Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Pet Jerky Mystery Continues. What Is Safe For Your Spoiled Pups?

We all beg, 
and we all want to feel spoiled.
 It has been seven years of waiting and wondering for some kind of news and action to be taken to protect our pets from the mysterious Chinese exported pet jerky treat deaths. In that time over 1,000 dogs have died, and 5,000 have been sickened.

With little progress being made and businesses who sell these treats reluctant to respond to the hysteria many people took to the internet, message boards, and even the store shelves to try to alert other pet parents about the dangers. It was yet another reason so many people began to seek alternatives to the store bought food options. It is not a mere coincidence that the explosion in popularity of the RAW foods and boutique brands popped up over night, gained a foothold, and impacted the big food manufacturers people love their pets and people were worried. Add to the growing suspicion a reluctance to act and the mystery shrouds itself in questions of morality, ethics, and intent to not protect our family members at the expense of protecting their suppliers.

What started out as a few screams and pleas for attention of the many brands of chicken jerky treats who all shared a common origin, China, has finally turned into a call for customer comments, suggestions, and submission of samples by the FDA, has now turned into a self policed ban from the major big box stores like PetCo and PetSmart. Finally there appears to be both some recognition of the fears so many people have voiced, the deaths of so many pets, and an acknowledgement that even without an exact understanding of why it is happening, we are going to put our pets health first and protect others.

Although the exact cause of the illness is still unknown the vehicle that delivers it is finally getting benched and hopefully more pets will be spared.

For those of us who routinely provide incentives to our pets to remain either by our side, or are in need of reassurance that we are still as devoted to our pet as ever, there are some alternatives available to you to treat your pet.

Here are some of my favorite manufactured treats;

1. Bil-Jac treats have been around for a long while. They list two ingredients and are sourced from US product only.

 2. Stewart's Pro-Treat. Only one ingredient, beef liver, and procured and made in the US. Also they are small and easily broken into even smaller pieces.

3. Science Diet Jerky strips. Made in USA, easily broken into smaller pieces so one strip can be used as multiple treats.

4. Fruitables. Small pieces with calories per treat listed on the front. For the calorie conscious pets try the Skinny Minis at 3-1/2 calories per treat.

5. Make your own jerky. This blog was done by Jana Rade, who makes her own dog treats and shared her recipes and ideas on her blog, Making Your Own Dog Treats: Our Homemade Jerky Treat Production. Or, see Dr. V's video.

Still having trouble? And still worried about where your treats are from? Or what options you have? Go to and ask for "Pet Treats Made in the USA"

Still worried about what to feed your pet? Here's my advice on this;
We all live in a world and a society that is dependent on each other. Very few of us have the time, resources, or ability to live independently from the grocery store. The only way to be independent and in total control of the foods you and your pet consume are to raise your own livestock, grow your own vegetables and purify your own water. After that you have to store these ingredients to be able to prepare your own meals later. Add to this the dilemma of providing a safely storable balanced diet and the task is almost impossible if you have a job and a life outside of this task. That said, your best bet is to buy a commercially available high quality food from a well known, trusted, and long established manufacturer.

I am not usually a fan of big companies, and whenever possible I try to support local small businesses, but when it comes to my pets food I rely on the proven track record of a large company that has safely fed generations of pets from start to finish. I also have seen a few of these companies stand by their product in the face of fear and doubt. I have seen these companies assist clients in caring for their pets, reimburse them if the product was deemed inappropriate, or not palatable, and I have seen these companies stand by their internal quality control which is a cost most of the smaller companies cannot afford to do.

Do I believe that the smaller, newer food companies have their heart and product mission statement based on a lofty admirable goal? Yes. But do they have the ability to do that from outsourcing to production to client coverage in the face of a disaster? No. I have yet to see one of them do so. The other point of contention that I have with the smaller food companies is their marketing strategy. Most of them are based on many of the same strategies and slanderous tactics that politicians use. Instead of touting your superior qualities they choose to instead use misleading, false, and emotionally manipulative verbiage and tactics that smear their opponent. I don't vote for someone based on the nasty things they say about the other candidate, and I feed my pets based on the knowledge of 4 years of vet school and 9 years in practice, and the many healthy pets I have seen pass through the clinic.

More information on these topics available here;
And for the latest news on the pet jerky;

The Pet Jerky Mystery Continues.
Pet jerky treats, mostly imported from China, are now linked to more than 1,000 deaths in dogs, more than 4,800 complaints about animal illness, and, for the first time, sickness in three people who ate the products, federal health officials said Friday.

But Food and Drug Administration officials say they still can't identify a specific cause for the reported illnesses or deaths, despite seven years of testing and investigation.

“The agency continues to caution pet owners that jerky treats are not required for a balanced diet and encourage them to consult with their veterinarians, both prior to feeding treats and if they notice symptoms in their pets,” FDA said in a statement.

The humans who consumed the treats included two toddlers who ingested them accidentally and an adult who may have been snacking on the questionable products, which include chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats, an FDA official said.

“The agency continues to caution pet owners that jerky treats are not required for a balanced diet and encourage them to consult with their veterinarians."

One of the children was diagnosed with a salmonella infection, which can be spread by touching contaminated pet food and treats. The other child developed gastrointestinal illness and fever that mirrored the symptoms of dogs in the house that also ate the treats. The adult reported nausea and headache, said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman.

