Sunday, May 27, 2012


The long Memorial Day weekend unofficially marks the beginning of summer for most of the United States.  As we memorialize the men and women who have served our country in the military, it's been refreshing to read about our troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, hasn't it?  Thanks to all who served!

Helpful Buckeye has been keeping an informal tally of e-mails with questions about dogs and cats and...this spring there have been 3 topics that are well ahead in frequency of being asked.  In one form or another, our readers have been wondering about ear problems in dogs, eye problems (mostly in dogs), and various aspects of pet food...from prescription foods to homemade (or natural) pet foods to all the recent publicity of contamination of pet food products.  Obviously, each of these topics could take up several issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats, so we'll deal with each one separately.  However, in order to whet your appetite just a bit, Helpful Buckeye will use this Memorial Day issue to give you a sample introduction to each of these most-requested topics.

Dealing With Doggy Ear Infections

An ear-care routine will help prevent problems

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Got a dog with floppy ears? Or one that loves to go swimming? Then you are probably familiar with canine ear infections.

Bacteria love warm, moist environments, and the inside of a dog’s ear—especially one that hangs down and prevents air circulation—is a bacterial dream home. (There’s no hard evidence that droopy ears are more infection-prone than upright ears, but anecdotally, veterinarians say they see more infections in dogs whose ears hang down). 

Ears can become infected when dogs get baths or go swimming and don’t have their ears thoroughly dried afterward. Infections also occur when air inside the ears can’t circulate well because the dog has too much hair or wax inside the ear, or because the dog’s ear canals are too narrow (stenotic, in vet speak).

No matter what kind of ears your dog has, you can keep them clean and infection-free with an ear-care routine. Start by looking at the ears. If they are healthy, the skin lining the ear canal should look pinkish-gray, like the skin on the dog’s belly or beneath his fur. A light coating of golden-colored wax is normal and helps to stop dirt or foreign objects from going farther inside the ear. There shouldn’t be any grass seeds or other little foreign objects.

Sniff the ears. They shouldn’t smell yeasty or otherwise unpleasant.

If your dog’s ears are normal, that’s all you need to do. There’s no need to routinely clean a dog’s ears unless they are dirty or have more wax than be continued.

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Seeing Eye to Eye - Comparing Cat and Dog Vision

By Paul Ciampanelli

The eyes of cats and dogs are quite similar to our own, but how are they different? The cat has the largest eyes of any meat eater; if our own eyes were proportionally the same, human eyes would be eight inches across. But it goes beyond the looks-pun intended. In fact, the way pets see influences how they interact with each other-and with us.

Field of Vision

Prey animals like rabbits can watch in two directions at once with eyes on each side of the head. But predators (dogs and cats) have eyes toward the front of the face that gives them depth perception and binocular vision so they can correctly time pursuit and pounce. Most dogs have only about 30 to 60 degrees of binocular overlap versus approximately 140 degrees cats and humans. But dogs are champions when it comes to visual field of view. That means when King looks straight ahead he can still see 240 degrees, compared to 200 degrees in cats and 180 degrees in humans.

Seeing 20/20

Dogs can't focus clearly on objects closer than about ten inches (which explains why King may miss the two or three pieces of kibble left in his bowl). Cats are a bit better at near vision. But both dogs and cats rely more on motion rather than focus, and are rather farsighted, an evolutionary side effect of scanning the distance for prey. A dog can detect strong hand signals from as far away as a mile.

The visual acuity of dogs is about 20/75, although German shepherds, Rottweilers and Schnauzers appear to be even more near sighted. Cats have dogs beat with an average acuity between 20/100 and 20/200.


Contact lenses can correct nearsighted vision in dogs. That can be important especially for service animals or hunting dogs. But contacts aren't practical when dogs lose them so easily. Dogs do benefit from being fitted with glasses. A veterinary ophthalmologist evaluates vision by refraction in the same way non-verbal children are examined. Products like are designed to fit the canine face in all its various shapes and sizes.

Low Light, High Light

Like human eyes, the dog's iris is able to contract the pupil to a round pinpoint that limits the amount allowed inside. The feline eye is a more complex figure-eight muscle that closes to a slit much further than the canine eye.

Both cats and dogs have a tapetum lucidum, a layer of highly reflective cells behind the retina that reflects back any light the eye captures. That produces the eerie night-shine that can be seen from your pet's eyes and is why cats require only 1/6th the illumination level and use twice as much available light as people. Dogs' eyes are about half as efficient as the cats' but still better at using light than humans.

Color Perception?

Both cats and dogs have fewer specialized cone cells on the retina able to distinguish colors than people do. But they can see color.

Dogs seem to be similar to people who are "red-green color-blind." Cats probably see more in terms of blue/green shades and appear able to tell the difference between colors that contrast. For cats, pattern and brightness are more important than color. They can see color but it doesn't matter to them.

Peripheral Vision

Cats are experts at seeing motion from the corners of their eyes. Cats also have a highly specialized ability to make extremely rapid eye movements, which allows them to better detect and follow an object, such as a mouse or even a feather on the end of a string toy. But dogs beat out cats on peripheral vision.

