Thursday, June 30, 2011

Paring Down to the Canine Core

by Susan E. Davis, PT

In the event you might research” canine strengthening”, part of the new field of PT and Rehabilitation for animals, you will find plenty of information about the fore and hind limbs. You will not find much at all on the “Core” groups which contain the diaphragm, abdominal and spinal musculature.

As time goes on, we realize just how critical these muscle groups are to canine function and the importance of properly including them in a rehabilitation program.

The abdominal muscles are those which run from the ribs to parts of the pelvis. 

Their names are: rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques and transverse abdominus.

Their functions are
  1. Movement: bending or flexion, side bend, and rotation of the spine 
  2. Support for the spine and visceral organs 
  3. Assist or act as an “accessory” to activity, breathing, barking.  

Buddy Rolling About

The rectus is “superficial” and runs long ways in a head-to-tail direction (like the “6-pack” muscle in the human), the obliques are diagonal, along the dog’s side, and the transverse is a deep, lower muscle which runs from side to side.  

When you visualize how the dog walks in a quadruped (all four limbs on the ground) manner with its internal organs positioned parallel to the ground, you can see how important the abdominal muscles are in supporting them and countering the effects of gravity as a “floor”.

Canines also have a much “shorter” gut/intestinal path as compared to humans, and the abdominals can also be helpful in aiding this system.

It is important to strengthen and firm the abdominals for prevention of spinal conditions in dogs, particularly the chondrodystrophic (dwarf) breeds like Dachshunds, Corgis, Pekingese and Lhasa Apso, or after spinal injury or spinal surgery.  

In non-orthopedic cases where abdominal surgery is performed for removal of masses, etc., the abdominal area will need rehabilitation to help tissue healing and regain strength.

Typical PT intervention after abdominal surgery will include massage over the surgery site. 

Abdominal incisions are deep and tend to form excess scar tissue. This forms naturally as the body heals itself and it usually reabsorbs with normal movement and activity.

However, sometimes excess scarring can linger and impair muscle function.  These “cross-links” of excess collagen are broken down thru various types of massage.  

The most common is transverse friction where a shearing type of movement is performed perpendicular to the scar direction (if scar runs “north-south the friction is applied “east-west”, etc.).

Another form is myofascial release, a very light subtle rhythmical surface technique which works on the fascia or connective tissues surrounding the musculature.

There are other “somatic” bodywork vibratory techniques used by massage therapists that can also help.  In the “human PT” world a “Wurn Technique” exists that is being used over the abdominal region to release scar tissue in women having difficulty conceiving.  I anticipate these techniques may eventually become adapted for use in animals having medical abdominal issues.

Now for the fun part!  Here are some examples of strengthening and toning exercises:

1.  "Get on the Ball”   using a peanut-shaped ball or physio roll, place the dog on top,” long ways” and perform gentle bouncing motions, while keeping one hand on your dog and one on the ball. This will activate and “recruit” the abdominal musculature.

2.  “Sit up for a Treat” can be performed starting with your dog lying on their back.  A pillow or mattress can be placed underneath.  Place one hand under their ribs or behind the neck, while the other hand holds a small treat, encourage them to do a “curl or sit-up” and reach the treat.  This engages the rectus muscle, by working from the ‘top down”.  5 reps

3. “Add a Twist”: roll them toward their side using a cushion or pillow under the ribs and do the same “sit-up” as above, but from the side, to activate the obliques. Repeat on the other side:  3-4 reps per side.

4.  “Bottoms up” now work from the bottom up to recruit the deeper transverse abdominals.  Start position with the dog on their back.  Lean over the dog and tickle their lower belly, rub your head on the fur or something similar that is fun for your dog, so they will naturally want to curl up their legs and “bottom”.  This is not done in reps but in time.  Try and make this a fun little game, getting them to hold the position for 10-15 seconds.  My dog likes when my hair falls down on her belly!

5. If your dog has difficulty lying on their back or side for the above exercises, you can start with a basic “belly tickle” in the standing on all fours position.  Place one hand under their chin to align the head horizontally, and the other hand lightly tickling the belly to encourage abdominal muscular contraction.

6. Stretching: like all muscles, the abdominals can get tight and may need to be stretched.  This should be done by a PT or your Vet, via rolling from side to side and lying back over a small rolled towel or foam roller.

General precautions and Contraindication:  

Though I love to provide examples of PT exercises for you to do at home, the safest and best way is to be shown first by an animal-trained PT or a rehab-trained Vet.

They can provide specific modifications and parameters for the best outcome. I would avoid abdominal strengthening in certain high-cut/deep-chested breeds such as boxers as there may be a risk of stimulating gastric torsion. It is always best to get your Vet’s advice first.  Have a great summer and help firm your dog’s abs!!!


Susan E. Davis (Sue) is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 30 years of practice in the human field, who transitioned into the animal world after taking courses at the UT Canine Rehabilitation program.  She is located in Red Bank, New Jersey.

She has been providing PT services to dogs and other animals through her entity Joycare Onsite, LLC in pet’s homes and in vet clinics since 2008.

She also provides pro bono services at the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, NJ.  Sue is the proud “dog mommy” to Penelope, a miniature Dachshund with “attitude”.  For more information see her website , or follow on Twitter @animalPTsue.

Sue is also the author of a fantastic book on physical therapy, Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation For Animals: A Guide For The Consumer.  

Physical therapy can do so many great things for your dog. Understanding all the possibilities physical therapy can offer will change your dog's life. This book definitely belongs on the shelf of every dog lover.

Articles by Susan E. Davis:
Functional Strengthening Exercises: the What, Why and How
One Thing Leads To Another: Why The Second ACL Often Goes Too
Compensation: An Attempt To Restore Harmony
Paring Down to the Canine Core
Canine Massage: Every Dog ‘Kneads’ It”
Photon Power: Can Laser Therapy Help Your Dog?  
Physical Therapy in the Veterinary World  
Reiki: Is it real? 
Dog Lessons: Cooper  
The Essentials Of Canine Injury Prevention: 7 Tips For Keeping Your Dog Safer 
It's Not Just Walking, It's Therapy! 
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part I)
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part II Physical Therapy)
Range Of Motion: It’s A Matter Of Degree…
The Weight Of Water And How It Helps Dogs 
By Land or By Sea? A Comparison of Canine Treadmills 
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part I)
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part II) 
Scar Tissue: Is it Too Much of a Good Thing? 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ramps! 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Indoor Duo Dog Exercises!
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Best Practices After Your Dog’s Surgery

Related articles:
Don’t Forget the Physical Therapy


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thinking Outside The Box: Solutions Tailored To Your Dog's Needs

Looks like the boils, altered mental status, and heart failure were caused by renal cell carcinoma. I need your signature to start treating it with malaria.
Gregory House, MD

Getting the right diagnosis is a crucial step but the work doesn't end there.

Once you know what's wrong with your dog, you still need to decide on the treatment. Yes, you might have been presented with one treatment option only. That, however, doesn't mean there is only one option.

Moulin Rouge Doxies

When Jasmine was diagnosed with torn ACL, the only option presented to us was TPLO surgery!

Well, guess what? There are enough options to treat torn cruciate ligament out there to make your head spin!

That's not to say that the one option you were given isn't the best one for your dog. But how would you know for sure without considering them all?

Remember, getting a second opinion doesn't apply only to diagnostics but to treatment options also!

While a run-of-the-mill treatment solution can often work, it is not always the case.

The problem with cookie-cutter solutions is that each dog is an individual with individual problems and needs.

The best treatment is such that considers your dog's individual needs.

The first time our vet was faced with the need for a unique solution to a common problem was when we brought in JD with ringworm infection.

He was going to write up a standard prescription. 

While doing that he mentioned that JD will have to wear the Elizabethan collar until the treatment was over.

Wait a minute. This was just shortly after Jasmine's first knee surgery and she was quite vulnerable to setbacks! And I remembered what a disaster it was when JD had to wear the collar after he got neutered. He was a clumsy danger to himself and everybody around him.

Mixing that with Jasmine's post-op didn't seem like a good idea to me.

I still remember how momentary irritation swept over the vet's face. 

He was trying to hide it and I didn't hold it against him. What was important was what he did. We could clearly see him thinking.

He then came up with an alternate solution that did not require the e-collar!

Yes, it was a pain in the backside, and the treatment took longer. But it worked and Jasmine's knee was safe!

He [our vet] since got used to the fact that with Jasmine every solution has to be custom. After examining her, he would sit down deep in thought: “I know what I would normally do—now I have to figure out what I'm going to do considering it's Jasmine.”

Jasmine's vet is very smart and sometimes I think he enjoys the challenge.

He had custom designed his first lift exam tables. For his new place, he had now designed custom sound-proof kennels for the sick ward. And he always makes the treatment work for his patients.

When one of Jasmine's incisions wasn't healing well, he came up with the idea of using Preparation H

That's right, the hemorrhoid ointment! Did it ever work! It seems it works better for this than for its original purpose!

This year has been quite wet and Jasmine's feet seemed to want to keep breaking out with infections.

What are we using? Epi-Otic!

Yup, the ear cleanser! And it's working beautifully! Since we started using it, even the cracks Jasmine had on he pads disappeared.

Jasmine's care is custom tailored to her, starting from her custom home-cooked diet and hand-picked supplements, to the treatment of any problem that she faces.

The biggest leap of faith for her vet was when we wanted to include the Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) in our arsenal.

He squirmed a bit at first.

But because the patient's interest is his main priority, and conventional treatments failed to address the problem, he agreed to trying it.

Jasmine's TCVM vet was quite surprised to find out that her regular vet was cool with that. “He knows you're here?” he asked, surprised, when we came for the first consultation.

