The Year in Review
Another year has gone by and so quickly. I love this time of year; the lights, the smell of fresh cut pine and cookies, the music. I love giving gifts and figuring out the best gift for each person on my list. It?s time to give thanks for our family and friends. Time to think about what we accomplished and what we wish we could have. Time to give back and pay forward all the good that occurred this year. A time to reflect.
This year Concord Chapel started a new web site which was a learning experience for all of us. I looked through all the blogs I wrote this year. It was a lot of words, a lot of information. There?s one thing I think I could have done better: leave the blogs up in case someone needs the information later on. So for December, instead of writing another blog, I am going to repost the old ones for those of you who may have missed one (or all of them). There will be a new blog for January. (I still have no idea what I am going to write about ? stay tuned). In 2012 I will keep all the blogs up throughout the year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Concord Chapel!
Pet Weight Loss
The Holidays have come and gone but hopefully that holiday feeling is still hanging around. Some other things that may still be hanging around are those extra pounds that you gained while consuming large quantities of Christmas cookies, candy canes, and eggnog. I?m pretty sure I gained a few pounds myself. I have a very hard time turning my back on anything with frosting especially Cheryl and Co. cut out cookies. And who has time to exercise when you are busy shopping, wrapping, and eating? Certainly not me.
Now that the holiday media blitz is over it seems that every other commercial on television is for the newest diet fad. The thing is we all know that losing weight involves eating better (and in most cases less) as well as getting more exercise. It is really hard for many of us to fit in exercise with the busy lives that we lead, and eating right becomes much more difficult with the lure of fast food restaurants on every corner.
There may be someone else in your house that needs to lose those extra pounds. That someone may be furry, has four paws, and spends his free time licking unseemly body parts. A large majority of our pets are overweight too. Like us they tend to eat too much at their regular meals, snack too often, and get very little exercise.
Every day I have several conversations with clients about their overweight pets. Just like us, our overweight dogs and cats are more likely to develop joint problems, heart disease, and diabetes. Unlike us, it is much easier to put our pets on a diet. They cannot serve themselves breakfast nor can they drive to the closest burger joint for dinner. The amount of food your pet should eat is based on the weight they should be. Your veterinarian can determine what your pet should weigh and can help you determine the amount they should be eating. They will also tell you what brands of food you should be feeding your pet. It is always advisable to stick to high quality pet foods without shapes and food colorings. They will also advise you about what treats your pet can eat. Baby carrots, frozen peas, and green beans are all good treat options for pets trying to lose weight.
Similar to humans, exercise is a large component of a pet?s weight loss program. If you have a cat getting their rear end off the couch can be tuff but laser pointers, feathers on a pole, and catnip laced mice can get your round fur ball moving. Dogs are a little different because we can actually get our rear ends off the couch and lose some weight with our furry friends. Walking is always a healthy low impact activity to help shed those extra pounds. So grab the leash, your dog, and your coat and get out there and start walking. Start with shorter distances and work your way up to longer ones. Again, your vet can let you know how far they think your dog can walk. Playing fetch and doggy play dates are also good forms of exercise for your dog but does not really help you in the exercise department.
It?s a New Year and time to make some resolutions. If your pet is overweight, make helping your furry friend lose those extra pounds one of those resolutions. Get your pet to the vet, get their current weight, and let your veterinarian and their staff help you get your furry little butter ball back into shape.
February is a very special month but not because you may receive a box of chocolates, a dozen roses, or some risqu� clothing. It?s not because a ground hog with a name I can?t spell might not see his shadow but always does. February is special because it is dental month. Yes, your pet has teeth too and they actually have quite a few of them. Dogs should have 42 adult teeth, and cats should have 30. Those teeth play a role in just about everything your pet does: chewing on that 14 year old tennis ball he got as a puppy, killing a rodent and then carrying it into the house, picking cat litter out of their paws, and shredding everything in the garbage can including that rancid 7 day old chicken carcass. As you can see, their teeth could get pretty scuzzy over the years. It?s pretty easy to check, just lift their lip. Start at the front of the mouth and go all the way to where the upper and lower lips meet (yes there are teeth back there). What do you see? Are the teeth pearly white? Are the gums healthy and pink? If so, good and let?s keep them that way by feeding dry food, giving them treats that are good for their teeth, and start brushing their teeth 5 times a week with pet- appropriate tooth paste. (Unless you have trained your pet to spit and rinse, they should not be using tooth paste with fluoride in it. In fact, pet friendly tooth paste does not contain fluoride and usually tastes like something they would like such as chicken, beef, or malt.)
