Tag Archives: human interest

Thursday News — Horse Yoga

I’m not even going to introduce this one. Just go look…



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My sister’s birthday was last Friday, which means mine is right around the corner. That tends to make me just a little nostalgic, which is just a little more than the teensy tiny bit of nostalgia I feel at any time. I started to think about other milestones, which is how I prefer to mark the passage of time in my life. It occurred to me that in May, I will begin the 12th year of my professional practice. THAT was kind of a pinch!

I looked back at a journal I kept during my first year out of school this morning. During that year, I was at an internship in Hollywood, Florida. I’ve probably mentioned that before. That year was almost indescribable. The practice had 13 doctors, four of which were board-certified. They saw patients 24/7, 365 days a year. The six interns were responsible for overnight emergencies and walk-in cases, plus regular appointments however they were scheduled. I saw less cases than I do now, but the ones in Hollywood were almost always time-intensive hospitalized cases. It was an experience that was good for me as a veterinarian and a person. We were tested right to our limit every single day. Our limits grew and grew. I stayed on an extra two weeks to teach the new interns and to allow one of my intern-mates to leave a bit early for home and family. It was a very long and difficult year for all of us.

I wrote then:

I can hardly describe the amount of personal growth I’ve experienced in the last year. Though this internship has been abusively difficult, it’s been worth every mental and emotional scar (and a few physical ones, too). I am by no means some sort of veterinary god, but I definitely feel like I’ve grown into a competent clinician. It’s been worth every miserable minute. I’ve learned more than I thought possible, given how frazzled and stressed and aggravated I was on a daily basis.

So, 11 years later, do those words still ring true?


That internship certainly didn’t teach me everything I need to know. That kind of learning never stops. I consider that a job perk. There is always something new and interesting to explore and we get better with each passing day in practice, so long as we continue to keep our minds open.

What it did teach me at that early point in my career is how to be a better person veterinarian. I’ve often said on the blog that medicine is the easy part. That wasn’t quite true back then since I was so green, but it’s certainly true now. The challenges then included people. Those people are still challenging! I’ve learned how to have better bedside manner. I’ve learned how to excuse myself from feeling the fatigue of too many deaths, too many bad decisions, too many ‘I wish you’d come in sooner’ cases. They still happen, but now I know how to keep a clear head and give clients options.

I’ve grown a lot of gray hairs in 11 years. I’ve seen about 35,000 cases. For those of you who are familiar with Malcolm Gladwell, I’ve done my 10,000 hours. I’ve been screamed at and called everything in the book. I’ve had some of the most amazingly humbling things said tome. I’ve had thank-you cards from girl scout troops, students, clients, and other doctors. I’ve had the support of some amazingly talented doctors, techs, and mentors. I’m so thankful that after 11 years, I can say that I know that I’m in the right place. I’m doing what I love to do.

There are still things that frazzle me. I can still, now and then, be pretty aggravated by the situations that clients and pets create. What Hollywood taught me was that the sun is going to come up tomorrow regardless of my struggles and nonproductive feelings. Hollywood taught me, in the words of my boss there, to “find something real to worry about.” I was so irked when he said that because it brushed away some concerns that I had expressed to him. What I didn’t realize was that his tough stance on that kind of thing allowed me to be tougher, too. I use that skill every single day.

While my birthday is approaching and I will probably have a few more gray hairs to count, I would prefer to nudge thoughts into May, and into the milestone of 11 years in practice. I’m thankful for the pets and clients that have taught me what it really means to be a human, and better still, to be a veterinarian.


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When Winning Is Bad

Most of us would happily win a contest, lottery, or competition. I’ve never heard anyone regret a big win at a casino. Enjoying the benefits of a bit of fickle luck gives us a rush, too. That feeling you get when your chair -almost- but doesn’t quite tip over? That’s a win. The human mind loves to play the odds. Some of us are downright addicted to the gamble because of the potential payoff. Adrenaline junkies, don’t think you’re above the game. There’s a chance that parachute won’t open, isn’t there?

