Trick or Treat

Tuesday, 30 October 2012 14:32 by Dr. Sarah

In this thrilling episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah peers into her crystal ball and treats pet parents to some special tricks to help fur-kids have a happy and healthy Halloween. Our staff veterinarian offers some timely tips on keeping your pets’ paws off potentially hazardous candies. Further, Dr. Sarah conjures up the perfect spell to keep your furry friends from unexpectedly venturing out among the other creatures of the night! And, since tasty treats are central to All Hallow’s Eve, Dr. Sarah reveals some healthier options made especially with your four-footers’ nutritional needs and well-being in mind. In the brief video, you’ll learn all sorts of helpful tricks for taking the fear out of your Halloween celebration!

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Successful Aging - Factors in Lifespan Determination

Friday, 24 August 2012 15:48 by Dr. Sarah

Welcome to the final installment in our Successful Aging Series! In this episode of Pet Talk, we’ll devote time to one of the great mysteries of health … is it due to some sort of genetic luck-of-the-draw or does it have more to do with living wisely? Our hope is that a deeper understanding of this topic could assist all pet parents, aiding them in their attempts to ensure longer and healthier lifetimes for their dear companions. Dr. Sarah explains recent research conducted in this fascinating arena, all with an eye towards the potential benefits in regards to the longevity of our furry four-footers. Additionally, Dr. Sarah will reveal a startlingly simple and ingenious method of feeding that shows great promise for helping extend the natural life of not only companion animals, but humans too! This is one episode you won’t want to miss. Be sure to share this important health message with your friends and family.

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Camping with your Canine Companion

Thursday, 26 July 2012 16:49 by Dr. Sarah

Are you looking for an affordable alternative for summer vacation? Do you yearn to explore the Great Outdoors? Are you tired of leaving your dog behind when you leave town? If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then this episode of Pet Talk was made just for you! In this special summertime message, our intrepid, happy-go-lucky staff veterinarian Dr. Sarah applies her ready-for-anything attitude to a great American pastime with a twist … canine camping. Aided by Alma, her fun-loving, Goldendoodle co-star, our pet expert is on location in the Colorado woodlands, sharing her insights and practical tips to help prepare you for your next nature-land adventure.

As an added bonus to our readers, we’re including a full explanation of what you’ll need to pack to mount your next expedition into the wilds. And be sure to download the handy checklist version to take the last-minute guesswork out of what you’ll need to pack.

From here on out, camping won’t be complete without your canine companion. So, shake the moths out of your tent, dust off your backpack and buy a pack of strike-anywhere matches. Don’t forget to share your camping stories with other Life’s Abundance customers in the comments section below!

Packing List for Camping with your Canine Companion

Identification tags: If your pup is out of the house, she should wear her ID tags (license, vaccination & home address) labeled with your name, city, state and phone number. For your camping trip, consider purchasing an inexpensive, temporary tag for her to wear along with the standard tags. Some stores have engraving kiosks - simply enter the relevant info (such as your dog’s name, the name of the park where you’ll be camping and your assigned campsite number). If your park of choice doesn’t assign numbers ahead of time, or if you’re camping on a wilderness trail, include the phone number of the nearest ranger station. If there’s space enough, include pertinent information about medical conditions (such as ‘Diabetic’) or behavioral issues (like, ‘Cat Aggressive’).

Leash: In addition to your standard leash and collar (make sure they’re in good condition while you’re at it), consider bringing back-ups. It’s a good idea to have one short lead, especially if your destination is heavily wooded - you don’t want Max’s retractable lead wound around a couple of trees when he’s in an excited state.

Tether or Crate: You need to have a way to safely restrain your dog while you are setting up camp, cooking, etc. - just ask anyone who’s ever tried to pitch a tent while holding a leash - not pretty. If your dog routinely sleeps in a crate, and you’re driving to your campsite, bring it along. Obviously, it’s not something you want to carry on your back if you’re hiking to your site. However, a crate is a safe place she can return to while you’re busy prepping or cleaning up your camp site.