On the other hand, did you see tan or brown stuff covering your pet?s teeth? Were the gums swollen, red, or ?shrinking? away from the teeth? Did their breath smell less like normal doggy or kitty breath and more like a sewer? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it?s time to see your vet and your pet probably needs his teeth cleaned. At this stage of the game, brushing will still help but it will not remove the tartar that is already there. Oral rinses or additives that can be placed in your pet?s water may also help but actually removing the tartar and addressing diseased teeth is the best course of action. Get an appointment with your vet and let them know you have concerns about your pet?s teeth. They will go over the dental procedure with you, discuss dental care after the procedure, and discuss potential problems such as tooth root abscesses, kidney, and heart problems if having a dental procedure is not possible.
This February get roses for your sweetheart and let your vet help your pet?s breath smell like roses.
In about a month the weather is going to change. It will be warmer and greener. The birds will start coming back and we will start going out into the yard to clean up the flower beds and remove the dead branches that fell down to the lawn over the winter. We will start mulching and watching for the crocuses? and tulips to start blooming. Spring is a beautiful time of year. Everything seems more alive, even us. We can finally leave the house without ten layers of clothing on. We can start walking, running, riding bikes, and playing ball in the back yard with the kids. Our dogs start chasing the rabbits and squirrels again. Our cats are raiding birds? nests or at least salivating and making those weird chirping noises at them as they sit watching them at the windows.
Spring is a busy time of year for everyone. As small animal veterinarians we see all sorts of puppies and kittens. There is nothing like a wagging puppy tail or a kneading kitten to brighten up your day. We also start seeing lots of other cats and dogs that seem to be very itchy with red skin, bald patches, and scabs all over them. They also tend to have ear infections and are licking their feet. Yes, all that new life growing outside brings allergies. Allergies in our dogs and cats tend to affect their skin where human allergies tend to cause upper respiratory problems. I?m not sure which is worse, watery eyes and a runny nose or itchy skin, but the pets we are seeing are truly uncomfortable.
Basically there are four types of allergies we see in dogs and cats: 1. Atopic dermatitis (atopy) - symptoms caused by environmental allergies such as plants, dust mites, and mold; 2. Food Allergy ? symptoms caused by proteins in their pet food; 3. Flea Allergic Dermatitis ? symptoms caused by flea bites and flea saliva; 4. Contact Allergy? symptoms caused by cleaning products, fabrics, etc.. During the spring time we are seeing mostly dogs and cats with atopy and flea allergies.
If a dog or cat has an allergy, the allergens will cause their skin to become inflamed. Think of the skin as akin to armor where all the pieces fit together in order to protect the person wearing it. When the skin/armor is affected by an allergy the skin cells become inflamed and it turns red. The cells that are linked together preventing the invaders (bacteria and yeast) from getting inside the skin/armor start to swell, leaving holes in it. These chinks in the skin/armor allow bacteria and yeast to attack/infect it. As your pet chews and licks because of the itching the allergy causes, they put more holes in their skin and can actually imbed bacteria and yeast in their skin. Now you have a red skinned, patchy haired pet with a skin infection with scabs and crusts all over them. If you add fleas to that you have an even bigger problem.
So how do you fix this problem? Well the first step is seeing your veterinarian. They will help you determine if this is really an allergy or something else altogether. They will use the ?history? that you give them about your pet, test your pet?s ears and skin, and then start your pet on some medications to help treat the allergy, fleas, and any infection they might find. This entire process could happen repeatedly with an allergic pet. You may even have to have your pet allergy tested, start a food trial, or see a veterinary dermatologist. The entire process can be very frustrating to the pet owner, the pet, and the veterinarian. As veterinarians we like to fix things but allergies are not usually fixable but the good news is they are treatable and we have a lot of different ways to help your pet stay comfortable in their own skin.