Yes, of course, he did, we wouldn't want to do anything without his blessing. 

We love and respect him too much to go behind his back. And the fact that we didn't have to [go behind his back] only proves that the respect we have for him is well deserved.

Over time, all kinds of things got mixed into the pot that is Jasmine's medical care.

Latest science, unorthodox ideas, and alternative treatments. 

The result? Jasmine is going to be 8 years old and nobody would guess that.

We drive our dogs around in custom cars, dress them up with custom accessories … and yet we are quick to settle for cookie-cutter medical solutions.

Your dog has arthritis? Here are some NSAIDs.

While NSAIDs can be a fine solution for many dogs, there are other options out there that can work just as well and that are safer.

Whatever treatment option you go with, do make sure that it is the best solution for you and your dog. There are options!

Related articles:
Bulging Disc and The Importance Of A Second Opinion
A Word On Second Opinions
Trust Your Gut! The Story Of Blind Maximus
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog
It's Your Dog's Health
Does Your Vet Listen To You?
Help! My Dog Is Purple!
Veterinary Drive-Thru: Coming Soon To A Veterinary Hospital Near You!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bulging Disc and The Importance Of A Second Opinion

by Luanne

Jingles is a Beagle and he is so silly and full of life that you’d never guess he is 19 years old! 

Every day I shake my head in disbelief at his antics and energy and I wouldn’t change him for the world! I love him for his foolishness and he always makes me laugh.

However, this month he had a few episodes of bad pain. 

When it happens he can barely lift his head, his right side gets very weak and he has a really hard time walking.

He doesn’t wag his tail and he doesn’t eat because he’s in so much pain. 

His first episode was earlier this month and I took him to my regular vet but she didn’t really know what the problem was, gave the typical suspects for neck pain and sent us on our way with a very low dosage of Tramadol.

That episode lasted 4-5 days and then he seemed ok. Not perfect because if I touched near his head when he wasn’t expecting it he’d yelp but other than that he was back to his ole Beagley self!

That lasted for about 10 days and then he had another bad episode.

During this recent bad episode, I took him back to my regular vet and she said to put him back on the Tramadol that he was prescribed during his first episode but other than that she didn’t have anything else to offer. His pain kept up, the Tramadol was not helping & he was not eating & could barely move. My poor ole boy, I was so upset, I really thought we were nearing the end (for those who don’t know, Jingles is 19 yrs old but he’s a very active senior!).

I took him to an emergency vet that weekend and again she had very little to offer. 

My heart was breaking thinking that I may have to euthanize my boy because he had absolutely no quality of life, he was in so much pain, and the two vets I saw did not have anything to offer me to help Jingles.

Determined to do something to try to help Jingles, I took him to another vet who specializes in rehabilitation and physical therapy for animals, the same vet I wrote about previously in regards to Tiki’s rehab, Dr. Gumley at Cedarview Animal Hospital.

OMG, I wish I had of taken Jingles there from day one! 

He did not twist Jingles head all around trying to make him scream as the other vets did (and likely causing more damage), he could tell where Jingles was hurting simply by gently feeling his neck and spine, checking his reflexes, etc. The vet could feel the heat radiating from Jingles’ neck and he could feel the muscles twitching (which you could also visibly see) and he was able to pinpoint the specific vertebrae that were causing Jingles so much pain.

Now, only a week after seeing Dr. Gumley, I have my Beagle back! 

He’s able to hold his head up properly, he’s rolling in the grass again, he’s trying to steal the cats’ food, he’s able to get up on my bed and the couch, he’s eating well, he’s energetic and wants to go for walks and he’s wagging his tail! Jingles is my silly Beagle once again!

Without an MRI we will not know for sure what’s really going on with Jingles but based on his findings, Dr. Gumley is fairly certain it’s a bulging disc in Jingles’ neck which is extremely painful and debilitating. 

He increased Jingles’ Tramadol dosage fourfold, and also added in another pain reliever that works with the Tramadol to increase its effectiveness.

Jingles has a chronic renal failure (which is under control) and a grade 5 heart murmur so we’re limited with what we can give him but the pain meds he’s on are kidney and heart safe.

I’ve been icing Jingles neck and we’ve also been doing the cold laser therapy every other day for the past week.

I think that’s really helping to reduce the inflammation but we won’t know for sure what’s actually helping until we start to decrease the pain meds.

Jingles goes back to see Dr. Gumley on Wednesday and if he determines that we now have the pain sufficiently under control than we can start some gentle physical therapy exercises for his neck. I know we aren’t out of the woods yet and it could easily recur, but I’m so thankful for Dr. Gumley!

He’s given me hope, he’s given me my silly Beagle back and most importantly he’s given Jingles his quality of life back!

Always, ALWAYS, get a 2nd opinion and if you still are not satisfied, get a 3rd opinion and a 4th! 

