Lifes Abundance posts created by dr. vogelsang

Amazing Study on Fighting Canine Cancer with Mushrooms

longer-life-mushroom-therapy

When I was a kid, I hated mushrooms. HATED them! My mother, determined to get me to partake, would chop them up into bits and mix them in with ground beef stirred into spaghetti sauce. When she went to put the dinner plates away, she’d find a tiny pile of minced up mushrooms on the edge of my plate. Yes, I was stubborn. But Mom had the right idea ... mushrooms are potent little powerhouses of nutrition.

In terms of how humans use mushrooms, they can be broadly divided into three categories: those we eat, those that might kill you, and those with medicinal properties. It's this last category that we're most interested in today. Civilizations going back thousands of years recognized the power of mushrooms in certain disease processes, and veterinarians are also looking for ways these compounds can help our canine companions suffering from cancer. 

Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer found almost exclusively in dogs, and one we see far too often in the clinic. One of the most insidious cancers due to its rapid growth, this sarcoma (connective tissue tumors) is found in the lining of blood vessels. While surgery and chemotherapy may delay the spread of the disease, it very rarely cures the cancer. Even with proactive treatment, fewer than 10% of dogs with this cancer are alive one year after the initial diagnosis. These therapies are invasive, expensive, and cause significant discomfort in and of themselves, so many pet parents do not pursue them.

A group of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine investigated the effects of Coriolus versicolor, often referred to as turkey tail. It’s a mushroom commonly used in Chinese medicine, where it's regarded to have anti-tumor properties. Rather than using the whole mushroom, they used an extract of the bioactive agent and administered it to dogs with hemangiosarcoma ... and the effects surprised everyone.

In this study, 15 dogs with naturally occurring hemangiosarcoma were given standardized extracts of the turkey tail mushroom rather than the traditional US medical treatment (surgery plus chemotherapy). To the amazement and delight of the researchers, all 15 dogs showed significant improvement: it took longer for the cancer to spread, and overall survival time was increased. Dogs treated with surgery have a median survival of 19-86 days. However, in this study, dogs receiving the highest dose of mushroom extract had a median survival of 199 days! No, it wasn’t a cure, but more than doubling the time you have left without the need for surgery or chemotherapy, that is definitely worth celebrating!

treating-canine-cancer

While researchers have a general idea of how mushroom extracts work, the exact mechanisms have yet to be identified. The active agent in turkey tail, PSP, boosts the body’s own cancer-fighting abilities by improving the function of the immune system. Compare this to a traditional chemotherapy treatment, where a toxic agent kills both cancer cells and normal cells. As you might imagine, treatment with the mushroom extract is much better tolerated in patients than chemotherapy. In fact, in the Pennsylvania study, researchers found no evidence of adverse side effects!

In Japan, turkey tail has been used extensively as a treatment for many types of cancers, including gastric, breast, lung and colorectal cancer. And it’s not just this mushroom! Over 100 species of mushroom are used as adjunct cancer treatments in Japan and China.

There’s a reason you haven’t heard of it as much in the States. Here, mushroom extracts are classified as a supplement and not a drug, thus they are not regulated or approved by the FDA. It is, however, still available and the research is popping up all over the place. It’s on the radar of established treatment institutes such as Memorial Sloan Kettering. Keep in mind that all of this is a brand new avenue of research with much left to learn about why mushrooms might have a positive effect. Bottom line, don't rush out to buy something you don't understand, but rather have a conversation with your doctor before trying anything new.

While the veterinary studies are few and far between, mushroom extracts are promising enough that many veterinary oncologists are already starting to incorporate them into their treatment regimens. Although they are considered fairly safe, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian before starting any new supplement. In addition to making sure it won’t interact with other treatments your dog is receiving, your veterinarian will be able to recommend a brand she trusts to provide a reliable, active dose of the extract. Not all supplements are produced with the same quality control standards.

The bottom line is that this is definitely an avenue that warrants further investigation. In fact, the study was so successful, the manufacturer of the PSP supplement plans to study its effects on human cancers, too! 

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM


Sources

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/mushrooms-pdq

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/384301/

https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/compound-derived-mushroom-lengthens-survival-time-dogs-cancer-penn-vet-study-finds

What Pet Parents Need to Know About Vaccines

Loving-couple-and-lab

“Vaccines are good!” “No, they’re bad!” “Do a half dose of the vaccine!” “Titer instead!”

