Sunday, February 26, 2012

Guess Who Is An Ever-Ready Bunny And Really Liking The Bit Of Snow We Got?

Jasmine has become quite an ever-ready bunny. She is also very happy that we finally got a little bit of snow. That girl has no idea that she is a senior dog!

Further reading:
Jasmine’s Story: Can Chronic Diarrhea and Soft Tissue Injuries be Normal?
Jasmine’s Story: An ACL Injury and a Cancer Scare
Jasmine’s Condition Deteriorates: Another ACL Injury and an Abdominal Abscess
Jasmine Recovers from Surgery and Jana Discovers TCVM
Who’s Minding Your Pet’s Health?
Pet Owner Perspective On Stem Cell Therapy
Difficult to Manage Lameness Treated with Physical Therapy
Our Journey to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine

Related articles:
Meet Jasmine
I'm Still Standing! (Happy Birthday, Jasmine)
How Dogs Think (Well, Jasmine Anyway)
How The Oddysey Started: Jasmine's ACL Injury
Jasmine is Vet-Stem's poster child!
Rant About Quality Of Life Versus Quantity, And Differential Diagnoses
Jasmine Is Headed For Her Next Stem Cell Treatment
Jasmine's Stem Cells Are In
Arthritis? What Arthritis? 
Unconditional Love or Not?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reiki: Is it real?

by Susan E. Davis, PT

“If you know your enemy, you will win most of the time.  If you know yourself, there is no enemy”
—Sun Ysu, 500 B.C.
If you have ever experienced Reiki, you probably found it relaxing and beneficial. 

I first became aware of Reiki from my human Physical Therapy patients, who had sought this type of treatment for medical issues.

I was skeptical about it until I entered the veterinary world and observed it being given to animals. 

I became intrigued and scheduled a session for myself.

The Reiki [practitioner explained that the Reiki system of healing was lost for many centuries but rediscovered by Dr. Usui in the late 1800s.

Dr. Usui was a religious teacher who had an enormous amount of scholarly and technical information about healing, but he lacked “spiritual” power or ability needed to heal.  He went on a 21-day pilgrimage of meditation and fasting, where he lost consciousness and was filled with energy and healing powers. After this, he began to heal many people in Japan and started to pass along his gift to other healers through a ceremony and “attunements”. Reiki continues to be passed along to students who study and receive it and are attuned by a Reiki Master.

My session consisted of lying on a table, fully clothed, while the practitioner placed her hands gently in various positions on and just above the body.  

The hands felt warm and sometimes even hot. She told me I might experience “waves”, “vibrations” or see images, different colors. I asked her “you mean like in the sixties”? (Just kidding, I had to say it!). Though I did not have any of those sensations, I did feel a deep relaxation and sense of well-being.

This same practitioner worked with me at a shelter I service weekly and sensed that I had natural healing energy. 

She said that being attuned to the first level Reiki would be an added benefit or dimension to my skills as a Physical Therapist. There are 3 levels of Reiki and the first is a hands-on type, the other 2 are distance-level.  I finally did receive attunement, after studying and receiving Reiki over the course of a few weeks.

The attunement was a little “freaky ‘Friday” for me, being a Western, traditional type of medical professional, but I enjoyed the experience.  It involved positions, hand placement, drinking water and contracting certain body areas, symbols “drawn” over me with the hand, etc.  In the end, there was a type of “thumping” on the top of my head, where the Reiki is supposed to enter you, but I honestly did not feel anything.

I had been advised to eat lightly and drink a lot of water the few days prior, as my body would want to cleanse itself afterward.  I promptly ignored this advice, thinking it sounded a bit silly.  Well, it wasn’t so funny the next day when I was driving to a PT Conference and I became in serious need of finding the nearest bathroom STAT!  I will spare you the details, but just know I became a believer right then and there!

So, is Reiki “for real”?  

Well, my answer is: I don’t know for sure, but I think so”.  I truly hope I am not offending any Reiki Masters who might be reading this. I am just providing my own perspective as a novice.

I do use the first level Reiki during many PT sessions, usually after massage or trigger point releases. 

I lay my hands lightly on various places of the animal’s body (using recommended placements and my intuition).  I close my eyes and try to relax and just let the energy flow through me.  My hands feel warm and sometimes tingly.

The animals usually always love it! 

They get very relaxed and other pets in the house become quiet and still.  Whether it is Reiki, the Holy Spirit, my love for animals, or all of the above, it seems to be very effective.

I’ve also seen some amazing effects of Reiki treatment, given by the Master Practitioner I work with at the shelter.  

One time was in the medical recovery when she stood outside of the cages where animals were coming out of anesthesia from spay/neuter or other surgery.  With her hands raised in the direction of the animals, I would observe the initial whining and crying from the semi-conscious animals start to wane and even stop when she started “flowing” Reiki toward them.  They couldn’t “see her” but they obviously sensed her presence or the Reiki energy or both, and it comforted them.

