Tuesday, November 27, 2012

So, do our pets go to heaven? By Dr. Laura Allison

This question has been pondered by many. An answer never confirmed. The human- animal bond has developed so profoundly that it is no wonder why we seek to find the truth. This question, even if not discussed publicly, weighs heavily on our minds, especially at the moment when we must make the most difficult decision to mercifully let go of our beloved pets.

There is much debate on this topic, whether from a religious perspective or philosophical one. If you ask most pet parents if they believe their pets go to Heaven, the vote is unanimously yes. Ask a theologian, and you may receive a different answer. My perspective is simply this: our pets are sentient beings full of love, what is closer to Heaven than this?

There are many references from people who have had a near death experience. Many report they have seen their beloved pets in the light or on a ladder leading upward toward a light. Hallucination, I think not. It is up to each of us to make our own decision.

Below are excerpts from the book, Beyond the Light, which documents such experiences. Copyright Beyond the Light, originally in hardcover, Birch Lane Press, New York City (reprinted as a paperback through Avon Books, New York City, 1995 - ISBN: 0-380-72540-1).

I found that both adults and children occasionally report being greeted on The Other Side by animals, especially if favored pets have previously died. But it is the children who describe an animal heaven, some even insisting that they must go through it before they can reach the Heaven where people are. Adult cases can be equally compelling.

Several years before his death, Bryce Bond, a famous New York City media personality turned parapsychologist, shared with me the story of what happened to him when he once collapsed after a violent allergic reaction to pine nuts and was rushed to a hospital. He remembered suddenly passing through a long tunnel toward a brilliant light, and then (pages 13-14, paperback version, "BEYOND THE LIGHT"):
"I hear a bark, and racing toward me is a dog I once had, a black poodle named Pepe. When I see him, I feel an emotional floodgate open. Tears fill my eyes. He jumps into my arms, licking my face. As I hold him, he is real, more real than I had ever experienced him. I can smell him, feel him, hear his breathing, and sense his great joy at being with me again.
"I feel the presence of my dog around me as I ponder those two questions. Then I hear barking, and other dogs appear I once had. “
The following near-death experience appears in P.M.H. Atwater's book, Childrenof the New Millennium (now out of print - see The New Children and Near-Death

“From the light came two dogs of mine. One was a collie named Mimi who had died three years previously from an infection, and the other was a boxer named Sam who had died two years before after being hit by a car. The dogs came running and jumped on me and kissed my face with their tongues. Their tongues weren't wet, and I felt no weight when they jumped on me. The dogs seemed to glow from a light that was inside them. “

Looking to the spiritual, below are verses found in the Bible that may make the case.

The Old Testament:
Ecclesiastes 3:18-21: “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath (literally “spirit“); humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

Genesis 9:9-10: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth.”

Genesis 9:16: “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

Hosea 2:18: “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.” 
The New Testament:
Luke 3:6: "all flesh will see the salvation of God."

Luke 12:6: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”

Revelation 5:13: "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!' "
Regardless of one’s faith, most of us would agree that we will see our pets again. With all that our pets give us in a lifetime; friendship, unconditional love and devotion, surely they will live on long after they have left us.

Blog by Dr. Laura Allison

Posted by Dr. Mary Gardner

Read more or contact Dr. Allison:
Laura Allison, DVM
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
(954) 778-8908
Pompano Beach, FL
drallison@lapoflove.com  |  www.lapoflove.com

Dr. Allison services Broward County, including Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hillsboro Beach, Deerfield Beach, Coconut Creek, Oakland Park, Wilton Manors, Coral Springs, Tamarac, Plantation, Sunrise, Lauderhill, Oakland Park, Ft. Lauderdale, Aventura, Miramar, Hollywood, Davie, Pembroke Pines, Cooper City, and Weston.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Food Dangers for Dogs and Cats

I know we all like to share some of our Thanksgiving goodies to our dogs and cats - but please be careful because there are some things that are extremely dangerous for our furry family members.  Plus, veterinarians see an increase in post-Thanksgiving pancreatitis in dogs because of overfeeding (especially fatty foods).

The Reader's Digest posted this great article (Keep pet safety on the mind while cooking Thanksgiving dinner) that talks about some of those dangerous items:


Herbie (the cat) and Angel (the dog) wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! 

Blog posted by:
Vet Mary Gardner
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice & In Home Pet Euthanasia
Serving Broward and Palm Beach counties in Southern Florida

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Warning to Owners: Don't give these sweets to your dogs! by Dr. Laura Devlin Bacon

Xylitol poisoning in pets is very serious.
Xylitol, a sugar substitute used in many products, including sugar-free gum and mints, chewable vitamins, oral-care products and baked goods, can be highly fatal to your dog if ingested. Xylitol is a popular sweetener in Europe and Japan, and its use as a sweetener in the United States has grown rapidly over the last few years. While xylitol consumption is considered safe in people, dogs are different story altogether.

