Birds and Biting

 

 

Ask any bird owner and they will probably tell you that the most serious bird behavior problem is biting This is especially true with the larger birds whose strong jaw and hooked bills can inflict considerable damage and pain.  Most biting behaviors can be classified as fear, aggression, territorial, conditioned or mate related.

Fear Biters:

When most birds were wild caught, fear biting was a bigger problem.  Today, most birds are raised in captivity.  However, birds that have been raised with little human interaction in captivity will still have fear problems.  Finally, even birds that are hand reared and more acclimated to human beings can still develop fear related behaviors.  Some, such as African Grays, seem to be naturally more cautious and fearful around humans.

Fear biters can be recognized by their attachment to the cage.  They are unwilling to leave that safe environment and when approached, may run away from or scoot past your hand.  They get very stressed when handled and may squawk, fight, and even pant.  Excessive wing trims and the inevitable clumsiness and falls that accompany them are a good way to create a fear biter.  Careful trims and lots of treats and patient handling can sometimes help a fear biter become more social.

Conditioned Biters:

Birds are highly intelligent and will learn to manipulate their owner quickly.  An owner who withdraws their hand the first time a bird offers to bite will condition the animal to bite to get their way.  Not surprisingly, the bigger the bird, the more common the problem seems to be. As with many other species of animals, if you don’t appear to be in control, birds will be more than happy to take over.

Conditioned biters need to have their wings trimmed both figuratively and literally. In addition, they should never be allowed to ride on the owners shoulder.  One way to prevent this behavior is to place a towel on the shoulder and use that to safely remove the bird if needed.  If you are too afraid to offer a hand, than gloves or a perch should be used to practice step up without biting.  Do not hit the bird on the beak.  Instead, redirect biting behavior by giving another command which can be rewarded when obeyed.  If the owner is unable to establish control, the bird may have to be rehomed.

Territorial Biters:

These are the birds that defend their cage by biting.  Territorial aggression should occur only when the bird is in or on the cage.  Consistent training and handling are an important step in curing this type of biting.  More time spent with the owner and less time in the cage will help as well.  Use of a separate cage for night time sleeping and daytime play can also be helpful.

Bonded Biters:

Many birds bond closely with one person in the family.  They may consider this person to be their mate and behave aggressively if they feel other family members are competing for “their” person.  Again, training and consistent handling by all family members will help to decrease bond related biting.  Unpleasant jobs should be done by the favorite and treats doled out by others. Again, these birds should be kept off the shoulder. Play is good but too much cuddling can be misinterpreted.

Grumpy Biters:

Just like us, birds need to get a good night’s rest.  A bird kept up late watching television, could turn into a tired, grumpy biter.  Birds need to have at least 10 hours a day in a dark, quiet room. Owners need to keep that in mind when deciding where to place their bird’s cage.

Remember, if the biting is extreme, use gloves, perches or towels. Also, changing established negative behaviors requires plenty of time, patience, confidence and consistency on the part of the handler.  In the worst cases, where the owner is unable to establish a safe relationship, a new home may be the best choice for everyone.

An Ounce of Prevention…

 

 

I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with the entire collection of animals on grounds at Niabi Zoo as well as their dedicated zookeepers and staff at least once a week.   Even though this part of my life is “scheduled,” I never know what my day will entail.   It’s the constant variety of daily tasks in zoological medicine that makes it that much more interesting for me:  the never ending challenge of diagnosis, developing treatment plans, and, most importantly, annual wellness and preventative medicine.  Preventative medical care and annual wellness screening is one of the most overlooked areas of zoological medicine in the public eye.  Not only is preventative medicine essential for the animal’s health and well being, it is also necessary for the safety of the staff and the visiting public.  However, depending on the animal we’re working on in the collection, this may be a challenge.

What does preventative medicine in a zoo entail?

Preventative medicine examinations performed on zoo patients are very similar to those performed on your own four legged friends, and equally important.  Much like our own four legged friends, obesity can affect animals in captivity, so accurate weight logs and body condition assessments are kept by keeper staff and the veterinarian. Many of the animals in Niabi Zoo’s collection are trained with positive reinforcement and operant condition to willing stand or sit on a scale on command to maintain accurate records of their weights. Any major changes can then be reported to the veterinary staff and further measures can be taken. This may seem like a small detail of an exam, but the zookeepers are the eyes and ears of the veterinary department and work tirelessly to help prevent disease outbreaks and illness in the animals they oversee.

