Holiday Gifts

A Visit from St. Nick to Fido and Fluffy

I am certain if your dog or cat could talk, he would ask for a special gift this holiday season. To help you fill your fur babies’ stockings hung by the chimney with care, AMC has developed this list of unique pet presents, with a bit of help from former New Yorker, C. Clement Moore!

The children were nestled all snug in their beds

While waiting for Santa, tuck your hamster or guinea pig into a cozy bed with a silky soft, all natural kapok mattress. The Ware Build-a Bed  packaging can quickly be assembled into a critter bed. After a long winter’s nap, your pocket pet can safely chew their bed, which is printed with 100% pet safe vegetable ink, while they wait for Santa’s arrival.

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads

Sugarplums, a luxury treat in the 19th century, should not be on your pet’s Santa list. Instead, your cat will go crazy for Terrabone cat sushi. Cat sushi is not really sushi since this product does not contain raw fish, but contains traditional Japanese bonito tuna flakes. Bonito tuna flakes are high in protein and your cat will agree they are a 21st century feline version of the sugarplum.

Give the luster of mid-day to objects below

Light up your late night walk with a the Headlight Harness and a reflective leash. Need more light to get a glimpse of Santa and his reindeer? Get your dog a USB LED rechargeable leash in one of six neon colors. Rudolph will be so jealous.

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof

Your cat will prance, paw and claw at the Calypso cat scratcher. The vertical design is perfect for stretching and the sisal weave appeals to your cat’s tactile senses. The base is weighted to prevent tipping. Your cat’s eyes will twinkle when St. Nick pulls this toy out of his pack.

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back

And your dog would love that bundle to contain a Snuffle Mat.
A snuffle mat is a food puzzle a reminiscent of a 1970’s shag carpet, but instead of your mother yelling at you for dropping food on her carpet, you hide treats between the tufts of fabric sprouting from the mat. This sends your dog on a snuffling spree.
A do-it-yourself version of the snuffle mat is available here.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

While St. Nicholas made a dramatic entry down the chimney, you want to be in control of your dog’s exits and entries. Consider installing a smart door controlled by an app on your phone. You can let your dogs in and out with a touch of the screen. The door limits entry so only your dogs can come back inside. Be sure to leave the door open on Christmas in case Santa doesn’t want to use the chimney to make a delivery.

I hope this list will inspire your holiday giving and put you in the mood for a joyous season. For more pet gift ideas, read our previous holiday gift blogs.

https://www.amcny.org/blog/2017/11/29/holiday-pet-gift-guide-2017#
http://www.amcny.org/blog/2016/11/23/pet-holiday-gifts-2016
http://www.amcny.org/blog/2014/12/03/holiday-gifts-for-pets

And in the words of St. Nicholas himself, “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Taking Medical Photos of Your Pet

The smartphone has revolutionized much of life today. Not only can we stay in constant contact with family and friends, but we can also listen to music, watch sporting events, and record life’s important moments in photographs and video. In a previous blog post, I suggested how you could use your smartphone to keep your pet healthy.

Smartphones have also revolutionized veterinary care via apps, access to scientific journals, and rapid communication with pet families. Your smartphone has improved my ability to care for your pet when you use it to send me images to keep me abreast of changes in your pet. Some photos are more helpful than others. Here are my suggestions to help you take the best medical photos possible.

Focus
Below is a very crisp, clear photograph of a healing incision. The photographer owner was concerned the incision was red on one end of the incision. I agreed with her assessment, but it was not severe enough for a trip to the ER, and the over the next two days the skin around the incision became normal again.

crisp photo

Compare the previous photo to this one. You can see it is out of focus and because it was out of focus I could not determine what the owner was trying to convey using this image.

fuzzy incision

Zoom In, Zoom Out
Sometimes, two photos would be helpful. The first photo should show where the problem is on the body, and the second should be closer in to show what the area in question actually looks like. On left is a photo of the elbow of a pug. The wider scope of the photo helps me see where the lesion is and how big it is. On the right is a close-up and I can readily see a bald patch without infection or swelling. If you send me only the second photo, I am at a loss as to the location of the abnormality.

