Pet Health

Pet Nutrition Traveling with Fido

posted July 15th, 2010 by
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By Dr. Sean Delany, DVM

Traveling is always a stressful time for anyone. Handling the packing, making the arrangements – the days leading up to the big trip can be overwhelming. But once you hit the open road, all the stress quickly begins to fade away.

For pets, it’s a different story. With new sights and smells, travel can be both exciting and overwhelming for your pet. Whether you’re heading out for a weekend road trip or journeying from the air, traveling with your four-legged best friend can be an adventure for everyone.

For your peace of mind and your pet’s comfort, preparation is key in traveling. Before you hit the open road, check out these useful tips so you can plan and pack for your pet.

Feeding a Traveling Pet

Going into “foreign territories” is stressful for even well-adjusted pets and can lead to drastic appetite changes. Animals are instinctively cautious about eating in unfamiliar surroundings. This reduced appetite cannot only affect bowel movements and energy levels, but even a pet’s overall health. Maintaining her caloric intake should be a primary focus for you.

Make every bite count and travel armed with a tasty diet of foods that are just too good for a pet to pass up. Feeding a highly palatable, highly digestible diet can be helpful in overcoming a reluctance to eat. It is important to introduce your animal to any new foods before heading on your trip. Establishing good eating habits at home weeks prior to a vacation will allow ample time for your companion to adjust.
Foods that are higher in protein and fat are generally more palatable than foods higher in carbohydrates. Therefore, selecting a low carbohydrate food is a simple solution. For many brands, carbohydrate levels are not typically listed on packaging, but can be roughly calculated by adding all the percentages for protein, fat, moisture, crude fiber, and ash, and subtracting the total from 100%. The remainder is an approximation of the percent of carbohydrate in the food.

Dry foods with less than 18% carbohydrate for dogs and 12% for cats would be considered low in carbohydrate. Canned dog and cat foods with less than 2% carbohydrate would be considered lower in carbohydrate.

No-sweat Ways to Stay Hydrated

Hydration is also imperative for pets to avoid overheating when traveling by car or plane. To beat the heat, provide your dog or cat with frequent access to fresh cool water. This can be challenging when pets are physically separated from the rest of their traveling companions, such as on an airplane. Therefore on planes it may be worthwhile to see if the carrier will allow the pet to travel on board with you and if not, to consider using water bottles that can be licked. But remember to train your pet to use them before your trip.

A more convenient way to help with hydration is to feed canned food. The greater water content in canned food (up to seven times as much as dry food) can help meet a pet’s water needs and reduce how much water it needs to drink. Plus, higher moisture foods are often more appetizing to pets, encouraging healthy intake.

Hassle-Free Adventures

During travel most pet parents would like to minimize the amount of pet clean up they need to do. To reduce both the frequency and volume of stools, feed a highly digestible food. Highly digestible foods provide more calories per cup or can which means less waste.
Generally, protein from animal sources are more digestible than those from plants so selecting a food with meats and meat meals among the first ingredients listed can be an additional way to identify foods that may be more digestible.

When outside your normal sniffing grounds, it is always critical that your pet has proper identification through a collar and tag or microchip.
It is also important to pack any necessary medications, bedding, leashes and bowls that your furry friend may need along the way and remember that a health certificate from your veterinarian may be required by some airlines even when you’re traveling domestically.

Treating While Traveling

The more comfortable and satisfied a pet is during the trip, the more enjoyable the entire experience will be for everyone. Help your companion understand that traveling is fun. Provide treats at different points in the trip and make plenty of rest stops to stretch and discover new sights and smells. When packing snacks, choose ones from home that are easily stored and that come in a variety of shapes and flavors. These special pleasures will train your pet to enjoy the ride.

As responsible pet parents, it’s up to us to select the right pet food for every occasion but it is always good to check with your veterinarian before starting your pet on any new feeding plans. With a little planning, new experiences, sights and friends discovered while traveling can be exciting and fun for both pet lovers and their companions.

No Bones About It!

posted April 23rd, 2010 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

There are no bones about it: the common misconception that dogs can enjoy a tasty bone as a treat can be detrimental to their health.

Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is making sure dog owners are well aware of the dangers Fido faces by chewing on bones. The federal organization recently released a new warning against the practice.
“Some people think it’s safe to give dogs large bones, like those from a ham or a roast,” said Carmela Stamper, D.V.M., a veterinarian in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration. “Bones are unsafe no matter what their size. Giving your dog a bone may make your pet a candidate for a trip to your veterinarian’s office later, possible emergency surgery, or even death.”

Stamper said it’s important to dispose of bones from meals properly so dogs are not able to get to them.

“And pay attention to where your dog’s nose is when you walk him around the neighborhood—steer him away from any objects lying in the grass,” she added.

Stamper said there are many bone-like alternatives to give dogs to chew on. She recommended asking your vet.

The FDA listed 10 reasons why allowing your pet to chew on bones is a bad idea.

  1. Bones can break teeth.
  2. Bones can cause mouth or tongue injuries.
  3. Bones can get looped around your dog’s lower jaw.
  4. Bones can get stuck in the esophagus.
  5. Bones can get stuck in the windpipe.
  6. Bones can get stuck in the stomach.
  7. Bones can get stuck in the intestines and cause a blockage.
  8. Constipation can occur due to bone fragments.
  9. Severe bleeding can occur from the rectum.
  10. Bones can cause the bacterial infection peritonitis because bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines.

Is Raw Food Right for My Dog?

posted April 16th, 2010 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

Humans have been jumping on the raw food diet in the last few years; no longer is it only for wealthy A-list celebrities. But now, with more, less expensive food choices, anyone can adhere the diet that is based on unprocessed and uncooked foods.

And with it a craze among humans, it was only a matter of time before it was adapted for canines. But with the diet, questions are raised: should your dog be forgoing cooked meat for raw meat? And, more importantly, is it healthy for them?

A raw food diet for dogs consists of uncooked meat, edible bones and organs.

There are two types of diets:

The Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods diet, or BARF, is made up of a percentage of raw meaty bones, fruits and vegetables, eggs and dairy.

The Prey model diet mimics a prey, with the food consisting of organ meat, muscle, bone and blood.

Proponents of the raw food diet tend to believe commercial dog food can be harmful to their health, and the raw food helps keeps the animal’s fur, teeth and breath healthy. Opponents, on the other hand, say a raw diet lacks proper nutrition and increases the likelihood of foodborne illnesses in pets.

For its part, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not support a raw food diet for dogs, saying raw meats can have significant health risks,

RABIES: Trading Fear for Facts

posted April 15th, 2010 by
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Rabies remains a fatal disease long after the laws of Eshnunna, an archaeological find near Baghdad, decreed that the owner of a rabid dog owed compensation to the victim’s family. Then, 4,000 years ago, as today rabies is in a category of its own.

We regard the probability of contracting cancer in our lifetimes with cooler detachment than the improbability-in the United States-of being ever nipped by a rabid animal (Table 1). While it is true that rabies has the highest case mortality rate of any infectious disease and that there is no cure after onset of clinical symptoms, the overall facts are not so gloomy. Rabies (1) is easily preventable, (2) the time between exposure and onset of the disease allows time to stop the advancing virus, and (3) the vaccines used, when timely and correctly administered, are uniformly effective.

The same cannot be said about other dread diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an average of two or three people die of rabies in the US each year, usually for not seeking help soon enough. US patients are often infected abroad. US and Canada, which have rabies surveillance and prevention programs, as well as proven and safe vaccines, are low risk for rabies, as are Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile and Uruguay, and much of Europe. In contrast, the annual tally of human rabies deaths worldwide is around 55,000 – 50-60% in India. In Asia, Africa, Central and most of South America, and Eastern Europe rabies is enzootic and a public health concern, worse because vaccines may be hard to obtain or of dubious efficacy.

What exactly is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that affects mammals. It is zoonotic, spreading from animals to people – and vice versa, if an infected human were to bite a dog. The virus is generally transmitted through the saliva as a result of a bite. Nonbite exposures are those in which contaminated saliva or neuronal tissue make contact with an open wound, scratch, mucous membrane, or the eye. Not all contact with an infected animal constitutes a rabies “exposure.” Petting or handling, and contact with blood, urine, or feces do not pose risk of infection. Nor does contact with saliva, provided the skin is intact! It is also important to note that the rabies virus is present in the saliva only during the final stages of infection, about the time symptoms appear.

Once introduced into the bloodstream of the new host, the virus is replicated in the muscle cells (not in the bloodstream), passing via the peripheral nervous system toward the central nervous system. At this stage it is disseminated to the allimportant salivary glands that make transmission possible. The virus finally invades the spinal cord and the brain causing acute inflammation and with it the characteristic clinical symptoms.

