Loving Dad teaches love for animals
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
During the fall of 1972, my parents met in the registration line at the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. They both wanted the same thing – to get married and start a family – and they both shared a great love of animals. They became instant friends and started dating after they car pooled back and forth to their homes in Pittsburgh together.
That same year my mom had been given a tiny orange tiger kitten named Copper. She tried to keep the kitten in her dorm room, but one of the girls turned her in for not following the rules. The men’s’ dorm, however, was a different story. The men tended to pat each other on the back when the rules weren’t followed. Therefore, my dad took the kitten and kept him in his dorm room.
Copper grew to be a large handsome orange kitty. During this time, he would ride around on my dad’s shoulders when he walked across the campus. Eventually, he became too big to ride on my dad’s shoulders, and learned to follow my dad along the sidewalks of the campus. If he happened to wander off, my dad just had to whistle and he returned promptly to his side. Everyone on campus knew Copper and the rules were allowed to be broken because everyone loved the campus kitty!
A couple years later, my dad became a resident assistant, and he knew he couldn’t keep Copper any longer. Copper decided to hitch a ride home that summer to Coraopolis to live with my grandparents Nicolas and Alice. Copper instantly became attached to Grandpa Nick, also an avid animal lover, and he lived out his years happily in the Pittsburgh suburb as my grandpa’s best buddy.
Growing up, my family always had animals. My parents bought a small farm and we raised goats for meat and milk, chickens for eggs, and had horses for riding. I attribute my work ethic, my love for animals, and my success in my career as a veterinarian to my parents for exposing me to animals at such a young age. I feel having pets provides children with a sense of responsibility and a respect for other living things.
When looking for the man who would eventually become father to my children, I had three criteria. This man had to go horseback riding with me, he had to do chores with me, and most importantly he had to have a love for animals as my own dad had.
My husband Daryl fit the above criteria, and we’ve been together for almost 18 years now!
I warned him before he committed to our relationship, that he was marrying a future veterinarian and that there would be many pets that would most likely come into our lives.
I knew he had a love for animals when I saw how he interacted with his own dog Dutch, the beagle. Dutch was a bull-headed beagle that never listened to me, but he loved his dad and Daryl loved him. We had that dog through many of life’s hurdles that Daryl and I experienced together. When Dutch was 17, we had to say goodbye to him.
We now have three beautiful children together and many other pets just like I told Daryl we would have. Daryl is a wonderful father to my children and to all the pets we bring home. Every spring he incubates a group of our chicken eggs and hatches chicks on his own. He makes quite a good daddy to these chicks and it is heartwarming to see him tenderly caring for the eggs and then the chicks once they hatch. He takes on the animal responsibilities and is my true partner in life.
As Father’s Day approaches, I am grateful every day for being raised by a wonderful caring father and for marrying a wonderful man who is the best father to my children and to my animal children as well. As we celebrate Father’s Day, be sure to let that special father know that he is appreciated whether he is a human daddy or a pet daddy! Happy Father’s Day from the Dunkirk Animal Clinic!
Laser therapy for pets
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
In recent years, our society has become more concerned about the food we eat, the medications we take and give to our pets and children, and what we are exposed to in the environment. There has been some mistrust of traditional medicine and people have looked for other ways to treat both their ailments and their family’s ailments. Many of these treatments fall into the category of alternative medicine. I believe there is a place in human and veterinary medicine for both traditional and alternative medicine; in some cases a combination may be best for a pet.
As a veterinarian, my goal is to recommend what is best for a pet. I do not want to put an animal on a medication that may harm it or perform a surgery that may put it through unnecessary stress and pain. I always try to recommend the best treatment and then offer alternatives. For example, the best treatment for an older pet with arthritis may be an anti-inflammatory medication. However, a particular animal may be sensitive to the medication and develop stomach upset or an increase in liver values. I might first offer a joint supplement and a joint therapy diet as an alternative therapy for the arthritis, and use the anti-inflammatory pills only as needed.
A recent addition to my practice gives pet owners another option to help treat their pets’ ailments. I now offer laser therapy for pets. Laser therapy has been used in human medicine for making precise surgical incisions, for treating dermatological conditions, for treating certain cancerous conditions, and for helping perform various other surgical procedures.
Laser therapy is light that is emitted at a certain wavelength in a concentrated beam. The laser therapy offered in my practice is from a lower intensity laser used in physical therapy in human medicine. It can be used for a number of conditions in veterinary medicine.
Laser therapy works by stimulating the metabolism and improving the health of the body’s cells. Stimulating the cells metabolism helps to promote healing, decrease pain, decrease inflammation, improve circulation, reduce scar tissue, improve nerve function, and stimulate acupuncture points.
The only risk laser therapy poses is if the pet looks directly into the beam of light. To prevent this, both the person administering the laser and the pet receiving the treatment wear protective eyewear.
