en Cat's Age Matters When Spaying to Reduce Cancer Risk a2a_config = { menu_type:'mail' };
  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDMammary cancer is a particularly frightening diagnosis for cat owners. Over 90 percent of feline mammary tumors are malignant, meaning they grow in an invasive fashion and spread to distant sites in the body. This is in contrast to dogs, where only about 50 percent of mammary tumors are malignant.
Tumors tend to affect older, unspayed female cats, but all cats, including males, are at risk.
The age at which a female cat is neutered plays a role in protecting against tumor development, with the greatest benefit seen for kittens spayed before 6 months of age, who have a 91 percent reduction in risk compared to non-spayed cats. Spaying between six months and one-year results in an 86 percent reduction in risk, spaying between 1-2 years leads to an 11 percent reduction in risk, and spaying after age two does not reduce the risk of mammary cancer development at all.
Sometimes owners will detect a mammary mass incidentally while petting their cat. Other times the cat will draw attention to a tumor by showing signs of increased licking or chewing at the affected area. Masses can also be discovered “accidentally” during routine physical exams.
The size of the tumor at the time of diagnosis makes a difference in patient outcome:

Cats with tumors less than 2cm in diameter at the time of removal have a median survival time of 4.5 years.

Cats with tumors greater than 3cm in diameter at the time of removal have a median survival time of 6 months.

Because tumors can go undetected for a long time and the size of the tumor is prognostic, routine physical exams are of absolute necessity for pets. (see Regular Exams Can Save More Than Your Pet's Life) This is especially true for cats known to be neutered later in life, or for those cats adopted as adults with an unknown medical history.
Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for cats with mammary tumors. The current recommended “surgical dose” for cats with no evidence of spread of disease is a procedure called a staged, bilateral radical mastectomy. This entails surgical removal of all of the mammary tissue on one side of the body, followed by removal of the tissue along the opposing side following about a 2-week healing period.
Many owners are anxious when they hear the details of this type of surgery. Though it is an aggressive procedure, what I try to remind them of is that the surgery is less invasive than one that opens up a body cavity, and we are very pro-active about our pain management measures. 
It’s always difficult to make this type of a decision for our companions — one where we know we are making a choice because that has the best chance for prolonging their life but also knowing there will be an impact, albeit temporary, on their quality of life.
A few important considerations for submitting feline mammary tumors for biopsy:

It is essential that all of the removed tissue be submitted for histopathology. Most feline mammary tumors are carcinomas or adenocarcinomas, but other histological subtypes do occur.

Submitting all of the tissue also allows us to know if there were additional tumors located in other mammary glands. Often I see a report indicating pre-cancerous tissue was removed in glands adjacent to the one with the tumor.

The biopsy report will also let us know if there are adequate surgical margins on the tissue, or if the chance of regrowth is more significant because cancerous tissue was left behind.

The biopsy should also provide information as to the grade of the tumor. The pathologist should examine specific histological features under the microscope to assign a grade to the tumor (grade 1, 2, or 3).

Each of the factors listed above help veterinary oncologists decide on risk assessment and for need of further therapy beyond surgery.
Based on the information above, I often discuss using chemotherapy after surgery to treat what is known as “microscopic residual disease.” These are tumor cells that may have spread to distant sites in the body prior to removal. The most commonly prescribed chemotherapeutics for feline mammary tumors are doxorubicin, carboplatin, and cyclophosphamide, though many other options exist.
We lack studies that adequately “prove” that treating with chemotherapy after surgery is truly beneficial for cats with mammary tumors. Although one study showed survival in cats receiving chemotherapy after surgery was not improved when compared to cats undergoing surgery alone, the disease-free interval was increased, meaning the patients receiving chemotherapy felt well for a longer time period.
Chemotherapy can also be used to treat cats with tumors that cannot be removed surgically, or for cats with spread of disease. Roughly half of those cats would show some form of response to treatment, and about 1 in 5 will achieve a remission (i.e., a period of time where no tumor would be detectable). Cats that showed a response to therapy have median survival times of about six months compared to less than three months if they do not respond to treatment.
Owners of cats with mammary tumors often ask me what will happen “in the end.” In my experience, there are usually one of two outcomes:

Cats develop large, non-resectable tumors that grow rapidly and become ulcerated and infected and ultimately make them feel sick and have a poor quality of life, or
Cats develop spread of the tumor to their lungs, and show signs of difficulty breathing due to the physical presence of the tumors or due to fluid building up around the lungs secondary to the tumors. 

A diagnosis of mammary cancer can be a scary and overwhelming. However, it’s important to arm yourself with all of the facts. Often, the best way to do this is to seek consultation with a veterinary oncologist or a veterinary surgeon prior to any major treatment decisions. The information you gain will be well worth the price of the referral, and could just mean the difference between life and death for your cat.

Dr. Joanne Intile
Image: MaxyM / Shutterstock
Mammary Gland Tumor in Cats

How to Prevent Breast Cancer in Your Cat

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Heroin Reversal Drug Used to Save Life of Abused Cat Aug 19, 2014 Heroin Reversal Drug Used to Save Life of Abused Cat by Dr. Patrick Mahaney     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDNo owner wants to sicken their pets with their own good or bad habits. Yet, when it comes to the health risks our pets face as a result of consuming human drugs (prescription or recreational or over-the-counter) or nutraceuticals (supplements), the potential for serious consequences is quite high (both figuratively and literally).
On more occasions than I can reasonably assign a number, I’ve treated dogs and cats for intoxications with various chemical and natural substances. The majority of these cases occurred while working as an emergency practitioner in West Hollywood and involved dogs consuming their owner’s medical-grade marijuana baked goods or inadvertently placed cannabis buds.
But there were plenty of other occasions where prescription, over-the-counter (OTC), and recreational drugs were ingested by a curious canine or feline who just happened to be given the right opportunity, including:

Ecstasy — MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine)
Methamphetamine — crystal meth
Amphetamine — Adderall, etc.
Opiates — Oxycontin, Vicodin, etc.
Benzodiazapines — Diazepam (Valium, Xanax, Ambien, etc.)
Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) — Ibuprofen (Advil, etc.)
Antihistamines — Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride (Bendaryl Allergy) or Doxylamine Succinate (Unisom, etc.)
Caffeine (No-Doz, chocolate, etc.)
Ginko Biloboa

Yes, I feel like I’ve seen it all. If I’ve not seen it all, I’ve at least treated a vast variety of pets suffering mild to severe toxicity at the unintentional hands of their owners.
There are toxicity cases I’ve not yet treated, and heroin is one of them. The unpleasant topic recently came to my attention. The Huffington Post’s Cat Who Ingested Heroin Saved By Overdose Drug brings to light the use of Naloxone, an antidote to opoids, in pets.
Naloxone (N-allylnoroxymorphone) is a synthetic chemical that interferes with the binding of opiate drugs to specific nervous-system receptors (an opoid antagonist). It thereby reverses the effects of opiates.
Naloxone isn’t just used to reverse the effects of inadvertently-consumed opoids. It also counteracts the effects of properly-used opoids that are used to relieve pain (morphine, hydromorphone, buprenorphine, butorphanol, etc.), or to induce vomiting (apomorphine).
Sometimes pets don’t show the responses we veterinarians would like to pain-relieving drugs (including decreased respiratory rate and blood pressure, sedation, etc.) and their best interests are served by reversing the opiate with Naloxone.
Reportedly, the cat in the above mentioned story was found by police with a rope around its neck under the owner’s apparently abandoned car in suburban Philadelphia. The cat had been physically abused as evidenced by several teeth being knocked out, and bundles of heroin and syringes were found in the car. The attending veterinarian treated the cat with Narcan to reverse the effects of heroin.
The owner is being charged with animal abuse and drug possession. When a pet is exposed to heroin or other illegal drugs, it makes for an ethical quandary for the overseeing veterinary practitioner in dealing with the legalities of the case.
I was involved with an incident in West Hollywood where an owner’s Chihuahua was brought in for the third episode of methamphetamine toxicity (my involvement was limited to this third episode). Especially since the client was a repeat offender, animal control was contacted to undertake the process of appropriately citing the dog owner for animal abuse and likely relinquishing the ownership of the dog. The situation got quite confrontational in the reception area when the owner found out his dog (having been successfully treated) would not be released back to him and he instead would be further dealing with Animal Control to potentially get his pooch back.
I felt badly for the owner, as he was striving to help his pooch by seeking treatment for the dog’s inadvertent consumption of methamphetamine. Yet, with the incident happening for a third time something needed to be done to serve the dog’s best interest from a health and well-being standpoint.
Hopefully, the cat involved in the heroin toxicity made a full recovery and is now in a safe forever home.
If you suspect or know that your pet has been exposed to or consumed a toxin, immediately contact your veterinarian or emergency veterinary hospital. Additional resources include the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) or Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680).

Dr. Patrick Mahaney
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TheOldBroad Reversal 08/19/2014 05:53pm "and their best interests are served by reversing the opiate with Naloxone."

I'm so glad you added this part because I was wondering why a veterinarian would have Naloxone on hand.

