Why Does My Dog Tremble?

Photo Credit: Have you ever watched your dog tremble or shiver in warm weather and wondered why? While it’s tempting to think that trembling and shivering are always a result of being too cold, such is not the case. Here’s a list of causes to consider.

  1. Thermoregulation (temperature control): Shivering is a very effective means of creating body heat, and is a normal response to decreasing body temperature. When a dog has a fever the body’s thermostat is reset to a higher temperature. When the temperature attempts to drop back down to normal, shivering occurs in an attempt to restore the new, elevated temperature set point.
  1. Excitement/Anxiety/Fear: All of these emotional responses are capable of evoking trembling in some dogs. Without the help of anti-anxiety medication, one of my dogs becomes a quaking, quivering mess during thunderstorms.
  1. Pain: Trembling can accompany pain, whether due to acute trauma or a more chronic painful condition. Be aware that not all dogs demonstrate trembling in response to pain. Trembling is simply one of several symptoms a painful dog may exhibit.
  1. Medical disease: A variety of underlying medical issues, ranging from kidney failure to hormonal imbalances, can produce trembling. Neurological disorders and muscle diseases commonly cause trembling.
  1. Toxins: A variety of toxins cause trembling as one of the earliest neurological symptoms. Some examples include chocolate, antifreeze, and snail bait.
  1. Muscle weakness: Atrophy or weakness of muscles, particularly those in the hind legs, often causes trembling. This is likely the reason that hind leg trembling is so common in older dogs.
  1. Small dog trembling: For many very small dogs, trembling appears to be just a normal fact of life. Theories abound as to why, but none have been documented to be true. Be forewarned, if you get a very small dog, you will likely observe a trembling very small dog from time to time. This is certainly the case with my little Nellie girl who weighs in at 11 pounds.

What to do if you observe that your dog is trembling

Trembling is always cause for concern, particularly if it is out of character for what you know to be normal for your dog. If you observe trembling, a good first step is to determine if something in the environment is causing your dog to feel anxious or fearful. If so, try to eliminate the source of the stress or remove your dog from the situation to see if the trembling abates.

Also inspect the environment for any potential toxins. If found, take your dog along with the toxin container to your veterinary clinic right away.

Another good first step is to take your dog’s temperature (the normal range is 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit). The presence of a fever warrants veterinary attention.

If your dog does not appear anxious or fearful and his or her body temperature is normal, I encourage you to contact your veterinarian if:

  • The trembling is getting worse.
  • The trembling continues for more than an hour or two.
  • You observe any other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, etc.
  • You identify a potential toxin in the environment that your dog may have accessed.

As is true for most medical issues, the sooner the cause of your dog’s trembling is identified and properly addressed, the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Do you have a dog who trembles? If so, have you been able to identify the cause?

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.

 

Re-Homing of Dogs and Cats in the United States

Photo Credit: In the United States, more than one million dogs and cats are re-homed every year. The fact that so many animals are removed from their established homes and placed in new situations was revealed in a recent ASPCA study titled, “Goodbye to a Good Friend: An Exploration of the Re-Homing of Cats and Dogs in the U.S.”

Lead researcher, Dr. Emily Weiss had this to say.

To our knowledge, this is the first study of its kind to look not only at animals being re-homed to shelters but dogs and cats being re-homed in other ways- such as to a friend or family member- so we were excited and interested to see all of the results. This is the first time we’ve been able to estimate how many pets are re-homed each year, and more than 1 million is a significant number.

Study methodology

The study data was collected via telephone surveys. A variety of information was obtained about the participants and their animals. Participants who re-homed their dog or cat selected their primary reason for doing so.

Study results

Of 12,245 eligible people reached, 590 (6%) of them had re-homed a pet during the preceding five years. Respondents who re-homed a dog or cat were significantly younger than those who did not. Additionally, re-homers were more likely to be reached by cell phone than a landline.

Amongst the re-homers 199 re-homed one or more cats and 391 re-homed one or more dogs. The re-homed animals were most commonly acquired free from a friend, relative, or neighbor. Cats were more likely than dogs to have been acquired as strays.

Of the rehomed animals, 56% of the dogs and 62% of the cats were neutered. These percentages are lower than what is expected from the general pet population in which 90% of cats and 86% of dogs are neutered.

Where pets were re-homed

Re-homed pets were most commonly given to a friend or family member (37%). Pets were also rehomed to shelters (36%), veterinarians (14%), strangers (11%) or by being set free (1%).

Reasons for re-homing

The three most common reasons provided by respondents for re-homing their pets were:

  1. Pet related issues (46%): health problems and problematic behaviors such as aggression and destructive behavior
  2. Family related issues (27%): personal or family health troubles, pet allergies, divorce or separation, new person in household who didn’t like the pet, death in the family, new baby, lack of time to care for pet
  3. Housing related issues (18%): not enough space, landlord restriction

For those who rented rather than owned their property, housing related issues was the number one reason for re-homing. Respondents with incomes of less than $50,000 were more likely to re-home due to cost and housing issues. They most commonly selected the following services that would have allowed them to keep their pets:

  • Availability of free or low-cost veterinary care
  • Free or low-cost training or behavior help
  • Guidance on finding pet-friendly housing
  • Free or low-cost neutering services
  • Free or low cost pet food
  • Free or low cost temporary pet care or boarding
  • Assistance in paying pet deposits for housing

Respondents with incomes above $50,000 were more likely to re-home because of pet-related problems.

