Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dead Giveaway: Your Vet's Tone of Voice and the News that Is Coming

Very small portion of communication is conveyed through actual words. Some sources indicate that it is as little as 7%. Makes you wonder why we talk so much all the time.

When the vet walks into the exam room with your dog's lab results, do you already know what kind of news they're bringing before they open their mouth?

I still remembers the phone updates I was getting when Jasmine was in the ICU. I remember the monotone voice reciting her vitals, "her blood pressure is good, her heart rate is good ..." Translation: "she's hanging in there but I have no good news to give you." Morning after morning after morning.

When they were releasing her to home care, the non-verbal communication was saying, "there is nothing else we can do for her, it's up to her now. Hopefully she'll bounce back when she's in her home environment."

I remember the message between the lines when discussing Jasmine's prognosis on her last days.

The messages between the lines

When I was discussing Cookies ALT elevation with her vet, the tone of voice was quite neutral. No alarm bells going off. It was a mild anomaly which could mean something or could be normal for Cookie.

The phone call after her ultrasound was much more guarded. Before we even got to discussing the actual results, I was already worried. No word has been said about the actual ultrasound yet. But I knew that while it wasn't going to be a horrible news, something about the ultrasound wasn't quite right.

Just the time it took for them to call me about it at all was suspicious.

As time went on, I started thinking they saw something and were waiting for the biopsy results before talking to me. As it turned out, it was exactly why they were making me wait. It took three phone calls from me to finally hear back.

I was on pins and needles awaiting the biopsy results.

We were out walking the guys when the phone rang and it was from the vet hospital. By the time the vet introduced herself, made sure I was who she was trying to talk to and that I had time to discuss things, I KNEW it was going to be a good news.

Does your vet's non-verbal communication give away the news they're bringing?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Wound Repair, Hidden Toxins and more

Wound Repair: How To Treat Your Dog Fight Wounds

Nobody wants their dog to get hurt. Nobody wants their dog get into a fight with another dog. But it happens. When it does, it's important to know what to do.

So what about those hidden potential toxins …

I chose this article because of one particular item listed. If your dog's stomach was upset, what would you do? Give some Pepto Bismol? Many people seem to do that. It might not be a good idea at all. Find out why.

Honey is Great For Wound Care... But Which Honey?

We all heard of using honey for wounds. When Cookie cut her paw pad, I specially ordered some Manuka Honey to try. And yes, it was recommended by one of the vets I was consulting on ideal treatment.

One study even showed that some of the honeys are effective even against resistant bacteria such as MRSA. But will any ol' honey do?

Diabetes Mellitus: Dogs

Did you know that there is evidence that diabetes mellitus in dogs, among other causes, can be auto-immune in origin? Would you know when to suspect your dog might have diabetes? Would you know what to do?

Are Wearable Tech Devices for Pets Worth It?

Every now and then I come across one of these things and get intrigued. Would you use it? I mean would you really use it?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Veterinary Highlights: Promising Treatment for Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs

Mitral valve disease constitutes about 75% of heart diseases in dogs. The mitral valve is the heart's main pumping chamber. When it's not working properly, eventually this leads to congestive heart failure.

A large clinical trial evaluated effectiveness of using pimobendan to delay the onset of clinical signs of congestive heart failure in affected dogs.

The results seem promising.

Source article:
Treatment of Canine Mitral Valve Disease Shows Promise

Further reading:
Mitral Valve Disease in Dogs

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Have a Miniature Schnauzer? Know about Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS)

by Nancy Kay, DVM 

Pay close attention all of you Miniature Schnauzer lovers! The breed you fancy is prone to a heart condition called Sick Sinus Syndrome (SSS). The sinus involved is not within the respiratory tract. Rather, it is a structure called the sinus node that is located within the heart.

The sinus node is responsible for electronically initiating the normal heartbeat and establishing the normal heart rate. 

