Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hodgepodge (and I met someone)

1. April showers bring May flowers...what have you been showered with this month?

I was showered with a beautiful bouquet of red roses and a steak dinner complete with baked potato, beans, salad, and garlic bread - by candlelight - on Monday night. I knew about the dinner, but I had no idea about the flowers. Let me just say, I have not had a guy buy me flowers (besides Dad) in close to 10 years. I think the guy thought I was over-reacting a little, but really, I wasn't. They were "just because" and that meant more to me than anything. I guess I could also say, I've been showered with affection by a really awesome person this month and I'm just so happy.
2. What is the nature of compassion?  Is it learned or innate?  Can compassion be learned?  If you're a parent is this something you've purposely sought to instill in your children, and if so how?

Whenever I become a parent, I will definitely instill compassion into my kids. I think it's very important. I think in some cases, it can be learned, but I think it's better if it's been instilled into you from an early age.
3. Do you prefer to watch romantic comedy or romantic drama...or are you rolling your eyes saying bring on the action flicks?

I love movies from every genre, as long as it's good anyway. I love a funny, witty romantic comedy, but I also enjoy a good romantic drama sometimes, too.
4.  It's April which means baseball season is officially upon us here in the US of A. Humphrey Bogart is quoted as saying "A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz." Agree or Disagree?


Can you tell I love me some baseball?? lol A Giant Dog is way better than anything at the Ritz because it's at the ball game. Seriously. Oh and AT&T Park makes a mean set of garlic fries. YUM!!
5. What's something in your community or city that needs fixing or improving?

Hmmm. Well our city hasn't been able to afford our Civic Center for awhile, so they allowed some big church in town to take it over. I recently found out the church totally sucked at managing it, so they got kicked out and now someone else is managing it. We're not a major city, but it's still a very important venue and if we could get more concerts and shows there, it would be helpful.
6. Share a song you enjoy that mentions flowers or a specific flower in its title.

Um. The only song that comes to mind is "Pickin' Wildflowers" . . . can't even remember who sings it, but it's a country song.

7. April 22nd is Earth you believe there's life on other planets?  That wasn't the question you were expecting was it?

Yep. I do. If the universe is truly as vast as we believe it is, there has to be other life out there. No offense, but that would be an awful amount of wasted space if there wasn't life on other planets.
8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Obviously you can tell by my answer to the first question that I've met someone. Some of my regular readers know that I've been searching for a long time, and some even had their own ideas of who I'd meet and how they'd sweep me off my feet - which made me love them even more! lol Anyway, I have met someone, and that's where a lot of my time has been going lately (that and job hunting!). I'll write more later, but I've been wanting to share it for awhile. :o)

Friday, April 19, 2013

A-Z Challenge

For whatever reason, this year, my heart just isn't completely in this A-Z Challenge.

I have skipped letters/days which has not happened the previous two years I've participated.

I just haven't had the time to sit and visit all of the other 1,000 blogs that are participating.

I've had next to no traffic brought in this year, either, which is disappointing as I visited over 100 blogs and commented on them. But I realize that not everyone has time to go running around to other blogs and return the love.

Because I haven't had the time to visit more and return some people's comment love.

Normally I would just push through, but I never got the last week or so of my posts written. All the previous posts had been written in advance, for the most part. If the rest of my posts were already written, I'd just continue to post them. But since they're not, they won't be written.

Next week I shall return to my regular blogging.

As long as I don't lose my blogging mojo in the meantime.

For those that did stop by from the A-Z Challenge, thank you. I will try to get to your blogs if I haven't already.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A-Z Challenge: Q is for Questions

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

 It doesn't matter how many years you've been taking your pets to the veterinarian, there are always questions you should ask. When you ask them may depend on your pets age or if and when a medical situation arises. Don't be afraid to ask your vet or their staff questions - it's what they are there for.

1. What vaccines should my pet get? If you have a new puppy, he should start getting vaccines at 6 weeks of age, with his DHLPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, and Parvo). It should be given about every 3 weeks until he's about 4 months old (so a series of 3 or 4). If you have a kitten, he should get his FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia) and his FELV (Feline Leukemia Virus) vaccines. Again, a series of 3 or 4 shots at 3 weeks apart. Once the puppy or kitten is at least 16 weeks or older, he can get his Rabies vaccine. Depending on your area, your vet may recommend your dog also get a K9 Flu and Kennel Cough vaccines, and even Rattlesnake vaccine.

2. Should I brush my pet's teeth? Yes, you should. Brushing even two or three times a week will help prevent tartar build-up and plaque. Make sure you use a pet safe toothpaste, not a human toothpaste. You can also ask your vet about oral rinses as well.

