Sunday, May 9, 2010


Today was the first time in my life that I wasn't able to say "Happy Mother's Day" to my Mom.  I'd like to take this opportunity to tell all of our readers who are mothers or who have a mother still living that I hope your Mother's Day observance was fulfilling and rewarding...for both of you. 

Even though my Mom really enjoyed shopping for new clothes, she even more enjoyed getting flowers.  The words of an old Mother's Day song reflect what I would have been doing if she were still living:

Mother's Day

Let's go out and pick some flow'rs
And make a big bouquet;
We must bring a special gift
To Mom on Mother's Day!

Here's a rose, and there's a daisy
For our Mom's bouquet,
Pretty flow'rs to show we love her
More and more each day!

Words By: Terry Kluytmans
Music By: Jessie L. Gaynor

To finish this train of thought, Helpful Buckeye fondly recalls the lyrics of my favorite Beatles song:

 In My Life

There are places I remember all my life,
Though some have changed,
Some forever, Not for better,
Some have gone and some remain.

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before,
I know I'll often stop and think about them,
In my life....

Happy Mother's Day, Mom....


Regular readers of Questions On Dogs and Cats will recognize a slightly different beginning in our discussion for this week.  Helpful Buckeye has chosen to use the word "Topic" instead of "News" since the topic of disasters has been in the news for the last several weeks.  Disaster is defined as "a calamitous event, especially one occurring suddenly and causing loss of life, damage, and/or hardship."  The USA has experienced recent disasters such as deadly tornadoes, severe flooding, and nearby earthquakes in Haiti and Mexico.  Those disasters, plus wildfires (which are already beginning in parts of the American southwest), toxic chemical leaks or explosions, and possible terrorist activities can all require the potential need for evacuating your home...suddenly and without much warning.

If you have pets and are facing an emergency evacuation due to a disaster, would you be ready?  Even though some of you may feel that you are ready, current evidence indicates otherwise.  The above-mentioned disasters seem to be happening with greater frequency and with more widespread distribution around our country.  Sometimes, especially when watching TV coverage of these disastrous events, Helpful Buckeye recalls the song, Flirtin' With Disaster...., by Molly Hatchet:

I'm travelin' down the road and I'm flirtin' with disaster,
I've got the pedal to the floor and my life is running faster....
We're flirtin' with disaster, ya'll know what I mean....
I'm flirtin' with disaster every day.

Dealing with a disaster always involves handling the aftermath.  The only chances we have to minimize the effects of the aftermath are luck and advance preparation.  Luck is something you can't ever count on, but preparation is something we all can do.  The Temptations had a hit song in 1966, Get Ready, and some of those words tell the whole story:

Look out baby, 'cause here I come....
So get ready, so get ready, 'cause here I come,
(Get ready, 'cause here I come),
I'm on my way...
(Get ready, 'cause here I come).

The American Veterinary Medical Association has been a staunch advocate of preparedness when it comes to the topics of disasters and pets.  Every year, they document disasters and the loss of human and animal lives...and what could have possibly been done ahead of time to avoid the loss of life.  Since May 8th has been declared as National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day, the AVMA has produced the following checklists for all pet owners.  If you assume that a disaster might occur near you and you implement these suggestions ahead of time, you just might survive, along with your pets, to tell about it.  These checklists are really no different than getting together photos of all the rooms in your house in case you need to make an insurance claim.  It wouldn't take very long to accumulate all this information...and, then, you'll be prepared.  From the AVMA:

What would you do with your dog, cat, bird, horse or livestock if your area was hit with a flood, earthquake or forest fire? National Animal Preparedness Day, May 8, reminds everyone to be prepared.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Citizen's Corp declared May 8 as a special day to remind pet and livestock owners to think about how they can help keep their animals out of harm's way.

Nature and life have fury days:  Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, blizzards, terrorism....

Devastating natural and man-made disasters can ravage our lives. No one is exempt from the possibility of being affected personally. You need to prepare for yourself and for your animals in case of disaster.

Do Not Wait Until It Is Too Late
Countless times people have been told to leave their homes for a "short time," only to find that they cannot return for days or weeks. Even disasters like gas leaks and minor flooding can keep you from tending to your animals for extended periods of time. To prevent situations such as these take your animals with you.  It is best to be overly cautious during a disaster warning. Preparing ahead of time and acting quickly is the best way to keep you and your family, including your animals, out of danger.

• Familiarize yourself with each type of disaster that could affect your area, not forgetting a hazardous materials spill.
• Be prepared for the possible disruption of services for extended periods of time, including electric, phone, and local food and water sources.
• Having a plan in place and practicing the plan prior to a disaster will help you accomplish a successful evacuation and maintain the safety of your animals.