The agency has received about 1,800 new reports of illnesses and deaths since its last update in October, some involving more than one pet. The numbers now include 5,600 dogs and 24 cats.
About 60 percent of the cases involve symptoms of gastrointestinal trouble and liver disease, 30 percent involve kidney disease and about 10 percent involve other complaints, including neurological and skin conditions, the FDA said. About 15 percent of the kidney or urinary cases also tested positive for Fanconi syndrome, a rare disease that has been associated with the treats.
Agency officials also said they were able to perform necropsies, or post-death examinations, on 26 dogs submitted by veterinarians from across the country. In half of those cases, the deaths did not appear to be associated with the treats. Of the remaining 13 cases, an association with eating jerky treats "could not be ruled out," FDA officials said.
The FDA plans to join with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch a study similar to epidemiological traceback investigations used with people, comparing foods eaten by sick dogs with foods eaten by pets that did not get sick.
Pet treats made by national manufacturers Nestle Purina Pet Care and Del Monte Foods Corp., now known as Big Heart Pet Brands, were returned to store shelves recently after a voluntary recall tied to the discovery of unapproved antibiotic residue in some products last year. FDA officials said they had received few reports of illness associated with those reformulated products and no Fanconi syndrome cases.
In response to consumer demand, Milo's Kitchen Chicken Grillers and other products are now made in the U.S. with U.S.-sourced meat, said Chrissy Trampedach, Big Heart's director of corporate communications.

Overall, the jerky treat illnesses and deaths have been associated with many different product brands, officials said.

In the new report, the FDA said it had detected the antiviral drug amantadine in some Chinese chicken jerky samples sold more than a year ago. Officials said they don't believe the drug contributed to the animal illnesses or deaths. However, the drug, which is used to treat Parkinson's disease and influenza in humans, should not be present in jerky treats, officials said. The FDA has warned Chinese and domestic suppliers that amantadine is considered an adulterant, which could be grounds for banning the treats for sale in the U.S.

The companies have consistently said that the treats are safe to feed as directed and they've emphasized that, despite extensive testing, no specific cause of illness has been linked to the products.
"It's quite sad when you see it dawn on the people that they're trying to reward their best buddy there and then now they're the ones who have been making them ill."

Pet owners and veterinarians have criticized the FDA for not finding the source of the contamination more quickly and for not issuing more far-reaching recalls. They say they're sure that the products are dangerous, and that the reported illnesses and deaths should be more than enough proof.

"Its really hard to look at the number of cases that come in, correlate them with what they're eating and then go away from that and say, no, it's not related," said Brett Levitzke, a Brooklyn, New York, veterinarian who has seen more than a dozen dogs since 2011 with Fanconi syndrome.

"It's quite sad when you see it dawn on the people that they're trying to reward their best buddy there and then now they're the ones who have been making them ill," he told NBC News.

Original Article found here.

Charlie being gentle with his treat acquisition.

And Jekyll, a bit more eager, but still so adorable!
If you have a pet question about food, treats, training, behavior, or anything pet related, you can ask me, and the other pet lovers on Pawbly is dedicated to helping people take care of their pets and is always Free to use.

Or find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Veterinary Center, in Jarrettsville Maryland.

Or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

Be safe, be kind, and always spoil those you love.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why Would I Hire You?

My puppies had a wonderful long Memorial Day weekend enjoying the beautiful weather.
This is the punishment that Charlie received for taunting the toads and frogs.
I'm sure he has learned his lesson.
 Summer is one of the busiest times of the year for us. It is also the season for a few notable things here at the veterinary clinic.

The fleas and ticks start to make their migration from the cold harsh ground to our warm furry pets, thus beginning the skin allergy season just as our neighbor to the north, Punxsutawney Phil, pops his head out for Groundhog Day. From February to June we look like Santa's village in August. The winter season is counting down and we are doing our best to be ready for the Summer slam when Spring arrives.

It is also the time we see the emergence of the explosion of kittens, baby bunnies, hatchling birds, and the rest of the wildlife all trying to procreate at the same time, thus causing a flood of worried human mommies with little trinket boxes housing orphans to arrive at our doorstep in search of advice.

The barking kennel chorus gains dozens of new members as their parents depart for their summer vacation. With the boarding filling up, this in turn perpetuates the more frequent food truck arrivals, the washer and dryer run all day and most of the night, and the plans for our summer escapes get squeezed into rationed vacation slots. We bustle, burgeon and balloon with new mouths to feed, clean, care for and monitor. Our summer population doubles our winter numbers.

Can you see the shame in those eyes?

As our season begins I take my yearly staff head count, assess where we will need additional personnel and start the arduous exhausting and dreaded task of hiring new employees. Anyone who says that they like this task is crazy. It is not fun to pour through stacks of applications to try to narrow the field based on a few paragraphs on a piece of paper. From the first round applicants we proceed to the interview process. After this we make some gut decisions, and hope we have chosen correctly. For almost all veterinary clinics this task falls upon either the practice manager or the practice owner. Although neither one of us are trained to do any of this. We all learn by our track record. We don't hire those candidates that remind us of the last few we fired, and we try to round out our team with those who seem to possess the characteristics our team needs or thrives upon.

In many cases those of us doing the hiring look for aspects of ourselves, or our clinic, in our applicants. For this reason I am more inclined to hire someone who is also a client. At least a client already has some basic understanding of who we are, and a good client has a pet record outside of an application form (which may or may not be accurate). A great client is a good foundation for an excellent new team member.

Jekyll, Charlie and our visitor for the weekend Cora.

Every person who is given the chore of hiring has developed their own method.