Another important area annually assessed is the animal’s mouth. Dental disease is one of the most common pet health problems diagnosed at Animal Family and is also common in zoo collections due to some undesired, stereotypical behaviors. The challenge in a zoological collection is that the animal’s mouth can also be it’s most dangerous weapon! Some of these animals require sedation to have their teeth examined.  Other animals are trained with hand signals and will hold open their mouth open on command for visual examination.  Just like in dogs and cats, the veterinarian looks for tartar, gingivitis, signs of periodontal disease, fractured teeth, or missing teeth, and develops a treatment plan accordingly.

Fecal examination and intestinal parasite screening is one of the most frequent tests performed at Niabi Zoo.  There are several intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms are considered zoonotic, meaning they can pass from animals to people and cause disease. Not only is it important to screen fecals for the health of the animal, but we also screen for the public’s health! The Centers for Disease Control estimates that almost  14% of the population of the United States is infected with roundworms!  If any animal comes back positive, a deworming treatment is developed.  The zoo animals are on similar monthly, year round prevention products like Frontline and Heartgard for treatment of intestinal parasites, fleas, ticks, and heartworm disease.  

Speaking of heartworm and tick-borne disease,  the very same test 4DX Snap Test and Blood Parasite Screen  that is recommended for your domestic animal is used on several animals at Niabi Zoo! Prevention of heartworm disease is key in a zoological collection, especially since the disease can be life threatening and extremely expensive to treat.  Due to the importance of conservation in a zoo collection, a life lost due to heartworm disease could mean a drastic blow to a genetic line under conservation.

Last, but not least, the animals at Niabi Zoo also undergo an annual vaccination routine, which is extremely important due to the exposure of these animals to wildlife and the public. Animals in the collection are routinely vaccinated for Rabies and Distemper annually since their risk of exposure is so high. These vaccines can be done every three years in our domestic dogs and cats.

The bottom line is preventative medicine is the most important medicine and can save your animal from having to suffer from illness long term. For some of our pets and the zoo collection, this means every year we need to make a thorough assessment, nose to tail, to keep our animals as healthy as possible.

 

Animals in the Service

 

 

 

In honor of all the military related festivities in the month of November, like the USMC 238th Birthday and Veteran’s Day, I felt it only appropriate to discuss some of the unique ways animals have also helped to preserve our nation’s freedom. We are all familiar with many a battle on horseback in our nation’s history, but did you know horses and canines are not the only animals who help our brave men and women?  Listed below are some of their unique roles today.

Dolphins and the U.S. Navy

Dolphins have been serving in the U.S. Navy for more than 40 years as part of the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, and they were used during the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. These highly intelligent animals are trained to detect, locate and mark mines — not to mention suspicious swimmers and divers.

What happens if a dolphin finds an intruder? The dolphin touches a sensor on a boat to alert its handler, and the handler then places a strobe light or noisemaker on the dolphin’s nose. The dolphin is trained to swim to the intruder, bump him or her from behind to knock the device off its nose and swim away while military personnel take over.

Sea Lions

Trained sea lions, another part of the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, locate and tag mines just like dolphins, but that’s not all these “Navy Seals” do — they also cuff underwater intruders. The sea lions carry a spring clamp in their mouths that can be attached to a swimmer or diver by simply pressing it against the person’s leg. In fact, the sea lions are so fast that the clamp is on before the swimmer is even aware of it. Once a person is clamped, sailors aboard ships can pull the swimmer out of the water by the rope attached to the clamp.

These specially trained sea lions, part of the Navy’s Shallow Water Intruder Detection System, patrol Navy bases and were even deployed to protect ships from terrorists in the Persian Gulf.

Honeybees

Honeybees are natural-born sniffers with antennae able to sense pollen in the wind and track it down to specific flowers, so bees are now being trained to recognize the scents of bomb ingredients. When the bees pick up a suspicious odor with their antennae, they flick their proboscises — a tubular feeding organ than extends from their mouths.  Watch them in action at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T7d0bze4kM

A honeybee bomb-detection unit would look like a simple box stationed outside airport security. Inside the box, bees would be strapped into tubes and exposed to puffs of air where they could constantly check for the faint scent of a bomb. A video camera linked to pattern-recognition software would alert authorities when the bees started waving their proboscises in unison.

Pigeons

Homing pigeons were widely used by both American and British forces during World War II. The U.S. Army had an entire Pigeon Breeding and Training Center at Fort Monmouth, N.J., where the pigeons were trained to carry small capsules containing messages, maps, photographs and cameras. Military historians claim that more than 90 percent of all pigeon-carried messages sent by the U.S. Army during the war were received.