There are times that the odds are exactly what you want to put you on the losing end, though. When we’re talking about your chances of illness and injury, you’re hoping that you’re not that one in a thousand, ten thousand, or million. Winning a bout of the flu is one thing. Winning cancer is a whole separate kind of problem.

It’s not all that fair for me to bring up “The Big C” as an example. Yes, it does give us a clear statement of our chances. It also helps us identify risk factors so we can avoid the “win.” Cancer is so scary and close to home, though, that I think we’ll get bogged down in just the numbers instead of the big picture.

Better examples comes up when we talk about the generalities faced by pet owners every day. Should you vaccinate for a given disease? Should you use heartworm and flea/tick prevention? Should you allow your pet to go under anesthesia?

The art of practicing medicine teaches us to avoid promises and to keep to conservative estimates whenever possible. We hate to promise and under-deliver. I do, at least. It’s important to me to lay out the pros, cons, and possible consequences of our decisions. Owners need to participate in this risk assessment, but they’re at a disadvantage. More than one, really. You’ve not had the training we’ve had. You’ve not had the benefit of years of experience and thousands of cases to draw upon. We’re at a disadvantage because we simply don’t know your pet as well as you do. (Granted, I’m generalizing here against my own better judgement. Clearly we can sometimes see things that owners don’t. The reverse can also be true.)

Vets and owners usually develop rapport and can work together to help pets. We’ve got the same goals in mind, after all. There will occasionally be differences of opinion. Ultimately, all I really need is for owners to make an informed decision. I’m far more adamant when I have to advocate for a pet’s quality of life, but I can acknowledge the fact that some owners simply can’t do everything on the “Should Do” list. That’s when we optimize the “Can Do” list and move forward. Guilt, yelling, browbeating, hard sales… just not my style.

There’s a group that I need to bring into the discussion at this point: breeders. It’s a dangerous thing for me to do. I’m going to admit that I’m biased. Consider it a disclosure rather than a conflict of interest. I’ve never been a breeder. I’ve worked with many by way of my profession. Many breeders have not been vets, nor any type of veterinary professionals. What I can speak of is my own perception of the situations as I’ve encountered them.

Breeders have the benefit of having worked with their chosen breeds for a long while. They have lots of contacts in their interest group, too, which is a good thing. On the other hand, they don’t have the benefit of large, well-organized research studies to back up some of their claims.
Vets have the benefit of a lot of hard science and training. We also have the experience of working with LOTS of dogs and cats. Balancing that is the fact that we may not know a particular breed as deeply or well.

This sets the stage for a few really obnoxious contentions. Anecdotal evidence isn’t the same as data. Yes, sometimes anecdotal events are true, and research proves this. Some are not, also proven by research. The burden of proof is on the individual or group making the hypothetical statement.

For example: Breed X is more sensitive to anesthesia! Breed X will die if you give a Lepto vaccine! Breed X puppies have to be on adult dog food! Breed X can’t have pork as a food ingredient!

Often, these statements are what we are faced with in the exam room. The owner is stuck in the middle. Breeders know their own stock well. I know my products well. I don’t think that breeders are all being vindictive, here. These folks care about the animals, too. I get testy when it’s implied that I would do anything I knew was harmful, but that’s a whole other rant for another post.

Is it possible for an individual to have physiology and/or genetics that could make it more sensitive to side effects or dangers associated with vaccines, medications, anesthesia, etc.? Yes, absolutely. Could those problems run in a family line? Yes. So, if a particular breed has a fairly narrow genetic pool, then it’s technically possible for Breed X to have much higher odds of a given problem. Can that be said about ALL of the individuals in that breed? Probably not.

