What is a TRUE emergency?

When should you rush to your family vet? When should you go to the emergency clinic? When is it safe to wait until the next day?

Here is a list of 13 true emergencies that require immediate vet care, day or night, week day or week end*.

  1. Severe bleeding or bleeding that doesn’t stop within 5 minutes.
  2. Choking, difficulty breathing or nonstop coughing and gagging.
  3. Bleeding from nose, mouth or rectum; coughing up blood; blood in urine.
  4. Inability to urinate or defecate, or obvious pain or straining while eliminating.
  5. Injuries to an eye.
  6. Your pet ate or drank something poisonous (antifreeze, xylitol, chocolate, rat poison etc.).
  7. Seizures and/or staggering and/or paralysis.
  8. Fractured bones or severe lameness.
  9. Obvious signs of pain or extreme anxiety.
  10. Heat stress or heatstroke.
  11. Severe vomiting or diarrhea – more than two episodes in a 24-hour period, or either of these combined with obvious illness or any of the other problems listed here.
  12. Refusal to drink for 24 hours or more.
  13. Unconsciousness.

The bottom line is that ANY concern about your pet’s health warrants, at a minimum, a call to your family vet.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

* This list was compiled by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Khloe’s story: shocking findings nobody expected

Khloe was a 2 month old adorable golden retriever puppy, with a soft look in her eyes.

When her owners purchased her, they thought they were bringing home a happy and healthy puppy.

But as soon as Khloe’s family brought her home, they noticed that something was not right. She was not playful. She was quiet and reserved.

What they saw was a terrified, sick, and painful puppy.

An owner’s touch is supposed to comfort a small puppy. But how can that be when the smallest contact causes severe pain?

In a matter of 3 days, Khloe began having fits of screaming and jaw chattering. The smallest touch anywhere on her body caused her terrible pain. Her front legs were weak.

Khloe’s case was perplexing. Figuring out where the pain was coming from was almost impossible. It seemed that her whole body was affected.

The owner had noticed a small scratch on the skin of the head, sustained after a brief fight between Khloe and their other dog.  It didn’t look like much and was already healing.

To help with the pain, I placed her on pain medications, and created a neck brace for her. It was difficult to tell, but it seemed that her pain might be stemming from her neck or her head.

Once Khloe was stable, she was transported to get an MRI of her head and neck.

When the MRI report arrived, we were shocked.

Khloe had several skull fractures, with severe changes in her brain, including encephalitis (irritation of the brain) and too much fluid. It was suspected to be due to an infection, most likely caused by the dog bite.

In addition, a brain abscess was suspected.

Suspected abscess

She had a mild displacement (hernia) of the back of her brain, called the cerebellum. And she had a severe syringomyelia extending caudally to the 8th thoracic vertebra (ie the middle of the chest).

Syringomyelia is a condition that is due to fluid-filled cavities in the spinal cord, usually in the neck. This disease is most often found in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

So what we suspected was that a brief fight was in fact violent enough that it caused skulls fractures, and in turn a serious infection of the brain.

Based on these findings, Khloe was immediately started on medications. Two antibiotics were chosen to treat the infection. Two pain killers were also prescribed. One of them is called gabapentin, which is often used to control syringomyelia.

Three weeks later, Khloe was doing great and was finally behaving like a 3 month old puppy should!

It is difficult to tell at this point whether the syringomyelia will be a life-long issue or not. For now, Khloe’s owners are taking it one day at a time. They are thrilled that their pup has beaten the odds.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

4 (More) Truths about Pet Expenses

As promised last time, here are 4 other financial concerns to consider with your beloved furry friend.

1. Skipping basic pet care can drastically increase costs

As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Here are five perfect illustrations of that quote:

. Regular dental cleanings are cheaper (and less painful) than a major dental procedure.

. Preventing internal parasites (e.g. worms) is cheaper than treating their consequences, such as vomiting or diarrhea.

. Preventing external parasites (e.g. fleas) is cheaper than fighting their effects, such as skin irritation or infection.

. Nipping small health problems in the bud is cheaper than treating the full-blown disease.

. Vaccinating your pet is always much cheaper than treating any of the diseases vaccines prevent so effectively. In addition, some of these diseases, such as the one caused by parvovirus, can be deadly.

Treating diseases like those can cost over 100 times the preventive care cost — not to mention that you can lose your pet altogether.

2. Pet proofing your home is worth the investment

Pet proofing your house is very important to try to prevent the need to surgically remove something that your pet should not have swallowed.

Ultra-classic examples include socks, toys and “string” type foreign bodies.

