Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Cat of Many Colors

                                    Ruthie is quite a cat.  More dog than cat really, at least behaviorally, she is named in honor of our adopted office mother, “Big Ruthie” Michael.

                        My first encounter with little Ruthie occurred at our reception desk one afternoon last fall.  A lady exited her car carrying a small bundle.  I recognized her as one of our clients who owns a Golden Retriever, but this was definitely not a large dog she was carrying.  As she walked through the door, the “mystery” was revealed---a tiny, longhaired, calico kitten with distinct copper eyes.

                        She found the kitten by the side of the highway.  Not knowing what to do, she brought it to our office.  “We’ll find her a home,” I exclaimed.  When Ruthie started to purr when I picked her up, I knew full well that I just had.

                        A recent near death run-in with a rat had put me on the recruiting trail for more barn cats.  I rationalized that this little fluff of multi-colored hair would grow up to be an ardent rodent killer and protector of my soul. Plus, there was something about this kitten that I liked.  Maybe it was because she liked me.

                        Ruthie spent the next few days in our office, building up her little body before beginning her new career in the barn.  She loved being petted and held, with those orange eyes staring down anyone in their path to do so.

                        Ruthie seemed to enjoy barn life.  She followed me around, albeit slowly, while I did my chores.  Once I found her in a pen of lambs being “schmoozed” by several at the same time.  I could tell she literally thought she was “the cat’s meow.”  However, it soon became evident something was not quite right with Ruthie.  She would have “spells” where she became very listless with some spittle on her chin, and at times even acted blind.  But, she always recovered and became “Ruthie” again.

                        One Sunday morning my wife came out to the barn.  A short time later I saw her leaving with Ruthie.

                        “Hey, where are you taking my cat?”  I heard her mutter something about “Ruthie’s not barn cat material.”

                        As much as she liked the barn, Ruthie enjoyed living in the house even more.  Being the center of attention apparently agreed with her.  Her “spells” became more frequent and dramatic, however, and usually occurred after she ate.  Often, ropes of saliva would dangle from her mouth.  This is called ptyalism and, unfortunately, it is a hallmark sign of a congenital liver condition called a portosystemic shunt.  And her “spells”---a fancy medical term for this is hepatoencephalopathy.  Also, these cats frequently have copper-colored eyes and are small in size.

                        One of our textbooks describes a portosystemic shunt as “an abnormal communication between the portal and systemic venous systems that allows intestinal blood to be delivered to the systemic circulation prior to hepatic detoxification.”  In English, this means that blood carrying digestive by-products, including ammonia from the breakdown of protein in her food, is not being filtered and cleansed by her liver, but is going directly to her brain. In essence, every time she eats, she poisons her brain with ammonia.

                        These shunts can be either extra-hepatic, meaning outside the liver, or intra-hepatic---inside the liver.  The treatment of choice for this condition is surgery, extra-hepatic shunts generally having a more favorable outcome.  My wife consulted a surgeon at Ohio State, one of our old teachers, and he told her the surgical success rate was only about 40% and that there still could be complications.

                        Not wanting to take that risk at this time, we are managing Ruthie’s condition medically, and she seems to be doing well.  She is eating a special diet, Hill’s Prescription Diet Feline L/D, formulated for liver problems.  She is also receiving lactulose, a sugar with laxative effects that increases the speed of ammonia removal through her colon, thus reducing the amount that reaches her brain.

                        Ruthie has grown into a beautiful cat, although we often call her “the third Border Collie.”  She races through the house and romps and wrestles with the “other” dogs at every opportunity. 

                        As I write this column, she is sitting on the edge of the paper on top of the kitchen table, staring at me with those orange eyes.  It’s hard to get mad at her though; she’s just being Ruthie.

                        I don’t know what the future holds for Ruthie, and that sometimes makes me sad.  Overall though, I’m alright with that, because I know we are fulfilling the only real need she ever had---to be loved.  That, she is.

Author:  Dr. John Jones

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do Pets Get Colds?

“Thank you for sharing your cold with me.”