I’ll use one of those earlier statements to illustrate the issue. You’ve purchased a puppy of Breed X. As part of that purchase, you’ve signed a contract that says that you will not have the puppy vaccinated for distemper/hepatitis/parvo/parainfluenza (which is the “distemper vaccine”) before 14 weeks of age. You bring your happy new 9 week old puppy to me. Your kids, aged 5 and 9, have had their new puppy for 2 weeks already and are totally attached. I take a look at the vaccine records from the breeder. No vaccines given at all, but the pup has been dewormed several times. For the sake of the example, we’ll say that this puppy is normal and healthy.

I recommend starting a puppy vaccine series. You knew it was coming. The breeder warned you that I’d want to do this. Your breeder has explained to you all about how Breed X is too sensitive to vaccines when they’re young and must wait until later. My first instinct is to call BS, but for the sake of the discussion here, let’s assume that it may be true. As the owner, you now have two choices to make, each backed by an expert.

If you choose to NOT vaccinate your puppy, what are the consequences? Your pup may be unprotected. It could catch distemper, which is often fatal. It could catch parvo, which is fatal 30% of the time even if treated aggressively.

If you choose to vaccinate, some of the possible side effects include: allergic reaction that requires immediate treatment for anaphylactic shock, anemia caused by the immune system attacking the red blood cells, lethargy and mild pain at injection sites. Some of these side effects could be lethal.

As an owner, you’re stuck playing the odds. What’s more likely to happen? What are the chances of your puppy getting sick? I honestly have no idea how to advise you when you’re staring this kind of thing in the face. All I can do is give you the best information I have and hope we land on the same side of the decision.

Personally, I think that the risks for vaccines are lower than the risks of contracting one of these diseases. The benefits of protecting a dog outweigh the risks. I recommend vaccination. I’ve seen more unvaccinated dogs get sick than I have vaccinated dogs get sick due to the vaccines.

In the end, my perception is that I can do more good by ignoring most of the Breed X declarations and treating my patients as individuals. I don’t know what causes the experiences that most breeders use as support for such statements. Did they receive poor quality veterinary care? Are bad genetics being passed down in a line unknowingly? Or knowingly? Whatever the cause, it lands owners smack dab in the middle of a dispute they rarely have the information needed to sort through. That can lead to bad decisions all around, and the animals suffer for it.

My best advice is for new and prospective owners is to ask questions. When a breeder or a vet makes a statement, ask for support. What makes you say that? What specific things went wrong with your puppies/kittens that makes you say they can’t have vaccines? What kind of anesthetic complications were seen that makes you want to avoid drug Z? What will happen if my puppy or kitten does NOT get vaccines until that age and gets sick from one of those diseases? How many of your puppies/kittens have had these problems? Is my puppy/kitten from the same mother or father as that litter that had problems? What can I do to minimize risk? What happens if a complication arises?

At the very least, you’ll know the rules and have a feel for the odds.


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The future is the past?

In the midst of the major changes happening in the human medical industry, I’ve been very interested in a new business model for human physicians. It’s being called “concierge medicine” or “direct care medicine.”

Concierge medicine is set up so that patients pay a fee directly to the doctor on an annual (or monthly) basis. This fee gives the patient direct access to the doctor and medical staff. In some cases, this means that your physician is available to speak directly to you. In others, it means that you get a certain number of visits per year for preventative care. There are a ton of variations, but the primary difference between this and the common model we experience is that you get more direct and frequent access to the doctor.

Fees for concierge medicine vary from $600 to $5000 according to the figures I found with some basic searching online. Keep in mind that for some human practices, this is IN ADDITION to what you pay for insurance. In others, that fee is paid to the doctor and includes a certain amount of care, with insurance never entering the arrangement.

I have a customary arrangement with my physicians. I’ve never had the doctor call me back personally about lab results. When I call, I don’t get to speak to the doctor. If I have an emergency, they route me to the urgent care facility or the ER. If I’m feeling sick and need an appointment right away, I’m almost always routed to the urgent care facility. They also don’t ever send me reminders for when I’m due for regular services.

