Sunday, July 13, 2008


  • A "smoking gun" was originally, and is still primarily, a reference to an object or fact that serves as conclusive evidence of a crime or similar act. In addition to this, its meaning has evolved to uses completely unrelated to criminal activity: for example, scientific evidence that is highly suggestive in favour of a particular hypothesis (or diagnosis) is sometimes called smoking gun evidence. Reminisce with the Robert Cray Band and their rendition of "Smoking Gun," while you ponder how this will lead to a diagnosis:


    1) From the American Veterinary Medical Association, comes this press release:

    Study: 9/11 dogs suffered few health effects
    — A new study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reveals that New York Police Department dogs deployed to the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have not experienced any long-term health effects.
    The study focuses on 27 dogs that assisted in relief efforts at the site, many of which remained deployed throughout the 37-week cleanup operation. Both short-term and long-term health assessments were conducted.
    According to the study, about 63 percent of the dogs had some type of health disorder during the first week, including fatigue, eye irritation, respiratory tract problems, decreased appetite, dehydration and cuts. What surprised the study's authors, however, was that only mild and infrequent health conditions were identified during a five-year follow-up period. None of the dogs, according to the study, was identified as having chronic respiratory tract disease or any type of blood disorder.
    Nineteen of the 27 dogs were still alive and apparently healthy five years later. In fact, the five-year mortality rate for the 27 working dogs examined in the study was similar to the rate for a control group of household pets and law enforcement dogs that had not been dispatched to the site.
    "The general good health of the dogs studied was an unexpected result," said Philip Fox, DVM, the study's lead author and director of The Caspary Research Institute of The Animal Medical Center in New York City. "The dogs appeared to be unaffected in the long term by their exposure to the smoke, dust and toxins they encountered while working at the World Trade Center site."
    The findings are in contrast to some human emergency responders who worked at the site, as various studies have identified increases in the rates of illness and the severity of various symptoms of respiratory tract disease.
    The reason that the dogs appeared to suffer so few long-term health conditions may be due to differences between human and animal airways and differences in lung defense mechanisms.

    2) In a follow-up to the news story on dogs imported from Iraq, from our 6/29/08 blog issue, Helpful Buckeye's former partner has reported that the 2 dogs from this group that ended up in Virginia have been put into quarantine for 6 months. Hopefully, the dog that was euthanized (and found to be rabid) from the original group will have been the only one to suffer that fate.


    1) The second intestinal parasite for discussion is Hookworms. Hookworms are the second most common intestinal parasite found in dogs, but they are much less commonly found in cats. The adult hookworms live in the small intestine and are much smaller than adult roundworms, actually only about 1/8 inch long, and will most likely never be seen by a pet owner. The adult worms attach themselves to the intestinal wall and feed on the host's blood. The adults lay eggs that pass out in the feces. In 2-10 days, the eggs hatch and the larvae are released. These larvae are excellent swimmers that travel through raindrops or dew on leaves and vegetation and wait for a suitable host animal to come along. The larvae enter a host either by being ingested or by burrowing through the host's skin.

    As part of your veterinarian's diagnostic process, a fecal (stool) microscopic exam will reveal the presence of most roundworm and hookworm infestations. A comparison of the eggs as shown by this exam:

    • The roundworm eggs are darker, larger, and round, while the hookworm eggs are oval-shaped and somewhat smaller.

      From the AVMA brochure on intestinal parasites:

      What are the health risks to pets and people?
      Your pet can become infected when larvae penetrate the animal's skin or the lining of the mouth. An infected female dog can pass the infection to her puppies through her milk, but this does not occur in cats. Hookworms are dangerous parasites because they actually bite into the intestinal lining of an animal and suck blood. As with roundworms, puppies and kittens are at high risk of infection and developing severe diseases. Left untreated, hookworm infections can result in potentially life-threatening blood loss, weakness, and malnutrition.
      Like roundworms, hookworm infections are zoonotic, and infections usually occur by accidentally eating the larvae or by the larvae entering through the skin. In humans, hookworm infections cause health problems when the larvae penetrate the skin. The larvae produce severe itching and tunnel-like, red areas as they move through the skin and, if accidentally eaten, can cause intestinal problems.

