Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Elvis and Cat Transport

                              In October 2008, Delphos Animal Hospital said good-bye to its 15 year old mascot, a cantankerous, white cat named “Elvis.”  At six weeks old, Elvis was deposited behind our office in a box with a note pleading for her care.  While Elvis never really appreciated a lot of handling as our pet, during her wellness exams, she was even more ill-tempered.

                                Fast forward to December 2008 when yet another box appears behind our office.  This one strategically possesses yet another white cat.  Still grieving the death of Elvis, a fixture at our practice for 15 of our 22 years, I was not prepared to open my heart for another “dumped” orphan…but I did.

                                I strongly discourage abandonment of animals, especially outside veterinary facilities.  Typically, these deserted pets are young, confused, and terrified by their un-chosen plight.  Such was the case for “Clarisse,” our newest white “fluff-ball.”  She was, in short, not a very nice kitten when we first met her.   Clarisse’s namesake is not Rudolph’s girlfriend, but rather “The Silence of the Lambs” Clarisse.  With patience, and a lot of handling, Clarisse has come a long way, but still rightfully earns her name. 

                                To improve Clarisse’s social skills, I began taking her home on weekends for what my husband dubbed “step-sister” visits with our house cat, “Ruthie.”  From these round trips with Clarisse, I discovered just how stressful veterinary visits are for cats.

                                Over the last 20 years, cats have surpassed dogs as the most popular pet in the United States, yet they are twice as likely not to visit veterinarians.  Clarisse revealed to me why these observations ring true.  My Monday morning repeated attempts to corral her into a carrier for the return trip were topped off by a wailing serenade in the car.  Upon arrival at the office, both Clarisse and I were totally harried.  If this na├»ve kitten is this way, imagine what an older cat would do when whisked from all the peaceful comforts of home!
                                I realize that cats are not dogs, especially when visiting veterinary facilities, and that it would be nearly impossible to eliminate their stress entirely.  However, Clarisse showed me the need for educating cat owners about cats’ anxieties associated with veterinary visits.

                                From the cat’s perspective, things might appear as follows:

                                First, you are chased around the house by your owner whom you love and trust.  Then you are shoved into a carrier, only to endure an unfamiliar, stressful car ride to a place with other animals and smells that you don’t care to be around.  You are on “high alert” when a strange person dumps you out of your carrier and begins handling you in unfamiliar ways.  Your fear becomes so heightened that you urinate, defecate or vomit all over yourself.  Finally, you are so afraid, you decide to defend yourself by biting or scratching, which is not like you at all.
                                To this day, it still troubles me to see cats carried into our office in their owner’s arms, without a pet carrier.  When frightened, cats will flee--- even from the comfort of their owner’s grasp.  If the cat is not declawed, the owner will feel the cat’s terror as its toenails dig into flesh just prior to launching.  Lesson one…always transport your cat in a safe container.

                                Cats may be trained to view pet carriers as a comfort zone by leaving the carrier visible in the home, containing toys, blankets, and treats for an extended period prior to veterinary visits.  Carriers with both top and front openings work best, as cats may be more readily extracted from these carriers or examined while remaining in the bottom half.

                   To accustom your cat to car travel, take your cat for regular car rides, beginning with very short trips to places other than veterinary facilities.  Avoid feeding your cat for an hour prior to travel to prevent vomiting.
                                When leaving home with your cat, take preferred cat toys and treats and line the cage with a favorite blanket or towel.   Covering the carrier with cloth during transport will decrease stressful visual stimuli upon entering the veterinary office.  Once at the veterinary hospital, speak to your cat calmly and softly, and reward desired behaviors with treats, praise, massage or play.

                                Finally, if your cat has had previous negative experiences at a veterinary office, please discuss the need for a short-acting sedative to be administered to your cat prior to the visit.
                                “There’s no place like home,” especially if you are a cat, but regular preventive health care visits are a must.  Cats are “masters of disguise” when it comes to hiding illness, and your veterinarian can detect your cat’s health concerns early, when they are most treatable. 

Author: Dr. Bonnie Jones

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Best Christmas Ever

                        I think I have it.  That seasonal depression thing.  And I don’t think my disorder has anything to do with lack of sunlight.  In fact, I know exactly from where mine stems---Christmas of 1984.

                         My dad was a natural teacher.  If he had taught history, he would have been one of those guys who dressed up like George Washington.  But he didn’t teach history.  He taught veterinary preventive medicine, often a rather droll subject, though he made it as exciting for his students as he possibly could.  Visions of my dad riding his motor scooter down the corridors of Sisson Hall, field trips to state prison farms to care for their herds, and blindfolded spaghetti dinners at Pilot Dogs, to grasp some sense of what it was like to be blind, were just some of the memories and experiences generations of his students had.  I’m not sure how good a veterinarian he really was, but his dedication to his students and their education was legendary.

                        His career profoundly influenced me, my wife, and about 3000 other veterinarians between the ages of 45 and 85, many of whom you readers have known.  Sometimes even now, I get a certain feeling he is still teaching me things.

                        Five weeks before Christmas, my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma.  A good part of the next month was spent in the hospital, but he was doing well enough to come home for Christmas.