I hadn't heard about the HuffPo cat and hope, too, that it's now in a safe and Forever Home. Reply to this comment Report abuse 1 ]]> TheDailyVet Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31943 at
Infectious Virus Hits Horses in Colorado Aug 18, 2014 Infectious Virus Hits Horses in Colorado by Dr. Jennifer Coates     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDMy family and I went to the Larimer County Fair last weekend. The carnival rides were a big hit (as usual), but I always make a point of dragging the kids through the livestock pavilions. This is one of the few instances I can easily introduce them to the world of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, and the like.
Seeing all the horses at the fair was anxiety-inducing rather than fun for me, however. This area is in the middle of a bad outbreak of vesicular stomatitis (VS), and I worried that bringing all those gorgeous creatures together for a long weekend of fun might be putting their health at risk. Even though I was at the fair simply as a spectator, the vet in me couldn’t stop checking to see if any of the horses seemed to be drooling excessively, which is one of the early signs of the disease.
Vesicular stomatitis is caused by a viral infection. Cattle, horses, and pigs are the most common victims, but sheep, goats, llamas, and alpacas can also be affected. This year’s Colorado outbreak has been affecting horses almost exclusively. At last count 201 horses and 3 cows have tested positive for VS.
Animals can become infected with VS through direct contact with individuals shedding the virus, through contaminated equipment, or via flying insects that carry the virus from one animal to another. The disease causes blister-like lesions to develop in and around the mouth, nose, and hooves, and oftentimes on the teats of lactating females (e.g., dairy cows). The blisters rupture, leaving behind raw sores that are so painful affected animals are reluctant to eat, drink, and move around. People who come in contact with VS infected animals can develop flu-like symptoms, but human cases are quite rare.
Vesicular stomatitis is rarely fatal. Most animals recover in about two weeks unless secondary infections set in, but it is still very important for two main reasons:
1. VS can lead to significant economic losses due to weight loss, drops in production (e.g., milk in dairy cows), performance declines, and the quarantines necessary to control the disease.
2. In cloven-hooved animals (e.g., cattle, pigs, sheep, goats), VS lesions look a lot like those associated with foot and mouth disease, a more severe viral infection that has been eradicated from the United States. Therefore, all infections that cause vesicular (blister-like) lesions in livestock must be reported to appropriate governmental agencies.
Colorado State Veterinarian Dr. Keith Roehr says “Over the past two weeks, our office has been receiving approximately ten reports daily of animals demonstrating clinical signs that are consistent with VS. Livestock, including horse and cattle owners, should be aware that insect control is an important tool in the prevention of VS. Most of the cases we have investigated involve horses that have had no history of movement; therefore, controlling black flies and midges are very important in the prevention of the spread of disease.”
So far I haven’t heard of any cases associated with horses travelling to the Larimer County Fair. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

Dr. Jennifer Coates
Image: Rita Kochmarjova / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Flying Creatures 08/18/2014 05:18pm Are there safety measures in place at the fair to keep the flying insects away from the animals that might catch VS? Reply to this comment Report abuse 2 Dr. Jennifer Coates 08/18/2014 09:21pm I didn't see anything other than the routine use of fly sprays, etc. Reply to this comment Report abuse 2 ]]> TheDailyVet Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31942 at
Ebola Virus and Cats Aug 15, 2014 Ebola Virus and Cats by Dr. Lorie Huston     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDI was recently asked to write about Ebola, the virus that causes it, and whether or not the virus is a risk to our cats. To be quite honest, when I received this request, I found it necessary to do a bit of research to answer these questions. Ebola is, thankfully, a disease that I have never had cause to deal with in my practice.
During the course of my research, I turned to a trusted source: the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the information they have to offer on Ebola.
Let’s discuss first exactly what Ebola is. Here’s what the CDC says:
Ebola virus is the cause of a viral hemorrhagic fever disease. Symptoms include: fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, lack of appetite, and abnormal bleeding. Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to ebolavirus though 8-10 days is most common.

Here’s what the CDC has to say about the transmission of the disease:
Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected symptomatic person or through exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

The CDC goes on to state that Ebola is not a food-borne or water-borne illness and cannot be transmitted through the air. They also make note that individuals who are not symptomatic of disease are not capable of transmitting the disease. In other words, to actually get Ebola from another infected person, that person has to be sick with the disease.
The CDC does not, however, mention pets such as cats in relation to Ebola. They do make note of the fact that non-human primates, bats, and rodents are suspected to be capable of carrying the disease, and contact with blood or secretions from these animals, or the ingestion of infected meat, may lead to transmission of the disease to a person. Bats are the most likely source, according to the CDC, at least in the case of the most recent disease outbreak being experienced in West Africa. However, the actual natural reservoir for the disease does remain unknown at this time.
In the interest of keeping panic about Ebola to a minimum, it’s worth noting that, as of August 10, 2014, the CDC has received no evidence of any infections that have occurred within the U.S. They also state that “Ebola does not pose a significant risk to the U.S. public.”
Not finding any information specifically relating to pet cat populations or the feline species in general on the CDC site, my next step was a search of the literature, looking for evidence that cats can or cannot be infected with the disease.
The good news is that I found no evidence (through clinical studies or any reputable source) that cats can be infected and/or can be a source of transmission. The bad news is that I also found no evidence to the contrary.
Based on what we know about the disease, the virus, and how Ebola is spread, it seems unlikely that our pet cats are at risk. Of course, when dealing with living breathing beings, nobody can ever truly “never say never.” Still, I see little cause for worry, particularly for pet cats that are housed indoors and do not eat raw meat.

Dr. Lorie Huston
Image: Shvaygert Ekaterina / Shutterstock
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Westcoastsyrinx Transmission? 08/15/2014 03:50pm Hi Lori; I didn't see any information on bats being vectors here? Did I miss it? Here is the site I have often used to clarify whether our pets are succeptible or carriers:

It is unfortunate that this disease is similar to the AIDS virus. This means there are a number of clades, each different to a degree, so it is difficult to find a good vaccine for Ebola, just as there would be difficulty finding an effective vaccine for FIV.

I have been responding on private email groups about this and am so glad to see it tackled on an open website that anyone can view. (-;
Reply to this comment Report abuse 3 TheOldBroad Ebola 08/15/2014 05:01pm As one who routinely cleans up piles of cat barf as well as scooping boxes twice a day, I'd be curious to know if cats can host the virus without being sick. Can a human be infected through minimal contact? If one washes one's hands after cleaning anything containing bodily fluids, can they contract the disease through small cuts?

Since my fluffies are indoor-only, I'm not at all worried, though. Reply to this comment Report abuse 4 Westcoastsyrinx 08/16/2014 11:10pm Hi TheOldBroad. The answer would be the first URL I posted, which I will repost here:

I think on this website you have to cut and paste to your browser for it to work. In the meantime, if I remember correctly, the answer is a very definite "no."
Reply to this comment Report abuse 3 ]]> TheDailyVet Fri, 15 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31940 at
A Vet Remembers Her First Horse Birth Aug 14, 2014 A Vet Remembers Her First Horse Birth by Dr. Anna O'Brien     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDI can’t believe I haven’t yet shared with you folks my very first foaling. It’s not as you might expect. Let me explain.
One lovely spring day during my freshman year of undergrad, prior to vet school, I was out on a bike ride in the countryside. Toward the end of the ride, I passed a small horse farm. With a modest wooden stable in the background, a single dark horse stood in the field in front. As I rode past the field, I slowed to watch this horse lay down and roll. Coming to a stop and squeezing between the hedges that divided the field from the road, I continued to watch and soon realized this horse wasn’t just rolling for a dirt bath — she was having a baby!
Abandoning my bike on the sidewalk, I pushed through the hedges and against the fence. The mare was quiet on her side for a minute or two and then the intense contractions began. I could see them from where I was standing, about two hundred feet away. Luckily for me, the mare was laying such that I could actually see the foal as first its front feet emerged, then its nose and head.
Incredulous, I watched as the mare took a rest from the pushing after the foal’s shoulders were out. The vast majority of foalings occur in the dead of night (one study showed 65 percent of mares foaled between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.) and here I was, in the middle of the afternoon, witness to one in the middle of a field!
Soon, the mare began her contractions again. As I watched the foal’s hips emerge, another bike rider, who saw my bike on the sidewalk, poked his head through the hedges, asking if everything was okay. I nodded and pointed to the mare in the field in front of us. This other rider watched with me as the mare finished delivery, stood, and turned around to examine her newborn foal, which was soon shaking its head and wobbling back and forth as it attempted to sit up.
Although the other bike rider left soon after, I stood a while longer, watching in fascination as the mare cleaned the afterbirth off the foal. Soon, the foal’s long legs started to unfold in shaky attempts to rise. Again and again it tried to stand, but either the front half or the back half wouldn’t quite cooperate. As a general rule, foals should be standing within an hour of birth. I decided to stay and watch until the foal was able to stand on its own. After a few more attempts it was finally able to stand, albeit briefly, on all fours with, I swear, a look of triumph on its face.
Satisfied, I pulled myself back through the hedges, collected my bike, and finished my ride, which was the most enlightening bike ride I’ve ever had.

Dr. Anna O'Brien
Image: Nigel Dowsett / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Rolling 08/14/2014 06:25pm Is it common for a mare to roll about when in labor? Is it common for the mare to lay down during the birthing process? I always assumed they stood when giving birth.

Do cattle give birth the same way? Reply to this comment Report abuse 3 ]]> TheDailyVet Thu, 14 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31939 at
4 Reasons Why Socialization is Important for Your Dog's Health Aug 13, 2014 4 Reasons Why Socialization is Important for Your Dog's Health by Dr. Ken Tudor     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDWhat things are necessary to provide a healthy life for your dog? Most owners would answer nutrition, regular vaccinations, parasite control, and regular veterinary exams. Few, if any, would answer socialization. But socialization is a key to the overall wellness and health of dogs.
Improperly socialized dogs risk their own health, pose an injury risk to others, and often jeopardize the ability to provide ideal medical care when it is needed. Here are four reasons why socialization should be a part of a dog wellness program.
Fear and Its Unhealthy Hormones
Poorly socialized dogs are fearful of unusual or new circumstances. This sets off neurological signals that result in hormone secretion by various glands in the body. Adrenalin hormones increase heart and respiration rates and blood pressure in anticipation of “fight or flight.” Corticosteroid hormones also contribute to heart rate and blood pressure. They also increase awareness and responses. But corticosteroids also decrease blood flow to the kidneys and intestines, promote muscle breakdown, and suppress immune system function.
It is these consequences that lead to stress related conditions in poorly socialized dogs that are frequently engaged in stressful situations. The addition of children to the household, frequent show and event competition, frequent grooming, and daycare and boarding can all cause chronic stress hormone release for poorly socialized dogs and affect their health.
Difficult Veterinary Exams
Next to a thorough history provided by a dog owner, veterinarians rely on a complete physical examination to evaluate a dog’s health or determine the extent of an illness. Poorly socialized dogs that respond to fear with aggression make a complete physical exam impossible. Even the simple solution of a muzzle to prevent biting prevents a veterinarian from using gum tissue to assess dental health, red blood cell production, blood oxygen content, and an estimation of hydration.
Struggling animals also make it difficult to objectively evaluate the heart and lungs. Palpation of joints, muscles, and abdominal organs are very difficult in these dogs. And even worse, fear sensitizes the heart to potential life threating heart arrhythmias if sedation or anesthesia is needed for a more complete physical examination. This risk cannot be determined in these animals prior to drug administration.
I can tell you from professional experience that the outcome is sometimes fatal. And what if these dogs need hospitalization? How on earth is the staff going to accurately monitor and maintain IV catheter care and administer appropriate medical therapy? It is virtually impossible to provide these animals with proper medical care. Many owners of poorly socialized dogs forgo veterinary care for their dogs due to embarrassment of their dog’s behavior and/or fear of injury to others.
Limited Exercise
Owners of poorly socialized dogs are often reluctant to provide their dogs with exercise. This is especially true for large dogs that are strong and could get away from their owners to engage another dog. Such “altercations” could actually end up costing owners of poorly socialized dogs large veterinary bills from the owners of “victim” dogs. By limiting walks, runs, fetching, or other forms of rigorous exercise, poorly socialized dogs are at increased risk of health conditions associated with being overweight or obese.
Inadequate Grooming
Many breeds of dogs require frequent and detailed grooming to maintain proper skin and fur health. This requires the dog to maintain an even composure for a period of time so the groomer can provide the proper “cut.” Poorly socialized dogs make such a procedure impossible. Either drastic restraint that might injure the dog is necessary, or the groomer is faced with performing an inadequate cut and the threat of their own bodily harm. Neither is an outcome acceptable to most dog owners.
The use of veterinary prescribed tranquilizer in these cases is not an option. The selection of drugs that can be prescribed for these situations has the potential for a “paradoxical effect.” This means the drug can actually make the dogs more aggressive and dangerous. This poses a legal responsibility for the prescribing veterinarian. For this reason, I will not dispense tranquilizers for grooming to owners of poorly socialized dogs.
Good health includes early socialization. The age window for socialization is 3-12 weeks of age. Puppies need to be exposed to people, other puppies and dogs, social situations, and car rides early and often. A prudent recommendation suggests 7 new social situations each week until 12-16 weeks of age. Puppy obedience or play classes should be started immediately.
The veterinary notion of waiting until the puppy has had all of its vaccinations before socialization is completely outdated. Vaccines are not complete until 16 weeks of age and this is too late for proper socialization. Studies have shown that puppies with one set of vaccines are at no greater risk for parvovirus than fully vaccinated puppies in socialization classes. Proper socialization is a key element to your dog’s health.

