Monday, March 31, 2014

Weight loss success for Toby!

Losing weight is hard.  It is hard for us and it's really hard for our pets. Given that fact, I am very excited to report a weight loss success story! Toby is a 3-year-old Greater Swiss Mountain dog that I have been seeing since she was a tiny puppy.  Last spring at her annual exam Toby’s owner and I discussed that she had gained quite a bit of weight over the winter.  She was weighing in at 129 pounds and on physical exam she was quite chunky.  She was eating an adult formulation of dry food at the correct amount for her body weight.  We decided to switch her to a light formula and increase her activity.

Toby came back in 6 months for a recheck and had only lost 2 pounds.  At this point we switched to Hill’s Prescription Metabolic food and enrolled her in the Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol.  Hill’s created this online program with University of Tennessee to establish a better system for evaluating body fat in overweight animals.  The Metabolic diet was designed using nutrigenomics to affect gene expression by working with the animal’s metabolism for more effective weight loss.
Click on picture for full image

We started by taking a few measurements and plugging it into the online program which then told me that based on her breed, body measurements and weight Toby’s body fat index was 43% and her ideal weight was 90 pounds. Toby was allowed to eat 1 can and 31/4 cups dry Metabolic prescription food per day.  This was a lot more than the 2 cups daily she was allowed on the adult light food.  Her owner reported that she loved the food and we were off and running.

After eating the Hill’s Metabolic for 6 month I am thrilled to report that Toby is down to 112 pounds.  That is a loss of 15 pounds!  We are going to keep going and try to get down to about 100 pounds, which I think will be ideal for her.  Once she reaches her target weight we can continue feeding Metabolic and Toby get even more food each day to maintain her ideal weight.  I don’t know many dogs or people who would turn down that deal!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Diabetes in cats - Izzy's story

Izzy is an 8-year-old kitty who came to see me because her owner noticed over the past month she had been drinking and urinating much more than normal. Overall she is a healthy, middle-aged cat with no previous medical issues. Her physical exam was unremarkable but she had lost a little over half a pound since her visit last year.  Additionally, a few months ago she had been given an injection of a steroid by a veterinarian at another hospital to help with a superficial skin infection.

There are many causes of increased thirst and urination, a condition technically called polydyspia and polyuria. We submitted blood and urine to look for underlying causes such as chronic kidney disease or a urinary tract infection.  Izzy’s results came back showing she had a significantly elevated blood glucose level and glucose in her urine. These two concurrent results are diagnostic for diabetes mellitus.  Other signs of diabetes in cats other than increased thirst and urination are weight loss, changes in liver function and hind limb weakness.

Diabetes in cats is similar to Type 2 diabetes in humans. The pancreas does not produce enough insulin in response to a meal resulting in elevated blood glucose levels. In addition, the insulin that is produced is not utilized correctly to process blood sugar.  The major cause of diabetes in cats is obesity, which is made worse by inactivity and excessive dietary carbohydrates.  In Izzy’s case she is not overweight but the steroid injection could have affected her ability to produce insulin resulting in diabetes.  It is unusual and unfortunate that she developed diabetes after just one steroid injection.

Once we had a diagnosis of diabetes, we needed to start Izzy on twice daily insulin injections and adjust her diet. After she had been on insulin for a week we performed a blood glucose curve to assess how she was responding to treatment. This means her owner checked her blood glucose with a machine called a glucometer, every four hours for a twelve-hour time span.  Izzy’s owner is amazing, she tackled both the daily and injections and at home curves with ease. 

We started Izzy on insulin and planned the first curve a week later.  This would give her body time to get used to the insulin and start balancing out her blood sugar.  Her first curve showed that the insulin barely changed her blood sugar at all so we gave just a touch more.  We have to be careful not to give too much insulin as this can cause her blood sugar to go to low (hypoglycemia) resulting in neurologic issues such as vomiting, decreased appetite, weakness, stumbling and seizures.  It took us about six weeks to get it right, after each blood glucose curve we would gradually increase the insulin and check a curve a week later.

Izzy is now a well-regulated diabetic, happily eating Hill’s Prescription M/D diet.  It is important to implement a diet change to help better manage diabetes in cats. Unlike people and dogs, cats are obligate carnivores. This affects how they process nutrients in many ways, one of which is that they are not well equipped to metabolize an excess of dietary carbohydrates. The M/D diet is high in protein and low in carbohydrates, specifically designed for diabetic kitties to help better regulate their blood sugar.

Diabetes is a difficult disease for pet owners, it is expensive to treat and requires a unique dedication to your pet.  Cats have a finicky pancreas and can develop complications from their diabetes without warning.  Owners like Izzy’s mom deserve recognition for all their hard work and devotion to their pet’s health.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cardiology - Dr. Keith Blass

We all know that our pets have huge hearts filled with unconditional love--but what does it mean when your veterinarian tells you your pet has a heart murmur?

