Archive for July, 2013

How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye?

Monday, July 15th, 2013

CliffordIn an effort to assist other pet owners struggling with end-of-life issues regarding their animals, Tina Ferner developed a package of information designed provide guidance for decisions during a pet’s final days. Ferner consulted with veterinarian Alice Villalobos, a founding member of Veterinary Cancer Society who developed an end-of-life assessment for owners. “The scale offers some objectivity while remaining sensitive to the caregiver’s wishes,” Dr. Villalobos writes on her website. “It will relieve guilt feelings and engender the support of the veterinary team to actively help in the care and decision-making for end of life.” The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) (7/8)

She provided him with hospice care, including pain management, and she had a going-away party for him before she had her veterinarian euthanize him in her home.

“My main goal for him was to find the highest level of comfort for as long as possible, and when that was no longer possible, I wanted him to have a peaceful, painless passing,” Ms. Ferner said. “He was a good friend, and we shared a very strong bond. He deserved all of this.”

End-of-life decisions for pets are difficult to think about, but there are options. Pets suffering from a terminal illness or a combination of age-related illnesses can be euthanized at a veterinary clinic or at home. Their remains can be cremated, or their bodies can be returned to owners for home burial.

Owners who stay with their pets during the procedure can comfort the pet, but some find it too difficult and prefer that the vet does it without their presence.

Clifford was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the end of December. He was 9 years old when he was euthanized on Feb. 11, barely six weeks after the diagnosis.

“I searched for resources to help us with end of life care and there was nothing I could find locally,” said the Holland resident.

She put together “Resources For End of Life Care,” a guide that she plans to offer to clients at Canine Karma, the Holland dog-training facility she co-owns. She hopes to find local veterinarians to offer the guide to clients.

Ms. Ferner held a party to celebrate Clifford’s life on Jan. 27. She invited those who knew him to “come for a short pat or stay for the whole time.”

His quality of life continued to decline, and on Feb. 10, Ms. Ferner and her husband, Michael Plewa, decided to end his suffering. On Feb. 11, her veterinarian, Dr. Sue Savage, came to her home and euthanized the “big red dog” who had converted her from a “cat person” to a “dog person.”

Dr. Savage gave Clifford a drug to relax him before administering the euthanasia drug. Ms. Ferner and Mr. Plewa comforted Clifford during the process, including singing to him.

“Being his guardian and advocate and protector, he needed me to find the strength to allow him a peaceful passing,” Ms. Ferner said.

During her work with terminally ill humans, Ms. Ferner developed the Integrative Medicine Program at Mercy Cancer Centers that provides massage, yoga, guided imagery, and relaxation techniques for cancer survivors and their families.

Canine Karma has hired a licensed social worker and plans to offer grief counseling, support groups, and consultations for pet owners facing end-of-life decisions.

“If we can do it for people, we can do it for dogs,” she said.

When researching options for easing Clifford’s suffering, Ms. Ferner consulted with Dr. Alice Villalobos, a veterinarian who practices in Hermosa Beach, Calif., by phone.

Dr. Villalobos is a pioneer in the field of cancer care for companion animals and a founding member of the Veterinary Cancer Society. She has developed a quality-of-life scale for cats and dogs to help owners decide when it is time to euthanize.

The word euthanasia comes from the Greek, with “eu” meaning easy or good plus “thanatos,” meaning death. Euthanasia is literally the “easy or good death.”

Its intention is to end suffering and to do so in a peaceful, kind, and loving manner, Ms. Ferner said.

“It becomes the final act of love,” she said.

A quality-of-life scale may help everyone, especially those who are in denial about their pet’s illness, to face difficult issues, writes Dr. Villalobos in an article on her web site, pawspice.com.

Caretakers can use the scale to ask themselves if they are able to provide enough help to maintain an ailing pet properly, she writes.

“If we can create or restore a satisfactory level for our ailing companion animals, then we are justified in preserving the life of the ill pet during its steady decline toward death,” Dr. Villalobos writes.

The scale is designed to provide an easy guideline for assessment of the pet so that family members can maintain a rewarding relationship and nurture the human-animal bond.