This is my hiring protocol after almost a decade at the clinic. Part of this is a reflection of how I manage my clinic, part of it is done as a reflection of what I want the clinic to be, and the rest is what I believe is necessary for JVC to be the best clinic on the planet. As I find myself once again weeding through the process I thought I would share some of my thoughts on it;

I. Know what your interviewer is looking for:
  1. I am in almost all cases only interested in only finding an exemplary long term full time employee. 
  2. Every staff member is expected to be able to perform all of the other duties in the hospital. We cross train everyone so that anyone can fill in and help everyone else. It serves our patients best, and reminds everyone else that the grass isn't greener on the other side of the fence.
  3. Every staff member has to have a high school diploma, or equivalent. The more education (in any field or area) a candidate has the more they are set apart from the rest, and medicine requires basic mathematics, physics, chemistry, language and social skills. All of our technicians can perform drug calculations, place i.v. catheters, draw blood samples, take x-rays, and understand basic anatomy and physiology. We challenge each other and learn from each other every single day. It is what keeps the job fun and interesting.
  4. They have to have at least one pet. (Personal note: don't go to a vet or hire anyone who doesn't have pets, its sacrilegious in my eyes).
  5. That pet has to be up to date on veterinary medical care. If they don't take of their pets how I expect them to an advocate for our clinic?
II. The interview:
  1. Dress appropriately and professionally. (The girl I interviewed last night arrived in sweat pants, what the heck was she thinking?).
  2. No gum chewing, or cell phones out. 
  3. Smile, engage, and look at the person speaking to you. Applicants often think that working at a veterinary clinic is just about working with animals. No, working at a veterinary clinic is about working with people who care about their animals. The worst employees for a veterinary practice are those that cannot, will not, or do not talk to our clients AND their pets.
  4. Image is almost everything. I am often asking people to entrust their pet, often a pet that they see as a member of their family, (which is exactly how we see them), to be given to us to care for. If my employee more closely resembles a shady member of society it is unlikely that the client feels comfortable leaving their pet in our care. Put yourself in their shoes. There is an expectation that we are a trusted, valued, expert in our field. Act AND look like it.
  5. Attitude is the rest that image and trust doesn't fill. There is never yelling, intimidating, bullying, arguing, in fighting or any other action that jeopardizes our ability to work like a team allowed. I won't hire a person that I believe will be detriment to our ability to work together. People who thrive on creating drama, belittle others, or speak poorly about others will destroy your practice from the inside out. I don't care who they are, you will never be able to have a successful clinic with them. Don't hire them, and if they become this, evict them.
  6. Don't write on your application "that you love animals, and have wanted a job around animals your whole life," if you have never worked around animals. Is it important to love animals if you work at a veterinary office, yes, but what the hell have you been doing your whole life if this is true? Are you coming to me in the hopes that I can fulfill your childhood dreams? Unless you are a child I expect that you are working to make your own dreams come true.
  7. Without animal or veterinary experience on your resume you are not going to get you a job at my clinic. Here's why. It takes us about six months to train you, and that's minimally training you. That's six months of you being a liability, a shadow who costs me more than you can return, and after about 6 months most inexperienced applicants really do realize that this job isn't all about cuddling pets all day. Most applicants don't care about pets half as much as they did 6 months before they were picking up dog poop for 8 hours a day. They quit, or I fire them, within 6 months. Neither one of us lived up to each others expectations. 
  8. Veterinary employees are underpaid when compared to other highly skilled workers in other fields. At some point this is a hard reality to face and live with.  
For all of those girls, (I know, not politically correct, but take a look at vet med these days, its overwhelmingly female), right out of high school, or in high school, who "love animals and think that a vet tech job is the perfect job for them," I feel compelled to give this advice;
  • "If you have no experience in this field, how do you know it's the right one for you?
  • "Why do you think that getting a vet tech degree online, or in school, is the best first step? Get some idea of what this job is really about before you invest your time and money on a degree that might not be right for you. Get some experience in a veterinary clinic before you waste time or money.
  • Ask about what the average pay for the position you want, or are trained for. Can you live on this? For how long? 
  • What does your future look like if you do get a job at a veterinary clinic? Can you move up? What does that look like?
  • What if you get hired as a kennel person? Is that the only job in a veterinary hospital that you want to do? If not, is there a way to do other jobs in the clinic? Ask this before you assume that you will start at the bottom and work your way up. Guess how many applicants I see that were hired to start in the kennel and never left? A lot.

So, here's my hard honest advice before you apply at Jarrettsville Vet:
  1. Have something on your resume that backs up your goals. 
  2. Be humble, be honest, be genuine, and for gods sake, smile. 
  3. Be willing to start at the bottom and be wiling to not only work hard, but make personal sacrifices of your time by working weekends, nights, and emotional sacrifices by bottle feeding babies, returning to the clinic to check on critical patients, stay late to comfort a sick pet, etc..The life of a person in a veterinary clinic is physically, financially, and emotionally difficult. Think about all of these before deciding to dedicate your life to it. (See blog on Compassion Fatigue).

In a recent interview I had the typical young girl, early twenties, and her resume of random minimum wage entry level positions. Her previous work history included a gas station, grocery store, and a chain store. All were part time and all were minimum wage. She, like so many others, had no veterinary experience except for the long time desire "to work with animals." She had graduated high school a few years ago and just begun to take an on-line vet tech course.

My advice to her;
  • "Get some real-world experience any way you can." Without this you really don't know what this job is about.
  • "Stop spending money you don't have on classes that you don't need to start out." Many places will either help you pay for accreditation, or give you a raise once you do get licensed. Let them help you with this, and let your experience help you learn in school.
  • "Think about volunteering. There are lots of places that take volunteers like rescues, shelters, and even here at our clinic. I have given this advice to twenty other girls just like you. If any of them had spent any amount of time here and shown me that they wanted this job and can perform this job I would have hired them. My goal is to make this clinic the best veterinary clinic, and to do this I need the best people. I hire them, and I pay them accordingly. It is my hope that they are happy here, well paid, and want to be here because they share that vision. I don't pay minimum wage, or even close to it." 

Her reply to all of my advice; "I don't have time to volunteer." 

My reply, "You are recently out of high school, working three jobs, all for minimum wage, and you expect me to invest time and effort in you when even you won't?"

