higher than for more conservative approaches. Currently the price tag for surgical repair of a torn cruciate ligament (a common knee injury in larger dog breeds) runs between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on the type of surgery performed. The average fee for an MRI scan, including general anesthesia, is $2,000 to $3,000. Treatment of diabetes can cost several thousand dollars over an animal’s lifetime. If you are inclined to take the “do everything possible approach,” a pet health insurance policy is likely to be a wise investment.

What best suits your peace of mind?

Will you sleep better at night knowing that, no matter what happens, insurance will allow you to pay for excellent, top notch care for your pet? Or, will you lie awake fearing that you are throwing money away on yet one more insurance policy that may never be needed?

I hope this information has helped you determine whether or not purchasing a pet health insurance policy makes sense for you and your pets. To learn more about this topic and figure out which insurance provider is the best fit, I encourage you to visit the North American Pet Health Insurance Association live link to  and Pet Insurance Review.

Do you have a health insurance policy for your pet?  If so, how did you choose which provider to use?

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 Changing Landscape of Pet Health Insurance

Flipping through the September 1st edition of Time Magazine, I came across a full-page ad featuring an attractive, 20 to 30 year old, blond haired woman planting a kiss on the jowl of a lovely looking Bernese Mountain Dog. The caption accompanying the photo read, “In the Nation, what’s precious to you is precious to us.” The advertiser, Nationwide Pet Insurance, is part of the same Nationwide company who, for years has imprinted our brains with, “Nationwide is on your side.”

This ad surprised me on several levels. To begin with, I’d never heard of Nationwide pet health insurance. So, I called the number in the ad and was greeted with, “Thank you for calling Nationwide, formerly Veterinary Pet Insurance.” Ah, so this made sense. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) has been around for as long as I can remember. Apparently, Nationwide has been their underwriter for some time now, but the official name change from VPI to Nationwide occurred just a few weeks ago. The Nationwide representative I spoke with told me that, in part, the purpose behind the new branding was to entice people to qualify for multi-policy discounts- accomplished by insuring pets along with home and/or vehicles. Pretty clever marketing if you ask me.

Perhaps the bigger surprise for me was finding a pet product ad of any sort in Time, and within the first dozen pages of the magazine, no less. I’ve been a reader of Time for years, and never before have I seen an ad even remotely related to pets. Nationwide must have spent a pretty penny for their full-page advertisement, suggesting that they must believe there’s big money to be made in the pet health insurance business.

The current state of pet health insurance

It appears that the pet insurance industry is rapidly and rather dramatically evolving. The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) confirms this. NAPHIA represents more than 20 different pet insurance brands currently marketed across the United States and Canada. According to their research, the pet health insurance industry is achieving record growth. Total North American premiums in 2014 hit $660.5 million with 1.4 million pets insured. This represents a 12.8 percent hike in premiums and a 10.6 percent increase in the number of pets insured compared to 2013.

Dennis Rushovich, president of NAPHIA believes that, thanks to the human/animal bond, pet health insurance is increasingly becoming an integral part of responsible pet ownership. He stated, “Pets have moved from the barnyard to the backyard to the bedroom. As a result, this industry’s growth continues to outpace most other insurance categories.”

What’s your take on pet health insurance?

Have you contemplated health insurance for your pets? Deciding whether or not to purchase health insurance for your pet can be a confusing task. Stay tuned as my next blog post will help you walk through the decision making process.

Do you have a health insurance policy for your pet? If so I would love to hear your impressions.

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.

Eight Tips for Keeping Your Dog Free of Tick-Borne Diseases

Ticks are such annoying little creatures, but far more significant than the nuisance factor is their ability to spread disease. Ticks that embed in a dog’s skin can transmit a variety of serious and even life threatening infectious diseases including:

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Ehrlichia
  • Anaplasma
  • Babesia
  • Lyme disease (Borrelia)

Another problem ticks can cause is a rare neurological condition called “tick paralysis.” Lastly, ticks can produce inflammation and bacterial infection right at the site of the bite.

