Showing posts with label Wellness Care. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wellness Care. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Introducing Nexgard!

There is a new oral flea and tick product on the market and we are all very excited about it here at Friendship.  Nexgard is a monthly chew that protects dogs against fleas and ticks.  It is absorbed into the blood stream and kills parasites when they bite your dog and begin a blood meal.  Due to this mechanism of action you may still find dead ticks attached to your dog, the fleas probably just fall right off (Ick!). 

Like Frontline it does not offer any repellant protection, the bug has to feed before it can be killed.  Unlike Frontline you don’t have to deal with the greasy spot they get on their fur after application or worry about how bathing and swimming will affect protection. We will not be selling Frontline Plus anymore but you can still find it online and at retail stores if that continues to be your product of choice.

If you are interested in a product with repellant properties we also carry the Seresto collar for dogs and cats.  This is worn all the time and lasts for five to eight months depending on how often your pet is bathed or enjoys a swim.  My only complaint with this product is that I find the collar itself a bit unsightly on shorthaired dogs.  This is a fairly superficial reason and should not detract you from considering it, especially if you have a hard time remembering to give the chew monthly.

For parasite protection of kitties we will continue to sell Advantage Multi topical spot-on treatment that protects against heartworm, fleas, ear mites, roundworms and hookworms.  I feel this or Revolution (we do not sell this particular product) are the best choices for cats because they provide heartworm prevention.  Dogs of course get their monthly heartworm prevention in the form of monthly Heartgard chews.

The products we sell at Friendship are a small subset of the multitude of monthly preventive products out there.  If you have questions about any product in particular please don’t hesitate to discuss them with your veterinarian.  I hope this helps you muddle through the options available for purchase at the hospital.

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.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to keep your pets safe in winter

Since we are in the depth of winter complete with heavy snow to be followed by freezing temperatures, I wanted to give you a few tips on things to look out for in order to keep your pet’s safe.

Salting for snow and ice: Many of the chemicals used to keep sidewalks and roads safe can be toxic to dogs. Toxicity is best avoided by cleaning paws after a walk so they don’t lick off the chemicals once you get home. If you will be salting your own property choose a product that specifies it is pet friendly.  You can also use booties such as the PAWZ Dog boots which are disposable and waterproof – that’s only if your dog tolerates them.

Freezing temperatures: I think this shouldn’t need to be said but keep your pets inside when it gets cold. If the thermostat dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit bring outside dogs inside. If you have a shorthaired dog it is a good idea to keep them warm on walks with a toasty jacket or sweater. Animals are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia just like us so please protect them.

Indoor/Outdoor Cats: Cats should always be kept inside to protect them from trauma and diseases but if you do have an indoor/outdoor cat don’t let them out in cold and inclement weather.  Cats will often seek warmth by crawling up onto the engine block of a car.  This is a really bad scene if the cat is still curled up in there when the car is started.

Orthopedic Injury: Dogs love running through the deep snow and don’t give much thought to racing across an icy patch of terrain.  Owners must be careful when letting pups run free as they can easily pull a muscle or slip and fall.  Another danger is when ice and snow accumulate between furry toes causing cuts or irritation.

Rodenticide: The cold weather drives rats and mice into our homes and without question this is undesirable. In an effort to get rid of these unwanted visitors many people will put out poison in the house and around the property. Keep this in mind, rodenticides don’t just kill rodents, they will kill any mammal that ingests it. Most rat poison is formulated to be tasty, attracting both rodents and our pets. If you must put a rodenticide make sure your animals can’t get to it, remembering that the crafty rodent often will move the poison.

Antifreeze: This common chemical has a sweet taste so dogs and cats are actually attracted to it. If you are unaware your pet was exposed, by the time clinical signs become apparent it is often too late for treatment. The other nasty thing about antifreeze is that a tiny amount is all it takes to cause irreversible damage resulting in death. Avoid this by monitoring your pets at all times when outside your home.

I hope this information helps you and your pets enjoy the winter!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Flea and tick prevention - always important!

Summer is in full swing – hello heat wave!  The only creatures enjoying this weather are the creepy crawlers so now is the time to be extra vigilant with your flea, tick and heartworm prevention.

Everyone knows how annoying those relentless mosquitoes are when you are trying to enjoy your yard or back porch. But these pests are more than just irritating – they can endanger your pet’s health by transmitting heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is a parasitic infection transmitted when an infected mosquito bites your dog or cat.