Dr. Ken Tudor
Image: Jaimie Duplass / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Exams 08/13/2014 06:01pm I don't know anything about dogs, but I can attest that not being able to properly give/get a full veterinary exam can, in fact, be fatal.

My Stan was a happy guy and loved everyone - unless he went to the clinic. There he turned into The Cat From The Underworld. We were never able to get a baseline blood pressure and his heart rate and respirations clearly showed a great deal of stress.

We didn't know he had HCM and when he became diabetic/ketoacidotic (about a month after a full checkup), he went into congestive heart failure. His little lungs filled up with nasty stuff.

I'll always wonder if he had been a happy guy at the clinic like he was at home, if his HCM would have been diagnosed and he'd still be with me. Reply to this comment Report abuse 6 TheOldBroad 08/13/2014 06:03pm By the way, when Stan went to the clinic, we learned that cats can indeed turn inside their skin. He had to be anesthetized just to do a checkup. Reply to this comment Report abuse 4 dogaware What about Clonidine? 08/15/2014 12:50pm I realize that alprazolam (Xanax) can cause paradoxical excitement and sometimes increased aggression in fear-aggressive dogs, but what about using Clonidine instead? Dr. Nicholas Dodman now prefers it over alprazolam for short-term anxiety such as storm phobia. It should help for fear at the groomer's as well, according to this study: Reply to this comment Report abuse 3 ]]> TheDailyVet Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31938 at
Toxoplasma Parasite a Cure for Cancer? Aug 12, 2014 Toxoplasma Parasite a Cure for Cancer? by Dr. Joanne Intile     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMD“Could cat feces help cure cancer?” My eyes widened as they scanned over the title of the website I’d stumbled across.
After pausing for a few moments to recover my composure and swallow a mild wave of nausea, I rolled my eyes sarcastically and thought, “Yet another misinterpretation of sound medical research written in the name of Internet propaganda for the sake of promoting Dr. Google.”
Yet, as I continued to read further, I found myself intrigued by the concept behind the scientists’ work. The experiments were (thankfully) not designed to establish cat poop as a cure-all for cancer, but rather on using a common intestinal parasite (sometimes found in cat poop) called Toxoplasma gondii to battle tumor cells.
Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a relatively simple organism found in the digestive tracts of many mammals. T. gondii can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that is usually not a life-threatening condition, but which can result in flu-like symptoms and malaise. In immunocompromised people or animals, toxoplasmosis can be a much more serious problem, and in very rare cases, can even be fatal.
Infection with T. gondii occurs via four main mechanisms:

Ingestion of  T. gondii tissue cysts in undercooked meat

Ingestion of material contaminated with T. gondii oocysts

Via a blood transfusion or organ transplant

Transplacental transmission from a pregnant female to her offspring

T. gondii can infect any mammal, but as in real estate for people and single-celled parasites, it’s all about location, location, location. T. gondii thrives in the intestines of cats, and it's our feline friends who are considered the primary hosts for this creature.
Oocysts, which are the “offspring” of adult T. gondii, are shed in the feces of infected animals, including cats. This is the reason why doctors tell pregnant women to avoid scooping their cats’ litter boxes. If they were to become infected by accidentally ingesting oocysts shed in the waste, they could experience a miscarriage.
So what does this all have to do with cancer?
Regardless of the the cell of origin, cancer exists to some extent because the host’s immune system fails to recognize tumor cells as being “different” from healthy cells. Cancer cells work very hard to evade immune reactions and do this by two main mechanisms — they either work to suppress immune reactions or they work to keep themselves appearing as “normal” as possible.
Conventional anti-cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy work by causing damage to cells in a non-specific manner. These modalities attack both healthy and tumor cells with nearly equal fervor. This leads to issues with toxicity and also greatly limits the doses that can be administered safely.
These latter factors have led to a great interest in developing targeted therapies for treating cancer, including options immunotherapy (for example: Immunotherapy anti-cancer treatments attempt to use the host’s own immune system to fight off cancer cells in a specific and controlled manner.
The theory behind using T. gondii as an anti-cancer treatment stems from its ability to elicit a strong immune response within the host; a response designed to fight off the infection. By infecting people or animals who have cancer with the parasite, the hope is that the patient’s immune system will be more effectively primed to battle tumor cells previously hidden from attack.
Research with T. gondii has shown anti-tumor activity in mice with ovarian carcinoma and melanoma. Tumors were confirmed to reduce in size, and mice treated with T. gondii developed potent immune reactions. Perhaps the most exciting data showed that the mice with melanoma whose tumors reduced in size following treatment with T. gondii maintained their ability to withstand new tumor development when re-challenged with melanoma cells later on.
The long-term goal for the researchers is to develop an anti-cancer vaccine containing the weakened T. gondii organism. Unlike conventional vaccines, T. gondii will be used as a treatment for cancer, rather than a preventative measure.
I do question the efficacy of the vaccine in people and/or animals that have been previously exposed to T. gondii. Up to one-third of humans and many household pets test positive for prior contact with the parasite. I would be concerned that those individuals would already have immune systems that are geared towards fighting off T. gondii, and may actually eradicate it before enough time has passed to stimulate the immune response necessary to kill tumor cells.
Fortunately, treatment with T. gondii does not involve feces, feline or otherwise. Also reassuring is the strain of T. gondii used in the research is a purified and attenuated (meaning weakened) version of the organism that cannot replicate within the host and should not lead to the development of toxoplasmosis.
As for cat-poop being the cure all, I’ve leave you with my parting advice: Make sure to keep gloves on and maintain pristine hygiene when you scoop the litter box. And keep on hugging your feline friends with fervor. You never know when you might need one of them to save your life!

Dr. Joanne Intile
Could cat feces help cure cancer?; Medical News Today
Image: Olesya Kuznetsova / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Treatment 08/12/2014 06:17pm It sounds promising for treatment as well as prophylactic treatment to rid the body of remaining/free floating cancer cells after surgery.

Do you think this is viable for pets as well as humans? Reply to this comment Report abuse 4 Dr. Joanne Intile 08/13/2014 07:51am I think there is potential - but as I said, I wonder (especially for cats) if those pets previously exposed to T. gondii will have already developed some degree of immunity to the bug and if treated with a weakened version, their adaptive immune system will destroy it before there's time for the innate response that's needed to fight off the cancer cells, has time to develop.

Joanne Reply to this comment Report abuse 3 ]]> TheDailyVet Tue, 12 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31937 at
FIV May Not Be As Bad As We Think It Is Aug 11, 2014 FIV May Not Be As Bad As We Think It Is by Dr. Jennifer Coates     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDOne title leapt off the page as I was looking over the listing of sessions available at the recent American Veterinary Medical Association Convention — Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: Does it Really Cause Disease?
I have long counseled owners that Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is not an immediate death sentence, but short of the cat succumbing to an unrelated illness or injury, I’ve always thought that the disease would eventually be fatal. Has something changed in our understanding of FIV? Intrigued, I marked that session as a “must see.”
The talk was given by Dr. Sue VandeWoude, Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. Her laboratory studies FIV “in the context of an animal model for HIV/AIDS and as an agent useful for investigation of Ecology of Infectious Disease in charismatic large felid species such as pumas and bobcats.”
I provided some basic FIV information in a post I wrote last year. What follows are some of the more interesting tidbits I picked up from Dr. VandeWoude, paraphrased from the convention notes she provided:
Between 1 and 25% of domestic cat populations are infected with one of 5 viral clades [variants of FIV].
FIV infection may be relatively asymptomatic in cats for many years, and some studies suggest it does not result in significant morbidity [illness] for infected animals. Nondomestic felid species, including puma (P. concolor) and lions (P. leo), are infected with distinct FIV strains that are not typically associated with overt disease.
FIV infects activated T cells [a type of cell important for immune function] and after acute symptoms (lymphadenopathy [swollen lymph nodes], fever, transient weight loss) typically enters a subclinical phase that lasts for months to years. Many cats live for years in the subacute phase with minimal noticeable disease, particularly when they live in indoor situations with limited exposure to other animals [although opportunistic infections and conditions such as gingivitis, lymphoma, and neurologic symptoms may arise].
FIV-positive animals in multi-cat households may transmit infection to uninfected cohorts, but the disease is not highly contagious.
After months to years of asymptomatic infection, for reasons that are not well understood, host immunologic control of FIV replication fails, resulting in increases in plasma viremia [virus in the blood stream], decreases in CD4 T cells, and increased susceptibility to infections and opportunistic diseases.
Highly virulent strains of FIV have been described, but are rare. These isolates can result in rapid immunological decline, high rate of cancer occurrence, and death within weeks to months following infection.

Dr. VandeWoude also talked about the FIV vaccine, mentioning that it not only provides immunity to the variants of FIV included in the vaccine but also offers “reasonable” cross-protection against the types that are not. However, many veterinarians have been reluctant to recommend the vaccine because it makes immunized individuals appear to have the disease on the most commonly used types of FIV tests.
Now that it looks like FIV infection is not the threat we once thought it was, use of this vaccine seems to make even less sense except in the most extreme of circumstances.

