Monday, May 30, 2016

"Bark Loud, Bark Proud" By Dr. Bonnie Jones


                                I've often wondered, if dogs could talk, what would they say?
                                I take the responsibility to advocate for dogs and all animal species that cannot speak for themselves very seriously. But, if dogs could talk instead of bark,  I think they would say "Take care of my people."
                                After all, pets are dependent on people to provide their veterinary care as well as their basic needs of food, water and shelter. On more than one occasion, I have witnessed pet owners sacrificing their own needs, health care and otherwise, to care for their pets. Also on more than one occasion, I have advised pet owners NOT to make these sacrifices for their pets when it involves their own health  care.
                                Through 31 years of studying and caring for animals, I've come to the conclusion that what I have really been tasked with as a veterinarian is to care for pets AND their people. I am certain that early in my career this epiphany was not on my radar.  However, as I have grown older, what has become strikingly clear is that in order to care for animals, I must first  focus on making sure their people are well educated and...well, just plain "well."
                                Possibly one of my greatest opportunities to care for pet owners  as a veterinarian has come about in the last few years as the chairperson for the American Cancer Society's (ACS) Delphos Relay for Life mini-relay called "Bark for Life."  This fundraising event is described by the ACS as "honoring the life-long contributions of our Canine Caregivers." 
                                While celebrating the human-animal bond, Bark for Life "presents an opportunity for people to be empowered through their canine companion partnerships and to contribute to cancer cures through the mission of the American Cancer Society." It's easy to see why  Bark for Life is a win-win for me.  By celebrating the care-giving qualities of canine companions, it gives me the amazing chance to help fight the fight against cancer that has or will touch all pet owners at some time in their lives.
                            Bark for life is my passion for these reasons and more.  With Father's Day just around the corner, my investment in this ACS fundraiser is also a very personal one.
                            My father died because he was a smoker...not just any smoker, but a smoker of unfiltered cigarettes from an early age.  He was also a father of nine so a good income was a necessity.  My dad spent most of his working years as a roofer whose main responsibility was being the "kettle man." As such, he worked  closely with hot asphalt he prepared for roof applications, exposing him to asbestos and other aerosolized toxins.  Hot tar AND smoking set him up for an all too early death due to lung cancer.
                                The other father in my life was my father-in-law, Dr. David O. Jones. His legacy is long, but his life was too short. "D.O.," as he was affectionately known,  was a Professor of Veterinary Preventive Medicine at The Ohio State University.  His passions were teaching and public health. I now realize that he was also my mentor for being a servant of animals AND people.
                                "Davey" was my husband's moniker for the man he also called "Dad." Davey suffered the crippling pain of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a probable sequela to a brucellosis infection he acquired from cattle. 

                                This great man found adequate RA pain relief from a drug called Chlorambucil.  While it improved Davey's quality of life, this medication also may have shortened it. The revered man who taught so many veterinarians and touched the lives of even more, died of lymphoma within three months of his diagnosis while my husband and I were seniors  in veterinary college.
                                Watching both of these patriarchs pass due to the ravages of cancer made my passion to fight merciless, ever-changing cancers of all kinds even stronger. Through Bark for Life, I have the tools and focus group to raise funds to help "Finish the Fight" in my lifetime. I will continue to "Bark Loud and Bark Proud" to all who will listen that collecting pledges to walk your dog in a lovely park for the ACS fundraiser, " Bark For Life," is a win-win for people AND animals.
Dr. Bonnie Jones is co-owner of Delphos Animal Hospital. The DAH Bark for Life Team has raised over $27,000 for the ACS. Dr. Bonnie invites you to collect pledges and join the BFL walk at Delphos' Leisure Park, Saturday, June 11, 2016 from 2-4:00 pm.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Canine “Bloat” --- When Bigger is Not Better

                          Many dog owners have a strong affection for the larger dog breeds.  For some, the bigger the better is the rule. Besides having a higher grocery bill, large and giant breed dogs are unique in another way. Lima Police K-9 Officer “Aron” reminded me of this when he developed a life threatening emergency one evening.   

                        Aron, a 90 pound German Shepherd, along with three fellow K-9 officers, has done his share to provide safety and service to the City of Lima.  All four K-9 officers are highly trained by police handlers whose bond to their four-legged partners is among the strongest I have ever witnessed.  As a result of the closeness that these canine and human officers share, the handlers have a keen sense of when something is very wrong with their canine partners. 

                        Such was the case late one evening when Investigator Jason Bugh discovered that Aron was in trouble as he began wretching persistently.  Investigator Bugh quickly realized that Aron was also having extreme abdominal discomfort. The next vital realization the handler had was that Aron’s abdomen was beginning to bloat.

                        K-9 handlers receive frequent training, including first aid and emergency care for their dogs.  Having known Investigator Bugh for a long time, I have always found him to be a conscientious and perceptive dog owner.  So when he paged me just after midnight and expressed that he thought Aron might die, I knew he was right.
                        From Investigator Bugh’s description of Aron’s symptoms, it was clear that his partner was experiencing gastric dilatation and possible volvulus (GDV), better known as “Bloat.”   This condition is dreaded by many large or giant dog breed owners because its symptoms are fast, furious, and deadly.

                        GDV occurs in large, deep-chested dogs when their stomachs fill with food, fluid or air.  The stomach of these dogs is C-shaped and often pendulous in their large abdomens.  Over-filling of this type of stomach, especially if the distention is followed by activity, can result in bloating and swinging of the organ within the abdomen.  With enough swaying motion, the stomach then flips over on its long axis, causing obstruction of the stomach at both ends. 

                         This anatomical abnormality sets off a chain of events that quickly become life-threatening, ranging from progressive distention of the stomach with air, to torsion of the spleen, decreased cardiac output, shock, and death. Because of the seriousness and rapidity of these events, treatment needs to be immediate and aggressive, and usually consists of surgical intervention to correct the stomach distention and torsion.

                        Depending on the duration and severity of the torsion, the dog may also need to have its spleen and/or parts of the stomach or intestines removed if there has been compromise of the blood supply to these organs. The mortality rate associated with GDV may be as high as 28%, but if diagnosed and treated swiftly, GDV dogs can survive. 

                        Aron was very fortunate that his handler acted fast and appropriately.  I advised him to take Aron immediately to a 24 hour emergency surgery service provided by the Northeast Indiana Veterinary Emergency Services in Fort Wayne. A highly skilled veterinary team corrected his GDV and removed his compromised spleen.

                        As I reflect upon Aron’s crisis, I want to prevent others from repeating his experience. Aron most likely developed GDV because he was on a feeding regimen of four cups of food fed once daily.  This is a common practice for police dogs whose jobs make it inconvenient to feed them more often. For GDV-prone dog breeds, once daily feeding and feeding from elevated platforms, definitely sets them up for failure.
                        While the absolute cause of GDV is unknown, I have always taught pet owners who own large breed, deep-chested dogs to feed their pets at least three smaller meals daily.  I also instruct them to never exercise their dogs for at least an hour after eating or drinking.  Even swallowing a lot of air during barking or play can contribute to a gastric dilatation episode.

                        Some large breed dog owners may choose to have their dog’s stomach “tacked” to the inside abdominal wall at the time of neutering in an effort to prevent GDV.  This surgery, called “gastropexy,” can prevent the stomach from twisting, but it will not stop it from bloating.

                        While Aron’s story has a happy ending as he continues to improve after surgery, I hope to never receive that dreaded after hours GDV phone call again.  If you own a large, deep-chested dog breed, talk to your veterinarian about GDV prevention and know what action you should take in the event that it happens to you.

By Dr. Bonnie Jones
This column is in honor and memory of Investigator Jason Bugh
(deceased 5/1/10) and Canine Aron (8/18/00-12/8/12).

Embarking on a Professional Journey

          For many kids growing up, their dream is to become a veterinarian. However, things like organic chemistry, eight years of college, endless biology classes, GPA's, family and more, often steer many onto a different path leading them to become a doctor, engineer, teacher, etc. My life path never deviated though, from my initial dream to be a veterinarian. So, here I am today, writing this column, one day after graduating.
          For those who aren’t familiar, veterinary school is usually an eight year process. The first four years are typically spent obtaining an undergraduate degree while completing the prerequisite classes and hundreds of shadowing hours with veterinarians. Then the application process begins. We take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) and complete a lengthy application. After that, the waiting begins as we hope a school will call to offer us an interview.
          Assuming someone gets an interview, they go to that school (which can be a few hours drive or a long flight across the country) and are interviewed by two or three faculty members to further assess their candidacy. Once that day is over, all an applicant can do is wait. We wait to hear if we will be offered a spot, put on a waiting list, or denied altogether. If you are lucky enough to be offered a spot like I was, then the real work begins.
          Veterinary school is four years of grueling class work, labs and clinical rotations. It is not unusual to spend 35-40 hours a week attending classes and labs, with equal or more time spent outside of classrooms studying. The first year...oh, how it drags on, making it seem like the four years will never end. The second year, well it is the most intensive of the four as far as book work and being a challenge in itself.
          Then, suddenly, third year arrives, flies by, and now you are a fourth year, seeing patients in the clinic and studying for "Boards."( a lovely experience of 6-7 hours of multiple choice questions to determine your worthiness to practice veterinary medicine). Some of those 18 hour days spent at school made it seem like clinics would never end, especially with studying for boards. But, overall, I can say they did fly by.
          That leaves me here. I have student loan debt that could buy a house (literally, a house!), but I also have a diploma that presents me with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine degree and a letter stating I passed my board exam. Now, I stand at the beginning of the next step in my education — practicing veterinary medicine. I say the next step in my education because, in all honesty, as the Veterinarian’s Oath states, this profession and its practice require life long commitment to learning.
          As I prepare to practice, I am grateful to many people for their help along my journey, but at the top of that list are the private practitioners who took so much of their time to teach me during the many hours I spent shadowing them. They steadied my hands as I learned new procedures and as I sutured. They taught me as I analyzed blood work and worked through cases. They are who helped to shape me into the veterinarian I have become today. I do not know where this profession will take me, but I look forward to every step of the journey as I continue to fulfill my dreams.
By Dr. Jill Dentel
For The Lima News

Dr. Jill Dentel has just joined Delphos Animal Hospital.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Day They Will Never Forget


            "Surreal" is the only word that could describe the moment. I was knelt down on the exam room floor next to a dead dog and a sobbing teenage girl. Her mother and two sisters were in a similar state of despair as another family dog lay dead on the table.

            I haven't done many multiple euthanasias in my career, and I'm thankful for that. They're really sad. In this case the one dog was eighteen, older than any of the girls, and had simply run out of time. The other dog was only eight, but being of a large breed he was physically older than that, and was suffering from the effects of cancer. To lose both at the same time was devastating to the family.

            Wanting to give them some time alone with their pets, I slowly backed out of the room. Then as I closed the door, I was struck with the realization that this was a day those girls would never forget.

            Why do we even have pets? The whole notion of them is kind of silly, really. First we "adopt" them and make them part of our families. Next we pamper them, tend to their every need, spend a ton of money on treats, the finest food and, yes, veterinary care , only to have them die way too soon and break our hearts.

            Moreover, as if once is not enough, many of us are adamant about repeating the process over and over again. To top that, some insist on dragging their kids into the madness. Ultimately, however, this might be the best decision a parent ever makes.

            Nothing teaches a child more about life than does caring for a pet. So much can be learned about responsibility, patience, compassion, and, especially, the finality of death. And in turn, sometimes those kids can teach even a jaded old vet like me something about life as well.

            Often when I get together with friends or business  associates, most of us being "baby boomers," invariably our conversation leads to talking about the younger generation, including even their own children and grandchildren. The consensus is that today's youth care only about themselves, and have a real need to seek instant gratification in virtually every aspect of their life. Exceptions abound, of course, and to be fair, I have no doubt "the greatest generation" felt the same about us. Still, the perception remains.    

            Recently, just days apart, two young men showed me that to think this way is to be wrong. Each was attached to an old dog with a serious medical condition. One had cancer, the other heart disease along with a  degenerative spine. Alas, the dogs had reached "the end of the trail."

            Like the girls who lost their two dogs, these boys decided to be present for the euthanasia, even though each had a parent who left the room. Both took the euthanasia hard, but they took it bravely, and stayed with their pet until the end.

            When I was with the three girls, the grief in that room was so overwhelming I was almost numbed by it. With the boys, I was better able to observe the relationship each had with their dog with more clarity, at least for awhile.

            Although there were other people in the room, including myself and my technician, each boy and dog were focused solely on the other, through touch, through voice, and through tears. The rest of us didn't even exist.

            Though the euthanasias were an exceedingly sad experience, I can only describe the power of the bond I witnessed between each boy and dog, seen through my own blurry eyes, as "beautiful." I hope someday they'll be able to fully appreciate the beauty in that farewell moment.

            Apparently, when a child is allowed to have a pet in their life, they don't just care about themselves. Much credit to their parents for giving them the opportunity to love and be loved by a pet.

            I have no idea whether those kids will remember me, or my role in their day, but I do know I will never forget them or the courage they showed as they said good-bye to their pets, and experienced the loss of something they loved.

             Nor will I ever forget those who taught them what may be the most valuable lesson they will ever learn. Thank you Sunshine, Brutus, Cisco, and Max.
By Dr. John H. Jones