Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hitchin A Ride Safely, The Feline Edition

I have a few pet peeves..and truly, I mean pet peeves, about pets..

The staff at the clinic will confirm this as true. Hopefully they do it with a sincere smile of caring and not a roll of the eyes, sigh, and look of disgust and annoyance. I can't help it, I go a bit bananas over pet care..Every tiny little minute aspect of pet care...

One of my biggest pet peeves is transporting your pet to the vet..Well, I should broaden that, to transporting your pets, period.

This is a photo of my nephew Cody on his way to visit us. My sister takes great care in ensuring that her two children are safely secured in their correct sized and installed car seats. It is after all, the law. And, it is after all for their safety.

Cody, safely saddled up for the long trip to Aunt Krista's house.
But for pets, well, anything seems to go for pets. Back seat, front seat, back of the truck,,(ugh,,don't people understand that if it isn't safe to carry your kid in the back of the truck then it isn't safe for your pet?) it doesn't matter. There almost no laws for transporting pets. And why is that? Well, because we just don't seem to care as much about them? I hope not..

Animal Control Officer reports these idiots for towing their beagle in a carrier in 100 degree weather
mounted behind the exhaust pipe.

Because I cannot write the laws for safely transporting your pets, I try ever diligently (sometimes with intense paranoia and feverish nagging) to enforce some basic safe transport guidelines for the pets that enter our clinic.

Most clinics that you bring your pet into ask that you "Keep all pets on a leash or carrier."

(Just a little "vet" humor.)

Why do we request a leash or a carrier? Well, because we know that your pet is safest if they are tied to you, or contained safely in a pet carrier beside you.

In this blog I wanted to focus on transporting cats. Most people adhere to the leash laws for their dogs and arrive with their puppy on a leash, or in a small (usually decked out) fashionable purse-like bag. But few cats travel much outside of the vets office and therefore too many seem to be haphazardly carried, swathed, or managed.  I am not sure if it is for one reason or the other, but I see too many people show up at my office with their cat not safely or securely transported.

Why is this?

Issue Number 1;

People have trouble getting their cat in a carrier.
My answer; There are lots of easy things that you can do to help make this less frightening for your cat. First, never underestimate your kitties sense of smell and observation. A new piece of furniture is immediately noticed by them. Think about it, if you spent ALL of your life inside the four walls of your home and if you had a bionic nose you would notice a cat carrier as a quickly as if someone painted everything in your house in asphalt that smells like dog poop on your shoe..To trick your kitty into not noticing the carrier that will safely transport them to the vet take it out of the garage and leave it in the living room for at least a week. Integrate the carrier into the house and it won't appear as a foreign death trap.
To safely get your cat in the carrier you can gently and quietly put your cat in a pillow case and then lower her into the carrier. I prefer to tip the carrier so the the door is opened and facing up toward the sky. Lower your cat gently into the carrier, either safely in the pillow case, or holding the scruff with one hand and the buttocks with the other. If they cannot see the vessel they are being lowered into they are not as afraid and do not fight so dangerously.

Issue Number 2;

My cat stresses out in the car. Yes, your cat will likely stress out in the car. Your only choices here are to either never take her in the car (call a mobile vet for cat care), you de-sensitize your cat to traveling like you did your puppy by starting to take them everywhere, (yes, this is possible), or you just grin and bear it once or twice a year. To lessen the cries for help you can try the following; use a small fabric carrier, or put a blanket over the hard sided carrier. Your cat will feel safest in a small, dark space.

Issue Number 3;

My cat gets sick in the car. Yes, the stressful trip can cause your cat to toss her cookies, or poop in her cage. Be prepared for this. Don't stop the car, don't freak out, don't get into an accident, and don't open the carrier while you are either moving, driving, or unable to handle the mess that awaits. If you are on your way to the vet don't fret. We are used to cleaning up cat vomit and poop. In fact, we excel at it. Just walk in the clinic and ask for help in cleaning up your kitty once you are safely in the examination room.

Issue Number 4;

"I can't find the pet carrier." Or, "I don't have a pet carrier." Call your vet, call a friend, call a rescue, or go buy one. You really should always have one on hand. What would you do if you had a house fire? Or an emergency? Keep it accessible and a part of your pets emergency kit. (For advice on your pets emergency kit visit here).

Issue Number 5;

"My cat is so upset and stressed that she is a holy dangerous terror in the vet's office." This happens to even the sweetest, most loving house cats. They are the epitome of love and affection at home and the evil wrath of hissing, spitting, biting ferocity in the clinic. My advice, call a mobile vet, see if they are handle-able at home. Usually they are vicious and evil with restraint regardless of the location.

Here are some of my favorite cat carriers;

Easy to open front door. Safe to travel in, hard sided, lots of light and easy to get your kitty into and out of.

This kitty is leash trained. He loves to go on walks and is much less apprehensive and fearful at our office simply because he has been exposed to the great outdoors often.

And best yet, he arrived in a very safe, easily accessible carrier, with his harness and leash on!

The ultimate in cat transport. A rolling cat carrier! Easy on the back, allows a picturesque view of the roads traveled, and the ultimate in comfort and portability.

For those larger cats, a top opening carrier allows for easy, safe entry and exit. Also the easiest carrier for cats who are timid and shy. We can open the top put a towel on them and remove them within the peaceful safety of a soft blanket.

