Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Another Kitten Falls

We work very closely with a very large rescue. They are a dedicated bunch of hard-working, tirelessly driven group of people who take in almost every kind of animal plight imaginable. I love to help out because it allows us to give back to those pets who need us most. It also allows me to see things I would likely spend a whole life practicing and never get to encounter. I see cases with them that I had only read about in textbooks in vet school.

Some of the cases have happy endings and some don't. But every case is treated with love and given every single available option for treatment that we have available. If they bring the pet to us we know that they want to do whatever is possible to get that pet well. We have few restrictions and we don't have to debate with treatments based on a financial or emotional constraint. We can jump in and get to work.

Yesterday a 3 week old kitten was brought to us for care. She had been "found" by someone who brought her to the rescue. She was a small brown fluff of meows. She resembled my baby birds at home. No real structure just wisps of baby fur. The shear degree of her pitifulness tugged at your heart from the moment you touched her. She was so tiny you couldn't help to root for her.

She had a half closed left eye, and a very painful bottom. After the fur was cleaned away we noticed that she had a very deep wound that ran from her anus along the left side of her spine almost half way down her back. That hole was completely full of maggots. And it hurt like crazy.

We spent most of the afternoon trying to get the maggots out, keep her warm, get her to eat, and treat her for her infection, discomfort, and tissue trauma.

As much as she had already endured she was too weak to fight such a devastating wound. She died overnight.

She is another victim of an over abundance and neglectful oversight by the human beings around her.

She is also the reason that vets try so hard to urge people to spay and neuter. Our hope is that if we have fewer and fewer breeding cats, then hopefully we won't have so many unwanted litters, and hopefully those kittens won't be trying to live and defend themselves on their own and fall victim to another cat attacking them or a wound that then succumbs to the harshness of the environment.

Please spay and neuter, and please encourage your neighbors to do the same. TNR works, it just needs a greater effort on every one's part.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Signs of Heat Intolerance

I wrote about the loss of Ruby from heat stroke/hyperthermia the other day, and because it's another 100 plus degree day here in the Mid-Atlantic I thought I would add another aspect to the topic.

The best way to stay cool, inside, relaxed and comfortable.
I thought I would share my own experience with heat intolerance just to help you understand who is at risk, what signs to look for, and how to treat for the early signs, and when it's time to get help.

It has been a very hot summer here already, and it's only mid-July. I am on the MD-PA border and there was almost two weeks of above 100 degree days. Compound that with the very high humidity and the outside turns into a place that no man or beast should be.

Try telling that to my 3 year old beagle Jekyl. It is almost impossible to keep that dog inside. I thought it would be a great idea to train him to ring the bells on the door when he wanted to go outside. Little did I realize that he would ring them constantly. I have become his butler.

He feels compelled to be outside in the front yard, sitting on the little knoll, head and nose to the horizon, scanning for a reason to sound the alarm. Hhe howls if there is any hint of any kind of intruder, ghost, mammal, or automobile. If you call "guard dog" any canine that howls at everything then he deserves a very large trophy. He is obsessed. What did I think I would get?

The only time he will put his OCD tendencies aside is if it is raining. The rest of the time he is on duty.

Since it has been so hot I have had to restrict his outside time to short quick visits. Every time I bring him in, he rings the bells until I let him out. (Yes, I have resorted to yelling reprimands, and, yes, he ignores me).

He came in the other day after a short 10 minute trip outside and immediately lay down on the wood floor. He was panting, tongue lashing about with the excessive respiration's, with fully extended front and back legs, and laying on his side. He was huffing and puffing and exhausted.

I looked at his gums, (red), and felt for his pulses (rapid). He was also warm to the touch.

At this point I would tell all of you to go grab your thermometer out of your in-home emergency kit,
(WHAT!? You don't have one? Please see my blog for emergency kits at ()and tell you to check the temperature.