That was the guilt-inducing text message that I recently received from a coworker. Apparently that cold that I’d been dealing with and wishfully telling myself wasn’t contagious while at the same time trying to limit my contact with those around me was, in fact, contagious. Being a veterinarian, I deal with the public every day. And when you deal with the public on a daily basis, you encounter a wide variety of people and an equally wide variety of their germs.

On top of that, as a veterinarian, it’s important that I show up and do my work every day that I am able. People, their pets, my staff and my bosses rely on me being available every day that I’m scheduled to work. So it becomes a judgment call between “taking the day off” to minimize exposure for others and “it’s not that bad” and I can fight through it to perform my duties and help people and their pets.

One question I get on a fairly regular basis is: “Do pets get colds?” I have found that many people don’t realize that cats and dogs can get “colds,” too. Kitty and canine colds are not necessarily caused by the exact same viruses and infections that people are susceptible to. However, pets and people can share some diseases — visit for a list of zoonotic (pet-to-people) diseases.

There are several viruses and bacterial infections that can cause upper respiratory infections in cats and dogs alike. Sneezing, coughing and nasal discharge are some of the major signs that we’ll encounter in our pet patients with colds. Often we will also see eye infections, eye discharge and conjunctivitis. Pets may cough or swallow repeatedly due to post-nasal drip. Many pets will simply be lethargic or not act like themselves and feel “droopy.” They may even hide from family members (especially cats). Some pets will feel so poorly that they will quit eating — which may turn into a potentially life-threatening problem called hepatic lipidosis in cats. Your pet may also become dehydrated if not drinking enough water or taking in enough moisture from food. If these symptoms are not addressed appropriately the upper respiratory infection may become a lower respiratory infection — pneumonia — which can also be a life-threatening concern.

Upper respiratory infections in cats and dogs are commonly caused by viruses that often set up the environment for secondary bacterial infections. Some of these diseases are self-limiting, lasting a couple of weeks but they may also develop life-threatening complications. If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, it is best to contact your veterinarian. Your pet may need medical intervention such as antibiotics (for secondary bacterial infections), appetite stimulants, hand-feeding, fluid therapy, eye ointments or even vaporizing therapies depending on the severity of disease.

Dogs and cats can pick up respiratory infections from other dogs and cats. Nose-to-nose contact is a great way to spread doggy and kitty germs. Areas like dog parks, municipal parks, kennels, boarding and grooming facilities, dog or cat shows, doggy daycare, outdoor cat colonies, veterinary office waiting rooms and even through open windows where outdoor and indoor cats like to interact with each other are potential sources of pet germ spreading. Just as with children going to the school house — when you bring kids together they spread germs among themselves. This is not to say don’t send your kids to school or don’t send Fido to the groomer or that Fluffy needs to live in a bubble. It’s just a fact of life — germs are good at their jobs and their jobs are to spread amongst the population. Germs are most easily spread from contact between hosts.

Even though it’s a controversial topic these days on social media outlets — as with Johnny in the school yard — vaccination for common diseases can help decrease disease spread and increase your pets’ immune system response when it comes in contact with disease. Acting quickly by getting veterinary medical assistance when symptoms develop can also help decrease the severity of signs.

There are a few things all people deal with throughout their life time. No matter who you are, what you believe in, what you do for a living, we all have to deal with sickness at some point. Your pets may not have to worry about calling in sick. But as their owners, we need to be aware of their illnesses to help stop disease spread to other pets and to help them get better by seeking veterinary medical attention as needed.
Author:  Dr. Marisa Tong

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cat Overpopulation


           I have to admit that autumn is my favorite time of year.  For me, the fall season always conjures up images of delightfully plump pumpkins, crisp corn shocks, sweet apple cider, and black “Halloween cats” with their backs maximally arched.  I was on a walk recently with my sister’s Border Collie, “Doogee,” and as the falling leaves swirled about us, we did indeed happen upon a small, black “Halloween cat.”

                        The appearance of this little waif made me begin to ponder the ever present problem of cat overpopulation. Almost on a daily basis, I am asked if I want yet another cat, or if I know of someone who does, or where one might take a homeless cat.

