Dr. D Recommends… All Dogs Go To Kevin

 

I thought I might start a new category of blog articles for you, just for the fun of it.

“Dr. D Recommends…” will be a sporadic presentation of something I love (or just like a lot) that pertains to pets and/or veterinary-type stuff.  Something I think you might also like or find useful.

Or it might be silly.  That happens around here sometimes.

For this first installment, allow me to present to you the following book for your consideration:

 

All Dogs Go To Kevin by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

 

All Dogs Go To Kevin is a memoir written by fellow veterinarian Dr. Jessica Vogelsang.  Dr. V provides in-home hospice care for dogs and cats, founded the website Pawcurious.com, and writes for several other media outlets.

From the cover:

All Dogs Go To Kevin is a humorous and touching memoir that will appeal to anyone who has ever loved an animal… It reminds us, with gentle humor and honesty, why we put up with the pee on the carpet, the chewed-up shoes, and the late-night trips to the vet: because the animals we love so much can, in fact, change our lives.

Why I Love It

Because Dr. Vogelsang is a veterinarian, I found a kindred spirit in her stories about veterinary school and working in a veterinary clinic.  Her anecdotes about veterinary practice feel very familiar to those in the field; she does a fabulous job of weaving together the truths, challenges, and compassion of what we do every day.

However, her memoir doesn’t alienate the layperson, but rather brings them alongside in the journey to becoming a vet.

Dr. V is not just a veterinarian; she is also a dog person, a pet lover, a mom and wife.  She includes bits of her life that resonated with me on so many levels.

The struggle of balancing motherhood and the veterinary career.

The joys, frustrations, and heartache of being a pet owner.

The way it feels when you have a dog-shaped hole in your heart that can’t be filled by anything other than a big slobbery beast.

And how your spouse often rolls their eyes at your constantly bleeding, pet-loving, heart.

I don’t read very many books from the “yet another pet book” category, but this one got my curiosity peaked, and once I started I couldn’t put it down.  It was a breath of fresh air, a validation of what I hold dear, and full of giggles and tears.  It was like reading James Herriot again, modernized for my generation.

If you’re a pet lover, I think you’ll like this.  If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Make the Small Things Website an “App” on your Smartphone!

Did you know that you can add the Small Things website as an “app” on your smartphone?? 

 

iPhone Screen Shot

 

Creating an icon for a website that you need easy and quick access to is super smart.  Here’s how to do it:

If you have an iPhone

  1. Open your Safari browser app, and find the Small Things website.
  2. At the bottom of your iPhone screen, there is a toolbar with a few icons.  Right in the middle is an icon that looks like a box with an arrow coming out the top.  Click on it.
  3. A menu will pop up with an option to “Add to Home Screen”.  It looks like a box with a plus sign in the center.  Click on it.
  4. You will be given an option to rename the icon if you wish.  You can name it whatever you want… Dr. D, House Call Vet, Treat Lady…  whatever floats your boat.
  5.  Click “Add” at the top right.
  6. Ta-Da!!  Now you have a new icon on your home screen!

 

If you have an Android

  1. Open your browser app, and find the Small Things website.
  2. Tap on the menu in the upper corner that looks like 3 little dots or dashes.
  3. Select “Add to Home Screen”
  4. Ta-Da!!  Now you have a new icon on your home screen!

 

You’re welcome!

How to Win With Pets, If You’re A Veterinarian (Part 1)

 

Veterinarians become veterinarians because we love pets.  And we want to snuggle and squish them all day long.  The rude awakening occurs when we start practicing, and realize that our patients want nothing to do with us!  We poke them, prod them, stick weird things in their face and ears… why would they want to be near us?

Well, have I got the blog post for you!  In this 2-part series, I am going to share my tried-and-true strategies for fear-free veterinary exams!

Here are the first 5 guaranteed* ways to get your patients to love you again.

 

 

Giraffe Treats

1.  Peanut butter and hot dogs (tuna or liver paste, if you’re a cat)

There’s nothing better, or more distracting, to a dog than peanut butter and hot dogs.  Really, high-value treats of any kind will usually work.  And when I say high-value, I mean HIGH-VALUE.  It’s got to be something that they aren’t normally getting at home.  Something that makes them sit up and say “WHOA, whatcha got there? Can I has it?  Can I?”

