A Veterinarian’s Prayer

By Dr. Rebekah Frost

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all that we have been blessed with! I am thankful every day that I have been placed in the position I am in. To help God’s creatures is a blessing beyond what words can describe. To be able to have thousands of patients that I treat as if they were my own pets is an honor and a privilege! Below is a simple prayer I wrote as we consider all that we are thankful for this time of the year.

A Veterinarian’s Prayer

Thank You for entrusting me with the job to care for Your creatures.

Thank You for giving me the heart to treat these animals on a day to day basis.

Thank you for giving me ability to communicate with these animal’s owners.

Guide my thoughts as I approach the ill patient. Guide me towards a diagnosis.

Help me choose the right medications to give these pets the best quality of life with their owners.

Guide my hands as I perform intricate surgeries on a day to day basis. Guide my instruments during every one of these procedures that I will be able to remove what I need to, tie the perfect sutures, and keep these pets safe while my assistants monitor their vitals under anesthesia.

Help me to understand my clients. Understand what they are going through, understand their pain, their hurt, and their struggles as they do their best to care for their pets.

Help me to not only be their veterinarian but a friend they can talk to and confide in.

Help me through the emotional ups and downs in this profession. Thank you for the joy of seeing an owner with their brand new puppy or kitten.

Thank you for puppy breath, and soft kitten paws.

Thank you for happy purrs and big sloppy kisses.

Thank you that I can see these pets through their entire lives with their owners.

Please help me stay strong as I say goodbye to these pets and help their owners through a very difficult time.

Thank you that I can ease these pet’s suffering, that I can provide a peaceful way for them to leave the pain they are experiencing in this life.

Thank you for the tears we share as we look back on these pet’s lives.

Finally thank you for the people surrounding me in this profession.

Thank you for their big hearts, their skilled hands, and their assistance with caring for our patients.

I am truly blessed!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Common misconceptions about ticks and Lyme disease

Please note: The title of this article in the newspaper is “If there‚Äôs deer, ticks and fleas are along for the ride” which was changed from the author‚Äôs original title (above) by the newspaper editor and was erroneous.

Dr. Frost and Chili

October 2018 Observer Today Article

By Dr. Rebekah Frost

Lyme disease in our area is on the rise. Lyme disease is the most common tick transmitted disease. Lyme disease can lead to a lifetime of chronic arthritis and kidney failure more common in dogs.

At the Dunkirk Animal Clinic a simple blood sample is taken to see if your pet has developed antibodies to Lyme disease and other tick born diseases. There are many misconceptions that I have heard in the general public when it comes to ticks and Lyme disease. I am going to discuss a few below:

1. My dog isn’t in the woods, therefore they will not get Lyme disease. Ticks can be picked up even in your backyard. The resident white-tail deer population has increased in our small towns. If you have deer coming through your backyard, then you have ticks in your backyard. Ticks will hang out on weeds and grasses waiting for their next host to come along. They will drop onto the pet to get their next meal.

The Ixodes black legged deer tick is the deer tick that can transmit Lyme disease. Other tick species are becoming prevalent in our area and can be picked up in woodpiles. Some species can even live in your own home!

2. My dog is old and is mostly indoors. Just recently our clinic diagnosed three geriatric toy breed dogs with Lyme disease. These dogs live mostly indoors and just go in and out to the bathroom on occasion when they don’t use urine pads. Yet they still managed to pick up Lyme disease from a deer tick. Their Lyme titers were off the charts meaning they had been recently exposed and had very active infections.

3. Flea and tick meds will kill my dog. There are a lot of reports on the internet of new flea and tick medications causing seizures and neurologic issues. We have been dispensing flea and tick medications for years and the only problems we have seen are when the medication is applied to the wrong species or an occasional upset stomach when given the oral chews. Never have we seen seizures or any worse side effects from applying or administering flea and tick medications. Prevention is key! The chance of fleas and ticks killing your dog is high if left untreated. These medications have gone through extensive studies in order to be approved as safe for your pet before they go on the market. Fleas can cause severe loss of blood while ticks can carry not only Lyme disease but other very serious organisms that can lead to either lifelong painful arthritis and kidney failure or worse. Ehrlichia is another dangerous organism transmitted by ticks that can cause low platelet count, spontaneous bleeding, and death.