I received this question recently on this topic...Do you have any advice to offer a pet parent concerned about traveling with their cat? If so, please join us at Pawbly.com

Hello Lydia,

Great question! Many of us who travel with our pets know the stress that carrying a screaming, fearful cat causes on all of us. As Dr. Chambreau said, fear/anxiety crying is different that vocal nausea. So, as long as your cat is not vocalizing and then vomiting (there are some very good medicines for this), then here is what I do:

Keep you cat in a small sturdy plastic cat carrier..I like the ones with the wire door at the top (easier to get your cat in and out of it), and 
place lots and lots of shredded newspaper in the bottom, so your cat can hide in it, and it makes for easy clean up should they vomit, urinate, or defecate. (Keep extra newspaper with you for bedding changes).
Place a blanket or towel over the entire cage once you put the cat inside. Keep them covered for the entire trip.
Resist the urge to talk to them,,for us we think we are re-assuring them, but for your cat she thinks you are taunting her with your replies that continue to not alleviate their dilemma. You might be saying, "It's alright Fluffy, we will be there soon." But they hear, "I'm keeping you in that cage no matter how much you cry and complain about it."
Cats feel more secure and calm in small dark, quiet places to hide when they are afraid, so make the carrier a place like this.

Also, remember to never let the cat out of the carrier, or even open the carrier until you are at your final destination, (and even this should only be done if your cat is used to the new place already). If you have to open the carrier en route, stay in the car, close the doors and windows and that way if your cat gets out of the cage she can't escape from the car. Cats will run and flee if they are afraid.

I hope this helps.

Safe travels,

If you have a pet question you can ask the community at Pawbly for free.Or, you can contribute your own ideas, thoughts, and suggestions to help others. Pawbly is the social media platform built to help people take better care of their pets.

Or find me in person at Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Elusive "Quick Fix"

My Jekyll pup

Often I feel that as veterinarians we forget to cover the "basics."

Answering questions on Pawbly is a very good reminder of this fact.

Pet parents are out searching for answers to their pets problems, or about the odd things they notice, and our job is to remind them,that quite often in life and medicine, there are "not easy quick fixes."

The client sees a problem and presumes that we have a solution to their pets need like a simple Good Housekeeping tip to cleaning a grass stain on your kids jeans. It is rarely so simple...and the one few simple fixes that I do see, often get met with arguments and resistance. (Want to guess what the one quick fix to one of the most common complaints I see in veterinary practice is..hint..the most common reason that people bring their dog to the vet outside of a routine annual examination is because... see the bottom).

Mary asked,

My 3 y/o tabby has thick stringy drool, and bad looking fur. This started after I brought home a rescue kitten. What will fix the thick drool?


The drooling, (what vets call pytalism or excessive salivation) has to be caused by something. In most cases it is either nausea, (after a cat eats grass, etc.), or when their mouth is bothering them.

In cats their mouth can be bothering them due to stomatitis, dental disease, or kidney disease.

Your vet should do an examination to help rule any of these out.

There is no way to treat the drool without addressing the underlying problem/cause.

Wren..my constant friend.


Krista Magnifico, DVM

OK, the answer to the question above is..
The most common reason people bring their dog to the vet is for a skin condition.
The most common skin complaint we get; itchy skin.
The most common reason we see it; fleas...
And the most argumentative diagnosis I make,,fleas. People for some reason that I don't quite understand do not want to believe, or admit, that their dog (or cat) has fleas. Which is odd to me because this is the easiest thing to alleviate, treat, and cure..

My second hint; The easiest way for me to identify a cat with a sore mouth is brown staining on the inside of the wrist of the cat. Cats with a sore mouth will often paw at their mouth because it hurts. The saliva deposits on the wrist as they wipe their mouth and over time it stains the fur in this area. (I will do my best to get a photo..)

Related blogs about cats and their mouth;

Top Five Items Overlooked By Pet Parents.

Stomatitis Case, Butterscotch's Story.

If you have a question, or even a basic pet fact that you have been wondering about you can ask me for free at Pawbly.com.

Or find me in person at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, or anytime on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

My tired boys.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The New Kitten Arrives! How To prepare your cats for the new arrival.

One of the best parts of Pawbly is helping people looking to find a way to provide better care to their pets.

I started Pawbly for this reason. When I think about all of the questions that I am asked I realized that I often get asked the same question multiple times..SO wouldn't it be a great idea to put all of those questions and answers in a place where everyone could access, utilize and add to them?

Hence, Pawbly!

Here's one of the more common questions:
"Bringing Home The New Kitty"

Question Number 1;

Hi Dr. Magnifico,

Recently a new kitten found me. I took her to JVC last week. She was given a distemper shot. She had fleas. Per her fecal, she was parasite free.

When may I introduce her to my other kitties?

Thanks for your help!

My Answer;

Congratulations on your new kitten! And how wonderful to hear that you are going to keep and care for her.

One of the wonderful things about cats (and kittens) is that they all have their own personality, likes, and dislikes. I love and respect a cat for their independent unapologetic spirit. But it is hard to give concrete advice on this question because every kitten and every cat household is different.

Let your new kitten acclimate to her new home before asking her to be buddies with your other kitties. I usually suggest leaving the new cat in a large carrier with a litter box, and a hidey box so that she can retreat into a safe place. At some point she will be unafraid to come out of the box and meet the other cats (or vice versa). Kittens can be a frenzied fury of activity and sometimes the older/other cats are playful and curious and receptive to a new play partner. Sometimes they aren't. Your kitten will quickly figure out which cat is which.

Be a quiet, calm, patient parent and see how the kids get along...although I do think that a very gradual calm introduction is the best way to achieve long term success..

Best of luck, and enjoy your new kitten!

I hope this helps.

Question Number 2;

We just brought a male kitten into our home that already had a spayed female kitten both are approx. the same age (6 mos). The male kitten is apparently terrified of the female. The female exhibits a playful posture (no hissing or bristling, laying on her back). Is there something we can do to promote interaction and make the male less fearful?

