Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Pet Pitfalls



Mitzie is a Schnauzer with a mighty sore belly. She turns away from the tastiest dog treats and doesn’t get up when her owner comes home. She has been vomiting on and off for two days and groans when her owner’s try to pick her up. 

Thinking they were including Mitzie in on the holiday, her owners offered her tastes of their meal. But all those delicious human entrees and sides have left her seriously ill and hospitalized at the veterinary office. Mitzie is experiencing a case of pancreatitis, a common post-holiday illness.

Pancreatitis is more than just an upset stomach- it can be life threatening. Sharing table scraps, especially rich or fatty foods often triggers pancreatitis and some breeds like the Schnauzer are especially prone to pancreatitis. The illness is typically treated with pain medications, anti-vomiting medicines, intravenous fluids and other medications. 

After several days of hospital care, Mitzie makes a fortunate recovery and has strict diet limitations in the future. But Mitzie isn’t alone- countless other pets will arrive at the veterinary office for digestive upset after Thanksgiving, some with minor digestive upset and some with other maladies. Read on to learn other common pet illnesses around the holiday.

 

Feeding bones

Bones are stronger than dog’s teeth and may lead to broken teeth, requiring either root canal or surgical extraction. No bones are truly safe and can cause injury to the mouth, digestive tract and require exploratory surgery.  

Feeding toxic human foods

Keep in mind that onions, chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts and rising bread dough are toxic to pets.

Feeding old leftovers

Don’t feed your pet old leftovers stored in the fridge after 4 days- dogs can get food poisoning from old food too.

Not securing trash

A dog’s nose will lead the way to turkey bones and other disposed edibles. Secure your holiday trash in a closing container in an area that is off limits to your pets. 

If your pet is a part of the family and you want to include them in the holiday, offer their favorite dog treat. Or entertain them with doggie pupcicles – low- salt chicken broth frozen into dog sized treats. But if you must select an item off your holiday table, offer small bits of white turkey meat without the skin and bones. 

May you and your extended pet family enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Will Your Dog's Chew Bone Injure Her Teeth?

Even veterinarians can make bad choices when it comes to their pet’s health. I learned this when I discovered my dog, Nikki, had a broken tooth. The cause was a chew item I thought was a safe option for her to gnaw on. But I was wrong- no chew item is risk free. Sadly my Nikki had to crack three teeth for me to learn that lesson.
Oh yes, it was three broken teeth! But more on that later...

Considering Chew Options

What chew options are there? As the owner of a large powerful chewer I considered the possibilities for my dog. She has a sensitive stomach and cannot tolerate edible bones or preserved rawhide products. Thank goodness, because feeding my dog pig snouts or pizzles just makes me want to gag. I’m not a fan of real bones- too many patients with broken teeth, gastrointestinal blockages, and even one with a bone shard migrating through the side of a it’s throat.
Soft plastic toys don’t survive the first two minutes with her, and plush toys quickly lose eyes, limbs and squeakers with her near surgical precision.
So I chose to offer synthetic Nylabone style bones to deal with her chewing drive. Nikki loves the flavors and happily chews away for long periods of time. When the bone looks damaged, I throw it away. It seemed like the perfect solution for a vigorous chewer.

Discovering Her Broken Tooth

While brushing Nikki’s teeth, I noted a fracture of her upper fourth premolar tooth. This is the largest cheek tooth on a dog or cat’s upper jaw, and serves to chew and grind food. The outer layer of the tooth was sheared off, just like a shelf of ice cracking off an iceberg. This type of fracture is common from dogs chewing on an object harder than tooth enamel. Common  culprits for this type of tooth damage include antler chews, Nylabones, real bones, or ice.

What to Do With Broken Teeth?

Not all tooth fractures are created equal. An uncomplicated tooth fracture is one in which only the enamel is broken. The tooth is vulnerable to further injury but is not immediately causing the pet pain. A complicated fracture is one in which the break extends beyond the enamel into the pulp chamber.
The pulp of a tooth is the inner layer where the nerve and blood supply runs. Exposure of the pulp not only causes pain, but serves as direct pathway for oral bacteria to cause a tooth abscess or spread through the bloodstream.

