Monday, May 29, 2017

An Homage to a Special Mom


            Life on the farm can be tough. And sometimes, it can be downright cruel. I experienced one of those moments a few weeks ago. Less than twelve hours later, a second tragedy occurred. But just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, something wonderful happened. The result of which couldn't have been better had it been written by a Hollywood screenwriter.

            The drama began in the morning of the second Friday in March, right in the heart of- you guessed it- lambing season. One of my oldest ewes, "1114", gave birth to triplets- two girls and a boy. Everything seemed to be fine. The mom was very attentive to the lambs, and they were all nursing. In spite of their full bellies, I was a little concerned she might not have enough milk for three, but I would worry about that when I got home from work.

            Upon my return, I quickly glanced into their pen on my way to check the pregnant ewes for any new births. What I saw was the ewe resting peacefully in a back corner with her lambs nestled around her. When I passed by again, closer observation revealed she wasn't resting. She was dead!

            Raising orphan lambs is not high on my list of favorite things to do. Though feeding them the first few times is kind of fun, I guess, and the lambs always seem so grateful. "Nobody ever likes you as much as a bottle lamb," I often say.

            But to take on that task is a huge commitment in time, and milk replacer is not cheap by any means. Nevertheless, I had no other option, so I mixed up some replacer, and did what had to be done. At least they were vigorous suckers.

            The next morning I checked the pregnant ewes before feeding them, as I always do, and didn't notice any new lambs. But when all the ewes were eating with their heads forward and rear ends toward me, one ewe about halfway down the line had afterbirth hanging from her "lady parts." Two big, dead lambs were found, hidden behind a round bale feeder.

            I must have been somewhat shaken from the loss, because a few minutes passed before the obvious dawned on me. "Catch that ewe!" Fortunately, "1368" was still eating the last remnants of corn, and had enough other ewes around her, that I was able to get her caught and haltered.

            As I half led and half wrestled the ewe back to the pen of orphans, I truly didn't know what I was going to do next. My track record of grafting orphan or rejected lambs onto foster ewes isn't great. A successful graft requires time and patience, neither of which I had this busy Saturday morning. So I decided my goal would be to provide a good meal for the triplets, and like the day before, worry about the rest later.

            I tied the ewe in the pen expecting her to jump, and maybe even kick at the lambs, like many ewes do when strange babies try to nurse on them. But she didn't move, not even a little. And the lambs were really going to town on her udder, so to speak.

            After a couple of minutes, I untied the halter and all she did was munch on some hay. A moment later, I removed the halter entirely. That's when I saw the first hint of trouble- a nudge. She pushed one of the lambs away from her udder.

            "That's it," I thought to myself. "The rejection process has begun." Then she nudged him again. Only this time it was back toward the udder. It appeared the first nudge was merely misdirected, not malicious. Apparently, I caught "1368" at just the right time, a hormonal window of opportunity where she felt compelled to be a mom, and those lambs were more than willing to oblige.

            Although "1368" ultimately didn't have enough milk to support all the lambs, and they required some supplementation, that was okay with me. What she did to help ease the burden of caring for three orphan lambs was much appreciated. But what she did to provide those lambs a real family experience was a godsend.

             After all, they make a replacer for milk. They don't make a replacer for moms. And to have a mom is really the most important thing.
By Dr. John H. Jones

Pet Cancer Awareness: Fighting the Fight for Pets


                                Those who know me well, probably would say I am passionate about two things:  veterinary medicine and ending the fight against cancer. 

                                My greatest frustration is diagnosing cancer in pets or learning about a loved one with cancer that has lurked in their bodies too long.  As time marches on, I am witnessing the loss of many people, and just as many pets, to cancer. Sadly, the leading cause of death in older cats and dogs IS cancer.           To that end, I would like to share the following to help you prevent and fight cancer in pets.

                                Probably the most obvious advice I have is never "watch  a lump  grow!"  All too often, pet owners tell me they are "keeping an eye" on their pet's lump.  After a moment of discomfort, I suggest that the lump either be aspirated to examine some cells under the microscope, or removed and biopsied. The peace of mind that comes with these options can be huge.

