Thursday, December 30, 2010

Annual exams in 2011

As we welcome in 2011 now is a good time to make sure your pets are up to date on vaccines and check when their next annual exam is due.  Regardless of age all pets should see a veterinarian every year for an exam.  At this appointment we will perform a complete physical exam that includes:
  • ·      Evaluating your pet’s teeth to look for dental disease
  • ·      Listening for a heart murmur which could indicate underlying heart disease
  • ·      Assessing weight and body condition
  • ·      Manipulating joints to check for arthritis

Based on the results of the exam and the history you give us we can discuss recommendations to keep your pet as happy and healthy as possible. 

Dogs and cats over the age of nine are considered seniors and for these guys we recommend that owners have a complete blood count (CBC), chemistry panel and urinalysis performed yearly as part of their senior pet’s wellness exam. These tests not only alert us to diseases that may already be present but also serve as a base line for problems that may occur in the future.

I often find that people will decline, and instead opt to wait, reasoning that “Fluffy seems healthy, I’m not concerned”. I know it is expensive and more often than not everything is normal, but if we catch something early then perhaps we can start treatment now before it becomes a problem.

One pet that recently benefited from early detection is Sox, a perfectly healthy-seeming 10-year-old cat whose owners elected to do senior blood work during his annual exam. We found mild elevations in kidney values accompanied by dilute urine indicating decrease in kidney function. Since this was caught early we can switch Sox’s diet and start medications to protect the remaining kidney function that is present.

Catching diseases we can manage or treat early will ultimately lead to a longer and healthier life for your pet, which is what we all want.

Happy New Year and best wishes for a wonderful 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Santa Paws for WHS

Frank and I attended a lovely Fashion for Paws event last night at Vineyard Vines in Georgetown.  Guests enjoyed cocktails and sweet treats while shopping and posing for pictures with Santa.  Vineyard Vines was kind enough to offer a discount to shoppers as well as donate ten percent of revenue from the night to the Washington Humane Society.  I was also able to pick up a Fashion for Paws Super Model Calender featuring Sparkle for the month of July.  After mingling last night Frank is very excited for his runway debut at Fashion for Paws in April.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Dangers

The holidays are here and everyone’s favorite time of the year has many hidden dangers for our pets.

Christmas Tree
The Christmas Tree itself is not really a problem but how we decorate it can be deadly to dogs and cats.  Tinsel and ribbon on presents are a favorite for kitties to chew on and if ingested can created what is called a linear foreign body.  This occurrence is usually considered a surgical emergency as the intestines can perforate rapidly causing a systemic bacterial infection and possibly death.  It can also be dangerous if your curious dog or cat chews on the cord of the Christmas Tree lights resulting in an electric burn or nasty shock.  Ornaments are an enticing, dangling foreign body just waiting to happen.   It is common to use chemicals in the tree water to preserve the life of the tree.  If you have pets in the house it is usually best to stick to sugar water and try to prevent them from drinking it.

Lilies and other plants
Lilies of any kind are extremely dangerous for cats as even a tiny amount of a leaf or petal can quickly result in kidney failure.  Other common holiday plants such as Christmas cactus, English Holly, Paper Whites or Amaryllis are also toxic so please be careful.  Poinsettias and American Mistletoe can cause stomach upset but are not considered deadly if ingested.  If you receive a plant as a gift or plan on giving something to a cat owner please visit the ASPCA Poison Control website and make sure it is not toxic to cats.

Photos Courtesy of ASPCA Website

Fruit cake
I’m not sure if anyone actually gives out Fruit Cake anymore but this or any other holiday treat with raisins or currents may cause kidney failure if ingested by a dog.

A few years ago I had a client bring in her Labrador after he ate all the chocolates she had left in her children’s shoes as a traditional gift for Saint Nicholas.  Chocolate candy and baking with chocolate are everywhere this time of year.  Keep an eye on your dog and make sure he doesn’t enjoy these treats with you.  Dark, bittersweet or bakers chocolate are the most dangerous and always warrant a trip to the veterinarian.

Table scraps
Whether you give your dog table scraps or he helps himself to the trash, fatty meats or bones can cause serious gastrointestinal upset.  Keep treats to a minimum and stick to lean meats or vegetables such as carrots or green beans.