It could mean nothing or it could indicate that there is heart disease present. The only way to know is with an ultrasound of the heart called an echocardiogram. This procedure takes around 30 minutes and is done by a board certified cardiologist. Usually sedation is not necessary and you are with your pet the entire time. The doctor will image the heart and see if there is disease present such as thickening of the heart wall or abnormalities with the valves.

Image of echocardiogram

I often have people ask me “even if there is something wrong what are we going to do about it anyway?” While heart surgery is not commonly performed on animals, we can treat with medications that will help the heart work better and prolong your pet’s quality of life.

Dr. Keith Blass is our cardiologist here at Friendship, joining the team in September of 2013.  Dr. Blass graduated from Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine and completed an internship at University of Pennsylvania's College of Veterinary Medicine.  He then went on to a three year cardiology residency at The Ohio State University.  We are very happy to have him provide this critical service to our patients in need.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fashion for Paws 2014!

Spring is finally here! That means it is time for the dogs of DC to get ready to strut down the catwalk for the 8th annual Fashion for Paws Runway Show on April 12th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.  Last year my Labradoodle Frank and I had a great time walking the runway and were thrilled to raise over $17,000.  Since its inception Fashion for Paws has raised more than three million dollars for the Washington Humane Society (WHS).

All proceeds from the event benefit the nearly 43,000 lost, abused and neglected animals WHS cares for every year need your help.  Friendship often provides emergency care for the animals of WHS and I have personally treated many of the animals WHS Humane Law Enforcement Officers have brought in for treatment.  I also volunteer at the monthly CatNiPP spay/neuter clinic for feral cats.  This has given me a first-hand view into the critical work that WHS provides for the animals and people of our community.

Here is an example of how your donation can directly improve the lives of animals in our community:

$35- Provides microchips for 6 animals
$50- Covers costs to spay or neuter a stray animal
$75- Buys 50 cat scratching posts
 for shelter kitties to play with
$100- Buys 10 Kong Dog toys for shelter pups to play with
$150- Pays for the average cost of one homeless animal's stay
$250- Helps fund medical examinations for 2 rescued animals
$500- Helps WHS Officers conduct a cruelty inspection
$1,000- Helps provide Heartworm tests for 150 animals

If you would like to support Frank in his dreams of runway domination there are many ways to get involved.  You can purchase a ticket to the event or make a direct donation by visiting my fundraising website.

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Puppy Necessities

If you are thinking about bringing a dog into your family it can be absolutely overwhelming – and that is before your new friend steps one paw inside.  Here is a checklist of a few things you may not have thought of to have in place before you bring Puppy home:

  • Books – you may think you know how to raise a puppy into a well-behaved, happy dog but a little extra research never hurts.  The best comprehensive book for new puppy owners is Puppy’s First Steps by the Faculty at Tufts University Vet School.  Another favorite of mine is Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Dr. Sophia Yin.  This is a fun read with lots of pictures and step-by-step instructions.  Finally my new favorite book on dogs is the just released Decoding Your Dog by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.  I think that ALL dog owners should read this book to help strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.

  • A crate – In addition to the actual crate, you also need an understanding of how crate training works and why it is so important to housetraining your new dog.  You want a crate that is small enough so your dog can’t sleep in one corner and eliminate in another.  If your puppy is going to grow the crate will often come with a divider to help customize the size.  You also want a cozy bed to go into the crate to keep Puppy comfortable. 

  • A plan – The first three months of a dog’s life are called the critical socialization period.  This is where sociability outweighs fear and is the best time to get your puppy to adapt to new people, places and other dogs.  If puppies are not properly socialized this can lead to behavior problems down the road.  You don’t want to head off to the dog park as you won’t know the health status of the dogs there and your puppy could be exposed to dangerous diseases and icky parasites.  Instead, find a puppy class to attend as soon as you can to help get your dog started off on the right paw.  For more information on this please read the AVSAB Position Statement.

  • Puppy food – You need a food that is designed for growing puppies.  If you have a large breed puppy it is important to feed a large breed puppy food to ensure that the balance of nutrients is appropriate.  Many of the dog foods out there are actually dangerous, with super high protein levels and calcium phosphorus ratios that result in rapid bone growth.  When Puppy’s bones grow faster than they should, joint development is altered resulting in arthritis down the road.   

