Thursday, February 28, 2008

Traveling Emergencies

I came across a book today that lists emergency and 24 hour pet hospitals across the country for those of you who travel.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Which dog should you get?

I'm working this week, so I'm a little behind on my writing. The following link is my attempt to phone in today's column. It's a dog personality matching program. Just take the test, go to the shelter and get yourself a friend!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Kennel Cough...or is it?

I see a lot of "kennel cough" here in my county. I see so many coughing dogs because my local shelter is a mess, with little hope of getting better. Many dogs that come from high volume, poorly run shelters will come out with some minor upper respiratory disease. Even in high volume, very well run shelters you will see this from time to time. Most of the time it's no big deal. Almost all the of the adult shelter dogs I see that have a cough are better in 3-5 days.

But even dogs that haven't been to the shelter are at risk for kennel cough. Dogs that board, go to day care, visit the dog park or are on the show circuit can be exposed to this disease. As always, prevention is always better than treatment and knowledge is always the best vaccine, so here goes:

What is Kennel Cough?
We'll let's start with some definitions. "Kennel Cough", as a diagnosis, is a bit outdated. The current term is Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis (CITB). That's because we now know that while the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptic, can cause a cough, it is not always the primary problem. Canine parainfluenza, canine adenovirus type 2, canine herpesvirus, and canine reovirus are viruses that have also been implicated in causing an infectious bronchitis in dogs. Infection with bacteria can be secondary to these viruses. So, when a dog walks into my clinic with an infectious cough, what am I really treating with my antibiotics, the dog or the owner? (For those of you not in on the joke, many veterinarians will give antibiotics to known viral infections just to make the owner think they are doing something. And they are: wasting their the owner's money and contributing to bacterial antibiotic resistance!)

So how does CITB cause my dog to be sick?
The purpose of a cough is to clear mucous and debris from the trachea. The cough is a result of a failure of the body's normal mechanism to clear these products. The trachea is lined with cells that contain "tails" that beat in rhythm to move particles in the throat out of the way. CITB infection destroys these cells and the body's ability to keep the trachea clean leaving a cough as the only way to clear the airway. This can lead to infections deeper in the respiratory tree (the lungs) as the body can no longer move bacteria out efficiently.

How should this be treated?
The latest information I've seen indicates that antibiotics may shorten the course of the disease in most cases. However, you must remember that in many cases a virus is playing a significant role. Since, viruses are not responsive to antibiotics, they may not always be helpful.

Is there a vaccine?
Yes, however, which one to use is subject to a lot of debate. There are two different vaccine delivery systems for CITB: intranasal (in the nose) and injectable. Which one you should use depends on your situation and should be discussed with your veterinarian. The intranasal vaccine is thought to act most quickly, but not last as long. Many veterinarians recommend vaccination every 6 months with the intranasal variety. The injectable may take several days to work, but can last up to a year.

Does the cough always go away?
This is the hard part about this disease. At one time it was thought that if your dog caught the bacterial form of "kennel cough", then it would cough for the rest of it's life. We now know that ANY dog that gets CITB can acquire a permanent cough. This is because once permanent damage has been done to the cells of the throat they may never be able to properly clear debris again. Fortunately, this is pretty rare, but it means that dogs should be seen at the first sign of a cough to prevent permanent damage.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bathroom Humor

I got an e-mail this week asking why this person's dog eats feces. This tends to be a common problem, and like the question,"Why does my dog eat grass?", there is no "true" answer. It's thought that corprophagia (the technical term for poop-eating) occurs more in female dogs than in males. This has lead some people to speculate that it is related to maternal behavior. Most female dogs will "clean up" after her pups for the first few weeks.

Some people have suggested that these dogs may have a nutritional deficiency. However, there are a few studies on pancreatic insufficiency, another fairly common disease that occurs when the dog's pancreas no longer produces the enzymes necessary to digest food properly. Most of these studies report corprophagia as a presenting symptom. This makes nutritional deficiency unlikely.

Other theories suggested include, poop being similar to bugs in the earth (I'm not making that one up....), dogs trying to cover their tracks and various mental defects. I don't have a good answer, but the one I think will win out in the end: because it tastes good to them. Listen, your talking about a species that would rather drink out of the toilet than the fresh water you just put down. There's perfectly good dog food in the house, but they would rather have 3 day old possum. As much as I like my dogs, we're not talking about nuclear scientists here....

As for ways to stop the behavior. Like most behavior problems, you can use food additives (such as Forbid, which does work well in my opinion), avoidance collars, and all kinds of voodoo. The best way to fix the're just going to have to pick the stuff up.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why I do this!

Ok, I got this e-mail from someone who has a large breed dog that is demonstrating obvious signs of arthritis. She brought the dog to her veterinarian who prescribed Rimadyl (carprofen). In order to be diligent, she went to the web to research the drug. So far so good: I encourage people to go to reputable websites to do their research. What's a reputable site? In my opinion, it's one that uses research and fact. Unfortunately, this person went to a website run by someone who had a bad experience with the drug.
Here's some background. When Rimadyl first came out, it was touted as the new wonder drug. And with some good reason: it worked, with very few side effects. Until that time all we had was aspirin. Aspirin was alright, but it made many dogs sick to their stomach, had to be used very cautiously in old dogs (because of the effects on the kidneys) and as we later found out, kills off cells that keep joints healthy. So we started using Rimadyl, in large quantities. However, Rimadyl, like any other drug has potential side effects. Some of the early users just ignored the warnings and gave the drug to dogs that never should have had it. Others got sick for reasons we didn't understand. And the websites popped up. And the lawsuits followed.

Myth #1: Rimadyl is more toxin to Labs. This came out of the initial confusion. Labs are one of the most common breeds to have arthritis in their hips. So more Labs get Rimadyl than let's say Terriers. So if you look at the number of dogs that get sick from Rimadyl by breed, Labs have a much higher representation than terriers.
This study here showed no signs of breed predilection: Vet Rec. March 2007;160(13):427-30

Myth #2 Rimadyl is dangerous. Look, I'm not going to say it's the only choice you have, or even that you should use it for your particular dog. However, the evidence is pretty clear that this drug is safe. A study published in 2003 (J Small Anim Pract. May 2003;44(5):202-8) showed that the chances of Rimadyl causing a problem in about 7.5 out of 10,000 dogs given the drug. the average veterinarian will never even see a true case of Rimadyl reaction.

So please, don';t get your information from one person who had a bad experience with a drug. Get some real information and make an informed decision.

And, by the way, if your dog has arthritis, you should talk to her about J/D from Hill's. It's loaded with fish oils that will help your dog walk better without any drugs. I have 2 dogs that swear by the stuff!