House Guests
With a house full of family or friends your pet may have access to substances that are not normally around.  Many over the counter and prescription drugs are toxic to dogs and cats.  Sugar-free gum made with Xylitol can cause liver disease, low blood sugar and seizures.  Make sure houseguests keep these safely out of reach.

I hope these tips help you and your pets enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yappy Hour - Success!

Photos courtesy of James Robertson

This past weekend Friendship and Happy Paws hosted our first Yappy Hour at Pete’s Apizza.  I was thrilled when more than seventy people turned up with their dogs to enjoy a slice of pizza and the wonderful fall weather. 

For a small donation to Friendship’s Fund for Humane Education attendees were given a Friendship tote bag filled with goodies and a chance to win a Friendship gift card or a play day with sleepover at Happy Paws. We collected nearly $500 in donations to the Fund, which serves to support WARL in educating area children about proper treatment and care of animals.  I had a great time catching up with Friendship clients outside of the hospital and I got to see many of my Polite Puppies participants.  It was a wonderful afternoon and there will definitely be more Yappy Hours to come!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A cautionary tale of chocolate toxicity for Halloween

With Halloween this weekend and the holiday season just around the corner everyone will have more candy around the house than usual which is an invitation for curious pups to steal a snack.  I am using Sparkle and Lilly as an example for what can happen if your dog eats too much chocolate.  This scenario is not at all far fetched and in fact I am surprised it has never happened.

Sparkle and Lilly came in to Friendship after breaking into the Halloween candy stash one afternoon.  Milk chocolate, which consists mostly of cream and sugar, is generally not a huge concern unless massive amounts are consumed but dark chocolate is another story.  Among other treats there was a bag of dark chocolate M&M’s missing and we were not sure how much each dog consumed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spay and Neuter!!!

If there’s one topic that I’m extremely passionate about, it’s the importance of getting our pets spayed or neutered. I can’t stress enough how much this matters. Just the other day, a good friend of mine from veterinary school who practices in South Florida sent me the following statistics:

Miami Dade Animal Services statistics for fiscal year (October 1st- Sept 30th). 

Intake: 35,924 (465 were diseased pets and 1,149 were owner requests euthanasia)

Adopted: 8,334 
Euthanized: 20,113
Rescue: 4,074 
Returned to owners: 1,534

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Keep on with those preventatives

Even though the weather is cooling down and fall has arrived you must still be vigilant in using monthly heartworm, flea and tick prevention for your pets. I recommend that owners use these once monthly medications year round because here in DC mosquitoes, fleas and ticks are just waiting for a warm day to emerge and attack our dogs and cats.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It is official, I might be truly crazy

If anyone out there thought I was insane before with all the animals I have please let me solidify this feeling with the announcement of my new puppy -- Frank!  I did not seek out a new addition to my already full house but I have been thinking for some time that Poppy would enjoy a larger dog to play with as her version of play with the Lilly, Sparkle and the cats really amounts to torture for them.

Out of the blue a ten week old labradoodle puppy needed a home and I knew he would be the perfect fit for me.  I brought Frank home Tuesday night and he and Poppy have not stopped playing since.  I have never seen her interact this way with another dog before and it makes me so happy that they have found each other.  As for the other animals, the cats really couldn't care less and the little dogs are happy to play with him on their terms.  This mean five minutes of play before they get bored and jump up on the sofa to avoid him.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Behavior modification - how you should be training your dog

The Polite Puppies at Happy Paws
This past Sunday marked the sixth month of Polite Puppy classes we have held at Happy Paws.  After speaking about behavior modification with the new puppy owners I thought I would repost this article to remind everyone how they should be training their dogs.  I initially wrote this post after attending a lecture given by veterinary behavior guru Dr. Karen Overall. Though Dr. Overall is clearly an expert in behavioral medicine, what truly struck me was her obvious love of dogs and commitment to strengthening the relationship we have with our pets.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kennel cough - oh no!!

Poppy and Lilly have been coughing like crazy for the past few days.  At first I unsuccessfully tried to ignore it but now that is hasn’t gone away, I have had to diagnose them with kennel cough.  I thought this would be a timely opportunity to review what exactly the term “kennel cough” means.

