Monthly Archives: February 2010


This is the ultimate in animal identification. It is permanent and now becoming worldwide and even mandatory in certain countries abroad. A microchip is a small computer chip about the size of a grain of rice. It is inserted under the skin in the area of the shoulder, just posterior to the base of the neck, behind where a collar would be. The chip is within the bore of a very sharp needle and the insertion by a quick injection can be done in the exam room without the need of anesthesia. Of course, it can also be done when the dog or cat is under anesthesia for a procedure such as spay, neuter or teeth cleaning. It is being used in a large variety of animals, including dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, horses and even wild animals for research tracking purposes, such as porpoises. Simply put, the chip is registered to the owner of the pet. A scanner or wand, similar to a hand held airport scanner, detects the microchip and reads the identification number. The number can then be checked with the manufacturers database and the owner is then located. This can be done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It has been recently reported that as many as 1400 pets A DAY are reunited with their owners. Most, if not all, veterinary establishments have a scanner and all animal shelters have one. Now, (Feb. 2010), Europe has just come out with a mandatory law stating that all pets coming into a European country must have a microchip and that the ID matches the veterinary documents accompanying the pet. Most microchips are either 9, 10 or 15 digit chips, and right now Europe’s are 15 digits. So, check with the countries embassy if you are traveling abroad with your pet.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Because of the many medical advances in veterinary medicine, and  animal nutrition, our pets are living longer.  As old age sets in, so can senility or dementia, also known as cognitive dysfunction. Many people confuse the tell tale signs of certain medical diseases with this form of senility. The symptoms of cognitive dysfunction include: disorientation, such as forgetting where the water or food dish is, or knocking into furniture, pacing at night instead of sleeping, having “accidents” in the house, and sometimes a change in personality such as being less social or even the reverse–needing constant attention. DISH is easy to remember. It stands for Disorientation, Interaction Changes, Sleep Disturbances and House Soiling.  However, some of these same symptoms can also be caused by medical conditions not just related to older age and should be discussed with your veterinarian. Senior “wellness” exams that includes a urine and stool analysis as well as blood tests should be conducted every 6-12 months. Sometimes a simple course of antibiotics or a simple change in diet is all that’s necessary to treat something physiologically wrong rather than treat something psychologically wrong. Although the exact cause of cognitive dysfunction is not known, it is widely believed that a lack of oxygen to the brain is one of the possible causes. Deposition of plaque in blood vessels is another possible cause Antioxidants and Omega 3  & 6 fatty acids are thought to be beneficial in combating this syndrome. Hills even came out with a prescription food known as B/D ( brain diet), which is fortified with these ingredients. First, the veterinarian must eliminate kidney and liver disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. just to name a few, before any of the drugs for cognitive dysfunction are prescribed.  Perhaps just a change in diet is warranted.  Check with your veterinarian.

Stem Cell Therapy

This is a very new medical field being developed for the treatment of certain diseases. Right now it is being used  in veterinary medicine as an alternative therapy of osteoarthritis, partial tears of tendons and ligaments, and certain fractures.  The therapy is not yet being used routinely but it has a lot of promise. Simply put, stem cells produce chemicals that reduce inflammation and pain. The cells  are surgically extracted from the patients own fatty tissue and sent to a company in San Diego known as Vet-Stem. This company extracts the stem cells from the fatty tissue, harvests them, and makes them into a format suitable for injection. They then send the  solution back to the veterinarian who then  injects the cells directly back into that same patients arthritic joints or other affected areas. These cells then develop or change into cells necessary for repair of the affected joint.  It has been reported that improvements occurred in as little as three days, but the usual is 2-3 months. It is being reported that there is a 75-85% success rate, but the results are not permanent in all conditions.  Because arthritis is a progressive degenerative disease, pets frequently need additional therapy as they get older and if the condition worsens. Although stem cell therapy is not approved for human use in America as of right now, it is being used in other countries treating human arthritis.  Research is also going on for its use in liver and kidney disease.


Medically, a spay is known as a Panovariohysterectomy. What this means is that all the organs of the reproductive system are surgically removed. These are both ovaries, the horns of the uterus and the body of the uterus, close to but not including the cervix. The actual surgical procedure has not changed at all in the past century. What has changed dramatically is the anesthesia. The veterinary surgeon has many choices of the type of anesthesia to use. The depth of anesthesia and duration is controlled by very sophisticated anesthesia machines and is much safer. An incision is still made posterior to the umbilicus (belly button), through the skin and subcutaneous tissue, where the abdominal muscles meet. This is known as the linea alba. An incision is made through the abdominal wall into the abdominal cavity. The reproductive organs are somewhat moveable and are brought up through the incision, just outside the abdominal cavity and surgically removed. The incision is closed appropriately, usually with self dissolving synthetic suture material. There is minimal to no bleeding which is controlled by the veterinary surgeon. Of course, the patient is completely under anesthesia and the entire surgical procedure is done under sterile conditions and is painless. The advantages of spaying have been well documented. These include not only the obvious prevention of pregnancy, but include many serious medical conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cysts, and serious life threatening uterine infections known as pyometritis. Ideally, the time to spay a young dog or cat is at approximately 5 ½-6 months of age, (before their 1st heat).

Wanted: Large Animal Veterinarians

In the most recent New York State Veterinary Medical Society’s newsletter was an article obtained from the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website – – expounding on the current shortage of large animal veterinarians. The article goes on to explain that food supply veterinary medicine is at a critical juncture and expected to get much worse if something is not done about it. Many states are working to figure out ways to encourage new veterinary school graduates and future veterinary school graduates to consider large animal medicine as a career, especially for farm animals such as cows, poultry, sheep, goats, pigs, etc. The world population is increasing rapidly and is expected to increase by 50% in 10 years. Thus, as the food demand increases, oceans getting depleted of fish, the demand for growing our own food and raising our own meat and fish supplies must increase, thus the need for veterinarians increase. Currently, there are approximately 88,000 veterinarians in the United States but less than 10% of them work with farm animals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics list veterinary medicine within the top ten of the fasting-growing occupations, and that the job market for veterinarians will also increase by 35% in the next several years. Many large animal veterinarians report that their lifestyle is great. Here is a quote from one of them: “I love the outdoors, the season change, the rural life, and most importantly love having a job that I feel contributes to the welfare of the planet.” Encourage our youngsters to investigate large animal veterinary medicine as a career. Check it out by going to the above website.

Toxic Toys Plus

Many toys being sold today to the pet owning consumer have been found to have toxic levels of harmful chemicals. In fact, not only toys but many pet products tested, such as collars, pet beds, leashes and chews, had hazardous chemicals. Unfortunately, as of right now, there are no regulations by the Governments Consumer Product Safety Commission for hazardous chemicals in pet products. As of this month, November, 2009, there aren’t even government standards for any chemicals in pet products such as the ones mentioned above. There are standards for pet food however. The chemicals I speak of include lead, arsenic, mercury, bromine and chlorine. These chemicals are all linked to cancer, liver toxicity, brain damage, nerve disorders and kidney disorders. Lead is just as dangerous in animals as it is in children and all of these chemicals, of course, should be avoided. The Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental organization in Ann Arbor, Michigan, reported that lead was found in 48% of the tennis balls they tested. These were tennis ball toys for pet use only. The tennis balls we play with tested ok. Another organization, Healthy Stuff reported that 45% of the pet products that they tested had high levels of one or more hazardous chemical. It behooves us all to check these products out, not just for our pets, but for our children. Go to . They list the product, manufacturer, chemical(s) found and even give a rating of toxicity

“Swine Flu” and Pets AN UPDATE

As recently as December 10, 2009, the AVMA reported the deaths or illnesses of at least 11 pets nationwide from the Swine Flu (H1N1) — four ferrets and seven cats. There have been 2 confirmed cases in dogs in China, but so far no cases in dogs have been reported in the US. It is very important to note that in every case, the pet’s owner(s) had flu-like symptoms before the animals became sick. According to public health officials, “it’s interested that it’s being passed from humans to animals”. There is only one other virus known to have spread among species, the so called Avian Flu (H5N1). People, cats and birds have come down with this virus. The Canine Influenza virus (H3N8), is NOT communicable to people, cats or other animals, and fortunately veterinarians now have a vaccine available to immunize dogs against this disease. If you have flu-like symptoms please take precautionary measures to protect your pets and help prevent the spread of the Swine-flu virus. These measures should include the following: wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough, cover your nose when you sneeze, wear a mask when you are near your pets, and minimize your contact with all your pets, and wash, wash, wash hands. If your cat(s) shows signs of respiratory disease including sneezing, coughing, runny eyes, heavy breathing or just congestion, contact your veterinarian. We now have a specific test to diagnose the H1N1 Swine Flu virus to assist us in diagnosing this disease from other respiratory diseases.

“Swine Flu” and Pets (not just dogs)

Up until very recently, the H1N1 virus has been reported only in humans, pigs, birds and ferrets. As recently as November 4, 2009, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reported that a 13 year old cat tested positive for the H1N1 flu virus. This is the first time a cat has been positively identified infected with this contagious virus. The cat lives in Iowa and has recovered and 2 family members living with the cat also have recovered. According to Iowa State officials, 2 of the 3 family members living in the house with the cat came down with the illness before the cat. To date, there is no evidence that the cat transmitted the virus to the family members, or anyone else, but instead caught it from them. There are other viruses transmitted from animals to people so pet owners should at least be aware of the possibility, now that this has occurred. The “swine flu” is not an accurate name as the 2009 H1N1 flu virus is actually a combination of 4 genetic viral sources: the North American Swine influenza, the North American avian influenza and human influenza viruses found in Asia and Europe. Watch out for any symptoms of respiratory illness in your cat OR dog. These may include congestion, sneezing, running eyes and nose, lethargy and coughing. The AVMA states: “Pet owners should monitor their pets’ health very closely, no matter what type of animal, and visit a veterinarian if there are any signs of illness.”

“Swine Flu” and Dogs

The United States has its first confirmed case of Swine Flu (H1N1) in a dog. There were 2 cases previously reported in China, but not here. It was just confirmed and reported on December 22, 2009 that New York State, just outside of New York City, is in fact the first state in the nation with a positive case of Swine Flu in a dog. Although the CDC says that the Swine Flu is “waning” among humans, it is expected to rise in the dog and cat population. Veterinarians now have a simple test to help in the diagnosis of this disease which will contribute to an increase in the number of cases confirmed and reported. This virus can be confused with the Canine Influenza (H3N8), which is transmitted from dog to dog and is distinctly different from the H1N1 virus. However, there still is no evidence that this Swine Flu viral disease is spread from animal to animal or animal to human. Instead, in each case reported so far, a human was infected with this virus 1st, and then the pet came down with the disease. The symptoms of Swine Flu are similar to other respiratory conditions of animals: running eyes, sneezing and/or coughing, lethargy, fever and congestion. Some or all of these symptoms could occur in your dog or cat, and if they do, please see your veterinarian. This virus can develop into serious life threatening pneumonia if not caught and treated early.

Do A Risk Assessment of Your Pet

Your pet may be exposed to various diseases and problems based on his/her life style. For instance, do you take your dog for walks where other dogs walk or where there is wildlife? Does your cat go outside? Do you have raccoons on your property? Is your dog groomed at a grooming establishment? These are just a few of the questions you have to ask yourself in a Risk Assessment of your pet. There are many more. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises all pet owners that a “Wellness” exam, blood tests, urine and stool analysis be performed 1-2 x yearly on most pets. In general, pets age 6-7 times faster on the average than people do. Most dogs and cats are considered adults by age 2, middle aged by age 5, and seniors by age 7 or 8. Large breed dogs age even faster. The more your pet has direct contact with other animals or even indirect contact with other animals, or where they have been, the more likely they are to “pick up” something. An example of this is intestinal parasites (worms) from the feces of other dogs or cats, another example is fleas/ticks from the grass, or Leptospirosis from raccoon urine. If your pet goes to grooming shops or boarding kennels they can pick up various diseases, most of which can be avoided by vaccinations. Usually, veterinarians will recommend a vaccination schedule and “Wellness” exam based on your pets individual lifestyle. Yearly stool analysis and Lyme/Heartworm checks plus flea and tick prevention are just a few of the smart things you can do to keep your pet free of these problems. Because pets age so fast, it is best to detect any pending health problems early, before they become serious. Dental care and proper nutrition based on the pets age are both very important. For more information on pet wellness, disease prevention and even pet health insurance, visit the National Pet Wellness Web site at