Monthly heartworm prevention is essential year round for dogs and cats, even indoor kitties. There is NO treatment for heartworm in cats, and sudden death is a common result of heartworm infections. 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 and cats 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, Parastar Plus, K9 Advantix II, Revolution, or Advantage Multi.  I recommend sticking with the brand names for these medications.  The generics are not as good and some are downright dangerous, especially for cats.  I also do not trust any “natural” product enough to effectively repel fleas and ticks.   I know the though of applying chemicals to your pets is unappealing but so are the diseases these critters transmit.

Lyme disease is an especially tricky beast as it is very common and the medical community does not yet fully understand how it affects dogs making diagnosis and treatment a challenge.  Many dogs will test positive but this does NOT mean they have the disease, only that they were bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.  In fact the vast majority of the Lyme-positive dogs I see never develop clinical signs of the disease. The best way to protect your dog from Lyme disease is through a combination of prevention and monitoring.

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, every single month.  If only everything were that simple.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fireworks and dogs - how to keep your dog relaxed and happy

 Happy Fourth of July week!  For most of us that means cookouts, fireworks and fun but for owners of dogs that suffer from noise phobia this particular holiday can be an absolute nightmare. Fireworks and other loud noises such as thunderstorms can cause panic in affected dogs.  My parents had a Jack Russell terrier (she passed at the age of 20) that used to tremble, pant and hide under the toilet at the mere thought of an approaching storm.  Once the thunder was cracking or the fireworks were bursting she was inconsolable and destroyed many a door, baseboard, crate or any other item that she turned her attention to during her state of terror. 

If you have experienced this to any degree with your own dog don’t despair there are steps you can take to help ease their fear and calm them down.  You want to be sure and start treating any anxiety as soon as you notice the signs, as it will only get worse with time.

Create a safe space for your dog to weather the storm.  Some dogs will pick a place and if this is the case just leave them there; don’t force them into an alternative space that you choose.  You can offer them toys stuffed with tasty treats to help get their mind off the noise and hopefully start to create a positive association.

Adaptil is a synthetic compound that mimics a pheromone that lactating mother dogs give off and this compound has been clinically shown to reduce anxiety.  Adaptil comes in a spray that can be applied to blankets or a neck bandanna for intermittent use.  Alternatively it comes as a collar that emits the pheromone continuously for a month. 

The Thundershirt is another option and I have clients that swear by it.  It works by applying constant gentle pressure that is thought to clam anxiety.  This is the same idea as swaddling babies or Dr. Temple Grandin’s development of the “Hug Machine” for helping people with Autism.

Finally medication should be considered and discussed with your veterinarian.  It is best to not wait until the phobia progresses but to intervene early and hopefully prevent development of worsening anxiety.  A sedative called acepromazine has long been used for noise phobia but it is no longer the drug of choice and can actually make things worse. With this particular medication the dog is sedate which may hide many signs of anxiety.  The problem is that they are still anxious; they’re just too knocked out to do anything about it.  The preferred medication will target anxiety directly to help address and hopefully eliminate the underlying problem.

I hope these tips help to make for a happy Fourth of July celebration for you and your dog!  These pictures are from last summer of my dogs enjoying a swim and some beach time in Massachusetts.

Friday, May 24, 2013


I think almost everyone knows about rabies virus and that it is just about 100% fatal - really scary stuff.  What you may not realize is how prevalent it is and that your pets have a real risk of exposure which is why vaccination is so critical in our companion animals.  In 2012 there were 60 animals that tested positive for rabies the District of Columbia.  That means in one year Animal Control confirmed 39 raccoons, 20 bats and 1 fox tested positive in the 68 square miles that make up DC. 

These critters aren't staying holed up in Rock Creek Park either, they are around our neighborhoods and in our backyards.  In April a raccoon ran up to a man in Georgetown while he was loading his car and bit him on the leg.  That raccoon was later captured by animal control and tested positive for rabies.  A few years ago we had clients bring their cat into the hospital after a raccoon climbed down their chimney, popped out of the fireplace and attacked their cat. 