Xylitol’s ability to cause low blood sugar in dogs has been known for almost 40 years. However, a recent study has found that xylitol also can cause acute liver failure in man’s best friend. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has released its findings from a study of eight dogs that developed liver failure and blood clotting disorders after ingesting xylitol. These dogs had accidentally eaten a variety of products containing xylitol, including cookies, gum, cupcakes, xylitol powder, and muffins. Five of the eight dogs were euthanized or died because of liver failure.

The molecular structure of xylitol
While xylitol causes little-to-no insulin release in people, it does cause a rapid and profound insulin release in dogs. As early as 30 minutes and up to 12 hours after eating xylitol, a dog’s blood sugar can plummet, causing lethargy, vomiting, collapse, seizures, and even death. In addition, some dogs will develop decreased blood potassium and phosphorous levels and increased liver enzymes. In severe cases, massive liver damage, liver failure, and loss of blood clotting abilities can occur, leading to death. The lowest estimated dose of xylitol associated with liver failure is 1 gram per pound – that’s about 5 sticks of gum per 1 pound of dog. However, blood sugar abnormalities can occur with a much smaller amount. Any xylitol ingestion by a dog should be considered potentially life-threatening.

Pet owners: if you are diabetic or watching your diets by using xylitol-sweetened products, please keep them out of the reach of your pets. If your dog consumes even the smallest amount of a xylitol-containing product, it is crucial to seek veterinary treatment immediately. Your dog will need to be hospitalized for at least 24 hours and monitored so that care can be given should his or her blood sugar drop. In addition, supportive care may be needed for the next 72 hours for possible liver damage. Rapid, aggressive treatment is the best way to increase your dog’s chance of surviving this deadly treat.

Laura Devlin Bacon, DVM, DABVP
Canine and Feline Practice

Read more or contact Dr. Bacon:
Laura Devlin Bacon, DVM DABVP
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
Knoxville, Tennessee

Dr. Bacon services the Greater Knoxville Area, including Farragut, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, Clinton, Luttrell, Maryville, Sevierville, and Dandridge.

Blog posted by Vet Mary Gardner

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is my dog fat? By Dr. Dawnetta Woodruff

"Is my dog fat?" 

 As a veterinarian, this is a question I hear in the exam room almost every single day. Often, people are caught off guard when the scale reads 10lb instead of 8lbs like last year... or 85lbs instead of 75lbs. A few extra pounds over the course of a year may not sound like much... but lets do the math. For an 8lb dog, gaining 2lbs over the course of a year is a 25% increase in weight.

Lets put that in more terms that are easier to grasp... For a person, that would be the same as weighing in at 160lbs this year, and 200lbs next year! If you or I gained 40lbs in a year, we would be very concerned! We would notice that none of our clothes fit, we would be short of breath going up and down stairs, and we would have a lot less energy - and we would be at risk for health problems like heart disease, joint problems, diabetes, and stroke. For our pets, the health risks are just as real, even though the number of pounds gained is much smaller.