The birds even participated in the D-Day invasion because troops operated under radio silence. The pigeons sent information about German positions on Normandy beaches and reported back on the success of the mission. In fact, homing pigeons played such an important military role that 32 were awarded the Dickin Medal, Britain’s highest award for animal valor. Recipients of the medal include the U.S. Army Pigeon Service’s bird, G.I. Joe, and the Irish pigeon known as Paddy.

As you can see, a wide variety of creatures have participated in military efforts and are active in service today.  My sincerest thanks and gratitude to all the brave men, women, and animals who selflessly protect our nation’s freedom.

Majority of information for blog came from https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/10-ways-animals-have-served-the-military/in-the-army-now

 

 

Trick Or Treat, Smell My Feet… please don’t let Scruffy steal chocolate treats! (and a few other Halloween safety tips)

 

  Halloween is one of my favorite holidays BY FAR! Who doesn’t love an excuse to slightly over indulge on lovely chocolate and sweet treats, especially anything with peanut butter (Reese’s are my true weakness)!  As much fun as the chocolate can be for us, it is extremely dangerous for our pets and the calls to animal poison control centers increase for chocolate ingestion now more than any other time of year!  Listed below are several other potential dangers for your pets during All Hallows Eve. If we become more informed about all of the potential issues, this can save major headaches (and cash money) over the holiday season.

Pick Your Poison:

Chocolate.   Everybody’s favorite, and the one that typically leads to the most calls to veterinarians this time of year. As many of you know, chocolate is problematic to cats and dogs. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic, and the smaller the quantity necessary to see effects. For pets with pre-existing heart disease or seizure conditions, the concern is even higher, as these are two of the big ‘target organs’ for the toxic effects of chocolate.

Raisin toxicity. Known to be a problem for some dogs (and possibly some cats), raisins may be found in your child’s candy bag as part of certain chocolate bars, or on their own from well-intentioned neighbors trying to provide healthier Halloween treats. We don’t know which pets will be sensitive to the toxic effects of raisins, nor the number of raisins that must be ingested before problems are seen. It’s best to play it safe and take the necessary precautions to prevent all of your pets from ingesting any quantity of raisins. (Grapes and currants have the same toxic potential as raisins, and so should be similarly avoided.)

The actual treats in your kid’s Halloween bounty aren’t the only potential problem for your pets either. Candy wrappers that are eaten by your pet can also lead to digestive system inflammation and/or obstruction, resulting in episodes of vomiting and/or diarrhea, as well as an unplanned trip to the veterinarian, and possibly the surgery table. Keep candy well out of reach of all your pets. Hang your children’s candy bag high-up on a wall hook or coat rack, and don’t leave the trick-or-treat candy you are planning on distributing sitting out on the coffee table while waiting for the neighborhood kids to start arriving.

It’s bird, it’s a plane…it’s UNDERDOG!:

I don’t know about you all, but I love any chance for an embarrassing photo opportunity for my pet. Case in point…my little Underdog and her look of disgust below.  When it comes to costumes for our furry friends, keep these tips in mind:

  • Avoid loose pieces of fabric and dangling small objects (such as bells). Pets may be tempted to chew off such objects. And if swallowed, you could be looking at a veterinary bill in excess of $1,500 to have it removed from their stomach or intestines since many of these objects will not pass on their own.
  • Avoid masks on pets. Masks can obstruct your pet’s vision and/or their ability to breathe. If your pet can’t see well they’re at greater risk of traumatic injuries – such as broken bones from stepping in holes or falling off curbs, as well as from being struck by a passing car. Broken bones require expensive surgeries to repair, and hit-by-car injuries can result in prolonged intensive care hospital stays and/or death.
  • If you plan on taking your pet with you around the neighborhood for your night of Halloween fun, be sure to include some reflective or self-illuminating material on your pet’s costume. The earlier it gets dark out, the less visibility cars have overall so anything you can do to increase your pet’s visibility to passing cars will help to ensure that they won’t wind up getting hit by one of them. Also consider putting a flashing light on their collar for nighttime walks, at Halloween and throughout the year.

Leashes save lives!