Bedding: Bring an all-weather tarp to place under the bedding to shield you and your pup from the ground, especially for camping in cold weather. Laying on the ground risks exposure, as body heat is quickly absorbed into the earth, and we don’t want you or your dog experiencing hypothermia.

Cold Protection: To further protect your pup, especially if she has a short or thin coat, pack a doggie sweater for her to wear. Again, there’s no reason to risk hypothermia.

Booties: Depending on the terrain, presence of ice on the ground, prevalence of fire ants or if your dog has weak footpads (i.e., predisposed to tearing, not uncommon in older dogs), booties are a good solution for paw protection. Don’t forget to do some trial runs with the booties before you leave … wearing shoes for the first time takes some getting used to.

Food and Water: Don’t wing it when it comes to having enough food and water. Do not simply trust the safety of streams, rivers and lakes as a source of hydration, for you or your dog. It’s rare these days to locate natural water that isn’t tainted by giardia, toxic chemicals or other harmful bacteria. If you insist on using water from a natural source, bring giardia tablets (follow the label instructions) and a tiny bottle of bleach (you only need a couple of drops per gallon) to purify the water. When it comes to food, pack two extra days of dog food beyond your planned stay. Preserve the food in a sturdy water-proof container. If your campsite features a “bear box” (a storage container high off the ground, often on a pole), please use it - it’s there for a reason. If you don’t have travel bowls, pack your pup’s regular ones – even these can evoke a measure of comfort in an unfamiliar environment.

Toys: Even though the Great Outdoors may captivate your attention, boredom’s a distinct possibility after your dog has marked his or her territory and sniffed around the camp site a couple of times. If your dog is fearful under the stars, a favorite toy from home might provide a measure of comfort.

First Aid Kit Items: Chances are, you already plan to take some first-aid items … by adding a couple of more products, you’ll be well prepared to handle many canine emergencies, too.
Take the following items and keep them safely stored in clear storage bags … that way, you won’t waste precious time in an emergency situation digging through your backpack.

Bandages: Vetwrap (self-stick gauze), butterfly bandages (used to close open wounds), waterproof surgical tape, duct tape, 4” X 4” gauze pads and non-stick sterile pads
Styptic Powder, to stop bleeding (Kwik Stop is a good brand)
Small Scissors
Tweezers
Hemostats or needle-nose pliers
Small razor (to shave hair from injured area)
Irrigation syringe (to flush eyes and wounds)
Ear and eye ointment (ask your vet or vet tech for which brands for common conditions)
Triple antibiotic ointment with lidocaine (that last part will help with stinging, painful wounds - check with your vet)
Medication for insect stings in both a topical spray and oral capsules (again, talk with your vet about brand choice and dosages)
Hydrogen peroxide (to disinfect the wound)
Towel
Muzzle (if your dog is in pain, you need to take steps to prevent him from biting you or others while addressing the emergency)

If you are planning a camping trip in a remote location, it would be wise to consider enrolling in a back-country EMT course, which should be available through your local community college.

It sounds like a lot of work, but if you’re adequately prepared, you’re more likely to have a blast. Enjoy your trip!

(Please note: Always consult your veterinarian on your first aid kit regarding items, brand choices, dosages and guidance on their uses.)

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Treat Your Pet to Good Health

Wednesday, 25 April 2012 15:43 by Dr. Sarah

Even though we act like it’s true, pets aren’t just like people. Ingesting empty-calorie snacks every once in a while can have a much greater impact on pets than humans, and not in a good way. Even feeding a diet of premium food may not offset the potential damage of ingesting “junk foods”, which often contain unsavory ingredients including artificial flavors and colors. In this particular health equation, it isn’t just a matter of subtraction (or taking away the bad stuff). Thanks to Dr. Jane’s wholesome recipes, you can actually add nutrients to your companion animal’s daily intake. In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah reveals how simple it is to make a positive change. If you want to provide your fur kids with the best possible nutritional advantage, you owe it to yourself to watch the latest episode right now. And, please, share this vital message with your friends and family, too!

