Saturday, February 18, 2017

Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Dental Cleanings, End-of-Life Care, and more ...

Dental Cleanings & Your Pet – What You Need to Know!

Dr. Christopher Byers/CriticalCareDVM

Did you know that February is a National Pet Dental Health Month?

Severe plaque & calculus accumulation on the teeth of a dog.
Photo CriticalCareDVM

The importance of dental health cannot be dismissed. About 80% of dogs develop periodontal disease by the age of three. Yet, an unhealthy mouth can not only be a cause of substantial pain but also contribute to a number of systemic diseases.

There are several things I adhere to when considering the dental health of my dogs. Daily brushing, regular exams, and cleaning when needed. It is recommended to actually do full dental cleaning annually, but if the mouth checks out, I am not convinced that I need to be fixing something that isn't broke and none of our veterinarians insisted on such approach.

If there is a problem, though, there are a couple of further points I stick with. I would not opt for anesthesia-free dental cleaning for my dogs, and I would not have their teeth cleaned without dental x-rays at the same time. With anesthesia-free dental cleaning, I see issues both with safety and effectiveness. More importantly, the bulk of oral problems takes place under the gum line where they cannot be seen without taking x-rays.

Take care of your dog's mouth but take care of it properly.

Learn about dental cleaning in Dr. Byers' article.

2017 Jarrettsville Veterinary Center Price Guide

Dr. Krista Magnifico/Diary of a Real-Life Veterinarian

So many times people avoid taking their dog to a vet because they figure they cannot afford it. While some procedures or treatments can be costly, a life-saving visit might cost a lot less than you imagine.

Do you know what your veterinarian charges for various services? I doubt they have a public price guide; Dr. Krista is the only veterinarian I know of who publishes this type of comprehensive information. For myself, I already have a good idea what things cost. But for most people, knowing how much things could or would cost is a scary mystery.

There is a lot to be said for transparency. And there is a lot to be said for pricing for affordability. Yes, the veterinarians and hospitals need to survive too. Dr. Krista looks to finding the best compromise.

Check out her hospital's price guide.

Guidelines for End-of-Life Care

Dr. Nancy Kay/Spot Speaks

It is one of the biggest dilemmas for dog parents; what to do when their dog is terminally ill, not doing well ... and how to tell it's time to end their suffering. People seek advice, but it is so hard to give one. The commonly accepted "you'll know when it's time," isn't straightforward either.

And what if you don't want to or can't make the "final" decision but your dog requires specialized, around-the-clock care?

All end-of-life decisions are incredibly hard and painful. I know, I've been there. What everybody is seeking is some objective guideline to what to do.

The International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care and the American Animal Hospital Association have recently published Guidelines for End-of-Life Care.

If you're struggling with the end-of-life decisions for your dog, hopefully, you can find these guidelines helpful.

Cruciate ligament rupture in the dog: Surgery or no surgery?

Dr. Megan Kelly/HolisticVet

I have more direct experience with cruciate injuries than I ever wished. The biggest part of the decision is the choice between surgical or non-surgical solution.

I am a big proponent of non-invasive solutions, and it is always at the top of my list of choices I consider. However, it is important to remember that "doing nothing" isn't always without consequences. An unstable knee will quickly become arthritic. Compensation for dysfunctional limb will increase the risk of failure of the ligament in the other knee, as well as in other parts of the dog's body.

However, conservative, non-surgical approach does not mean doing nothing. Just as there are several surgical options, there are several non-surgical options as well. This includes physical therapy, regenerative therapy, brace support and any combination of the thereof and other modalities.

When making a decision about the optimal treatment for your dog's ruptured ligament, I recommend researching all the options available as well as considering your dog's size, overall health, fitness, activity level, etc.

Read Dr. Kelly's thoughts about treatment for cruciate ruptures.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2017 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show article: Masters Agility 101, Canine Athletes Soar!

by Susan E. Davis, PT “pull in for a helpful refuel!”  

It’s all about guiding and empowering you to help your dog avoid injury, provide practical solutions and achieve rapid restoration of health and function!   