Forget the cardboard biscuits that have been sitting in that jar on the counter for the past 6 months.  Not.  Gonna.  Work.

2. Don’t look or smell like a Veterinarian.

Okay, I know you’re at work and you need clothes that clean easily and look professional.  But, consider that your patients know that white coat a mile away.  And the stethoscope.  And maybe even your shoes, if they’ve met you before.  Sometimes, trying a new “uniform” with existing patients will help them reset their behavior.

Scents are important too!  We know dogs and cats are highly sensitive to odors, so forget the perfume, scented lotion, and Lysol spray (or whatever you spray yourself with after getting squirted with anal glands…).  Try Feliway instead; and/or put some really stinky treats in your pockets.  Bacon works.

 

 

ClaireParker2014

3. Play

 

Here’s your new M.O. when you enter an exam room:

  • Say hello.
  • Get down low (sit on the floor, if it’s safe from bouncy Labradors).
  • Play with pet, offer high-value treats.
  • Occasionally examine a body part.
  • Offer more treats.
  • Play again.

Playing with your patients can really take their minds off the weirdness of being in the vet clinic.  You can even have your clients bring their pet’s favorite toys with them, or just have some fun toys stashed in the exam room.  This goes for both dogs and cats!

If play doesn’t work, try #4…

 

4. Find the petting “sweet spot”

 

Ask the clients where their pet LOVES to be scratched or stroked.  Don’t just absentmindedly pat them on the head and hope they like it.  Every pet has a spot that makes them go “aaaahhhhhhhh, yeeeaahhhhhh…”.  Find it, then use it.

 

DrDandBandit

5. Talk quietly

 

Not all pets like the high-pitched baby talk.  In fact, if they’re not a Labrador, they probably don’t.  And it certainly won’t calm them down.  This is especially true for cats.  Talk quietly and don’t make direct eye contact with kitty patients.  With dogs, you can be happy, but keep that tone and volume at a normal level!  Unless you want a super bouncy, excited, or nervous dog to examine…

 

Take these 5 tips with you to your next exam room, and try them out!  I can personally vouch for each one of these tips; Now my patients LOVE me, even after I’ve poked them with needles.  You, too, can have the love of your patients again!

 

Win Pet's Love

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series!

 

*results are not really guaranteed… but I know you and your patients will be much better off if you try these tips.

 

Are you a pet owner who would love to give your pet a fear-free veterinary experience?  If you’re in the Broomfield area, Call Dr. D to set up an appointment!

Dr. D’s List: The Best Veterinary Websites You Should Bookmark Right Now

I get it.  It’s almost midnight on a Saturday, and you have a question about your pet.  You can’t get a hold of Dr. D or your veterinarian, but you need answers!

 

If you absolutely have to look up some information regarding your pet on the internet, here are some of my favorite (and reliable) resources:

1.  Veterinary Partner

Why I love it:  Veterinary Partner is the place I send my clients when they need more information about their pet’s diagnosis or illness.  The content is written by Veterinarians specifically to educate their clients.  If your pet has recently been diagnosed with an illness, go here first.

P.S.  Also great for questions about small mammals, nutrition, or the meds your vet prescribed.

2.  Vetstreet

Why I love it:  The content is user friendly and often fun.  It’s a great place to go not only for medical questions, but also those weird questions you might have (like, why does my dog turn around 3 times before they lie down?).

P.S.  One of my favorite humorous veterinarians, Dr. Andy Roark, writes for Vetstreet.  His “Conversations With My Cat” video series is hilarious.

3.  Pet Poison Helpline

Why I love it:  This is the go-to place (second only to the emergency clinic) if your pet ingested something and you want to know if it will hurt them.  But please, if they did eat something, just call the emergency clinic first.

P.S.  Also great for planning your spring planting or indoor plants, since you want to make sure you aren’t bringing anything toxic into your pet’s environment.

4.  The Indoor Pet Initiative

Why I love it:  CAT OWNERS, PAY ATTENTION!  This website is an excellent resource for all things kitty – behaviors, proper environment, providing enrichment for your indoor cats, cat-to-cat interactions, and so much more.  Bookmark it, read it, love it.  It is your new best friend.

P.S.  If you are a dog person, you’re not left out of this one.  There is an equally wonderful section just for you.

5.  The Pet Food Institute

Why I love it:  Some of the most common questions I get from clients are regarding what their pets eat.  After I give them my advice, I trust sending them here so they can get all the information they need about proper nutrition and choosing the right diet for their pets.

P.S.  Especially the “Myth Buster” section.

7.  For dog behavior and training, I like these two:

Dr. Sophia Yin – Her work regarding low-stress handling of pets has been instrumental in the Small Things philosophy of veterinary care.

Victoria Stilwell – You know her from TV, but her positive dog training methods are really effective.

 

So there you have it!  These links are Dr. D-tested-and-approved.  Search them to your heart’s content!

But hey, don’t hesitate to call me in the morning.

Puppy Socialization vs. Vaccination: What’s the big deal?

Recent research has confirmed that early socialization of puppies (prior to 16 weeks of age) is very important and pivotal to helping young dogs develop a normal, healthy response to life.

 

DoraPuppy2

A new puppy owner might hear this information and be ready to eagerly pursue this early training, but then the puppy’s first veterinary visit occurs.  The vet might tell these new puppy owners that they should not expose their puppy to any dogs until they’ve finished their vaccine series, which ends around 16 weeks of age.

The new puppy owners are confused… how do they provide early learning opportunities to their dog while keeping them safe from communicable diseases?  It seems impossible.

Take a seat (if you aren’t already sitting), get your cuppa coffee or tea, and let Dr. D clear it up for ya.

First: A quick lesson in immunity.

When puppies are born, they inherit some protection from disease from their mother, depending on her exposure to disease or vaccination.  This protection is known as “maternal antibodies”.  Humans have those, too, when they are babies.

The maternal antibodies only stick around in the pup’s body for about 4 months.  When a puppy is vaccinated, his body tries to make its own antibodies to that disease.  Unfortunately, if his maternal antibodies are still around in high numbers at the time of vaccination, they will counteract the new antibodies and render them ineffective.

As the number of maternal antibodies decreases, the puppy’s immune system is more effective at creating antibodies after vaccination.  Since every puppy’s immune system is different, and we can’t tell when he’s making enough antibodies,  veterinarians administer a few boosters of a vaccine, typically every 3-4 weeks until that pup is 14-16 weeks old.  This vaccine schedule ensures that the puppy can develop his own immunity to a disease once his maternal antibodies are gone.

So what does that have to do with early socialization?

The concern about early socialization has been related to the puppy’s possible exposure to disease before he has the ability to fight it off.  If a puppy is socialized early, starting at 8 weeks of age, he has only had one vaccination.  One vaccination has not given him enough time to create a good immune response to the disease.  He needs at least 2 vaccinations, with no interference from maternal antibodies, to be safely protected.

And, there’s the rub.

What’s the answer to this conundrum?

Here is what we know:

  1. The single most important thing we can do to provide puppies with behavioral wellness is proper socialization during the critical developmental period (before 16 weeks of age).
  2. Behavior problems are the #1 cause of relinquishment to shelters, and over half of the dogs in shelters are euthanized.
  3. Canine parvovirus is the main disease risk associated with puppy socialization before the vaccination series is complete.  Though it is important to assess risk, it should be encouraging that only 2-8% of puppies may not be adequately protected from parvovirus until after their last vaccine at 14-16 weeks old.  In English:  The risk of your puppy getting parvo from a puppy socialization class is very low.
  4. The idea of “puppy class” is fairly novel.  Training facilities who provide genuinely safe opportunities for puppies to socialize are on the cutting edge.  They are progressive among their peers, therefore they are conscientious and often take every precaution to ensure your pup’s safety.

 

So, after taking all this into consideration, what do I recommend?

I believe in the power of early socialization for puppies, as well as ongoing training, to minimize potential behavioral issues later in life.  Behavioral issues such as destructive chewing, separation anxiety, house soiling, dog aggression, fear of humans, etc.  All the behavioral issues that can land a dog in a shelter.