How to Treat a Tooth Fracture?

A complicated tooth fracture requires either a root canal or surgical extraction. Leaving a complicated tooth fracture untreated is NOT an option. These teeth hurt and shouldn’t be ignored. Pets won’t whine or cry out in pain with broken teeth, but rather suffer in silence. But after a diseased tooth is addressed, owners commonly note their pet’s overall activity and attitude improve.
The preferred treatment for a complicated tooth fractures is a root canal. During a root canal the contents of the pulp are removed, filled in, and the tooth is sealed. After the root canal therapy the tooth is still functional for normal chewing activities.  
If root canal cannot be pursued, then the tooth should be surgically extracted. This removes the source of pain and potential infection. However, surgical removal of broken teeth may affect the pet’s ability to chew on that side in the future.
Uncomplicated tooth fractures aren’t treated as above, but rather may need outward support of the area with bonding restoration.

My Dog’s Dentist Visit

Dental cleanings and extractions are a daily service at most veterinary practises, but root canals and tooth restorations aren’t commonly available at general practices. I knew I could pull Nikki’s tooth, but to save this tooth in my young dog, I’d need to see a veterinary dental specialist.
Nikki and I arrived at Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists where she was evaluated by Dr. Chris Visor and determined to have an uncomplicated fracture of her premolar, and small uncomplicated breaks on two molars.
Her premolar fracture was limited to the enamel, luckily sparing pulp damage, which means she wasn’t in pain. But the damaged tooth would be at risk for further injury, so she was fitted for a restoration with a metallic crown. (Porcelain isn’t durable in pets so it’s not commonly used) The two other broken teeth had minor damage, so the rough edges were drilled smooth and the tooth surface bonded.

Lesson Learned

After her crown placement, Nikki can’t chew on hard chew bones like before. If she did, it could risk damage to her crown as well as her other teeth. Veterinary dentists warn dog owners this test of your dog’s chew item- if you whack your knee with your dog’s chew item and it hurts you, it’ll likely break her teeth.
Now I can only imagine scores of dog owners going to their doctors with knee pain….  

Take Away Tips: Can You Detect Your Pet’s Broken Tooth?
Most broken teeth are detected during a physical exam by your veterinarian, but some observant pet owners may discover clues to their pet’s broken tooth.
1.      No complaining.  Don’t expect your pet to cry or whine. People complain loudly when a tooth hurts, but pets just don’t verbalize dental pain.
2.      Uneven tartar accumulation. Due to tooth pain, the pet chews on one side more, the “good side”. Tartar builds up more on the “bad side”.
3.      Dark spot on tooth. Enamel is evenly white, but darker or grey spots could indicate exposed pulp or dentin at the site of a fracture.

4.      Draining wound present below the eye. A broken upper premolar or molar with an infected root can cause a draining wound under the eye. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Who Doesn't Like Dogs?


I love dogs, and always have. But what happens when you discover a close friend doesn’t merely not like dogs, but actually hates them?

I’ve been operating under the assumption that those who don’t like dogs must have some evil lurking in their spirit and were destined to a life of incarceration. Just look at the statistics of criminals that abuse animals early on, and who later progress to physical abuse of people, murder, or other sociopathic behaviors.

I’ll admit not liking dogs is a far cry from turning one’s hand to injure an animal or person, but some uncomfortable association is still there. As a full-fledged dog lover, or enthusiast of any animal for that matter, I cannot understand the psyche of an individual that is satisfied going about their life without animal companionship.

Any pet lover can spout off a list of benefits their furry one brings to their life…the steady comfort of companionship, a non-judging ear to hear out the day’s tribulations, a workout or hiking buddy, and a source of unconditional love at the end of a long day.

So, imagine my shock when I realized that a couple I know doesn’t like dogs. Not just that they don’t have dogs or misunderstand them- they actually dislike dogs.