Summary

Massive numbers of animals are being homed in the United States every year. Given the estimated 102 million dogs and cats in the United States, the 6% re-homing rate documented in this study translates into an estimated 6.12 million dogs and cats re-homed every five years, or more than a million pets each year.

Given the many well documented benefits of living with dogs and cats (many of which I’ve discussed in previous blog posts), enhancing the ability of people to retain their pets, regardless of their socioeconomic status, makes really good sense. This study has revealed some clear and relatively simple ways to make such a difference.

As Dr. Weiss states,

Overall the results of the survey reinforce what we’re seeing on the ground in communities: Too many pets are being given up for reasons that can be prevented, especially for pet owners with lower incomes. The more complex drivers for re-homing such as behavior challenges are an area where more research may help better elucidate the drivers leading to these challenges and solutions.

Have you, your family or friends dealt with the need to re-home a pet?

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.

Tail Docking and Ear Cropping in Dogs

Medically unnecessary surgeries are addressed in an article within the most recent edition the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Tail docking is discussed at length (pun intended) as is ear cropping.

 

The article begins by stating, ”In ancient Rome, during the First Century CE, Lucius Columella wrote that it was proper to remove the tails of puppies to prevent their growth to an ‘abominable length’ and to prevent madness which is presumed to refer to rabies.” While such interesting notions have long since been abandoned, tail docking remains a common practice for certain breeds as does ear cropping. Both of these medically unnecessary surgeries are discussed below.

Tail Docking Puppies

What is tail docking?

Tail docking is the surgical removal of the end of the tail. When performed for cosmetic purposes, the natural tail length is reduced by at least 50 to 75 percent. Historically, tail docking has been justified as a means of preventing tail injury in hunting and fighting dogs. It continues to be performed on a variety of dogs, particularly those of working and hunting breeds.

Veterinarians and nonveterinarians (primarily breeders) perform tail docking typically during the first week of life. The end of the tail is removed with a scalpel blade or scissors and the skin over the stub is stitched. Alternatively, an elastic band is placed around the tail at the desired length. The band acts as a tourniquet resulting in the gradual death of the end of the tail.

Not all dogs with short tails have had surgical docking to create this appearance. Some breeds are genetically programmed to be this way including: the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Australian Shepherd, Pyrenean Shepherd, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Australian Cattle Dog, Spanish Water Dog, Brittany Spaniel, Jack Russell Terrier, Schipperke, Boston Terriers, Swedish Fallhund, Braque du Bourbonnais, and French Bulldog and English Bulldog. (A few of these breeds are new to me.) Four breeds in which natural bobtails occasionally occur are the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Parson Russell Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, and Rottweiler.

Is tail docking painful for puppies?

According to one study, only 10% of veterinarians provide anesthesia or analgesia (pain medication) for the tail docking procedure. This is an older study (published in 1996), so it is very likely that the percentage has increased. There are no newer studies that I could find. I assume that nonveterinarians who perform tail docking do so without anesthesia.

There is disagreement as to how much pain tail docking causes in puppies. When asked about this, 82% of breeders sampled indicated only “mild pain” or “none.”

In a study of 50 puppies whose tails were docked at three to five days of age, all of them vocalized intensely at the time of docking and was thought to be associated with pain. The pain appeared to last approximately three minutes. In this study, 76% of veterinarians reported feeling that they believe the pain associated with tail docking is “significant” or “severe.”

Those who don’t use anesthesia/analgesia when tail docking puppies would argue that it is unnecessary for such a short duration of pain. Having performed this procedure myself way back in the day (I’m embarrassed to confess this), I feel confident that these babies experience pain when their tails are docked. If you want to decide for yourself, have a look at any of the many You Tube videos demonstrating this surgical procedure.

Arguments for and against tail docking

Folks who favor tail docking in working and hunting breeds argue that it is required to prevent future tail injury. One study documented that, indeed, working dogs do have a significantly higher risk of tail injury compared to nonworking dogs. However, the overall injury rate was quite low, and it was determined that 500 dogs would need to have their tails docked in order to prevent one tail injury.

Tail injuries in docked and undocked hunting dogs were reported in a more recent study. The researchers found that the number of injuries for both docked and undocked dogs was higher than previously reported. For example, 54.7% of undocked spaniels and 20.8% of docked spaniels experienced at least one injury during the shooting season. However, only 4.4% of any of these dogs required veterinary attention.

Tail docking may impact the way dogs communicate with one another. In a study examining the behavioral responses to dogs with different tail lengths, researchers used a remotely controlled life-sized dog replica in a park setting. Large dogs showed more caution when approaching a short-tailed dummy dog compared to when it had a long tail. Small dogs were equally cautious regardless of tail length. The study concluded that tail docking might impair social communication.

Ear Cropping

What is ear cropping?

