Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Dangers of Waiting Too Long

Everyone does it.  You want to try things at home, try to solve the problem by yourself, maybe try to save a little cash; but sometimes the problem is just too big for home remedies, and a professional needs to be involved.  This is true in every aspect of our lives, from doing taxes, to fixing the plumbing, to your pets’ health.

Recently, I have seen a rash of these particular cases.  The potentially easily treatable cases that have now become medical nightmares.  These are some of the most feared cases to grace the veterinary appointment book.  We know you meant well, and that you were not trying to do any harm to your pet, but often some of these problems can get out of hand really quickly.

The skin case.  Regardless of the cause, skin cases can go from bad to worse over a small period of time.  Maybe you noticed a couple of spots of hair loss, or some mild itching originally.  First you invested in a lot of the over-the-counter products to see if you could manage the problem yourself.  Then those over-the-counter products helped just a little, just enough to give you the confidence that you had the problem well in hand, and then in the blink of an eye, a month has past, and your dog is covered in sores, or is bald.  Clients that may not have experienced this might laugh at this dramatic tale, but it really is something we, as veterinarians, will often face.  Unfortunately, by that point, the client is frustrated, and wants quick results, and the treatment and recovery time is so much more extensive.  Skin may seem like such a minor thing, but skin diseases can tailspin very quickly in our busy lives.

The urinating outside the box cat.  At first it doesn’t bother you.  Sometimes your cat pees outside the box, you use the cleaner, and you move on with your life.  But time and again, this problem becomes progressively worse, and you are really starting to resent the air that your cat is breathing.  You finally bring the cat to the veterinary office, dripping with scorn, with a sarcastic ultimatum of fix him or else.  Of course, we all love our pets, so we never get to that point, but you know where this is heading.  We promise, cats are never urinating outside the box out of spite.  Even if the veterinarian does not find a medical cause for this cat behavior, there are many other reasons for this concern, and we want you and your cat to live amicably together.  Its important in these cases not to let the frustration build to a terrifying level before you seek veterinary care for these cats.

The Fleas.  We know, everyone knows about fleas, everyone knows what to do about them, and Veterinarians only sell those expensive products to make extra cash.  Well, we promise you, the reason we sell those “expensive products” is because we trust they’ll work.  We don’t want fleas on your pet or in your home any more than you do.  You are wasting your money on those flea shampoos and flea dips, and house bombs, and over the counter topicals.  You will spend way less on veterinary products, and experience way less frustration, in the end.

Patient Spotlight: Meet Fusilli

We are so lucky to have some amazing clients and patients. I'd like to take some time over the next few months to acknowledge some of them.

Next in line is Fusilli!
This is the face of a very happy dog!

Fusilli is a very special dog, and his owner really summed him up great when she described him as 'sweet, loyal, obedient, goofy and so darn cute!'  It has really been a joy to get to know him as a patient and to watch him change and grow in his new home.

His story did not start out quite as happy as it is now. Prior to his current home he had been adopted and re-homed four different times! He is currently in his fifth home! That is a lot of change and stress for one little pup! He was adopted but his current owner from Vermillion County Animal Shelter in Tilton, IL. She had originally gone to look at another dog that had interested her from their Facebook page. Upon meeting that dog, it just didn't seem like the right fit for her household. She was about to leave, but decided to look at the other dogs and see if anyone else might be the next addition to her home. There was Fusilli sitting quietly and calmly and just watching the people go by. She inquired about him at the front desk where she was assured that he was anything but calm and quiet. She asked to have her other three dogs meet him. The initial meeting went ok, so she started the adoption paper work. However the front desk staff made sure she read through all the previous adoption and relinquishment paperwork. After getting through all of that, she realized that Fusilli had just not been a good fit in those homes, but he might just be the right one for them.
It may have taken some time, but here is Fusilli with his housemates!
She saw right away that he was extremely smart and a born performer. He will do just about anything for a treat, but is also motivated by toys. New toys are one of his favorite things, especially if they make funny noises. Having three other dogs, Fusilli's owner knew that she was going to need to get him started in training classes to make sure everyone was on the same page in the household. He started training about the first week she got him, and he hasn't stopped since! Once he had the basics down, he moved on to agility, which he enjoyed, but his true passion is Barn Hunt! As a terrier he excels at finding little critters anywhere. In fact, he doesn't really enjoy going on walks unless there is something to chase! While her other dogs are content to stay at home and play or go on walks, Fusilli needs jobs or projects. These can include food puzzle toys, hiding toys and having him find them or digging small critters out of the yard or park. If you would like to see a video of Fusilli performing agility you can click here.