While we’re on the topic of trick or treating, for pets that will join you around the neighborhood, keep them on a leash the whole time. A leash will not only keep your pet from darting in front of a passing car, but it will also help you prevent them from eating dropped candy which could be potentially toxic.  Leashes also prevent dog fights and keep spooked dogs from running off. Little children in costumes can set up a potentially terrifying situation for some of our more anxious pets. Importantly, don’t let a young child be the only one holding on to your pet’s leash during the walk. This is good advice throughout the year, but even more so on Halloween when passing trick-or-treaters are an additional factor that can cause pets to slip their collars or pull away from their leash.

Keep your cats inside on and around Halloween. Aside from all the normal dangers that outdoor cats face daily, Halloween (and the even more dangerous ‘Mischief Night’ that precedes it) potentially carries with it the additional dangers of twisted kids (and sadly, adults too) intentionally traumatizing, mutilating, or otherwise torturing cats on these nights, especially black cats. Though such incidences sadly occur throughout the year, there may be an increased risk associated with this holiday. Don’t take the chance – keep ‘em inside.

The constantly opening doors associated with gobs of tiny trick-or-treaters also pose a significant danger to pets. Pets with access to opening doors may take advantage of the opportunity to bolt out of the house, not only putting them in danger of the typical outdoor hazards unrestrained pets face, but also of having a paw, tail, or other part of their body caught in the door as they make their escape. Such traumatic events can cause injuries significant enough to warrant an expensive orthopedic surgery or a prolonged hospital stay. Confine your pets to a ‘safe area’ of the house to prevent their access to open doors. Use pet crates, baby gates, or closed doors to do so. Providing them with food, water, litter boxes, and anything else that will be necessary to minimize their stress (perhaps an interactive food toy or a turned on television or radio) will also help to decrease the likelihood of destructive behaviors or loud barking.

With a little effort, our pets have the potential to have just as much fun as their people this Halloween season. As long as we take the necessary precautions to keep our pets safe, there’s no reason we all

 have a HOWLING good time!  Happy Haunting everyone!

 

Reptile Husbandry Series

 

As much as we love our four legged, furry friends, sometimes it’s fun to go off the beaten path in our pet ownership journey. You’re heading to the pet store to pick up some food for Fido when you run into the Herps/Reptiles section and see this adorable pile of bearded dragons or the cutest little snake in the corner (yes…snakes can be cute).  You think to yourself, “How freakin’ awesome would it be to have a little dinosaur of my own? How hard can it be…they just hang out in their cage and bask on rocks!” While I’m in full agreement with the dinosaur love, it’s also important to know what you’re getting yourself into! As a new reptile owner (proud new owner of an adorable ball python named Kreacher), I began to delve into the depths of reptile husbandry and realized that information isn’t as easy to find as one may think. I decided for the next few blog entries to give some us scale lovin’ folks some direction. 

Let’s start out with one of my favorite, docile, legless friends, the ball python.

Natural history: Ball pythons (Python regius) can be found in the forests of Central and Western Africa, on the ground or in the trees. Typically they are active at dawn and dusk (Crepuscular). They earned their name from their tendency to curl themselves up into a tight coil when they’re nervous, hiding their heads in the center of the coil. There are several different morphs or color patterns, but you may need to find a reputable breeder if you’re looking for a very specific type!

The facts and stats:

  • Body length: 36-48 inches
  • Body weight: Variable with length, age
  • Maximum life span: 50 years
  • Average captive life span: 20-30 years
  • Daytime temperature: 80-85 F
  • Nighttime temperature: 75 F minimum
  • Humidity: 60-80%
  • Hot spot (basking area): 90 F

Unique features:  Pythons (and boas) are equipped with anal spurs near the cloaca. These are said to be remnants of hind limbs that snakes lost during their evolution from lizards. The cloaca is a common exit of the urinary, digestive, and reproductive tract. In the wild, ball pythons consume a variety of prey including amphibians, lizards, other snakes, birds, and small mammals. Young ball pythons will typically grow a foot during the first there years. Snakes only have 3 chambers in their heart (us humans have 4) and one main functional lung (the other lung is present, but doesn’t work as hard as its partner!).

Husbandry: What do I need and why?