3. Feeding veterinarian-approved pet food will cost less in the long run

All pet foods are the same, right? Wrong! Without the proper diet, your dog or cat can develop many different diseases including:

Overweight or obesity

Skin conditions

Heart disease

Malnutrition

Bladder stones

Urinary blockage in cats

Metabolic issues

Proper nutrition can prevent health problems and large expenses.

4. Pet insurance is not an investment

I am a firm believer that pet insurance can be a life-saver. With one huge caveat: you need to pick the proper plan. They are some very good ones and some very bad ones.

I’ve heard pet owners complain “I’ve paid for pet insurance for years, and I never recouped my investment, so I stopped paying for it.”

Insurance is not an investment! It’s protection against a big expense in case of a serious medical or surgical situation.

Would you ever say “I’ve paid for fire insurance for years, and my house never burned down, so I stopped paying for it?”

Of course not!

Pet insurance gives you the peace of mind that you will be able to care for your pet, should there be a health crisis.

Life as a pet lover can be tough, but by taking the proper steps you can help alleviate the financial burden and take proper care of your loved ones.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

4 Truths about Pet Expenses

Pet adoption is one of the most gratifying and worthwhile experiences many of us will ever have.

Unfortunately, it can be easy to let yourself get carried away and to adopt a new companion without fully considering the responsibility that it entails.

Sadly, I am regularly faced with pet owners who are not capable of taking care of their friend because they never planned that one day, expensive veterinary care may be on the horizon.

What follows are 4 financial truths that every pet lover should be aware of.

For the most part, this list also applies to cat lovers.

1. There is no such thing as a free pet

Sure, the “rescue” may be free. But every pet you adopt will require food, yearly wellness care and possibly unexpected medical expenses.

2. Adopting a giant dog is more expensive

Great Danes, Newfies and Mastiffs are cool. But if you live on a teacup poodle budget, maybe you can postpone adopting a large dog until you are more comfortable.

Most things are proportional in veterinary medicine: big dogs need larger doses of medications and of course larger amounts of food.

3. Not spaying or neutering can cost you money

Spaying your pet eliminates the risk of a life-threatening infection of the uterus called pyometra. In addition, spaying before the first heat cycle virtually eliminates the risk of breast cancer. Both conditions require – you guessed it – costly surgery.

Neutering your pet decreases annoying behavior, eliminates the risk of testicular cancer, helps prevent prostate diseases and reduces the risk of testosterone-driven girl-chasing incidents that can lead to lost pets and hit by car injuries.

4. Procrastinating can be expensive

Removing a small skin lump is logically less expensive than removing a mass that is large enough to require its own zip code. In addition, surgery is much less invasive early on.

Next time, we will go over 4 more financial concerns to consider.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

Would you know if your pet were in pain?

Your pet can experience pain and discomfort in multiple ways. Belly pain (e.g. pancreatitis), severe coughing, injuries and cancer, to name a few, are difficult for our furry friends.

Pain and its expression can vary dramatically from breed to breed, and from pet to pet.

Animals in general are very good at hiding when something is wrong. Remember, in the wild, if an animal acts sick, they get eaten. Sadly, our pets have kept this ability to hide pain until they can’t take it anymore.

Subtle symptoms that you may not think twice about but should include:

. Sleeping in spots they don’t usually go to

. Grooming less

. Grooming excessively and/or one particular spot

. Reluctance to play as long or at all

. “Accidents” in the house

. Less excited to see you, jumping less

. Panting for no obvious reason

. Seeming anxious

. Hiding

Sometimes our pets will be more obvious and show us symptoms such as:

. Vocalization but PLEASE do not count on that to decide your pet is in pain. Many pets who are in pain do not cry out!

. No longer wanting to be petted or picked up

. Limping

. Shaking or tremors

. Hunched position

. Guarding an area (e.g. not wanting to be touched on the head because of an ear infection)

. Aggression

. Not wanting to get up

. No interest in normal routine, such as going on a walk.

It’s hard to think of our loved ones in pain. The good news is there is something you can do about it.

The first thing you need to know is you SHOULD NOT give anything over the counter or any human medication unless directed by your veterinarian. Many human drugs are toxic to our pets, even fatal.

Bring your pet to be checked sooner rather than later. The sooner you figure out what is wrong with your pet, the more options you have.

Remember, age is not a disease. We can successfully treat countless ailments we were unable to help with before. You no longer have to accept your pet no longer playing or wanting to go on walks because he or she is old. It’s probably because they are painful.

Also keep in mind that there are many ways to decrease or stop the pain without medications, including: surgery, weight loss, cold therapy, heat therapy, joint supplements, environmental changes, improving traction, harnesses, rehab, massage etc.

In my world as a surgeon, surgery is a classic way to help painful patients. Fixing a broken leg, repairing a torn ACL or removing a cancerous mass are just a few examples.

We are here to help.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified