Canine medical issues

Saying Goodbye

Rainbow after a storm

Rainbow after a storm

Okay so this will not be the cheerful, fun post we usually have but it is a necessary part of pet ownership. We all know that eventually the end must come for all of us and as a responsible pet owner we need to be able to make this decision with love, thoughtfulness, and compassion.

This is the hardest decision you will ever make but it is also the most loving decision. Our pets are living longer and longer lives due to better health care and education. We are able to diagnose and treat conditions more than we ever could before but with this new knowledge comes a heavy price tag on our hearts.

Everybody hopes that when the day comes the pet will just go quietly in their sleep — some do but in my experience we, as pet owners, are having to make the decision more often than not. As a veterinarian, I have seen pets that the owners have held on longer than they should because the owner was unable to let go and I have also seen the flip side where people let go too soon.

When it comes time to make the decision we all worry whether it is the right one or not, did we give them enough time to improve, were we just too impatient, did we do everything we could — this is all a normal part of the process. The five stages of grief found in human medicine can also apply to our pets. The five stages are denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.

Every time I have to help a pet out of this existence the owner asks if this is the right decision; sometimes I can answer unequivocally yes but other times I offer other options such as trying medication for a few days and then making the decision.

As you all know I lost my hound of 16 years a few months ago and Miss Vicki was the epitome of trying to figure out whether it was time.

Miss Vicki had at least 3 separate vascular incidents and each time I would give her a day or two to improve. Each incident she had Miss Vicki would be unable to walk, would urinate and defecate without knowing it and would be anorexic (which for a hound is unheard of). On the third day I would load her in the car with the intention that this would be the last time, I would pull into the clinic and the other veterinarian would carry her in while I parked the car. Each time I would walk in to the room with the thought that it was time and she would be standing up, walking around, and begging for food. This happened 3 times and when the last “stroke” came, she just looked and me and let me know that it was time to let her go.

It was horrible — that dog drove me absolutely crazy with her panting, pacing, eating everything, not minding, litter box surfing, you name it but when the time came I didn’t want to let her go. I knew that I was going to miss this pain in the butt dog immensely — how could I not — she had stomped on my feet and heart for 16 years.

The criteria I tell owners is that when the pet no longer wants to be with the family, they are not eating or drinking well, they are depressed, and don’t seem to enjoy things anymore. It is a fine line to monitor and it is a difficult one. You should always consult with someone you trust on whether you are making the right decision — family members, friends, veterinarian and you should always bring someone with you for the afterwards part. It is an emotional thing — very emotional and you need someone to help you through the tough part.

As the owner of senior pets I know that my day is eventually coming and I try each day to make sure that I am not keeping the pet going just for my sake. As hard as these decisions are there are a couple more you need to consider — do you want to be present for the end and what should be done with the remains? These two questions are hard enough without being there in the moment. Most places have a few options for the remains and you should call ahead for the details.

I have been with many pets and owners as they have passed on into another place — it is heart wrenching but I try to make each passing as kind and gentle as possible. It is the last gift I can give as a veterinarian and friend. I hear owners say each time that they will never own another pet — they never owned a pet anyway — they held a family member.

Blessings to you all.

This post is dedicated to Crumpet — you are missed. Run girl run!

Crumpet in her life vest getting ready for underwater treadmill

Crumpet in her life vest getting ready for underwater treadmill

Hazards of Spring

Azaleas blooming are beautiful but can be toxic to your pet.

Azaleas blooming are beautiful but can be toxic to your pet.

Boy that is a bummer – Spring is a hazard! We all know how much we don’t get to do in the winter whether due to cold weather, rain, the winter blahs, you name it but with the budding of spring we all start streaming outdoors.

Being outdoors with your pet is great but there are some dangers that you need to be aware of in order to have a safe and fun springtime.

Just like you and your pet, everything else is emerging from the winter doldrums – mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, flowers, snakes, bees, and the list goes on and on. A few safety precautions would be a fast and easy way to having a great spring and summer.

Every year over a million pets are diagnosed with heartworm disease – over a million! This disease is very easy to prevent with a monthly dose of heartworm medicine. Heartworm disease is deadly and the cost of treating it is high but the cost of the monthly dose is low – make sure your pet is up to date on his heartworm medicine.

Fleas and ticks are another spring time emergent. The trauma of fleas on your pet can cause them to scratch, bite and even pull their hair out. Plus the addition of a flea to your home can multiply exponentially within days. Fleas are also the main reason for tapeworms in your pet.

Ticks can not only cause a reaction in the skin of your pet but they also carry other disease such as Lyme, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Anaplasmosis. As humans, you can also get the above tick borne diseases along with many others so keeping them off your pets is a safety issue for you also.

It is amazing how many plants are toxic to our pets and how many times they will eat them anyway. Some of the toxic plants in the Carolinas include daisies, jasmine, lilies, aloe, azaleas, and daffodils — this is just a few of the many plants that can be toxic.