zoom photo

Title Your Photo
Sometimes you are so worried about your pet, you snap a photo and send it to me without a label or caption. Without more information, I am at a loss as to what I am looking at or how I should respond. For example, the heading in the email said “Rosie today”. I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at. Turns out the photo was an out of focus close up of a stool sample with a fleck of blood on it. If the title was “Rosie’s poop today”, I could have grasped the owner’s concern.

And because a picture is worth 1,000 words, you can tell me a lot more about your pet with one well taken photograph rather than a very long email. So get clicking and start sending, but focus, title and frame those photos!

Finding the Right Sitter for Your Pet

pet sitter

In my last blog post, I wrote how smart devices like automatic feeders and pet cams make pet families lives easier. Technology is a poor substitute for a human being who watches over your pet while you are away on a business trip or vacation. Since I recommended a human pet sitter and not a robotic one, I thought I should give my readers some guidelines for selecting the right pet sitter.

Sleepaway Camp or Stay-cation
One of the first decisions you should make about care for your pet is where your pet will be taken care of: at home, at someone else’s home, or at a boarding facility. Each of these options has its pluses and minuses. A stay-cation might be great for your sedentary, octogenarian cat, but a puppy who needs exercise and training might be very bored and potentially destructive if left alone except for daily walks during your two-week vacation. If you have a dog who is the life of the party, a boarding facility will provide the perfect opportunity for a sleep away stay. The introverted dog will probably find a week at a friend’s house more to his liking.

Credentials and Qualifications
The pet-loving neighbor kid might be a good person to feed your young, healthy cat while you are away for a couple of days; on the other hand, the neighbor kid is definitely not qualified if your cat needs medications while you are away. The skill level required of a pet sitter increases dramatically when medications are involved. Your veterinarian’s office will likely know of an experienced veterinary technician or assistant who can both feed your pet and administer medications while you are away. Some veterinary hospitals will also do “medical boarding” which can be a good solution to the pet care problem. If you use a boarding facility, check on their policies regarding medication administration. Don’t forget to alert the boarding facility if any heartworm or flea/tick preventive medications are due while you are away.

God Forbid, an Emergency
Another point of inquiry is how the facility handles medical emergencies. If the boarding facility uses an emergency clinic, be sure the boarding facility knows who your pet’s regular veterinarian is and also notify your regular veterinarian regarding your pet’s boarding schedule. It wouldn’t hurt to make a quick one-pager on your pet’s current medications, health concerns and your contact information while you are away. You might also consider designating a medical proxy to make decisions in the event you cannot be reached at a critical moment.

With a bit of advanced planning, both you and your pet can have a wonderful time away even if you are apart.

Do you really need a cat sitter?

catsitter

This week marks the beginning of the 2018 holiday season and with the holidays comes travel for celebrations with family and friends. Grandma may not have your cat on the holiday guest list, and other cats are just homebodies. With all the smart devices available to cat lovers, is a cat sitter really necessary when your cat is not traveling with you?

Remote Feeders
One of my very tech oriented millennial clients stopped by for new food and medication for his cat. We discussed the exact amount of the new food she should eat. After we settled on one quarter of a cup three times daily, he simply sat in the chair in my office and used his cat’s smart feeder app on his phone to dispense the exact amount of food from the feeder’s dry food reservoir. Get a water fountain at your local pet emporium and you don’t even have to worry about refilling the water bowl.

Robotic Litterboxes
For those that hate scooping poop, a self-cleaning litter box eliminates that chore. These litter boxes also allow you to leave your cat home unattended but maintain their litter box in pristine condition, at least until the waste drawer is full. Robotic litter boxes require a power source and are bigger than traditional boxes, so you will need the right space to take advantage of their convenience. Cats must weigh over a certain amount (>5 pounds) to trigger the automatic scoop function, so this might not be a good choice for petite cats.