Hint of this fact should have been apparent a long ago when they were over for dinner and they politely stood, stiff as Calvary front line, when greeted by my yapping terrier mix. Or that they failed to stroke my Labrador’s chin after receiving the gentle nudge of the typical canine greeting upon entering the home. The polite perfunctory smiles went un-noticed by me. “Sure, they don’t have dogs,” I reasoned as to why they weren’t charmed by my little dog’s amusing tail wagging display or by the steadfast devotion of my Labrador’s greeting.

All of these sign posts I missed. I clearly misjudged all along. The couple who I just assumed were just not yet fortunate to understand the benefits of pet companionship, were actually formidable dog dislikers.

Realization struck me during a recent conversation, with this couple. I was laughingly describing the vast differences in dog breed behavior comparing my former Labradors, to that of my current Bouvier. My comments must have been mistaken as some underhanded means to convince them the right breed was out there for them. At that moment, my guest raised hands and said, “I know what I like and don’t like, and I don’t want dogs.” Clearly they didn’t like dogs- and they misunderstood my comment as some means to turn them over to the canine side against their will. Astounded, I marveled how this response was not unlike a person who is recommended a mushroom containing side dish or gourmet meal from a fine restaurant, and who declares “I can’t stand mushrooms and don’t want anything to do with mushrooms!”

So why didn’t I catch on to these dog haters sooner? For those of us that have pets, of any type, we recognize the many joys our pets bring to our lives. There are folks that don’t want to bring that companionship into their life. The cogs of their lives have clicked along just fine without a pet in their life. Somehow lots well-educated, social and seemingly normal people can raise a family and be successful and still dislike dogs.

Maybe we should feel sorry for them. Or maybe they feel sorry for us, for all the money, heart and time we put into a pet companion who’s lifespan doesn’t come near to that of a humans. They probably laugh at our reckless expenditures on a being who lives just a fraction of human life. I chose not to spend time wondering how they have made it without animals in their life…rather that I have succeeded because I have been fortunate to have animals in my life.

I ask that these non-pet people save their pity for me and my pets, because I know that any one of my dogs could say they lived live fuller than most people- full with adventure, splendor at new experiences, and embracing the moment. And so have I at their side. So should the question come up at the time of my next life, I’ll take both a side of mushrooms…and pets on the side.



Sunday, August 9, 2015

Are Wildlife Preying on Your Pets?


As a veterinarian I used to think a dog fight was one of the worst things that could happen to a pet while out walking. But wildlife attacks on pets are a real and present danger. Remember the scene from the Sandra Bullock movie, The Proposal, in which Kevin, the American Eskimo puppy, is carried off by an eagle? Recently Boss, my 16 pound mixed breed dog, became a target of a flying predator not in remote Alaska, but smack dab in the heart of Las Vegas' suburbia.

During a walk at our community park before sunrise, I heard a loud beating of wings as a Great Horned Owl swooped down over Boss, my 16 pound terrier mix. My other dog Nikki, a Bouvier des Flanders, ran up to Boss and the owl flew off , retreated to a light pole and sat studying Boss’ movements. Fearing the owl appeared ready for a second try, I snatched Boss in my arms and hightailed it out of there.

Boss was lucky to have the deterrent of an eighty pound doggie sister nearby. But not all pets get off so lucky when wildlife predators are concerned. Outdoor cats and dogs may disappear during the night falling victim to a suspected coyote attack. Small pets under 20 pounds can be whisked off by birds of prey. Stories of wildlife attacks such as these occur all the time and the internet reads of horrific stories by owners who lose their small pets to wildlife.

What animals to watch for?


Coyotes are found not only in rural areas, but also thrive in metropolitan areas. Mountain lion and bobcats are other predators that are a concern for homeowners in more remote areas or along the outskirts of towns. Birds of prey such as owls, hawks, and eagles are very capable hunters, are protective of nesting sites, and can easily carry off small animals two to three times their body weight.

What can you do?


Be especially watchful near parks, golf courses or near natural paths that wildlife use as travel corridors, such as flood channels or washes. Remember that an abundance of prey animals like wild bunnies in your community means prime hunting grounds for urban predators.

Don’t leave your pets out at night unattended and preferably escort them using a leash. Wildlife rarely will approach a small pet if it is near a human or other larger animals.