Then we have the other wildlife such as snakes, spiders, bees, possums, raccoons, and many more which can be an attraction for your pet but can have serious consequences.

The most dangerous hazard with spring is not the weekend warrior syndrome of taking a sedentary pet from winter napping to springtime activity but traveling with our pets. It is a nice spring day and you only want to run inside the store for a minute. You crack the window and quickly run inside; a study showed that in 75 degree weather a car can reach 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes.

Spring is a great time for fun, bonding with your pet, and getting great exercise. Let’s go outside and play! Be careful and have a good week.


Moses and the Senior Home

Hello everyone!

A couple of my friends read my blog last week and wanted to know if I had any success stories about weight loss. I have had numerous pets over the years of working in different hospitals that we have placed on diets and they have responded well. Usually it is not the pet that is the problem but the owner. When Frauke asked about success stories, two came to mind immediately — Precious and Moses.

Battle of weight in pets

I hate this scale! — Cassidy

I was working in Lawrenceville, Georgia when a very elegant, thin, Deep South, genteel lady in her eighties and dressed to the nines, came into the hospital barely carrying this bundled up pet. I met her near the door to take the bundle from her arms and Miss Lilly advised me, in her deep southern drawl, that something was very wrong with Precious.

Precious could barely walk and would only take a few steps before collapsing.

I rushed the two into the exam room thinking about cardiac failure, respiratory failure, choking, etc. I got Miss Lilly and Precious in the room and unbundled Precious. Precious was a two year old Chihuahua and she was obese!

After an examination to make sure that Precious was not in distress, we took her to the scale — Precious weighed in at over 25 pounds. This Chihuahua should have weighed about 4 to 6 pounds. You could not see her legs when she stood on the scale — it was mind blowing.

I discussed Precious’ weight with Miss Lilly; Miss Lilly fed Precious at the table, not on the floor, but at the table with her. Precious ate just what Miss Lilly ate for dinner including dessert.

The enlightening moment came for me when Miss Lilly said “Doctor, do you really think my little dog is heavy?” She could not see the weight — she could only see the love.

We placed Miss Lilly on a strict diet with Precious; we started out with just decreasing the portion size of the human food and adding some pet food. Precious came in every week or two for a weigh in and Miss Lilly would agonize about how hard this diet was on her and Precious but she persevered. Over a few months, Precious began to lose the weight and became more active — she became a puppy again.

I moved to South Carolina during Precious’ diet but when I left she was down to 19 pounds. I kept tabs on her over the years and we eventually got Precious to 11 pounds; Miss Lilly decided at that point that Precious was becoming too thin and maintained her at that weight.

I count Precious as a victory because she did lose an enormous amount of weight and it showed me how owners see their pets as only love.

Moses, ah Moses, well if we have a victory we usually have a defeat also. Moses was a Chihuahua, notice a theme here, who belonged to Miss Grace and I watched him grow up. He was an active little dog and very likeable.

Moses’ weight was always perfect and then Miss Grace moved to a Senior home for women taking the young 3 year old pet with her.

I usually saw Moses every couple of months for nail trims and other issues. Moses came in a few months after he and Miss Grace moved into the Senior home — he had gained a pound and I expressed concern that he might not be as active in the home. Miss Grace said she would watch him closely.

A few months later Moses came in and again had gained another pound or two — I asked about his diet — still the same, no change but Miss Grace did think he lay around a little more so she was going to try more exercise.

Moses came in a couple of months later and he was obese — he had gained another two pounds. Miss Grace was upset but she had figured out the problem.

The little old ladies in the home were worried that Moses wasn’t being fed enough, so every morning Moses would make his rounds room to room for breakfast — they were all saving him bites of food to feed so that he wouldn’t be hungry.

Moses was milking the little old women for their food!

Miss Grace and I had a discussion about how this food was decreasing his life span but she could not deprive the other ladies of their little joys so we devised a plan that they would give “vet” approved treats.

The ladies did not think he enjoyed those treats as well so they continued to feed him bites of their meals — Miss Grace passed a couple years later but Moses was still at the home. I haven’t seen him since but I just wonder how much he weighs now — how much love he carries with him.

Chihuahua love

If your pet needs help with losing weight, come see us at ARCC — Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center.


Pounds of Love — How to Shed the Baggage

Pounds of loveI love this poster — it is funny but also sad in a way. I have dealt with “chunky monkey” pets my whole veterinary career. When I first got out of school, I worked in Atlanta and I was very forceful about saying the “F” word — (fat — eek!).

Clients took it as a direct assault on them and became very angry so I started using the term — “chunky monkey” and suddenly it was okay to talk about their pet’s weight. The clients would then say the word fat and I would tell them we don’t use the “F” word.

The holiday season began last week and it has been noted that people gain on average 10 pounds during the holidays; I would be willing to be that pets gain at least 1-2 pounds themselves due to extra holiday cheer from their parents.