3. Is it really necessary to give flea, tick and heartworm preventions? This will depend on your area, but yes, in general, you should give these preventative medications. Make sure to ask your veterinarian if you live in a high risk area for heartworm disease. Flea prevention should be given year round, especially if you travel a lot with your pet or you live in a climate that is warmer in winter (like California, Arizona, New Mexico, etc.). Tick prevention is a must if you live in rural areas.

4. Why does my pet eat poop? Even perfectly healthy pets may make a habit out of this. (I once had a dog that loved horse poop. Bleh!). Often it's just a bad (and disgusting) habit they pick up. Either way, it should be discouraged as it's another way for your pet to ingest bacteria or parasites.

5. Can my pet get my cold? Or can I get my pet's cold? The simple answer is no. The human flu/cold viruses are not transferable to your pet. Just as the K9 flu or your cat's upper respiratory infection won't be transferred to you. However, there are some zoonotic diseases like Rabies that you should always be aware of. Also there are some parasites that can be transferred to people, such as roundworm, or even skin diseases like ringworm.

6. How much do I feed my pet? How do I tell if my pet is overweight? Each pet is different, and so is there lifestyle. Most bags of pet food will give you a feeding range for your pet's weight range. Some breeds may be prone to obesity, so you will have to be the best judge. Your vet can give you an idea of how much to feed, but if you notice Fido's waddling more than usual, cut back. Some dogs only eat one cup of food a day. Each "meal" you feed  your pet is a nutritionally balanced meal (ideally), so don't think you're starving your dog. Or cat. You should always be able to feel your pet's ribs without having to press hard. And your pet should have a waist past the rib cage.  If you can't feel your pets ribs, it waddles around, or has love handles, it's probably on the obese side.

7. Does my pet need bloodwork? Really? This will largely depend on your pet's health and history. Any pet over 7 years is usually recommended to have annual bloodwork done simply to monitor kidney and liver function, diabetes, cancer, or thyroid problems. Even if your vet doesn't find anything wrong, you've established a "normal" for your pet, so it will be easier down the road to notice if something is amiss. Bloodwork is typically recommended before surgeries, but some offices will let you decline it. If your pet has health issues, such as seizures, your vet will usually require annual bloodwork to monitor your pet's liver and to make sure your pet is still doing okay on the dosage being given.

8. What are these lumps/bumps on my pet? As our pets age they grow little lumps and bumps. If you notice a lump or bump that wasn't there before, it's always a good idea to have your vet check it out to make sure whether or not it's cancerous.

9. Should I be giving my pet supplements? This is typically on a case by case basis. Your pet's food is a balanced meal, however some breeds may require something extra. For example, large breeds of dogs have a tendency to have joint problems at a young age, so your vet may suggest joint supplements. Feel free to ask questions of your vet regarding supplements.

10. My appointment was 15 minutes, why is $200?! Most vet offices will give you an itemized receipt so you see the breakdown of why your bill is $200. Don't be afraid to ask about their fees - but please don't be rude if you do so. The vet or their staff will usually be happy to go over their fees, because they don't want you to leave upset. Here's an example from one clinic I worked for:

Office Exam - $45
CBC - In House - $75
Thyroid - Lab - $125
Enalapril 10mg x30 - $20
Furosemide 12.5mg x15 - $30
Total: $295

I kind of pulled the prices out of a hat, but you get the idea. In house testing will usually cost less than sending it out to a lab. If something about your bill bugs you, speak up.

The point is, don't be afraid to ask the vet or their staff questions. They are there to make life better for your pet. A happy pet is a happy owner. We all enjoy seeing your pets come in. We often take these journey's with you, the ups, the downs, and typically the worst day of any pet owners life where they need to euthanize their pet. We'll laugh with you and cry with you and give you a hug and a kleenex if needed.  So don't be afraid to ask, because your vet's office is a huge part of your pet's life.

A-Z Challenge: P is for Parvo

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

This is one thing I stress to new pet owners/people with new puppies: be very careful about Parvo. Parvo is the most common infectious disorder among dogs in the United States. And is among the most deadly for puppies. Parvo has broken many new pet owner's hearts, and as common as it is, there are still so many people who know nothing about it.

Parvo is a highly contagious virus that puppies can literally pick up from almost anywhere. They can pick it up from sniffing another dog, from a pet store, from a dog park - from any high traffic dog area. The important thing to know is that the virus can actually live in the soil for several years. Once the weather warms up a little - BOOM.

This virus is the reason why vet offices will stress a vaccine series for your new puppy - to hopefully prevent you from having to pay $500-$1000 in treatment costs. It is highly recommended that your new puppy get a minimum of 3 of it's DHLP-P vaccines, approximately 3 weeks apart. DHLP-P stands for Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptosirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus. In higher risk areas, it's recommended that your new puppy get at least 4 shots.

Your new puppy is born with some immunity, but by the time it's 6 weeks old, it's immunity is pretty much nil. The reason your vet will recommend a series of vaccines is to help build up that immune system again.