Keebler, 1st place winner 12-inch division of the 3rd Annual Masters Agility
Championship at Westminster. Photo by Steve Surfman for Westminster Kennel Club

Canine agility in an international dog sport originating in 1978 where a handler or trainer directs a dog through a course made up of obstacles and jumps.

Courses are fairly complicated and often change, requiring human direction.

At the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, agility is a Masters-only event, open to dogs with Master Agility Champion (MACH) titles, having achieved 750 or more champion points in its career.  For the 2017 show there are 330 canine entries, both pure and mixed breeds.

The most entered breeds are:

  1. Border collie
  2. Shetland sheepdog
  3. Papillion
  4. Golden Retriever

There are 5 classes of agility, based on size of vertical jump.   

Classes are assigned based on canine height division, determined by the dog’s height at its withers.

The smallest class is 8 inch: for dogs 11 inches or less at the withers. Examples of this size dog include the Papillion, Pomeranian, French bulldog, Havanese and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  The next class is 12 inch, for dogs 14 inches or less at the withers, such as the Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
The third class, being quite popular, is 16 inch, for dogs 18 inches or less at the withers, such as Border Collies. The fourth class, 20 inch, is for dogs 22 inches or less at the withers, such as larger Border Collies and most Golden Retrievers. Finally is the largest class of 24 inches, for dogs greater than 22 inches at the withers such as Dobermans, Standard Poodles, Rottweilers, and Alaskan Malamutes.

Courses are set up with 20 obstacles and jump apparatus on a surface of grass, dirt or rubber matting. 

Smartie, 1st place winner 24-inch division of the 3rd Annual Masters Agility
Championship at Westminster. Photo by Steve Surfman for Westminster Kennel Club

Westminster uses a green rubber carpet matting on the floors. Obstacles include the teeter (similar to a see saw), A frame, tunnels and chutes, table top platforms and weave poles. Jumps include vertical hurdles ranging from single, double, winged (which narrows the jump space) and wingless, tires, and horizontal broad jumps. In August 2016, the AKC suspended use of collapsible chutes for safety reasons, replacing it with non-collapsing tunnels.

Dog’s agility course runs are scored by speed, measured by an electronic clock timer, and quality based on dexterity and accuracy. 

In terms of quality, the goal is to have a ‘clean run’, free of faults. Faults consist of turns not being tight, lack of solid contact with a weight bearing obstacle, making accidental contact with hurdle, going off-course, or having a run-out (running past an obstacle or jump). Weave pole obstacles have many rules regarding entry, and whether the dog’s front limbs moving symmetrically together, or separately in an alternate, reciprocal pattern.

The 10 dogs with the highest combined scores from each of the 5 classes move on to the Championship round, consisting of 50 finalists.

The Championship round is a different course, designed as a ‘time to beat’ style. 

The scores of the first place winners from each class are then recalculated and an overall winner is awarded the Champion title. There is also an award for the Highest Scoring Mixed All American Breed in the agility trial.

The Masters Agility Champion First Place winner for 2017 at Westminster was Trick, a Border Collie handled by Mr. John Nys, with an overall time of 32.65 seconds. The First Place All American Dog winner was Crush (appearing to be a Blue Heeler mix), handled by Aryn Hervel, with an overall time of 34.87 seconds.

Beyond the ultimate goal of fast clean winning runs, is that of keeping injury free. 

Similar to human athletes, agility dogs must be very fit and well-trained. Trainers and handlers should also be on constant lookout for signs of fatigue or overuse syndrome, and ensure injury-free performances. Injuries in the agility sport may occur from trauma such as slips, twists and falls, or strained muscles and tendons, inflamed joints, and sprained ligaments.

The following measures are used by owners, handlers, veterinarians, physical therapists and chiropractors, to prevent and treat injury in agility and other dog performance sports:

  1. Stretching, to obtain the correct length of muscles and tendons, and joint range of motion exercises. Key muscles such as the psoas, latissimus dorsi, hamstrings and the Achilles tendon, have a length-tension relationship relating to maximal firing of spindles within their fibers. An overstretched muscle will not fire effectively, nor one having too much tightness or short length.

  2. Cardiovascular conditioning: running, tracking, fast walking, on grass and concrete, 3-4 days per week.

  3. Cross training: on alternating days to regular cardio, to avoid repetitive overuse symptoms. This includes swimming, treadmill, running on varying contact surfaces: sand, dirt, hills and trails.

