Breathalyzers for Pets?

Researchers have developed a method for detecting hundreds of chemical compounds in an animal’s breath. The ramifications of this procedure is remarkable. Many health parameters of living animals that could measure a state of wellness in a very easy manner is becoming possible. Blood analysis is currently the method of choice now as blood contains every substance circulating in the body. But obtaining it in some animals is very difficult. Right now they are analyzing whale and dolphin breath, but they have already identified more than 1800 compounds in human breath. Currently, tests are being developed to detect cancer, diabetes and other diseases. During the past several years, the researchers have been identifying DNA, microbes, metabolites and hormones in whale breath (blow). So far, they have learned a lot about diet, activity levels, environmental changes, illnesses and stress. Granted most of the tests have been performed on whales and dolphins, but they are confident the techniques will translate nicely to other animals and eventually humans. They have expectations that an animal’s and human’s health will be able to be evaluated by just analyzing their breath without taking any blood samples.

Horse Abuse

It upsets me very much seeing the horses whipped so viciously at the races. This past Belmont race, the third lap of the “Triple Crown”, is a perfect example. The horses were whipped coming down the stretch, for what? Money and fame. We know some of these horses were not fresh and were tired. It is common knowledge that there is not enough time for the horses to rest between the Preakness and the grueling 1 & 1/2 mile Belmont, and by pushing them to run even harder and longer is just cruel and inhumane. As it turned out California Chrome was injured at the starting gate and yet he was still whipped. Nobody but the jockey knew, and he still used the whip viciously. I think it is shameful and incomprehensible that this should be allowed. I have written before about abuse to animals and how we should support the ASPCA, but nothing to date has been done about the whipping of horses. Even the carriage horses situation has been put on the back burner, by the new mayor of NYC. Originally he said the carriage horses would be eliminated as his first order of business. He caved to pressure. Why PETA has not been able to curtail the blatant cruelty to horses on the race track is a mystery. The only explanation, once again, is economics and political pressure. This blatant use of the whip on a horse is such a poor example for our children to see. Instead, we should be teaching our children to treat all animals with love, kindness and respect. Whips should be banned, period.

Euthanasia, When is it Time ?

The most difficult time for a pet owner is when to decide to humanely euthanize their beloved pet. The veterinarians job is to diagnose and successfully treat any and all diseases a pet may have. We are not always successful as 25% of all pets die or are humanely euthanized because of cancer.  Although many cancers are treatable either by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation etc. there still comes a time when a decision has to be made. Only sometimes can a veterinarian recommend euthanasia as an only choice because of the severity of the condition or injury. There are many drugs to keep a pet out of pain but that is not always enough. The quality of life must be considered and there are criteria that can be used to estimate the quality of life, such as: 1.Happiness: does your pet want to play or seem to enjoy life and respond to your presence? 2.Pain: does your pet cry or moan, shake or t remble? Does he/she pant even when resting? 3.Appetite: Is your pet eating and shows interest in treats and snacks? Is there severe weight loss? 4.Water Consumption: Does your pet drink an adequate amount of water and urinate normally? 5.Mobility: Can your pet move reasonably normal and be somewhat active, even with medication? Or does he/she lay in one place? Can your pet get up and lie down without help? 6.Mental Status: Are there more good days than bad or does your pet seem depressed all the time and not have any energy or desire to be part of the family like before? 7.Hygiene: Does your pet have the ability to defecate and urinate away from where he/she sleeps? These are some guidelines to help the pet owner make the difficult and emotional decision of humane euthanasia. In my many years of clinical practice it is something you never get used to. The love of an animal is genuine and they deserv e careful consideration of the above criteria before such a serious final decision is made.

Pet Tips: Horse Slaughter & ASPCA

The ASPCA was founded in 1866 after its founder, Henry Bergh, saw a cruel carriage driver beating his horse. Now, over 140 years later, the ASPCA is still the main organization in the animal welfare cause. The following is a reprint of an email I received from them titled: “Keep Horses Off the Killing Floor”.