We have to be the voice of the animals we care for and we know them best. Don’t be afraid to speak up for them! I often hear people say “but my vet is so nice” as a reason not to go elsewhere. Your vet may be the nicest person in the world but that doesn’t mean they have the experience to deal with the problem at hand. I really like my regular vet and she’s very nice as well but from now on if any of my animals has any mobility issues I am going directly to Dr. Gumley.

Related articles:
A Word On Second Opinions
Trust Your Gut! The Story Of Blind Maximus
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog
It's Your Dog's Health
Does Your Vet Listen To You?
Help! My Dog Is Purple!
Veterinary Drive-Thru: Coming Soon To A Veterinary Hospital Near You!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Heat Stroke: What Happens In The Dog's Body?

by Jennifer Coates, DVM

Every summer, veterinarians warn about the dangers of excessive heat for dogs.  

Heat stroke, which is characterized by a body temperature between 106 and 109°F (normal is 101.5°F give or take a degree), is most likely to develop when one or more of the following conditions is met:
  • hot and humid weather combined with exercise and/or a lack of shade and access to water
  • being confined in a car or other location where heat can build up
  • obesity
  • advanced age
  • heart disease
  • upper respiratory disease (e.g., laryngeal paralysis or brachycephalic airway syndrome)

But what exactly happens when a dog’s body temperature reaches 106°F or above, and why is it so dangerous?

Photo Lindsey Kone

First, as a dog’s temperature begins to climb, the body cools itself via panting, drooling, and dilating blood vessels on the surface of the body (vasodilation).

These mechanisms are sufficient up to a point, but if there is no relief from high external temperatures, the dog’s excessive panting, drooling and vasodilation leads to dehydration and low blood pressure. 

These conditions inhibit the body’s ability to cool itself, setting up a vicious cycle wherein the hotter the body becomes, the less effective are its mechanisms to deal with the situation.

When body temperatures reach the danger zone, proteins break down, cell membranes are damaged, and the body can no longer produce energy at the cellular level.   

As tissues degrade and blood clotting abnormalities develop, the kidneys and liver begin to fail, the lining of the gastrointestinal tract dies, and heart and brain damage occur.

If a body temperature of 110°F is reached, a dog can die within just a few minutes.

Early symptoms of heat stroke include extreme panting, a rapid heartbeat, red mucous membranes, vomiting, and diarrhea.

As his condition worsens, a dog may suffer from difficulty breathing, abnormal bruising, bloody vomit and diarrhea, blue or pale mucous membranes, collapse, seizures, and paradoxically, a lower than normal body temperature.

If you suspect that a dog is suffering from heat stroke, thoroughly soak him with cool water (do not use ice though) and transport him to the nearest veterinary clinic in a car with the air conditioning on or with all the windows open.

Heat stroke has a mortality rate of around 50%, but with prompt and intensive treatment, many dogs can survive!


Jennifer Coates, DVM graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999.  In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado.  She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms: Vet-speak Deciphered for the Non-veterinarian

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics.  Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

Articles by Dr. Coates:
When Is It An Emergency?
The Other Side Of The Coin: The Cost Of Defensive Medicine 
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 1) 
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 2)
Dog Allergies: Common, Commonly Misdiagnosed, or Both? 
The Perplexities of Pancreatitis 
Don’t Forget the Physical Therapy
Picking the Right Dog to Breed 
To Neuter Or Not To Neuter… That Is The Question 

Related articles:
Signs, Symptoms And Treatment Of Heat Stroke In Dogs
Know Your Dog's Enemies: Heat Stroke Is No Light Matter! 
Hypo- Versus Hyperthermia

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Xylitol And The Basset Hound

by Shawn M. Finch, DVM

Matilda is a four-year-old spayed female Basset Hound. Sometime within an hour before she was brought in, Matilda had taken a package of gum off the counter and eaten or chewed up about half of the package.

Basset Hound

Matilda’s owner did not expect us to say gum could be dangerous for dogs, but she called us (gum wrapper in hand) because she did not know for sure.

What seemed like a pretty innocuous event was indeed a medical emergency! 

She brought Matilda to the hospital as quickly as she safely could.

She had no abnormal physical signs on presentation. A complete blood panel was done.

Matilda's glucose level was down to 60 mg/dL.  (Normal 70-150).  

All other parameters, including liver values, were normal.

Vomiting was induced and anti-emetics given to control the vomiting after treatment.  Activated charcoal was given by mouth to absorb any remaining toxin in her gastrointestinal system.

Matilda was given a meal after treatment, and her blood glucose returned to normal levels.  She returned in the morning for a physical exam and glucose recheck.  No physical abnormalities were noted, and glucose levels were normal.

What could have happened if Matilda wasn't brought in and treated as fast as she was?

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is used as a sugar substitute in many products including gum.  Xylitol is also sometimes used as a sweetener in compounded drugs.  What makes a medication palatable for a child could be deadly for your dog!