Prevention strategies

Prevention is the golden rule when it comes to keeping your dog free from tick-borne diseases. Here are eight tried and true tips to accomplish this:

  1. Learn which season is “tick season.”

While ticks are prevalent throughout North America, the time of year they are problematic varies from region to region. Ask your veterinarian when tick season occurs in your neck of the woods. This will be the time of year to be most vigilant with tick control measures.

  1. Know the lay of the land.

Ticks prefer areas with dense vegetation. Much of their time is spent on the ground, but they are adept at crawling up to the top tips of shrubs and grasses. This vantage point enhances their ability to successfully leap onto an animal passing by. Best to avoid exposing your dog to such shrubby and grassy areas, particularly during tick season.

  1. Use tick prevention products.

There are a variety of products on the market that prevent and/or kill ticks. Some tick collars work well, but are not a good choice for dogs who do a lot of swimming or those who have “mouthy play” with other dogs (chemicals within the collar might be ingested by your dog’s playmate).

Other tick-prevention options include medication administered orally or applied topically (to the skin). There are a variety of products to choose from and most are combined with flea prevention medication. Talk with your veterinarian about which tick prevention products make the most sense for your dog.

  1. Frisk your dog daily.

Perform a daily “tick check” on your dog daily, particularly following outdoor excursions. Getting rid of the little buggers before they’ve had a chance to embed eliminates the possibility of disease transmission. The ticks’ favorite places to attach are your dog’s neck, head, and ears, so pay particularly close attention to these areas.

  1. Save the ticks you remove.

Sounds gross, I know, but saving the ticks you remove just might prove to be useful. Different species of ticks transmit different diseases. Given that symptoms of the various tick-borne diseases overlap, having knowledge of the type of tick your dog was exposed to may help your veterinarian hone in on a diagnosis more expediently. I recommend dunking and storing the ticks in a disposable container filled with isopropyl alcohol. Show them to your veterinarian should your dog become sick.

  1. Remove embedded ticks promptly and properly.

Do your best to remove any embedded ticks as soon as possible. Less time spent attached to your dog lessens the odds of disease transmission.

You’ll find dozens of recommendations on line describing how to remove an embedded tick. Be wary of what you read. Burning a tick with a hot match is not effective, and you risk singeing your dog’s haircoat. Coating the tick with Vaseline or some other type of lubricant does nothing but render the tick slippery and more difficult to remove. And acetone, such as the chemical found in nail polish removers, causes the tick to become brittle and more likely to shatter during the removal process.

A preferred method involves using tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Gentle, steady pulling should extract the parasite in its entirety. Even with this method, sometimes the head of the tick is left behind. Not to worry. The dog’s immune system will take care of the tick part that remains.

Talk with your veterinarian about his or her preferred method for removing embedded ticks. Whichever method you choose, be sure to wear gloves so as to eliminate any risk of disease transmission for yourself.

  1. Consider the Lyme disease vaccine.

The Lyme disease vaccine has been available now for several years. Most veterinarians who specialize in infectious diseases continue to recommend against vaccinating dogs who do not live in areas where there is a high incidence of Lyme disease. Additionally, there is lack of agreement about exactly how much protection the vaccine provides. Discussion with your veterinarian on this topic is certainly warranted.

  1. Know the symptoms.

Rest assured that the majority of dogs exposed to ticks never develop a tick-borne disease. But for those who do, early recognition of symptoms and prompt veterinary attention enhance the likelihood of a positive outcome. If your dog has tick exposure, talk with your veterinarian about what symptoms you should be on the look out for.

Questions for your veterinarian

– When does tick season occur here?

– Which tick prevention products do you recommend for my dog?

– What method of tick removal do you recommend?

– Does the Lyme disease vaccination make sense for my dog?

– What are the symptoms of tick-borne disease that I should be watching for?

Have you had any experience with tick-borne disease in your dogs?  What is your prevention strategy?

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.