Both cats and dogs have a high density line of vision cells across the retina, called a visual streak. That lets them see sharp-focused objects at a distance even in the extremes of peripheral vision (out of the corners of their eyes). Cats and dogs tend to ignore stationary objects but this visual streak triggers their instinctive urge to chase whenever something moves in their peripheral vision.

The visual streak is most pronounced in long-nosed dogs-the breeds developed to hunt and chase. But many of the short-nosed dogs like Pugs don't have this visual streak. Instead, they have high density vision cells arranged in a single spot on the retina, called the area centralis. The area centralis has three times the density of nerve endings as the visual streak. That makes short-nose dogs much better able to see and react to human facial expressions-or watch TV.

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A pet's diet demands attention

By Lawrence Gerson, V.M.D. and Linda Mathias, V.M.D.

Other than an infectious disease scare, nothing brings a flurry of panicked calls to our office like a pet food (or treat) recall.

It seems almost weekly there is a problem in the human or animal food supply. We are all terrified of feeding our kids and pets products that can make them sick.

Recently, when Diamond Pet Foods had a recall for possible salmonella contamination, even veterinarians were surprised at how many products come from a single manufacturing plant. Another problem is that the source of all of the ingredients may be hard to track. Foods made in the U.S. may still contain ingredients from China that have been linked to kidney failure. You might have to read and re-read the ingredient list and even contact the company to be sure what is in the product.

Consumers should try to purchase foods from name-brand companies that have quality control, and list the scientific formulation of their product. This is difficult, as even top-of-the-line products have had quality-control issues and subsequent recalls of both food and prescription products. This is distressing to both veterinarians and consumers who struggle to find substitutes.

We have to give credit to the Ohio and Michigan agriculture departments for finding salmonella as the source of the food poisoning from dry dog food manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods. Several pets have been reported ill and 16 people have illness traced to the contaminated food. We were surprised to see that dry dog food was responsible, as it is heated during preparation and should be an unlikely culprit for salmonella contamination.

 No owner wants to see a pet get sick from its food, and there is no excuse for contamination. The issue is magnified by pet owners who, in trying to avoid quality concerns of commercial pet food, make a homemade diet using raw meat. An alarming number of clients are choosing a raw meat diet, but many are unaware of the serious risks and dangers that the raw meat diet poses to human health.

Diseases such as E. coli, salmonella, listeria and toxoplasmosis can be carried in raw meat, milk, eggs or produce. Pets can often tolerate some contamination in foods, but people can get very ill. Humans can become sick by contact with the raw food either directly or indirectly by contact with food bowls, counters, fur, saliva or feces. Particular attention has to be given when children and the elderly are exposed to a pet eating a raw meat diet. We have heard other veterinarians discuss the value of raw diets but never heard a pediatrician, infectious disease physician or public health official advocate a raw meat diet for pets.

There are hundreds of different foods available to feed pets, but not all are scientifically formulated. They vary in price and quality. Many of the benefits people see in feeding a raw meat homemade diet could also be accomplished by feeding a better or different commercial diet, or by adding supplements or probiotics. Animals do have sensitivities and allergies to foods, and limited antigen diets can be successful to treat their problems. Trial and error is often needed to find a good diet for a specific problem or pet

The use of commercial diets is a better choice than homemade pet food, in our opinion. With the options available, a quality diet with proper clinical trials and quality control is a better choice.

So, what can we as owners and veterinarians do to ensure the safety of our pets and families? Check the FDA website regularly for information. Read labels, make sure the company is reputable, and that scientists and veterinarians are involved in the formulation of the diet you feed your pet. Quality control by the manufacturer and quality ingredients give you the best chance of avoiding contaminated or toxic ingredients.

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During the month of June, Helpful Buckeye will give each of these most-requested topics more discussion space.  If you have any questions about these topics, send them by e-mail to:

The  LA Dodgers continue to win and still have the best record in all of baseball.  Everybody on the team has been contributing while Matt Kemp, our best player, has been on the disabled list.  He comes back to play on Tuesday.

The San Antonio Spurs opened the Western Conference Finals of the NBA against the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight with a hard fought win.  Even though the Spurs were behind at the start of the 4th quarter, I knew they could put together a comeback...and they didn't disappoint.  Helpful Buckeye still feels that the NBA players are the best athletes in the world and by the time we get to the final four teams, they are really fun to watch!

Helpful Buckeye is really looking forward to buying some flowers and herbs for my outdoor pots...remember that the date of our last frost here in Flagstaff is approximately June 14th.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye enjoyed one of our favorite oxymorons tonight...that's right, jumbo shrimp!  Several of them were as big as lobsters!

~~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.~~

Sunday, May 20, 2012


As discussed in previous issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats, your veterinarian is a very important part of the total care package that you envision for your pet.  In addition to the input from your veterinarian, many of you will also have occasion to require the services of a pet groomer, a pet boarding facility, perhaps a pet trainer, and even a professional pet walker.  Helpful Buckeye's point of view is that you first need to keep your pet healthy so that you and your pet can take advantage of all those other services.  

If you are acquiring your first pet, if you are moving to another location, or if you feel that a change of veterinarian is necessary, this issue will address all the considerations you should think about.  If you are pleased with your current veterinarian and the service they provide, that's a good thing.  Keep doing what you're doing!

