en Is There a Way to Stop Cats From Clawing Furniture?  
Cat owners do need to realize that, even though the behavior may be irritating to us, it’s a perfectly normal behavior from the cat’s perspective. Cats claw for many different reasons. They mark their territory that way, using both visual and chemical messages. They also scratch to sharpen their claws, helping to keep those claws in tip-top condition. Clawing is used a means of stretching muscles to keep them healthy and supple as well.
Scratching is a basic need for all cats. Your cat is not clawing your furniture out of spite or vindictiveness. He (or she, as the case may be) is clawing because he’s a cat. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to discourage your cat from using your furniture as a scratching post. Here are some tips.

Provide an appropriate scratching surface for your cat. Scratching posts are fine. Cat trees work well also. Some people even wrap table legs in sisal or other fabric for their cat’s use.

There should be both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces. Some cats prefer one over the other; other cats will use both.

The scratching post or cat tree should be sturdy enough that it won’t tip over while your cat is using it. In some cases, it may be necessary to secure the post to a solid surface, like the wall.

Encourage your cat to use the scratching area by making it as attractive as possible. Tempt your cat by using a favorite toy on or near the scratching surface. If your cat responds to catnip, rub some on the surface. Or place some favorite food or cat treats on or near the scratching area. Do not try to “teach” your cat to use the surface by placing his feet on it though.

If your cat has already chosen a scratching location that is unacceptable to you, make that area as unattractive as you can. Placing a plastic runner over the surface usually deters a cat from scratching a given surface. At the same time, place an acceptable scratching surface (e.g., a scratching post or cat tree) near the location and make this surface as attractive as you are able.

Once your cat is regularly using the alternative scratching surface, you can slowly move it (a short distance at a time) to a more acceptable location, if desired. You can also remove the runner or whatever deterrent was used to make the original area unattractive to your cat.
Households with more than one cat will require a separate scratching area for each cat. Scratching surfaces are an essential basic need for the feline and your cat may not want to share.
There may be additional help in the future in the form of a pheromone product that simulates the pheromone released from glands in your cat’s feet (called the plantar pad glands) during the clawing process. These pheromones are used as a chemical marker and serve as a means for your cat to tell the world that your home is his territory. A recent study funded by a grant from the Winn Feline Foundation looked at a synthetic version of this pheromone (named the feline interdigital semiochemical, or FIS) and found that “the presence of FIS can influence and prime the location for this important feline behavior (scratching). It also gives specific, long lasting information to other cats. Using the semiochemical approach can modify the choice of areas selected spontaneously by cats. In the future, it could be used as a preventative measure for a cat arriving at a new home or control or change inappropriate scratching behavior.”

Dr. Lorie Huston
Image: ktynzq / Shutterstock
]]> TheDailyVet Fri, 11 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31868 at
The Amazing and Wondrous Fistulated Cow  
Puns and hyperbole aside, I’d like to tell you about yet another cool cow aspect: Some fellow bovines can have a hole permanently installed from the outside into their rumen. This hole is called a fistula. Usually kept at a veterinary school, large veterinary clinic, or dairy, a fistulated cow is an extra-special cow because she is used to donate her rumen microbes to other sick cows. Here’s how it all works.
A cow’s overall health is very much dictated by how healthy her rumen gut bugs, called “microflora,” are. When a cow is sick, her microflora can die, wreaking havoc on her digestive system. Sometime it’s a challenge to re-grow those gastrointestinal bugs. This is where a fistulated cow comes in handy.
Surgically speaking, installing a fistula into a cow’s rumen is a relatively simple process. A hole is cut through the right side of the cow’s flank and into the rumen (the rumen is always on the cow’s right side). A rubber ring is inserted and permanently installed. This procedure does not take very long and is performed with the cow standing. The cow’s flank is numbed with local anesthetic and once installed, the fistula causes no pain. And of course it has a cap, to prevent leakage.
Then comes the fun part. When a sick cow comes in and needs some healthy rumen microbes, someone lucky gets to put on a shoulder-length glove, undo the lid of the fistula, and sink his or her arm right inside the 50 gallon rumen of the healthy fistulated cow. It’s a crazy experience; it’s very warm and moist, as you might expect, but you also can appreciate the contractions and rumblings of the stomach in action!
After you’re done being the rumen tourist, you grab a few large handfuls of ingesta, which is usually liquefied hay and grass. You pull this out, put it in a clean bag that has been sitting in warm water, and then rush over to the sick cow with the goodies.
You administer the good microbes to the sick cow via orogastric tube — sort of like force-feeding — and then give her a few days to see if her appetite has improved. Monitoring her manure also helps indicate how her gastrointestinal tract is improving.
You may wonder whether there are diseases that can be transmitted from fistulated cow to sick cow. Usually, no. Fistulated cows themselves are pretty healthy and kept out of trouble — they are not bred or milked or stressed, and don’t travel so as to become exposed to contagious diseases. And as far as accidentally spreading “bad” gut microbes, it’s all in numbers — the vast majority of gut microbes in a healthy cow are good, keeping the bad ones in check.
Another cool thing about fistulated cows is that their ingesta can be used for other ruminant species, too. Goats and sheep in need of some microbial boosts for their guts can take a dose or two from a fistulated cow, and I’ve used cow ingesta to help sick alpacas, too.
I fondly remember the fistulated cow at vet school. Her name was Buttercup and all the senior vet students who rotated in on their large animal clinic rotation and assigned her daily care doted on her. She was spoiled — big time.
Needless to say, fistulated cows are worth their weight in gold. One fistulated cow in a geographical area often ends up helping out animals from different counties and sometimes even states! This raises the question: Does a fistulated cow ever run out of ingesta? I think you’d have to borrow pretty heavily to run into trouble in that regard. Besides, you can use your arm as a gauge — finding yourself digging deep? Just offer her more feed! Her rumen levels should be up by the next morning.

Dr. Anna O'Brien
Image: smereka / Shutterstock
]]> TheDailyVet Thu, 10 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31867 at
How to Prevent Your Pet from Starting a Fire  
Annually, pets are responsible for starting 1,000 house fires. To celebrate Pet Fire Safety Day, I would like to share information from the American Kennel Club and ADT Security Services that might save your pet’s life.
Prevention is a Priority

Extinguish open flames — Like moths drawn to light, pets tend to be curious about flames and will be attracted to candles, lanterns, stoves and open fires like the fireplace or BBQ. To avoid problems make sure all sources of fire are completely extinguished and do not pose a threat.

Remove or protect stove knobs — Pets accidentally turning on stove knobs is the leading reason for pet started house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Remove or protect stove knobs from activation while you are away.

Flameless candles — Although not as aromatic as regular candles, the light bulbs in flameless candles are unlikely to start a fire if knocked over by your pet.

Water bowls on wooden decks — Like starting a fire with a magnifying glass, the reflection of light through glass bowls can generate enough heat to ignite a wooden deck. Stainless steel or ceramic water dishes cannot focus light in the same way .

Inspect and pet proof — Be alert to loose electrical wires, appliances, and other hazards within your pet’s reach.

Safety in Case of Fire

Confine young pets — Puppies are notoriously curious and capable of finding trouble. Confining them to crates or pens while you are away will help reduce the risk of them causing a fire. The confined area should be near an entrance for easy access in case of fire.

Keep pets near entrances — Firefighters can easily find and rescue pets that are near entrances. To ensure quick, safe transport, collars, leashes, and carriers should be near these same entrances. Have emergency kits with your pet’s medical information and a supply of medications that they regularly need close together. Know your pet’s safe hiding places and restrict access to them in your absence so they can’t flee there in fear and make it difficult for firefighters to find them.

Monitored alert service — Battery operated smoke alarms will not only scare your pet but won’t alert anyone to a fire if you are not there. Monitored smoke detectors alert a monitoring system that can then alert both you and the nearest fire station.

Pet Alert window clings — These static clings alert firefighters that pets are inside. Indicating the number of pets on these clings can help save critical time for firefighters. Free window clings are available online from the ASPCA or can be purchased at pet supply stores. They should be placed so they are readily seen by firefighters.

