Archive for May, 2013

Animal friends appear to help human hearts

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

person walking with dogsPet owners can add “heart health” to the list of reasons they love their animals. According to the American Heart Association, owning a pet is associated with more physical activity, lower blood pressure, better lipid levels and better acute coronary syndrome survival. “Pet ownership is an important nonhuman form of social support and may provide cardioprotective benefits in patients with established” cardiovascular disease, according to the AHA. USA Today (5/9),

Pets don’t just make lives fuller. They may help make them longer, says an official statement from the American Heart Association.

Owning a pet – especially a dog – seems to have heart health benefits, the group says in the statement published Thursday in the medical journal Circulation.

“The data is most robust for people who own a dog,” says Glenn Levine, a cardiologist with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. But he says there’s reason to believe cats and other pets are helpful, too.

Levine led a scientific committee that reviewed the research on pets and heart health. The group says the studies are not definitive but do suggest:

• Dogs may keep owners active (with all those walks). In one study, dog owners were 54% more likely than other adults to get recommended levels of exercise.

• Interacting with a pet can lower stress responses in the body.

• Pet ownership is associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and less obesity.

In one of the best-designed studies, Levine says, researchers compared people with borderline high blood pressure who adopted dogs with others who also wanted dogs but were randomly assigned to delay the adoptions for purposes of the study. Those who brought home their dogs saw declines in blood pressure and were less likely to see their blood pressure and heart rates rise in response to stress. A study with cats and dogs produced similar results in people with high blood pressure and high-stress occupations, he says.

Most other studies involved comparing pet owners with those who did not have pets, meaning researchers could not rule out the possibility that people who had pets were just healthier to start with.

In any case, the experts don’t recommend that people with heart health problems adopt, rescue or buy pets just for the potential heart health boost.

The main reason to get a pet should be “to give the pet a loving home” and enjoy the relationship, Levine says.

“We also not do not want someone to go out and buy a dog and then be content to sit on the couch and smoke.”

Angel Fund helps Red Eared Slider Turtle

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

The Larchmont Animal Clinic reached out to the Angel fund to help pay for Tesla picturethe repair of the Gillin family’s red eared slider turtle’s shell.  Tesla is recovering nicely!

This is a first for the Angel Fund!

Click Red Eared Slider for more information about this turtle.


Veterinarians have many tools to protect against tick-borne illness

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

ticksTicks carry diseases that affect humans and canines, but dogs fare better when it comes to detection and prevention. A rapid blood test identifies Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis in dogs. Vaccines are also available to help protect dogs from Lyme disease, while tick-protection products help keep ticks from biting in the first place. Parasitologist and veterinarian Michael Dryden urges owners to have at-risk dogs vaccinated and emphasizes the importance of choosing the right tick-prevention product. Dale’s Pet World blog (5/14)

Where there are ticks, there’s bound to be tick disease. According to veterinary parasitologist Dr. Michael Dryden, the tick population in America has exploded in recent years. Curiously, dogs enjoy more benefits than people when it comes to identifying tick disease, as well as protection to prevent disease transmission in the first place. For people, there’s no accurate test to determine tick-borne disease. For dogs, however, an inexpensive blood test can identify three tick diseases (Lyme, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis), plus heartworm disease.

“Tick disease is sometimes there without a pet showing clinical signs,” says Dryden. “It’s important to know if a dog’s been exposed. Very often, the general signs (of tick disease) can show up later, and they’re often mistaken for other conditions.”

For example, one symptom of Lyme disease may be lameness. It’s not unusual for dogs, especially older individuals, to simply be given pain relief for what’s assumed to be arthritis.

For people, there are steps to avoid ticks, but in dogs there are many choices for tick protection. “Protection is key,” says Dryden, University Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Parasitology in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at Kansas State University, Manhattan. Unfortunately, not all products work well.

