Ten Confusing Medical Terms Your Veterinarian Might Use

Confusing Medical TermsFor the past several months, I’ve been collating a list of complex words I’ve used when talking to pet families. These are words that provoke a quizzical look or a clarifying question from a family member during a conversation about pet health care. In this blog post, I do my best to define this confounding terms and hopefully help you demystify some common “vet-speak”!

  1. Anorexia has a bad connotation from its association with the human disorder, anorexia nervosa. When your veterinarian makes a note in a medical record that says “anorexia for 4 days,” the notation simply indicates that the pet is not eating. It does not mean that your pet has been diagnosed with an eating disorder.
  2. Dehiscence is the term used to describe a surgical incision that has fallen apart. While this sounds serious, most incisions are multi-layered, and it’s often only the outer layer of skin that comes undone. The most common cause of dehiscence is the pet owner’s reluctance to use an Elizabethan collar, or cone, to protect the incision.
  3. Fasting is common enough that most pet families will understand it in principle, but it’s important to know the specifics. Does fasting mean no food AND no water, or just no food? Be sure to ask this question if your veterinarian is not clear.
  4. General anesthesia indicates that the entire patient is anesthetized. If anesthesia is not general it’s local, meaning just one specific site. Veterinarians don’t use local anesthesia as much as physicians do. A common example of local anesthesia is the lidocaine injection you get at the dentist.
  5. Incontinence describes one of two conditions: inability to control urination or inability to control defecation. Veterinarians diagnose urinary incontinence more often than fecal incontinence. The most common cases of urinary incontinence involve older female dogs who leak urine when they sleep.
  6. Inflammation describes the body’s response to disease or injury. The cardinal signs of inflammation were defined by the 1st-century Roman encyclopaedist, Celsus, as calor, dolor, rubor and tumor (heat, pain, redness and swelling). This four-word summary is applicable to all inflammatory processes: a healing surgical incision, the area around an infected tooth or the intestine of a patient with inflammatory bowel disease.
  7. Lethargy, as defined by Dictionary.com, is: an abnormal lack of energy, especially as the result of a disease. This fits the veterinarian’s use of the word to a T. When your veterinarian asks questions about ball playing or Frisbee chasing, she is trying to determine if your dog is lethargic as part of the disease process being evaluated.
  8. Prophylaxis is an action taken to prevent a disease. For example, heartworm medication is a form of prophylaxis given to prevent heartworms and other parasites from infecting your pet. At AMC, a “prophy” is doctor speak for a dental cleaning to prevent tooth and gum disease.
  9. Responsive describes a pet’s level of consciousness and reaction to their environment. The acronym BAR is short for Bright, Alert, Responsive. A waggy, friendly dog is BAR. The lowest level of consciousness is comatose.
  10. Undetectable, one would assume, may indicate good news. If something is undetectable, it’s not there, right? Not necessarily. Your veterinarian might use this word to indicate something they’re worried about, but just can’t find yet. In incurable diseases like hemangiosarcoma, a veterinarian might say metastasis, or tumor spread, is undetectable when they can’t find any tumor using x-rays or ultrasounds. Because all dogs with hemangiosarcoma succumb to this dreadful disease, the metastases may simply be undetectable at the time of the test.

Of course, this is an incomplete list – your veterinarian may use many words you don’t understand during your visit. If this happens, remember there’s nothing wrong with asking your veterinarian for clarification, to explain something again or to provide an example.

How to Collect a Urine Sample from Your Dog or Cat

Collecting a urine sample from your pet is not easyThis week has been all about pee. AMC’s front desk has been busy receiving tubes, Tupperware and tinfoil full of it. It seems like all of my patients are having urinary tract issues at the same time and their owners are struggling to collect and deliver it all to AMC.