“Kennel cough” is a collective term for a highly contagious group of viruses and bacteria.  These unpleasant microbes cause irritation in the upper respiratory tract leading to coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, nasal discharge, lethargy, decreased appetite and fever.  At this point my dogs only have a nasty cough.  They do not have a fever and are otherwise eating and acting normal. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What you should know about anesthesia

Pet owners often become very nervous when I recommend a procedure that requires general anesthesia, be it a dental cleaning or removal of a mass. Though anesthesia can seem scary, at Friendship we make it as safe as possible. We take special care to ensure we are providing our patients the gold standard of care. I am very proud of our anesthetic protocols. If your pet needs surgery, but you're not able to come to Friendship, please use the following as a benchmark for state-of-the-art care.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Happy September!  I apologize for my recent lack of posting but I took a little summer vacation from blogging during August.  I am very excited to report on my fall project with Poppy – agility class!

Agility is a sport in which you guide your dog over a variety of obstacles while being judged for time and accuracy.  It is a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog while stimulating them mentally.  Many high-energy breeds like border collies and Australian shepherds are much happier when they have a job to do.  Running around an agility course expels excess energy while looking to you for commands on where to go challenges them mentally.

So far we have been having fun at class and I think Poppy is starting to get the hang of it.  It is also entirely possible the she is tolerating the agility part so she can get an unlimited amount of cut-up hot dog bits.  We have a long way to go before we actually compete in an event but working together is what's important.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cancer in our companion animals

A diagnosis of cancer in any loved one is always heartbreaking and our pets are no exception. When discussing the possibility of cancer in one of my patients I will often hear owners say, “I didn’t know dogs could get cancer.” Unfortunately they can and it happens all too often, one in four dogs over the age of two will be diagnosed with some type of cancer.

Now that you know it is possible for your beloved pet to be afflicted with cancer what can you do about it? It is impossible to prevent cancer from occurring but you can take steps to catch any abnormalities as soon as possible. You should check your dog or cat frequently for any new lumps or bumps that might appear.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Leptospirosis awareness

Listen to my interview with WAMU

With the warm weather and rainy days ahead you should be aware of a relatively unknown and quite nasty bacterial disease called Leptospirosis. We do have a vaccine to protect against Lepto but it is not considered a "core" vaccine and many dog owners are unaware of it's existence.
(photo courtesy of Rebecca Sheir, WAMU)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Common Kitty Diseases

There are a few common diseases that afflict middle aged to senior cats that I will discuss today. These diseases are interesting in that they can present with almost identical clinical signs such as increased thirst and urination, vomiting, and weight loss. These diseases can be detected early with routine senior bloodwork and be managed very effectively. I am speaking about chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and diabetes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The horrors of puppy mills

I am sure you’ve heard the term puppy mill, but you may not be aware of the true horror associated with it. A puppy mill is a commercial mass-breeding facility that produces multiple litters from different breeds of dogs. Their goal is to produce the greatest possible quantity of “product”--puppies--to sell to pet stores or directly to consumers via Internet and newspaper ads.
In puppy mills the dogs are housed in wire-mesh cages, often stacked on top of one another to maximize space. Because these enclosures are as small as possible, the dogs must sit in their own excrement. There are no beds or towels to provide any comfort for the dogs. The animals are rarely allowed out of their cages, and are forced to spend their entire lives cramped in these tiny, filthy spaces.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Surprising summertime dangers for pets

Heat stroke is by far the most common summertime danger for our pets but there are a few other things you should be aware of during the warm months.

Cookouts are surprising source of danger for your dog. Any respectable chowhound will spend a fair amount of time searching for a tasty morsel. Chicken and rib bones are usually digestible but often cause a nasty case of pancreatitis due to a very high fat content. The pancreas is a gland that lives near the stomach and gets very angry when exposed to a high fat diet. This results in severe abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea that usually require medical attention

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"How to be Your Dog's Best Friend" at DC's West End Library

I am very excited to be speaking as part of the “How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend” panel at the DC West End Public Library tomorrow evening. I have posted a preview of the topics I plan on covering, each one of these is a vital component of wellness care for your dog.

1. Vaccine recommendations

It is very important to make sure your pets are up to date on their vaccines. I will discuss the vaccines that the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that all pets receive; these are called core vaccines as well as a few non-core vaccines I think are important.

All pets should be up to date on their rabies vaccines. This is part of the law for good reason, rabies is just about 100% fatal and not protecting your pet against it puts everyone in your family at risk. All dogs should also be vaccinated with a distemper/parvo/hepatitis combination vaccine. This group of infectious diseases can cause gastrointestinal, respiratory and neurologic problems that are often fatal.