“Sometimes consumers make impulsive purchases which may not be the most informed choices,” says Dryden. “Not all over-the-counter products are truly all that protective. It’s important that the product you choose is appropriate for the lifestyle of your pets, as well as where you live. By choosing the wrong product, not only may people waste money, but the pet may then be at increased risk for potential tick disease, which can debilitate the pet and cost money to treat. This is why veterinary advice on what product to purchase is so important.”

Lyme disease is a particular risk for people. Using death records collected from 45 states, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that between 1999 and 2003, there were 114 records listing Lyme disease as a cause of death. Lyme may also trigger a lifetime of chronic, debilitating illness, and weaken the immune system, allowing other diseases to take hold.  So, while the official cause of death may not be listed as Lyme disease – truly it was Lyme that allows for perhaps thousands of untimely deaths to occur annually in people in the U.S.

In dogs, Lyme rarely causes death, but like all tick-borne diseases it’s likely under-diagnosed, and may cause a lifetime of chronic problems.

Making matters worse for both people and dogs, ticks sometimes inflict a cocktail of nasty pathogens, including Lyme disease, all at once.

At least for Lyme disease, dogs have still another layer of protection not yet unavailable for humans. “The Lyme vaccines for dogs are both safe and effective, and should strongly be considered if you live where Lyme disease occurs,” Dryden advises.

Is there truly more tick-related disease today than, say, a decade ago, or have veterinarians simply become better at discovery and diagnosis? “Now, there’s a good question,” says Dryden. “There’s no doubt that the new testing for tick disease is helpful. But ticks are flourishing.”

So, why are there so many? “Look at this year’s weather,” says Dryden. “Throughout most of the nation, it was wet. Much of the country experienced record rain. Now, it’s warming up, and all after a relatively mild winter. We’ll see ticks from about now to well into the fall and even into early winter.”

Weather isn’t the only factor. Wildlife numbers are rising. Animals like deer and fox carry ticks from more wooded places right into our backyards, even in many urban areas.

Learn more about tick protection here.

 ©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

Cicadas pose no major threat to pets

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

cicadaCicadas do not pose a major health risk for pets, according to experts including veterinarian Padma Yadlapalli, who says pets will likely spit out any cicada they try to eat. If ingested, gastrointestinal upset or possibly blockage could occur, so veterinarians advise discouraging ingestion. However, there is no danger of disease: “While they might be a nuisance, they don’t sting, they don’t bite, and they don’t carry disease,” says veterinarian Shelly Rubin. The Baltimore Sun (5/15), (5/15)

As these red-eyed screechy little bugs begin emerging from the ground, concern among pet parents rises as well. This brood is different from the one we saw in 2004 and its appearance in this state will be limited to parts of Southern Maryland, which is good news. There are several thing pet owners should keep in mind during cicada season:

1.They are not toxic to pets. Most of the time, they are more of a nuisance than a health hazard.

2.Your pet might be interested in trying to eat one, but most likely would spit it back out right away. Cicadas might cause upset like vomiting or diarrhea if eaten, but this would be temporary and respond to conservative treatment.

3.Rarely, if your pet decides to overindulge and eat them like chocolate, they could technically cause an obstruction because your pet would not be able to digest them. But most likely they will just pass on and be seen in the stool.

4.Cicadas cannot transmit any diseases.

5.They do not bite or cause any skin irritation or other dermatological issues

The bright side of all of this is that cicadas are beneficial to the environment because they aerate the soil as they emerge. Our guests are only here for a short stay!

This week’s expert is Dr. Padma Yadlapalli with Freetown Animal Hospital in Columbia. Send your questions to

Dog battles Coonhound paralysis and wins

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

chocolate labCoonhound paralysis, also known as acute canine idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis, struck 4-year-old Labrador retriever Kahlua seemingly without warning, but she persevered with the help of veterinarians and her family. The cause is unknown, but the disease involves an immune-mediated attack on the nervous system that may be triggered in some dogs by contact with raccoon saliva. The condition can debilitate dogs, and intensive physical therapy and supportive care are needed to give dogs a shot at recovery. Kahlua’s case has a happy ending. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (5/16)

By Karl Polacek

March 8 was a difficult day for Michele Piper and her family from Upper Tyrone. Kahlua, their 4-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever, started losing control of her hind legs.

