Thursday, May 21, 2009

Poppy's Final Puppy Visit

Poppy has her last official puppy visit last night. I gave her a final distemper/parvo booster and her rabies vaccine, these will now be good for 1 year. I am happy to report that she is feeling fine this morning and did not develop any signs of a vaccine reaction. In addition, we drew pre-anesthestic bloodwork for her spay surgery that I will perform in July. We will also attend our last puppy elementary class tonight. For a moment I was feeling like she was all grown up, until I noticed her enthusiastically gnawing on one of my shoes...

As a final word on the much debated topic of vaccination I would like to stress the importance of keeping your pet up to date on the rabies vaccine. This applies to both cats and dogs, even if your kitty never visits the great outdoors. Apart from the fact that rabies is one hundred percent fatal and required by law consider this: if for whatever reason your pet bites someone and they are not current on their vaccine, that person can demand that your pet be euthanized for rabies testing. I have had people say "my pet would never bite anyone" and for the most part I am sure that is true, until something happens where the pet is painful and ends up biting someone unintentionally. My point is, you never know what is going to happen and the potential consequences for an unvaccinated rabies suspect are so dire that keeping your pet up to date is incredibly important.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Too Many Vaccines?

A woman from Australia posted a lengthy comment regarding my post about vaccine reactions on Thursday, May 14th. She makes many interesting points and after I got over my initial delight that someone on the other side of the world is reading my blog I decided to post an entry with my opinion on the topic of over-vaccination of dogs and cats. Below is Friendship’s official statement on this issue:

The decision to vaccinate your dog is not one the doctors at Friendship make lightly. There has been much debate over the risks and benefits associated with vaccination over the last decade. There is no doubt that vaccines have played a significant role in enabling people and animals to live longer and healthier lives in this world filled with microbial pathogens. Yet, as the risks of some infectious diseases have been reduced more attention has been focused on the risks of vaccination in both human and veterinary medicine. Adverse effects, including some that are potentially serious, can be unintended consequences of vaccination. These reactions are fortunately rare, but are unpredictable. The reported incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines varies. Despite this, it is safe to say less than 1% of vaccinated pets experience an adverse reaction. Not vaccinating for fear of an adverse effect is not the answer. As vaccination in the general population wanes, re-emergence of these diseases is certain and the diseases we do vaccinate against are very serious or even fatal. There has been a benefit of this focus on adverse effects; increased research into vaccine safely, efficacy and duration of immunity. Using the information generated by these studies, vaccines and vaccine protocols can be made safer for our furry family members.

The short answer to this controversial issue is we don’t definitively know the length of protection offered by any given vaccine. Some may offer lifelong immunity while others such as the Leptospirosis vaccine are thought to protect for less than one year. Vaccine protocols are something we spend quite a bit of time discussing at Friendship to ensure we are recommending the best course of preventative medicine for our patients. We were ahead of the curve and went to a three year vaccination schedule before the drug companies produced a product specifically labeled for administration every three years.

In addition, we make every effort to inform our clients of the facts associated with vaccinating their pets. Before I give vaccines I always discuss the possibility of a reaction and advise my clients on the clinical signs to look for. We also take time at Friendship to discuss the patient’s lifestyle with their owner. If it is an indoor only cat then the feline leukemia vaccine is unnecessary. If the dog never goes to the kennel or groomers then a Bordetella vaccine is probably not needed. Another way to decrease the chance of vaccine reactions is to only administer one vaccine at each visit. Clients usually do not choose to do this as it is more expensive and requires multiple trips to the hospital which may cause unnecessary stress for their pet.

I encourage clients discuss vaccine protocols with their veterinarian so they can be informed and confident that they are providing their pets the best possible care. This topic is currently undergoing further scientific investigation in veterinary research as well as by drug companies and it will continue to evolve so that we may understand how to best protect our pets. The ultimate goal of veterinarians and owners must be to work together in order to give our furry pals a long, happy and healthy life.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vaccine reactions

I heard that this week two of Poppy’s litter mates have become sick after their vaccines, so I thought this would be a good time to broach the subject of vaccine reactions.

