Category Archives: fun

Holiday Hazards

The holidays are coming on quickly. This time of year always presents some unique challenges for pets and owners. I’m hoping that a little forewarning will help you avoid some of the hazardous things that pets will encounter during the holiday season.


Changes in a pet’s diet — even just a small bite of something — can set off a cascade of nasty illness. While some dogs and cats seem to have an ironclad digestive system, most do not. They can’t tolerate foods outside their normal diet. New treats, canned foods they’re not used to, new foods, and “people food” can cause digestive distress. This distress usually means vomiting and/or diarrhea. However, inflammation of the pancreas can result (pancreatitis), and that can mean a hospital stay or even death. Please think twice about food gifts for pets. Advise guests that handouts aren’t acceptable (unless they’re from the pet’s usual treat jar). Even ONE bite of food can be enough to seriously harm a pet. Just don’t do it!! (PLEASE don’t give alcohol to your pets, either.)

Don’t forget about overtly toxic foods: onions, grapes, raisins, chocolate, bread dough, and the artificial sweetener xylitol.

748px Pumpkin Pie Slice


I think it’s great to provide enjoyable things for pets…as long as they’re pet-friendly. Remember the cautions we discussed with chew toys a while back. Watch out for objects that could cause pets to choke or have an intestinal obstruction. Kids’ toys can present an attractive chewing experience for a dog, so warn your children to pick up their new things.


I’m listing this separately because it’s so incredibly dangerous to pets. The fluid is very attractive to cats and dogs for some reason. They’ll readily lap it up. Even relatively small amounts can be enough to create toxic damage to the kidneys. By the time a pet’s kidneys are failing from ingestion of antifreeze, our treatment options are limited, and the prognosis is guarded. Some pets can recover, many will have permanent kidney damage, and some will die. There’s an antidote that can be given if the ingestion was recent enough, so if you see your pet lapping up antifreeze, GO TO THE HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY.


Pets might not understand that certain holiday decorations aren’t for chewing. Young pets experiencing their first holiday season aren’t likely to realize that these new things are off limits, since they weren’t part of early training experiences. The usual suspects include: tinsel, lights, tree decorations, ribbons, bows, potpourri, and Christmas tree water with fertilizer. Cats seem to be especially fond of ribbon, which can cause a very very serious type of intestinal obstruction.

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This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’d rather talk about the obvious than fail to provide the warning. Dogs and cats can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite. Thin or light-coated dogs will have more trouble keeping warm outside when the weather’s frigid. Sweaters or jackets will help if a pet is going to be outside for a while. The basic way to judge is to watch for shivering. Dogs shiver from the cold for the same reasons we do. Just be sensible about the amount of time your pets spend outside. Frostbite doesn’t seem to be that big a concern for dogs, but it is for cats, namely on their ears. If you have outdoor cats, provide a shelter and a heat source for them. The same goes for dogs.

Keep your pets off the ice on lakes, ponds, or other bodies of water. We’ve treated a few cases of near-drowning and hypothermia from dogs that wandered out of the yard and onto the ice, then fell through.

Be aware that outdoor cats will often crawl up into a car’s engine bay or wheel well to get heat from the engine. Check your vehicle before you drive away!

Some ice-melt products can be harmful if a pet’s feet come into contact with them. Don’t allow pets to eat the melt products, either.

655px Kö Hund mit Nerz Januar 2012

I know it must seem like I’ve taken all of the fun out of the holidays. (I promise it’s still more fun than having to come see me at the hospital!) Safely enjoying the time together isn’t hard. The warmth and companionship you provide is the best gift of all. Stick to the safest ways for your pets to have a good time: petting, playing, walks, and grooming.

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Filed under fun, holidays, preventive care, toxicology

Teaching Veterinarian

I enjoy the daily work that being a veterinarian includes. Sure, there are challenges. I have bad days once in a while. More often than not, I have great days. It’s fun to see clients and their families. I’ve been at the practice long enough now that I’ve got relationships with clients that go beyond the job at hand. My first year out of school helped me decide that private practice was where I wanted to build my career. It was the right decision then. It’s the right decision now.