4. When removing a tick, if you squeeze it while pulling it out, the toxins in the tick will be released. Once the tick attaches, the feeding process alone allows the tick to transmit dangerous organisms responsible for diseases like Lyme disease. Most ticks have to be attached for 24 to 48 hours before they can transmit the organisms. Many ticks go unnoticed because they are the immature form of the tick called the nymph. These nymphs are so small that you cannot see them and they are responsible for many cases of Lyme disease.

5. You must remove the head part of the tick. Do your best to remove the tick from your pets. You can buy tick pullers from pet stores or your veterinarian’s office. If you happen to leave the head parts of the tick do not panic. Eventually the body will naturally shed the remaining parts. The head parts cannot transmit more diseases without the body and it may cause more damage and infection to your pet’s skin if you start digging to find the remaining parts of the tick.

6. A red spot on your dog indicates your dog has Lyme disease. A red spot might just indicate that your pet is reacting to the enzymes released in the tick’s saliva. Ticks actually release a substance similar to lidocaine that helps to numb the area before they attach. If you or your pet has a red ring around the area where the tick was attached that appears days after, then schedule an appointment for your pet to have a Lyme test done.

When in doubt, have your veterinarian examine your pet. A 4dx blood test should be run whenever you find a tick on your pet. Typically four to six weeks after the tick was attached the test may show positive results. Your veterinarian may recommend further testing of the actual titer level and they will most likely prescribe a month of antibiotics. Also discuss in detail what flea and tick preventative is best for your pet!

Allergy season not limited to just you and me

September 2018 Observer Today Article

By Dr. Rebekah Frost

As a general practitioner in veterinary medicine, I have the opportunity to treat a variety of ailments. This past month the most common ailment in dogs and cats has been skin and ear conditions. Skin and ear conditions can be caused by a number of things which I will discuss in detail below.

Baby has fur loss and scabs from skin allergies and subsequent infections.

Allergies. The number one cause of skin and ear conditions is an underlying allergy. Allergies can be caused by fleas, foods, contact sensitivities, and environmental allergens.

If your dog has allergies, you will see symptoms like itching, scratching, licking of the feet and legs, head shaking, facial rubbing, and bum scooting. You may see a rash, scabs, sores, or just excessive hair loss. Your dog may have a bad odor and you may see a build up of debris in the ear canals. Your dog may very easily get a secondary infection from the allergies. This most commonly includes a bacterial or yeast infection of the skin and/ or ears. Other dogs may get a secondary infection from a mange mite called Demodex especially if their immune system is compromised.

If your dog is having any of the above symptoms, we advise you to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Allergies with secondary infections can be uncomfortable and painful.

When I discuss allergies with owners, I start with a discussion on the easiest allergens to control. The first is a flea allergy. Flea allergies account for more than 80 percent of allergy issues in our area. Even if you are using over the counter topical flea treatments, sometimes these topicals do not last the full four weeks they are labeled for.

Newer products on the market like the oral flea and tick chews are doing a better job of treating the fleas. Ask your veterinarian what they recommend. We also recommend that you treat for fleas and ticks year round. With warmer winters, the fleas and ticks are surviving in the environment and in our homes.

Baby after treating her skin infections and allergies.

The second allergy issue can be to different foods. Too many treats and table scraps may cause a food sensitivity. Food allergens can cause secondary ear infections and anal gland impactions. All other allergens are grouped into contact allergens and environmental allergens. Contact allergens may be a sensitivity to something your pet comes in contact with like different household chemicals and cleaners. Environmental allergens are the most difficult to control and include tree pollens, grass pollens, and more.

With environmental allergens, your vet will help keep your pet comfortable with different medications and topical treatments. We will make sure to treat any underlying secondary infection first, then give medications to help calm your pet’s itch.

Infectious. This time of year I also see some infectious causes of skin conditions. The number one infectious cause of skin conditions is fleas. Fleas can be easily transferred from one pet to the next. It is important to keep your pet on year round flea control. With wildlife on the move more in the fall, we also see sarcoptic mange. Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite that is commonly carried by our local wildlife. These mites can be extremely itchy and can cause severe secondary infections. Your vet will have to do special stains and look under the microscope to diagnose mange. Another common infectious skin condition is Ringworm. Ringworm and sarcoptic mange are both zoonotic, meaning they can be spread from animals to people. Ringworm is most commonly picked up in places where pets are in close confines like a shelter.