Another time involved some injured cougars that arrived at the zoo from Texas, who were anxious and aggressive.  The Reiki Master gave them distance energy from the other side of the barn, through thick walls and they became quieter and calmer.

So, it seems there is some evidence that Reiki is “real”.  

I understand it from a biofield perspective, where charged particles in atoms produce currents of energy on and around the body surface.  I don’t have an understanding of “Chi”, “Chakras”, etc. but respect those who have this knowledge.  Health practitioners working with animals need to keep an open mind regarding Reiki and other holistic forms of healing, for the benefit of an animal’s health and well-being!


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

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Whole Food Philosophy: The Nutrients, And The Mojo

Last time we left off with the Story of the Giant Sugar Beet and I used an apple as an example of all the compounds that can be found in whole foods. It was an impressive list, wasn't it?

If you look up the nutritional contents of our average apple, here is what you'll find:


with skin peeled
Calcium 7.5 mg 5.5 mg
Iron 0.1 mg 0.1 mg
Magnesium 6.3 mg 4.4 mg
Phosphorus 13.8 mg 12.1 mg
Potassium 134 mg 99.0 mg
Sodium 1.3 mg 0.0 mg
Zinc 0.0 mg 0.1 mg
Copper 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Manganese 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Selenium 0.0 mcg 0.0 mgc
Fluoride 4.1 mcg -


with skin peeled
Vitamin A 67.5 IU 41.8 IU
Vitamin C 5.7 mg 4.4 mg
Vitamin D - -
Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) 0.2 mg 0.1 mg
Vitamin K 2.8 mcg 0.7 mcg
Thiamin 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Riboflavin 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Niacin 0.1 mg 0.1 mg
Vitamin B6 0.1 mg 0.0 mg
Folate 3.6 mcg 0.0 mcg
Vitamin B12 0.0 mcg 0.0 mcg
Pantothenic Acid 0.1 mg 0.1 mg
Choline 4.2 mg 3.7 mg
Betaine 0.1 mg -


with skin peeled
Cholesterol 0.0 mg 0.0 mg
Phytosterols 15.0 mg -

Fatty acids

with skin peeled
Saturated 0.0 g 0.0 g
Monounsaturated 0.0 g 0.0 g
Polyunsaturated 0.1g 0.0 g
Omega-3 fatty acids 11.2 mg 7.7 mg
Omega 6 fatty acids 53.8 mg 34.1 mg

Amino Acids
with skin peeled
1.3 mg
1.1 mg
7.5 mg
6.6 mg
7.5 mg
6.6 mg
16.3 mg
15.4 mg
15.0 mg
14.3 mg
1.3 mg
1.1 mg
1.3 mg
1.1 mg
7.5 mg
7.7 mg
1.3 mg
1.1 mg
15.0 mg
13.2 mg
7.5 mg
6.6 mg
6.3 mg
5.5 mg
13.8 mg
13.2 mg
Aspartic acid
87.5 mg
81.4 mg
Glutamic acid
31.2 mg
28.6 mg
11.2 mg
9.9 mg
7.5 mg
6.6 mg
12.5 mg
12.1 mg

Amounts Per 125g

Not that this isn't an impressive list. But why is it so much shorter?

Is it because not all the compounds present are worthy of measuring? They don't do anything so why worry about them? What if that is a wrong assumption? What if the apple's mojo is hiding between the lines of the nutrient list?

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Would you agree?

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us; that's because of all the vitamins they contain, right? Is, then, taking a vitamin pill the same as eating an apple? (And let's, for the moment, pretend that the pill would contain the vitamins exactly as they are found in the fruit)

Perhaps it isn't the same thing. Perhaps the vitamin supplements are missing some important stuff.

Besides the nutrients listed above, an apple is full of phytochemicals.

What the heck is that? Phytochemicals are non-nutritive chemicals found in plants. Aha! Non-nutritive, that's why they're not listed in the nutrient profiles then. If they are non-nutritive, why would we care about them?

Is there more to nutrition than nutrients?

While phytochemicals are not nutrients in the traditional sense, they can do some pretty cool stuff. Many of them are powerful antioxidants; they protect cells against oxidative damage. Some of them protect cells from pathogens, and other cool things.

What can a whole apple do that a vitamin pill might not?

Apple phytochemicals can
  • decrease risk of chronic diseases
  • reduce the risk of cancer
  • inhibit cancer cell proliferation
  • regulate inflammatory and immune response
  • reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • increase lung function
  • reduce the risk of type II diabetes
  • assist with weight management

Some research seems to show that they can fight the effects of aging on the brain, might prevent cataracts, regulate intestinal bacteria and even help protect against asthma. French researchers found that a compound found only in apples may protect from osteoporosis and may increase bone density.