Ear cropping is a surgical procedure that reshapes the natural appearance of a dog’s external ear flap. Compare the appearance of the Doberman Pinschers in the attached photos. Ear cropping is typically performed when puppies are between nine and twelve weeks of age. Following the surgery, the ears are taped for several weeks to maintain an upright shape that will hopefully be sustained after the tape has been removed. This surgery is performed using general anesthesia (at least that’s the way I’ve seen it performed in veterinary hospitals). Post-operative pain medication may or may not be prescribed.

Is ear cropping painful for puppies?

While I’ve never witnessed ear cropping performed without general anesthesia, I’ve no doubt that, without it, the dog would experience significant pain. I strongly believe that ear cropping should never be performed without the use of general anesthesia. This means that a veterinarian must be involved.

Ear cropping is not longer being taught at veterinary schools within the United States. This is worrisome only from the perspective that, the fewer veterinarians performing ear cropping the greater the likelihood that nonveterinarians will begin doing so without access to appropriate facilities, anesthestic drugs, and pain medications.

There are no published studies tracking whether or not ear cropping is associated with chronic pain. As with most surgical procedures, ear cropping has the potential to cause post-operative pain, and appropriate pain medication is warranted.

Arguments for and against ear cropping

Ear cropping was historically performed to prevent ear damage during hunting or fighting. There is no clear evidence that supports such claims. Additionally, many breeds with pendulous ears, such as spaniels and retrievers, are commonly used for hunting.

Some believe that ear cropping reduces the risk of ear infections by preventing the trapping of moisture and debris in the ear canal. Evidence indicates that the propensity for infection has more to do with the breed than the shape of the ear. One study found that ear infections were more common in Poodles, German Shepherds, and Cocker Spaniels. Another study pinpointed Golden Retrievers and West Highland White Terriers. Amongst all of these breeds, ear conformation varies from erect to pendulous.

Summary

Both the American and Canadian Veterinary Medical Associations have issued position statements opposing tail docking and ear cropping when done for cosmetic purposes. While some breed standards in Canada and the United States now allow showing of dogs that have not been cosmetically altered, neither the Canadian Kennel Club nor the American Kennel Club specifically discourage tail docking and ear cropping.

As for me, I’ll stick with my belief that ear cropping is never warranted and tail docking is justified only when it serves a medical purpose (growth on the tail, trauma, severe infection, etc.).

While I totally get that some people favor the look of docked tails and cropped ears, particularly for certain breeds, my primary allegiance is always to the health and well being of the dog. Performing surgery purely for cosmetic purpose is out of the question. If asked to perform tail docking or ear cropping on a puppy I would respectfully decline. And, if the door is open to educating my client, I would certainly attempt do so.

How do you weigh in on the topics of tail docking and ear cropping? I invite conversation with breeders who work with dogs that have traditionally had cropped ears and/or docked tails.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

Canine Anesthesia: Special Considerations Based on Breed, Size, and Conformation

Photo Credit: vrangtantebrun, While it’s true that Yorkshire Terriers and Great Danes are members of the same species, they are hardly alike when it comes to anesthesia. There is no one size fits all anesthetic protocol for dogs, and veterinarians must amend what they do based on their patient’s breed, size, and conformation.

Universal anesthetic strategies

While it’s important to individuate anesthetic protocols, there are some universal strategies that, with rare exception, should apply to all dogs undergoing anesthesia. They include the following:

– Performing pre-anesthetic physical examination and blood testing are important to minimize the potential for surprises after the patient is already under anesthesia. Blood test results ensure that the liver and kidneys (the organs responsible for clearing anesthetic drugs from the body) are functioning up to snuff.

– Placement of an intravenous catheter allows instant access to the bloodstream for administration of intravenous fluids as well as blood products and medications should an urgent need arise.

-Continuous monitoring of vital parameters including heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and oxygenation provides early indicators of abnormalities. This allows for prompt and early intervention should a problem arise. The person monitoring anesthesia should ideally be dedicated to this task and this task alone.

Customized anesthetic strategies

Breed, size, and conformation all influence how veterinarians choose to safely transport their canine patients through general anesthesia. Specific examples are provided below.

Brachycephalic breeds

Nothing challenges a successful anesthetic outcome quite like the conformational modifications associated with brachycephalic breeds. In Greek, “brachy” means short and “cephalic” refers to head. Over time, breeders have developed a number of “short-headed” (what I lovingly refer to as smoosh faced) breeds such as Pugs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, and several varieties of Bulldogs.

Brachycephalic dogs are genetically programmed to have narrowing of the upper airway passages including the nostrils, nasal cavities, throat, trachea (windpipe), and larynx (the opening to the trachea). Additionally, brachycephalics often come with an elongated soft palate that hangs down over the larynx, blocking airflow in and out of the trachea. These inherited respiratory tract abnormalities are generically referred to as “brachycephalic syndrome.”

The elongated soft palate and narrowed larynx and trachea can complicate placement of an endotracheal tube, the breathing tube that is placed immediately after the dog has been anesthetized and then remains in the trachea during anesthesia. This tube provides oxygen and anesthetic gas to the dog. The size of the breathing tube that actually fits may be considerably smaller than is ideally suited to the size of the dog. This can compromise delivery of anesthesia and adequate exchange of respiratory gasses.

