Pet Health

Ask the Doc

posted January 4th, 2015 by
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Ask the Doc

Ask The Doc

Gary Kubat, DVM / Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Hospital


Q: My 13-year-old dog is showing signs of cataracts. Can they be removed in dogs, and if so, how do I know when it’s time to remove them? I just went through cataract removal, and I sure hate to think that my dog has them.


A: Yes, cataracts can certainly be removed from your pet’s eyes; the procedure will be similar to the surgery performed on your eyes. When you notice functional deficits in your pet’s behavior, mobility, orientation and awareness of surroundings, then it is time to consider removal.

You have been through this so you can empathize well with how your dog is coping with the visual deficits, as well as what improvements can be expected after removal. However, before considering a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist specialist for cataract removal, you should have an exam performed by your general practice veterinarian.

Sometimes cataracts can be related to diabetes, and you will also want to know that all the other organs are functioning well before anesthesia. The age of the dog is not a risk factor if any preexisting underlying problems are identified beforehand.


Q: I have an opossum in my yard, and I’m not exactly sure if it’s just one. I have fountains around with water, and they probably drink out of them. I also have two dogs. Is it safe to have opossums in the same yard as dogs? I called the City, and they said they could trap and relocate them. Any advice is appreciated, and of course, my dogs are vaccinated for rabies.


A: Is it safe to have opossums in the same yard as dogs? Generally, not for the opossum, especially if you have a larger breed dog. Otherwise, the opossum is usually going to adopt a live and let live approach to your pet’s presence. Rabies transmission (as well as many other transmissible diseases) is highly unlikely. As a marsupial, the opossum normally has a lower body temperature than other mammals. This prevents most common viruses from replicating.

In addition, rabies transmission is through the saliva/fluids of an infected animal. As a general rule, any rabid animal that attacks and bites an opossum is going to kill it and possibly eat the opossum. This precludes transmission of the rabies virus. (The same rule would apply to any mammalian prey species such as rodents, rabbits, squirrels, etc.) Nevertheless, keep-ing your pet’s vaccinations current is always good preventative medicine.

Opossums may defecate in your fountain and could contaminate the water with E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria. But the same could be said of the birds, squirrels and other critters in your yard. My advice? Do not fret. Enjoy the urban wildlife that your yard is attracting—someday it may be gone.  If your yard is attracting opossums presently, then removal by trapping will probably only result in another opossum moving into your attractive area.


Q: My 11-year-old cat has started drinking tons of water, and it seems like all of a sudden. It’s hard to keep the bowl full. Do I need a visit to the vet?


A: Yes, especially since this is a recent change from normal intake. Consider a general rule:  if it would seem abnormal or unusual if happening to you, then it is likely abnormal or unusual in your pet. In this case, the possible causes are numerous. Diabetes and kidney dysfunction are top on the list. Some medications can result in polydipsia (excessive water intake), as well as hyperthyroidism.

Your veterinarian will probably start diagnostics with a complete blood profile and urinalysis. You can be of great assistance before your appointment by also noting the volume and frequency of urination by the cat (separate from other cats in the house, if necessary), specifically measuring the volume of water taken in over an average 24-hour period.

Another Avenue

posted December 28th, 2014 by
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Another Avenue

Another Avenue

Ovary-sparing spay provides alternative to traditional spay surgery


By Bria Bolton Moore


Purchase vs. rescue. Purina vs. Science Diet. Tennis ball vs. Kong. This vet vs. that one. Boarding vs. dog sitter. When it comes to their canine companions, owners are used to choices.

However, until recently, there wasn’t an option when it came to spaying female dogs. Dr. Brad Roach, DVM and owner of Best Friends Animal Clinic in Oklahoma City and Shawnee, Okla., is one of about 20 veterinarians in the nation performing the ovary-sparing spay. During a traditional spay procedure, known as an ovariohysterectomy, a dog’s ovaries and uterus are removed.

However, in an ovary-sparing spay, sometimes called a hysterectomy or partial spay, the ovaries are left while the entire uterus is removed. In essence, this alternative spay is a way to curb population concerns while guarding the dog from the negative effects of hormone loss.

“We’re trying to redefine what a spay is and what a spay should be,” Dr. Roach said. “We’re trying to render them unable to reproduce without having the problems and infections of a uterus, so this procedure allows us to do that. We are trying to be responsible with reproduction, and yet spare them the potential negative effects of hormone loss.”