“The scale offers some objectivity while remaining sensitive to the caregiver’s wishes,” she said. “It will relieve guilt feelings and engender the support of the veterinary team to actively help in the care and decision-making for end of life.”

Things to consider on the scale include hurt, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility, and more good days than bad. Adequate pain control and breathing ability are of top concern. If the pet can’t breathe properly, nothing else matters, according to the scale.

When bad days outnumber the good, quality of life might be too compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregivers must be made aware that the end is near.

The decision for euthanasia needs to be made if the pet is suffering, Dr. Villalobos writes.The complete scale for both dogs and cats can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/qualityoflifescale.

Ms. Ferner said she hopes to pass on what she learned during Clifford’s end-of-life care and euthanasia.

“I hope all of this heartache and research can help others,” she said.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @TanyaIrwin.

Proper pet care keeps us all healthy and happy

Monday, July 15th, 2013

person walking with dogsHappy, healthy pets are key to human and animal health, according to this article. Veterinarian Joan Hendricks, dean of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how owners can ensure good health and well-being for their animals and themselves. It’s important to start by researching the species and breed of pet that best fits your family, Dr. Hendricks points out. Pets need proper training to prevent injuries to people, regular veterinary care and good nutrition, and it’s essential to properly handle animal waste to prevent disease, Dr. Hendricks explains. U.S. News & World Report (7/3)

Sudden outbreaks like swine or bird flu remind us all too well that humans are not immune to diseases animals carry. These particular illnesses are most likely to affect people who work with animals regularly, like in a farm setting, but being at risk to an animal’s health hazards can happen in your own home. Improper care for a pet can lead to diseases, and a misbehaved pet can be dangerous to families.

At the same time, being around animals has been shown to increase a person’s well-being. The American Heart Association released a study this year that showed people who own pets have improved cardiovascular health. Animals often are used to help children with special needs or in visits to hospitals. Their presence can abate loneliness, increase altruism and reduce anxiety.

With pet ownership at 62 percent among American households, according to the American Pet Products Association, it is important people understand their risks and benefits. Having a healthy pet requires first learning about the animal you want, then caring and providing for it accordingly, says Joan Hendricks, the Gilbert S. Kahn dean of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. U.S. News turned to Hendricks for advice about pet and family dynamics.

Understand your pet’s natural tendencies. Before you adopt a pet, know what role you want it to have in your family. Do you want a pet for companionship or to guard the house? Do you expect that your pet will join you on your morning run? Do you have the finances to pay someone to take care of your pet while you work or while you’re on business trips?

“People should know enough about their animal when they get it and after they get it,” Hendricks says. “They also must be open to the idea that they may not know as much as they thought.” Even dog breeds vary in terms of what they need from people, Hendricks says. Some dogs are meant to work, some need intellectual stimulation and some need little exercise. Bulldogs, for instance, are happy to lie at home sleeping a lot and show affection when you return from work. Great Danes also don’t need to run around much.

“If a pet’s specific needs are not attended to then they will not be good pets,” Hendricks says. They can even get sick with gastrointestinal upsets and develop behavior disorders – which could lead to wrecking furniture – if a family is not the right match. There are cases when pets aren’t the right fit for the family, she says, which is why it’s important to become informed before you adopt.

When it comes to exotic animals, such as tarantulas or pythons, there isn’t as much information available for pet owners. “There’s always a health concern for veterinarians that anyone who has one of these animals doesn’t know how to take care of them,” she says.

Train your pet properly. Animal bites are the single biggest health risk to kids when it comes to pets, Hendricks says. Avoiding this danger returns to the first principle of understanding your pet’s needs.

“People treat animals as if they were people, and they treat us as if we were their species,” she says. For example, dogs often bite each other out of play, but owners must reinforce that this kind of behavior isn’t acceptable when playing with people. Work with your pet to manage its behavior so everyone is happy. Make sure your children show mutual respect by not teasing or harming the pet, she says.