The elongated soft palate along with the “meatier” tissue in the throat of brachycephalic breeds make these dogs far more susceptible to airway obstruction and aspiration pneumonia (inhalation of vomited or regurgitated material into the lungs) during the recovery period from anesthesia. Either one of these events can be life threatening.

When working with a brachycephalic dog, it makes good sense to:

  1. Provide at least a few minutes of preoxygenation (oxygen delivery via a mask that fits over the face) before the dog is anesthetized. This will be beneficial if it takes longer than normal to place the endotracheal tube.
  2. Have several different size endotracheal tubes in the ready. Until the dog is anesthetized and the diameter of the larynx and trachea are assessed, the size of breathing tube that will fit is anyone’s guess.
  3. Leave the endotracheal tube in place as long as possible when the dog is recovering from anesthesia in order to help prevent airway obstruction and aspiration pneumonia.
  4. Be prepared to provide oxygen via mask after the endotracheal tube has been removed.
  5. Watch the dog like a hawk until recovery from anesthesia is 100 percent complete. Only a few seconds are required for a brachycephalic breed to get into serious trouble during the anesthetic recovery period.

Greyhounds and possibly other sighthounds

Greyhounds are known to have prolonged recoveries following anesthesia with thiopental, a drug that is no longer available in the United States. The prolonged recovery is caused by a deficiency of a specific liver enzyme responsible for metabolizing this drug for removal from the body. This same liver enzyme abnormality can cause Greyhounds to experience prolonged recovery periods following anesthesia with propofol, a drug commonly used in the United States (think Michael Jackson here). It is presumed, but not necessarily proven, that other sighthounds such as Afghans, Whippets, Deerhounds, Wolfhounds, and Borzois may share this anesthetic idiosyncrasy.

Many anesthetic drugs are “lipophilic”, meaning they are attracted to fat tissues. The very lean, muscular conformation of most sighthounds may limit normal uptake of these fat-seeking anesthetic drugs. Less drug taken up by the tissues means more drug in the bloodstream, and it is the amount in the bloodstream that dictates the level of anesthesia. This may help explain why lower anesthetic drug dosages are better tolerated by many sighthounds.

When working with a Greyhound or other sighthound, it makes good sense to:

  1. Administer an injectable anesthetic drug dose that is less than what would normally be used based on the dog’s body weight.
  2. Administer plenty of intravenous fluids before, during, and after anesthesia to help clear anesthetic drugs from the dog’s system.
  3. Be hyper-vigilant about monitoring anesthesia.
  4. Be prepared for prolonged anesthetic recovery times. Have appropriate staff available and schedule anesthetic procedures for earlier rather than later in the day.

Herding breeds

Many herding breed puppies such as Collies, Australian Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs, and Shetland Sheepdogs, are born with a mutation of the multidrug resistance (MDR1) gene. The MDR1 gene is responsible for effectively processing a number of drugs in the body. Mutation of this gene allows the abnormal accumulation of certain drugs within the central nervous system. The “poster child drug” that is problematic for dogs with the MDR1 mutation is ivermectin, a medication used to treat and prevent parasites. Acepromazine and butorphanol are two drugs commonly used in canine anesthetic protocols. They are reported to cause prolonged or excessive sedation in dogs with the MDR1 mutation.

When anesthetizing a herding breed dog, it makes good sense to:

  1. Find out if the dog has been tested for the MDR1 mutation. The results can help guide the anesthetic protocol.
  2. If using butorphanol and/or acepromazine, lower the dosage and proceed with caution.

Breeds susceptible to cardiomyopathy

Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Irish Wolfhounds, Cocker Spaniels, and Great Danes are some of the breeds predisposed to cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. For some dogs with cardiomyopathy, the very first evidence is an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that is so mild it causes no overt symptoms. Anesthesia can cause this mild arrhythmia to become far more significant and potentially even life threatening.

When anesthetizing a dog that is a breed susceptible to cardiomyopathy, it makes good sense to:

  1. Run an electrocardiogram (ECG) to assess the heart rhythm as part of the preanesthetic screening process.
  2. Run a continuous ECG during anesthesia as well as throughout the recovery process.
  3. Have appropriate antiarrhythmic drugs in the ready, should a problem arise.

Toy and tiny breeds

Really small dogs can be challenging to safely anesthetize for a few reasons. It can be tough to successfully place an intravenous catheter in those tiny little legs. And if those tiny little legs are attached to a wiggler or a biter, the challenge becomes even greater.

Compared to their larger counterparts, little dogs are more susceptible to hypothermia (decrease in body temperature). Dropping a degree or two during anesthesia is normal, but, given the opportunity, tiny dogs will drop five degrees or more. This level of hypothermia can cause all sorts of other problems.

Additionally, small dogs are more prone to developing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) while under anesthesia. This can result in weakness and neurological symptoms, from muscle tremors to seizures.

Lastly, when tiny patients are undergoing surgery, they are usually covered from head to toe with surgical drapes. This makes it difficult for the person who is monitoring anesthesia to gain access to their patient’s body parts to accomplish things such as adjusting monitoring probes, taking body temperature, and giving injections through the intravenous catheter.