Last fall my husband and I tore out a garden in the front of our house because we felt like we needed to keep up with the rest of the Joneses. It is now Spring and time to think about replanting the garden. Unfortunately the area we need to plant in is very shady and we are limited to certain plants. As we were looking through plant catalogs searching for the perfect plants, I realized that all the catalogs gave information on the zones the plants would grow best and what kind of lighting they need but they never tell you if they are safe for your pets. As a veterinarian, I think this is a lapse on the plant companies? part. As consumers with pets we should think about what to plant with our pets in mind. Below is a list of poisonous plants. You can also go to veterinarypartner.com for more information.
All or parts of these plants can be harmful. Those with a higher danger of toxicity are in bold italics:
Luckily for us, I have an Invisible Fence installed around our new garden so it is less likely that my pets will be eating the plants in it, however, I intend to be careful just in case.
Every year I get dogs and cats in the office that have eaten plants from their owner?s gardens but I also see pets that have eaten other things out of the garden as well. Mulch seems to be a favorite for many dogs mainly because it stinks. Although it is not necessarily poisonous, it carries a lot of bacteria and fungus and eating it could cause your pet to vomit or have diarrhea. A few years ago I treated a German Shepherd puppy that ate so much mulch he completely filled his stomach with it. He then started vomiting and some of the vomit came out of his nose which then started to bleed. The puppy ended up having his stomach pumped and acquired a fungal infection in his nose from the mulch. It took about a month for the puppy to heal from his mulch eating extravaganza.
Another interesting gardening danger I encountered involved a mixed breed dog and a rake. Let?s just say the dog picked a fight with the plastic rake his owner was using to clear out debris from his garden and the rake won. The poor dog ended up with a rake
tine up his nose. When the dog came to see me, I was surprised to find that his nose was not bleeding and he was pretty proud of the addition to his left nostril. Since my rake- impaled friend was so excited to see everyone and I was afraid he would cause more damage to his nose, I anesthetized him to remove the tine. I assumed he was going to bleed heavily when I removed it, but fortunately for me and him it came out very easily without any blood.
As I plant my garden this Spring I will purchase safe plants for my new garden, remember to put the Invisible Fence collars on my dogs before they go out, keep them out of the mulch, and avoid accidents by picking up my gardening tools. Now that I think about it maybe I?ll just grow grass and avoid problems altogether!
Traveling with Your Pet
Schools out for summer, the weather is nicer (except for all this darn rain), and many people are making plans to do some traveling. If you are planning to travel with your furry friends this summer, there are a few general things you should do prior to taking that vacation. The two biggest pieces of advice are be prepared (as the Boy Scouts say) and plan ahead. Also make sure your pet is healthy enough to travel, is up to date on vaccinations, and is on heartworm prevention and flea prevention. Another good idea is to pack a bag for your pet with all of their supplies: medications, leashes, and food and water bowls. Make sure their collar is in good shape and their tags are up to date with current information. If God forbid they get lost, you want to make sure that whoever finds them is calling the right phone number or microchip company if they are chipped. You might even want to keep a photo of your pet handy just in case.
Here are some extra tips depending on how you are traveling this summer:
Traveling by plane:
Traveling by Car:
Hopefully all you travelers out there have a great time with your furry family members this summer. At least they can?t complain that their brother is touching them or their sister is making funny faces at them. So when you pull the car over because your ten year old is driving you crazy, just remember to let the dog out (on a leash) to relieve themselves so the car ride remains ?accident? free.
Spaying and Neutering Dogs and Cats
It?s been an exciting summer at Concord Chapel Animal Hospital. We?ve seen a lot of our regular pets coming back in for their wellness visits as well as quite a few new families and their pets who have just moved into the Grove City area. Many of the folks we are seeing are bringing in new members to their families, adorable puppies and kittens. Since January, Concord Chapel has adopted out 21 kittens to loving families as well. Every time we see new puppies and kittens we have a conversation about spaying and neutering with their new family members and I think that a large majority of our clients do spay and neuter their pets. These folks should be proud of themselves since they will now have a better behaved pet, spend less on their veterinary bills, and have reduced the pet overpopulation problem.
As veterinarians we are well aware of the health benefits, behavior benefits, and the overall benefits to society every time we neuter or spay a pet. Every time we spay an animal there will be less unwanted animals in the Franklin County Animal Shelter and the Capital Area Humane Society. Every year 6 to 8 million animals enter shelters and every year 3 to 4 million are euthanized. (Just to give you some perspective, that would be like euthanizing 1/3 of the people in the state of Ohio.) This is not counting all the animals roaming that are eaten or killed by other animals, hit by cars on our streets and highways, or inhumanely eliminated by cruel people. The good news is that 3 to 4 million of those animals entering shelters are adopted out to new families and are spayed and neutered.