You and your veterinarian – working together to keep your pet healthy

Keeping pets healthy requires teamwork. As a pet owner, you know your pet better than anyone else. When you know something is wrong with your pet – or maybe you just know that something's not quite right – you rely on your veterinarian and their staff to find out what's going on and work with you to develop a plan to address the problem and help your pet live the happiest, healthiest life possible.

How do you choose a veterinarian? What do you look for in a veterinarian or what questions do you ask? There are several factors to consider when choosing a veterinarian.

You can find a veterinarian by looking in the yellow pages, searching the internet or by word-of mouth. An effective method is by asking your friends or neighbors which veterinarian they go to and for their recommendations.

Other factors to consider:

Is the practice convenient - is it close to your home? Find out which practices are close to your home.

How does the practice handle emergencies? Do they have someone on call or do they refer to a local emergency practice? If so, where is the emergency practice? Note: In many case, veterinarians that refer to local emergency practices may be better for your pet unless their practices staffs technicians and doctors around the clock. Make sure the veterinarian doesn't just see and hospitalize emergencies and leave them in the hospital where no one will be watching them all night.

How do they handle hospitalizations? Are they staffed at night or do they refer to a 24-hour emergency clinic?

How many veterinarians are in the practice? One-person practices are nice but multi-doctor practices may have extended hours and generally someone is always available if you have a pet problem.

Regardless of how you choose a veterinarian, developing a relationship takes work. Make sure you understand everything your veterinarian says. Don't be afraid to question anything and keep questioning until you fully understand the answer. If you do not feel comfortable with your veterinarian, try to resolve the issues. If you do not see any way to resolve your problems, consider seeking a different veterinarian.

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Take the time to find the right veterinarian

Dear Christopher Cat and Daisy Dog: I just moved to the area, and I need to find a new veterinarian for our cats and dogs.  Our last vet doesn't know anyone in our new locale. How should I go about finding someone as wonderful as he was?

Christopher and Daisy respond: Ask for recommendations from your new friends and neighbors as well as local animal shelters, specialty hospitals and veterinary schools. In addition, visit to find practices accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association.

Evaluate several veterinarians, taking one or more of your pets to each vet for a wellness exam and consultation.

When you visit the animal hospitals, notice how organized the office seems and how clean the hospital looks and smells. Are the receptionists friendly? Do they treat clients as though they are guests in their own homes?

Ask how many veterinarians are on staff and whether you can schedule your appointments with the vet you want. If your preferred veterinarian is off duty when your pet is sick, are you comfortable seeing another vet in the practice?

Inquire about appointment length to get an idea of how much time the veterinarian will spend with you. Usually, it's 15, 20 or 30 minutes for well visits, and sometimes longer for sick visits.

In the exam room, note the skill and respect with which the doctor and nurses handle your pets.

Try to get a sense of how committed the veterinarian is to educating you about your pet's health care.

Does the vet give you educational handouts and suggest websites to consult for more information?

Is the vet willing to review and discuss information you've collected?

Does the veterinarian focus on preventing disease? Does he take a thorough history, asking about your pet's lifestyle, diet and medications?

Does the vet counsel you on dental care, recommend parasite control and advise you if your pet is overweight?

Ask about after-hours emergencies to be sure the arrangements suit your needs. Are nurses or doctors on-site when patients are hospitalized overnight?

Does the veterinarian participate in online education, such as through the Veterinary Information Network? Do any of the doctors or nurses have special training or offer ancillary services?

How many of them attend more than the minimum number of required hours of continuing education?

Do the veterinarians in the practice discuss challenging cases with each other, so that when your pet is ill, you benefit from the expertise of all the vets on staff?

Once you find a veterinarian you click with, you'll feel at ease discussing the medical issues that arise with your pets.

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Finding a veterinarian

Finding a veterinarian is can be relatively easy, especially if you're using  to search. Recommendations from family and friends can also be of great help. However, finding the right veterinarian for you and your pet is what's really important.

Check out prospective clinics and veterinarians by paying them a visit, with or without your pet. Is the clinic/hospital clean and orderly? Ask if you can take a tour of the clinic.

Pay attention to how the veterinary team talks to clients and how they act toward the animals in the clinic. Are team members readily available to answer your questions or address your concerns? Do they answer your questions in a way you can understand? One of the most important considerations is how the veterinary team makes you feel – ask yourself if you would be comfortable having your pet in their care. Trust your gut feeling – if you like a veterinary team but can't pinpoint why you like them, you're probably in the right place. If you're there with your pet for an actual visit, do the veterinary team's explanations of the exam findings and treatment plans make sense to you?

Are the clinic's office hours compatible with yours? How do they handle after-hours emergencies – do they see them, or do they refer you to an emergency clinic (it's best to find this out before you need to know it in an emergency situation)? Do they accept your preferred form of payment? If you have pet insurance, does the veterinary hospital accept that plan?