There sure is a lot of noise surrounding vaccines for our pets, isn’t there? I don’t blame you if you think it’s confusing. Heck, I think it’s confusing and I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years. How, when, and what vaccines to use in pets is one of the most common questions I get both in person and online. When it comes to the truth about vaccines, here’s the real life, not-so-neat reality: there is no one size fits all answer. But the more we understand the principles behind the recommendations, the better equipped we are to make good decisions on behalf of our loved ones.

The immune system is complex, as is the science behind how we optimize it using various vaccinations. Here’s the basic information every pet person needs to understand.

How the Body Fights Disease

As we all know, a well-functioning body fights disease using white blood cells. However, not all white blood cells are the same! They come in three general categories:

1. Macrophages: These cells are the first line of defense. They engulf infected and dying cells, and save pieces of it to present to the other immune cells. Think of them as first responders. They save little pieces of the invader, known as antigens, as evidence from the crime scene!
2. B cells: These cells produce antibodies in response to the antigen. An antibody is a substance that helps the body fight disease in a variety of ways. For example, it can neutralize the invader, or act like a homing beacon for other types of cells to identify the invaders quickly. B cells are like Dr. Nefario from "Despicable Me" ... they don’t take part in the fight directly, but they produce all the gadgets that help the good guy win the battle.
3. T cells: These cells directly attack infected cells. They’re trained to identify a specific antigen, so it can react quickly to destroy the invader. T cells are the trained assassins of the body, honed in on their target.

After an infection is overcome, the body retains some T and B cells specific to that antigen, just in case it encounters it again. In order for those B cells and T cells to react quickly, they must have already been exposed to antigens from the infecting agent. That’s where vaccines come in.

How Vaccines Help

Vaccines imitate infection without causing the actual disease. This allows the body the benefit of those B and T cells carrying around a blueprint for how to respond to the disease, without actually having to survive the infection first. Here’s the important thing to note ... not all vaccines work the same way. Here are the most common types of vaccines we use in veterinary medicine:

1. Attenuated vaccines: These are live infective agents that have been weakened or altered in some way so they do not cause the actual disease. Distemper, parvo, and adenovirus-2 are this type.
2. Inactivated vaccines: These are whole bacteria or viruses that have been killed so they cannot replicate. The most common vaccines in this category are rabies, Leptospirosis, Lyme, influzena, FeLV, and injectable Bordetella. Because these organisms are dead, they are often combined with a substance to “draw” the immune system’s attention: like sending a flare into the sky. These substances are called adjuvants. Vaccines in this category are, according to some, the most likely to cause an adverse reaction.
3. Toxoid vaccines: These are a detoxified toxin - these are not actually in response to an infectious agent at all! Rattlesnake vaccine is the most common example.
4. Recombinant vaccines: These vaccines represent a new generation of vaccine technology. They take a piece of DNA or RNA from the infectious agent and insert it into a benign live virus that will not cause infection. Because the organism is live, it triggers a nice strong immune response without the need for adjuvant. If your cat has been vaccinated with adjuvant-free Purevax, then you’re familiar with this type of vaccine.

dog-mom-kissing-shepherd

How often do we need to re-vaccinate?

Well, here’s where it gets tricky. Some vaccines last longer than others because of the nature of the infection itself. Or, the exact same vaccine may last longer in one individual than in another. I have a colleague who needs a rabies vaccine every three years; mine lasted 20! There is no guaranteed answer.

So, what do we do? We make recommendations based on minimizing the number of vaccines while maximizing the level of protection for animals taking into account the wide variability in response. The American Animal Hospital Association assembled a gold star panel of the world experts in immunology who make, in my opinion, the most informed recommendations for dogs. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has done the same for cats. These are guidelines that are tailored to your pet with help from your veterinarian.

When you talk to your vet about what your pet needs, you balance risk versus benefit for the individual. You look at lifestyle, likelihood of exposure to diseases, severity of those diseases, current health, and vaccine history. The two most important factors are risk and health history.

Risk: Not all pets are at equal risk for disease. A pug who lives in a skyscraper in San Francisco is not at the same risk for certain diseases as a hunting dog in Louisiana.

Health History: A healthy one year old who is just finishing up their initial vaccine series has different needs than a sixteen-year-old diabetic who has been vaccinated on time her whole life. A sick pet, one with a history of reactions to vaccines, or one with a history of immune mediated disease will have different recommendations.

The exception is rabies, a disease that kills both pets and people. Most jurisdictions have mandated rabies vaccination guidelines written into law.

Can’t I just titer?