Urine collection from your pet is certainly a tricky process, and some of the pet owners were very creative in their solution to the challenge. In this blog post, I’ll share their solutions with you, since someday you might find yourself in their shoes – trying to keep your pet’s pee off of your shoes. Plus, your pet’s veterinarian will love you if you bring a urine sample to your pet’s annual visit, and don’t forget that fecal sample either!

Smokey

The owner of Smokey, a Persian, used plastic wrap. He placed the plastic wrap over the clean litter in the litter box. Smokey didn’t seem to notice, and the plastic caught the urine in its folds. Smokey’s owner then used syringes to collect the urine off the plastic and delivered the urine to me.

Nathan

Nathan is a Maltese who’s had his share of bladder problems – stones and a small tumor successfully removed by AMC surgeons. Like many small, city dogs, Nathan uses wee-wee pads for urinations. By flipping the pad upside down (blue plastic side up), so the urine would not be absorbed by the pad, the owner waited for Nathan to do his business, then folded the pad to create a spout and poured the urine into a clean container for transport.

Amelia

Amelia, the Labrador, presented a different challenge in collecting urine. Many owners of female dogs slip one of those tinfoil pie pans under their dog when they urinate. For Amelia, the noise of the pan sliding under her was startling and the pan tended to fold as it was pushed. The shape was right, but the material was not. So Amelia’s owner switched to one of those environmentally unsound, but very sturdy, plastic disposable plates with an elevated rim. Once she caught the urine, she poured it off the plate into a clean container with a screw on lid.

One final thought

Collecting urine from your pet is not just busy work for the pet owner. It provides critical medical information. The results from the urine test helped me confirm Smokey did not have kidney disease, showed Nathan’s tumor had not recurred and proved that Amelia was not drinking too much water. And that is why this week was all about pee!

April is Heartworm Awareness Month

Click image to download

Veterinarian’s offices are humming with energy this time of year. Kitten season is starting up and many dogs will have their annual physical examination and blood tests. One test that is an annual essential is a heartworm test.

Heartworm basics

If left untreated, heartworms can be a serious and potentially fatal condition in dogs. However, the name heartworm is a misnomer. Adult heartworms live in the blood vessels of the lungs. Only in severe cases do the adult worms spill over into the heart and its associated blood vessels.

Dogs contract heartworms when they’re bitten by a mosquito carrying juvenile heartworms. As the worms mature in the dog, they migrate to the blood vessels of the lungs. As mature heartworms reproduce, their offspring, known as microfilaria, circulate throughout the body via the circulatory system. If a dog with microfilaria is bitten by a mosquito, the life cycle starts again.

Heartworm testing

The most common heartworm test uses a small blood sample from your dog. The test identifies a substance produced by the adult female heartworm. Since the test identifies only adult heartworms, there’s a lag time between the bite of the infected mosquito and when your dog will test positive for heartworm disease, approximately 5-6 months. So here in the Northeastern United States, we commonly test dogs for heartworms in the spring to identify any infections acquired during the prior summer. Heartworms have been diagnosed in all 50 states and the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends annual testing for all dogs.

 Heartworm prevention

If your dog’s annual heartworm test is negative, your veterinarian will prescribe a monthly heartworm preventative. This class of medication kills the maturing heartworms before they reach the lungs. These drugs are effective at killing heartworms, but only if you give them on schedule. Check the website of your dog’s heartworm medication because many of these products have an app or an online reminder system to encourage compliance.

Heartworm infection

The veterinarians at the Animal Medical Center diagnosed two cases of heartworms last week. On the surface this seems odd, but both dogs were rescues transported to New York City from southern states. When you move animals, you move their infectious disease as well. Treatment of canine heartworm disease is tricky because the dying heartworms set off serious inflammation in the lungs and predispose dogs to blood clots. Dogs infected with many heartworms experience difficulty breathing, heart failure and obstruction of blood flow when blood vessels become clogged with 6-12 inch long worms. That’s why heartworm preventatives are so important: it helps everyone—dogs, owners, and veterinarians—avoid this complicated medical scenario.