III. When writing a resume for a job at a veterinary clinic; 
  1. Keep it to one page. We are tired eternally and we can't muster the strength to read past one page.
  2. Tailor it to the clinic you are applying to. Too often I get a generic resume that has no interest or desire to do anything that relates to what we do. It is imperative to say something about the position you are seeking as we are trying to understand and know you from a one page application. I will ask applicants, "Do you want this job, or just a job?" It should be obvious on your resume.
  3. Put your time and your money where your mouth is. Volunteer at any animal care facility. At least you can have that to list as experience.
  4. List references and phone numbers. They speak volumes about who you are. List people who know you personally and professionally. If they are just friends they do not carry much weight in being a credible source. Tell your references that you would like to list them and ask if they are comfortable with this request.
  5. If you are already working at a veterinary hospital as you are seeking new employment, be open and honest with them, and your interviewer. Word travels, and I am reluctant to hire someone who has been a bad employee elsewhere. I have great respect for someone who comes to me and discusses their concerns with me before I hear about them interviewing elsewhere. A professionally handled problem will benefit us all in the long run. 
IV. Things to remember about working in a veterinary clinic;
  1. Every practice owner is trying to do keep their clients, patients, and staff happy. A happy clinic is a happy boss. We are looking to hire someone who will resist gossiping, jealousy, arguing, and petty infighting. The person with the biggest mouth, causing the most trouble, and bringing the most stress to the work place is usually the first to be excised. I don't care if you think that we can't function without you, if we can't function with you we can function fine without you.
  2. Any decision you make, tiny and insignificant as it may seem, has the ability to profoundly affect a patients life. Working at a veterinary clinic is an immense responsibility and you can't possibly even begin to understand the ramification of a slight oversight. Even the entry level veterinary clinic job, the kennel, is fraught with stress for me. The biggest liability of the clinic lies in our boarding facility. Dog fights, bites, and unforeseen disasters happen in the kennel. There isn't one practice owner who doesn't have a horror story about a boarding pet. And that phone call you have to make to tell a client that their pet died while boarding is the most awful, gut-wrenching, soul sucking moments of your professional life. I am tempted to shut down every single time I have even a minor hiccup in the kennel. So, don't think that the kennel is an easy job, it's not. 
  3. The Receptionist steers the ship. They are the hardest position to fill and the biggest detriment to most clinics. I am not at all opposed to this position being the highest paid employee. No one impacts your bottom line harder (next to your vets) more than the receptionist. If you think that you can do this job without previous experience in either healthcare/medicine or a veterinary clinic you are delusional. 
V. Things to remember when working at MY veterinary clinic;
  1. The patient comes first, the staff second, and the client third. We care about our pets and each other above all else. When it comes to the safety of a person we hold that to be paramount, but those clients who bring their pets to us are entrusting the care of their family member to us and that trust is sacred. Any employee who does not uphold this will be asked to leave immediately. All else is forgivable, mistreatment of a pet is not.
  2. There is always order and chaos at the same time. We are a busy practice in a small building. If we can't work together well in saving a life that is on the brink of being extinguished we have failed at every tiny step over every year we have been in existence. 
  3. I pay you for your skills, passion, and your intelligence. Use all three. I am always open to suggestions on how to improve what we do. 
  4. Each staff member has an individual and unique task that they are responsible for. This helps diversify our knowledge base, share responsibilities, and provide a sense of ownership. 
  5. Our greatest triumphs are measured in tiny heartbeats that often fade into obscurity in the distance. We may never see those souls again but they are out there carrying our skills as evidence of our own existence. Be proud of who you are and measure it by the unsung deeds that only we as a group understand and know to be true. 
  6. This is a family, dysfunctional, human and full of all of the idiosyncrasies that 30 people all working together 7 days a week for twelve plus hours a day brings. Embrace each other for your strengths, weaknesses, and passion over our common purpose.
  7. We have a mission statement, "Always be kind." Live by it.
Oriole leads the way to the great adventures beyond the hedgerow..
(never trust a cat Cora)
If you have a pt question, our want to use your lifelong pet experience to hep other pets the world over, or if you just want to share to your pets tales with other pet lovers, you can meet us at
Pawbly is the one place dedicated to helping pets and their people by providing an open, unbiased, credible platform for the exchange of information about all things pet.

You can also find me in person at the clinic, Jarrettsville Veterinary Center in Jarrettsville Maryland. Or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

OK, there is some cuddling of animals..

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014. Remembering the people and pets who have served our country.

Jack Russell terrier on the capstan winch of a merchant ship, circa 1940.
My collection.

For over 30,000 years man and animal have taken care of each other. From horses to take us from place to place, to pigeons passing messages, to dogs protecting our homes, and cats eradicating the source of pandemic diseases like the plague, or as a food supplis like eggs, meat, milk, and cheese. Our reliance on animals is undeniable. As life became easier for us our dependency shifted from life saving to companion.

There is no time more pivotal to the role of companion animals as World War II.