When choosing your family's veterinarian, use the same care and criteria that you would in selecting a physician or dentist. Think about what is important to you. Location, office hours, payment options, and the range of medical services provided are all important considerations. For many pet owners the most important factor is the friendliness and commitment of doctors and staff. Your goal should be to find the veterinarian who you believe can best meet your pet's medical needs and with whom you feel comfortable in establishing a long-term relationship.

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8 things you should consider when choosing a veterinarian

1. Are the clinic's office hours compatible with your schedule?

2. How do the veterinarians and staff treat you and your pet?

3. Are the clinic's payment options/plans acceptable to you?

4. If your pet is insured, does the clinic accept your insurance plan?

5. How are after-hours emergencies handled?

6. How do they handle referrals to specialists, if that's necessary?

7. If you have a non-traditional pet, does the veterinarian have experience with that species of pet?

8. A referral from a trusted friend or family member can be helpful.

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10 things you can do to make veterinary visits better for everyone

1. Accustom your pet to its carrier and to traveling in the car;

2. If your veterinarian doesn't already have your pet's medical record on file, bring it with you or have your previous veterinary team send or fax the records – or, at a minimum, bring your own notes on your pet's health and medical history;

3. Arrive on time or a few minutes early for your appointment;

4. Unless your children can sit quietly without distracting you or interfering with your veterinary team's ability to examine or treat your pet or talk to you about your pet, consider leaving your children with a babysitter while you take your pet to the veterinarian;

5. Turn your cell phone off while you are in the exam room;

6. Know what medications your pet is receiving (including supplements), as well as how much, how often and how long it is given, and/or bring them with you;

7. Share your observations and concerns with your veterinarian – after all, you know your pet better than anyone else does;

8. Ask questions. Ask until you understand;

9. Ask for handouts, brochures, or even reputable online sources of information about your pet's condition;

10. Follow your veterinarian's recommendations. They're given for one very important reason – to keep your pet healthy.

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Questions You Should Ask Your Dog's Vet

By: Debra Primovic

To get the most out of your visit with your veterinarian, ask questions. The answers and advice you receive will help you to provide the best possible care for your pet. Here is a list of questions to consider:

1. How much does he weigh? Find out what your puppy weights and make note of it. Keep track of the weight and notice any study change.

2. What is his body condition score? What this really means is... if he is too fat or too thin. The body condition score looks at the amount of fat on a dog's frame relative to his overall size. If he is too fat, ask your vet what you can do to help him loose weight. They may recommend that you cut back on his portions or table scraps, change his diet, or increase his activity by going on more walks. If he is too thin, ask for recommendations to address this issue.

3. What should he be eating? Ask your veterinarian their opinion on the best food to feed your pet. Most vets recommend a good quality premium pet food that offers good quality control and has AAFCO approval formulated to meet the needs of your dogs life stage. For example, if you have a puppy, a common recommendation would be AAFCO approved food to meet the growing demands of puppies. Additionally, it can be further segmented into growing large or small breed dogs.

Depending on your dogs' sex, age, weight and overall health, your veterinarian may recommend a formula for less active dogs or a prescription formula that may be beneficial in the presence of an underlying medical condition.

4. Was his physical examination normal? This may be the most important part of your pets visit to the veterinarian. The examination can help to identify problems early when conditions may be more treatable. Ask if his heart and lungs sounded normal, if his abdomen felt normal on examination and if he overall appears healthy. If not, what is wrong? What can be done?

5. How do his teeth and nails look? Should you be brushing his teeth? Trimming his nails? If so, will they show you how if you don't already know?

6. Is he getting the vaccines he needs? Make sure your pet is getting what needs but not more than what he needs. Depending on where your dog lives, his age, and his lifestyle, vaccine recommendations may vary. There are some vaccinations he may not need or he may be at risk for Lyme disease and some other diseases that may be prevented with a vaccine. If your pet boards at a kennel, additional vaccines may be recommended. Rabies is required by law.

7. Does he need heartworm prevention? Dogs that live in warm climates are at risk for heartworm disease. This can be prevented by a monthly medication. Find out what he should take and when he should take it. Some vets recommend a seasonal approach and others a year around medication.

8. Does he need tick prevention medication? Depending on where your dog lives and his level of risk, he may benefit from tick control medications. Ticks can carry diseases that can cause severe illness.

9. Does he have worms or need a dewormer? A fecal examination can help determine if your pet has gastrointestinal worms. Some pets may be routinely dewormed. Some of the heartworm preventative medications also treat gastrointestinal parasites.

10. Should he have any "routine testing"? Are there any routine tests that should be done to monitor his health for his age? Dogs age differently depending on their breed, size and weight. Some large breed dogs, such as Great Danes, are considered "senior" at 6 or 7 years. Some smaller breed dogs, such as Dachshunds, are not considered senior until 8 or 9 years of age. Many veterinarians recommend routine blood work to assess your pet's organ function on a periodic basis.

11. How do you handle emergencies? It is always easiest to ask this when you don't have an emergency. Find out what number to call if they handle their own emergencies and if not, find out the number and location for their emergency clinic of choice. Hopefully you won't need it, but if you do, you will be glad you have it.

12. What is the best way to communicate? Do they accept and answer emails? Can you renew prescriptions or order food in this manner? If so, which address should you use? Or is all their business handled over the phone?