      There are numerous medicines available for the treatment of hookworms. After an evaluation of your dog or cat, your veterinarian will determine what treatment plan is appropriate. As with our discussion on roundworms, one of the pillars of treatment is the constant and regular removal of your pet's stools to help break the infection cycle.

      2) Now, for the connection to the smoking gun. When you take your dog or cat to your veterinarian for some type of problem, the veterinarian will work through a logical process of investigation which ultimately will lead to a diagnosis. The veterinarian's diagnostic work-up will consist of:

      • The History--This includes your presenting complaint of what is wrong with your pet. There also may be a lot of questions from the veterinarian related to your presenting complaint. Regular readers of this blog will remember our issue of 5/23/08, in which Helpful Buckeye advised all pet owners to familiarize themselves with how their pet acts when it is "normal." If you know what "normal" looks like, it will be that much easier to know when there's a problem.

      • The Signalment--This includes all the basic factual information about your pet, such as species, sex (neutered, spayed, or not), age, breed, and vaccination history.

      • The Physical Exam--Your veterinarian will examine your pet from nose to tail, taking into consideration information obtained from you during the "history" part and from the signalment.

      • Diagnostic Tests--If the cause of your presenting complaint is not quite obvious from the previous 3 steps, then some type of diagnostic procedure will be discussed with you. By this point, your veterinarian will have decided on whatever disease processes are most likely to have caused what has happened to your pet, and arranged them in order, usually from most-likely to least-likely. Various diagnostic procedures (the above picture of roundworm and hookworm eggs would be an example) will either confirm or eliminate these disease process as the culprit.

      In much the same way that a police detective analyzes clues and evidence from a crime scene in order to solve the crime, your veterinarian will be looking for the "smoking gun" evidence that is obtained from one or more of these four categories in order to arrive at the proper diagnosis of your pet's problem. The art and science of a diagnosis can be a challenge in many cases. Not all diseases appear the same way every time in every animal. Some tests will have false positives or false negatives. A well-trained, experienced veterinarian will usually end up using the right measure of art AND science in determining what the diagnosis is.

      ANY COMMENTS, please send an e-mail to:


      1) OK, now you've perhaps zeroed in on what type of new dog you're looking for. Further defining decisions in Selecting a Dog will include:

      • Puppy vs. Adult Dog--Puppies require additional time for housetraining, socialization, and obedience training. They also need more frequent feeding, exercise, and supervision. Adult dogs may already be housetrained and know some basic commands. However, with a puppy, you will be the one training it to do what you want, which ultimately could be a positive. Also, older dogs could already have acquired some undesirable habits.

      • Affordability--Can you afford the purchase of the new dog AND the cost of veterinary care? Dogs also need decent-quality food, proper housing, toys, licenses, grooming. You may want to consider the purchase of a pet health insurance for your new dog, an additional expense...and a topic Helpful Buckeye will address in a future issue.

      • Where to Find a Dog--Depending upon what type of dog strikes your fancy, your sources for pets will be different. Mixed-breed and purebred dogs can be obtained from animal shelters and numerous rescue organizations. In some larger communities, there are rescue groups dedicated to finding good homes for specific dog breeds (such as racing greyhounds). If you are more interested in a certain purebred dog, check with your veterinarian first for any suggestions they might have about local reputable breeders. Helpful Buckeye used to advise his clients to go to a dog show and look at the various breeds on display. This might help you solidify a choice or it might help you find a whole new direction.

      The last advice for this week's portion of Selecting a Dog would be what to look for in a healthy dog. A healthy dog has clear, bright eyes; a clean, shiny coat of hair; does not appear thin, overly fat; or show signs of illness, such as nasal or eye discharge or diarrhea. When choosing a dog, pick one that is active, friendly, inquisitive, and not afraid of you. The dog should accept gentle handling and not show signs of aggression. Helpful Buckeye will finish this section on Selecting a Dog next week with "Tips on Acquiring a Puppy."