  • Smaller, young snakes tend to do well house in 10 or 20 gallon aquariums. As your snake grows, he/she may need an upgrade to a larger enclosure. Many owners custom build enclosures as their snake gets larger. Pet stores tend to have example set ups for you to see, or you can come in and visit our corn snake, Checkers, to check out her enclosure!
  • Bedding material should be easy to clean and nontoxic to your snake. Newspaper, butcher paper, paper towels, or Astroturf are recommended. When using Astroturf, buy 2 pieces and cut to fit in the bottom of the cage, this way you’ll always have a clean piece to change out.  Clean soiled areas with soap and water or other mild cleaners (ask your veterinarian for cleaning advice!).   AVOID SAND, GRAVEL, WOOD SHAVINGS (CEDAR, ASPEN, PINE).  These can be ingested when your snake is going to feed and CEDAR shavings are toxic to reptiles!
  • Young ball pythons enjoy climbing and exploring, so natural branches can be a great addition to the cage. Ideally, the branch should slope from the bottom of the enclosure to the top and allow the snake an area to bask if it chooses.
  • Hiding places are necessary for many reptiles and should be readily available. There are many logs, rocks, or even plastic pet bowls that work well for hiding spots in the cage.
  • A heat source is necessary for the majority of reptiles, which are ectothermic (cold blooded) and need a range of environmental temperatures to regulate their internal body temperature. Ideally, you want to create a gradient in the cage with one end being warmer than the other, this way your snake has a choice for their personal temperature regulation. It is important to place your heat source outside the cage so the snake doesn’t burn itself. Hot rocks should be avoided for this reason. At night, heat isn’t necessary as long as temperatures remain 65-70 F. You can use lamps or heating pads for your heat source. There are a wide variety of heat sources available and you can consult with your veterinarian about which may work best for you.
  • UV light is constant topic of debate for snake owners since they consume whole prey for their diet, making it more nutritionally balanced. It won’t hurt to add this lighting to your enclosure, but it may not be necessary
  • Some of these little guys are stronger than you think, so securing your top screen with cage clips is a must, especially if your husband is worried the snake is going to get out and eat the dog like my husband is! (My ball python is 73 grams and my dogs are 80 pounds PLUS just for some perspective…)

Wait….you said WHOLE PREY!??!?

That’s right. You now own a predator! Snakes eat whole prey items including mice, rats, gerbils, and hamsters. Larger snakes are capable of eating whole rabbits! Since snakes eat entire prey items, this makes things much simpler for the owner and can help decrease the likelyhood of dietary related diseases that we can commonly see in other reptiles. Ideally, your snake should be provided a thawed (previously frozen) prey item or a freshly killed one. It isn’t recommended to feed live prey to snakes for several reasons. Prey knows it’s prey unless killed and eaten immediately, so you’ll be stressing out your feeder animal in the process if not previously killed! Amazingly, even a small mouse can cause major injury to the snake itself if the snake isn’t hungry! For humane reasons, strongly consider feeding previously killed prey.

How often you feed your snake totally depends on the age and size of the pet. Smaller snakes usually eat twice a week and larger snakes eat once every week to every few weeks. Ask your veterinarian for guidelines and feeding advice! Although snakes can go a long time without feeding, too long can be a sign of serious disease and you may want to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

WATER!

Fresh water in a crock or bowl that won’t easily tip over should be available at all times. Snakes will not only drink from the water bowl but will often bathe in it as well. Make sure the water stays clean since many snakes feel this is their personal toilet!

Coming up next…

I think I’ve given you all a great place to start if you’re interested in our legless friends!  Next blog we’ll be discussing common diseases of pet snakes so get your learning eyes and ears in gear!  And don’t forget, if you have any questions or would like some one-on-one advice before you go snake hunting, feel free to stop in and visit Dr. Kathy or Dr. Lauren!

How to Keep Your Pet Safe in the Heat

 

  • H2O:        Provide plenty of water.
    • Make sure there is lots of water to drink
    • Set up a kiddie pool in a shady area
    • Spray water on your dog’s belly ( in the hot sun, water on the back isn’t a good idea)
    • Even cats will tolerate a spritz from a water bottle and birds LOVE it.
    • Freeze your water in pop bottles that be placed in pools or wrapped in towels for a cool place to lay.
    • Water sprayed on cool, shady cement  can be refreshing provided your pet doesn’t have arthritis.
    • Take Fido swimming at the local watering hole but be sure to use a life vest.
  • Shade:   Any time your pet is outdoors make sure there is ready access to shade.
    • Shade can be a tree, canopy of the shady side of the house.  Just remember that the sun’s position changes throughout the day so shady in the morning may not be shady in the afternoon.
    • Doghouses are not shade.  There is not enough air movement to keep them cool.
    • Don’t forget your basement.  It’s the coolest, safest place for your pet in the heat.
  • Limit exercise: 
    • Dogs can’t sweat like we do.
    • Short coated breeds can and do sunburn.
    • Asphalt can burn tender paw pads.
    • Brachycephalic (short faced) breeds are especially intolerant of heat and too much activity
    • If you keep going, your dog will too, right into heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • Keep air circulating with a fan:
    • It won’t make things perfect but circulating air stays cooler.
  • Go high tech:
    • There are cooling gel dog beds available.
    • You may also want to try cooling vests and collars.
  • Keep your pet in the air conditioning:
    • When it’s really hot sometimes the best move is to keep your pet inside until things cool down in the evening.