As some of you know I spent ten years at sea as a merchant mariner. The life of the backbone of the WWII effort was the merchant mariner, (see Wikipedia's write up on the merchant marine, and USMMA here). Responsible for transporting troops, goods, and machinery, and yes, companion animals needed to protect all of the above. The role of these four legged troops was so paramount to the war effort that the US sent letters to the already strapped and struggling civilians on US soil to send their pets to help the men abroad. Some 125,000 pets were sent based on this request. Many never returned home, and many more saved the lives of our sons. The great war effort of WWII was exhausting on all fronts. With a lack of raw materials, men, and money we turned to the few things we had left, our pets. They were called upon to act as military members, soldiers, guardsmen, and mascots. As with all things we ask of them, they rose to the call. Some were called to detect mines, attack snipers, uncover ambushes, and retrieve injured men. Others were dressed and decorated and displayed as symbolic mascots to join individuals into crews, provide morale, and to be a softer face to the all to prevalent tragic face of war. Many other pets were found along the way in far off palces and brought into the makeshift foreign homes of the troops to provide a tiny piece of home and a gentle side of humanity by just being companions to comfort very homesick men.
Photo from US Army archive, via Flickr.
Dogs may have been called into action to serve as aids and alarms to impending doom, but they also remind us how important loyalty, dedication, and love are. Dissecting these apart has proven to be almost impossible for many of us. Those of us who dedicate our personal and professional lives to this bond need not to explain it to each other. It is the fabric of who we are. It defines us as much as it motivates us. We are inseparable and stronger because of it. Through times of war and peace our companions are with us and helping us to live a happier, healthier and longer life every single day.

What would you do if you received a letter asking for you to give up your pet to serve your country?
It would be an almost impossible decision for me. But, if I knew that my dog might save someone's life I know I would feel compelled to send my beloved dogs. After all of the sacrifices that other families made how could I not?

Would I spend everyday hoping to see them again? Of course. Would I know that they too would come back different beings then they had left? Well, the reports from the Army warned owners that their dogs were being trained to kill and might return that way. Their suggestion "lots of cuddling to retrain them."

The boys room.

After 26 years in the Coast Guard my husband retired to settle down in a less demanding role as the liaison of the engineering department for the shipping company I worked for after graduating from Kings Point. I don't have one picture of him without it being either in uniform, or on a ship. We share a love and affinity for the ocean and its lore. Our home is a reflection of this. The nautical antiques, the remnants of ships we have sailed on, and the appreciation for the history our backgrounds come from is evident in every corner. Of all of the artifacts we have my favorites are the old pet photos.

One of my favorite photos is of "Salty," the official mascot of the USS LST 128.

"Salty" official mascot of the USS LST 128.
Wearing his uniform and medals for;
American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal.
Salty's ship was a tank landing ship built in 1943. She served for three years carrying troops and tanks to the Pacific. She was part of the D-Day Normandy Invasion and earned four The rest of these photos are from various Naval Archives. See references below.
Care of the Evans Museum

On this Memorial Day I say a big Thank-You to all of those who served, sacrificed, and remind us how lucky we are to live in a place where freedom rings and women can vote, work, serve, and be a veterinarian to other people who see their four legged kids as kids. It is a beautiful and precious thing.

Related Articles;
Buddies, Soldiers and Animals in World War II, from the National Archives.

You Won't Believe the Incredible Way Household Dogs Helped World War II, by Bark Post

The United States Merchant Marine Academy, history, by the U.S. Dept Of Transportation.

Information on the USS LST- 128, from the Nav Source Naval Hstory archives.

PetMD's article on the Dogs of World War II

Dedicated to my husband, who served as an Officer in the USCG. He inspires me everyday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Animals, A Book Review.

I was given and asked to write a review for the book, "Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Animals," by Susan E. Davis, PT.

Ms. Davis has roots on the human side of physical therapy but transitioned to the four legged side after many years of helping people recover from many of the same injuries and ailments that our pets share. Although veterinary practice offers many of the same treatment options we have been slow to embrace the concept of PT and rehab as well as our human counter parts have. Ms. Davis's book is an invaluable resource in helping to bridge this gap.

Written with a full understanding of the topic, using basic terms and easy to follow guidelines, great care is taken to enlighten the reader on the place for PT and rehab. After a brief introduction into the history and benefits available through the successful incorporation of  PT to the rehabilitation process the book is divided into chapters based on type of ailments. injuries, modalities available for incorporation, healing benefits,  and provides the instructions to follow each.

As a practicing veterinarian who performs a large number of orthopedic surgeries I understand the tremendous positive impact physical therapy can have on the healing and recovery process. Of particular interest to me was her excerpt on what PT is NOT. "It is not and never should be used as a substitute for primary veterinary care. The best practice is to provide physical therapy concurrently with veterinary care, along with good communication." Ms. Davis excels is in putting her real-life experience into the team work approach of providing optimal care for our pets. She provides a personal, in-depth, credible side to help resolve many of the debilitating, quality of life issues many of our companions are faced with.

But my favorite part of the book is the last section of  the last chapter. For those of you who know me you know that I appreciate and whole-heartedly support an open dialogue built on pure unadulterated honesty, (and a sprinkle of opinion).

Her last section is titled "I Might Have No Business Saying This But..." where she states, "I hope that by this point in the book I have earned the right to speak my mind about a few things that might help. Well, here goes:

  1. Euthanasia: When it is your pet's "time" and the decision is made to euthanize, please, please summon all of your strength and courage to be present for the event. You will never regret it..."
  2. On the afterlife: Do I think animals go to heaven, or have a soul, or that we will see them in another life? Yes.
  3. Don't create a sick pet: ..It is best to focus our time and energy on keeping a positive approach to their health care: being proactive, practicing preventative measures, and staying focused on moving quickly from sick mode to recovery mode when illness or injury occurs.
  4. On visiting animal shelters: Unless you are actively looking for a pet to adopt, a visit to the animal shelter is not easy but important. Please don't use the excuse: "I can't go because I would want to bring all of them home with me."...It is good to visit your local shelter and bring along a donation, see the animals, and show your support. It also keeps the staff and management on their toes..The animals in the shelter do not want to be pitied; they want you to acknowledge them.
  5. On groomers: ..A good groomer who is an expert and passionate about his or her craft will take the necessary time and attention to ensure your pet stays safe and comfortable.
  6. On pet massage, and the like: they can be helpful and effective, but are not substitutes for the skills and education of a physical therapist."
I applaud, and highly recommend her book as an invaluable resource to arguably the most over looked and under appreciated aspect of pet care, physical therapy and rehabilitation. 