After ten years of practice (eight at Pet Authority), I’ve got the routine down pat. This is good and bad. The good part is that I can save my stress for the really challenging cases instead of the day to day “little things.” The bad part is that now and then I realize that I’m giving my umpteenth rabies vaccination. I’m not trying to say I’m bored with the routine stuff, nor that I’m suffering from burnout. What I’m poking at is that everyone enjoys new challenges in a professional capacity. Humans are creatures of routine and pattern recognition, but we’re also inquisitive. An analytical mind likes new puzzles to work out.

A few years back, I was asked to give a tour of the hospital to a Brownie troupe. I believe I had a Boy Scout troupe in for the same thing not long before that. I was also asked to talk to a middle school class about my career. Initially, I was very nervous about these public speaking engagements. I tend to take on responsibilities with extreme seriousness. It’s a frank need to do a great job, so I’ll spend many hours preparing. My biggest challenge was learning to adapt my material for various age groups.

The presentations went over well. I found that I had enjoyed speaking as much as I enjoy practice. It was a bit of a surprise, to be honest, as I usually prefer to keep a low profile. What I realized is that I can convey my love for my career and profession by sharing things with others. This blog is another perfect example of me taking an opportunity to explore lots of things that I take for granted or even consider routine.

I’ve learned a great deal about others this way, too. I’ve found that nearly everyone has a reverence for their pets that goes well beyond the most simple basic needs of animal husbandry. There’s a whole culture to explore. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet and talk with lots of people that have different outlooks. Friendly debates are an excellent way to learn if you keep an open mind. As I’ve become more comfortable as a veterinarian, I’ve become more comfortable with understanding different people and pets. I’m continually amazed at the myriad dedications people show for animals.

Teaching has become an important aspect of my professional life. I’m able to contribute to the community this way, which I think is a very important civic duty. It allows me to encourage young people aspiring to be veterinary professionals. It also helps prepare them for some of the harsh realities of the profession. At the very least, it will help demystify what happens at our hospital. In turn, that encourages the building of trust between a client and a veterinarian. More trust means a cooperative approach to health care for the pet. Everybody wins.

We currently have students from the local colleges’ Veterinary Technology program doing internships with us at Pet Authority. We’ve had students come in to observe. I’ve spoken in classrooms, business expos, and our own open house events. I’m happy to come speak to classes or set up observation days at the hospital. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment here or to contact me at the hospital.

At the deepest heart of everything is a desire to ensure that pets and other animals are cared for as they deserve to be cared for. These outreach efforts are just as important as giving that next Rabies vaccine.

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Filed under communication, fun, human interest, practice

News – What Does Your Choice of Pets Say About You?

The Mother Nature Network posted a story that discussed the results of a survey by The survey looked at trends in pet owners. There were some neat findings about the people that own dogs and cats. I’ve pasted a few down below. You can read the rest of the article here at the MNN.

Living area preferences: 
• Dog people are 30 percent more likely to live in a rural area.
• Cat people are 29 percent move likely to live in an urban area.

Animal rescue leanings:
• Dog people are 67 percent more likely to call animal control if they find stray kittens.
• Cat people are 21 percent more likely to rescue the stray kittens.

• Dog people are 36 percent more likely to use a popular song as a ringtone.
• Cat people are 11 percent more likely to have contacts in both their cellphone and a physical address book.

• Dog people are 24 percent more likely to have kids.
• Cat people are 33 percent more likely to prefer taking care of a friend’s kids than a friend’s dogs.

Favorite Beatle?
• Dog people are 18 percent more likely to consider Paul McCartney their favorite Beatle.
• Cat people are 25 percent more likely to consider George Harrison their favorite Beatle.

What makes you laugh
• Dog people are 30 percent more likely to enjoy slapstick humor and impressions.
• Cat people are 21 percent more likely to enjoy ironic humor and puns.

Random facts

• Dog people are 9 percent more likely to think of zoos as happy place.
• Cat people are 10 percent more likely to be active on Twitter.

When it comes to media choices, found that dog people prefer jam bands, reggae and psychedelic rock, while cat people listen to more New Wave, classic rock and electronic music.

