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

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

Can there be too much transparency?

Intersection of Crosstown, Rutledge and Line

If you have followed our Facebook page for any length of time, you will know that Charleston Harbor Veterinarians was designed under two big philosophies that we feel makes us a unique veterinary practice in the South Carolina Lowcountry.  One is a home-like atmosphere, with the goal of decreasing pet stress during the veterinary visit.  The other is transparency in all our medical and surgical procedures, with the goal being to give the owner the opportunity to be side-by-side with their pet through many medical procedures.

We received our first complaint today.  I have been dreading this day.  I think that most veterinary professionals aim to please their clients and their community, making hearing that someone has been dissatisfied by your services devastating.  What surprised our team the most today was that the complaint came from someone who was not a client; we had never seen her pets and we don’t even know if she even owns a pet.  And, it involved our philosophy on transparency.

Our facility has excellent visibility on the crosstown, and our surgical suite is positioned at the front and center of the building.  This was no accident.  The location for the surgical suite in the interior of the building is away from the main flow of foot traffic within the clinic, greatly decreasing chances for bacterial contamination from clients and pets coming to visit.  It is also located close to the treatment room, to be easily accessible during emergencies.  As an added bonus, the room has two large windows facing the crosstown traffic, adding not only natural light into the clinic but also visibility from the outside into what has traditionally been in the past, the most off-limit room to pet owners in a veterinary practice.

This is where the complaint occurred.  This morning, Dr. Kahuda performed a relatively minor surgical procedure on a dog in our surgical room, during the hours of normal morning rush hour traffic.  Keeping with practices for best surgical standards, the surgical suite was scrubbed ahead of time and free of clutter, Dr. Kahuda wore complete sterile attire (gown, caps, mask, booties, gloves), and a licensed surgical technician and an experienced assistant wore appropriate caps, masks, and booties.  All three of the staff members spent 100% of their effort monitoring and caring from this pet throughout the anesthetic procedure, both with monitoring equipment and direct observation.  While the patient was recovering beautifully post-operatively in the treatment area, Dr. Kahuda received the phone call: a human operating room nurse driving through the crosstown could see the surgical procedure while sitting in her car at the light and was displeased.

This phone call has occupied the minds of our team all morning and into the afternoon.  I walked outside into the rain multiple times to stare into our windows, just trying to understand how much detail one could view in the car across the street that would upset someone enough to make a call.  Our staff sat in confusion.  We called a pediatric nurse who I am close friends with to get her opinion.  This is what we as a team basically settled on:

  1. Our transparency is no secret.  We want to offer every client who walks through our doors a tour of our facilities. When you visit with your pet, you will quickly see that there is no “back” to take your pet away from you for treatments.  Our entire treatment room is enclosed in glass, easily visible from Exam Room 3.  Many of our medical treatments are performed in the exam room, with the client by our side.
  2. We are proud of our transparency.  If you can see inside our facilities from the street, you can bet that we are going to be following proper veterinary surgical protocol!  You will never see a staff member perform a procedure without properly maintained equipment or attire.  You will never see us treat a pet with anything but compassion and respect.  You will never see a technician texting on her cell phone instead of monitoring your pet during anesthesia.
  3. We do care about the privacy of our pets and owners.  This patient’s face was away from the window and the surgical site was covered in sterile draping throughout the procedure.  The draping would cover the majority of the surgical site from visualization on the street.  When clients fill out a new form to meet us, they let us know the level of their pet’s care they want to personally see and if they are willing to give permission for the posting of any pictures to our Facebook site.  We do not talk about you behind your back or gossip about your pet’s private medical concerns to other people.  We don’t have HIPPA laws in veterinary medicine, so our staff instead strives to operate by “The Golden Rule”.
  4. We ask our clients about the “open windows” policy when we meet them.  The pet’s owner in question today is a close friend of the veterinary assistant mentioned above.  The owner said that she desires our transparent policy, which she says assures her that when she leaves her pet here for the morning, she knows that she can trust the level of treatment that will be performed.  It shows we have nothing to hide.

I wish we had thought enough in advance to offer the person who called if she would like a tour and a chance to meet us.  In retrospect, I would have invited her to our Open House on March 29th from 12pm-4pm.  Instead, I am inviting all of you to visit us during the Open House, where we will have a Teddy Bear Surgery demonstration that will have active opportunities for participation for our younger visitors.  You will be able to see (on our Teddy Bear patient) the level of care that we can offer to our pet patients.

I know that we will never be able to please everyone.  My hope and joy would be to be able to provide outstanding service to those members of the community whose philosophy of pet care matches our our own and get the pleasure out of getting to know them and their pets on a personal level.

So, what do you think? Leave your comments below.


Janette Blackwood, DVM

Charleston Harbor Veterinarians @ the Teddy Bear Picnic

Come out on Sunday March 8th from 1:30pm-4:30pm to Hampton Park and bring your Teddy Bear!  The doctors at Charleston Harbor Veterinarians are proud to be a part of this 6th annual event. Dr. Blackwood and Dr. Kahuda will be at the Teddy Bear first aid station, doing physical exams and possibly even a surgery or two!  This is a great family event and is so close to the new Charleston Harbor Veterinarians at 280 Rutledge Avenue.  We’re excited to see you and your Bear!

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Charleston Parks Conservancy – Teddy Bear Picnic

In an effort to connect children and families to our parks, the Charleston Parks Conservancy is once again hosting its annual Teddy Bear Picnic. This free event encourages families to get outside and take advantage of Charleston’s vast network of more than 120 parks and green spaces. The sixth annual Teddy Bear Picnic is 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 8 in Hampton Park. Activities include Teddy Bear first aid station, crown making, seed planting, face painting, cookie decorating, environmental education, booths with worms and more. John Cusatis will provide live music and other entertainment will include dancing and hula hooping. Food will be available for purchase or families are welcome to bring a picnic. The afternoon wraps up with a Teddy Bear parade. Don’t forget your bear!