This is as close as my cats get to the outdoors

I routinely have a conversation with owners of cats who are indoor only and never venture out into the world about why they need to be vaccinated for rabies.  The short answer here is that it is required by law; unfortunately that is not always a convincing argument for some people.  I then tell them that bats can worm their way into tiny spaces including a hole in a screened window.  These tiny bats have tiny teeth that don’t always leave a mark on the skin after a bite.  It is entirely possible that your indoor only cat could be exposed to a rabid animal without you knowing about it.

If that doesn't sway them I then refer to a recent story out of Georgia about a 15 year old, indoor only cat that had been vaccinated for rabies in the past but the vaccine was past due.  The cat bit the owner and ended up testing positive for rabies.  You can read the story by clicking here

Finally dog and cat owners need to keep in mind that if at any time their pet bites someone and is not up to date on the rabies vaccine the person who was bitten can request rabies testing.  Rabies testing is done by euthanizing the animal and taking sample of the brain.  In my opinion, unless there is a medical reason not to vaccinate it is much safer for everyone to just keep your pet up to date on the rabies vaccine.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lilly Loses Weight Too!

Here is Akanya after 1 week on her new diet of Hill’s new prescription weight loss food Metabolic.  Her owner, Erin reports she is loving the food and doing great.  We will plan on weighing her in one month to see how she is responding.  Based on Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol I expect her to lose about 0.2 pounds per week so she should be under 12 pounds and one paw closer to her ideal weight of 8 pounds.

I was so excited about this new breakthrough in weight loss for our pets that I decided to sign my dog Lilly up for the challenge.  Lilly is an eight-year-old Chihuahua mix and being so tiny she has always struggled with her weight.  Due to her size and love of sitting on the couch she simply can’t consume that many calories without gaining weight. 

About a year ago she topped out at over 13 pounds and I think she felt the extra weight.  She would run around at the dog park but at home she would sit by herself and not really interact much with my other dogs.  I have been feeding her and my 11-year-old rat terrier Hill’s j/d (joint diet) because Sparkle has knee issues.  Lilly was getting a quarter cup of food twice a day, which is really not that much.  I further decreased the amount to an eighth of a cup and she lost about 2 pounds over the next 6 months. 

With this drop in weight her energy level and attitude completely changed.  She became much more interactive with both the people and animals in the house.  Still I thought she was a bit chubby at 11.3 pounds so I decided to measure her using Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol.  After entering her measurements and current weight into the computer program it came out that her body fat index was 48% and she should weigh 7 pounds!

I have to admit I was shocked and immediately re-measured her about three more times, each time getting about the same thing.  I knew she weighed more than I would like but this put her at serious risk for some nasty diseases.  She started eating Metabolic that night!

So far Lilly seems to be happy with her new diet.  She gobbles down her food and gets to eat a whole third of a cup of food, clearly way more than she was eating before.  I also add in a fish oil supplement to make sure she has enough omega-3 fatty acids in her diet.  I am looking forward to seeing how she responds and watch those pounds melt away.  If only they made a food like this for people….

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tackling Obesity One Cat at a Time

Meet Akanya!  She is a two and a half year old kitty owned by Erin who works as one of Friendship’s Client Care Technicians.  Erin has graciously volunteered to let Akayna be my guinea pig in testing out Hill’s new Healthy Weight Protocol and corresponding Metabolic Diet. 

Akayna has come a long way from the streets of Botswana where Erin rescued her while serving the in Peace Corps.  She is now a fat (literally) and very happy housecat who needs to shed a few pounds.  As I’m sure most cat owners know this is no easy task and unfortunately this is the most common recommendation I make to owners during annual exams. Click here to read my post about the obesity epidemic cats.

Hill’s has teamed up with the University of Tennessee to create a better system to estimate body fat in overweight animals.  They found that if we could more accurately determine how much a pet was overweight then we could devise a more precise feeding plan that would results in more effective weight loss.

Erin brought Akayna to Friendship so that I could take a few measurements and get a baseline weight.  We then entered this information into a computer program and found out that at 12.4 pounds she had a body fat index of 47.5% and was in the “serious risk” category.  Her ideal body weight was given as 8.1 pounds.
Click on chart for better visualization

Armed with this information we then calculated she should eat one-quarter cup and one half of a can of Hill’s new Metabolic prescription diet every day.  This is the newest of Hill’s diets that was formulated using nutrigenomics to affect gene expression working with the animal’s metabolism for more effective weight loss.  