Treat Cams
Smart technology using cameras and microphones will allow you to check in on your cats and talk with them via Bluetooth as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection. Some smart cams have additional functionality and can dispense treats, spritz aromatherapy, and stream video from the internet. With all this connectivity, will your cat even miss you?

Who’s in charge while you’re away?
While smart technology will allow you to provide food, water, a clean litter box, and some remote human interaction, some glitches could thwart your best laid plans for a sitter-free holiday. If your cat needs medication, smart technology may not be able to ensure your favorite feline isn’t spitting out the pills just out of camera range. Since all these devices depend on internet service and electricity, a winter storm that knocks out the power could leave your cat hungry and thirsty and in the dark. All your smart devices will make the cat owner’s life easier, however nothing can replace what your cat craves most, you. So give your cat a special holiday gift, her very own cat sitter!

Having a Heart to Heart Talk with Yourself About Your Pet’s Cancer Diagnosis

Cure Pet Cancer

November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month. One in every four dogs and one in every five cats will develop cancer in their lifetime and @amcny is doing its part to raise pet cancer awareness by tweeting to #CurePetCancer to raise awareness.

Since cancer diagnoses are common in pets, many of my readers will face the difficult task of choosing cancer treatment decisions for their pet. Here is a list of questions you should ask yourself as you work through that decision-making process.

What kind of cancer specialist does my pet need?
Veterinary cancer specialists are not all the same. At AMC, we have three different types of cancer experts for pets: those that focus on administering chemotherapy, some who specialize in delivering radiation therapy, and the third type have special training in surgical oncology. We all know the basics of cancer treatment principals, but have different strengths within that core information. Your pet may need a consultation with one of us or all of us, depending on the type of cancer that has been diagnosed. The answer to this question lies in the biopsy because the type of tumor your pet has dictates the treatment options.

What kind of treatment is the oncologist recommending and is it right for my pet?
There are three main treatments for cancer: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Not every treatment is appropriate for every type of cancer and based on the biopsy, an oncologist will discuss what options are available to your pet and the expected outcome for each treatment option. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy require multiple treatments over several weeks to months. Surgery typically requires only a few visits to the hospital and has the highest chance of curing certain cancers. Cancer is most common in older pets and the grey muzzle set is also most likely to have other medical conditions which have to be taken into consideration in making the decision to pursue cancer treatment.

Do I have the resources to undertake the recommended treatment?
This question isn’t just about money, although cancer treatment can be costly. Another consideration when making the decision to treat your pet’s cancer is your time. Sometimes a trip to the surgical oncologist is all that is needed and other times 20+ trips are required for a course of chemotherapy. Be sure you understand what is required for the recommended treatment protocol. Your emotional resources count too. Maybe you are also caring for a seriously ill human family member and cancer treatment for the pet is more than you can handle. Or maybe it is the other way around and you can’t bear to lose two family members at once.

What is the prognosis for my pet with and without treatment?
This is a loaded question. The question is fair, but pet families who choose not to treat their pet’s cancer don’t often consult with an oncologist. That means oncologists, like me, don’t always have a good handle on the prognosis without treating many types of cancer.

If you have decided to make an appointment for a consultation with a veterinary cancer specialist, read about fancy cancer words that we try to keep out of our conversation with you, but sometimes accidentally slip into a conversation about treating your pet. Being prepared for a visit with a specialist will help to make sure all your questions are answered.

Diabetes: Pets and People

Stone - Diabetes

November is American Diabetes Month. To highlight how veterinarians care for pets with diabetes, I thought I would tell the story of one of my patients, a fluffy, grey and white cat named Stone.

Stone is a youngster, just under two years of age. He came to see me because his owner had noticed weight loss and excessive drinking. Weight loss and excessive drinking are common clinical signs of diabetes, but Stone was much younger than the typical cat with diabetes. Hyperthyroidism can also cause weight loss and increased drinking, but typically occurs in older cats.