I also believe that this early socialization is so important that the benefits outweigh the very small risk of exposure to disease.  Holding your puppy back until he is done with his vaccination series could seriously inhibit his ability to cope in normal, every day situations.

But I also want to make sure that new puppy owners are taking their pup to socialize in an appropriate place.  A well-run puppy socialization class is the best and safest option for this early socialization to occur.  Here are few things to look for in your puppy social class:

  1. A dog training facility or veterinary clinic with a solid reputation.
  2. Puppies are grouped together by age, and sometimes by size.
  3. Puppies are allowed off-leash and able to play-fight with boundaries.
  4. There is a protocol in place for sanitation and immediate clean-up of accidents.
  5. Puppies should be required to have their first round of vaccines at least 7 days prior to attending their first class.  You will also be required to continue and complete the puppy vaccination series.

Often you will find that during puppy class you will also get some bonus material, such as training tips, an education on dog body language and behavior, and information on other topics that are important to a new puppy owner.  These classes are extremely valuable.

puppies

 

Dog Parks, Pet Stores, and Other Cesspools of Disease

You might have been thinking this whole time that your puppy could just get his socializing done at the dog park.  You would be mistaken.

I do not like dog parks for young puppies.  Dog parks are not a controlled, safe environment for your young pup to learn healthy behaviors, healthy responses to stimuli, and how to properly interact with other dogs.  Not to mention that there are huge health risks involved – you don’t know if the other dogs are vaccinated or carrying intestinal parasites.  Wait until your pup is about 4-5 months old (after finishing the puppy vaccine series) before taking them to a dog park, and keep them under close supervision.

Also, if you want to prevent unwanted disease in your puppy before they are fully vaccinated, don’t take them with you to the pet store.  Wait until they are fully vaccinated.  You have no idea what’s been there.

So, what’s the next step for my puppy?

Find yourself a local puppy socialization class!  And don’t wait!  Don’t worry if you’re starting late; late is better than never.

Trust me.  You’ll thank me later.

DoraPuppy1

 

Looking for a great puppy socialization class in Broomfield, CO?  Check out this one at Rocky Mountain Dog Training!

 

Dr. D used the following resources to help write this article for you.  If you want more information, check ’em out!

AVMA PetCare Page on Protecting your dog, yourself, and others

DVM360 Article weighing risks vs benefits of early puppy socialization classes

AVSAB Position Statement on Puppy Socialization

Are Early Socialization and Infectious Disease Prevention Incompatible?

You Need To Read This.

Lately, I find myself heartbroken and worried for my colleagues and fellow human beings, and I hope you will humor me as I use this platform to share my feelings with you.

Recently, the veterinary community lost an amazing doctor, Dr. Sophia Yin, to suicide.

Earlier this year you may have read about Dr. Shirley Koshi, a veterinarian in New York who took her life after a long struggle with members of her community over her efforts to care for a stray cat.

I learned, as a freshman in vet school, that suicide and depression among veterinarians was a known problem.  They called it compassion fatigue – the result of years of pouring yourself into your patients and not having a coping mechanism to separate yourself from the emotions of each case.  They warned us, bright-eyed and naive freshmen that we were, to be sure to care for ourselves and avoid compassion fatigue.  Easy, peasy.

Maybe it should have been apparent to me that burn-out is a precursor to compassion fatigue.  Burn-out is described by one source as a “cumulative process marked by emotional exhaustion and withdrawal associated with increased workload and institutional stress”.  It makes sense that burn-out will eventually progress to compassion fatigue, but I wasn’t aware of that when I experienced my own burn-out.

I think I was blessed to be able to leave my job at the clinic right when I did.  I was headed at mack-truck speed and velocity right into the middle of compassion fatigue and depression.

 

Now, I have a history of depression.  That may surprise many of you, because I am usually so bright and cheery in public.  But I am not ashamed to say I have struggled with that dark cloud, and overcome it.  Many times it threatens to return and set up camp, but I have learned mechanisms to cope with it through counseling, stress management techniques, and prayer.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I believe that it is of the utmost importance that we not hide our struggles from our fellow man.  The hidden struggle does not go away on its own.  There is no person in the world who doesn’t struggle with a dark cloud of their own, but they might do a great job of disguising it.