After exposure, the incubation period in humans is usually several weeks to months, but ranges from days (in severe bites to head or neck) to, in rare cases, a year or more if the wound was superficial.
The advance of the rabies virus can be arrested while it remains in skin and muscle cells, but once it spreads to a neuron it becomes insulated from the immune system and vaccines can’t reach it.

The final stages of infection are:

1. Prodromal stage, 1-3 days characterized by departure from normal habits (e.g., a friendly pet avoiding his people, a wild animal behaving as if tame, a nocturnal animal active in daytime, etc.); also confusion and misbehavior.

2. “Furious” or excitative, 3-4 days of hyperactivity to external stimuli like noise, wind, running water; aggression. This is when dogs tend to rove and bite. As the victim enters the final stage, facial and throat muscles undergo painful spasms, making it impossible to swallow either water (thus the term “hydrophobia,” fear of water) or saliva, causing drooling or frothing of the mouth (the signature symptom, which per se is not symptomatic).

3. Paralytic stage, with loss of coordination (Table 2). The victim finds an isolated place to suffer convulsions, lapse into a coma, and die, generally from respiratory arrest. “Dumb” or paralytic rabies differs in that there is no furious stage. Paralysis, usually of the lower jaw, is the first indication, spreading quickly to the limbs and vital organs resulting in death. The signs of dumb rabies may look like choking. An emphatic word of caution: Rabies symptoms vary from one individual to another and also from one species to another, resembling in all cases those of other diseases or conditions. Impossible though it is to diagnose rabies at a glance, millions of healthy animals have been executed for no more than drooling or biting in self-defense.

Conversely, in situations where rabies is a not-so-remote possibility, say, a choking dog in the streets of Calcutta, it is sad but prudent to leave the animal to his suffering and alert the authorities.

Dogs, cats, or ferrets rarely live beyond 10 days after the onset of signs, which is why they must be quarantined and observed after a bite incident. If the quarantined animal survives for 10 days, rabies is unlikely and almost certainly the virus was not in the saliva at the time of the bite. Everyone can breathe easy and resume normal lives. However, if signs of illness develop during observation, the animal must be euthanized and the head sent for fluorescent antibody testing of brain tissue.

There is less certainty about incubation periods in wild animals. Because an accurate diag nosis of rabies in these cases is only possible in the lab, the procedure in the US requires that (1) exotic pets, (2) wild/domestic hybrids, and (3) wild animals (if caught) who have bitten or scratched a person be euthanized by a veterinarian and the head removed and shipped under refrigeration (not frozen) to a public health laboratory for testing. Bats, if caught, must be sent whole for analysis.

Research has failed so far to produce a reliable live-animal rabies test. The waste of life in these cases is even more tragic in view of the disparity between the large number of animals killed for testing and the miniscule percentage that test positive. Therefore, the development of a reliable live test should be a priority of veterinary and epidemiology researchers.

Organ, tissue, vascular, and corneal transplants have caused human-to-human rabies transmission. In 2004 four US patients contracted clinical rabies and died as a result of a single donor whose death was not recognized as rabies. There have been cases reported in four other countries.

“A dandy excuse” Most warm-blooded animals are susceptible to rabies, but not uniformly so. Rodents (squirrels, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, chipmunks, muskrats, beavers, etc.), lagomorphs (rabbits and hare), marsupials (including the American opossum), and primates (other than humans) are more resistant to rabies than other mammals. Birds are immune.

Terrestrial carnivores most often infected with rabies (known as vector species) in the US are skunks, raccoons, and foxes. Human rabies in the US, however, is mostly bat-related, in some cases without the victim being aware of a bite. There is no reason to panic because 94% of the bats submitted for testing are not rabid, but it is wise to avoid situations where a bat may sneak up on you (Table 3).

Dogs and cats have not been the main reservoir of rabies in the US since the early 1950s. The number of infected farm animals also dropped drastically at that time. And in 1958, for the first time, there were more reports of wildlife rabies than dog rabies. Why? Because as systematic vaccination of pets reduced the incidence of rabies in domestic animals, and as wildlife monitoring became a science, the occurrence of rabies in wild species began to receive attention. It follows that with improved surveillance and diagnosis techniques the rabies reservoir in wildlife was recognized.