My Answer;

Let your new kitten settle in and get comfortable in your home before asking him to become friends with the other residents. Leaving the new cat in a large carrier with a litter box, a bed, food, and a hidey box so that he can retreat into a safe place, and avoid the other cat(s) intially. This is easiest done by putting the cat and their carrier in a room by themselves. After a few days he should be feeling more comfortable with the smells of your new house. Open the door to the cage and let him explore at his own pace. The resident cat(s) will be at the door and they can exchange smells and sounds without being face to face or being able to hurt each other. After a few days of this you can start to gradually allow the cats to socialize. If there is hissing and growling he can retreat to his house and let him be alone in his safe carrier.

At some point he will be unafraid to come out of the box and try to start to play with your cat.

Imagine if someone scooped you up and dropped you in a foreign land with some pesky female? Most of us would probably be a little afraid, and a little reluctant to jump in and play with the natives.

With cats the secret is to be calm, patient, and accepting..They steer their own course and determine their own destiny.

It doesn't always work out in to a happy loving couple, but in most cases they do learn to just accept each other.

I hope this helps.

Be patient and gentle and your kitten will come around.

Question Number 3;
How do I get my older cats to accept (and love) the two new kittens we adopted five months ago?

My Answer;

The beauty of cats is their independent nature.  Nothing can ever be forced. They have to learn gradually and over time.

And even with gentle patience sometimes a cat will never fully embrace a change, or another pet. Sometimes the best that we can hope for is that they don't yell and scream at each other at every moment of every day. Sometimes a peaceful passive acceptance of the fact that the other person/pet will not go away willingly is the best we can ask..(Oh, goodness sounds like a bad marriage). 

In general, a kitten very quickly learns to avoid  the old cranky resident cat.They go on playing by themselves or with the other cats who will play with them. If that is happening at your house then I would suggest that you just accept this as the best you are going to do for now.

If you have fighting, anxiety, or aggression then it is time to step in and start to figure out ways to diffuse the situation.

I hope that this helps..let me know if you have any other questions.

So, you see..there are many people out there looking for advice, help, and assistance..And I would bet that many of you have been through these situations yourself. What did you learn? What great advice did you get? Please join us in helping other pet people. You can find these questions, and many others at Pawbly.com. Pawbly is free to use and open to everyone who cares about pets.

I can also be found at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, in Jarrettsville Maryland, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How Do Our Perceptions Lead Us?

Rizzy, sleeping at the Receptionists desk.
"To change ourselves effectively we first had to change our perceptions." Stephen R Covey.

We all have a foundation of belief that motivates us to move in a certain direction. As we move down that path the question becomes; How does our perception influence our belief? If the foundation is a belief is the rest of the road determined by perception?

I had a long talk with a rescue advocate today. We were talking about joining forces to help each other with the common goal of helping pets.

After a long conversation it seemed to me that she was trying to assess where I stood on many "hot animal topics." She is obviously dedicated to helping rescue pets (a subject very near and dear to my heart), and understanding how her efforts to address their challenges, needs, and problems can be resolved. She was also asking me about my perceived role in doing the same. Seems like a reasonable question. Vets have the answers to so many pet problems, So why wouldn't vets be doing more to help alleviate them?

The questions seemed to center around utilizing veterinarians to provide more for less. Hence, bridging the gap between need and availability. They included questions about; Why are we charging perceived high prices (example $15 for a nail trim)  for what we do? If we gave our services away, or charged less, the services and goods would help more people and save more pets. A simple marriage of ethical obligation and economics.

So, how did her perception of where the help is needed become a query into how vets can do more for less?

It got me to thinking? DO people think that vets are the source? Or even a part of the pet,,,,whatever,,,problem?

I  suppose people do.

Her litmus test for me, as a way to seek out my intentions and beliefs revolved around two questions.

Question Number 1. "How do I feel about vaccinations? Because veterinarians use yearly vaccines as a way to get people into the office AND because we over vaccinate."

Was I offended by the question? No, I wasn't at all surprised by it. It is a commonly held perception.

"At my clinic we use a three year distemper combo vaccine, and a three year rabies after the first year." That's my official answer. I gave her what she wanted to hear..but it isn't the whole truth.

Perception vs Reality Statement Number 1

Why don't other veterinarians use three year vaccines? Because I think that they believe that most people won't come back for their annual physical examination unless their pet also needs a vaccine.

For this reason there are veterinary practices now offering "Free for life vaccines." How is the perception different from the reality? Well, I believe that the most important part of bringing your pet to the vet is in the conversation that you have with me, and the things that your pet tells me. It is in the yearly examination,,not the vaccines. How do you get the most value out of your pets yearly exam, regardless of the vaccines needed? The primary care giver(s) should go with the pet. For some pets the examinations should even be more often then yearly. For young (1-6 months old) and older pets (cats and small dogs at age 8, large dogs age 5) I recommend an examination every 6 months.

The answer was given to address her underlying question, and still the perception is not wholly reality. How do I address the belief that the people won't come back? I recommend Lyme, Leptospirosis, and kennel cough vaccines be given yearly (the interval they are good for). For cats we stagger the 3 year vaccines..so that at least two out of every three years we see them..and I beg for the other. Do we over vaccinate pets? Yes, we probably do. That's why titers are a great option. But the problem with running a vaccine titer is that they are about three times as expensive as vaccinating. Ask me what's better for your pet. I will give you a list an arm lengths long. But it will be tailored to your pet. That's the value in my service and expertise.

And, sometimes, regardless of my deep seeded discontent in repeating this over and over, I still say, "I don't make any decisions based on money." Although should you ever be foolish enough to open your own business you SHOULD make decisions on what to do based on what is profitable. But for whatever reason it is not ethical to make decisions about running a business focused on pets based on profits..

I often want to remind those seeking free and discounted pet services, that I spent four years in high school and vet school getting A's so that I could get into vet school. It was decades of grueling, stressful sacrifice. And, after all of that I am asked and often expected to work for free, undermine my own business, and feel terrible guilty with every decision. It is not a profession any successful, business person who truly loves animals should ever venture into. There is a reason veterinary medicine is becoming corporately driven and owned. They can do it without guilt or remorse from a tower far, far away.