“Horses are our pets, our workmates, our sport companions, our friends. They helped build our nation. They’re not raised to be food because we don’t eat them. So how is that more than 150,000 U.S. horses—retired racers to show ponies to wild mustangs—get sent abroad to slaughter every year? And with a staggering 80% of Americans opposed to horse slaughter, how is it possible that this gruesome industry hasn’t yet been banned nationwide? Horse slaughter is barbaric and cruel—it should never be confused with humane euthanasia. The ASPCA is fighting this grisly industry, and countless other forms of animal cruelty, but we can’t do it without your help. DONATE NOW. Our immediate task is to block the resumption of U.S. horse slaughter. We made great progress last Thursday (May 22, 2014) when language to renew the ban on using tax dollars to fund horse meat inspections cleared its first hurdle by passing the Senate Appropriations Committee. But there’s more work to do. The ASPCA is pushing for the passage of the SAFE Act, a bill that will ban horse slaughter in all 50 states as well as ban export of our horses to other countries for slaughter. Until the U.S. enacts a permanent, nationwide ban on horse slaughter, the ASPCA will be there to fight for horses. Please consider donating to the ASPCA to support our efforts to end horse slaughter and protect other companion animals from lives of suffering and abuse.”

The ASPCA is located at 424 East 92 St. New York City, New York 10128. Their phone # is 212-876-7700. To learn more go to www.aspca.org

Complications of Fleas and/or Ticks

Just removing fleas or ticks from your pet does not solve the potential problems they could inflict.  All pet owners should be aware of these common complications that can and do occur: Flea allergy dermatitis. The bite of a single flea can cause havoc in a dog or a cat if they are allergic to the saliva of the flea. In fact, these allergic animals show many more symptoms of discomfort that those that are not allergic. Those that are allergic scratch themselves a lot and often break the skin, which can lead to a secondary infection. They usually have hair loss and the skin often appears red, crusty and flaky. They are very uncomfortable and can not sleep soundly. Many of these patients may not have a flea on them at the time of an examination as fleas can jump off the animal, but usually there is flea dirt (excrement) present. All it takes is one or two flea bites from a single flea to cause the problem. Flea Infestations. Non-allergic pets can have hundreds of fleas and not show any signs of discomfort or symptoms.  This creates a problem for the pet owner because the home and outside environment is usually flea infested too. Lyme Disease and Ehrlichiosis. These diseases are caused by tick species  common on the north shore of Long Island. The dog should be observed for symptoms for 6 months after the removal of ticks. These symptoms are lethargy, lameness, fever, joint swelling and sometimes lymph node swelling. Most of the time we find dogs with these diseases by routine blood tests and start treatment immediately. Of course the earlier we diagnose and treat the more successful we are. Tapeworms. Fleas are the main source of tapeworms which infect dogs and cats. They acquire these parasites when they lick and ingest fleas and flea larva on their skin. A routine stool analysis does NOT always show tapeworms as many species do not pass eggs. Sometimes there are segments of the tapeworm stuck to the skin or hair around the anus. They look like small pieces of rice. Simple deworming with an oral medication made specifically for tapeworms will eliminate the problem, but you must get rid of the source—— fleas.  Bartonellosis. This is a disease of cats caused by fleas. It is important as it causes cat-scratch disease in humans. Frequently it is in cats that show no symptoms and can only be diagnosed by a blood test. There are several other diseases fleas and ticks can transmit to humans but they are very rare in this area. Check with your veterinarian as to which products are being recommended this year. We often rotate products so the fleas and ticks do not become resistant to the chemicals.