                        The gift I got for him still sits on my desk.  A little knick-knack plaque with a picture of an English Bulldog puppy and a kitten, it reads “Together we can lick anything.”  We couldn’t lick cancer, though.  Two days later he was back in the hospital, and thirty days after that, he died.  That Christmas day is the last day I remember him really being my dad.

                        Obviously, his loss left a huge hole in me.  Unfortunately, it also left a hole in Christmas for me, as well.

                        I don’t want anyone to think that I’m all “Bah humbug!” about Christmas, because I’m not.  I’m just a little blue that the last 24 Christmases haven’t been as enjoyable as the first 24.  I do understand the “reason for the season” and I greatly appreciate the generosity of our clients.

                        Every Christmas our office is overwhelmed with cookies, pies, pastries of all sorts, and a plethora of fruit baskets.  So much so that it is impossible for 11 of us to eat everything.  My wife suggested we save something for Jerry and his family.

                        Jerry Luersman, one of my large animal clients, raises Holstein steers.  He comes from a fine Delphos family, has a nice family of his own, and is one of the most pleasant people you could ever meet.

                        In November, Jerry was severely injured in a wood cutting accident.  He was out in the woods with his father, brother, nephew, and two sons.  The circular saw they were using broke, sending pieces into several of them, but mostly into Jerry.  Thanks to heroic action by his father and a life-saving helicopter ride, Jerry is going to be okay.  But, he does have some recuperating ahead of him---not the sort of thing any family should have to go through during the holidays.

                        Later that day, a brand new, unopened fruit basket magically, I think, appeared on my desk.  I found an old Christmas card and without much thought wrote, “Someday, this will be your best Christmas ever!”

                        After I wrote that phrase, it struck me how relevant it was to my own situation.  Christmas 1984 wasn’t my worst Christmas, it was my best.  I just didn’t know it.  Although not the happiest, it certainly was the most meaningful, and of all my Christmases, the one I remember like no other.

                        During those few weeks before Christmas, my dad and I spent a great deal of time together.  We talked about his early days of private practice in Preble County, and of his time in the Navy during World War II.  A homesick tale of listening to the Ohio State -Michigan game on a radio far away in the South Pacific was heartbreaking.  He also told me the intricacies of university politics and about how they overthrew the veterinary college dean.  These stories were going to be in a book he never got to write:  “Don’t Rock the Boat.”  He was, truth be told, a bit of a boat-rocker.

                        All in all, those were some of the most memorable days of our life together.  The saddest part is that there just weren’t enough of them.

                        I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas.  For some, undoubtedly this will be your best Christmas ever, too.  Happy New Year, Jerry!
Author:  Dr. John Jones
Image courtesy of m_bartosch at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pills that Poison Pets: Preventing Medication Overdoses

                        Without question, medications prescribed by physicians go a long way to restore health and quality of life for so many people.  But, what about accidental exposure of pets to human medications?  

                        Nearly half the phone calls to pet poison control hotlines are for accidental ingestions by pets of human medications.  The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics recently released a list of the top five human prescription drugs sold in the United States.  Do you have any of the following drugs within your curious pet’s reach on your counter, table, or night stand, or in your purse? 

---Lipitor (atorvastatin): A commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering medicine for humans, its effects on pets are mild, consisting of vomiting and diarrhea. This drug is considered to be of low toxicity to pets.
---Nexium (esomeprazole):  This medication, an anti-ulcer drug that decreases acid secretion in the stomach, is prescribed occasionally for pets as well as their human counterparts.  Side effects for pets are mild and include vomiting and diarrhea that generally subside on their own.

---Plavix (clopidogrel):  Physicians use this drug to prevent clot formation in patients at risk for strokes.  Plavix works by affecting platelets, a type of blood cell that facilitates clotting.  When a pet ingests this drug, the margin of safety is wide as it is only likely to cause mild vomiting or diarrhea.

---Advair Diskus (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol):  Unlike the previous three medicines, this asthma medication in its inhaler is potentially life-threatening when ingested by pets.  Advair contains beta-agonist drugs that expand the lung air sacs, as well as potent steroids to decrease dangerous levels of inflammation in asthmatic lungs.  These inhalers are plastic dispensers that are very attractive to inquisitive pets that chew on them, releasing multiple doses of powerful drugs all at once.  Symptoms of intoxication include heart arrhythmias, elevated heart rate, agitation, vomiting, and even collapse.  The pet’s blood potassium may also become desperately low and life-threatening.  Seek immediate veterinary attention for this potentially deadly overdose.

---Abilify (aripiprazole):  In human medicine this drug is used to treat clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. This atypical anti-psychotic agent, when ingested by pets, can result in profound lethargy, vomiting, hyperthermia, significant changes in heart rate and blood pressure, as well as seizures. If you think your pet has swallowed this medication, contact your veterinarian

                        As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!  Please remember the following important tips to avoid deadly drug overdoses for your family pet:

1)      Store your medications in a different location than your pet’s medications - avoid accidentally giving your pills to your pet!

2)      Careful placement of weekly pill dispensers – these rattle and resemble chew     toys. Your pet could be exposed to a week’s worth of medication all at once, resulting in a much higher overdose.

3)      Be mindful of how and where you pack drugs for travel – avoid putting medicine in plastic baggies that are not pet-proof (nor child-proof!).  Women who carry medications in purses should not place handbags where pets may gain access to deadly drugs stored in them.

4)      When handling individual doses of drugs, do so without your pet nearby – accidentally dropped doses are quickly confiscated and ingested by pets under your feet. Immediately locate and safely dispose of any dropped medications.

                If your pet ingests human medication, as with any overdose or other emergency, time is of the essence!  Promptly call your veterinarian for instructions.  Listen carefully as your veterinarian may instruct you to make your pet vomit at home to expediently remove the potential poison from your pet’s stomach. 

               Most importantly, inquire about your veterinarian’s after hours emergency policies BEFORE you have an emergency.  Post your veterinarian’s phone number in a conspicuous location near your phone or enter it in your speed dialing.  Know where to go for emergency care and who will be seeing your pet in the event of a drug overdose or any other emergency.

Author: Dr. Bonnie Jones
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Watson and Fred, Best Friends Forever


   “Tell Watson ‘Hi’ for me.”  That was the last thing I said to Fred as he drifted off to sleep.

                        It had been a long time since we first met.  Although I can’t remember the year, I do remember the moment.  One morning during chores, there on a ledge by a horse stall where the usual cats ate, was a stranger---a scruffy, half-grown tiger.  When he saw me see him, he scurried away.

                        Over the next couple of weeks, there were multiple sightings of the skittish cat.  Then one day I spied him on the ledge not looking so good, even for him.  Listless, his hair coat a mess, he was not putting weight on one of his front paws.  As I approached, he didn’t run and actually let me touch him.  His paw was huge, reddened, obviously painful, and infected. 

                        Surprisingly, he accepted my help and antibiotic treatment, and seemed to enjoy being petted.  Within a few days, the paw was much improved, and I had a new little barn buddy.  Just like that, “Fred the Fraidy Cat” became “Fred the Friendly Dude.” 

                        I don’t know if the paw injury was the result of a cat bite, and Fred learned a valuable lesson, or if he truly was the proverbial lion with the thorn.  But, for the rest of his life, he got along exceedingly well with every cat he encountered---no conflicts, no confrontations, no drama.

                        Perhaps his biggest claim to fame is that he was the best friend of Watson, “the greatest cat that ever lived,” a well-deserved title bestowed upon him by his rodentophobic owner.  Though the two cats were similar physically -Watson was an orange tiger, Fred a dark brown ; Watson never weighed more than six pounds, Fred no more than seven--- they had widely divergent philosophies of life,  specifically, rodent life.

                        Watson was a killer, Fred, a pacifist.  Watson never met a mouse he wouldn’t eat.  Fred never met a mouse he would.  Maybe that’s why they were pals.  They didn’t compete for prey.  Heck, Fred didn’t even participate.

                        I mix my sheep feed by hand in five gallon buckets.  Occasionally, a mouse will climb into an empty bucket, then not be able to get out.  Watson, the perfect size to drop into the bucket, always emerged with a mouse in his mouth - on rare occasions, sometimes two.  Fred, on the other hand, would jump out faster than I imagine even I would, and I’m a pretty jumpy rodentophobe.

                        In spite of these jitters, however, a couple of times after a Fred bailout, and I’d like to think because of his influence, I tipped the bucket over and let the mouse escape.  Fred was right.  Some of them are kind of cute.

                        An incident that occurred in our hay mow one afternoon further illustrates their opposing ways.  Fred was close by when I lifted a bale of straw.  I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the mouse, but my girlie scream alerted Watson who was down on the barn floor.  The poor frightened mouse crawled underneath Fred, who never moved.  Within seconds, Watson somehow ricocheted off some boards, scaled a wire panel, hoisted himself over the lipped edge of the mow, pushed Fred aside, and did what we could not.

                        It wasn’t a proud moment for either of us.  Watson didn’t care, though.  He accepted both Fred and me for our rodent foibles.  In turn, Fred never judged him for his murderous passion.  I guess that’s what friends do.

                        Watson passed away several years ago beside a rose bush behind our garage, and was buried on the spot.  Five months ago, we diagnosed Fred with kidney failure, a common condition of older cats.  For the last few weeks of his life, Fred spent a great deal of time around the grave.  It became his new, favorite hangout.  Four weeks ago, Fred joined Watson on the other side of the bush.

                        Best friends in life, they are together again beneath the rose, and, I hope, wherever kitty heaven is. 

Author:  Dr. John Jones
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Stolen Stories

                        I still can’t get into those sheep parasites, either figuratively or literally.   Well, maybe literally.  It seems like some days I’m up to my neck in them…literally.

                        Avid readers of these columns will know that for the last six months or so, my columns have been more on the entertaining side rather than educational.  I’d like to think they had some merit even though they were somewhat lacking in pure veterinary knowledge.  I guess manopause will do that to you.

                        Today’s column, however, is no different.  I have decided to bring you two more installments from my “stolen story” collection.  These were in some old Draft Horse Journals I was reading, and were just space-fillers.  Although not really veterinary-related, one is medical in content and the other does refer to animals at the end.  I thought they were interesting, and fall into the “stuff you should know” category.

                        Our first story begins with a rich, English nobleman enjoying a carriage ride through the countryside late in the century before last.  His drive came to an abrupt halt, however, when one of the carriage wheels was broken by a hole in the road.  Not being a handy man himself, he was dismayed by his predicament.

                         Fortunately, along came a peasant farmer and his young son who fixed the wheel for him.  The rich man was very grateful and wanted to pay the poor man for his services, but the farmer refused.  The rich man offered again and was again refused.  The rich man looked at the boy and made one final offer that could not be refused. “Let me take your son, raise him as my own, and I will give him the finest education possible so that he can have a better life.”  Reluctantly and sadly, the farmer agreed.  That simple decision would have world-changing effects.

                        The rich man was true to his word.  The boy was raised, educated and became a doctor…and a knight.  That peasant boy was Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.

                        But, our story doesn’t end here.  One of the first beneficiaries of this new miracle drug was his adopted brother, the real son of the man who raised him, whose life was threatened by a raging infection.  Lord Churchill was extremely thankful that his son Winston’s life was spared.

                        While not really veterinary-related (even though it does deal with penicillin and bulldogs), this story does have a good message.  Rich people should always be nice to poor people, and poor people should always be nice to rich people---because you just never know.  We all should try to live by this.
                        Have you ever wondered why railroad tracks are as far apart as they are?  When the railway system was first built in this country, British engineers were imported to help with the plans.  They, of course, based our system on theirs in England.  Their railroad system in turn was based on their trolley program.  The first railroad cars were built by the people who built trolleys.  The original trolleys had been built by wagon makers.  The wagon makers always built their wagons to very strict design specifications regarding the width between the wheels.  Much variance in this width usually resulted in broken wheels.

                        Why?  Ruts in the roads were the culprits.  If the wheels went in and out of these ruts, they were more likely to break. It was easier just to make them the same width as the ruts so everything moved smoothly.

                        What made these ruts in the roads of Britain in the first place?  The wheels of Roman chariots. Our whole railroad system is based on the distance between these Roman chariot wheels, which in turn were based on the width of the rear ends of two horses.

                        Talk about not thinking outside the box…it makes you wonder how we ever got to the moon!  Maybe this story is a testament to mankind’s steadfast resolve to not only improve on what we know, but also to eventually break out of the ruts and shoot for the stars.  Or maybe the moral is to not stand behind horses…or in front of chariots.  I don’t recommend either.

                        Next time we will tackle those parasites…I think.  Just in case, if you have any questions, maybe you should give me a call.

Author:  Dr. John Jones
Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Stink-Free Party

I thoroughly enjoy throwing parties. The more people I have to create memories with and become better friends with the merrier. I also appreciate a good themed party. I have hosted a variety of parties from going away parties, birthday parties, TV show finale parties, game playing parties, movie watching parties, etc. Some would say I don’t need an excuse to host a party — but my most memorable excuse for a party was the “Marty McFly’s teeth don’t stink” party.

Marty McFly is my little senior citizen terrier mix. He is the perfect dog for my lifestyle. He is low key, quiet, sleeps a lot but is always ready to go for a walk and rarely meets someone he isn’t genuinely excited to meet. Marty is generally agreeable in all important matters of social decorum. But being true to little terrier form his dental health is lacking. To put it frankly — he can clear a room with his dragon-breath. It never ceases to amaze me how foul an odor can come from such a small source. This is particularly embarrassing when I have new friends over for one of my aforementioned parties.

There are a variety of products available to help in the fight against pet dental diseases including toothpastes, toothbrushes, dental treats, chews and even prescription foods. I am a veterinarian and I must admit that I have trouble remembering to brush Marty’s teeth daily. To some of you — it may seem completely ridiculous to have to brush a dog’s teeth. But trust me when I say that it makes a huge difference in your interaction with a fresh-breathed pet than when I am interacting with my otherwise lovable but foul-mouthed Marty.

I always recommend “pet toothpaste” for pets — using human toothpaste on dogs and cats can make them sick. There are often a selection of brands and flavors of pet toothpaste to choose from at pet stores or other retailers. At our clinic we carry two flavors of toothpaste. I prefer the “Vanilla Mint” flavor as it makes Marty’s breath smell a great deal better (at least temporarily). However, he must hate having minty fresh breath and fights me more with that than when I use the “Poultry” flavored paste.

We also carry a product called a “Fingerbrush.” It’s a plastic cap for your fingertip that has short sturdy bristles on one side that you can use to get the pet toothpaste to the surface of your pet’s teeth. I like it in particular because it’s made of sturdy enough stuff that it protects my finger from Marty’s bite. You can also use regular pet toothbrushes, an old clean sock or even long handled pet toothbrushes.

Dental health for pets is analogous to car maintenance. If you keep up on the routine maintenance for your car with regular oil changes and check ups — it will be cheaper in the long run and cause fewer headaches than if you let it go without. If you don’t keep up with your dog or cat’s dental health — you are asking for a potentially more expensive dental cleaning bill and more health problems for your pet.