Even with a rapid assessment by the owner and treatment by the veterinary team, xylitol toxicity cases do not always end as happily as Matilda's case!

Even if they are, often much more intensive therapy is needed than that which was needed to save Matilda.

Xylitol ingestion can be rapidly fatal due to insulin release and the resulting hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  
It can also cause a more chronic liver failure that can be fatal.  

Life-saving treatment often includes intravenous fluid with dextrose (to combat the low blood sugar), supportive care and liver protectants.  If the pet is showing clinical signs, intensive round the clock veterinary monitoring is often needed until the pet is clinically normal and all blood parameters are normal.

Xylitol toxicity seems to be dose dependent, but such a small amount is needed to cause medical problems, including fatalities, that any ingestion is a medical emergency.   

Time is of the essence!  

Matilda ate a few pieces of gum and was treated immediately, and her blood sugar was already dangerously low and probably still dropping!

Good plan:  Seek medical treatment immediately if you even suspect xylitol ingestion!

Better plan:  Keep all xylitol-containing products out of reach of pets.  

The best plan of all:  To be completely safe, keep your home xylitol free!  I would even recommend telling the manufacturers of xylitol-containing products that you are no longer able to keep their products in your home due to the severe danger they pose to dogs. 

Matilda now enjoys a xylitol-free household and has not had any further medical emergencies to date.

Dr. Shawn is a veterinarian and mom in Omaha Nebraska. She writes for CareFRESH, Life With Dogs (new!) and

Dr. Shawn graduated from Iowa State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in 1998 with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. She works part time at Banfield, The Pet Hospital of Papillion, seeing small animals: dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, rodents, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Her veterinary passions (besides her patients, of course!) are preventative/wellness care, pet owner education, positive reinforcement training and solving pet overpopulation.

You can also connect with Dr. Shawn on Twitter or Facebook

Related articles:
Keep Chewing Gum Away From Your Dog!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Keep Chewing Gum Away From Your Dog!

by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD

As an avid gum chewer (it keeps me from biting my nails), dog owner, and veterinarian, I am alarmed to see the increasing trend of toxicity secondary to dogs inappropriately consuming sugarless gum containing Xylitol.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Poison Control Center (APCC) database indicates 150 cases in 2007, all related to the consumption of Xylitol based sugar-free gum.

Xylitol is a crystalline sugar alcohol used to replace sugar as a sweetener in various food products, including chewing gum and candy.

Xylitol mimics sugar’s effect on the body, causing the release of insulin from the pancreas and reduction in blood sugar (hypoglycemia). 

Dogs quickly absorb Xylitol from the digestive tract, causing a sudden and strong release of insulin with secondary hypoglycemia.

A very small amount of Xylitol can potentially cause significant toxicity in dogs. 

A mere 1 to 2 pieces of chewing gum containing Xylitol can be potentially toxic to a dog weighing 20 pounds or less!

Symptoms of Xylitol toxicity include (but are not limited to):
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting (Emesis)
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of coordination (Ataxia)
  • Seizures
If untreated, Xylitol toxicity can also lead to liver failure, blood clotting abnormalities, and death.

As this toxicity is completely preventable, please keep all Xylitol containing products out of your home if you have pets. In my clinical practice, I have seen cases of Xylitol toxicity after a dog consumed sugar-free gum from a purse belonging to his owner’s friend, so be aware that this toxicity can occur even if you keep a Xylitol-free household.

Should you suspect or are aware of your pet has consumed a product with Xylitol, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (AAPCC) at 888-426-4435. 

It is worth the $65 consultation fee to start a case file with a board-certified veterinary toxicologist to determine the best treatment.

For the record, Cardiff consumed no chewing gum during the photo shoot for this article.

Please feel free to leave your comments or communicate with me through email or Twitter.

Thank you for reading my article. Make sure to follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by friending Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook.

Copyright of this article (2011) is owned by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr. Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr. Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.


Dr. Patrick uses acupuncture on his own pet. He completed the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) basic course (2006) and he is now a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist (CVA).

He earned this certification after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (1999) and completed an internship at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C (2000).

Why does he believe so strongly in acupuncture for your pets, especially as a pain management tool? Because combining both Western and Eastern treatments can produce a better outcome for your pets.

Dr. Patrick also works with local Los Angeles rescue organizations to help those pets that have been given a second chance to live healthier lives, and he is currently sharing his pet care knowledge at his Los Angeles Pet Care Examiner column.