Piper immediately sent a text to her veterinarian, Dr. Justin Kontir of Mt. Pleasant Animal Hospital, who had her bring Kahlua to his office.

During the examination, Kontir noticed the same problem was beginning to affect the dog’s front paws. At first, Piper said Kontir thought the problem might be caused by a spinal blood clot.

“There is a list of things, 25 things, from botulism, a herniated disk, spinal cord stroke, even arthritis,” Kontir said. “In a young dog, they can herniate a disk. In a young to middle-age dog that is active, arthritis didn’t seem very likely.”

He had Piper take Kahlua to Dr. Kendra Mikoloaki, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology) at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty Services, located on Camp Horne Road, north of Pittsburgh.

“The only place to diagnose this type of problem is the specialty clinic in Pittsburgh,” Kontir said.

Mikoloaki examined Kahlua. By the time Mikoloaki saw the dog, she didn’t have a patella reflex (in humans, checked by striking the kneecap).

The signals (from the dog’s brain) weren’t getting through to her legs,” Mikoloaki said.

She diagnosed the illness as acute canine idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis (ACIP), commonly known as Coonhound paralysis.

Kontir and Mikoloaki said the problem is rare.

Kontir said he vaguely remembered hearing about Coonhound paralysis when he was in school, eight years earlier. He had never seen one in his practice.

Mikoloaki said she sees just a few cases each year.

The actual cause of the disease is unknown. Kontir said one possibility is contact with raccoons or raccoon saliva. Whatever the cause, the disease triggers the autoimmune system that attacks the nerves.

Initially, Piper was worried she might have to have Kahlua put down. Mikoloaki said that is not necessary in a young, otherwise healthy dog. The treatment involves no medication, only intense physical therapy.

Piper opted to take Kahlua to Woodlands Animal Care Center in Farmington, where Shari Facchine, certified K9 rehabilitation therapist, began therapy on March 16. Facchine said the clinic was built by Joe Hardy as part of his pet-friendly Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

“At that time she (Kahlua) wasn’t able to hold her head up or eat and drink on her own,” said Facchine, who used a syringe to give her water and food. “She was not strong enough to use her tongue to drink from a bowl.”

Facchine worked with Kahlua during the days, giving her range-of-motion exercises and cold laser treatments, putting her in a “quad cart” and having Kahlua work on an exercise ball.

According to Facchine, the process involved teaching the dog to use her body again, from using her legs, to learning to drink and eat to going to the bathroom.

Facchine explained that the Cutting Edge Class 4 cold laser helps regenerate nerves. The device is rarely used on humans because insurance companies consider it an experimental therapy.

Facchine said therapy for Coonhound paralysis normally takes up to six months. However, Kahlua’s rehabilitation was accelerated by what Facchine and both vets said was the dog’s happy and energetic nature, a motivated animal.

Eventually, Facchine discharged Kahlua, who is at home, completely free of the condition that once took away her ability to move.

For Michelle Piper and her family, the process has been rewarding, but expensive. She said the vet bills and therapy have cost approximately $3,000. But she would have found it difficult to end Kahlua’s life.

Now, even her husband, Varden, whom she described as “not an animal lover,” is happy with Kahlua. Kahlua will go to the refrigerator, take a beverage handed to her to Varden in another room, then wag her tail and bark at him, Michelle Piper said.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-626-3538.

Angel Fund Helps Rescue Simon from Kidney Failure

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

simon (2)Last June, Rosemary Chen left her Anaheim home for a wedding in Big Bear. She was suffering from a headache so she put several Advil capsules in a plastic bag and took them with her. When she returned home a couple of days later, she brought several of the capsules – still in the plastic bag – with her.