The advantages of the concierge plan are touted mainly because humans have more ways and opportunities to interact with their physician. Communication tools like Skype, email, and traditional phone calls can all get you in touch with your doctor. As I was reading through a couple of articles about concierge medicine, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, they’re starting to catch up.” Veterinarians have been doing this all along!

At our hospital, I think we do a pretty good job of bucking the ‘normal’ of human practice. Doctors call clients back with blood results or other lab results. Those results are usually available the next day instead of a weeks later. We’re almost always available to speak directly to clients. We do our best to work in any sick pets the same day. (Now and then we do have to refer to the ER for extremely serious problems or major surgeries.) We also send reminders (maybe too many? 🙂 ) to let owners know when pets are due for care. The only drawback to our model is that we don’t have a doctor available outside normal business hours. It’s something I’d like to address in the future.

The best part about how most veterinary hospitals operate is that you get all of these benefits at no extra cost. It’s part of why I’m proud of our profession. We’re a great example of a lot of things that are good and right about medical practices.

What are your thoughts on how human and veterinary medicine can better serve clients and patients?


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Thursday News – Benefits From Pets

Today’s news link will take you to an article that discusses the positive personal and social impacts of owning a pet. There’s a link to another article in this one that leads to an interesting read, too.

Can Pets Make Us Better People? By Sarah B. Weir, Shine Senior Writer

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Back in November, I posted about how harmony in the practice is what gets us through one-doctor Saturdays at the hospital. The staff — techs, receptionists, boarding employees — make or break those days. Without them, we’d be sunk.

Saturdays are almost always a bit crazier than usual days, but yesterday was insanely busy. From 9:01am, the phones were ringing off the hook and we had between 2 and 4 exam rooms loaded for the entire time we were there. That’s a busy day for us.

The staff working yesterday was in perfect harmony. We had a double-booked schedule for the entire shift plus a few triple-booked stretches. They did a marvelous job. “Just think about how much you will have accomplished” rang true yet again. We took care of everyone and finished the shift almost precisely on time.

Yesterday reminded me that the wide variety of things we took care of is exactly why I enjoy my profession. As a general practitioner, I have the pleasure and responsibility to see everything from nose to tail. Pets and owners with diverse backgrounds, illnesses, and challenges all need my attention. Sure, giving the umpteen thousandth rabies vaccination isn’t a challenge, so that’s where it’s important to capitalize on an opportunity.

During an appointment I have a chance to talk with an owner as I perform the physical exam. Showing them what I see or telling them what I hear helps make them a part of the process. We almost always find something to talk about during a physical. Patients that are generally healthy even present opportunities to educate owners about how to better care for them. Sick patients’ bodies “speak” to me. I translate for the owner.

Puppy and kitten visits are almost always a joy. They’ve got the market cornered on cute. We also get to work with owners that are extremely attentive. I can’t think of a time when the owner of a new pet didn’t engage in a big way. We work together to plan a pet’s start in life: medical concerns, vaccines, food, preventive products, upcoming spay/neuter. These visits are generally very positive, which helps us get to know the pets and owners better without the stress of illness or problems making things more difficult. Puppies do offer a few challenges, too, but it’s rare that they sour the appointment.

Healthy adults are also fun visits. We know these patients and owners better, so while I work I can ask about how a family is doing. I try to engage with the kids that come in, too. It seems to me like an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Offering to let a young child hear a pet’s heartbeat through the stethoscope is a sure way to strengthen the bond between that pet and the child. Sometimes we give tours of the hospital. Yesterday, I saw a year-old dog that was just acquired from a neglectful owner. We planned out a way to catch the dog up on health care that fit the new owner’s budget and schedule. It was time well-spent.

We had a run of sick animals to help: vomiting, diarrhea, limping, ruptured skin cyst, constipation, toxin exposure. The gamut was the gauntlet. We pulled blood to send out lab work. We took some radiographs. We ran stool checks. Medications were filled. Enemas were given. On a side note, it may seem utterly bizarre to be excited when an animal defecates. In this case, though, it meant we could send a cat home feeling MUCH better without having to anesthetize her. That’s a win-win-win!