Another cause of weight loss and excessive drinking is chronic kidney disease, but again, typically in older cats. I wasn’t really sure what was wrong with Stone until the blood tests showed sugar in his urine and an elevated blood sugar.

Dogs and cats have different forms of diabetes. Dogs commonly have Type I diabetes, which is a total lack of insulin production by the pancreas. Cats have Type II diabetes which occurs most commonly in middle to older overweight cats. Unlike humans with Type II diabetes, cats require insulin injections where humans can often manage Type II diabetes with oral medications and diet. Strangely, with weight loss, insulin therapy, and a special diet, some diabetic cats will become normoglycemic again and no longer require insulin. This happened to my own cat and he stopped needing insulin for a year. Then became permanently diabetic and required insulin for the rest of his life. I think chronic inflammation of the pancreas (known as pancreatitis) was the likely cause of the diabetes.

Stone was in to see me just a few days ago. On twice daily insulin therapy, he has gained back some of the weight he lost and is eating his special diabetes diet with gusto. Blood tests indicate his blood sugar is well controlled and his owner notes it is getting harder for her to test his urine to measure the urine sugar level. I am suspicious he may be heading for a period of diabetic remission.

To help my readers understand the similarities between their own diabetes and that of their pets, I included a table below with a comparison of the common features of the disease.

Comparison of diabetes between people and their pets:

  Cat Dog Human
Occurrence 0.58% of cats 0.35% of dogs 9.4% of Americans
Type I diabetes No Yes Yes
Type II diabetes Yes No More than 90% of diabetes
Diabetic retinopathy No Rare Yes
Diabetic nephropathy No No Yes
Association with pancreatitis Yes Yes No
Oral treatments No No Yes
Insulin injections Yes Yes Yes
Spontaneous remission resolution Yes No No
Diabetic cataracts Rare Yes Yes
Linked to obesity Yes Yes Yes

Paw-o-ween: Halloween Animal Myths

Halloween dog

Halloween is a mystical holiday, full of supernatural creatures with magical powers. The spirits inhabiting All Hallows Eve and the Day of the Dead, have given us some animal myths. In this blog post, I dig deeper into the myths and determine if they are fact or fiction.

Chicken Halloween Costumes are the New Trend
Halloween spending in the United States is expected to top $9 billion in 2018, many of the dollars spent on costumes. Two weeks ago, I saw a post on Facebook with chickens in Halloween costumes. The idea seemed over the top, but harmless until I received an email entitled, “CDC calls foul on Halloween costumes for backyard chickens.” The CDC warns chicken owners not festoon their fowl for Halloween amid an outbreak of drug-resistant Salmonella. The CDC also says people should not cuddle chickens and should sanitize surfaces that have come into contact with raw poultry in order to protect themselves and their family against Salmonella from their feathered family members.

For tips on raising backyard poultry safely, read the CDC backyard poultry guidelines.

Black Cats are Bad Luck
This legend apparently started in England. Charles I had a black cat so prized, it was given its own security guard. The cat took ill and died the day Charles I was arrested. Across the pond in America, around the time of the Salem witch trials, black cats were thought to be witches in disguise, to carry demons, or to possess special powers and abilities. The rational person believes this is a total myth, but probably doesn’t know cats and also dogs with black coats are less likely to be adopted from a shelter than those dogs and cats with brown, white or multicolored coats. Animal protection organizations report black cats are often mistreated around Halloween. So, in fact, this is not a myth, a black cat is unlucky, but to himself not to us!

