Archive for August, 2013

Transfusion from dog saves poisoned cat, veterinarian says

Monday, August 26th, 2013

bag-of-transfusion-bloodNew Zealand veterinarian Kate Heller says she was out of conventional options and time to save a cat that had ingested rat poison, so she took an unorthodox approach and used dog blood for a transfusion. Because she was unable to determine the cat’s blood type, Dr. Heller could not use cat blood — using the wrong type would have sparked a fatal response. “If we didn’t do it, he would have died, so we had nothing to lose by giving it a go,” Dr. Heller said. An hour after the transfusion, the cat had made a remarkable recovery, Dr. Heller said. FoxNews.com/Agence France-Presse (8/21), The New Zealand Herald/APNZ News Service (8/20)

Traditional animal rivalries were set aside in New Zealand when a dog’s blood was used to save the life of a poisoned cat in a rare inter-species transfusion, reports said Wednesday.

Cat owner Kim Edwards was frantic last Friday when her ginger tom Rory went limp after eating rat poison, rushing to her local veterinary clinic at Tauranga in the North Island for help.

Vet Kate Heller said the feeble feline was fading fast and needed an immediate transfusion to survive, but there was not enough time to send a sample to the laboratory for testing to determine the cat’s blood type.

Instead, she decided to take a gamble and use dog blood to try to save the animal, knowing it would die instantly if she gave it the wrong type.

Edwards called up her friend Michelle Whitmore, who volunteered her black Labrador Macy as a doggie blood donor in a last-ditch attempt to save Rory, a procedure Heller said she had never performed before and was very rare.

“People are going to think it sounds pretty dodgy — and it is — but hey, we’ve been successful and it’s saved it’s life,” Heller told the New Zealand Herald.

Edwards said the cat appeared to have come through its ordeal unscathed, seemingly without any canine side effects.

“The vets just went above and beyond… it’s incredible that it worked,” she said.

“Rory is back to normal and we don’t have a cat that barks or fetches the paper.”

Golden Retriever Lifetime Study takes aim at canine cancer

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Magnolia DuffThe Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is recruiting 3,000 healthy, young golden retrievers to be studied for clues to the breed’s high incidence of cancer. The foundation is partnering with veterinarians and owners around the country in the 10-year, $25 million study. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell [an owner] whether her dog has a high predisposition to a certain cancer so we can catch it really early?” said foundation President and CEO David Haworth, also a veterinarian. “Or if we know what a cancer’s pathway is, our drug partners can find a way to intervene.” Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.) (8/22)

At not quite 9 months of age, Cali has accomplished a lot. She knows her basic commands — that includes offering a soft yellow paw in both the standard shake, and an enthusiastic high five. She turns any occasion into a party, as I discovered Monday when we met at Partridge Animal Hospital in St. Petersburg.

And she may help unlock a mystery that has baffled many a veterinarian and grief-stricken family: Why do so many golden retrievers get cancer?

Cali is a healthy participant in the Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. It aims to recruit at least 3,000 dogs between ages 6 months and 2 years for an observational study planned to go on for 10 years at a cost of $25 million. Goldens all over the United States are needed for the project, which requires owners to bring their dogs to their own vet every year for a thorough exam and complete detailed questionnaires about diet and lifestyle.

Once she saw how happy Cali was to visit her vet, Dr. David Landers, Pamela Hogle felt comfortable committing to the study. Landers will be doing a lot of the work — and is happy to, being a big fan of the breed himself.

Hogle’s inspiration was another beloved golden, Oriel, who died of cancer two years ago at age 13.

“When you think about why people love their dogs, Oriel was the embodiment of all of those reasons,” said Hogle, a St. Petersburg freelance editor who works with a service dog organization in California. “She was sweet, gentle, calm, but always up for an adventure.”

Canine cancer is the leading disease cause of death in dogs over age 10. Goldens appear to be among the most susceptible, but no breed is immune. The study aims to establish whether cancer disproportionately afflicts certain dogs — and why.

Dr. David Haworth, a veterinarian who is president and CEO of Denver-based Morris Animal Foundation, described the golden study as the canine equivalent of the famous Framingham Heart Study. Morris (you may have seen the group promoted by its most famous board member, actor Betty White) has funded scientific research for 65 years. But this, Haworth said, is the largest veterinary study ever.