Dr. Jennifer Coates
Image: sematadesign / Shutterstock
You might also be interested in reading:

The Dread FIV Infections in Cats

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Westcoastsyrinx Accurate assessment! 08/11/2014 01:31pm Dr Coates, I agree with you wholeheartedly about the waste of time and money involved in the vaccine. We had a salesperson trying to push it onto our veterinarian and when I asked him about the issues I had read about, I got the worst case of bafflegab you could imagine, although you probably had it too. In our case, we took in an aggressive FIV+ cat and would have loved to have been able to protect the other cats, but couldn't trust the information being spread by the company. For starters, the vaccine didn't cover the clade in known to be in our area, and when one added the fact that the efficacy was about 80% at its best, we decided that a permanent separation between him and our other residents was a much more prudent choice.

After talking to a lot of FIV+ cat owners, and reading everything there is about the clades, (or was back then), I have come to the conclusion that depending upon the clade you might find different vulnerabilities in the cats. Our boy would have been able to be with the others if he only had problems with his teeth, but other than the one he clearly lost while fighting other strays, his teeth were very strong, causing us a number of emergency visits ourselves. DH and I can both assure people that humans don't catch FIV from cats, in fact, in spite of all the stitches I earned, a HIV blood test I had a couple of months ago in a general health check came out negative, years later. Same for DH. Legolas's teeth were perfect, unfortunately for him. If he was vulnerable to stomatitis, he would have stood a chance of being assimilated with his friends.

Legolas did end up dying of a heart attack after refusing to eat when the dog he loved so much died. Up to that point, we think he underststood he had handed us a problem, and gave us plenty of laughter and good experiences in all the years we housed him.

I once asked a lab vet if there was a chance of gathering the type of information on clades that could be helpful, and while she was very interested in Legolas's lab results every year, she wasn't forthcoming with any possibilities on clade characteristics. For some reason there is a very strong reluctance to test for clades, and that part I never did manage to figure out while we were going through our own experience.

We did love him so much that I have never managed to put a final post on his blog describing his demise as it was so very very sad for us all. Reply to this comment Report abuse 8 TheOldBroad FIV+ 08/11/2014 06:09pm I have an FIV+ kitty and luckily he's a lover, not a fighter. Yes, he moved into my back yard and eventually my home, so there's no telling where he got it.

When I took him to be neutered, the vet called to tell me had had tested positive for FIV and sounded so relieved when I basically said, "So?"

I do not fear the other kitties will contract FIV and have never regretted taking him into my family 7 years ago. We keep a close eye on him (he has a little stomatisis on one tonsil) to be sure he's in good health and he gets a full checkup at least once every 4 months. Reply to this comment Report abuse 8 ]]> TheDailyVet Mon, 11 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31936 at
Swarm of Africanized Bees Kills New Mexico Dog Aug 08, 2014 Swarm of Africanized Bees Kills New Mexico Dog by Dr. Patrick Mahaney     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDA recent KRQE 13 news item caught my attention due to the horrible nature of the article’s title: Africanized Bees Kill Pet Dog
Treating dogs and cats that have been stung by bees and other insects isn’t anything new to my practice. Yet, I’ve never had a patient die from a sting nor see one that was assaulted by a swarm of what are commonly known as killer bees, as happened recently to a dog in New Mexico.
What are Africanized Bees?
For those of you who aren’t aware of the issues with these potentially lethal arthropods, an informative video can be found via National Geographic’s Africanized Bees.
Killer bees are actually African honeybees that escaped from a laboratory in Brazil in the 1950s. After reproducing extensively in the Amazon rain forest in South America, they moved into Texas through Mexico in 1990. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) features a chart detailing the Spread of Africanized honey bees by year, by county through 2011. I have to speculate that more areas in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas have been affected since then.
Africanized bees are known for being readily agitated and quick to attack both animals and people. They even “form voracious swarms” and “chase victims for one quarter of a mile.”
Populations of Africanized bees are damaging the habitats of other bees, animals, and people. Entomologist David Roubik states that “these bees have done something no other bee ever did. They have sucked up most of the resources that are out there for bees and other animals too.”
What Happened to the Dog that Was Attacked?
Sam McCallum of Bruce’s Pest Control has specialized in bee control for over ten years. McCallum was called to a ranch in New Mexico after the rancher reported a “massive swarm of bees was attacking his dogs.” The “bees were so aggressive, they stung one of the dogs over 40 times,” added the rancher, which ultimately led to the dog’s death.
Bee venom causes a hypersensitivity reaction which may be mild or severe. There are four classes of hypersensitivity reactions and bee stings are considered to be Type I (Immediate) Hypersensitivity. It’s a process where previous exposure to an antigen (bee sting venom) causes an interaction between IgE antibodies (immune system protein) and Mast cells (white blood cells), which leads to the sudden release of chemicals that cause tissue swelling, leakage of fluid from blood vessels, and even delayed blood clotting.
It’s unclear as to why the dogs were attacked by the bees, but McCallum says that the “swarm was the worst he’s seen” and speculates that “all of the rain may be the reason the bees are so active right now and there’s a good chance it will happen again.”
The on-site beekeeper evidently also incurred the wrath of the killer bees, as he was stung nine times despite wearing a protective suit meant to keep bees out. McCallum and his team killed the bees that attacked the dogs (by what means the bees were killed hasn’t been disclosed).
What are the Clinical Signs of Bee Sting-Related Hypersensitivity Reaction?
In susceptible animals, the clinical signs are usually sudden onset and include (but are not exclusive to):
Hives (medical term = urticaria)
Swelling (angioedema)
Redness (erythema)
Pain to the touch
Licking at or pawing the affected site
Stumbling (ataxia)
Vomit (emesis)
Pale pink or white gums
Low body temperature (hypothermia)
Low blood pressure (hypotension)
Bee Sting Treatment for Pets
It's often not known if a bee sting is going to cause a severe reaction, or any reaction at all. Therefore, it’s important that owners take their canine or feline companions to a veterinarian for evaluation when facing a suspected or confirmed insect sting or bite.
Treatment may be simple, such as removing the singer, observing for reaction, and managing associated discomfort with pain medications. Alternatively, a severe hypersensitivity reaction may require injectable fluids and medications (steroids, antihistamines, etc.), hospitalization, and other treatments.
Untreated hypersensitivity reactions could result in more significant illnesses and even death.
How Can I Protect My Pet from Being Stung by Bees?
When it comes to bee stings, prevention is always the best medicine.
My top tips include:
Always walk your dog on a short, non-extendable lead to prevent access to areas where bees could be plentiful, such as lawns coated with fallen flowers and blossoming bushes.
Never let your pet outside while unobserved by a responsible adult.
Avoid areas known to harbor above ground and underground bee hives. Even if beehives aren’t visible, a swarm could readily appear and rapidly overtake you and your pet.
Contact an experienced professional to rid your yard, trees, and other other surrounding environments of nests harboring stinging insects.
When faced with the threat of a swarm, I’d heed the perspective of an expert like McCallum, who suggests taking immediate cover, as “unless you can get into a vehicle or a house, you’re vulnerable. They’re going to get you.”

Dr. Patrick Mahaney
Image: Thinkstock
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fiddleronthehoof Removing the singer (sic) 08/08/2014 09:47am Removing the singer? So the Africanized Bees don't like music. Hmmmmmmmm Reply to this comment Report abuse 11 TheOldBroad One More Thing 08/08/2014 04:49pm One more thing to cause vigilance - and not let pets run free.

You never know who might be allergic to bee stings (including yourself!) and being stung multiple times could, at the very least, be painful and, at the worst, could cause death. Reply to this comment Report abuse 11 AnimalWhisperer Killer bees 08/14/2014 12:51pm Good warning article; once facts are known they can be dealt with. Thank you. Reply to this comment Report abuse 5 ]]> TheDailyVet Fri, 08 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31932 at
Cat Parasite Could Hold Key to Curing Cancer for Humans Aug 07, 2014 Cat Parasite Could Hold Key to Curing Cancer for Humans by Dr. Lorie Huston     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDCats are often maligned for many different reasons. Not the least of these reasons is the threat of toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by an organism known as Toxoplasma gondii. Though Toxoplasma can infect many different types of animals, the cat is its natural host. T. gondii makes its home in the intestinal tract of the domestic cat.
Toxoplasmosis is a very real disease and I don’t want to make light of it. It can be especially dangerous for pregnant women and the fetuses they carry. It can also be dangerous for individuals that are immunocompromised.
In addition to these known dangers, T. gondii has also been implicated in causing a variety of other problems, ranging from suicidal tendencies to an increase in the risk of brain cancer. Though these allegations are tenuous at best, they are nevertheless often reported in the popular press. T. gondii has also been implicated as a cause of deaths in sea lions, seals, sea otters, whales, and dolphins, a link that worries many biologists, ecologists, and others.
All of these factors have, in some instances, led to a backlash directed at cats, particularly at the many feral (or community) cat populations. Recently, however, T. gondii is being cast in a different light.
In research currently being performed by David J. Bzik, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology and Barbara Fox, a senior research associate of microbiology and immunology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, T. gondii is being investigated as a potential treatment for cancer patients.
Says Dr. Bzik in a quote on the Geisel News Center webpage, “biologically this parasite has figured out how to stimulate the exact immune responses you want to fight cancer.”
Most cancer patients, as a result of their disease, suffer some degree of immunosuppression, making them less than ideal candidates for infection with the unaltered toxoplasmosis organism. To overcome this stumbling block, Bzik and Fox have created a mutated form of the parasite, effectively removing a gene and making it impossible for the mutated organism to reproduce in people or in animals.  
Known as “cps,” the mutated form is safe, even for immunosuppressed individuals, because it cannot reproduce but it can still be used to “reprogram the natural power of the immune system to clear tumor cells and cancer.”
Though the research results obtained thus far are promising, both Bzik and Fox caution that further research is still needed. They foresee the potential, though, for developing a product that could be individualized tailored for each patient and the specific form of cancer being treated for that patient.
Should this research prove successful, a significant break-through in our ability to treat various forms of cancer would be the result. Ultimately, this research could benefit both people and pets, resulting in a treatment for some types of cancer that are currently not very easily or successfully handled.