I am so excited to track Akayna’s progress!  Obesity is something that so many pet owners struggle with and it is one of the few concrete things we can address to ensure our pets live a long and healthy life.  Let me know if you are interested in joining us on this weight loss endeavor!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Prophylactic gastropexy

If you have a large breed dog then you have to know everything there is about a very scary condition call Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), often called bloat.  It is the leading cause of death in large and giant breed dogs in the United States. 

A GDV occurs when the stomach fills up with air (dilatation) and rotates on itself (volvulus).  This action all but eliminates blood flow to the stomach and the tissue rapidly begins to die creating a host of horrible conditions.  What is truly terrifying is GDV comes on very suddenly and without surgical intervention rapidly leads to death.  Many dogs never even make it to surgery and the mortality rate for those that do is still quite high at 15-33%.

Now that I have you good and scared let me give you the good news, we can prevent this from happening!  By performing a simple procedure called a prophylactic gastropexy we can stop the volvulus part of the equation and eliminate GDV. 

First we should determine if your dog is at risk.  Dogs that weigh greater than 60 pounds have a 23% lifetime risk of GDV.  Especially those that are deep chested like Great Danes, Weimaraners and standard poodles.  The AKC has a great list of at risk breeds on their website.

Other risk factors include: 
  • First-degree relative that had GDV
  • Males are more likely to bloat than females
  • Being overweight
  • Nervous or anxious temperament
  • History of gastrointestinal issues like inflammatory bowel disease
  • Dry diets with oil or fat listed in the first four ingredients
  • Feeding one large meal per day
  • Eating too quickly
  • Elevated food bowls
Here is more good news - we are now performing the grid gastropexy technique, which is much less invasive than the traditional huge incision along of the midline of the abdomen. We make a small 2-3 inch incision just behind the last rib, reach into the abdomen and grab the stomach.  It is then tacked to the inside of the body wall and the muscle and skin is then closed over the defect.  This method is very quick, causes less tissue trauma that results in faster healing and decreased pain.

My patient Hank the labradoodle getting ready
for his neuter and gastropexy
The best time to have this performed is during your dog’s spay or neuter procedure.  There is no additional down time and this procedure has very few complications.  The most common ones we see are swelling under the skin or an annoying puckering of skin, both of these resolve on their own.

If you have a dog that has already been fixed but you still feel is at risk it is reasonable to consider having the gastropexy done as a stand-alone procedure.  When I neutered Frank we were not doing the gird technique and I didn’t want to make a large abdominal incision for the traditional gastropexy technique.  Every time I see him inhale his food in less than 15 seconds I kick myself that I didn’t do the gastropexy at the time of his neuter.  In the next few months I am going to put him under anesthesia again and perform the pexy.  With this technique there is no reason not to protect your dog and give yourself some piece of mind.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

AVMA's Raw Food Recommendation

In keeping with my series on what to feed your pet here is a timely story sparked by the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) recent recommendations against feeding raw food.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hill's Pet Nutrition Center

Me and Dr. Moore at the Kansas
Museum of History

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center in Topeka, Kansas.  Dr. Nicola Moore and I spent 3 days touring the facility, listening to lectures and discussing the pet food industry with the Hill’s team and other veterinarians from around the country.  It was an amazing learning experience and I am now an even bigger fan of Hill’s Prescription and Science Diet foods.

There are so many misconceptions about Hill’s food perpetrated by the Internet, pet food stores and other pet foods.  I have to say I always find it amazing (and more than a little disheartening) when I have a client take the advice of their breeder, an 18 year-old store clerk at Pet Smart or some random website over my professional, medically based opinion.  I know that all pet owners just want to feed their dog or cat the very best thing to keep them healthy and as a veterinarian that is my goal too.  

So here are a few nuggets of info I learned last week that convinced me Hill’s produces a superior product.

Hill’s has five manufacturing plants in the US and two in Europe that produce ninety-five percent of their food.  That other five percent consist of treats and a pouch type food sold in Europe.  Most pet food companies outsource the production of their diets to a third party; this opens the door to quality control issues.  An example of why this is problematic can be seen with the Blue Buffalo recall due to toxic levels of vitamin D found in their foods.  The plant that made these affected lots of food had produced a vitamin D supplement, not cleaned the production line and then processed the Blue Buffalo food resulting in vitamin D toxicity.