On a more personal note, every Monday you can find me in the Jarrettsville Vet surgical suite performing cranial cruciate repairs. These days I am doing about two a week. Every cruciate repair goes home with adequate pain management, four pages of written PT and post-op care instructions, a 24 and 72 hour post-op recheck. I also see the patients again in two weeks. These re-checks are absorbed inn the cost of the surgery and compliance is almost 100% with this approach. To learn more about cruciate repairs that I have done please see,

Kelso's Christmas Wish.

Pogo's story,

You can find Ms. Davis book, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Animals, A Guide for the Consumer, on

As for me, I am at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, and always answering questions on Please stop in and say hello, or pass along a few words of wisdom to fellow pet parents. Pawbly is a place that assists in building more meaningful relationships between all of us pet lovers.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What Would Your Utopia Look Like?

One of the best parts of having a blog and opening your life up to observers far and wide is the out of the ordinary offers and requests I occasionally receive.

The latest is from a casting director of Fox. She asked me to pass around a casting call for a series called Utopia.

Crazy, brilliant concept, isn't it?

Can you imagine what the world would look like if you could determine it's course?

I spent the better part of this morning debating how I would shape it. The problem, if I was cast as the veterinarian, would be that I would likely be little to no use as the character that everyone would expect me to play. I would be spending almost all of my time erecting beds for the cows and pigs, to shelter them from the starving cast and elements. Reminding them that these animals are our pets, a reflection of our humanity and compassion. Further, I would be schooling my fellow participants that a plant based diet requires far fewer resources and is better for our health and longevity. Another words, I would likely incite a mutiny and be evicted.

My idea of Utopia simply requires an ark of animals, a gardener, an artist, a vintner, a writer, a musician, a few friends, and my pets.

I think I could build a suitable home, decorate it with the beauty nature provides, and be happy with only a few worldly possessions.

Even if I am not applying to the cast, I'll be watching with my glass of wine, my cats, dogs, and my husband, in my warm dry home.

It will be interesting to see how the story evolves from a few strangers into an organized group of survivalists setting their own course through the world they are dropped into.

To all of you veterinarians out there, if you are looking for a little change of pace and a once in a lifetime opportunity please see the information on this show below.

Press Release;


Ambitious Project Created and Executive-Produced by
John de Mol
To Air on FOX and Online

Can a perfect world be created?  From unscripted  mastermind John de Mol, and based on the hit Dutch television series of the same name, UTOPIA is a bold new unscripted series that moves a group of everyday people to an isolated, undeveloped location
– for an entire year – and challenges them to create their own civilization.

“UTOPIA   will   be   the   largest,   most   ambitious   social experiment  on television,  and I’m thrilled that Talpa Media USA has chosen FOX as its U.S. broadcast  partner,” said Simon Andreae, Executive Vice President of Alternative Entertainment,   Fox   Broadcasting   Company. ”The   series offers people from all walks of life the chance to start all over again and re-write the rules of civilization as we know it. It addresses fascinating and fundamental questions about human  law,  morality  and  social  structures,  wrapped  in an irresistible and truly forward-thinking television format.”

“FOX’s speed and passion for the project, combined with its pioneering reputation in the unscripted field, make it the perfect home  for  this  unique  proposition,”   said  de  Mol.  “The  key questions UTOPIA asks are ‘Are people able to create an ideal society  from  scratch,  without  a  given  leader  and  without  any rules?  And  will  it  be  ultimate  happiness  or  complete  chaos?’ What  makes  this  even  more  interesting  to  watch,  both  on television  and online, is the question that viewers undoubtedly will ask themselves, ‘What would I do?’”

With no existing power structures  and limited amenities,  these “pioneers”  must draw on their own ideals and everything  they know about societies around the world, to create a new one…will it be better? Will they rewrite the rules they have always lived by?  Will they falter or prosper?

As the Utopians  build the new society,  every decision  counts. Each must try to become indispensable to the group or risk being exiled to their regular lives and replaced by potential newcomers who have been vying to join.

With cameras  following  the Utopians  24/7, viewers  can watch their society unfold, both weekly on FOX and also online. As they observe  the inhabitants  living  together,  and building  their new existence, viewers themselves will have the chance to become a valuable and powerful asset to the community, and ultimately to question whether Utopia remains an elusive but alluring fantasy, or whether the pioneers have truly realized their dream.

“Utopia,”  which  debuted  in  The  Netherlands  earlier  this month, was an instant sensation, ranking as one of SBS 6’s highest-rated  premieres in six years. On the first night, the debut achieved more than 25% market share in the country’s key 20-49 demographic. On the second night, the series retained  most of its launch audience  with a 24.5% market share.

UTOPIA is a presentation of Talpa Media USA. The show is created by John de Mol who will also executive-produce.

Heck, who am I kidding,,,

I already live in Utopia, and there isn't any amount of fame, fortune, or opportunity that could tear me away from the world I have already built. I spent ten years at sea already, I'm done with time away. 

It doesn't ever get any better than this;

The secret to finding Utopia,, living in the moment you have right now, and being very grateful for it.

As always, I am here, on terra firma in my own reality series and available anytime at Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, or ask me any pet related question, or share your pets with all of us at The social media platform community dedicated to taking care of animals around the globe. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Smelly Poop? When Is It Abnormal?

I suppose there is a tiny hint of superstition in every one of us.

With that, I was asked the same question twice in as many days. So, I thought I would post the answer here to broadcast it to any others who might be waiting to make it a hat trick and ask tomorrow.

My kitty, Wren.

Tammy asked;

I have a cat that has issues with her poop being soft and not normal it is a very large amount and it smells bad I tried tape worm and ring worm change the diet from Iams to cat and paws did anyone have this problem.