Titers are, for those willing to pay for them, a decent (but not foolproof) way of feeling out a pet’s immune status. Titers check for circulating antibodies to a specific disease. Remember when we were talking about B cells and T cells? Titers only tell you about long term B cell response. A pet with a high antibody titer may still be bottomed out on T cells, and vice versa. It’s only part of the picture. It’s not a guarantee that a pet is protected, but it gives you more information to make an informed decision particularly when it comes to how often to boost vaccines in an adult animal who already has several boosters.

What about half doses for smaller pets?

It’s tempting to think of vaccines the same way that we do drugs, whose efficacy is dependent on the concentration in the blood. Not so with vaccines. Vaccines work more on an all-or-nothing proposition: either they get the body’s attention, or they don’t. The degree of the response is determined by the body’s production of those T and B cells. This is the same as in human medicine: my kiddos get the same volume of flu vaccine as my husband. It’s not worth the risk to gamble with a vaccine not working, with no proven benefit.

It’s challenging to dilute a textbook’s worth of information into a single blog post, but hopefully this gives you a little background for your discussions with your vet. Vaccines, nutrition, weight control, exercise ... lots of moving parts come together to help ensure the best health outcomes for your pets. The best decisions are those you make with your trusted health care providers as a team!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

References:
“Understanding How Vaccines Work” from CDC.gov
AAHA canine vaccination guidelines
AAFP feline vaccination guidelines

Forget Resolutions, Try Intentions

Jessica-Vogelsang-and-brody
Photo by Tamandra Michaels, Heart Dog Studio

Do you set New Year’s Resolutions? I used to, back when I thought I could keep them for more than two weeks. Over the years I’ve learned that the exercise resolutions always wavered, the commitment to less chocolate died when Valentine’s Day arrived, and I wound up more irritated than inspired. 

But maybe I’m just using the wrong word. “Resolution” seems so rigid ... you either do it or you don't. Each day is part of a journey rather than a destination in and of itself. I’ve done much better when I use the word “intention” instead. Rather than a number on the scale or on a clothing tag, I focus on habits and actions. If I have a bad day where I don’t live up to that intention, so be it. There’s always tomorrow.

I’ve found the most successful intentions come by building on something you already believe in and want to take to the next level. This applies not only to our physical health, but our work in life. In the last couple of months, I’ve had some great conversations with the Life’s Abundance team about personal success, and I want to share my intention with you in the hopes that you, too, will choose to embrace it.

My intention for 2019 is to focus on the “why” versus the “what.” Many of our readers are Field Reps and we are all here as a part of the Life’s Abundance family, sharing a common interest in premium products. But what is it that truly sets us apart from other companies?

For me, it’s the people.

I have worked with a lot of different pet-product companies over the years, and despite what we sometimes read, the vast majority of people who work in the industry do care about animals and try to do the right thing. This isn’t about ‘good’ people versus ‘bad’ people. But how many of them truly view their co-workers as family?

People who work at jobs may work hard, may put in great efforts, and be committed to excellence in what they do. But people who view their co-workers as family? There’s something very special about that kind of relationship. They go the extra mile without being asked, without having any incentive other than this is what you do. When you view those people around you as extended family, there’s never any question as to what motivates them ... it all boils down to the long-term well-being of everyone around them. It's much easier to trust a company when you believe not just in the product line, but the people behind the formulas.

As far as pet foods go, I think we’re going to see a lot of discussion about quality assurances this year. 2018 was a bumpy year for many in the pet food industry, and we’re seeing more about what happens when rigorous quality control isn’t in place. Today's savvy consumers are looking beyond just the ingredient list. They want to know, "What are you doing to ensure the bag contains what you say it does, is this the best version of this recipe, and can we trust what you are doing?"

You can’t underestimate the power of nearly 20 years of continuity and consistency in not only a product, but in a team. Most of the Life’s Abundance executive team has been here from the start. I am fortunate to be beginning my third year, and each year my respect continues to grow for the mission, purpose and team. It’s a group that does the right thing even when no one is looking, even when there might be an easier or cheaper option. When people ask why I choose to work with this team and this company, that is my "why."

You all have your own why, your own story to tell. When I meet Field Reps, I can hear in your voices as you talk about your Australian Shepherds, or show me pictures of your Persians, that you aren’t here because you’re doing a job. You’re here because you know you’re part of a family. A family takes care of each other. Your work is a reflection of your values and the choices you make. So as you move into 2019 and plan ahead, don’t forget to share your unique purpose that brought you here. And if you've always thought about becoming a Life's Abundance Field Rep but haven't committed, we invite you to visit our opportunity page today.

Here’s to a wonderful year for everyone!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

The 12 Dog Days of Christmas

12-dog-days-of-Xmas

As an unabashed fan of all things holiday, I made sure my family dragged out all our Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving so we could get a head start on being festive.

