All Posts tagged pet safety tips

Golden Retrievers May Hold the Answers in Cancer Cancer

Golden search and rescue dog

 

How do genetics, diet and environment influence the incidence of cancer and other diseases in our pets? To answer that question, Morris Animal Foundation created the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, the most groundbreaking observational study ever undertaken to improve canine health.

While the results will certainly improve the health of all dogs, the study itself focuses only on Golden Retrievers. This breed was chosen because they develop cancer at a higher rate when compared to other purebred dogs, often approaching 50 percent of the breed. Plus, their popularity offers researchers a large pool for recruitment.

In order to achieve the most accurate results, the 3,000 dogs selected must be evenly distributed across five national regions and should consist of an equal number of intact females, spayed females, intact males and neutered males. Each Golden Retriever enrolled in the study will be examined and evaluated annually by a participating local veterinarian. The study is expected to take roughly 14 years to complete, making it the largest and longest veterinary study ever initiated to date.

In addition, each owner completes a detailed online questionnaire every year about their dog’s diet, travel, reproductive history, living environment, exercise and behavior. During the pet’s annual study physical exam, its veterinarian collects blood, urine and other samples.

The exam results are then entered into an online database. The collected samples are sent to a laboratory for long-term storage where they will be available to researchers for future additional studies. Samples are also submitted for a wide range of tests and panels, such as a complete blood cell count, urinalysis and a heartworm antigen test, to analyze the dog’s internal health. The results of these tests are shared with owners through their veterinarians.

Whenever a Golden Retriever experiences naturally occurring health issues while participating in the study, the veterinarian will notify Morris Animal Foundation of the testing and results. If a dog would develop cancer, the veterinarian will collect samples that are vital for evaluation.

As the results are gathered over the years, certain patterns will likely unfold, enabling scientists to identify risk factors for disease. While there are few known disease-incidence rates for dogs in the United States, research from other countries indicates that cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs living in several other countries. The findings of this study should shed light on the relationship between risk factors and the development of specific cancers, while also identifying genetic variants associated with common cancers in Golden Retrievers.

Although finding the causes and frequencies of cancer is at the forefront of the study, researchers also hope to gain insights into a host of other canine medical problems, such as diabetes, skin disorders and hip dysplasia. Ultimately, the research will establish extensive catalogs of data and biological samples for future analyses.

The many owners of dogs enrolled in the study take great pride in their involvement.

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“I enrolled my Golden Retriever, Journey, in the study because I have always wanted better health for my dogs,” says Nancy Bishop, a proud owner of a study participant. “I can’t thank Morris Animal Foundation enough for taking on this pioneering study to help my beloved breed and other dogs.”

Other participants chose to enroll their Golden Retrievers because they’ve lost pets to cancers or other diseases.

“It has been heartbreaking in my 40 years as a practicing veterinarian to see young, seemingly healthy Golden Retrievers struck down in what should be the prime of their lives,” says Michael Lappin, DVM, owner of the Animal House in Buzzards Bay, Mass.

Dr. Lappin has four patients in the study and also enrolled his own dog, Isaac. “I have been driven by the need to do as much as I can to help this wonderful breed enjoy a longer, healthier life,” he says.

Those interested in helping to cure canine cancer should visit www.MorrisAnimalFoundation.org/Golden.

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Eligible dogs must be a healthy purebred, with a verifiable three-generation pedigree, be between 6 and 24 months of age and reside in the contiguous United States. For each dog entered into the study, the owner will receive $75 annually to cover the costs of physical exams. Individuals with friends or family who own Golden Retrievers are encouraged to refer them to the website to get involved.

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Veterinary Technician Specialists – Extraordinary Partners in Your Pet’s Care!

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Like human medicine, veterinary care has made some fantastic strides in both knowledge and technology in the last few decades.  Pet owners and general practice veterinarians increasingly look to specialists, such as veterinary oncologists or veterinary dentists, to help resolve complicated problems.