When she got home, she tossed the bag with the pills in a large basket. One evening a few days later she came home from work to find Advil capsules and the plastic bag scattered around the floor – and her black and white cat Simon acting strangely.

“The basket is pretty big and he just got them [the pills] out and played with them. He was sleeping and he didn’t want to eat.  He usually eats a lot. And I thought, ‘Oh, maybe it has something to do with the pills.’  I think he ate at least one or two of them.

“So I called the cat clinic and they said to bring him there right away. They checked Simon and said that he needed treatment. It was going to cost a lot so I called around and asked for help because I couldn’t afford to pay that much. The pet clinic helped me and they found one organization [Angel Fund] that would help me, too.  I really did appreciate that!”

The hospital, The Cat Care Clinic in Orange, diagnosed Simon with acute renal failure because of ibuprofen toxicity. They treated him for several days at the hospital. When Chen took him home he was the old Simon – curious, playful and affectionate.

The clinic and Angel Fund each contributed $250 to Simon’s care.  Chen, who is a single mother with a modest income, paid off the balance over time.

Simon is “back to normal now,” she said. “I am happy and I really appreciate the help I got.”


Orang Utan Republik Foundation

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

OURF LogoThe AHF is a collaborator with the Orang Utan Republik Foundation (OURF) by supporting needy veterinary students in Aceh, Sumatra. The AHF provides scholarships within the OURF’s Orangutan Caring Scholarship program to students who might otherwise be unable to attend veterinary school. The AHF funded four new five-year scholarships in 2011 & 2012 covering the cost of tuition and the internship required to become a practicing veterinarian.

To read OURFs annual report, please CLICK HERE

AHF donates to help malnourished sea lion pups

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

baby sea lionThe AHF received a request from the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur (MMCC) in San Pedro, CA telling us that it has received over 400 malnourished sea lion pups since January and the MMCC  neds to provide the care necessary to rehabilitate and release these animals.

Additionally, every dollar that we or the public donates will be matched by the Waitt Foundation up to $25,000.

In March, NOAA Fisheries declared an Unusual Mortality Event for California sea lions. Los Angeles County is experiencing more strandings than any other county. Even as intake numbers decrease, these animals need up to one to two months of rehabilitation. With MMCC being the lead facility in Los Angeles County rehabilitating these animals.

Researchers speculate that warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures have dispersed prey fish, causing female sea lions to spend more time away from their pups, resulting in malnourished and dehydrated pups. Their immune systems become compromised, their health deteriorates, and they ultimately strand themselves on Southern California beaches.

Once rescued, seals and sea lions are brought to MMCC. Intake and treatment protocols call for initial and follow-up blood work, appropriate medications, and may require radiographs and sometimes surgery. The amount of food required to feed our patients is up about 30% from this time last year. In short, the MMCC is experiencing a significant increase in operating costs.

A night in the life of an emergency room veterinarian

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

CurrahVeterinarian Anne Currah has been working the graveyard shift at Southeast Portland VCA Animal Hospital for nine years, and this article shares a typical night. The hospital is filled with animals suffering from trauma, intestinal obstruction, pancreatitis and asthma, and the waiting room is full, too. Treating animals in such serious condition means dealing with death is inevitably part of the job, alongside delivering life-saving care. Discussing euthanasia is difficult, according to Dr. Currah, but important. “You have to have a really big conversation up front,” she said. “Do we continue, considering the prognosis and the cost?” The Oregonian (Portland) (5/6)

It’s 10 p.m., and although Dr. Anne Currah clocked into work an hour ago, things are just slowing down enough to conduct her nightly briefing.She walks from her office to a consultation room down the hall, where a day shift doctor passes off the patients who will stay overnight. One has an intestinal blockage, another’s leg is broken. There’s also a car accident victim and a pancreatitis case, plus several others.