Dr. Lorie Huston
Image: Annmarie Young / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Toxoplasmosis 08/07/2014 06:30pm I think cats get a bad rap when it comes to the paranoia about toxoplasmosis. It's my understanding that toxoplasmosis can be found in dirt. It's also my understanding that pregnant women and immunosuppressed individuals more often get toxoplasmosis from gardening than from the household cat. (Plus, if Fluffy doesn't go outside, what are the chances Fluffy can get it?) Reply to this comment Report abuse 7 ]]> TheDailyVet Thu, 07 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31931 at
Why You Don't Spay When the Animal Eats Hay Aug 06, 2014 Why You Don't Spay When the Animal Eats Hay by Dr. Anna O'Brien     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDFor most people familiar with cats and dogs, the concept of spaying and neutering your pets has been ingrained. For population control, health reasons, and behavioral issues, the reasons behind spaying and neutering our small animal friends are plentiful and obvious. But what about large animals? Spaying of female horses, called mares, is very rarely done. Let’s look at why this is.
To neuter a horse is to geld it and the result is a horse called a gelding. This is the most common surgical procedure done on the farm and most male horses are gelded before they reach the age of three. A relatively simple procedure, gelding can be performed with the horse either heavily sedated and still standing or under general anesthesia lying down.
Most geldings take about thirty minutes from start to finish and the horse can be quietly walked back to his stall to rest. Full recovery in two weeks is common.
The benefits to gelding a male horse far outweigh the risks of infection or anesthesia from the surgery. Non-gelded male horses are called stallions. Stallions can become aggressive and difficult to work with when they reach sexual maturity and recreational horse owners are not experienced enough nor want to deal with the responsibility that comes with owning a stallion.
Spaying a mare is a more complicated medical procedure than gelding, involving entering the abdominal cavity. Although there is more than one way to spay a mare, each resulting in the removal of the ovaries, the procedure tends to be painful and there can be scary complications, such as bleeding from the ovarian artery, which can be difficult to control.
More recently, many veterinarians elect to spay mares using laproscopic methods, which means using small incisions and inserting small cameras on the ends of lasers to view the ovaries and remove them.
Aside from the difficulties of the procedure, many mare owners don’t feel the need to spay their mares because female horses don’t become as aggressive or difficult to work with as many stallions do (I say many, not all, because I’ve known some very pleasant stallions). 
True, some mares are renowned for being somewhat moody, or “mareish,” but some riders actually prefer mares to geldings. My personal opinion is that it all boils down to the individual horse. Yes, some mares are temperamental, but many geldings aren’t perfect either!
Then comes the question of population control, since I feel this is the strongest argument to spay and neuter dogs and cats. Although there is the problem of unwanted horses in the United States, you simply don’t have the hoards of stray horses roaming the streets as you do cats and dogs. Rare is the kid who comes in saying, “Mommy, look what followed me home. Can we keep this horse?”
Additionally, with the majority of male horses gelded, most mares can be kept intact without worries of unwanted pregnancies. Yes, there are stories of a neighbor’s stallion jumping the fence for an amorous visit, but I feel these are somewhat rare.
The primary reason a mare is spayed is due to medical reasons. Occasionally, a mare will develop ovarian cysts or cancerous growths that affect her hormone levels and can make her behave in unpredictable, aggressive, stallion-like ways. If systemic hormone therapies don’t help, removal of the ovaries does the trick.
I think this final observation speaks the loudest as to the rarity of spaying a mare: We were not taught the procedure in vet school. It’s best left to the large animal surgical specialists in veterinary hospitals and referral clinics.

Dr. Anna O'Brien
Image: Horse Crazy / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Vet School 08/06/2014 05:19pm Vet students aren't taught to spay a mare? Surely you jest!

What equine surgeries are the most common and what is taught in school - especially to those students that plan to practice large animal medicine? Reply to this comment Report abuse 7 Dr. Anna O'Brien 08/07/2014 06:50pm No jesting! Vet students are not taught how to spay a mare. We learned about the procedure, but did not get the chance to see it or try it. If a mare happened to come into the school clinic needing a spay while a student was on that rotation, then they'd be witness to the procedure, but that is purely by luck. Again, this speaks to how uncommon a procedure this really is.

As far as common large animal surgeries, by far the most common is castration. In cattle, students got to do and see a lot of C-sections, as this is also very common (but not in horses -- maybe that should be another blog topic?) Reply to this comment Report abuse 7 ]]> TheDailyVet Wed, 06 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31930 at
Does Breed Make a Difference in a Cat's Urine Odor? Aug 05, 2014 Does Breed Make a Difference in a Cat's Urine Odor? by Dr. Ken Tudor     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDIf you could predict the odor strength of a cat’s urine based on its breed and hair length would it influence your choice?
New research in the latest journal Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition suggests that you may have that information before choosing your next cat. Dutch researchers found that cat breeds with shorter hair had greater quantities of the chemical that causes that “catty odor” urine smell than breeds with longer hair. Why?
What Causes Cat Urine to Smell?
Cat owners all know that distinctive urine cat odor. It is most intense with the urine of intact males and much less in neutered males and unaltered and altered females. The chemical responsible for this odor is appropriately called felinine. Felinine is a sulfur-containing amino acid resulting from normal biological function in the feline body that is excreted in the urine. Sulfur is extremely odiferous and is responsible for the smell created by felinine in the urine. Sulfur is also the mineral that is responsible for the odor experienced with flatulence (i.e., farting).
Felinine production is dependent on two important sulfur containing dietary amino acids: methionine and cysteine. Cysteine is a very important nutrient needed for hair growth. 
What the Research Into Cat Urine Odor Found
The researchers analyzed the urine of 83 privately owned cats. They were all intact males and ranged in age from 3-4.5 years. The selected breeds were Abyssinian, British Shorthair, Birman, Norwegian Forest, Persian, Ragdoll, Siberian, and the hairless Sphynx.
The study results showed a significant difference in urine felinine that coincided with breed hair length. The one exception was the Persian, a long haired breed. Although Persians had more felinine in their urine than other long haired breeds, they still had less than the short-haired Abyssinians and the hairless Sphynx.
What is the Significance of Hair Length in Cats?
As mentioned above, the amino acid cysteine is very important for hair growth. Dietary cysteine would therefore compete between hair growth and felinine production. The researchers suggest that longer haired breeds have genetically adapted to favor cysteine use for hair growth rather than urinary production of felinine. This would be an important adaptation in the wild if the diet was cysteine deficient. Animals with shorter hair growth have less demand for cysteine and could eliminate larger quantities of felinine in their urine.
The researchers found the Persian data perplexing. Because the diets in this study were not cysteine deficient, the researcher suggested possible future studies that looked at the same felinine urine production in Persians on a diet deficient in cysteine and methionine, the other sulfur donating amino acid. 
Having owned a cat-only veterinary hospital, I was always intrigued by the wide variation of the urine smells of my hospitalized patients. I cannot say that I remember the specifics of the breeds with distinct urine odors, but I know they were not suffering from urinary disease, which can change urine odor. After reading this study I am wondering if my nose wasn’t conducting the same experiment as these Dutch veterinarians those many years ago.
How about you? Have you noticed a breed or hair length trend that correlates with the strength of your cat’s urine odor?

Dr. Ken Tudor
Felinine excretion in domestic cat breeds: a preliminary investigation. Hagen-Plantinga EA, Bosch G, Hendriks WH. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2014 Jun;98(3):491-6. doi: 10.1111/jpn.12097.
Image: Svetlana Batalina / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Odor 08/05/2014 06:13pm I'm fascinated that someone would actually conduct this study - or even think to do it! (Just how does one measure smell?)

Common sense tells me that altering your cat will certainly help because kitties use urine to mark their territory. Reply to this comment Report abuse 6 16FelinePaws 08/08/2014 06:59pm Must you comment on EVERYTHING? Reply to this comment Report abuse 6 ]]> TheDailyVet Tue, 05 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31929 at
Notes from a Veterinary Conference: Stress in Animals Aug 04, 2014 Notes from a Veterinary Conference: Stress in Animals by Dr. Jennifer Coates     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDI just got back from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) convention in Denver. I thought I’d spend the next few weeks passing on some of the interesting tidbits I picked up there.
I learned a lot and also was reminded that veterinarians are very special group of people. I’m sure there were a few of us drank who too much, skipped sessions, and generally were there to have a good time rather than learn and network, but the number of folks who showed up early in the morning (coffee cups clutched like lifelines) or stayed into the evening for the later classes was truly impressive. I even overheard a group of vets sitting behind me complaining that they could only be in one class at a time but that they’d be sure to review the notes from the other sessions they had to miss. Now that’s dedication!
One of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard about what a committed group veterinarians tend to be centers around another convention that is held every year in Las Vegas. For years, the meeting had taken place at a particular casino but then had to move to a different facility. Rumor has it that the management of the original casino was frustrated by the fact that the veterinarians in attendance actually went to class and therefore spent little money gambling (unlike other professional organizations, I suppose). I also heard that they thought all the vets in their rumpled chinos sitting on the ground reading over convention notes did not exude the “atmosphere” they were looking to portray. Vets have never been known for a glamorous sense of style.
Okay — on to weightier subjects.
One of my favorite presentations was given by Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Her talks are always a lot of fun as well as being very informative, and this one did not disappoint. She talked about stress in animals; here are a few of the highlights:

When animals become stressed it takes 20-30 minutes for them to calm down. It is often best to just let them be for a half hour before trying to do whatever is needed again.

Heavy boned animals tend to be calmer than light boned individuals. As an example, if you are looking for a Labrador retriever to be a service dog, pick one who is short and stocky rather than long and lean.

For species who have hair whorls on their foreheads (cattle, horses, etc.), the lower the swirl, the calmer the individual tends to be.

Stress leads to dramatic changes in an animal’s physiology (e.g., increases in cortisol and lactate). To get the best laboratory results, research findings, meat quality, etc., stress must be dealt with.

Animals remember via very specific images and sounds. When something “bad” happens, they will likely associate it with their picture of what was happening at that moment. Dr. Grandin gave the example of a horse who was hurt by a man wearing a black cowboy hat. People in white hats were okay, and a black hat on the ground was no threat, but the horse’s stress level rose as she lifted the hat towards her head.

An animal’s first experience with a new stimulus should always be positive or at least neutral. A negative first experience can be difficult to overcome.
We need to start breeding animals for what is optimal in a big picture sense of the word. Genes are connected in weird ways and when we push too far in one direction, the law of unintended consequences usually comes into effect.


Dr. Jennifer Coates
Image: auremar / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Vet Conferences 08/04/2014 05:35pm Re: Temple Grandin
I recently watched a Ted Talk given by Temple Grandin and was very impressed. She's very intuitive and has a lot of common sense. (She mentioned the black hatted cowboy frightening the horse.) Hearing her speak must have been a true highlight.

