New York State finally implemented a law on July 1, 2013 that protects the well being of all dogs and cats sold by licensed pet dealers. It has been a long time coming and veterinarians, animal activists, animal lovers as well as informed elected officials have been working towards this goal. Basically, the law mandates that these licensed pet dealers MUST involve the participation of a licensed veterinarian in creating and implementing a veterinary care program as well as a veterinary supervised animal exercise program for all animals that are offered for sale. The dealers were notified on January 10th. of this year alerting them of the new legal requirements. Each licensed pet dealer had just short of six months to create, propose, and implement a veterinary care and exercise plan. The mandated law is far reaching and is in the best interest of the humane care of each individual pu ppy and kitten. It not only mandates the proper veterinary care, but also details proper feeding, watering, housing, exercise, sanitation, ventilation, record keeping, as well as consumer protection. It also spells out what is expected of the personnel responsible for the handling and well being of those animals in their care. We are all aware of the horrific conditions of “puppy mills” and “kitten mills”. Many states have outlawed them, including NY, and many have put severe restraints on them. This new law in New York also mandates that every licensed dealer must state, in writing, the origin of each pet they sell. FYI, New York State has a Pet Lemon Law. To qualify for a refund or a replacement animal, the consumer must obtain a veterinary certificate that the animal is unfit within fourteen (14) business days of the purchase. The consumer must return the pet to the seller within three (3) business days of obtaining this certification. In addition, the consumer is entitled to reimbursement of the veterinary fee for such certification.
Bad news: A new tick-borne disease has recently been discovered, in people. It has already affected an estimated 100,000 people in New York State alone because it often goes undiagnosed and untreated, according to physicians at Columbia University. The symptoms are very similar to Lyme disease but usually a rash does not develop. High fever, aches, weakness, recurring fevers, etc. are some of the symptoms. In people, it often is confused with and called “chronic Lyme disease”, but it is different. And, unfortunately, there is no specific test for this disease yet. And, when the regular Lyme test comes back negative it usually goes untreated. Please check with your physician if you have any suspicions, DO NOT WAIT. The causative agent is a bacterium in the same family (Borrelia) as the regular Lyme disease and it is carried by the same deer tick that dogs ge t. This one is called Borrelia miyamotoi. Good news: Although there is no test for this disease as of this writing (July 5, 2013), the treatment is the same as regular Lyme disease. However, the antibiotic, Doxycycline, must be started early in the disease process. Also, as of this writing, this disease has not been diagnosed in dogs, but the same ticks that dogs get can be brought into the house and infect humans. So, it is just common sense that dogs should have the newer preventative tick and flea products applied once a month to their skin. Don’t forget, even if your dog does not leave your property, birds can and do bring in ticks from far way. Also, don’t forget that Lyme disease is on the increase in the northeast of America, in people. It is preventable, so protect yourself as well as your dogs. Keep dogs out of the woods as ticks usually climb up approximately 4-6 inches on weeds, grass and plants and wait for a host to come by. Check your pet carefully for ticks and check yourself. Ask your veterinarian about the newer and improved topical tick/flea products and Lyme vaccines.
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) predicts the threat of Lyme Disease for dogs will be extremely high this year. See map of northeast published by CAPC. This recent notification was just sent to the veterinary community (June 18, 2013), although other organizations have notified us previously. This prediction is based on many factor which include: increase in reported cases of Lyme Disease in humans and dogs, outside temperature, precipitation, humidity, population density, deer population, and forest cover, and evidence that some of the previously used popular topical medication for tick prevention have lost their effectiveness. There is strong evidence that ticks and even fleas have the capability of developing resistance to products that are used repetitively. That is why the CDC recommend we alternate products or use newer products on the market available to veterinar ians. The topical products plus vaccination is the best way to protect your dog. Prevention is the best medicine. The newer vaccines that protect your dog against Lyme disease have proven to be safe and effective. Don’t forget, dogs can bring ticks into the house which can get on you. Slight lameness is one of the earliest signs we see in dogs with Lyme disease. It can progress to lethargy and loss of appetite and even further progress to swollen joints, pain and even kidney disease. The CAPC recommends, along with the Center for Communicable Diseases (CDC) that all dogs and cats get year-round parasite-control medications. This requires topical and oral 1 x each month preventative medications readily available from your veterinarian.
