The biggest threat to your pet

The numbers are out… and they’re not encouraging…

An overweight Corgi

An overweight Corgi

Every year, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention or APOP (full disclosure: I’m a volunteer member of the board) collects information about the weight and “Body Condition Score” of cats and dogs throughout the US. Sadly, despite vets’ efforts, our pets get a little bit chubbier every year.
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Who is the #1 breed?

The AKC (American Kennel Club) just released the top 10 most common dog breeds. Can you guess who #1 is?

For the 24th year, the Lab is #1. Here are the results:
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A cool way to predict heart disease in your pet

Did you know that there is a super simple test you can do to assess the health of your dog or your cat’s heart?

The test is called the Sleeping Respiratory Rate or SRR.
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Top 10 Valentine’s Day Pet Dangers

Valentine’s Day is all about love and all… But it can mean danger and a trip to the ER if you’re not careful with your sweet, loving pet.

Here are 10 tips to live by on Valentine’s Day… and always.
Puppy and kitten

1. Beware of flowers

If you’re going to offer flowers, they might as well be out of the reach of your pets. Not only because they’re not the recipient, but also because some flowers can be toxic. This includes lilies, tulips, Amaryllis, daisies, chrysanthemums and Baby’s Breath!

Flowers are easy to keep away from dogs… It can be tougher with a cat, so be aware of which flowers should be banned from your house.

2. Beware of thorns

As the song goes, “every Rose has its thorn.” Most Rose varieties may not be toxic, but their thorns can be harmful to pets, whether they play with them, bite them, step on them or swallow them.

3. Beware of alcoholic beverages

Alcohol can cause vomiting, lack of coordination, depression and tremors. At worst, it can lead to a coma, respiratory failure and death.

And yes, I’m talking about pets.

4. Beware of candy

Pets can choke on candy, or it can irritate or block there intestine. The same can be said about candy wrappers and lollipop sticks.

Not convinced? Think it can’t happen? I remember performing surgery on April, a sweet, 8-year-old Dobie who had an intestinal blockage due to foreign bodies: a peanut butter cracker wrapper, foil and a straw! In addition to the blockage, the foreign material very caused her to “bloat” the night before… Fortunately she recovered well after surgery.

5. Beware of chocolate

Valentine’s Day and chocolate go hand-in-hand. However, chocolate is toxic for pets, and possibly deadly. It only takes 1.5 ounces of unsweetened chocolate to cause toxicity in a 10 pound dog. For cats, the toxic dose is even lower.

In dogs, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, seizures and an increased heart rate. In cats, it can lead to an upset GI tract. At worst, seizures and death can occur.

6. Beware of xylitol

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum and candy. It can cause a number of signs, from vomiting to seizures to fatal liver failure… It can also cause a rapid drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can lead to depression, loss of coordination and seizures. The treatment at home is to give food and a source of sugar (Karo syrup, pancake syrup) and to go straight to your family vet or the closest vet ER.

7. Beware of candles

Candles can attract curious pets and cause serious burns. They also can be a fire hazard if they are knocked over by a pet or its tail. Please be safe and don’t leave your pet alone in a room with a burning candle.

8. Beware of wrapping material

Wrapping paper, foil, tape, ribbon and bows are all potential dangers if ingested. Ribbon is probably the most deadly, as it can cut into the intestine, especially in cats.

9. Beware of pets as gifts

If you are tempted to offer your Sweetie a kitten or a puppy for Valentine’s Day, please think more long-term. Adopting a new pet is a big deal, it should not be based on an impulse. Instead, consider offering a gift certificate to adopt a pet at your local shelter, with the mention that “we should talk about it thoroughly.”

As a reminder, 99% of pets adopted from a pet store, no matter how cute they are, were born in a puppy mill.

10. Beware of fatty food

Sharing a delicious meal with your pet is a common temptation. Yet fatty food can cause a painful condition called pancreatitis, or inflammation (irritation) of the pancreas. This causes severe belly pain and vomiting. It’s a classic scenario at family vets and emergency clinics after any major holiday or celebration. So please let your pet eat pet food, and enjoy your delicious Valentine’s human meal.

That said, have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

All you need is love…

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

What does a board-certified surgeon do all day?

A look back at 2014…

The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on past accomplishments. For me, as a surgeon, it includes thinking of all the patients we helped and which surgeries we performed.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman cleans up a patient after surgery

“Dr. Phil Zeltzman cleans up a patient after surgery”

Why should you care? Because this little exercise can make you aware of the most common surgical conditions in cats and dogs.

As one of my professors used to say in vet school, “Common diseases are common.” What this means is that most of the time, statistically speaking, your pet’s diagnosis is going to be straight forward.

This list can empower you to figure out what your pet’s problem may be. I’ve had clients correctly diagnose their pet with an ACL tear or laryngeal paralysis!

So here are my top 10 surgeries in 2014.