The non-nutrient compounds seem to have some pretty strong mojo, don't you think?

Interesting note: nearly all of the antioxidant activity from apples comes from a variety of compounds other than vitamin C, which contributed less than 0.4% of total antioxidant activity.

Another interesting note and my grandma knew this: there is more antioxidant and cancer-inhibiting mojo in the apple peels than in apple flesh.

By no means I mean to say that nutrients are not important, they certainly are.

But perhaps by simply counting nutrients, we are missing an important point.

I believe that regardless of how we choose to look at it, both, animals and ourselves, evolved in synergy with our food source, whatever that might be.

The question then is, how far can counting selected nutrients and omitting the rest take us?

Related articles:
The Whole Food Philosophy And The Tale Of A Giant Sugar Beet
"Natural" With Regard To Dog Nutrition (Part I): What Does It Mean And Does It Matter?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What Is Reasonable For You To Expect From Your Veterinarian?

I do hope that by now you all have your own copy of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life by Dr. Nancy Kay. Truly.

I deem this one to be the single most important dog book you will ever read.

You can take my word for it, or you can learn things the hard way, as we did. I do not recommend the latter.

I have an excuse - the book wasn't written yet when we would have needed it the most.

Would I have read it if it was? Doubtfully. Because I too believed that nothing bad was ever going to happen to my dog.

Sadly, bad things do happen to good dogs. Will you be prepared?

Do you know how to find a good veterinarian? Do you know how to make decisions about your dog's vaccinations? Do you know what symptoms you should pay attention to? Do you know how to be a medical advocate for your dog should they get sick?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, then go and get the book.

Faced with Jasmine's medical disasters I had to learn a lot of things very quickly. One thing I also learned in the process, though, was that were I better educated from the beginning, some of these medical disasters likely could have been avoided to start out with!

What is reasonable for you to expect from your veterinarian?

Image Useless Humor
Did you ever return from a hairdresser with a disastrous haircut? Did you ever get burned by a mechanic? Who do you blame?

The truth is, my friend,  that the only one you have to blame is yourself. Either you chose them poorly, or you had false expectations, or you didn't express your expectations clearly. Your hair will grow back, and your car can be fixed or replaced. Poor decisions about your dog's health and treatment can't always be undone.

You only want what's best for your dog. But do you know what that is and how to achieve it?

If you've read Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life you know how to look for a great veterinarian. How do you know if you found one? And how do you bring out the best in them?

We had veterinarians in the past, who we thought was good.

It wasn't until things got serious that we realized that they were not good enough.

Your Dog's Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect from Your Vet will teach you what you should be able to expect from yours.

Should you be able to expect your veterinarian to discuss things with you, rather than just do stuff and present you with a bill? Did your vet ever just give a prescription for some medications without explaining what they're for and what the potential side effects might be? Did your vet ever decide on a treatment of their choice without presenting you with all the options? Did your vet ever just vaccinate your dog for whatever they felt like without talking to you about it first?

Do you think such things don't happen? Do you think they should?

Is it reasonable for you to expect your veterinarian to give you a referral for a second opinion or specialized care? Is it reasonable to expect round-the-clock care for your hospitalized dog? Is it reasonable to expect your vet to provide you with a written cost estimate?

Do you think it's important to know what you should be able to reasonably expect?

Don't you think you should find out?

It's your dog's health,

Dr. Nancy Kay graduated from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Since the release of her book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life, Dr. Kay has lectured and written extensively about medical advocacy. She was a guest on the National Public Radio show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Dr. Kay is a specialist in small animal internal medicine. She was selected by the American Animal Hospital Association to receive the 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award. In 2011 Dr. Kay received the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Leo Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award, given to an individual whose work exemplifies and promotes the human-animal bond.

Check out her Spot Speaks blog or her Facebook page.

Related articles:
Speaking For Spot: The Single Most Important Dog Book You Will Ever Read 
Veterinarians Are People First 
A Small Practice Does Not A Lesser Veterinarian Make
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
Even The Best Veterinarian Can Make A Mistake 
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, February 18, 2012

Demodectic Mange: The 4 Most Important Questions You Should Ask

by Simon Tong

Demodectic mange is one of the types of skin problems referred to as mange; which affects dogs around the world. The demodectic type may seem like the rather harmless one, but that doesn’t mean that it can be taken lightly – if spotted in older dogs, it could mean the presence of other, more serious conditions below the surface.

What is demodectic mange, exactly?

Demodectic mange, known otherwise as follicular or red mange, is a medical condition that leads to irritation of the skin of a dog, causing it to become inflamed.

The main characteristics of demodectic mange include a development of scaly textures on the skin, as well as hair loss and inflamed skin. 

In more advanced conditions, oozing pus can also be found on the skin, which will harden and eventually produce a crusty texture. The problem areas are usually not itchy, however.

Demodectic mange typically appears in dogs that do not have a fully functioning immune system, such as puppies and dogs that have had their immune systems weakened.

What causes demodectic mange?

This skin condition can be blamed on the presence of the Demodex mite. These little bugs can’t usually be seen with the naked eye, but they strongly resemble tiny cigars with legs when viewed under the microscope.

The Demodex mite can be found in virtually every dog in existence. 

The only reason why they have not caused a ‘mange epidemic’ yet is that these mites aren’t actually very tough; they are easily beaten by the immune systems present in the bodies they live in. As a result, Demodex mites only exist in a tiny amount and are too weak to cause any serious damage.

However, as you may have guessed, that is not true for puppies, old dogs, and dogs that are ill. Their immune systems aren’t working at their usual capacity, which gives the Demodex mites a foot in the door – so to speak – thereby causing all sorts of skin problems.

There are also some very rare cases where the mites have multiplied to such an extent that they can overpower a dog’s defenses, giving them the opportunity to increase their numbers exponentially and causing other complications as a result. In these cases, the dog’s condition is considered severe enough to warrant an emergency visit to the vet. Some dogs may even reach such an advanced stage of demodectic mange that there is no other choice but to be put down by the vet. Granted, such a scenario would be very rare indeed, but it also proves that demodectic mange is not something to be taken lightly.

How do Demodex mites harm dogs?

The Demodex mites make their home in the hair follicles of dogs (thus giving it the alternative name of ‘follicle mange’). The problem starts when the rapid reproduction of mites causes the follicles to become inflamed, thereby causing the hair to fall off. This is why one of the most obvious symptoms of demodectic mange is a drastic loss of fur.

However, hair loss and inflamed skin are not the only things that Demodex mites can cause. If you will recall the part about rare fatal cases briefly discussed above, it shows that the mites are also capable of disrupting the immune system of the dog entirely. When that happens, the dog will be vulnerable to a host of other diseases unrelated to mange, which will complicate things a lot more.

How did my dog get this, anyway? And is it contagious?

Here’s a bit of good news: Demodex mites are not contagious at all. It’s very uncommon for a dog to get it by interactions with other dogs. It’s also impossible for humans to be affected by any interaction with a dog that has demodectic mange, so don’t worry about getting any of those while treating them.

But of course, you may be wondering, ‘How do dogs get this problem, then?’

The answer is that their own mothers were the initial source of the Demodex mites, while they were still puppies.

It’s very possible that when the puppies were very young, perhaps even when they were just out of the womb, some of the mites would already have turned to them as their host of choice. The lack of a functioning immune system in the very early days of a dog’s life may well be the window of opportunity the mites needed to increase their population.

If you think about it for a while, this is actually in line with the fact that older dogs and sick dogs are prone to demodectic mange as well, because their immune systems were also malfunctioning.


Demodectic mange seems to be a rather benign problem; they don’t affect the average adult dog, they get killed by immune systems that work correctly, and they aren’t contagious at all. While it is true that they don’t cause much harm to most dogs, it still doesn’t mean that you should treat demodectic mange lightly.

A severe case of demodectic mange usually means that another health problem is threatening your dog.

Apart from that, they can also cause a lot of trouble with the fur and skin. This can mean a source of misery for you in regards to your dog’s appearance as well as health if it somehow manages to become a major problem.


Simon is the owner of a Miniature Schnauzer, as well as, a website devoted to educating visitors on dog skin problems. Simon started this website after his Schnauzer suffered from a severe skin condition.

 For more information, visit this page to learn more about demodectic mange.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What Caused Blitzen's Kidney Failure?

by Amy Burkert of GoPetFriendly

Blitzen was a Christmas puppy and my husband's first dog ... ever. 

After looking for weeks, we finally found the perfect little boy - and just in time for a two-week holiday break from my job! We lived in Philadelphia, just off Rittenhouse Square, and it was the perfect place to raise a puppy.

Blitz was a charmer, and it wasn't long before everyone in the neighborhood knew him.

At night when we tucked in his bed inside his crate, he looked so small and cute ... but the noise that boy could make was unreal! He snored like a sumo wrestler. Some nights I'd take the puppy and sleep on the sofa, but at other times Rod would grab his leash and the two of them would set off to explore the city in the dead of night.

His first snow was the funniest. The city was completely silent, street lights glistening on the fresh, white blanket when we took him out. There was no one around, so we set him down and unclipped the leash. I'd never seen a puppy have so much fun! He burrowed, he hopped, he rolled around. It was like he'd found heaven. And we laughed until tears rolled down our cheeks.

He grew up fast, as puppies do, but he was always playful and friendly and had fans where ever he went.