So let’s talk about some of the vaccines that people may not know much about. These are not considered to be necessary for every animal but based on lifestyle instead. Leptospirosis is a bacteria transmitted via the urine of an infected animal, most commonly wildlife such as rats, opossums and raccoons. These animals urinate in standing water or moist soil, your dog then comes along and drinks the contaminated water and contracts the disease

Though Lepto can be treated with antibiotics, if the infection is not caught early enough it can permanently damage the kidneys and/or liver, resulting in organ failure. In some cases, the disease is too advanced by the time we catch it and ends up being fatal.

If you are putting your dog in a kennel or taking her to the groomers it is usually required that your dog be vaccinated against “kennel cough”. Kennel cough is a collective term for a highly contagious group of viruses and bacteria that cause irritation in the upper respiratory tract. It is important to realize that the vaccine only protects against the Bordetella bacteria, one of the many infectious agents that can cause “kennel cough”. If your dog is exposed to one of the many other viruses or bacteria that cause upper respiratory symptoms they can still get sick even with the vaccine. In addition even if a vaccinated animal is exposed to the Bordetella bacteria the vaccines does not prevent disease, it will only reduce the severity of clinical signs.

2. The importance of spaying or neutering your pet

I cannot stress this enough. In my opinion, spaying or neutering is the single best thing you can do, not only for your own dog but also for the millions of homeless animals living in shelters. Along with eliminating the chances for many types of cancer developing, spaying and neutering can prevent many behavior issues. I have said it before and I will say it again: female dogs in heat are messy and it is always embarrassing to have your male dog humping someone’s leg.

3. Heartworm and flea/tick prevention once a month every month

Heartworm disease is a parasitic infection transmitted when an infected mosquito bites your dog. While it’s true that infected dogs can be treated, the treatment itself is very dangerous—and can even be fatal. Left untreated, heartworm disease will kill a dog.

Protecting your dogs against fleas and ticks is important as well. Tick borne infections such as Lyme disease, Erlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are transmitted when an infected tick bites your dog. The best way to ward these infections off is with topical flea and tick preventatives like Frontline, Advantix, Revolution, or Advantage Multi. In a temperate climate like ours, these should be applied once a month, every month.

Fleas can be extremely itching and irritating to both you and your pets. Some animals are allergic to fleas and one bite can lead to a significant skin infection. Once a flea infestation invades your home it can be very difficult to clear it out. The best bet is to prevent that from happening by applying the same topical medications that protect against ticks.

Luckily, prevention is easy: just a pill and a topical medication once a month. If only everything were that simple.

4. Avoiding obesity

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 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.

5. Dental disease

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, 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 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.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Caution for heat stroke

Listen to this story on WAMU:
Summer Heat Dangerous For Dogs

Since we’re stuck in the middle of yet another heat wave in the mid-Atlantic region, I wanted to take a moment to warn dog owners about their pets’ risk of heat stroke. In the past few weeks a number of dogs have been brought into Friendship after collapsing due to heat stroke. Several dogs have even died, which is truly tragic since this could have been easily avoided.

One of the recent fatalities was a bulldog that was taken out for fifteen minutes around noon as part of a mid-day walk. He collapsed on his walk and was immediately rushed to Friendship. Sadly, despite aggressive treatment, complications from heat stroke damaged his organs so severely that he had to be euthanized the next day.

“Smushy-faced” (“brachycephalic” is the technical term) dogs like bulldogs and pugs are especially susceptible to heat-related illness. This is because breed characteristics such as narrow nostrils and elongated soft palates decrease their ability to effectively cool themselves.

drawing by Robert Cole

Though bulldogs and pugs have an especially tough time in the warmer weather, ALL dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke than their human companions are. As if wearing thick fur coats weren’t enough of a challenge, dogs have only two ways of dissipating heat: by panting, and through their paw pads. When the temperature rises, neither of these cool-down tricks works too well. Panting becomes much less effective when the weather is hot and humid and when your dog walks on a scorching sidewalk his paws stay too hot to help him cool down.

If you’re out on a walk with your dog and he collapses, becomes unresponsive or loses consciousness, seek veterinary care immediately. DO NOT try to cool down your dog on your own as bringing the body temperature down too quickly can make a dire situation worse. If for some reason you can’t make it to a veterinary hospital immediately, you can soak a towel in tepid (not cold) water, place it over your dog, and aim a fan at him. Take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as he is more stable.