Obesity is rampant in our pets today.  A recent study found that weight in dogs is up over 37% since 2007 and cats have an increase of 90% in the same time period.  A dog is considered overweight if they are 5-19% above the ideal weight and considered obese if they are 20% or more above the ideal weight.

Obesity has been connected to arthritis in dogs and linked to diabetes mellitus and heart disease in cats.  It can lead to metabolic, musculoskeletal, and physiologic problems.  Female dogs are at a higher risk for obesity while male cats are more at risk for this problem.  Other factors that contribute to obesity include aging, neutering, inactivity and overfeeding.

The ideal weight for your pet is when:

  1. you can run your hands over the ribs and feel them with a slight pressure
  2. you can see an hourglass shape behind the last rib when looking down on them
  3. you should be able to see the abdomen tuck up

Homemade diets tend to be much higher in calories and “human” food is not digested the same in our pets which leads to an increased caloric intake.  Feeding human food also teaches your pet bad habits of begging and pancreatitis is a very real disease that we see daily in the clinic.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition published an interesting set of comparisons about human food to pet food.  If you feed a 10 pound cat a single potato chip it is equivalent to a person eating ½ of a hamburger.

The best method to combat obesity is to first make sure that you are measuring your pet’s food in a measuring cup and dividing it into at least 2 meals for the day.  You can make snacks a part of your pet’s diet by taking a handful of food and setting it aside for treats.  Increased fiber content can help your pet feel full to keep them from begging.

Increasing your pet’s exercise is also needed for weight loss.  Start out with small, slow walks that increase in distance, speed and time over a few weeks.  Monitor your pet’s weight loss by frequently placing them on the scale.

Your local veterinarian usually does not charge for weighing your pet and will be happy to help you monitor the change.  Just like in people you should get your veterinarian’s approval prior to starting any exercise program.

Weight loss in your pet can decrease the pain associated with osteoarthritis, help with respiration and increase their longevity.   Love your pet and keep the weight off of them.

If you need help reaching your pet’s ideal weight, please come by ARCC — Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center for a treatment plan that will be easy to follow.


At ARCC: “A Healthy Pet is only a bARCC Away!”


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Holiday Hazard – Pancreatitis

family, holidays, turkey, food, butter, pancreatitis, dog, pet, vomiting, diarrhea, human food, "human"

Holiday times are usually happy times; family comes together, we celebrate what makes us a family, think about traditions, eat, drink and be merry. When we have so many people dropping by it makes it hard to think about everything we should and should not be doing with our pets. We want them to be happy with us and to celebrate the good times.

Good times at the holidays usually have my favorite food group in it by the scads – butter (aka fat).  Everybody knows that fat is what makes everything taste so darn good but unfortunately it is also the culprit in pancreatitis.

Fat includes everything from butter, fat off the ham, to the skin on the turkey and is essential in the mashed potatoes, candied yams and on the rolls. We sneak small bites of these things to our pets so they too can celebrate the holidays and that is where we get them and us into trouble.

pancreatitis, turkey skin, vomiting, diarrhea, dog, painful, holiday, human foodYour pancreas is an organ that secretes enzymes to help with digestion and absorption of your food; when your pancreas becomes inflamed, usually by a high fat diet, it can begin to digest and absorb itself. This is a painful disease and can be life threatening.

Pancreatitis can be acute, feeding something inappropriate for the first time, or chronic in which the pet has always eaten “human” food but it becomes too much over time and they become painful.

“Human” food has a lot of seasoning that our pets don’t need in their diet and even small amounts can be detrimental to their health. Seasonings such as salt, garlic, onions are toxic to your pet and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Nothing puts a damper on holiday times like a sick pet.

Clinical signs of pancreatitis include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • dehydration
  • fever

Several breeds are more prone to pancreatitis that others and these breeds include Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels and some terrier breeds while breeds such as Labs, Yorkies and Poodles seem to be less inclined to the disease. It is also thought that heavier pets may be more inclined to pancreatitis.

The clinical signs of pancreatitis are not specific to this disease but are common in all gastrointestinal diseases so diagnosis is a very important part of the treatment regimen.

Diagnosis consists of exam and blood work with some specialized tests usually being recommended also such as amylase, lipase and cPLI (canine pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity) test. X-rays may also be recommended to help diagnose this disease.

Treatment usually consists of hospitalization for a two to five days with intravenous fluid therapy, pain management and possibly antibiotics if needed. Your pet is kept off of food for 48 hours or more to allow his pancreas to heal itself as much as possible.

After your pet has been treated he may need to be kept on a low fat diet for life if his pancreas has been damaged enough and some pets have even been placed on a supplement of pancreatic enzymes.

Holidays are great fun and they can be fun for your pet without giving any of the holiday foods – just extra love and attention along with lots of me time. Keep the “human” food away from your pet so that you and he can have a great time without the slime.

You all be safe and let’s keep our service men in mind that are away from home this holiday season.

For more information on toxic foods – download my free e-book at ARCC — Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center (


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