He also really enjoys going to the dog park with his housemate, Bow Tie. They are so fast they can run circles around the bigger dogs, which makes everyone stop and take notice of them.

Fusilli may have had to go through several homes, but all of those challenges have landed him in the perfect spot! While his owner admits there were definitely trying times when adding a fourth dog into her home, it has been so worth it. She has gone to great lengths to make sure everyone in the home has all their physical and mental needs taken care of. She has also spent time with a local veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Sally Foote, to work through a few of the more challenging aspects of owning multiple dogs with different personalities. Fusilli has really begun to flourish as he has been able to show his true personality and we are looking forward to seeing where his training and natural skills take him next!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Did You See This: Dog Eats 43 Socks!

view of x-ray showing 'foreign material' in stomach, then the socks that were removed from the stomach (Image Source)

Sometimes dogs can eat the craziest things! There was an article circulating online awhile ago that showed a dog that had eaten 43 socks! In this case it was not so much a crazy thing he ate but the crazy number of things he ate!! Fortunately according to the many internet articles the dog did fine after surgery and made a full recovery. You can find one version of the story here
Pets can definitely get into trouble when left unattdended. It is hard to tell who did it, as they both look pretty guilty here! (Image Source)

This story could have had a very different ending if the family that owned the dog had ignored his symptoms. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to KNOW our pet got into something, but sometimes we do not even notice anything is missing. I can't even count the number of times I have lost a sock during the laundry process! In this case, the dog started vomiting and was taken to the veterinarian. They recommended x-rays and while they did not know what specifically was in the stomach, they knew something that was not supposed to be in there was there, and a lot of it! Surgery was recommended and thankfully was successful. When all was said and done 43 (and 1/2) socks were removed from the stomach. 
Those turned into some very expensive socks! (Image Source)

In this case, it was very good that the socks had not traveled further down the gastro-intestinal tract. The stomach is in most cases easier to operate on and much more quick to heal when compared to the intestinal tract. 
All that mischief would make any one tired! (Image Source)

Another thing this story points out is that even the most trustworthy of dogs can get into trouble when left unattended. While it is unclear when exactly this particular dog ate the socks, many pets find their way into all sorts of sticky situations when they are roaming the house. Whenever possible it is a good idea to keep your pets confined to a small space or kennel when you are not at home. This decreases the risk of things they could get into that could lead to problems. 
Sometimes the best option is to keep your pet confined to make sure they are safe while you are away! (Image Source)

Having said that, I definitely had a beagle growing up that was a Houdini, and could get out of any small space we confined her too and the list of things she ate in her life time was long (and strange). If your pet does get into something it shouldn't, the best thing to do is to call your veterinarian to know if immediate action should be taken. While socks are not toxic, they could lead to an obstruction which can lead to other problems. There are also many household items that could be hazardous to our pet. So whenever possible keep them confined when unsupervised and if an accident does happen call your veterinarian right away! 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Product Focus: Heartgard

There are a lot of products and medications available for your pets. How do you know what each one is for and if it is the right choice for your pet? The best way is to ask your veterinarian! We are also going to take a look at certain products and what the do and what possible side effects they may have. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make for your pet!

(Image Source)
First up is Heartgard! This is a heartworm preventative that is cleverly disguised as a treat. It is given monthly. The good news is that because it is beef flavored most pets love it! It is very easy to get them to take this medication. One thing to remember is that although it is delicious it is still a medication and therefore has a job to do.
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Heartworm disease is on the rise throughout the country. The American Heartworm Society (website) recommends year round prevention. It is much safer (and cheaper) to prevent heartworm disease, then it is to treat it! Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and travel through the blood supply and the adults end up living in the heart and lungs. This is a very serious disease but fortunately, there are products like Heartgard that can help prevent it from happening.

Roundworms are found in the stool. Typically we look for the eggs under the microscope. (Image Source)

Heartgard also helps prevent roundworms and hookworms. These are intestinal parasite that many dog will pick up from the environment. Typically pets will ingest the eggs from the environment and they will travel through the digestive track where they will live. Hookworms and roundworms can be found on routine fecal screenings and do not require a blood test like heartworms do.