In dogs with SSS, the sinus node has lapses in which it discharges beats much too slowly, or not at all. As a result, there are long pauses in between heartbeats. Sometimes, an electrical impulse originating from another part of the heart will come to the rescue, particularly if the heart has stopped for several seconds. Such rescue beats can be very rapid.

In most cases, the sinus node will eventually resume its job in which case there will be periods of normal heart rate (60-100 beats per minute). Other dogs with SSS have a constant bradycardia (heart rate is too slow). Even with exercise or excitement, the heart rate remains at less than 40 beats per minute.

What causes it?

The exact cause of the sinus node malfunction is unknown. Although any breed of dog can be affected, a genetic basis is suspect because SSS primarily affects Miniature Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, and Pugs. Middle-aged to older females are particularly predisposed. The mode of inheritance is unknown, and there is no genetic testing available. Nonetheless, the appearance of SSS in a breeding dog should strongly discourage future breeding.

What are the symptoms?

Dog with SSS becomes symptomatic because of their subnormal heart rate. The most common symptoms include:
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Collapse
  • Fainting episodes (also known as syncopal episodes)

Some dogs with severe, long-standing SSS can develop symptoms of congestive heart failure including weakness, labored breathing, and coughing.

It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between a fainting episode (syncope) and a seizure. Videotaping such an event at home to then share with the examining veterinarian can be most helpful.

How is it diagnosed?

SSS is strongly suspected based on the dog’s breed, history, and a thorough physical examination. Listening with a stethoscope often reveals a heart rate that is lower than normal and stays this way even when the dog is asked to exercise. Other testing that may be recommended include:
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) looks for abnormalities characteristic of SSS changes.
  • Blood testing rules out an underlying metabolic problem. Abnormalities in blood calcium or potassium levels have the potential to mimic SSS changes.
  • Holter monitoring provides a 24-hour electrocardiogram (ECG) tracing. The testing equipment is housed within a vest that is worn by the dog at home. This may be necessary to determine if a dog has SSS, particularly if the heart rate is normal at the time of the physical examination.
  • An atropine response test can identify dogs with SSS. Atropine is a drug that normally causes the heart rate to escalate. When atropine is given to a dog with SSS, the very low heart rate remains unchanged.
  • Chest x-rays document evidence of heart failure.
  • Cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram) looks for changes in the appearance of the heart valves and sizes of the four chambers that can occur secondary to chronic SSS.
How is it treated?

For dogs with SSS, the therapeutic goal is to maintain a normal heart rate so as to restore a good quality of life. If SSS is caught quite early during an annual physical exam, and the dog is symptom-free, no treatment other than careful monitoring may be required for the time being.

For dogs who are experiencing symptoms, two forms of therapy can be considered:

Vagolytic drugs: These medications are used in an attempt to maintain a normal heart rate. While it is reasonable to try such drugs, they don’t have a very consistent track record of success. Additionally, side effects are relatively common. Examples of vagolytic drugs are theophylline, terbutaline, and propantheline bromide.

Pacemaker implantation: This is truly the treatment of choice for most dogs with symptoms caused by SSS. When properly placed and monitored, a pacemaker is capable of restoring a normal quality of life for years to come. Veterinarians who specialize in cardiology are the masters of pacemaker implantation. Just as in people, the pacemaker can be placed without a significant surgery involved. Access to pacemaker implantation may be limited depending on where one lives and their ability to pay for such a state-of-the-art procedure.

Have you ever cared for a dog with sick sinus syndrome?


Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Did you get your copy of Speaking for Spot yet?

If not, go get the book. It's likely the most important dog book you'll ever read.