It could reveal information valuable to human health, too. Two cancers common in goldens — lymphoma and osteosarcoma — have so many molecular similarities to the human diseases that they’re considered models for studying the conditions in people.

But the primary purpose is to help dogs by examining the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that may contribute to cancer and other disorders. With that kind of information, in the future vets and pet owners might be able to find a cancer early enough to cure it — or even prevent it altogether.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell someone like Cali’s owner whether her dog has a high predisposition to a certain cancer so we can catch it really early?” Haworth said. “Or if we know what a cancer’s pathway is, our drug partners can find a way to intervene.”

Goldens are one of America’s most popular breeds. But Haworth (whose puppy Bridger is in the study) explained the main reason they’re using purebreds is because they are so genetically similar, it’s easier to detect differences that might be connected to disease.

Which prompted me to ask: Are mixed-breed dogs and cats healthier than purebreds?

He paused. “That’s controversial. There have been conflicting studies. For the most part, purebred dogs that are responsibly bred — by which I mean breeders are paying attention to health conditions — are as healthy as mixed breeds.”

It will be a while until results start coming out of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. Meanwhile, we can do a lot to protect the furriest members of our families. Do your homework before you get a pet, and if you want a purebred, ask your vet how to find a reputable breeder. Look for changes in your dog or cat that might be a signal of trouble; as in people, some canine cancers can be successfully treated if caught early. Keep current on checkups (even if, unlike Cali, yours doesn’t adore the vet).

And if you have a healthy young golden, consider joining the study (get details at morrisanimalfoundation.org). You both could be doing a lot for your four-legged and two-legged friends.

Acacia Comer and Pet Partner Bonnie

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Acacia Comer and BonnieBonnie is a Shetland Sheepdog (also known as a “Sheltie”).

Meet Alyce Sumitra and Pet Partner Max!

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Alyce Sumita and MaxMax is a Basenji and loves to participate in all sorts of dog sports!

With help from the Angel Fund, Tater Pie is healthy again

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Tater PieIn July, 2012, Stacey Hirsh noticed that her dachshund, Tater Pie, was having problems. “Hhe started having breath only a mother could love,” she said. “It was really bad. It got to the point where his breath was so bad that I knew if I could smell it he could taste it.”

She took her dog, then nearly 12 years old, to VCA All Care Animal Referral Center in Fountain Valley. “They said that some of his teeth needed to be pulled,” she said.  “It was affecting his sinuses. He couldn’t breathe. It really hurt when he chewed. And this dog is like a bottomless pit when it comes to food. I couldn’t brush his teeth. I couldn’t touch him or anything. He didn’t want anything to go near his mouth.”

Stacey was virtually broke and was unemployed and looking for work at the time. “I was really struggling but Tater Pie always came first. He makes my heart go pitter-patter,” she said.

She had a savings account but it was gone. “All of it went for him.”

At All Care, Dr. Robert Murtaugh told her about Angel Fund. “I’d never heard about it until he brought it up. I can’t say enough about the VCA in Fountain Valley. Without them it never would have happened.” Angel Fund provided $500 to help pay for Tater Pie’s surgery. The hospital also made a substantial contribution.

“There was quite a bit of work that needed to be done – Tater Pie had seven or eight abscessed teeth pulled. And, I gotta tell you, the day after they pulled his teeth, he had more energy than he’s ever had before. He was in there [the hospital] for a day and a half maybe and he started running around like he was a little puppy. Forty-eight hours after his surgery he was eating.  He was on medication for sinus infections before the extractions. Now he is taking nothing.”

Stacey who lives in Irvine, and her dog have a bond that is rare.  “He is my heart beat,” she said. “He is the love of my life. I never had a child and he’s it. I would clone him if I could. He’s amazing. I don’t leash him but he follows me everywhere.  He has a great appetite now. He’s a whole different dog. He has been life-changing for me.”

Not too long after her dog’s surgery, she found a trinket in a pet store while visiting New York. “It was this magnet,” she said.  “It says: ‘Saving one dog will not change the world but, for that one dog, the world will be forever changed.’”  That says it all for her.

Tammy Heider’s Pet Partner Gracie

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Gracie

Microchips are the best insurance if pet goes missing

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

animal microchipMicrochips can mean the difference between being reunited with a lost or stolen pet or losing that friend forever. An estimated 10 million-plus U.S. pets go missing annually, but about 94% of animals with microchips are reunited with their owners. Once the microchip is implanted, a quick and relatively painless procedure that can be done during routine veterinary exams, a pet owner’s most important task is keeping contact information current so he or she can be quickly located if a lost pet is found. The Huffington Post/The Blog (8/12)

The picture above is meant to compare the size of the microchip with a grain of rice.

Last weekend Wellington, my 9-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, provided me with a somber reminder of why it is so important that we provide our pets with some type of identification. In the midst of a furniture delivery he decided to take a walk on his own. By the time we noticed that Wellington had gone missing he was nowhere to be seen. With my heart in my throat I ran down our driveway, only to find one of my neighbors walking a contrite-looking Welly back to the house.

The prospect of losing a beloved pet is every pet parent’s worst nightmare. But pets do go missing every day, and despite the best efforts of owners and local animal control, many of these pets are never reunited with their families.

If accidental losses weren’t enough to be concerned about, a disturbing new trend of pets being stolen is cropping up in news reports this summer. The American Humane Association estimates that more than 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year. Some of these pets wind up for sale on local Craigslist boards and sadly, others are sometimes sold to medical laboratories, where they become unwitting test subjects in the name of science.

Protecting our pets from loss and theft is fairly simple, but hardly foolproof. As pet parents, we do everything we can to keep our furry friends out of harm’s way, but there are times when even the most vigilant among us become distracted; furniture deliveries being a case in point. On warm August nights, it can be tempting to just open the back door and let our pets roam in the yard unsupervised. Or you may think, “What’s the harm?” and tie Fido up to pop in a shop for an iced coffee. It only takes a split second for a thief to snatch your pet, and once he is gone, your best chance of recovering him may be his microchip.

Microchips are the only permanent method of pet identification, and not only are they extremely helpful in the event your pet is lost, but having your contact information linked to your pet’s chip can help you prove rightful ownership in the event that your pet is stolen. One of the very first things I did when Welly joined the family was get him microchipped.

Don’t have your pet microchipped yet? Here’s what you need to know:

• It is estimated that more than 94 percent of lost pets who have a microchip are successfully reunited with their families.

• Microchip scanning devices are available to all U.S. animal shelters and veterinary clinics. If you’re not sure whether your pet is chipped, have him scanned.

• Injecting a microchip into your pet’s back takes less than 10 seconds and is only as painful as a vaccination.

• Microchips are made of biocompatible silicon and encased in glass, and rejection and infection are rare.

• The biggest reason microchips fail to reunite lost pets with their owners is that the owner information either was never registered or it wasn’t current. Register your pet’s contact information immediately when you get the new chip. If you already have a chipped pet and are unsure of your pet’s microchip number or manufacturer (info you will need to update your contact details on the chip), take him to your local vet clinic or animal shelter to be scanned. Don’t take any chances!

While microchips are the only permanent form of identification for your pet, there are some promising new options for pet identification that can work in tandem with a chip to make sure you always know the whereabouts of your best friend.

GPS-enabled collars can help you find your lost pet using your smartphone. When your pet goes missing, you get a text message with the GPS coordinates of the collar. The message contains a link to the coordinates on a map, which you can open on your smartphone and use to start your search efforts. Some models even act as a virtual fence, sending you an SMS message when your pet leaves a predefined zone. In other words, as soon as your dog leaves the yard, you can be notified of his location. While the technology can be pricey (some models fetch close to $500), it can be well worth it for the extra peace of mind.

After Welly’s escapade last weekend I am investing in a GPS collar; next time he may not be so lucky as to end up in the arms of a friendly neighbor! No one wants to think about their pet being lost or stolen, but being proactive about protecting pets against the unexpected can help create a happy ending for everyone.

 

Search on for owner of dog found struggling in San Francisco Bay

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

PupWindsurfers came upon a female dog struggling against the current in the cold waters of San Francisco Bay on Monday evening. They hoisted the dog onto their boards and eventually flagged down passerby Adam Cohen, who is caring for her until the owner can be found. Cohen took the dog to the Berkeley Dog and Cat Hospital where veterinarians looked for but didn’t find a microchip. San Francisco Chronicle (free content) (8/13)

The tale of how the paddling pup pulled from the middle of San Francisco Bay got there and who owns her remains a puzzle, but more details have emerged about her rescue by a pack of windsurfers and a boating commuter.