So now that we know a few pounds CAN be a big deal for our 4-legged family members, how can we answer the "Is my dog fat?" question? And how can we keep a closer eye on our pets weight at home, in between yearly vet visits? The answer is not in the number itself, but rather in your pets Body Condition Score, or BCS (see chart below). The BCS is a system used to evaluate your pets weight, taking their frame size into account. The scale ranges from 1-9 with 1 being "emaciated" and 9 being "severely obese" - a score of 4-5 is considered "ideal." So what exactly do these numbers mean? Lets take a closer look...
  1. Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and all bony prominences evident from a distance. No discernible body fat. Obvious loss of muscle mass.
  2. Ribs, lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones easily visible. No palpable fat. Some evidence of other bony prominence. Minimal loss of muscle mass.
  3. Ribs easily palpated and may be visible with no palpable fat. Tops of lumbar vertebrae visible. Pelvic bones becoming prominent. Obvious waist.
  4. Ribs easily palpable, with minimal fat covering. Waist easily noted, viewed from above. Abdominal tuck evident.
  5. Ribs palpable without excess fat covering. Waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above. Abdomen tucked up when viewed.
  6. Ribs palpable with slight excess fat covering. Waist is discernible viewed from above but is not prominent. Abdominal tuck apparent.
  7. Ribs palpable with difficulty; heavy fat cover. Noticeable fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent or barely visible. Abdominal tuck may be present.
  8. Ribs not palpable under very heavy fat cover, or palpable only with significant pressure. Heavy fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent. No abdominal tuck. Obvious abdominal distension may be present.
  9. Massive fat deposits over thorax, spine and base of tail. Waist and abdominal tuck absent. Fat deposits on neck and limbs. Obvious abdominal distention.
Image courtesy of Nestle Purina company
At first, this scoring system may seem a big confusing. If so, its time to have a conversation with your veterinarian at Fido's next checkup! They can explain the system to you, and help you evaluate his or her individual score. Using this knowledge, together you can decide the answer to the question "Is my dog fat?" And if the answer is yes, you can form a plan of action to help your pet get to a healthier weight. Usually, I cannot give someone an exact answer to the question "How many pounds does Coco need to lose?" Rather, I can let them know their Coco's BCS, and give them a goal BCS. Using this information, we can determine approximately how much their pet may need to lose - but often, my answer is something along the lines of "Coco is currently a BCS of 8. I would like her to lose 8-10lbs, and then we will re-evaluate her BCS to determine how much more weight she may need to lose." Obesity is a definite concern for our pets, and just as with people, the solution is not simple and the goal often cannot be reached in a few weeks or even a few months. If your 4-legged family member has been gaining weight for 2-3 years, remember, it may take 1-2 years to lose that same amount of weight! Be diligent, talk with your vet often, and come up with a plan that works for all three of you!

If you would like more information regarding obesity in our pets, you may enjoy a previous Lap of Love blog written by Dr. Dana Lewis.

Blog Written by:
Dr. Dawnetta Woodruff
Click here for Dr. Dawnetta's Bio and Contact information
Dr. Dawnetta assists families with in home hospice and euthanasia in Missouri & Illinois areas including:
  • MISSOURI - Serving St Louis and portions of the St Louis Metro: South County / Fenton / Chesterfield / Kirkwood / Webster Groves / Town & Country / Ellisville 
  • ILLINOIS - Serving Monroe County and portions of Randolph & St Clair counties: Waterloo / Columbia / Smithton / Millstadt / Belleville / Fairview Heights / O'Fallon 
Blog posted by Vet Mary Gardner

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The dangers of dog and cat collars, by Dr. David Rousseau

Paracord dog collar, martingale style in Solar Orange
Photo by Akyra
(Click to see original.)
Fall has come to New England, and we hopefully don’t have to worry about cars overheating with dogs trapped inside. But as I passed a car parked under a shady tree with a dog in the cargo area just this week, I was reminded of another danger of dogs in the car…collars. I have no idea how many dogs are injured by collars each year. I do know that as a practicing vet, I always warned my clients of the potential dangers.

Collars serve many purposes for our furry friends. Fashion, control, restraint, training, identification…these are great purposes for collars. But collars can be dangerous.

Many years before I was a veterinarian, I worked with in a restaurant with a cook who wanted a German shepherd puppy desperately. She was thrilled when she finally purchased the beautiful purebred dog, and she was enamored of that gorgeous puppy. She even brought it to work and left it in her truck, uncrated but collared. She could visit it and take it out throughout the evenings. One night, as the shift drew to a close, we heard the most horrific scream from the kitchen. We all raced through the swinging doors, and we were greeted with the unimaginable. There stood my sobbing friend with her lifeless puppy in her arms. The puppy had fallen from the front seat and the collar caught on the handle of the window crank. I will never forget that tragic night, and have told that story a million times as a reminder. No collars in the unattended vehicle. And never, ever leave a choke collar on!

If you are going to leave your dog in the car, even for a few minutes, take off the collar. Most collars have a heavy duty snap, so they are easy to on and off. Consider purchasing one for just such car rides. The same goes for crating. I have seen dogs trapped by tag on a collar to the outside of a crate. While the outcome was not grim, the puppy had been trapped for some time. It could have been a tragedy. No collars in the crate.

As just mentioned, collar tags can increase the risk of problems. Name tags, rabies tags, identification tags…the jingle through the house can be a sweet and reassuring sound. But they can be hazardous. A good friend who lives in the country, and is an experienced dog owner, had her young Springer Spaniel out walking off leash. The rabies tag was dangling from the collar. The dog ducked under the electric horse fence, and she managed to somehow catch the slightly opened “s” hook on the live wire. She instantly went into panic mode, biting wildly and screaming madly as her mother tried to get her collar off. Her mother got severely bitten in the panic, and required hospitalization. Be sure all tags are safely secured so they cannot get trapped, and use an easy off collar if your dog is off leash to avoid them ever getting trapped.

