Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tip the Scale in Favor of Your Pet

As I sit at my kitchen table enjoying dinner, I look down and see a pair of big, puppy dog eyes staring back at me. Our eyes lock and his tail begins to wag at an immeasurable speed. I look away quickly, thinking he will forget I am eating. Not a chance! Next comes a paw scratching at my leg as more persistent pleading begins.

Sound familiar? Do not be embarrassed if you have found yourself in a similar situation. Many people, myself included, have fed their pets from the table. Why do we do this if we know it is bad for them? 

Of course we want our pets to live long, healthy lives. We must therefore show them tough love and focus on feeding them appropriately.

What does “feeding appropriately” mean? It is more than not feeding them human food from the table. You can over feed your pet with its own food, too. In fact, this is how my husband and I found ourselves entering one of our own dogs in the Delphos Animal Hospital’s “Biggest Loser” competition. Both of us were filling his bowl inappropriately and, after a short amount of time, our poor dog fattened up. Our hearts sank when we finally weighed him.

Our plan of attack was to gradually wean him on to a “light” or “reduced calorie” dog food.  Each meal is now carefully measured as well. I am happy to say that in just a few weeks we have seen progress and are certain that our dog has a chance at winning the Biggest Loser competition.

Please don’t make the same mistake we did. Take action now and be smart when it comes to feeding your pet. Eliminate human food, limit treats, and increase your pet’s exercise.

Also, read the feeding guideline on your pet’s food bag if you are unsure how much to feed. Keep in mind these guidelines are designed for what pets should weigh. For example, if your dog weighs 100 pounds, but should weigh 80 pounds, be certain to use the 80 pound dog feeding guideline.

If you are not sure what your pet's ideal body weight is you can use some visual clues to help you determine if it is over (or under) weight.

 1) Is it difficult to feel/see the ribs and/or spine?
 2) Can you see a waistline? 
 3) Does your pet have a sagging belly?

 Veterinarians also use a weight grading system called a Body Condition Score (BCS) to determine a pet’s healthy weight on a numerical scale of 1-5.  Your veterinarian will weigh your pet at each visit to help you adjust its diet and lifestyle to achieve an optimal BCS.

Where does your pet fall on the BCS scale? An easy way to tell is by feeling and looking at the rib cage.

1 (emaciated) = ribs are visible from a distance
2 (thin) = ribs are easily felt and may be visible
3 (moderate) = ribs are palpable without excess fat covering them
4 (stout) = can feel the ribs, but have to push hard
5 (obese) = large fat deposits cover the ribs

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s health or weight, seek the advice of your veterinarian.  Tip the scale in favor of your pet living a longer, healthier life by making it a Biggest Loser, too.

 Author: Dr. Tracy Lee Strauer

Thursday, January 9, 2014

What if Dr. Who was a Veterinarian?

It’s that time of year again. That “Holy smokes! Christmas is over and a new year is starting — where did the time go?” time of year. It’s shocking to think how fast time goes by. I am told on a regular basis from older family members and friends that time only goes faster as you age. It makes you wish you had a way to slow things down, enjoying more quality time with family and friends. It kind of makes me wish I had a time machine.

If you were to poll my family and friends, there are a few things that they would all be likely to tell you about me. One thing for certain would be repeated: “Marisa loves ‘Doctor Who.’” If you aren’t familiar with it, “Doctor Who” is a British TV show that started in 1963. It is about the adventures of an alien time-traveler and his human traveling companions. “The Doctor” has a time machine, and they fly about time and space and combat many evil forces.

I often wonder how much easier my job would be if I had a time machine. I think about the evil forces of infection, parasites, tumors and organ failure that I could defeat. I could travel back in time and stop my arch nemeses before they affected the pets in our families. Perhaps, some would argue, that would be a poor use of time travel in the big picture. But certainly it would make me a happier veterinarian and bring about healthier and happier times with our pets. I think it would make the world a better place. Happy pets mean happier owners.

If you think about it, we have a way to combat those particular medical evil forces in our current time. Medical testing with early detection is often the key to winning the battle with many diseases. We have routine medical tests, such as heartworm tests, organ profiles, complete blood cell counts, X-rays, fecal tests and countless other tools at our disposal. If we don’t use the proper screening available, many diseases will continue to ruin our beloved pets’ quality of life and decrease their lifespans.

Consider how many issues we could avoid if we were more proactive in our pets’ medical care. We could eradicate all flea infestations in homes around the world if we all would use proper monthly flea control for our cats and dogs. Ending the flea epidemic worldwide would certainly be a victory over one of veterinary medicine’s arch enemies. I can’t tell you how many cat owners tell me that they don’t use flea control for their cat because the kitty stays inside completely. That’s when I run a flea-comb through their itchy indoor kitty’s fur, and I inevitably find flea dirt and live fleas. I would take my time machine back to before the first flea found that furry friend and stop the infestation before thousands of flea eggs were dispersed in the environment.

Getting your pets spayed or neutered is also a great way to avoid many diseases. One deadly example of a common disease affecting intact female dogs and cats is a disease called pyometra. Pyometra is a uterine infection. It can affect any un-spayed female and usually happens a few weeks to months after a heat cycle. This is a life-threatening disease and can make a female dog very ill surprisingly quickly. The best way to avoid the uterine infection altogether is to get your dog or cat spayed at an appropriate age, usually as a six-month old puppy or kitten.

Owners of pets with pyometra often tell me, “I wish we would have gotten her spayed when she was little.” When people are faced with an avoidable life-threatening diagnosis, it is usually then that everyone wishes that they had done something about it earlier. They don’t even know it, but they are wishing to use that time machine.

As much as I enjoy the idea of traveling time and space with “The Doctor” to fix my patients’ problems before they begin, time travel is not possible. We can only use the best tools we have at hand to ensure that our pets lead healthier and happier lives. If we all would act sooner and not procrastinate when it comes to regular veterinary care, more diseases would be detected earlier, parasitic infections could be prevented and deadly infections such as pyometra could be avoided. If that were the case that imaginary time machine could be used for some other good, such as watching all of the future episodes of “Downton Abbey.”

Author:  Dr. Marisa Tong