10 Questions for Dr. Lauren Hughes

 

 

1. How old were you when you decided to become a veterinarian?

Like a lot of my colleagues, I wanted to become a veterinarian ever since I was a little kid, around 5 years old. It was the idea of what a veterinarian actually was that changed for me over the years. When I was in high school, I got to job shadow through the Interact program and Key Club and got a much better idea of what the job entailed and I fell in love with the career. My work as a zoo keeper at Niabi Zoo solidified my want to work with wildlife and exotic species.

2. What is the best part of your job?

As much as I love the work with the variety of species I see on a daily basis, what I love most about the job is giving back to the community and working with the owners of all these pets. Establishing a relationship with my clients and their family and getting to know them is a lot of fun.

3. What’s the most interesting case you’ve ever had?

During my last year of vet school, a large male Rottweiler came into the clinic with a swollen abdomen and we took x-rays, thinking the dog had a twisted stomach. When we began surgery, there was nothing wrong with the stomach at all and everything appear normal within the abdomen. During surgery, the dog’s right hind leg began to swell and he did not recover well from surgery. We ended up having to keep him in the ICU and do several more surgeries and through diagnostic testing and bacterial culture, we discovered that he had flesh eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis, and was unfortunately unable to recover. I will probably never see a case like that again in my lifetime.

4. What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Humane euthanasia is always the most difficult part for me. It is such an emotional time for the owners and I’m a crier anyway, so it doesn’t help the situation. The blessing of working with animals is that we have the ability to alleviate their suffering in cases of severe, incurable disease or when it’s time for them to cross that rainbow bridge, but it’s never a happy experience and doesn’t get any easier.     

 

5. Why become a vet when you could have gone into human medicine and made more money?

Because of the variety of species I work with, every day brings something new and challenging. With the exotic animals that I see, as well as the animals from Niabi Zoo, the database of knowledge in some of these critters is extremely limited and brings about my “MacGyver” skills, trying to find new ways to treat patients that have never been done before as well as diagnose their diseases. More money would be nice, but I think I would get bored. I love what I do, so the money really isn’t a factor to me.

6. We know you have to like animals for this job but what are the other unique requirements?

Communication skills, creative thinking, and flexibility. Not every patient presents the same way, even if they have the same disease and not every owner has the same budget so approach do disease treatment and animal management is always different.

7. How has veterinary medicine changed since your parent’s time?

The view of animals in the home has changed significantly over the years. Pets are now much more part of the family than ever before, so the care for them has definitely changed and improved.

8. Even though both jobs require the same amount of education; how does veterinary medicine differ from human medicine beyond the obvious question of species?

Many veterinarians “do everything” still, even though we have specialists. There are so many general practitioners in the veterinary world that act as surgeon, dentist, nutritionist, physical therapist, Chiropractor (wink, wink Dr. Meredith), radiologist, and many more. Your role changes so frequently based on your patient and it’s needs. This is much different than practitioners in the human world.

9. What do you think the new horizons for veterinary medicine will be?

Holistic medicine is becoming more prominent, as well as animal nutrition. Owners are becoming much more aware of the nutritional needs of their pets and asking a lot more information about appropriate diets.

10. If someone gave you a magic wand and you could go back and do it over again, would you still become a vet?

Yes, but I’d never want to do vet school again!

The Importance of Pain Management

 

No one likes to feel pain.  Pain can be good when it keeps us from doing things that will harm our bodies but untreated pain is never good.  There was a time when people believed that animals did not feel pain on the same level as humans.  Fortunately we now understand that this is not the case at all.  Animals feel pain in much the same way as we do. If you think something would be painful for you, it is most likely painful to your pet as well.

What animals do is mask pain.  In the wild the organism that shows pain becomes lunch.  Unfortunately, that very stoicism, if unrecognized, can lead to increased suffering for our pets.  As veterinarians and owners, it becomes our job then to ensure that our pets receive adequate pain management. Good pain control is good medicine.  It is an integral part of patient management at Animal Family.