      2) For the cat fanciers, there are some things you should consider when acquiring a new kitten.

      New Kitten Care -Ten Tips For Raising Your Kitten

      You've picked your brand new kitten from a litter, and you're now ready to bring it home. You naturally want to give it the best possible start in life. Here are 10 tips to help it develop into a confident, affectionate adult cat who'll give you years of stress-free pleasure.

      1. Make sure you're fully prepared for his arrival. Have his toys, food, litter box, scratching post and bed all ready for him. This will help him to settle in more quickly.

      2. Handle him - a lot. If kittens are handled a lot when they're young, they get used to it and learn to enjoy it. As a result, they're much more likely to turn into affectionate adults that love to be cuddled and stroked. Your new kitten should always be handled gently. If you have young kids, you'll need to supervise them with Kitty at first, to make sure they don't accidentally hurt him.

      3. Get him used to receiving everyday care from you. This includes grooming him, washing his face, bathing him and cleaning his ears and eyes. If he gets comfortable with all this when he's a kitten, you'll have few problems with it when he's an adult.

      4. Safely introduce him to the everyday things that will form part of his world as soon as possible. This may include other people, kids, other pets, travelling in your car, boarding at your sister's house when you go on holiday etc. etc. Doing this will turn him into a confident, happy, adaptable adult.

      5. Play with him and talk to him every day. Bored kittens and cats often seek amusement in activities that you won't be too keen on, such as destroying the furniture. Playing with your kitten will build your relationship with him and help to prevent boredom.

      6. Feed him a wide selection of foods that are suitable for kittens. This gets him used to a varied diet, and reduces the risk of him becoming a gourmet cuisine snob who'll only eat fresh wild salmon caught in the Scottish Highlands....

      7. Gently and calmly set boundaries. Kittens are like kids - they'll push their luck to see how much they can get away with. Common naughty kitten behavior includes scratching, biting, jumping on the kitchen worktops, scratching the furniture and climbing the curtains. If your kitten is being naughty, stop him, say "no" (don't shout) and move him away from the scene of his crime. It's much easier to train a new kitten to be good than an adult cat, so setting the boundaries while he's young can save you years of frustration in the future.

      8. Don't give in to vocal blackmail. Some kittens try to get what they want by meowing non-stop. If you keep giving in to this, your kitten will turn into a very vocal adult cat who'll drive you nuts with his constant noisy demands.

      9. Keep him safe. Nasty frights - for example falling down the toilet, being tormented by a kid or having a dog bark in his face - will have a negative impact on him. The more unpleasant experiences he has as a kitten, the more likely he is to become a nervous, mistrusting adult.

      10. Accept that your new kitten is a baby with loads of energy. While you can discourage him from acts of willful destruction, you'll need to accept that your house is unlikely to survive completely unscathed. But hey, he's worth it!

      From: Liz Allan, a cat behavior expert with 25 years experience of caring for cats. She lived and worked in a cat rescue center for 3 years, and has fostered hundreds of cats at home.

      "A kitten is so flexible that she is almost double; the hind parts are equivalent to another kitten with which the forepart plays. She does not discover that her tail belongs to her until you tread on it." Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) US writer

      ANY COMMENTS, please send an e-mail to:


      Cat Breeds - Siamese
      The distinctive Siamese have existed for centuries in Thailand (formerly Siam) and are thought to be descended from their sacred temple cats. They were originally, like their descendants today, medium-sized, long-bodied, muscular, graceful cats with moderately wedge-shaped heads and largish ears. Siamese are affectionate and intelligent, as renowned for their social nature as for their persistence in demanding attention with their loud, low-pitched voice which many compare to a baby's cries. Since the Siamese coat is ineffective for camouflage they've developed a unique social orientation related to their lessened ability to live independently of humans. They're less active at night than most cats, as their blue eyes lack the structure which amplifies dim light. And like other blue-eyed white cats, they may also have reduced hearing ability. Helpful Buckeye reports that they can also be a mite cantankerous to handle.