Be Aware

Many animals are being poisoned accidentally by their owners giving them human medications. Some of the most common poisons were attributed to Ibuprofen like Advil, Tramadol, Xanax, Ambien, Aleve, Naprosyn, and Tylenol. These products cannot be given to dogs and cats. They are toxic and can be lethal.  Many other human medications are toxic to our pets. Examples are beta-blocker heart medicines, cold medications, cough syrup, anti-depressants and caffeine pills, etc. Always check with your veterinarian before giving any of your medicines to your pet. Chocolate leads the list of reported animal poisonings. In fact, last year there were over 7,500 chocolate poisonings reported to the ASPCA Poison Control Center. That’s 21 calls per day. Xylitol was second, with over 8 cases per day. However, xylitol is on the rapid increase. Although many people are aware that this is a very toxic substance, they are not aware it is in so many products that are in the house or that humans consume. Xylitol is increasingly being used by  manufacturers  because it is so cheap and it is over 5 times sweeter than sugar. It can be found in a wide variety of products, ranging from gum, toothpaste, mouthwash, mints, candies, throat lozenges, vitamins, nasal sprays and even some fabrics, (don’t know why). There is even a granular form of xylitol that is used in baking, instead of sugar. It is found in many “diet foods” and “sugar free” pastries. It is extremely toxic to dogs. For example, the amount of xylitol in gum ranges from 1mg per piece to over 1000mg per piece. Ingestion of only 35 mg per pound of body weight can be toxic to a dog. That means a 10 lb. dog that eats only 1/2 of a piece of gum that has 1000mg per piece, is poisoned. Consumers must read labels and keep these types of products away from their pets. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center recently listed the top ten categories of toxic substances to animals as the following:

  1. Human prescription medications
  2. Insecticides
  3. Over the counter human medications
  4. Human food
  5. Household items
  6. Improperly used veterinary medications
  7. Rodenticides
  8. Plants
  9. Lawn and Garden products
  10. Automotive products

Please note: the direct line of the Animal Poison Control Center is 888-426-4435.

Pet Therapy

Previously, I have written on how pet ownership can be beneficial to your adult health and also help children emotionally and medically, but now the Mayo Clinic has taken it to another level. The newest trend in medicine is to implement “Pet Therapy”. It has been reported that pet therapy and animal assisted therapy not only help healing in general, but lessen depression and fatigue. So what is pet therapy? It is a term that is applied to any animal-assisted activities that help people recover from surgery, illness, and/or better cope with their health problems and aging. This therapy has been helping the physical and mental handicapped population for decades. Recently, the Mayo Clinic reported success in the treatment of heart disease, cancer, and serious psychiatric problems. In addition, they reported success in pain reduction, and depression especially in nursing home residents. They have also reported success in reducing pain in children having dental procedures, and with our veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, they have a dozen certified therapy dogs in their program called the Mayo Clinic?s Caring Canine Program. The biggest concern in hospitals and nursing homes with this program is sanitation and safety. There are strict rules in force to ensure that all the animals used are clean, house broken, vaccinated, well trained and screened for the proper behavior. In fact, the Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC) has never received a report of illness transmitted to a human being from the utilization of animal -assisted therapy. One of the newest programs being initiated is in the non-medical fields of higher education and community programs. In these, often considered high stress situations, it has been found that pet therapy, pet-assisted programs and pet ownership (in dorms for example) often reduce high anxiety and stress. It has even reduced the student suicide rate in certain university settings.

Generic Drug Costs Soaring

It was recently reported in The National Journal that generic drugs costs are increasing at an alarming rate. In fact, during the last six months of 2013, certain essential drugs such as the antibiotic Doxycycline “spiked upwards of 1000 percent” according to a survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association. Doxycycline is the main drug used in the treatment of Lyme disease in animals and humans. Another organization, Pembroke Consulting, reported that the costs of more than a dozen drugs increased 10 fold. Also, over 75% of pharmacists polled reported large increases in their costs of purchasing many generic drugs. These costs, of course, are passed onto the consumer. The manufacturers, the drug companies, are usually blamed for the excessive price increases. Sometimes there is even a huge price differential in the dosage of the same drug. For instance, the generic drug Irbesartan, a common blood pressur e medication, was nearly $300 for a 90-day supply of the 150 mg. tablet, yet the cost of the same supply of the 300 mg. tablet was only $30.  There have been many explanations offered. Avalere health, a consulting firm, reported that the “prices of generic drugs have gone up because demand for them has risen.” The demand will go up because of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). This new health reform law will increase the demand for drugs as more people will have insurance. This will cause the prices of generic medications to rise even higher in the future. The laws of supply and demand do not work in the pharmaceutical field. The bottom line is that it is an unregulated market dictated by profit. As the major drug companies lose their patents on many drugs, they will look to make up the financial difference somehow, and the easiest way is in the drugs they already have, only the generic version of it. This is called the “patent cliff”. This “patent cliff” is affecting many major companies like Pfizer, and Eli Lilly, etc. It affects the drugs used in the veterinary profession as well, as we purchase pharmaceuticals from the same major companies.