An irritated cat, for instance, could scratch its owner and spread bartonellosis, commonly called “cat scratch disease,” which causes swollen lymph nodes in people as well as possible fever, headache and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Baseball team’s special canine bat boy dies of lymphoma

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Chase the Bat DogChase the golden retriever entertained fans of the Trenton Thunder, a New York Yankees affiliate in New Jersey, for years before his death from lymphoma on Monday. The team and fans threw Chase a retirement and birthday party last week, and last month he was honored at Yankee Stadium. Chase is succeeded by one of his offspring, Derby, who’ll carry on the family tradition of retrieving bats, carrying water bottles to umpires and catching discs in the outfield. The team posted a tribute to Chase on its website.

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — He doggedly did his work, this pinstriped pooch who faithfully served minor leaguers of the New York Yankees while providing big league entertainment.

Chase, the bat-retrieving golden retriever for the Double-A Trenton Thunder who made highlight reels all across baseball for a decade, has died at 13.

“Chase was there a long time. He put a lot of smiles on people’s faces,” Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain, who played in Trenton, said Tuesday night.

“You know it’s going to be sad, but his lineage is carried on. You know it’s something that people are going to miss, but it was fun to be around Chase,” he said.

Chase lived just long enough to be thrown a retirement party by the Thunder last Friday night — featuring Chase bobbleheads, no less. The team said he died Monday.

Chase had been diagnosed in February with a form of lymphoma and had arthritis.

The Thunder’s website Tuesday featured a photo of their late mascot with a bat in his mouth and the caption, “In Loving Memory, Chase That Golden Thunder.”

His bat-retrieving legacy will live on with his son Derby, who continues to be part of the Thunder’s home game entertainment. Another son, Ollie, performs with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Chase made his debut with the Thunder in 2002. He would trot out in the bottom of the first inning to the batter’s box to pick up bats with his mouth and bring them back to the dugout. He also carried a woven basket with bottles of chilled water to the umpires and entertained fans by running down flying discs in the outfield.

At Friday’s celebration, which coincided with his birthday party, fans were encouraged to bring their dogs to the game.

Last month, he was also honored on the field at Yankee Stadium. Chamberlain petted Chase before the game and infielder David Adams came over to greet his old friend.

Adams recalled Chase retrieving his bat, doing it without leaving teeth marks in the wood.

“He’s not chomping at the bit,” Adams said then. “Or at the bat, either.”

Dogs of all shapes and sizes were at Trenton’s game Friday night against Reading, sitting in the stands with their owners. As fans filed in, Chase lounged on the grass outside the Thunder’s dugout on the first-base side.

A tribute to Chase’s career was shown on the video board. Chase was in position near the bench when Eduardo Nunez — who has since rejoined the Yankees — led off for Trenton in the bottom of the first inning. After the at-bat, Chase trotted out, picked up Nunez’s bat and returned to the dugout to a big cheer from the crowd.

Research reveals dogs of the Americas

Friday, July 12th, 2013

sled-viewInuit sled dogs and other Alaskan breeds are the only dogs with American origins, according to new research. Although the original canine stock has been traced to Asia, there is evidence of dogs in the Americas dating to 10,000 years ago, before transoceanic travel brought Europeans and their dogs to the continent. “Nobody knows exactly what happened,” researcher Peter Savolainen said. “Most probably migrated together with the humans that entered America from Asia via the Bering Strait. These humans became today’s Indians and Inuits.” The canines became Inuit sled dogs, the Greenland dog and the Eskimo dog, according to the research.

Alaskan breeds — such as Inuit sled dogs, the Eskimo dog and the Greenland dog — are the only canines with actual American roots, according to DNA analysis. All of these pooches hail from the 49th state and nearby areas, according to the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“They are all equally American,” co-author Peter Savolainen told Discovery News. “They originate from the indigenous Indian-American and Inuit dog populations, and have only marginally been mixed with European dogs in modern time.”

Savolainen, an associate professor at KTH-Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, explained the determination after tracing the origin of mitochondrial DNA lineages for several dog breeds suspected to be pre-Columbian, meaning before Europeans settled in the Americas. Dogs inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers.

Alaska’s Denali National Park uses sled dogs to patrol its 6 million acres of Arctic terrain.Scientists widely agree that the original stock of all canines worldwide originated from Asia. This is similar to the widely agreed-upon view that all members of our species originated in Africa before some people left that continent.

