Saturday, April 28, 2012

Protect Your Dog From Snake Bites

by Jennifer Coates, DVM

Do you live in or travel to areas that are home to venomous snakes? I’ve been neighbors with rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins, and have treated dogs that have been bitten by some if not all of these species. These cases can be incredibly rewarding or heartbreaking. It all depends on how much venom is injected by the snake, something we have no control over. So, let’s address some important issues that we can affect concerning dogs and snake bites.

Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) with clearly visible facial pits.
Image: Wikipedia
Know Your Surroundings

Do a little research. What are the common snake species in your area? Are any of them venomous (the vast majority are not)? Learn what the venomous snakes in your region look like and what types of environments they frequent so you can avoid them.

One oft-cited adage states that a snake with vertical pupils is venomous while one with circular pupils is not. This does hold true in most cases, but do you really want to get close enough to an unidentified snake to make this determination? It’s better to get familiar with the skin colors and patterns and head shapes that venomous snakes in your area might have so you can i.d. them from a distance.

A little snake savvy not only protects dogs but the snakes themselves. I can’t tell you the number of times a client has brought in the “rattler” he killed on his farm only to learn that he just offed a benign hognose by mistake.

Rattlesnake. Image: Wikipedia

Remember that given the opportunity, any self-respecting snake will try to “run” away before risking its own well-being by biting. When hiking, walk your dog on a short leash and keep him on the trail. Training classes and the necessary refresher courses that teach dogs to leave snakes alone can also help prevent snake bites. Discourage snakes from making a home in your yard by keeping grass trimmed short and locating brush piles, stacks of firewood, or other similarly inviting habitats outside your dog’s fenced yard.

You may have heard about the “rattlesnake vaccine” that is now available for dogs. Veterinarians don’t have a lot of experience with it yet, so I can’t really comment on how useful it is. Keep in mind that it is only conditionally licensed for protection against bites from the western diamondback rattlesnake. It may offer some cross-protection against other species of rattlesnakes, but how well it will work under these circumstances is also unclear. If you live rattlesnake country, talk to a local veterinarian about the vaccine’s pros and cons.

Copperhead snake. Image: Wikipedia
Don’t Delay Treatment

The initial symptoms of snake envenomation are rapid swelling and pain around the bite site. Small puncture wounds may or may not be visible. If you suspect that your dog has been bitten by a snake, get him to the veterinarian immediately. If you can safely identify the snake that bit your dog, do so. That information is very helpful in planning treatment.

When presented with a dog that is known or suspected to have been bitten by a venomous snake, veterinarians will typically put the patient on intravenous fluids, start antibiotics to deal with infection, and prescribe pain relievers and anti-inflammatories to keep the dog comfortable and reduce swelling. If other symptoms develop, additional forms of treatment may become necessary.

Once basic care has been initiated, the question arises whether or not to use antivenin. 

Water Moccasin. Image: Wikipedia
Because antivenins are species-specific, we can only use them when we are fairly certain of the type of snake responsible for the bite. Antivenin is expensive, but it may be the only way to save a dog that has received a large dose of venom in comparison to its body weight. The sooner antivenin is given, the better, but it may be helpful up to 72 hours after a bite has occurred.

Many dogs that have been bitten by a venomous snake can be saved with prompt and aggressive treatment. 

The key is to get to the clinic quickly while keeping your dog as quiet and inactive as possible. Don’t attempt to remove the venom yourself. Those home-remedies you remember from watching too many old westerns do more harm than good. At the very least, you’ll be wasting precious minutes and delaying the treatment that could save your dog’s life.


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

Dr. Coates has recently joined the PetMD team and she is now writing for the Fully Vetted column; great blog, do check it out.

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:
Kidney Disease – Say What? 
What Happens In The Dog's Body When The Kidneys Fail To Function Properly? 
The Perplexities of Pancreatitis
The Other Side Of The Coin: The Cost Of Defensive Medicine
To Neuter Or Not To Neuter… That Is The Question
Don’t Forget the Physical Therapy
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 1)
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 2)
Picking the Right Dog to Breed
When Is It An Emergency?
Dog Allergies: Common, Commonly Misdiagnosed, or Both? 
Why Does The Spleen Get No Respect?

Related articles:
The Assumption Trap: Tosha's Snake Bite

Friday, April 27, 2012

Veterinary Highlights: Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy

In addition to stem cell regenerative therapy, our vet has recently acquired the technology and have started treatments with platelet-rich plasma. These two are similar ideas - cell therapy. I suspect one of the reasons for this move is the now again more complicated availability of the stem cell therapy up here in Canada, after the falling out between Vet-Stem and their Canadian partner.

Regardless of running a small veterinary hospital, he offers the best of what is available out there.

Image: Regenerexx
So what is platelet rich plasma therapy?

Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is derived from patient's blood. The blood is run through a special centrifuge, which separates the blood’s less dense components from its heavier ones. A portion of the blood is distilled to a platelet concentration that is much richer than regular blood. The process also removes red and white blood cells.

Why platelets? Aren't those just responsible for blood clotting?

Platelets indeed are involved with blood clotting. But they can do other exciting things too! They are responsible for bringing white blood cells to an injured area and they also release growth factors that assist tissue regeneration.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy can be used to promote tendon, ligament, muscle, and joint injuries, which are normally slow to heal.

The procedure does require anesthesia, but it can be done in one visit.

Our vet has used the treatment on their resident rescue who came in with severe arthritis. I saw the dog three weeks post-treatment, there is a marked difference. "He looks bad," our vet says, "but he looks awesome compared to what he used to look like. He's a big dog again, telling everybody what to do now."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trying Out New FURminator Grooming Tools

I am a huge fan of FURminator.