  4. Sports specific drills: weaving through poles, hi stepping over cavaletti rails, going  up and down on ramps or varying heights and incline, hurdles, focus training on quick turns, directional changes

  5. Balance exercises on wobble boards, air filled discs

  6. Nutrition and hydration

  7. Visual Attention and Hearing response training

  8. Targeted Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (AssisiLoop™), Cold Laser, Massage, and other modalities to reduce inflammation and speed the healing process

  9. Acupuncture, Reiki, Chiropractic care

Agility is a thrilling sport for canines, handlers, trainers, and spectators alike! 

Come to the Westminster Dog Show next year to enjoy the 5th Annual Masters event and be sure to watch re-caps of this year’s event on Fox Sports 1.


Susan E. Davis (Sue) is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 30 years of practice in the human field, who transitioned into the animal world after taking courses at the UT Canine Rehabilitation program.  She is located in Red Bank, New Jersey.

She has been providing PT services to dogs and other animals through her entity Joycare Onsite, LLC in pet’s homes and in vet clinics since 2008.

She also provides pro bono services at the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, NJ.  Sue is the proud “dog mommy” to Penelope, a miniature Dachshund with “attitude”.  For more information see her website , or follow on Twitter @animalPTsue.

Sue is also the author of a fantastic book on physical therapy, Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation For Animals: A Guide For The Consumer 

Physical therapy can do so many great things for your dog. Understanding all the possibilities physical therapy can offer will change your dog's life. This book definitely belongs on the shelf of every dog lover.

Articles by Susan E. Davis:
Functional Strengthening Exercises: the What, Why and How
One Thing Leads To Another: Why The Second ACL Often Goes Too
Compensation: An Attempt To Restore Harmony
Paring Down to the Canine Core
Canine Massage: Every Dog ‘Kneads’ It”
Photon Power: Can Laser Therapy Help Your Dog?  
Physical Therapy in the Veterinary World  
Reiki: Is it real? 
Dog Lessons: Cooper  
The Essentials Of Canine Injury Prevention: 7 Tips For Keeping Your Dog Safer 
It's Not Just Walking, It's Therapy! 
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part I)
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part II Physical Therapy)
Range Of Motion: It’s A Matter Of Degree…
The Weight Of Water And How It Helps Dogs 
By Land or By Sea? A Comparison of Canine Treadmills 
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part I)
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part II) 
Scar Tissue: Is it Too Much of a Good Thing? 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ramps! 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Indoor Duo Dog Exercises!
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Best Practices After Your Dog’s Surgery 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ideas to Chew on - Can Physical Therapy Help with my Dog’s Digestive Problems?
Wrap It Up: Using Soft Supports For Your Dog
When Do I Use Heat versus Cold? : A Tale (or Tail) Of Two Temps! (Part I) 
When Do I Use Heat versus Cold? : A Tale (or Tail) Of Two Temps! (Part II) 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Safe Summer Boating Tips for your Dog 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Hip Dysplasia - What’s a Dawg Mama to Do?
PT Pit Stop: Wheeled Carts Keep Them Doggies Rollin' (Part I)
PT Pit Stop: Wheeled Carts Keep Them Doggies Rollin' (Part II)
Staying in the Loop with Targeted Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy
Addressing Frailty Syndrome in Geriatric Dogs 
The Pet PT Pit Stop: "Where's The Evidence?"
Physical Therapy is Great, Except When It Isn’t 
Top Dogs and their Toplines at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Part I)
Top Dogs and their Toplines at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Part II) 
What's in a Dog's Gait? 
A Practical Method to manage your Dog’s Care Plan 
Wound Care 101 (Part I The Basics) 
Wound Care 101 (Part II Wound Management)
Prevention and Management of Hip Dysplasia in Puppies: Attention all Breeders!
Support and Braces
Vaccinosis - A Vexing Conundrum 
The Pet PT Pit Stop: Blame it on the Weather, Really!
Relief for Laryngeal Paralysis using Physical Therapy 
Is the Treatment Necessary? Is It Working? 
Preventing CCL (ACL) Tears (Part 1 of series on Cruciate Ligament Tears) 
“All or None, or Partial?” (Part 2 of  series on Cruciate Ligament Tears)
Full Ligament Tears (Part 3 of Cranial Cruciate Ligament Series)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Adoption Monday: Zena, Rottweiler Mix, Toronto, ON

Zena is a beautiful rottweiler mix who has been stuck at the shelter for 7 long months, waiting for a family to fall in love with her.