This mode of therapy is a noninvasive treatment for various conditions. With every surgery that is performed at my clinic, including routine spays and neuters, the treated animals will now receive complimentary laser therapy treatment of the surgical incision prior to going home. Other conditions that may benefit from this treatment include hot spots, ear infections, skin infections, wounds, cuts, abscesses, allergic skin conditions, burns, ACL tears, hip dysplasia, back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, and paralysis. The practice is offering a package deal for older animals that are having issues with arthritis. The recommendation is for a pet to receive laser therapy every other day for six treatments followed by maintenance treatments based on the severity of the condition.
I have seen major improvements in some of my patients undergoing this therapy. Two different dogs that were brought in for neck pain were almost back to normal the next day after a laser treatment. One little dog that received laser therapy on post ACL repair and knee cap surgery is healing very quickly and ahead of the normal expected schedule. Another elderly female dog with long term hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis is now able to get up and down from a lying position with much less effort. I have already seen some major improvements in many pet’s conditions. Call the clinic at 366-7440 for more information about laser therapy. It is a simple, inexpensive form of therapy that has major benefits for a pet!
Join us as we celebrate National Pet Week from May 4-10. What can you do? It’s easy — cherish your pet, celebrate that special bond between you and show your pet some love with the gift of good health. Just as people rely on annual checkups, proper nutrition and dental care, your pet does as well – with help from your furry friend’s family doctor – your Veterinarian!
National Pet Week was created in 1981 by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Auxiliary to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The importance of veterinary care for our feline friends
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
It’s a Monday morning. My family’s 15-year-old kitty Breezy is due for her annual blood work at the clinic. I head out to the garage to find one of our many pet carriers. Of course I can’t find one and my husband has already left for work. I’m already running behind for the morning! I finally grab one from the attic. I bring it downstairs and of course all the kitties go running. They know what the carrier means – a disruption in their normal routine and a trip to the veterinary office. They don’t like it – even when the vet is their own mom! I drag Breezy out from under the bed, and struggle to get her in the carrier; hind end first, while I am trying to tuck all four of her sprawling legs into the carrier. Finally we are off in the car. My entire 22 mile drive to work is disrupted by the constant yowling coming from the carrier! We get to work and she is fine; she has survived the trip. She does not appreciate her blood draw, but it is very important because in her older years she has started to drop in weight. Everything, however, turns out OK but she is happy to go back home at the end of the day.
My story is a common one I hear from many of my clients and just a few reasons why I don’t see these clients’ kitties! I see dogs on a routine basis; vaccines, yearly blood tests, and preventatives. But many times, I do not realize that these same clients have one or more cats in their households. A feline pet’s health is just as important as a canine pet’s!
Some other explanations from clients for bringing in these kitties:
1. My cat is strictly indoors; it doesn’t need vaccines.
2. My cat is strictly indoors, it won’t get fleas.
3. My cat hates coming to the vet and gets very stressed when we try to bring it.
4. I cannot catch my cat to bring it to the vet.
5. My cat gets sick in the car.
Indoor cats may be at just as much risk for picking up deadly viruses as a dog. Many of the respiratory viruses I vaccinate against can be spread by aerosolized secretions. In the warmer months, any stray cats wandering around the home may expose a pet cat to these respiratory viruses even just through an open window. More importantly, rabies is a public health concern because humans can contract the deadly virus through contact with a rabid animal. Rabies can be carried by dogs, cats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and bats. If bats live in and around your home, and if a bat has come into it, it’s possible your cat has been exposed to the rabies virus. It is very important for your health and your cat’s health that the cat receives a rabies vaccine every three years. New York State law provides that if your cat happens to bite a person and is not vaccinated, it can be put to sleep.
Even if your cat is indoors, it can still pick up fleas and intestinal parasites from fleas. A pet dog may bring in the fleas, or they may hitch a ride on human shoes or pant legs. Once a female flea receives a blood meal from the pet, she can lay thousands of eggs which can all hatch and turn into a flea infestation even on an indoor cat! I still recommend monthly prevention against fleas because fleas can make a pet anemic, cause severe secondary skin infections and skin allergies, and can carry intestinal parasites.
Many pets hate coming to the vet. I assure you we will do everything in our power to make your pet more comfortable when they come to visit. We will give your pet attention and treats to try to put them at ease. If the pet is extremely stressed we may give it a sedative to make the experience more relaxing for the animal, you, and us!
I have also recommended for some pet owners to desensitize their cats to the experience. This might include putting your cat’s carrier in a common area with treats and food so they become comfortable with it and don’t always associate the crate with a trip to the veterinarian. I also recommend bringing cats in for a visit for petting and treats at any time so they don’t always associate the veterinary office with injections and examinations. Ask if your veterinarian carries a product called Feliway. This comes in a variety of forms sprays, wipes, and wall plug-ins and contains natural cat pheromones to help put the cat at ease.
If you have difficulty catching your cat, put it in a smaller area such as a bedroom a day or two before its appointment. Move its food, litter box, and the crate to the smaller area as well. It may be easier to catch the cat before its appointment instead of chasing it all over the house an hour before its visit!
If your cat gets sick in the car, pick up its food the night before its appointment. This way the cat won’t have a stomach full of food. We are also very good at cleaning out the carrier for you in case it still gets sick!
It is very important for a cat to have a physical examination by a veterinarian at least once yearly. Many underlying conditions may go unnoticed. I might just pick up on a slight drop in weight, which may be normal for your cat, or may be a significant finding requiring further testing. Older cats in particular are prone to developing kidney disease, heart disease, or thyroid disease. A veterinarian might just feel a slight enlargement in the thyroid gland. If these conditions are caught early, the cat can receive proper treatment and live a longer happier life! Call us today to schedule an appointment for your feline friends.
Finding the right food for your pet — some thoughts from a veterinarian
By Dr. Rebekah Frost – OBSERVER Columnist
In recent years, many more types of pet foods have become available on the market. Choices include organic, natural, holistic, homemade, grain-free and raw diets. Where do we begin as pet owners? When choosing a diet for your pet, it is important to consider the following factors that may help make your decision.
1. I recommend finding a diet that meets AAFCO (The American Association of Feed Control Officials) procedures through animal feed testing trials and is formulated for one life stage. A diet that is labeled for “all life stages” cannot adequately provide the proper nutrition when each stage of life requires such a different nutrient profile. Be aware that many diets are labeled to “meet” the standards set by AAFCO, but have not actually undergone pet feeding trials to be proven as an adequate diet. Read labels carefully!
2. I recommend feeding a diet from a company that has a proven record, that has consistently safe formulations without recalls, and that has a veterinary nutritionist on staff helping to formulate animal diets. These companies’ pet foods are what a veterinarian will typically recommend for your pet. Veterinarians are not paid to recommend these diets. I solely recommend based on experience and knowledge of how my own pets and clients’ pets have been feed on these diets.
3. It is important to understand labeling. “Natural” diets are diets free of synthetic preservatives, colors and additives. Be cautious using these diets as they have a much shorter shelf life than other diets and must be used in a relatively short period of time. “Organic” means the ingredients in the food have been processed through organic farming. Organic farming meets specific requirements, which include no use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. “Holistic” has been used for a variety of diets and is not a regulated term, but is essentially a marketing term used to sell a diet. “Grain-free” does not mean carbohydrate free. These diets still contain some form of carbohydrates in a starch form. Any dry dog food cannot be made without a starch to help bind it together. Understand as well that grains are not bad for your pet! Grains provide a source of fiber, nutrients and even pro-biotics for gut health.
One more side note. “Meat By-products” are not bad either. By-products actually are the organ meats of the animal, which provides a good source of nutrition for your pet about equal to, if not better than, meat from animal muscle.
4. Homemade diets can be used but I recommend following a strict recipe formulated by a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist that is properly balanced to meet your pet’s nutritional needs. Many pets can experience malnutrition if these diets are improperly fed. You cannot just feed your pet table scraps or what you are eating for dinner. It is important they get the proper ratios of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals which need to be balanced in a homemade diet.
5. Avoid raw meat diets because raw meat often harbors harmful bacteria like e-coli, salmonella, and clostridium. These bacteria can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and systemic infection. Some pets may not show clinical signs associated with these bacteria, but they may still shed the bacteria in their stool exposing their owners to the harmful bacteria. The basis of a raw diet is to “feed your dog like their ancestors once ate.” First of all, wild canids are actually omnivores meaning they eat more than just meat. Also we have domesticated these pets to the point where their GI tracts cannot handle the high levels of protein that may be difficult to digest.
Above all I recommend taking your veterinarian’s advice regarding a diet for your pet. Be cautious with all the marketing ploys used to entice the buyer. These might be the ingredients listed, the name of the food, the colors and shape of the food, and the companies’ claims on the internet. Ingredients listed on the back of a bag of food may sound great for your pet, but the food may not have gone through any testing recommended by AAFCO. Many pets do not do well on these diets and you as a pet owner may not even be aware of it. These pets might just have a softer stool because the food is difficult to digest. Some pets have increased kidney values which can cause permanent damage. I have also seen some pets develop crystals in their urine or stones in their bladder possibly from eating one of these diets. Some diets have inadequate levels of minerals like calcium which can filter into the urine and cause bladder stones. In the past month I have had to remove life threatening bladder and urethral stones on two different dogs because the stones had become lodged and were causing a blockage. These pets are usually put on a diet that keeps the ph of the urine neutral and provides the proper balance of minerals.
Finally avoid feeding table scraps and free choice because these can both lead to obesity in your pet. Obesity can predispose your pet to heart disease, joint osteoarthritis, diabetes, urinary issues, and more. Do not always follow the recommendations on the back of the bag as the amounts recommended are always higher than what your pet actually needs. Talk to your vet about how much you should be feeding your pet.Veterinarians want what is best for your pet and have extensive experience with pets and diets! I feel it is important to choose a diet based on your pet’s life stage, its medical needs, and its lifestyle. I can help you choose the proper diet and amounts for your pet to provide the proper nutrition for your pet’s overall health!