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Canine Hypothyroidism

Friday, 22 April 2011 10:49 by Dr. Sarah

Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, is one of the most common canine hormone imbalances. This was not always the case. In recent decades, hypothyroidism diagnoses are on the rise.

In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah gives advice about how best to care for dogs that have already been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, as well as provides the steps you can take to ensure that your dog has the best chance of staying healthy.

After you watch the video, click here for more information on Canine Hypothyroidism by Dr. Sarah.

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More Information On Canine Hypothyroidism By Dr Sarah

Friday, 22 April 2011 10:48 by Dr. Sarah

Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, is one of the most common canine hormone imbalances. This was not always the case. In recent decades, hypothyroidism diagnoses are on the rise.

What’s going on here?

In mammals, the endocrine system is a system of glands, each of which secretes a type of hormone directly into the bloodstream, that regulate the body. The thyroid gland, one of the largest endocrine glands, controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, regulates calcium and controls the body’s sensitivity to other hormones. The thyroid is critical to metabolic processes and affects the functionality of almost every other organ in the body. The endocrine system is highly sensitive, and its delicate dance of hormones can be disrupted, potentially resulting in disease. In dogs, the most common hormonal disorder diagnosed is hypothyroidism.

Typically, hypothyroidism occurs in dogs from 4-10 years of age, though in rare instances dogs can actually be born with it. Because the thyroid hormone affects the metabolism of the whole body, the clinical signs can be non-specific. That being said, dogs with hypothyroidism often exhibit low energy levels, weight gain, hair loss, a dull hair coat and concurrent skin infections. More...

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Parenting Emotionally Challenged Pooches

Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:16 by Dr. Sarah

In the last few months, we’ve been besieged with images and stories of destruction, the magnitude of which is difficult to comprehend: Australian floods, New Zealand earthquakes, and most recently the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in Japan. While the loss of human life and the impact on the human survivors makes up the majority of the coverage, we know that many of these people included pets in their families. What are the lasting impacts on behavior of the surviving companion animals? Is it true, as many people believe, that the emotional scars caused by trauma (whether it’s due to a natural event like an earthquake, or an unnatural act like physical or mental abuse) can lead to fearful or aggressive behavior? Just how common is emotional scarring in companion animals? The answers to these questions may surprise you.

The unfortunate companion animals affected by recent environmental catastrophes are likely experiencing what we call “post traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD). PTSD is a recognized anxiety disorder induced by exposure to life-threatening trauma. Widely recognized as a diagnosis for people, PTSD has actually been studied in non-human animals, too. Research has actually shown that the brains of traumatized animals exhibit chemistries that differ from non-traumatized animals! True PTSD, however, is relatively rare in companion animals, developing as a result of a significant life-threatening event or predatory trauma.

If your dog has undergone a traumatic event, there are warning signs of PTSD, which include hiding, loss of house training, barking, loss of appetite and diminished interest in interacting with his human companions. It can also include out-of-character aggression. If your dog ever does go through a life-threatening or catastrophic event, veterinarians recommend providing a safe, secure area such as a crate, bathroom or laundry room, where your dog can get away from noise, people and other pets. Put familiar, comforting objects in the space, such as their own bed, favorite toys and/or an article of your clothing. Try and maintain a consistent routine, especially with regards to feedings, walks and play times. Like the traumatized pets in Australia, any pet that undergoes life-threatening trauma needs safety, a dependable routine, behavioral (and perhaps medical) intervention as soon as possible.

What about fear and aggression in non-traumatized dogs? We already know that true PTSD in dogs is rare, but too many shelter animals have been rescued from abusive or neglectful situations, so it’s not unusual for them to have fear or aggression issues.