Zena is a very sweet girl; she has lots of energy and could use a few lessons on manners but her exuberance is due to her long stay in a shelter situation.

Zena is not good with cats and is selective of her doggy friends. She might do well with a nice, laid-back dog of similar size.

No small children as she can get very excited and we wouldn’t want her to knock a small child over.

Zena is house trained, spayed and current on vaccinations.


ANML-RESQ is a dedicated group of volunteers looking out for the 4-legged creatures we share this world with. Their goal is to save a dog or cat from being euthanized in a shelter, through no fault of their own - just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they don't have a foster home available they will work with other reputable organizations to find a place.

ANML-RESQ relies solely on donations and fundraisers to spay/neuter, vaccinate and microchip their pets prior to adoption.  They don't even use funds for gas to transport the pets in their program to their new homes!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Top Veterinary Articles of the Week: Hyperlipidemia, Diet and Microbiome, and more

Hyperlipidemia in Dogs & Cats – Why Worry about Cholesterol & Triglycerides?

Dr. Christopher Byers/CriticalCareDVM

Put simply, lipids is another word for fats; in this scenario, fats circulating in the blood. The two types of blood lipids are triglycerides and cholesterol. Roughly, triglycerides store energy and cholesterol is involved in hormone production and cellular function. All good stuff. But as with everything, too much of a good thing is bad.

High cholesterol in dogs typically isn't a cause of a disease, it's a result of one. Things such as diabetes, low thyroid function, Cushing's disease or kidney problems can reflect in elevated cholesterol in dogs. So while you don't need to worry about cholesterol-lowering drugs for your dog, you should want to know what is behind the abnormal cholesterol levels in your dog's blood.

Hyperlipidemia, however, has been linked to issues such as pancreatitis. It doesn't seem clear whether this is the cause or effect but there is a definite connection.

Overall, hyperlipidemia can be either primary - an inherited disorder or secondary - being caused by another disease but in any case, it is a reason for concern.

To learn more about lipids and issues related to elevated levels of lipids in the blood, read Dr. Byers' article.

Imagine having an eyelash in your eye all the time

Dr. Marty Becker

I love how Dr. Becker introduced the topic. Yes, I get an eyelash in my eye every once in a while and it is very irritating and painful. Fortunately, a stray eyelash is relatively easy to fix. But what if it was there for good?

Jasmine had this problem and her eye was not happy at all. It is called distichiasis and what happens is that an eyelash grows wrong, picking directly at the cornea.

That day we woke up and could immediately see something was wrong with Jasmine's eye. Her third eyelid seemed to have been pulled over it. I don't ever take any chances with my dogs' eyes and we took her to a vet that day. She was diagnosed with distichiasis. Because it was just one eyelash, we were offered to either have it removed with a laser or with cryosurgery. Because cryosurgery would require an appointment with an ophthalmologist, which would mean having to wait a few days, we went with the laser removal. This was done at her regular vet's office.

There is a third option which involves removing a small part of the eyelid that contains the hair follicles but since it was just one eyelash, we tried the laser removal first. Fortunately, Jasmine didn't suffer from any further renegade eyelashes.

How a dog's diet shapes its gut microbiome


"Researchers observed that dogs fed a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet had enriched microbial gene networks associated with weight loss in humans."

The studies showing the importance of the microbiome for gut health are "popping like mushrooms after rain" (Czech phrase). When following this work I am glad that science is catching up to what holistic vets were saying all along. In other words, good health starts with the gut. Probiotic supplements are the new trend for people and dogs alike. That is all fine and dandy, but what happens with the beneficial bacteria once it's in there? Can it survive? Can it thrive? There was a relatively small experiment where one group of people were fed "normal" food and a probiotic supplement, while the other group was getting specifically designed healthy diet. At the end of the experiment, the state of the gut microbiome was examined in both groups. The people on the specific diet without any supplementation had higher levels of beneficial bacteria than those eating traditional food and a supplement. It would seem that the bacteria can sort themselves out just fine, given the chance. Which brings us to the importance of diet.