My answer;

This is hard to answer without an examination of your cat. But there are a few things to mention.

A big cat is a cat who is eating too much and not burning enough calories. So the amount of food in will closely resemble the amount of food out. Talk to your vet about this.
A poor quality food is full of fillers, and or fiber, and this is not digestible, so the cat will produce more waste. Talk to your vet about this.

Cats can get medical conditions that affect their fecal output. Talk to the vet about this.

A fecal sample should be done before you ever give any kind of de-wormer. In almost every single case the de-wormer you are buying over the counter is inappropriate, unnecessary, and dangerous to your cat. It can significantly change the gastrointestinal tract and make the stool softer and the cats health is jeopardized. De-wormers should only be prescribed after a positive fecal sample. Think about someone giving you a pesticide that caused you to feel nauseous and then having chronic diarrhea afterward? Yuck! The longer a cat has diarrhea/soft stool the harder it is to fix in some cases.

My  best advice is to see your vet about your concerns. They can help rule out intestinal worms, poor diet, health concerns, and prescribe a tailored case specific treatment plan. No one else can help you with this except your vet.

Best of Luck,


Brittney asked;

I have 2 full blood Chihuahuas and when i first got them they didnt smell when they pooped but now it smells really crazy. What does that mean?

My answer;

The odor to feces is influenced by a few factors, like diet, age, intestinal health, intestinal parasites, etc.

The best place to start is with a fecal sample and a visit to your vets office to discuss all of these. Talk about how often the dogs defecate, what it looks like, and bring a sample to look at grossly and microscopically for intestinal parasites. I have had many pets come in for really terrible smelling feces and found tiny microscopic protozoa organisms that cause  really foul smelling poop. With a few days of a cheap widely available de-wormer most of these guys are back to normal. Some of these worms are treatable with monthly heartworm preventatives, and some are not. 

Also, some parasites are picked up by a pets feet in just a normal stroll through the grass, so everyone is susceptible to them. And, not seeing worms in the feces doesn't exclude your pet from having intestinal worms. We look for the eggs of the parasites in the feces, not the worms in the feces. 

In general, poop never smells good, but really foul smelling, watery, or abnormally colored feces should be examined at the vets.

I hope this helps,

My pups, Jekyll and Charleston.
All pet questions can be asked and answered for free at Pawbly is the place for all of us who love pets to meet, exchange information, and help each others pets live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Please consider joining us on our quest to help pets around the globe.

You can also find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, or at the veterinary clinic, Jarrettsville Vet.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What is Pawbly?

It is a veterinarian's mission to help people and pets.

While in veterinary school we spend prodigious amounts of time to take great care in understanding the complexities of disease so that we can accurately diagnose and treat our patients. We are taught that the tiniest clinical sign or subtlest change from our mute patients can be the biggest clue to help unlock and unravel a complex illness. It is a skill and an art that takes years of study, years longer of experience, and years of failures and successes in building both our diagnostic and communication skills.


Budding veterinary students spend the day light hours noses rooted in 4 inch thick textbooks of all sorts and subjects. Little studious nomads determined to cram volumes of text into a tired and saturated brain. The nights hunched over cadavers dissecting out the muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, and bones from every domesticated species ranging from 2 to 2000 pounds. That doesn't leave us much time for honing your interpersonal communication skills. In fact, for most of us, we only spend time with each other and we quickly forgive others lack of effective or polite socialization when we are all merely trying to survive the day at hand.


After four years of books, tests, professor intimidation, and a diploma, it is time to go out into the real world and practice our craft.

What I have learned about my profession is that veterinarians are mediators. 

Our job is to assess one species and translate it to another. 

Not an easy task. Think about all of the effort involved in understanding an illness/disease from a patient who doesn't talk? How hard it is to describe it to another person in a common tongue. How you have to posture and present the answer so that your client will work with you on their pets behalf. Then think about trying to predict which client wants to help their pet. Which client has the ability to help their pet, and which pet will tolerate the help if you can coerce part A and B to coalesce. Every pet and every client is a new calculus problem with a list of variables that may, or may not be defined, and may or may not provide the answer you want.

The successful cases are those that are managed with a team approach. The mediator is only successful if they can solve, translate, and conquer or conspire with all players, all pieces of the puzzle, and all variables. How do you do this? Pay attention to every clue your patient provides, every word your client says, and offer options. Be an advocate for your patient, be honest, be flexible, and for gods sake invest a piece of yourself in every life you touch.

For me being a veterinarian is about educating my clients and being an integral part of their journey. 

From this stemmed my blog as a way to provide more information to my clients outside of the office and appointment hours, and from that stemmed


The mission of Pawbly is to help bridge the gap between all of the information available to people, all of the skills learned from those people who dedicate themselves to helping pets, and those people in need of help. 

Pawbly is just the place to meet and exchange information to benefit pets and the people who care about them.


Pawbly can help our clients understand our invaluable role, and supplement our advice.

Our pups, the couch-keepers.

How else can Pawbly help? Anyone who cares about pets, works in any pet related field, owns or operates a pet centered business, or has a lifetime of pet knowledge to share is welcome. Pawbly is free and open to anyone who cares about pets. Pawbly is built by pet people for pet people.

Participating in Pawbly is easy. Just sign up and start asking questions, answering other peoples queries, or sharing all of the things you love about animals. is free for everyone to use!

You can also follow me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, or find me in person in the veterinary clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, in Jarrettsville Maryland.

Our pups, Jekyll and Charlie, the watchful pair of guard pups.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Acceptable Liability, Coot and Loon

I was forced unwillingly to participate in 15 hours of a lecture on Veterinary Law and Ethics. Truth be told I thoroughly enjoy the subject, I am only bitter about the mandate. It was a wealth of information and worth the time and effort, but there were a few points that I remain unwilling to comply with.