13. How about microchips? Should your pet have a microchip and if he already has one, can they test it to make sure it is working properly? Microchips are small devices implanted under a dog's skin that helps to identify them if they are lost. Make sure you document the number and the microchip company and number. Ask if the chip is registered to their practice or to you. It is far better to have it registered directly to you.

14. Is there anything you can do to make your pet more comfortable? This applies most often to senior pets. Does your veterinarian think your pet is in pain? If so, is there something they recommend? There are many new arthritis medications that work well in dogs. Some additional comfort measures may include a special bed for arthritic pets or a ramp to aid arthritic pets to get in and out of the car.

15. Is your pet at risk? Is your pet at risk for anything that you can prevent or any disease that you should know about? For example, unsprayed dogs are at risk for life-threatening uterine infections that can be prevented by spaying. Some dog breeds are at risk for arthritis and certain types of cancer. Ask what problems your pet might be at risk for and symptoms you should watch for.

Tips on Getting the Most Out of Your Visit

To get the most out of your vet visits, make sure you have information about your pet to help the vet better understand your pet and your dogs problems. If you are visiting your veterinarian for any type of ailment, make sure you know details about the ailment. Your veterinarian will want to know when the problem started, how often it is a problem, and if there are associated symptoms. For example, if your pet is vomiting, they will want to know when it started, how frequent it occurs, if there is blood or other abnormalities, and associated symptoms such as if there diarrhea, if your pet is not eating, or if your pet is acting lethargic?

Finally, make sure you are honest. Don't underestimate what table scraps you feed or anything else about how you care for your pet. If you missed a dose of medication, don't be embarrassed, just tell them the facts. Your veterinarian is there to help you to provide the best care for your pet and they can only do that if they know the facts.

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Signs of a Vet Who's Not Right for Your Pet

To me, one of the signs of a really good veterinarian is the willingness to say, “I don’t know,” followed by, “but I’ll find out.”

Veterinary medicine, like human medicine, has grown and advanced to the point where it’s simply impossible for a single doctor to know everything. And though your physician needs to know only one species — homo sapiens, as in us! — we veterinarians come out of school with the foundation for treating anything on four legs, plus birds. That’s why when people tell me they’re worried about a veterinarian who says, “I don’t know,” I tell them they should worry about the veterinarian who always has the answer. That’s just not possible, and even the best specialists are sometimes stumped at first.

But if not having all the answers isn’t a reason to wonder about your veterinarian, what is? Here’s what I look for in a veterinary hospital, because it says a lot about the standards of care throughout the practice. In discussions with colleagues, I wasn’t surprised to see versions of the same come up repeatedly.

Rule No. 1: Bad odors are a bad sign. Though smells do happen in hospitals, they shouldn’t stick around. I am big on the concept of “odor-neutral.” While I kidded the folks at the VCA specialty center in Sacramento about a couple of oh-so-slightly crooked diplomas, I was noticing something else. Or rather, not noticing it. There was no smell. Despite being a large, 24/7 operation with pets in exam rooms, surgery suites, the intensive care unit and kennels and cages, the entire operation smelled like … clean. Not cleaning supplies, just clean. I was so impressed I asked to meet the maintenance supervisor and gave him my compliments.

Rule No. 2: I always say, "Don't trust a live pet to a vet with dead plants." When I bring this up to veterinarians in my talks, I tell them I realize they they're not typically the ones taking care of the waiting room greenery. They may even skip the front entrance and come in through a staff entrance so they don’t get a “pet’s eye view.” I get that, but I don’t buy it: If a veterinary hospital's staff doesn’t notice the plants need water, I have a hard time trusting the place to be attentive to my pet’s needs while he’s there.

My attention to detail is well-known, but I’m not alone in this. My colleague Dr. Bruce King, owner of Lakewood Animal Hospital in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, regularly sits in the bathrooms to check out the view. Cobwebs? Get the broom! And I once visited the spectacular VCA Sacramento Veterinary Referral Center and pointed out only half-jokingly that a couple of the many, many frames with impressive credentials weren’t hanging absolutely straight. The next time I visited, I couldn’t find a single frame that was a millimeter off — and I tried.

Rule No. 3: Communication problems are trouble. I touched on this in my article about working with the same veterinarian as often as possible, but the issue of rapport is just as important with a veterinarian you’re meeting for the first time, such as in an emergency clinic. You need to feel comfortable asking questions, and you should be offered all the options for your pet’s care to consider. This is true even in an emergency situation, when the veterinarian will ideally get your pet stabilized and then go over the situation and options with you.

What if your veterinarian breaks one of these rules — or all three? I wouldn’t leave over an occasional lapse. We’re all human, after all. But a consistent problem with "know-it-all-itis," a lack of attention to detail and an inability to communicate? Chances are that veterinary practice is out of practice when it comes to being the best they can be. It may be time to look elsewhere.

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The 7 Things Pet Owners Do That Drive Veterinarians Crazy

It’s a tough subject to tackle. After all, veterinarians do plenty of annoying things, too. But this particular post is all about you — well, not you, but the annoying yous among you. Not that most of you deserve this, but some of you just might! So without any further hedging, let me launch into the most annoying things pet owners do.