Heartworm tips

If you travel with your dog to areas of the country where heartworms commonly occur, make sure your dog is taking monthly medications on schedule.  Many northern dog owners become lax about preventatives in the winter.

Cats and ferrets can get heartworm disease too, but it’s much less common than dogs. Check with your veterinarian about heartworm preventative in these species.

Is a clinical trial right for my pet?

Clinical trial assessmentWhile the title of this blog post suggests I will answer this question for you, I can’t answer for your pet. That task belongs to your family. I can outline some questions and their rationale to assist you in decision making.

Many veterinary specialty hospitals like the Animal Medical Center conduct clinical trials. Clinical trials help the veterinary community discover new knowledge about naturally occurring illnesses and, without them, the quality of medical care would stagnate. Clinical trials start with a research protocol. The protocol tests drugs, devices, procedures or other interventions such as a diet change. At AMC, the protocol is approved by a research board called an IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) who ensure the protocol has scientific merit and safeguards for patients. The clinical investigator collects information (blood samples, biopsies, examination information, x-ray images) from the study participants and analyzes the data to determine if the intervention under study is better, the same or not as good than the current standard of care.

Do the goals of the clinical trial meet your goals for treating your pet?

It’s important to keep your pet’s treatment goals in mind when considering a clinical trial for your pet. For example, one of my clients, whose dog has been diagnosed with a slowly growing malignant tumor, sent me a link to a clinical trial for a new drug to treat cancer. The clinical trial she found is a 28-day study evaluating how a new cancer drug is absorbed, metabolized and excreted from the body. While this trial will discover critical information about the new drug, a 28-day chemotherapy treatment is probably not enough to treat this dog’s cancer successfully. She decided against this trial for her dog. Her goal is long term control of her dog’s tumor and this clinical trial is not likely to achieve her goal.

Is a clinical trial free?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Clinical trials may be supported by a drug company, a research grant or the institution sponsoring the study. No matter who funds a clinical trial, there will be a budget and, as part of the informed consent process, you will receive information on the financial incentives included in the study. Be sure to ask what the investigator anticipates your out-of-pocket costs will be. Check with your pet insurance company to see if they will cover out-of-pocket costs of a clinical trial.

What if my pet has side effects during a clinical trial?

The clinical trial protocol will be designed to track and monitor any anticipated side effects. If side effects occur, the protocol will dictate the course of action. Your pet may be able to continue the trial if the side effects are minor or they could be removed from the trial if the effects are serious.

These days, most clinical trials feature a Quality of Life diary completed by the pet’s primary caretaker. This helps you to focus on how your pet is doing and provides the clinical investigator with a valuable resource in recognizing any negative side effects early in the trial.

Before you enter your pet into a clinical trial, ask what the expected side effects are, their frequency and how the study protocol manages side effects. Don’t forget to ask what your financial responsibility is if side effects occur.

How many visits will my pet need to complete the clinical trial protocol?

The answer to this question could be any number. Every study is different. When I’m involved in a clinical trial, I make a handout for the prospective participants outlining the study schedule. Ask if one is available for the trial you are considering.

Does the whole family have to agree to the pet participating in the clinical trial?

Fair question, tough answer. If all family members are going to be involved in taking the pet to clinical trial hospital visits, I say yes. If one family member is the “owner” and expects to give all medications, fill out all the forms and take the pet to all the hospital visits, then it might be their decision alone. If your family is having a difficult time deciding about a clinical trial for your pet, ask the clinical investigator if they collaborate with a social worker who might help in the decision-making process. Another professional to consult is your regular veterinarian. That veterinarian has probably known you and your pet for a long time, understands clinical trials and will be an excellent resource in the decision making process.

Why did the clinical investigator reject my pet from their trial?

All clinical trials have entry criteria. The criteria exist to ensure the data is collected from a group of patients who have a similar disease and with the safety of the participants in mind. Clinical investigators don’t want to make your sick pet sicker and neither do you, so they may feel the study is too risky for your pet.