In recent years, experts have taken a second look at the common spay surgery. In 2007, Veterinarian Margaret Root Kustritz published a review of the pros and cons of spaying and neutering of different breeds at different ages. The report indicated that the traditional spay procedure has many benefits, including a decrease in mammary and ovarian tumors as well as infection of the uterus.

However, there are a number of disadvantages including aggression, obesity, urinary incontinence (lack of bladder control), urinary tract tumors, diabetes, and more. The study spurred more research and conversation. Additional breed-specific research indicates that especially for large-breed dogs, like Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers and Huskies, the benefits of keeping the ovaries, and therefore hormones (lower incidence of joint disorders and cancers) outweigh the risks (infection of the uterus and mammary tumors).

A 2013 study of Golden Retrievers by researchers at the University of California, Davis indicated that disease rates for two joint disorders and three cancers were significantly higher for male and female dogs that had been sterilized than those that had not been spayed or neutered. The study also linked early sterilization with an increase in cranial cruciate ligament tear (a joint disorder) for both male and female Golden Retrievers.

“I see these animals after being in   practice 24 years coming in overweight, looking terrible, broken down in the hips, incontinent and just thinking, ‘There’s got to be a better way,’” Dr. Roach said. “Surely those hormones are there for a reason; God put them there for a reason.”

Dr. Kutzler, DVM, PhD, DACT and associate professor at Oregon State University, has been performing the ovary-sparing spay since 2008 and is a leading proponent of the surgery. While the first known reference of the partial spay dates back to a 1972 article by Dr. Wendell O. Belfield (DVM), Dr. Kutzler was one of the first in the U.S. to openly talk about and advocate for the procedure.

In fact, the Parsemus Foundation, an organization that “works to advance innovative and neglected medical research,” funded a video demonstration of Dr. Kutzler performing the ovary-sparing spay. While the video’s original intent was to educate veterinarians, the video is available to anyone at

Dr. Kutzler is passionate about spreading awareness of the procedure because as female dogs lose their ovaries, their hormones are negatively affected.

Most people only think of the ovaries and the testes as gammy-producing organs—  egg-producing organs or sperm-producing organs, and that’s it, she said. What they don’t understand or haven’t really thought about is the importance they serve as endocrine organs or, plainly stated, hormone-producing organs.

“So, other endocrine organs in the body are the thyroid glands, parathyroid glands, and the pancreas. We would never talk about removing the endocrine glands from a dog unless there was something wrong with them,” she said.

Dr. Kutzler said the result of this interruption of the hormone production can include urinary incontinence, obesity and other health problems.

Ovary-sparing spay in Oklahoma

Dr. Roach is the only vet in Oklahoma offering the partial spay, according to the Parsemus Foundation, which works to keep an updated list of veterinarians who perform the procedure. He has been providing the ovary-sparing spay for about six months and has performed dozens of these surgeries. Clients have trekked to his clinics from Dallas, Wichita and across Oklahoma for   the procedure.

Dr. Roach said the operation is more complicated than a traditional spay because the incision is longer than a traditional spay incision to allow for the surgeon to remove the entire uterus down to the level of the cervix. This meticulousness is necessary to avoid a condition known as stump pyometra, an infection that can develop in the remaining uterine tissue when estrogen is present.

“It does take longer,” Dr. Roach said. “It’s a little more difficult surgery, so the price is higher. I bet if the price of it were the same, there would be very few people who would choose the other way.”

The ovary-sparing spay costs Dr. Roach’s clients about $100 more than the traditional surgery. The cost of this procedure is usually about 30 percent higher than a traditional spay.

“As surgeons find out the benefits and get exposed to this kind of surgery, they’re going to be more comfortable with the surgery, and the cost may reduce as vets gets faster at it,” he said.

Kama’s story

Bernadette Bowker of Edmond, Okla., has been entrusting her pets’ health to Dr. Roach for about two years. Her Husky Kamala, commonly called “Kama,” had the ovary-sparing spay surgery. Bowker learned about this type of procedure from Dr. Roach who encouraged her to do a bit of research and consider the ovary-sparing spay over the traditional spay.

“I thought it was a really interesting option to have so that she has a better chance of good health later on in her years.”

Bowker had another Husky, Gabby, before Kama. Gabby unfortunately developed arthritis and hip problems later in life and also struggled with disorientation. So, Bowker was interested in options that would lead to Kama’s quintessential health, and hopefully, help avoid some of the challenges Gabby faced.

Kama’s surgery went smoothly, and she bounced back quickly.

“She’s a very active dog, so it didn’t keep her down for very long at all,” Bowker said. “She seemed to be comfortable and happy and then back to full throttle.”

Kama’s now about 15 months old, and Bowker encourages other dog owners to talk to their vets and research the ovary-sparing option when preparing to have their pets spayed.

There’s no arguing the benefits of sterilizing pets. According to a 2003 study by Elizabeth A. Clancy and Andrew N. Rowan (Companion Animal Demographics in the United States: A Historical Perspective), the number of unclaimed dogs and cats killed at animal shelters has decreased from about 23.4 million in 1970 to about 4.5 million in 2000.

While many supporters of the ovary-sparing spay believe the traditional procedure has its rightful place in veterinary medicine, Dr. Roach, Dr. Kutzler and Bernadette Bowker, along with many others, want dog owners to know: you have a choice.

Ask The Doc

posted October 14th, 2014 by
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Tracei Holder, DVM/Medical Director, VCA Kickingbird Animal Hospital


Q: Why do dogs lick their feet?



A: Dogs most commonly lick their feet secondary to allergies. The inciting cause can vary, from a sensitivity to grass to the wool fabric from carpets. Inhaled molds and pollens can result in the skin on their feet becoming inflamed and then itchy.

The dog begins to lick and secondary bacterial and yeast infections may arise, which leads to more licking of the feet. Management of the allergy, as well as secondary infections that develop, is necessary to control the foot licking.

If a dog suddenly begins to lick at one foot in particular, we look for something stuck on the foot or between the foot pads, an acute injury to a toe or nail, development of arthritis in a joint in the foot or the presence of a growth. Growths can be either malignant or benign and should be evaluated by your veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment.

We do on occasion see dogs that have an obsessive compulsive disorder, and they may lick at their feet in order to soothe themselves. It may involve one foot or more and may be managed by use of anti-anxiety medications.


Q: Why do some dogs’ feet smell like Fritos?


A: This is commonly reported by owners, and most times a yeast infection is found as the underlying cause. If there is no obvious redness of skin or sores on the feet, the smell can be managed by washing the feet in a shampoo containing ketoconazole or 2 percent chlorhexidine.



Q: What is bloat?


A: Bloat is a very serious, potentially life-threatening situation that can develop without much warning. The term refers to a medical condition—gastric dilatation and volvulus/GDV—where the stomach becomes filled with gas and/or food and stretches to many times its normal size. It then twists, blocking outflow and the normal blood supply. This results in an extreme amount of pain and can be fatal within hours.

Large, deep-chested breeds, such as Great Danes, St. Bernards and Weimaraners, are at increased risk. Some factors that can reduce the risks are eating two or more meals per day including some canned food in the diet and  feeding a dry food containing a calcium-rich meat meal listed in the first four ingredients—such as lamb meat meal, fish meal, chicken by-product meal or bone meal. Dogs that have a more relaxed or happy temperament are less likely to bloat.

Ask The Doc

posted September 22nd, 2014 by
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Ask the Doc

By Brad Roach, DVM / Best Friends Animal Clinic, Shawnee

Q: My dog Elmer goes to play school two or three times per week, and he comes home worn out. When he is tired like that and eats dinner, he sits down and eats rather than stand. He eats at an elevated feeder that is up on legs. Is this dangerous for him to sit and eat; could it bring on bloat by chance.

A: I don’t know how old Elmer is, but my first question would be, why is he eating from an elevated feeder in the first place? Some dogs need this if they have weak esophageal muscles that won’t allow proper swallowing.

It is also helpful to use these feeders when there is neck pain. This is not going to hurt him by eating in this position, but I am concerned that he is doing so to take the weight off his hips, and since you mentioned that he might bloat, I would assume that he is a large breed dog that is prone to hip dysplasia.

You might try a session or two of acupuncture for him on a day before the play day to see if that helps and start him on a good glucosamine/ chondroitin sulfate supplement as well.

This will take several weeks to start showing improvement, so keep up the good work and well done on letting your canine friend have the play school.

Q: My old lab has these horrible “growths” on her elbows that I think are called hygromas. They sometimes burst open and bleed and ooze. I’ve tried to wrap them, but since they are on her elbows, nothing stays on good. What can I do to clear these things up?

A: This can be a very difficult thing to treat because they can be infected and even progress on to a bone infection if not handled properly. Well done on trying to bandage the elbow. It is important to study your dog’s habits and what surfaces she is laying on. Sometimes all you need to do is strategically place fluffy bedding.