“There was a single origin of the domestic dog somewhere in Eurasia,” Savolainen explained. “The exact place is still debated, but our previous studies strongly indicate the southern part of East Asia, basically southern China.”

The earliest archaeological evidence for dogs in the Americas dates to around 10,000 years ago, long before the dawn of transoceanic travel in the 15th century that saw the arrival of Columbus and other Europeans.

Most U.S. dogs today, however, have European origins. Golden retrievers, poodles and many more breeds fall into this category.

Inuit sled dogs, the Eskimo dog and the Greenland dog, though, show no European heritage in their genes. Like Native Americans, they were in the United States and nearby areas long before Europeans arrived.

“Nobody knows exactly what happened,” Savolainen said. “Most probably migrated together with the humans that entered America from Asia via the Bering Strait. These humans became today’s Indians and Inuits.”

“Our data shows dogs came in several migrations, at least one with the Indian-American ancestors and at least one with the Inuit ancestors,” he continued.

The result for Alaskan Malamutes was ambiguous, but these dogs appear to come from slightly different stock originating in Siberia, Japan, China and Indonesia. The Alaskan husky and the American Eskimo dog have a known origin from Siberian spitzes and European dogs.

The dogs with the most pre-Columbian Mexican heritage, according to the study, are the Chihuahua and Xolo (Mexican hairless dog).

The researchers additionally determined that a group of free-ranging dogs based in South Carolina and Georgia — known as Carolina Dogs — likely have an ancient Asian origin.

Carolina Dogs might have once been associated with a Native American tribe, the canine’s relatives turning feral once their humans disappeared.

“The reason might be that the human population keeping these dogs was wiped out when Europeans came,” Savolainen said.

Prior research by Sarah Brown of UC Davis and colleagues is consistent with the latest findings about the Inuit sled dog, Eskimo dog and Greenland dog. Brown and her team found “ancient DNA evidence for genetic continuity in arctic dogs.”

Scientists hope to use such DNA studies and other research on dogs to learn more about past human migrations. From at least 10,000 years onward, wherever migrating humans went, dogs often came too.

Veterinarians make sure D.C. working dogs are in shape

Friday, July 12th, 2013

police k9 dog insigniaVeterinarians at Fort Belvoir in Virginia have kept a keen eye on working dogs — including those that watch over airports, the White House, the Capitol and other locations — for two decades. Routine preventive care as well as treatment for health problems are some of the issues addressed by veterinarian Nancy Vincent-Johnson and her colleagues at the clinic.

By , for the Washington Post

The waiting room is comfortably cool, but the mood is slightly tense. That’s because the patients who seek treatment at this clinic on the grounds of Fort Belvoir are a breed apart from many who seek medical care on the base.

The giveaway?

 The dog-biscuit jar on the reception desk.

For more than 20 years, the squat, red brick building at Fort Belvoir is where the D.C. region’s law enforcement dogs — the ones who patrol airports, the Capitol, the White House and other high-profile locations — have been taken for care.

The region is home to one of the biggest concentrations of working dogs in the country, officials say. Canines from the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, Amtrak and the U.S. Capitol Police come here for their yearly checkups. The dogs are a variety of breeds — German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Belgian Malinois, even beagles.

“I have nothing but good things to say,’’ said Sgt. Kevin Murphy, who heads the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s K-9 Unit at Dulles International Airport. “They help keep our dogs healthy.”

During the swelter of Washington’s summer, clinic workers have traveled to Dulles to conduct special sessions on spotting heatstroke and exhaustion. During the winter, handlers may receive training on spotting frostbite and hypothermia.

Belvoir’s veterinarians, a mix of civilian and military personnel, understand the special needs of their patients. These working dogs may suffer from ailments not necessarily seen in their civilian counterparts. Sometimes it’s back trouble from all their leaping into trucks and cargo hatches. Their joints can suffer strain from the same jumping. Hip dysplasia — a condition caused by improperly formed hip joints — is another common ailment.

And like the jobs held by people, the dogs’ work can be stressful, with long hours and large crowds, said veterinarian Nancy Vincent-Johnson, a 21-year Army veteran who retired and rejoined the clinic as a civilian.