Reply to this comment Report abuse 7 ]]> TheDailyVet Mon, 04 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31928 at
Doctors Need to Get Along Better for the Sake of Patients Aug 01, 2014 Doctors Need to Get Along Better for the Sake of Patients by Dr. Joanne Intile     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDI’ve noted a particularly disturbing conflict within my profession I thought I would take the opportunity to address publicly. My goal in doing so is not to fuel fires, but rather to open up dialogue between the two sides and see if we can’t redirect some of the hostility towards more productive measures.

The subject of my interest is the ongoing “dispute” between the goals of veterinary specialists and general practitioners (GPs) of veterinary medicine. It’s something I’ve only become attuned to as a working professional, and never considered during the inception of my career during veterinary school and residency.
I’ve seen countless examples of veterinary specialists who are quick to blame GPs for poor referrals, poor record keeping, poor case management, and “overstepping” their boundaries. GPs are equally verbal about their unhappiness with specialist’s egos, their persistent “stealing” of cases, lack of providing follow up, expense, and inaccessibility.
The bitterness isn’t pervading, but it’s sour enough to damper at least a portion of each of my workdays, some more significantly than others.
No soul would argue the fact that GPs and specialists alike share the same passion for our profession. We chose this path not only because we love animals, but also because we love science and medicine. We each knew how difficult attaining admission to veterinary school would be and we each reveled with our first (and in some cases only) acceptance to school.
We all grew from the same seeds planted in the dark and quiet lecture halls of our respective universities. We suffered together in the sticky trenches of gross anatomy, and shared in the joys and nuisances of clinics. In the end, we each pursued varied avenues of the same profession, working in different geographical and socioeconomic areas, with some of us working as GPs and some of us pursuing further training.
We hugged vehemently at graduation. We promised, and successfully managed, to keep in touch. And we now find ourselves sharing the joys and nuisances of marriage and parenthood amid our lives as working professionals. So why, if our foundations are so solid and deep-rooted, is there such palpable hostility between the two sides?
We are taught as children that there are two sides to every story. In considering this, I know that what I can’t see as a veterinary specialist is how GPs are scheduled to see so many more cases per day than I am, back to back, in rapid-fire succession. The pressure of this must be so immensely draining.
I know that despite being a dog or cat’s oncologist, I will never have the same bond with that pet as their GP does, as they were the most integral part of their healthcare from their very first puppy or kitten exam through the illness that brought them to my exam room. Their need to maintain contact and be updated stems from a place I could never begin to comprehend. There are these and a thousand more miniscule factors, whose magnitude projects larger than I could ever consider, that make the job of a GP so taxing.
What the GP will never see is the frustration on an owner's face when their pet arrives to see me and I have no records to indicate to me why they are there because they were not sent ahead of time. They will not understand that faxing over a biopsy report with no signalment or history or descriptive information and expecting a detailed reply as to the “next best steps” borders on malpractice. They cannot see that sending a case to see me to “get the protocol so my vet can do the treatments at their hospital because it’s cheaper” is invariably infuriating.
The rationale from GPs, that owners “hear what they want to hear” or “don’t have the money to spend on referral hospitals,” starts to wear thin to us specialists when you consider that the price of a referral is nominal, and could provide owners with the information they need to make a choice, even if that choice is to do nothing.
Likewise, the gritty abrasiveness of specialists who complain about poor referrals or speak badly about GPs who send cases without adequate records, or mismanage cases without knowing the full details of what truly transpired in the exam room, needs to stop.
This is not to say that gross negligence on the part of either party should be ignored. If a GP makes a glaring error in prescribing an incorrect chemotherapy dose, I am obligated to point out their error. If I fail to return a phone call in a timely fashion, or if I speak in a condescending manner to a GP, I deserve to “lose” the potential referral. But neither of the above mentioned arguments are helpful for either side or for our profession as a whole.
We can be frustrated with each other, but we also need to remember that we do not walk in each other’s shoes. I could never do what a general practitioner does. In fact, I realized very early on in veterinary school that I would never attempt to do so. I know it is beyond my capabilities. Nor could a GP do what I do on a daily basis. As such, I would argue that we need to co-exist peacefully and productively, with each side recognizing our limitations and our talents.
We all entered the profession from our passion and love of animals and science. It seems we could all do with putting our egos aside and keep in mind the real goal: promoting and maintaining the health and wellness of our patients. On that, we’re still all on the same page.
 Just as we were on day one of Gross Anatomy.

Dr. Joanne Intile
Image: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

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TheOldBroad GP vs Specialist 08/04/2014 05:24pm As far as I know, my GP vet hasn't had any problems with specialists. If I were guessing, I'd say the specialists enjoy working with him. He seems to have an excellent relationship with specialists. When my Winston was diagnosed with lymphocytic lymphoma, my vet was in constant contact with the local veterinary oncologist. If there wasn't a good relationship, I doubt the oncologist would have offered much information.

I wonder how many times a GP vet has suggested a specialist and the client isn't willing to "spend the extra money." (We've all seen the comments about vets only being in it for the money. [Yeah. Right. I believe that one. NOT!])

I'm sure there are some vets that wait too long to refer - perhaps because they don't want to admit that something is "over their head?" Perhaps they are attempting to help hold down costs? Who knows.

I haven't hesitated if my vet suggests a specialist because I want what's best for my Fluffies. This worked especially well when my vet suggested a cardiologist appointment for my HOCM kitty and also my kitty that ended up with congestive heart failure.

A couple of times I have made the suggestion to see a specialist and the GP hasn't had a problem with it.

Once again, I'm so so so lucky to have my vet (and access to a variety of specialists). He is completely awesome. Reply to this comment Report abuse 4 ]]> TheDailyVet Fri, 01 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31919 at
Discovering the Best New Pet Products of 2014 Jul 31, 2014 Discovering the Best New Pet Products of 2014 by Dr. Patrick Mahaney     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDHave you ever heard of SuperZoo? For those who work in the pet industry, it’s a must stop to find new foods, treats, toys, nutraceuticals (i.e., supplements), leashes, beds, and other pet products hitting the market. As a practicing veterinarian, I’m always intrigued with the latest and seemingly greatest options available to consumers.
I attended SuperZoo 2014 on behalf of The Honest Kitchen to help educate consumers about the health benefits I see in my canine and feline patients that eat whole-food diets instead of commercially-available, processed foods (kibble and many canned varieties).
SuperZoo is held in (Fabulous) Las Vegas, NV right in the middle of summer. Such made for an interesting time getting from my hotel to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center without sweating through my dress shirt. Once inside the vendor area, attendees are treated to seemingly countless aisles of products catering to the needs of our canine, feline, and more exotic-species companions.
In between my responsibilities to The Honest Kitchen I perused SuperZoo’s endless “neighborhoods,” each featuring a diverse array of offerings, including:

Ingredients Row, which highlights the nutritional aspects of ingredients going into pet foods and treats.
Rodeo Drive, which is (as one expects) where interested pet parents can find the latest in canine and feline couture and accessories.
Nature’s Pathway, which played host to The Honest Kitchen’s booth and was where I spent most of my time. It’s where pet owners can find the “best in natural, holistic and organic products” and “forward thinking, eco-conscious innovators to see their health-promoting pet products.” Sounds like the right place for me.
Groomer’s Court is where all things grooming can be found, including the Groomer SuperShow where top canine stylists battle it out for monetary and other prizes. Some remarkable canine cuts and shocking coat colors could be witnessed here.
Critter Alley caters to birds, pocket pets, and other exotic creature, is sponsored by North American Pet, and is geared to the retailer who offer “tanks and aquariums, food and feeders, filters and pond supplies.”
Aquatic Terrace is where all things fish can be found, “from tanks and aquariums to foods, filters, and pond supplies.”
New Exhibitor Road occupied much of my time outside of Nature’s Pathway, as I wanted to familiarize myself with the newest pet products that could benefit my clients and patients.

Having last been to SuperZoo in 2011, I was pleased to see that the general trend in foods and treats is more focused on containing ingredients that are whole-food based and minimally processed. Seemingly, the pet food and treat industry has come a long way in the past three years.
Here are the products that most intrigued my veterinary sensibilities:
ActivPhy — As the majority of my patients are geriatric dogs having some degree of the mobility compromise, I am often called into the patient-care fold to consult and provide pain relief. The goal is always to reduce reliance on prescription drugs potentially having mild to severe side effects, so the use of nutraceuticals is very common in my veterinary practice." style="width: 400px; height: 300px;" />
I was very intrigued by the ingredients in ActivPhy, especially the patented blue-green algae extract which has been scientifically proven to interfere with involvement of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme in the cascade of chemical transmission that promotes inflammation associated with arthritis pain.
MagicLatch — Safety is a topic I'm passionate about and which I often include as subject material in my petMD Daily Vet articles. MagicLatch is a magnetic device that allows the dog owner to easily attach a leash to a collar. This is great for senior citizens or for any person having challenge using their hands.

The K9 Fitvest Exercise Sport Vest and Cool Vest make your dog’s exercise sessions appropriately more challenging, or provide cooling during the warmer months. 
Since greater than 50 percent of pets in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), I'm interested in promoting canine and feline fitness whenever possible.
The Cool Vest seems to be an asset to performance dogs or those undergoing physical rehabilitation, as it serves to both cool the body in hot climates and provide a cooling effect to muscles post-workout.
Of course, the use of any product placed on a pet that has a “weighting-down” effect should always be overseen by the dog’s veterinarian to ensure that exercise is performed as safely as possible.
Cycle Dog Ecolast Toys — I am a big fan of recycling and repurposing materials for better use, so I must give accolades to pet-product companies that strive to do so. Ecolast Toys are “made from a blend of High Durability rubber and post-consumer recycled rubber from bicycle inner tubes. Cycle Dog Ecolast toys are the first molded pet toys made from post-consumer recycled materials. The toys are nontoxic, durable and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.”
The non-toxic aspect of the Ecolast Toys is especially appealing to me, as any dog or cat toy could be made with materials that could cause mild to severe illness if ingested by our canine or feline friends.
Dog Fashion Spa Essential Oils for Dog Relaxation — I'm always looking for alternative means by which dog owners can calm their anxious or stressed pooches instead of simply relying on sedatives or anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) drugs. So I was pleased to see the Essential Oils for Dog Relaxation and will try them out on Cardiff during our next flight.