OK, to be honest I skipped the thermometer step. (I am going to claim professional privilege). BUT, if you take a temp and it is above 103 degrees (normal for a pet is 100-102.5) then please head directly to your vets office. Once a pet starts to heat up it is often very difficult to reverse it. At 104 degrees I am ALWAYS placing an i.v. catheter and running i.v. fluids. I just don't think that there is any better way to cool a pet then with i.v. fluids. Also once your temp starts to fall stop cooling. I have had lots of pets go from 104 to 103, to 98 in a matter of a few minutes. We also check the temperature every 10 minutes or so as we are cooling.(We keep a chart with a timer to help us keep track).

Jekyl when he first got inside.

Fully extended and flat-out.
This is his way of trying to maximize his cooling efforts.

I grabbed Jekyl and carried him up to the bathtub. He is very familiar with the tub. He hates it. Besides his annoying pestering tendency to "ring the bell" he also has an equally annoying although much more offensive, tendency to roll in the excrement of dead, dying, decaying, and disgusting things. They are too disgusting to mention. I think it is groundhog poop, but really I haven't gone to investigate. Whatever it is, from whatever source it leached out of, it is pungent.The kind of pungent that when you open the door you know before he sets foot in the house that it's bath time. He has had his smelly butt drug up to the bath tub more than any pet who leads as cushioned a life as he does. He is the cleanest beagle in the state. He hates that too.

I put him in the tub and ran the water on cool. It is very important to use cool vs. cold water. Cold water actually causes peripheral vaso-constriction and will slow down the cooling.

I know it looks silly but my leg is actually keeping him sitting in the tub.
He needed the cool water on his belly.

Should you ever find your pet panting, lethargic, open mouth rapidly breathing (I call this panting), or even worse non-responsive take your pet immediately to the vet or ER facility. Fast emergency care can save lives.

Jekyl cooled off quickly. I kept him wet and let him lie back on the cool floor. Needless to say I ignored his requests to be let back outside the rest of the day.

He is bad, but he is still soo cute!

One of the reasons that Jekyl is susceptible to heat intolerance is his size. He is a short thick stocky boy. When he heats up he heats up quicker, and when he tries to cool down it takes longer. The thicker, stockier dogs must be closely watched. The brachycephalic breeds (short, squishy-faced dogs like Bulldogs) need to be watched even closer. Keep your pets inside on hot days, keep them cool with lots of fresh water, and never leave or tie them outside. And most importantly please never leave them in a car.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Favorite Time of Day

Nothing in the world makes me happier then being home with my pets.

Today was a rainy summer day, and everyone decided to watch TV and nap.

Charlie, top left, Savannah on the floor, Jekyl at end of couch on the floor,
Wren on the far end of the couch, and Donner at front of picture.
It's a good life.

The only creature stirring is the house sparrow who built a nest in the flower pot on my porch just off the dining room.

Because our house is under restoration my temporary desk is on the dining room table. So as I sat and typed all day I got to watch her bring bugs to her babies. She arrives with a boisterous cacophony of chirps and a delectable treat. She delivered groceries to her 5 bald big beaked babies every 10 minutes. I am impressed by her vigor and stamina. She is entertaining and inspiring. I guard her nest like a tyrant.

Mom is on the edge of the flower pot, right in front of the vertical metal support.
She's fast, so this was my best shot of her.
The nest is the pile of twigs on the near side of this pot, right in front of her.

3 day old babies.

Feed Me!!

The rest of the inside clan ignores her most of the time. Wren and Sprout can occasionally be seen sitting near the glass door to peer in on their comings and goings. The birds announce their arrival with groceries and the cats go running to see the deliveries.

Little Sprout is my constant companion. She follows me everywhere. If I stop to hesitate she writhes between my ankles and curls her tail to hobble my movement. I have grown very attached to her. She is a purring monster and she has fit in seamlessly. She is starting to play with the dogs, unwilling as they are to acknowledge her.


It is a perfect day at home.

Charlie, obviously very comfortable.


Charlie & Savannah


This is Jekyl's morning routine. Lots of yawns, belly rubs, and kisses.

The it is time for the back rub on the bed boogie!

Have a great Sunday everyone.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Curing Beau's Anxiety

The other day I introduced you to Beau. He had lost his lifelong beagle companion and it sent him into an anxiety-ridden tailspin that led to destroying drapes, crying and whining incessantly. His fears were becoming more diverse, more frequent, and intensifying. He is the poster child for "separation anxiety" as we call it in veterinary medicine. I had met Beau not too long after his best friend had passed away and talked to his family about how to most adequately address Beau's stress and condition.

Beau's fight with the drapes. AKA "I want out!"

The family knew very early on after the death of their beagle that they needed to find another friend for Beau. They had jobs and lives outside of their love for Beau. He was a mess on his own and they couldn't fill the gap that their beagle had.

I saw Beau's family about a week and a half ago on my Sunday walk-in hours. Their chart was in the exam room box and I saw that they had a new pet. I was so excited to see their new addition and to hear about Beau's response to having a new friend that I forgot to actually read the chart's entry for "reason for visit."

When I walked in the room I saw looks of concern and a small Beagle recumbent on the exam table. Within a second my excitement dropped to despair.

The beagle on the table was small, about 12 pounds, and she was laying on her sternum with her head extended, nose pointed straight ahead, and breathing as if every tiny inhalation might be her last.

We didn't need words. We all knew she was terribly ill.

I then turned to read the chart. "New pet, sick."

Why hadn't I suppressed my excitement long enough  read the file? Why had I burst into the room excited when the room contained despair?

They introduced Brea to me and told me that they had just picked her up yesterday from the SPCA. (I quickly did the math in my head. They had only had her 20 hours).

They were told when they adopted her that she had kennel cough but was being treated for it. They then produced her antibiotic, doxycycline. They also told me that she had been given up, and then adopted, and then surrendered again.

When you see lots and lots of animals you get a good 6th sense about them. I could tell that there wasn't a mean aggressive tendency in this small scared and pitiful pup. She is a beagle. And although they are vocal and sometimes their nose forces them unconsciously to wander off for that elusive smelly bunny, they are sweet affectionate dogs. They told me that the second family had brought her back because she ran off and wouldn't come to them when they called. (Do people think that this is abnormal? Especially for a beagle? They are powerless to the nose-brain force that drives them to investigate the scent of any animal that has passed by). All pets need to be trained, and all new pets need to be intensively supervised and also trained. Poor Brea, she was a little beagle in a world that couldn't understand or appreciate her. That was until Beau's parents found her.

They explained that they loved beagle's and knew that another beagle would be perfect for Beau. They were so happy to find her, loved her instantly, and didn't care that she was a little sick, but on the mend.

I looked at Brea, gave her an exam and then notified them that she was "Very, very sick." I suspected that her kennel cough had turned into pneumonia and I was not sure she would live." How else could I tell them? She was less than a day theirs and I wasn't very hopeful that she would live past today.

This is what a dog that can't breathe looks like. Head extended, open mouth, reluctant to move.
Brea is in our oxygen cage. The sides are covered in yellow snot becasue she is so congested.
Pink tape covers her i.v. catheter.
Yellow crusted nose.

They said that they loved her already and they wanted to give her a chance. I told them they could call the SPCA tomorrow and see if maybe they would help with her treatment plan.They explained that they had signed paperwork that clearly stated that any medical conditions were their responsibility and that there was a medical facility they could send her to. But they felt confident that she wouldn't get immediate medical intervention and that the SPCA may elect to put her down. They didn't want to wait for her care and they didn't want to give her up.

We took a chest x-ray and ran some blood work. I reported back to them that the x-ray and the blood work didn't appear to look as badly as she clinically did. I discussed options for them. She could go to the ER until we opened again on Monday at 8 am. I told them that the "average ER overnight stay is about $500-$700." I also explained that they could take her home and monitor her very closely and go to the ER if she worsened. Because her blood work and x-ray weren't as severe as I had thought they decided to go home and bring her back first thing the next morning.