Pumpkin is Good for Pets
If you are one of the millions of pet owners feeding pumpkin to your pet, you know it makes a world of difference to your constipated cat or dog with fiber responsive intestinal disease. All this happens safely, inexpensively, and without drug therapy. Leading up to Halloween, every NYC farmer’s market, bodega, and grocery store is loaded with pumpkins for carving into Jack-o-lanterns. After the trick-or-treaters have come and gone, the pumpkins will linger on the front porches and stoops of our neighborhoods becoming moldy and rotten. Pet families should be sure to throw away the spent pumpkins before one of your pets decides to nibble on the decorative gourd and induce a bout of gastrointestinal upset.

Wishing all our readers a happy and safe Howl-o-ween!

Going Viral: AMC’s One Health Day Event

One Health Day

November 3, 2018, marks the third annual One Health Day, a global campaign celebrating the need for a One Health approach to address shared health threats at the human-animal-environment interface. The One Health concept uses a transdisciplinary approach to recognizing and caring for the interconnected health of humans, animals, plants, and our shared environment. To celebrate One Health Day 2018, AMC will host a panel discussion with three New York City-based One Health experts; each panelist is a veterinarian AND an expert in a different One Health arena.

A Public Health Veterinarian
Sally Slavinski DVM, MPH, Diplomate ACVPM has an impressive list of letters after her name. Dr. Slavinski is a veterinarian with specialty training in public health. As the Assistant Director Zoonotic, Influenza and Vector-borne Disease Unit in New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Bureau of Communicable Disease, Sally stands at the juncture between animal and human disease in New York City. When you hear a warning about rabies in Central Park raccoons and the risk to your dog and yourself, Sally is behind that alert. She will provide attendees an overview of her role at the health department, explain the role of epidemiology and disease surveillance, and highlight the relationship between the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the animal health community.

A Veterinarian and Environmental Health 
Ellen P. Carlin, DVM works for EcoHealth Alliance as a Senior Health and Policy Specialist. She is also a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and holds positions at Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness and Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Her role on the panel is to discuss the often forgotten third point of the One Health triad, environmental ecological health. Dr. Carlin will discuss her role and contributions to understanding environmental elements of disease transmission, particularly in the context of disease transmitted between animals and humans.

A Wild Animal Veterinarian, Human and Environmental Health
Paul P. Calle, VMD, Diplomate ACZM & ECZM (Zoo Health Management) is the Chief Veterinarian and Vice President for Health Programs and the Director, Zoological Health Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), lovingly known to New Yorkers as the Bronx Zoo. The WCS does more than care for the animals in the NYC zoos; the WCS is instrumental in working on international health issues such as West Nile Virus, Ebola, and Avian Influenza. Diseases like these become global issues due to loss of animal habitats as a result of expansion of the human population and transport of disease vectors and causative agents by traveling humans.

Your pet, your world and you: expand your knowledge about all three by spending an evening with these three fascinating experts at AMC’s annual One Health Day on November 1st, 2018 from 6:30-8:30 pm. Register for free today!

Everyday Medicine: Hospital Wards

AMC hospital ward

“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 physical examination and vomiting or regurgitation. Today’s post focuses on the types of hospital wards your pet would stay in at AMC.

If you have been unlucky enough to be hospitalized, you know a human hospital is divided into a variety of different wards,usually by types of diseases: maternity ward, surgery ward, cardiac care, pediatric, and so on. AMC is also divided into wards, but a little bit differently since dogs and cats don’t have heart attacks and puppies and kittens are usually born at home. Even with the different types of hospital wards, AMC still has veterinarians and nurses on duty 24/7. Overnight there are always at least two veterinarians in the hospital.

ICU-Intensive Care Unit  

In the ICU, you will find no more than the 21 sickest patients in the hospital, because that is the number of cages available in our ICU.  These are patients that need constant monitoring because they have unstable vital signs.

The types of patients hospitalized in ICU include those requiring oxygen therapy for pneumonia or heart failure, glucose monitoring for diabetes, seizure watches, and any patient who is so sick they are recumbent and require intensive nursing care. Each patient in ICU has a service directing their care and also a nurse assigned for treatments and monitoring.

