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News: Guest Posts
Dogs and Wild Mushrooms Don’t Mix
Poisonous species are more common than you might think.

I remember the sad sinking feeling I experienced last August as I read an email from my friend Diana Gerba. Seeing her email in my inbox initially prompted excitement—oh goodie, more photos and stories about Donato, Diana’s adorable Bernese Mountain Dog. My excitement quickly morphed into utter disbelief as Diana described the death of her barely six-month-old pup caused by ingestion of a poisonous mushroom.      

  Diana’s heart was broken. As she wrote in her email:     “A special boy, Donato was a silver tipped puppy, a rarity in our breed. With his tail always wagging, he had boundless enthusiasm for life. He was a happy little chap and was my joy. He loved me and I him. We were a team ordained by the stars.” Every region of the country is different in terms of mushroom flora. Where I live in northern California, Amanita phalloides (aka Death Cap) is the most common poisonous species and grows year round particularly in soil surrounding oak trees. Ingestion of a Death Cap mushroom causes liver failure (in people and in dogs)—makes sense given the liver’s function as the “garbage disposal” of the body.   Symptoms typically include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, delayed blood clotting, and neurological abnormalities. Every year at my busy hospital, we see at least a handful of dogs with liver failure clearly caused by mushroom ingestion. In spite our very best efforts, the individuals who survive mushroom poisoning are few and far between. Affected people can receive a liver transplant; no such technology available (yet) for dogs.             To learn more about poisonous mushrooms, visit the North American Mycological Association and Bay Area Mycological Society websites. If you suspect your dog has ingested a mushroom get to your veterinary clinic or the closest emergency care facility immediately (choose whichever is most quickly accessible). If possible, take along a sample of the mushroom so it can be professionally identified if need be.   

 

Fortunately, my friend Diana has managed to put a positive spin on the loss of her beloved Donato. Not only does she have Tesoro, a new little Berner boy in her life, she has made it her personal mission to warn people about the potential hazards of mushroom toxicity in dogs. She created an educational flyer (feel free to download and post it wherever dog-loving people congregate.) Diana sent a blast email out just a few days ago after finding a Death Cap mushroom in her yard. Coincidentally, today I discovered several mushrooms on my property while beginning the task of weeding my garden. They’re gone now, but given our current weather pattern, I’m quite sure there will be more tomorrow.       What can you do to prevent your dog from ingesting a poisonous mushroom? Clear any mushrooms from your dog’s immediate surroundings, and be super vigilant on your walks, particularly if you have a pup (youngsters love to put anything and everything in their mouths) or an adult dog who is a known indiscriminate eater.    Learn more about which poisonous mushrooms grow in your area and what they look like. And, please remember, if you see your dog ingest a mushroom—get yourselves to a veterinary hospital as quickly as possible (even if it is after hours). Ingestion of even a nibble of a toxic mushroom is life threatening, and the sooner treatment is started the greater the likelihood of saving your best buddy.        Are you aware of poisonous mushrooms in your neck of the woods? If so, please share where you live (city and state) and the name of the mushroom if you happen to know it.        Best wishes for good health.

 

News: JoAnna Lou
Your Medicine Cabinet Could Be Deadly
A doctor learns the hard way not to mix human and canine drugs

 

A few weeks ago Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein wrote in the New York Times about almost killing her dog Dexter. Fortunately the German Shepherd is on the path to recovery now, but not before going through a harrowing ordeal. And one that could have been easily prevented.

In December, after a romp in Central Park, Dexter came home with a limp in his arthritic leg. In an effort to save money and a trip to the veterinarian, Dr. Epstein gave Dexter a dose of prescription ibuprofen left over from her son’s root canal.

After a day and a half of the medication, Dexter stopped eating and couldn’t control his bladder. Dr. Epstein soon found out that ibuprofen can be lethal to dogs (and many other animals, like cats). Poor Dexter ended up in at the veterinarian’s office for seven days. Over a month later, he’s still on antibiotics and needs to be walked every three hours.

It’s important to know that people medicine should not be given to your pet unless directed by a veterinarian. Even if you are a people doctor! Dr. Epstein learned the hard way that although some human medicines are prescribed to dogs, you can’t assume that for all drugs.

I know many people will jump to criticize Dr. Epstein, but despite what an embarrassing and dangerous mistake it was (even her 14-year old son made fun of her), I’m glad that she decided to share her story. Hopefully the millions of readers who read the New York Times will learn from her potentially deadly situation.

 

News: Guest Posts
Vet’s Generosity Saves Lives
Pet owners can work off bill with community service

Last year, my husband and I were forced to make a difficult decision regarding our 12-year-old Catahoula, Desoto. He needed back surgery, but at an estimate of $5,000-$7,000 plus post-operative care, we simply could not afford it. I remember crying and screaming in frustration that I could not provide whatever Desoto needed.

  After many weeks of deliberation, we ultimately decided that the combination of his advanced age and heart murmur made surgery too risky. That relieved some of the guilt and panic, but the experience got me thinking: How many other people are in the same situation? Here I had been so quick to judge anyone who euthanized their pet because they couldn’t afford the necessary treatment. That person could’ve easily been me.    Just imagine how veterinarians and their staff feel when delivering such horrible news and knowing that their clients can’t pay for it? Dr. Lori Pasternak decided she never wanted to take no for an answer again. If the pet needed life-saving emergency surgery or treatment, she would make it happen with the client’s help. Earlier this year, she and business partner Jacqueline Morasco opened Helping Hands Affordable Surgical and Dental in Richmond, VA.   The clinic’s sole focus is surgery and dental care at affordable prices. There is no office visit fee or general exam fee. Instead, there is a $5 fee per procedure that is collected for a Good Citizen Fund that goes toward others in need. Clients are asked to devote one hour of community service to Helping Hands or other local pet-related charities for every $10 of their bill. This gives pet owners a chance to pay it back and maintain their dignity.   Has a vet or other animal care professional ever gone out of their way to help you when times were tough?
News: Karen B. London
Gift of Pet Care
Dear Abby letter expresses gratitude

In this morning’s Dear Abby column, a woman expressed her gratitude to her daughter and son-in-law for what she described as “the gift of a lifetime.” Knowing that their mother lives alone and on a fixed income, this couple gave her a promise to pay for all the veterinary bills for her dog and cat for the rest of those pets’ lives. Rather than little knickknacks for holidays and birthdays, they chose to pay for medical care for her animals. Her pets, and therefore this gift, mean so much to this woman.

  As the season of giving descends upon us, many people struggle to figure out what to choose for their elderly parents. Any gift that relieves financial worry is always welcome, and the care of pets is one such thoughtful gesture. Naturally, not everybody has the means to pay for all of someone’s veterinary bills, especially if a pet were to require extensive or emergency care because of an illness or accident. But helping out with the cost of caring for pets can be done on any scale, and is sure to be appreciated by anyone who worries about being able to pay for what their pets require.   Is anyone on your list the perfect recipient for a gift such as this?  

 

News: JoAnna Lou
Heartworm Superbug?
Should we be worried about resistance

Heartworm disease is a horrible and potentially deadly disease that is fortunately preventable with medication. However, in recent years, animals in the Gulf region have been testing positive for heartworm, despite being on a prevention medicine. This has many people worried about a potential resistant superbug.

In response to the growing cases, the American Heartworm Society and Companion Animal Parasite Council met earlier this year to "explore the potential relationships between resistance to heartworm products and veterinary and pet owner compliance, loss of product efficacy and heartworm testing and treatment protocols." 

For instance, 50 percent of people who buy heartworm preventative do not give the medication to their dogs as directed. The efficacy of heartworm preventative is greatly compromised if not given as intended.

The meeting concluded that more research is necessary, but that the investigation should not lead to dropping heartworm medicine, since year-round use is still the most effective way to prevent the deadly disease.

In human healthcare, there’s so much talk of antibiotic resistant supeprbugs that I avoid excessive medications and vaccines when possible, for both myself and my dogs. However, heartworm preventative is one medication I don’t skip with the pups. It’s such a serious disease and I hope that the possibility of a superbug is unfounded.

For more information on heartworm prevention, symptoms, and endemic areas, visit the American Heartworm Society website.

News: Karen B. London
Low Stress Handling
Sophia Yin’s advice book available free online

Sophia Yin has written another great book to go along with her popular Small Animal Veterinary Nerdbook and How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves. Her latest book is called Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs & Cats. The ideas and techniques in this book can improve safety at veterinary clinics, decrease stress in the animals, and make life easier for veterinarians, guardians and their pets. And best of all, an abridged version is available online for free through December.

  This book is all about helping animals who are nervous when visiting the veterinarian, those who dislike grooming or handling, and even those who feel uncomfortable with visitors at home. Specific issues in the book include getting dogs in and out of kennels and putting them on leash, different methods of restraint necessary for procedures, picking dogs up, the principles of classical and operant conditioning, modifying behavior through a variety of techniques, recognizing fear and understanding dominance.   Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and behaviorist, is an expert in behavior modification. Her book is a product of her knowledge of learning theory combined with her practical experience. With clear text, more than 1,600 photos and 100 video clips with informative narration, this book can help improve the lives of our pets as well as our relationships with them. There are sections on helping pets who already have issues with handling, and the book also covers ways to help puppies (and kittens) learn at an early age to take being handled in stride throughout their lives.   So many dogs and cats struggle to deal with every day handling and care or completely freak out at the veterinarian. By modifying behavior—both that of humans and of dogs and cats, so much of the resulting stress can be eliminated or at least greatly decreased, and this book provides the sort of practical information needed to make it happen.
News: Guest Posts
Spay Plates
California joins spay/neuter initiative

I received my car tab renewal announcement in the mail on Friday, and decided that this year I’d take the opportunity to order one of Washington’s special We Love Our Pets plates, which supports grants to provide low-cost spay and neuter. My state is one of a couple dozen around the country, where a specialty license purchase supports these initiatives and helps spread the word about this important effort to reduce pet overpopulation.

  I was surprised to learn that California is late to the effort. Activists there launched the California Spay and Neuter Specialty License Plate Program only this past summer and they need to pre-sell commitments for 7,500 spay plates by June 2011, in order for the program to go forward. So there's probably not a better time to upgrade your plate in that state. And, if you're not a Golden State resident, when it's time to renew you may want to find out if your state has a pet plate.

 

News: JoAnna Lou
Vets Without Borders
Web series focuses on rabies

Last month I wrote about the shock of finding out that 55,000 people die each year of rabies, a major health issue outside of the United States.  I couldn’t believe that so many people die each year form something that can be easily prevented with a simple vaccine.

Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans Frontières (VWB/VSF) has been working since 2005 to get that number down to zero. This year, as part of their Make Rabies History campaign, they’ve created a documentary web series called Vets Without Borders to create more awareness around the cause.

Vets Without Borders follows VWB/VSF vets to a small mountain village in Guatemala where residents are dying of rabies from being infected by stray dogs. The vets spay/neuter and vaccinate the dogs, in addition to handling emergencies involving pigs and other wild animals. Animal hospitals don’t exist in this remote area, so the vets must rely on limited supplies and a little creativity.

Check out the first episode: 

News: Guest Posts
Botched Euthanasia
Dog survives, what next?

This story will keep you up at night. A Michigan man takes his 11-year-old Rottweiler, Mia, to the vet to be euthanized. It’s a difficult decision, but he feels it’s the best thing for Mia, who suffers from a spinal problem. He brings her body home to bury the next day but when he retrieves her from the garage the following morning, he discovers she’s alive!

  It’s not a Halloween tale. The vet’s office—you seriously have to wonder what’s happening there—says the dosage was either too little or watered down. Does this happen more than we know? The dog, the man—have been through a harrowing ordeal, and now he faces the choice all over again. What would you do?

 

News: Karen B. London
My Dog Ate What?
New dog show to premier

National Geographic WILD is airing a new show about real stories of dogs who eat things they shouldn’t and the veterinarians who save them from themselves. The new show, called My Dog Ate What? premiers Nov. 3 at 9 PM.

  My first response to this was to be a bit horrified, but after I saw the preview about a dog that ate, among other objects, four pairs of underwear and a pan of brownies along with the shattered glass pan, I think it might be interesting. I was amused by web editor Lisa Wogan’s first response, which was, “They’ve run out of dog ideas.”   I’ve heard stories of dogs eating all kinds of non-food items, but my favorite is the tale of a friend of mine. Her dog ate her engagement ring. (He was not hurt by it, thankfully.) She found it doing what most of us would do if confronted by this situation—sorting through what came out the other end. Too bad this happened a decade before this show existed to share such stories with the world. JoAnna Lou’s blog about cash found in dog poop is another great example of dogs eating weird, but valuable, items.   What has your dog eaten that you just couldn’t believe?

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