It's been over four years since I discovered the FURminator deShedding tool, and I've been using it ever since. 

Once you try this one, you won't go back. That tool is awesome! In fact, my very first blog post was about the FURminator.

I can't even begin to count all the deshedding tools we tried, and hated, in the past. None of them worked for us. I never looked at another deshedding tool since we tried the FURminator.

The only other grooming tool I've been using was a regular comb, which worked fine for daily maintenance.

Now I got to try out new FURminator grooming tools!

The Curry Comb has already replaced my regular one.

I love the way it fits in the hand, secured by a strap. I always wanted one like that. It is so pleasant to use. I also love the hard molded rubber teeth. It removes dust and loose fur, but it also massages along the way.

I tried it on myself first, it gives one serious massage!

Such a good massage will stimulate blood supply to the skin as well as production and distribution of the natural skin oils. Indispensable, particularly for a dog such as Jasmine, with a history of skin issues. In fact, the main reason I comb her daily is to keep her skin healthy. The Curry Comb has both mine and Jasmine's thumbs up.

I also got to try out the Large Soft Slicker Brush.

It is very well designed, with an ergonomic handle and two sets of bristles – straight on one side, and bent on the other side. It has a two-part flexible head. It even comes with a protective cover.

I tried it on JD,  and he seems to like it. His coat is smooth and he doesn't really get tangles or mats so I cannot tell how well the brush would work on those.

To be honest, I always shied away from slicker brushes, because I worried that the bristles might be a bit too sharp. I was hoping that this one might be softer. In my opinion, it still feels rather abrasive, and when I run it over the top of my hand it does mark the skin. I realize that dog skin is tougher than mine but I don't feel like taking any chances with Jasmine's, which has proven to be quite delicate in the past.

If you do like using a slicker brush for your dog, though, I think you will like this one.

To check out FURminator's 2-step grooming solutions, visit Grooming Solutions for Dogs. Don't forget, grooming isn't all about the looks. Grooming is an effective way to improve your dog's skin (and coat) health.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Idiopathic Vestibular Disease: Phoenix's Story

Phoenix's story is shared with us by Brook of ruled by paws. Thank you, Brook, for sharing your story!

Imagine coming home from a weekend away, excited to get back to your faithful companion.  Eager to get back into the dance of life.

Dog Conditions - Real-Life Stories: Idiopathic Vestibular Disease: Phoenix's Story

Your husband parks the truck and goes inside to turn on the outside lights. As you collect your things and get out of the truck…you see your husband coming out the door carrying something. You ask where your best friend is, and he hesitates before answering.

On November 28th, my husband and I packed two of our four dogs into the truck along with our suitcases.

We had decided to go visit some friends in Guelph for a few days and leave our other two dogs home with my step-dad.  We made this decision because one of my friends we were staying with had just welcomed a fourteen week old smooth coated collie into her home, and Phoenix no longer enjoyed puppies in his old age.

On December 1st, my step-dad was sitting on the couch in the living room watching television. He heard Phoenix coming out of our bedroom, so looked up to see if he wanted anything.

Phoenix stood in the doorway of our bedroom for a moment, trembled a bit, and then abruptly fell over onto his right side. 

Phoenix Showing Off His new Head Tilt
My step-dad rushed over to him and tried to help him back onto his feet, but it was no use. Phoenix couldn’t support himself.

We do not have a landline at our house, and my step-dad doesn’t have a cell phone or vehicle, so he did the best he could, knowing we would be home the following day. He carried Phoenix out to relieve himself every couple of hours. Helped him eat his meals and drink water.

Made sure he was comfortable. And watched him constantly, worried he would not be alive when I arrived home.

When we arrived home, Phoenix was in a terrible state. 

He couldn’t hold his head up. His eyes were twitching and moving side to side. He was drooling non-stop.  His nose was running like a tap.  But, the moment he saw me, he began wagging his tail and whining because he couldn’t get to me.

It was about 6:00pm when we arrived home. We knew we had to get Phoenix to the vet, but we also knew that by the time we got him to Guelph it would be 3:00am, so we decided it was best to have him sleep on the bed in between us and start the drive in the morning.

It was a long night.  

Both my husband and I were convinced it wasn’t going to be good news. We thought he had had a stroke or something, and knew that we had to do whatever Dr. Bianca felt was best. We promised Phoenix that we would do anything to make him better, but deep down we thought this would be the last night we ever had him nearby.

In the morning, my husband, my sister, my step-dad, our four dogs and I piled into our truck and began the seven-hour drive to Guelph.

Phoenix On Our Bed
It was the longest and saddest drive of my entire life. We had Phoenix lying on a blanket in the backseat between my husband and me so that we could keep him comfortable, and I think I cried about every twenty minutes. Phoenix had been my dog guide for seven years, retiring in May of 2005. We had done so many things together. He went to high school with me, to university with me, and was by my side during my mom’s funeral and then later my grandmother’s. I just couldn’t imagine a life without my faithful friend.

We arrived in Guelph around 5:00pm. 

My husband carried Phoenix into Dr. Bianca’s office, and she had him place him on an examination table.  We told her all of his symptoms and then she looked him over.

She then looked up, and we got the best news in the world.

Dr. Bianca told us that it is very rare for dogs to have a stroke and that what Phoenix had was called idiopathic vestibular disease, or geriatric vestibular syndrome. She explained that it is similar to vertigo in humans and comes on suddenly, so there was nothing we could have done. After giving Phoenix a homeopathic remedy, Dr. Bianca explained what we needed to do to help Phoenix with his recovery and said that within seventy-two hours we would notice a drastic improvement – she was right!