                        The first thought that occurred to me as we were strolling is that, by association, all veterinary professionals (doctors and support staff alike) would seem to be the ideal people to “gift” a stray or unwanted cat to, either openly or anonymously.  The reality is that most veterinary professionals own virtual menageries of pets that they have acquired over the years. Most of us have more animals than time, so we begin to feel a “caregivers remorse” when we cannot give our beloved pets the time they so rightfully deserve.

                        My husband and I have fallen victim to the “special delivery” felines more times than we care to admit.  We have also adopted multiple “Good Sams,” cats (or dogs) that have been rescued by “good samaritans,” that we take on as our own, because these animals have special health care needs.  We truly love our Good Sams, but they often do require more time and attention than other pets.

                        As I am writing this column, I am also thinking about two of my longstanding staff members, Nicolene and Ellen, who have 19 housepets between them, 12 of which were rescued strays.  And, eight days ago I observed one of my newest employees, Joyce, who has been with us a short seven months, being convinced to adopt, coincidentally, a young, unneutered, male, black Halloween cat…

                        Doogee and I hiked a little farther as I contemplated complaints from my clients about stray cats hanging around their homes. Many want to know why the cats won’t leave their property.  After more questioning, clients often admit that they are feeding these unwanted houseguests.  At this point, I then offer up that the “houseguests” are not going to leave, because they have a readily available “kitchen.”  Logically, if you don’t want feline guests, don’t make food and shelter available to them.  Cats, like other outdoor animal life, need a food source. Once that food source is discovered, they have no need, nor desire, to leave.

                        What, then, are we to do about the outdoor cat population that seems eternally growing and ubiquitous?  The foundation of the answer to this question falls into two categories: education and responsibility.

                        My daily mission is to educate my clients about proper and responsible health care for their pets.  To curb, and eventually eliminate, the unwanted outdoor cat population will require commitment on the part of ALL cat owners and caregivers to sterilize ALL cats before puberty.  In addition, ALL pet owners/caregivers need to be “responsible” for their pets’ actions; all owned pets would need to be confined to their home territory, preferably and exclusively indoors.

                        While I do realize that these considerations would only occur in “a perfect world”--- which ours is most definitely not--- wouldn’t it be nice if we ALL tried a little harder to be more responsible pet owners?  It’s as simple as sterilizing your cat in a timely manner BEFORE the onset of puberty, keeping your cat indoors and, lastly, not making available food or open trash areas for unwanted “visitors” to prey upon.

                        To address the “feral,” or wild cat population, feral cat caregivers need only contact a local humane society or association about available “trap, neuter and release (TNR)” programs.  These programs are designed to control the population and disease rate in feral cat communities which sometimes grow to be very large.

                        Instead of asking your veterinarian if he or she wants another cat, please ask what you can do to curb cat overpopulation, AND visit a humane society to adopt your next cat. Your visit will promise to be an eye-opening experience, as these facilities are always brimming with homeless cats.

                        Just ask Precious, Stinky, Elvis, Felix, Saresa, SiSi, Fred, Purresa and George….the Welshire Farm cats that reside with and leave pawprints on the hearts of the Drs. Jones.

Author:  Dr. Bonnie Jones
Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Human Side of Simon

                        My memory is a little hazy as to where exactly I met him, but I think it was in the computer room at the Hilton Garden Inn in Louisville, Kentucky.  I was attending a sheep show.  I’m not sure why he was there, unless maybe it was because of the auditions.

                        The “he” I am referring to is Simon Cowell, a judge on American Idol--- and virtually everything else American.  I hate to use this word because it is so over-used on that show, but I’d have to say our visit was truly “amazing.”

                        Simon and I were the only people in that tiny room, and he seemed very standoffish, much like he is on TV.  My mom always said if you can’t say anything nice about someone, then say nothing at all, so I’ll just let it go at that.

                        After a couple of minutes, however, I decided I would say something to him.  I told him my wife and I enjoyed his show.  He seemed pleased by that, and actually warmed up a bit.

                        As we talked more about what I would call “Idol” chit-chat, gone was the pomp and arrogance, Simon’s usual trademarks on the show, and for at least a short while, I think he even lost his British accent.  Not that having a British accent necessarily makes you pompous and arrogant, but in Simon’s case, it seems to work.