Clinical trial resources for pet families

AMC clinical trials
American Veterinary Medical Association clinical trials database
Veterinary Cancer Society clinical trials database

Should I give CBD supplements to my pet?

CBD in PetsThere’s a huge interest in cannabis products for pets. Based on the queries from my patients, most of the interest is in CBD-containing supplements. While the internet and local pet stores may have well-stocked shelves of CBD chew treats, oils and creams, pet owners should exercise caution if they chose to administer such products to their favorite fur person.

Marijuana basics

The marijuana plant contains nearly 500 different organic compounds, but the two most important are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive cannabinoid, and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is touted as safer because it does not have the euphoric effects of THC in humans, but CBD does affect the nervous system, and its mechanisms are largely a mystery to scientists. Additionally, CBD’s effect on cats and dogs remains poorly studied.

The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies marijuana or extracts from the plant as Schedule 1 controlled drugs. This classification prevents veterinarians from prescribing medical marijuana and also restricts our ability to research the drug’s effects in different diseases. Despite its Schedule 1 classification, CBD containing products can be purchased in stores and online.

Hemp

Some products on pet store shelves contain “CBD from hemp.” Industrial hemp is legal; however, the Drug Enforcement Agency has issued a clarification that while they indeed recognize industrial hemp research and its products as legal, this protection does not extend to CBD products, which remain illegal, regardless of the source of the CBD. Recent legislation may ease the use of CBD from hemp, but until the federal regulations are written, prescribing CBD appears to be off limits to veterinarians like me.

What is the dose?

Despite the huge interest, there isn’t a correspondingly large body of scientifically collected information on the impact of CBD in pets. Most of the information veterinarians have available to them comes from emergency room studies of pets accidentally ingesting marijuana. This means I, and my colleagues, cannot be very helpful to you regarding dosing your pet with CBD products, because of a lack of information.

The lack of information regarding dosage is compounded by the fact that many CBD-containing products don’t contain the amount of active ingredient indicated on the label. The FDA has quantified CBD levels in some products and found many did not contain the advertised levels of CBD. Some “CBD” products contain very little CBD, while others contain more. For these reasons, the FDA cautions consumers regarding the purchase and use of CBD products as the effects may be unpredictable in their pets.

More information soon

Although information about optimal dosing of CBD and the diseases most amenable to CBD therapy are lacking, more information may be coming. According to a recent article in the American Animal Hospital Association’s Trends Magazine, approximately a dozen studies of CBD products are underway in dogs, cats, horses, monkeys and birds. When the results of those studies become available, pet owners and veterinarians will have much better information on which to base therapeutic decisions for their pets and patients. Until then, the many unanswered questions regarding CBD continues to limit its utility in pets.

Medical Machines: Ultrasound Machines

Medical Machines“Medical Machines” is a new series of blog posts highlighting the equipment AMC veterinarians use to provide state-of-the-art care to thousands of pets annually. These machines save countless lives, but pet families rarely ever have the opportunity to see them up close and personal. This series will give readers a glimpse into the equipment AMC veterinarians rely on every day. The previous blog post in this series highlighted infusion pumps.

The machine for today is an ultrasound machine. I was shocked when I finished counting our ultrasound machines — AMC has ten different ones located on four different floors of the hospital.

An internal view without x-rays

Fifty years ago, if veterinarians wanted to see the inside of the body, we took an x-ray. To take an x-ray, we use a machine that emits radiation, creating an image on film. An x-ray reduces a three-dimensional dog or cat to a two-dimensional image. While x-rays are still used for the heart, lungs and bones, ultrasound is more commonly used to view the inside of the abdomen. The probe of the ultrasound machine bounces sound waves off the internal organs as the probe is moved about. The sound waves then create a gray scale image on the ultrasound screen. The veterinarian performing the ultrasound twists the probe which changes the orientation of the image and allows the various organs to be evaluated from side to side, top to bottom and front to back. By analyzing an organ in multiple directions, a clear picture of any structural abnormalities emerges.