Wrongly assuming that sylvan rabies was spreading – instead of finally being noticed – wildlife management resorted to trapping-poisoning shooting. This reckless MO was predictably welcomed by hunters, trappers, ranchers, and their political minions, who found rabies “a dandy excuse” as a journalist wrote, for the elimination of animals who interfered with their interests, or to be able to up the intake of furbearers, or just to target-shoot live “trash” animals for clean family fun.

A rational approach to check the spread of rabies in wildlife is the release of oral vaccination food baits in strategic wilderness areas. As animals eat the baits and become immunized they come to reinforce the population of healthy individuals which are nature’s buffer force between a minority of infected wild animals and humans or domestic animals.

Not curable, preventable

Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux made history in 1885 by using serum made from the dried spinal cord of rabbits injected with the rabies virus to inoculate a boy severely bitten by a rabid dog. Following a regime of 12 shots, the boy survived and the experiment opened the possibility of escaping certain death.

Rabies vaccines induce an active immune response that includes the production of virus neutralizing antibodies. Whether to start a vaccination series or not after a suspected rabies exposure depends on several factors to be discussed between the victim and the attending physician in consultation with local health authorities. Postexposure prophylaxis, as rabies vaccines are often called, is an urgency (not an emergency) and should start as soon as possible.
If observation or testing turn out negative, then prophylaxis is not required. But if the animal is not available and there is the slightest possibility of infection, then prophylaxis is the right choice. Between 20,000 and 40,000 people receive a full series of rabies vaccines every year in the US; 10 to 12 million worldwide.

Postexposure prophylaxis consists of (1) thorough cleansing of the wound with soap and abundant running water, (2) local infiltration of rabies immune globulin, RIG, to bridge the gap until the first vaccine starts producing active immunity, and (3) a 5-dose prophylaxis of intramuscular shots in the shoulder area over a 28-day period. This treatment is uniformly effective when promptly and correctly administered.

Prophylaxis received outside the US can be substandard. The patient should remember the name of the vaccine, its manufacturer, and dates of inoculation, to be able to inform his Stateside physician upon return. Also insist that the vaccine be administered on the shoulder and not the gluteal area, where it may be less effective.
Traveling to enzootic regions of the world presents risks that justify “pre-exposure” prophylaxis.

Even though it doesn’t eliminate the need for further injections after a bite, pre-exposure prophylaxis (1) simplifies prophylaxis after exposure, (2) primes the immune response in case of unrecognized exposure (as in a bat bite) bridging the gap of an unintended delay in medical attention, and (3) provides immunity between exposure and prophylaxis in remote areas where it may not be available.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a necessity for individuals who work with rabies virus and rabies diagnostic testing; veterinary personnel, animal control, and wildlife officers where rabies is enzootic; and anyone who handles bats or goes near them, like spelunkers.

Neither pre- nor postexposure rabies vaccines have serious reactions; the most common being headache and local tenderness in the area of injection. Rabies vaccines are so benign that pregnancy is not a contraindication and neither rabies exposure nor prophylaxis are reasons to terminate pregnancy.

Rabies kills, but the number of casualties would be lower if ignorance and apathy were as easy to neutralize as the virus.

The Beat Goes On

posted April 15th, 2010 by
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By Derinda D. Lowe, APR

She treats congenital heart disease,degenerative valve disease, arrhythmias,pericardial disease and more, and yet, herpatients are never humans! Meet Dr. Nicole Culwell, a veterinarianspecializing in cardiology at Oklahoma State Univrsity’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. Culwell is one of 32 faculty members at the center’s
Boren Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital located on the Stillwater campus. Originally from Ossining, N.Y., Culwell earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1998 and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Cornell University in 2003.

She completed a 1-year Small Animal Medicine and Surgery Internship at Oklahoma State University in 2004. In December 2007, she completed a 3-year Residency in Cardiology and simultaneously earned a Master of Science degree at The Ohio State University. In June 2009, Culwell passed the certifying examination to become a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Medicine, Specialty of Cardiology.

“Cardiology was an area of veterinary medicine that I always found fascinating,” explains Culwell. “Although we rarely cure the patient, I believe it is a field in which we can do a lot to drastically improve the quality of life for the patient for a period of time.”