When anesthetizing a tiny breed, it makes good sense to:

  1. Use sedation and/or local anesthesia for intravenous catheter placement.
  2. Use appropriate heating devices during anesthesia and the recovery period.
  3. Use warmed intravenous fluids rather than those that are cold or at room temperature.
  4. Consider the addition of dextrose (sugar) to the intravenous fluids.
  5. Monitor body temperature frequently.
  6. Monitor blood sugar levels before, during, and following anesthesia.
  7. Find creative ways to allow the person monitoring anesthesia to gain access to the patient under all those surgical drapes.

Giant breeds

In general, anesthetic drug dosages are calculated based on the patient’s body weight. For giant breeds such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, and Wolfhounds, a drug dose based on body weight ends up being too much. This is because the way drugs are cleared from the body has more to do with the animal’s body surface area than its body weight. Giant breeds have a smaller surface area to body weight ratio compared to smaller dogs.

Additionally, the aging process in giant breed dogs is accelerated. Whereas a seven-year-old Sheltie is middle aged, a seven-year-old Saint Bernard has already reached senior citizen status, and seniors are at greater risk with general anesthesia.

When anesthetizing a giant breed of dog it makes good sense to:

  1. Begin with lower drug dosages than would be calculated based on body weight.
  2. Ensure adequate staff to safely move and position a very heavy anesthetized dog.
  3. Carefully consider the age of the dog when calculating drug dosages.

Do you recognize any anesthesia precautions that would apply to your dog? Has your dog ever experienced a complication from anesthesia?

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.

 

 

Pets and Cigarette Smoke

Photo Credit: It is known that cigarette smokers are more likely to kick the habit if they know their smoking is endangering the health of their pets. Below you will find some new information to share with your cigarette smoking friends and loved ones. If they love animals, it may help them take the next step in nixing nicotine from their lives.

What we already know

We’ve known for some time that, compared to cats who live in smoke-free environments, cats who live in households with cigarette smokers are more than twice as likely to develop lymphoma , a life ending form of cancer. The risk increases by threefold for cats who live with smokers and are five years of age or older.

We also know that cigarette smoke is associated with an increased incidence of canine nasal cancer, particularly in long-nosed breeds of dogs such as Collies, Greyhounds, and German Shepherds. While such cancers are treatable, only rarely are they curable.

Dogs who are exposed to cigarette smoke are more likely to develop atopic dermatitis compared to dogs living in smoke-free environments. Atopic dermatitis is allergic skin disease, a common cause of itching, scratching, and secondary skin infections in dogs.

What we are learning

Researchers at the University of Glasgow are learning more about the deleterious effects of smoking on pets. Their study has not yet been published, but they have released some of their findings.

The researchers have learned that, compared to humans, pets are at significantly greater risk from second and third hand smoke. Second hand smoke is defined as that which is exhaled by the smoker and inhaled by others. Third hand smoke refers to the smoke residue that remains on surfaces such as skin, fur, clothing, furniture, and carpeting.

Why are pets at greater risk than humans? Clare Knottenbelt, researcher and Professor of Small Animal Medicine and Oncology at the University of Glasgow explains it as follows:

Pets are often in close proximity to their owners more so than many children who can be away at school all day and more so than other adults in the house. Furthermore as pets self-groom they will ingest the smoke particles from their fur. This is a big problem for cats as they are very fastidious and thorough about their self-grooming.

Dr. Knottenbelt and her colleagues examined the testicles of male dogs after they were neutered and found within them a gene that is a marker of cell damage and is associated with development of some canine cancers. The incidence of this gene was higher in dogs living in smoking homes compared to those from smoke free environments.

Interestingly, the researchers have also discovered that dogs from smoking homes who were neutered were more likely to become obese compared to those from smoke free homes who were neutered. The explanation for this is not clear.

The researchers have learned that when pet owners chose to smoke outside, the effect on their pets was reduced but not eradicated. When owners reduced the total numbers of tobacco products smoked in the home to less than 10 per day, the nicotine levels in their pets’ hair dropped significantly but were still higher than those in animals from nonsmoking homes.

Once Dr. Knottenbelt’s study has been published, I will fill you in on the details. I must admit, I cringe every time I examine an animal who literally reeks of cigarette smoke. Not only does their fur smell like cigarettes, it has a sticky feeling residue that I’m sure represents third hand smoke. Interestingly, these are usually cats or small dogs, and I picture them in a fog of cigarette smoke while sitting on the laps of the humans they adore.

Now that marijuana is becoming legalized, I’m wondering about the impact of its smoke on pets. States that have legalized marijuana are certainly seeing a rise in the number of toxicity cases in pets as a result of eating a marijuana containing product. And, now that vaping (inhalation of nicotine through a vaporizer) has become so popular, perhaps this will be studied as well.

Do you know a smoker you might be able to influence with this article?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members a very happy new  year,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

Eight Health Benefits Provided by Dogs

Photo Credit: Icstefanescu,, Sharing our homes and hearts with dogs enriches our lives with so much enjoyment and love. Frankly, I can’t imagine my life without them. But, did you know that interaction with our dogs also provides us with some well-documented health benefits?

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is better health, some canine companionship may be just the ticket! Here are some of the ways dogs can impact our wellbeing.