So what are the benefits of spaying and neutering your pet other than decreasing the overpopulation problem?
Neutering: Behavior Benefits
1. Better temperament and less likely to exert dominance over family members
2. Reduces aggression, fighting, barking and howling
3. Reduces the tendency to roam and find intact females to mate with
4. Less likely to spray and your house will not smell like male cat
Neutering: Health Benefits ? Eliminates or greatly reduces the risk of:
1. Testicular tumors, perianal tumors, penile tumors
2. Prostate enlargement, cysts, abcesses, and infections
3. Perianal hernias
4. Urinary Tract Infections
5. Injuries caused while roaming ? bite wounds, bullet/arrow wounds, hit by car, etc.
6. Spread of sexually transmitted disease
Spaying: Behavior Benefits
1. Will not attract or seek out male dogs
2. Reduces the tendency to roam to find intact males to mate with
3. Decreases barking and howling
4. Prevents personality changes caused by hormones
Spaying: Health Benefits ? Eliminates or greatly reduces the risk of:
1. Ovarian, uterine, and breast cancer
2. Uterine infections (pyometra)
3. Difficulty giving birth (dystocia) and the need for emergency care or C-section to deliver babies
4. Injuries caused while roaming ? bite wounds, bullet/arrow wounds, hit by car, etc.
5. Spread of sexually transmitted diseases
As you can see, each and every one of the problems listed has a cost whether it is to the pet, other family members including other pets, or to your wallet. Many of the health and behavior problems listed could cost thousands of dollars to treat and some of them are not treatable. Even the overpopulation problem has a cost to our wallets considering that some of our tax dollars every year goes to fund animal shelters. Some people argue that they can not afford to have their animals spayed or neutered but I ask, can you afford not too? The average cost to spay or neuter a pet is around $250 which is very inexpensive considering the long term cost of not spaying or neutering your animal. In addition, there are many programs available to help with the cost of spaying or neutering such as Feral Fix and Advo Cat both run through the Capital Area Humane Society. There are also low cost spay and neuter clinics and even mobile units that are available in just about every county in the United States.
Even though I love seeing kittens and puppies every day (there?s nothing like happy puppy kisses and purring, kneading kittens), I still hope that every one of those cute little critters gets spayed or neutered. There will always be kittens and puppies but if we can reduce the amount of unwanted pets and unwanted disease our lives and our pet?s lives will be much better for it.
Did you ever come home from work to find a localized tornado (AKA your dog) has left a swath of destruction throughout your house? Has a neighbor ever called you to let you know that their ears are bleeding because there is supersonic screeching and barking coming from your apartment? If so your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety. This is a behavioral problem suffered by many dogs when left alone. Dogs with this behavioral problem typically show one or more signs of destructiveness, house soiling, and excessive vocalization after their owner leaves their home. While their family is home, the dog may also follow people around the house because the dog feels anxious when not in the presence of his people.
Some dogs with separation anxiety are only minimally affected and can be left at home crated, in a room, or floor of the house while other dogs are more affected and cannot be left alone at all. These dogs can injure themselves while making attempts to escape the house to find their owners. These dogs should not be left alone and owners should make arrangement with a friend or neighbor to be with the dog or possibly put the dog in doggy day care.
This behavior problem is typically managed with medication (anxiolytics ? clomipramine, fluoxetine, alprazolam, etc.), enrichment (exercise, toys, and socialization), behavior modification (review and change of family routines), and pheromone therapy (DAP ? Dog Appeasing Pheromones). Most dogs need all or most of these management tools.
Separation anxiety is typically a lifelong problem but can be managed successfully. If you think your dog may have separation anxiety symptoms, see your veterinarian for help before your little thunderstorm becomes a giant tornado.
Mammary Cancer Awareness
The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I?m sure you have recently noticed an insurgence of pink everywhere you look. The Kroger in my neighborhood has changed the checkout line lights to pink, the football players you see on Saturday and Sunday are wearing pink, and every year the LeVeque Tower sports its pink lights for the month of October. The point is that everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. At Concord Chapel, we lost a friend and team member to breast cancer a few years ago.