Being able to juggle the random order of events is part of the transition that we all make as we enter the profession of vet med. In school, all of your knowledge is loaded into your head in an orderly, steady format. It’s like filing books on library shelves. Each has an assigned place. Even when you work in the university vet hospital as part of your training, your time is divided into specialty services. You’ll work in orthopedics for 3 weeks, then internal medicine, then ophthalmology, and so on. There’s not much cross-over. When you graduate, however, it’s a whole other story. You have to throw all of your brain-stored books into the air, then pluck out the pages and facts you need as patients randomly present themselves for assessment.

This randomness is daunting to a new grad. Frightening doesn’t begin to describe the situation in which one must go from puppy visit to major trauma to vomiting to euthanasia. A mind that’s not supple enough to change gears like this will snap. All of us do at some point have that little meltdown, just like I did in Hollywood when that tech told me the sun was going to come up no matter what. We learn, though, and we handle it. It has to be handled or you’re not cut out for the work.

As time goes on, I’ve learned to embrace the chaos. It’s what makes professional life interesting. It keeps me engaged. Daily challenges push me — and most all vets — to steadily increase our skills. Each experience benefits the next patient. I figure that each gray hair I get is a case I’ve learned something from. (Darned if I’m not learning a lot!) I’ve spoken often about the intricacies of working with owners. These challenges are as unique as the people who present them. I’ve learned to love that, too.

On any given day at the hospital, we see a slice of all walks of life. We see an assortment of cases and make an assortment of diagnoses. Saturdays are a microcosm within the realm of general practice. I don’t think I’d trade it for anything, even when we feel like we’re tending a three-alarm fire. The best of who we are comes through on days like that. Yesterday our staff made sure that everyone was cared for, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters most of all.


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New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! We’ve closed the chapter on 2013, and I’m looking forward to the next 12 months. I’d be remiss to leave out some pet-focused resolutions. The PetMD website has a great list, so that’s what I’ll share today.

Top 10 Resolutions for Your Pet (and You) at petmd.com

Feel free to share your resolutions in the comments!

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harmony [ˈhɑːmənɪ]
1. agreement in action, opinion, feeling, etc.; accord
2. order or congruity of parts to their whole or to one another

Pet Authority is open on Saturdays. That’s not likely a surprise to any of you, nor would it be to most clients out there. Very few vet hospitals aren’t open on Saturday. It’s an important day for many people to have available for appointments. We understand that you have jobs that coincide with most of our regular hours. Not everyone can take a half day or a day off, nor even leave early, nor come in late. (Some of you can do those things, which is great! We’d be pretty bored Mon-Fri otherwise. 🙂 ) Additionally, a pet getting sick rarely happens according to a convenient schedule.

Saturday isn’t a “normal” day for us for a few reasons. First, there’s only one doctor on duty. Normally, we have two. With only one doctor, we have fewer support staff as well: two receptionists, three techs, and one or two boarding employees. Most of the time, this is plenty of people to keep the hospital running smoothly.

From my perspective, Saturdays are a great work environment. I get to be the captain of the ship. I’m responsible for all of the patients. I have a staff on hand that knows how I like to get things done, so they’re able to anticipate my needs. I can give directions to them to carry out with the confidence that they’ll do exactly as I’ve asked. I also tend to see more of “my” clients — the people that regularly choose me to care for their pets.

Once in a while, we have an insane Saturday. There’s more work to be done than we properly have time for. My attention is pulled in too many directions at once: phone calls, emergencies, urgent-care-level sickness, regular health care, phone calls with questions, medication refills, pharmacy refills, pharmacy call-ins, lab work interpretation. It’s way too much to handle on my own.