My son was the first one to point out the obvious- how did I think the puppies were going to do with all the decorations? Dakota just turned one, Ollie is six months old, and they love nothing more than tearing around the house and barreling through anything in their path. Dakota, in particular, loves to chew on anything he can get his mouth on. Life with puppies is so much fun but so much work. And sweeping. And training.

I got my answer soon after we began decorating and Dakota started barking incessantly at the Santas on the mantel. He seems to think they are jolly little intruders. The dogs then followed the cat underneath the tree, got stuck, and banged about ten ornaments off the bottom while trying to back out. They tried to eat the gingerbread house I’ve painstakingly assembled over the past seven days. It’s become abundantly clear that unless we want a wrapping paper mess all over the house, we won’t be putting any presents under the tree until Christmas morning.

I might have felt annoyed but for one thing: the pet ornaments. Every pet who has been a part of my life since my first Lhasa Apso at eight has their own ornament. I have a lot of them now, and as I unpack them I pause for a moment to remember Christmases past with each of them, how they too climbed the tree and jumped in the wrapping paper and did all the dog and cat things that make them who they are. Our time with them is all too fleeting, so I remind myself every day to take in every wild and joyful moment.

Instead of being frustrated, I’ll be grateful for each mutilated decoration, the armless Santa and the headless angel. As I move them to higher ground and check to make sure all the breakable ornaments rest in higher branches, I can’t feel anything but good fortune that I have two dogs and a cat that bring so much joy and energy to our family.

In honor of Ollie and Dakota’s first Christmas as part of our family, I’ve rewritten the 12 Days of Christmas to better reflect our reality. I hope you get a laugh and a commiseration out of it.

The 12 Dog Days of Christmas

"On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my puppies brought to me,
12 holes a digging
11 neighbors barked at
10 armless Santas
9 tattered chew toys
8 headless angels
7 dogs a-swimming
6 bulbs a-laying
5 bully sticks
4 muddy paws
3 dog beds
2 slobber hugs
And a pup nap under the tree!"

Ollie-under-the-tree

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season from my home to yours!

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

How Your Cat Really Wants to be Fed

meal-time-with-kitty-lifes-abundance

What does your cat’s dish look like? Is it plastic, stainless steel, or maybe ceramic? No matter what you’re imagining, it's almost certainly one of these types of cat food dishes.

But is that about to change? What if the best answer to "how does my cat really want to be fed?" is, “not in a dish at all!”

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), a collection of the best and brightest minds in feline medicine, just released a 2018 consensus statement on the feeding of cats.1 Contrary to the usual debate over cat food which centers on wet versus dry, this discussion focuses not on the ‘what’ of cat food, but the ‘how’.

Here in the States, we often encourage people to keep their cats indoors in order to keep them safe from predators, and from themselves having an adverse effect on native bird populations. While an indoor life is the safest option, this doesn’t provide them much opportunity to act like, well, cats. Outdoor cats routinely roam over ranges as far as two miles, so it’s no wonder their behavior changes when they are confined to a 2,000 square foot house.

As hunters, cats are hardwired to hunt small prey. Unlike a snake, which may go days or weeks in between feedings, a cat in the wild eats multiple small prey every day. The typical household practice of filling a food bowl twice a day doesn’t do a whole lot to fulfill this instinctive need. Without the job of hunting to keep cats occupied, they may become bored and overweight. It may also contribute to stress, particularly if the household contains multiple cats sharing a single food source.

Fortunately, there is a way to manage this issue without making all indoor cats become outdoor cats. The AAFP offers several suggestions to better approximate natural cat behavior in the home, including:

  • Feeding multiple smaller meals a day versus one or two large ones. Automated feeders can do this on a timer.
  • Ensuring multiple food sources for multi-cat households.
  • Using puzzle feeders to encourage natural hunting behavior.

I love puzzle feeders and recommend them routinely for both dogs and, now, for cats. They are based on the very simple principle that companion animals need to work for their food. You can find elaborate feeders that require pets to remove pieces and move doors around, and others that are as simple as a ball with holes in it that drops food out as it rolls. However, puzzle feeders made specifically for felines encourage their natural pouncing and tossing behavior. You can buy feeders for both wet and dry food, so find one that works best with whichever Life’s Abundance premium cat food your sweet kitty prefers.

Although we’ve domesticated cats and dogs, there’s no reason that we can’t continue to adapt and accommodate their instinctual behaviors, especially as our understanding of their physical, mental and emotional needs continues to expand. I’ve spoken to multiple behaviorists who recommend puzzle feeders as a part of any treatment for behavioral issues in cats, from aggression to inappropriate elimination to over-grooming. It’s such a simple thing to do, so why not give it a try with your cat? We feel confident that your little hunter will be super pleased with the change.

Stay well, and happy hunting to your kitty!

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

REFERENCES

1. https://www.catvets.com/guidelines/practice-guidelines/how-to-feed

5 Spooky Canine Superstitions

adorable-dog-and-witch

We’re all familiar with the long and storied association between cats and mythology. It makes sense: they are mysterious creatures, well suited to legends and lore. But what about dogs? As man’s best friend, they fall into a bit more of a predictable and familiar category. Or do they?

As much time as we spend with dogs, it makes sense that superstitions would crop up over time. While some are specific to a certain time or place, others are more universal. Where did these myths come from, and why? Read on to learn about five of the most unusual ideas and legends surrounding our canine companions!

1. A Howling Dog Brings Death

Origin: This is one of the most common dog superstitions, and can be found in multiple cultures. In Greek mythology, the howling of a dog was thought to signal that the Wind God had summoned death to a nearby home. In Norse mythology, dogs howl at the approach of Freyja, the Goddess of Death. Why? Because her chariot is pulled by two giant cats (think about it). In Welsh lore, the king of Annwn would patrol the land riding supernatural hounds that only other dogs could see. The howling was their way of acknowledging the presence of these spooky beasts as they raced by.

Facts: Dogs howl as a form of communication. Sometimes it's for attention, other times it's an expression of anxiety, and sometimes it’s just a loud way of saying, “HELLOOOOOO." As a form of communication, it’s very effective! As a former coonhound owner, I can attest to the fact that baying carries over long distances. Remember, dogs are pack animals, much like their relatives, wolves, whose howl can be heard for many miles!

howling-at-the-moon

2. Dogs Can See Ghosts

Origin: If you’ve lived with a dog, you’ve probably had this hair-raising experience ... it’s pitch black outside. You’re home alone. In the eerie silence, your dog suddenly starts to stare at a wall (or worse, a door with no window) and starts to growl, hackles raised. Are they seeing the supernatural?

Facts: Dogs do perceive the world differently than we do, but that’s hardly proof of the supernatural. From dog whistles that pick up high frequencies we cannot register to a sense of smell 10,000 more sensitive than our own, dogs enjoy a heightened experience of their environment beyond our capabilities.

Out in the world, many people report dogs appearing agitated in the moments before earthquakes or other natural disasters. It is theorized dogs can pick up on sensitive vibrations we miss. People have taken advantage of these sensitivities to train dogs in everything from seizure alerts to cancer detection, proving that in almost every sense, dogs out-perceive the world compared to you and me. So what is your dog growling at in the dead of night? Let’s tell ourselves something comforting so we can fall asleep tonight.

3. If You Step in Dog Poo, Do it Properly

Origin: This one is specific to France, land of croissants, the Louvre, and lots and lots of dog poop. According to local lore, stepping in dog piles with your left foot is good luck, while stepping in it with your right? Woe be unto you!

Fact: More than anything, this legend reflects that as a “scoop your poop” culture, France has a long way to go. A recent survey noted that while 1.85 million dog waste bags were sold in the UK in 2015, France sold a mere 3,600. That’s one fifth of one percent as many bags being sold, people. Until 2007, dog poop wasn’t even mentioned in French law at all. Mon dieu!

I think no matter where you live we can all agree on one thing. Stepping in a warm pile of dog waste never feels lucky, regardless of the foot.

three-white-dogs

4. Seeing Three White Dogs Together Signals Good Luck

Origin: An English myth contends that seeing three white dogs standing together is a sign of good fortune, particularly financial luck. An alternate version states the same good luck will come to you if you spot a Dalmatian (pun intended!) on the way to a business meeting.

Fact: No one is quite sure where this came from. Maybe because these dogs were rare, it was more of a unique find to see them wandering the streets! Just as possible is the simple associations people make between white being a symbol of good luck and black a symbol of bad luck, an unfortunate fallacy that results in many wonderful black cats and dogs having a more difficult time getting adopted. As someone who adopted both a beautiful black Labrador and a sweet and wonderful black cat, I’m convinced they bring nothing but great fortune.

5. No Dogs Allowed On Board Ships

Origin: Historically, nautical legend is filled with a wide variety of superstitions about who and what can come on board. It makes sense. Sailing is by nature a dangerous occupation, so every time something terrible would happen, it’s only natural to look for some external cause. Better to blame the flowers or bananas you brought on board than the terrible weather you had no control over. But why dogs? That, unfortunately, remains a mystery. You’d think those long, lonely days out on the open seas could only be improved with a happy companion. Maybe it was the fleas they brought as stowaways?