  1. Increased physical activity in adults and the elderly

The nudge from the nose of a restless dog provides great incentive for playtime and getting outside for a walk, regardless of the weather. According to a study by researchers at the University of Victoria (where it gets really cold!) people with dogs were more likely to participate in physical activity. They walked an average of 300 minutes per week, compared to those without dogs, who walked an average of 168 minutes per week.

University of Missouri research documented that elderly people with dogs were more consistent about regular exercise and showed greater improvement in fitness than those who walked with a human companion. Additionally, those partnered with dogs demonstrated increased walking confidence and improved balance.

  1. Increased physical activity in children

Dogs have a way of dragging little people away from their computer screens and smart phones. According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, children living with dogs spent more time engaged in physical activity than children without dogs. Additionally, those with dogs tended to engage more vigorous activities.

  1. Stress busters

Dogs are fabulous role models for us, particularly when it comes to living in the moment. They’re not stewing about what happened yesterday or worrying about what may happen tomorrow. They are busy enjoying life in the here and now, and experiencing less stress than their faithful human companions.

Forty-eight stockbrokers with high blood pressure were studied to determine the effects of pet companionship on mental stress. The group was divided into those receiving blood pressure medication alone and those receiving medication along with an adopted a dog or cat. While both groups experienced a general decrease in blood pressure, those with pets experienced lower blood pressure measurements in response to their work-related stress.

In another study, work place stress levels were compared between employees who brought their dogs to work with them (dog group) and those who did not (nondog group). The researchers found that, throughout the workday, stress levels declined for those in the dog group and increased for workers within the nondog group. Additionally, stress levels for workers within the dog group increased on days when their dogs were absent, mirroring the pattern of workers in the nondog group.

The results of these studies certainly make sense. As with any pleasurable activity, enjoying the company of a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that reduce stress, uplift mood, and provide a sense of well being.

  1. Emotional development in children

Children develop psychologically by experiencing the love, attachment, comfort, and responsibility associated with pet companionship. A Kansas State University study determined that children who were bonded with a household pet expressed a higher level of empathy compared to those without a close bond with an animal. This makes sense in that empathy requires the ability to read nonverbal cues such as body language and facial expressions. The human-animal bond naturally hones these skills.

  1. Allergies and eczema in children

We’ve been conditioned to believe that dogs are a common cause of allergies in children. In fact, kids who are exposed to dogs from a very young age have significantly less risk for developing allergies. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology concluded that exposure to dogs during infancy can influence the child’s immune system development and lessen the likelihood of allergies in at-risk children (those with allergic parents). Newborns who had a dog in the home were much less likely to have allergic skin disease and asthma by their third birthday compared to children from dog-free households.

A University of Cincinnati study of 636 children predisposed to dog allergies (allergic parents) were less likely to develop eczema by four years of age if there was a dog in the home during their first year of life. Children predisposed to allergies who did not live with a dog were four times more likely to develop eczema. Interestingly, the opposite was true for children with cat exposure before their first birthday. Cat-exposed kids were 13 times more likely to develop eczema by age four.

  1. Happiness and wellbeing

What we humans all have in common is the desire for emotional connection with other living beings. In fact this feeling of connection is a key component of happiness and healthy aging. Dogs certainly provide opportunity for connectivity, not only with the animal, but with other people as well. Spend some time at a busy dog park and you will discover a whole world of camaraderie and socialization. In fact, there is often more human than canine interaction going on!

A study published in the British Journal of Psychology demonstrated that being accompanied by a dog during normal daily activities outside of the home dramatically increased (by 21 times) the frequency of social interactions, particularly with strangers. The study concluded that the company of a dog is truly a social catalyst.

A series of studies summarized in a paper titled, “Friends with Benefits: on the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership” investigated whether or not animals can fulfill social support needs. The studies yielded several conclusions. People with pets experienced:

  • Greater self esteem
  • Increased exercise
  • Greater conscientiousness
  • Increased wellbeing
  • Less negativity caused by social rejection

Additionally, the research showed that the support provided by pets complemented rather than competed with support from human sources.

  1. Heart health

A National Institute of Health study evaluated 421 men who suffered heart attacks. One year following the heart attacks, individuals who lived with dogs were more likely to be alive compared to those without dogs. This held true regardless of the severity of the heart attack.

Another study evaluated 240 married couples, some with pets and some without. Those in the pet group were documented to have lower heart rates and blood pressure, both at rest or when undergoing stress tests. Additionally, they experienced milder responses and quicker recoveries from stress when they were with their pets, more so than when they were with a spouse or friend.

Lastly, a study of over 5,000 people in Australia showed that those with pets had lower blood pressure and triglyceride and cholesterol levels, a result that could not be explained by other factors such as body weight, cigarette smoking, or socio-economic status.

  1. Improved quality of life for the elderly

The responsibility of caring for a pet often gives an aged individual a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. Feeding and walking schedules provide structure to their day, and the relationship with an animal can offer a meaningful emotional connection to another living being. Additionally, as they care for their pet, seniors are reminded to take care of themselves as well.

Other documented pet-related benefits for senior citizens include the following:

  • Elderly people who walked their dogs had more conversations focused on the present rather than the past compared to their peers who walked without dogs.
  • Recently widowed women with pets experienced significantly fewer physical and psychological symptoms of disease and reported less use of medication than those women without pets.
  • Bereaved elderly people with few social connections were less prone to depression if they had a strong attachment with an animal.
  • Alzheimer’s patients living with pets demonstrated fewer mood disorders and episodes of aggression or anxiety compared to those without the company of an animal.
  • Elderly people with dogs had fewer doctor visits per year than seniors without dogs.