  1. TPLO & TTA
  2. Belly surgery
  3. Fractures
  4. Tumor removal
  5. Joint dislocations
  6. ACL – nylon repair
  7. Perineal urethrostomy
  8. Laryngeal paralysis
  9. Hernias
  10. TECA

Let’s go over these surgeries in more detail

  1. ACL SURGERY
    It never fails, ACL surgery remains the most common surgery I perform, mostly in dogs, and occasionally in cats.  There are reportedly 100 ways to fix an ACL.  We’ve talked many times about ACL surgery, so let’s keep it short.
    I have tried several techniques over the years, and now use mostly three: the “traditional” technique with heavy nylon sutures can be used in dogs and cats. In some dogs, the TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) and the TTA (Tibial Tuberosity Advancement) are additional options that typically gives great results.
    These days, TPLO is THE most common surgery I perform.
  2. Belly surgery
    Belly surgery or “exploratory laparotomy” can be necessary for a number of reasons. The most common reason in 2014 was to remove all kinds of foreign objects: toys, string, hair ties, pieces of a yoga matt, a foam ear plug, a trichobezoar (Harry Potter fans may know this is a hair ball), a sock, pieces of a basketball, an acorn etc.
    Other common reasons included removing body parts (gallbladders, benign or cancerous masses), taking biopsies, removing bladder stones, etc.
    Some cats had their colon removed because of a condition called megacolon. This is the only reasonable option then cats are so severely constipated, that the colon has become a useless bag of rock-hard poop. At that stage, medications are a waste of time and money. Procrastinating to move on with surgery invariably leads to a much worse anesthesia candidate. These cats may go from otherwise healthy to skinny and unhealthy. Not to mention the fact that they suffer from untreatable constipation.
    A few wise clients who knew their dog is at risk for “bloat” (stomach twisting) wanted a preventive procedure performed, called a prophylactic gastropexy.  By tacking the stomach to the inside of the belly, we can prevent the twisting of the stomach.  It is a life-saving procedure that should be considered in Great Danes (the #1 breed for this disease), German shepherds, Labs and several other large dog breeds.
  3. Fractures
    Many pets surprised their owners and escaped through an open door or an open gate. Most got hit by a car. Others were hit by their owner’s car – always a horrible situation. Some were on a leash but ran after something (a dog, a truck etc) and either the (loose) collar slipped off the dog’s neck, or an “extendable” leash offered no control.
    A large number of pets are victims of falls.  They fell from their owner’s arms, from the couch, from the bed, in the stair etc.  We have also seen a number of pets who had a fracture after someone fell on them.
    Prevention is possible in most cases: use a (tight) leash, make sure the collar is tight enough, close the door to the outside, lock the gate, and know where your pet is when you drive out of the garage. Oh, and neuter you male pets: many pets with broken bones are not neutered, so they are much more likely to roam and get in trouble.
  4. Tumor removal
    This list is sadly endless: in and under the skin, in the chest or on the heart, in the bone (legs, pelvis, jaw…), in the liver, on the stomach, in the intestine, on the bladder…
    Thankfully, not all tumors are cancerous, and we’ve removed many benign masses.
  5. Joint dislocations
    We’ve dealt with virtually every joint dislocation: the shoulder, the elbow, the wrist, the hip, the knee and the ankle!  Some are traumatic, some are congenital (i.e. the pet was born that way).
    The most common one is the kneecap dislocation.  The kneecap slides out of the groove where it is supposed to live, at the bottom of the thigh bone (or femur). It is common in dogs, and we’ve seen quite a few kitties with that condition last year.
    In some cases of hip dislocation, or because of hip dysplasia, we may need to perform a Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO). The “ball” of the hip (femoral head) is removed during surgery.  FHO is also done in pets with a hip fracture or deterioration of the bone (e.g. Legg Perthes disease in tiny dog breeds).
  6. Standard ACL repair:
    see # 1 above.
  7. Perineal urethrostomy
    Perineal urethrostomy (or in short a P/U) is performed in cats who have had a urinary blockage several times. The idea is to remove the end of the urethra (aka the penis) and stitch up the lining of the urethra to the skin in order to end up with a much wider opening. It may sound weird, but it typically works very well.
  8. Laryngeal paralysis
    Dogs, mostly Labs, can have a condition that paralyzes their larynx, a.k.a. voice box, and causes them to suffocate. It’s an incredibly stressful condition. Fortunately, surgery (a “tie back”) allows them to have a wider airway, which typically works very well.  These patients quickly go from suffocating to being able to breathe comfortably.
    Traditionally, we see most “lar par” patients in the summertime, when the heat and humidity make their condition worse. What I’ve noticed in the past 2 years, is that we have performed this surgery several times in the winter (November, December).
  9. Hernias
    A hernia is a condition where an organ ends up where it shouldn’t be. There are several types of hernias.
    A perineal hernia is a condition where organs (mostly fat, occasionally intestine or even the bladder) slip through weakened muscles in the pelvis, and slide along the rectum.  The end result is a bulge on the side (or sometimes both sides) of the anus.
    Why are the muscles weakened? Most of the time, the condition happens in unneutered dogs (rarely in females and neutered dogs).  Therefore, we think that in most patients, testosterone from the testicles causes some muscles in the pelvis to shrink.
    The best prevention is to neuter male dogs early in life.
    Diaphragmatic hernia is a condition that most commonly happens after a pet is hit by a car. Organs from the belly slip through a rent in the diaphragm and end up in the chest. Surgery involves putting organs back in the belly and carefully stitching up the diaphragm.
  10. TECA
    Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA) is the best solution for dogs (most often Cockers) who have repeated ear infections. Those can be very painful and some of these dogs become head shy or even aggressive.
    Sadly, many of these dogs are treated, sometimes for years, with medications, which can’t even go down into the ear canal because it has become so swollen.
    TECA is an invasive procedure, with possible complications, which fortunately works very well in the majority of patients.

Remembering some of the surgeries we’ve performed in 2014 is also a way to give credit to the wonderful vets, nurses, and pet owners who have been caring for them.

Until next time,

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