Articles by Dr. Kay:
Reasonable Expectations: The Ability to Discuss Your Internet Research With Your Vet
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Even The Best Veterinarian Can Make A Mistake
A Different Way to Spay
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog: Lily's Story
If You Don't Know What A Lick Granuloma Is, Count Your Blessings!
Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning 
Talking Teeth 
Urinary Accidents
I Can't Believe He Ate That! Foreign Body Ingestion 
What Caused Murphy's And Ruska'sPneumothorax?
The Whole Picture: When The Test Results Don't Match What's In Front Of You 
Stop that Scratching
Veterinarians And Vaccines: A Slow Learning Curve
What is a Veterinary Specialist? 
Veterinary Specialists: Oncologist 
Veterinary Specialists: Cardiologist 
Veterinary Specialists: Internist 
Veterinary Specialists: Neurologist
Veterinary Specialists: Surgeons
Nutritional Management of Canine Epilepsy 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Part III - How is WiggleLess® helping to provide support for other dogs suffering from or prone to IVDD?

by Lisa Luckenbach

WiggleLess® was created to do one simple thing: HELP DOGS! 

There are many wonderful dog lovers out there and I come across amazing parents every day who make my work incredibly rewarding.

Along with our goal to constantly improve our product and find pups in need of support, my team endeavors to provide inspiring stories and a place to connect to other IVDD resources.

June and Henry have both passed on (not from back problems), but they were the inspiration behind my WiggleLess® back brace and I am determined to share what I know and continue to learn with anyone who loves dogs as much as I do.

When I first became acquainted with the disease, there wasn’t the wealth of information out there that we have today. I am amazed each week at the new sites and forums allowing people a space to discuss IVDD and how it has changed their lives and the lives of their dogs. We are now sharing stories of how we can make strides towards wellness and bring relief to our fur babies; which gives me a great sense of reward and satisfaction.

One of my most recent favorite thoughts for the day came from Dodgerslist, a fantastic forum for all things IVDD related. 

They reminded readers that “your dog CAN have a great quality of life living with IVDD -- no matter whether the dog regains the ability to walk or not. Quality of life is totally a matter of perspective. There is our human perspective; and then, there is the dog’s perspective.”

They suggested, no matter what level of ability your dog achieves after recovery, your dog will be happy and loving life as long as three basic, but very simple requirements are met: food, water, a safe, comfy place to sleep, and a family’s love. I have to agree 100%!

With the right diagnosis and the right treatment, IVDD is manageable, and remembering the simple ingredients it takes to make your dog feel loved and happy is top of the list. My Henry lived well past his IVDD diagnosis, as did June. My pet professional gave me the tools and information I needed to manage my pups' ailments – and using the brace to help aid their comfort gave me a sense of accomplishment and shared relief!

Today, there are now eight sizes of WiggleLess® dog back braces available, providing comfortable, firm, back support for many breeds and builds of dogs with back problems. 

When used as directed, the vet-recommended and patented WiggleLess® dog back brace offers firm support, back stability and stress relief for your dog. I often smile up with gratitude for Henry and June’s journey, knowing they taught me so much and are now helping me from the heavens to do my small part to make a difference and give support to other dogs.

At WiggleLess®, we strive weekly to work with the local community and our friends across the US and abroad to bring IVDD to the forefront of the pet community so we can all learn and share but most of all help all our beloved dogs to live the longest, healthiest lives possible.


Lisa Luckenbach has developed WiggleLess® back braces for dogs that are overweight and need extra support, elderly with aching backs, diagnosed with IVDD-related back problems, or overly active and can benefit from the structure a dog back brace provides. 

In addition to running WiggleLess®, Lisa is a registered yoga instructor, licensed massage therapist, public speaker, ordained minister, and breast cancer survivor. She shares her home with her husband, two teen-aged daughters and three spunky, adopted dogs, Ryder (Cocker Spaniel), LaVerne (Schnauzer/Doxie mix), and Chai (Doxie/Jack russell mix). Visit WiggleLess®.com to learn more about Lisa and her back brace for dogs.

Articles by Lisa Luckenbach:
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Part I - My Babies Have What? 
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Part II - Living with IVDD and the Development of the Brace 

Related articles:
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part I) 
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part II Physical Therapy)
What Acupuncture Did For Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)

Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!

What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from you!
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