It was mid-September and our two-person, one dog business had just landed it's biggest project thus far. It meant three weeks of working around the clock, but the pay off was worth it. On Saturday night Rod and I took a break to walk Blitzen and enjoy the beautiful evening. His favorite game was "Get Mommy, Get Daddy" and he'd run between us at breakneck speed through the empty parking with his tongue flapping and his wrinkles bouncing. Life was perfection and we couldn't have been happier.

Everything changed on Sunday. 

When we woke up to take Blitz downstairs to go potty, he barely made it to the alley. He peed more than I'd ever seen him go before and then wanted to head right back upstairs.

Not being interested in going for a walk was unusual for him, but we had a lot of work to do and I was glad to be able to get right to it.

He was always a picky eater - skipping a meal wasn't unusual for him - so I didn't think much of it when he wasn't interested in breakfast. He was obviously a little under the weather, but surely it would pass. I got back to work.

Around noon, Blitzen was whining at the door and needed to go out. 

I ran him outside and diarrhea confirmed our boy was not feeling well. I still wasn't really concerned, but from that point on things got worse. He kept whining to go outside, but then couldn't go to the bathroom - he just kept wandering around with his head and tail down. It was like he didn't know what to do with himself - laying down wasn't comfortable, so he just kept walking.

When I found him laying on the cool tiles inside the shower I knew it was time to take him to the emergency hospital. 

Shar-pei don't go near the shower unless something is really wrong.

We got to the ER about four in the afternoon and did all the intake paperwork while Blitzen was admitted. They got him on IV fluids for dehydration right away and started running tests to see if they could determine the cause of the illness.

We knew he had a fever, but we still had no idea his life was in danger.

It was about midnight when the blood work and other tests came back indicating there was a problem with his kidneys. I'd heard of a hereditary a condition called "Shar-pei Fever" that can cause kidney failure and that's when it hit me how sick Blitzen was.

The tears were flowing when the attending vet told us that we should go home for the night. 

Blitzen was stable and they'd be transferring him from the ER to the hospital in the morning. We could call them to get an update and ask about visiting hours.

Sleeping was impossible. We knew Blitz was getting the best care available - the University of Pennsylvania has one of the best veterinary hospitals in the country - but this was our first dog together, and we both felt like we'd somehow let him down by not taking him to the hospital earlier.

The phone rang at five. 

Blitzen was getting worse and the vet tech told us that if we wanted to say good-bye we needed to come now. We grabbed his favorite toy and jumped in a cab. When we walked in the room Blitz looked at us and tried to get up - his tail was wagging at top speed. But, as happy as he was to see us, it was clear he was suffering.

His kidneys were failing and he didn't have long.

The vet left the room and Rod and I snuggled up with our sweet boy. Tears were running down our cheeks as we told him what a good boy he was and how much we loved him. After a bit, the vet came back and gave Blitzen the injection that set him free from his failing body.

We walked away from the hospital in stunned silence.

How could a dog, not quite four-years-old, be fine on Saturday night and be gone on Monday morning? 

Nothing made sense and we spent the next couple of weeks in a fog of grief and disbelief.

I shoved all of Blitzen's toys and his bed from sight - it was just too painful to look at them - but at some point, the time came to gather those things that could be useful to donate to the animal shelter.

As I went through his stuff, I came across his flea and tick medication and remembered that I'd given Blitzen his dose the day before he got sick.

It was years until I told Rod that I'd switched brands that month ... to save a few dollars.

I'd used the same flea treatment for Blitzen's whole life and switched just that once to a less expensive brand.

We didn't have a necropsy performed on Blitzen's body, so we'll never know for sure whether he was poisoned by the flea medication. We'll also never know whether taking to the hospital earlier that that day might have made a difference. All we can do is learn from our experiences and promise Ty and Buster that we'll always do our best to take care of them.

Please be careful with flea and tick meds!


Amy and Rod Burkert run the award-winning pet travel website,, the one-stop source for locating dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, beaches, campgrounds, and more. 

With detailed pet policies and a Road Trip Planner that has been referred to as "The MapQuest of pet-friendly," GoPetFriendly makes it easy to plan a trip with your entire family. The Burkert's blog, Take Paws, is an encyclopedia of pet travel tips, pet-friendly destination advice, and stories of their adventures as they travel full-time in their Winnebago with their dogs, Ty and Buster.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What Do You Need To Know About Anesthesia?

Reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, Ph.D. and Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS

When your dog needs to be anesthetized for a medical procedure, it’s normal to be nervous. In addition to concerns about the procedure itself, pet owners usually have many questions about anesthesia: What kind of anesthesia will be used? What are the side effects? How is it administered? Will my pet feel any pain at all? Can the procedure be done with a local anesthetic or does my pet have to be ‘put under’? How will my pet be monitored during the procedure? What are the risks?