“Go tell Watson’s owners they can come say goodnight,” Currah, 38, tells a nurse.

She has her night cut out for her. As the only doctor on staff at the Southeast Portland VCA Animal Hospital tonight, she’ll deal with countless emergencies dire enough to compel pet owners to visit the vet at ungodly hours.
The nighttime routine:

Tonight is a bad one for emergency room visits, and already the waiting room at 13830 S.E. Stark St. is backed up with asthma attacks, severe arthritis flare-ups and unspecified illnesses.The swing shift doctors have already seen twenty walk-in patients, plus the usual flow of appointments. The parking lot is packed.

When she arrives, Currah drops her bags, slings a stethoscope around her neck, and immediately begins treating patients.

Just like the emergency room, a brigade of nurses does the initial work of taking temperatures and checking heart rates. Then Currah steps in. Her first patient is an asthmatic cat.

“It’s a common cat thing, especially during changes of season” she says, flipping the pages of Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook to find the appropriate dose of medicine.

Next, an old dog with a horrible ear infection.

At about 11 p.m., Currah gets her biggest challenge of the night thus far. An extremely overweight miniature pinscher whose arthritic back hips have him yelping in pain.

Currah’s bedside manner with the family is as professional as they come. She soothes the dog, who remains calm while she gently pulls his hind legs and feels his spine in search any hidden problem.

“It could be bone spurs or a pinched nerve, but it’s hard to tell without further tests,” she tells the owners.”

More likely, it’s a flare-up aggravated by the dog’s weight problem. She leaves the owners to consider whether they want to proceed with further tests.
A rare trajectory:

Currah is among the tiny fraction of people who have had the same career ambitions their entire life.

Before she could read or write, she wanted to be a veterinarian.

“That’s all I wanted to do, and all I thought about,” she says.

When fellow teens were scooping ice cream and flipping burgers, Currah spent summers volunteering, then working for pay, at vet clinic.

She attended undergrad at The University of Findlay in Ohio, then returned to Oregon for veterinary school at Oregon State University.

She got in on her first try, a rarity in a career track with an admissions process more selective than medical school.

Currah has spent nine years working nights. She doesn’t mind.

The long shifts — typically from 9 p.m. until at least 7 a.m. — mean she only works three to four days each week, leaving more time to spend with her three young children. Currah sleeps while they’re at school, and has time to make dinner and tuck them in before leaving for work.

Tonight, she’ll be on her feet until the daytime doctors come in to relieve her.

“Sometimes, you don’t have time to eat or pee,” she says. “Other nights, I could sit and read a book all night.”
Just like the ER:

The VCA hospital is a far cry from your family vet’s office.

Their relative level of sophistication and size is akin an emergency room versus a family doctor’s office.

As patients drop in, nurses write their name and condition on a clear glass wall. Doctors hustle back-and-forth from exam rooms to the wall, where they scrawl their initials next to the patient they’ll help next.

It’s organized chaos in here, but things usually die down by 3 a.m., Currah says.

Just past the entryway from the waiting room, a small, gray shaggy dog is in rough shape. He’s not moving–not even his eyes–and hospital staff members crowd around him. Things look bad. Bad is common on the night shift, where most visitors are coming in from car accidents or dog attacks.

“You have to have a really big conversation up front,” Currah says. “Do we continue, considering the prognosis and the cost?”But if this shaggy dog can be saved, VCA is as well equipped as any to perform the procedure.

There are digital X-ray machines and heated ventilators against the far wall, centrifuges for blood work against the front wall. The air smells of cleaning solution. Fluorescent lights shine down on polished linoleum floors. Animals recovering from surgery sleep in cushy beds with intravenous liquid drips hanging from the cage door.

Cold, brightly-lit surgery rooms and a dental station await use at the building’s rear, while consultation rooms are located just beyond the reception desk.