Fact: Times have changed. Dogs are now considered faithful companions to many seafaring people. You can even get your dog his or her own lifejacket if you’re planning to bring him aboard. If you want any further proof about how much our views have evolved over time, consider this: cats on board ships used to be considered good luck, probably due to their ability to control the rodent population. Can you imagine taking today's average house cat out on the high seas? Yikes!

If you ask me, having a dog in the house is good luck no matter what. According to my own personal legends and lore, dogs bring good health, happiness, and reduced stress to all they come across. That's a story I could tell again and again!

Have you ever heard a dog-related superstition? Share it in the comments section below!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Ways a New Puppy Improves Life with Teens

Dakota-and-Oliver

For the past three weeks, I have heard “Are you nuts?” more times than I can count. I think the answer is mostly likely “yes,” but then again I challenge any one of you to turn down this face ...

Puppy-Oliver

Yes, our family now has not one but two puppies. Dakota is eight months old, and just getting into that lovely stage where his adult teeth are all in and he’s starting to mellow out. So, of course it’s the perfect time to introduce a Golden Retriever puppy. Meet Ollie!

Dakota was mortified at first, annoyed at second, but now they are best buddies. He gets to bear the brunt of Ollie’s substantial puppy energy, and they spend long hours chasing each other all over the yard, wrestling like two frat brothers, and generally looking for mischief to get into.

Dakota-peeks

For most of my adult life I have had retrievers, and one of our favorite things to do was head over to Grandma’s house on the weekends to go swimming. I’ve never had a dog who could resist going into the pool. Until Dakota, that is. He hates swimming. Despises the water and looks at it like it is acid.

Ollie, not so much. I don’t think you could keep his fuzzy little butt out of the water if you tried.

Oliver-leaps

It’s entirely possible that I only agreed to take on another puppy because sleep deprivation from the first puppy left me delirious, but to be honest we’re all feeling pretty darn good about our decision here in the Vogelsang household. With the exception of the mass amounts of fur we now have to deal with every day (remind me again how a tiny puppy can shed that much?) we were well equipped to take this little guy on.

It's also possible that I agreed to this because my oldest is entering high school this year and I needed a small distraction from both the march of time and her natural (yet still sad) pulling away from wanting to hang out with us. As I sit overseeing Dakota and Ollie's mutual and seemingly perpetual wrestling competition at my feet, it’s a good time to reflect on what puppies bring to the life of a parent with teenagers:

1. Puppies are always overjoyed to see me, which I can’t always say for the teenagers. Any extra joy I feel certainly has an effect on the whole household.

2. The pups are also always excited to see the teenagers, which keeps them around a little longer in the evenings before disappearing to talk to their friends.

3. Puppies are incredibly photogenic, so my kids spend even more time with us taking photos for their Instagram feeds. Whatever it takes, right?

4. Puppies keep you in the moment. I mean, not only are you taking in every cute and adorable moment, you are truly engaged because otherwise they eat all your shoes. It’s easy to spend the day staring at your phone and miss what’s going on right in front of you.

5. Pups remind you that every moment is fleeting. It seems like Ollie and Dakota are literally growing in front of my eyes, a pound a day. They live their lives in fast forward. They remind me that even though my human kiddos grow a little more slowly they, too, are young for only a short while.

6. Puppies remind me to have compassion for other parents. As a vet, it’s very easy to sit in an exam room or on the phone and tell someone what they should be doing, but we forget how truly difficult some of the implementation can be. An act as simple as brushing the dogs every day takes me five times longer than it should as Ollie tries to eat the brush, then the hair, then a sock he found who knows where. The same goes for human parenting. Boy, it’s easy to judge other parents for the lunches they pack or a child’s choice of T-shirts but really, we’re all just trying to do the best we can!

7. Pups put to rest, once and for all, any regrets about the size of our family. One of my neighbors has three dogs and six children. They are lovely and she is very happy. I am very happy with two dogs and two children, and my hands are more than full! I don’t know how she does it, but I am glad she has the family that makes her fulfilled. Everyone creates the family that is right for them.

Any other puppy lessons you care to share? Leave your stories in the comments section below.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

5 Meds That Are Toxic to Pets

dog-at-vet

The past four months have been a blur of training, cleaning up and chasing around after our new puppy, Dakota. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I did forget how much trouble a curious puppy can get into! Last week I found Dakota chomping on a travel-sized bag of trail mix that included chocolate covered raisins. Chocolate covered raisins! How did that even get into the house? I still don’t know where it came from, but fortunately I was able to intervene before he opened the bag.