Dog people listed “American Idol” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” as their favorite TV shows and “Crash” and “No Country For Old Men” as their top movie choices. Cat people preferred “CSI” and “Real Time With Bill Maher” for TV and listed “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Hurt Locker” as their favorite movies.

But what about those people with both cats and dogs? According to’s survey, these people are likely to be female suburbanites who are politically middle of the road.

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Thursday News – Zoo Animal Enrichment

Animals in zoos are ambassadors for their species, not to mention conservation of the natural world. Few people can travel to other continents to see animals in their natural habitat, so zoos are a necessary “evil” in terms of promoting stewardship of the environment.

The challenges that zoos face are many. Keeping the animals healthy and happy is a primary concern, of course. Keepers try to engage animals with interesting, stimulating activities. This may include foraging for food throughout an enclosure, toys, training behaviors, and so on. I’m good friends with a zookeeper, and I can say with confidence that keepers have some amazingly cool ideas for giving their animals more than just a parade of people to watch.

In Philadelphia, the zoo there is taking a unique approach to enrichment for some of its animals. They’ve constructed aerial walkways for monkeys, lemurs, and orangutans. These walkways are enclosed paths that traverse large segments of the entire zoo. The animals are allowed to explore on their own, choose where they want to be, and have all sorts of different things to watch and interact with.

Naturally, the visibility of the animals in these walkways is great for visitors. They get to observe the animals in a more candid way than through the glass of a typical enclosure.

The only question I have is whether the zoo officials consider this enrichment for the guests, too.

Here’s the link to the full article.

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Freedom of the Road

I’m a huge gear head — obsessively into our hometown industry, the BBC TV show “Top Gear”, and I keep a mental “Life List” of exotic cars that I see when I travel. Automobiles are so much a part of the culture here in the midwest that those of us who grew up here don’t realize how integral a car is to our daily lives. Everything we do is spread out over large areas. We commute long distances. Public transportation isn’t nearly as extensive here as in other metropolitan areas. In some ways, that’s great, if you’re into cars. It brings up a lot of issues, too, from a social and environmental perspective. Any of you who come to see me in the hospital with your pet will know that I’ll run my mouth forever about cars. I’m as intent on keeping my car clean and polished as I am about keeping pets healthy and happy. It may sound weird, but a good neat, clean car is as satisfying as a neat, clean, well-stitched incision.

How does this relate to vet med? Glad you’re still here to ask. 😉 The connection is this: we take our pets with us when we’re traveling by car. Naturally, taking a pet to the veterinary hospital requires travel (for us, by car). I also see people taking their pets with them to go shopping, or to the dog park, or to dog sports events, dog shows, and so on. Most dogs love to ride in the car. The imagery of the dog’s head hanging out the window is an iconic “summer dog” theme. In concept, the idea represents freedom in a lot of ways. We’re free to travel, with roads going anywhere we need to go. The dogs are also able to sniff the air for tens of miles that would otherwise have been too far from home. Exploration is part of human and canine nature in a lot of ways. (Most cats, I’ll admit, would be just as happy to be on their own feet or in their own yard/house, NOT in the car.)

Dog Driving Car News
Part of being a responsible motorist is safety. We shouldn’t be talking on the cell phone or texting or cooking omelets. No make-up, no Sudoku puzzles, no wardrobe changes. We also know that our vehicles are equipped with airbags, collision avoidance systems, advanced engineering to make the cars safer in a crash. Most importantly, we wear our seat belts. But what about the dogs?

I see almost NO dogs wearing seat belts. They’re usually standing on the owner’s lap with their heads out the window, or free in the back seat. I’ve seen dogs in the back of pickup trucks, too. I’ll say it clearly: all of those things are utter and completely negligent, irresponsible pet ownership decisions. Here’s why:

Dogs with their heads out the window can be struck by bugs, debris, rocks, etc. This could result in eye damage – including blindness – or worse. We don’t drive with our heads out the window, and we don’t let our children hang out of the car. Why let the dog do it? If you’re firm about letting the dog’s head hang out the window, at least get some goggles to protect the eyes.