Take Igor, a 9-year-old German shepherd who works for the Capitol Police. Vincent-Johnson said she had squeezed Igor, whose specialty is explosives detection, in between appointments because he has been having intestinal issues. His weight is down, and his handler says Igor — Iggy to his intimates — is just not himself.

Vincent-Johnson strokes Igor’s rich black and brown coat as she examines him, feeling the area around his rib cage and gently lifting his impressively large paws. Igor stands patiently as she moves her stethoscope along his midsection and his handler summarizes the shepherd’s symptoms.

“Maybe the food he’s on is too rich,” Vincent-Johnson theorizes. She consults Igor’s chart and notes that blood work done during his previous visit indicated a Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to a type of anemia that brings on weakness and fatigue.

The poking and prodding complete, Igor settles on the floor and lets out a deep sigh.

The doctor prescribes special food for dogs with intestinal issues and a series of shots to help with the B12 deficiency.

There is now good news: Igor has put on weight — six pounds since his last visit — so the hope is that whatever is ailing him will soon be cured.

Igor’s handler leaves the office with a large bag of dog food and several bottles of medicine. Igor gets a doggie treat as a reward.

One room away, the doctor’s next patient waits with his handler, Inspector Alexandra Hassler. Upton is a TSA dog specializing in passenger screening and experienced in sniffing out explosives.

The 4-year-old black Labrador is here for the first of two physicals he’ll have this year. As part of that, Vincent-Johnson will run him through a full exam, testing his peripheral vision by waving her hands at the side of his head, eyeing his gait as he walks down the sidewalk and drawing blood for a full screening.

“His ears look good,” she says. Upton is an enthusiastic patient, eager to sniff and show approval by licking the doctor’s arm. His friskiness belies his status as one of the oldest of the TSA dogs working at Dulles. He’s also observant: Only a few minutes into the exam, he’s figured out that on the shelf that holds the jars of tongue depressors and cotton balls is one that holds crunchy treats. He can’t take his eyes off the shelf.

Vincent-Johnson says Upton is healthy. The one exception: his left back teeth. “He may need some dental work,” Vincent-Johnson tells Hassler.

Finally, Upton’s enthusiasm is rewarded. A treat flies through the air and disappears into his mouth.

So Cal Vet Hospital reaches out to Angel Fund for client

Friday, July 12th, 2013

SundaeyKrissy Simmel and her Dalmatian Sundaey do everything together.  There was magic in their relationship from the moment they first saw each other. “We’re a match made in heaven,” Krissy says. “Sundaey is beautiful.  She was born without any hearing . .. and people cross streets to tell me how special she is.”

So it was a traumatic moment when Sundaey suffered an injury on their daily two-hour walk and run in June, 2012. “She had a sports injury,” Krissy says. “I can’t really tell you what happened.  She jumps a lot.  She jumps five feet into trees after squirrels.  She jumps into fountains. She has such a beautiful spirit. So I guess she sort of sprained her wrist or something. There was a lot of swelling and she was having a hard time walking.”

Krissy took Sundaey to Southern California Veterinary Hospital in Woodland Hills, an institution that she had found to be caring and understanding in the past. “The doctors and their staff are a special group of people,” she says. But she had recently lost her job as a restaurant hostess and was flat broke. “I don’t think I had any money in my wallet that day.”

Dr. Mark C. Rigoni examined Sundaey. “They had to take blood because they didn’t know exactly what was going on with her,”  Krissy recalls.  To help pay for the cost of the visit, Dr. Rigoni suggested applying to Angel Fund. The hospital also contributed and Krissy paid a small portion of the bill later.

“I really, really appreciated it,” Krissy says. “I was very surprised when they offered that to me. But the fact that they saw me at all – and they knew that I had no money – was such a blessing.  And I felt like that fund was so gracious.

“Dr Rigoni and Dr. [George] Cuellar are wonderful human beings. They are always exceptional with Sundaey and with me.  I was having such a difficult time that day and they were amazing.”

Within about three days, Sundaey had recovered. And she and Krissy, who lives in Santa Monica, are now enjoying their lives together as they always have. Krissy works in childcare, eldercare, real estate and as a part-time preschool teacher – with Sundaey usually at her side.