How has life with a dog enhanced your health and sense of wellbeing?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members a very happy new  year,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

 

Veterinarian’s Oath

Photo Credit: Shirley Zindler

I recently reread the Veterinarian’s Oath. It’s been modified only slightly since I first pledged to honor it when I graduated from veterinary school in 1982.

Given that you, my readers, interact with veterinarians on a regular basis, I thought you might be interested in reading the Veterinarian’s Oath. Here it is.

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

If I had a magic wand, I would add something about caring for the emotional well being of the client (the person holding the leash or cat carrier). How do you feel about this oath? If you held the magic wand, what would you change?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members a very happy new  year,

Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

Dogs Who Eat Feces

Photo Credit: Coprophagy and coprophagia are interchangeable technical terms used to describe the consumption of feces (eating poop). Yes, I know that this is a rather unsavory topic, but if ever you’ve cared for a dog with this habit, you know that understanding it and figuring out how to deal with it is imperative.

Understanding the behavior

Why would dogs do such a thing? The most innocuous version of “normal coprophagy” occurs after a dog has a litter of puppies. As a normal part of caring for and cleaning her offspring, the female ingests the feces that they produce.

It is known that dogs acquired from pet stores are more likely to exhibit coprophagy. The fact that the vast majority of these animals are raised in puppy mills likely provides the explanation for this.

Starvation caused by a lack of food and malnutrition resulting from an underlying disease process can also cause coprophagia.

Diseases such as diabetes mellitus and Cushing’s disease cause affected dogs to experience massive hunger, and coprophagy may be one of the earliest symptoms.

If you and your dog live with a cat, you likely know that eating “Kitty Roca” from the litter box is a favorite canine pastime. The high fat content in cat food, therefore cat feces, renders it highly palatable to most dogs.

In addition to the causes mentioned above, coprophagy in dogs can be associated with the following:

  • Attention-seeking behavior
  • Boredom/lack of stimulation or enrichment in the environment
  • Learned behavior from other dogs in the household
  • Stress/anxiety

Is it really necessary to prevent coprophagia?

Beyond the “disgust factor” (who would want kisses from a dog with this habit), coprophagia can result in medical issues. Ingestion of another animal’s feces can cause intestinal parasites, gastrointestinal upset, transmission of infectious diseases, and exposure to medications that are eliminated in the feces.

Treatment Measures

The first step in putting an end to coprophagy is a veterinary visit. In addition to a thorough physical exam, blood testing and a stool sample examination to screen for intestinal parasites will be part of the evaluation.

For the dog who receives a clean bill of health, the veterinarian will likely discuss the following prevention:

  1. Behavior modification

Response substitution involves teaching the dog an alternative behavior such as sitting down or making eye contact when he discovers feces. The alternative behavior results in a high-value reward such as a yummy treat or a game of “tug”.

A dog who is bored is more likely to exhibit coprophagia. Enrichment of the environment and involvement in more activities such as obedience training, play, and walks may provide benefit.

Truth be told, it is behavior modification of the human(s) involved in the dog’s life that usually reaps the greatest reward. Increasing interaction time with the dog and eliminating opportunities for coprophagia to occur (keeping your dog on leash when walking, avoiding the dog park, being vigilant about picking up feces in the yard) is often associated with a positive outcome.

Success with any of these options is likely to be enhanced by working with a veterinarian or trainer who specializes in canine behavior.

  1. Taste aversion options

Specific products mixed in with the dog’s food are used to render a terrible taste to the feces. In order to be effective the product must be added to the food that every dog in the household eats. Over many years, I’ve found limited success with this approach. There are a number of taste aversion products on the market. Ask your veterinarian for his or her recommendations.

Have you had to manage this problem in one of your own dogs? If so, what did you try and what worked the best?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members 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.

 

Does Arthritis Cause Mood Changes in Dogs?

Photo Credit: If you live with osteoarthritis (OA), you’re probably all too familiar with the impact that joint pain can have on your mood. In fact, it is known that arthritis in people has a definite link to mood disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis, and many of them also suffer from depression.

Dogs with arthritis

Some researchers at the University of Bristol in England want to determine if the same holds true for dogs. They are in the process of recruiting dogs to participate in a study, the goal of which will be to determine if dogs with chronic arthritis pain experience mood changes.

Study design

Here’s how the study will work. Two groups will be evaluated. The first will consist of dogs over six years of age and 12 kilograms of body weight who are showing signs of OA (stiffness after walks, difficulty climbing stairs and jumping). The second group will contain similarly aged and sized dogs who do not have any evidence or symptoms of OA.

All dogs in the study will be monitored in their home environments where they will be asked to perform simple behavioral tasks they’ve been trained to do. An example will be flipping a cardboard lid covering a bowl in order to find a hidden treat.  The dogs’ motivation will be gauged based on how willing they are to perform the task (interpreted to be a reflection of mood).