Diagnostic images = radiology

Back when veterinarians only had x-rays, the department in charge of x-rays was called radiology. Now that we have x-rays, CT scans and MRIs, the department has expanded and these imaging modalities reside in AMC’s Diagnostic Imaging Department. Since ultrasound is another method of imaging the body, this group of AMC doctors has two of our best ultrasound machines in the hospital. Our radiologists have special training to perform and interpret ultrasounds. One of their most important skills is using the ultrasound to collect samples for laboratory testing.

Peering into a heart

An x-ray of the chest will identify an enlarged heart or fluid in the lungs as the result of heart failure. To hone in on problems with heart values or a thickened heart muscle, a specialized ultrasound called an echocardiogram is required. AMC’s cardiologists have two such machines: one about the size of a small refrigerator and a portable one for cage side use.

A quick look

The other six ultrasound machines are distributed on four different floors of the hospital, necessitated by AMC’s vertical space. All six of these machines have similar functions. They are quite small, about the size of a toaster and are strapped to a wheeled stand. ICU and ER doctors will wheel their machine to a critical patient to quickly determine if there is internal bleeding or an object stuck in the intestine. Oncology and Interventional Radiology use their mobile ultrasound machines to monitor the effect of treatment, as does Internal Medicine. We all use our ultrasound machines to facilitate collection of urine samples.

With all these essential functions, no wonder AMC needs a denary of ultrasound machines!

Pyometra: A Life-Threatening Infection

Pyometra imageEvery morning at about 5 am, the overnight team of ER doctors at the Animal Medical Center sends an email with the list of the overnight admissions. Last week, two canine patients were listed as being admitted with a diagnosis of pyometra. Both dogs were so sick they underwent emergency surgery in the middle of the night to treat their pyometra.

What is pyometra?

Pyometra is a bacterial infection of the uterus. The most common bacterium identified in pyometra is E. coli, which probably originates in the stool and ascends into the uterus. It often occurs about one month after a dog or cat has been in heat. In both dogs and cats, middle-aged females are at risk. About 25% of unspayed dogs will develop pyometra before age of 10. Oriental purebred cats have a higher risk of pyometra than non-purebred cats. Oriental purebred cats and Sphynx, Siberian, Ocicat, Korat, Ragdoll, Maine Coon and Bengal develop pyometra at a younger age than the general cat population. If your cat is an unsprayed female of a high risk breed, the next paragraph is a must read.

How would I know if my dog or cat has pyometra?

Early in the course of pyometra, there may not be any clinical signs. As the infection worsens, dogs may stop eating, act lethargic, vomit, drink lots of water and urinate excessively.

You might notice a white or bloody vaginal discharge. As the uterus fills with pus, your dog’s tummy might look bloated. If these clinical signs are missed, the infection progresses and can spread throughout the bloodstream. Ultimately, your veterinarian will make the diagnosis based on an abdominal x-ray or ultrasound. An x-ray of a dog with pyometra is shown above.

Because cats are not simply little dogs, pyometra looks different in the cat. Female cats are much less likely to act sick when they have pyometra until the infection is advanced and the uterus is very large. Because of the fastidious nature of cats, vaginal discharge is easily missed. Cat or dog, pyometra can be so serious that emergency surgery is required and your pet could end up in ICU.

How is pyometra treated?

The short answer to this question is surgical removal of the uterus. But the severity of illness may require extensive treatment prior to and following surgery. Pets with pyometra are frequently dehydrated, febrile and may have low blood sugar that must be corrected before surgery. In preparation for surgery, intravenous fluids, antibiotics and glucose may be administered. Veterinarians reserve non-surgical treatment of pyometra for valuable breeding animals.

Will my pet recover from pyometra?

Despite the urgency of surgery to remove the infected uterus from a critically ill pet, nearly all will make a full recovery. Fatalities in dogs tend to occur when the uterus is leaking pus into the abdominal cavity.