I’d be completely sunk if I didn’t have a staff I could trust. There’s literally no way for me to be in more than one place at a time. Sure, I can work in 2-3 rooms at once by juggling. I still can’t defy the laws of physics and reality. There’s no cutting of corners, either. I can’t decide to do a crappy job with anyone’s pet, nor to limit a client to a certain number of questions. Each pet deserves my full attention. It’s also critical to me on a personal level to retain good bedside manner.

That’s where harmony comes into play. I mentioned already that the staff knows what I need and how I like to work. The situation goes well beyond that. The reception staff begins prioritizing files for me so I know what to attend to immediately and what can wait for a small free moment. The technicians will often get things started for another appointment that they are certain I will want done. Our boarding staff offers to help with whatever needs doing. Everyone comes together to accomplish the necessary tasks in the proper way. That’s harmony.

When I was an intern in Hollywood, Florida, I had one particularly horrible night. From about 10pm to 4am, I had eight rooms going at one time. Yes, eight. From vomiting to a broken leg, as soon as I had one patient squared away, anther would arrive to take its place in the exam room. At that time, I was still pretty green. I didn’t have the experience I do now, so handling this level of stress was not easy for me. I was slower, needed to look things up more often, and wasn’t sure how to direct an extremely capable staff to get things done. One of the techs at that time responded to my grumbling by saying, “Just think about how much you will have accomplished by the time the sun comes up.” I was livid at that particular moment and snapped, “That’s three hours away. What am I supposed to do until then?” She calmly replied, “Just keep working.”

Her wisdom was that with harmony, you can make it through. By the time the sun had come up, I had everything settled. The patients were stable. Reports had been written. Orders had been created for the techs. The incoming receiving doctor took the cases from me and sent me home to sleep. All of that was according to plan. As much as I wanted the sun not to set again, which would waive my responsibility for another night, it did so. I went back to work with a better understanding of how to view a day’s work. I was able to pass that wisdom on to the incoming crop of new interns.

You may start at a given time. You may have the goal of finishing at a certain time. In between, you will work as hard as you must work to get done what you must get done. Your staff is there to help you. Empower them to do so. Your clients need your best regardless of the simplicity of the vaccine or the complexity of the trauma case. You do not have time to worry about you. You must worry about your patients instead. The sun will rise and set independent of your wishes, so let it do only what it does: mark the passage of time. Today may be horrible. Tomorrow is a new opportunity.

We had a rough Saturday yesterday. Last night, the sun set. This morning, it … lit up the rain, more or less. Thanks to my staff, we completed what needed to be done. I worked hard. The staff worked harder, without complaint, and supported me by performing admirably well with each case.

Saturdays: a lesson in harmony.

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What makes a difference?

I often have a hard time knowing what’s useful about my blog posts. I’ve covered a lot of topics over the last couple of years, most of which got a little interest. Feedback from readers ranges from positive to, shall we say, very negative. Blogging requires a thick skin, which I’ve had to develop over time. As a side note, I don’t screen out negative comments. I do try to address concerns or feedback. The most important thing is, in my opinion, to provide accurate and helpful information.

Two posts have far surpassed the others in terms of reader response.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy was an educational post about heart disease. The responses are generally positive. This one really met the objectives of the blog, which makes me happy. If I can make a rough diagnosis any easier for an owner, then the post was well worth writing.

The Bloat/Torsion post was the opposite response. The topic is very controversial to begin with, so I’m not too surprised. There was some great interaction with another vet involved, too. This post is a great example of how the body of scientific knowledge on a topic can change over time. If we aren’t open to asking more questions, we’ll never learn more. It can be very difficult to interpret studies and research reports, especially when the conclusions drawn in the paper are different from commonly held beliefs.

These two posts are a great indication of the usefulness of the blog. Whether I’m aiming for some healthy debate, or to teach, the driving reason is to make a difference for the readers. The excellent side bonus is that when I write about a topic, I do a lot of research to make sure I’ve got a good understanding before I start writing.

Thank you, as always, for reading! I know this is a very short post for a Sunday, but stay tuned! I have a bonus post in the works that will update the status of my fish tank project.