The good news is that vaccine reactions are very rare, it is safe to say less than one percent of vaccinated pets experience an adverse reaction. Not vaccinating for fear of an adverse effect is not the answer. As vaccination in the general population wanes, re-emergence of these diseases is certain and the diseases we do vaccinate against are very serious or even fatal. There has been a benefit of this focus on adverse effects; increased research into vaccine safely, efficacy and duration of immunity. Vaccinations protect our pets from many potentially fatal diseases, and their benefits far outweigh the small risk of a vaccine reaction.

After their vaccination, mAfter a vaccany pets will act tired and have a decreased appetite; some will even have muscle soreness or a mild fever. As long as this resolves within 24 hours treatment is not necessary.

When vaccine reactions do occur, they can be unpredictable and manifest in many different ways. Very infrequently we see a pet have an allergic reaction to the vaccine with clinical signs such as facial swelling, hives, excessive itchiness, weakness, difficulty breathing, pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea and extreme lethargy. If a dog or cat develops any of these symptoms they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. In most cases the patient will respond quickly to treatment with an anti-inflammatory and an anti-histamine as well as supportive care with intravenous fluids. Once this happens the pet should always be given an injection of an anti-histamine like Benedryl, before vaccination and monitored very closely afterwards.

Poppy’s littermates were not vaccinated or treated at Friendship, but from what I was told they developed extreme lethargy, decreased appetite, high fever and joint pain. The joint pain is a somewhat unusual presentation for a vaccine reaction but what I believe happened is that for some unknown reason the puppies’ immune system created an inflammatory response to the vaccine which resulted in localization of immune complexes in the joints causing pain. They were treated with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as Rimadyl, as well as Doxycycline, in case the illness was related to an infectious disease. While Doxycycline is an antibiotic, it also has anti-inflammatory properties which would help make the puppies feel better.

Thankfully, all of the puppies have made a full recovery and are lucky to have such attentive owners. The puppies’ potential for vaccine reactions is something their owners will have to be aware of for the rest of the dogs’ lives. In the future, before each vaccination, pre-treated with anti-histamine should prevent a reaction.

While all vaccine reactions are an unfortunate complication, it’s crucial to bear in mind that the benefit of preventing potentially fatal diseases far outweighs the minimal risk of a reaction. The puppies must also stay on the schedule of vaccines every three to four weeks to help prevent diseases such as parvovirus. Poppy will be given her final set of vaccines next week and I will be watching her very closely for any signs of adverse reaction.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Friendship's Biggest Loser Contest

In an effort to combat obesity in our patients Friendship is starting a Biggest Loser competition. We will have monthly weigh-ins with prizes for each weight loss goal your pet achieves. If you have been trying to get your furry pal to drop a few pounds we hope this will help to inspire you as well as create a support system. If you have any questions about weight loss for your pet or would like to join the competition please let us know.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 42% of dogs and 53% of cats in America are overweight. What’s worse is that an additional 10% of dogs and 19% of cats are considered obese. This means that over 50% of dogs and nearly 75% of cats are at increased risk for diseases such as arthritis and diabetes that may be preventable. And if that’s not enough to get you motivated, consider this: one study found that dogs kept at a healthy weight live on average two years longer than their overweight counterparts!

The best strategy for keeping your pet slim is to prevent weight gain in the first place. Never free feed. Instead, always measure out the amount of food you offer your pet. Also try to limit the treats you give to 10% of your pet’s diet. Feeding table scraps is strongly frowned upon. Give too many table scraps and your dog may end up with diarrhea or pancreatitis which can result in a hospital stay. Your pets already love you unconditionally; giving them treats doesn’t make them love you more.
If your pet is already carrying around a few extra pounds there is plenty we can do. First, bring your pet in to see us, so we can rule out any underlying diseases and discuss a weight loss plan. Now with indoor kitties that spend most of their time lounging about it can be difficult to get their weight down but it is possible. There are prescription diets to try and we’ve got great suggestions for giving your pet more exercise. I know helping your dog or cat lose weight can be a daunting task, but the extra years you could have with your pet are definitely worth it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Keeping Poppy away from toxins

Poppy is doing great; I cannot believe how big she is already. We are headed to puppy elementary school tonight so she can play with bigger and older puppies. Last week at kindergarten she was playing a little too roughly with the other puppies. The photos posted below are from last week’s kindergarten as well as Poppy playing with Sparkle and Lilly. As I watch her tear around my house chewing and eating everything in site I thought it would be a good time to cover the common household toxins dogs can get into.

Everyone knows that chocolate and dogs do not mix. The most dangerous types of chocolate are bakers and dark as they have the highest amount of cacao. Milk chocolate is mostly cream and sugar and usually doesn’t cause any problems unless consumed in mass quantities. If your dog does get into the candy stash you should bring them in immediately so we can induce vomiting. Having them vomit eliminates as much chocolate as possible from their system, and then a does of activated charcoal usually can absorb the rest. Signs of chocolate toxicity include agitation, hyper-excitability, increased heart rate, seizures and death. I will say that with treatment it is very rare to see a dog die from chocolate toxicity.

Another common one we see at Friendship is grape and raisin ingestion which can cause kidney failure. This one is a little confusing as it varies on the individual dog as to how many grapes or raisins must be ingested to cause toxicity. Again you should bring them in for us to induce vomiting and empty their stomach. We then recommend that they stay in the hospital on intravenous fluids for 48-72 hours while we monitor kidney values. This flushes out the kidneys and hopefully prevents any toxin accumulation. The scary thing with kidney disease is that once damage occurs it cannot be reversed.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in most sugarless gums and causes low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. Why a box of minty gum is an attractive thing to a dog I do not know but frequently we have a dog come in that vomits up the entire pack with wrappers still on each piece. This also requires hospitalization so we can closely monitor the blood glucose and liver values. If any changes are noted we can then address them with fluids and medications.

Prescription drugs for animals and humans can also be dangerous. Rimadyl is an anti-inflammatory for dogs and comes in a convenient flavored tablet. Some dogs find this medication so tasty they will jump on the counter and eat the entire bottle which can result in kidney and/or liver failure. Many over the counter medications such as Advil, Tylenol, Aleive and Sudafed to name a few can also be dangerous. If your dog ingests any medication, in any amount you should either call ASPCA poison control immediately or seek veterinary care.

The toxins listed above are only a brief overview of the many household dangers your furry pal can get into. It is important to keep dangerous substances away from pets in drawers or cabinets and to watch your dog at all times. I find with Poppy if there is a way for her to eat or chew on something she shouldn’t she always tries her best to get to it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dental Health

I recently saw a ten year old cat on exam that had dental disease so severely a large abscess had formed over his cheek from his decaying teeth that encompasses the entire right side of his face. I thought it was once again important to stress the necessity of proper dental health for our pets.

Dental disease is one of the most common disorders diagnosed on wellness exams. It is estimated that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of 3 year old suffer from some degree of periodontal disease. While a dental cleaning results in whiter teeth and fresh breath, the main benefit is to your pet’s overall health. Consider this: every time your pet chews bacteria is showered into the bloodstream. This then lodges in the kidneys, liver, lungs and heart causing damage and disease. In addition, open fractures, feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions, tooth root abscesses and worn teeth are painful and can act as a constant source of discomfort for your pet.

Rather than wait for a problem to develop, it is best to perform a dental cleaning when only mild gingivitis and/or tartar are present. This will maintain good dental health and prevent disease before it becomes a problem, which results in saving you money and more importantly keeping your pet as healthy as possible.

I realize a dental cleaning is not only expensive but it can be scary to put your pet under anesthesia. While anesthesia is daunting, at Friendship we do everything we can to make it as safe as possible with aggressive monitoring while your pet is under anesthesia. At Friendship we are convinced that the low risk of anesthetic complications is far outweighed by the benefits of good dental health. After continuously seeing the many complications that can arise from poor dental health I have regular dental cleanings done on all my dogs, the cats don’t need it quite yet.
After your dental cleaning we will work with you to keep your pets teeth healthy and prevent tartar buildup. Schedule a dental cleaning and start enjoying those doggie kisses again.