Most people know that chocolate and grapes can be toxic for pets, but potential threats can lurk elsewhere in your home. Prescription and over-the-counter medications are among the top reasons people call into poison control hotlines for both kids and pets, and with good reason. Here are the top five medications of concern when it comes to pets and toxicity:

1. Ibuprofen. As the active ingredient in common over-the-counter products such as Advil and Motrin, ibuprofen is unfortunately ingested by pets both accidentally and intentionally by owners unaware of its potential side effects. Cats are particularly sensitive to its effects. The most common clinical sign is vomiting or gastrointestinal ulcers, though it can also lead to kidney damage. Other NSAIDS such as Aleve can also be problematic.

2. Acetaminophen. Speaking of pain medications, acetaminophen-containing products such as Tylenol are also high on the list of pet poisons. Like ibuprofen, cats are particularly sensitive to the effects of this medication, and one pill is enough to kill a cat. Both cats and dogs can experience liver damage as a result of this medication, starting with decreased appetite and leading to yellow skin (a sign of jaundice), swollen paws or difficulty breathing. Acetaminophen is a common ingredient in combination products like cough and flu remedies, so be careful to read the label on your products!

pill-spill-dog

3. Stimulants. ADHD medications such as Adderall and Ritalin can be toxic to companion animals. Sadly, they are more likely to be ingested by pets as they are often prescribed for children who may be less vigilant about keeping the pills out of the reach of the household dogs and cats. Signs of ingestion may include dilated pupils, seizures, shaking or hyperactivity.

4. Antidepressants. Antidepressants fall into several categories depending on their mechanism of action. In the most commonly prescribed medications (such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and Effexor) work by increasing the concentration of neurotransmitters in the brain. When overdosed, the brain can be flooded with these chemicals and pets can experience a variety of symptoms such as depression, hyperexcitability, seizures and vomiting.

5. Vitamin D. As doctors are starting to diagnose Vitamin D deficiency more often, this is a common supplement in people’s medicine cabinets. When there is too much in the body, blood calcium levels also rise, resulting in serious damage to the kidneys. It is so effective at causing damage that it's commonly used in rat poisons such as d-Con. Vitamin D might appear on rodenticide labels as “cholecalciferol,” and should be avoided.

There’s no time like the present to ensure any of these items in your house are safely secured away from prying pet paws. If you suspect your dog or cat has ingested any of these harmful substances, call your veterinarian or a pet poison control helpline ASAP!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Why is My Dog So Nervous?

scared-pug

My neighbor’s dog Chuckie is, by all accounts, an anxious canine. Sweet as can be, but nervous. Chuckie hides behind his mom when new people show up. He still doesn’t trust his dad, who is the one who lobbied so hard to bring Chuckie home in the first place (three long years ago). He runs away from him and wedges himself under a table whenever my friend's husband looks at him directly - about which the poor guy feels rather despondent.

When a dog is this fearful, many people assume that at some point he or she has been abused. It’s the catch-all people use whenever a dog whose history is unknown shows stress or fear. We say, “He’s scared of men so he must have been abused by one." Or, "She’s scared of ballcaps, so she must have been abused by someone who wore one.” The same sentiments are expressed for men with beards, people wearing sunglasses, pulling out a camera, you name it!

It would be horrifying to think that every dog who exhibits fear (chiefly because there are a lot of them) do so out of a direct result of abuse. While it certainly happens, and it's terrible when it does, a much more likely and less harrowing explanation is that these dogs may not have been adequately socialized as a pup.

nervous-lab

After puppies are born, a great deal of neurological development takes place, much of it occurring in the first 16 weeks. Their early experiences in this crucial time make a lifelong impact on their ability to react to stress. During this period, they are most open to new experiences, sights and sounds. From vacuum cleaners to cats to children (and, yes, men with beards wearing sunglasses and baseball caps), a dog who has a positive experience with these things during this critical time is much less likely to react negatively to them down the road.

Most puppies go to a new home at eight weeks at the youngest, ideally even a little older than that. Back when I started out in veterinary practice, vets were trained to advocate from a health standpoint: keep puppies at home and away from potential sources of illness until they are fully vaccinated at 16 weeks. Unfortunately this "common knowledge" means pups may be missing out on some key socialization time.