Unrestrained pets not safely buckled in can become projectiles in the event of an accident. There are numerous reports of owners being severely injured by pets that go flying through the car when an accident occurs. I’ve personally treated a dog that was severely injured when it jumped out of a moving car. I’ve treated dogs that have been dragged by the leash when they fell out of the car, too. Quickly recalling physics class, the amount of kinetic energy a moving object has is determined by its weight and movement speed. Every time the speed doubles, the amount of energy goes up four times. Pets can also be seriously injured by airbags. A dog sitting on the driving owner’s lap can be crushed or burned by the airbag if it deploys. The car is a dangerous place for pets!

Seat belts are available for dogs. There are MANY styles out there. Sadly, I don’t have any data to offer in terms of which are the best. My gut tells me that the harnesses that have a larger padded structure (instead of just harness straps) will distribute the force over a wider area, which should be better. They buckle into the safety belt, though some systems include hardware to create a tie-line attached to the inner roof of the car. These systems are designed to stop your dog from flying through the cabin. This protects you AND the dog. For cats, keeping them in a carrier that is seat-belted in is the easiest way to travel. The only safe way to have a dog travel in the back of a pickup truck is to put it in a crate that is secured to the bed.

20070411 chaplin cowboy 2

Last summer, I blogged about the dangers of hot weather for pets. The car is, by far, the most dangerous hot-weather risk for pets. Cars can heat up to insane temps very very rapidly. Dogs can and will die from heat exposure. This sort of death is messy, painful, and horrible. Close on the heels of hot cars are outdoor public events like fairs, art shows, fireworks festivals, etc. It’s also a pet peeve of mine. I see owners walking around in shorts and a tank top drinking bottled water while their dog is desperately panting to try to cool off. Aside from the immediately dangerous circumstances, it’s very inconsiderate of a dog’s comfort.

I’ve soapboxed enough for one post, obviously. I realize that a lot of this sounds harsh and like a wet blanket on summer fun. It doesn’t have to be, as long as common sense is employed. Treat your pets well, respect their safety and yours, and the automobile can still bring that freedom of being on the road without the dangers. Summer can be a great time to enjoy the great weather by being out and about. Just be smart about it so that your pets can enjoy it, too. Here are a few links to keep you informed:

Travel / Car Safety


Hot Weather Cautions : AVMA : This Blog

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Barry Kirshner Wildlife Foundation

Kirshner logo
Last weekend I was in California on a working vacation. Every year I visit the Barry Kirshner Wildlife Foundation in Durham, CA. The Kirshner Foundation is a wildlife sanctuary that houses exotic and wild animals. The center rehabs, accepts special medical cases, and performs a vital community outreach program to support conservation efforts. The facility houses a wide range of big cats, smaller wild cats, bears, haws/owls/parrots, and much more. When I visit, I aid the Foundation with all sorts of different things regarding the care and well-being of the resident animals. It gives me an opportunity to branch out and take on some challenges that exotic animal veterinary medicine always provides.

You can read about the Foundation here. I believe in the work they’re doing, and I wholeheartedly approve of the excellent medical care and basic care the Foundation provides these animals. Many of them are special needs – seizures, permanent damage from human interaction, wildlife rehab, etc. The sheer amount of community outreach the Foundation takes part in is wonderful, too.

I’ll post a couple of pictures showing some of the things I was up to last week. In the first, I’m holding a python. In the second, that lion cub needed to have her claws trimmed. She wasn’t happy about it at all. I learned that to soothe a cranky lion cub, you should hold them up in the air from behind and under the arms and gently rock them forward and back. It mimics having the lioness pick the cub up to move it. It worked like a charm and I was able to get all of the nails trimmed without incident.

Next week, I’ll be tackling the survey results and catching up some of our new readers.

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Santa Paws 2011

Santa’s visit today was a ton of fun! We had a great turnout and lots of wagging tails. We were so happy to be able to see some of our patients on a social visit for something fun. It’s so much more relaxed for the pets!

I was able to take photos of almost everyone that showed up. (The only ones I missed were due to a camera malfunction that took me out of commission for a few minutes.) If I missed your pet, I’m truly sorry!

All of the photos are posted on the hospital’s Flickr gallery as of now. Click here to go to the gallery.