Flea and Tick Prevention — New product

Fleas and ticks are here and now deer and the deer tick have recently blessed us with their presence in Locust Valley and surrounding areas. The deer tick is a main source of Lyme disease transmission. All pet owners should seriously consider using the newer flea and tick prevention products on the market. The Communicable Disease Center (CDC) has reported an increased resistance of fleas and ticks to the commonly used products we have used in the past. For that reason, they recommend alternating products each year. Ticks especially carry diseases of human significance as they can cause the same diseases in humans as in dogs and cats. These include: Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Babesia, Bartonella and more. Now we have available the long awaited ORAL 1x each month pill. It is a soft beef-flavored chewable pi ll approved to kill both fleas and ticks. It is called NexGard. It is a prescription product and available only from your veterinarian. It is used for not only the prevention of fleas and ticks but also the treatment of them. It has been on the market in the US for over 6 months and has shown to be very safe and effective. Still available are the older topical products that are applied 1 x each month to the skin. Most of these products that kill fleas and ticks do it quickly. This is especially important as a tick has to be attached to the skin for 24+ hours before transmission of the Lyme Disease bacterium can occur. The topical products are applied to the skin (not the hair) 1 x each month. It is dispersed into the fatty layer under the skin and stored in the oil secreting glands. All these products kill the parasites, inactiv ate the eggs, and kill the immature form of the parasites known as larvae. Fortunately, all these products work well on the pet and in the house for control as well as prevention. Vacuuming the entire house still is a must, as it sucks up live and dead fleas and ticks, AND their eggs and larvae. The bag should then be placed in the garbage where it will eventually be burned. According to the CDC in Atlanta, Lyme Disease is on the rise in the northeast and even with the development of these products, treatment of the outdoors with insecticides still has a place in total flea and tick control, especially with re-occurring infestations. Check with your veterinarian for the latest recommended products.

APRIL is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

This year, 2014, The American Veterinary Medical Association has declared April as Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and for many good reasons: One out of 16 dogs will test positive, and the number of  human cases increased from 19,931 in 2006 to over 30,000 cases in 2013. This disease remains the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the US. It is on the increase in the north eastern states, and especially on Long Island. Some suspect Global Warming, and some believe it is due to ticks resistance to the insecticides we use,  We had over 100 positive cases in dogs in the Locust Valley/Glen Cove area in the last 2 years. Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks, commonly called black-legged ticks or deer ticks.They spread the disease to dogs, horses, humans and other animals.  Several years ago it was discovered by Yale researchers that birds, such as robins and blue jays, can carry ticks long distances right into our own backyards. The incidence of Lyme continues to rise also because we now have deer in the Locust Valley area. The ticks acquire the disease-causing bacteria by feeding on infected rodents and deer. Lyme Disease can be a very complex and serious disease if not caught early. It can result in painful lameness, chronic joint problems, serious kidney disease and neurological problems.The most effective way to protect your dog is by vaccination. The vaccine induces the body to produce antibodies against the bacteria in the tick and locks the bacteria inside the tick. So the vaccine actually works within the tick, not the dog. These are unique vaccines known as Recombinant vaccines, and are considered “genetically engineered wonders of modern science.” They contain only a single protein which practically eliminates all adverse reactions. Monthly preventative medications are available, both topical and now a new 1x a month oral chewable pill.  These products kill ticks within 24 hours which is less time the tick needs to transmit the disease to the dog or human. Looking for ticks by  daily brushing and combing is not enough as the tick is so small it is usually missed. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.