That person needs to know that they have someone they can share their struggle with.  That they are not alone.  That we understand, and we are here to help in whatever way we can.  That we all need a break.  We all need a way to heal, cope, protect ourselves, and be authentic.

My fellow veterinarians – your risk of suicide is four times higher than other professions.  Please talk to someone about your burn-out, or your depression, or your compassion fatigue, and find a way to heal.

My fellow human beings – your feelings are worth sharing with someone.  There is someone in your life who wants to hear what you have to say, and wants to help you understand that you are not alone.  Be brave, and take a chance on sharing your struggle with someone.

If you are in a good place right now, will you reach out to someone around you and let them know that they are not alone?  Your small gesture could be the difference between life and death.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the loss of Dr. Yin, it’s this:  We all have something to contribute to this world, no matter how small it may seem.  We may feel insignificant and alone, but our lives DO have purpose, and we will be desperately missed when we’re gone.

YOU are loved.

 

 

 

Ten Things Your Veterinarian Wants You To Know

Recently I was inspired by an article I read on this topic, so I decided to share with you my own list of 10 things I want you to know:

 

Lay some knowledge on me, Doc!

Lay some knowledge on me, Doc!

 

1.  Annual exams are important.

Not only because dogs and cats age much faster than humans (of course you knew that!), but because early detection of disease gives your pet a better chance at a longer life with you.

2.  Dental care is more important than you think.

I know it sounds silly when your vet recommends that you brush your pet’s teeth at home, and you hate the idea of your pet under anesthesia for a proper dental cleaning.  But trust me when I say that when it comes to oral health, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

If you want to save money on your pets life-long medical care, invest in their teeth NOW, before you have to spend thousands of dollars having all their teeth extracted because they are so diseased, and/or treating their heart/kidney disease that was secondary to their dental disease.  Seriously.

3.  If you love your pet, keep them lean.

Pet obesity in our country rivals the human obesity epidemic.  We are literally loving our pets to death.  An overweight pet has an average life span of TWO YEARS LESS than their healthy counterparts!  Make sure you are feeding your pet the right amount of a high quality food, giving them the right kind of exercise, and not giving them too many treats.  If you don’t know what is appropriate, guess who does…

(uh, that would be your veterinarian, if you didn’t know.)

4.  Microchipping your pet could save their life.

It might sound extreme, but it’s the truth.  Imagine your pet gets lost – they may end up in a shelter, where they could be euthanized or adopted by another family if they aren’t microchipped.  That little $50 investment will tell the authorities where your pet really belongs!

5.  You play an important part in helping your pet have a good experience with the vet.  Start desensitization at home.

If you want a big gold star from your veterinarian, teach your pet to enjoy being touched all over, having their ears and muzzle manipulated, their mouth opened, and their tail lifted.  Teach your cat to think the carrier is fantastic.  And by all means, be sure your dog knows his manners (sit, stay, come, down, heel)!  These are first steps which will allow your pet have a fear-free experience at the vet.

6.  Cats need special treatment.

Many think that cats are low-maintenance pets, and that’s true to some extent.  But they have species-specific needs that must be addressed if they are going to live long, happy, healthy lives.

Environmental enrichment, mental stimulation, appropriate litter boxes, and places to scratch are just a few things to think about.  Medically speaking, you should know that cats are the masters of disguise.  They will keep disease hidden, and even if they are showing signs they will be very subtle.  Any changes in appetite, behavior, weight loss, or litter box habits must be brought to your vet’s attention right away.  And please, OH please, have your cat examined EVERY YEAR.

7.  Make your home environment safe for your pets.

Please keep prescription and over-the-counter medications completely out of reach.  Educate yourself on which foods and plants are toxic to pets.  Pet poisonings are one of the most common preventable emergencies seen by veterinarians, and we would love it if that were not the case.

8.  Marijuana is BAD for your dog.

Okay, this one is specific to Colorado, but important nonetheless!  Marijuana, in ANY form, is toxic to your dog.  If you notice your dog losing his balance, walking like he’s drunk, leaking urine or losing complete bladder control, take them to the vet right away.  And keep your stash, as well as any paraphernalia, far away from Fido.

9.  Don’t self-diagnose.  Dr. Google is not a good veterinarian.

There’s a ton of information out there on the internet…some good, and some not so good.  If you’re concerned about your pet, just call the vet.  Your vet’s knowledge, eyes, ears, fingers, and diagnostic tests are vastly superior to Dr. Google’s.

10.  Don’t wait too long to see your vet.

There is a good chance that whatever medical issue your pet is experiencing is not going to go away on its own.  And even if it might, your pet will suffer needlessly in the meantime.  Early intervention not only gives your pet the best prognosis and care, but could save you money in the long run.  And who doesn’t want to save money?

 

Do you have any questions or thoughts for Dr. D?  Leave ’em in the comments below!

Did you know that Dr. D does house calls in the Broomfield area?  If your pet needs to see the vet, give her a call!

Broomfield Vet Shares The Truth About Cat Healthcare

“Dear Dr. D,

My cat is a healthy, young adult who never goes outside.  I feed her a top quality food, and she is very happy.  But, she HATES the vet.  Are vaccines really necessary?

Sincerely,

BestCatOwner

 

I am going to tell you the truth, and I may be tarred and feathered by my colleagues for it, but here goes.

Your indoor adult cat does not need vaccines every year.  Once your kitten completes their initial series of vaccines, they don’t need them again for at least 3 years.  Your elderly (over 10 years old) indoor cat could probably go even longer without vaccines, as long as there aren’t any new cats coming into the home.  [Important disclaimer:  Rabies vaccine is required by law, of course, and should be performed every 3 years for cats.]

But, since you asked the question…  I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a story.

Have you noticed the orange tabby cat in my profile picture over there to the right?  Here he is again:

This adorable kitty is a perfect example of a young, healthy adult who never goes outside.

This adorable kitty is a perfect example of a young, healthy adult who never goes outside.

 

For anonymity, let’s name him Buster.  🙂

Buster was about 4 years old when I saw him for the first time.  He was pretty healthy (just a tiny bit overweight), never went outside, ate a high quality food, and was up to date on all his vaccinations.  He was a perfect cat at home, happily lazing his days away as any cat should.

As his veterinarian, I performed a physical examination and recommended running a basic annual blood work panel (standard care in any veterinary practice, not to mention human medical practice).  And I’m so glad I did…

Buster’s blood work revealed a problem, lurking quietly under the happy, healthy facade.  He showed absolutely no clinical signs of the disease that was slowly developing within his body.

Buster was a diabetic. 

More specifically, he was pre-diabetic.  His body was starting to have problems regulating glucose, and without immediate intervention he was going to start showing clinical signs of full-blown diabetes.

I was so grateful that Buster’s owners were committed to allowing me to examine him and run blood work every year.  Had Buster been to see me once every 3 years, his diabetes would have progressed and he only would have been in to the clinic once he was very sick.

Instead, I was able to adjust Buster’s diet, put him on a weight loss plan, and monitor his disease.

Buster never progressed to full diabetes because of our early intervention. 

Buster is a wonderful success story, and only one example of what I want to tell every cat owner in the world:

The most important thing you can do for the health of your cat is have them examined by a veterinarian every year.

 

You’re probably thinking “Yeah, but Buster had a perfectly normal physical exam.  The blood work is what revealed his disease.”  And you are correct.  Here’s the truth: Any veterinarian worth their degree is going to recommend blood work for every pet they see as part of their annual physical.  It is imperative.  So just assume that “annual physical exam” = “blood work”.

I can tell you so many other stories about cats with underlying disease that owners never suspected…  kidney disease, irritable bowel syndrome, stress-induced cystitis, and arthritis…  all of which can be detected and addressed by your veterinarian during an annual exam.

Here’s the bottom line:  Your cat ages multiple “human years” for each of their cat years.  A 4-year-old cat is similar to a 30-year-old human, and a 7-year-old cat is similar to a 50-year-old human.  Do you think it would be okay to skip your physicals for 20 years?  Probably not.

 

 

Do you hate taking your cat to the vet?  Call Dr. D and avoid that trip altogether!  House calls are a great way to get your kitty the care they deserve without the stress of the car ride and veterinary clinic.