                        In short, Simon transformed from Simon “Scowl” to Simon “Warm, Friendly, Human Being.”

                        Then our conversation took a more serious tone when Simon mentioned the word “responsibility.”  This was not a word he or the other producers on the show took lightly.  From the initial auditions until the season finale, the producers realize that they are responsible for making their contestants famous, and everything good and bad that goes along with that.  They understand that fame can bring about self-destruction in some cases, and they try to manage these kids very closely.  The producers know they have to be on top of things from the birth of an idol’s career to its eventual end.

                        I told Simon I knew what he meant.  My wife tells dog breeders virtually the same thing all the time.  If they want to raise puppies, dog breeders have to accept that they are responsible for each puppy for the rest of its life---another cradle to grave situation.  If something happens to a puppy, such as a physical or behavioral problem, or something happens to the owner and the pet needs a new home, the original breeder must accept that “the buck stops” with them.

                        I have encountered a situation of “breeder responsibility” recently with my favorite breed of sheep.  I was appointed by our association president to chair a committee investigating a potential genetic problem in our breed.  As part of that investigation, the committee needed to evaluate pedigrees from some of the sheep involved to see if they had common ancestors.

                        Boy, did that open up a can of worms!  Several breeders objected vehemently, and at least one brought up that magical, put an end to all reasoning word “sue.”

                        It is my belief that when you buy a sheep, or any other animal for that matter, you are buying every ancestor behind that animal as well.  As it turns out, our association registration papers are public records so anybody can look at them anytime, for any reason.

                        If you want to be an animal breeder, you must be responsible for what is produced, both in the past, and into the future.  And, if you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen, or the barn, or the dog kennel.

                        Simon and I finally had to say our good-byes, and then…I woke up.  I forgot to mention at the beginning of the column that the part about Simon was just a dream.

                        Nevertheless, dream experts say dreams reveal things about ourselves.  But, do dreams reveal things about other people we dream about?  For Simon’s sake, I’d like to think so.

Author:  Dr. John Jones
Image courtesy of James Barker at

Friday, October 17, 2014

Food Allergy


     Food allergy, food intolerance, or adverse reactions to food---call it what you like; all three phrases refer to the response that your pet’s body may have to food.  All of us are aware of humans with life-threatening peanut allergies or adverse reactions to shellfish, but did you know that your pet may become ill from the very food that you feed it?

                        In pets, food allergies can cause skin problems or gastrointestinal illness.  These symptoms can occur at any age and progress over time.  Most adverse reactions to food are caused by large proteins that a pet’s immune system interprets as allergens.  Certain breeds appear more likely to develop these allergies, including Siamese cats, West Highland White Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Irish Setters, Boxers and Bichon Frises.

                        Skin reactions seen with food allergies in pets can be frustrating to control until the offending food allergen is removed from the pet’s diet.  Food allergic pets will often have repeat ear infections, the most common skin problem diagnosed by veterinarians.

                        Other skin problems observed in food allergic pets include persistent itching, recurrent Staph bacterial infections, and hair loss.  Veterinarians will consider a food allergy diagnosis when these symptoms occur early in a pet’s life, are recurrent or non-seasonal, and are not cortisone-responsive.  (Pets also commonly experience inhalant allergies, the majority of which are very cortisone-responsive.)

                        The second class of food reactions observed in pets are gastrointestinal and include poor or inconsistent appetite, vomiting , loud intestinal sounds, flatulence, and diarrhea.  This form of food intolerance is less common, but very problematic for pet owners. 

                        If your veterinarian suspects that your pet is experiencing either class of food allergy symptoms, she may ask you to conduct a “food trial” for your pet.  This diagnostic and often therapeutic trial involves transitioning your pet to a different diet that contains “novel” protein and carbohydrate sources that your pet has never eaten before. You will be asked to feed a new diet suggested by your veterinarian for as long as eight weeks.  Your pet may show signs of improved health within four weeks of initiating the trial, but if it does not, you will be asked to continue the trial for an additional four weeks.