Vestibular disease affects the ability of the brain to recognize abnormal body positions and also affects the brain's ability to correct these abnormalities.

There are two types of vestibular disease, central (to an abnormality within the brain), and peripheral (due to an abnormality within the nerves of the inner ear). Most cases of vestibular disease are peripheral and no known cause is determined.

The symptoms can be very drastic and frightening to the owner.

Within 24 hours, Phoenix’s eyes were no longer twitching, and he seemed to be able to follow our movements throughout the living room (watching from wherever we had laid him).

After about 72 hours, Phoenix began trying to bear weight and was no longer drooling excessively.

By Christmas, Phoenix was pretty much back to his old self, except a slight head tilt.

I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be home with Phoenix and help him with his rehabilitation.  Dr. Bianca said that in some cases, people have put their dogs to sleep because they were unable to provide the necessary one-on-one assistance. I couldn’t imagine having to make such a decision and was so thankful for Dr. Bianca and her words of reassurance that Phoenix would make a full recovery “as long as I was willing to put in the effort.”

Even though Phoenix only lived eight more months after the onset of idiopathic vestibular disease (he was 2 months and 11 days shy of 15 years old when he passed), he never had a recurrence, and I think the changes we made after our visit with Dr. Bianca (putting out carpet runners, switching the dogs to a raw diet, etc.) helped us to have him just a little bit longer.

How idiopathic (of unknown cause) was Phoenix's vestibular disease really? That is a question to ponder.

Phoenix dealt with a lifetime of ear infections. We tried everything to help him shake them (antibiotics, daily cleanings ... ), but it wasn't until we started looking at a food allergy that things really started to become clear. Our vet at the time suggested we try a hypoallergenic food, and then slowly try to reintroduce things back into Phoenix's diet to rule things out.

We had Phoenix eat Waltham's Hypoallergenic food for twelve weeks, even using the kibble as treats, and noticed his ears began to clear up, and he stopped chewing his paws.  

After a year of adding one thing at a time and taking things away if Phoenix showed any reaction to it, we determined that Phoenix was allergic to gluten. At this point, we decided to move him off of the vet prescribed food and onto a less expensive gluten-free kibble. With this dietary change and the help of antihistamines during the summer months, Phoenix enjoyed almost five years of infection-free life.

Around thirteen years of age though, Phoenix began to experience frequent ear infections again.  

Neither the elimination diet or antibiotics were helping this time. Around the middle of November of that year, Phoenix's right ear flap engorged with blood and we were back to the drawing board.

About two weeks later, Phoenix's acute onset of idiopathic vestibular disease occurred, and through discussions with Dr. Bianca, we concluded that the IVD and year-long ear problems were indeed related.


Brooke is the human behind the blog ruled by paws. She lives in northern Ontario with her husband, four dogs, and two cats. She has two university degrees, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Guelph and a Bachelor of Social Work from McMaster University, but has been unsuccessful in her job search. 

She spends her days training for agility with her current dog guide, Cessna, a 7-year-old female black lab and canyon, a 22-month-old male golden retriever and hopes to enter competitions next summer. She received Phoenix and Cessna from the Liones Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. 

Phoenix has been retired since may 13th, 2005 and Cessna entered their lives just over a week later, on the 27th. In the future, she hopes to begin her own breeding program and small rescue, but for now, she tries to learn as much as possible about dog nutrition, health, and training, while supporting Golden Rescue through monetary donations when possible.

Related articles:
Phoenix's Chronic Ear Infections


Saturday, April 21, 2012

She Can Move It Just Fine, She Just Doesn't Want to

For the longest time, Jasmine's chiropractor was concerned about her left elbow. It is true, that some time back the elbow was sore and Jasmine was visibly favoring it.

It's been a long time since I could see her having any problems with it at all.

Granted, I was enlightened that up to 25% of favoring won't be visible to a human eye. I still didn't feel that the elbow was giving her any trouble, though.

Based on the findings from her physical examinations, the chiropractor believed that the elbow had issues with arthritis

It kept me baffled. But when we brought it up to Jasmine's main vet, his findings confirmed the conclusion. Paranoid as I am, I was not seeing it. I couldn't make up my mind whether I should worry about the elbow or not.

During Jasmine's Tuesday's visit, as the chiropractor was manipulating the limbs to assess the range of motion, the elbow wasn't going anywhere.

“Come on, girl, I know you can move it,” the chiropractor was encouraging her. Perhaps the conviction in her voice changed Jasmine's mind and she stopped resisting.

The elbow moves just fine!

“She can move it just fine, she just doesn't want to!” the chiropractor exclaimed. At the same time the PT technician walked in: “Yeah, I know!”

When Jasmine doesn't want to do something, she won't, and you can't make her. We're just thankful that usually, she does want to. Why would she get consistently stubborn about that particular limb being manipulated is anybody's guess. Maybe because it's always the last thing that gets done and Jasmine is sick of being manhandled by the time the left elbow gets its turn.

The good news is that according to the latest assessment there is nothing wrong with the elbow.

The take-home message is that a successful physical examination requires the cooperation of the patient. Just as it happened with multiple failed attempts to elicit the drawer sign on her injured knees. It was not going to happen.

Yet again this makes me wish for the thermal imaging camera! I wonder how would Jasmine manage to fool that one!

Jasmine, you're a stubborn girl! I love you anyway, though.

Related articles:
Toxins? What Toxins? Jasmine's Fur Analysis 
Jasmine's Fur Analysis: Starting The Plan
How Much Is The Health Of My Dog Worth To Me?
Back At Chiropractic Care
When A Symptom Isn't What You'd Think 
Jasmine Is Headed For Her Next Stem Cell Treatment
Jasmine's Stem Cells Are In

Friday, April 20, 2012

Improving Vision In Dogs Undergoing Cataract Surgery

Ophthalmologists at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are researching a new therapy to improve vision in dogs undergoing cataract surgery.

The study is testing the effectiveness of a novel intra-ocular drug device.

This is intriguing to me because one of the horses at the friends' farm had a cyclosporine implant. That was the first time I heard of something like that.

Cataracts are a leading cause of visual impairment in dogs and frequently progress to cause total blindness. Surgical treatment is the most common and successful ocular surgeries performed in dogs.

However, inflammation and cloudiness can occur. These are also referred to as "after-cataracts."

Preventing that requires the long-term frequent use of topical eye medications.

This study will focus on testing special intraocular lenses they will provide a sustained release of an anti-inflammatory drug (celecoxib) to prevent "after-cataracts."

If any of you had to give your dog eye drops, you will appreciate the advantage. I certainly would, Jasmine hated getting those and only a very small portion of the drops actually made it into her eye.

Besides the obvious advantage, this approach would also deliver a consistent therapeutic dose of the drug, directly into the eye.

Source article: Veterinary Researchers Test Therapies to Improve Vision in Dogs Undergoing Cataract Surgery

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chronic Versus Acute Pain In Dogs: What Is The Difference?

by Dr. Lorie Huston, DVM

Many people think of chronic pain in the same way they think of acute pain. However, in reality, there is a world of difference between the two.

Let’s start out with a basic definition of both terms.

Acute pain is the type of sudden, very real, and sometimes a very severe type of pain that results from something like a sudden injury. 

Though the pain may be extreme, it is usually short-lived comparatively.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, is pain that lasts for a long time. 

There may be frequent recurrences in cases of chronic pain also.

Chronic Pain Is Not Acute Pain that Lasts a Long Time

This is an important concept to understand. Chronic pain and acute pain are totally different from one another. This point was driven home for me recently when I attended a lecture presented by Dr. William Tranquilli at the 2011 Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association annual veterinary conference. Dr. Tranquilli spoke at length about pain and various methods of pain control.

Here’s what you need to understand about chronic pain.

Chronic pain is actually associated with a dysfunctional nervous system.

For dogs (and people) that suffer chronic pain, the nervous system is actually not functioning as it should.

Where Does Pain Come From?

The concept of pain is a complicated one. There are actually many different types of pain. There is a maladaptive pain, in which the concepts of normal physiology cannot explain why the pain is present. There is a peripheral pain, which occurs as a result of damage or inflammation to the painful area. There is neuropathic pain, where the pain is due to damaged or entrapped nerves. And there is a central pain, a disturbance in the pain processing pathways that exist in the central nervous system. I mention these not because I think they’re important for the average dog owner to know about but only to demonstrate how complex pain really is.

Traditional thinking about chronic pain blames its existence on damage to tissues. 

However, more recent advances are leading us to understand that the severity of pain experienced is not necessarily a function of the amount of pathology present. It is instead based on how the central nervous system processes this pain.

In cases of chronic pain where the central nervous system may actually not be functioning as it would normally, pain may be perceived as much worse than what would be expected based solely on the degree of damage to the tissues involved.

In other words, a dog with arthritis may actually be feeling more pain than we would suspect merely by looking at the changes we are able to see in that dog’s joints.

Interestingly, Dr. Tranquilli also talked about the concept that there may even be a genetic predisposition for chronic pain. Apparently, in people, various genes have been identified as being involved in the appearance of fibromyalgia, a disease which is caused by overactive nerves. In addition, chronic pain has also been associated with many other disease processes in people, including depression.

Treating Chronic Pain in Dogs

Because chronic pain differs so much from acute pain, a different approach to treatment is sometimes necessary as well.

Dogs that are suffering from chronically painful conditions may actually be experiencing an abnormally heightened sensitivity to pain. This is a condition known as hyperalgesia. As a result, Dr. Tranquilli believes that medications that can inhibit the central nervous system’s pain response may be helpful for these dogs. He concludes:
“Adjunctive drugs such as gabapentin, amantidine, tramadol and even low dose opioid therapy that target the altered neurobiology of chronic pain can be initiated early on in therapy if base analgesic therapy is considered wanting or later when non drug techniques are becoming less effective.”

In real life, we see conditions that cause chronic pain in our dogs on a regular basis. 

Things like arthritis, hip dysplasia, and many other conditions can cause chronic pain for our dogs. With a better understanding of the reasons behind the pain that these dogs feel comes the potential for better, safer and more effective ways to treat them.

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 
Vomiting in Dogs: Is He Actually Vomiting?
Causes of Vomiting in Dogs
Is Your Dog Showing Signs Of Kidney Disease? How Is It Diagnosed?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Assumption Trap: Tosha's Snake Bite

A friend of mine, Kevin, of Dog Lover's Digest blogged this story of his dog's Tosha's sudden lameness. If you're not familiar with his blog, do check it out, it's awesome.

The Assumption Trap: Tosha's Snake Bite

It all started with a case of food poisoning.

If you have a multiple dog household, the last thing you wish for is a multiple dog belly trouble! They all shared the same offending food item, and they all ended up with bad diarrhea.

Because they're all healthy dogs, they gastrointestinal tracts recovered fairly quickly.

Tosha, however, presented with a limp.
All dogs seem on the mend now, but I’m afraid Tosha may have injured a ligament in her right rear leg from straining while doing so many squats. We fear some possible ACL damage.

We are all biased by our past experiences and by what we've learned in the past. Would I suspect an ACL injury if I saw my dog limping on a rear leg? Most certainly so. Should I jump to a conclusion?

On one of her urgent potty breaks, Tosha lept up and dashed around the corner of the house to bark at something that required being barked at. Then she returned inside.

Later that day, Tosha started limping.
Jackie and I took a look at her right hind leg and noticed some swelling in her right hind hock, but didn’t see much of anything else.

I immediately thought of her straining to go and the little hop she did as she ended her previous bathroom session and pole vaulted to the conclusion that she had injured a ligament. She didn’t seem to have any other symptoms, and considering the food poisoning et al., she was in good spirits.

The next morning the swelling seemed to have subsided, even though Tosha was still a bit lame. She was also rather quiet, but so were the other dogs, recovering from their culinary adventure.

As the day went on, though, Tosha was much quieter than the rest of the dogs.

A thorough examination revealed swelling further up her leg, that was very hot. They decided to take Tosha to the emergency vet.
Once the vet shaved the area in question we knew she had suffered either a snake or spider bite.
Tosha left the emergency clinic with some antibiotics and Rimadyl for the pain, fever, and swelling. She has recovered very well.
What has bothered me as a result of this whole ordeal is, what could or should I have done different? How could I have better handled this?

In my opinion, I think I made the mistake of assuming her injury was a strained ligament. I should have done a more thorough check of the area instead of just chalking it up to circumstantial evidence.

Tosha was lucky that she didn't receive a more serious bite. And doubly so, because her parents got to learn from this incident without having to pay a high price.

We can all fall into this trap. 

We see what we expect to see, depending on our experiences. If your dog was bitten by a snake in the past, you will think of that first. If you had a dog with a knee injury, that is what will come to your mind.

The trick is not to give into assumptions, but instead, investigate.

When your dog starts limping, check everything, starting from the toes. There are so many things that can result in a limp, I'll write about that later.

If you cannot find anything, do keep an eye on your dog for any changes, such as Tosha's unusual quietness. Where we live, the chances of a snake or spider bite are quite low. If you live in an area where venomous snakes or spiders are common, do put it on your list of suspects.


The mission of Dog Lovers Digest is to provide information and spark debate about the training, health, behavior, and welfare of “Man’s Best Friend.”

Dog Lovers Digest is here to promote methods that are based on positive means. The blog focuses on ideas that have a basis in science and observation, not folklore. And, actions springing from the humane treatment of these furry members of the family.

Original article:
Snake Bit


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Jasmine's Fur Analysis: Starting The Plan

After we got Jasmine's fur analysis results and recommendations, we consulted with her main vet. It was decided to give it a go. The only way to learn something new is by trying new things.

I am quite comfortable with trying this; after all, all we are using is food.

To play it as safe as possible, and also to have a baseline to see the progress, we started with a thorough physical examination and blood tests.

We did a full blood panel, as well as checked her T4 levels, and tested for heartworm, Lyme, and Ehrlichia.

The lab had a spring special on early disease detection for senior dogs, so we bundled in everything we could.

We specifically wanted to test for the tick born diseases, because of the tick Jasmine got in the fall. Dr. Frick's analysis also indicated evidence of bacteria, which really made me want to make sure we are not looking at Lyme. All these things were negative, so that was great news.

Jasmine's blood panel looked good; in fact, there was only very little difference between hers and JD's (taking advantage of the special we tested his blood also).

Jasmine has the blood of a 4-year old! ;-)

An interesting finding was her T4 levels, which were higher than the last time she was tested. In the light of the fur analysis recommendations, that is interesting. It also gives us some wiggling room to experiment with the dose of her thyroid meds.

I was finally able to acquire all the suggested supplements. So far I have introduced four out of six, with no ill effects. With Jasmine, one cannot be too careful. It is our policy to always introduce things one at the time.

If we introduced a whole bunch of things at once, and it didn't sit well with Jasmine, how would we know which of the new things is causing trouble?

So it is a good idea to always do one thing at the time. With a sensitive dog, this applies to just about anything, including food ingredients. It has happened enough times, that something we thought to be perfectly safe, turned out to be a problem.

So far so good though.

Once Jasmine is put on all the new supplements, then we wait and watch for changes. Follow up fur analysis will be done in three months.

The physical exam also revealed some enlargement of the popliteal lymph nodes (nodes under the knee) but no direct cause was found. The theory is that they are caused by Jasmine's muscle injury (she injured her iliopsoas). So we are working on getting those healed and will check the nodes again.

This is the same injury she had a couple of years ago.

That time it took seven months to fully heal! These muscles are tricky to deal with because they are really tucked away. This time I decided to try reiki, so we'll see how that works out. It is hard to keep Jasmine subdued. She's just all go, no quit.

One of the new supplements are anti-inflammatory enzymes, so maybe they can help out with this also.

We are really curious what these new supplements can do for Jasmine.

Related articles:
Toxins? What Toxins? Jasmine's Fur Analysis

Friday, April 13, 2012

Veterinary Highlights: Device To Predict Epileptic Seizures

Mayo Clinic and partners from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Pharmacy, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and NeuroVista Corporation are working on a device that could help owners of severely epileptic dogs predict, control, and more effectively treat their dogs' seizures.

The hallmark of epilepsy is the seizure ― a sudden and often violent event that strikes without warning. The goal of the research is to use information from real-time electroencephalograms (EEG) readings to consistently detect impending seizures and develop methods of preventing these seizures through fast-acting drug therapies.

This device has already been proven to detect seizures in certain species. This research focuses on its use for dogs and human patients.

Source article: U research helps predict and control seizures in epileptic dogs

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I Can't Believe He Ate That! Foreign Body Ingestion

by Nancy Kay, DVM  

Dogs and cats eat some pretty darned crazy things! 

How many golf balls is that? Image BCF Technology

Sure, I can understand nabbing a loaf of bread from the kitchen counter or sneaking some “kitty roca” out of the litter box. But why on earth eat a sewing needle, pantyhose, Lego pieces, or mama’s favorite diamond earrings? Just when I think I’ve seen it all, something new surprises me.

Dogs, more so than cats, tend to be “repeat offenders.” 

I recall one Labrador in particular who had six surgeries over the course of his lifetime to remove socks lodged within his intestinal tract (in spite of counseling his humans repeatedly on picking up their socks). With as many surgeries as this dog had, we should have installed an abdominal zipper!

Not all cases of foreign body ingestion have such happy endings, particularly if the foreign object has perforated through the wall of the stomach or intestinal loop. 

This allows leakage of nonsterile gastrointestinal contents into the normally sterile abdominal cavity resulting in widespread inflammation known as peritonitis. With emergency surgery and post-operative intensive care, many of these patients survive, but this certainly becomes a big deal, both for the patient and the pocketbook.

Esophageal foreign bodies are notoriously difficult to remove, particularly if they’ve been lodged for more than a day or two.

 (The esophagus is the muscular tube that transports food and liquids from the mouth down into the stomach.) Even if the foreign object is successfully removed, the resulting inflammation of the esophagus can result in the formation of a stricture (narrowing of the esophageal lumen) and chronic, severe swallowing difficulties.

Some dogs are lucky.

The foreign objects they eat pass freely without any ill effects. I see the not so lucky ones with objects that have become lodged within their gastrointestinal tracts.

There are two means to retrieve a gastrointestinal foreign body, surgery, and endoscopy.

An endoscope is a long telescope device that can be passed through the oral cavity, down the esophagus, and into the stomach and upper portion of the small intestine. The endoscope allows visualization of the inside lining of the bowel and its contents. A grabber type instrument can be deployed through a channel in the endoscope to grab the object and then pull it out through the mouth. Endoscopy requires general anesthesia, but it is often preferred over surgery because of its less invasive nature.

In order for endoscopy to be of benefit, the foreign body must be located within the esophagus, stomach, or the very upper part of the small intestine (this is as far as the endoscope can reach). Some objects (coins, needles, tennis ball fragments, cloth) are well suited to being removed endoscopically because they are more “grabbable.” Objects that have traveled further down the gastrointestinal tract (beyond the reach of the endoscope) or are without “grabbable” surfaces (large rounded bones, balls) are better retrieved surgically.

What can you do to prevent your dog from eating inappropriate things? 

First and foremost, “baby proof” your home and yard for your dog. Anything unsafe that your little snookums might want to “mouth” should be put away and out of reach. This is particularly important when caring for a puppy.

Secondly, it pays to know your dog- some dogs never grow out of the habit of putting strange things in their mouths. Some adult dogs continue to scarf down pantyhose and underwear. If you provide chew toys or bones to your dog, supervise carefully to be sure that he’s a nibbler rather than a “swallow it whole” kind of guy.

The best defense against gastrointestinal foreign bodies is avoidance of the things your dog might be willing to swallow. 

In some extreme cases, I’ve encouraged folks to muzzle their dogs when outdoors unsupervised or on walks, so they can relax knowing that their dog cannot gobble something down in the blink of an eye.

Perhaps my most memorable foreign body retrieval was performed on an adult Saint Bernard. X-rays suggested something was lodged in her stomach, but I couldn’t be clear exactly what the foreign material was. I passed my endoscope down into the stomach and saw an intact hand. I thought, “Oh my goodness!” I looked around a bit more and spotted a foot, and then what looked like some human hair. My heart was racing until I finally removed what I could identify as the chewed up remains of a troll doll! Afterward I chuckled remembering that the view I get through the endoscope is magnified significantly!

What crazy thing has your dog eaten in the past? 

Did it pass on its own or was it necessary for your vet to come to the rescue?


Nancy Kay, DVM

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

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

Articles by Dr. Kay:
Reasonable Expectations: The Ability to Discuss Your Internet Research With Your Vet
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Even The Best Veterinarian Can Make A Mistake
A Different Way to Spay
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog: Lily's Story
Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning


Did you get your copy of Dr. Kay's books yet? I deem Speaking for Spot the single most important dog book you will ever read. 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. Do you think you don't need to know this stuff? So did I! And then I had to learn the hard way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fast Decline: Joey's Hemangiosarcoma

This story is shared by a friend of mine who wants to remain anonymous.

I had always wanted my own dog but felt it wasn't right to keep a big dog in an apartment. When I was 29, I was able to buy my first place in Tennessee. I wanted to rescue a dog and knew a puppy wasn't for me because I worked full time. I researched breeds and hunted on Petfinder.

Eventually, I found my dog at the Humane Society.  

Dog Conditions - Real-Life Stories: Fast Decline: Joey's Hemangiosarcoma

He lived there for almost a year since being found as a stray. He was adopted then returned for being too wild and 'untrainable'.  I came home with my 45 lb 'full grown' dog who proceeded to get taller and taller and put on 20 lbs once he was out of the shelter.

He was absolutely wild.  

He ate the couch, the loveseat, the chair and a set of remote batteries that not even emergency x-rays could ever find again.  We enrolled in obedience classes, found a local dog park, and got him (and me) involved in search and rescue training.

Within a couple of years, Joey had gone from a dog that tried to bite strangers to a dog that walked happily in the city's Christmas parade and greeted guests with tail wiggles (he had a stub tail).  

If you dropped something, he picked it up for you. If it rang or beeped, he retrieved it for you. If you left the door open, he closed it for you. If you were silly enough to leave his food bowl on the floor and oversleep, you wound up with that very same bowl on your head.

His favorite game was 'find Daddy' or the variation 'take this to Daddy'.  

If you told him "go away" he walked away if you added "no, I see you!" he would go around the corner out of sight.  If told he was 'under arrest', he would stand against the wall or table until informed he was 'free to go'.  He learned things you made no effort to teach him.  He was just always listening to what was said and trying to figure it out.  He loved to play with my husband but he was my baby.  If I sat on the floor he would back up into me and plop down in my lap.  Then he would literally throw himself backward so I had to catch him and hold him like a baby.  Then he would just gently rest his head on my shoulder and be perfectly still.  He loved being held that way.

We went on happily with Joey, from the day we got him, for almost 9 years to a day.

I first noticed that he seemed to be a little stiff on one of his legs.  

He had previously sprained a back leg (he was possibly the most accident-prone dog of all time) so I watched it for a day or so.

It didn't seem to improve and I began to worry it was dysplasia. We scheduled a vet appointment for him at the end of the week.

By that Friday, however, I noticed that both the legs on his right side seemed to trouble him now. 

The vet examined him and immediately concluded it was most likely a neurological problem. She called a specialist at another practice who agreed to wait for us as we raced across the Metro DC area in Friday rush hour traffic trying to get there before he closed. This was June 3, 2011.

The neurologist examined Joey and said he felt that a brain tumor was causing the problem.

He seemed fairly optimistic that it could be removed successfully and we scheduled a CAT scan for the following Monday. There is a lot more to what went on that weekend but to sum it up, Joey was in pretty poor shape by the time we got to the CAT scan location. I actually considered having them put him down then while he was under sedation and insisted on talking with his doctor by phone before I allowed the radiologist to bring him around.

The neurologist felt that the tumor was small and easily accessible and that we should attempt to remove it. 

Surgery was scheduled for later that week.  After the surgery (and this was the first time I had ever left my dog at a kennel or vet's office overnight), we went to pick Joey up the next day. This was June 11, 2011.

The doctor reported the tumor had good margins and he felt he had gotten it all. Joey was groggy when we first got him but we could already see he was doing so much better with the pressure removed from his brain.  He looked like Frankenstein with surgical staples running right across the top of his head but seemed more like his old self.  By a couple of days later we had to work to keep him from playing and running around.

Things looked promising and for the week or so it took to get the biopsy back, we had hope.  

Then the biopsy came back as possibly hemangiosarcoma although it looked inconclusive The doctor indicated that hemangiosarcomas rarely started in the brain and felt we should now do a sonogram of Joey's chest and abdomen.

Sure enough, that test revealed multiple other sites of lesions.  

This was the last week of June. We then got hooked up with an oncologist.  She felt that chemotherapy wouldn't hurt things and might slow the progress of the disease; this was the only option we were given because of the advanced stage of cancer.

Meanwhile, I continued to research what I could about alternative cures and tried to find a place that was doing an experimental study that might be applicable and might take my dog.  Everyone was very nice. I  found a study on canine brain cancer in Michigan but it was not appropriate for hemangiosarcoma.

We started chemotherapy with the agreement between us that as long as it didn't seem to hurt him or make him feel sick, we would try it. My best friend's wedding (in which I was a bridesmaid) was 700 miles away on July 9, 2011.  Joey seemed to be tolerating the treatment well and still seemed happy with a great appetite.  We decided that we would pack up both dogs and head to the wedding in Memphis so that my family could see Joey at least one more time.

At this time I was hoping to have Joey at least through the end of the year.

I had no idea if the chemo was working or not. We got through the wedding and Joey had a great time swimming in the pond near my family's house and seeing everyone.  I am SO glad he had that time because that was one of his favorite things to do.  We got home on July 10, 2012.  Joey was scheduled for another chemo session and we, as usual, we're looking for a potential drop in his white blood count.

The day after the treatment, his blood test came back fine. 

The next day, however, my husband came home from work early to find that Joey, who had been just fine that morning, seemed somewhat listless. I came home and he had only gotten worse.

We rushed him to our specialist's emergency clinic and they felt he was having a reaction to the chemo, gave us some meds and sent us home. 

My boss was supposed to be picking me up at 7am the next day to leave for an extended business trip.  I stayed up all night watching Joey who seemed restless and nauseated.  Around 4:30am, I checked on him again and found he was just laying on the floor of our bedroom in a puddle of what looked like clear vomit.  I woke my husband and we agreed to take Joey back to the clinic again, possibly for a transfusion.

I decided I would stay home until I could call my boss and hear what the ER doc recommended.  

Then once my husband called, I would decide if this was in fact just a reaction to the treatment or something more serious. I called my boss around 6am and explained the situation. She said I had permission to stay home from the trip but would need to reimburse the office the cost of my plane ticket (which was pricey).  This isn't as mean as it sounds because we are a federally funded non-profit and have to account to the government for every penny we spend.

I decided to go with her to the airport because money was getting tight (we were after all post-flood, mid-reno and into Joey's treatment for almost $10,000) and I wanted every dollar to be spent on Joey. Once at the airport, I talked to my husband.

The ER doc said that Joey had a lesion on his heart that was bleeding and making it hard for him to breath.  She recommended immediate euthanasia.  

I wanted to wait until his regular oncologist got there (8am). When she did, she agreed that any further treatment would just be about prolonging suffering. We had always agreed that if Joey was suffering, we would not keep him alive just for our sake.

At this point, I was at best a couple of hours away and my dog was in pain. So, I sat on the phone in the airport as my sweet husband held Joey and he was put to sleep. It was July 14, 2011.  I had always been there for Joey when he got hurt (which as mentioned before was not infrequently).  When he slipped on a gumball (I hate those things) in the yard and broke his toe, I slept on the couch in the basement for three weeks with him so he could go out the door with no steps. When he body checked his little sister at the dog park way too hard and she bit him, I held him while he got four staples. I never left him at the vet and fought if they even wanted to take him away to weigh him.

I wish at the end I could have been with him.


We were so busy at that time, maybe I missed signs I should not have. My husband said to me that I was always worried Joey would get cancer. I guess that's true since I lost a dog to cancer when I was a child.  Every time poor Joey got a fatty lump or suspicious rash, I made the vet biopsy or scrape it.

But still, we were moving at that time and Joey seemed depressed or had other symptoms I didn't see. We were in mid-renovation and had just moved into our house. We moved in on April 14th, 2011 and a week later the whole basement (where we had everything stored while they finished the renovation of the upper floors) flooded.

I think maybe if we hadn't been distracted, I might have noticed something earlier and it might have made a difference.  We were always careful with Joey's health, kept his weight down, his teeth clean and white, and feed him what we believed was good food.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dog Lessons: Cooper

by Susan E. Davis, PT 

Working with dogs over the past 4 years has certainly taught me about their ability to understand and retain words and phrases uttered by humans.

A Dog's Life

Never has a particular dog, Cooper, shown me the depth of those perceptions than he did a few short weeks ago.

Cooper is a 4-year-old white-coated Golden Retriever who had cruciate ligament tears in both of his knees and required surgery on each, only 3 weeks apart. This was quite disabling and caused him great difficulty with walking, climbing stair, and standing. He began a program of canine swimming which helped him a lot but his walking was still labored, with the hind limbs bent and crossed underneath him.

Physical therapy was recommended and Cooper’s mom Kathy got in touch with me to arrange treatment.  

She further enticed me by sending a short video of her adorable canine boy, struggling along the sidewalk awkwardly.  He stole my heart and I was motivated to offer as much help to him as I could.

The rehabilitation process lasted 7 months, with 1-hour sessions each visit. 

I worked with Cooper in his home, surrounded by his loving family of 3 generations. Each week Cooper gave it his all and the family cheered him on!  We kept a chart of his progress with a range of motion, measured in degrees, plus the bulk of the leg muscles using a tape measure, his standing height, etc. We watched him steadily improve and reach the pre-set goals.

Gradually I was able to reduce the frequency of PT from weekly to every other week, every 3 weeks then finally a month. 

On the last visit when I returned after a month, I found that not only had Cooper maintained all of his gains, but that he had further improved in standing taller with straighter hind legs, and with his ability to walk.

When the session ended I went into the kitchen to talk with his mom Kathy and give her my ecstatic news that Cooper was ready to be discharged!  

All of her time, effort, money, had paid off!  As we were discussing this, Kathy’s Sister Linda quietly “tip-toed” over, tapped each of us on the shoulder simultaneously and pointed to the dog, silently mouthing the words:  “LOOK AT COOPER”.

We turned to find Cooper sitting in the doorway of the kitchen with his head slumped completely down, resting on his chest. At first, I thought he must be sleeping, sitting up! I went over, bent down to look and his eyes were open, but very sullen.

He looked completely despondent. 

His head stayed drooped but his eyes looked at me as if to say “are you kidding me?”!

I went back to Kathy but before I could say a word she quickly muttered, “can you come back in 6 weeks?”  

”What day, what time? “came my reply!  As we scheduled another session for Cooper, we heard him walk away and then a familiar thumping sound. She looked around the corner into the living room and there was Cooper in his bed, lying on his side with his tail wagging, with each beat hitting the floor. Kathy said to me,” well, he knows you’ll be coming back, and since he has another appointment, he is happy”!  

I smiled, shook my head in amazement, went over, bent down and gave the dog a pat on his head saying “okay Coop; see you in a few weeks. Be a good boy!”


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

Friday, April 6, 2012

Veterinary Highlights: Dogs Can Get Pacemakers Too

This is a somewhat old news, but it doesn't make it any less awesome.

Putting a pacemaker in a dog may sound high-tech and far-fetched, but the practice is neither as uncommon nor as costly as you might think. As human pacemakers have become fairly routine, lower prices and increased availability have made them an option for dogs also.

Pacemakers can correct the same abnormalities in dogs that they do in people.

Pacemakers are a useful treatment of abnormal heart rate conditions that don't respond well to drug treatment, such as sinus node dysfunction (sick sinus syndrome) or heart block.

Pacemakers can extend life for several years.

Pacemakers allow many dogs to return to their normal day to day activities, and most of them can enjoy a relatively normal life expectancy.

Source article: Pacemakers in Dogs

Further reading:
Pacemakers for Pooches: A Surprisingly Feasible Option for Older Dogs
Human pacemakers used to save pets' lives
Pet Pacemakers Can Be A Real Life Saver
Dharma and her new lease on life: pacemaker placement in a dog