The basics: anesthesia/analgesia/sedation
  • Anesthesia means the loss of sensation or awareness of pain.
  • General anesthesia is anesthesia accompanied by loss of consciousness.
  • Local anesthesia is a loss of sensation or awareness of pain in a particular part or region of the body. When local anesthesia is administered, the animal remains conscious, though it may be given sedation.
  • Analgesia is the loss or reduction of the sense of pain without loss of consciousness. Aspirin and acetaminophen are examples of analgesics.
  • Sedation is a state of reduced anxiety, stress, or excitement brought about by the administration of a sedative agent or drug. Sedation is often used before a general anesthetic is administered in order to calm a pet.
When is anesthesia used?
Veterinarians use anesthesia in two broad cases:
  • When a procedure involves pain that is more than quick, minor discomfort, e.g., surgery -- whether planned or emergency -- and dental procedures, such as cleanings and extractions.
  • During procedures -- even painless ones -- that require the pet to remain motionless. Unfortunately, you can’t tell your pet to “keep still” and expect it to obey.
Common non-surgical procedures requiring the use of anesthesia include the following:
  • Imaging studies, such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI. (Sometimes sedation alone -- without general anesthesia -- may be sufficient to calm the patient and keep it still.)
  • Endoscopy
  • Radiation treatments for cancer
Preparation for surgery

Unless your pet is having an emergency procedure, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination before the day of surgery. Depending on the age of the animal, its medical history, and its general state of health, other tests such as X-rays, ECG, cardiac ultrasound, and blood work may be performed. The results of that examination and any necessary tests may affect the veterinarian’s choice of anesthetic agent, as well as alerting her/him to any potential risks of surgery.

General anesthesia: what actually happens?

Before general anesthesia is administered, the patient is usually premedicated with a sedative so that it feels calm and relaxed. Use of a sedative in an excited or frightened animal may allow for less general anesthesia to be used and will usually make recovery from anesthesia a smoother process.

In most cases, an analgesic is also administered along with the sedation. This reduces post-operative pain and makes recovery less traumatic.


The process of producing unconsciousness through general anesthesia is called “induction.” Induction is usually brought about by the use of a short-acting intravenous (IV) anesthetic agent. After induction has been achieved and the animal is unconscious, a soft plastic tube (endotracheal tube) is inserted into the windpipe (trachea) and is connected to a machine containing anesthetic gases and oxygen.

Although pet owners are often uncomfortable with the thought of a tube being inserted into their pet’s trachea, it is important to remember that the pet is completely unconscious when this is done. In addition, having the tube in place is a key safety measure because it enables the surgical team to provide breathing assistance to the patient if that should become necessary during surgery.

The endotracheal tube also protects the patient from accidentally inhaling stomach contents into the airways during the procedure.

During the procedure

If your pet has received general anesthesia, its vital functions, including heart rate and respiratory rate, are carefully monitored throughout the duration of the surgical procedure. This close monitoring enables the surgeon to intervene quickly if there are any complications.

The general anesthetic drug is continuously administered during the procedure in an amount necessary to maintain the desired “depth” of anesthesia. The correct depth depends on the surgery being performed and the patient’s particular response to the anesthetic being used.

The surgical team will evaluate such indicators as reflexes, muscle tone, and changes in vital signs during surgery and increase or decrease the dose of anesthesia as necessary in order to maintain the correct depth of anesthesia.

What are the risks?

Although no medical procedure or drug is without risk, modern methods of veterinary anesthesia are highly sophisticated and generally safe.

We sought the opinion of an expert in the field: Diane Wilson, DVM, MS, MRCVS, ACVA (Diplomate), a board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist with Med-Vet, a veterinary emergency practice in Worthington, OH. Wilson said: “The risks of anesthesia are much less than they used to be. There are more and more board-certified veterinary anesthesiologists and veterinary technicians with specialized training in administering anesthesia. In addition, new, safer anesthetic gases are in use, and our ability to monitor patients during surgery is much improved.”

Questions to ask

Modern methods of veterinary anesthesia make surgery of all kinds safer for our pets than ever before.

If your pet will be undergoing surgery or some other procedure requiring the administration of anesthesia, don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. In addition to any questions you may have, here are some others you might want to ask:
  • Who will be administering the anesthesia and monitoring my pet during the procedure?
  • How long will my pet have to remain in the hospital after surgery?
  • Does this veterinary facility has qualified overnight monitoring of post-surgical patients?
  • What will be done to keep my pet comfortable and free of pain in the post-surgical period? 
Your veterinarian will be happy to address these and any other concerns you may have. While the risks of anesthesia can’t be eliminated, you should not allow your concern over those risks to dissuade you from obtaining needed treatment for your pet.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Is Your Dog Left- Or Right-Pawed?

Is your dog left- or right-pawed, or ambidextrous?  Why would you want to know, other than that it is fun to find out?