  • Toys – This is the fun part!  Puppy should have a variety of toys to satisfy his need to chew as well as stimulate his mind.  A Kong is essential for any dog as it is the only toy I would feel comfortable leaving alone with puppy in the crate. Plush toys and those made of softer rubber can be easily chewed up and swallowed resulting in an intestinal obstruction. You want to stuff the Kong with tasty treats and put it in the crate with puppy when you leave so he will associate the crate with happy things.  When you are home and can supervise Puppy’s playing my favorite toys are those that make him think a bit.  Two of the best are the BusyBuddy Waggle or Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball.
Interested in more puppy information?  Visit for all your puppy questions.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Friendship steps up to help out DC’s inured Snowy Owl

Last week two police officers rescued an injured Snowy Owl they found at 14th and K Streets after she was thought to have been hit by a Metrobus.  Initially she was brought into the National Zoo and examined by one of the staff veterinarians there before being placed in the care of DC’s only wildlife rehabilitation center City Wildlife.  Once at City Wildlife they collected blood to assess her general health and submitted a DNA to determine the sex - turns out she is a girl!

City Wildlife also wanted to take x-rays to confirm suspicion of a broken toe as well as take full body x-rays to look for any other abnormalities.   Unfortunately they didn’t have access to an x-ray machine – until Saturday when Friendship offered to let them use ours.  She was brought in and whisked back to x-ray where they were able to perform the necessary tests. 

The owl at Friendship waiting for her x-rays
City Wildlife reports that she is doing well and acting much more like an owl.  She has started eating and seems much more bright, alert and responsive.  Thankfully we have an organization like City Wildlife available to help out the wild animals who live among us here in DC.  They opened their doors less than a year ago and have been critical in caring for orphaned or injured birds, mammals and reptiles.  From the majestic Snowy Owl to the tiniest hummingbird we are luck to have City Wildlife caring for these animals!

In other news Friendship kicks off out free lecture series next week at the Tenly-Friendship Library.  Here is a list of upcoming dates and topics:

February 10th –Veterinary Toxicology

Dr. Kimberly Schultz will discuss common household items, foods and plants that can be toxic to your dog or cat and what effects they may have.  Learn how ingesting these items can alter your pet’s organ functions, and what kind of veterinary care you should seek.

March 17th – Managing Your Pet’s Lumps and Bumps

Dr. Dana Kuehn will talk about different types of lumps and bumps common in dogs and cats.  She will discuss diagnostic testing that can be performed, as well as the treatment options available.

April 21st – Canine behavior, Training and Enrichment

I will present a lecture on how to be your dog’s best friend!  From getting started early with proper training techniques, to engaging in activities that will challenge them both physically and mentally – come learn how to give your dog an enriched and happy life!

May 19th – Veterinary Oncology

Dr. Chand Khanna and Dr. Courtney Mallett will discuss the goal of The Oncology Service – to preserve, lengthen and improve the quality of life for dogs and cats that are afflicted with cancer.  Dr. Khanna travels the world giving lectures on cancer in our pets, this one is not to be missed!

June 16th – Pet Allergies and Common Skin Conditions

Dr. Nicole Cohen and Dr. Schuyler Matthiesen will present a lecture on common pet allergies and how to care for them.  From Spring and Fall allergies, to the persistent hot spots, join us for an overview on managing allergies and common skin conditions.

September 15th – Caring for Your Senior Pet

Dr. Lynn Logan and Dr. Becky Bolch will discuss how to care for your pets, as they enter into their senior years.  They will cover topics ranging from managing mobility to altering lifestyle and diet.  Join us for this talk about how to enhance your pet’s quality of life as they get older.

If you have any topics that you would like to see in upcoming lectures please post below in the comments.  We hope you can join us!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Volunteering for WHS

This month I accomplished something I have wanted to do for quite some time; volunteer at the Washington Humane Society’s Cat NeighborhoodPartnership Program (CatNiPP) monthly spay/neuter clinic.  This WHS program provides care for the thousands of stray and abandoned cats in our community.  Known as feral because they are not socialized to humans and unable to be adopted into a home, these cats separate themselves into groups called a colony.  Volunteer caregivers provide food, water and shelter for these often forgotten animals. 

The caregivers humanely trap the cats and bring them into the National Capital Area Spay and Neuter Center one Sunday a month.  The cats are sterilized under anesthesia by volunteer veterinarians then vaccinated and treated for fleas.  Additionally each cat’s left ear is tipped which is an indication that this cat is part of a colony and has been spayed or neutered.  Once the cats have recovered fully they are released back into their same colony.

CatNiPP is a critical program to humanely reduce the population of feral cats by spaying and neutering them so they cannot reproduce and make more feral cats.  Even with these efforts there are still too many kittens being born but these tiny helpless babies are not left out to fend for themselves and repeat the cycle.  CatNiPP will collect them and care for them until they are old enough to be adopted into indoor homes with a family that will love them. 

This month we treated about thirty cats, although I hear that by the end of last year they were helping around seventy each month.  I learned a new surgical technique for cat spays which was exciting for me and I got to make things a little better for a few kitties who have a pretty tough life.  I am already looking forward to next month’s clinic.  For more information please visit CatNiPP’s website