Plan an escape route — Plan a safe escape route and have leashes and carriers easily accessible. Practice fire drills so your pet is familiar with the routine in case of fire. Pet friendly work places should also have a designated escape plan for workers and their pets. They also should perform routine fire drills so the plan is familiar to both workers and pets.

Outdoor pets — Housing and pens for outside animals should be located clear of brush, bushes, or other vegetation that could act as fuel for a fire. Outdoor pets should wear or have implanted identification in case they flee your yard or property during a fire.


Dr. Ken Tudor
Image: yevgeniy11 / Shutterstock
]]> TheDailyVet Wed, 09 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31866 at
Heartbreak of Losing a Pet Can Be Cushioned With Planning  
Yes, this is a heavy way to start an article. But reality tempers the excitement of picking out a new puppy or kitten, or adopting an older dog or cat, with the knowledge that the animal’s expected lifespan will, in all likelihood, be far shorter than your own. A major consideration for pet ownership is what can be done to ensure that a good quality of life is provided during all stages of its existence.
The loss of a pet can be unbearable for owners whose attachment far supersedes what would be considered a “typical” healthy human-animal bond. Those cases require professional help when it comes to the complications surrounding euthanasia and death. Fortunately, there are health care providers specifically trained in dealing with supporting exceptional cases of grief related to pet loss.
What I encounter far more frequently are owners who, despite a rational understanding that their pets are not immortal, become overcome with fear and anxiety once faced with the diagnosis of a terminal disease.
Even though owners may be able to comprehend that their pet has a fatal disease, the tension surrounding the details of the actual “process” off loss can be overwhelming. A more frightening concept for most people is the actual act of euthanasia itself. The word “Euthanasia” literally translates to “The good death.” It is simultaneously the most humbling and powerful aspect of my job.
The perception of what transpires during euthanasia of a pet can be clouded by experiences with the deaths of relatives or friends, or even from sensational images put forth by the media. I cringe each time a television show depicts death as some remarkably dramatic flat lining of an EKG or theatrical intake of a last breath. In reality, the passing is marked with much less spectacle.
As difficult as it is to discuss the subject, I thought it would be helpful to provide factual information for pet owners to think about prior to the difficult choice of euthanasia and allow some opportunity for learning and discussion about an otherwise unmentionable topic.
The first step for most owners is deciding where to have the euthanasia take place. For some, the decision may unfortunately need to be made on a more urgent basis, but for many other situations we are able to somewhat plan the process.
Most euthanasia occurs in a veterinary hospital, however some veterinarians will travel to an owner’s home in order to provide an additional layer of comfort during this difficult time. This can be a very helpful service for very sick or frail animals, or for owners who are incapable of transporting their pets to the vet and would otherwise be limited in their abilities.
Owners must then decide whether they will be present or not during the euthanasia. This is often a difficult choice for many pet owners and I urge owners to think about this particular aspect of “the plan” ahead of time. From personal experience, I know that the answer to this question can be different for each individual pet and is dependent on many different unique emotional aspects. Take this time to consider the right choice not only for yourself, but also for your pet.
Although the specifics of euthanasia can vary with facility and from doctor preference, in most cases a small intravenous catheter is placed into a vein located on the lower part of one of the limbs. The catheter will be taped in place temporarily. This is to facilitate the administration of the euthanasia solution, a drug called sodium pentobarbital.
This drug is a barbiturate medication that at “routine” doses can be used as an anesthetic/sedative, but at the high doses used for euthanasia will be fatal. The drug will cause unconsciousness within the first 5-10 seconds of administration. During this time period, there is also a drop in blood pressure, along with cessation of breathing, and cardiac arrest. This occurs within 10-30 seconds of administration. There is a surprisingly brief amount of time from the initiation of injection to the passing of the patient.
Many times we also administer a sedative prior to injecting the actual euthanasia solution. This is to make sure the pets are calm and quiet and able to relax in their owners' arms or near them on the floor in a comfortable and kind environment.
Once the euthanasia solution is injected, I will take my stethoscope and listen for a heartbeat. Once I’ve confirmed the heartbeat has stopped I will let my owners know their pet has passed.
Some owners will elect to take their pets home for burial. Most owners elect for private cremation of their pet, with their ashes being returned to them.
Veterinary hospitals typically have a contract with a local pet cemetery that provides this service. The cemetery may also offer special options for owners including viewings, witnessing the cremation, and burials with plots similar to those available for humans. Owners are encouraged to contact their veterinarians for further details, or even to search on their own for a cemetery better suited to their personal needs.
In most situations, owners will need to return to the veterinary hospital to pick up their pet’s ashes once they return. This can often be a very difficult thing for owners to face as they are returning to the place they will associate with the loss of their beloved companion. If needed, ask a friend or family member to either accompany you or act in your place at this time.
Educating yourself on what to expect at the end of life might just be the first step in coming to terms with a terminal diagnosis for your pet. Doing so doesn’t make you heartless or uncaring. On the contrary, I find it represents a commitment to one of the major responsibilities of pet ownership.
The process is certainly emotionally taxing and painful, but with a small amount of exploration in advance, can also be demystified, allowing for a calm and peaceful closure for owners dedicated to their pets' care.
It’s the final gift we can give to our companions, who never ask for anything in return.

Dr. Joanne Intile
Image: Marco Saracco / Shutterstock
Related posts you might also be interested in:
The Decision to Euthanize a Pet: A Vet's Perspective
Euthanasia... What To Expect
In-Home Euthanasia
]]> TheDailyVet Tue, 08 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31864 at
Don't Overlook Rats as Pets  
The hamsters and gerbils were always up for biting, the guinea pigs sat there looking cute but didn’t do much else, and the rabbits seemed hell bent on finding new and improved ways of committing suicide. I tried to be fairly honest about the strengths and weakness of all these “small fuzzies” as pets, which probably accounts for the fact that I was one of the worst salespeople on the staff.
We had some albino rats in the store too, but they were sold as feeder rats to reptile owners. I’m sad to say I didn’t give them much thought… until our supplier sent us some “fancy” rats by accident. Fancy rats and albino “lab” rats are the same species, Rattus norvegicus, but the fancy varieties have been bred for looks. The group we got into the store were lovely — soft brown eyes with fawn and cream coloring. I couldn’t help but spend a little time getting to know them. What charmers! They were very social with each other and people. They never nipped once and always seemed happy when I stopped by for a visit. Surreptitiously, I sold them all as pets by sidling up to customers who were looking at the other small fuzzies, whispering, “Psst, have you considered a rat?”
Well, what goes around comes around. My daughter and her best friend recently waged a concerted campaign to become guinea pig owners. After her friend’s mom caved under the pressure, it became increasingly hard to come up with good reasons why my daughter couldn’t have one also. And then came salvation — a coworker needed to find a home for her pet rats (her husband had developed allergies). After a brief discussion during which I waxed poetic over the virtues of rats and brought up the movie Ratatouille multiple times, I had her convinced that adopting these rats was the only sensible thing to do… so now we’ve added two female rats to our zoo.
Oreo is black and white and a real go-getter. She’s always on the move and loves to explore. Cinnamon is tan and cream colored and more of a snuggler. Together they have already provided us with hours of entertainment. We even went so far as setting up their very own swimming pool to see if they like the water (Cinnamon does, Oreo doesn’t). The only “person” they’ve bitten so far is our dog Apollo, who insists on sticking his enormously long tongue into their cage, so who can really blame them.
Once again I’m in a position to promote rats as pets. In addition to their friendly nature, they are a great size — small enough to be housed comfortably in cages but large enough that they aren’t overly fragile. They also tend to live longer than hamsters and gerbils but not so long as guinea pigs or rabbits, which is a good compromise if you aren’t ready for a decade long commitment to a new pet but want a decent amount of time with your neat new fuzzy friend.

Dr. Jennifer Coates
Image: Anna Hoychuk / Shutterstock
]]> TheDailyVet Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31863 at
Cleft Palate in Dogs Awareness  
According to the JOSH Facebook page: “The breeder took Josh into the shelter to be put to sleep at 48 hours because of a cleft palate. Rescued by LNPB and Hand raised by Me … Tina Marie Lythgoe.”
Since then, Josh has overcome adversity and matured into an adolescent pooch having a unique lifestyle. In the petition to have Josh appear on the cover of Modern Dog magazine, we learn some interesting facts about this cute pup.
Age: 5 months
Nicknames: wolfie! bad boy! wild child!
Likes: cats,birds
Dislikes: He likes everything!
Favorite Foods: His puppy food
Favorite Pastimes: Playing at our grooming shop
You can cast your vote for Josh through July 2nd by clicking this link: Meet: Josh
What I love seeing is the outpouring of photos and kind words on JOSH’s Facebook page from other owners who have dogs that are affected by cleft palate, including Giget, a Chihuahua, and Treble, who also looks like a Chihuahua (or mix). There are also well wishes from pet lovers worldwide who are interested in seeing Josh continue to thrive.
Additionally, Josh also has some unusual furry friends in his household. His Facebook page shares photos of a visiting opossum, with the caption, “Opogogio my brother ... He lost his mom when he was a baby ... He snuggles like a cat and he plays with toys like a dog ❤️JOSH”
What I find very interesting about Josh is that he’s has been able to thrive to the age of five months despite his medical condition. Having a cleft palate leaves an affected puppy, kitten, or other species especially prone to a variety of health concerns, including:

Nasal discharge
Difficulty nursing
Weight loss — resulting from inability to consume enough calories
Failure to thrive — due to insufficient hydration and calorie consumption or susceptibility to health problems
Aspiration pneumonia — inflammation and malfunction of the lungs caused by inhalation of liquid and food into the respiratory tract (trachea) instead of going down the  esophagus
Breathing problems — associated with aspiration and pneumonia
Inappetence (anorexia) — decreased appetite, which can be related to diseases occurring as a result of the cleft palate, like pneumonia or others

The exact reason why a puppy or kitten is born with a cleft palate is typically unknown, but the condition has been correlated with exposure of the embryo to chemicals capable of causing harmful developmental changes (teratogens) including:

Griseofulvicin (Fulvicin) — An anti-fungal medication that is used to treat Dermatophytosis (ringworm)
Vitamins A and D — Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy. Safety considerations in the design and interpretation of clinical trials indicates that “some animal studies have suggested the potential for dose-dependent fetal toxicities (for example, growth impairment, skeletal malformations and cardiovascular anomalies) associated with excess Vitamin D supplementation. While The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports “craniofacial … malformations” (those affecting the head and face) occurring in animals exposed to high Vitamin A intake during embryonic development

There are some breeds in which cleft palate is more common, including “beagles, Cocker Spaniels, dachshunds, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, schnauzers, Shetland sheepdogs, and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds.” Although the West Highland White Terrier (Westie) isn’t listed here, Josh is a Westie mix and could always have one of these other breeds or a completely different breed or mixed breed in his genetic makeup.
Josh’s cleft palate may be able to be repaired via surgery. The typical recommendation is to wait at until at least three to four months of age, and multiple surgeries may be needed. Performing surgery to fix the cleft palate is neither simple or inexpensive and often requires the skills of a board certified veterinary surgeon.
I hope that Josh continues to thrive in life despite his conformational abnormality. Additionally, I’m voting for him to appear on the cover of Modern Dog magazine to help educate the world about cleft palates and to serve as an inspiration to others who have pets facing similar issues.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney
Image: From Josh's Facebook page
]]> TheDailyVet Fri, 04 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31862 at
The Parasites That Plague Our Cats  
Cats and Fleas
Fleas are one of the most common parasites we find on cats. Here’s what you need to know about them.

Fleas survive on a blood diet. Because these parasites ingest your cat’s blood, anemia is a potential complication.
Some cats develop an allergy to the bite of the flea. Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is one of the most common allergies diagnosed in cats. Because the allergy is a reaction to a substance in the flea’s saliva, it takes only one flea bite to cause an allergic reaction. FAD results in itchiness, hair loss, skin sores, irritated skin, and discomfort for your cat.
Fleas can also carry diseases. Some of these diseases can be quite dangerous for your cat, but others are actually more dangerous for you and your family.
Fleas also carry parasites, such as tapeworms, that can be easily passed to any flea-infested cat.
Indoor cats are not safe from fleas. Fleas can find their way indoors quite easily. They often hitchhike on people coming into your home or on other pets that do go outdoors.
Fleas can survive and can resurface during the winter under the right circumstances, even in cold climates.
Once your cat is infested with fleas, getting rid of the infestation is difficult. Fleas live only a portion of their life on your pet. Their eggs and larvae develop in your pet’s environment, which in most cases is your home. Once an infestation is established, the environment will need to be treated as well as the pet and it may take months to completely eradicate the infestation. Prevention is much easier and safer for your cat.
All pets in the household must receive adequate flea protection to effectively control fleas.

Cats and Ticks
Ticks are less frequently seen on cats but are still seen on a regular basis, particularly for those cats that spend time outdoors.

Ticks are most likely to attach to the area around the face, head, ears, and neck.
Ticks attach to your cat’s skin via their mouthparts and feed on your cat’s blood while attached. They do not, however, embed their bodies under your cat’s skin.
Ticks do not jump, fly, or run. They tend to be slow moving but will position themselves in grass and on vegetation where they can latch on to passing hosts. Once on the host, they will crawl to an area where they can feed.
While ticks tend to more of a problem for cats that spend time outdoors, it is not impossible for a tick to hitch-hike indoors on a person or another pet, only to find and feed on your cat. There is also one particular species of tick that can establish a stable population indoors and infest your home, posing a threat to people and pets alike.
Ticks can survive and can resurface during the winter under the right circumstances, even in cold climates.
Ticks can carry diseases that may be passed on to your cat. One of the most serious of these diseases is cytauxzoonsosis, a disease that is often fatal for an infected cat.
Using a product that repels and/or kills ticks is preferable, particularly if your cat is at risk.
Checking your cat for ticks on a regular basis, and removing any ticks found as soon as possible, is also a good idea.

Cats and Heartworms
At one point in time, we believed that only dogs could be infected with heartworms and that cats were immune. We now know that is far from true.

Your cat can become infected with heartworms through the bite of a mosquito.
Even indoor cats can become infected with heartworms.
While dogs infected with heartworms often harbor large numbers of heartworms, cat typically have only a few. This does not make the parasite less dangerous for your cat but does make diagnosis of heartworm disease more challenging.
In cats, heartworm disease tends to manifest as a respiratory disease. It often mimics feline asthma.
Sudden death is one of the recognized symptoms of feline heartworm disease. Death may occur so suddenly that there is no chance to do anything medically to stabilize or save the affected cat.
There is no safe or effective cure for cats infected with heartworms. The medication used to treat dogs for heartworms (Immiticide) is not safe for cats.
Cats with heartworm disease are usually treated symptomatically.
Heartworms can be prevented. There are numerous medications that are both safe and effective in protecting your cat from heartworms.

Heartworm preventive medication should be considered as part of a comprehensive preventive health care plan for all cats, as should flea and tick control. Your veterinarian is your best source of information regarding which parasite products are best suited to your cat.

Dr. Lorie Huston
Image: Stokkete / Shutterstock
]]> TheDailyVet Thu, 03 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31861 at
Pig Virus Continues to Threaten Pig Herds  
The virus that causes PED is part of the swine enteric coronavirus diseases (SECD). While PEDv was first documented in the U.S. in April 2013, another virus of the same family, called porcine delta coronavirus (PDCov), has also popped up. Both viruses cause diarrhea and associated weight loss. Both can result in significant mortality, primarily in young pigs. 
Since its initial outbreak over a year ago, PEDv has killed roughly 10 percent of the pigs in the U.S. — that’s an estimated seven million pigs, according to a Reuters report in early June. What’s more, officials still don’t know where it came from. While there is speculation that its origin is from China, since all strains identified from the U.S. outbreaks are closely related to a strain from China, the where and why and how of its transcontinental travel remain a mystery, something unnerving to officials whose job it is to keep foreign animal diseases, well, foreign.
On June 5, 2014, the USDA issued a Federal Order. This Federal Order requires all producers, veterinarians, and diagnostic laboratories to report all new cases of PEDv and PDCoV. Secondly, this order requires hog operations to work with a veterinarian to develop a management plan to address the disease and prevent its spread in their herds. Both parts of this Federal Order are aimed at tracking the diseases and helping prevent their continual spread.
As a veterinarian — and large animal veterinarians are mostly affected by this — certain diseases (e.g., diseases the government is trying to eradicate, have already been eradicated, are foreign animal diseases, or dangerous zoonotic diseases) are reportable, which means that if you see it in a patient, you call your state veterinarian and report it. This means you’re suddenly playing with the big boys. This means that now, PEDv has been elevated to Big Boy status. Sort of exciting.
On June 16, the USDA announced issuance of a conditional license for a vaccine that may aid in the control of PED, making it the first of its kind. You may have noticed two things in that last sentence: the word “conditional” and the word “may.” Conditional licenses are issued sometimes when a disease threat is heavy and the need is severe. Such a vaccine has been proved to be safe, but how well it works (called its efficacy) has yet to be completely determined.
There’s a possibility that a conditional vaccine may not actually work well at all and after this is proven from actual use data, it will be removed from the market. This happened fairly recently with the conditional approval of a vaccine in horses against a protozoa that causes spinal damage (a disease called equine protozoa myelitis). This was extremely disappointing in the equine veterinary world because there is a great need for such a vaccine in the U.S. Think of a conditional license as a way to get something safe on the market fast when there is a need, using real world data to gather the rest of the efficacy data. This is why the USDA’s statement on June 16 says “may aid in the control.” They don’t know yet. But they have to try something.
One thing to keep in mind is that PEDv is not transmissible to humans or other animals and can’t be transmitted through eating meat from an infected animal. So we humans remain safe, at least in terms of PEDv. Watch this epidemic closely if you have an interest in the pork industry or epidemiology, as things are continuing to develop on an almost daily basis. 

Dr. Anna O'Brien
Image: Dmitry Kalinovsky / Shutterstock
]]> TheDailyVet Wed, 02 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31860 at
Preventing Obesity in Cats: A Feeding Strategy  
Inter-cat dynamics and differences in eating and meal preferences complicate a one-size-fits-all weight loss solution. Prevention of obesity is important for both cats and dogs, but is paramount with cats. Following is a feeding strategy to maintain optimum weight in our feline friends.
Feed the TOTAL household calorie count. This strategy requires that the daily calorie requirement of each cat is calculated and a total for the entire household is determined. For the average 9-10 pound (ideal weight) cat, that is about 250-300 calories per day. For larger framed cats the requirements are different. Your vet can help. For those with science calculators the formula is:
[100 x (Ideal body weight in lbs./2.2)0.67] = Daily Calorie Requirement
Once the total household calorie requirement is determined, the calorie density of the food is the next math step. Cat food makers are not required to disclose the calorie content of their food on the label. If it is not available, you may have to consult the company website. Once that information is found the total amount of food is calculated to meet the calorie needs of the total household. Are you frustrated yet?
Example: All dry, kibble, free feeding a 3 average-cat household. The food contains 375 calories per cup. The household needs 750-900 calories per day. Let’s split the difference and assume 825 calories per day. The total amount of food for the household is:
825 calories divided by 375 calories per cup = 2.2 or about 2 and 1/3 cups of food per day
The rule of thumb is to have 1-2 more feeding stations than the number of cats, widely separated throughout the house or apartment. Ideally the stations should be placed in out of the way areas that require effort to access. By dividing our 2.33 cups of food we need five feeding stations with just under ½ cup of food. No other food is offered and the body condition score of each cat is monitored to ensure that all cats are competing successfully for adequate calories.
If a combination of canned and dry food is preferred, the wet calories are subtracted from the household total and the amount of dry food is re-calculated for the feeding stations. Those preferring scheduled feeding of canned only, or canned plus dry, need to calculate the needs of each cat per meal. Recent research suggests that multiple scheduled or random multiple meals increase a cat's activity level and leads to more calorie expenditure and overweight prevention.
The same researchers also documented higher activity levels when cats were offered dry kibble with the addition of water. However, the longer moistened food is left available for free feeding, the less likely it is to be consumed. Damn finicky cats.  
Some cat owners will also find that extremely dominant or submissive cats make this strategy very difficult to ensure all cats are getting their nutritional needs. Separate, isolated feeding alternatives for the dominant or submissive eater are necessary in these types of environments.

Dr. Ken Tudor
Image: Tom Thai / Flickr
]]> TheDailyVet Tue, 01 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31745 at
Top Five Tips for Treating Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats  
Owners often want a quick (and inexpensive) fix, and doctors can be unwilling to put in the time necessary to thoroughly explain the complexities behind many ear infections. To help remedy this situation, here are a few tips for treating ear infections in dogs and cats.
1. Ear infections typically develop as a result of another problem.
In most cases, a pet’s ear infection should be viewed as a symptom of another, underlying condition. Allergies to ingredients in the pet’s food and/or environmental triggers like pollen, molds, and dust mites are most common, but anatomical abnormalities, masses, or foreign material within the ear, chronically damp ears, and hormonal disorders are also possible.
2. Ear mites are rarely to blame, except in kittens.
Almost every case of ear mites that I’ve diagnosed has been in a kitten. Puppies can also get ear mites, but if you have an adult dog or cat that has not been in contact with kittens or puppies with ear mites, the chances that he or she has mites is very small. Bacterial and/or yeast infections are much more likely.
3. Clean the ears properly.
Getting the “gunk” out of a pet’s ears is an essential part of treatment. In severe cases, a veterinarian may need to sedate the dog or cat to thoroughly flush out the ears down to the level of the ear drum. Examining the ear drum after cleaning is important because infections that involve structures behind the ear drum require more aggressive treatment and certain topical medications can cause deafness when used on pets with ruptured ear drums.
At home, owners should completely fill the ear canal until it overflows with the cleaner prescribed by a veterinarian, fold the pinna (ear flap) over the canal, gently massage until a “squishy” noise is heard, and then stand back and let the dog or cat shake his or her head vigorously. The centrifugal forces generated by head shaking will bring deeper material to the surface where it can be wiped away. Do not dig down into the pet’s ear canal with cotton swabs or other objects as this will simply push the material deeper and possibly lead to a rupture of the ear drum.
4. The longer an ear infection goes without treatment, the harder it is to get rid of.
Chronic ear infections can lead to permanent alterations in the anatomy of a dog or cat’s ears, making future infections more likely and more difficult to treat. Consult with a veterinarian quickly when a pet develops the typical signs of an ear infection: head shaking, scratching at the ears, and/or discharge and a foul odor from the ears.
5. Ear infections will keep coming back unless the underlying problem is dealt with.
Healthy adult pets with “normal” ear anatomy almost never get ear infections. It is reasonable to treat the first infection that a dog or cat gets as a random event, but if the infection returns or fails to promptly resolve with appropriate therapy, a search for the underlying cause should commence.

Dr. Jennifer Coates
Image: Ermolaev Alexander / Shutterstock
]]> TheDailyVet Mon, 30 Jun 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31848 at
Lack of Specialized Information Can Lead to Pet's Early Death  
This was the third conference I’ve attended this year. Each time, I’ve returned feeling renewed and invigorated about being an oncologist. I’ve felt more confident in my career path and my knowledge base. I’ve felt assured I’m doing the best job I can do, and that I have been adequately adhering to my responsibility to keep current in my field. Sadly, within just a few short days of arriving home from each occasion, I’ve found my enthusiasm become re-routed as I tackle events that completely question my faith in the public’s perception of veterinary specialty medicine.
I’d barely arrived home when my husband excitedly told me the wine store near where we lived was having it’s grand opening that afternoon. Though I am an avid lover of animals, I also really enjoy wine, so I was equally enthusiastic about the event.
Within a few minutes of our arrival at the store, we met two gentlemen who struck up a conversation with us about a baseball game we all were watching on the large flat-screen TV. My husband and I have an unwritten rule that we will not voluntarily bring up our profession in social situations unless asked directly, as inevitably the tides of conversation will change and then simply become monopolized by animal talk. So we happily discussed the game, the wine store, and things to do around the area with our newfound friends.
But, as is so often the case, it somehow came up in conversation that we were both vets, and immediately the topics shifted from discussing pitching stats and the merits of beer flavored with Old Bay to questions about our new friends' pets, breed specific illnesses, and then once they found out I was an oncologist, stories of their dogs who were previously diagnosed with various tumors and their outcomes.
I listened intently as one owner recounted the events surrounding the death of his older Golden retriever. He accurately recounted how his dog became acutely weak and inappetant one morning, with no premonitory signs of illness. His owner knew enough to know the behavior wasn’t normal, but figured his dog had contracted a stomach bug or ate something he shouldn’t have. He diligently brought him to his primary care veterinarian for evaluation that same day. That’s when the story took a disheartening turn for me.
Turns out his dog’s signs were not due to a simple virus, but rather a bleeding tumor along his spleen. Given the age, breed, and presentation of his pet, the most likely diagnosis was an aggressive tumor called hemangiosarcoma (see Cancer: Imagining the Worst, and the Best). However, other possibilities existed. The only way to know would be to perform an immediate life-saving surgery and remove the spleen and submit the tissue for biopsy.
The owner recalled the story with the following chain of events: 1) The primary care veterinarian diagnosed his dog with a bleeding tumor that had a > 90% chance of being a type of cancer; 2) The dog would live only three months with an immediate life saving surgery; 3) The life saving surgery needed to be done at a specialty veterinary hospital and would cost no less than $10,000; and 4) The dog had a less than 50% chance of surviving the surgery. He ultimately elected for humane euthanasia.
As he told the events of his pet’s death to me, I could feel myself struggling between a strong sense of sadness over the sudden loss of his beloved companion and a growing sense of frustration and anger towards the misconceptions he had about what may have been the outcome for his dog.
Yes, there is a strong likelihood of a diagnosis of splenic hemangiosarcoma, but I will stand by my conviction that so many dogs are euthanized prior to surgery that we actually do not know the true prevalence of benign vs. malignant splenic tumors.
Yes, if the diagnosis is splenic hemangiosarcoma, the prognosis is considered very guarded with surgery alone, but chemotherapy following surgery can be effective in prolonging survival.
Yes, the surgery is expensive, but the cost likely would range between about one-third to half the amount quoted by the primary veterinarian.
And yes, though the dog was quite ill at the time of diagnosis, the survival rate for splenectomy surgery is far higher than 50%.
At the time, I silently agreed with the owner as he told the story, as nothing I would say or do could change the events of what transpired with his dog. But I made a mental note that although I am only one small voice for my profession, I have the potential to be a proverbially powerful one. Therefore I put forth two main suggestions for our profession at this time:
1) I sincerely urge owners to seek referral to a specialist when offered, but also consider asking for a referral when they want to learn more about their pet's health.
2) Likewise, I urge primary care veterinarians to discuss cases with your local specialists to be sure, as frontline consultants, you are providing the most accurate information to owners.
In the triad of owner, primary care veterinarian, and specialists, don’t we owe to it to the one thing we all share in common? The voiceless companions dependent on our care would never ask for anything more than this.

Dr. Joanne Intile
Image: Thinkstock
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Health Care Providers Advise Cautionary Measures as MERS Infections Spread  
Well, now there’s a new global health concern in a new disease emerging from Saudi Arabia called MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome). As long-distance travel is made simple by plane, infectious organisms now make their way from isolated parts of the globe to susceptible populations through a single or series of airline flights. 
What is MERS?
MERS-CoV is a contagious virus capable of causing sudden respiratory failure. More specifically it’s a coronavirus that’s similar to SARS (severe/sudden acute respiratory syndrome), which took the world by storm in 2003 across multiple continents by sickening and killing thousands of people, with Asia (China, more specifically) being most-affected.
A concerning human mortality rate of 30 percent is associated with MERS-CoV. It’s spread through direct contact with virus-shedding species, so the likelihood that infection will occur merely by living in or traveling to an area harboring MERS-CoV is low.
Where Does MERS Originate?
The first reports of MERS-CoV are from 2012 in Saudi Arabia. The virus originated in a species most pet owners don’t regularly consider as sources of zoonotic disease: camels. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published the study Evidence for Camel-to-Human Transmission of MERS Coronavirus, which traces the genetics of the current MERS outbreak to a now-deceased Saudi Arabian camel farmer and one of four calves (juvenile camels) showing respiratory tract signs (nasal discharge).
The camel farmer reportedly came into contact with the infected calf while administering medication (Vicks vaporub topical ointment) into the calf’s nasal passages. The camel acted as an intermediate host, as it showed signs of illness and passed the MERS virus onto the final host: humans. The farmer’s daughter developed symptoms of respiratory infection but survived. The study does not clarify if the daughter tested positive for MERS-CoV. If she did test positive, then MERS would have proven to be capable of transmission among members of the same species (horizontal transmission).
There’s also reportedly a genetic link to coronavirus found in an Egyptian tomb bat (Taphozous perforatus) captured in Saudi Arabia, but MERS-CoV hasn’t yet been isolated from bats.
What Are the Clinical Signs of MERS?
The New England Journal of Medicine reports the Saudi Arabian camel farmer showed the following clinical signs:

rhinorrhea (nasal discharge)
malaise (lethargy)
shortness of breath

Yet, other signs of illness can be seen with coronavirus infections, including:

anorexia (decreased appetite)

Has MERS Made Its Way to the U.S.? Where Else Besides the Middle East Has MERS Been Found?
MERS-CoV has recently been reported in Egypt and found its way to the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention MERS in the U.S., the first U.S. case occurred in a Saudi Arabian health care worker who traveled to Indiana via London and Chicago, fell ill, was hospitalized, and recovered.
The second U.S. case was another Saudi Arabian health care worker who traveled via London, Boston, and Atlanta to Florida, fell ill, and has since recovered. The second and first cases are not reported to be linked, so the two sickened individuals never came into contact with each other and likely brought the illness from Saudi Arabia.
The USA Today article Third U.S. MERS case brings more questions than answers tells of an additional case in an Illinois man who interacted with the Indiana patient in a business setting. He wasn’t sickened, but blood tests revealed infection with the same MERS-CoV as the Indiana man. Since the Illinois man wasn’t sickened, he’s not actually recognized as another official MERS case according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
Although the appearance of MERS in the U.S. is a scary progression of events, the good news is that none of the three patients developed life threatening illness.
Yet, I predict that there will be more cases in the U.S. and other countries in the coming months.
Could Your Pet Be Affected By MERS?
Currently, no other animal species besides camels and humans are known to harbor the MERS virus. Yet, both dogs and cats can be infected with coronavirus, which causes mild to fatal illness.
Canine Coronavirus (CCV) infects both domestic and wild dogs and is more common in juvenile pooches that are stressed, unvaccinated, and immune-compromised from other underlying illness or malnutrition than otherwise healthy adult and vaccinated dogs. CCV infection primarily occurs from exposure to an infected dog’s feces and viral strands can be transmitted through fecal material for up to six months post-infection.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is one of the most frustrating diseases for veterinary practitioners to treat due to its high mortality rate and difficulty in establishing a definitive diagnosis.
How Do I Protect Myself and My Pet From MERS?
I predict that if more pet owners are infected with MERS we’ll eventually have cases of the disease in dogs, cats, and other species.
Therefore, it’s important that humans take preventive measures to limit the transmission of infectious organisms among people and their pets.
My top tips are:
1. Frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water for 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Wash your hands after touching your pet and other animals.
3. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizing gel when soap and water are unavailable.
4. Avoid close contact with other people and pets when you are sick. Keep your general vicinity “germ-free” by coughing or sneezing into a tissue, cloth, or your elbow instead of into your hand or surrounding air.
5. Have you pet undergo a wellness examination with a veterinarian at least every 12 months. Resolve all abnormalities, even those that are mild, as they can leave the canine or feline body immunocompromised and potentially susceptible to more severe consequences, including periodontal disease, obesity, and other diseases.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney
Related Articles
Could Your Dog Contract Avian Influenza Virus From Eating Raw Chicken?
The Health Implications Influenza Virus Infection Has For Pets
Swine Flu Pandemic Over But H1N1 Hybrid Virus Emerges
Image: Ivonne Wierink / Shutterstock
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Feline Panleukopenia Virus Spreads to Hawaii  
With the virus receiving this type of attention in Hawaii, you may be wondering whether your cat is at risk, even if you don’t live on Maui. The answer to that question is, possibly, yes. This is especially true if your pet is a kitten or a young cat.
Feline panleukopenia is sometimes known as feline distemper, although this name is somewhat of a misnomer. The virus itself is actually a parvovirus. In fact, years ago, when parvovirus was first recognized in dogs, and before dedicated canine parvovirus vaccines were available, veterinarians actually used the feline panleukopenia vaccine to help protect dogs at risk. Now, of course, the canine vaccine for parvovirus is widely available and the feline version is no longer used in dogs.
However, in cats, feline panleukopenia is, in most circumstances, considered to be a core vaccine. This means that the vaccine is recommended for virtually all cats. Kittens normally begin a series of vaccines for feline panleukopenia starting at 6-8 weeks of age, with the vaccine repeated at 3-4 week intervals until the kitten has reached at least 16-20 weeks. For kittens in shelter situations, the interval between vaccinations is commonly shortened to 2-3 weeks. The vaccine for feline panleukopenia also frequently includes protection against two of the most serious feline upper respiratory viruses, calicivirus and rhinotracheitis (a herpesvirus).
Vaccination should be repeated in one year, following the initial kitten series. After that, periodic vaccination may be recommended. Your veterinarian will help you establish an appropriate vaccination schedule for your cat, based on your cat’s health, risk factors, and lifestyle.
Vaccination for feline panleukopenia is relatively effective. However, some groups of cats are at higher risk. These include young kittens, cats or kittens in shelter situations, and cats of questionable vaccination status living in locations where an infected cat has lived, especially when there is inadequate sanitation in that location.
Symptoms of feline panleukopenia include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy, and fever. The virus affects the bone marrow of infected cats, resulting in decreased numbers of white blood cells. This is where the name of the virus is derived, with panleukopenia referring to this depletion in white blood cells. The lack of white blood cells also leaves the infected cat susceptible to secondary infection by other pathogens, which can further complicate the disease.
Spread of the virus is through contact with feces from an infected cat or through contact with contaminated objects. The virus is extremely contagious and can be passed to unprotected cats through contact with contaminated cages, litter boxes, food dishes, water bowels, and other utensils. Proper sanitation and cleaning procedures are important in preventing the disease from spreading. Caution should be used by caretakers looking after sick cats as well. The virus can be carried on skin and clothing if adequate precautions are not taken to prevent such spread.
If you’re uncertain whether your cat is protected against feline panleukopenia, check with your veterinarian.

Dr. Lorie Huston
Image: pavelgr / Shutterstock
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Are Your Animals Insured for Lightning Injury?  
I always thought of lightning strike as something that happened back in the days of the wild west, when farmers not only had to worry about weather but also cattle rustlers and train robbers. Although train robbers may now be a thing of the past, farmers still worry about the weather (and there are still some cattle rustlers out there, too). 
Where there are large ranges and thunderstorms, there will always be the chance of lightning, which, I suppose, is why some farmers have their herds insured against it.
Most farm animals that die from lightning do so via ground current, or when lightning strikes a tree and the electricity continues to run along the ground, affecting animals standing near it.
When determining if an animal has died from lightning strike, environmental clues can help. Certainly knowledge of a recent thunderstorm is most helpful, as is finding the body near a large tree. Sometimes entire groups of animals are killed, which happened in Chile earlier this spring when over 60 cows died during a storm. Photos from this event show a group of animals next to a tree in an otherwise open field.
Physical indications that an animal has died from lightning strike are often not as apparent as you would think. In the case of my dairy cow, there were actually no outward physical indications of this cause of death and I went mostly on the environmental clues mentioned above. In other cases, singed hair and burn marks on the hooves will indicate lightning strike, but almost paradoxically these findings are rare.
Animals die from lightning either through immediate destruction of the nervous system or from cardiac arrest. Although it’s been said that lightning strike victims will bloat faster than in other causes of death, since the exact time of death is usually unknown (and I walk into the situation 12 to 24 hours later), this fact doesn’t really help me during my post-mortem examination.
Horses, too, can fall victim to the weather. Lightning strike is a common cause of death for mustangs roaming out west; the flat terrain at higher elevations is frequently struck by lightning and if a horse is the highest thing around, he becomes a conductor to the ground. I myself have not yet seen an equine victim of lightning in the mid-Atlantic, although I’m sure it’s not unheard of.
There are a few things a farmer can do to help protect his herd from lightning. One is to make sure barns and sheds are properly grounded. Another thing is to arrange pastures so that they contain rows of trees, not singles. Lightning is more likely to strike one large tree as opposed to a group, although this is not in any sense a rule. And at the very least – don’t place a metal water trough at the top of a hill!
I’m not sure what the payout from the insurance company was for the struck cow but that case made me realize that despite all our technology in the 21st century, weather risks in farming never change.

Dr. Anna O'Brien
Image: Pichugin Dmitry / Shutterstock
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Risks of Second Hand Smoke for Dogs and Cats  
Research shows just how dangerous second and third hand smoke is to the animals who live with us. Second hand smoke is defined as smoke that is exhaled or otherwise escapes into the air and can be inhaled by non-smokers, including pets. Third hand smoke is the residue that remains on skin, fur, clothing, furniture, etc., even after the air has cleared. Both of these categories can be combined under the term environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).
One of the most dramatic studies that I’ve run across reveals a greatly increased risk of malignant lymphoma (also referred to as lymphoma or lymphosarcoma) in cats with exposure to ETS. The results showed that the relative risk for malignant lymphoma in cats with any household ETS exposure was almost 2 ½ times higher than that of cats living in smoke-free households. For cats with five or more years of ETS exposure, the relative risk climbed to 3.2. In other words, these cats were more than three times as likely to develop lymphoma as were cats who were not exposed to ETS.
This study and others like it also strongly suggest a link between oral cancer in cats and environmental tobacco smoke. Cats groom the toxins contained in tobacco smoke off of their fur, which damages tissues within the mouth, leading to cancer.
Dogs aren’t immune to the effects of ETS either. Research shows that dogs living with smokers are more likely to suffer from respiratory diseases (e.g., asthma and bronchitis) and lung cancer than are dogs that live in smoke-free homes. Also, the risk of cancer of the nasal passages increases by 250% in long-nosed breeds of dogs with exposure to high levels of environmental tobacco smoke. It looks as if the numerous poisons found in cigarette smoke build up in the nasal passages of long-nosed dogs but are more able to make their way to the lungs of dogs with shorter noses.
Unfortunately, studies show that smoking outside of the home only helps but does not eliminate ETS exposure to infants. The infants of parents who smoked outdoors were still exposed to 5-7 times as much ETS as were the infants of nonsmokers. Similar results could be expected for pets.
Is vaping (inhaling a vaporized solution that contains nicotine) a safer alternative? Maybe, but according to the American Lung Association, “the FDA tested a small sample [of e-cigarettes] just a few years ago and found a number of toxic chemicals, including diethylene gylcol — the same ingredient used in antifreeze.” That’s certainly not something that I’d want pets to inhale or lick off their fur.

Dr. Jennifer Coates
Passive smoking and canine lung cancer risk. Reif JS, Dunn K, Ogilvie GK, Harris CK. Am J Epidemiol. 1992 Feb 1;135(3):234-9
Households contaminated by environmental tobacco smoke: sources of infant exposures. Matt GE, Quintana PJ, Hovell MF, Bernert JT, Song S, Novianti N, Juarez T, Floro J, Gehrman C, Garcia M, Larson S. Tob Control. 2004 Mar;13(1):29-37
The dog as a passive smoker: effects of exposure to environmental cigarette smoke on domestic dogs. Roza MR, Viegas CA. Nicotine Tob Res. 2007 Nov;9(11):1171-6.
Environmental tobacco smoke and risk of malignant lymphoma in pet cats. Bertone ER, Snyder LA, Moore AS. Am J Epidemiol. 2002 Aug 1;156(3):268-73.
Cancer of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in pet dogs. Reif JS, Bruns C, Lower KS. Am J Epidemiol. 1998 Mar 1;147(5):488-92.
Image: dien / Shutterstock
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Thunder and Lightning Safety for Your Pet  
Records for animals struck and killed by lightning are not nearly as complete. It is estimated by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University that hundreds of livestock are killed annually by lightning. According to department spokesman Brent McRoberts, “the Department of Agriculture says lightning causes about 80% of all accidental livestock deaths.” He comments further that “livestock often huddle together under a large tree during a thunderstorm, which we know is one of the worst places to be.”
Statistics for lightning strike in pets is virtually non-existent. But often their exposure and inability to find protection can be more limited. Dogs left out in large, open fenced yards may have little protection from lightning strike. Shelter in a dog house or under a tree would present greater risk. Dogs chained to metal poles, metal lines, or trees are at significant risk in a storm. Outdoor cats may seek shelter under or in the motor compartment of cars. If struck, the metallic body of the car conducts electricity, which could kill or injure the cat. An owner starting the car later presents an even greater potential for death or injury.  
NOAA advises that the best protection from lightning is a fully enclosed building. Warnings of potential storms should prompt pet owners to provide the protection of the house, garage, or barn for their pets. It is important that such enclosures be secure so the pets cannot escape to the outdoors. The sound of the thunder is far more frightful than the lightning for many pets; they will seek to flee and may be caught in the storm, or in much worse circumstances.
Thunder can have the same effect as firecrackers and fireworks. Fear of loud fireworks turned my dog, Roxy, into an escape artist. She fled from her original owner’s place of business and wound up trapped in a drainage ditch with compound fractures of both “wrists” until her rescue five weeks later.
A common mistake made by pet owners is to wait until the last minute to think about protecting their pet. NOAA says one of the biggest myths people have about lightning is that it can’t happen if it is not raining. In fact, lightning can strike ten miles or more in front of a storm, from clear, blue skies. These "bolts from the blue" are common in all thunderstorms.
If you are out with your dog and are caught by an unexpected storm, seek shelter as quickly as possible. NOAA advises that counting the seconds from a flash of lightning to the sound of thunder and dividing that number by 5 will estimate how many miles you are away from the storm. Estimates of five miles or less requires immediate action. NOAA suggests:

Seek shelter in a fully enclosed building
Immediately flee elevated areas such as hills, bridges, or highway overpasses
Never lie flat on the ground
Stay away from bodies of water
Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (wire fences, electrical wires)
If forced into your car, avoid contact with door handles, steering wheels, or panel controls

Preparedness is always better than trying to react during a crisis. Prepare a safe, secure, and comfortable environment for your pet before a storm. Consult your veterinarian for medications that might help calm your pet and reduce its fear of the storm.
For more information go the NOAA website: Lightning Safety: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! 

Dr. Ken Tudor
Image: Thinkstock
You might also like to read:
Thunderstorm Phobias in Dogs
Catching Your Dog's Noise and Storm Phobia Early
Five Tips for Calming Your Pet During Thunderstorms
Nine Ways to Handle Your Dog’s Fear of Thunderstorms
]]> TheDailyVet Fri, 20 Jun 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31806 at
Reviewing Doctors Does Not Lead to Better Care  
Hospitals and doctors' offices can use the information generated from the surveys to gauge where their employees stand with regard to the opinions of their clientele. Government offices will also use the information from these surveys to evaluate how to dole out reimbursement for certain programs such as Medicare. Higher scores translate to more revenue; lower scores lead to budget cuts and salary decreases.
The company’s website states that “everything we do is driven by our unwavering focus on helping our clients transform the patient experience.” Patients answer questions about their providers with the goal of making the sum total of their healthcare more enjoyable and efficient. Doctors then learn what they do well and what areas they can improve upon. Sounds like a proverbial “win-win” situation, right?
Unfortunately, physicians have raised their concerns that it’s unfair to base their performance ratings solely on the results of such surveys, as patients tend to consistently score them lower when they feel they are are actually practicing better and more efficient medicine. Conversely, their scores rise when they practice what they consider subpar care, designed to placate people's wants/needs, but not what is in their best interests.
Doctors feel the overriding mantra is “the patient is a customer, and the customer is always right,” moving medicine from scientific based to a service based profession.
When doctors fail to recommend additional testing, do not offer admission to the hospital, or refuse to prescribe antibiotics or strong pain medications for minor health issues, people become angry and consistently rate their doctors lower. When physicians suggest that persistent knee pain may be related to a patient being overweight, they are subsequently scored poorly. When they tell a parent their smoking could be contributing to their child’s worsening asthma, it is received as an insult, causing poor results on the surveys.
Doctors claim their survey scores are reliably higher when they prescribe antibiotics or narcotic medications for patients, even where they truly feel those treatments are not warranted. Even worse, doctors are moving towards placating patients with these unnecessary prescriptions with the specific intention of achieving higher scores for fear of loss of job security and/or pay cuts.
When I discovered this phenomenon, I immediately wondered, “Could this somehow relate to my career as a veterinary oncologist?”
At first glance, I would answer that, no, I am exempt from such issues. Superficially, I do not feel as though I’m working towards the goal of achieving any specific rating or score from my clients. Whether a client agrees with my recommendation or not, it doesn’t influence my decision to make it. I take pride in my profession, with the noble foundation that I’m here to protect and help animals at all times.
The sad part occurred when I really began to dissect the differences and I discovered that, unfortunately, I’m not exempt from the madness.
In looking at the examples set forth by disillusioned doctors, I too could easily recall cases where I’ve felt forced to treat a pet with antibiotics because an owner would not agree to a test to examine for infection.
I could offer up instances where I’ve reduced the dosage of a particular chemotherapy drug because an owner has asked me to do so out of fear of a poor reaction from their pet.
I’ve agreed to add on appointment after appointment, even when I’ve felt on the brink of exhaustion, just to keep my hospital managers happy and my job secure.
I’ve seen appointments where owners do not bring their pets along, knowing it really is not in their best interests, but also knowing I need to keep everyone happy, including my bosses.
Conversely, I can think of many instances where I’ve definitely made owners upset with a refusal to prescribe a particular medication, or with my brutal honesty about their pet’s diagnosis and prognosis.   
I’ve lost clients to other oncologists because I’ve stopped offering treatment for their pet when I think their quality of life is poor.
I’ve even had one owner be angry with me when my prediction that their dog would likely succumb to it’s cancer within a few short months turned out to be wrong and their pet was alive and well over a year out from it’s diagnosis.
In some instances, what I’m describing has no particular relevance to the activities described by the human doctors above. In many others, the parallels are astonishing. I wonder how many of my colleagues would have similar stories to tell?
The most interesting aspect of doctors being evaluated on a ratings based system is that the most satisfied patients do not appear to be the healthiest patients. A study looking at the results of surveys for physicians reported the most satisfied human medical patients were also the ones who spent the most money on their healthcare and prescription drugs. They were more likely to be admitted to the hospital, incur the largest healthcare bills, and also the most likely to die. If the most satisfied and happiest patients truly had the best doctors, wouldn’t they be healthier in the long run?
Truthfully, patients, whether two-legged or four-legged, are not always the best equipped to judge what is best for their health. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be an active participant in your pet’s care, rather that the best outcome would be expected when the veterinarian and owner work together in an open and honest forum.
We should be able to practice our craft with the knowledge that we are the best equipped to make recommendations for the care of our patients, free from worry about a negative review for not making a particular recommendation. 
Lets save the Yelp-like reviews for our entertainment and dining preferences, and not our doctors.

Dr. Joanne Intile
Image: Solovyova Lyudmyla / Shutterstock
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The Link Between Pets and Human Health  
If you’ve not previously heard the term, zooeyia refers to beneficial effects companion animals have on human health. The word zooeyia is derived from the Greek roots of zoion (animals) and Hygeia (health). Zooeyia may sound like an exotic disease where animals serve as the source of infection for people (i.e., zoonosis, the spread of illness across species), but it’s actually the positive inverse of zoonosis.
Dr. Kate Hodgson, DVM, MHsSs, CCEMP, teamed with the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation (HABRI) to share aspects of the means by which pets can benefit the health of their owners, aspects that are backed up by scientific evidence, including:
Pets Can be Catalysts for Harm Reduction — Like Smoking Cessation
Society knows that smoking is harmful to humans and that people directly exposed to second-hand smoke are also at risk. The same principle applies to our companion canines and felines, as second-hand smoke and the toxic residues deposited on our clothes or environmental surfaces (i.e., third-hand smoke) pose serious health risks.
After all, pets groom themselves and can ingest toxins from their fur simply by keeping their coats clean. Additionally, pets are more likely than humans to lick the floor or other surfaces and thereby absorb layers of toxins.
Most cats’ lifestyle confines them indoors, so they are even more prone to the noxious effects of smoking, especially when it comes to cancer. Cats living in smoking households are more prone to oral squamous cell carcinoma, lymphoma, and mammary cancer. Brachycephalic dogs (“short faced,” like the Pug, English Bulldog, etc.) are affected by lung cancer, while dolichocephalic (“long faced,” like the Collie, Greyhound, etc.) commonly develop nasal cancer due to second-hand smoke exposure.
According to Tobacco Control 2009: 0:1-3: “The dangers of pet exposure to second-hand smoke is motivation to owners to quit or attempt to quit smoking, motivate household members to quit, and to forbid smoking inside the home.”
The fact that a pet’s presence can prompt a person to quit smoking shows that veterinarians play a key role in educating owners about the negative implications their habits have on their pets. Thereby, the health of the owner is also benefitted but such awareness.
Pets Can be Motivators of Healthy Lifestyle Choices — Like Physical Exercise
We all know that exercise should be part of our daily lives, but for many Americans this awareness isn't enough incentive for them to get up and move for the sake of their health. 
Pets, especially dogs, can be great motivation for owners to increase their physical activity. The PPET (People Pets Exercising Together) Study showed that owners who regularly exercised with their dogs stuck with their workout plan as compared to participants lacking canine companionship during exercise.
Dogs are great motivators because they often initiate exercise (needing to be taken out to urinate and defecate), add enjoyment to activities, and are a source of "parental pride.”
Of course, before you start on an exercise program with your canine companion, schedule an examination with your veterinarian.
Pets Can be a Therapeutic Intervention to Treat Illness — Helping to Manage Stress, Anxiety, or Depression
The presence of a pet in the household can provide an owner with a variety of mental health benefits, including a sense of attachment, emotional and social well-being, and decreased feelings of isolation occurring during psychiatric illness.
According to Hypertension, 2001: 38:815-820: “Pets provide non-judgemental social support intervention that buffers pathogenic responses to stress.” 
Although our feline companions don’t necessarily get us up and moving like their canine counterparts do, cat ownership “significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and associated death.” One health yielding benefit of having a cat is the relaxing and blood pressure-lowering effect associated with gently stroking your furry friend’s back.
Although managing my own dog’s current battle with cancer is stressful, I feel grateful for the positive contributions he provides to my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Cardiff’s presence in my life exemplifies zooeiya, as he makes me slow down, be patient, and focus on prioritizing his and my health on a daily basis.
For further information on the means by which pets complement human health, see Zooeyia: An essential component of “One Health”.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney
Related Articles:
Unexpected Side Effects of Chemotherapy Treatment
Could Your Dog Contract Avian Influenza Virus From Eating Raw Chicken?
Electronic Cigarettes Connected to Canine Fatalities
Risks of Second Hand Smoke for Dogs and Cats
How to Prevent Breast Cancer in Your Cat
Image: MrTinDC / Flickr
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Vegan Diets for Cats?  
It’s natural, in many ways, for a person who has made certain lifestyle choices to consider the same types of choices for their pet. In this case, if a vegan lifestyle and diet is important to you, your choice of pet cannot be a cat. There are many pets that you could choose that would thrive on a vegan diet but a cat is not one of them.
Cats, as a species, are obligate carnivores. In very simple terms, this means that cats require meat in their diet. They have specific nutrient needs that can only be supplied through the ingestion of animal meat.
Cats, like all other species, have very specific nutrient needs. They require certain proteins and other nutrients in their diet that are simply not found in plant sources.
Questions I sometimes hear are, “Isn’t a protein a protein?” and “Does it really matter where the protein comes from?” Here are the answers. There are many different types of proteins. Each protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are frequently referred to as the “building blocks” of protein. And each protein requires specific types of amino acids. So, one protein is not simply a protein like any other, and one amino acid is not either.
For instance, taurine is a specific amino acid that is required by all cats. Without sufficient amounts of taurine in the diet, cats can experience heart disease, vision problems, and other health issues. And cats cannot synthesize taurine by themselves. It needs to be provided through the diet. Taurine is not available through plants though. It is only available through animal sources (although there is a synthetic source).
Therefore, for a cat, the source of the protein definitely does matter. Cats not only require a higher protein level in their diet than other species (i.e., humans, dogs), but they also have a need for very specific proteins, and thus specific amino acids. Other essential amino acids for cats include methionine, arginine, and cysteine. These amino acids must be supplied in adequate quantities in the diet of all cats, also.
Amino acids are not the only nutrients required by cats that are not available through plant sources either. Others include Vitamin D, vitamin A, and arachidonic acid. In people, vitamin D is produced through exposure to sunlight. Cats lack the ability to do so, resulting in Vitamin D (in its active form of calcitriol) being a nutrient that needs to be provided in the food. It is rare in plant sources, except those fortified with synthetic vitamin D, but is found in animals and fish.  
Vitamin A generally needs to be provided through animal sources as well. Cats cannot synthesize the active form of the vitamin from beta-carotene as other species can.
Arachidonic acid is an essential fatty acid for cats. Again, it needs to be provided in the food your cat is eating and is primarily available through animal sources.
As a result of these unique dietary requirements, without synthetic supplementation of the diet, a cat is unable to safely eat a vegan diet. Even with supplementation, producing a cat food that is complete and fills all of the nutritional needs of a cat is difficult (and dangerous) without adding meat to the diet. This is why they are referred to as obligate carnivores and require meat in their diet.
Enjoy the vegan diet for yourself, if that is your choice. But do not expect your cat to eat the same way.

Dr. Lorie Huston
Image: António Maneira / Flickr
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Do Animals Have More Emergencies on Full Moons?  
This seems to be so much the case that in 2007 a study was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association examining the correlation between veterinary emergency visits and the phase of the moon. Analyzing almost 12,000 cases over a ten year period, this study found that significantly more ER visits occurred when the moon was full.
It’s been theorized that a full moon correlates to an increase in nocturnal behavior simply due to animals’ general increase in visibility. Although the 2007 study looked at only cat and dog ER visits, I could reasonably imagine a similar correlation in the farm animal world as well.
But, before we get too excited, there was another study in 2009 that looked for an association between a full moon, days of the week, and Friday the 13th in case distribution at a small animal ER clinic. This study found no correlation between moon phase or Friday the 13th in case numbers. Whew.
Regardless of studies and superstitions, I will admit to having a lucky horseshoe, although I don’t keep it for luck. Instead, it’s a nice memento from my childhood horse, a gray Connemara gelding named Wimpy. Hanging on my office wall, looking small compared to some of the horseshoes I have to remove now and then to treat a hoof abscess or more thoroughly evaluate a lameness, I’m struck by a story relating why horseshoes are considered lucky.
As the old story goes, and there are numerous variations, an English bishop named Dunstan living in the 900s a.d., who was also a blacksmith, was approached by the devil appearing as a woman. Recognizing the cloven feet, the bishop grabbed the devil by the nose with a pair of hot pliers and nailed a horseshoe to the cloven foot.
As the devil cried in pain and demanded Dunstan remove the shoe, Dunstan replied that he would only do so if the devil swore to never enter the house of anyone hanging a horseshoe outside of it. St. Dunstan is regarded as the patron saint of blacksmiths and farriers.
Although there seem to be variations also on how to hang a horseshoe in order to consider it lucky — should it hang up or down? — the general theme of luck is the same. The circumstances whereby I acquired a shoe from Wimpy were not spectacular; one day he came in from the pasture with a shoe dangling, which sometimes happens when a nail comes loose. Getting a friend to help me, we soon had the shoe off and a call was made to get the farrier out the next day to replace it. Thinking it as something nifty to have, I put it in my bedroom and have carried it in my professional life from office to office ever since. Lucky? Probably not. Meaningful to me? You bet.

Dr. Anna O'Brien
Image: Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock
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