Bentley, here for his dental yesterday.

Question Number Two;
"How do I feel about RAW diets?"

Perception vs Reality Point number Two;

I am a scientifically trained doctor. If the evidence points to something as being inherently dangerous why are people still choosing to use it? There have been multiple statements made and published and still the public ignores this. Is it because they think we are paid by food companies? (See the AVMA policy below).

I use prescription food exactly the same way I use prescription drugs. Do I make money off of the drugs I sell and the food I sell? Yes. But I don't care where you buy them. You can buy your drugs from me, from the human pharmacy, and the same goes for food.

Do I think that some people believe that their pet benefits from a raw diet? Yes. But did they try other diets? Did they ever get a professional opinion? If you, or your child were ill would you go to the grocery store to get advice about what to feed them? Do you think that the untrained attendant at the grocery store isn't going to sell you a food that they don't carry? They are trained to sell only what they carry. I don't know of one person on a raw diet because an accredited veterinary expert recommended it. People really hate that answer, I know. Although I still don't understand why?

She then went on to regurgitate the same slanderous misleading jargon that I hear everyday from people with no business calling themselves an "expert" in anything..it is usually about "prescription diets being inferior because the label starts with"..., or "the benefits of grain free, holistic, all natural," etc. etc. Unfortunately, the public has been mislead into believing that the perceptions of good food companies, and good products are not reality. Worse yet, you all were lied to by other food companies..or people who are willing to risk you and your pets lives because they no longer trust "the establishment."

If you want advice about food see a nutritionist..and if you don't believe that we have your pets best interest in mind then we have failed you and your pet.. Every nutritionist that I know is only providing advice for one single thing..(like the rest of us in veterinary medicine),,  to help your pet. But be careful who lays your foundation of belief and who provides your perception of what is optimal for your pet..

Somewhere along the line the people who spent decades learning about how to help you take care of your pet lost their credibility and the advocates for pets became the outspoken but untrained.  A veterinarian spends years to earn their DVM. Then we spend many more to understand the big picture and how every single participant influences it. You can't do it with one dog, one case, and one perception.

My advice; If you need expert advice for your pet go to a medically trained certified veterinary professional. If you don't like that advice get a second opinion..and if you are looking for an answer that's not the answers you get then ask yourself why? And what your perception might be?

Skittles. Found on the side of the road.
The people who found her believed that she was blind and suffering.
They believed she should have been killed.
In fact, she is visual, happy, and will be just fine.
She is with us, and looking for a home.

Where is my reality fading from perception?

I believe that helping each other is group effort, and this infighting divides  us from our goal. And, I don't want to be a part of the problem as I try to be a part of the solution.

What do I believe is at the heart of her questions?


That one simple word. It defines everything we do, are, and hope to become.

Related Articles;
The Raw Food Blog

Raw Pet Food AVMA Policy

Charlie.. Whose perception and reality are one in the same..
Magpie is going to school him about who is in charge.
I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

And if you have a pet question you can ask me, or any of the rest of us pet lovers, at Pawbly.com. Pawbly is an open platform to help people and their pets. It is always free to use.

Or find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

And as always,
Always Be Kind..

Friday, June 13, 2014

And Sometimes Law Enforcement Shouldn't Be The Expert.

I have written about rabies a lot! Every single story has been a horror story to help coerce everyone into getting their pets vaccinated. And, now here I am about to become a proponent for a pet many states away who is being placed in a 6 month quarantine because he was three months overdue on his rabies vaccine and was deemed an exposure risk because he was sprayed by a skunk.

The article as published in the Piedmont Newstation Channel 8 news;

KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — Michael and April McQueen’s 11-year-old dog Simon is now under quarantine for six months after being sprayed by a skunk last Thursday night.

“He didn’t come in contact with the skunk,” said April on Monday. “He never touched the skunk, the skunk never touched him, he wasn’t bitten, there was no yelp, and there was no scuffle.”

April says she was walking Simon when a skunk sprayed him. As a precaution she took Simon to a veterinarian to be checked out and discovered he was three weeks late on renewing his rabies booster vaccination.

“That’s when I was told they were going to have to contact animal control because his rabies shot had lapsed,” she said. “The next morning I get a call [from animal control] saying they want to quarantine our dog for six months or euthanize him.”

North Carolina law requires pets exposed to animals prone to carry rabies like skunks, foxes, coyotes, bats and raccoons be either euthanized or quarantined, at the owners expense, for six months if their rabies vaccination isn’t up to date.

“It’s due to the fact that rabies can take up to six months before a pet shows signs of the virus,” said Tim Jennings with the Forsyth County Animal Control. “It’s why we stress the importance of keeping pets up to date on their vaccinations.”

Simon is currently being quarantined at an equipped veterinarian office.

“Obviously they want to protect the health of the community,” said Michael McQueen, who plans to appeal the decision because Simon didn’t actually contact the skunk. “You think about a 11-year-old dog, used to living inside with us all these years and is just tossed in a cement 4×6 cage with no contact.”

If the McQueen’s appeal is denied Simon would be required to stay in isolation, without any human or animal contact, till Dec. 6 at a cost of around $3,000.

Veterinarians say rabies boosters vaccinations can easily be overlooked as they are required every three years.

“We just don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said April. “Life can be busy but make sure your animals are vaccinated and up-to-date.”

Full article can be found here.

Related articles;
CDC information on how rabies is transmitted.