                        For a food trial to be carried out correctly, your veterinarian will ask you to be very exclusive with your pet’s diet during the eight week trial period.  Your pet will only be allowed to consume treats that share the same ingredients as the novel diet.  You will need to discontinue feeding table treats, prevent trash raids and ingestion of food items outdoors.  Even flavored dental treats, heartworm preventives and toothpastes will need to be discontinued during the trial.  Licking another pet’s food dish also should be prohibited.

                        If you “cheat” on your pet’s food trial and allow it to eat something other than the recommended diet and hypoallergenic treats, the allergen from the food fed inappropriately can remain in your pet’s body for up to a month after consumption.  You then will need to begin the trial all over again.  Also, be advised that it is not uncommon for your pet to have to undergo multiple, eight week food trials before the ideal food for your pet is identified.

                        Examples of “novel” proteins that your veterinarian may select for your pet’s diet include rabbit, venison, kangaroo, salmon, white fish, and duck.  The carbohydrate sources offered may include white or sweet potatoes, and peas.  Many pet food companies are aware of the increasing number of food-intolerant pets and are beginning to manufacture more of these unique diets. 

                        “Hydrolyzed” pet foods are also available and are the latest innovation in food allergy technology. This is a process whereby large protein molecules found in common pet foods (such as chicken) are broken down to a smaller size that doesn’t allow an allergic response.  This is the same technology that has been employed for years for infants who are allergic to milk protein. If several novel food trials fail for your pet, your veterinarian may then prescribe a “hydrolyzed” diet.

                        Talk to your veterinarian if you think your pet is experiencing adverse reactions to food.  Your pet’s health issues will be promptly addressed and a diet regimen will be selected to make your pet more comfortable.  Most importantly, speak to your veterinarian about possible changes to your pet’s medications before starting a food trial.

Author: Dr. Bonnie Jones
mage courtesy of dan at

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You Need to be Marie Osmond for your Pets

I say it on a daily basis. Sometimes I feel like I say it so often I wonder if it’s registering in my own brain let alone in my clients’. “Your pet is overweight and would benefit from losing (insert number of) pounds.” I follow this statement up with advice on how to decrease their number on the scale. If we increase our pets’ activity and decrease calories the weight should theoretically come right off (barring underlying medical disorders). I regularly recommend more daily walks with our pudgy pooches and more play time with our flabby felines.
Recently, a good client of mine came in with a beaming smile and extra pep in her step. She sought me out to inform me that because of that seemingly monotonous recommendation that I make multiple times a day, she had made a big change in her own life. She had lost 20 pounds since starting to take her dogs out for daily 30-minute walks. Just think of that — 20 pounds! She was all too ready to assign me credit for getting her to lose weight. I didn’t hound her to follow through with increasing her dogs’ exercise but she saw the need for improvement when someone she trusted brought it to her attention and she, as a loving dog owner, acted on my advice. The fact that she so graciously gave me credit for her success may have been one of the best compliments I have ever received as a veterinarian.
As often as I say those words “you need to get (insert pet’s name) to lose weight” I, myself, have always been “big-boned.” I felt slightly hypocritical recommending weight loss for client’s pets when I clearly needed to shed a few pounds myself. Personally through the years, I have done diet programs, exercise fads, nutritional supplements, exercise DVDs and have used home gym equipment and counted calories. I have had mixed success throughout the years. I have worked for a long time at trying to stay healthy. I find myself one of millions of Americans still fighting the battle of the bulge.
One day a few months ago, I decided to take the plunge and switch up my fitness and diet game one more time — I found myself following Marie Osmonds’ advice. I would see what her pre-packaged, delivered-to-your-door diet program had to offer. I was always intrigued by the convenience of the pre-packaged meals but didn’t realize that in this case you are expected to eat many smaller meals throughout the day. You focus on filling up with veggies and increasing fiber and protein in your daily intake on top of staying active.
As of this writing I have lost 33 pounds. I have since realized it is time for new work clothes. Half way through one of my appointments I started to lose my scrub pants. Thank goodness I wear a long white lab coat because that could have gotten embarrassing pretty quickly. “No, Mrs Smith, I don’t have my hands on my hips because I am being dramatic while I explain Max’s condition. I’m just trying to keep my trousers up.”
The difference with my own excess weight is that I am the reason for it — I have worked at being overweight and overfed for many years. It’s going to take a lot of dedication and motivation for me to lose that weight and keep it off. Just as my extra calories were making me feel comforted in the moment they also could have theoretically have been significantly decreasing my expected life span.
Our pets’ weight gain is often due to our “over-loving” them by over-feeding them. They rely on us to fill their food bowls. We need to be their Marie Osmonds. We need to pre-measure the calories they take in on a daily basis (including treats) because they can’t do it themselves.