Believe it or not, some dogs are genetically predisposed to experience heightened fear. Just as people can be shy or outgoing, dogs show similar personality inclinations. Other dogs will experience fear due to a specific trauma, such a frightening thunderstorm. While some argue that abuse, especially for young dogs, leads to PTSD, what is more likely is that rescue animals are simply poorly socialized during the critical developmental period between 3-16 weeks of age. At this age, puppies undergo a rapid learning process, making it the ideal window of opportunity for socialization. When puppies fail to encounter appropriate socialization during this critical period, they can develop fear or aggression later in life.

Even though they present challenges, negative experiences or insufficient socialization don’t have to define your dog’s long-term personality. Fortunately, there are ways to work through emotional issues. In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah talks about how to recognize the symptoms of fear and aggression, and how to deal with some of these issues.

What challenges have you experienced in parenting a companion animal with emotional or social problems? What helped you work through these issues? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

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Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Wednesday, 23 February 2011 12:02 by Dr. Sarah

Thanks to advances in health care and nutrition, our beloved family pets are living longer and longer. Senior pets are becoming the norm rather than the exception, and with the happy increase in the number of furry senior citizens, there has been a shift in health concerns for both veterinarians and pet parents alike.

One area of great concern for veterinarian and dog parent alike is the decline in a senior dog’s cognitive abilities or brain function. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, or CDS for short, is the term vets use to describe a degenerative brain disorder in senior dogs. Often, when pet parents are talking to their veterinarian, they will share that their senior citizen is uncharacteristically disobedient or soiling in the house. Other tell-tale signs of CDS include generalized anxiety (pacing or panting), confusion, decreased grooming habits, a changed appetite, acting depressed and forgetting regular habits. Signs of CDS are typically irreversible and progressive, but with effective treatment and management, the signs can be slowed and some can even be reversed. It is important to know that many of the signs of CDS can be confused with other diseases, such as hypothyroidism, arthritis or even dental disease, so if your senior dog is acting differently, schedule a full checkup with your local veterinarian.

One of the first questions pet parents usually ask when their veterinarian mentions the possibility of CDS is, “Is it like Alzheimer’s?” The answer is “Sorta.” CDS shares many similarities to symptoms of Alzheimer’s in humans, including similar microscopic changes and oxidative damage to brain cells that correspond to the severity of the disease. In fact, the two diseases are so similar that many of the treatments that are used in Alzheimer’s were first developed in dogs.

So if your dog has been diagnosed with CDS, what can you do? What about if you want to be proactive and take steps now to decrease the likelihood that CDS will mar your best friend’s golden years? In this video, Dr. Sarah goes over recent advances in treatment and prevention of canine cognitive syndrome.

References:

Cotman, C. W. et al. 2002. Brain Aging in the Canine: a Diet Enriched in Antioxidants Reduces Cognitive Dysfunction. Neurobiology of Aging 23: 809–818

Borra’s, D., Ferrer I., and Pumarola, M. 1999. Age-related Changes in the Brain of the Dog. Vet Pathol 36:202–211.

Dimakopoulos, A. C. and Mayer, R.J. 2001. Aspects of Neurodegeneration in the Canine Brain. Waltham International Symposium: Pet Nutrition Coming of Age.

Lansberg, G. 2005. Therapeutic Agents for the Treatment of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Senior Dogs. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 29: 471-479.

Milgram, N.W. et al. 2002 Landmark Discrimination Learning in the Dog: Effects of Age, and Antioxidant Fortified Food, and Cognitive Strategy. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 26: 679–695.

Fahnestock M, Marchese M, Head E, Pop V, Michalski B, Milgram WN, Cotman CW. BDNF increases with behavioral enrichment and an antioxidant diet in the aged dog. Neurobiol Aging. 2010 May 4.

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Feline Hyperthyroidism

Thursday, 20 January 2011 16:51 by Dr. Sarah

Since the late 1970’s, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of feline hyperthyroidism, making it the most common feline endocrine disorder in the world. What causes hyperthyroidism, and why is it so common? Previous studies of cats in the U.S., Great Britain and New Zealand have identified a number of risk factors for the development of hyperthyroidism, including genetic predispositions, the feeding of some canned cat foods and cross-breeding. Furthermore, some veterinarians believe feline hyperthyroidism is simply an outcome of cats living longer. But, if thyroid dysfunction is symptomatic of old age, why is it not more common in dogs, or people for that matter?

Veterinarians first noticed a dramatic surge in feline hyperthyroidism in the 1980’s. This rise coincided with the prevalent use of PBDE’s as a flame retardant in many products. A chemical flame retardant used widely in carpet pads, furniture, and electronics, PBDE (or, polybrominated dephenyl ethers) were researched in a recent EPA study that suggested that these chemicals may partly explain the current epidemic. PBDE’s linger in the environment, and cats ingest the substance in both foods and by licking their fur which retains house dust laced with toxic PBDE particles. Furthermore, studies have also shown a link between hyperthyroidism and BPA in the lining of many canned cat foods. Life’s Abundance is proud to inform our consumers that the lining in our canned foods is BPA-free.

An Environmental Science & Technology study reported in 2007 looked at whether hyperthyroid cats had greater body burdens of PBDE’s, and found that all cats have high levels compared to humans, with some cats with incredibly high levels (Dye et. al, 2007). The potential link between feline hyperthyroidism and PBDE exposure may be the veritable “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to evaluating the human health impacts of PBDE’s. People in the United States have the highest PBDE levels reported worldwide, according to a 2004 study also published in Environmental Science & Technology. By gaining a more complete understanding of chronic indoor PBDE exposure and its effects on thyroid hormone levels in cats, medical researchers can better assess whether the same risk exists for people. Researchers believe that further studies need to be performed before concluding a direct link between PBDE’s and feline hyperthyroidism.

There is good news, however. It isn’t necessary to rip up your carpet and throw out your furniture as these chemicals have been or are in the process of being banned in many states. And cats still live longer, healthier lives if they live primarily indoors, and the risk of being attacked by other animals or hit by a car while roaming outside is still much greater than the risk of developing hyperthyroidism from PBDE exposure.

What can you do if your cat has already been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism? What are the symptoms? In this video, Dr. Sarah reviews the signs of hyperthyroidism and treatments available. If you suspect your kitty has hyperthyroidism, schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian.

Potera, C. Environews Forum. Chemical Exposure: Cats as Sentinel Species. Environ Health Perspect. 2007. Dec;115(12)A580.

Wakeling J, Everard A, Brodbelt D, Elliott J, Syme H. Risk factors for feline hyperthyroidism in the UK. J Small Anim Pract. 2009 Aug;50(8):406-14.

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Canine Joint Disease 101

Friday, 17 December 2010 13:15 by Dr. Sarah

Unfortunately, arthritis is one of the most common conditions affecting dogs in America today. In 2008, arthritis was listed among the top ten disease conditions in dogs (source: VPI). According to recent data, there are as many as 10 million dogs currently suffering from the chronic pain of joint disease, and one in five dogs will develop arthritis or joint disease during their lifetimes.

Otherwise known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis is caused by the loss of cartilage that covers the tips of bones in movable joints, such as the elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, etc. Arthritis is generally a wear-and-tear disease seen more often in older dogs. As a result of continual rubbing, the cartilage wears away leaving bone ends exposed to each other. Since there are no nerve endings in the cartilage, no pain is felt until the cartilage is worn away; but when that happens, the edges of bones rub together causing pain and inflammation.

Arthritis can also occur in younger dogs as a result of genetic conditions, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Canine arthritis is similar to human arthritis in that it cannot be cured, but the silver lining is that arthritis in dogs is not a hopeless condition. There are many effective treatments available to ease symptoms, slow progression of the disease and to help ensure your dog’s quality of life.

In this video, Dr. Sarah explains how to determine whether or not your dog might be suffering from this all-too-common disorder, as well as tips about how to manage pain and other symptoms should your dog be diagnosed with degenerative joint disease.

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