Install motion activated lights on property.

Ensure all dog runs have a roof or fencing above to prevent predators from jumping over enclosure walls.

Building high fences and walls may seem like a solution, but predators can easily jump over these. Consider coyote fencing- a style of fencing that may help deter a predator from entering your backyard. Check out the Coyote Roller - an ingenious and humane method to prevent a coyotes and other dogs from being able to get over the top of fence with rolling metal bars installed along fence line.  http://www.a1steelfence.com/coyote-rollers.html

Avoid attracting prey animals


Take steps to make your yard less attractive to nuisance animals like possums and raccoons as well as potential prey animals. Remove wildlife feeding stations like bird feeders. Secure garbage cans. Keep brush trimmed and landscape maintained to avoid hiding sites for animals. Avoid fruit producing trees that serve as food sources. Feed pets indoors to avoid leaving a food source outside for mice, rats or other critters.

Any other tools to protect pets?


Check out the Raptor Shield, a lightweight protective cape made of polycarbonate plastic- the same compound used in bulletproof shields. This dog vest product was developed to stop a bird of prey’s sharp talons from penetrating into small pets.  http://raptorshield.com/

 

What to do if your pet is targeted by wildlife?


Make noise, wave arms and throw rocks to drive away animals. Carry a whistle, air horn or pepper spray for defense. Remember that some species of raptors are protected species and harassing or injuring them can result in fines.

Preventative efforts are far more useful than any steps you can take to spook away a predator after an attack occurs. Speak to your neighbors and share information if you spot coyotes or birds of prey in your neighborhood.

Don’t get me wrong- I wish no ill will on nature’s most efficient predators. I still find those soaring raptors breathtaking and I am awed by the coyote’s adaptability, but from now on I’ll prefer to watch nature’s animal wonders with my little terrier guy safely seated on my lap.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Make a Splash With Pet Pool Safety

Is your dog a capable swimmer, or dreadfully afraid of water? As the weather heats up and pools are opening for the summer season, pet owner should be mindful of pool safety for pets regardless if your dog loves to swim or avoids the pool like the veterinary office.

The first thing to realize is that many recommendations for dog pool safety parallel those recommended for safety of small children. Supervision, swim instruction and backup safety monitors are advised for both children and pets.

Swim School

The first step should be teaching your dog how to swim. Don’t just throw your pup in the pool and expect him to figure it out. Dogs are not born automatically knowing how to swim, rather they learn the skill after exposure and practice. Some heavy bodied dogs like Pugs or English Bulldogs have difficulty floating and swimming easily. And even breeds like the water-friendly Labrador retriever can develop fear of water if not properly exposed to swimming as a puppy.

Expose your dog to swimming in a controlled, non-excitable manner.  The gradual slope of a lake is ideal for first swim lessons and allows the dog to adjust to gradual changes in water depth. Be calm, remain positive and praise your dog with first placing him in ankle deep water. Provide toys to play with, chase or retrieve.

Only when your dog is comfortable with shallow water, should you introduce him to greater depths. Don’t expect your dog to go into the water alone- teach by example. Get out there with him and show him how much fun you can have splashing about. Reward calm, brave behavior and resist the temptation to coddle the nervous new swimmer.

The Exit

Getting out of a lake is easy. But those with pools now you have to teach your dog how to exit an artificial body of water. Swim alongside your dog and show him how to exit the pool via the steps. In pools that have steep steps or ladders, install a dog ladder or floating doggy dock to give your pooch easier exit.

Restricted access

Don’t leave your pets unattended around the pool. Supervise your dog’s swim time just as you would with toddlers. Install a barrier fence around the pool that limits your dog’s access to the pool when not directly supervised.

Safety alert devices

Set your pool up with a safety device that alerts you to inadvertent pool entry. Some devices are available through pool supply companies and alert via a receiver inside the home when the water surface has been disturbed. Other devices that fit on the pet include the Safety Turtle- a device that attaches to your dog’s collar and alerts you when the device is submerged in water.

