Animals are Not Immune to Obesity
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
On a bulletin board in one of our clinic exam rooms hangs a small card with a picture of a 1 oz piece of cheese on it.
If you flip the card over, it says “Feeding this 1 ounce piece of cheese to your 10-pound cat or dog is equivalent to a human eating 3 1/2 whole hamburgers or 4 chocolate bars! Little do we understand that our pets suffer greatly from just that tiny table scrap or that little piece of cheese we slip under the table.
Turas was a 20-pound Papillon that should have been 10 pounds. He was owned by my grandmother and was treated as a part of the family. He would get buttered toast and eggs in the morning, leftover ham for lunch, and frozen pizza for dinner. He would clean all her plates after meals. She insisted it was good for him, despite his weight. He knew how to count with his barks for food and would perform a variety of tricks for his leftover table scraps. As little Turas aged, he developed osteoarthritis and heart disease which was partially due to his obesity. The heart disease became severe very rapidly, and he passed away from the overload of fluid in his lungs.
Obesity is an epidemic in our pets. Obesity leads to a multitude of health problems. The first problem that comes to mind is diabetes! I am going to be honest – I HATE DIABETES! When I newly diagnose a pet with diabetes, my heart sinks. Diabetes shortens your pet’s life by putting added stress on your pet’s kidneys and other organ systems. It is also one of the most difficult diseases to regulate and predict.
Half of treating a diabetic pet is our expert advice on how much insulin to give and the proper diet to help regulate your pet’s sugar. The other half is up to the owner. I know how I am when treating my own pets. I forget to give the medication one day, or my pet gets in to the other pet’s food. In my household it would be extremely challenging to treat a diabetic pet. I make sure to keep my pets at a healthy weight and feed them a proper diet to prevent this horrible disease!
Other issues that arise from your pet being overweight include heart disease, breathing issues, increased stress on your pets joints leading to a greater risk of osteoarthritis and injury. One injury I see quite often in overweight dogs is ACL tears. The ligament that helps hold the knee joint together can be very easily torn if your pet is overweight. These injuries require very costly surgery, weeks of physical therapy and rehabilitation, and can lead to lifelong arthritis of the knee joint. Avoidance is key by not allowing your pet to become overweight in the first place. Another injury we diagnose in our clinic is intervertebral disk disease in long backed overweight dogs like the dacshound, the corgi, and the bassett hound. These dogs are more prone to this disease because of their long backs and added weight on their spines. Disk injury can lead to complete paralysis of the limbs and the possibility of never walking again without costly spine surgery. Why not do all you can to avoid this at all costs?
Many clients blame their husbands, the pet’s grandma, and their inability to say no to those big brown eyes when they are sitting down to dinner. Ultimately you as their owner are the only one who has control over your pets’ diet. I recommend when eating meals to put your pet in another room. This will help prevent giving in to those sad begging eyes. Give your relatives an ultimatum – no treats or they can’t see your pet! Have your pet’s food ready and measured for the day if they are being watched while you are away.
When making your New Years resolutions, don’t forget to include your pets! You and your pet together can cut calories, exercise more, and get on a diet plan that helps with weight loss. If you don’t know where to start, make and appointment with your veterinarian, have your pet’s body condition evaluated, and have your veterinarian come up with a diet plan that fits for you and your pet! Our goal is prevention at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. We recommend keeping your pet healthy to prevent these diseases and to give your pet a better quality of life in the long run.
A puppy or kitten for Christmas
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
It is Christmas morning! We awaken with joy and hope as we put on our slippers and head down the stairs to gather around the Christmas tree with our family. We open our stockings and a few small gifts from our parents. But where is that gift from Santa? Mom and dad bring out a large wrapped box which seems to have noises coming from within. We can’t open the box fast enough! Out jumps a happy, tail-wagging yellow lab puppy! As animal lovers, most of us have had this dream and some have maybe had this Christmas wish come true! A puppy or kitten is one the best gifts we can receive. But let’s discuss the reality of owning a puppy or kitten, and make sure this is the right decision for your family.
1. Where to adopt from make sure you are adopting from a reputable breeder and not a puppy mill. I highly recommend not adopting from a pet store. Usually these puppies are overpriced, poorly bred, have a multitude of health problems, and come from puppy mills. Puppy mills are breeding facilities where a multitude of dogs are bred and kept in cages purely for a money making business. These dogs may not be properly cared for, they may not have proper veterinary care, and they may have health concerns or genetic defects from poor breeding. We highly recommend adopting from a local shelter or humane society. Many of these shelters have puppies or kittens, or already trained older dogs and cats that may adjust just fine in your home. These pets may already have their vaccines and be spayed and neutered as well!
2. Questions to ask Have the puppies been health checked by a veterinarian? This is very important before adopting. I have had more than one client bring in a puppy that was never health checked, and these puppies have had a severe underlying heart condition. What heartbreak for a family that has just fallen in love with their new family member to hear that their puppy may not live long.
Have the puppies or kittens been vaccinated? There are still many diseases that are prevalent in our canine and feline populations. Young puppies and kittens are most at risk because they haven’t developed the adequate immunity. Make sure they have been adequately weaned from their mothers, and have received their first vaccines.
3. What breed do I adopt If you are adopting a petfor your children, be sure to adopt a breed that is family friendly. Some breeds that are great with children include Labrador and Golden retrievers, Beagles, Poodles, Boston terriers, and of course a good old mutt from your local shelter! Talk to your veterinarian about the best breed of dog that will fit your family’s lifestyle, and do a meet and greet of the parents of the puppies or kittens.
4. You are making a commitment Be aware that when you are adopting a new puppy or kitten, you are making a commitment to this pet for the time that they are here on this earth. Some dogs and cats can live between 15-20 years. Be aware of the time and work it takes to housebreak a puppy, and be aware of the costs of adopting a dog or a cat. These include food costs, veterinary care including routine vaccines and spaying or neutering, the costs of boarding and/or grooming your pet, and a savings fund in case of an emergency.
We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with your family. A new puppy or kitten, dog or cat, is a commitment but can change your life and your family’s life for the better! A pet provides companionship and love, a sense of responsibility for young children, and a lifetime of joy!
The holidays and pets
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
The hustle and bustle of the holidays is fast approaching. Family get-togethers, holiday traveling, parties, and Christmas shopping are all part of the festivities. People may not realize that this time of year can be very stressful for family pets. Below I will discuss some recommendations to protect pets and reduce their stress during this busy time of the year.
Hide that candy! With three young kids in my home, we have an over abundance of sugar following Halloween. Make sure the kids are not leaving candy where pets can get it. Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can be toxic to pets if ingested.
Watch those table scraps! Thanksgiving is a common time of year for our cats and dogs to come down with gastroenteritis or inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This usually comes from eating Thanksgiving feast table scraps that come their way either intentionally or unintentionally. Be sure to get rid of turkey carcasses. If your pup finds those turkey bones, it could lead not only to vomiting and diarrhea, but pancreatitis, a severe life threatening disease brought on by eating a high fat meal.
Provide an escape plan. By this I mean a place for your pet to escape away from company visiting, or holiday parties. Company can be very stressful for a pet, especially cats.
Cats are very routine pets that do not like any disruptions in a normal schedule. When a stranger comes into the pet’s territory, or the home is invaded by noise and commotion, it can be very upsetting. Be sure to provide a quiet room with food, water, and litter box, or a crate away from the noise where your cat may be more comfortable.
Consider boarding your pets for the holidays. This may be a good option if you are traveling and cannot adequately care for your pets. Check for reputable boarding facilities Stay away from ones that do NOT require vaccines and that house the pets together. These facilities are not safe for your pet, as animals may be exposed to dangerous diseases. Housing pets together or playing together in a common area, may lead to fights and serious injuries. We provide boarding at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. What better place to board your pet than where a veterinarian is available when needed.
Keep those holiday plants out of reach. Holiday plants including mistletoe, holly, poinsettias, and lilies can be toxic to pets. From just stomach upset to kidney failure, it’s not worth the risk to your cat or dog. Keep the plants up high, or do not purchase them at all.
Use caution with holiday tinsel, ribbons, and ornaments. Cats have an affinity for string-like items. Ribbons, tinsel, garland and other items used to wrap presents or decorate a tree may be enticing to cats and, if ingested, cause an intestinal blockage.. Pick up loose pieces immediately and always watch those feline friends around the Christmas tree. Also be careful with glass ornaments that look like just a ball to play with to your dog. Put those at a level the pet cannot reach.
Give pets the attention they need. Let’s face it, this time of year people are so busy, many are slack in giving animals what they need: love and attention. Be sure to still provide a pet with a play time or a walk. Do not completely ignore a pet during the holidays or it may act out in an unsatisfactory way.
I hope you and your pets have a wonderful holiday season. For this Thanksgiving, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to write these articles for the OBSERVER and to provide readers with advice and information regarding care for their pets.Thank you for being wonderful pet parents and if there are ever any questions regarding any of the material written in my articles, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Holidays from the Dunkirk Animal Clinic!
Breast cancer awareness for pets
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
As I drive through my small town, I cannot help but notice the warm glow of the pink light bulbs coming from my neighbors’ porches. I turn on the television and see pink shoes covering the football field. Pink ribbons are everywhere for a reason – it is breast cancer awareness month. Many people are affected by this disease in one way or another. Many have relatives or have known close friends affected by breast cancer. We may have even lost a close friend or relative to this terrible disease. Did you know that animals can also be affected by breast cancer and ovarian cancer?
“Stella” came to the clinic in March as a rescue Mastiff dog being fostered by her now current owners. She was severely underweight and had been having intermittent urinary tract infections . She also had a large mammary mass. At one of her checkups, she had an abnormal discharge, which warranted doing an ultrasound on her abdomen. A large mass was noted in her abdomen, and it was recommended she immediately be taken to surgery. When Dr. Culverwell opened up Stella’s abdomen, to our surprise, she had a large ovarian tumor about the size of a volleyball. It had multiple large blood vessels supplying it, and was adhered to her abdominal organs. Her intestines were completely pushed off to the side.