Additionally, each dog will be evaluated by a veterinarian who will perform a complete physical exam and use specialized pressure sensors to measure joint sensitivity (reflective of the dog’s level of pain).

Lauren Harris, a Veterinary School PhD student and one of the lead researchers overseeing this study stated:

Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis seen in dogs and is a very common cause of chronic pain, particularly in older dogs. Dogs with the condition can show reduced mobility, behavioural changes and altered activity leading to a decrease in quality of life. Our theory is that dogs with OA are more pessimistic than healthy dogs and we hope our research will find out the emotional impact of OA on dogs.

Do you think your arthritic dog experiences depression?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members 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.

 

Epilepsy Task Force

Photo Credit: MKRiedel, Far and away, epilepsy is the most common neurological disease affecting dogs and cats. Within the United States, it is estimated that approximately 780,000 dogs are diagnosed with this disorder every year (sorry, no numbers available for cats).

In spite of the prevalence of epilepsy in small animals, relatively little is understood about its cause and treatment. That’s why it’s a great thing that a recently created task force aspires to improve care for epileptic dogs and cats. The task force is comprised of very smart people from around the world and includes veterinary and human neurologists, neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, and neuropathologists. Task force member Dr. Karen Munana was quoted as follows:

Lack of consistency among epilepsy researchers concerning classifications, definitions, and therapeutic outcome measures makes it difficult to draw comparisons and significantly limits the scientific impact of the studies. This affects the development of effective professional guidelines which, in turn, hinders clinicians when they are diagnosing the disease and advising owners on treatment options for the pet’s condition.”

Members of the task force have worked to identify a “chain of care” for animals with epilepsy including the animal’s breeder, caregiver, family veterinarian, veterinary neurology specialist, and neuroscientist. Thus far, the task force has released seven consensus statements (information and recommendations agreed upon by the task force members).

Epilepsy consensus statements

Listed below are the seven consensus statements along with their web site locations so you can access any of the articles that are of interest to you. Be forewarned- they contain a good amount of medical jargon. Don’t hesitate to contact me (dr.kay@speakingforspot.com) if you need some help with interpreting what you are reading.

  1. Consensus report on epilepsy definition, classification, and terminology in companion animals – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/182

Over the years there have been many epilepsy classification schemes used in veterinary medicine. Unfortunately, a term one veterinarian uses to describe a type of seizure might mean something altogether different to another veterinarian. The goal of this consensus statement is to provide a common language that is widely accepted within the profession.

  1. Proposal for a diagnostic approach to epilepsy in dogs – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/148

A multitude of issues besides epilepsy can cause seizures. When an animal has seizures, the primary diagnostic goal is to identify the underlying cause. Differentiating true epileptic seizures from those caused by other things can be quite challenging. The goal of this consensus proposal is to improve consistency in accurately diagnosing epilepsy in dogs.

  1. Current understanding of epilepsy of genetic or suspected genetic origin in purebred dogs – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/175

This is a review of epilepsy in predisposed dog breeds. It highlights breed-specific clinical features (age of onset, type of seizure, gender predisposition), response to treatment, prevalence rate, and mode of inheritance.

The breeds discussed include Australian Shepherd, Belgian Shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog, Border Collie, Border Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Collie, Dalmatian, English Springer Spaniel, Finnish Spitz, Golden Retriever, Hungarian Vizsla, Irish Wolfhound, Italian Spinone, Labrador Retriever, Lagotto Romagnolo, Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen (PBGV), Shetland Sheepdog, Standard Poodle, German Shepherd, Beagle, Dachshund, Keeshond, and nine Dutch breeds.

  1. Consensus on the medical treatment of canine epilepsy in Europe – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/176

The goal of this consensus protocol is to provide consistency in the management of canine epilepsy using antiepileptic drugs. Recommendations are based on current evidence-based research and experience of the authors. While this specifically considers the legal ramifications associated with prescribing necessary medications in Europe, the recommended treatment protocols can be applied universally.

  1. Outcome of therapeutic interventions in epilepsy in dogs and cats – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/177

This consensus proposal provides a common language and understanding when describing an animal’s response to antiepileptic drugs. For example, standardization of what constitutes an adequate response will guide veterinarians in the diagnosis of drug resistance as a basis for altering therapy. Not only will this benefit individual patients, it will create a common language when interpreting results of research on dogs and cats being treated for epilepsy.

  1. Recommendations for a veterinary epilepsy-specific MRI scan protocol – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/194

Use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans plays a key role in arriving at the diagnosis of epilepsy, primarily by ruling out other causes of seizures. There are oodles of different types of images (referred to as sequences) a state of the art MRI scanner is capable of creating. This consensus paper provides a standardized epilepsy-specific MRI protocol.

  1. Recommendations for systematic sampling and processing of brains from epileptic dogs and cats – http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/11/216

One of the most important ways to learn more about epileptic seizures is by harvesting and examining brain tissue after the epileptic animal has passed away. This consensus protocol provides guidelines for processing the brain tissue.

I’m so pleased that this task force was created. I believe that the information it generates will be wonderfully positive next step in guiding our abilities to diagnose and treat dogs and cats with epilepsy.

Have you ever cared for an animal with epilepsy? If so, I’d love for you to share your experience.

Wishing you and your four-legged family members 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.