Pet owners should just make sure this product is only used externally on dogs, and not at all on cats, as felines are more prone to toxicity from essential oils (especially Tea Tree Oil) owing to their proficiency with self-grooming.
That’s all for my report from SuperZoo 2014! I hope to return in 2015 to see more of the latest pet products to hit the market.

Dr. Mahaney, center, with his fellow representatives for Honest Kitchen

Dr. Patrick Mahaney
Image: Erik Lam / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Cabinet Locks 07/31/2014 05:54pm Now, if someone could just invent cabinet locks that would stop clever kitties, but are simple for humans! They would need to be able to lock handles that are round (button type) as well as those that are 3 or 4 inches long that a human grasps. Reply to this comment Report abuse 7 kat4552 08/02/2014 11:17pm BOY HAVE YOU EVER GOT THAT RIGHT. I HAVE TWO CATS IN PARTICULAR, ( SIX IN ALL. I HAVE HAD AS MANY AS TWENTY AT ONE TIME DUE TO TAKING IN TWO PREGNANT CATS THAT HAD THREE KITTENS EACH AND I HAD TWELVE BEFORE THAT. MY SON HELPED ME FIND GOOD HOMES FOR THEM).
KATHLEEN Reply to this comment Report abuse 5 ]]> TheDailyVet Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31916 at
Common Household Items That Can Be Hazardous for Your Cat Jul 30, 2014 Common Household Items That Can Be Hazardous for Your Cat by Dr. Lorie Huston     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDYou know what they say about curiosity and cats. Well, that’s not far from the truth in some cases. Cats do tend to be curious creatures, choosing to play with or chew on things that perhaps they shouldn’t. Let’s talk about some of things that can get cats into trouble.
One of the quintessential pictures of a cat is that of playing with a ball of yarn or string. Certainly, some yarn or string can keep a cat entertained for hours. But there’s also a dark side to this obsession. Cats that ingest string, yarn, or similar linear objects can suffer from severe intestinal damage. These foreign bodies can cause intestinal obstructions or even perforations that can be life-threatening. Sometimes the string actually gets looped around the tongue before being swallowed, anchoring it in place in the mouth as the rest of the foreign body (e.g., the string) attempts to move through the intestinal tract. This can cause even more damage.
Like string and yarn, cats also like to play with other objects that dangle and/or swing. This interest may include electrical cords. Needless to say, biting into an electrical cord can have a serious effect on an unsuspecting feline. In the best of circumstances, a painful electrical shock may occur. Worst case scenario is a fatal electrocution. I’ve seen cats that have survived but sustained serious burns and damage to teeth and other mouth structures.
There are a number of plants and flowers that can be dangerous for your cat. These toxic plants and flowers may be found in the home as potted plants or in bouquets containing cut flowers. At the top of the list of toxic plants is the lily. All true lilies are extremely poisonous for your cat, so much so that I would not even recommend keeping them in a household with cats. All parts of the lily are considered to be toxic, even the pollen. These plants are so dangerous for cats that even rubbing up against the plant and getting pollen on the hair coat and then grooming can lead to a life-threatening poisoning. Typically, exposure to lilies causes acute kidney failure for affected cats.
While lilies are certainly one of the most toxic of all plants for your cat, there are a number of other plants and flowers that can be dangerous as well. If in doubt, keep the plant in an area where your cat cannot access it, or get rid of it. Catnip and cat grass, however, are perfectly for safe for cats and many cats enjoy these plants.
Antifreeze is another potential threat to your cat. Traditional antifreeze, if ingested, can cause kidney failure. Even a very small amount can be toxic for a cat. And to make matters worse, the non-pet-friendly varieties have a sweet taste that apparently many cats find tempting. Pet-friendly antifreezes are available. However, even these, if consumed in large enough quantities, can still pose a threat to your cat, though poisoning with pet-safe antifreeze is much less likely to occur than with regular (non-pet-safe) antifreeze. Keep all antifreeze locked in a secure location where your cat cannot access it. Keep your pet cat indoors and consider restricting access to your garage, in case of a car that is leaking antifreeze.
Another potential threat comes in the form of candles, tart warmers, and/or potpourri. Open flames pose an obvious threat. But the fragrances and particularly the essential oils that are part of so many of these products can pose a danger for your cat, also.
There are other things that can pose a threat to your cat as well. But these are some of the most commonly encountered and some of the most deadly.
Add some of the dangers you have encountered in the comments.

Dr. Lorie Huston
Image: Mira Arnaudova / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Black Thumb 07/30/2014 06:23pm I've always thought my Black Thumb is a blessing rather than a curse because, as a result of murdering several house plants, my home has no plants. I did have to re-home a few really nice plants after my mother passed away - for some reason people send plants instead of flowers (and one would feel terribly guilty throwing them out) - because the happy, healthy lilies and dieffenbachia attracted my cats like crazy.

My cat-friends send cut flowers that could be left graveside.

In my own household, I have to hide the toilet paper. My Stan (RIP) thought it was the greatest toy and would shred/eat it when he could ferret it out. I was always concerned there was fragrance on it or it had been treated with something that wouldn't be good for him.

Is there anything to fear from toilet paper? Reply to this comment Report abuse 6 ]]> TheDailyVet Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31900 at
Giving Pink Eye the Stink Eye Jul 29, 2014 Giving Pink Eye the Stink Eye by Dr. Anna O'Brien     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDWith summer in full swing comes the usual veterinary problems in a large animal clinic: lacerations on horse legs, over-heated alpacas, warts on show calves, hoof rot in sheep, and a lot of pink eye in beef cattle. Let’s take a closer look at this common ophthalmologic issue in cows.
Pink eye in cattle, medically known as infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis, is a contagious bacterial infection of the eye. Cattle pink eye is different from human pink eye, which, although usually infectious, is not highly contagious. Pink eye in cattle also looks clinically different and is usually much more severe than the disease in humans.
Pink eye in cattle is most commonly caused by a bacterium called Moraxella bovis. This crafty microbe uses tiny hair like structures called pili to attach to the white part, or the conjunctiva, of the eye and cause damage. M. bovis is spread by flies, which feed on eye secretions and are a constant source of irritation to cattle in the summer months, providing the perfect recipe for eyeball infection.
Once introduced to the eye, M. bovis causes irritation and tearing. The first clinical sign of pink eye infection in cattle is an animal squinting. Very soon after initial infection, the cornea begins to cloud up and soon becomes completely white. An ulcer will form on the cornea and if not treated, can result in permanent blindness. Sometimes the damage to the eye is so severe, the eye itself will protrude from the socket.
Pink eye most commonly affects beef calves and in some herds can greatly affect productivity. The eye pain and subsequent stress that pink eye causes can result in profound weight loss, or lack of weigh gain, in beef calves, which is obviously a cause for concern for the farmer. For the health and well-being of the animal and the farmer’s bottom line, pink eye should be treated as quickly as possible.
One of the best ways to treat pink eye in cattle is a subconjunctival injection of antibiotics to kill the infection and steroids to help with the inflammation. This is where a steady hand, proper head restraint, and a non-queasy stomach really come in handy because subconjunctival means an injection directly into the white part (conjunctiva) of the eye. With the animal’s head held completely still in a chute, a needle is inserted just under the conjunctiva. The mix of antibiotics and steroid is then slowly and carefully injected so that a small bleb of medicine appears. Yes, this hurts the animal initially, but it works wonders. Many pink eye cases respond within a day or so.
Sometimes an intramuscular injection of antibiotics (often oxytetracycline) can also be used. I do this if the farm lacks proper facilities to restrain the animal for an eyeball poke (that’s a medical term, by the way).
If treated promptly, the cornea will clear up and sight will return. If corneal ulceration was severe, sometimes a small scar will remain on the eyeball. Cattle usually get pink eye only in one eye. If both eyes are infected, sometimes a calf will have to be penned to allow healing and sight to return.
Prevention is always better than the cure itself, and proper fly control is really the best way to go to keep pink eye from ravaging through a herd. Sometimes this is difficult, however, and other times it just seems like a farm has a really hot strain of M. bovis. Younger calves can be vaccinated against multiple strains of M. bovis and we recommend this if a particular farm has had issues in the past. Between vaccinations, fly control, and a good ol’ eyeball jab, we give the stink eye to pink eye in the summertime.

Dr. Anna O'Brien
Image: Ruud Morijn Photographer / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Fly Control 07/29/2014 05:14pm Short of taking repellant and spraying it on all the cattle, how does one do fly control?

Plus, other than piles of cow dung, what attracts the flies? Are flies astute enough to know there's a cow and that the cow's eye is tearing? Reply to this comment Report abuse 9 ]]> TheDailyVet Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31899 at
The Plague is Alive and Well in the American West Jul 28, 2014 The Plague is Alive and Well in the American West by Dr. Jennifer Coates     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDI visited Devil’s Tower in Northeast Wyoming this weekend — what an awe-inspiring site! One thing I found funny, however, was that many of the visitors seemed to be just as fascinated with the prairie dog village located near the entrance station as they were with the mountain itself.
I’ll admit that I’m jaded when it comes to prairie dogs; they’re a dime a dozen around my home in Fort Collins, CO. They’re certainly cute, but I can’t get past the fact that they also play host to fleas that carry the plague. That’s why I had to cringe when I saw all those families hanging out near the prairie dogs.
While the plague gained most of its notoriety back in the Middle Ages, it is still worthy of respect out here in the American West. The disease isn’t as newsworthy as it once was since people don’t come in contact with the causative bacteria (Yersinia pestis) as frequently as they used to and when they do, they can usually be cured with antibiotics. However, people — especially pet owners — need to be aware of the plague when living in or travelling to the Western United States.
Plague is usually spread by fleas that feed on infected prairie dogs and sometimes rabbits, squirrels, mice, and rats. When an infected animal dies, the fleas leave the carcass to find another host, thus spreading the disease. People and animals can also become sick after coming in contact with blood or tissues from an infected animal. 
Four people have been treated for plague in Colorado this month after coming in direct contact with a dog that subsequently died from the infection. Three have recovered, but one person who developed the most serious form of the disease (pneumonic plague) remains hospitalized. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says that the dog “likely was exposed to a prairie dog or rabbit with plague-infected fleas.”
Dr. Jennifer House, public health veterinarian at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, encourages people take the following precautions to prevent plague exposure:

Do not directly handle any dead rodents, including prairie dogs, rabbits, squirrels, mice and rats.
Keep pets away from wildlife, especially dead rodents.
Don’t let dogs or cats hunt prairie dogs or other rodents.
Don’t allow pets to roam freely.
Treat pets for fleas according to a veterinarian's advice. 
Do not feed prairie dogs or other rodents. This attracts them to your property, brings them in close contact with other rodents and increases the risk of disease transmission.
Be aware of rodent populations in your area, and report sudden die-offs or multiple dead animals to your local health department.

I helped diagnose a cat with plague a few years back when I worked in Wyoming. The cat recovered, which of course made me happy, but what was equally satisfying was the fact that once we had a definitive diagnosis, all the people who had contact with him were put on preventative courses of antibiotics and no one got sick. For a veterinarian, cases don’t get much better than that.

Dr. Jennifer Coates
Image: Composite Mark Lundborg and Ollyy / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Reign 'Em In 07/28/2014 06:12pm Bingo! This is another really good example of why pets shouldn't be allowed to roam. Reply to this comment Report abuse 14 KatWrangler Everyone should read this 08/01/2014 07:06pm Excellent article and advice. A lot of people don't realize such diseases still exist. Thanks for the eye-opener.

When we lived in Tucson AZ, I let the snakes alone - I'd rather have them then vermin that carry hanta, and the plague.

My cats didn't go out because they would have come back with mice and rats, etc ... plus coyotes loved to snack on small pets. Reply to this comment Report abuse 8 ]]> TheDailyVet Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31896 at
Using Grass-Fed Meat in Pet Foods is Not Good for the Planet Jul 25, 2014 Using Grass-Fed Meat in Pet Foods is Not Good for the Planet by Dr. Ken Tudor     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDThe demand for diet ingredients that mimic a past, idyllic manner of livestock production is increasing dramatically. It is thought that these production methods are less intense and healthier and will result in meat products that are safer.
Not only are pet owners choosing grass-fed meats for themselves, they are also insisting that grass-fed alternatives be used in commercial and homemade pet diets. In fact, grass-fed meat increases the environmental carbon footprint of meat and is not a long term, sustainable alternative.
Proposed Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Meat
Indeed, grass-fed meats tend to be leaner and by extension are presumed to be healthier. But total fat control of the diet is more important than the fat content of one ingredient.
It is also assumed that meat produced this way contains fewer drugs, pesticides, and other pharmaceutical agents. Grass-fed livestock are more susceptible to parasite infection, so anti-parasitic drugs are more commonly used than in feedlot animals. Exposure to weather extremes causes its own types of conditions that require antibiotic intervention. And finally, some feel the risk of altered DNA is alleviated if the meat in the diet is free from genetically modified grains fed in feedlot or intense meat production methods.
The notion that a human’s or dog’s cellular DNA can be altered and turned into a monster by GMO “FrankenFoods” has not been scientifically verified. All we have are a plethora of poor European studies that have been used by European legislators to restrict the use of GMO foods in Europe and feed the American Internet with fear of these products. And all of these purported benefits ignore the poor environmental footprint of grass-fed meats.
Why Grass-Fed Meats Have a Large Carbon Footprint
Grass-fed meat feels and sounds so comfortable. It has to be better than conventional meat production, one would assume. But there are unintended consequences to that choice. Dr. Judith L. Capper at Washington State University has researched grass-fed beef alternatives and her findings are extremely interesting.

Grass-feeding Requires Larger Numbers of Livestock

According to Dr. Capper’s research, grass-fed beef needs to be fed over 22 months longer and still weighs about 100-pounds less at slaughter than conventionally raised cattle. That means an additional 50.2 million head of cattle would have to be added each year to meet the present U.S. demand for beef. Adding the extra cattle has environmental consequences.

Grass-Feeding Increases Land Use

The additional 50 million head of cattle would require an additional 131,000,000 acres of grazing land. This is the equivalent acreage of 75 percent of the state of Texas. But most of the open land in the U.S. that could be used for grazing is open for a reason. It lacks what all grazing land needs: enough water to grow grass all year long.

Grass-Feeding Cattle Increases Water Use

The addition of the necessary grazing land would require 468 billion extra gallons of water per year. This is the same amount of water used by over 53 million U.S. households. Water scarcity is thought to be the next major global problem in the not too distant future.

Grass-Feeding Increases Greenhouse Gases

Because the grass-fed beef live almost two years longer before slaughter than feedlot cattle, they emit more lifetime greenhouse gases. That would add 134,500,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the planet each year. That is the equivalent of adding 26,000,000 cars to the road annually.
Rightfully, dog owners are concerned about the health of their dogs. They seek the best choices. Grass-fed seems like a logical choice. But if we think more globally, beyond ourselves, perhaps we need to make compromises. Concerned pet owners are also concerned about the choices they make on the lives of others.

Dr. Ken Tudor
Image: Catalin Petolea / Shutterstock
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TheOldBroad Choices 07/25/2014 05:36pm In my experience, most people make choices regarding what benefits Number One. In this case, what benefits Number One as well as Number One's pet.

Granted, the movement is growing that has a concern for our planet*, but it's still very small compared to how many people are on the planet.

*For instance, recycling is now available (supposedly mandatory) on trash day in my city. Reply to this comment Report abuse 5 rodrussell Leave Us Alone! 07/25/2014 10:00pm Why are there so many people trying to tell others what they cannot do? Here is Dr. Tudor trying to scare decent, well-intentioned people from eating grass-fed beef and feeding it to their dogs, because HE refuses to believe there is anything wrong with genetically-modified grains and because HE thinks (a) there IS such a thing as global warming, and (b) it is all the fault of Americans who leave too big a "carbon footprint". Please, Dr. Tudor, leave your politics out of your veterinary blog and leave us alone. Grass-fed beef does not kill people or dogs! Reply to this comment Report abuse 9 ]]> TheDailyVet Sun, 25 May 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31888 at
Regular Exams Can Save More than Your Pet's Life Jul 24, 2014 Regular Exams Can Save More than Your Pet's Life by Dr. Joanne Intile     Share    
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  a2a.init('page');   Save to mypetMDAs doctors, we tend to think of preventative medicine in a very concrete way. It’s the underlying mantra behind our recommendation for routine physical exams, labwork, imaging tests, and screening tests. We want to perform these check-ups when patients are well in order to detect risk factors prior to the development of significant disease.
There’s a great deal of evidence to support the benefit of preventative medicine for people. One study indicated that over half of the deaths in the United States in the year 2000 were due to preventable “behaviors and exposures.” This included deaths from cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, unintentional injuries, diabetes, and infectious diseases.
It would seem, therefore, that preventative medicine would be our best defense against illness. Yet, nary a few months go by before another study is published indicating that preventative exams, lab tests, or diagnostic procedures are no longer being recommended, as they provide no apparent benefit to patients.
As an example, the results of a recent meta-analysis of 52 different studies indicated annual pelvic exams were “unnecessary” for women.  Results showed the exams provided no benefit for diagnosing women with ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, or vaginal infections early enough to save a woman’s life or preserve her fertility.
When I heard the results on our local news station early one morning, I immediately reacted with anxiety, anger, and concern, shouting irrationally at the television screen, while my husband stood bewildered at my outburst.  When the media puts forth such medical information without a supporting net for the fallout, I can’t help but bristle in response.
When you examine the “bones” of the study, the American College of Physicians essentially is saying, skip the pelvic exam, but you still need to routinely test for cervical cancer. 
Although the conclusion I read into it was, “You still need to see your doctor regularly for preventative testing,” the media’s take was skewed towards, “Skip the exam and question your doctor if they suggest performing one.”
My first concern was that women would hear the results and interpret them to mean “You don’t need to make an appointment for an annual exam anymore — it doesn’t do anything.” 
I then wondered how the perception of the results of such studies translated to veterinary medicine.  If the (inaccurate) message put forth is that preventative care is unnecessary and unhelpful for people, how can veterinarians ever attempt to convince owners of the importance of preventative health care for animals?
I am certain that one of the main reasons we are unable to cure the majority of our veterinary cancer patients is because we diagnose and initiate treatment when their disease burden has become large.
Animals are hard-wired to hide signs of illness or pain and will often begin to give an indication that they are sick only after their disease is quite advanced. Even the most astute and loving pet owner can easily miss the very early signs of disease.
Regular physical exams and a better ability to screen patients for risk factors indicating predispositions to cancers would lead to earlier diagnosis and a better chance for cure. We could also test breeding animals for susceptibilities to cancers and remove them from the breeding programs.
Prevention of disease could ultimately be less costly than diagnostics and treatment instituted at advanced stages. A 2007 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association ( supports this concern. 
This study showed that although there was a consistent rise in spending on veterinary care for pets over a five year period, the actual number of veterinary visits per pet during that same time frame declined.
Many interpreted the results to mean that owners were spending more money only once their pets were sick, rather than on their routine visits that could have prevented the larger expenses in the long run.
Lastly, bringing pets in for more wellness exams will force veterinarians to place more emphasis on the lost art of the physical exam. One of my best mentors in veterinary school drilled into students that 90 percent of success in obtaining a diagnosis comes from the history given by the pet owner, and the physical exam. Despite this, veterinarians consistently seem to rely much more significantly on the results of labwork or imaging tests to tell them what’s wrong with pets.
Think about it this way: If one year in the life of your pet equals seven years of your own life, and you skip your pet’s yearly checkup, it’s the equivalence of missing seven years of preventative care for yourself.
Imagine not going to the doctor or dentist for seven years.  Would you not be surprised to learn you had “issues” with high blood pressure, were slowly gaining weight, or had a “bit” of dental disease by that time? How then can anyone be surprised when diseases are detected at such advanced stages in pets when routine care is avoided? And how can we be surprised when treatment options are limited and cure rates are low?
Keep up with the wellness visits for your pets — they really are an invaluable aspect of their overall health! And you may just be able to afford your companion with a chance for a cure they would not have had if you had waited until they were actually sick from their disease.

Dr. Joanne Intile
Image: Ermolaev Alexander / Shutterstock
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petgenie How Can We schedule? 07/24/2014 02:48am I got preventive message by this article and its very helpful for us. Proper caring of pets help to removing their disease at early stage and its easily solve. When we schedule it then its very simple to managing. Reply to this comment Report abuse 9 TheOldBroad Exams 07/24/2014 05:54pm In my opinion, regular exams for a healthy pet also gives the doctor a base-line. My kitties each have 3 to 4 checkups a year so the doctor has a record of weight, blood pressure, etc.

Right now we're watching and changing the treatment of Owen's blood pressure because it has been creeping up. He has HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) and has done well on Atenolol and Enalapril. We're adding a small dose of Amlodipine now. Had the doctor not had a really good history, the higher BP might have been ignored as "White Coat Syndrome." Reply to this comment Report abuse 6 ]]> TheDailyVet Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:00:00 +0000 31887 at