The dog, a black pup that appears to be a Labrador mix or a Mastiff, was pulled from the chilly bay waters about one-quarter mile west of the end of the old Berkeley Pier – a good two to three miles from shore – by windsurfers who spotted her struggling in the water Monday evening. They handed her off to Adam Cohen, a Berkeley engineer who commutes to and from San Francisco in an inflatable boat, who her took her to his home to recover.

On Tuesday, the dog was taken to Berkeley Dog and Cat Hospital to see if she had an embedded chip that might identify her owners. She didn’t, and rather than turn the dog over to an animal shelter, Cohen and his family are taking care of her at home while hoping her owners show up.

The Berkeley Dog and Cat Hospital is helping with the search for the owners. Anyone who thinks they may know the dog’s owners is asked to call Katie Corrigan at (510) 225-4545.

The dog, who was wearing a collar but had no tags, seemed to be recovering nicely, said Lisa Grodin, Cohen’s wife.

“The dog follows me everywhere,” she said as the dog licked her. “She is so sweet. She’s lovely.”

While there have been plenty of calls from reporters and people interested in the dog and her story, Grodin said there were not yet any leads to her owners or clues as to how she ended up apparently swimming toward Angel Island in the cold, choppy bay.

The identity of the windsurfers who spotted her did emerge Tuesday, however. Ed Coyne, 62, a real estate investor from San Rafael, and John Newman, a San Francisco attorney, were windsurfing off Treasure Island about three miles west of Berkeley and four miles east of Crissy Field when they spotted a smallish black creature swimming.

“At first, we couldn’t tell whether it was a baby seal or what,” Newman said. “Then we saw it was a dog.”

Coyne said the dog kept swimming against the tide, and in choppy waters, but was struggling.

“She was completely exhausted,” he said. “Waves were coming and she’d get pushed under, then push her head back up and keep swimming.”

Coyne jumped into the water and called out to the dog but couldn’t get her attention. He got back on his board, circled in front and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck. He placed her on the board, where she sat shivering but seemingly grateful to be out of the water.

Soon, nearby windsurfers gathered, keeping the dog out of the water while they used a radio to call the Coast Guard.

After waiting for about an hour, they flagged down Cohen, and called off the Coast Guard, helping lift the dog into the boat and to safety.

“Ed was determined to save and rescue that dog,” Newman said. “On Monday, he was that dog’s best friend.”

Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: mcabanatuan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ctuan

Itchy pet’s problem may be more than skin deep

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

dog scratchingDiagnosing and treating itchy pets is a tall order, writes veterinarian Lyssa Alexander, who explains the many causes of itchy skin in pets. Some pets have only mildly itchy skin while others are so irritated that it affects their quality of life. In many cases, an underlying allergy is to blame, according to Dr. Alexander. Causes of allergies in pets are numerous and include environmental allergens, flea allergies and food allergies. Other causes of itching include mite and ringworm infections or systemic or immune diseases. AnnArbor.com (Mich.) (8/14)

The end of the summer is a beautiful time. The plants are mature and the fields are abloom with gorgeous yellow and purple flowers. It is truly one of my favorite times of year.

Unfortunately, for many of our dog friends, the end of the summer comes with bad allergies. Dogs who have environmental allergies can react at any time of the year, depending on what they are allergic to. However, this time of year seems to bring me a lot of itchy pets.

Humans are no stranger to allergies. Many of us can chart the change of the season with levels of snot and congestion. Though our allergy symptoms overlap quite a bit with what we see in dogs, the main presentation of an allergic dog is itching.

They lick their paws (major sign of itching), scratch their bodies, shake their heads and get widespread skin and ear infections. For many dogs, these signs are mild, and they come and go with the season. However, many dogs can develop debilitating skin and ear infections or are simply too miserable to sleep. These are the dogs that come through my doors in droves.

When an itchy dog walks through my door, the first step is to try to determine if they have any infections. Regardless of why they are itching, hot spots, skin infections and ear infections can develop. Dogs with ear infections will have debris, inflammation and a foul smell in their ears and will exhibit head shaking or pawing at the ears.