Why is pain control so important? Uncontrolled, pain affects not only the well being but the behavior, health and longevity of our pets.  How so?

  • Pain prolongs recovery time from surgery, injury or illness.
  • It may cause arthritic cats to urinate or defecate outside the box. Sadly, this may be mislabeled as a behavior problem resulting in euthanasia.
  • It can lead to maladaptive pain.  That is pain which is caused by things that are not normally painful.  An example would be the older dog or cat which bites when a child attempts to pet them.It can cause self mutilation. An animal may lick or chew at a body part unrelentingly creating even further damage.
  • It may cause weight loss due to oral or body pain.
  • Pets may be unwilling to groom and take care of their coat due to pain.
  • A previously active animal may become listless.  It may simply be too painful to move.
  • A pet can become constipated due to an inability to posture and defecate normally.
  • Pain may precipitate pacing and restlessness. A behavior that may be misinterpreted as nervousness.
  • Pain can cause aggression towards other animals.  An animal which anticipates pain may strike preemptively at a housemate

As owners and veterinarians we must make recognition of pain a priority. It is important to watch your pet carefully for the subtle signs of discomfort or distress. Our new golden rule must be to never allow our pet to remain in pain because we have simply become used to seeing them that way seeing them that way. Watch for changes in behavior and talk it over with your veterinarian. Then as a team you can work to make your pet’s life not only longer but happier.

Benefits of Pet Ownership

 

Puppy is sleeping on the couch and shedding hair with each snore.  Kitty just knocked over the potted plant for the third time this month.  Then there’s the vet bills, the food, the groomer.  Geez!   After all, what has Fido or Kitty done for you lately?  We like to think that we are the hero in our animal/human relationships but the truth is animals give back plenty.  Want some reminders of why we benefit from pet ownership?  Read on.

  • Pets make our children healthier.   
    • The Journal of Pediatrics found that kids with pets are less likely to develop eczema. 
    • Another study found that infants with pets developed fewer respiratory infections.
    • Multiple studies have found that Infants with pets also develop fewer allergies.
  • Pets make our children happier.
    • Pets provide unconditional love and help build self esteem and reduce loneliness.
    • Pets can provide a bridge for shy children to interact with others.  They give them something to talk about with other children and make it easier for peers to approach them.
  • Pets help us get out and exercise.
    • The American Journal of Public Health tells us that both children and adults with dogs spend more time in physical activity.
  • Pets help us live better and longer.
    • Multiple studies have shown that pet owners make fewer doctor visits, have lower blood pressure and are less depressed than no pet owners.
    • Pet ownership provides companionship and comfort to seniors.  It also encourages mobility and improves overall mood in the elderly.
  • Pets can be trained to help in amazing ways.
    • Dogs can sniff out, bombs and cancers. They can detect illegal drugs and let us know when we have low blood sugar.  Dogs can be taught to alert us to an impending seizure, and they can help guide the blind.  They will pick up a pencil for the paralyzed, hear a doorbell for the deaf or help locate a lost child.  Dogs will search a collapsed building or a snow slide.  They will provide company for our children and protection for home.  They entertain, comfort, protect, guide, carry, pull, swim or whatever else we ask of them.  Our pets improve our lives over and over in so many ways and most of the time we don’t even realize it.  In return we give care, love and shelter. Is it a fair trade?  Definitely!     

 

12 Holiday Hazards

 

1)   Potpourri:    Liquid potpourri can make your home smell festive for the holidays but remember to keep it away from your pets.  If the worst happens and your pet swallows liquid potpourri or spills any of it on themselves, you may see some of the following: drooling in case of ingestion, burning of the skin or mouth, weakness and vomiting. If you think any potpourri may be left on your pet’s skin, bathe them ASAP and call your veterinarian.

2)   Oh Christmas Tree:  As beautiful as Christmas trees are, they can pose considerable danger to your pets.  Don’t make this the Christmas you remember because of the trip to the emergency room. Be sure to secure your tree properly so playful pets don’t topple it and injure themselves. 

3)   Ornaments:  Cats love to play with tinsel but it can be a deadly game.  If ingested tinsel can cause a linear foreign body capable of cutting through intestines. Signs may include loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting. Notify your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat has eaten any tinsel.  Ornament hooks can also be a hazard.  They are easily swallowed by pets and can lodge in the stomach or intestines.  Even broken ornaments knocked from the tree can cut sensitive paw pads. In general, it is best not place ornaments low on the tree where pets can dislodge them.