      Dog Breeds - Poodle
      Originally bred by the Greeks for sea sponge diving, Poodles were later adopted by the Spanish colonists in North America where they were employed as lobster divers. Arguably one of the most intelligent breeds, their aptitude has made them ideal for performing. However, they can also become bored easily and can get quite creative about finding mischief. Excellent watchdogs, Poodles don't usually become "one-person" dogs when they are part of a family and tend to be good with children. Adaptable and easy to train, the agile and athletic Poodle appreciates lots of exercise. One of the most distinctive parts of the breed is their unique fur which allows for a wealth of opportunities to sculpt their coats into fun and fanciful patterns. Available in a variety of sizes and colors, the poodle has become very popular in the breeding world of show dogs. This is one of the breeds that requires a fair grooming budget; however, the poodle does not shed as much as other breeds of dogs.


      1) When you think of breeds of dogs around which one has to be wary, which breeds come to mind? When you think of dangerous dog breeds, which animal do you picture: a pit bull or a wiener dog? According to the results of research published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, the breed most prone to aggression is the dachshund. New research that involved questioning 6,000 dog owners, found that one in five dachshunds have bitten (or tried to bite) strangers, a similar number have attacked other dogs, and that one in 12 have even snapped at their owners. Prior research on dog aggression focused solely on dog bite statistics. Using that data, breeds like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans were thought to pose the most danger. Researchers now feel prior studies were not painting a full picture, as most dog bites (especially those of smaller dogs) go unreported and were not included in the past. Chihuahuas ranked second on the list of aggressive dogs, while Jack Russell Terriers came in third. Just like with people, it's not fair to stereotype an entire group based on the actions of a few. But it's also good know some small dogs might not be the ideal choice for children.

      2) On 7/10/1925, the so-called Monkey Trial, in which John Scopes was accused of teaching evolution in school, a violation of state law, began in Dayton, Tenn., featuring a classic confrontation between William Jennings Bryan, the three-time presidential candidate and fundamentalist hero, and legendary defense attorney Clarence Darrow. The trial was immortalized in the classic movie of 1960, Inherit the Wind, starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March.

      3) More "Laws of Cat Psychology":

      • Law of Rug Configuration--No rug may remain in its naturally flat state when a cat is present.

      • Law of Obedience Resistance--A cat's resistance varies in proportion to a human's desire for her to do something.

      • Second Law of Energy Conservation--Cats know that energy can only be stored by a lot of napping.

      4) And speaking of catnapping, from The New Yorker: 5) More dog mascots of colleges/universities:

      • Univ. of Nevada/Reno--the Wolfpack

      • Univ. of Albany--Great Danes

      • Southern Illinois Univ.--the Salukis (an Egyptian racing hound)

      6) "Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything." - Blaise Pascal, French philosopher and mathematician, 1623-1662.


      1) This Tuesday evening will be the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, played in Yankee Stadium, which will be celebrating its last season in existence. Fans of the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs will almost feel like they are watching one of their regular games since so many of their players will be playing.

      2) On July 11th, 1859, "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens was published. Bear with me as I explain the relationship between this Dickensian tale of life in London and Paris during the French Revolution and the agony of an LA Dodger fan in 2008. The opening line of A Tale of Two Cities is: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Desperado and Helpful Buckeye witnessed this phenomenon first-hand last week in Los Angeles, taking in two Dodger games, one of which was a true baseball gem in performance and one of which was a display of shoddy execution and accomplishment. Even so, we are still only 1 game behind the D'Backs, having actually tied them twice this past week. The Dodgers open a series with the D'Backs right after the All-Star opportunity to improve our standing.


      1) "That perfect tranquillity of life, which is nowhere to be found but in retreat, a faithful friend, and a good library." Aphra Behn (1640-1689) English writer. Helpful Buckeye will let you fill in the blanks describing the ''retreat" and the "faithful friend."

      2) On a bike ride this morning, Helpful Buckeye witnessed a coyote racing after a prairie dog, circling and almost catching the little critter, when the prairie dog dived into its burrow with about 5 ft. to spare. What a display of Mother Nature's law of existence...Survival of the Fittest! Today the prey won, tomorrow it might be the predator.

      See you next week...

      ~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

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