Collars and tags are a necessary and useful part of dog life, but we humans have to be very mindful of the dangers they can pose. Being aware and taking precautions are the key to using them safely.

Blog Written by:
Dr. David Rousseau
Click here for Dr. David's Bio and Contact information
Dr. David assists families with in home hospice and euthanasia in the greater Boston, Mass area including
~ Cape Anne ~ The North Shore  ~ Beverly ~ Manchester-by-the-sea ~ Gloucester ~ Hamilton ~ Wenham ~ Rockport
~ Ipswich ~ Salem ~ Danvers

Blog posted by Vet Mary Gardner

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rabbit Care, by Dr. Michelle Bellville

Bunny Tv
Photo by Jaime.
(Click to see original.)
Thinking about getting a small furry friend?

Rabbits are cool little animals with great personalities. They can be potty trained and can even live peacefully sharing a house with cats and dogs. These creatures can range in size from dwarf breeds that weigh only a few pounds to Flemish giants that easily weigh over 20 pounds! They have extremely powerful rear legs that help them jump, and all sizes of these animals are at risk of breaking their backs if mishandled. They are ‘hind gut fermenters,’ meaning that they use bacteria in their large intestine (behind the stomach, or ‘gut’) to help digest the fiber they eat. Other examples of hind gut fermenters are horses and rhinoceros! ‘Foregut fermenters’ are animals like cows and giraffe that use bacteria in their stomach to digest the fiber they eat. As gross as this sounds, rabbits consume some of their own feces – special fecal pellets called cecotropes – in order to get all the nutrients they need. You will probably never see them do this, as they usually consume cecotropes at night or early morning. This is an important reason to make sure your rabbit’s cage does not have a wire/mesh bottom that would allow for waste to drop where your rabbit can’t reach.

Bunny Fair
Photo by Asaciel
(Click to see original.)
Just like horses, rabbits need access to food all day, and one of the most common problems requiring medical care are gastro-intestinal related issues. Also like horses, rabbits cannot vomit and need to eat predominantly hay and grasses. Contrary to popular belief, rabbit pellets are meant to be a minor portion of the daily diet, with unlimited access to hay and measured amounts of fresh chopped veggies as the major portion. Young rabbits can have alfalfa hay and pellets, but as rabbits mature, the hay and pellets offered should be something other than alfalfa. Timothy pellets are very common, and you can vary the hay with timothy, orchard grass, botanical, meadow, and oat hay. Fresh chopped veggies should be dark leafy greens, root veggies, and herbs. The list for greens/herbs is quite long, but include things like dandelion greens, kale, arugula, spring mix, turnip greens, bok choy, fennel, basil, mint, and cilantro. Offer these at 1 packed cup per 2 pounds body weight. Veggies include things like carrots, broccoli, edible flowers, celery, bell peppers, cabbage, and squash and should be offered at 1 tablespoon per 2 pounds of body weight per day. Rabbits LOVE fruit and can have this special treat in small quantities (no more than 1 teaspoon per 2 pounds body weight per day).

Having a solid handle on a great diet for your rabbit will make it easy keeping a rabbit happy and healthy for a long time! Check out www.rabbit.org for great information on rabbit care, and don’t forget to have your rabbit examined yearly by an exotics trained veterinarian!

Blog by:
Dr. Michelle Bellville
Click Here for Dr. Michelle's Bio/Contact Information

Dr. Bellville assists families in the Orlando Florida area with In Home Hospice and Euthanasia. She is also available to assist families with 'exotic' species like birds, hamsters, rabbits, etc with all end of like care. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Medication Nightmares: or why you shouldn't give medication to your pet without talking to a vet first, by Dr. Dana Lewis

Always ask your veterinarian before administering any medications, supplements, herbal remedies, etc. to your pet. Here are some common household meds you might think are safe but they are NOT.

Aspirin: While dogs can be given aspirin with caution, this can cause major GI ulceration if given inappropriately, and also disrupt clotting leading to your pet hemorrhaging. It is a huge NO-NO in cats. They cannot metabolize it fast enough. Signs of aspirin toxicosis may include fever, rapid breathing, vomiting, melena (black digested blood in stool), abdominal pain, seizures, and coma.

Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate: Again, proceed with caution in dogs, and a huge NO in cats as this product contains bismuth subsalicylate which is an equivalent to ASPIRIN!

Ibuprofen (Advil): I don’t recommend it in dogs due to great risk for GI ulcers and kidney failure. And never in cats.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol): The active ingredient in Tylenol® and other commonly used over- the-counter medications, such as Percocet®, aspirin-free Excedrin®, and various sinus, cold, and flu medications, is acetaminophen. Lots of human doctors no longer recommend this for people. We don’t use it in our house. I would never give it to a pet: Can cause liver failure in dogs, in cats it will KILL them. Yes, kill them. One tablet. Bad news, Causes damage to red blood cells and liver failure.

Topical steroid creams: If ingested, and pet is on an NSAID it increases the risk of GI ulcers. Also, even if pet is not on an NSAID, chronic consumption or absorption through the skin can cause iatrogenic Cushing’s disease. (iatrogenic means caused by you, and Cushing’s disease is when you have too much cortisol in your body and you become more prone to infection, poor wound healing, liver damage, thin coat and thin skin, loss of muscle mass, and a bunch of other problems.) Also, some topical steroids are in combo with calcipotriene which can cause elevated blood calcium that can result in kidney failure, heart failure, and possibly death. 

Garlic: not only does it not work on fleas, as a member of the onion family it is toxic to red blood cells and destroys them.

Imodium (loperamide): Some collies and other breeds cannot metabolize this drug properly (the same dogs who cannot metabolize ivermectin). It causes neurotoxicity (dog becomes depressed/confused/comatose).

Benadryl and other antihistamines: Can cause hyperexcitability, increased heart rate, fever, and seizures.

Expectorants and antihistamines (many have pseudoephedrine): Pseudoephedrine causes tremors, elevated heart rate and/or blood pressure. It doesn’t take much to kill a pet.

Desitin and some other diaper creams: Contain zinc and ingestion can lead to zinc toxicosis which causes destruction of red blood cells.

Holistic stuff to prevent heartworms: not only do they not prevent heartworm disease they aren’t safe. Stick with what the veterinarians recommend.

Hydrogen Peroxide: Kills healthy skin cells and can cause aspiration pneumonia if in the process of administering it orally it gets into the lungs.

So please do not let your pet become a statistic as a result of the medicine cabinet.

Blog written by:
Dr. Dana Lewis

Dr. Dana assists families with Pet Hospice and Euthanasia in the Raleigh North Carolina area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and the greater Triangle, as well as Wake, Durham, Orange, and Chatham counties.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Caring Beyond A Cure – A Look At Veterinary Hospice

By Dr. Mary Gardner

November 3rd 2012 is National Veterinary Hospice Awareness day so I thought it was appropriate to post a blog on what veterinary hospice is. It can mean a lot of things to many people.

If you have ever cared for a geriatric or terminally ill pet, then you know what it’s like to hear those dreaded words, ‘There is nothing more we can do’ ; or even worse if your veterinarian simply says, ‘Call me when it’s time…you will know when that is.’ However this does not mean that euthanasia is the only option available to you. Pet Hospice is an emerging field in veterinary medicine and is a unique approach to your pet’s end-of-life needs. It focuses on maintaining comfort and quality of life for of your pet, not at finding a cure for his or her disease.

As a veterinarian that solely practices in-home hospice and euthanasia, I have been given the unique privilege to help families during what I believe is the most important time they have with their pet. So often a pet owner who has just heard that their pet has a terminal illness needs time: Time to think, time to adjust, and time to make decisions. Veterinary hospice care supports both pet and family during this time.

The first and most important step in hospice care is educating yourself about your pet’s medical condition.

You need to know what to expect in those last few months, weeks, days, and/or hours in order to make the best decision for you, your pet, and your family.

The second step is making sure your pet is treated palliatively. This means your pet is being medically treated for comfort or anxiety. Veterinary hospice is not about giving them such high doses of strong medication that they can’t function; it’s about making sure they feel good throughout the day and have a comfortable full night’s sleep.

The third step in hospice care is evaluating Quality of Life. This can be very subjective terminology and is highly dependent on the disease process your pet is experiencing, your pet’s personality, and your personal beliefs. Determining quality of life is made easy when you have a scale and diary to help guide you. There are many Quality of Life scales available online. After giving your pet a ‘grade’ you can determine where they are in terms of their condition and if medical intervention or even euthanasia is appropriate.

Hospice is not synonymous with euthanasia, although euthanasia should be discussed and can be a part of a hospice program. We all wish for a peaceful natural passing but it is not always that simple, fast or painless. As pet parents we are responsible for making sure our pets do not suffer – even if that means we have to suffer a little ourselves and make tough decisions.

For more information on hospice – visit our site: www.lapoflove.com

Blog by:
Vet Mary Gardner
Dr. Mary is one of the Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice founders and has helped hundreds of families in South Florida with end of life care for their pets.