Skin infections will take the form of scabs, ulcers and crusting along any part of the body. The skin is a complex organ with many important jobs. Besides keeping your insides on the inside, the skin also has to serve as a complex cellular barrier against naturally-occurring yeast and bacteria in the environment.

Every dog and person has low numbers of these organisms living on their skin at all time. However, for most of us, the skin’s barrier function and intelligent immune system keep these organisms in check. When the skin is inflamed and immune compromised, the yeast and bacteria grow to impressive numbers and cause even greater levels of rashes and itching.

Once we have diagnosed and treated the infections that come along with itchy conditions, we need to determine the underlying cause. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it takes a lot of time and patients.

The most common reasons for an itchy pet are environmental allergies, food allergies, flea allergies, ringworm infections and mange. Other less common reasons include local reactions to insects or chemicals or certain systemic illnesses and immune conditions. Cats also get a similar variety of itchy conditions.

Environmental allergies or (Atopy or Atopic Dermatitis) is by far the most common itchy condition in dogs. There is usually a history of recurrent itchiness or skin and ear infections that come and go throughout the year. As a dog’s immune system matures, their allergy season may change or expand.

Dogs can be allergic to almost anything (just like people). Some of the main offenders are pollens, grasses, plant materials, dust, dust mites, molds, cats and insects. For many pets, we can decrease their itching through dietary supplementation, environmental management, antihistamines (please ask your veterinarian before giving your dog any medications) and judicious use of steroids for short periods of time.

For animals with severe allergies, more elaborate measures are needed. For these pets we recommend either going on a long term medication protocol with an immune modulating agent or starting a series of vaccines to try to desensitize their immune system to the allergens that are most offensive to your pet. Both of these strategies have their pitfalls at times, but for miserable dogs they can be lifesaving.

Another leading cause of itchy pets is food allergy. This is a well recognized condition that has been a bit twisted by dog food marketing. You can’t walk down a pet food isle without encountering bags that advertise “grain free” diets or “low allergen formulations.” Though wheat and corn are common food allergens in dogs that are truly food allergic, they are by no means the only offending ingredients. Diagnosing a food allergy in dogs can be tricky.

The best way to diagnose food allergy is to do a strict food allergy trial. This can be done with various veterinary prescription diets, but is most effective when done with a strict home-cooked diet formulated from novel ingredients (ask your vet for advice on how to do a trial). If an itchy dog clears up on the food, it is important to challenge them with their previous diet to make sure that the food was really the cause.

I have seen a lot of people switch their pets’ diets in the fall and see a big improvement. But many dogs with environmental allergies get better as the winter sets in anyway, so it is hard to say why the dog actually got better without doing a proper challenge at the end of the trial. For dogs with true food allergies, finding the right diet can be life-changing.

Flea allergies are also fairly common. hen a dog is heavily infested with fleas they can be quite itchy. However, dogs with flea ALLERGIES only have to be bitten occasionally to become wildly itchy. It can sometimes be a big challenge to convince owners that their dog has flea allergies when they haven’t seen any fleas.

Depending on the dog’s environment, even if they are on a good flea preventative they can get an occasional flea bite that can cause a flare-up. These cases can be frustrating at times, but as long as we keep them as flea free as possible, they can usually be managed well.

Mites and ringworm infections are also somewhat common, especially in puppies. Some of these conditions can spread to humans. Scabies mites cause dogs to be extremely itchy, especially on their ears. People in contact with scabies mites can develop itchy red rashes.

 

Older animals make good pets, too

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

660_JenniePhotographer Lori Fusaro is compiling photos of older animals for a book she hopes will inspire people to think about adopting older pets from shelters. Fusaro’s idea for the book coalesced when she met Sunny, an ailing 16-year-old mixed-breed dog, at a Los Angeles shelter. Fusaro adopted her, and a year later, they are still together. Fusaro knows letting go will be difficult. “I didn’t want to open my heart for that kind of pain, but how much sadder and more horrible for me would it be to leave her at the shelter,” said Fusaro. “It will be terrible to lose her but much worse to leave her to die alone.” The Washington Post (tiered subscription model)/The Associated Press

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