Since pyometra is a uterine infection caused in part by the normal reproductive cycle of cats and dogs, one of the advantages of spaying your female cat or dog is prevention of pyometra.

Pyometra can be found in many species, including this recent report about a white Bengal tiger who was successfully treated by veterinarians at Oregon State University.

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) in Dogs

Amanda SARDS
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Montagu

One of my patient’s winter vacations was cut short last week when her owner noticed she was bumping into the furniture and reluctant to jump on and off the bed. A quick trip to the Animal Medical Center and consultations with internal medicine, neurology and ophthalmology specialists determined this cute pug, named Amanda, was blind and suffering from sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome or SARDS.

SARDS not to be confused with SARS

Sudden acquired degeneration syndrome was first described in dogs in the mid 1980’s. The acronym SARDS is very similar to SARS, which was a highly contagious respiratory disease originating in China in 2002 and causing hundreds of deaths worldwide. SARDS is not contagious, is not fatal and does not cause respiratory signs, but dogs with SARDS do have clinical signs beyond the acute blindness.

Hungry, thirsty and then blind

Prior to the loss of her vision, Amanda’s owner noticed she was eating more, drinking more and urinating more. Amanda had gained a pound and a half over 6 months. Since the cause of SARDS remains elusive, the physiology behind the increased thirst and appetite are unknown, but two thirds of dogs diagnosed with SARDS have these clinical signs. A month prior to the vision loss, Amanda had been treated for redness in her eyes, another common finding in SARDS dogs.

A textbook case

Amanda was nearly a textbook case of SARDS. In addition to eating and drinking more, she is a pug. Pugs, dachshunds, miniature schnauzers, cocker spaniels and maltese dogs are at increased risk for developing SARDS. Elevations in liver tests are common in dogs with SARDS and Amanda has not one, but two different liver tests that were above the normal range.

Electrorentinogram

In dogs with SARDS, the retina (or light perceiving lining of the eye) stops working but still appears normal when a veterinarian looks at the back of the eye using an ophthalmoscope. An electroretinogram is the test used to make a diagnosis of SARDS. The electroretinogram flashes bright lights directly at the retina and measures the brain’s electrical activity in response to the flashing lights. Dogs with SARDS show no brain electrical activity in response to the light flashes.

Living with a blind dog

Watching your suddenly blind dog learn to navigate the world without vision can be heartbreaking. In reality, as long as you don’t rearrange the furniture, she will quickly learn to cope and have an excellent quality of life. There are a number of resources to help you provide a safe and stimulating environment for your non-visual dog. Here are links to just a few of them.

Living with Blind Dogs

Blind Devotion: Enhancing the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired Dogs

My Dog is Blind – but Lives Life to the Full!: A practical guide for owners with a blind or sight-impaired dog

Everyday Medicine: What is a spay?

“Everyday Medicine” is an intermittent series of blog posts highlighting tests, treatments, and procedures common in daily Animal Medical Center practice. Some past examples of this type of blog post include fecal analysis and vomiting or regurgitation.

Since February 26, 2019 is World Spay Day, today’s post focuses on spaying a healthy dog or cat as a method of contraception rather than as a treatment for a disease.

What is a spay?

Spaying is a surgical procedure that makes pregnancy impossible in a female dog or cat. Traditionally, both the ovaries and uterus are removed during a spay, but recent advances in veterinary surgery make removal of the ovaries without removal of the uterus a more common procedure.

What are the benefits of spaying my female dog or cat?

Most female pet dogs and cats are spayed to prevent unwanted litters of puppies and kittens. Removal of the ovaries also halts a female dog or cat’s reproductive cycle and prevents them from going into heat. When dogs are “in heat,” their vaginal discharge can be messy around the house. A female cat “in heat” yowls, cries, and is generally very disruptive to the humans in the household, especially those trying to sleep. “In heat” female dogs and cats attract undesirable male suitors. Spaying prevents all of these issues.