Good news for cat owners! They make heartworm preventatives for them too! (Image Source)

As with any medication, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of when using Heartgard. The active ingredient that prevents heartworm is called ivermectin. This is an anti-parasitic drug that has been known to cause (rarely) sedation, depression and neurological signs, meaning your pet may appear as though it is drunk or extremely sleepy. The doses used in Heartgard are VERY low, which makes these side effects unlikely, but they can happen. There are certain breeds that also have to be careful with this medication. The reason for this issue is linked to a gene called the MDR-1 gene which is multi-drug resistant gene. This leads to the pet being unable to metabolize certain drugs, which causes them to build up in their system, making it very likely to see the neurological side effects. Collies are the primary breed that may have an issue with Heartgard, but several of the other herding dogs may be affected as well. You can find a full description of the possible side effects here.

Using monthly heartworm prevention is a very important part of keeping our pets happy and healthy! (Image Source)

Overall, Heartgard is a great product because it is effective and most pets LOVE eating it. That makes it much easier to keep up on it every month. If Heartgard doesn't sound like the right fit for your pet, don't worry there are other options available, the most important thing is that we make sure you pet is receiving year round heartworm prevention. If you would like more information on Heartgard you can visit their website here.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Patient Spotlight: Meet Stella

We are so lucky to have some amazing clients and patients. I'd like to take some time over the next few months to acknowledge some of them.

First up, is Stella!

Stella was welcomed into her very loving home in July of 2014. Her people found her at an adoption event put on by Wish Bone Canine Rescue based out of Bloomington, IL. They were immediately drawn to her because of her beautiful eyes, and who could blame them! They also loved how patiently she was waiting in her kennel. Not much is known about her history prior to the shelter, only that she was dropped off at a different kill shelter with a litter of puppies she had just had. Fortunately, Wishbone Canine Rescue was able to get her into foster care and place her up for adoption when she was ready. She joined two cat friends, Jasmine and Mr. Pockets, in her new home and everyone settled into a new routine.

Stella is a very active dog and LOVES her daily walks and wrestling with Cooper. He is another rescue pup from Wish Bone Canine Rescue that was added to the family not too long ago.

It became obvious pretty soon after adopting Stella that she was a very smart girl. They immediately entered her into training classes at Jodie Vee's dog training facility. She quickly passed her AKC Canine Good Citizen test and the Canine Good Citizen Advanced test. From there she started agility, which was another area she excelled.

When Jodie Vee's started talking about a new sport called Barn Hunt, they thought it would be something new and exciting for Stella to try. Not only did she rise to this challenge but she has truly exceeded everyone's expectations! Barn Hunt is a fun  new sport where rats are SAFELY kept in PVC piping and dogs must correctly identify which pipe contains the rat, while avoiding the decoys that include litter or nothing in them at all. They must also complete a series of tasks that are dependent on the skill level. (For more information on Barn Hunt, you can find it here) Stella did so well in practice runs, her people decided to start her in some competitions. She has competed twice and already has two first place ribbons, a second place ribbon and a best in class. She earned her title of RATN (novice) title and is currently working towards RATO (open) title. With each new title come more challenging tasks.

There is really no limit to what Stella can do and thanks to her wonderful owners she has the opportunity to achieve great things! We cannot wait to see what she will do next!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Did You See This: Dog Bandits 1/2 Marathon Race

She sure can run! (Image Source)

Everyone once in awhile pets make the news in very amusing ways. One such story caught my attention of the last couple of weeks.

Runner's World reported that there was a dog in Alabama that was let outside to go to the bathroom. Unbeknownst to the owner, she wandered off and ended up completing a 1/2 Marathon.
She is happy to be participating! (Image Source)

According to the Runner's World article (which you can read here) This is not the first time the young dog has wandered off, but it is the first time she has become a race bandit. Runner's on the course said she stayed with them most of the way.
I wonder how far she can go and still keep a smile on her face! (Image Source)

While this story definitely brought a smile to my face, it did make me a little nervous. The good news is the pup is safe and no runner's were harmed by her impromptu entry. In the article it does say that since this is a small town everyone knows her owner, but what if they didn't. She could have been lost or picked up by animal control. While accidents do happen it makes me a little nervous when dogs are roaming unsupervised. I always recommend that they are leashed and have proper identification. This helps reduce the chance of them becoming lost. Again, sometimes despite our best efforts things can go wrong, however this is not the first time she roamed the town, I would just be worried that one time something serious could happen to her.
She definitely earned her medal! (Image Source)

All the publicity she has received has been very beneficial to this inaugural race as well as the town. Which is really good news. I think it is also great to encourage people and their pets to get exercise. There are not many dogs that could just go run 13.1 miles, then also wander home. Most of the time we would recommend gradually working yourself and your pet up to more strenuous exercise.