OK, here are my questions:
  1. How many cases have there ever been where a skunk transmitted rabies via spraying? I couldn't find any, and studies have been done to look for this.
  2. Are state authorities expecting that every skunk sprayed mammal should be reported for possible exposure? If the answer is "Yes" then what are we going to do with humans? Quarantine them for 6 months? Put them through post exposure rabies vaccines? (I called the Rabies Laboratory at Kansas State, they replied "No, they wouldn't put their own child through this.)
  3. Why can't a rabies titer be used instead of quarantine? Especially in light of how minuscule the chances of rabies exposure seems to be in this case. There is an article pending for this in JAVMA.
  4. Was Simon observed when he was sprayed? Almost all of the literature that I found stated that the experts didn't believe that rabies could be spread by skunk spray, but if the animal was close enough to be sprayed was it also close enough to be bitten? By far the largest cause of transmission is via bite wounds.
  5. If the letter of the law has no ability for interpretation and customization to living beings the law will fail the huge majority of the subjects it is meant to serve. Here is a copy of the NC law that governs a possible rabies exposure. Where do I see a problem? "A suspect animal..that has been exposed to saliva or nervous tissue," well, the contents of the anal sacs, or what a skunk sprays when they spray, is pretty similar to the contents of feces, (and jeez lets not even begin to talk about feces exposure..then we can't even step outside and not be exposed). And, in this particular case, if Simon had been boosted with a rabies vaccine within 5 days of exposure would the quarantine period have been influenced? 
My point is that this case against Simon is ridiculous. There has to be a point where over protective, over reactive, knee jerk decisions no longer a realistic representative of an accurate likely scenario.

I called The Rabies Laboratory at Kansas State University, without knowing all of the details of this case, if Simon was indeed ONLY sprayed they claim there is no risk of him being able to contract rabies. They, like me, have contacted the Forsyth County Animal Control. Neither of us have heard back from them.
 After speaking to my local County Health Department representative I learned the following. All rabies suspect cases are forwarded to the State Veterinarian. She decides how long to quarantine and in general has decided the following;
any rabies suspect that has had more than 2 rabies vaccinations, or had received their last rabies vaccine within the last year receives a 45 day quarantine. These quarantines are either double enclosure cages, or in a state approved facility. Any pet that is overdue on their rabies by vaccine by over a year, or not received two vaccines, a one year and a booster is subject to a 6 month quarantine for observation. Any pet that displays evidence of rabies, in general shows any signs of a neurological disorder is euthanized and submitted for rabies testing. (Signs and Symptoms of Rabies, CDC.) To test for rabies the suspected animal is sent to the state lab where two samples from the brain are examined. There hasn't been one conversation with a pet owner where I haven't had to explain that the only way to get brain tissue for sample submission is to euthanize the pet. (CDC Rabies Diagnosis Procedure).

Why am I so interested in this case? Well, the decision to quarantine a pet who is overdue by even one day (ridiculous to believe that one day overdue indicates that the vaccine and the protection it conveys expires on that date).

Related blogs;
Rabies. Your Pets And Your Life On The Line.

The Rabies Raccoon Seven

Rabies. Learning My Lesson The Hard Way

Rabies. Why You Should Worry About It.

As always, you can find me on Pawbly.com. I am available anytime for your pet questions, or to just share your pet stories. Or you can find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter, or Google Plus.

Please keep your pets up to date on their rabies. It protects them, you and the rest of our community.

And, always be kind..and stand your ground should the self proclaimed experts make poor decisions.

Update; Simon was quarantined on Monday and released to his family without any explanation given yesterday. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What To Do If You See A Pet In A Car?

What should you do when you see a pet in a car?

I get asked this one often, especially in summer.

Here's my answer.

It is almost impossible to guesstimate the temperature in the car so you should always assume that it is too hot. Even if you think it is cool outside cars are built to hold heat and with all of the window surface area the inside of the car can get deadly hot very quickly. Pets also have a difficult time dissipating heat. When they get hot it is much harder for them to cool off then we do. Some dogs are just built to live in cold climates. Dogs with heavy thick dark coats, thick stocky builds, or a shortened nose can be even more susceptible to temperature increases. My beagle, short, stocky, built like a tank will pant and overheat outside in 80 degree weather, while his brother, thin pit bull mix is perfectly content in the sun. (See Jekyll's Heat Intolerance.)

The literature says that at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, (not a warm temperature for most of us), after 10 minutes your pet can be on its way to hyperthermia. Think about hyperthermia like a snowball effect. After it starts it can be very, very difficult regardless of how aggressive the treatment, to reverse the cascade of events going on inside the body. There is a point where you cannot reverse or turn around the damage being done. A dog panting may look as if they are calm and comfortable and warm, but inside their body is dying. I have seen pets walk in the clinic looking hot and watch them die in front of us no matter what we did to try to cool them down.

Be Afraid For A Panting Dog.

The best thing to do when you see a pet in a car regardless of outside temperature, or where you are, is to call the police and wait for them to arrive.

Now I understand that laws vary by location. If the dispatcher tells you that they will not respond ask them who you need to contact? Call someone until they agree to come and respond. And always wait for them to do so.

In many places there is a fine for the pet owner if they leave a pet in a car unattended.

For all of you who find yourself stuck trying to decide what to do when it appears no one will help call rescue groups, ask for animal welfare advocates in your community and work with any person in law enforcement who will help you save that pet.

As for me, personally, well I won't give you advice and put you in a position of getting into trouble with the law, but I will not walk away. I take photos of the car, the pet, the license plate and the owner when, or if, they arrive. I will also do anything to save a pet. I would rather be wrong than unkind. I am just wired this way. I can make an enemy, pay a fine, pay for someone'e broken window and plea for their insurance company to understand my actions, rather then to watch, worry, wait, and live with my guilty conscious. Also, I am comfortable with and around pets. I always keep a leash in my car, and I would know how to safely remove an unknown pet. These are things to think about. What if the pet isn't friendly? What if they run? They could be injured. Someone else could be injured? What if he does have heat exhaustion or stroke? What....well, think before you act. You will likely be held accountable.