Other pool safety devices

Floatation devices are advised for any dog around large bodies of water or for the less-confident swimmers. The backyard pool is of known depth and visibility, but lakes and oceans prove more dangerous. Although I know my dogs can swim in the backyard pool, when out on Lake Mead they wear their life vests reliably.

Know your dog

Be aware of your dog’s special needs. Elderly dogs, puppies or those with hearing or visual impairment may be at added risk for pool accidents or drowning. And if you are entertaining guests, be sure to look out for your pet’s safety. If unable to monitor your pet directly, keep him safe inside the home.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is it Time to Worry About Dog Flu?

Dog owners are calling veterinary offices concerned with the news of the recent dog flu outbreak in the Midwest. Over 1000 dogs have become sick with the highly contagious Canine Influenza virus and 6 dogs have died to date.

Two strains of canine influenza, also known as The Dog Flu, have now been identified in the U.S. The original influenza virus identified in 2004 in racing greyhounds and was typed as H3N8. Dogs in the current Chicago outbreak were originally thought to have H3N8, but testing identified a different subtype H3N2. This strain of canine influenza hasn't yet been seen in the U.S., but was identified in Asia before.

What are dog flu symptoms?
Both canine influenza strains cause coughing, nasal discharge, lethargy, loss of appetite and can cause a high fever. About 50-80% of infected dogs have mild kennel cough symptoms others may develop a severe illness. Some dogs exposed to the virus never go on to develop any symptoms.

Dogs with a mild form may recover within 10 to 30 days after typical kennel cough signs. Dogs with the severe form rapidly fall ill within 4- 6 hours and have very high fevers up to 104 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Infected dogs may also develop secondary bacterial pneumonia. The death rate for severe cases is reported to be 5-8% but is typically <1%.  

Can dogs pass the infection to humans?
No, there isn’t any evidence that canine influenza is contagious to humans. The H3N2 form could potentially make cats sick.

How is canine influenza treated?
Any infected dog should be removed from dog activities and isolated. Mild cases are treated with cough suppressants, rest and supportive care. Antibiotics are reserved only for cases in which a secondary bacterial infection are suspected. Severe cases may require hospitalization, oxygen support, antibiotics, and IV fluids.

Should we worry in Las Vegas?
Fortunately Las Vegas has not yet seen dog flu cases impact our community. But we know that Canine Influenza has been diagnosed in 40 states so far, so the disease is around.

Too often Las Vegas pet owners have the “it doesn’t happen here” mentality when it comes to infectious disease. Perhaps we think we live in a bubble in Las Vegas, far away from high parasite burdened areas or heavy heartworm endemic areas of the country.  But all it takes is movement of influenza infected dogs from another state to bring Canine Influenza to an area.

What can dog owners do to prevent illness?
Vaccination for canine influenza should be considered for at risk dogs-those living or traveling in an area experiencing an outbreak, or those that participate in group dog activities, visiting dog shows, grooming salons, boarding facilities, or doggie day care.

Outbreaks of dog flu take hold when the virus infects naïve dogs. Naïve dogs are those that haven’t ever been exposed to the virus, or that haven’t been vaccinated for this virus. By vaccinating more dogs in our area for canine influenza, we can in essence “protect the herd” better.

Preventative recommendations vary depending upon whether the virus is actively being diagnosed in your community. Dogs in areas affected by an outbreak should be kept away from group dog locations like dog parks, day care, and boarding facilities while infected dogs recover and facilities can disinfect their premises.

Other common sense tips to prevent your dog from acquiring dog flu include avoiding contact with unknown dogs, washing your hands after petting or contacting other dogs, and avoiding shared water bowls or items in public areas.

But in areas not experiencing an outbreak, there is little basis for limiting your dog’s activities by keeping Fido in lockdown.  While there is always some inherent risk of infectious disease in any group dog activity, participating in these activities offers benefits of physical exercise, provides mental stimulation, builds confidence, and decreases boredom and destructive behaviors.

Until canine influenza is diagnosed in our area, I am continuing to let Boss run his agility class and Nikki play with her canine pals at doggie daycare.