Articles by Dr. Patrick
Why Integrative Veterinary Medicine?
Battling IMHA With Integrative Veterinary Medicine (part 1)
Battling IMHA With Integrative Veterinary Medicine (part 2)
Buddha Recovers From Third Degree Burns

Further reading:
Learn From Kelly Osbourne — Keep Your Dog Away From Chewing Gum!
Safe and healthy sweetener for people - but means more pets will die!
Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs
Veterinary Q and A: Why is xylitol so dangerous for dogs and cats? 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Keeping Your Dog’s Muscles Healthy and Strong

 by Christopher Durin

Some breeds are meant to withstand hard physical activity while others are made for the comfortable life of being a lap dog. Nevertheless, all dogs love to play with their owners. Playing with your dog is an enjoyable way to exercise. However, owners should be careful not overdo these activities as they can lead to muscle injuries.

As owners, you should be wary of these injuries because they can affect your dog’s mobility. Muscle injuries are quite common and can be very hard to detect, but they are very easy to treat.

Frisbee Time

Common Muscle Injuries

Muscle pain in dogs can be attributed to three types of muscle injuries. The first one is a muscle spasm, a condition wherein the muscle involuntarily contracts. This injury can be caused by a variety of neurological or physical disorders.

Another form of muscle problem is a pinched nerve. It happens when pressure coming from an inflamed muscle compresses a nerve.

The last more common form of muscle injury is called muscle knots. 

Although muscles are made up of string-like cells, they cannot be knotted. A muscle knot refers to a painful tight group of muscles that may feel hotter compared to the surrounding areas. Muscle knots can reduce a dog’s mobility and can cause lameness. The injury is often a result of strain or an orthopedic disorder.

Keeping Your Dog’s Muscle Healthy

To address the muscle pain, the cause should be clearly identified. If the pain or injury is a result of a neurological or orthopedic disorder, then treatment can be complex and would certainly need the expertise of a vet.

On the other hand, when the muscle pain is only due to strain, then there are many things an owner can to provide pain relief.

Massage is a good way to relax your dog and alleviate some of the pain and inflammation. In addition, using hot or cold therapy makes the massage more effective. Trigger point therapy I have found very helpful and there are numerous professional physical therapy techniques which can help.

Ultimately, prevention is always better than cure. 

Make sure that when you undertake physical activities with your dog, you always start things easy. Also, be conscious of when your dog gets tired - never push your dog over its limits.

Another thing, keep your dog well hydrated and make sure that your dog is receiving the right amounts of protein, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E as these nutrients are vital for muscle development and repair.

Articles by Christopher Durin:
Tell-tale Signs Your Dog May Have Arthritis
Nutrition and Dog Arthritis
Talking to Your Vet: How Safe Are NSAIDs?

Related articles:
Talk To Me About Arthritis
Acupuncture Is Not Voodoo
Don't Forget The Physical Therapy
Underwater Treadmill

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat): RIP Barbie

Veterinary Partner calls bloat the Mother of all Emergencies.

According to some sources, bloat is the number two dog killer, right after cancer!

Gastric dilatation is a distention of the stomach from an accumulation of gas and fluid. Gastric dilatation can be further complicated by volvulus, in which the distended stomach rotates on itself (gastric torsion), cutting off its blood supply. The gas and fluid become trapped in the closed-off stomach.

Having Rottweilers, bloat is always in the back of my mind, and I try to take all possible precautions to prevent it from happening to our guys.

If there are any monsters in a closet, bloat is certainly one of them!

My friend and fellow blogger of Dog Training San Diego agreed to share Barbie's story with us.

The Dangers of GDV
by Meagan Karnes

The other night, we lost one of our canine friends. Barbie came to us from Labrador Rescuers, a group that saved her from an unknown fate.

When they broke her out of doggy jail, they realized she suffered from a bad case of separation anxiety so they called The Collared Scholar for help. Barbie joined us for some rehabilitation and confidence boosting.

The other night, Barbie started displaying some abnormal behaviors that led us to believe she was suffering from a condition called bloat.

We rushed her to the emergency clinic where the grim diagnosis was confirmed.

Bloat is a condition where the stomach fills with gas and becomes incredibly painful. In some cases, the stomach can torsion, in essence flipping over.

Bloat and Gastrointestinal Torsion primarily affects deep-chested dogs. Predominant breeds are Rottweilers, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Labs, Basset Hounds and Pit Bulls among others.

We have had experience with the disease in the past as our Great Dane suffered a bad case of bloat and torsion several years back. 

When the stomach torsions, surgery is typically the only option. Our Dane was saved by the surgeons at the Animal ER in La Mesa, CA.

Very sadly, Barbie couldn't have been saved.

When bloat happens, you must seek veterinarian care immediately as it can be fatal and can progress to life-threatening in less than an hour!

Time is of the essence when dealing with bloat!

In dealing with the condition twice now, I’ve noticed the same symptoms pop up consistently.
  • Bloated, Hard Abdomen
  • Excessive Salivation
  • Dog finds it uncomfortable to lay down. If they do lay down, will arch their back and assume the “Sphinx” position
  • Several unproductive attempts at vomiting – wretching, gagging
Other symptoms have also been noted including coughing, whining, pacing, licking the air, drinking excessively and shallow breathing.

There are articles abound regarding prevention of bloat in dogs. 