Here is some interesting data related to paw preference.
  • Left-pawed dogs (18% of the population) are more likely to be male.
  • Left-pawed dogs have a weaker immune system response compared to right-pawed or ambidextrous dogs.
  • Right-pawedness (57% of the population) is more common in female dogs. 
  • Ambidextrous dogs (25% of the population) show no sex bias. 
  • Ambidextrous dogs are much more likely to exhibit noise, thunderstorm phobia and separation anxiety than their left or right-handed cousins.
Knowing your dog's paw preference can help with prevention or mitigation of specific issues presented above.

How do you find out whether your dog is left- or right-pawed?

You will need:
  • Some soft dog food – your dog’s regular brand is less likely to cause a stomach upset than anything else.
  • A Kong® (or similar) toy.
  • A sheet of paper numbered from 1 to 50.
  • A pencil.
  • Plenty of time. This test can take up to four hours.
How it's done:
  1. Pack the Kong® with food, and freeze it solid. To start the test place it in front and to the center of your dog’s paws.
  2. Record the paw used to first touch the Kong® at number 1 on the recording sheet.
  3. Continue to record the paw used to touch the Kong® until the dog has made 50 paw interactions classified as left paw (L) or right paw (R). Definitions for the way in which interactions are classified as L or R appear below (interactions with both paws placed separately on the Kong® at the same time are not counted).
  4. If the dog repositions its paw or paws on the Kong®, without the paw or paws completely leaving the
    Kong®, that interaction with the apparatus is not counted or recorded.
  5. If the dog holds the Kong® down with a certain paw or with both paws for longer than 10 seconds, gently remove the Kong® from under the paw or paws and place it in front and to the center of your dog’s paws.
  6. Some dogs retrieve only the top layer of food from the Kong®. For these dogs, the Kong® must be topped up with food to achieve the 50 paw interactions. Large hungry dogs empty the Kong® quickly so they are the most likely to need it topped up.
Left paw (L) Right paw (R)
- Left paw on Kong®, right paw not.
- Left paw over right paw on Kong®.
- Left paw on top of Kong®, right paw underneath.
- Right paw on Kong®, left paw not.
- Right paw over left paw on Kong®.
- Right paw on top of Kong®, left paw underneath.
Greyhound demonstrating classification of paw interactions with Kong.– left paw interaction (L) Greyhound demonstrating classification of paw interactions with Kong.- right paw interaction (R)

Interpretation of results:

Once you have recorded 50 interactions of the left or right paw with the Kong® you have sufficient data to determine whether your dog is left-pawed or right-pawed. Dogs that use their left paw 32 times or more are left pawed.

Those that use their right paw 32 times or more are right-pawed. Dogs with less than 32
uses of either paw are considered ambidextrous.


Published with permission from Fergus Veterinary Hospital.

Research reviewed to compile this document:
Lateralised behavior in the domestic dog, Canis familiaris; Behav Processes. 2003 Feb 28;61(1-2):27-35.
Paw preference in dogs: relations between lateralized behavior and immunity; Behav Brain Res. 2004 Aug 31;153(2):521-5.
The relationship between paw preference strength and noise phobia in Canis familiaris; J Comp Psychol. 2006 Aug;120(3):176-83.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Knee Surgery Post-Op Helper: Bottom's Up Leash

Preventing mishaps after a surgery, while allowing the legs to do some work, can be a challenge. Particularly if both knees had been operated on simultaneously.

If you have a little dog, you're likely tempted to carry them everywhere. If you have a large dog, you don't even have that option.

It is important that the legs do get used but as safely as possible.

The main challenges are stairs and slippery surfaces. (By stairs I mean the couple of steps to get in and out of the house to potty, flights of stairs should be avoided altogether)

The traditional way of supporting the rear end was so called towel-walking. You make an improvised sling by running a towel under your dog's belly. It works. But I find it quite awkward to use as well as to keep it where it belongs.

Some people get creative and design their own slings.

If you're not that creative, you might want something that is ready to go.

A product I like is Bottom's Up Leash. It supports the rear end at just the right place. I have not tried it myself. But after our experiences with knee surgeries and towel-walking, it would be something I'd consider if my dog needed rear end support, whether because of surgery, injury or other orthopedic issues.

Unlike a towel, Bottom's Up Leash also allows your dog to be supported while eliminating.

Depending on your dog's situation, that can make a big difference, trust me.

You might find other similar products out there. Either way, great idea for rear end support.
It's your dog's health,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Talking Teeth

by Nancy Kay, DVM  

Is your dog’s bad breath sabotaging your cuddle time? Is your kitty drooling while nibbling her kibble? If so, your four-legged family member likely has dental disease. A recent study of Banfield Pet Hospital’s 770-hospital network identified dental disease as the most common malady among pets, affecting 68 percent of cats and 78 percent of dogs over three years of age.