What makes heat stroke potentially fatal is that the patient can develop a condition called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) that causes massive and widespread damage to the blood vessels. This quickly results in multiple organ failure and the patient loses the ability to clot his blood. Treatment consists of aggressive supportive care and plasma transfusions, both of which are very expensive and not guaranteed to prevent death.

When it comes to heat stroke, the best treatment is prevention. Here are some commonsense tips to help you keep your dog cool and comfortable.

  • Avoid taking your dog out during the hottest times of the day. (Quick rule of thumb: If it is too hot for you, then it is definitely too hot for your dog!)
  • Keep an eye out for unusual behavior: If you are out in the hot weather with your dog and he slows down, lies down or acts reluctant to keep walking, you should let him rest, offer him cool water and head inside immediately.
  • Make sure your dog has cool, fresh water available at all times.
  • Never leave a dog (or any other pet) in a parked car when it is even slightly warm out. The temperature in the car can rise amazingly quickly and before you know it you have an overheated animal.
  • Don’t take your dog running. (I am never a fan of running with your dog—check out this article to see why--but in this weather it is an especially bad idea).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


As I get ready for the next Polite Puppy class this Sunday I wanted to be sure I didn’t neglect the kitty owners. The shelters are always overflowing with these tiny little balls of fur in need of a home. At Friendship we offer a Kitten Plan that includes all wellness kitten visits, fecal testing, deworming, core vaccinations and ten percent off the spay or neuter.

The core vaccines for cats are rabies and feline distemper. I often hear people say that their cat does not need to be vaccinated for rabies since they do not go outside. First this is against the law, all cats and dogs must be vaccinated for rabies. What owners don’t usually think of is there are numerous scenarios where your cat could be considered a rabies suspect and be euthanized against your will.

Picture this: Mittens an unvaccinated, indoor cat darts out the back door and returns home a few hours later with a bite wound from an unknown animal. The wound needs medical attention so Mittens’ owner brings her to the veterinarian. She is extremely painful and scared; in an effort to protect herself she bites one of the veterinary technicians while she is being treated. While the odds are she does not have rabies, since this disease is one hundred percent fatal the person who was bitten has the legal right to have Mittens put to sleep for rabies testing. This horrid situation could have been completely avoided with a simple vaccine.

The second core vaccine for cats is feline distemper. This combination vaccine protects against common viruses that cause upper respiratory and gastrointestinal disease in cats. Also available is the feline leukemia vaccine which is usually recommended in cats that are going to go outside. On that note I ask that you please do not let your cats outside. On average indoor cats live to twelve to fifteen years, the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is two years. There are countless dangers such as cars, chemical toxins, poisonous plants, infectious diseases, and fighting with other cats or wild animals.

If you are worried that your cat will be bored inside please visit the Indoor Cat Initiative website for tips on how to enrich your indoor kitty’s life. All cat owners should also apply a topical product such as Advantage Multi or Revolution to protect your cat against heartworm disease, fleas and ticks. Even if you keep your kitty safely inside they are still exposed to these pesky insects and need protection just as much as dogs do. Kittens are incredibly cute and always entertaining to watch as they race around your house. Follow these simple guidelines to get your new kitten off on a healthy paw.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Interns!

I can’t believe how fast time goes by! This week Friendship will welcome six new doctors into our 2010 intern class and it amazes me that another year has flown by already. I am reminded of my first day four years ago, fresh out veterinary school and completely terrified. There is no way I could withstand the rigors of the program today, a straight week of 14 hour overnight shifts - No thanks! That challenging year was well worth it and I can say with complete confidence it has made me a better veterinarian.

Friendship is one of the few veterinary hospitals in the area qualified to offer an internship program for recent veterinary school graduates. It makes huge contributions to our patient care and to those fortunate veterinarians participating in the program. Internships are highly competitive. Only the most talented and motivated of new graduates seek advanced clinical training. Friendship accepts only about one out of every five applicants to its internship program. We are proud of our program and I consider myself lucky to have completed it.

Unlike medical doctors--who are required to do an internship plus a residency before beginning to practice--most veterinarians enter general practice immediately after graduation and begin practicing medicine. Alternatively, a new graduate can apply for a position in an elective, year-long program of post graduate clinical training, working side-by-side with senior veterinarians with years of experience. These programs are provided by veterinary colleges or busy, multi-doctor hospitals like Friendship.