There’s an old saying that if your dog is out of shape, you are out of shape. Take this veterinarian’s advice and try increasing your dog and cat’s daily activity. Consider playing with your cat for a few more minutes every day — it should increase both your kitty’s and your own happiness. If I could get even one more person thanking me for helping them lose weight while also improving their pet’s body condition I would count myself a very lucky veterinarian. I know that I’m feeling better about myself with my own recent weight loss — I can only imagine how good a dog or cat would feel to get rid of their excess baggage.

Author:  Dr. Marisa Tong
Image courtesy of Mister GC at

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jaw Dropping Oral Emergencies

                        The Golden Retriever is a popular and favorite dog breed with external beauty that is a reflection of its inner beauty. The Golden Retriever’s “happy-to-be-alive” personality and “golden heart” fits well into many families.  Just when I thought I had seen it all, along comes “Waylon,” a Golden Retriever, of course, and the story of his missing Gumabone.

                        At a year of age and 76 pounds, Waylon was growing into a true Golden Retriever---happy-go-lucky, and playful.  In an effort to keep the much younger Waylon entertained, his human grandmother had given him a six inch Gumabone, made of rubber, to chew.  As a young pup, the Gumabone was an appropriate and thoughtful chew toy.  As a young adult, this Gumabone was definitely no longer “Waylon-sized.”

                        Waylon had stopped playing with his Gumabone as he grew older, although it was still available to him.  Interestingly, he never actually chewed on this toy.  Then, one day at Grandma’s house, the toy that was ignored for so long, suddenly became the center of Waylon’s attention, as he tossed it around repeatedly.  And, then it happened.  The Gumabone no longer “thudded” to the floor, alarming Grandma, who, after searching high and low, could not find the object of Waylon’s affection.

                        Grandma could not find the Gumabone because it was hidden…in Waylon’s stomach!  Waylon had swallowed the Gumabone whole. One would expect that this would be a terrible ordeal for Waylon. With uncertainty about whether Waylon had actually swallowed the toy, his family elected to give him a 24-48 hour observation period during which Waylon acted perfectly normal. 

                        The next step was to take x-rays to try to identify the Gumabone inside Waylon, but the x-rays were inconclusive.  Waylon appeared to have a lot of food in his stomach and intestines so a follow-up barium study was postponed a day.  In the meantime, Waylon continued to act fit as a fiddle---not vomiting, and eliminating normal stools that all family members were directed to inspect in detail.

                        Lo and behold, the phone call came afterhours on a Saturday, the day after the x-rays were taken.  Waylon had vomited up the Gumabone---five days after ingestion---not a tooth mark on it, in its entirety.  I couldn’t believe my ears as his grandma shared the incredible news with me.  Waylon continues to act very normally to this day, just as he had up until the moment he vomited up his “prize.”

                        Feeling thankful to not have to do exploratory surgery on Waylon, I answered an emergency phone call the next evening from Madeline’s mom. “Madeline” the cat, was playing with two feet of string which she proceeded to swallow right before her owners’ eyes.  Panicking and distressed, Madeline soon bit the string, breaking it, with one foot of the string inside her, and one foot outside her.

                        When animals swallow strings, these linear foreign bodies tend to exit the stomach to begin a journey through the intestines.  As they travel through the intestines, strings cause a “bunching” effect for the many intestinal loops, until they bunch so much that they cause an obstruction. When the loops can bunch no more, linear foreign bodies “saw” through the intestinal lining, resulting in potentially life-threatening holes in the intestinal tract.

                        The decision was made to explore Madeline’s abdomen the next day to retrieve the string before it could begin its accordion effect on her intestines. As I opened Madeline’s abdomen, I remember asking myself, “What if I can’t find the string?”  I began my search with Madeline’s stomach…no string there.  Next I ran my fingers back and forth over the entire length of Madeline’s large and small intestines…no string or “bunching” to be found. 