It has been said to me many many times that “my cat never goes outside so it can’t pick up anything”. It has also been said to me that my “dog never leaves the back yard and won’t catch anything”. Both of these statements are not true. Here are the facts:
- The eggs of many parasites can be brought into the house on the bottoms of your shoes.
- Flies, mice and cockroaches can carry roundworm eggs and infect your pets.
- It has been documented that 15% of potting soil sold is contaminated with roundworm eggs.
- Roundworms are contagious to humans and can be passed from cats or dogs to humans. In fact, it has also been determined that approximately 14% of the U.S. human population is infected with roundworms. Roundworm larva can penetrate human skin and cause a condition known as “Visceral larval migrans”.
- The other very contagious parasite that is communicable to humans from a dog or cat is the protozoan parasite known as Giardia. This parasite has been found in the dirt and mulch used in flower beds, etc. around the house.
- Wild animals such as rabbits, raccoons, rats, etc. usually have intestinal parasites that are deposited on your lawns in their feces.
- Hookworm larva can also penetrate human skin and cause a condition known as “Cutaneous larval migrans”.
- Birds can bring in parasites onto your property from miles away. It is known that some birds also carry the deer tick that transmits Lyme disease.
Fortunately, all these parasites can be treated very successfully and eliminated from the host, whether it be a dog, cat or human. But, first it must be determined which, if any, is present in your pet. That is why a fecal examination is recommended by your veterinarian at least 1x each year. It must be determined if your pet has parasites and if so which kind, as the treatment varies.
Previously I wrote about the ability of certain parasites to develop resistance to the various drugs we have been using to combat them. These articles have primarily been directed towards fleas and ticks. The “resistance factor” can also be applied to other parasites that afflict our pets, such as Heartworms, Hookworms, Whipworms, etc. In horses, the practice of alternating deworming products has been in existence for over 50 years. This is to prevent the parasites from developing a resistance or immunity to the product. Another factor to consider is the pets weight. In the past the products given were for weight ranges, such as 1-25 lbs., 26-50 lbs., and 51-100 lbs., etc. Some dogs have reacted to the product if they are in the lower sector of a range. For instance, if your dog weighs 8 lbs. the product prescribed often is for dogs that can weight 3 times that amount. Now that has a ll changed. Veterinarians now have the opportunity to customize the ingredients and individualize the products dose for your pets exact weight. I believe this is the ideal way to protect your pet. It is very safe and has been tested for several years in other parts of the country. This program is called: “Custom Parasite Protection” (CPP). The program customizes the ingredients of the product for your specific dog. It is shipped directly to your home with your pets name and weight on the product at no additional charge, or it can be picked up at the veterinarians office. The protection provided also is greater than other products as it not only protects against heartworms, but roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. It also eliminates the breeding capabilities of fleas and thus aids in flea control. The product comes in a flavored chewable pill or a flavored liquid and is given 1 x each month.
There are many ways of feeding your dog. Some feed “on demand” which means leaving food out all day so when the dog is hungry the food is readily available. Other methods of feeding are more in line with the way we eat. That is offer breakfast, or lunch, or dinner or a combination of these meals. It has classically been recommended that as puppies mature the number of meals decrease from 3 a day to 1 a day and usually that the 1 a day meal is usually in the evening. It also has been classically thought that a hungry dog is more attentive and easier to train, especially when food is being offered as a reward. Recently a study was conducted by researchers at the University of Kentucky to determine which of these meals is the most important or if there no difference. They tested what is known as “Cognitive Performance”. By definition, Cognitive means “pertaining to the mental process of perception, memory, judgement and reasoning.” They used this performance test to see which of these meals had the greatest influence on trained dogs performance. The results are surprising. Especially when you realize that they asked trained dogs to locate and retrieve food 30 minutes after they ate a meal. The results showed, without question, that breakfast is the most important meal as far as aiding cognitive performance. We have all been taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The calories consumed provide energy for our bodies as well as our brain. Well this study proves that the same is true for our domesticated canine friends.