Dental cleanings are recommended yearly for most adult pets. They are more than just getting your dog’s teeth brushed at the groomer (which is what you’re supposed to be doing daily). Dental cleanings involve putting your pet under general anesthesia, a dental exam by a trained veterinary professional, high-speed scaling and polishing of every tooth’s surface and extraction of any infected, loose or rotten teeth. Some clinics also perform dental x-rays for a full assessment of your pet’s dental health. We also use dental sealants to help with longer term dental tartar prevention.

The “Marty McFly’s teeth don’t stink” party was the day after one of his regular dental cleanings. My party guests each received dental themed gift bags — much like you get at your regular dentist appointments but with more flair. We had mint-flavored foods and drinks and reveled in Marty’s healthy breath smell. The “dragon-breath” that Marty has become infamous for is due to calculus and bacterial build up within his mouth. These bacteria may affect his overall health and may shorten his life-span. Owners who are able to brush their pet’s teeth regularly are not guaranteed a fresh-breathed, no-dental-cleaning-needed pet. However, they are much more likely to require less extractions at dental cleanings, have better overall health and you certainly won’t need to throw a party to celebrate a feat such as “his teeth don’t stink” unless of course you’re looking for an excuse for a good themed party.
Author:  Dr. Marisa Tong

Thursday, December 4, 2014

See Your Pet’s Eye Health More Clearly


                         I get great pleasure when pets make direct eye contact with “their people” and me as that demonstrates their confidence, sociability, and desire to please.  When your pet gazes into your eyes, why not take a good look back at his?  You may be surprised at what you see.

                        One of the most common eye problems that veterinarians observe is cysts of the eyelash oil glands called meibomian gland tumors.  These irregular, benign, small growths located along the eyelid margin can grow big enough to irritate the eye or impede vision.  Not only are they unsightly, these cysts can become infected, painful and messy.  Depending on size and location, your veterinarian will recommend the proper course of action to remove your pet’s cyst.

                        “Cherry Eye” is a term applied to another common eye condition frequently diagnosed in certain dog breeds including Cocker Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Poodles, and English Bulldogs.  This condition can be genetic and originates from an increase in size of the cells of the lacrimal or tear gland located on the third eyelid. The enlarged gland appears as a red bump in the lower, inside corner of the eye that looks like a small cherry.  This condition can be unsightly, uncomfortable, and persistent so surgical correction is recommended. 

                        If your pet’s eyes appear “sticky” with mucus and red all the time, it could be experiencing “Dry Eye,” or Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS).  A pet’s tear film consists of a fluid portion and a mucus portion. In KCS cases, the fluid portion is insufficient thus more mucus accumulates in response.  Dry eye is treatable, but it is critical to intervene early in its course to minimize discomfort and permanent pigment changes that steal vision. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe a cyclosporine eye medication to treat this condition.

                        Feline patients that are inadequately vaccinated and go outdoors will often experience conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the lining of the eye similar to human “Pink Eye.”  Multiple, infectious causes exist for feline conjunctivitis including feline herpes and calici viruses and the feline Chlamydia organism.  Your veterinarian is protecting your cat against these organisms each time she vaccinates it with the distemper/upper respiratory combination vaccine. 

                        Please note that once infected with feline herpes, your cat may become a lifelong carrier and may develop permanent eye lesions or frequent conjunctivitis episodes.  Like herpes virus, feline Chlamydia also tends to occur in a carrier state, resulting in intermittent recurrences when the cat’s immune system is at a low.  Feline Chlamydia can be contagious to humans, causing a painful redness and swelling of your eyelids. Always remember to use good sanitation when handling a cat with “sore eyes!” Ask your veterinarian about treatment choices and L-lysine supplements to minimize your cat’s conjunctivitis flare-ups.

                        Injuries to the eyeball and eyelids are other reasons pets are presented to veterinarians.  These can vary from minor, traumatic punctures or scratches of the corneal surface, and eyelid lacerations, to the “granddaddy” of all eye injuries, the “proptosed” eyeball. 

                        Proptosis of the eye occurs when a pet experiences a blow to the head or eye area that causes the globe to be displaced in front of the eyelids.  The entrapment of the ocular nerve and blood supply as well as unusual exposure of the entire eye makes this condition a true emergency. Timely correction of this problem is crucial to the vitality and vision of the eye.  Seek veterinary advice and attention immediately!

                        Common causes of proptosed eyes include automobile injuries and animal fights, but this condition is also much more likely to occur in breeds with prominent, large eyes such as Shih tzus, Pekingese, Chinese Pugs, Boston Terriers, French and English Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos and Persian Cats. 

                        With these eye opening ocular conditions in mind, I recommend that every pet owner add a bottle of eye irrigating solution to their pet first aid kit.  For just a few dollars, this “eye wash” solution can be instrumental in removing foreign matter such as hair, plant material, and wood from the eye.  Keeping a pet’s proptosed eye moist with eye wash until arrival at a veterinary facility is also extremely helpful.