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Resources for information on Canine Circovirus

Many of our clients have called and sent email to ask about Canine Circovirus. The news has picked up the stories of dogs in Ohio, California, and Michigan. New information is somewhat hard to come by. The virus isn’t thoroughly understood at this point in time. Investigators are working hard to bring us more information. In the meantime, here are a few links that lead to more info on Circovirus.

Circovirus FAQ from the AVMA

Guidance for Veterinarians about Circovirus

Information from Michigan State University’s Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health:

LANSING, MI – Based on recent cases in California and Ohio that may indicate the emergence of a new canine circovirus, the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health (DCPAH) at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine has added two real time PCR assays for canine circovirus to its test catalog. Running two PCRs for this virus is important as the initial research on the virus indicates some genetic variation. The PCR assay can be run on fresh or formalin-fixed tissue. DCPAH has received requests for canine circovirus testing from Michigan clients and two positive results have been found. However, both animals also had simultaneous infections with other organisms; therefore identification of the circovirus was not necessarily linked to the cause of the disease shown by the animals. DCPAH is currently working on an in situ hybridization (ISH) technique which is a crucial next step. ISH is a method that uses DNA or RNA probes to detect virus in microscopic lesions.

“It is important to note that circovirus has been found in the feces of healthy dogs. Also, the initial research shows that nearly 70% of dogs showing clinical signs of illness and found positive for circovirus were also infected with other viruses or bacteria known to cause disease. Currently, circovirus by itself is not associated with a specific disease process. However, coinfection with canine circovirus and other pathogens may have the potential to cause disease as has been demonstrated in other species, for example pigs,” says DCPAH acting director Thomas Mullaney.

Matti Kiupel, section chief for DCPAH’s pathology laboratory adds, “In order to link circovirus to the cause of a disease process, a full diagnostic work-up (including a postmortem in the case of deceased animals) is essential. This also allows diagnosticians and pathologists to identify the full spectrum of infections and/or diseases that are present in a specific case.”
Recent publicity about circovirus in Michigan dogs is not cause for panic. Veterinarians should consider possible circovirus infection in animals showing clinical signs including vomiting, diarrhea (possibly hemorrhagic) only after other more common causes have been diagnostically excluded. Ascites, pleural effusion, hypovolemic shock, bicavitary hemorrhage, and disseminated intravascular coagulation may also be present, but as with gastrointestinal symptoms, more common causes should be excluded. According to the early research by Li et al, circovirus “should be considered in cases of unexplained vasculitis in dogs.”

Dog owners whose pets show signs of illness, including vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, should contact their veterinarian and seek diagnosis and treatment. There is no evidence to-date that canine circovirus can be transmitted to humans or cause human disease. Since many pathogens are transmitted from animals to humans (zoonotic diseases such as rabies, leptospirosis, salmonellosis) thorough hand-washing should be standard practice after handling animals, especially those showing signs of illness, or animal waste.

Additional information on circovirus developed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) for veterinarians and the general public is available on the DCPAH website at animalhealth.msu.edu.

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Do Pets Grieve?

I’m frequently asked if pets experience grief at the loss of an owner or another pet in the household. The short answer is “Yes, they do.” Linked below is an article from the Green Bay Press Gazette, written by written by William Hageman, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Studies suggest some animals grieve loss of owners, housemates

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Thursday News – Cat Allergies

This week’s article gives some insight into a very common allergy: cats. Scientists have discovered exactly why and how cats generate an allergic response in people, as well as some ideas about how we can combat the allergy.

Scientists figure out how cats cause allergies, could pave way for treatment
By Michelle Castillo / CBS NEWS/ July 28, 2013, 12:48 PM

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AVMA Convention – Chicago & Shedd Aquarium

Last Sunday, I was in Chicago for a national veterinary conference. Every year, the American Veterinary Medical Association hosts a gathering of top-caliber speakers to provide continuing education for veterinarians and vet techs. We attend hour-long lectures to increase our knowledge and skills, and to update us on what the most current information is telling us about treating our patients. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to hear about the cutting edge being researched in veterinary schools and industry world-wide. There are also lots of wet labs, which are hands-on training sessions so vets can learn/practice techniques and skills. We also have opportunities to connect with veterinary product manufacturers, which allows us to see what equipment, medication, etc. is out there for us to utilize in our practices. That part is, more or less, a trade show.