As our understanding of the importance of socialization has increased, many trainers are opening up puppy classes to 12-week-olds and veterinarians are re-evaluating the four-month quarantine rule. Each of us needs to assess the risk/benefit analysis of taking puppies out into the world, but in a controlled environment around dogs who are healthy and up-to-date on vaccines, many of us find the socialization benefits are well worth it!

When Dakota came home with us, he was 14 weeks old. He spent his early weeks in a house with nine adult dogs and all of his littermates, which was quite chaotic. But, it led to him being super comfortable meeting new pups. Before coming home with us, he had already gone home with an elderly couple who returned him after a couple days when the reality of living with a puppy set in. So he had been exposed to quite a lot! Nonetheless, as he was current on his preventive care, we also attended socialization classes from the get-go. Based on his reactions at the door, it’s clear he was never exposed to men in UPS uniforms, but we’re working on it. 

happy-poodle

When talking to friends who are experienced breeders, I learned there are several formal programs you can use to socialize puppies at the very early stages of life (aka, “puppy preschool"). These programs are great because they walk people through each important aspect of social exposure needed for good socialization, from touching to meeting strangers, to music and doorbells. In fact, the breeder we are getting our next Golden puppy from is doing it as we speak, and started when the litter was only one week old! And yes, that is my way of saying I am bringing another puppy into the house this summer, which is insane but at least I will have lots to talk about here on the blog! 

As for Chuckie, his family has come to love and accept him as he is. That isn’t to say that dogs can’t change or improve after 16 weeks of age has passed! I often see Chuckie walking to the dog park with the husband, who learned that when Chuckie is in the presence of other dogs he also relaxes more with people. Their patience and love has helped him adjust and modulate his fear, even as an adult.

Have you ever used a puppy kindergarten training program with a new litter? Do you think it helped? What have you done to diminish your dog's outsize fear?

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Cat Adoption Made Simple

kitty-cuddle

June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month and we are ready to celebrate! Even though adopting a cat is rewarding, it is a big step. To make it more doable, we’ve broken that big step down into a bunch of manageable steps. 

The week before

  • Gather supplies! Most cats prefer a dust-free, unscented clumping litter. They also usually prefer a litter box without a lid. Your cat will need water and food bowls, toys and something to scratch. You already know where to go for the perfect cat food!
  • Create a cozy space. As a species that can be both predator and prey, cats like somewhere they can feel secure and safe. There are added bonus points if this space has some height, which is one of the reasons cats love tall cat trees so much.
  • Prepare a room. During the first few days, plan to have your cat contained to a smaller space like a laundry room or bathroom while she adjusts to her new surroundings. Once she’s feeling braver, she'll be ready to explore on her own.
  • Prepare family members. If your family isn’t used to having a cat around, make sure they understand the basic rules about gentle play, and giving the cat space when they make it clear they would rather be alone. Older kids can be assigned chores such as feeding, brushing and litter box cleanup (they love that one.) Younger kids, especially toddlers, will need direct supervision as they often do not understand gentle play.

comfy-kitty

The first day

  • Congratulations, your cat is home! Now leave her alone. OK, maybe not entirely alone, but give her some time to explore her new surroundings without being stared at by multiple sets of strange eyes. If you have a dog, make sure he’s not sniffing loudly under the door or pawing at it thus scaring the heck out of the cat.
  • Make sure you have food. Cats can be very finicky, and many refuse to adjust to a sudden change in food. Plan on several days minimum, and maybe even several weeks or more, to adjust to a new food. It will be worth the effort.
  • Make a vet appointment. Always start a new life together with a clean bill of health! Vaccines may need updating, de-wormers may need to be given, and you’ll want to know if there are any health issues to be aware of.

nuzzle-cat

The first few weeks:

  • Be patient! Social kitties may come out and cuddle right away, but others need a little more time. Don’t push a cat who’s not ready to be held or petted. Over time their personality will shine through!
  • Make that first vet visit. Ask the veterinarian if they are cat-friendly or use Fear Free practice guidelines, a new way of low-stress handling that minimizes the pet’s discomfort during visits. This is a great way to ensure a lifetime of good health!
  • Course correct as needed. Remember, you and kitty are going through a transitional period. She needs to learn about you just like you’re learning about her. If she scratches in the wrong place, doesn’t want to sleep in the new bed you bought, or kicks litter all over the floor, take a deep breath and remember that it’s all going to be all right. Don’t be afraid to enlist the advice of a vet or cat behaviorist if you are concerned.

Just keep in mind, any new pet relationship may encounter some bumps, especially at the beginning. But, with love and patience, you too can make that deep connection and begin to forge a bond that will last a lifetime. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it to bring in a new family member!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM