What does your dog like to do?

By: Janette Blackwood, DVMJanette Blackwood, DVM with pup

My first couple of years out of veterinary school, I worked out in a military town in Georgia. One day, I had a client come in with a new adult shetland sheepdog rescued from the shelter. Even though it was about a decade ago, I still remember reading the paperwork filled out by the original owner at the time the dog was surrendered to the shelter. The paperwork had a list of the standard questions you would see on these forms, such as “Is this dog on heartworm and flea prevention?” or “Is he good with small children?” But, there was one question and answer that really stuck out to me, because it really made me think about the bonds (or lack of bonds) that we form with our pets:

Question: “What does he/she enjoy doing?”
Answer provided by owner surrendering pet: “I don’t know.”

The relationship (or lack thereof) between an animal and a pet can be so valuable, that it actually has a medical term taught in veterinary colleges and recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): “the human­-animal bond”. The AVMA’s website defines the human-­animal bond as “a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well ­being of both.” The definition further goes on to state that a veterinarian should work to maximize the potential of this bond between their clients and pets. As a new graduate, my mind was constantly in a whirl to make sure that I was keeping my animal patients’ bodies physically healthy. Were all my dog and cat patients on parasite prevention monthly and properly vaccinated to keep them safe from infectious diseases? Were my senior pets comfortable in managing their arthritis? And, were my senior sets treated appropriately for their periodontal disease, so that they would continue to eat without pain? But, reading that question from that shelter’s paperwork really got me thinking about wondering if I was doing enough to make sure that my pets were also happy in their daily lives, thereby building that human­-animal bond.

At the time that I was meeting that newly adopted Sheltie, my own little white, fluffy mutt Radar was a young guy full of tremendous energy. And, even though we had only had him for a few months, I knew for sure how to answer the question: “What does he enjoy doing?” He has always loved the game of chase with anyone throwing a squeaky toy. He loves long walks in any new area; bonus points if there are random tuffs of grass for him to mark as his own. The end to a perfect day full of activity would consist of a quiet evening with a Greenie chew and maybe a little tomato for dessert after eating his dry kibble. And, if you were sitting on the floor, he can always find a way to position himself directly in front of you in the perfect location for a gaining a back rub.

As Radar and I both grow older and life finds me and my family somehow busier than ever, I do have to make myself stop and reassess: Am I still providing Radar what he needs to be happy? He is so quiet; he rarely complains. At these times, I usually stop what I am doing and grab his harness and leash. Then, we head outside for a walk through the neighborhood, making sure to walk a little more slowly in the areas with tall tufts of grass.

If you feel inclined, comment below on what you feels gives your pets meaning and happiness in life. It might give others ideas of activities to do with their pets, especially as the nice weather is starting to return.

Janette Blackwood, DVM

Website to the AVMA description of The Human­-Animal Bond.
https://www.avma.org/kb/resources/reference/human­animal­bond/pages/human­animal­bond­avma.aspx

Blood Sample with Heartworms

Have you ever wondered what heartworms look like? If you look closely, you might catch a few wiggling heartworm microfilariae in this video of a blood sample!

On the 1st of each month,  don’t forget to give your monthly heartworm and flea/tick prevention to protect your furkids from these nasty guys!

Xylitol: Toxic to Dogs and Now Found in Some Peanut Butters

By: Janette Blackwood, DVM

My husband and I have an inside joke where he knows that I become enraged when we purchase a product from the supermarket, only to get it home and find out that it contains an artificial or alternative sweetener. I take a bite out of the item, say “Why is this gross?”, and throw a fit like a toddler when I read the label. I think the last thing he accidentally purchased was Welch’s Light Grape Juice, that only reading the fine print on the label revealed that it contained aspartame. My point is always that I think that that labeling on our food should be more obvious. This could not be even more important when it comes to the recent addition of xylitol to a few brands of peanut butter during the last few months.Xylitol in peanut butter is toxic to dogs

Xylitol is actually not an artificial sweetener, but a naturally derived sugar alcohol. In 2006, I first read about the use of xylitol in sugar free gum in an article of Veterinary Medicine.

The problem occurs when dogs accidentally (or purposely) ingest the product. Due to differences in canine and human metabolism, dogs ingesting products containing xylitol experience profound life-threatening hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and can develop hepatic necrosis (liver failure). Sometimes, pet owners have no idea when they bring their pet to the veterinarian on emergency for seizures that their home even contained products with xylitol as an ingredient. In fact, it wasn’t until today when I made the effort to look up xylitol containing products that I even realized that I had been carrying around a tin of breath mints in my purse that would be toxic for my dog Radar to find and eat.

This website may be useful for you to learn what products in your home contain xylitol.

The recent addition of xylitol to certain peanut butter brands (Nuts ‘n More, Krush Nutrition, and P-28 Foods) becomes even more tricky for a few reasons. For one thing, limited labeling on the products may make it hard for consumers to realize that they are even purchasing a product containing this ingredient. You have to really make an effort to read the fine print on the nutrition label. Limited labeling on some products has also made it difficult to know the exact amount of xylitol contained in a spoonful of the product for example, making it difficult for veterinarians to know how much of the toxic ingredient a dog has ingested. Lastly, for years, peanut butter has been recommended by veterinarians as an easy vehicle to be used by pet owners to administer pills. I know that Radar loves a little bit of peanut butter (or the sugar-loaded Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter) when my husband gives him his morning dose of gabapentin for his chronic back issues.

Here is a link to an article in DVM360 with more information.
Janette Blackwood, DVM

Tips for Pets and Fireworks

fireworks

Summer is full of celebrations involving fireworks, none bigger than our Independence Day on the 4th.  Dogs and cats react to fireworks as individuals. Some aren’t upset by the explosions, and others get hurt by panicking and jumping through closed windows or bolting through doors to get away from the terrifying noise and lights.

American pet advocacy groups point out that the number of escapees is so high that Independence Day is the busiest day of the year in shelters — and that many pets get lost, injured, or killed. Charleston is fortunate to have great emergency hospitals that will be open 24 hours in case your pet is injured.  Check our resources page to find their contact info.  Community websites and Facebook pages are also a great tool to help lost pets get reunited with their owners.

Your pets will do better if they’re not left home alone during fireworks events. That’s not always feasible, so think ahead before leaving them alone.

Signs of anxiety can include pacing, trembling, panting, drooling, attention-seeking (vocalizing, pawing, nuzzling, and climbing on people), hiding, and bolting. Escape attempts tend to involve hiding behind furniture, and staying in a basement or bathroom. Because the source of the noise is confusing, inside dogs may want to escape to the outside, and outside dogs may be frantic to get inside.

Nervous pets tend to drink more water, so keep more available than usual. (And remember, these summer events usually mean hotter weather, and the likelihood of power problems, so extra water is already a good idea.) Bring outside pets inside, so they can’t bolt. Keep your cats securely inside, and if your dog needs a potty break during the fireworks, take him outside on a leash, even in a fenced yard. Make sure all your pets are wearing an ID tag or a collar that contains your phone number. Tags and collars can be lost, so a microchip is even more useful in helping you find your lost pet.

Drug-Free Remedies

What can you do to keep your frightened pet safe and calm? For many frightened pets, just staying in a crate (as long as they are used to one) or in a “safe” room with a closed door is all that’s needed.

Synthetic pheromone sprays such as Feliway  for cats and Adaptil (formerly called D.A.P.) for dogs are available at pet stores. These sprays imitate the properties of the natural pheromones of the lactating female that gives kittens or puppies a sense of well-being.

An herbal relaxant called Composure comes in chews or liquid for dogs; the feline version is in chews.
Some pets respond to pressure wraps, such as Thundershirts or Anxiety Wraps. The pressure on the body may have a calming effect.

Ear muffs to muffle sound are also available.

Calming caps cover a dog’s eyes to reduce visual stimulation.

If you can plan ahead for these summer events, veterinary behaviorists often recommend behavior modification, classical counter conditioning, and teaching a desirable coping response.

In behavior modification, controlling the intensity of the fireworks is necessary and often the most challenging part. While it often isn’t possible to expose a fearful dog to only “little fireworks,” controlling other factors can help. Distance from the fireworks can be less intimidating, as would be keeping the dog indoors.  Music may disguise the bursts of noise; consider loud music with a regular beat.

Classical counter conditioning can create a positive association with fireworks if the anxiety isn’t extreme. Give high-value food rewards (canned food or peanut butter), offer your pet his favorite toys or food puzzle toys, or have your pet practice his tricks with you. The goal is for him to learn that fireworks result in highly pleasant rewards.
You can teach a desirable coping response. The appropriate response for a dog facing something frightening is to retreat to a safe place until the frightening thing ends. Providing a safe retreat, such as a crate or a closet, will give security and confidence, although selecting the location is up to the pet. Blankets to muffle the sound and a pheromone diffuser will provide natural motivation for the dog to seek this location. Being able to cope when the world becomes overwhelming is a life skill essential for both people and dogs!  Hiding is not a sign of a problem, if the pet quickly returns to a normal behavior when the fireworks are over.

Medication

It’s easier to prevent a fearful reaction than it is to reverse one. If your pet is nervous around loud, unexpected noises, a short-term sedative before the fireworks start may be just the ticket. Talk to your veterinarian ahead of time, so you can have something on hand to give your pet before the fireworks start. Some medications often used for fireworks or thunderstorm phobias in dogs are Xanax and Valium.
Some severely anxious pets may benefit from drugs like clomipramine or fluoxetine that increase the level of serotonin. However, these drugs can take several weeks, if not more, to build up to an effective level, so this is not spur-of-the-moment fix.

You have many choices of how to help your pet cope with fireworks stress.  Talk to us about what is best for your pet. Hopefully, everyone in the family will then be able enjoy the holiday!

 

Becky Lundgren, DVM

What you should know about the confirmed case of canine influenza in Mount Pleasant

June 26, 2015

A case of the new canine influenza H3N2 has been diagnosed and confirmed by laboratory testing at a veterinary clinic in Mount Pleasant this week.  This is the first confirmed case in South Carolina.  This is the same strain that made headlines earlier this year with an outbreak in the Midwest.  The dog is a visitor to our state from Georgia, a state that has had several reported cases of H3N2 over the past month.   From speaking with the attending veterinarian directly, it is my understanding that this dog had recently stayed in a boarding facility in Georgia that later had confirmed cases of H3N2.

What you should know about canine influenza:

  1. There have been 2 strains of canine influenza in North America.  The first one was H3N8, which was documented in 1999.  The second strain is the new one H3N2, the one of which there is current concern.
  2. Although there is a vaccine that has been available for several years for H3N8, at this time it is completely unknown if there is any cross-protective immunity for H3N2 from this vaccination.  From the start of this year, two pharmaceutical companies have told us that they have been testing this older vaccine on the newer H3N2 strain, and at this time we have not received any reports on results that proves that protection exists.  Even so, after the spread of H3N2 in the midwest, the vaccine has been in very high demand, and has quickly reached a backorder status.
  3. At this time, there has been no reported cases of people getting sick with H3N2 from their dog.
  4. Canine influenza is spread through aerosolization of the flu virus into the air.  It can live for 2 days on contact surfaces, but is easily killed through disinfecting.
  5. About 75%-80% of dogs that are exposed to influenza will develop clinical signs.  These clinical signs include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, fever, and possible decreased appetite.  For most dogs, the symptoms appear to be mild and they recover in 2-3 weeks.
  6. A small portion of the above listed dogs that develop clinical signs will have moderate to severe signs that will require treatment by a veterinarian, such as fluid therapy and antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections.
  7. Currently, it has been recorded that 1-5% of dogs contracting canine influenza will become severely ill and die from this disease, often by developing pneumonia.  Like influenza in people, dogs that are the most likely to become this severely ill are ones that are immunocompromised, such as geriatrics, pediatrics, and patients receiving chemotherapy.

 

What you should do if your dog is sick/developing respiratory signs:

  1. Call your veterinarian.  At the time you make your appointment, let your veterinarian know that you are seeing respiratory signs (coughing/sneezing) as your veterinarian will wish to schedule your appointment in a manner that decreases the risk of other patients in the hospital being exposed.  Your veterinarian will complete a physical exam to confirm if the signs you are seeing are consistent with canine influenza or possibly another disease that can cause a cough (for example: heartworm disease).
  2. Your veterinarian can offer you a diagnostic test to be completed by sending a sample to an outside laboratory to help try to confirm if influenza is present.
  3. If influenza (or another type of contagious respiratory infection is suspected), your veterinarian will strongly recommend that you protect other pets by keeping your dog separated from other dogs for about the next 2 weeks.  This will include not going to boarding facilities, grooming facilities, dog parks, etc.

 

How you can protect your healthy dog:

  1. Restrict your activity with any dog that is coughing, sneezing, or showing other signs of contagious illness.  Unfortunately, as canine influenza can be spread in the 2-4 days from when a dog has been exposed to before it develops clinical signs (incubation period), just because a dog is clinically healthy it does not guarantee that they are not spreading the virus.
  2. If your dog has a chronic medical illness, is very old, very young, or otherwise immunocompromised, I would recommend limiting exposure to other dogs in high volume areas such as boarding facilities, dog shows, and dog parks.
  3. If your pet is going to board, especially in areas like the Midwest or Georgia where several cases have been reported, you may consider getting the influenza vaccine for H3N8.  However, as mentioned above, supply for this vaccine is not completely reliable due to the recent backorder.  The vaccine requires 2 doses administered 3 weeks apart and has not been proven to be effective against H3N2.

For more information see:

Canine Influenza Facts from The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine: http://vet.uga.edu/news/view/canine-influenza-facts

AVMA- Influenza frequently asked questions

https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Control-of-Canine-Influenza-in-Dogs.aspx

Intersection of Crosstown, Rutledge and Line