The most common tips at prevention are:
  • Feed several small meals
  • Limit water intake immediately after feeding
  • Restrict exercise, excitement, and stress before and after feeding
I can also tell you from experience that in both cases of bloat, we did everything right – followed the prevention guidelines to the letter.

In Barbie’s case, the vet suspects the condition was triggered by the stress of a change in environment coupled with a change in diet. 

This a great reason to provide your pet’s food if you plan to put them in boarding. In Kira, my Great Dane’s case, the vet had no idea what may have triggered the condition.

After my experiences, my thought on bloat is this – no one really understands why it happens. 

I believe there to be a genetic component to the disease. Sure, there are the dogs who break into a bag of treats and devour the entire thing, leaving a food bolus that torsions the stomach. But in many cases, owners are prepared and follow the rules and GDV still rears its ugly head.

Related articles:
Know Your Dog's Enemies: Bloat


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Veterinarians Are People First

I am working on a guest post about choosing a veterinarian. It made me reflect on all the veterinarians we've worked with—and it had been quite a few.

There are some important objective criteria to consider when choosing a veterinarian for your dog.

However, veterinarians are not machines—they are people. Each of them is a unique individual. Michelangelo, Einstein … it was not their education or their affiliations what made them who they were.

Every veterinarian is a person first, then a veterinarian.

What kind of person is your veterinarian?

Their education might be the same, the information out there is available equally to all of them—it is what they do with it what makes the difference.

Do you prefer an experienced old-timer or a young vet who won't have that much experience but is more likely to be up to date with all the new treatments and techniques?

Well, I can tell you that it is not as simple as that.

Jasmine's present vet is an old-timer and he is on top of all the latest research and treatments. I haven't stumped him yet, and, believe me, I ask all kinds of questions.

Jasmine's earlier vet was a young one and couldn't care less. He was the type who believed that since he's made it through the vet school he now knows everything.

Jasmine's first vet was an experienced practitioner, working in a reputable clinic.

He seemed to know his stuff. Yet he failed to recognize Jasmine's food allergies.

We started looking for a new one because we felt that our frequent vet visits were fruitless. More importantly, we felt that it became just business for him; there was no indication that he actually cared about his patients.

The vet we switched to came with a great recommendation from our friends.

As we heard all the stories about how wonderful he was, we were very excited to get him as Jasmine's new vet.

He did seem to care about Jasmine and was very nice. And yet he became a source of great disappointment.

Our friends thought he was as amazing as they come.

At the beginning, we did too. But he didn't listen to what we were telling him and his effort to keep things price-friendly for the clients led to cutting corners where they shouldn't have been cut.

Priorities are important.

What is your prospective vets' main priority? Is it an academic interest? Is it personal success and image? Is it their ego? Is it looking good in front of the clients? Is it just business? Or is it well-being of their patient? We've met them all.

It all comes down to attitude.

Intellect, education, those are all important things. Experience is great, but it can work both for or against your dog. Attitude, however, is what will make the difference when it really matters.

If your vet really cares about his patients, they will keep up with newest research and treatments. They will listen to what you're saying. They will take your dog's symptoms seriously. They will discuss things with you. They will consider what you came up with during your research. They will seek a second opinion when unsure.

They will have the drive to do everything that needs to be done to make your dog well.

We dealt with vets who lost the motivation to work their way to a diagnosis in a complicated case and were satisfied with merely dealing with the symptom(s). We dealt with vets who made up their minds about things before hearing out what we observed in our dog. We dealt with vets who knew it all and nobody, particularly not dumb owners, could tell them anything. We dealt with vets to whom their professional pride meant more than their patient. We dealt with vets who'd jump out of their skin at the notion of looking for a second opinion.

In the end, attitude is what can make it or break it.

We love and cherish Jasmine's present vet. Do we agree on everything? No, we don't. Is he infallible? No, he isn't. But I know he will bend over backward for Jasmine's benefit.

Aptitude is important. But aptitude without attitude is useless.

When looking for a vet for your dog, consider all the objective criteria. But don't forget to look for attitude.

Related articles:
Emailing With Your Vet And The Miracle Of Web-based Medical Records
A Word On Second Opinions
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog
It's Your Dog's Health
Does Your Vet Listen To You?
Help! My Dog Is Purple!
Veterinary Drive-Thru: Coming Soon To A Veterinary Hospital Near You!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Signs, Symptoms And Treatment Of Heat Stroke In Dogs

by Lorie Huston, DVM 

Heat stroke is a serious and potentially life-threatening situation. It is especially common in dogs that have been left untended in cars We all know it is not safe to leave an animal in a closed car when the outside temperature is extremely warm.

However, even in temperatures as mild as 70-75°F, the temperature inside of a closed car can increase as much as 40° or more in one hour! 