1. Answer Their Cells

Need I say more? Is there anything more annoying and disrespectful than answering a phone call while your vet is delivering her state-of-your-pet’s-health address? OK, it might be worse if you dug out your phone to initiate a call midexam, but only by a smidge. They’re both just plain rude.

2. Kids Behaving Badly

I dearly love children (mine mostly, but yours can also be cool), but very young or badly behaved children are an unnecessary liability in a veterinary environment. It’s hard enough to keep pets safe — much less kids. So unless your children are old enough and/or chill enough to hang out in a vet setting, they should probably stay home.

One exception: If your pet has an emergency and you have no one to care for your kids, you are most definitely excused. We’ll understand. Call ahead and we may even assign an employee to keep tabs on them so you can concentrate on what’s wrong with your pet.

3. Let Their Dogs Run Amok

This is not the dog park. And, for the record, retractable leads should remain in the shortest, locked position for the duration of your visit. After watching an innocent human get taken down in the lobby by an overlong retractable line, I decided there should be a law against these in vet hospitals.

4. Carry Their Cat

I've never been able to fathom why some owners insist upon bringing their cats to the vet hospital without carriers. Some will use harnesses, which won’t help them when faced with a truly motivated dog. And, honestly, I’d never blame a dog for attacking a cat in a veterinary hospital environment. After all, these cats are probably giving off cornered prey vibes that some dogs can't ignore.

Cats are more comfortable in uncertain environments when they’re enclosed.

5. Deny, Deny, Deny

It drives us crazy. These clients effectively employ us to be their experts, then they put up roadblock after roadblock: No, my pet is not fat. No, my pet’s teeth are not rotting. No, he’s too old for surgery. No, her claws are not too long. It’s exasperating!

I can understand why you might (and should!) question your veterinarian about health care issues that are important to you, but why come to the vet if you’re unwilling to have an open dialogue about what your pet needs and doesn’t need?

6. Refuse to Pay

It happens more often than you’d think. Pet owners agree to hospitalization and procedures — and later refuse to pay. Sometimes they say that they forgot their checkbooks. Other times they claim to have misunderstood the payment policy, even though there’s a sign in almost every veterinary hospital in the United States that explains payment is expected when services are rendered. I even had a client cancel her Amex payment after we saved her anemic cat’s life with a blood transfusion.

7. Don’t Follow Through

There’s no shame in admitting that you can’t medicate your difficult cat or trim your unruly dog's toenails. Veterinarians are pet owners, too. We absolutely understand why you might not be able to manage these not-so-simple tasks.

But you’ve got to let us know if you can’t, don’t or won’t do what we say. After all, we have plenty of alternatives to offer. And there are few things more frustrating to a veterinarian than failing to treat a patient who could have been helped if only the vet were able to employ some ingenuity.

Want to give your veterinarian the best holiday gift ever? Resolve to be a more honest, open, conscientious, cat box-carrying, child care-finding, cell phone-shirking client. For my part, I promise to offer you a New Year’s post on my personal mea culpa. It’s a fair trade, don’t you think? That is, as long as I do as I say and follow through.

The LA Dodgers continue to pile up the wins, having just completed a sweep of a 3-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals...a team we've always had trouble beating.  We still have the best record in the Major Leagues...even though 4 of our regular players have gone on the disabled list.  Team play has really come into focus as a different player seems to be the initiator each game.

The San Antonio Spurs have a 3-0 game lead in the 2nd round of the playoffs, with the 4th game being played as I am finishing this issue.

I've been nurturing a basil plant for the past 3+ weeks...outside during the day and inside at night.  We've grown quite close during that time, with me referring to him as "Rathbone" would be nice to keep him around for the whole summer!

~~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.~~

Sunday, May 13, 2012


May 18th...Birthday #4 for Questions On Dogs and Cats

Why Is My Cat So Sneezy?

Cats get seasonal allergies to pollen and grass, and some have year-round allergies to fleas and dust mites. Sandy Willis, a veterinary internist who advises the American Veterinary Medical Association, says that when cats interact with an allergen, their body sends immunoglobulin E antibodies to link with it, triggering the release of histamine and other chemicals that cause itchy eyes, runny noses, sneezing, hives and rashes.

The same process happens in other pets (dogs, rats, hamsters) and humans. In rare cases, cats can even be allergic to people. People allergies are uncommon, since we bathe more often than most other species and don’t shed as much hair and dead skin—which trigger our own allergies to pets. When cats do have a bad reaction to us, it’s usually caused by residue from our perfume, soap or laundry detergent. Any water-based cleaning product usually contains some preservatives. Cats tend to be more sensitive to chemicals than dogs. Specific chemical allergies are difficult to isolate and diagnose, so pets can’t be vaccinated for them or build up their tolerance with exposure like they can for organic allergies.

Cats can even be allergic to other pets. Vets offer antihistamines for dogs to treat cat, horse and bird allergies. Cat antihistamines recently hit the market too.

Adapted from:

Does your cat hate making trips to the vet?
If so, you're not alone! 