                                If a growth is benign (harmless) like a fatty tumor, you can be informed within minutes of an aspirate. And, EARLY surgical removal and biopsy of a suspicious lump, can result in a cure. If an aspirate proves  a growth is benign, you may be able to continue to monitor that lump for rapid growth or changes in shape or texture that warrant a second look.

                                Occasionally pets are presented to veterinarians when owners find noticeably enlarged lumps under the pet's jaw line. These swellings are lymph nodes, and when these and other lymph nodes  located behind the knees , in front of the shoulders or in the armpits are enlarged, the likely diagnosis is "lymphoma" (cancer of the lymph system). Biopsy or aspiration of these nodes will aid the diagnosis of lymphoma, considered by many to be the most treatable cancer in pets.

                                On to the mouth...if your pet's breath suddenly becomes atrocious, oral cancer may be lurking. Tumors in the mouth are not uncommon and tend to be one of three  types: squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma or fibrosarcoma.  Each tends to be malignant, but they can sometimes be cured with early detection.  Keep in mind, that something as simple as brushing your pet's teeth everyday can alert you to an early oral tumor as you may observe an unusual odor or lump upon daily dental inspection.

                                Note that any unexplained bleeding from the mouth, gums, nose, vagina, or penis that is not due to injury, should be brought to your veterinarian's attention. Bleeding disorders do occur in pets, but they are usually diagnosed when pets are younger.  Bleeding in an older pet warrants immediate exploration for a cause which could be cancer, and time is of the essence!

                                While there are numerous reasons why pets cough, a dry, non-productive cough by cats or dogs is the most common sign of lung cancer. Your veterinarian will recommend  chest x-rays to further diagnose your pet's cough.  Consider that chest x-rays can provide great peace of mind when your veterinarian delivers the news that your pet's diagnosis is NOT cancer. 

                                Weight loss, distention of your pet's abdomen, vomiting or diarrhea will also warrant x-rays or ultrasound to find cancers of the intestinal tract or outside the abdominal organs. Masses located outside the organs can be benign and just take up space , or serious tumors could be growing in the spleen or liver that may cause abdominal bleeding and collapse.  The good news is expedient surgical removal  of abdominal masses can sometimes provide a cure. 

                                Persistent straining to urinate or bloody urine not responsive to antibiotics can be a sign of bladder or prostatic cancers. Abdominal ultrasound or bladder biopsies are instrumental in diagnosing urogenital cancers. Familiarity with your pet's  elimination habits will help you detect changes as soon as they occur, and these should be reported to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

                                Finally, many older pets limp, but if your senior pet develops a new or different limp, it warrants a trip to your veterinarian, especially if your pet is a large breed dog. Unfortunately, bone cancers are diagnosed all too commonly and this cancer, called osteosarcoma, needs aggressive, immediate pain control and treatment.

                                Please be your pet's best advocate! Partner up with your veterinarian to always be on the lookout for signs of cancer. Together, we can help your cat "Call for a Cure" and your dog "Bark for Life!" 
By Dr. Bonnie Jones

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Making the Best of Things


It’s a sad fact of life that sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want.  This definitely applies to dog ownership.  Maybe you had unrealistic expectations for your dog or made a poor choice of breeds for the life you lead.  Maybe you didn’t realize how much training a new dog needs.  Maybe you forgot how much trouble puppies can get into.  Whatever the reason, sometimes “perfect” just isn’t going to happen – at least not right away.

I have many clients whose dogs don’t behave the way they expected them to.  Sometimes the fix is fairly simple – owner education, increased exercise, training, and maybe a bit of behavior modification.  Sometimes it’s not so simple.  A frequent problem is that the client simply chose the wrong breed for his or her living situation.   The dog is too big, too active, or too strong for the owner, or the breed is not known for being easy to train and socialize.  My goal as a trainer is help the owner be happy with the dog he or she has by teaching ways to deal with challenges that come up, and to help find ways for the dog to lead a happy life. 

Too many people choose their dogs for the wrong reasons.  They felt sorry for a puppy in a pet store or flea market and brought it home, not thinking about what kind of life they could offer this dog.  Or they bought it on impulse.  They chose a breed because of its appearance and image or because it’s trendy, not knowing how much work they would have to put in to make it a satisfactory pet.  They chose a dog requiring large amounts of exercise or work daily to keep it sane, even though their schedules would not allow for this. 

The good news is that owners can usually make things work if they’re willing to take on a long-term commitment.  If the problem is the dog’s need for more exercise than you can give it, check out a good doggy daycare facility.  Try an Agility class or other active dog sport.  Hire a responsible kid to walk or run the dog daily. 
There are ways for “workaholic” dogs – those who need jobs - to be great pets.  There are interactive toys are on the market that will allow a dog to “hunt” for treats or work puzzles with his snout and paws to get rewards.  They can also be taught to do household jobs such as putting away their toys or carrying things for the owner. They thrive on training and take well to learning skills and tricks.  Creativity will help the owner come up with meaningful work for these dogs.

There is even hope for the imp-puppy from Hell who chews everything, bites hands, soils carpets, tries to herd the kids, guards its toys, and makes you question why you keep him.  Learn the tools of the trade for “civilizing” young puppies.  Understand that the solution to most puppy problems is closer supervision.  
Gently teach him limits – no chewing, biting, digging, etc.  Teach him to rest quietly in a crate or cage with a special toy or chewy for short periods when you need a time out.  Patience is crucial because - training or not - puppies are a handful.  Age will solve a lot of problems, along with a little work.

If the situation involves one of the “image” breeds (Rottweilers, Bully breeds, Mastiffs, etc.) a of training and socialization is absolutely required.  They can be wonderful pets, but their owners must be prepared for the responsibility of owning large, powerful animals.  If the choice was a high-energy “Doodle” or terrier, there may not be such a thing as too much exercise for the dog.  They’re smart, too, and if they aren’t adequately trained they’ll use those awesome brains on something that might not make you happy.

In short, most problems with dogs can be resolved.  But solutions don’t come without work.  If you absolutely must have perfection, maybe a stuffed toy might have been a better choice, but they’re not near as much fun as the real thing.
By Dorothy Miner 

Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor, judge of canine events, and author.  She teaches weekly classes for the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution’s PETS Program and provides training and consultation under the banner of “Sidekicks” and “Training for Dogs and Their People.”

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Rainbow Bridge: A Veterinary Technician's Perspective

            The Rainbow Bridge. The safe, happy place our beloved pets go after they have brought so much love. No one wants to think about a pet’s passing, that they will ever leave us. I’d like to think that my pets will outlast me.

            My husband and I are surrounded by happy critters: our dogs, Copenhagen, Tilly and Philo, and our cats...Stella and Sambo.  Each day we have the pleasure of returning home to be greeted by these happy, four-legged kids.

            As a veterinary technician, I have the opportunity to share joyous moments with clients daily. I get to hold and snuggle puppies with a pocketful of treats to hand out, even if my patient jumps on the cupboards. I walk into the hospital every morning, knowing that there will be clients to teach and pets to care for. But as vet techs, we are also there to comfort.

            Yes, first time puppy ownership is scary--- we are there to answer those not so silly questions. Vaccine pokes and bloods draws are terrifying--- we are there to hold and comfort. The dreaded scale! Don’t worry, we will be right there. Vet techs help loved ones trust that everything will be okay. Comfort isn’t something we do only for our patients, but that we do for clients as well as we build strong relationship with them every day.

            So the question is why am I writing about trust and comfort between clients and veterinary technicians? Because I have wanted to---simple as that. Yes, we get to see all the happy times, and some of the scary times. But, we also see the pain of broken hearts when it’s time to let our pets go.

            Just a little about me...while in high school, I loved working in a small town veterinary clinic. It was the highlight of my day. I didn’t have technician training yet, but I did my best to learn fast and help in any way I could.