That means the temperature inside the car can increase to 110-115°F even when the temperature outside is mild!

red tongue

Besides the car scenario, there are other situations in which heatstroke becomes more likely for our pets as well.
  • Dogs (or other animals) left outside on hot and/or humid days without the availability of adequate shade and/or water are likely to suffer heat stroke.
  • Animals that are exercised heavily on a hot and/or humid day may also suffer heat stroke.
  • Brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds of dogs and cats may be more likely to develop hyperthermia (an elevated temperature) and suffer heat stroke because of their ability to pant effectively is hampered by their anatomy.
  • Obesity can affect an animal’s airways and make panting less effective at dissipating heat for the animal, predisposing the animal to heat stroke.
  • Other diseases that hamper the airway can also alter the effectiveness of the panting mechanism that dogs and cats rely on to dissipate body heat, resulting in heat stroke.
  • Animals exposed to forced heat, such as a hairdryer, may also suffer heat stroke.
Symptoms and Signs of Heat Stroke

Early symptoms seen with heat stroke include restlessness and excessive panting. The respiratory rate and heart rate will increase. Excessive drooling may also occur.

Vomiting and/or diarrhea may occur. Dehydration and depression will occur as the symptoms worsen.

As the situation progresses, the animal’s gums may turn brick red in color or even purple or blue as oxygen saturation declines.

Your dog may have difficulty breathing and may appear to be gasping. He will become weak and may stagger. Seizures may occur and the animal may become totally comatose. Petechial hemorrhages, small red areas that resemble bruising, may appear. As the pet nears death, the temperature may actually decrease to below normal.

A body temperature higher than 105°F is cause for alarm.

It is important to remember that an elevated temperature can have many different causes and heat stroke is only one of those potential causes. However, often there are clues in the environment or the recent history of the pet that easily lead to the probability of a diagnosis of heat stroke. For instance, a dog found locked in a car that has symptoms consistent with heat stroke is likely suffering from heat stroke rather than another disease.

Treatment of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Any dog suffering from heat stroke should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible!

However, measures may be taken to begin cooling the pet before transport. It is important not to lower the body temperature of the dog or cat too much or too quickly. Cool wet towels can be placed around or over the animal. Towels soaked in cool water can also be placed between the legs, both front, and rear. Placing cool water on the ears and paws may help cool the pet also.

Naturally, the pet should be removed from the environment which caused the heat stroke. If possible, direct a fan toward the dog or cat.

Do not use ice or extremely cold water to cool a dog or cat suffering from heat stroke. Doing so may actually make the condition worse.

Though cooling the pet is part of treating for heat stroke, other procedures will also likely be necessary to save the animal’s life and rapid evaluation and treatment at a veterinary facility is usually necessary.

Heatstroke affects all body systems and causes thermal damage to numerous tissues.
  • The kidneys are damaged, leading to acute kidney failure.
  • The gastrointestinal tract is damaged and may lead to bacterial translocation from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream.
  • Damage to the liver and to the heart can occur due to thermal damage.
  • There may be swelling within the brain and infarctions that cause further brain damage.
  • Clotting deficits may occur, leading to bleeding abnormalities.
Treatment for heat stroke will vary depending on the condition of the animal, but intravenous fluid support is usually necessary.

Blood transfusions may be required. Oxygen therapy may be necessary for animals suffering from respiratory depression. Cerebral swelling (swelling within the brain) may require specialized medications, such as mannitol to reduce the swelling. Antibiotics may be necessary if there has been damage to the gastrointestinal tract to combat sepsis caused by bacterial translocation. Other therapies may be required.

Severely affected may not survive despite best attempts at resuscitation.

Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs

In most cases, heat stroke is preventable by taking some simple precautions.
  • Do not leave animals caged, tied or otherwise confined outside without adequate shade and water. At very high temperature, animals should be moved indoors rather than being kept outside for prolonged periods of time.
  • Do not leave animals in closed compartments exposed to the sun, such as a closed car.
  • Increased caution should be used with animals that are obese, have respiratory difficulties, are geriatric or are otherwise unhealthy.
  • Be aware that some animals will lie in a sunny window long enough to become subject to heat stroke. Restrict access to these areas if necessary by closing blinds or draperies.
  • Provide adequate water for animals that are performing strenuous exercises in warm temperatures. Be aware that animals performing arduous physical activities require more water, sometimes as much as twice the amount or more than animals at rest.

Articles by Dr. Huston:
Lyme Is Lame (Pun Intended)
The Ticking Bomb
Don't Let Heartworm Become A Heartbreak!
Summer Perils: Blue-green Algae
Your Dog And Leptospirosis
Canine Parvovirus
Canine Distemper Virus
Why Is My Dog So Itchy? Top 5 Causes Of Itching In Dogs 
Vaccination Concerns and Potential Side Effects 
Natural Flea Control for Dogs

Related articles:
Hypo- Versus Hyperthermia
Know Your Dog's Enemies: Heat Stroke Is No Light Matter!