Thursday, January 31, 2013

What happens if my dog or cat bites a human in Florida?

Rabies is an infectious virus that affects many animals including our dogs and cats. By law, our pets must be vaccinated for Rabies once yearly. Some counties accept vaccination every three years with an approved 3 year Rabies vaccine.

There is no cure or antidote for Rabies once a person or animal is infected. Therefore, these guidelines are strictly enforced. If a dog or cat bites a human and is current on his/her Rabies vaccination they must be quarantined for 10 days at a veterinary facility or approved by animal control for home quarantine.

If a dog or cat is not current on his/her vaccination they must be quarantined for 10 days at a veterinary facility and then vaccinated upon release if deemed healthy.

Unfortunately, the only way to prove if an animal is infected with Rabies is to examine the brain of the deceased animal in question. Bottom line is, keep your pets current on their vaccines to keep everybody healthy.

More resources: 
Understanding Rabies
The Ins and Outs of Rabies

Blog by:

Dr. Kim Simons services all towns in and around Palm Beach county including Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Highland Beach, Delray Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, and Jupiter.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

No Bones About It: Bones are Unsafe for Your Dog

Folks love to give their pets bones to chew on, but so many people don’t realize that this can cause serious injuries to their pets. The FDA recently released a statement saying that all bones are unsafe to give regardless of their size. As well as being a Lap of Love Veterinarian, I also work as an Emergency room Veterinarian and injuries/illness related to bone ingestion are a very common occurrence. Allow me to itemize the most common presentations to the ER:

1.) Broken Teeth- dogs can fracture their canines or molars, sometimes causing pulp exposure. This is very painful and usually requires either tooth extraction or a root canal.

2.) Mouth or Tongue injuries- I have seen several cuts on the gums, cheeks, tongue and palate from bones splintering into the mouth.

3.) Bones stuck/looped around the lower jaw. I see this most commonly with ham bones- the circle ones with a hole in the center. These get lodged behind the canines of the lower jaw, the dogs panic and then injuries as listed above occur. I have had to sedate the patients and then use a Dremmel tool to saw the bone out of the dog’s mouth in some cases.

Bone stuck in the esophagus, or food pipe. They will hack, retch and try to vomit, but often times may have to be sedated to have the bone piece physically removed.

5.) Bone stuck in the trachea or wind pipe. This happens when the dog accidentally inhales a small enough piece of the bone- this is an emergency as they will have trouble breathing.

6.) Bone stuck in the stomach- the bone makes it down ok, but now it may be too large to exit the stomach or be fragmented and stuck in the wall of the stomach. These cases require either surgery or Endoscopy to use a camera with a grabbing device attached to retrieve the bone.

7.) Bone stuck in intestines causing a blockage- this is very common in dogs and cats that eat chicken/turkey bones because the diameter of the small intestines decreases leading away from the stomach and towards the colon. When bones become stuck in this area it usually requires surgical removal.

8.) Constipation due to bone fragments and rectal bleeding- bone fragments are very sharp and very little of the actual bone is digested, meaning what goes in must come out. Often times the fragments scrape the colon and rectum which is very painful for the patient.

9.) Peritonitis- this is a very serious condition when a bone fragment punctures the stomach or intestinal lining causing leakage of stomach/intestinal contents into the abdomen. A bad bacterial infection and fluid build up with occur- this condition is life threatening and very painful.

Please make sure all bones from meals are thrown away so the pet cannot access them and pay attention to where your dog’s nose is going while out on walks. It only takes a second for a dog to snarf down something that could lead to trouble.

There are many alternatives to animal bones to satisfy an animal’s natural desire to chew. I recommend talking with your regular Veterinarian to see which ones they prefer. Many products are made with 100% digestible materials. As always, supervise your pet with any new chew product and visit your Veterinarian if you notice any vomiting or diarrhea. In summary, I would honestly resist the urge to give your dog that turkey or ham bone around the holidays; if not, I may be seeing you in the animal ER!

Read more or contact Dr. Amanda:

Dr. Amanda Grant, DVM
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
Broward County, Florida  |

Serving Broward County, Florida, 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, January 17, 2013

Natural Dying in Companion Animals By Mary Gardner, DVM

sunset over lake
Photo by Holly Russo

 Faced with a terminal illness or a geriatric pet in a declining state, pet owners have to eventually come to terms with their pet’s passing and make the decision between a ‘natural death’ and humane euthanasia. I imagine just about everyone would like their pet to comfortably crawl into their bed one night, drift off to sleep and pass away peacefully while sleeping. I hope that I personally pass that way as well and I believe this is what many people think ‘natural death’ is. However, more often than not, this is not how a pet dies naturally; and a ‘natural’ death does not necessarily mean that it’s a peaceful death.

To begin with, one has to understand how an animal actually dies. Honestly, this is not fully understood in many cases as it’s dependent on the disease or issue the pet is suffering from. Many “end stage” diseases can be extremely painful or full of anxiety for the pet. Below is a review of the more common ones.