Metabolic. The last common cause of skin issues can be caused by an underlying metabolic condition like thyroid disease.

Thyroid disease in dogs is a condition of the thyroid gland where the gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This can lead to a variety of clinical signs which can include thinning of the hair and loss of the hair.

Cushing disease, a disease of the adrenal gland can also cause a rough hair coat and thinning of the hair and skin.

We at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic are happy to offer a variety of flea treatments, hypoallergenic diets, and safe topical and oral medications to help treat your pet’s skin condition. We are proud to be offering a new line of topical products that help lessen the amount of oral medication you may have to use on your pet. These topical products contain ingredients that help restore and protect the natural skin barrier from absorbing these allergens. We offer these products in sprays, mousses, and shampoos and have seen a noticeable difference in the pets we have been treating. Call and schedule an appointment for your pet today. 366-7440.

The Fear Free movement

April 2018 Observer Today Article

By Dr. Rebekah Frost

My youngest son Colton is 5 years old and has learning disabilities. From the time he started going to the dentist, he was fearful of this place with the loud noises and the strange people poking and prodding in his mouth. Just recently a new pediatric dentist came into town and I scheduled an appointment right away with their office.

Colton behaved the usual way wiggling and writhing in his chair trying to get away from the strange women. He just didn’t understand why these people were sticking their hands in his mouth. On the way out the door, Colton was given a toy and some stickers and it made things much better. The dentist then suggested he come back every couple of months just for a peek in his mouth and to help desensitize him to the fear of the dentist. What a great idea! Each time has been better and better. He gets balloons and toothbrushes, he gets to watch a movie, and hopefully we will soon be able to have his teeth cleaned again.

I can’t help but relate Colton’s experience to some of my pet patients’ experiences in our hospital. I have come to the understanding that we should institute similar ideas for our patients to help them feel calm and comfortable when they come for their veterinary visits.

Taken from the Fear Free Website: “Founded in 2016, Fear Free provides online and in-person education to veterinary professionals, the pet professional community, and pet owners. Our courses are developed and written by the most respected veterinary and pet experts in the world, including boarded veterinary behaviorists, boarded veterinary anesthesiologists, pain experts, boarded veterinary internists, veterinary technicians (behavior), experts in shelter medicine, animal training, grooming, boarding and more.

By closely listening to the needs of the profession and those of pet owners, Fear Free has become one of the single most transformative initiatives in the history of companion animal practice, providing unparalleled education on emotional well-being, enrichment and the reduction of fear, anxiety and stress in pets.”

The staff members at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic have already been following many of the Fear Free recommendations, but we have decided to make it official by having each of our team members become a certified professional of the Fear Free Initiative. So what does this mean for you and your pet?

We are working to transform our clinic into a Fear Free clinic by making you and your pet feel comfortable when they come for a visit. We will do our best to enrich our environment to help alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in your pet. Examples include scheduling fearful pets at a quieter time of the day and providing calming pheromone diffusers in our waiting room areas to help calm anxious pets. We will offer a variety of treats to your pets to help distract them from the exam that may be stressful to them. We will work with your pet slowly and calmly. We will find what form of gentle restraint works best for your pet so we can efficiently do the necessary procedures.

This would include doing the exam on the floor, using non slip pads on our tables, holding and snuggling wiggly puppies during their exam, or putting your kitty in our lap while we are examining or drawing blood. We will use a “touch gradient” at all times which might include gentle stroking or scratching so as not to startle the pet during their exam. If your pet is getting too stressed, we may not finish all the procedures and have you come back when the pet is calmer. We may recommend routine visits just to get some scratches and treats. This method helps your pet associate positive reinforcers with our clinic.

If your pet is aggressive or extremely fearful despite our best efforts at calming them, we may recommend you come back with an antianxiety medication given to your pet prior to the visit. During some visits we may use a “basket muzzle” as long as it’s not stressful to the patients. These muzzles allow the pet to still pant and keep their mouths open during the exam but will protect our staff and yourself from potentially being bitten if your dog is sensitive to the exam and vaccinations.