I’m hopeful that by tomorrow afternoon, they will also be on our Facebook page. If you’d like me to include your pet’s photo in the Flickr gallery, just leave a comment on this post. I’ll get the comment as an email and let you know where to email the photo so I can add it to the gallery.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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Santa is Going to Visit Pet Authority!

We will have a camera at the practice to take photos, which will then be uploaded to the hospital’s Flickr gallery. You will be able to download the photos for printing at home. You’re more than welcome to bring your own camera, too!

There is NO CHARGE for pets and family to see Santa!


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Mark Your Calendars! Open House Date!

Mark your calendars! We’ve decided on the day and time for our Open House this year. We’re celebrating 30 years of providing care for pets and clients in the Waterford area. We hope you can join us for a day of special events.

Pet Authority Open House
Saturday, October 1st
10 am to 1pm

Hospital tours
Laser Surgery demonstration (no live patients)
Dental health/care presentation
Dog and Cat parasites and prevention (Presented by Bayer Animal Health)
Door Prize(s)
And More!

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The Digital Age – Apps for Pets

I’d like to take a break this week from in-depth medical discussion. With the ever-increasing number of smartphones out there, the veterinary world is taking advantage of this technology. There are quite a high number of apps out there for veterinary students and professionals. There are also quite a few that are geared directly toward clients and other pet owners. I’m going to mention a few that I found on the iTunes store. This means, for course, that the apps are for iPhone and iOS 4. I did a quick scan of the web interface for the Android OS and found a huge list of veterinary apps there, too. I don’t have an Android-running phone, though, so I can’t speak for how well they work or if they’re worth the price. For both the iPhone and Android, there are lots of free apps out there!


This app is supported by advertising, but the interface is easy to use and quite extensive.

Reminder Apps


There are 2 apps that will help you remember to give your pet monthly heartworm prevention. Heartgard and the RemindMyPet apps both allow you to create an account and keep a list of your pets. You can enter reminders for all sorts of medications, from daily dosing to monthly preventatives.

Medical Information

PetVet is an informational app that helps you get some ideas about what might be wrong with a sick or injured pet. You can enter symptoms and get a list of possible problems that match those symptoms. I’m of mixed feelings on this sort of app, so please remember that this is just for information and education, NOT as a substitute for giving us a call or making an appointment.


There are first aid apps, apps for calculating the toxic dose of chocolate, hospital locator apps, and full textbooks. Most of the more technical apps have to be paid for.


If anyone has an app that they’ve found particularly useful, please share it in the comments!


Filed under fun, technology

Open House October 1, 2011

Pet Authority is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.  We’re planning to have an Open House on Saturday, October 1st, 2011.

We’re looking for ideas to make the Open House interesting enough that clients and families will want to visit and see what Pet Authority is all about.  I’ve put together a poll.  You should be able to choose up to 7 options that would interest you.  Please feel free to leave a comment with other suggestions if I’ve missed anything!

We would schedule the surgery and procedure demos during certain times of day so that people would know when to show up to see what they’re interested in.

Feedback will be VERY helpful for us, so please speak up!

I’m going to be away from my computer for the weekend, so this is the post for this week.  If I have time early next week, I’ll tackle another topic for the blog.  Thanks so much to the folks who are visiting and reading!  I can see how many reads we have each day and it helps to know that what I’m writing is of interest.

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Weekend Breather

It’s been a busy week at the hospital. Dr. Williams had a large emergency surgery to do on Thursday. Dr. Wright and I have had to help clients through some really difficult cases, as well. We certainly don’t mind working hard! Challenging days are part of the job that we’re committed to. None of us like to see clients struggle with difficult cases or hard decisions, and there’s been an unfair share of bad news lately. That’s what makes it hard, more than anything else. I’m proud that our clients have been able to make good decisions for their pets. In some cases, those decisions are exceptionally difficult or painful for the owners.

At some point, I’ll tackle some of these ‘art of practice’ experiences here in the blog. I haven’t had time to put together a Dental Care post yet. I hope to get to that this weekend so I can post it early next week.

In the meantime, I’ve been given permission to post a ‘candid camera’ photo from one of our clients. This is Dolce (which means ‘sweet’ in Italian, and is also a music term for sweet/soft/gentle). He was helping his mom with the dishes. Special thanks to the Miners for sharing the photo!



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