Veterinarians who specialize undergo a multi-year process of work ending in a board exam and what is known as “board certification”. In many cases, it is the equivalent to another doctor’s degree.  Working alongside these specialists are growing numbers of Veterinary Technician Specialists who carry the designation: VTS.

Most people are aware that veterinarians need a knowledgeable and helpful staff for the day to day running of the hospital, but many don’t know that some team members are actually credentialed professionals – usually identified as a CVT, or certified veterinary technician.   Beyond that, some techs have taken additional time to advance their knowledge and skills and have been awarded certification in one of several areas of technician specialization.

In 1994, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) granted their first provisional specialty to the newly formed Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians.  In this case, the term “academy” designates an organization that administers a formal process of education, training and testing prior to awarding recognition to individuals as “specialists”.   Only registered, licensed or certified veterinary technicians can be part of any academy.

Credentialed technicians can now choose from 11 different academies of specialization.  These range from anesthesia to dentistry and internal medicine to behavior, equine care and even zoo animal medicine.   A complete list of approved academies can be found at the NAVTA website (www.navta.net).

Technician monitoring patient Veterinary News NetworkTo accomplish this, veterinary technicians will need to work thousands of hours in their chosen area and log dozens of cases for review.  In the case of Veterinary Technician Specialists in Anesthesia (VTSA), these individuals must work at least three years as a veterinary technician and submit more than 4500 hours of work with anesthesia.  During the calendar year of application, the technician must also submit 50-75 case logs, including at least four cases submitted in full detail to highlight the applicant’s knowledge and skills.

Even after all of this, extensive continuing education credits must be proven along with two letters of recommendation and the completion of the certification exam.  Some academies also call for annual examinations to insure that their specialist technicians are staying up to date with the changes in veterinary medicine.  Although each academy has slightly differing requirements for their applicants, the Anesthesia Academy’s example details just how challenging this career path can be!

Whatever specialty they choose, VTSs are crucial in helping the veterinarian specialist provide the highest level of care to patients.  As a case in point, veterinary emergency and critical care technicians (VECCT) will function to triage animals coming into the hospital as well as manage the patients present in the ICU ward.  These highly organized individuals function well under the pressure of a chaotic emergency room atmosphere and can be an island of calm when owners are frantic and worried about their pets.

Technician explaining heartworm prevention to client Veterinary News NetworkClient interaction and education is another important task for veterinary technician specialists.  Often, the patient’s condition is complex and serious and worried owners may not remember all of their questions or concerns while speaking with the veterinarian.  By being available and knowledgeable enough to handle these situations, technician specialists will help lessen client’s fears, provide a higher level of patient care and increase their veterinarian’s efficiency.

Beyond specialty hospitals, veterinary technician specialists can also be found at general practice veterinary clinics, helping to educate staff members and increase the hospital’s expertise.

There’s no doubt that everyone who works in any veterinary practice, from the smallest country clinic to the largest specialty hospital, has a passion for helping pets.  But, when your regular veterinarian talks about the need for a beloved fur-friend to see a specialist, it can be unnerving and stressful.  Rest easy and know that dedicated doctors, along with compassionate and knowledgeable technician specialists, will do all that they can to ease your pet’s ills and send him back home to you.

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Are Our Cats Plotting Against Us?

Some people and societies throughout history have simply not appreciated cats.  Black cats are considered unlucky or linked to evil witches.  Other people look at cats as sneaky or as serial killers of defenseless wildlife.  But, if you read some current headlines, you might think that our feline friends are a real serious threat!

The main threat in these news articles is not our cats, but rather, an extremely small protozoan parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii.  The threat occurs because this particular intestinal bug only reproduces in domestic and wild cats.  So, when the sensational headline reads “Study Links Cat Litter Box to Increased Suicide Risk”, many readers frankly scared and soon began to worry about the risks of owning a cat.