You might try getting some larger pipe insulation and tape it on the forearm only with Elasticon tape. Many times it helps to bandage with honey, and the laser treatments have been known to help as well.

If the wounds are open, it would be a good idea to have it cultured by your vet so the appropriate antibiotic can be used. This entire process could take up to three months, so hang in there.

Q: My dog has a horribly gross habit—she is a poop eater. She won’t eat her own poop, but eats the poop of my other two dogs, and it’s just disgusting. I have tried everything from getting the stuff to feed the other two to make their poop “undesirable,” to pouring Tabasco on the others’ poop, but nothing works.

Now the only thing I can do is run out and scoop every time there’s more poop, but I can’t always do that with the weather. What can I do?

A: This is definitely a gross topic and hard for us to understand. In fact, it’s not known what really causes this to happen. Some say it is a mineral deficiency, seeking undigested protein or just a bad habit.

I definitely recommend a good source of vitamins and minerals for  the offender as well as adding pro-biotics and enzymes to all dogs of the household. You already mentioned giving the other dogs the Forbid powder, and sometimes that will work.

There have been reports that feeding fresh pineapple and Adolph’s meat tenderizer to the poopers will discourage the eater too. Sometimes adding anise to the food in small quantities can also help.

It also goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: clean up duty is even more important than ever, and for goodness sake, think twice before letting them give you a big doggie kiss on the face!

Easter Lilies are toxic to cats!

posted April 17th, 2014 by
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Easter Lily

Easter LilyCat owners, please keep in mind that Easter lilies are very toxic to your cat!  We have learned of some recent fatalities of cats that have ingested the leaves, and have learned that even the pollen from Easter lilies can be toxic.  Please beware!

7th Annual ACVO® National Service Animal Eye Exam Event

posted March 16th, 2014 by
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AVCO 1MERIDIAN, Idaho (Mar 16, 2014) – Service animals including: Guide, handicapped assistance, detection, military, search and rescue, and registered therapy animals, selflessly serve the public. To honor these animals and their work, the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) is launching the 7th Annual ACVO® National Service Animal Eye Exam Event throughout the month of May. More than 250 board certified veterinary ophthalmologists throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will donate their time and resources to provide free eye exam screenings to thousands of eligible service animals. Registration for service animal owners and handlers runs from April 1 – 30 at

Since the program’s launch in 2008, nearly 22,000 service animals have been examined. In addition to dogs, other service animals including horses and even a service donkey named Henry have received free sight-saving exams.

“Early detection and treatment are vital to these working animals,” Stacee Daniel, executive director of ACVO, said. “Our hope is that by checking their vision early and often, we will be able to help a large number of service animals better assist their human friends.”

Ben is a black American Field Labrador who can climb a three-story ladder, unassisted. Ben’s eyesight is vital to his job.  He is a search and rescue dog from Ventura, Calif. that can be called upon at any time to rescue someone who is alive, during a disaster. Ben’s handler, Eric Darling, has brought Ben to participate in the ACVO National Service Animal Eye Exam Event for three years in a row. “Catching something early is huge!” Darling said. “This event ensures that we have the opportunity to get this exam done, with no excuses.”

The event is sponsored by ACVO and generous industry sponsors. Other non-profit supporters that endorse the event include the American Veterinary Medical Association, most state veterinary medical associations in the U.S. and Canada, the American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives, and other national service animal organizations.


To qualify, animals must be “active working animals” that were certified by a formal training program or organization, or are currently enrolled in a formal training program. The certifying organization could be national, regional or local in nature. Owners/agents for the animal(s) must FIRST register the animal via an online registration form beginning April 1 at Registration ends April 30. Once registered online, the owner/agent will receive a registration number and will be allowed access to a list of participating ophthalmologists in their area. Then, they may contact a specialist to schedule an appointment, which will take place during the month of May. Times may vary depending on the facility and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dr. Robert M. Gwin

Animal Eye Clinic    Oklahoma City, OK  73120

405-751-3821  or  800-256-6454

About the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists®

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists® (ACVO) is an approved veterinary specialty organization of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, and is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association.  Its mission is “to advance the quality of veterinary medicine through certification of veterinarians who demonstrate excellence as specialists in veterinary ophthalmology.” To become board certified, a candidate must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, a one-year internship, a three-year approved residency and pass a series of credentials and examinations. For more information, please visit

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