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News: Guest Posts
In the ER: Treating a Dog's Gunshot Wounds
Make My Day: What would you do?

Many emergency veterinarians enjoy the challenge of gunshot wound cases, especially when we have a good outcome. It’s not very often, however, that a dog comes into our ER in critical condition from a gunshot wound, and survives, and the dog’s owner ends up dead from the very same thing. That is exactly what happened on the afternoon of November 2, 2003.

Mojo was a three-year old Miniature Pinscher, but did not deserve the “land shark” label many MinPins end up with, as he normally was affectionate and friendly. He did like to bark, however, and that tendency would lead to the demise of his owner.

Just before Mojo arrived at our emergency room, his owners, Diane and Richard, found him collapsed in their yard, struggling to breathe. His gums were pale, and he had a wound on the left side of his chest. Oxygen helped him breathe; a quick X-ray showed two bullets in his chest. One bullet was lodged right next to his spine.

As soon as Richard, Mojo’s owner, realized what had happened, he left the emergency clinic and said he was going home. He appeared calm at the time, but his wife noted a look of determination in his eyes she had not seen before. After Richard left, our team of emergency vets and techs continued to work on Mojo, administering IV fluids, pain meds and more oxygen.

When Richard arrived back at his home in the rural town of Ault, Colo., he grabbed a stick of lumber and immediately went next door to confront his neighbor. He knew immediately where the bullet had come from, because his neighbor sometimes complained about Mojo’s barking. The neighbor also ran a jewelry business out of his home, and bragged about the collection of guns he kept for security.

Richard’s neighbor was waiting for him, apparently sitting in a chair in his living room with a shotgun across his lap. When Richard knocked on the door, he shouted at the neighbor to come outside. Threats were yelled back and forth. When the neighbor refused to come outside, Richard broke the small view window in the top of the door. A shotgun blast tore through the open window and hit Richard in the middle of his chest. The wounds proved to be fatal. The shooter was released from county jail nine days later under the Colorado “Make My Day” law, where deadly force can be used to protect one’s self, family and property if they are threatened. The issue of why he could shoot Mojo without penalty was never addressed.

Meanwhile, efforts to save Mojo continued, and proved successful. He was taken off oxygen, moved out of intensive care and started on oral pain meds and antibiotics. Our success in reviving him provided some solace to Diane, Richard’s widow.

Several months later, Diane moved with Mojo to another state to try and put their nightmare behind them. As far as I know, they are getting along OK.

Further investigation revealed that the second bullet in Mojo’s chest was from a previous gunshot, and multiple pellets were also found in the side of the house where Mojo used to roam the yard and bark. He had been used as target practice by the neighbor, whose intolerance of Mojo’s barking proved to test the limits of the law and human civility.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Saving at the Pharmacy
Pets are considered family with Walgreen’s Prescription Savings Club.

Recently I discovered that I could buy a generic version of Tapazole, my cat’s thyroid medication, through Walgreens’ Prescription Savings Club for a fraction of the branded version’s price. 

Through their savings club, Walgreens offers 400 generic medications priced at $12 for a 90-day supply. Membership is open to all those in the United States and Puerto Rico who are not enrolled in a publicly funded health care program, such as Medicare, Medicare, or TRICARE. 

Enrollment for an individual is $20 per year or $35 for an entire family, which includes a spouse, dependents under the age of 23, and pets.

Walgreens makes it easy to find out if a medication is covered with their online Drug Pricing Tool, as long as you know the generic name. In my case, a simple Google search revealed that the generic name of Tapazole is methimazole.

A 90-day supply of Tapazole costs $180 from my veterinarian and $70 ($50 when on sale) from online retailer, EntirelyPets.com. Buying methimazole through the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club is a significant savings at a mere $12. 

Before you sign up, be sure to talk to your veterinarian before switching to a generic drug. While non-branded drugs share the same active ingredient as their more expensive counterparts, the differences in inactive ingredients can alter the effects.

For more information on the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club or to enroll, visit the web site or one of their stores.

News: Guest Posts
Dogs Aren’t Little People
Remember, ibuprofen is OK for us, not for our dogs.

Last week my nephew called. He was dog-sitting our cousin's dog, Chester, and he was concerned about Chester’s stiff back legs. I suggested half an aspirin, and then I said, “Not Advil. That’s not good for dogs.” I said it. I felt it was true, but like a lot of do’s and dont’s, I couldn’t bet my life on it.

Lucky for my nephew, Chester and yours truly, I remembered correctly, as this recent, sobering reminder from Patrick Miles, DVM, reveals. Not only is ibuprofen toxic for dogs—and more so for cats—the consequences can be severe. But don’t trust me, read Dr. Miles post. And, keep those bottles of Advil, Motrin, Midol, etc., safely out of your dog’s way.

News: Guest Posts
Listen To Your Dog
A non-doglover heeds Malti-Poo’s warning.

My editor sent me a story a few weeks back about a woman who says a dog saved her from a life-threatening brain injury. I added the story to my virtual "To Read" folder and only got to it yesterday, when it hit me like a ton of bricks. The short version: A nurse in Missouri was fighting off what she thought was a severe migraine headache when a colleague’s Maltese-Poodle mix (for whom she had no love-loss) began licking her right temple “as though it had been smeared with bacon grease”--in the words of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter. Mary Phillips took the dog’s intervention as a warning and shuttled off to the ER, where doctors discovered and repaired a “giant,” leaking aneurysm.

The story is one more anecdote in a growing body of evidence that dogs can detect health problems we miss, including cancer and low-blood sugar. It’s also a reminder that they have things to tell us—some urgent and some less so—if we will pay attention. For me personally, the story took me back to my mother. She too suffered a debilitating headache, which kept her home from church one Sunday. While the rest of us where away from home, she was taken to the hospital where doctors discovered an aneurysm. In her case, it was too late. Having lived a lifetime without her, I feel a special admiration for Jacques-Pierre, the Maltese-mix who convinced Phillips to see a doctor in time to save her life.

News: Guest Posts
Good News for Cavaliers
Top heart disease in dogs may not be an inevitable result of aging.

A discovery by a cardiac surgeon at Colorado State University refutes the accepted wisdom that mitral valve disease, the top heart disease in dogs, is an inevitable result of aging in pets. Dr. Chris Orton and his research team believe serotonin is driving the disease in dogs and humans.

“Serotonin is made in the brain and in cells in the gut. We previously thought that those were the only places it was made before it is circulated in the blood,” Orton explains, in a statement released by CSU. “But we found the local creation of serotonin in diseased heart valves. We think that drug-induced and naturally occurring heart valve disease share the same mechanism for creating the disease—the production of serotonin. The valve is making serotonin, which causes its own disease.”

The solution? Find a drug that inhibits the production of serotonin in the heart—which is exactly what Orton and his colleagues aim to do next. Why does this matter? Mitral valve disease, also often called mitral valve prolapse in humans, tends to impact smaller breed dogs and usually develops when they are middle aged or older. Chihuahuas, King Charles Spaniels, and other toy and small breeds tend to develop the disease more often than other breeds. According to CSU, of the dogs that develop heart disease, 40 percent develop mitral valve disease, and the disease is the eventual cause of about 70 percent of all heart failure in dogs.

Orton heads up Project CARE at Colorado State. The project focuses on researching the causes of and development of new treatments for mitral valve disease in dogs. The project is supported through grass roots funding. To learn more about the program or to support the research, visit Project CARE.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Animal Health Is A Booming Business
Pharmaceutical companies vie for a piece of the growing animal health industry.

For years animal health was a mere afterthought to pharmaceutical companies. Now with slowing growth in the human health field, and the proliferation of generic drugs, these companies are looking to animal health to diversify. The sector’s predictable cash flow, high margins and brand loyalty have made animal health a much more stable business than human pharmaceuticals. 

Merck and Pfizer’s animal health businesses have grown to $4.27 billion and $400 million in annual sales respectively. With both companies looking to sell part of their assets, several pharmaceutical companies are vying to own a piece of this rapidly expanding market.

According to U.K.-based research company, Vetnosis Ltd., animal drug sales grew 7.2 percent last year compared to 1.3 percent for human medicine. The sector has grown steadily despite economic cutbacks in veterinary care.

While much of the industry’s business stems from caring for the food we eat, our society’s changing view of pets is certainly making a large contribution. Merial’s Frontline flea and tick products alone account for about half of its $2.5 billion in sales.

With the recent development of ground breaking drugs like canine cancer treatment, Palladia, it’s clear that the pharmaceutical industry is finally taking pets seriously. While I’m a little worried about the potential cost of these new drugs (just look at our current health care debacle!), I’m always happy to see advances in the veterinary field that will improve the lives of our beloved pets.

News: Guest Posts
Spay/Neuter in Costa Rica
CSU students and veterinarians provide much-needed, free surgery.

The photos and the report are in from a January spay/neuter mission to Costa Rica. Early this year, 30 Colorado State University students helped spay and neuter more than 240 animals for free during a makeshift clinic in a school gymnasium in San Isidro.

 

“Students and veterinarians used baby cribs and school desks as surgery tables and soccer goalie boxes as IV carts. To reach the free clinic, residents who had few resources, carried cats in birdcages and cats and dogs in suitcases, coolers and boxes. Pet owners began lining up outside of the clinic at 4 a.m.

“‘One 14-year-old boy walked for two hours, starting at 5 a.m., with his three dogs,’ said Liz Georges, a CSU veterinary student who was on the trip. ‘When he reached the clinic and saw the line, he thought we wouldn’t be able to squeeze him in and began to cry. We got him in, and we made a difference to him, a big difference.’”



Read the full report and/or make a donation towards the next trip, contact the CSU student International Veterinary Medical Club at nokunaka@colostate.edu.

 

News: Guest Posts
Thank Your Vet
Do you have the best veterinarian in the country?

I love my vet. She’s smart, approachable, kind and thorough. She never seems rushed, even when the waiting room is full, and she listens carefully to all our stories and nagging concerns. But most of all, I appreciate her hands-on talents with my vet-phobic dogs. You don’t have to be a certified behaviorist to recognize that Lulu and Renzo want to be anywhere but the examination room (tucked tails and shivering) but my vet handles them with a reassuring blend of compassion and confidence to which they respond even when she discovers an ache or a pain.

If you’re never at a loss for words in singing the praises of your veterinarian, maybe it’s time to put a few of them down on paper in a nomination for America’s best veterinarian. “Thank Your Vet for A Healthy Pet,” a national short-essay contest, conducted by the Morris Animal Foundation, will be accepting nominations through Aug. 31, 2009. One national and five regional winners will be selected by honored at the January 2010 North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Fla. (Read about last year’s top vet.)

For rules or to submit your essay, visit www.ThankYourVet.org.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
First Canine Influenza Vaccine
U.S. Department of Agriculture approves protection against the contagious virus.

Lately the flu, specifically the swine variety, has been on everyone’s minds. While the H1N1 swine flu doesn’t pose much of a threat to our pets, there is a risk of contracting the H3N8 dog flu, a highly contagious respiratory illness. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it had approved the first vaccine for the canine influenza. The vaccine does not always prevent infection, but it decreases the severity and duration of the illness.

Canine influenza was first identified in 2004 when pneumonia killed a third of racing greyhounds in Florida. Today, the flu has been found in 30 states and the District of Columbia, mostly in close quarters like animal shelters and pet stores. The flu has hit Florida, New York, Philadelphia, and Colorado the hardest.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, one of the early researchers of the virus, estimates that over 10,000 dogs have been infected in the United States, a hefty number but small compared to the nation’s 70 million dogs. At one time there was a fear that the flu would kill one to ten percent of the nation’s dogs. 

Most dogs have no immunity to the dog flu, so it has the potential to spread quickly. The virus can be passed through a water bowl or person’s clothes, no direct dog-dog contact is necessary. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that dogs can transmit the virus to humans.

Symptoms, which may not show up until several days after contracting the virus, include coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge. However, a laboratory test is the only conclusive way to know if you dog has canine influenza. Most pups make a full recovery, but if it progresses to pneumonia, it can be life-threatening. Unlike human influenza, the dog flu infections occur year round.

I try to minimize the number of vaccines that my pets receive. For instance, my crew gets blood titers instead of boosters at their annual checkup. My dogs seem to be in the moderate risk group -- I never board them, but they do have a lot of contact with other canines at obedience school and agility trials. I’m leaning towards not vaccinating since the overall risk doesn’t seem high, but I plan on consulting with my veterinarian to get his opinion before making a final decision. 

News: Guest Posts
Study Finds High Fluoride Levels in Dog Food
Linked to hormone disruption, thyroid problems and bone cancer in humans.

A new study by the Environmental Working Group in Washington D.C. found fluoride levels 2.5 times greater than permitted for human consumption in eight out of ten dog food brands tested by an independent lab.

“While scientists have not determined how much fluoride is safe for dogs,” the EWC report states, “they have found that people who consume excessive fluoride often develop mottled teeth (dental fluorosis) and weakened bones, leading to more fractures. High fluoride consumption is also associated with reproductive and developmental system damage, neurotoxicity, hormonal disruption, and bone cancer.”

Although the study does not identify the brands by name, the EWG recommends avoiding dog food that contains bone meal and meat byproducts.

Read the full report.

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