Q: My cat is 8 years old. It has been at least three years since I took him to the vet, maybe more. I used to take him once a year for a check-up and vaccinations, but it was such an ordeal that I stopped. I always got scratched putting him in the carrier, he howled the whole way to the vet, then he hissed and tried to bite and scratch the doctor and assistant. Is it worth trying to take him again?

A: Your cat is not alone. A recent survey of over 1,000 cat owners showed that 58 percent of cats hate going to the vet. Many of these cat lovers decide not to make regular visits to their veterinarian for wellness exams and preventive care. The cats may suffer the consequences of not getting adequate health care and only see their vet when they have been sick.

Particularly for older cats like yours, routine physical examinations and lab tests can catch problems when they are just starting, hopefully making treatment more successful.

The first step to make your next visit easier will require some changes at home. Keep your cat's travel crate out in a room he spends time in. To attract him to the crate, put a soft bed in it, or article of clothing with your scent. Treats and catnip in the crate can help also. Hopefully that will be enough to encourage him to get in and out of the crate willingly.

If this isn't enough to make him comfortable, spray the crate with Feliway pheromone spray. It should help reduce anxiety associated with the carrier. It also helps to spray the car before you take him in it. When it is time for a visit, if he won't go in the crate with a little coaxing, avoid putting him through the front of the crate against his will. Take the top off and set him in it that way.

Once you arrive at the veterinarian, if there isn't a separate waiting room for cats, ask to be put into an exam room while you wait for your appointment to avoid the stress of dogs nearby. It's even better if your vet has separate exam rooms for cats away from the dog exam rooms. If this isn't possible, ask if your vet makes house calls or consider a veterinarians who only see cats in their practice.

Please don't avoid taking your cat for check-ups. If you wait until he is sick, it may be too late.

Adapted from:

Domestic Cats, Wild Bobcats, and Pumas, Living in Same Area, Have Same Diseases Adapted

Domestic cats, wild bobcats and pumas that live in the same area share the same diseases. And domestic cats may bring them into human homes, according to results of a study of what happens when big and small cats cross paths.

The joint National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) Program funded the study. Scientists at Colorado State University and other institutions conducted the research.

It provides evidence that domestic cats and wild cats that share the same outdoor areas in urban environments also can share diseases such as Bartonellosis and Toxoplasmosis. Both can be spread from cats to people.

"Human-wildlife interactions will continue to increase as human populations expand," said Sam Scheiner, program director for EEID at NSF.

"This study demonstrates that such interactions can be indirect and extensive," said Scheiner. "Through our pets we are sharing their diseases, which can affect our health, our pets' health and wildlife health."

The study looked at urban areas in California and Colorado. Its results show that diseases can spread via contact with shared habitat.

All three diseases the scientists tracked--Toxoplasmosis, Bartonellosis and FIV, or feline immunodefiency virus--were present in each area.

The research also demonstrates that diseases can be clustered due to urban development and major freeways that restrict animal movement.

"The results are relevant to the big picture of domestic cats and their owners in urban areas frequented by wild cats such as bobcats and pumas," said Sue VandeWoude, a veterinarian at Colorado State and co-leader of the project.

"The moral of this story is that diseases can be transmitted between housecats and wildlife in areas they share, so it's important for pet owners to keep that in mind."

The researchers followed wild and domestic cats in several regions of Colorado and California to determine whether the cats had been exposed to certain diseases.

The effort includes data from 800 blood samples from felines of all sizes, including 260 bobcats and 200 pumas, which were captured and released, and 275 domestic cats.

"As human development encroaches on natural habitat, wildlife species that live there may be susceptible to diseases we or our domestic animals carry and spread," said Kevin Crooks, a biologist at Colorado State and co-leader of the project.

"At the same time, wildlife can harbor diseases that humans and our pets can in turn get. Diseases may be increasingly transmitted as former natural areas are developed."

The project also looked at whether bobcats in southern California were segregated into different populations by major highways.

By analyzing genetic and pathogen data, the scientists found that bobcats west or east of Highway 5 near Los Angeles rarely interbred, but that the bobcats did cross into each other's territory often enough to share diseases such as FIV.

"The evidence suggests that bobcats are moving across major highways, but are not able to easily set up new home territories," said VandeWoude.

"They can, however, spread diseases to one another when they cross into each other's territories. This could result in inbreeding of the bobcats trapped by urban development and end up in the spread of diseases."

VandeWoude and Crooks say that the results don't necessarily mean that all domestic cats that are allowed to roam outdoors are at a high level of risk. They plan further studies to better assess that risk.

It does mean that domestic cats and wild cats who share the same environment--even if they do not come into contact with each other--also can share diseases.

The findings show that pumas are more likely to be infected with FIV than bobcats or domestic cats. While FIV cannot be transmitted to people, it is highly contagious among felines.

The rate of Toxoplasmosis was high in pumas and bobcats across Colorado and California.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that, when carried by healthy people, has no effect but that can cause complications for infants and adults with compromised immune systems.

Cats only spread Toxoplasmosis in their feces for a few weeks following infection with the parasite. Like humans, cats rarely have symptoms when first infected.

Bartonellosis is a bacterial infection also called cat scratch disease. If someone is scratched by a cat with Bartonellosis, the scratch may become infected, but the infection is usually a mild one.