            There was one Monday I’ll never forget. I had a final exam that afternoon and it was the only thing I could think about. The veterinarian told me a euthanasia was scheduled that morning and that I would need to assist. When the family and their Labrador arrived, they were in tears. I put my head down and followed them into the room. They said many good-byes as I held the beloved dog for his last breaths while the doctor administered the injection.

            But, wait…why did I not feel the same way they did? I know I said that I would keep them in my thoughts and prayers, but did I mean it?

            Time went on, and I  helped with many more euthanasias, thinking that same thing, and going on with my day. Then something changed.

            My first dog was a Siberian Husky named "Holly." She was a blessing to my family, and she was 13 years old when cancer consumed her body. Now I’m the family in the exam room with tears flowing, and I realize I’m looking for comfort, comfort and trust. The first face I see is that of the vet tech. The way she was there for us was eye-opening. There were no hugs or words shared, just comfort knowing that my Holly was going to be okay. 

            She then crossed it...Holly crossed The Rainbow Bridge.

            From that day, I knew why I wanted to be a veterinary technician. I wanted to help the patients, but I also wanted to be there for the clients. I want them to know  I am here to help, to hold your loved one through your good-byes and tears. I now find myself weeping with families, then hiding in the bathroom at work until my eyes dry up.

             We hurt with the families, and our hearts break, too. We do it because we are needed most in those moments. Some days I wish my job was to just play with fluffy animals. But, instead, I get to help. I get to comfort.

            Those last moments with our furry family members are not something we want to think about. But know that if you want hugs, we have open arms. If you want to cry, we will be there with comforting words and tissues. And, if you want to talk about good times and laugh, we will find Dr. John to tell some jokes.

            Just know, you are not alone. It’s not scary. Our pets will be free of pain and suffering as they cross over that bridge.  And know that there will be a vet tech with you the whole way.
By Sarah Burford, VT

Sarah (Koeneman) Burford, VT is a graduate of the Vet Tech Institute of International Business College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She provides care and comfort to the clients and pets at Delphos Animal Hospital.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Lump in the Throat

            In all my thirty-two years as a veterinarian, I don't recall ever seeing any kind of animal with a goiter. Then I received a phone call from a Boer goat raiser named Joel. He had just started kidding, and several of his first kids were born dead with odd lumps in their throats. Photographs he sent showed the classic bilaterally symmetrical swellings in the location of the thyroid gland. They could have been textbook photos of goiters.

            From the tone of his voice, I could tell Joel was quite concerned.       If he's not the most conscientious goat breeder I know, he is at least in the top two. His herd management  has always been top-notch. So why was he having this problem? And why now?

            Joel couldn't think of anything he was doing that was different. He was feeding the same grain mixture and minerals he had used for the last few years. Furthermore, the moms that were producing the kids with goiters were his older does who never had any issues like this before.

            A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Typically in goats, it occurs as the result of an iodine deficiency. The thyroid gland utilizes iodine in the production of thyroxine, or thyroid hormone. If iodine levels are low, thyroxine cannot be produced, thus causing the "master gland of the body"- the pituitary, to produce thyroid stimulating hormone, which is sent to the thyroid gland. This prompts the thyroid gland to work extra hard to try to produce it's hormone, and almost like a muscle lifting weights, it will enlarge. 

            In addition to low levels of iodine in the diet as a cause of goiters, there are certain plants which are termed "goitrogenic." These plants interfere with the uptake of iodine in the thyroid gland, and include cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, soybeans, and turnips. I discussed these plants with Joel, but it was kind of a moot point. His goats ate none of those things.

            I heard from Joel again about three weeks later on a Friday afternoon. His report was not good. Twenty-one kids had been born dead with goiters, including a set of twins that morning. He inquired about having them necropsied, the animal version of an autopsy.

            Fridays are not the best day of the week for collecting tissue samples, because they have to sit over the weekend before being shipped off on Monday. I asked Joel if he would be willing to drive the kids down to the Ohio Department of Agriculture Lab in Reynoldsburg that afternoon. He had no problem with that. Like I wrote before, he is conscientious.

            When I spoke to the pathologist who worked on Joel's kids, he confirmed the goiter diagnosis. He also told me this: "Boer goats are more susceptible to goiters than any other breed." I didn't know that, and I see a lot of Boer goats. The pathologist then told me that goiter development usually occurs between the first and second month of a goat's five month gestation.

            When I relayed this information to Joel, he had a revelation for me. He found out the clover hay he had purchased, which he fed for the first couple of months of his does' pregnancies, was harvested from a field that had a cover crop of turnips on it the winter before.

            Cover crops are becoming more popular in this area for a variety of soil improvement reasons. Turnips, by virtue of their large bulbs and deep root systems,  help to decrease soil compaction and open the soil for worms and nutrient penetration. However, as they decompose, apparently some of those goitrogenic properties can be taken up by growing clover plants.

            In Joel's herd, it was only the older does who had the affected kids. Even though they were fed the same clover hay, his younger does were supplemented with a grain ration that did contain some iodine. It wasn't a large amount, but evidently it was enough.

              So goat breeders, before the next kidding season arrives, make sure there is adequate iodine levels in your feed and mineral mixes, or supplement the herd with iodized salt. Then, hopefully, the only lump in the throat you have to deal with is the one in your own. The source, of course, coming from the pride you feel when you see your beautiful new kids.
By Dr. John H. Jones

How to Help "Hangry" Pets Be Happy

                                My Welsh Corgi, "Betsy Louise," is a food whore. There...I've said it.

                                Those who know Betsy have seen her in action, and will echo my sentiments. Her predecessor, Welsh Corgi "Princess Bunny," shared Betsy's obsession with food.  Bunny actually went on not one, but two, suicide missions involving food while at work with us.    

                             Bunny's first "attempt" was finding and breaking in to a canine cranberry urinary supplement that contained potassium citrate to neutralize acidity of dog urine. Thank goodness for her dog sitter, Ashley Oxendine, who expediently discovered Bunny's "mission" and put the ball in motion to rescue her from a life threatening potassium overdose.

                                On her second suicide attempt, Bunny found an open bag of prescription dog food and proceeded to stick her entire head and shoulders in the large bag to feast on as much food as her corgi stomach could accommodate. Her "adventure" was revealed as she waddled up to me, smiling in her satiety glory, looking much like she swallowed an over-inflated basketball. Canine "bloat" is a true and life-threatening phenomenon that became yet another badge on Bunny's food-seeking sash.

                                I was reminded of Bunny's shenanigans recently when two staff members approached me to say Betsy Louise was attempting to eat her way into a donated bag of dog food left in a location convenient for all low-riding dogs to enjoy. The tattling was followed by the comment, "And she got a little nasty when she was busted."

                                Betsy, like so many pets and people gets "hangry" around food, especially as meal times approach or if they are delayed. This behavior is also observed in cats that conduct piercing stare-downs with their feeders or grab on to their owners' legs as they stride toward the feeding station. For dogs like Betsy and Bunny, and hangry cats, consider the following tips:

1) Many pets obsessed with food benefit from frequent, small meals fed on a consistent schedule. Pets thrive on and are more content with daily routines that are well-established. Pick a feeding schedule three to four times a day that you  can adhere to and stick with it.

2) Make meal times fun and challenging. Feed dogs that inhale their food from puzzle dishes, food balls, Kongs, or muffin tins. Consider hiding your cat's food throughout the house to tap into its instinct to hunt for prey, or use puzzle balls (Egg-cersizer) to make it work for its meals. The latter are especially effective for obesity-prone cats.