For the fortunate graduates who are accepted, this is an exciting opportunity to obtain an enormous amount of clinical experience while also being mentored by more senior veterinarians. These programs are completely optional and very demanding. At Friendship, our interns work grueling hours and commit an entire year of their lives so that they can become even better doctors. Some go on to complete residencies in the specialty of their choice, while others, like myself, enter general practice.

From time to time, I have heard pet owners say, "I don't want an intern working on my pet." My response is: Our interns are the best of the new vet school graduates. Not only have they just spent four years learning the latest advances in veterinary medicine from specialists at their respective schools, but they benefit from the fulltime mentoring of Friendship’s highly experienced senior veterinarians.

So let’s give a hand to these doctors for their enthusiasm, dedication to veterinary medicine, willingness to learn from their colleagues, and their desire to be the best veterinarian they can be. To learn more about our current inters please visit the Friendship Hospital for Animals website.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Weight loss for cats

One of the most challenging tasks for cat owners is trying to get your kitty to drop a few pounds. Unfortunately this is also the most common recommendation I make to owners after an annual exam. Essentially all cats do all day, every day is lay around and occasionally get up to eat. This lifestyle makes it very difficult to encourage weight loss.
Cat’s bodies were designed to eat multiple small, high protein, high fat meals a day. What the average indoor kitty eats is one to two large meals that are very high in carbohydrates. In addition they do not have to move around or hunt to find their food, we dump it all into a bowl right in front if them. They then devour the food as quickly as possible.
This combination of little exercise and high carb diets has led to astounding rates of obesity in cats. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 53% of cats in America are overweight and 19% of these are considered obese. This puts them at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and degenerative joint disease – all of which are potentially preventable.
It may seem the answer is letting your cat head outdoors in an effort to work off some of those calories but I do not recommend this. On average indoor cats live to twelve to fifteen years, the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is two years. There are countless dangers such as cars, chemical toxins, poisonous plants, infectious diseases, and fighting with other cats or wild animals.

So, what can you do to help your indoor cat lose weight? My favorite recommendation is to divide their daily food allowance between multiple small bowls and hide these around the house. Your cat then has to spend the day “hunting” for his food. This is mentally stimulating for them as well as encourages physical activity. Another thing to try would be a food or treat ball. This contraption is filled with dry food and your cat needs to learn how to manipulate it to get the food to fall out.
The other component to weight loss is what you are actually feeding your cat. There are two ways to go with this. The first is a low calorie, high fiber diet that allows you kitty to eat a substantial amount and fill up. The second option is a low carb, high protein and fat diet (Atkins for kitties). In theory these diets should work as they mimic the type of food a cat’s gastrointestinal tract was designed to eat. However, these diets are very high in calories and if you feed your cat too much he can quickly pack on the pounds.
Getting your cat to lose weight is a daunting task and it is not easy. I hope some of these suggestions help because a healthy weight is essential to the overall health of your cat.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pain Management

One of the many things I am very proud to say we do well at Friendship is attend to our patients’ pain. When I had Westin spayed in 1996 I was given the option to provide her with pain medication at an addition cost to the procedure. I was then and fourteen years later still am appalled that someone would not consider pain medication to be essential with intra-abdominal surgery. It seems like that was a long time ago but just last month I encountered a dog that had surgery at another clinic and was not sent home with any pain medication.

It was long thought in veterinary medicine that we did not need to address pain in our patients’ because “animals feel less pain than humans”, “pain is beneficial because it limits activity” and “analgesia hides clinical deterioration”. These rationales are now known to be false and in fact pain can take a tremendous toll on our patients.

Without providing proper pain management we put our patients at risk for delayed wound healing, increased risk of sepsis, prolonged convalescence, increased metabolic demand and cardiovascular stress. Studies in humans suggest that improperly controlled acute pain may precipitate a chronic pain syndrome that can be very difficult to control. Above all else, we have an ethical obligation to provide humane care to our patients.

Friendship provides our patients with multi-modal pain management before, during and after a painful event be it surgery, trauma or illness. We are also aggressive with controlling chronic pain such as that seen with arthritis. This consists of opioid drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, local anesthetic, constant rate infusions and the therapeutic K-laser.