Brea's first three days in the quarantine area of our hospital were "touch-and-go."

Quiet, recumbent, and depressed. In quarantine.
A/d slurry (a high calorie prescription food) in with her, just in case she feels well enough to eat.
Because she hadn't eaten in so long with had to add potassium to her fluids.

She went to the ER every night at 8 pm for overnight oxygen cage therapy and came to us everyday for nebulization, i.v. fluids and antibiotics and prayer.

She had severe yellow thick mucous from her eyes, her nose and her throat. She was as sick as sick can be without dying. We all tried to convince each other each day that she had some slight glimmer of improvement. We were saying things back and forth to each other like, "she will get worse before she gets better," which is a difficult piece of advice to swallow when you look as sick as she did.
At day three her x-rays and blood work looked as bad as she did.

At day 4 we had a tiny interest in food. This was a HUGE milestone!

At day 6 we had a bark! A beagle eats and barks! She was finally classified as "recovering."

At day 8 her blood work worsened. Her white blood cell count had continued to climb every time we checked it. On  days 2 through 8 we had her on 3 different very strong antibiotics. On paper we were losing the war. In person we were beginning to see a real live beagle.

As the staff fretted about her stats I reminded everyone that "the pet tells you the most important information. The pet trumps any number." That first exam she was telling us that she was very sick, and now she was telling us that she felt better. We will treat her until both pet and blood work agree that we can stop.

At day 10 Brea remains with us for the day while her new family is at work. She has yet to meet Beau. It will have to wait until she isn't blowing disease droplets at every sneeze. But she is a bright, happy, wagging, nose to the ground, inquisitive girl who I think will be a perfect buddy for Beau.

Out for a walk in the sunshine! This is how you know a beagle feels better.
They are sniffing, digging, and watching other dogs.
And there is that "happy beagle wag!"

Her new family knows that they single handedly saved her life.

Please rescue, and please be patient if you do. These guys often come from broken homes, and many of them have been shuffled around. They in many cases also haven't been "trained." I know many people are hesitant to adopt because they are afraid of inheriting a pet with problems. I hear many people say to me "I think that Fluffy is this way because she was abused." I know a great number of pets who were adopted at 8 weeks old with behavioral issues that were never abused. Your pet Lives in the now and almost every single behavioral problem can be resolved with patience, kindness, determination and assistance from professionals. Please don't give up your pet without asking for help from your vet, your local rescue organizations, and behavioral advisers. Pets are a life-long responsibility.

It has been two weeks of hospitalization for Brea. I am soo happy to report that she is thriving and happy. I will post pictures of her and Beau soon. She is still being kept away from him for a few more days, while the antibiotics kill the last few bugs of her infection.

On September 13, 2012 Brea passed away due to a severe infection in her spinal cord. Her parents loved her immensely, fought countless battles with and for her, and in the end, although her time with them was very short, she found a place to call her own and a family that loved her every second of her time with them. We all should be so lucky.

Brea and Beau's family came into the clinic a few months later. At that time we were looking for a home for Pheobe. She was an overweight, under exercised mixed breed dog. She had been scheduled to be euthanized because her mom was entering long term hospice care. Her mom didn't believe that there was a possibility that Pheobe could find another home at her advanced age of 8. I spent 20 minutes pleading with her to let us find her a home. I had to say things that I was dumbfounded to answer. Like promising her "that we wouldn't experiment on her." Or, "that we wouldn't let her suffer in a tiny cage and never be able to go outside or see daylight." I was so disheartened that people could do such things, or even imagine doing such things.

Pheobe in the few months that we had her, blossomed into a happy, playful girl. Phoebe got a second chance at life because Brea's parents understood how important it was for Beau to have a buddy.