3) Avoid rewarding your pet's "hangry behavior." Initially, this is a tough task because it actually involves undoing your own behavior of "giving in" to your pet's vocal and physical demands. Many pet owners have been conditioned to relent just to make the whining, barking, pawing and pacing cease. After all, it gets annoying! But, you are inadvertently reinforcing the undesirable.  Instead, you must CONSISTENTLY  IGNORE your pet's obnoxious behavior, and stick to the above suggestions. This may result in the hangry behaviors escalating at first as your pet becomes confused by your new behavior. Simply stay the course and your pet will learn that food will be available at consistent mealtimes, and not when he or she demonstrates offensive behaviors.

4) Seek your veterinarian's advice about your pet's nutrition.  Your pet could be on an inadequate diet and feeding schedule. When your veterinarian inquires about which food and how often you feed your pet, she is assessing the pet's body condition score and overall health as a reflection of the diet. Many pets are fed inadequate amounts once daily and that often creates  hangry pets that are truly unsatisfied.  Quality of food ingredients can vary tremendously as well. Two different food bags  may share similar ingredients list, but the actual performance of each can be widely different. 

5) Schedule your pet's wellness exam with your veterinarian "twice a year for life." Remember that your pet ages more quickly than you, especially in its senior period. Intestinal parasites and medical conditions such as Cushing's Disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism can make your pet hangry and uncomfortable! Don't let your pet suffer needlessly with treatable conditions that when addressed will improve the quality of your pet's life and yours.

                                As a human being who also experiences hangry periods, I empathize with hangry pets. It is not a good feeling to have your body and brain possessed by hunger.  Ask your veterinarian to help you turn your pet's hanger into happiness.

                                 I'm feeling a little hangry right now.  It's 1:30 p.m.---approximately 30 minutes past my lunchtime...hmmm. 
By Dr. Bonnie Jones

Dr. Bonnie Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital with her husband, John H. Jones, DVM .  She was valedictorian and Outstanding Senior Clinician of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1985.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The "Perfect" Puppy


          Bringing a puppy into your home is a huge decision---one that everyone in the home needs to be part of. All family members need to be on the same page as far as the time and commitment it takes to properly raise and socialize a puppy. Then there's the financial responsibility for preventive health care, including vaccinations, spaying/neutering, etc. Some choose to get their new canine family member from a dog rescue or shelter, a wonderful way to give a deserving dog a home. For those who prefer a particular breed however,, or have a desire to compete in sport or show, breeders are the best source. But, how do you find a reputable breeder to ensure the dog you want is perfect for you?
          Finding a good breeder starts with knowing your breed. You may want to research what health issues are common in your breed so you can ask the breeder if they test for those conditions. This step is crucial in helping to ensure you get a healthy puppy! If a breeder doesn't test for health problems, or isn't familiar with the health problems present in their breed, proceed with caution! Or, even better, seek a different breeder. As a veterinarian, nothing is more heartbreaking than telling a pet owner their dog has a condition that could have been prevented with proper parental testing. Take time to ask breeders why they have chosen their breed. And, ask to meet the parents of your future pup to ensure they are healthy and well-socialized.
         Also, do some research to ensure the breed you desire is a good fit for you. I see many posts on Facebook or at local pet stores stating a dog needs a new home because "they need room to run" or "have gotten too big." Researching the breed you desire to make sure they fit your lifestyle, not just as an eight week old puppy, but as an adult will pay big dividends. Great Danes are wonderful, but if you have a four hundred square foot apartment, it may not be the best fit. My Miniature American Shepherd, "Lady," is an awesome, little dog, but she is always on the go! If you dislike spending time outdoors, love to sleep in, and don't enjoy daily walks and runs, she could turn into a destructive little dog quickly, as she was bred to be active and work; she will do both one way or another.
          Finally, as you start your journey to seek the perfect puppy, be prepared to wait! Good breeders often have waiting lists for several months to a year or more to get a puppy. Waiting is hard, but at the same time, buying the first puppy you find, whether it is healthy or not, can lead to heartbreak, as well as unexpected veterinary bills. If you have questions about a certain breed or its health conditions, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your concerns and obtain important insight about your new companion. We would love to help!

By Dr. Jill Dentel

Dr. Jill Dentel is an associate veterinarian at Delphos Animal Hospital.