She heads the cardiology service at the OSU Boren Veterinary Teaching Hospital where they provide referral and consultation services for veterinarians and clients pursuing diagnostics and treatment for veterinary patients with cardiac disease. “We treat a variety of species including cats, dogs, horses, cows, and camelids such as alpacas,” says Culwell. “The majority of our cardiology patients (greater than 95 percent) are small animals (dogs and cats).” The OSU Cardiology Service treats a wide variety of diseases, including congenital heart disease, degenerative valve disease (endocardiosis), cardiomyopathies (malfunction of the heart muscle), congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, systemic hypertension, pulmonary hypertension, heartworm disease, endocarditis, pericardial disease, and cardiac tumors.

The most common cardiac disease Culwell treats is degenerative valve disease. It is the most common cardiac disease in the dog and is most prevalent in smaller breeds. The cardiology service is a recent addition to the veterinary hospital, starting just two years ago. “The state of Oklahoma has never had a veterinary cardiologist, so the biggest challenge we have is letting people know we are here,” smiles Culwell. “The OSU Cardiology Service offers clients some of the most advanced diagnostic services and therapies available. Most patients have diagnostic testing performed on an outpatient basis with results available the same day.”

“We are especially excited about our latest addition to the cardiology service. We recently finished installation of a cardiac catheterization lab,” says Culwell. She explains that this surgical suite utilizes fluoroscopy, which is a movie version of x-rays. This technique helps guide surgical implantation of pacemakers. Using fluoroscopy, contrast studies may also be performed to image the heart and associated vessels. Such techniques are used to diagnose and treat various congenital heart diseases.

Culwell advises that when pet owners see signs of breathing difficulty, weakness, or difficulty exercising, they should visit their regular veterinarian so that their pet may be examined. “If your veterinarian determines your pet needs further evaluation by a cardiac specialist, he/she can refer the case to OSU’s veterinary hospital.” Culwell reports that the cardiology service’s client base is growing. The OSU Cardiology Service treated approximately 300 cases its first year of receiving patients and is on track to treat approximately 400 cardiac cases this year.

And with the latest high-tech equipment installed and operational, the case load is likely to continue to grow, allowing OSU to help dog owners in Oklahoma and surrounding regions for a long time to come. To reach Dr. Nicole Culwell, call (405) 744-7000 and ask for the Small Animal Clinic. Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences is one of 28 veterinary colleges in the United States and is fully accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The center’s Boren Veterinary Medial Teaching Hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for small and large animals. It also offers 24-hour emergency care and is certified by the American Animal Hospital Association. For more information, visit

Procedures available include:
• Echocardiography – a noninvasive method of evaluating the heart. Ultrasound creates images of the heart that allow evaluation of cardiac structures and function. Doppler imaging is especially important in the evaluation of patients with congenital heart disease allowing veterinarians an opportunity to look at the structure and function of the heart, which is essential in making diagnoses.
• Radiography – a diagnostic test using x-rays to produce an image of the lungs and heart.
• Electrocardiography (ECG) – a test that produces a tracing of the cardiac rhythm and allows evaluation of the electrical activity of the heart.
• Holter monitoring – a device that records cardiac rhythm over a 24-hour period. This test allows Culwell to evaluate the severity of a cardiac arrhythmia and to screen for certain types of cardiomyopathy that occurs in breeds like Doberman Pinschers and Boxers.
• Pacemakers – devices that are surgically implanted in patients to treat cardiac arrhythmias that involve abnormally low heart

Not Long Till the Heat is On

posted April 7th, 2010 by
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Story by Kristi Eaton

The temperature is rising outside and that can only mean one thing: Tulsa’s sweaty, humid summers are right around the corner.

When the temps are just right, spring and summers months in Tulsa can be a great time to spend outdoor time with your four-legged friend, but when thermometer reaches 90 plus degrees, it’s important to remember some basic guidelines for keeping Fido healthy in the heat.

  • Keep water handy. Dogs, like humans, can become dehydrated if they do not retain enough fluid. Make sure you have plenty of cl ean, cool water on hand for your canine.
  • Stay close to shade. Make sure there is some shade nearby, whether its under a tree or under an outdoor gazebo, there should be shade close by to take cover under to cool down quickly.
  • Visit the veterinarian. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends owners take their pets to the vet for a spring or early summer check-up to get tested for heartworm.
  • Know the warning signs of overheating. Warning signs for overheating in a dog include excessive panting, drooling and increased heart rate. Also, be on the lookout for difficulty breathing, stupor and even collapsing. According to ASPCA, animals with flat faces, like a pug, are more susceptible to heat stroke because they are not able to pant as effectively.