Congestive heart failure is a common cause of death in companion animals and as the heart condition worsens, fluid starts to build up in the lungs. In end stage heart failure, a pet actually drowns in their own lung fluid. Unfortunately for the animal, this associated with an enormous amount of pain and anxiety. Just ask any asthmatic how painful not being able to breath is.

Kidney or liver failure is another very common ailment. The main function of these organs is to filter out toxins and as these toxins build up to poisonous levels in the bloodstream, a pet will become very sick, lose their appetite and slowly die from starvation, dehydration and complications from the toxin build up.

Arthritis or mobility is the most common ailment of larger dogs that I treat. As their joints begin to increasingly hurt, they move less, find it more difficult to get up from a prone position and their leg muscles atrophy making it even more difficult to move. Eventually they will lose mobility all together and not be able to get up. This however will not end the pet’s life. The pet owner will still bring them food or water, so one has to think, ‘How will my pet die from lack of mobility?’ It is usually from secondary complications like bed sores and infection.

When I consult with clients who desire a ‘natural passing’ for their pet – I explain what their pet may experience during that process depending on their ailment. I also ask why they want a natural passing for their pet. More often than not, I receive two answers:

  1. They do not want to make the decision (or make the decision too early) which I totally understand. However, death will occur eventually but it is up to us to help relieve pain, anxiety and suffering for our furry family members by electing humane euthanasia which is the gentlest, most caring thing you can do for your ailing pet.
  2. The second most common answer I hear is that they think euthanasia hurts and entails giving a poison to their pet or giving them a heart attack. 
None of which are true.

With that being said, I think it’s very important that people are educated on what veterinary euthanasia actually is. First, a pet is given a small sedative to help them relax and get comfortable while their family says their goodbyes. If you have ever had surgery, they usually give you a small injectable sedative or pain reliever before the anesthesia. Basically it just makes you feel good and relax! The final medication is an over dose of a barbiturate given in the blood supply – this is an anesthetic. This overdose of an anesthetic makes the pet fall asleep and then stops brain function, which is followed by the heart and lungs stopping. This anesthetic does not hurt at all and it’s just like when humans go under anesthesia for surgery. The pet is totally unconscious when they pass.

On rare occasions some pets may vocalize, however this is a natural reflex when inhibitions are lowered with certain drugs. But this does not mean they are in any pain. Some dogs or cats also may be startled by the feeling of the liquid going thru their vein – again, very similar to humans feeling an odd sensation when we receive IV fluids and the fluid is not the same temperature as our blood. It is still - not painful.

Another thing to keep in mind with a so-called ‘natural’ passing is that it doesn’t always happen at night while they are in bed. It can happen when you run to the store, when you’re at work, when they are outside going to the bathroom etc. More often than not, death doesn’t occur while they are asleep. They eventually do fall unconscious which people then perceive as having occurred while they were asleep. I personally lost my own dog when I was at work. I returned to the sight of him lying in his own feces, in a horrible position and certainly NOT the passing I wanted for my best friend.

A natural passing doesn’t always happen very quickly either. I have had many frantic phone calls from people wanting me to rush to their home because they wanted a natural passing for their pet but the process is taking too long or not very peaceful. The pet might start having a seizure, they may start to choke or they may have difficulty breathing. This is not easy to watch or let your pet go through and people need to be prepared for this. What happens if your pet is alone during this traumatic time? I wouldn’t want to be alone during my final moments, so families with pets that are near the end should have someone with them at all times to make sure they are not suffering.

A family should know that it is never too late to call a veterinarian if the natural route is not going as they had planned. The owner should give themselves permission to choose humane euthanasia if their plan for natural death is not what they had envisioned for their pet's end of life experience.

Many families are amazed after I euthanize their pet at how peaceful and respectful the process actually can be. Many even comment that they wish they could pass that way or they wish it was that peaceful for a family member who passed.

Many elderly people that have a painful or anxiety driven condition are afforded the benefit of a constant infusion of medications like morphine or other sedatives so that they do not feel the effects of body organ shut down and death. Although sad, this is the humane thing to do, but our pets are not normally given this type of care (however, it can be) Understandably, most wouldn't want their pets fully sedated for weeks at a time. That is not quality of life in my eyes and why I believe euthanasia is a better alternative in certain instances.

There is really no down-side to humane euthanasia, aside from the cost to the owner which varies by location and veterinarian but is typically not cost prohibitive. During euthanasia, owners can, if they wish, communicate with their pet's spirit and incorporate personal rituals into the process. There is no shame to providing a pet with a peaceful passing. Personally, I find it satisfying knowing that the pet's final minutes were ones where they felt no pain (due to the effect of sedation and pain relief) versus their final minutes being ones of experiencing some degree of suffering, confusion and anxiety. I think that we, as veterinarians and co-animal lovers, need to give owners "permission" to choose a pain free, peaceful, death for their pets. It can be their last gesture of love.

In conclusion, with euthanasia we are doing exactly what the family originally wanted. For their pet to fall asleep peacefully and pass in their sleep with no pain or anxiety. The only way one can guarantee that will happen is with humane euthanasia.

Posted by Dr. Mary Gardner, DVM

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Radioactive Iodine (I131) - A Cure for Feline Hyperthyroidism

Radioactive Iodine is the safest, best and ultimately least costly lifetime treatment for most hyperthyroid cats.

I131 is a great alternative to lifelong daily medications that must be given to cats. These medications also have serious side effects in up to 10% of cats. The cost of these medications and follow ups can cost $550-$700 per year.
I131 is very effective in treating hyperthyroidism. The first dose will treat 97-98% of cats. 70% of cats will have normal thyroid levels within one week of therapy. 90% will have normal thyroid levels by one month and 97% have normal levels by three months. Following successful therapy, only 0.3% cats will become hyperthyroid again in their lifetime.

The I131 is administered as a single injection under the skin just like a vaccine is given. Treated cats are kept in the hospital for 4-5 days to allow most of the radioactive iodine to be excreted per Radiation Protection Statutes.

Blog by:
Kim Simons, DVM

Dr. Kim Simons services all towns in and around Palm Beach county including Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Highland Beach, Delray Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, and Jupiter.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"It is your job to be kind." Notes from Communications Seminar, by Dr. Dana Lewis

Veterinarians: Dana Lewis, Kate Crumley, & Jack Shuler
(not pictured Dr. Richard Kirkman).
Monday, December 3rd, I returned to my alma mater, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine as a guest speaker on a panel of four vets for the communication class that the students participate in. I was very honored to be invited, as the other panelists were the director for AAHA and also small animal hospital owner (Heartwood Animal Hospital), Dr. Kate Crumley, as well as Dr. Jack Shuler of Chapel Hill Equine Associates and Dr. Richard Kirkman, an equine and bovine practioner from Siler City, all seriously admired and well-known doctors from central NC.

There were 28 students, the majority of which were 3rd year and then a smattering of 1st and 2nd years, plus several professors, technicians, and the grief counselor at the CVM. They had brainstormed up a mess of questions for us to tackle and only 2 hours to try to cover them; they asked about delivering bad news to a client, discussing fees, what interview tips we had for their future positions, and also when they need to hire employees, what tips we had for what we look for in support staff. The time flew by and I had to leave a few minutes early to get my boys at school. There was so much left unsaid, I wish we had more time!

As I left, I thanked them for having me, and told them, “Your two most important appointments with a client are the first and last. If you blow either of those, you will never see those people again. And they will tell everybody how you don’t care. Everything you do in life involves good communication skills; whether that is talking with your spouse, kids, friends, staff, clients, or the gal who made your coffee at Starbucks this morning. It even includes the guy you will accidentally cut off on the way home who will fly you the bird. It’s your job to be kind.”

Read more or contact Dr. Dana:
Dana Lewis, DVM
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
Raleigh, North Carolina  |

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.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Understanding the Difference Between Vaccination vs. Checking Titers

For years we have been told that our pets need vaccines every year for them to stay healthy. As veterinary medicine progresses we change our views. Today AHAA, American Animal Hospital Association, along with several universities, propose a whole new concept.

Puppies and kittens should be vaccinated with core vaccines (rabies and distemper/parvo for dogs and rabies, distemper and leukemia for cats) beginning at about 8 weeks of age and continuing until 16 weeks of age. The core vaccines are then repeated in one year. After that time, vaccines can be kept to a minimum. Rabies can be given every 3 years, according to state and local laws. The distemper vaccine, for both dogs and cats, can also be given every three years. For some pets, more frequent vaccination may be advised based on risks for exposure. Noncore vaccines such as Lymes disease, Leptosporosis, Influenza and Feline Infectious Peritonitis have specific recommendations on ages to begin and frequency given.

An alternative to some vaccines is titering. Titers test the blood for specific antibodies and determine if your pet is protected from a disease. These titers typically do not give a number or level of protection, only a positive or negative result. A positive titer insures that if exposed, your pet is as protected as it would be if given a vaccine. If the titer is negative, your pet may be at risk if exposed and should be vaccinated. Rabies titering is available but may not be accepted by the State as vaccinated. All pets vaccinated, as recommended, can begin titering after two years of age. Titers are definitely recommended for our senior pets and those that are compromised by illness or prone to vaccine reactions.

By titering our pets we are able to “customize” a protocol for each animal. This allows us, as veterinarians, to keep your pet protected from disease without compromising your pet’s health with over vaccination. Don’t get me wrong, our pets are living longer and healthier because of vaccines and they should continue to be vaccinated appropriately.

Discuss titering with your veterinarian at your next visit. Even if your pet is not due for vaccines this year, an annual exam is still needed. Senior pets should be examined twice a year. We can’t keep them healthy if they don’t come to see us!

Blog Written by:
Holly Kiernicki, DVM
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice and In Home Euthanasia

Dr. Holly services the great Dallas, Texas area including: 
~ Frisco ~ Denton ~ Allen ~ Fairview
~ Dallas ~ McKinney ~Celina ~ Little Elm
~ Plano ~ The Colony ~ Carrollton ~ Heath
~ Prosper ~ Richardson ~ Rowlett ~ Wylie
~ Garland ~ Mesquite ~ Rockwall ~ Highland Park

(Blog Posted by Mary Gardner, DVM)