Corporations Taking Over–What it means for the Pet Owner
Last week my column dealt with the reality of major corporations buying up privately owned small animal hospitals, veterinary speciality facilities and animal emergency centers. So what does this mean to the pet owner? In general, the corporations that now own these facilities also own parallel businesses, such as pet drug distributor companies and laboratories. They have all ends covered and the purpose is to make money. Most of these corporations are just interested in the “bottom line”. The prices go up and the personal services go down. Every veterinarian I have spoken to who has previously worked for one of these corporations did not like it. They must practice as they are told. Many of the employed veterinarians are recent graduates with very little experience and there is a high turn over. The corporations insist on things being done their way, without exception. These things are not dictated by good medicine, but by economics, BUT that does not mean that ethics or honesty are compromised, but the motivation is not to do just a good job but to make money. In fact, many of these corporations put the veterinarians on the incentive basis—the more money you generate the more money you make.This is contrary to what I tell my associates. My policy is: “Be honest, be ethical, and practice the best possible level of medicine you can. Do not think of economics.” I am the “on hands” owner and I watch very carefully. Now it’s called “micro-manage”. In non-corporate owned private practice we can give discounts and even do work for free, which we do when circumstances allow. We can adjust bills and work with our clients. Our fees are usually lower and the service and level of experience is certainly better. In privately owned practices the owner makes the policy, not some executive employee of a corporation. The owners reputation is always at stake and we treasure the personal relationships we have with our pet owners and the quality of work we do for our patients. We don’t hide behind a vail of corporative ownership. Don’t forget, as youngsters we start out motivated by a love of animals and then, if we were lucky enough to get admitted to veterinary school, as vet students mature into the love of medicine and surgery as it applies to animals well being. For me and most of my colleagues, economics never was a consideration or motivating factor.
Individual privately owned Veterinary Medical practices are gradually becoming a thing of the past. For many years, the solo practice has dwindled for many reasons; namely, the cost of opening up and developing a practice. So the natural thing was for a solo Veterinarian to bring in associates. The practices grew and grew and the senior veterinarian got older and older. When it was time to slow down and retire, the natural thing was to sell to one or more of the associates. Occasionally, practices merged under one roof and the younger veterinarians took over. Well that was the past. Now, big corporations have arrived and they are buying up practices all over the country. They have been doing this for the last several years. I don’t mean just a few here and there. I mean hundreds of formally privately owned veterinary practices are now owned by big corporations. All over this country big business has been buying up small animal veterinary practices, discreetly, quietly and with little to no public awareness. On Long Island it has occurred also. Within the last few months several practices right here on the North Shore have been sold to corporations known as VCA or NVA. These include the Oyster Bay Animal Hospital, the Jericho Animal Hospital, and the Commack Animal Hospital. Most recently, the Hilton Hospital for Animals in Lynbrook was sold to one of the corporations and earlier this year the Baldwin Animal Hospital and the Massapequa Animal Hospital were also sold to one of these corporations. The other two practices in our area that are owned by big corporations are the Glen Animal Hospital in Seacliff and Animal General in East Norwich. There are many other corporation owned practices on Long Island and across the country. In fact, each corporation owns hundreds of Animal Hospitals and employ hundreds of veterinarians across America. Banfield is one of these corporations with over 800 locations. Corporations are also buying up emergency and speciality veterinary facilities here in Nassau County. So, what does this all mean to you the pet owner? Sorry, I ran out of space, read next weeks column for the answers.
For over 3000 years, mankind have derived medicinal treatments from plants, animals and other natural substances. Over 25% of the prescription drugs commonly used today are still derived from plants. Even drugs that are synthesized have at some point originated from plants. Herbal medications are considered more of a nutritional supplement than a medication and as such the FDA labels them as ‘nutraceuticals”. Neutraceuticals can be simply defined as non-drug oral agents that provide substances required for normal body function. The purpose of giving them is to improve health and well being. These substances have characteristics of both drugs and nutrients. Do not confuse “natural” and “herbal” with “safe” or neutraceutical. Although they are not recognized as drugs, herbal and natural remedies are used for their drug-like effect, and they can potentially cause the same side effects and reactions that prescription drugs can cause. Neutraceuticals do not treat or cure disease, but instead aid and improve certain body functions and help in the long term care of certain chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis. Today, almost 60% of Americans regularly use these supplements, and now they are becoming more and more commonly used in veterinary medicine, with great success. Pets are living longer and veterinarians wantt to help owners improve their pets “quality of life”. This is one way of doing so. An example of a neutraceutical is glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, usually mixed together. Glucosamine is derived from Shellfish and Chondroitan is from animal products. Together they rebuild the cartilage and thicken the joint fluid that cushions and protects joints. Combined with NSAIDS, dogs are now living longer pain-free lives, with improved body functions, and they are also more ambulatory with the advent of neutraceuticals. The down side is that they are not FDA controlled and as such veterinarians have to be very selective as to which manufacturer/distributor they purchase from.