What a lot of people don?t know is that dogs and cats can get breast cancer too. In veterinary medicine we call it by a different name: mammary cancer. Any mammal can get mammary cancer because every mammal has mammary glands (say that 7 times fast). As humans we have only two glands while dogs have ten and cats have eight (pigs have 14 ? now that?s a lot of tatas).
In dogs and cats mammary cancer can be avoided by spaying them before their first heat cycle. If you spay your kitten or puppy before they are six months old, they have virtually no chance of getting mammary cancer. If you wait till after their first heat cycle, about 1 in 4 dogs will get a mammary tumor of which 50% will be cancerous.
The terms lump, tumor, and cancer are tossed around like they mean the same thing but in all reality a lump or tumor is not a cancer until it has the capability to spread to another area of the body. Think of cancer like a bag full of marbles. When the bag opens up, marbles can spill everywhere and ?spread? around the room. Cancers are full of cells that are acting abnormally. Cells from the cancer can enter the blood stream and spread to other areas of the body. Common areas that mammary cancer spreads to are lung, lymph nodes, and bone.
I read a bumper sticker the other day that said, ?Got Boobs? Check ?em!? Do to the lack of opposable thumbs our female pets have a hard time checking themselves. As humans (hopefully with thumbs), we can feel up and down our pets mammary chains. If you feel anything like a firm grain of rice in the gland bring your pet to your vet right away so you can get the lump taken care of before it is too late.
In the month of October, show your support for Breast Cancer Awareness. Save second base and wear pink! (I have three little girls so we are supporting Breast Cancer Awareness every day of the year.) And spay your dog or cat before they are six months of age. They will thank you for it.
Cold Weather Care
It is a beautiful morning. The sun is rising behind the leaf barren trees in the back yard. There is frost on the still green grass and my outdoor thermometer reads 33� outside. Jim Ganahl says it?s supposed to go up to 60� today which is perfect for fall in my opinion. In a few weeks however, we?ll be lucky if the temperature gets above 30� for the day. Jim will get his snow machine out and we probably won?t see the sun until March. Ah, winter in Columbus, Ohio.
As the temperature drops and the frost on the ground turns to freezing rain and snow, we need to start pulling winter clothing out of storage, resetting the thermostats in the house, stocking up on deicer for the sidewalk, and finding the snow shovels hidden somewhere in the garage. We also need to start thinking about our pets too. Most of our pets these days live in the house with us and do not have to worry about braving the elements unless they go for a walk with their owner. Although I do not recommend it, some dogs and cats cannot be inside with their owners. These animals need a shelter that protects them from the wind and elements. In the shelter they will need a layer of straw, shredded newspaper, or blankets they can burrow in to keep warm. Purchase an outdoor heated bed for the shelter as well as a heated bowl to keep their water from freezing. They will also need more food so they have fuel in their system to combat the cold. If it gets below freezing or Jim Ganahl is warning people to stay inside because of bad weather or low wind chill, you should bring your outdoor pets inside where they will be safe. Pet proofed basements, bathrooms and heated garages make good temporary houses for outdoor pets.
Indoor pets tend to handle the cold better than we do since they are wearing fur coats, however, the shorter haired breeds such as Italian Greyhounds, Whippets, Dachshunds, and Chihuahuas may need a cozy coat or sweater when going outside. Older or sickly pets also need a coat regardless of breed as they cannot control their own body temperature as well. Older pets may need joint supplements or pain medication to help with arthritis pain which can be more intense in the cold weather months.
Other good cold weather tips to consider when your pets are braving the elements are to clean up all antifreeze spills as ingesting even small amounts of this toxic chemical can be deadly. Antifreeze can also be found in other products such as deicers and windshield wiper fluid. It is also important to wipe your pet?s feet off when coming inside. Snow and ice packed between foot pads can cause skin damage. Salts and deicers left on sidewalks can also get between the foot pads causing skin problems and possibly sickness if your pet licks the chemicals off their feet.
Most of these tips are common sense. Just remember if it is too cold for you it is probably too cold for your pet and if you shouldn?t eat it they shouldn?t either. So break out your hats, mittens, and winter coats. When you go out to warm up the car remember to slap the hood to dislodge the next door neighbor?s cat who may be using your car as a shelter. Enjoy that upcoming winter weather. I?m hoping for more snow this year and less frozen mud. Some sunshine would be nice too!