The best part about the conference, for me, was to see that there were literally thousands of veterinary professionals there. Each and every one of those people attended this conference with the goal of improving skills, of offering better care to their patients. It’s a strong commitment to good practice. I’m really proud of my profession when I see things like that. Some of the lectures had to be given an overflow room with remote video of the main lecture hall due to the overwhelming number of people in the lecture.

Chicago was a great venue for the conference. I’ve been there before, but I haven’t stayed in the downtown/loop area since I was about 10. I managed to navigate on the public transportation system (that’s a near-miracle for a “Detroiter”!) to see some of the sights in the city. The food was superb, too. I can highly recommend the experience as a destination city for a vacation.

When I was little, my family went to the Shedd Aquarium. I clearly remember a few of the things I saw there. The day before the conference started, I took myself back to Shedd to experience it again. I can happily say that the things I remembered were exactly there again in real life. It’s a great facility. Don’t miss it if you’re in Chicago! Naturally, I took a ton of photos, so I’ll share some of them with you today. This dovetails with an upcoming series of posts that I’m planning to detail out the setup of a 150-gallon freshwater aquarium in my home office.

Each photo is a link to the larger version on our Flickr gallery.

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Filed under fish, human interest, travel

Part of the Family

This week’s post is a tough one. I’m experiencing what many people experience when their pet’s life is drawing to a close. My own cat, Phoebe, has been in kidney failure for 3 years. She’s done quite well, all things considered, and I’ve had her 3 years longer than I expected to. More recently, she began to exhibit signs of a specific form of stomach cancer that occurs in cats that have had inflammatory bowel disease for a long time. Suffice to say that last Monday, I was facing down some extremely difficult decisions about how much testing and treatment it was fair to put her through. She’s 16 years old.

I opted to try some medical management to see how she did. We’ve had a much better week and her whole attitude and physical status are much, much better. I’m confident that I’ve bought her some time, though I know that ultimately, I’m going to lose the fight against the renal disease and/or the cancer.

What I decided was an utterly personal choice based on the knowledge of my own cat’s tolerances and preferences. The forms of medication, which medications, whether I’m breaking the ‘rules’ of how to give the drugs or not, etc. … It’s all a balance between what I can do as her vet and what I should do as her owner. Phoebe will be with me for as long as she feels good. When she doesn’t, my obligations are clear to me. I owe her no less and far more.

Let me just say plainly that I have always been empathetic to owners’ difficult decisions for end-of-life care. Now, my sympathies are even more deeply rooted, having had to face this on a personal level. I will never know what it’s like for -you-, because your life and your bond with your pet are things I can’t know personally. We -all- know the pain of decisions and loss.

Today, though, I’d like to celebrate shared lives. A part of who we are is shaped by our companions. They are family. We grow together, we grow old together, we help one another even in the most difficult of times.

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The photo above was found on this Tumblr blog.
Please note that Tumblr is kind of the Wild Wild West of the internet these days. I can’t vouch for the content on the rest of that blog or any other.

Have a pet photo you’d like to share? Email Me!


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American Origins

Today’s news article is a discussion about the origins of “American” dog breeds. Since the discovery of the origins of the domestic dog (in Southease Asia, incidentally), scientists have continued to investigate the origins of dog breeds and populations. It’s an interesting read!

Alaskan breeds — such as Inuit sled dogs, the Eskimo dog and the Greenland dog — are the only canines with actual American roots, according to DNA analysis. All of these pooches hail from the 49th state and nearby areas, according to the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B


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Filed under dogs, human interest, research, science