                        Considering less than 24 hours had passed since Madeline had swallowed the string, I told myself it had to be in her somewhere.  Her owners were certain Madeline had not vomited it up and there was no evidence that she had passed it rectally.  So where was the string?

                        I again reviewed the only area in Madeline’s intestines that had any contents, the colon.  I thought I could see a length of wadded up string along side some feces through the colon wall.  Gratefully, I realized the string had made a very rapid trek through the small intestines to the safety of the larger colon where it would soon be eliminated by Madeline. And it was…a few days later another happy phone call was made to an even more delighted veterinarian.

                        The moral of these stories is to make your pet’s environment as safe as possible. Just as kids will be kids, dogs will be dogs, and cats will be cats. If it’s small enough to be swallowed, it will be by that happy-go-lucky puppy or that curious cat. 

                        Now, if you will excuse me…I have to take away the Kong toy that my puppy, “Jimmy,” is eating.
Author:  Dr. Bonnie Jones
Image courtesy of savit keawtavee at

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Gift of the Butterfly


                         Shortly after the death of my old boss, Dr. Ed Laman, in August, a gift arrived at our office delivered by a young lady named Jolene. I first introduced readers to Jolene in a column I wrote five years ago about a girl and her quest for knowledge regarding her pet goat’s illness. On a visit to the farm to examine “Toggie,” I noticed a collection of Mason jars on a table next to the pen. Inside the jars were different stages in the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly, including a chrysalis. Jolene raised them with her sister, June.

                        So impressed with their depth of understanding of this metamorphic phenomenon and the events occurring inside the chrysalis, I just had to ask the question: “How do you know all this stuff?” I will never forget their response, said in unison with a joy and enthusiasm I don’t think I ever had at any level of my education: “We read!”

                        The gift was a small block of Styrofoam impaled with a stick, and attached to the stick, a Monarch chrysalis. Also included was a note. I will let Jolene’s words explain her very thoughtful present.
                        “Perhaps this Monarch butterfly could be released in memory of Dr. Laman. This chrysalis was spun 8/26/14, and will hatch 10-14 days thereafter. The possible hatching date of Sept. 6 is eleven days from spinning.

                        The chrysalis will get continually darker in color the closer it is to hatching. On the evening before the day it hatches, it will be a very dark like purple color. The next morning it will be black. Actually the chrysalis is clear and the black color is the butterfly body. You will also be able to see the orange wings. At this point, it will only be a few hours before it hatches. Most butterflies hatch mid-morning.

                        After hatching, the butterfly usually will cling to a twig and pump fluid through its wings to expand them. It will also excrete some brown fluid. When the butterfly can fly [about 4-5 hours], it can be released. Enjoy your butterfly!”
                        And we did. Everyone in our office would check it daily to see how its progression compared to Jolene’s note- you’d think we were all in fourth grade. But on the afternoon of Sept.5, Bonnie and I both came to the conclusion that the butterfly didn’t belong with us. It really belonged with another. Later in the evening, the chrysalis was given to Ed’s wife, Anne.

                        The hatch went according to script. By happenstance, Anne is quite an artist. One of her works resides in the hallway by our check-out window. Now, a beautiful painting of the butterfly is on display on a thank you card she sent to Jolene. Jolene in turn sent back a lovely note with a photograph. She had another butterfly hatch the day the card arrived, and the new one climbed onto Anne’s card, apparently looking for a friend.
                        Though strangers before this exchange, through the butterfly the two women were able to share their hearts and their talents as each grieved the loss of a loved one. You see, Jolene’s own mother passed away not long ago, much too young. Death should never be allowed to overshadow the beauty of life. Anne and Jolene are doing their best to make sure that doesn’t happen.

                        The other day Jolene sent me some information which I am proud to report I read. The population of Monarch butterflies is dropping precipitously. Most of the Monarchs in North America migrate to a certain forest in Mexico each autumn. Because it is impossible to count individual butterflies, researchers measure the acres they cover. In 1995, they covered 44.5 acres. Last year it was 1.65 acres.
                        The main source of food for Monarchs is the common milkweed plant. Urban sprawl, certain farming practices, and herbicides, are often cited as the cause for the decline of this plant habitat, and subsequently the butterflies themselves.