Preparing a Disaster Plan

Setup an appointment to talk to your veterinarian about disaster planning.

• Assemble an animal evacuation kit.
• Develop an evacuation plan for all of your animals and practice the plan.
• If you live in an apartment, make sure your animals are on record with management and are able to evacuate via the stairwell. Dogs should be taught to go up and down stairs to better assist rescue personnel.
• Keep written directions to your home near your telephone. This will help you and others explain to emergency responders exactly how to get to your home.
• Identify alternate sources of food and water.
• Have well maintained backup generators for use in food-animal production operations.
• Keep all vehicles well maintained and full of gas.
• Keep emergency cash on hand.

In Case You Are Not At Home

Preplace stickers on front and back house doors, barn doors, and pasture entrances to notify neighbors, fire fighters, police, and other rescue personnel that animals are on your property and where to find your evacuation supplies.

• Provide a list near your evacuation supplies of the number, type, and location of your animals, noting favorite hiding spots, in order to save precious rescue time.
• To facilitate a successful rescue, provide muzzles, handling gloves, catch nets, and animal restraints where rescue personnel can find them. Keep in mind that animals may become unpredictable when frightened.
• Designate a willing neighbor to tend to your animals in the event that a disaster occurs when you are not at home. This person should have a key to your home, be familiar with your animals, know your evacuation procedures, and know where your evacuation supplies are kept.
• In your evacuation kit, keep a pre-signed letter that releases your neighbor from responsibility if one of your animals becomes injured during the evacuation.
• You may also want to have a pre-signed veterinary medical treatment authorization with your Evacuation kit – this will aid your veterinarian if your animal must be treated during your absence.

Having identification on your animals, including rabies and license tags, if applicable, may help reunite you with your animal(s) in the event that you are separated. Identification should provide your name, home address, a phone number where you can be reached, and an out-of-state phone number of someone with whom you will be in contact during or soon after the disaster/evacuation. If possible, include your veterinarian's name, location, and phone number. Examples of some forms of identification are listed below:
• collar tag (a piece of tape applied to the back of the collar tag can provide evacuation site information – use waterproof ink)
• microchip

• tattoo
• temporary neckband
• waterproof pouch attached to collar with identification information inside
• clear identification on cage/housing for confined animals

It is also important to separate animals from different households as much as possible and to maintain the best possible hygiene, along with pet identity, to decrease disease transmission.

• Leash, collar, and/or harness for each pet.
• Collapsible cage or airline approved carrier should also be available for each pet, and bedded properly, for transportation and housing purposes - owning enough carriers to accommodate your pets facilitates a speedy evacuation and may mean the difference between the life or death of your pet.
• Familiarize your animals with evacuation procedures and cages/carriers. Take the cage/carrier out several times a year and put dog or cat treats inside with blankets and toys. By doing this, you hope to reinforce positive feelings associated with the animal carrier.
• Cat carriers should be large enough to hold a small litter pan and two small dishes and still allow your cat enough room to lie down comfortably or stand to use the litter pan.
• Dog kennels or collapsible cages should be large enough to hold two no-spill bowls and still allow enough room for your dog to stand and turn around.
• For added assurance, clearly label each carrier with your identification and contact information.
• Locate and prearrange an evacuation site for your family and animals outside your immediate area. Ideally, this will be a friend/relative or a pet-friendly hotel that is willing to let your family and animals stay in the event of a disaster. Other possible animal housing options include veterinary hospitals, boarding kennels, and animal shelters.

Veterinary Records

Make photocopies of important veterinary documents to store in the evacuation kit.

Vaccination records:

• Vaccination type and date
• Rabies certificate, if applicable

Medical history:

• Important test results, such as Feline Leukemia/Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (Felv/FIV), heartworm, equine infectious anemia (Coggins test), tuberculosis, and brucellosis
• Medical conditions and medications (including drug name, dosage, and frequency of dosing)
• If your animal has a microchip, a record of the microchip number

Proof of Ownership

Make copies of registration information, adoption papers, proof of purchase, and microchip information to store in the evacuation kit. List each one of your animals and their species, breed, age, sex, color, and distinguishing characteristics.

Keep current photographs of your animals in the evacuation kit for identification purposes. Include yourself in some of the photos to help you reclaim your lost animal(s). Consider preparing waterproof "Lost Pet" signs with your animal's photo attached, your name, and your contact information to use in case your animal is lost. If your pet has a microchip, call the company to register your pet's information and make sure to keep that information updated.