Hours later and with two doctors’ hands working vigorously, the large ovarian mass and the mammary mass had been removed. Months later, Stella has gained 25 lbs, is living with her owners and looks like a brand new dog!
“Mama” an older female tortoise shell kitty, came to the clinic a couple weeks ago with a large ulcerated and infected mass in one of her mammary glands. On further examination, she had multiple growths affecting more than one gland, and the tumors were extending into her lymph nodes. She had been found as a stray cat, and had birthed kittens before her owner had acquired her. She had been spayed since then, but still developed breast cancer. We took her to surgery a week later, and removed three of her mammary glands and a chain of lymph nodes. The surgery was extensive and took multiple staples to close her incisions. Her blood results showed severe anemia and an increased white blood cell count from the infection in the tumor. She is recovering well and will be seen soon for her staple removal.
Because these pets were rescued pets, the owners had no choice in the decision about when to spay them. However, pet owners often can make that decision in order to decrease the likelihood of breast or ovarian cancer in a pet.
The risk of breast cancer in cats and dogs can reduced if the pet is spayed before the first or second heat cycle. The chance is the lowest if spaying is done before the animal goes through any heat cycles. I usually recommend spaying between 4-6 months of age. People who acquire a pet should be aware of the costs associated. Spaying a pet can be costly especially in larger breed dogs. In addition, there may be differences in the cost of a spay for multiple reasons. Blood work, intravenous catheters, pre-anesthetic pain injections, a tracheal tube and oxygen, and a licensed technician monitoring the pet while it is under anesthesia are all things included in the cost of spaying.
Be sure to ask a veterinarian what all is included in the cost of the spay. In all cases, a pet owner not only be save money by spaying at a young age before any complications arise, but may be save the pet’s life!
Remember that October is breast cancer awareness month for pets as well as humans.
Summertime Care for Pets
Dr. Frost describes common summer ailments
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
Summer is a wonderful time of year to enjoy time outdoors with pets. But the warm weather can lead to some common conditions about which we often receive calls at our hospital. A few of these, listed below, are common ailments that can affect pets this time of year.
1. Bee Stings: As a pet owner, you may not have witnessed the actual bee sting, but you will definitely see the after effects of the sting. Your pet may have swollen lips, swollen eyelids, and a very itchy face. Some dogs can have an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. If this happens, your pet will collapse and have difficulty breathing; get them to your veterinarian immediately. If they have just swollen lips, call your vet for a dose of an antihistamine to help alleviate the allergic reaction!
2. Thunderstorm Phobias: This spring was one of the rainiest seasons we have seen here in Western New York. With the rain came the thunderstorms. If your pet has a fear of thunderstorms, there are multiple ways to help it cope. Find a place to which the animal can escape; a quiet dark room with music playing or a fan running that will help drown out the sounds. Try to desensitize your pet to thunderstorm noises by playing nature music that incorporates thunder. Play a little each day with the sound turned down, and then increase the volume and the length of time you play the music. Try a “thunder shirt” for your pet, and if this still does not help, ask your veterinarian for a short acting anti-anxiety medication to help lessen the animal’s fears.
3. Heat Stroke: Never leave your pet outside without shade and water during the hottest times of the day. Dogs and cats can overheat very quickly because they cannot sweat like we can. Never leave your pet in a closed vehicle. During the summer months, it’s best just to leave your pet at home and not risk heat stroke from them being left in the car even for just a short period of time. Any time your pet’s temperature rises above 105, this can lead to multiple organ failure and death.
4. Leg injuries: During the summer months, we are outside more playing with our dogs. One jump in the air to catch a Frisbee or a ball, and your dog can twist and land wrong. I see many ACL tendon knee tears that require surgery. Try to incorporate more controlled exercise when playing with your pet. Swimming, walking, and hiking are all good exercises that won’t put a lot of stress on your pet’s joints.
5. Fight Wounds: If you allow your pets to go outside, they are at greater risk of being exposed to other cats and dogs that may start fights. We see many cat abscesses in the summer which can come from one cat bite and can turn into an infection very quickly. Your pet will have an abnormal swelling and a high fever. These usually require surgical drainage and antibiotics and need to be seen by your veterinarian.
6. Hot Spots: Hot spots are a moist skin dermatitis that can become infected quickly and be very painful. These may start from a bug bite or an allergy and once your pet starts scratching at it, it can turn into a severe bacterial infection. These usually need to be cleaned and clipped and your pet needs to be put on antibiotics and pain medications.
If your pet is affected by any of the above, a call and possibly a visit to your veterinarian may be necessary. We are always available on the phone to answer your questions and give advice. When in doubt, make an appointment for your pet. Above all else, we at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!