So here are the real facts you can count on.  The uproar can be traced back to a pair of scientific articles.  As far back as 2000, scientists have understood that this particular parasite has a peculiar effect on some rodents, actually making rats less fearful of their natural predators, the cats.  More recently, a study of 45,000 women in Denmark concluded that infection with Toxoplasma gondii (Toxo, for short) increased the risk of suicide attempts.  So, it appears that this parasite may alter something in brain chemistries or behavior. But, does that mean our cats are to blame?

The emphatic answer: absolutely not. The key here lies in understanding the life cycle of the parasite, the cat’s role in that life cycle and the simple, easy steps to minimize your potential risk.  All cats, domestic and wild, are a natural host for Toxo.  Our feline friends pick up the parasite from hunting rodents and birds or eating raw meat.  Once in the cat’s intestine, the organism starts reproducing, creating millions of oocytes (essentially eggs) that will pass o into the environment.  Interestingly, cats will shed the parasite for about two or three weeks and then rarely ever pass any more after that.

Once outside, these eggs will mature over one to five days and become infective parasites.  It is at this time that any warm blooded animal can become infected by ingesting contaminated soil, water or plant material.  Since most animals aren’t the natural host for Toxo, the parasite localizes in various muscle or nervous tissue and becomes a cyst.  The cycle completes (as most parasite life cycles do) allowing the parasite to once again start to multiply and spread.

For most animals, and people, the parasite is not a problem – remember that.  Some people will experience flu like symptoms but then recover without a problem.  However, immunosuppressed individuals can experience much more severe symptoms, including fevers, confusion, headaches, seizures and poor coordination.  Pregnant woman who have no immunity to Toxo can actually pass the infection to the unborn child causing a miscarriage, stillbirth or serious mental disabilities in the newborn.  So it is true, this parasite is not without it dangers.

The CDC estimates show that about 20% of the US population has antibodies to this parasite.  In addition, the CDC’s website shows that Toxoplasma infections occur by eating undercooked, contaminated meats (especially pork and lamb), accidental ingestion of contaminated meats after handling and failure to wash hands, contamination of foods from utensils used to work with other contaminated foods, drinking water tainted with the parasite and, as mentioned above, accidental ingestion of the parasite through contact with cat feces.

Keeping yourself safe from Toxo is actually pretty easy.  Fully cook all meats, wash your hands and cooking utensils after contact with raw meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables and wear gloves while gardening.   Cat litter boxes should be scooped daily as the parasite does not become infectious for at least 24 hours.  Pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals should completely avoid changing the litter.

Ask your veterinarian about specific recommendations for lowering your risk for toxoplasmosis.  He or she is well schooled in understanding this parasite.

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Holiday Safety Tips for Pet Owners

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Every holiday season, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center fields calls dealing with several common holiday situations that put pets at risk.

Wrapped Presents
Gifts are a surprising source of toxicities during the holidays. If you are going to wrap any food (especially chocolate), dog treats, or dog toys, keep the items in a safe place and well out of your pet’s reach until they are ready to be opened. Pets have a keen sense of smell and will often unwrap presents early and eat all of the contents.

Snow Globes
Some snow globes contain ethylene glycol, a highly toxic substance to all pets. If a snow globe is broken, either by a person or a pet, the sweet smell can attract a pet to lick it up, leading to a potentially fatal intoxication. Snow globes should be kept out of reach of pets.

Holiday Food
Pets are often not shy about taking food that is left sitting out on counters or tables. Pets should be kept away from food preparation areas or places where food will be left out. A few of the more concerning common food exposures during the holidays are chocolate, bread dough, fruitcake and alcohol.