Hill's Pet Nutrition Center
 If you are concerned about salmonella contamination as we saw in the 2012 Diamond Pet Food recall you may be interested to learn that in 2008 Hill’s decided to voluntarily test all of their products for salmonella and other food borne pathogens.  Each lot of product is tested and is not released for distribution until the test comes back negative. In addition, Hill’s has their plants graded by an independent inspection company that evaluates human food plants as well.  The Hill’s plants routinely score higher than the plants producing human food!

Hill’s performs rigorous testing and inspecting of all the raw materials they use and will reject an ingredient if it doesn’t meet their standards.  They only use meat and poultry sources from USDA inspected plants to ensure that the animal and the meat it produces are handled correctly and disease free.  In 2007 after the widespread melamine recall that affected many brands of food, Hill’s made the voluntary decision to stop sourcing materials from China*.  Again, many human food production companies do not choose to do this.

I hope I have peaked your interested and demonstrated some of the reasons for why I am loving Hill’s.  Not convinced yet?  There is a lot more to come, stay tuned for info on specific nutrient levels, protein content, the vilified by-product, how they test their products and more.

*Currently they do obtain taurine from China.  This is one of two plants in the world producing this raw ingredient.  The other plant, which they had been using, was destroyed by the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Great Lyme Debate

Last fall I attended DC Academy; a continuing education meeting held monthly for local veterinarians. The speaker was Dr. Goldstein, an Internist from Cornell Veterinary School, who discussed his latest findings and recommendations related to Lyme disease.  What he said about Lyme disease completely challenged what I had thought about vaccinating against this all too common disease.

I have said in previous posts that I hate Lyme disease, this did not change during my day at DC Academy.  In fact the issue became even more confused and it took the last few months for me to research the issue and come up with an opinion.  Ultimately I have changed my view of the vaccine and now recommend it for specific at risk dogs. 

I have always recommended against vaccinating for Lyme, concerned that the vaccine is not effective and reportedly causes more vaccine reactions than the other vaccines we give.  Besides, we have so many dogs test positive for Lyme that never develop any clinical signs, it doesn’t seem like a disease that causes many problems – until you consider Lyme nephritis which terrifies me.

Lyme nephritis is a syndrome characterized by acute kidney failure that almost always results in death.  It occurs most frequently in younger adult dogs and there may be a higher incidence in Labrador and golden retrievers.  Clinical signs come on suddenly and include increased thirst, increased urination, lethargy, decreased appetite and vomiting.  Despite aggressive treatment dogs that develop Lyme nephritis rarely survive.

The topic of vaccination for Lyme is such a hotly debated issue in veterinary medicine that even the members of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) Lyme Disease Task Force could not come to a consensus.  Dr. Littman of the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine does not believe in vaccinating for Lyme.  She argues that the vaccine has not been proven to prevent Lyme nephritis and in fact may predispose dogs that have been infected with Lyme disease to developing Lyme nephritis.

After processing all this information I now feel that the best way to protect your dog against Lyme nephritis is with a combination of a monthly topical tick preventive and vaccination.  Owners should be applying preventives once a month every single month.  After attending a lecture at NAVC I now have an even greater repulsion for ticks, their resilience and their disease carrying capacity.  Keep in mind that ticks transmit countless other disease that are equally as nasty, if not more so than Lyme disease.  Therefore keeping ticks off you, children, dogs and cats is vitally important.

I am not advocating that we vaccinate all dogs against Lyme disease, only those that are at increased risk.  This group includes dogs that frequent dogs parks, Rock Creek Park and any other wooded area that they would be likely to come into contact with ticks.  I would also strongly consider vaccinating all Labs and goldens given their tendency to contract Lyme nephritis.  The final caveat with vaccination is I would think very hard about vaccinating a dog that is already positive for the disease given that we really don’t know if the vaccine contributes to Lyme nephritis.

Since Frank and Poppy are retriever crosses and negative for Lyme I vaccinated them using the Recombitek Lyme vaccine by Meriel.  This is the only Lyme vaccine I would consider giving as the other ones on the market have a greater reported incidence of vaccine associated reactions.  I have also switched my dogs from Frontline Plus to a newer product called Parastar Plus.  If you have cats in your house please discuss the risk of using Parastar Plus with your veterinarian.