Additionally, dogs (and less commonly cats) can develop a life-threatening uterine infection called pyometra. Because spaying removes the ovaries, it removes the ovarian hormones and prevents pyometra from occurring. Finally, spaying your dog before the first heat cycle decreases their risk of breast cancer.

How is a spay performed?

There are two primary methods for performing a spay. The traditional one is through an incision in the middle of the abdomen; although spays can also be performed through an incision in the flank. However, minimally invasive methods of spaying, via laparoscopic surgery, have recently become more popular and more widely available. Laparoscopic surgery employs a tiny, high-resolution camera inserted through a small incision in the abdomen to perform surgery. The main difference between an abdominal surgery and laparoscopic surgery is the former removes both ovaries and uterus while the latter only the ovaries.

Finally, contraception is not just for girls and the surgical birth control procedure in males is often referred to as neutering.

Dog shows are more than just pretty dogs

2019 Annual Westminster Kennel Club Best in ShowCongratulations to last night’s best in show winner, GCHB CH Kingarthur Van Foliny Home at the Annual Westminster Kennel Club show at Madison Square Garden. Best in Show completes a week of canine events with a sprinkling of cats thrown in for variety.

In addition to the Westminster Kennel Club show, Westminster week features both Masters Agility and Obedience competitions. Meet the Breeds hosts both dogs and cats from the Afghan hound to the Turkish van and every breed in between. To get the inside scoop on the dog show, last week’s guest on “Ask the Vet” (SiriusXM Stars 109) was AMC’s own Anne Marie Kubacz, LVT. In addition to being AMC’s longest serving nurse, Anne Marie has shown dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club show, worked as an expert during the broadcast and been involved in veterinary care for dogs from the show treated at AMC. Here are some of her insights on the second longest running sporting event in America.

Dog shows are for families

Anne Marie got her start in dog shows when someone noticed her beautiful Irish setter in Prospect Park and suggested she show her dog. She met her husband showing dogs and her son is now a professional dog handler. This family trio of dog show specialists spends nearly every weekend at dog shows, but Anne Marie said devoting every weekend to dog shows is not necessary to have a great family experience.

Dog shows have something for everyone

Anne Marie’s family specializes in showing purebred dogs, but dog shows provide opportunities for every type of dog. Dogs in five height divisions competed in the Masters Agility event at the WKC show. These energetic dogs raced over and under obstacles, through tunnels and zipped back and forth competing for the best time. There were even cameras inside the tunnels and the view from inside made it look like the dogs were running inside a set of lungs! To see for yourself, watch the highlight video.

The Masters Obedience competition is a more creative event where the dog and his partner perform a routine of obedience moves. This year’s winner is the Tiger Woods of the dog world and became a four time Masters Champion in Obedience. This year’s performance will bring a smile to your face.

Dog shows have cats too

If you’re not interested in participating with your dog, Anne Marie suggested attending the event just to meet some dogs and cats. Meet the Breeds gives dog lovers the unique opportunity to meet and play with more than 100 different dog breeds in booths cleverly decorated to depict each breed’s country of origin, historical purpose/function and attributes as a family pet, all while learning about responsible dog ownership and which breeds may be right for them. This year, cats made their triumphant return to the AKC Meet the Breeds® event with The International Cat Association® giving animal lovers the unique opportunity to meet and play with 35-40 different cat breeds.

The dog show and AMC

When I asked Anne Marie what her best back story about the WKC show was, she recounted the story of a Doberman pinscher, Indy. He flew to New York City for the WKC and when he got off the plane, everyone knew he was not right. Indy came straight from the airport to AMC where a case of bloat was diagnosed and treated. Indy went on to win Best in Show that year to the cheering of many delighted AMC veterinarians.

AMC congratulates all winners from Westminster week, but the biggest winners of all were the humans who had a wonderful time with their dogs.