I really did love this story, it was definitely light-hearted and showed that this is an amazingly fit and social dog! I just hope that her future wanderings are limited so she stays nice and safe and can someday OFFICIALLY enter the race!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Pet Owner's Guide to Valentine's Day

These are definitely things to keep in mind! (Image Source)

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, there are a couple of things to remember if you are a pet owner.
Chocolates are a definite no for our pets! (Image Source)

One of the top hazards is definitely chocolate. As many people are aware, chocolate is toxic to pets. This is one of the top gifts associated with Valentine's Day. It is very important to keep your sweets are away from your pet. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity can range from mild gastro-intestinal upset (some vomiting/ diarrhea) to severe including seizures and comas. It all depends on the amount and type of chocolate (as well as the size of the dog). If you think your pet has ingested some of your gift it is a good idea to call your veterinarian right away! The sooner treatment is started, the less likely it is for symptoms to become serious.
Lilies are popular in many floral arrangements, but can be very hazardous to our pets. (Image Source)

Another possible concern would be flowers. While many flowers do not pose a problem, there are several that can cause extreme side effects in our pets. The most common is flowers in the lillium family. These will include Easter lily, tiger lily, stargazer lily, day lily and Japanese snow lily. If you have ANY concerns there may be lilies in the floral arrangement, it is best to keep it well away from your pets. When ingested, lilies can cause vomiting, but more importantly, they can lead to kidney failure. If left untreated it could prove to be fatal. In this instance, it is much more common for cats to be the culprit than dogs. Typically any part of the plant is toxic.

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While not as popular at this time of year when compared to Christmas, nuts can also pose a potential threat to our pets. Most of the time it will lead to some gastro-intestinal upset, but in some cases it could lead to a more significant pancreatitis. This is inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to very severe vomiting and diarrhea which in some cases will require hospitalization.
Sugar Free gums (or candies) can be very hazardous to our pets. (Image Source)

Gum is another item that may be more common around this holiday. While some gums may be ok, there are many gums that contain the artificial sweetener Xylitol. This can be VERY serious in our pets. Xylitol while safe in humans can lead to dramatic changes in blood glucose in our pets. It can also lead to long term effects on the kidney. If your pet has ingested some gum and you KNOW Xylitol is an ingredient or you aren't sure, you need to call your veterinarian immediately!!
Make sure all stuffed things that are not intended for your pet are put away. (Image Source)

Although it is a bit of a stretch, remember to watch your pet around any small stuffed animals. These are another popular valentines day gift and since they are typically not made for pets they are more likely to be destroyed or have parts that could be a choking hazard. It is just best to keep everything up and away when your pet is not supervised.

(Image Source)
So those are some of our top concerns when it comes to Valentine's Day and your pet! The best way you can show your pet you love them is to keep them safe!

Monday, February 1, 2016

    A Weighted Question

Nothing is more depressing than stepping on the scale in the doctor’s office, and seeing that your weight is not where you wish it to be; and in the veterinary community, we find owners have the same feelings about their pet’s scale numbers.  It is so hard for veterinarians to even approach the subject of your pet’s overweight or obese status, without worrying about seriously offending a valued client. 

I never want to tell an owner that their pet is overweight, I don’t even like to use the word overweight, and I never use the word obese, unless I am so concerned about the pet’s health, that I know using that scary word is the only way to get a response, and plan, in place.

Why do we care if your pet is heavier than he should be?

Veterinarians are not worried about your pet’s body image to fulfill some societal norm.  Veterinarians feel obligated to point out your pet’s weight concerns because of all the health risks associated with being overweight.  Your pet won’t wake up one Monday and decide today is the day he’ll go to the gym, or stop ordering pizza on Friday nights.  You are ultimately responsible for what goes into your pet, and how much exercise and activity he gets. 

If your pet is overweight when he is young, he is that much more prone to early joint disease, because that is a greater load on his joints than ideal.  That is many more years of purchasing pain medication; pain medication that can ultimately have long term effects on his organs, and also long term costs involved with medicating so long.  He is more prone to diseases like diabetes, which is a time consuming, and sometimes costly manageable disease.  He is more prone to inflammation and infection throughout his body, as the medical community has learned recently that fat cells create inflammatory factors that can wreak havoc throughout our bodies. 

