Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Honoring all pets

Mount Calvary Cemetery Group held a memorial service on June 5th 2013 in Cheektowaga, New York. Lap of Love’s Dr. Steven Schultz had a booth at the event where is wife Sara, a hospice chaplain also provided the music and singing. More than 60 people attended the ceremony and were able to memorialize their loved pet friends as well as light candles. It was a lovely event and we were honored to be apart of it.

Written by Dr. Steven Schultz

Steven Schultz, DVM
Buffalo / Niagara Region
(716) 320-0187

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Natural Therapies for Pets, by Dr. Steven Schultz

In recent years there has been an increasing interest in a return to a more natural lifestyle, including organic, unprocessed diets, fewer medications, natural fiber clothing, and a simpler lifestyle to name only a few lifestyle changes. In a similar vein, people have looked to treating their pets in a more holistic manner.

What are natural pet therapies? Natural pet medicine, also known as complementary medicine, alternative medicine, or holistic medicine is a form of veterinary medicine that encompasses many modalities which emphasize the use of simple, unprocessed substances rather than toxic chemicals with severe side effects, and emphasizes treating the whole (holistic) being rather than just symptoms.

Treating a pet holistically means considering all factors that contribute to the well being of that pet. A holisitic veterinarian will think about emotional state (i.e. stress), environment, nutrition, lifestyle (ie. activity and exercise), and immune status to name a few of these factors.

There are many modalities used to treat an animal holistically. These can include such things as chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine, nutritional medicine, physical therapy, “hands-on” therapies such as Reiki or even massage.

Many people turn to natural therapies for themselves or their pets because they believe they are safer and cheaper than conventional therapies, but this is not always true. In general, natural therapies are gentler with fewer side effects, but a trained and certified holistic veterinarian should be consulted before initiating any therapy on an animal.

Written by Dr. Steven Schultz

Steven Schultz, DVM
Buffalo / Niagara Region
(716) 320-0187

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Kidneys—the Unsung Heroes of Waste Disposal…

Like your neighborhood garbage handlers and the late great Rodney Dangerfield, the kidney just doesn’t get enough respect.  In fact, your kidneys are so important, that the body is equipped with two, even though you only need one healthy kidney to live!  Just what does the kidney do, anyway?
  • Regulates water balance –i.e. decreased urine when you’re dehydrated, increased when you’re drinking a lot
  • Filters small particles from the blood—some are passed in the urine (like some medications), and some are re-absorbed before they are excreted (like glucose—except in diabetics where the kidneys can’t keep up with the high blood sugar)
  • Regulates electrolyte balance
  • Excretes urea—a by-product of protein breakdown that is related to ammonia
  • Helps to regulate blood pressure
  • Works with the parathyroid gland to regulate calcium levels
  • Secretes a hormone called erythropoietin to stimulate red blood cell production
If the kidney isn’t doing its job the way it should, it’s called renal failure, but this doesn’t mean it has shut down entirely…

There are two types of renal disease/failure:      

ACUTE RENAL FAILURE (very recent onset) generally happens in younger animals, but not always.

Causes include toxins such as antifreeze (ethylene glycol), grapes/raisins, plants like Easter lilies (cats!), or even human medications.  Other causes include urinary obstruction—if the urine can’t get out, it will start to back up into the kidneys and cause pressure damage to the delicate tissues; infectious disease like leptospirosis or even infection that may spread from other parts of the body via the bloodstream.  Decreased blood flow to the kidneys (such as what happens when an animal gets too dehydrated or develops heat stroke) can also cause acute renal failure.

CHRONIC RENAL FAILURE (been going on for a while, even though it may not have been detected) generally happens in older animals, but not always. Causes include birth defects (malformed or missing kidneys), hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, chronic low grade inflammation/infection or even just old age—many geriatric cats will develop this.  Persian and Abysinnian cats are genetically prone to kidney disease.
How Can I Tell If My Pet Has Kidney Disease?

Often in acute renal failure, a pet that felt fine a few days ago, now feels lousy.  They may be a little dehydrated, lethargic, not wanting to eat, and they may or may not be vomiting.  They may be urinating very little, not at all or more than usual.  Animals that have gotten into antifreeze may appear “drunk” or “out-of-it”.  Fluid may accumulate in the lower part of their legs or even in their lungs. In severe situations, increasing ammonia levels can cause seizures.