Did you know that your phone can be your eyewitness? Your alibi? and your defense? There is an app for that! There is an app that can measure the temperature. Record the temperature, keep your photos, and help mount a defense to protect that pet and yourself. After you witness one pet dying it changes how you react. Is that my excuse for premeditated window smashing? Maybe?

Be safe, be an advocate, and always be kind.

From the MD State Law;

Transportation. Title 21. Vehicle Laws--Rules of the Road. Subtitle 10. Stopping, Standing, and Parking. § 21-1004.1. Domestic animals left in vehicle (a) A person may not leave a cat or dog unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog. (b) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, a person may use reasonable force to remove from a motor vehicle a cat or dog left in the vehicle in violation of the provisions of subsection (a) of this section if the person is: (1) A law enforcement officer; (2) A public safety employee of the State or of a local governing body; (3) An animal control officer under the jurisdiction of the State or a local governing body; (4) An officer of a society or association, incorporated under the laws of this State for the prevention of cruelty to animals, authorized to make arrests under the provisions of § 10-609 of the Criminal Law Article; or (5) A volunteer or professional of a fire and rescue service. (c) A person may not use force of any kind to remove from a motor vehicle: (1) A dog used by the State or a local governing body for police work while the dog is on duty; or (2) A cat or dog in the custody of an animal control officer. (d) A person described in subsection (b) of this section may not be held liable for any damages directly resulting from actions taken under the provisions of subsection (b) of this section. CREDIT(S) Acts 1987, c. 611; Acts 1988, c. 296. Amended by Acts 2002, c. 213, § 6, eff. Oct. 1, 2002."

And from the Harford County Law;
Section 64-20 "Animals in Vehicles" of the Harford County Code: A. No person shall leave any animal unattended in a motor vehicle when the temperature outside exceeds eighty degrees Fahrenheit (80° F.), except an Animal Control Warden, contractual agent of animal control or a state or local police K-9 officer who is especially equipped with a vehicle that is used for animal transport. B. Any Animal Control Warden, law enforcement officer or agent of the Humane Society of Harford County, Inc., who determines that an animal has been left in a motor vehicle in violation of this Article shall have the right to take such reasonable steps to free the animal from the vehicle as he deems necessary to protect the animal from serious injury or death."

TheStarPress.com complete article

I'm interested to hear what you would do? Or have done?

You can always find me here, or on Pawbly.com. Pawbly is a pet centered community dedicated to helping people take better care of their pets. Pawbly is free to use and open to everyone who loves animals. You can ask questions, answer questions, or just share your photos, follow topics, or learn something new about pets.

You can also find me at the veterinary clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

Have a wonderful and safe summer!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hope, Faith, and Tuckers Mom's Refusal To Give Up. WARNING GRAPHIC SURGERY PICTURES!

The stories usually start in a benign quiet fashion.

A friend of a friend calls to ask a question, seek advice, help, etc, and I find myself down another path of another patient and another story.

My dear friend had a friend who was very distraught about her older lab Tucker. He had been a lumpy bumpy boy, (as many older labs are inherently so), his whole life. But one bump in particular had been bothering him insistently for years. Appearing after festering from a quiet hibernation below the skin to breathe and burden for a little while, then disappearing again to the great delightful optimism of his family.

That story is not unique. Many pet parents opt to "monitor closely at home" instead of putting their pet through an anesthetic event or the cost of a surgery that may not be necessary. I am guilty of this approach many times over, BUT, the key to success in these cases is;


Here are my ground rules for the watch and wait approach;

When the mass changes size.
OK, What size is to big? Well, I often have people use a ruler, or calipers, and a calendar. We measure it on day one and note the size on the calendar. I also tell them at what size I think it needs to be addressed. They write the day one size over the needs attention size. For instance, my friend Noodles lump was about 3/4" when I first saw it. At 2" it needed to be removed. So that's 0.75/2 inches on day 1. At every interval note both sizes. We are looking for a trend over a time period. And, remember, a small mass on the toe might need to be removed quicker than a large mass on the side of the body simply because there is not enough tissue to close the site after the mass is removed.

When the mass changes consistency. 
This is a tough one for clients to appreciate. It requires letting your hands become your eyes and it only happens with practice. So, start palpating from day 1. If the mass changes from 'soft' and 'fluctuant' to 'hard' or 'painful' it is time to go back and see the vet. 

The mass is in a place that can make it hard to ambulate or function. 
Think armpit, face, mouth, eyes, groin, etc. Even a not so big mass can make your ability to see, eat, move, and go to the bathroom difficult. We should address these masses sooner versus later.

A mass that affects your pets quality of life. 
I have seen benign cosmetic masses that were left alone and got so large that the pet couldn't physically support themselves any longer. A mass that precludes your pets ability to function affects their quality of life. Open masses are difficult to manage and affect both the client and pets quality of life. Both parties needs should be openly and honestly presented.
A mass that erodes, abrades, or eats its way through the skin.
All masses of any origin can at some point wear through the protective skin that contains them. Whether it happens due to the mass being in contact with hard surfaces, or the pet licks the skin to the point where the trauma of the tongue burnishes and erodes the surface off, or the mass eats its way out to freedom. The job of cancer, like every other living being is to proliferate until it has domination.

Once we establish the ground rules for the mass we decide on a time frame to monitor it. 
We may start with daily client re-checks, and then go to once a week, or two weeks? Month? The point is to have a scheduled time that we monitor, measure and record the findings. If at any point things change the client is instructed to either call me with updates, or return for rechecks.

Tucker is a boy whose mom cared for him. But he is also a boy who didn't have a plan. You won't be successful in any endeavor if you don't have both.

Part of the veterinarians obligation is look ahead, forecast, and provide guidance for those bumps that exist on the horizon.

I take great earnest exception to the idea of a veterinarian who doesn't foresee, forewarn, and foretell. How can we help our patients if we aren't enlightening our clients in what lies ahead?