Young pets can lose weight much more easily than older pets.  We do not want your 10 year old Fluffy to have to lose 40 lbs when his knees start giving out, or he has frequent back pain episodes.  We want Fluffy to have had a healthy, active adult life, and start his senior years fit, lean, and ready to take on the world of doggy retirement.  We do not want Mr. Kitty to be diagnosed with diabetes at 6 years old, only for you to find out that the current high cost of insulin is not something you can afford. 

It is for these reasons that we inwardly cringe, mentally prepare, and then finally broach the subject of your pet’s weight at your wellness visit, or even sometimes on a sick visit, even though none of us want to talk about it at all.  Ultimately, Fluffy and Mr. Kitty deserve for us to talk about their weight, and come up with a diet and weight loss plan that is right for them, for their health and well-bring.  They may miss that treat they no longer get each night, like I miss my nightly cookies and milk; but I know that in the long run, you will look back and be proud, and empowered, by the choices you made to have a fit and healthy pet.

The Importance of a Healthy Mouth

There are so many benefits to having a healthy mouth (Image Source)

February marks the start of Dental Month in the veterinary profession. This is a very important and often overlooked aspect of our pets' health. While you may be bothered by their furry friend's bad breathe, do you realize that it could be a sign your pet has dental disease? Did you know that when dental disease is present it can affect more areas than just the mouth? To me, the mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, so if it is diseased, there is a good chance it will spread throughout other systems. Let's take a look at some of things we can do at home and at the veterinary office to ensure our pet's mouths stay nice and healthy.

Brushing your pets teeth is one of the best ways to keep tartar and plaque away! (Image Source)

One of the most effective ways to keep our pets mouth clean is to brush their teeth. This needs to be done every 24-36 hours for maximum benefits. The good news is, they  make special toothpaste for pets that is more appealing to them (and it is ok for them to swallow). You can use any type of toothbrush. While some people prefer finger brushes, other may prefer soft bristled human tooth brushes. Either way as long as your are brushing your a helping keep tartar and plaque at bay. Probably the easiest time to start brushing teeth is when their are young so they are used to their mouth being handled, however this doesn't mean that older pets cannot be taught to tolerate regular brushing. We didn't start brushing my dog's teeth until he was about 3 years old and now he loves it! It takes time and patience but it is worth it in the end.

Dental chews have also become a very popular option to maintain good oral health. (Image Source)

Another option that is widely available are treats or chew bones that can help decrease tartar build up. A couple of things to remember is that any of these products will add calories to your pet'd diet so if they need to loose weight you will have to adjust their daily feeding schedule accordingly to account of the extra calories. You also want ot make sure you are purchasing the correct size chew for your size of pet. If a large dog gets a small dog treat they could swallow it whole or choke on pieces. This could lead to major issues in the long run and decrease in benefits, because they are not chewing it! I also recommend that you never leave pets alone with chews so you can make sure they are not swallowing small pieces and are chewing it appropriately. Overall thought, many pets really love this options to help keep their mouth healthy.

Prescription diets can also help with oral health (Image Source)

(Image Source)

There are also prescription diets that help with oral health. These include Hill's Prescription T/D and Royal Canin Dental Diet. The T/D diet has a unique kibble shape and delicious taste that promotes crunching the food and breaking down tartar. Some dogs love it so much, they think it is a treat! In fact we use this in the office as a special treat. The Royal Canin Diet is also a hard kibble that helps break down tartar but is also states it helps with digestive health.

Our pets still may need a dental cleaning, but with regular oral care at home hopefully those will occur much less!
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Sometimes despite our best efforts, our pets still need to have a dental cleaning performed. This is done under general anesthesia. During this time we will clean all the teeth and also probe them to assess their overall health. If any extractions are needed they can be be formed at the same time. Once the dental cleaning is done, then you have a clean slate to start one or all of the above oral health care options.

As you can imagine it would be difficult to eat with this much tartar on your teeth, and would probably not smell very good either. (Image Source)
Again, it cannot be stressed enough how important maintaining a health mouth is for a pets. With the plaque and tartar comes not only bad breathe, but also bacteria. This bacteria can lead to issues throughout other body systems including the heart and kidneys. It is extremely important to start instituting some form of health care at home for your pet. If you need ideas or any suggestions on products you can look for the VOHC (veterinary oral health council) seal. This means that the product has been studied and the claims they make on the label are verified. It is a great place to start to get ideas to keep your pet's mouth happy and healthy. You can visit their website here.