Other studies underway include a fine-scale analysis of urban landscape features that affect disease incidence; evaluation of pathogen exposure and transmission in bobcats; and a survey of domestic cat owners about their attitudes toward risks for pets from wildlife.

Large-scale projects looking at movement patterns of bobcats and pumas in Colorado, and a motion-activated camera analysis of human and wildlife interactions along urban areas, are also in progress.

The take-home message, the researchers say, is that life in the wild may not be so wild after all.

Adapted from:

Why Cats And Other Carnivores Don't Taste Sweets

With no need for carbohydrates, many carnivorous animals have lost the ability to detect sweet flavors.


• Lions, dolphins, hyenas and other pure carnivores have lost the ability to taste sweet foods.
• Omnivores that chew their food have kept their sweet receptors, because detecting carbohydrates is a matter of survival.

Lions and Asian otters don't care for sweets but raccoons and spectacled bears will eat almost anything. Now a new study helps explain why.

Independently and fairly recently, genetic mutations have made various carnivores unable to taste sweet foods.

Probably, this is because these species were already subsisting off of meat-only diets that lacked sweet flavors when the mutations first occurred, they did just fine after losing their sweet receptors -- giving rise to entire species of animals that lack appreciation for cookies or fruit.

For omnivorous creatures that chew their food, on the other hand, the ability to taste carbohydrates remains a matter survival, and their sweet receptors remain intact.

Besides offering a window into the unique sensory worlds of other animals, the research adds to our understanding of the complexity of taste perception. By better understanding how the system works, this and research like it could lead to a variety of applications, including the development of better artificial sweeteners or sweet enhancers.

For decades, scientists have known that cats show no preference for sweets. Then in 2005, researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia published research showing that domestic cats have a mutation rendering their taste receptors unable to bind to sweet molecules. The same was true of their wild cousins, including lions, tigers and jaguars.

Many people were unable to accept this news about their feline pets.

"When we first published the data on cats, it got a tremendous amount of publicity and a lot of people saying, 'My cat likes sweets and you're wrong,'" said biologist Gary Beauchamp, director of the Monell Center. "But invariably they liked ice cream or cake, and sweetness was confounded with fat and other things."

"In retrospect it seems obvious," he added. "But it was to my surprise when we found out that this [loss of sweet taste] has happened repeatedly and independently in many species."

To investigate whether other animals might share the finicky cat's lack of appreciation for desserts, Beauchamp and colleagues analyzed taste receptor genes of a dozen species of carnivores. All of the animals have taste perception systems that are similar to the human system, with specific known genes that code for receptors for each of the five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami.

Using computer algorithms, the researchers could then scan each gene in each species to see if it contained any sequences that would make it unable to produce the proteins needed to sense each taste quality.

Of the 12 animals studied, seven had mutations that made them unable to taste sweets, the researchers report today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. All seven of those eat meat and only meat, and some inhale their food without even chewing. The list included bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, spotted hyenas and fossas (a cat-like carnivore).

Dolphins and sea lions also appear unable to taste the savory flavor umami, and dolphins might also be missing the ability to detect bitter flavors.

On the other hand, sweet-sensing genes were still functional in aardwolfs (a member of the hyena family), Canadian otters, red wolves, spectacled bears, and raccoons. The last three are meat-eaters who also eat fruits and other foods.

In a follow-up experiment that used behavior to back up the genetics, Asian otters showed no particular preference for water laced with sugar or artificial sweeteners, while spectacled bears almost unanimously chose the sweetened liquid.

When the researchers looked more closely at the genes, they saw that, for the most part, different mutations independently disabled sweet receptors in different species -- suggesting that taste receptor mutations have popped relatively recently in the scheme of evolution.

And an animal's diet, it appears, determines whether a mutation will disappear or stick around.

Understanding from a genetic perspective what animals can and cannot taste could help zookeepers and other handlers design desirable diets for creatures in captivity, said Thomas Finger, a neurobiologist who studies taste and smell at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

On a deeper level, the study offers insights into how life on Earth is constantly evolving.

"Nature's always tossing the dice and mutating genes all over the place," Finger said. "This says that losing a taste gene in an environment where nutrition doesn't depend on it doesn't matter. That loss will persist, because there's no reason for it to be eliminated."

Adapted from:

How many of you are familiar with the taste of "umami?"  Have you ever heard of it?  It has an interesting story, after first being described in the early 1900s.  Check it out...Wikipedia has a nice description of umami.

The LA Dodgers now have the best record in all of baseball and the biggest lead of any divisional leader.  Granted, it's still pretty early in the season but we just swept our 4th series of the year and it took all of last year to accomplish the same thing.  So, this is a big improvement over last year!

The San Antonio Spurs start the 2nd round of the playoffs this week after sweeping the Utah Jazz in the 1st round.  The oldest team in the NBA is still a very powerful team.

It's hard to believe I've written more than 200 issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats these last 4 years.  It's been a lot of fun for me and I hope our readers have had fun reading the blog.  If you pick up just one fact each week that you carry with you, that will be all the reward I need.  Thanks for visiting the blog site!

~~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.~~