List of Important Emergency Contacts

Prepare this list now before a disaster strikes. Include addresses and 24-hour contact numbers, if available. These contacts can be used by rescue personnel responding to a disaster affecting your animals or by you during a disaster or an evacuation. Keep one copy near your telephone and one copy in your animal evacuation kit.

• Numbers where you may be reached (pager, cell phone, work phone)
• Your prearranged evacuation site
• Local contact person in case of emergency when you are not available
• Out-of-state contact person
• Your veterinarian's name, clinic name, and phone numbers
• Alternate veterinarian (30-90 miles away, provides boarding)
• Boarding facility (local)
• Boarding facility (30-90 miles away)
• Hotels that allow pets (90 mile radius)
• Local Animal Control
• Local Police Department
• Local Fire Department
• Local Public Health Department
• Local animal shelter
• Local Red Cross chapter
• Local humane society
• Local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)
• List of Internet "lost and found" animal sites

Small Animal Evacuation Kit

The following lists will help you prepare for your animal(s) in the event of a disaster. The evacuation kit should be assembled in easy-to-carry, waterproof containers. It should be stored in an easily accessible location away from areas with temperature extremes. Replace the food, water, and medications as often as needed to maintain their quality and freshness and in accordance with the expiration dates. Indicate, if applicable, medications that are stored elsewhere due to temperature requirements such as refrigeration.

Consult your veterinarian for advice on making an animal evacuation kit and first aid kit that is appropriate for your individual animals. It is important that you become familiar with the items in your kit and their uses. Your veterinarian may recommend an animal first aid book to include in your kit. Consult your veterinarian regarding emergency first aid procedures and administration of any medications.

• 2-week supply of food (dry and canned)
• 2-week supply of water in plastic gallon jugs with secure lids
• Batteries (flashlight, radio)
• Cage/carrier (one for each animal, labeled with your contact information)
• Can opener (manual)
• Cat/wildlife gloves
• Copies of veterinary records and proof of ownership
• Emergency contact list
• Familiar items to make pets feel comfortable (favorite toys, treats, blankets)
• First aid kit (see next page)
• Flashlight
• Instructions
• Diet: record the diet for each individual animal, including what not to feed in case of allergies.
• Medications: list each animal separately, including dose and frequency for each medication. Provide veterinary and pharmacy contact information for refills.
• Leash and collar or harness (for each animal)
• Litter, litter pan, litter scoop
• Maps of local area and alternate evacuation routes (in case of road closures)
• Muzzles (dog or cat)
• Newspaper (bedding, litter)
• No-spill food and water dishes
• Paper towels
• Radio (solar and battery operated)
• Spoon (for canned food)
• Stakes and tie-outs
• Trash bags

Small Animal First Aid Kit

Consult your veterinarian when developing the first aid kit. The items below serve only as examples of what may be included in a small animal first aid kit.

• Activated charcoal (liquid)
• Anti-diarrheal liquid or tablets
• Antibiotic ointment (for wounds)
• Antibiotic eye ointment
• Bandage scissors
• Bandage tape
• Betadine® (povidone-iodine) or Nolvasan® (chlorhexidine), scrub and solution
• Cotton bandage rolls
• Cotton-tipped swabs
• Elastic bandage rolls
• Eye rinse (sterile)
• Flea and tick prevention and treatment
• Gauze pads and rolls
• Ice cream sticks (which may be used as splints)
• Isopropyl alcohol/alcohol prep pads
• Latex gloves or non-allergenic gloves
• Liquid dish detergent (mild wound and body cleanser)
• Measuring spoons
• Medications and preventatives (such as heartworm prevention), minimum 2-week supply, with clearly labeled instructions. Provide veterinary and pharmacy contact information for refills.
• Non-adherent bandage pads
• Saline solution (for rinsing wounds)
• Sterile lubricant (water based)
• Styptic powder (clotting agent)
• Syringe or eyedropper
• Thermometer (digital)
• Tourniquet
• Towel and washcloth
• Tweezers

An Evacuation Order Has Been Issued...Now What Do You Do?
Evacuate your family, including your animals, as early as possible. By leaving early, you will decrease the chance of becoming victims of the disaster.

• Bring your dogs, cats, and other small animals indoors.
• Make sure all animals have some form of identification securely fastened to them (or their cage, in the case of smaller, caged pets). The utilization of permanent identification is encouraged.
• Place all small pets, including cats and small dogs, inside individual transportable carriers. When stressed, animals that normally get along may become aggressive towards each other.
• Secure leashes on all large dogs.
• Load your larger animal cages/carriers into your vehicle. These will serve as temporary housing for your animals if needed.
• Load the animal evacuation kit and supplies into your vehicle.
• Call your prearranged animal evacuation site to confirm availability of space.

After the Disaster

• Survey the area inside and outside your home to identify sharp objects, dangerous materials, dangerous wildlife, contaminated water, downed power lines, or other hazards.
• Examine your animals closely, and contact your veterinarian immediately if you observe injuries or signs of illness.
• Familiar scents and landmarks may have changed, and this can confuse your animals.
• Release cats, dogs, and other small animals indoors only. They could encounter dangerous wildlife and debris if they are allowed outside unsupervised and unrestrained.
• Reintroduce food in small servings, gradually working up to full portions if animals have been without food for a prolonged period of time.
• Allow uninterrupted rest/sleep for all animals to recover from the trauma and stress.
• If your animals are lost, physically check animal control and animal shelters daily for lost animals.
• Post waterproof lost animal notices and notify local law enforcement, animal care and control officials, veterinarians, and your neighbors of any lost animals (utilize online resources for lost and found animals).

Helpful Buckeye suspects that a few of our readers will take this advice to heart and start putting together a plan for what to do should an impending disaster present itself, a few of you will think it will never happen to you, and most of you will be somewhere in between.  Sure, it may never happen to you, but if disaster does strike you and your pets, any amount of preparedness will be better than doing nothing.

The AVMA concluded their presentation with this poem by Cindy Swancott Lovern:

As the winds blow on
And the waters rise deep
You can hear their cries
You can hear them weep
Those you have brought into your home
Those who are loyal, caring and warm.
You feed them each day, and tell them to stay
And now when they need you, don't turn them away.
When you vowed to love, when you vowed to care
You vowed to sacrifice, and vowed to prepare.
So now in times of trouble and strife
You are responsible for more than one life.
You need to plan, think, and prepare
For all those who need you
Those who depend on your care.


Reading about disaster preparedness and all of its ramifications can be a sobering experience...although not nearly as sobering as actually experiencing a disaster.  In that light, Helpful Buckeye will finish this week's blog with a very interesting account of what goes on during the annual Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska, from the viewpoints of three veterinarians...all involved in a different way.

The Iditarod is one of the world's greatest endurance races. Each March, teams of sled dogs and their mushers set out to trek more than 1,000 miles through the Alaskan backcountry.  This year, not for the first time, a veterinarian was among the competitors. At the start and finish was a veterinarian who has led studies to improve sled dog and human health. Along the trail, as usual, several dozen veterinarians examined and tended to the immediate medical needs of the sled dogs.  The Iditarod commemorates a 1925 relay by sled dogs and mushers to deliver diphtheria antitoxin to Nome to prevent an epidemic. The race also serves another purpose: maintaining the tradition of mushing.

The Musher

Dr. Tamara L. Rose moved from California to Alaska about five years ago, and a friend soon introduced her to mushing.  "It was just an instant attraction—I love dogs, I love the outdoors," said Dr. Rose, a mobile solo practitioner out of Fairbanks.  She said racing sled dogs is an adventure for her rather than a serious competition. She keeps 19 dogs in her kennel, including some that have retired, and she also has borrowed a few young dogs that a friend wanted her to train.  Dr. Rose is in her third year of racing. She started with shorter races to work up to the Iditarod this year, completing about three times as many qualifying races as she needed.

The ups and downs of racing the Iditarod still weren't what she anticipated, however. The trail was easier than she expected, but dog management was more difficult.  The trail groomers had paid particular attention to the route through a treacherous river gorge, she said, and enough snow had fallen to provide extra traction so sleds did not fall into the river. The route was rougher in an area full of tussocks where less snow had fallen.  For the most part, the weather was clear and cold—down to 40oF below zero. The problem came when the temperature rose. Then Dr. Rose had to stop often to prevent the sled dogs from overheating, allowing them to roll around in the snow. Mostly, Dr. Rose and her team alternated between six-hour runs and six- to eight-hour rest stops at checkpoints or along the trail.

Dr. Rose began the race with 16 dogs, seven of which were forward leaders. Trail veterinarians examined the dogs whenever the team stopped at one of the checkpoints, and Dr. Rose dropped dogs that had pulled muscles or sustained other minor injuries from competition.  Dogs that mushers dropped from the Iditarod await a ride back to Anchorage by bush plane. Mushers will drop dogs from the race for reasons such as orthopedic injuries, diarrhea, and pneumonia.  "It's up to the individual how much we dote on them," Dr. Rose said. "I'm probably a little more cautious than some mushers."  Dr. Rose dropped seven dogs along the way, including two leaders. By the end, four more leaders did not want to lead, although they continued to run enthusiastically.  Twelve days after starting the Iditarod, Dr. Rose crossed the finish line with nine dogs. Her team was 43rd out of the 55 teams that completed the race. Only one of her leaders was left, Hailey.