In chronic renal failure, the pet may be thin, and they’re usually dehydrated and often vomiting (increased toxins in the body can cause stomach ulcers AND stimulate a part of the brain that causes vomiting).  They may have dark or tar-like stools.  They often have foul breath and ulcers on their gums (which are often pale) or the inside of their cheeks.  They’ve usually been drinking a lot and urinating a lot. Contrary to popular belief, increased urination is NOT a sign that the kidneys are functioning well!

Diagnosis is based on physical exam, and bloodwork/urinalysis.  Your vet will specifically be looking at BUN/creatinine, hematocrit, potassium, calcium and phosphorus levels as well as the specific gravity of the urine.  Additional diagnostic tests may be recommended by your veterinarian.


Dehydration makes the pet feel really sick (remember the last time you had the stomach flu?!  UGH!).  Fluids administered intravenously will also help to flush out the toxins that build up in the body.  In chronic cases, fluids may be given subcutaneously (under the skin).

A potassium level that is too high (common in animals that have a urinary obstruction) can cause life-threatening heart arrhythmias, and must be lowered with fluids and possibly medication.  Potassium that is too low (common in chronic renal failure patients) can cause weakness and must be supplemented in the fluids.  When the pet goes home, they may require oral potassium supplements.

High phosphorus levels are common as the kidney failure progresses, and it can make the pet feel terrible. High phosphorus can cause calcium levels to drop (calcium and phosphorus levels should be inversely proportionate—meaning as one rises, the other falls), which can eventually result in rubbery bones as the body robs the bones of their calcium!  There are dietary supplements that bind phosphorus in the digestive tract.

Antibiotics are necessary for bladder or kidney infections (your vet may recommend periodic urine cultures to monitor for infection).

Anemia may require treatment in the form of supplements or medications.

Vomiting may be severe enough to warrant treatment—medications may be prescribed for nausea, to decrease acid production in the stomach, to coat the stomach, and/or to move the food more efficiently through the digestive tract.

Medications may be prescribed to increase blood flow to the kidneys or to decrease blood pressure.

Prescription diets for pets with kidney disease have specially formulated protein, salt, phosphorus and potassium levels, as well as anti-oxidants that may reduce the risk of further kidney damage.

ALWAYS allow constant access to water—these animals should NEVER be allowed to dehydrate!!

While kidney transplants are available for dogs and cats, they are not performed very frequently.  There are very specific requirements that must be met; there are a limited number of referral centers in the country that offer them, and they are very expensive.

The prognosis depends on the cause and the extent of the damage to the kidneys.  If we can quickly identify and treat the cause of acute renal failure, a full recovery may be possible.  Chronic renal failure is not curable, but can be manageable—particularly for cats.

References and good sites for more information:
Written by Dr. Sunday Cozzi

Read more or contact Dr. Sunday:

Dr. Sunday Cozzi
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
(803) 994-9460
Central Savannah River Area

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

IV Catheters—a little peace of mind is priceless! by Dr. Sunday Cozzi

Photo courtesy of http://www.lbah.com/word/fluid-therapy-2/
Intravenous, or IV catheters are used to deliver fluids or drugs directly into the circulatory system.  Catheters are often placed in sick patients, cancer patients (for chemotherapy infusion), patients that require serial blood collection, or to provide venous access and a route for fluid delivery during surgery/anesthesia.

The location of the catheter depends on its function.  For instance, a ‘peripheral catheter’ is placed in a vein in one of the limbs in dogs and cats.  Most frequently—the cephalic vein, located on the front of the forelimb, is used.  Sometimes one of the saphenous veins is utilized—they are located in the rear limbs on the inside of the thigh, and on the outside of the leg just above the hock. Peripheral catheters are short and generally easy to place but often don’t last more than three days without having to be replaced. They are used for anesthetic/surgical procedures and hospital stays when the animal is expected to recover relatively quickly. They are generally not useful for collecting blood samples. Central catheters (or ‘central lines’) are exactly as they sound—a longer catheter in a central vein—these can be placed in the medial or lateral saphenous veins, or the jugular vein. These are better used for serial blood collection, or if the patient is in intensive care and is expected to require medical intervention for more than 3-4 days.

Frequently, the first time that a pet owner hears about IV catheters is when their pet is dropped off at the veterinarian for an elective procedure such as a spay, neuter or dental prophylaxis. Your vet may require or recommend that an IV catheter be placed for these procedures. Here’s the thing—in an emergency, this access is priceless. Should something go wrong during anesthesia—rare, but it does happen—you don’t want the minutes ticking by while your precious baby’s life hangs in the balance as a technician or vet struggles to get that catheter in place.  There are drugs and IV fluids that can support an animal that is having a difficult time either due to the anesthesia or in reaction to what is going on in surgery.  But…you’ve got to get them into the pet…quickly.  If they ask you whether you want to opt for the catheter, your answer should be, “Absolutely!”  They say hindsight is 20-20, and you just don’t want to find that out the hard way.  Do keep in mind that the catheter placement will require a small area of fur to be shaved.  It will grow back before you know it, and is a small price to pay.


Written by Dr. Sunday Cozzi

Read more or contact Dr. Sunday:

Dr. Sunday Cozzi
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
(803) 994-9460
Central Savannah River Area

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chronic Renal Failure in Dogs and Cats by Dr. Mary Gardner

 “Cali” was a sweet brown dog I met in 2009 when I was working at a clinic. Her mom Grace brought her to see me because she was vomiting for a few days and her appetite had decreased. After a few tests, I diagnosed “Cali” with Chronic Renal Failure (CRF). “Cali” turned out to be my first in-home hospice patient and Grace turned into one of the best care givers I have met.

What is CRF?

CRF – also known as Kidney Failure - is the gradual loss of kidney function. Some functions of the kidneys are to excrete naturally occurring waste products, concentrate urine and produce a hormone known as erythropoietin which assists in the production of new red blood cells.

When the kidneys begin to fail, those waste products begin to build up in the bloodstream. These waste products, such as blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and phosphorus is what causes the animal to feel ill and can even cause oral and gastric ulcers, making the animal feel even worse while decreasing their desire to eat.

Even though animals in CRF will drink more frequently, they will become dehydrated because the kidneys stop concentrating urine sufficiently and they begin to urinate large volumes of very dilute urine.

In some cases, the dog or cat can also become anemic because the kidneys are not producing enough erythropoietin to help make red blood cells.

How is it diagnosed?

CRF can be diagnosed with blood work, urine samples and imaging (x-rays or ultrasound). However, it is important to know that studies show almost 80% of kidney tissue is irreversibly damaged before clinical signs present and the disease is found in blood workups.

How is it treated?

The goals of treatment are to support the kidneys and medically assist them to complete the jobs that they are meant to do.

We usually start by putting the animal on a prescription diet – one with low-quantity/ high-quality protein and low phosphorus in order to reduce the amount of BUN and phosphorus build-up in the body.

Administration of fluids under the skin (subcutaneous/sub-q fluids) can be done at home or intra-venous fluid therapy in the hospital. This is done to flush out the build-up of toxins and to keep the animal hydrated.

Oral phosphate binders are sometimes used to help remove excess phosphorus.

What is the prognosis for renal failure?

Managed appropriately, many animals that are diagnosed with CRF go on to live many more great years. However, with any disease there are some animals that do not respond positively to treatment and remain ill and their condition quickly worsens. It is important to have your animals checked regularly by a veterinarian so that renal function can be assessed and any changes in the kidneys can be addressed immediately.

“Cali’s” mom spent 9 months caring for her with special diet, sub-q fluids at home and a lot of TLC. “Cali” passed at home, in the comfort of her personal chaise lounge and her mom close by.

Written by Dr. Mary Gardner

Dr. Mary Gardner
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
San Diego County

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Feline Dental Disease, by Dr. Holly Kiernicki

Cat brushing teeth
Photo by Itchmo
Cats build plaque and tartar on their teeth just like people do and can lead to significant dental disease. Clinical signs can range from halitosis to severe discomfort leading to health issues.  Painful cats may salivate, paw at their mouth or grind their teeth.  Others will stop eating all together leading to weight loss and associated medical concerns such as hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver syndrome).

Some cats just have dirty teeth that need a prophylactic cleaning (dental scale and polish) to return to a healthy mouth.  Other cats have an immune reaction that causes gingivitis, stomatitis and tooth loss.  These lesions can be extremely painful and need to be addressed immediately.

Gingivitis is a reddening of the gums due to the bacteria present in the plaque and tartar.  A more severe form, or later stage, is stomatitis, where the entire mouth is reddened and inflamed.  Some cats will show no signs of gingivitis or stomatitis but will have resorptive lesions.  These lesions are not true cavities.  They are areas of the tooth that are being removed by cells that typically help resorb the roots of the primary, or baby teeth, as they are lost.  The trigger mechanism is not known but the effect is commonly noted on exam.  It starts as a small, sensitive spot on the enamel, above or below the gum line, that eventually causes the crown to fall off and the roots are left behind.

Good oral exams done at annual visits detect the majority of feline dental disease.  A dental cleaning is recommended with any amount of tartar present as there can be lesions above the gum line that are not visible without probing and/or dental xrays.  Once everything is cleaned up and healed, timing of exams can be determined by your veterinarian to help keep Kitty’s mouth looking and smelling fresh.

Article Written by Holly Kiernicki, DVM

Dr. Holly Kiernicki
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice
(972) 843-1186

Dr. Holly services the greater 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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver Disease) by Dr. Dana Lewis


Lipidosis (abnormal fat metabolism) is a cause or contributing cause of liver failure when a cat that was once overweight loses weight too quickly. (While it is more common to occur in an overweight cat, it can happen in any cat who loses a considerable amount of weight suddenly). Cat owners don’t realize the danger with this rapid weight loss, and are pleased to see the chunky cat becoming “healthier” weighted. The good news is that there is a good recovery rate for this condition provided it has not progressed too far, but this will require aggressive support to reverse the disease process, and also if the underlying reason for the problem is not serious in itself.  If a cat has gone missing and returns feeling unwell or without an appetite, have it evaluated immediately.

Fatty Liver (Hepatic Lipidosis)

Approximately 2 weeks of eating 1/2 - 3/4 the normal amount of food is needed to develop a fatty liver.  Cats evolved as predators of small birds and rodents, eating multiple small meals throughout the day. As carnivores in the wild, cats would be lean and never develop extensive fat stores.

This changed when cats became domestic. The modern housecat has the opportunity to become overweight and should the cat get sick or lost, and stop eating, a very big problem occurs since the cat liver was never intended to handle huge amounts of mobilized fat. The liver becomes infiltrated with fat and fails. Complicating matters are the high dietary protein requirement that is unique to cats; protein malnutrition develops fast when cats do not eat.

But My Cat Loves to Eat!  Why Did the Feeding Frenzy Stop?

Initially there was an underlying cause of the decrease in food intake that started the cat down the slippery slope to lipidosis. Keep in mind that hepatic lipidosis rarely happens for no apparent reason. If there is an underlying cause, it must also be addressed.  If you’re lucky, the underlying cause has resolved (such as the cat was lost/starved and has now been found).

Cornell University looked at 157 cats with lipidosis and looked at what conditions occurred first. Here is a summary of what they found:
  • 28% had inflammatory bowel disease
  • 20% had a second type of liver disease (usually cholangiohepatitis)
  • 14% had cancer
  • 11% had pancreatitis
  • 5% had social problems (new cat, new home, threatening other pet or person at home)
  • 4% had some kind of respiratory disease
  • 2% were diabetic
Liver Disease vs. Liver Failure

About 70% of cats in liver failure are jaundiced (yellow); they are also frequently nauseated, will not eat, and are obviously ill. The jaundice (also known as icterus) is often not noted by the pet owner but can often be seen by carefully examining the whites of the eyes, the gums, or in the ear flaps. Sometimes the yellow color is not evident to the naked eye but is picked up as a blood test elevation in bilirubin, a yellow pigment normally processed by the liver.  The average cat with lipidosis is middle-aged, has lost at least 25% of its original body weight, and 38% will have vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.

Liver disease may be picked up as an elevation in a blood test enzyme called alkaline phosphatase, or ALP. This enzyme should never be elevated in a cat. There are several forms of this enzyme in the body, not just the liver version, so an elevation is suggestive of liver disease and usually requires follow up testing of actual liver function.  Other liver enzymes on routine blood panels are alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST).   We also look at other blood values that the liver has a role in processing or producing, such as BUN and albumin.  A lab test that might be helpful in determining underlying cause is the GGT (gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase) level. It is usually not elevated in lipidosis but would be elevated if there is an underlying additional liver disease or in the event of pancreatitis.

It is important to distinguish tests of liver damage, like enzymes, versus tests of liver function, like bile acids. The enzymes ALT and AST are normally held inside liver cells; when their presence is detected free in the bloodstream, this is an indicator of liver cell death. A liver can have damage without any decrease in its overall function, so elevations don’t equal liver failure.  Also, liver enzymes can be really low in end-stage failure due to so few living cells producing these enzymes anymore, so normal enzymes do not equal a healthy, functioning liver.

A liver function test is different. In a liver function test, the liver is actually asked to do something and we measure whether it does the job sufficiently or not.  In this way, we can see if the liver is actually in need of support.  The one frequently used is called a Bile Acids Test.  Testing bile acids is not necessary if bilirubin is already elevated.

Tissue sampling such as biopsy or needle aspirate is crucial to the diagnosis of liver disease. Without a tissue sample, all we can tell is whether or not the liver is in failure and specific therapy for a specific type of liver disease is not possible (though general support of the failing liver may still be possible.) A needle aspirate or tissue biopsy shows hepatic lipidosis +/- other forms of liver disease.

Treatment of Fatty Liver Disease:


The cornerstone of treatment for lipidosis involves aggressive nutritional support. (In other words, a high protein diet must get into the cat to reverse the metabolic starvation state.) If this is done carefully, the recovery rate approaches 90%.  Cats that show a 50% drop in total bilirubin level within 7 to 10 days are statistically likely to survive.

Many people are reluctant to place or work with feeding tubes and want to try feeding the cat at home. There is no room for tentative treatment when it comes to this disease. Force-feeding at home can work but one must have a specific amount of food to feed and that amount must be successfully fed if the patient is to recover.  Generally, by the time a cat has gotten into trouble with hepatic lipidosis, most owners have already tried tempting cats with assorted favorite foods and gotten no results. At the point where lipidosis has developed, the cat CANNOT be given a choice about eating; there are several methods of providing food you can enlist.  Ask your veterinarian about diets that fit the high protein profile best for lipidosis cats, and if they have a feeding tube, use the diet recommended to reduce the likelihood of clogging issues.

For a few cats, force-feeding is non-stressful and easily performed. To provide nutrients, you have to understand how much of the food product should be fed daily and how much may be fed per meal. Food is generally canned and of a consistency like hamburger. Generally, food can be fed by syringe or meatball method.  Using a syringe can be stressful and you risk aspiration of the food into the lungs.  Canned food meatballs can be made of approximately a one-inch diameter and given to the cat in the same way you would give a pill. Be careful to give the cat enough time to fully swallow the first meatball before proceeding to the next one. An entire 3 oz can of cat food can be fed in this way. If struggling results or if the cat attempts to scratch or bite, this feeding method may be too stressful.  It is also quite messy.

Feeding Tubes:

Once the cat comes home, you can do this!  It might look intimidating, but the cat has to eat in order to recover.
(Jack from Chocolate and Crossants blog)
A nasogastric feeding tube can be passed by your veterinarian through the nose, into the stomach and sewn into place to allow feeding of a liquid diet. Placement of this kind of tube does not require anesthesia, and the tube is relatively easy to use. The tube can be dislodged by the cat, so an Elizabethan collar is necessary to protect the feeding tube. Only liquid diets can be fed through the tube due to its small diameter. The tube can also be pushed backward if the cat vomits, so that it opens towards the mouth instead of the stomach. All of these problems make the nasogastric tube the least popular of all the feeding tubes when it comes to long-term use; however, often this form of feeding is used for the first few days as this is when bleeding risk is highest and the patient is least stable for anesthesia. One of the other tubes can be placed when the patient is more stable.
(Eddie from esheley.wordpress.com)
Esophagostomy tubes are larger and stick out of a bandaged incision in the neck. Food must be blenderized but does not have to be fully liquid. The larger diameter of the tube makes feeding easier and the tube is more comfortable but the tube does require general anesthesia for placement.

Gastrostomy tubes can be placed via an endoscopy or a special applicator called an ELD gastrostomy applicator. This tube is placed under general anesthesia but thought to be the most comfortable to wear. A bandage around the belly protects the tube which enters directly into the stomach through the body wall, and which must stay in place a minimum of two weeks but can stay in place as long as a year (maybe longer, though the treatment of lipidosis requires generally 4 to 6 weeks or so of tube feeding).

When a patient has been in starvation mode for a while and then begins to eat, some serious metabolic problems may occur in the first few days as metabolism changes, such as low potassium or phosphate.  So expect the cat to be monitored in the hospital for the few days following initiation of nutritional support.

Some Feeding Tips:
  • Know how much of the food should be fed per day-size of meals and total amount per day gradually are increased over a couple days.  Follow your veterinarian’s guidelines.
  • Tube feeding should be expected to continue 4 to 6 weeks.
  • The feeding tube should be cleared with warm water prior to and again after food administration, or if it clogs during feeding.
  • Food must be warmed and administered slowly to avoid inducing vomiting.
  • Medication should not be administered through the feeding tube unless directed by your veterinarian. Many tubes are easily clogged this way.
Other Support
There are several medications that are supportive to the liver that might be used.  These might assist the body in excreting bile, supporting liver function, removing toxic bile acids, or replacing vitamins that are low.  Your veterinarian will let you know which ones are indicated for your kitty.

Written by Dr. Dana Lewis

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

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.