                        Bear in mind that your veterinarian can detect diseases such as diabetes, cancer, glaucoma, high blood pressure, and kidney disease by thorough examination of the front and back of your pet’s eyes, the windows for internal health. Be certain your veterinarian performs a “fundic exam” on your pet’s eyes at each wellness exam (“twice a year for life!”).  Give your pet’s eyes more than a glance and you will clearly see their beauty and importance. 
Author:  Dr. Bonnie Jones

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Close Encounters of the Bat Kind

           One evening, five column cycles ago, while sitting at the kitchen table researching the Irish origins of Tamworth pigs, I was startled by the presence of my own red-haired lass standing in the doorway to my right. Bonnie, trembling and unable to speak, had the most horrific look on her face. My first thought, and I think I even asked, was “Who died?”
            After a short eternity, the words finally came. “There’s a bat in our bathroom.”

            I sprang from my chair, immediately went into “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” mode, and raced up the stairs to engage the menacing creature. No way was I going to revert to my cowardly past, not this time, anyway.

            The bat, however, was gone. “Why didn’t you close the door?!” I asked perhaps a bit snidely, especially in light of Bonnie’s fragile state. Of all people, I guess I figured she should have known better. After all, this wasn’t our first bat rodeo.

            That incident, also, involved a door- a closet door, and I somehow managed to find myself on the inside- the safe side, while Bonnie was trapped on the bat side. This particular husbandly infraction has probably been forgiven over the last 28 years, but I can assure you, it hasn’t been forgotten.

            A quick look about the bedroom revealed no bat, so I began to search the other bedrooms, only to be pulled back to the first by Bonnie’s scream. The tiny bat was hanging from one of the decorative handles on my dresser. Now what to do!
            I found an empty two-gallon milk replacer bucket in the garage, complete with lid. Our plan was for me to place the bucket over the bat, while Bonnie would slide the lid between the dresser and him. She was a tad aggressive on her initial attempt, squishing the bat against the dresser.  We didn’t need a sonar detector to realize he wasn’t pleased. Round two was successful, though, with the unwelcome ball of hair,” hiss”, and leather, plopping gently into the bucket.

            At some point during the melee, Bonnie asked me this question, and I’m not really sure why: “Did you know there was a bat in the house?” I answered the best I could.”Umm…umm… uhh.”  Was my “bravery” that suspicious?
            A few nights before, I was in the family room watching television through my eyelids, when I was awakened by the “whoop, whoop, whoop” of a small helicopter flying above me. I had heard this sound once before- the bat encounter of 1986, but by the time I rousted myself, all I could see was some sort of flying object leaving the room with our cats, Jobey and Ruthie, close behind.

            The trio traveled through the parlor, across the foyer, and into the dining room. When I caught up, only the two felines were present, lying exhausted on the rug, panting with their mouths open. The UFO was nowhere to be found. I had hoped it was just a giant moth. Evidently, I was wrong, and now you know my fling with courage at the beginning of the column may have been influenced by a double dose of guilty conscience.
            I’m not really sure why Bonnie was so upset, but I think it had to do with our home sanctuary being violated, even if the intruder was only a little brown bat. Admittedly, I felt this way to a certain extent, but I also knew we had nothing to worry about. Although bats in this area have the potential to carry rabies, my wife and I were vaccinated against this virus as veterinary students, and all of our pets are vaccinated as well.

            Have your pets had their rabies “shots”? Most dog owners vaccinate their dogs for rabies, as it is the law in many counties, but many cat owners balk at vaccinating their housecats. “The cat never goes outside,” they say. With a bat, the outside comes in, and I can attest, the first thing a cat will do is try to catch it.
            More importantly, for you human readers, if you encounter a bat in your home, contact your local health department to have the bat tested for rabies, and assess the risk of exposure to you and your family. If necessary, rabies preventive treatments should begin without delay.

            Rabies kills more than 55,000 people worldwide every year, 20,000 in India. The first known human survivor of clinical rabies was a six-year old boy from Willshire, Ohio, who suffered a bat bite to his thumb in 1970. There haven’t been many survivors since.  
            Please don’t let down your guard against this deadly disease. And for goodness sakes, vaccinate those crazy bat-chasing cats!    

Author:  Dr. John Jones
Image courtesy of panuruangjan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Senior Citizens and Pets Share Golden Lives Together

              Many know I have a special affection for senior pets.  I love “golden oldies” because by nature they have greater health care needs.  As such, senior pet care is where veterinarians have an opportunity to excel and employ their best education and communication abilities.
               Perhaps the most essential trait for a veterinarian to possess is indeed exceptional communication skills.  A large part of our day after all, is spent talking to and teaching proper pet care to pet owners.    I enjoy this part of my job, especially when it comes to senior citizens, for whom I also have a special affection.   For me, it doesn’t get any better than a visit with a senior citizen who owns a senior pet.

                                I love that senior citizens appreciate and experience the benefits of pet ownership.  However, I have been troubled by two events that transpired more than once recently. 

                                Because I am growing older with my senior clients, I am also experiencing their passing.  I am saddened by their departure, for their loved ones, for myself, and for their pets that are missing them.  Many times there is a surviving significant other who readily steps in to continue the pet’s care and love.  However, it is sometimes obvious that the survivor was not as active in the pet’s care.
                                While this may seem at first like a sad scenario, it tends to turn out well as the significant other quickly learns the pet’s quirks, routines and needs.  A strong bond is readily born out of the common loss of a loved one.  And, grief seems to be more readily diminished by the distraction of caring for another’s beloved and needy pet.  Veterinarians can be instrumental in fostering this relationship by assisting the survivor with knowledge about the pet’s veterinary needs, habits and temperament.