Room 6 is the saddest room. No operation tables or medical equipment reside here. Just a black leather couch, soft lighting and calming floral art on the wall. This is where Currah takes people whose pets are being euthanized.

Some owners make the decision easily, with the belief that veterinary treatment shouldn’t be pursued beyond vaccinations and minor health issues. Others will spend thousands trying to save a beloved family dog, even when success isn’t guaranteed.

Currah knows it’s not an easy decision. Like most vets, she has pets. Two family dogs, Honey and Chelsea, recently died. They’ll get another someday, but for now the Currah household includes two cats and a tankful of hermit crabs.

“We’ll get another little doggie, when the right time comes,” she says.

For tonight, she’ll get her doggie-petting fix in the hallway, where a happy golden retriever awaits his owners after successful treatment.

–Kelly House

Dogs learning to pick up cancer’s signature scent

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

dogs11The University of Pennsylvania and the Monell Chemical Senses Center are training three dogs to help detect compounds produced by ovarian cancer, providing a possible way to detect the disease in its earliest, most treatable stages. Early-stage ovarian cancer, which has a 90% survival rate, is difficult to detect, and later stages carry a worse prognosis and kill 14,000 U.S. women annually. The Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation is funding the research with an $80,000 grant. (Philadelphia) (5/6)  Sam Wood, PHILLY.COM

In the battle against ovarian cancer, three puppies at the University of Pennsylvania will be on the front lines.

The pups – Ohlin and Thunder, both Labradors, and McBain, a Springer Spaniel – have been conscripted to lead the charge in a novel collaboration announced last week between Penn and the Monell Chemical Sciences Center.

Ovarian cancer claims the lives of more than 14,000 women every year and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the nation. The new collaboration takes aim at the silent killer with a combination of chemistry, nanotechnology — and dogs.

Turns out, each cancer has its own odor. And what better sensor is there to detect a faint scent than a dog’s nose?

Researchers at Penn and Monell recently received an $80,000 grant from the Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation to develop new ways of sniffing out gynecological malignancies.

Using man’s best friend to detect cancer isn’t new. Studies in California, Chicago and Europe in the last decade have employed trained canines to detect lung and breast cancer.

A group in Sweden had done some preliminary investigations with dogs and ovarian cancer, but the professor in charge is retiring and he was using his own personal dogs, said Dr. Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center and Associate Professor of Critical Care at Penn Vet.

“He’s been advising us along the way to we don’t repeat the same mistakes he made along the way,” Otto said. “We haven’t done cancer work before.”

Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages because its symptoms — constipation, weight gain, bloating, or more frequent urination — are easily confused with other ailments.

If it’s diagnosed early, though, ovarian cancer has a survival rate of 90 percent. Unfortunately, its often not detected until it is too late. An effective screening protocol doesn’t yet exist and a doctor’s sight and touch haven’t been enough to detect cases in its first stages.

Each cancer has its own signature scent, however. And even before ovarian cancer can be detected by current methods, it creates minute quantities of “odorants,” Otto said. A doctor’s nose isn’t nearly sensitive enough. But the odorants can be sensed by trained dogs.

In the new program, scientists from Penn Medicine’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology will take tissue and blood samples from both healthy and ovarian cancer patients.

The samples will be analyzed by chemists, scientists working with nanotech – and the puppies at the Working Dog Center.

We’ve been training them since they’ve been 8-weeks old,” Otto said. “They’re all fabulous and they are very strong in olfaction.”

They already have experience with bomb sniffing and human remains detection. Cancer detection isn’t that much different, she said.

The dogs will be exposed to healthy samples and cancer samples in containers they can’t access, but are vented so they can smell them.

“We’ll train them to alert us when they discover the samples of cancer patients,” Otto said.

When they distinguish the correct one, they’re rewarded with food or a toy.

“Some are very much into their ball,” Otto laughs. “We will do what makes the most sense for each dog and what makes the dog want to work.”

Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 215-854-2796, @samwoodiii or