"You couldn't do this with regular dogs," she said. "They're bred to go, and to want to go, and they're bred to have this athleticism that's just amazing."

The Researcher

Dr. Michael S. Davis has been studying sled dogs for years at the Iditarod and elsewhere. His recent research has focused on trying to understand sled dogs' endurance and helping prevent the gastric ulcers that exercise induces in them.  "It was identified pretty early on that gastric ulcers were about the most serious health concern that these dogs had," said Dr. Davis, director of the Comparative Exercise Physiology Laboratory at the Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.  Dr. Davis and other researchers recently developed a practical medication scheme that appears to be effective at preventing the ulcers. They published a report in the March/April 2010 issue of the Journal of Internal Veterinary Medicine, but the editors allowed them to release the information to the mushing community before the 2009-2010 racing season.

Neither the Yukon Quest nor the Iditarod, the 1,000-mile-plus sled dog races, had any dog deaths due to gastric ulcers this year. One dog died during the Yukon Quest of silent cardiac disease, but no dogs died during the Iditarod for the first time in memory.  The researchers might never determine the causes of the gastric ulcers, Dr. Davis said, because they decided preventing the problem was more important.

"The other work that we've been doing is trying to break down and unlock the metabolism secrets of sled dogs, basically how they manage to run as hard and as long and as far as they do without getting totally fatigued," Dr. Davis said.

Most recently, the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation has provided funding for a study of the insulin sensitivity of sled dogs under various training conditions. Dr. Davis believes that sled dogs can run the way they do because they have an effective way of oxidizing fat for energy.

At the Iditarod this year, Dr. Davis also measured electrolyte concentrations and body water content of sled dogs before and after the race.

Trail Veterinarian

Dr. Caroline H. Griffitts began volunteering as an Iditarod trail veterinarian in 1993, and she was among the first members when the International Sled Dog VMA formed in 1994. Now she is ISDVMA president and three-time winner of the Golden Stethoscope award for most helpful Iditarod veterinarian.  Dr. Griffitts keeps volunteering at races mostly because she really enjoys working with sled dogs.  "The sled dogs are definitely different," said Dr. Griffitts, a mobile solo practitioner in Loveland, Colo. "They're very easy dogs to work with. They're generally extremely nice-tempered."

Dr. Griffitts enjoys the Iditarod in particular because the race allows her to see the beautiful backcountry of Alaska and to visit friends she has made at the villages along the trail.  During the Iditarod, groups of three to four veterinarians cover the checkpoints, some of which are simply a cabin or ghost town. Once the last musher passes through a checkpoint, the veterinarians there fly to a checkpoint ahead of the first musher.  At each checkpoint, the veterinarians set up shifts. Because the dogs run day and night, the teams can arrive at any time.  "Ideally, when a team comes into the checkpoint, we watch as the dogs run in—look for anybody who is obviously limping, holding back, not pulling, any issues," Dr. Griffitts said. "Obviously, if we see the musher is carrying a dog in the sled bag, we might have an injured dog."  The mushers don't stop at every checkpoint, but the veterinarians examine each dog whenever teams do stop. The veterinarians also care for the dogs that the mushers drop from the race for reasons such as orthopedic injuries, diarrhea, and pneumonia.

Aside from the Iditarod, Dr. Griffitts has been a trail veterinarian for a number of other races. She is chief veterinarian for a race in Wyoming. She also has visited Russia for the past two years to help with a new race there that is organized by an orphanage that keeps sled dogs. 

Dr. Griffitts said she's seen many changes in the veterinary care of sled dogs since she began volunteering at races.  The ISDVMA has worked to promote research and share findings regarding the health of sled dogs. Research has found, for example, that sled dogs need about 10,000 or more calories per day while racing. Also according to research, vitamin E supplementation helps prevent myopathy in sled dogs.  Since the late '90s, the ISDVMA has organized a mandatory training seminar for rookie trail veterinarians during the week before the Iditarod. The seminar includes a day of hands-on training that includes pre-race physical examinations.


The San Antonio Spurs lost again to Phoenix, giving the Suns a 3-0 lead in games.  The end of the Spurs' season draws NBA team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series.


Helpful Buckeye is off to take care of disaster be prepared is to be ready!  I'll let Mark Twain have the last word on disasters and being ready:

"Indeed, none but the Deity can tell what is good luck and what is bad before the returns are all in."
- Letter to Samuel Moffett, 6 August 1904

~~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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