Another thing many holistic vets have been preaching is the importance of feeding "species appropriate diet." Which for dogs, means mostly animal protein, fats, and moderate levels of plant matter.  Yet, most commercial dog foods are high to very high in carbohydrates. And that in spite of the fact that the AAFCO feeding guidelines, the bible for formulating dog foods, calls for no carbohydrates whatsoever.

A long time ago I have made up my mind to go with makes sense to me, which is feeding my dogs a diet consisting of animal-source ingredients with very little select carbohydrates. And look at that, researchers from Nestle Purina, of all places, report that ratio of proteins and carbohydrates in dogs' diet has a significant influence on the gut microbiome and that dogs fed high-protein, low carbohydrate diet have a microbiome associated with weight loss in humans. Given the obesity epidemic plaguing our dogs, this is a significant finding.

For the longest time, I was asking myself why, in the light of the situation, nobody takes a look at what we're feeding our dogs and what role might diets so high in carbohydrates play in the obesity problem. Doh.

Either way, I'm glad somebody is seriously starting to look into these things.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dog Medical Emergencies Survey: Is Loss of Appetite an Emergency?

The majority of the survey participants  (84.85%) believe that loss of appetite is not an emergency.

Based on my experience, I agree that most of the time temporary loss of appetite is not an emergency. 

There are many physiological as well as psychological reasons a dog can lose interest in food.

The reasons might be well-known, such as with Jasmine's IBD, or any chronic disease. It can be because the dog's stomach is upset from a prior adventure in the garbage can or otherwise getting their paws on something they should not have eaten. Stress and anxiety can make a dog lose interest in food. Pain can make a dog not want to eat. If a dog feels unwell for any reason it can result in loss of appetite.

Some dogs have the tendency to be finicky eaters, though my personal belief is that there also ought to be a reason for that. Of course, access to food stuffs better than what appears in the bowl might be one of them.

I do recommend, that as with any change of behavior or habits, loss of appetite warrants a vet visit.

Does that make it an emergency, though? There are times when it can.

This is when being observant and knowing your dog is so important.

In my interview with veterinarians about what symptoms should be taken seriously, Dr. Buzby shared a story of close friend's dog who could have lived if somebody understood the significance of her not being interested in food. Dr. Buzby emphasizes that in most dogs, such change is a major red flag.

The dog lost her life because of a major bleed from a massive spleen tumor. Before her final tragedy, she wasn't eating normally for weeks.

It was not an emergency at the time it started but it did turn into one.

Coincidentally, a friend of mine was consulting with me about home remedies for a dog with an upset stomach. Not eating well. So it happens that this dog's digestive problems and disinterest in food were also rooted in a mass on the spleen and the liver.

Loss of appetite CAN be a sign of an emergency.

It can be an emergency when your dog is on certain medications or could have gotten into something toxic. It can signal liver or kidney failure. It can be the only observed sign of high fever. Complete loss of appetite can be a sign of an impending diabetic emergency.

On top of that, not eating alone begins to become a problem in itself, particularly with puppies or small dogs.

Do I rush my dog to the emergency every time they don't eat?

No, of course not. But when Jasmine stopped eating and drinking while being on NSAIDs, have I not take action, she might have suffered serious damage.

When Cookie was lethargic and not eating, have I not taken action, I would have missed having her pancreatitis diagnosed and treated early.

Unlike with some of the other symptoms, there isn't a solid cover-all rule when it comes to loss of appetite.

Don't even ignore such change and use your best judgment in determining how quickly your dog should see a veterinarian.

Related articles:
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Loss of Appetite

Dog Medical Emergencies Survey
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey Results
Is Unproductive Retching an Emergency?
Is Difficulty Breathing an Emergency?
Is Panting an Emergency?
Is Severe Pain an Emergency?
Is Limping an Emergency?
Is Vomiting Bile in the Morning an Emergency?
Is Profuse Vomiting an Emergency?
Are Convulsions or Seizures an Emergency?