 4)   Electrical Cords:  All kinds of pets are susceptible to allure of chewing electrical cords. Once they come into contact with bare wire, they can die suddenly or receive severe burns to the mouth.  Signs of electrical burns include drooling, blisters and swelling around the mouth and an unwillingness or inability to eat or drink.  This type of injury requires immediate veterinary care.

5)   Poinsettias/Mistletoe:     Both these plants are commonly used as decorative accents during the Holiday season.  Poinsettia can cause local irritation to the mouth, gums and GI tract if ingested.  Treat your pet by washing the sap off immediately to stop further irritation. If your pet is vomiting or if their eyes appear inflamed, call your veterinarian. It is the berries of the Mistletoe that pose a danger to pets.  Depending on the amount ingested, symptoms can range from GI upset and vomiting to drooling, diarrhea, increased urination, and rapid heart rate and respiration.  All of these symptoms require immediate veterinary care. 

6)   Alcohol:   Are there still people who think it is funny to feed pets alcohol?  Sadly the answer is yes.  It really doesn’t matter whether toxicity occurs by accident or intent; it is important to understand that pets can die from alcohol ingestion.  Alcohol poisoning is dependent on the amount of alcohol ingested as compared to an animal’s weight. That means when a small pet gets into an alcoholic beverage, it can cause a significant toxicity problem. According to Becky Lundgren, DVM, “Within 15 to 30 minutes after the pet has drunk the alcohol on an empty stomach (or within 1 to 2 hours on a full stomach); central nervous system signs (such as staggering, excitement, or decreased reflexes) can begin. Behavioral changes can be seen, as can an increased need to urinate. As the problem gets worse, the pet may become depressed, have a slow respiratory rate, or go into cardiac arrest. Puppies and kittens are at particular risk because of their small size and immature organ systems.”

7)   Chocolate:  Most people are aware that chocolate is bad for pets.  We just need to be extra careful to keep it away from them during the holidays.  As with most toxicities, problems with chocolate vary depending on the amount of cocoa, the size of the animal and the total amount ingested.  Again, a small pet that eats dark chocolate can be expected to have a much more severe problem.  Signs of toxicity include increased excitability, increased irritability, increased heart rate, restlessness, increased urination, muscle tremors, vomiting and diarrhea.  Be sure to call your veterinarian immediately if you think your pet may have ingested chocolate.

8)   Grapes/Raisins:   Lots of Holiday breads and treats contain raisins or grapes. We love them but accidental ingestion by our pets can cause kidney problems.  If you suspect your pet may have ingested either call your veterinarian ASAP.

9)   Burning Candles:  This hazard doesn’t need a lot of explanation.  We all just need to remember to take extra care that candles are safely out of the way of rambunctious pets and children. 

10)     Overindulgence:   As tempting as it may be, please don’t share your holiday bounty with your petsToo much fatty food can cause a bout of pancreatitis (an inflammation of the pancreas caused by over secretion of the enzymes used to digest food) and land your pet in the emergency room.  Signs of pancreatitis include: vomiting, no or decreased appetite, an abdomen that is painful to the touch and/or a hunched appearance, fever, diarrhea, lethargy /depression, and dehydration.  Pancreatitis can be life threatening and requires immediate veterinary care.

11)    Marijuana:  Like alcohol, marijuana may be enjoyable for humans but can be toxic to your pet.  Animals exposed to marijuana demonstrate neurological signs including depression or alternating depression and excitement, lack of coordination, hallucinations with barking or agitation, seizures or coma and death. About a third of exposed animals will demonstrate gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, dry mouth, or drooling. Their body temperature may be too high or too low, respiration and heart rate may increase or conversely, heart rate become too slow pupils can become dilated, and some animals may leak urine. These clinical signs can develop within minutes up to 3 hours after exposure. The drug may be eliminated quickly (over several hours), but can be absorbed into fat making signs last for up to 3-4 days.

12)   Christmas Globes: That pretty Christmas globe can become a life threatening hazard if it breaks.  Ethylene Glycol is used in many globes to suspend the pretty snowflakes we love to watch fall.  If ingested by your pet it can cause life threatening kidney damage.   Call your veterinarian immediately if you think your pet has been exposed.  Antidotes are available and work well if administered in time.

  So, please enjoy the holidays but remember keep a watchful eye on your pet as well.   ASPCA Poison Control:   888-426-4435     https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/