Should we vaccinate?
Dog owners with at-risk dogs should consider vaccination. Vaccination for canine influenza doesn’t prevent dogs from becoming infected, but rather decreases the severity and duration of illness. The vaccine also causes an infected dog to shed less virus that could infect other dogs.

The current canine influenza vaccine protects against the H3N8 strain, and is unknown if this vaccine offers any cross-protection against the H3N2 form, although research is looking at this now. In any case, it’s reasonable to expect the H3N8 form will still be out there so vaccination is reasonable for at risk dogs.

For more information about Canine Influenza visit Dog Flu Info for Pet Owners | Canine Influenza News and Information or AVMA info on Canine Influenza

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Deadly Spill- Pet Antifreeze Toxicity



Chilly winter weather means pet owner must be on the lookout for special health risks. An unfortunately common cold weather emergency is antifreeze poisoning. Just a small spill of this essential car fluid can be fatal for pets. So whether you have a dog, cat or are currently pet-less but own a car- this toxicity is a one you need to be aware of to keep animals safe.

Antifreeze Toxicity in Pets

Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a compound that is used in automobiles to cool engines, and is resistant to freezing temperatures. Ethylene glycol is highly toxic to household pets- just a small quantity causes illness and death. Additionally, antifreeze has a sweet taste that animals find appealing and are apt to drink. Pets that ingest antifreeze rapidly develop neurologic symptoms and kidney failure. Small amounts of antifreeze can prove fatal for pets…just a teaspoon can prove toxic for a cat or small dog, while a several tablespoons for a larger dog.
Ethylene glycol is also found in some lesser known places but still poses the same toxic risk. It is used in winterizing fluids for toilets in vacation homes and RV’s. Ethylene glycol is also found in home solar units, break fluids, and within portable basketball goalpost bases.

What are the symptoms of antifreeze toxicity?

Initial symptoms occur within 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion include increased thirst, increased urination, depression, uncoordination, and seizures. Some pet owners describe their pet acting “drunk”.
Later symptoms occur 12-72 hours after ingestion and may include severe lethargy, difficulty breathing, mouth ulcers, vomiting, and coma.

How is antifreeze poisoning diagnosed and treated?

Your veterinarian will perform blood work, urine tests and may perform a specific test for the presence of ethylene glycol.
Suspect cases, even if unproven, are aggressively treated with intravenous fluids. Intravenous antidotes are given to bind the toxin, and anti-seizure medication is administered if needed.
Once kidney failure has set in, the prognosis is unfortunately grim for survival.

How to prevent accidental antifreeze poisoning?


  • Pet owners should recognize what an antifreeze spill looks like. Look for puddles of this fluid in parking lots, driveways and streets and keep your pets far away. The color of antifreeze may be green, pink, yellow, red, blue or orange. Report antifreeze spills to neighbors and businesses. One time I made a fuss at a pet-friendly coffee bar when I noted an antifreeze puddle smack dab in the path of dogs. Speak up – the life you save could be your own pet.
  • Don’t allow your pets to roam. Outdoor cats and dog that are permitted to wander are at risk for encountering antifreeze spills. How can you prevent a toxicity when you can’t monitor your pet’s behavior or whereabouts?
  • Keep your car and garage safe. Immediately clean up any antifreeze spills and safely secure bottles of antifreeze away from pets and children. Keep up regular automotive maintenance to ensure no antifreeze leaks.
  • Switch to less toxic antifreeze. While no antifreeze is completely safe, look for antifreeze that contains propylene glycol in place of ethylene glycol. This compound is a safer choice, but still can pose a toxic risk if ingested in larger quantities. Some antifreeze products have a bittering agent included to deter animals and children from ingesting it. But according to the ASPCA there isn’t any published data proving that adding a bittering agent helps to prevent ingestion. Any antifreeze should be considered potentially toxic and handled with appropriate caution.

What to do if your pet ingests antifreeze?

Time is of the essence- seek prompt treatment at your veterinarian or emergency hospital for the best chance of survival. Don’t wait till serious symptoms arise, because once advanced kidney failure develops the prognosis is poor.

For more information about pet toxicities visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control website at ASPCA Animal Poison Control