I still feel Frontline Plus works very well but Parastar Plus is reported to kill ticks within one hour, which theoretically prevents transmission of any disease.  We used to believe that the tick had to be attached an feeding for more than 24 hours to transmit disease but current research suggests they may transmit disease in as little as 4-6 hours.

So there you have it, my updated opinion on Lyme disease and the best way to prevent it.  In the end there is no one right answer, even veterinarians can’t come to a conclusion.  Whether or not to vaccinate is a personal decision that you need to make for your dog based on the risk of disease and the risks associated with the vaccine.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer heat advisory for dogs

Summer is my favorite time of the year but many summertime activities can be dangerous to your pet’s health.  By far the most common threat is the risk of overheating. At Friendship we see so many cases of heat stroke every summer I feel it is necessary to revisit my annual hot weather warning.

Dogs are much 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 suddenly lies down, collapses or becomes unresponsive, seek veterinary care immediately. DO NOT try to cool down your dog on your own. Instead, get to a vet as quickly as possible.

All dogs can be affected but the “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.  Please keep this in mind if you have a brachycephalic breed at home.

Photo credit: Robert Cole

If for some reason you can’t make it to a veterinary hospital immediately there are a few cooling measures you can begin.  Fist take your dog’s temperature rectally with a digital thermometer, normal is 100-102.  You can then soak a towel in tepid (not cold) water, place it over your dog, and aim a fan at him.  Continue to closely monitor his temperature and once it hits 103 degrees discontinue cooling.  Even if your dog seems fine you should take him 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 or 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 keep your dog cool and comfortable:

1. 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).

Poppy and Sparkle enjoying some beach time

Monday, February 6, 2012

What to feed in 2012

In this post I will attempt to explain what I think is the best way to feed your dog.  After extensive research among veterinary nutritionists, published research and the Internet I have come to the conclusion that the perfect dog food does not exist.  Each brand is unique and therefor brings something different to the bowl.  Because of this I rotate the brands of food I feed my dogs.  I don’t eat the exact same thing every day, so why would I feed my dogs like that.

Dogs developed by eating whatever they could scavenge so it makes sense to me that their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts should always be digesting something a little different.  Since every brand and type of food has a different combination of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals; I can be confident that if one brand is lacking something another brand should make up for it (in theory).

Just about every time my dogs eat they get a different combination of food.  I have two to three bags of different types of dry food and an assortment of canned foods in my house at all times.  I then alternate the dry foods and add in a scoop of canned food to make it a little bit more exciting.

You are probably thinking that suddenly switching a dog’s food like that will result in a nasty bout of diarrhea. This is true if you feed the exact same thing every single day, but if the GI tract is used to being surprised then it adapts quite well.  As I said my dogs get a different mix of food at every meal and they have lovely stool.
In addition to their diet I also give all the dogs an omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as those found in fish oil.  You can read in my previous post on fish oil and all the amazing benefits it provides to the body.  Dogs have a difficult time utilizing the fatty acids found in flax seed or oil so fish oil is a much better choice.  There are a variety of human and veterinary products to choose from, just remember to find a reputable brand such as Nutramax or Nordic Naturals.

Given the multiple pet food recalls some owners want to cook for their pets feeling this is a safer alternative to commercial foods.  I never recommend feeding a home cooked meal unless the owner consults with a veterinary nutritionist or a website like  Without specific guidelines and supplements it is almost impossible to feed your dog a diet that meets all of his nutritional needs.  Just throwing some meat and veggies into a bowl is not providing your dogs with the nutrients he needs and will result in health problems.

Despite what many pet foods companies will tell you corn is a viable protein and carbohydrate source that provides many essential nutrients; it is not just filler.  I have no problem feeding my dogs a diet that contains corn, however, I don’t want that to be the only grain they eat.  This again illustrates why rotating diets is so important in giving your dog a balanced diet.

Finally, the super high protein foods are not necessarily better.  Dogs are omnivores like humans and are made to eat a combination of meat and plant material.  These diets provide excess protein that you dog does not need and excreting these proteins creates increased work load on the kidneys.  In animals that have decreased kidney function these high protein diets are actually harmful and can worsen progression of disease.

This is my favorite brand
I hope this helps you decide what is the best food for your dog; I know it can be overwhelming.  Just remember there is no one best food and by rotating brands you have the best chance of providing your dog a complete and balanced diet.