                                The second event I have had recently was during visits with senior citizens who commented that their current pets would be their last. When each verbalized these sentiments, my heart sank, not only for the potential loss of my relationship with the pet’s owner, but for the absence of a pet in the aging owner’s life. 
                               I am an obvious observer of the role pets play in human lives, especially older pet owners.  I have the ongoing honor and privilege to witness the power of pets as they improve the health and well-being of their “pet parents.”  Pets make us exercise our mind, body and hearts.  They give us purpose, a reason to wake up, and a routine to carry out. Yet their most powerful role is in the completion of the human- animal bond, an indescribable phenomenon that I see and enjoy on a daily basis.

                                So when my senior clients lament that a pet will be their last, my soap box quickly appears and I sharpen my communication skills.  Growing older does not need to be the end of pet ownership.  On the contrary, it needs to be the beginning.   Senior citizens can and should reap the benefits of adopting "older" pets, most of which reside in shelters nearly four times longer than their younger counterparts. 

                                Older pets come with some important advantages.  They are already housetrained, past the puppy chewing stage, and are usually calmer with lower energy.  Older pet parents become fully engaged in their pet’s care, too, which results in mood elevation, lower blood pressure and weight loss through increased exercise.
                                Part two of my soapbox speech then addresses the senior citizen’s next concern for “who will care for my pet when something happens to me.”  I respond to this query by explaining that, like many veterinarians, I have seen this situation before, and things always have a way of working out. 

                               What tends to happen is friends and family members realize how important the pet is or was to their loved one and will step up to care for the pet themselves or place them with someone they know and trust.  In the absence of prior arrangements (which I highly encourage), numerous agencies and breed rescue groups will assist in expediently placing pets in good homes.  And, yes, sometimes veterinarians and their staff adopt their older clients’ pets, too!
                                Aging pet owners are among the very best pet caregivers.  They deserve the love and happiness that pets bring to them.  For me, adopting a pet when you are in your senior period is a no-brainer.  If you love pets, don’t let growing older be the death of the human-animal bond.  Instead, rejoice in it.  I promise you will never regret it.

This column, authored by Dr. Bonnie Jones, is in memory of Bill Henze, Evelyn Schmidt, Joan Frankhouser and Jan Steiner.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Second Chance for Bandi

                                I still can’t believe I almost did it.  Her right paw was in my left hand, the syringe filled with pink solution in my right.  My assistant was holding off the vein, and the alcohol applied.  Up to that point, I had purposely avoided eye contact, but then felt she deserved a good look at the man who would kill her.  Damn!  Things began to get blurry.  I quickly capped the needle while I could, swallowed hard a couple of times, and squeaked out to Mr. Miller, “Can I have her?”
                        That year had been a hard one for me, my wife, and our canine family.  The tragic loss of “Jake” in March was followed by the death of his father, “Jack,” to a brain tumor two months later.  The decision to save Bandi was made quickly, without regard to marital repercussions.  But none were coming.  My wife felt the emptiness in our life and home as much as I did.

                        When 1999 began, we were the proud owners of three Border Collies and that spoiled, little Corgi Bonnie always writes about.  The four of them had a somewhat annoying habit of racing through the house to the back door whenever they thought it was time to “potty outside,” and that behavior could be triggered by anything from turning off the TV to folding up a newspaper.  It’s funny the things you don’t think you’ll miss until they are gone.  Some would say they were “just dogs,” but to a childless couple, they were much more than that.  To lose half of them in such a short time was devastating.

                        Readers of this column may recall that euthanasias are not my favorite things to do, so you can imagine my dread when I saw Bandi’s appointment scheduled that early December morning.

                        I had known the Miller family for several years.  They were mostly large animal clients, and it had been some time since I had seen Bandi.  The old Border Collie was now overweight, with a terrific set of love handles, and stiff joints.  She also had a large, ulcerated growth on her side.

                        Mr. Miller said his family had talked and decided Bandi didn’t want to make it through another winter.  I remember chuckling to myself, “Did she really say that?” But knowing that this was a difficult decision for them to make, I did not share that thought.

                        Then I saw the spark in her eyes that told me she still had a lot of life left in her.  Fortunately, Mr. Miller seemed relieved by the request and responded with a resounding “Yes!”

                        I asked about her diet and if she was housebroken.  He said Bandi spent some time in their house, but actually preferred living outside, where she slept in the mulch.

                        When we got home that afternoon, the first thing Bandi did was head for the bushes and roll in the mulch.  I brushed her off as best I could, and took her inside to see her “new digs.”  We walked through the kitchen to the family room where she spotted Jack’s favorite, green lounge chair.  Without hesitation, she hopped on, curled up, and gave me a “this will do fine” look.  Just like that, Bandi “Miller” became Bandi “Jones,” and she never laid in the mulch again.

                        Blood- testing revealed that Bandi had heartworms and hypothyroidism. She handled the heartworm treatment well and sailed through her growth removal surgery. Her arthritis responded to anti-inflammatories and joint supplements, and she lost some weight on her new diet and thyroid medication. But the “love handles” remained forever.

                        Even though a Border Collie, sheep were of no interest to her, nor were ducks or Frisbees, for that matter.  She did enjoy going for walks, eager in spite of her stiff gait, and always carried her head and tail high.  Bandi never had a cross word for her new siblings, and was probably the happiest dog we’ve owned.  Giving her a second chance was one of the best things I have ever done.

                        As the autumn of her final year turned to winter, Bandi began to exhibit many of the same symptoms as Jack---dullness, some dementia, and she had her first seizure.  Whenever an older dog suddenly develops seizures, brain cancer is almost always the cause.  Bandi’s condition deteriorated rapidly.

                        On the night of December 9, 2004, after an especially bad seizure, her eyes finally said she didn’t want to make it through another winter.  Although we only had Bandi for five years, there were no regrets.  She filled a void in our hearts, and a chair in our home.  And she did both very well.

                        Thank you Miller family for letting us adopt Bandi.

Author:  Dr. John Jones
Image courtesy of Rosemary Ratcliff at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

‘Tis the Season to Give Thanks

                        As veterinarians, we tend to collect “special needs” pets that become members of our family.  Our household currently consists of three dogs and two cats.  While the dog acquisitions were purposeful adoptions of healthy puppies, the cats entered our lives because of their medical needs. 

                        “Stinky” is our orange tiger cat that has an underdeveloped coordination center in his brain.  He came to our office at six weeks of age with horrible, smelly diarrhea (thus the name “Stinky”) and the inability to walk.  One might look at his plight and consider it incompatible with a comfortable lifestyle…not my husband.  With a special affection for orange tabbies, he convinced the owner to donate the cat to us, treated his diarrhea, and gave him a home.

                        Nine years later, Stinky still can’t walk nor stand unassisted.  We carry him everywhere he goes, including to the litter pan and his feeding station. He does boast a few war wounds (broken teeth, broken ear cartilage) from his occasional efforts to move independently that result in “flops” on the floor.  Last year he developed foul diarrhea yet again.  After multiple, messy litter pan trips followed by several partial baths, we finally concluded that his diagnosis was Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  Stinky now eats a high fiber cat food and receives a low dose of steroids every other day to keep his stools firm.

                        “Ruthie,” our calico cat, entered our lives two years ago when one of our clients rescued her roadside.  When this woman entered our office with a pathetic, small, multi-colored, fluff ball, she was fortunate to encounter my husband.  His knee-jerk response was to blurt out that we would be glad to take what appeared to be a three month old kitten off her hands.

                         In actuality, Ruthie was pushing six months old, dwarfed by a vascular anomaly that shunts blood inappropriately around or through her liver.  Ruthie must eat a special prescription diet and receives a laxative to facilitate rapid removal of food by-products that might intoxicate her. While we aspire to prevent diarrhea for Stinky, we intentionally create sloppy stools for Ruthie!

                        Many know that my Pembroke Welsh Corgi, “Bunny,” is the love of my life and that she is “perfect” in every way…well, except for snacking on the occasional cat “tootsie roll.”  Bunny’s streak of “perfection” was interrupted several years ago by eyelid paralysis, a manifestation of her inadequate thyroid function.  She has been taking thyroid replacement medication for years and has enjoyed very good health since.

                        The other loves of our lives are our Border Collies that continuously remind us why they are deemed the most intelligent dog breed.  “Robbie” and “Jimmy” are half-siblings that are three years apart in age.  Jimmy showed persistent lameness in his left shoulder as a young puppy and was diagnosed with shoulder dysplasia.  He enjoys his glucosamine chondroitin daily “treat” and has been working comfortably at his “job” tending our sheep flock for almost three years.

                        Robbie…well, she’s another story.  She is, by far, the best working Border Collie that we have ever owned.  Sadly, she also has the worst chronic illness that we have had to treat for our own pets.  Robbie has epilepsy, an unfortunate, genetic defect of her breed.  She has also been among the most difficult to control epileptic patients that I have treated over the last 25 years.  Her seizures did not begin until she was three years old.  Now six years of age, she continues to have seizures monthly, often experiencing “clusters” over a few days each time they occur.

                        One pattern we discovered is that Robbie would often have seizures after a period of separation from us.  As a result, arranging “get-a-ways,” short or long, became problematic, not to mention the worry and guilt of burdening our pet caregivers with her “special needs.”  Robbie also tends to seize during periods of deep sleep which often makes for a short night for all of us. We continue to struggle with adjusting medication doses and trying new drug combinations to control her epilepsy. 

                        As I contemplate our kitchen counter cluttered with multiple bottles of pet medications, daily pill boxes (for the pets, not us), pill splitters, and syringes, I am thankful that I am a veterinarian.  But, I am also thankful that I have pets.  If you choose to own pets, you must commit to ALL of their health care needs.  The payback is ten-fold as they give much more than they receive. 

                        Happy holidays from this thankful pet owner and veterinarian!
Author:  Dr. Bonnie Jones
Image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net