Another important thing to remember is this: Just because your puppy has had it's vaccines does not mean it cannot or will not contract the virus. If your puppy has only had one shot, he can still easily contract the virus. So until your puppy has had all it's vaccines, avoid high traffic dog areas.

If your new puppy gets sick within a few short days of you getting the puppy, more than likely the puppy contracted the virus before he was in you care. There are many "backyard breeders" who either don't know or don't care that their yard is full of the virus. At one clinic I worked for, we had three separate people come in with sick puppies - all tested positive for Parvo. After talking to them, we found out that each person had unknowingly gotten their puppies from the same person. The people took the puppies back to the breeder, and the breeder called us and wanted the entire litter euthanized. At first we weren't going to do it, but the doctors finally relented. They didn't want to see the puppies suffer and we knew the breeder couldn't afford to hospitalize all 8 puppies. Guess what happened the following year?

Symptoms of Parvo include: vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, lethargy, fever, dark/bloody feces. Incubation period is approximately 5-7 days.

Treatment for Parvo will most commonly include IV fluids and medicine to help stop the vomiting. Antibiotics typically aren't given unless there seems to be another infection.  Being that Parvo is a virus, it has to run it's course. There is no cure for it, we can only treat it symptomatically.

Each case for Parvo is different - two litter-mates could come in with it, and only one may live. However, the earlier it's caught, hopefully the puppy will make it.

If you're concerned that your new puppy may have Parvo, call your veterinarian's office ASAP. When you get to the office, leave the puppy in the car if possible - the test is a simple swab and can be done in your car. If the puppy must come inside, please do not set the puppy down - that just means more surface to bleach for the staff. And back at home, wash everything you can and bleach what you can.

My sources: Pet Health Network, Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster & Smith, and my own experiences working in large/small animal practices as well as a veterinary laboratory.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A-Z Challenge: N is for New Puppies/Kittens

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is pet health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

So many people every year adopt or purchase a new puppy or kitten. And so many of those people are either first-timers in puppy/kitten owning or haven't done it in 15 years. Here are a few tips to help you with your newest family member:

1. If you're thinking about buying or adopting, buy a book on puppies/kittens; if looking at specific breeds, get a book about that breed. Many people buy or adopt because they like the idea or look of a breed, but they don't know any specifics and later can cause issues. Many breeds these days have genetic issues due to inbreeding (I'm not naming any one breed because anymore they all have something wrong somewhere) - such as hip dysplasia, autoimmune diseases, brittle bones, etc.

2.  If you've adopted your new pet, ask your local pet store if they offer any coupons. Some of the big retail giants like Petco or Petsmart may offer coupon booklets for start-up necessities such as toys, litter boxes, food, treats, or collars and leashes. Make sure to take paperwork for proof of adoption.

3.  Once you've brought your new animal home, keep it there. This is especially important for puppies as Parvo is a very contagious and dangerous virus that puppies can get. Stores like Petco and Petsmart allow patrons to take their animals in the store - if you feel that you must do so, keep your new puppy/kitten wrapped in a blanket or towel, or keep in your arms. Just like people can catch colds or the flu from touching contaminated items, so can your new puppy/kitten. It is recommended that you do not take your new puppy to the park or other high traffic dog areas until it's completed it's vaccine program.

4.  Ask your veterinarian about their vaccine program for new puppies/kittens. Many offices will offer a puppy/kitten package. One clinic I worked for, their package was $100, which included four DHLPP or FVRCP/FELV vaccines, the first Rabies vaccines, the initial exam fee, and four dewormings, PLUS you would get a free sample of puppy/kitten food, a free sample of Frontline and Heartgard, as well as a booklet with coupons. The savings added up to nearly $100. It is recommended that your new puppy and kitten get at least a series of three of their vaccines, some offices may suggest four vaccines for better immunization (puppies - DHLPP, kittens - FVRCP/FELV).

5.  Once your puppy has had its required vaccines, take your puppy to training classes. This is important for your puppy to learn social skills as well as learn how to obey basic commands. If you already have noticed behavioral issues, you can also talk with your veterinarian or puppy trainer to resolve them.

6.  When your puppy or kitten is of the proper age, it's a wise idea to have it spayed/neutered. Not only for pet over-population (more than 12 million unwanted pets are euthanized every year), but for health and behavioral reasons as well. Animals that are spayed/neutered are unable to get uterine/testicular cancers, for females mammary tumors are seen less often, and in males, prostate issues are not seen as often. And no, your pet will not gain weight just by being fixed. The average age for a pet to be fixed is 6 months of age. Some breeds can be different; make sure to talk to your veterinarian about the best time to fix your pet.

7.  Most of all, enjoy your newest family member!!

My sources: Pet Health Network, Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster & Smith, as well as my own experience working in large/small animal practices as well as a veterinary laboratory.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A-Z Challenge: M is for Marijuana Toxicity

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

I cannot tell you how many customers have walked into clinics that I've worked that smell of pot so bad that you can hardly breathe in their presence. And when you are no longer in their presence you're amazed you didn't get a contact high.

A lot of people believe that since pot is not that harmful of a drug (in relation to other illegal drugs) to people, that it's also not harmful to their pets. Not so, since animals metabolize drugs differently than people.

The toxin in pot is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has strong anti-emetic effects, making it hard to induce vomiting to get the toxin out of your pet's system. Most pets will actually be poisoned by ingestion rather than inhalation.

Signs of your pet having found your secret stash are: dilated pupils, drop in body temperature, glazed eyes, lack of muscle control, abnormal sensitivity, semiconsciousness, depression, and in rare cases, coma. Also be aware that your pet can die from THC toxicity, although it is rare.

If you believe your pet has eaten your secret stash, get your pet to your veterinarian as soon as possible. And don't lie about what your dog got into, because treatment for your pet is based on what you tell the veterinarian. (And when you get home, find a pet-safe secret place for your stash).

My sources: Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster & Smith as well as my own experiences working in large/small animal practices and a veterinary laboratory.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

A-Z Challenge: J is for Jumping

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

Everyone loves a happy dog. The dog that just snuggles up next you, tongue lolling out, the wagging tail, the head that keeps bumping you hand so that you'll scratch an ear. The dog that is a wiggle worm because he can't figure out who to look to first for a belly rub.

There is one thing that not everyone loves about a happy dog: jumping. Pretty much all pet owners are guilty of this at some point - they let their dog jump on them at home so the dog figures he can do that to everyone else. It's cute when it's a 10 pound puppy who wants to play and couldn't knock anything over. Give it a year and that once little Bull Mastiff puppy now weighs roughly 150 pounds, that sucker is going to knock you out.

Many people don't take their puppies to a "puppy training" class, where they can learn to curb such behaviors as jumping up on people. Getting your puppy trained to understand basic commands and socializing is very important. For puppy classes, you can try private dog clubs, your local humane society, or even large pet retail stores.

Once when I worked for a pet retail store, a guy always brought his Mastiff, Max. My first encounter with Max was when my life flashed before my eyes. I had asked the owner if Max could have a treat, and as I grabbed one, Max tried jumping over the counter to get the cookie. His owner was highly embarrassed and tried to reassure me that Max only wanted the cookie and that he was "really a nice dog who that he was a lap dog". Once my heart started beating again, I patted Max on the head and gave him his cookie. For the next three years I wasn't afraid of the dog, but I always remembered how Max and I met. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A-Z Challenge: I is for (Client) Information

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

When a person walks into a vet clinic for the first time, they are asked to fill out a "client information" sheet, which also includes information regarding their pet information. I cannot tell you how often people get stingy with what information they are willing to provide. We ask nothing that your own physicians would ask you on a form if you yourself were a new patient there. There are reasons the information is requested. And no, it's not to sell your information on the side for a few extra bucks.

We ask for some basic information - Name, Address, Phone Numbers. Hard to believe, but there are people that put only their first name, no address and no phone. Um. Folks, we can't even create a file for you. When that happens, we (receptionists) then have to call you back up to the front desk and ask you for each answer, which really only takes longer. We need your name to create a file. We need your address so we can send you reminders for your pets vaccines. We need your phone numbers should we need to contact you regarding appointment/surgery reminders or changes, or if the doctor needs to speak with you regarding your pet. Not rocket science, folks.

After that, many clinics ask for an email address. Again, we're not asking so we can sell it. We're asking because it's "greener" to send an email that it is to mail you a reminder card. If you choose to not give it, that's fine. If you don't have an email (truly only acceptable for the elderly in this day and age), that's fine. It's not mandatory, but you are saving a stamp and a piece of paper.

Where it really upsets people is when they get to the part regarding their birthdays, driver's license numbers, and Social Security Numbers. With all the identity theft running around, I truly understand that people are hesitant about giving out this information. But don't scoff when told the reason behind it. And don't be rude about it, either. This information is required by the State/Federal governments. If your pet needs a controlled drug like Phenobarbital (to stop seizures), we are required by law to provide this information to the government. You are the one we are handing these drugs over to. Controlled drugs are controlled for a reason. Don't roll your eyes at the receptionist when they tell you why they are asking you for the information, because it only makes you look like an ass. If we don't follow the law, we could be shut down and then you'd have to shop for a new veterinarian.

Some clinics also ask for a credit card to be put on file. Some clients actually like that feature in that in the event of an emergency, we already have the card number on file. This has happened - owners go out of town, have a friend pet-sitting and Fido jumps off the deck and breaks a leg. The owner has the friend take Fido to the vet, calls the vet and explains and says to please run the credit card on file - after they know what's been done and the total, of course. The pet-sitter doesn't have to pay for anything other than the gas to get there. Trust me, the staff isn't going to go on a shopping spree at Tiffany's with your credit card number. If you'd rather just pay cash, that's usually fine. But it's a good idea to have one on file, just in case of an emergency. But please don't get testy with the receptionists - we didn't come up with the form, we're just doing as we're told.

In reality, a veterinary clinic doesn't not ask you anything your own doctor's office wouldn't. Actually, ours are usually less invasive, but people throw more fits if we're doing the asking. Perhaps it's because they don't see it truly as a different version of a "Doctor's Office"? It is a doctor's office. Just a different kind is all.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A-Z Challenge: H is for Heartworms

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

Heartworm disease in dogs and cats is seen in all 50 US states, the first case was in 1847 on the east coast. Since then, it has spread throughout the country. It's easily preventable. It's treatable but very expensive and your dog must be kept quiet for several weeks. If anyone has ever tried to keep a dog "quiet" for any length of time, you know it's a challenge.

But while it's easily preventable, many dogs (and even cats) wind up testing positive for heartworms. Because while it's easy to prevent, people often balk at the price tag on the box of prevention from their veterinarians.

Heartworm disease is spread via mosquitoes. A mosquito bites a dog that has adult heartworms that lay larvae that enter the bloodstream and sucks up the larvae. The mosquito is required for the next stage of growth for the larvae. When this infected mosquito bites an uninfected dog (or cat), the larvae enters the animals skin.  The heartworm larvae continue to mature and develop, migrating through the tissues and reaching the heart and pulmonary arteries. Larvae become adult heartworms within 6 months of infection. 

Symptoms of heartworm disease include: coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance, weight loss, and decreased appetite. Make note that these symptoms will not occur right away and it's best to not wait until symptoms show before you take your pet to the veterinarian.

The role of heartworm prevention is thus: all our dogs and cats are constantly exposed to heartworms (check with your veterinarian if you live in a high risk area), and the prevention kills the larvae they are exposed to. If you miss a dose, that's when your pet can become infected. Once the larvae reach a certain stage, prevention will no longer be of any real use. Heartworm testing should be a regular part of your pets prevention. If you have missed a dose, don't automatically bring your pet in for a heartworm test. The test your veterinarian does in house typically only tests for the presence of adult heatworms, not the larvae. If you have missed a dose, it's best to wait 4-6 months to bring your pet in for testing. You can continue to give the prevention every month until testing.

A lot of people ask (sometimes rather indignantly) why many vet clinics either require or recommend annual heartworm testing as a part of the prevention. People say, "Well, I give Fido their pill every month, why do I have to have a heart worm test every year? Are you telling me I'm spending money on something that doesn't work?" No, you're not throwing away your money. Trust me. However, in rare cases, your pet may contract heartworms while on prevention - but it is rare. Also, if you miss a dose (and most people do not want to admit they've done so), it's wise to have your pet tested (about 4-6 months after the missed dose). However, it's good to know that Merial, the company that makes Heartgard, will pay for your pet's treatment for heartworm disease. Know that you will need to show proof that you've been buying the product, and have a record of negative testing and I believe two positive tests.  Ask your veterinarian for details. 

Another thing owners often say is, "My pet is strictly indoors. It's not exposed." Bull honkey. You probably take your pet outside to use the potty. And if you don't . . . I'm pretty sure mosquitoes get in your house. Because no matter how hard I try, I always wind up with a mosquito in my house. So even your house cat can get heartworms. But I can't force you to buy prevention, nor get a heartworm test.

If your dog tests positive for heartworms, there is treatment, although here's fair warning, it's expensive. The price for treatment can vary depending on how bad the infestation is, how many doses the pet missed, or if it had ever been on prevention. If the veterinarian believes they caught it pretty early and your dog (or cat) is showing no physical symptoms of the disease, treatment will (hopefully) be cheaper. However, be aware that treatment can run you roughly $1000, if not more. Also, your pet will need to be kept quiet for a few months during treatment. They are treated with a poison to slowly kill off the worms, and excess activity can cause harm.

Heartworm prevention can look pretty spendy, too, when you're paying for it at the vet's office. In my area, Heartgard Plus runs anywhere from $45-$90 (average) for a 1 year supply of each weight category. Break it down month by month and really, it's not that expensive compared to paying $1000 to treat your dog for the disease and be forced to keep your pet quiet/confined for a few months. Especially when you take into consideration that it is rare for any vet office to allow payment plans, so you have to typically pay for everything up front.

There are several types of heartworm prevention options out there. The type of prevention you choose will depend on you and your pet's lifestyle and the area that you live. There are two types - oral or topical; some do just heartworms, some do heartworms plus other internal parasites, and still others do that plus fleas and in some cases, ticks.

(Click any prevention for a side by side comparison)

Another tip: Veterinary clinics often get "puppy/kitten packs" from their representatives, where you can get free samples of heartworm and flea prevention. Most often the doctors may only give these out if you've purchased a "puppy/kitten vaccine package", but if you ask they may go ahead and give you the samples, especially if they get more than they can give away (believe me I've witnessed that some clinics get tons!).

Another tip: Ask your veterinarian or their staff if there are any rebates on heartworm prevention available - clinics often get coupons or rebates from their representatives. Also, ask if they are offering free heartworm tests with an exam or vaccination visit, or even if you purchase heartworm prevention. Exam fees will vary greatly, but in general don't expect to pay much less than $40 for the exam, if you get a free heartworm test with that (or vaccines or buying prevention), it's probably a minimum $30 item.

My sources: Pet Health Network, Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster & Smith, plus my own experience working in large/small animal practice as well as a veterinary laboratory.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A-Z Challenge: G is for Go and Get the facts

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

Go ahead. Sniff around. 

It is highly recommended that your pet go to their veterinarian on a yearly basis. Your veterinarian isn't trying to squeeze all of your hard-earned money out of your wallet, trust me. Okay, maybe there are a few of them out there. But in general, veterinarians realize that you only have so much to spend. It's just like with people, going in for regular health check-ups allows doctors to catch problems earlier, thereby allowing those problems to be remedied.

Taking your pet to the doctor every year for an annual health check does the same thing. They may be able to notice a trend over time, or see something that you don't. Also, it's a great time to ask your veterinarian questions about your pet's health, diet/nutrition, weight, vaccines, or potential surgeries.

Many people "shop around" before actually choosing a veterinarian, and that's perfectly fine. Sometimes personalities don't mesh well, or you may not like a doctor's "bed-side manner", or you may not jive with the staff, or the price just isn't right. Before choosing a veterinarian, it's always a good idea to give a clinic a call and set up an appointment to meet with the doctor(s) and get a tour of their facility.

Ask the staff questions when you get there, price shop with them, what kind of payments they accept and if they accept Care Credit as a payment option, if they accept pet insurance and how it works with their office. And when you meet the doctor ask them what's on your mind. Ask them about their surgical procedures, their recommendations on vaccine protocol, if heartworm disease is prevalent in your area, how often they see parvo, what they recommend for food, etc. Ask to see their exam rooms, their treatment area, their equipment, their lab area, their kennels, if they board pets and if so ask about their requirements and how often they have the staff walk and feed the animals, etc. Ask about the laboratory they use, how long it takes to get results for basic testing like Complete Blood Counts and Chemistry Panels for routine check-ups (also good if you have a pet that is on long-term medication like phenobarbitol which often requires annual blood work), and how they like the lab they use. Leave no stone unturned.

As they said in Dragnet, 

Go to your vet's office and get the facts. If you walk away feeling unsure or uneasy, don't go back. If you leave believing your pets are in good hands, then you just found your veterinarian.

Getting the facts can be hard. No two veterinarians operate the exact same way. No two clinics have the exact same protocol. It's important to understand why your veterinarian office does it their way. And people also have the internet, which can be a very helpful tool, but it can also steer you in the wrong direction. Your veterinarian can always recommend reputed sites that will be helpful.

My sources: Pet Health Network, Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster & Smith, and my own experiences working in large/small animal practices as well as a veterinary laboratory.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A-Z Challege: F is for (K9) Flu

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year, my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

Yes, there is a K9 Flu. But don't worry, it's not contagious to people like Swine Flu, Bird Flu, etc. Although, while people can't get it, we can help spread it. If you unknowingly pet an infected dog and go directly home and love on Fido, you've just contaminated your dog.

The K9 Flu (H3N8) wasn't discovered in dogs until 2004. When your dog is vaccinated with his DHLPP shot every year (Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvo), and if he receives a Bordatella shot (Kennel Cough), your dog already has some protection. However, this is a K9 Flu vaccine, to help prevent your dog from catching the H3N8 strain.

If your dog is going to be boarded, taken to a lot of dog parks or dog shows, it's a good idea to have your dog get his flu shot. Always check with a boarding facility as to what vaccinations they require as they may now be requiring the K9 Flu vaccine in addition to others they require.

Just like in people, the symptoms of the K9 Flu are similar to the people version including fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, runny nose, and coughing. And more often than not, it'll have to run it's course just like in people. However, you know your pet best. If see that your pet isn't drinking enough or eating enough, or the cough sounds worse, take your dog to the veterinarian. Your dog may need fluids to prevent dehydration or even antibiotics if a secondary infection such as pneumonia happens.

People often ask if their dog getting the vaccine will mean it will never get sick. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee. Just like people who get a flu shot can still get the flu, your dog could still come down with the flu. However, if Fido's been vaccinated, it could lessen the severity of the his illness and it can also lessen the change that he'll shed the virus when sick, thereby not infecting other dogs. Just remember, there is no guarantee your dog will not get sick if he has been vaccinated. Prevention is always best.

My sources: Pet Health Network, Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster & Smith, as well as my experience working in large/small animal practices and a veterinary laboratory.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A-Z Challenge: E is for Ethylene Glycol Poisoning

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Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! This year my theme is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

Ethylene Glycol Poisoning - in Antifreeze - should be a concern of any pet owner whose animals are ever outside. The reason this toxin is so dangerous is due to it's sweet smell and taste to our furry critters. This poison can and will affect the brain, liver, and kidneys in a short period of time.

If you're concerned that your pet has ingested any antifreeze, do not induce vomiting. Call your veterinarian immediately or a poison control center and do as instructed. And remember: time is of the essence!

There are three stages of poisoning:

Stage 1: 0-12 hours after ingestion. Nervous system signs including mild depression, lack of muscle control/staggering, knuckling, seizures, hyper-excitability, stupor, and rarely coma, and death. These signs are similar to acute alcohol intoxication and resemble drunkenness. Other symptoms may include lack of appetite, vomiting, drop in body temperature, and an increase in drinking and urination.

Stage 2: 12-24 hours after ingestion. Cardiopulmonary system signs are seen including increased heart rate and respiratory rate.

Stage 3: 12-72 hours after ingestion. Kidneys are affected. Symptoms include severe depression, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, kidney failure, and death.

 A veterinarian can look at your pet's urine for the presence of crystals, which is an indicator of antifreeze poisoning. Unfortunately, it can also mean other things, and can even show up in normal urine. A lab test is available, for dogs only, but that means you have to wait for the results. Most, if not all, veterinary labs will be 24 hours. The lab location I worked for was open 24 hours, as I was on night shift. As an FYI, ethylene glycol tests are considered "STAT" - meaning we have someone stop what they are doing and do it now and get the results out ASAP. I myself only had a couple of positives when I did the testing. The test is rather involved; we take the blood sample submitted, spin it down, and add various chemicals in various stages in different tubes. It takes almost half an hour to do the test properly. Even in the lab, we know that your pet is sick, and we want the test to be negative just as much as you do.

Always remember that your garage is full of toxins. If you even think your pet has ingested any toxin, call your veterinarian immediately. If it's late at night, either your vet's office will have a vet on call, or hopefully there will be a 24 hour emergency vet open. Larger cities usually have the latter option available to you, and if you're out in the country, country vet's will offer 24 hour service on an emergency basis.

My sources: Pet Health Network, Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster & Smith, as well as my own experience working in large/small animal practices and a veterinary laboratory.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A-Z Challenge: D is for Dental Health

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! My theme for this year is Pet Health - information for people about their furry, four-legged family members.

Yep, just like us peoples, pets often times require dental work. And just like us peoples, no two pets are the same when it comes to their teeth. I know people who never see a dentist (I mean like, never), and they have a healthy mouth. I know people that go to the dentist every 6 months and every single tooth has a cavity, they need root canals, crowns, you name it, they got it. Same with pets: your Chihuahua will need maybe one dental in it's life, and your Lab may need 5. Your neighbor could have it opposite. No two mouths are ever created equal.

Would it shock you, though, if I told you that according to the American Veterinary Dental Society, dental disease is the #1 health issue affecting 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of 3?

Your pet's dental health is just one of the many reasons you should take your pet to their veterinarian at least once a year. During the annual exam, they will do a once-over on your pet, checking everything from the nose to the tail and just about everything in between. Plus, if you have any concerns, your veterinarian can answer any questions and give you information so that you can make the best decision for your pet.

For example, if your sweet little Fido has breath that makes Pepe Le Pew smell like a rose garden, there's a serious problem. Bad breath is not natural in our pets mouths. Of course, it won't smell totally awesome to us, either. But Fluffy's or Fido's breath shouldn't knock people out.

Plaque and tartar build up will cause bad breath, and can also cause infections and periodontal disease. This can lead to expensive vet bills: a dental cleaning, tooth extraction (prices vary depending on the type of tooth pulled - it's expensive either way), and antibiotics. Poor dental health can also lead to larger problems down the road, such as heart, liver, and kidney disease.

Any veterinarian or technician will tell you that dental care starts at home. It is recommended to brush your pet's teeth as often as you can. Even doing it a few times a week is better than never at all. Starting when your pet is young is often easier than starting when they are "senior citizens". Just like teaching them to take medications, getting them used to nail trims, it can just become a part of your training that eventually becomes daily routine. Doing this at home will help prevent the plaque and tartar from building up an causing problems. (I should talk, I've never brushed my cat's teeth. However, I will only do so if I have a death wish. She knows where I sleep.) Also, don't use your own toothpaste - human toothpastes can make animals sick. Always make sure you're using a toothpaste that is made specifically for pets.

Vet offices will have toothpaste, toothbrushes or finger brushes, and oral rinses available for pet owners. You can also find them at many pet stores (or if you're in the country, your local feed store might have them, too), including the retail giants of Petco and Petsmart.

When it comes to treats, it's best to give "dental" treats for your pets. While cavities in pets are rare, veterinarians have seen a rise in cavities due to the table scraps many pets will get at home. A normal diet for your pet is not high in decay-causing sugars. But we all spoil our pets with bits from the table, the trick is to keep it to a minimum. Or none at all.

Many pet owners are curious about feeding canned food versus dry kibble. Dry kibble is better at preventing plaque build-up than canned food. However, feeding a small bit of canned food shouldn't be detrimental. My cat gets maybe 1/4 of a can of canned food once a day. Sometimes it's every other day. But it's not her main diet; she is free-fed dry kibble and eats as she pleases.

If your pet will definitely require a dental cleaning, or if you just want to do a preventative cleaning every few years, here's a tip: February is Pet Dental Month and most vet clinics will offer a price break on their dental cleanings. It may not feel like it's a big break, but it's cheaper than normal. They may also offer price breaks on dental supplies for home dental care.  Also, many clinics get dental treat samples from their food representatives, you can always ask if they "happen" to have any lying around.

Here are some FAQ's on dental health for your cat or dog.

My sources: Pet Health Network, Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster & Smith, plus my own experience working in large/small animal practices as well as my experience in a veterinary laboratory.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A-Z Challenge: C is for Chocolate Poisoning

I've been getting an enormous amount of Anonymous comments lately and they are literally flooding my inbox. Seriously, I woke up this morning to my phone telling me I had 40 new messages and only two of them were regular comments! Being that I hate Captcha's, I've switched my settings to accept Google users. Hopefully no one has difficulty in commenting. If you do (and your not one of the million annoying Anonymous peeps), please shoot me an email and let me know. Thanks!!

Welcome to the A-Z Challenge! My theme this year is Pet Health - information for people and their furry, four-legged family members.

Unless you just plain don't like it (which makes you weird . . . not unlikeable, just weird), chocolate is just plain wonderful. Sometimes a bright spot in an otherwise horrible day. For pets, however, they think it tastes good, too, but unfortunately it can be quite toxic to them.

The reason being is that chocolate contains two items that can be toxic: caffeine and theobromine. Caffeine directly stimulates the heart and the central nervous system. Both ingredients can cause an increase in heart rate, and in some cases can cause an irregular heartbeat.

Now, different types of chocolate will contain these ingredients in different amounts. For example, white and milk chocolate are less toxic than baking cocoa. However, none of it is good for your pets.

Just an FYI:  a dose of less than 1 oz of milk chocolate per pound of body weight could potentially cause death. Less that 0.1 oz of Baker's unsweetened chocolate per pound of body weight could be lethal. Usually the more bitter the chocolate, the higher the level of theobromine.

Symptoms of your dog having devoured your secret chocolate stash are: vomiting, diarrhea, panting, increased drinking, bloating, lack of muscle coordination, muscle twitching/tremors. Please note that these signs will typically occur 6 or more hours after ingestion. Which is why it is so important to get your pet to the vet as soon as possible for treatment. In extreme cases collapse, seizures, and even death can occur.

Typically the veterinarian will induce vomiting to get the chocolate out before too much is absorbed by the body.  Activated charcoal may also be administered to absorb anything left in the stomach and/or intestines.

In general, most animals that find your super secret chocolate stash recover completely within a couple of days of treatment. 

When I was in high school, I babysat for some neighbors kids. One Valentine's Day, I came home in the evening and went out the front door to feed my horses. On the front porch I noticed bits of foil wrapping and cardboard packaging. Picking it all up, I deduced it had been a giant Hershey Kiss. I called one of my neighbors and asked if they had dropped one off; they had as their boys had wanted to get me something. They had placed it on top of the dog house on the front porch, against the wall of the house so that the dog couldn't get it. Unfortunately, our shepherd/lab cross managed to get to it (we never could quite figure out how as it was a BIG dog house). They felt terrible and asked if Dustie was okay. No one knew how long it had been since she ate it, and she showed no signs of being ill. (perhaps the cardboard packaging absorbed most of the chocolate?) Of course, this was a dog who regularly ate tennis balls and at one point, my volleyball. I really think she was part goat . . . In the end, we were very lucky nothing happened to our Dustie that night.

My sources: Pet Health Network and Pet Education by Dr.'s Foster/Smith, as well as my own experiences working in large/small animal practices as well as a veterinary laboratory.