Medication
There are often a large number of visitors during the holiday season, and pets often get into medications that friends or family have brought with them. These exposures can be prevented with a little advance planning. People who are not used to having pets in the house can often be unaware of how curious they can be. Pets will often investigate suitcases and can get into pill vials or weekly pill minders. It is safer to have the visitors put their medication in a closed cabinet that is not accessible to pets. Be sure that when they take their medications that they do so behind a closed door, such as the bathroom, so that a dropped pill can be found before the pet has a chance to eat it. A prewritten list of the names, milligram strength, and number of pills that visitors have brought is very useful in an emergency situation as well.

Salt
Ice melt, homemade play dough, and salt-dough ornaments (even when dry) can all be a tempting salty treat for pets, but can cause life-threatening imbalances in the electrolytes.

Pet owners should, of course, contact their local veterinary professional or the Animal Poison Control Center if their pets get into any of these substances.

Blog post, picture and safety tips provided by the ASPCA.

Also check out our other blog article on how to protect your pets from holiday hazards.

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Bordetella…The Misunderstood Vaccine

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It’s a common comment heard in many veterinary hospitals…”we don’t need the kennel cough vaccination…we never board or kennel our dog”.  Despite the owner’s insistence that their pet isn’t at risk, most people would be surprised to find out that this disease can be found in a wide variety of places.

Infectious tracheobronchitis, more commonly known as “kennel cough”, is a communicable bronchitis in dogs that is often found anywhere dogs congregate.  Naturally, boarding kennels come to mind, but quite often, people will forget that grooming salons, dog parks, pet superstores or even their favorite veterinary hospital can also be potential sources of infection.

Dogs who contract tracheobronchitis will produce a rough, hacking cough that many owners will describe as the pet trying to cough something up or even retch.  Spasms, or coughing fits, are not uncommon and some people relate that their pets seem worse at night.

Kennel cough can be caused by a wide variety of organisms, including canine adenoviruses, canine distemper virus and a bacterial species that goes by the name of Bordetella bronchiseptica.  Other viruses, such as canine herpesviruses or reoviruses are also thought to contribute to the disease and it is not uncommon to see more than one pathogen involved.

Infected dogs will spread viruses or bacteria through airborne particles where healthy dogs can inhale them.  In some cases, the germs can also spread via toys or food dishes.  Dogs that are exposed will generally show signs of illness within two to fourteen days and may act sick for an additional two weeks.  In many cases, the disease is very mild and your pup may never run a fever or act as if anything is wrong.  However, this is a disease that can progress to pneumonia and be life-threatening.

What’s even worse is that a pet who has recovered from this illness could potentially infect other dogs for up to two or three months!  So, that normal looking dog at the busy city dog park could, in fact, be sharing some nasty germs as he plays with his doggie pals!

Like many diseases we see in pets, proactive prevention is the key to stopping kennel cough.  Most dogs will receive vaccinations against canine adenoviruses and parainfluenza when they receive their canine distemper and canine parvovirus vaccines.  In addition, Bordetella vaccination is available and can help limit the severity of the illness if your pet is ever exposed to this bacterium.

The Bordetella vaccine is considered to be a “non-core” vaccine by the American Animal Hospital Association.  This means that not all pets need this vaccination, but the choice to vaccinate should be based on the pet’s risk factors.  As mentioned above, if your pet is routinely groomed, enjoys trips to the local dog park or even gets to go shopping with you at the big box pet food store, he is likely being exposed to the agents that cause kennel cough.

Vaccination against the Bordetella bacterium will generally provide immunity for about one year.  So, pets at risk will need annual boosters and some pets who board frequently or visit grooming salons regularly may actually benefit from re-vaccination every 6 months.  Experts also recommend getting your pet a booster vaccination five days or more prior to possible exposure, if more than six months have passed since the last vaccination.

If your pet is dealing with any sort of cough, the best advice on treatment will come from your veterinarian.  Although antibiotics may or may not be prescribed, your pet could receive a cough suppressant or even a recommendation to let the dog stand in the bathroom while you shower!  Just like with kids, the warm, humid air in the bathroom can loosen congestion and help your pet to breath more easily.

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