                         What a great project it would be for children to follow Jolene and June’s example. It costs next to nothing to raise butterflies and milkweeds, but the rewards from helping to save a species could be infinite. And parents, it wouldn’t hurt your kids to emulate the Yoder sisters in another aspect as well. Tell them to read. Better yet, show them.
                          Thank you, Jolene, for your wonderful gift. It truly was a beautiful memorial for the man who gave me so much. Rest in peace Dr. Laman.  Enjoy your butterfly.
Author:  Dr. John Jones

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sex and the Veterinarian


              My last two columns have been about sheep and goats, a subject of which I’m quite fond.  I realize, though, that most of the readers of this newspaper probably are not as interested as I am, so I thought today’s topic should have a broader appeal.  That is why I decided to write about sex.

            I was doing some reminiscing and recalled an incident that happened a few years ago with one of my favorite clients, a 40-something bachelor dairy farmer.  We were palpating some of his cows for pregnancy, and the sorry state of his romantic life came up in our conversation. 

            Frank (not his real name) had had a lot of girlfriends and dated a lot of women, but marriage eluded him.  He came close once, though.  A lovely girl, she was the love of his life.  Since he obviously was not married to her, I asked him what happened.  Frank told me he dumped her because she couldn’t have kids.  I asked him how he knew that.  “Because she was a twin, and her twin was a brother,” was his reply.

            I paused for a moment; I didn’t know whether I should tell him he might have made a tragic mistake or just let it go. But, as a firm believer in full disclosure, I told him. “It doesn’t work that way with people, Frank.  She probably would have been OK.”

            “No kidding?”

            “NO kidding!”

            “Oh $#!& !” was his response and the end of our talk on this matter, as I quickly changed the topic to baseball or the weather so as not to dwell on his unfortunate decision.

            What Frank was confused about is a phenomenon that occurs in cattle called “Freemartinism”.  A freemartin is a heifer calf that is born a twin to a bull calf.  The condition arises from a mixing of the calves’ blood, which occurs in the uterus, resulting in the masculinization of the female calf’s reproductive organs.  She is rendered sterile.  A small percentage of these heifers will be fertile, but it is so small that most farmers consider them infertile and treat them as steers.  This condition occurs in cattle, but fortunately not in humans.  Ladies, Frank is still available. 

            While on the subject of sex, a question frequently asked of veterinarians is, “What is a mule?”  A mule is a cross between a male donkey and a female horse.  The opposite cross, a mating of a male horse and a female donkey results in an animal called a hinny.  Hinnies never gained much favor.  They are not as strong as mules, their conformation is not as correct, and they are not as attractive.  Yes, mules can be pretty.

            Mules, being a hybrid of two different species, are infertile – at least most are.  Horses have 64 chromosomes, donkeys have 62, and mules end up with 63.  Since 63 cannot be divided evenly into chromosome pairs in the egg and sperm cells, mules are sterile.  There have been, however, five documented cases of fertile mare mules in the United States.  These mare mules were bred to stallions with the resulting offspring being horse-like in appearance.

            Researchers believe that the mare mules’ eggs contained only horse chromosomes and were able to be fertilized by the sperm cells from the stallion.

            I learned another interesting tidbit at a recent veterinary meeting.  The camelid family, which includes llama, alpacas, and bactrian and dromedary camels, all share a common ancestor, which originated in the Sand Hills area of Nebraska.  These animals migrated south over time into Central and Northern South America.  From there they divided into two groups – one continued to move south and become llamas and alpacas, and the other group turned and headed north across the Western United States, Canada, through Alaska, and across the Bering Strait into Asia, where they became bactrian and dromedary camels.

            All of these camelids have the same number of chromosomes (74), and can, therefore, interbreed.

            That concludes our sex talk, for this column.  But remember, if you have any questions of this nature, just ask your veterinarian – or your parents.

Author:  Dr. John Jones
Image courtesy of africa at