Tucker is a 13 years old. And age was the excuse his referring vet gave his mom when it was recommended that he be put down. His mom still sees him as a happy, active, dog who still has life left to live. But, he is walking around with a chronically seeping bleeding mass about the size of your face. He has been carting it around for months. Not only is it weighing him down literally, it is stealing his red blood cell volume every minute. He can’t sit still enough to keep it from leaking, he wants to lick it incessantly, and after days, weeks, and months his body has had to work double overtime to keep him from bleeding to death. People think that you bleed to death when you lacerate a major blood vessel, (you know, like the classic science fiction jugular horror flick) where the victim grabs their throat and dies in a matter of seconds. But you can bleed to death a drop at a time over days, weeks, and months. That blood trail of Tuckers was a constant source of care for his family. His mom dressed his wound multiple times a day. She had the task down to a science. A diaper to hold the mass, a bandage to compress it, and elastic tape to hold it in place. At every diaper bandage change there was more blood to collect and a wound that was worsening and now unable to heal.

People often make assumptions. Those assumptions can steer the course to decisions that are harder and harder to resolve should your early decisions be wrong.

Tuckers family believed that the mass had healed before, and that it would heal again. Unfortunately, the mass, like most, are not made up of normal tissue. Normal tissue will heal quickly and efficiently, but neoplastic (cancer) is not able to heal. It proliferates, bubbles, erupts, bleeds, and looks grossly irregular. 

Don’t expect normalcy from cancer. It will disappoint you and cost you time.

Tucker had been to the vet multiple times. The veterinarian recommended only one option, to put him to sleep. Or, she could continue to slave to a beast that had no intention of succumbing. His mom called my friend frantic and in great despair.

My friend called me, and so Tucker’s tale began.

I met Tucker last Thursday. His mom said "Hello" in a soft, sad voice, and started her introduction with, “I mostly just want someone else to see this. I know there’s nothing we can do.”

I had to stop her there.

“Please understand, I am here to see Tucker and to try to help him. If that’s not why you are here then I don’t want to unwrap his wound and go on.” I really try to not be firm, and to be a kinder, gentler practitioner, but I get too emotionally invested, and I have to try to protect myself from cases that I just grieve with frustration over.

And so we started again.  I unwrapped the bandage and faced a new case with a bit of optimism and a new page.

Tuckers mass was necrotic and unmanageable. It was not just ugly and messy in its erupting bleeding, seeping attempts to heal, it also smelled so bad that you almost couldn't remain standing. Managing that wound is a full time job, it steals his life like grains in an hour glass, and left to attract flies and maggots.

Tucker's mass measures about 10 inches across and 8 inches wide.
His lateral thorax and abdomen measure about 24 inches.
It also weighed about three pounds.

It was time for an overdue long hard talk about treating this lesion.

Here is where I stand on masses. It is super to know what we are treating. Aspirates, biopsies, and all of the precursors to making a treatment plan are fabulous. But, there are reasons people don’t get these. 

Sometimes life is not about ideal scenarios.

Tucker had a big dilemma. It needed resolution now. There were certainly no shortage of reasons to not do it. All of those got us to this point.

“He can’t go on like this.” We all knew that already.

After blood work, (he is anemic, no surprise), and clean radiographs we decided to schedule surgery.

His mom wanted more than one terminal option, and Tucker needed to get rid of that mass..

Preparing for surgery.
Taking off that diaper and belly bandage was very rewarding.

Prepped for surgery.

Cutting to find clean margins so the tissue will heal and close normally can be difficult to do.
You need to remove the mass completely and still have enough tissue left over to close.

Using the laser to make the incision,
because, Tucker has no more blood left to lose.

It is so large I need a few extra hands.

The size of the hole the lesion leaves behind.

One hour to remove the mass,
one hour to try to close the crater it left behind.

The end result.
The middle section would not close completely,
so tension bands are placed to pull the skin together and allow the rest of the skin to stretch.
The small opening will close on it's own over time.

Immediately post-op.

Tucker spent three hours in surgery today. He did very well. And when I called his mom she was so ecstatically happy it lit my heart up.

 24 hours post op.

Don’t we all know how important hope and faith are?

One smile says it all.

Tucker is another testament to a mom who loves him, cares for him, and doesn't accept that "old dogs" aren't worth treating.

If you are ever unhappy with what one professional tells you go seek another opinion. Your pet is your responsibility and you are their best, and sometimes only, advocate.

There are sometimes happy endings..with a little bit of faith and hope..never give those away.

If you have a pet question you can ask me, and the Pawbly community, at Pawbly.com. It is free to ask, or answer, or even just share your pets happily ever after story.

Or you can find me, always in search of another story at Jarrettsville Vet. Or on Twitter, @FreePetAdvice.

Related blogs;
Butt Holes and Toes.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Will Your Pet Have A Happily Ever After?

There are many of us who are passionate about animals. I spent most of last evening with someone who was so passionate that she has been elevated from "oligarch owner" status to self proclaimed "adroit animal aggressor." She, and I, have a great deal in common.

When it comes to being committed to helping animals we are on the same team. We chant similar fight songs, viewpoints on the anthropomorphism, and would prefer to not go on vacation than leave our kids at home alone. But, we differ on a few points.

She was telling me a story about a dog she had been called to re-home many years ago. It seems the dog she was asked to help had been adopted by an elderly woman in her 70's after her husband had died. A few years later it was decided that the woman required full time care and needed to be taken  to a retirement home, and so her companion needed to go elsewhere. She described in some detail how she believed the elderly woman was just being "selfish to adopt a pet when she was so old."

That conversation caused me to pause when I recollected the events of earlier in the week when I was talking to Dr.Morgan at the clinic.

Dr. Morgan and I were standing in the reception area. At her feet was a small Yorkie who I recognized immediately.

"What is Ben doing with you?" I asked.

I knew that Ben had been in the hospital all last week when Dr. Morgan removed multiple bladder stones and that he had appeared to be recovering well.

"I did Ben's surgery pro bono last week because his family couldn't afford it and his parents are going into a retirement home. The kids can't take him." And hence, since his recovery last week, Ben had been staying with Dr. Morgan. He was now her small silver shadow and where she went he was sure to follow.

I was dumbfounded. I had seen Ben and his mom for years and I couldn't imagine one without the other.

Dr. Morgan and I just stood there. Trying to put ourselves in the families shoes. 

She said to me, "I'm not getting a pet when I grow older."

I looked at her and said, "That's bull. You will always have pets. Just like me. We couldn't exist without them."

"Yeah, you're right," she agreed.

And there we were contemplating how we keep our hearts whole, and not leave a pet to be disposed of when we can no longer care for them. And so we left it. A decision to be who we were, and a decision to hope that our family would understand that those we might leave behind still had value.

We watched as Ben's mom came in to say goodbye to her Ben. We all cried. I cried because Ben had spent all week following Tracy around like a lost sheep, until he saw his mom. He jumped, and squealed, and threw himself into her arms. We all cried. We all stood there facing their pivotal point in life that we all hope we never have to face.

Do I know what my decision will be when my time comes to be cared for and I can no longer care for my pets? Well, no. But I know that I will not let them pay for my mortality. That every speck of whatever is left of my life's accumulations and work can be left behind to care for my pets. Does my family understand my position on my pets? Yes, they do. We, my family, understands that my anthropomorphism transcends my physical life. That until the day comes where I am not of sound mind or body I will loose every single solitary physical possession to maintain the ability to care for my family, who in my case are my pets.

I have had long distressing conversations with clients who requested that I put their pets to sleep should they die. They have been the most difficult moments of my professional life. How do I tell a parent who is so worried and fearful that their pets will be abused, neglected, or hurt after they depart that they would choose to put them to sleep, that I cannot honor their fears? I can only be honest. I try to retell stories like Ben's, and remind people that there are other people out there who love pets as we do, and that your final act of love for your  pets is to give them another chance at a happy life. Where there are happy, healthy days left to live there is desire in every pet to run, play, wag, purr, smile, love and breathe. How can, and why would, you deny them this?

As for Ben; he is an extension of our Jarrettsville Vet family. He has been with Dr. Morgan for two weeks, and will go to his new home on Sunday. Because where we can find a way to make a happy ending we will always do so.

We wish Ben and his mom a happy ever after, and we will keep them both in each others heart and minds with frequent picture postings.

As far as the pets you leave behind, please come up with a plan for them. They need you to be the one who sees them as a child to be cared for after you can no longer do so.

This week also brings the return of Frankie, who's parents died suddenly and unexpectedly. She is once again looking for another home to call her own. For information on her please email me, or find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet.

And as always, remember to hug your kids. Life is a very short and precious thing.

Many Thanks to Dr. Morgan for being Ben's lifesaver, for Kathleen for giving Ben a home, and for Claudia in never giving up on Frankie.

For more information on a living will for the pets you leave behind please visit; What Happens After You Leave Your Pets Behind.

If you have a pet question or want to share your pets story with other pet lovers please visit Pawbly.com. Pawbly is free for everyone to use. If you see your pets as your kids you will be at home with us.

You can also find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

South Dakota, The Last State to Make Animal Cruelty A Felony

I firmly believe that you cannot have a place in your heart for animals and not a penalty on your books for abusing them.

Well, after about two decades the last state in the union, South Dakota, has joined the rest of us in making animal cruelty a felony.

Why is it important to members of society? Well, we know that there is a strong correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse. Studies state that 70 - 80% of domestic violence victim reported previous or concurrent animal abuse. Being able to prosecute  a person for acts of cruelty against a pet might save a child or spouse from years of abuse. Seems difficult to argue that doesn't it? Why wouldn't we want to have laws to punish people who inflict harm? Well, that's a good question and the answer to that is one of the reasons it has taken so many years to pass a cruelty law.

People opposed this law because they don't want the same rules and laws to apply to farm animals. Why? Well, I suppose they have a reason it is just not one that I understand. Cruelty is cruelty. Can there be a difference in that if the victim is something other than a person?

What is the role of the veterinarian in helping to protect people and pets? It's a tenuous and difficult answer. It is so difficult that in all cases it is a case by case answer. Do veterinarians report? Yes, a very few. Why, not more of them? Well, some veterinarians might not want to report because they feel that they should only report if they are SURE it is abuse, and, we make a living from the public bringing in their pets. If word got out that we are reporting our clients many vets worry that clients will not come in. Of course, that's a ridiculous thing for me to understand. I see my job as being the advocate for the pet. Taking care of them is my responsibility, and I could never live with myself IF I didn't say something and someone was being hurt.

What can we do? Well, we are all neighbors, friends, relatives, teachers, civil servants, and caregivers. We are all responsible for watching over each other. Talk to your friends, be a shoulder to lean on, and get help if you think someone, or something is in danger.

The best kind of selfie?
One with friend.

Me, well, I am always a shoulder to lean on and a kennel to house a pet in need of a safe place (did you know many women won't leave a dangerous home because they fear for their pets and many women's shelters can't house pets.safety?) to stay.


Facts About Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence, by the American Humane Association

Domestic Violence and Animal Cruelty, by the ASPCA

The Veterinarians Legal Role In Animal Cruelty Cases, ASPCA

For more information on South Dakota's law see;

Change.org petition.

Rapid City Journal article.

If you have a pet question of any kind, you can find me anytime at Pawbly.comIt is free to use and open to all of those who serve, love, and care for pets.

You can also find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, in Jarrettsville Maryland. Or, find me on Twitter, @FreePetAdvice.