SCU-Special Care Unit

In a human hospital AMC’s SCU might be called a step-down ward. When patients recover enough to leave ICU, but are not quite ready to go home, they transfer to SCU. SCU is also home to patients admitted for the day for a procedure or following surgery when ICU-level care is not indicated.

ER-Emergency Room Ward

AMC’s ER is only a short-term stay ward. Pets evaluated by AMC’s Emergency and Critical Care staff are typically treated and discharged or hospitalized in ICU or SCU. A few may stay in the ER for several hours. Those pets landing a spot in ER might be a dog with a difficult birth, a pet with a laceration that requires anesthesia for repair, or an acutely ill animal waiting for blood tests or diagnostic imaging results to direct the treatment plan.

Avian and Exotic Pet Ward

In some ways, the avian and exotic pet ward is our most specialized ward.  This ward has “hospital beds” to accommodate birds, bunnies, reptiles, and other small mammals.  The ward has auxiliary heating since some exotic pets need a warmer environment than dogs and cats, and the cabinets and shelved are stocked with medications and equipment not found elsewhere in the hospital.

Isolation Ward

Like any isolation ward, AMC hosts pet with contagious diseases.  The most common diseases requiring isolation procedures include parvovirus and both canine and feline upper respiratory infections.

Designed to protect other pets from contracting an infectious disease, the isolation ward has restricted entry, a requirement for staff to wear protective gear, and a ventilation system that prevents contaminated air from circulating in the hospital. Cameras connect the patients to their nursing staff.

I hope your pet never needs our ICU, SCU, ER, avian and exotic pet or isolation wards, but if they do, you now know how carefully they will be cared for while they are with us.

Veterinary Nursing in Action

Zyna

October 14-20 is the annual celebration of National Veterinary Technician Week. In New York State, we call these animal healthcare professionals licensed veterinary technicians (LVT), but in other municipalities they are known as certified veterinary technicians, veterinary technologists, or registered veterinary technicians. No matter what their exact title is, these critical members of the veterinary healthcare team function as registered nurses do in human medicine. For a general description of the role of veterinary technicians, you can read a prior blog post.

The Animal Medical Center employs 90+ LVTs who support and enhance patient care working side-by-side with the veterinary staff. Space doesn’t allow me to describe the role of every LVT at AMC, so as part of our weeklong celebration of veterinary technicians, I will highlight just a couple of exceptional veterinary nurses in action.

Recovery
AMC’s Surgery Service has a cadre of LVTs focusing on pets recovering from general anesthesia. They work in a specially outfitted area right off the surgery preparation area. Once an anesthetic procedure is completed, the pet is moved into recovery and stays there on a soft mattress under a heating blanket until the anesthetic has worn off enough that they can again stand and walk normally. Xyna is a member of the recovery tech team. She is new to AMC and a recent graduate of SUNY Canton’s accredited LVT program. Like all LVTs, she was trained in recovery techniques, but never thought she could have a full-time job, supervising anesthetic recovery. When I visited recovery to speak with Xyna, under her care was a pug with a hip dislocation, a schnauzer fresh out of the CT scanner, and a cat recovering from a spleen removal surgery.

Radiation Therapy (RT)
One of AMC’s most experienced LVTs, Corrado, works in RT. After 17 years at AMC and about the same amount of time working as a tech for private practices and a guide dog school, he has seen it all from the tech perspective. His AMC career started in the blood bank and as backup for hemodialysis procedures. His next stop was CT/MRI where he was responsible for operation of the big machines and patient anesthesia.

Currently, Corrado operates our third big machine, the Varian linear accelerator and also serves as RT patient anesthetist. Even though all patients receiving radiation therapy do so under general anesthesia, these pets recover in their cages in the radiation therapy suite rather than in the surgical recovery area.

Want to learn more about veterinary nurses? Read these previous blog posts from National Vet Tech Week 2013 and 2012. And when you are done, don’t forget to say “thanks” to the veterinary nurses this week, and every week.