Animals are very good at hiding pain and it is up to both veterinarians and owners to make sure that they are kept as comfortable as possible.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Brighton and the new baby

My good friends Whitney and John recently welcomed their baby girl Tyler Elizabeth into the world. They were concerned about the reaction of their first child--Brighton, a four-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. In order to get Brighton comfortable with the drastic changes in the household that usually accompany a new baby, we started working on a few things well before Whitney’s due date.

Our goal was to anticipate the changes the new baby would make to Brighton’s schedule, and then start introducing those changes five or six months before the baby was due. That way, Brighton would have plenty of time to get accustomed to his new routine, and there wouldn’t be so much to adjust to once Tyler arrived on the scene.

Brighton's owners set up a schedule that they hoped to maintain once baby Tyler arrived. Each day included at least ten minutes of uninterrupted "Brighton time" that would happen no matter what was going on with the baby.

Another key technique was to take the empty baby stroller along on Brighton’s walks. This allowed the dog to get used to the strange new contraption. It was also a chance to practice loose-leash walking techniques so Brighton wouldn't pull while on leash. Making sure that Brighton would behave well on walks with the baby meant that he could be included in as many future family outings as possible.

Whitney created a beautiful nursery in preparation for baby Tyler. She and John always left the nursery door open so Brighton could explore the area and get used to the unfamiliar smells of baby powder and diapers. Though he was encouraged to investigate, Brighton was never allowed to sleep on any of the baby's furniture or belongings, because these would be off-limits once Tyler was home.

Once Tyler was born but still in the hospital with her mom, John brought home some of the clothes the baby had worn and left these around the house for Brighton to smell. This gave Brighton a chance to get acquainted with all the smells of a newborn baby, so he wouldn’t besurprised when Tyler came home.

When Whitney and Tyler were released from the hospital, John waited outside their home with the baby while Whitney went in to greet Brighton. Once Brighton calmed down from the excitement of not seeing Whitney for three days, John and Whitney set up a formal meeting of baby and dog. Whitney sat on the couch with Tyler, and John brought Brighton in on a leash. Whitney and John praised and petted Brighton while he approached and sniffed Tyler.

Whitney and John are lucky: since Brighton is an exceptionally well-behaved and sweet dog, he accepted his new sister without missing a beat.

But not all dogs are as laid-back as Brighton. If a dog shows any signs of aggression, excitement or excessive interest in a baby, the dog should be kept on a leash at all times when the baby is present. When only one adult is home, the dog should be kept in a separate room, without any access to the baby. Remember that even a non-aggressive dog may become overly exuberant and cause injury by jumping up on a baby.

A new baby is a big change in any household, but with thoughtful planning the transition can be made as smooth as possible for your furry family members.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Canine Cancer Awareness

In an effort to raise awareness about canine cancer Friendship has partnered with Morris Animal Foundation, Blue Buffalo Food and Petco in an event this Saturday. We will be at the Petco on Connecticut Avenue from 10 am to 2 pm to answer your questions and concerns regarding cancer in pets.
As a pet owner who lost a dog to not one, but three types of cancer--lymphoma, melanoma and hemangiosarcoma--I know firsthand how devastating, confusing and overwhelming this diagnosis can be. The only possible shred of good news is that you have the warm, caring embrace of the Oncology Department at Friendship available to you.

Dr. Chand Khanna--who may just be the most amazing person I have ever met--leads this team of dedicated doctors and veterinary technicians. In addition to being double board-certified in internal medicine and oncology, Dr. Khanna runs multiple labs at the National Institutes of Health and founded Animal Clinical Investigation. Through these organizations he performs ground-breaking research in both animal and human cancer. Equally important, he is a personable, compassionate and caring individual. His entire team--including doctors Tony Rusk, Alexandra Sahora and Kristen Weishaar; his assistant Tracey; and the veterinary technicians JT, Rebecca and Amy--understands what a scary time this is for your and your pet.
Managing cancer is complex, expensive and at times confusing (even for me with Westin). Dr. Khanna and his team will go out of their way to answer all your questions and concerns and are always available to the emergency doctors at Friendship if something happens after hours. They do their very best to make treating your pet’s cancer as comfortable as possible for both you and your beloved pal.

Though most cancers in companion animals are, unfortunately, not yet curable, many are now treatable thanks to devoted doctors like Chand Khanna and organizations like the Morris Animal Foundation. We are making great advances in managing cancer in our beloved pets and one day we will find a cure. I treasured each day I had with Westin and consider myself blessed that she had Dr. Khanna and the oncology service at Friendship looking after her.