Sorry, this doesn't qualify as toothbrushing.
Most dental diseases, including halitosis (bad breath) and gingivitis (gum disease) are caused by tartar accumulation. 

All cats and dogs can develop dental tartar, but small breed dogs are particularly predisposed. Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Pomeranians and Shetland Sheepdogs are at greatest risk, according to the Banfield study.

Be sure to inspect your pet’s teeth and gums on a regular basis just as you would his or her skin and haircoat.

Here’s the key to getting a good look- don’t try to pry your pet’s jaws open lest you desire to engage in a wrestling match.  Rather, with the mouth remaining closed, simply pull those flabby lips up, down, and then back (as if he is smiling) to get a good view of the gums and teeth. Look for tartar accumulation (brown colored material that’s adhered to the teeth) redness or swelling of the gums, and broken or loose teeth.

If your pet does develop significant tartar and gingivitis, he’ll need a thorough dental cleaning. 

Dental X-rays may be recommended to detect abscesses or bone loss. Should such significant abnormalities be found, your vet will discuss antibiotic therapy and the pros and cons of removing the affected teeth versus a root canal procedure.

The best way to prevent tartar buildup is to brush your pet’s teeth (including those way in the back) at least two to three times a week. 

Ask your vet or members of the clinic staff to share their secrets for success when it comes to brushing.  Have them observe and provide critique as you demonstrate how you brush those canines (in cats they should be called “felines”), incisors, and molars.

What can you do besides brushing?  

Dental chews, additives to your pet’s water, products applied to the teeth and gums, and specially formulated dry foods that have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance can help prevent tartar buildup.  However, nothing beats regular brushing (sorry!).

Part of your pet’s annual physical examination performed by your veterinarian should include careful inspection of the teeth and gums. 

Early identification and treatment of dental disease goes a long way in preventing serious consequences.

Now it’s your turn to talk about teeth.  What have you experienced with your dogs and cats?


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 advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online bookseller.

Articles by Dr. Kay:
Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning
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

Related articles:
Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning 
Speaking For Spot: The Single Most Important Dog Book You Will Ever Read

Thursday, February 2, 2012

When A Symptom Isn't What You'd Think

This is actually an old story which I meant to write up but somehow it never happened. It's a story about observable facts and their interpretation.

Observation and facts are one thing. What one makes of them, however, can be something else altogether.

For the longest time, we thought that Jasmine would get sore and tired towards the end of her walks. It was a reasonable assumption, given her age and all she's been through.

She would start dragging her feet, carry her head low, and sometimes even stop and just stare at us with a sheepish look.

What would you think?

We gave her the time she needed to get to the truck and felt bad that we made the walk longer than we should have.

To accommodate for her level of stamina we started making the walks a little shorter.

Cutting the walks shorter didn't seem to make much of a difference though. Towards the end, she'd still look like she was in pain. Walking slower and slower, her entire body lowered.

We tried changing things around to no avail. Her vet and her physical therapist couldn't see anything wrong with her.

This went on for quite some time until a chance event put the whole situation in a new light.

That day I went along to spend a day at friends' horse farm. At the end of the day, the guys always get a closing walk, after which it's time to go back home.

Surely enough, on the way back Jasmine started lagging behind and dragging her feet. “Don't worry, baby, we're almost there,” I was comforting her.

As it happened though, hubby remembered he wanted to show me something before we left. We walked up to the truck as usual, but this time we continued past it.

And then it happened. 

As Jasmine saw us walking past the truck her posture and attitude suddenly changed. She perked right up, carrying herself strongly with a little hop in her step.

Then it dawned on us. No wonder making her walks shorter was not helping!

She was not on her last legs! She just didn't want the walk to end yet! She was trying to negotiate! “I don't wanna go home yet, ma.”

This was about a year ago. She still does that every time we get to a certain distance from the truck. But now we know better!

Jasmine now can go all day and still be interested in another adventure if the opportunity presents itself. But she will still drag her feet when the end of the walk is near. If nothing else she'll find some completely irresistible smell that needs investigating.

Making the last few yards takes almost as long as the rest of the walk. 

But not because she cannot go on any further. She doesn't want to go home yet!

The symptom we were so worried about meant the exact opposite of what we thought!

It makes us happy and it makes us laugh. And sometimes, just to treat her, we do go past the truck to give her the little extra she craves.

And we learned that correct interpretation of the facts is as important as their observation.

Related articles:
Meet Jasmine
I'm Still Standing! (Happy Birthday, Jasmine)
How Dogs Think (Well, Jasmine Anyway)
How The Oddysey Started: Jasmine's ACL Injury
Jasmine is Vet-Stem's poster child!
Rant About Quality Of Life Versus Quantity, And Differential Diagnoses
Jasmine Is Headed For Her Next Stem Cell Treatment
Jasmine's Stem Cells Are In
Arthritis? What Arthritis? 
Unconditional Love or Not?