At the top of the list was the ‘immense liability that clinic pets, especially cats, creates.”

What the heck is a veterinary clinic without clinic cats?

If asked to compile a list of things that a client should bring when interviewing for a veterinarian, or veterinary clinic, I would place “free roaming pets in the reception area” at the top. After all, if a clinic doesn't have free roaming pets wandering quietly, inconspicuously lurking on the counter, in the bags of food or in the examination rooms? What does it tell you about the clinic?

Here’s what it tells me. That they have forgotten where their heart is.

Now I know that I push the boundaries of my peers often. I know that I too freely state my opinion without regard to the fact that there are multiple ways to own and operate a clinic. I could sit here and try to manage a way to deliver my words so that my footsteps avoid anyone else’s, but my intended message would still be the same. I have never been the best delivery person. I get you there, bruised and battered, but it’s a quicker path to the same place. Eloquence is an art for those who run for office, are British, or harboring ill will.

Cats are a liability because cats don’t follow a script. They possess an opinion, free will, and they know when you are not a fellow cat person. You can't bluff or bullshit them. They put all the cards on the table, never hold, and are content with the idea of the house being at an advantage. Another words, they will dope slap you without warning or provocation. Luck and liability lie with the house. 

You see a veterinarian can be sued if any animal under our roof or on our premises inflicts harm on anyone. Therefore, vets have to think about the areas of our hospital that pose significant risk of liability and decide whether the reward is worth the risk.

Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? Just avoid responsibility (the single greatest act to drive me to furor), and keep the pets in the carriers, cages and other peoples name.

But, here is where I argue the veterinarians oath. We are asked to help pets and we don’t follow the example we expect others to. There are literally millions of pets out there dying, or being killed, because there are not enough homes for them. There isn't a week of the year that a pet doesn't enter our clinics looking for salvation and a kind heart. What example do we set? Are we silly enough to think that our clients don’t notice that our offices look like a dentists? All shiny bright white and smelling like “gargle and spit?”
My office, well, my office smells like the air freshener of the day. We use a ton of disinfectant, air spray fresheners, and plug–ins. And thanks to a company called Scentsy we now have candles candles to add aroma and ambiance. The clinic is impeccably clean (it is after all a hospital), and homey feeling. Perhaps my kind of homey feeling, which is four cats, and a slight pinch of chaos, but it smells, looks, and is clean.

Every feline resident of our clinic has some sad tail of misfortune and impending doom.

Every cat was brought in to be put down unless we saved them. Every single one. Even the apparently young normal healthy looking cats.

Jarrettsville Vet has over the last 9 years that I have owned it housed and adopted out dozen and dozens of last and only chance felines. They are a big part of the reason I own a vet clinic and one of the most important missions of our hospital.

Coot and Loon came to us from a farm of over twenty black and white cats, or what we call “tuxedos.” The man who owned the farm loved his cats, and I am not sure if it was because they were all black and white, or if he just wasn't paying attention, but one day he looked around and realized that the few Tuxedos he was feeding had turned into a small pre-technicolor army.  He came to me asking for help in getting the troops under control. Every Monday he would show up with about a half dozen cat carriers or humane traps filled with white spotted black cats. There was no way to identify them other than to start spaying/neutering, vaccinating, microchipping and ear tipping them. At the end of every Monday we would turn over the daily catch to return to his farm. After about a half dozen of these trips I sat down with him and asked if he could really handle so many of them?

My concern was that these cats were so young and so many in number that we were essentially managing a colony of cats that started out friendly and ended up as feral just due to their vast numbers. They were getting lost in their own crowd and regressing to feral status. He loved his cats but there are only so many cats that one man can care for. Coot and Loon were the last two he captured and the first two to reside with us. They were placed in two homes but never acclimated well enough to be kept. And so they came back to us.

Like every pet they posses their own spirit, their own wants, needs, desires, and abilities. Somehow in our loud revolving dog/cat door dysfunctional family they work out perfectly.

Coot can often be found hogging a whole bench in the waiting area. Asleep and oblivious to the barking, lunging dog in the adjacent seat. Or the angry cat hissing in its paddy wagon only inches away. He can sleep upside down in a packed waiting room. Or he will barge into a closed exam room to jump on the lap of a client waiting for their pet in x-ray. He is bold and presumptuous and unapologetic. Often the clients who are sobbing as they say goodbye to their pets are found cuddling him as a longtime friend separated from you by years and miles that only death bring together. He knows which client to seek, which one needs a lap to lie on, and who needs the quiet understanding that only a pet can provide.

He and his sister Loon are what I call “the bosses of the place.” They are our daily reminders that pets bring more to us than companionship, they bring a sense of purpose to a place that was created to serve others.

Loon, is the quieter, timid one. She is sweet, gentle, and a reflection of admiration if you take a moment to cuddle her in your arms.

I  am asked every so often if they are "available for adoption," and each time I have to pause, reflect, and sigh an answer, "I haven't quite made up my mind?"

They deserve a home of their own. A place to roost and rule, where they don't have to share a place with wayward souls and a bustle of activity. But I have tried to let them go before, and  they are always returned. They even came to my house for a few months. But they weren't happy there and so they returned to the most permanent home they have ever known, Jarrettsville Vet. So I think they prefer it here, and I think we need them as much as they need us. And isn't that what a family and a home are all about?

If you would like to see Coot and Loon in person please pop into the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, and give them a "hello!"

Or if you have a cat story to share please join me on Pawbly is free to use, visit and ask questions. You can pop in there anytime too, and it's always free!

Or find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

And as always, Thank you for being so kind to the cats in need.