Our goal at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic is to give your cats and dogs the best care possible in an environment that makes them feel happy, secure, and comfortable.

Over the past few months we have been working to make some changes that go along with the Fear Free initiative and are excited with the outcomes we are seeing. When you make an appointment you may be asked questions about your pet. “Is he good with other dogs?”, “Is he fearful when he comes to the vet?” We may ask you not to feed your pet any breakfast or dinner so they are more apt to accept treats from us. We may also ask you to keep your dog in the car until their appointment or to walk them outside. We will request that you bring your cat in a carrier with a blanket to cover the carrier until they are in the exam room.

Please understand if we ask you to do any of these things, we are only trying to make your pet and other pets that may be fearful more comfortable. We are excited for these changes and what it means for our patients. We are doing this because we want what is best for your pets as if they were our own! If you have any questions about the fear free movement or how you can help your pet as you prepare for your visit with us or even for the car ride over to our clinic, please don’t hesitate to call. We are working on having brochures, handouts, and online links available to help with all of these things and to help prepare you and your pet for your visit to our hospital!

Learn more about Fear Free by visiting our Fear Free webpage and checking out fearfreehappyhomes.com

Common Nutrition Misconceptions

March 2018 Observer Today Article

One of the most common questions I get from owners in the field of veterinary medicine is, “What should I be feeding my pet?”

Owners are inundated with a constant flow of commercials and online advice regarding what they should be feeding their pet. One look in our local pet stores and we see that the pet food business is booming and it can be very confusing as to what we should pick for our pets. Below I am going to discuss some common misconceptions regarding diets for our beloved pets.

Misconception No. 1

Grain Free Diets are better for my pet. Grains are carbohydrates and an important source of energy for our pets. Grains contain fiber, essential fatty acids, and nutrients necessary for gastrointestinal health and healthy skin and coat. Allergies to proteins in grains can occur but they are very rare. Allergies are more likely to occur from meat proteins.

Misconception No. 2

By-products are poor quality and therefore bad for my pet. By-Products are actually the clean animal parts aside from the muscle meat and include the organ meats like liver, kidney, lungs, and spleen. By-products must meet the AAFCO (Animal Feed Control Officials) guidelines and cannot include feathers, hair, hide, hooves, or intestinal contents. These organ meats are actually abundant in essential nutrients and are therefore good for your pet!

Misconception No. 3

Raw foods are natural and therefore good for my pet. Diets may actually contain harmful bacteria and parasitic organisms. Exposing you and your pet to raw meats can be harmful to your health. Raw diets also may be deficient in calcium. When a pet is fed a raw diet, especially a young animal, a calcium/phosphorus imbalance may occur leading to fragile bones and growth problems.

Misconception No. 4

Animal digest is bad for my pet. Animal digest is the product of the process of breaking down animal proteins into a form that can be added to foods to enhance the flavor. It is a high quality ingredient and is an excellent source of protein.

Misconception No. 5

Holistic, natural, and organic foods are better for my pet. Organic livestock cannot be given antibiotics or hormones and organic crops must be grown on land free from pesticides, the USDA makes no claims that organically produced foods are safer or more nutritious. I will let you make your own decision whether to choose organic or non -organic, but when choosing an organic food look for the USDA organic symbol and choose this over “holistic” or “natural.” Many companies just focus on labeling to help market their foods.

Misconception No. 6

An All Life Stages diet is good for my pet. Life Stages is just another marketing tool with labeling. Manufacturers make the diet to meet the minimum requirements for both growth and maintenance. But in reality an adult food should require higher amounts of certain nutrients like calcium and phosphorus. Too high of these levels can lead to orthopedic issues in young growing dogs. I recommend choosing a diet that best meets the requirements for a growing dog versus an adult dog versus a senior dog.

We highly recommend consulting with your veterinarian when choosing a diet. Our veterinarians at our practice tend to recommend companies that we know have put the science and research behind their foods. Too many companies are “jumping on the bandwagon” and throwing out foods on the market that may not necessarily be the best diet for your pets. Some of these diets can cause bladder stones and bladder issues, kidney issues, and gastrointestinal issues. These foods are not as easily digested and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

When in doubt we highly recommend talking to your veterinarian as to what is best for your pet.